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Fantasy Spin: Ertz And Buy-Low Options

Posted Oct 4, 2013

The Eagles offense hasn’t been all that great for fantasy the last two weeks. What should I expect this week?

Don’t panic yet. The Eagles have run into two teams who happened to match up really well with them, personnel-wise. The Chiefs have an all-around good defense that can match up with anyone, and the Broncos have excellent speed and an offense that helps put the opposition on the ropes. But this week, the Eagles run into a much better matchup. The Giants have significant injuries on all three levels of the defense, have no pass rush (only four sacks all year) and are very exploitable at the linebacker position. This is as good a week as any for LeSean McCoy to put up monster numbers, and for Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson to get back on track. The Giants just don’t have a player who can line up with DeSean man-to-man and eliminate him from the game.

Zach Ertz had 31 snaps last week and is averaging 22 yards per catch. Should I consider picking him up?

Let’s pump the brakes on Ertz for now, because we’re still waiting for a legitimate second passing option to emerge in this offense when it comes to fantasy purposes. But if we’re going to look at the situation logically, it makes sense that one would come from the tight end position, if anywhere. Athletically, Ertz and Brent Celek provide a bigger mismatch than any player on the perimeter outside of DeSean Jackson. And the Giants have struggled this year against opposing tight ends, not surprising considered their weaknesses at linebacker and safety. In a PPR league, the Giants are surrendering 19.6 fantasy points per game to tight ends, fifth-most in the NFL so far this season. I wouldn’t be shocked if either Ertz or Celek makes a play, and maybe both, but to consider Ertz for fantasy would be a serious leap of faith at this point. In all, Celek is still playing significantly more snaps.

I need a fantasy defense and my waiver wire is completely empty. Do I dare pick up the Eagles this week?

Here’s why it’s not nuts: in our site default scoring at FantasyGuru.com, which doesn’t account for yardage or points scored, the Giants are giving up an NFL-high 17.5 fantasy points per game to opposing defenses, counting only sacks, turnovers, and defensive/special teams touchdowns. The Giants have surrendered 14 sacks, have turned the ball over an NFL-high 16 times, and have allowed four defensive/special teams touchdowns. Those are horrifically bad numbers. If you’re strapped for another option, the Eagles are valid, especially if you get rewards for big plays.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

The tight end position has been a big surprise through the first quarter of the season. How would you assess it thus far?

This has been an awesome year for tight ends, for sure. And it’s not just because the old reliable veterans are doing what we expect. In fact, it’s been kind of the opposite. Tony Gonzalez had a huge game in Week 4, but he’s been mediocre otherwise. Jason Witten had a huge Week 1, but since has struggled to put up big numbers. Vernon Davis has dealt with injuries. And we haven’t even seen Rob Gronkowski yet. Rather, it’s been awesome because some guys have seriously emerged.

Yes, Jimmy Graham is amazing, but we all knew that. It’s just really helping matters that Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas and Martellus Bennett are taking major steps forward. Antonio Gates has looked better this year than he has in about three seasons. Charles Clay has become a key weapon in Miami, putting up 20 catches through four games, setting a career high in that department already. Coby Fleener looks poised to break out, and before his concussion Jermichael Finley was playing as well as we’ve ever seen him.

What was once a fantasy wasteland has a lot of young, upside options, and there may still be some talent available on your waiver wire, like Clay, Jordan Reed and Heath Miller. Clay is the guy I want to highlight, in particular. Through four games, he’s No. 7 in a PPR with 14.2 fantasy points per game, tied with Vernon Davis. He’s owned in only 27.5% of NFL.com leagues, for instance. If you need some tight end help, go pick him up.

So, how about that Danny Woodhead?

In my column last week, I highlighted Woodhead as a player to start against a Dallas defense giving up a ton of receiving production to running backs. However, I didn’t expect him to completely victimize linebacker Bruce Carter, and he scored two touchdowns in the process. Through four weeks, Woodhead has played more snaps than any other San Diego running back, and he ranks No. 14 in a PPR league with 14.8 fantasy points per game. That’s a better number than Frank Gore, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson, among others.

In fact, compare Woodhead’s numbers to those of Saints star Darren Sproles: 19/90/0 rushing for Woodhead, 22/93/1 for Sproles. Receiving: 22/162/2 for Woodhead, 23/277/1 for Sproles. Quarterback Philip Rivers, the NFL’s most amazing resurgent player so far this year, has been singing Woodhead’s praises this week. Woodhead fits the new mold of NFL running back who can produce big-time numbers despite lacking ideal size or the traditional “bell cow” workload. If you’re playing in a PPR league of 12 teams or bigger, it’s unlikely at this point that you have even two running backs who should be in your lineup over Woodhead. He’s a weekly starter in almost all formats. If he’s somehow still on your waiver wire, he must be picked up, now.

Which rookies should I be keeping an eye on?

RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – It was a little bit of a surprise to see Bell before the Steelers’ Week 5 bye, but he looked great, scoring two touchdowns and giving this offense a run game boost that it hasn’t had all year. If this offensive line can be a bit better than awful, he has a chance to be a No. 2 fantasy running back going forward.

RB Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Bernard played more snaps than BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Week 3, and then significantly more snaps than him in Week 4. He’s the “starting” RB here for all intents and purposes, and has No. 2 RB upside for the rest of the year.

WR Robert Woods, Bills – We’ll see about the EJ Manuel injury, but Woods is emerging as a legit go-to guy in Buffalo’s offense. He should be picked up in deeper leagues.

WR Tavon Austin, Rams – It’s frustrating that the Rams traded up for Austin and spent big money on Jared Cook, and the guy seeing the most targets in this offense consistently is the yawn-inducing, but reliable Austin Pettis. The Rams aren’t using Austin creatively enough, aren’t executing and Sam Bradford is playing poorly.

WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots – I’m pretty convinced that Thompkins is the real deal. He’s physical, he can run, and he plays bigger than his size. However, there’s a chance he loses a lot of targets with Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola coming back soon. Thompkins’ nine red-zone targets are second among all wide receivers, and his five targets inside the 5-yard line are first. Those numbers could take a huge hit once Gronk gets back.

WR Keenan Allen, Chargers – With Malcom Floyd now out for the year, Allen will play a ton of snaps. He played almost every snap for San Diego in Week 4, and caught five passes for 80 yards. He’s not a burner, but he understands how to run routes and set up defenders, which meshes well with the timing game of quarterback Philip Rivers.

Who are some good buy-low candidates?

RB Joique Bell, Lions – It’s clear that Reggie Bush is going to be an amazing fit in Detroit’s offense. It’s also clear that Bush could have lingering injury problems, and Bell is still going to play a role. With Bush dominating the Bears and Bell coming off a pretty weak game (7/12 rushing, 4/30 receiving), we still want to point out that he’s been a bulldozer in short yardage and he contributes enough as a receiver to be a really nice flex option if you have injury issues or bye-week problems. If someone in your league overreacts to Bush’s big game last week, you could get a really useful player in Bell.

QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins – The Redskins played their most complete game of the season in Week 4, but that also meant Griffin’s worst fantasy performance. So far this season, he’s been totally reliant on garbage-time production to put up big fantasy numbers, and he still doesn’t look like he’s back to full strength from his knee injury. The lack of rushing production is really curbing his fantasy upside, the same way it’s hurting Colin Kaepernick. And now the Redskins are heading into a Week 5 bye. But what better time is there than now to trade for Griffin? I think, physically, while he wasn’t great in Week 4, he’s looking stronger every week. The bye week should give him another week to work his way back, and another week for the Redskins to work on their errors. And coming out of the bye, the Redskins face one of the best schedules in all of football – not just for passing-game matchups, but in terms of facing offenses that could force Griffin into GTP.

WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles – That’s right. Go get DeSean now. He had dominant numbers in Weeks 1 and 2, and he has several good matchups in the next month, including a game with Dallas and two with the Giants. The Eagles are moving the ball, even somewhat inconsistently, but it’s the ideal time to go get DeSean now if his owner in your league feels his first two weeks were an aberration.

INJURIES TO WATCH

RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots – Ridley has missed practice all week with a knee injury. That’s not good for his chances to play, and could open up the door for solid flex value for Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts – Reports surfaced this week that Bradshaw may need season-ending surgery on his neck. I hope you held on to Trent Richardson.

RB Darren McFadden, Raiders – McFadden’s bothersome hamstring strike again. If he can’t go on Sunday night, Rashad Jennings has strong flex value because Marcel Reece is also hurt.

WR Miles Austin, Cowboys – Austin looks unlikely to play against the Broncos. Look for rookie Terrance Williams to have some garbage-time production, if you need a deep wide receiver sleeper (he had seven catches but a bad fumble last week).

WR Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – Shorts has missed practice time this week with a groin injury. At least Justin Blackmon is back for the Jags.

Jets WRs – Abandon ship. It looks like a long shot for either Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring) or Stephen Hill (concussion) to play this week.

Patriots WRs/TEs – Aaron Dobson (neck), Danny Amendola (groin), and Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) have all practiced lightly this week.

START ‘EM

QB: Philip Rivers, Chargers – Rivers is absolutely out of his mind right now, and the Raiders don’t have enough defensively to shut him down.

RB: Eddie Lacy, Packers – Lacy’s back from a concussion this week and the Lions are giving up over 5.0 yards per carry. Consider him a high-end flex with No. 2 running back upside.

WR: Eric Decker, Broncos – Decker’s ankle injury doesn’t appear to be a concern, and the Cowboys have benched the disappointing Morris Claiborne. They don’t have anyone who matches up well with Decker at the “Z” spot.

TE: Jared Cook, Rams – If it doesn’t happen for St. Louis this week against the Jags defense and their poor safety play, I wonder if it’s ever going to happen.

SIT ‘EM

QB: Terrelle Pryor, Raiders – For all the fantasy hype that Pryor has gotten, he actually hasn’t even been a top-20 fantasy quarterback this year. If you’re playing him, you’re praying for a huge rushing day or a long passing touchdown.

RB: Daryl Richardson, Rams – This backfield is a complete mess, and Richardson tweeted out this week that he won’t be starting. Jeff Fisher says the job is wide open, which means Richardson is battling for a job he already had.

WR: Steve Smith, Panthers – If you have an upside bench option, now’s the time to bench Smith as he’ll almost certainly draw a ton of cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has had a great year so far.

TE: Brandon Myers, Giants – If you’re thinking of playing Myers because the Eagle defense has given up big numbers, realize that he didn’t catch a ball last week because he was kept in to block to help out their atrocious offensive line.

Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting “SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday” every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.

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