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Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE
You guys have a ton of articles.
This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week.
If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.
1. Sigmund Bloom's Upgrades, Downgrades, and Waiver Wire Gems
Bloom's early-week list of player valuation is one of the three most popular pieces at Footballguys during the year. Every Monday night, he delivers position-specific lists of players moving up or down based on Sunday's performances as well as some weight to recent weeks. Next to many of the names is a waiver wire recommendation in a red font that provides an estimated percentage of your blind budget that you should spend to acquire them during your weekly free agent runs.
Here are some players from Bloom's list who will likely remain on waivers entering the weekend but are worth your attention as preemptive pickups at some point—if not right now:
QB Ryan Finley, CIN - (waiver wire: 1% in very deep/2QB/Superflex) - Andy Dalton is not the reason the Bengals season has gone belly up, but he can't save them either. The team is on track for a top-five pick and new quarterback, so they might want to see what they have this year's fourth-rounder before making a decision. Finley should be stashed in 2QB/Superflex leagues. Matt's Thoughts: Finley is an intriguing young player who performed well during the preseason. If he's on your dynasty league's waiver wire, it would be worthwhile adding him in leagues with at least 30 roster spots.
QB Nick Foles, JAX- (waiver wire: 5-10%) - Foles is due to return to practice this week and is on track to return in Week 11. He'll face a schedule of weak pass defenses (IND TEN TB LAC OAK ATL) as long as the Jags don't choose to stick with Gardner Minshew. Matt's Thoughts: Everyone loves Minshew but this organization has an old-school mentality that could translate to starters not losing their jobs due to injury. Foles is at least worth keeping on your shortlist.
RB Brandon Bolden, NE- (waiver wire: 1%) - Bolden is starting to be involved in the Patriots offense out of more than necessity. He looks explosive and could be the next man up if Sony Michel goes down. Matt's Thoughts: Bolden is one of my favorite players who isn't a starter material in real football. He's a tough, intelligent, and versatile football player who has outlasted a mind-blowing number of running backs that have come through New England. If you have Michel, I'd consider Bolden as a handcuff if you're in need of running back depth—not a starter; a handcuff.
RB Kareem Hunt, CLE - (waiver wire: 5-10%) - Hunt is returning to practice this week and on track to make his season debut in Week 10. He will be the #2 back behind Nick Chubb but carry what the heck flex value with room to grow. Matt's Thoughts: Most of us at Footballguys don't believe Hunt will overtake Nick Chubb, but he will earn enough playing time for his tenure to serve as an audition for a starting job elsewhere. Plus, we know he can have value if Chubb gets hurt.
RB Mark Walton, MIA - (waiver wire: 5-10%) - Walton led the Dolphins in carries and looked good doing it. The bad team, offense, and Kalen Ballage vulturing scores keeps his ceiling low, but he could get a bump if Kenyan Drake is traded or if the team wisely moves on from Ballage. For now he's a what the heck flex against the Steelers. Matt's Thoughts: I didn't love what I saw from Walton as much as what I saw from the Dolphins offensive line. It's good enough for a speculative add to your roster.
RB Jeff Wilson, SF - (waiver wire: 1% ) - Raheem Mostert is banged up, Matt Breida is an injury waiting to happen, and Tevin Coleman is getting worked as much as he has in his career. Wilson is a smart stash in deep leagues. Matt's Thoughts: This is a recommendation much in the same vein as the Bolden tout.
WR Zach Pascal, IND- (waiver wire: 7-15%) - Pascal is still sharing snaps with Deon Cain and Chester Rogers in the second and third wide receiver rotation, but he showed maybe he should be the clear #2 in a career-high game against the Texans. He'll be a what the heck flex at worst against the Broncos with room for growth in his outlook. Matt's Thoughts: Brissett trusts him.
WR Preston Williams, MIA- (waiver wire: 1%) - Williams had a fumble but also was more consistent against the Bills and got a bump with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball. He's a what the heck flex against the Steelers this week. Matt's Thoughts: Williams looks good and dare I say DeVante Parker hasn't been bad, either. Garbage-time is a profitable time in fantasy football. These guys have the coveralls ready.
TE Ben Watson, NE- (waiver wire: 1%) - Watson isn't going to be a key target in the Patriots pass offense, but he is going to be in the mix for end zone targets in an offense that should score a lot. Matt's Thoughts: With Josh Gordon on IR and Mohamed Sanu a new addition, I wouldn't gloss over Watson if you're in need of a tight end. He played in this same system years ago—yes, it was the same one. He could surprise with low-end TE1 production.
TE Mike Gesicki, MIA - (waiver wire: 1%) - Gesicki showed a glimmer of hope and development against the Bills in Week 7 and could work as a streamer as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the starting quarterback. Matt's Thoughts: Gesicki made some excellent catches last week, including one a penalty nullified. He's a one-dimensional option as a receiver (high targets and no yards after the catch) but he can still help.
TE Dallas Goedert, PHI - (waiver wire: 10-20%) - Goedert has had two solid weeks in a row and appears to be settling in as a core target for the Eagles. He'll be a streamer at least going forward, with room to become a consistent fantasy option. Matt's Thoughts: Think of the boost Goedert gets without Ertz in the lineup. That's the bonus for a player who is earning his own value with Ertz still here.
2. Ryan Hester's Rent-A-Quarterback
Welcome to Ryan Hester's Quarterback Rent-A-Center. Here's how it works:
Late-round quarterback drafter? Had an injury to your starter? In need of a bye-week replacement? In this article, you'll find a couple of quarterback options likely available in most leagues (we'll use players rostered in fewer than 60% of Yahoo leagues) who could provide some punch at the quarterback position.
Unless most teams in your league carry a backup quarterback, there should be plenty of starting quarterbacks on your waiver wire each week. Instead of starting a low-end QB1 facing an elite secondary, look to the waiver wire and play the matchups. Ideally, a player who appears in this space gets hot and becomes an every-week starter. If not, throw him back to the wire and come back here next week. Quarterback is one of the most predictable positions in fantasy football. Simply by using matchups, fantasy GMs can start a mid-to-high QB1 every week by using the waiver wire.
Disclaimer: This column will typically be written on Monday evenings. Should any relevant events occur on Monday Night Football, the article will be edited. Any post-publication edits will be noted.
All three of Ryan's marquee recommendations are worth a conversation:
MATTHEW STAFFORD - VS. N.Y. GIANTS (TEAM TOTAL: 28.25)
This is close to cheating, as Stafford is rostered in 57% of Yahoo leagues. So we're back to offering three options this week in case you can't get Stafford. And don't feel bad if you can't because he's a coin toss with the next player on this list.
There are three main reasons to like Stafford this week. First, he's playing at home against a Giants team that allows 8.9 yards per pass attempt, tied for the second-highest figure in the league. Second, Detroit passes deep on 26.6% of its pass attempts, the second-highest rate in the league. Lastly, Kerryon Johnson was dinged up in the team's Week 7 game, suggesting that a more pass-heavy approach could be in play this week.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER - VS. ARIZONA (TEAM TOTAL: 28.75)
Arizona may have held Daniel Jones in check, but that effort was aided by rainy weather and the Giants' general ineffectiveness as an offense. The Cardinals are still yielding 23.8 fantasy points per game, fourth-most in the NFL, and 2.4 passing touchdowns per game, tied for second-most in the NFL.
Bridgewater should get one last start before the team's bye week and Drew Brees' return. And with Arizona allowing 14% more normalized fantasy points per game than the average team, he should be able to make his last hurrah count against Arizona.
MASON RUDOLPH - VS. MIAMI (TEAM TOTAL: 28.5)
This one is tough to stomach, but it is a home favorite of two touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins. There's also a bit of #NarrativeStreet at play with the team wanting Rudolph to put forth a high-level statistical effort. When Mike Tomlin was asked about which Pittsburgh quarterback was the starter, he was almost incredulous in his response.
“Seriously, guys. That guy is our quarterback when he clears the protocol,” Tomlin said, meaning Rudolph. “It’s as simple as that. Appreciate the efforts of ‘Duck’ and so forth, but as soon as he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”
Hodges wasn't statistically great in his start, but this is the same team that installed a gimmick Wildcat offense to get past woeful Cincinnati in Rudolph's second start. There's plenty of motivation for the organization for Rudolph to show that he's "the guy."
Matt's Thoughts: Ryan is correct about Stafford's availability making this recommendation close to cheating. Detroit will have to throw this weekend and they have the route runners and speedsters to generate big plays. I wouldn't be shocked if we seem one of his charges earn a three-touchdown day.
Bridgewater is getting into a rhythm and the Cardinals lack great defensive firepower. The fact that Bridgewater delivered some accurate deep shots in recent weeks is a good sign. Rudolph may seem like a bad choice but look for this Dolphins-Steelers tilt to be close and higher scoring than many may think.
Although Ryan has Derek Carr as a low-end recommendation, Houston has given up an average of 310 yards and 3.3 passing touchdowns during the past three weeks against Matt Ryan and a week offensive line, a dinged Patrick Mahomes II, and Jacoby Brissett and a run-heavy Colts offense. With Tyrell Williams practicing, and Josh Jacobs nursing a shoulder injury that might limit him with one big hit, I'd also add Carr to the marquee list.
3. Jeff Tefertiller's Dynasty News
Tefertiller is an active and skilled dynasty player who filters through the weekly news cycle to deliver meaningful analysis from a dynasty perspective. Here are some of the notes I found most interesting from this week's article.
Yes, Gardner Minshew has played well after Nick Foles went down to injury, but the veteran is likely to regain the starting job once healthy. Last week, coach Doug Marrone told reporters Foles would begin practicing this week. Early indications gave Foles a Week 11 or Week 12 return date so this would be an early return. Minshew could be playing for his job the next few weeks. He did not play well against the Bengals but the still drew the victory.
Former Titans leader and wide receiver Rishard Matthews appeared on ESPN 102.5 The Game and gave his thoughts on the Tennessee quarterback situation. As per the radio station Twitter account, Matthews said, “Former Titans WR Rishard Matthews on 102.5 The Game: ‘I've been with Ryan [Tannehill] and I feel like he's going to do a great job at demanding greatness from those guys. He's going to show up, he's going to lead vocally... At that position you've got to lead.’" That quote was followed up by, “Rishard Matthews on Marcus Mariota: ‘When you're in high school & college, you can be that silent leader. When you're in the league, you're around grown men and you've got to demand greatness from them. They've got to be able to see that every day, not just every now and then.’" Mariota was benched in Week 7 for Tannehill. Tannehill led his team to the victory Sunday over the Chargers. We fully expect the situation to be fluid the rest of the season. Tennessee traded for Tannehill coming into Mariota’s last season under contract so that had to be a sign for the organization’s lack of confidence in the former first-round pick. Unless one of these passers steps up their game, expect the Titans to go a different direction in 2020.
Early last week, the New England Patriots re-signed tight end Ben Watson, according to exceptional beat reporter Mike Reiss. Reiss tweeted, “Contract note: TE Benjamin Watson re-signed to a one-year deal with a base salary of $1.236 million, of which $800k is guaranteed. There is also a chance for Watson to earn $200k in playing time incentives. The $800k guarantee provides Watson some assurance he is in team's plans.” So, a week after releasing Watson due to no space on the active roster, the veteran was brought back for serious money. Given the injuries to the receivers, Watson could have some big fantasy games down the stretch.
Matt's Thoughts: If you noticed, two of my previous takes on Foles and Watson match Jeff's. The details above only solidify my arguments. I found the views on Tannehill vs. Mariota most notable and true. You need a strong locker room filled with vocal leaders on the same page to get away with a personality like Mariota at quarterback.
Even if you have such an environment if your quarterback doesn't establish that when he speaks you listen, he's not leading. Leadership by example is an essential part of leadership, but it's incomplete. You must also take charge and vocal leadership doesn't have to be an endless running of the mouth. Mariota's days as a starter are likely over.
4. Matt Bitonti's Offensive Line Rankings
Here are some of the risers and fallers from Matt's weekly feature that are worth noting, especially for those of you considering players off the waiver wire:
KANSAS CITY UP 9 SLOTS
In Week Two, left tackle Eric Fisher tore his groin and the injury required what the coaches described as "core muscle surgery." At the time, a table of 4-6 weeks rehab was set. This Wednesday, in preparation for Week Eight, Fisher returned to practice in a limited fashion. This might be jumping the gun but as Fisher has a history of playing hurt, he been included in the ranks for this weekend's match-up at Green Bay. Fisher's return would free up Cam Erving (who has been vulnerable at left tackle). With left guard Andrew Wylie is out with an ankle injury and Martinas Rankin shaky in his place, Erving could be an option at left guard, as could Stefan Wisniewski. Assuming Fisher's return to the lineup, and some kind of improvement at left guard, the Chiefs' line again grade out as a top-tier option. Waldman's Thoughts: This helps Matt Moore because he should have more time to find secondary receivers (Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, and Byron Pringle) and it will solidify the ground game. If desperate during the bye-week in larger leagues consider a Chiefs reserve runner and/or receiver.
SAN FRANCISCO UP 13 SLOTS
Left tackle Joe Staley suffered a broken leg (fractured fibula) in Week Two and some thought his season could be over. However, Staley was given a 6-8 week timetable for rehab and it must have gone well as Staley was listed as a limited practice participant on Wednesday. While limited participants do often miss games, a return for Staley after 6 weeks is realistic The coaches are saying Staley has an "outside chance" to play but the rankings assume he will return in time for this weekend's contest against Carolina. This upgrade might be a week early but whenever Staley returns, it would free up Justin Skule to go back to the right side, where Mike McGlinchey is still out with a knee injury. In this scenario, Daniel Brunskill would be the swing tackle again. Both Skule and Brunskill have done well in the replacement of the starters and Skule might actually have proven himself Staley's long term replacement. The San Francisco 49ers' offensive line is returning to health and grade as a solid mid-tier line with Staley in the lineup. Waldman's Thoughts: With Emmanuel Sanders joining the team, the 49ers aerial attack should create more conundrums for opposing safeties. With enough time to survey the field and manipulate opponents, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sanders, George Kittle, and maybe even Dane Pettis could benefit. Obviously, a preemptive addition of a waiver wire runner like Wilson is also a fine move.
5. The Gut Check: A 360-Look at the Emmanuel Sanders TRade
This week's Gut Check explores the potential short-term and long-term impact of the Emmanuel Sanders deal on Sanders, the 49ers offense, and the Broncos offense. Here's an excerpt of the piece looking at the short-term impact on the 49ers.
The rationale behind the deal: Sanders has been unhappy in Denver prior to his Achilles tear. Much like C.J. Anderson, Sanders felt that Denver's reluctance to negotiate a new deal was a sign that they didn't value his past and present contributions. Considering that Denver wasted three years on Devontae Booker and dickered around with wholesale scheme changes to the offensive line so it could prove John Elway correct about investing highly in Booker, a below-average runner at reading leverage of blocks, it's understandable that Sanders would be displeased with the organization.
The 49ers have entered a window of contention thanks to its defense and running game. The unit requiring the greatest improvement is the passing game. Jimmy Garoppolo has several years of NFL tenure but he's essentially a second-year player in terms of game experience and he's still experiencing ups and downs that come with the learning curve of a young quarterback.
Compounding this issue is a depth chart filled with receivers who are either inexperienced and/or lacking versatility. Marquise Goodwin is a vertical threat with inconsistent hands and 1-2 routes that he runs well between the numbers. Kyle Shanahan believes that Dante Pettis can become a great NFL receiver but summer injuries slowed his progression and his methods are a little unconventional because he wins later in routes than some quarterbacks are comfortable with targeting without gaining a strong rapport with him.
Although Pettis can play split end (X) and flanker (Z), Shanahan has Pettis mostly in the slot (F). Because Trent Taylor and Richie James are essentially slot receivers, they're only earning bit parts despite promising skills in this role.
Deebo Samuel has the excellent athletic ability of a future star but if you're watching closely enough, you'll notice that he has issues working free of press coverage and his route running is still a work in progress. Shanahan uses Samuel in high-leverage situations—often as a gadget player—but the reasons I just stated are why demands for him to see more of the field weren't going to happen this year.
Jalen Hurd has promising route skills, great athletic ability, and the versatility to play the slot, outside, H-Back, or even running back (he was a five-star recruit at the position and, when healthy, a pretty good starter at Tennessee. Hurd's back injury has slowed his acclimation and as with every receiver on the depth chart who isn't one-dimensional Goodwin, he lacks experience.
Sanders gives Shanahan an experienced and versatile receiver who can play every position, run every route, and he understands the precision required of a great passing game thanks to his years with Peyton Manning. Sanders's work with Ben Roethlisberger also gives him experience playing with a masterful improviser and Garappolo's mobility is something that the receivers must maximize.
Short-term: Sanders' transition from Denver to San Francisco should be a short one because Broncos' offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello was the 49ers quarterback coach last year and brought Kyle Shanahan's offense to Denver. There may be differences in terminology and Shanahan has different wrinkles in his playbook, but the foundation of the offenses is similar enough that, worst case, Sanders should be up to full speed within 2-3 weeks and even capable of seeing significant time on the field immediately.
Sanders takes the pressure off Goodwin, who is not a primary receiver and doesn't generate a lot of every-down respect. Sanders will generate that respect more often. His presence will force opposing defenses into a conundrum with which of the two receivers earns the safety help.
Sanders's versatility also allows Shanahan to have his corp play in different positions more often, which is not only why he values Sanders but also a big reason why he drafted Pettis and Hurd. This will create more mismatches for Sanders, Goodwin, and Pettis.
This analysis isn't forgetting George Kittle. He's the reason why we know that the current receivers aren't making opponents pay for the attention Kittle requires.
Kittle is the team's most productive aerial component in a passing offense that has earned two quality fantasy games in seven weeks—against Cincinnati and Cleveland. The other top aerial producers in those games were Goodwin, Samuel, and Raheem Moster (vs. Cincinnati) and Matt Brieda (vs. Cleveland).
No 49ers receiver has earned 90 yards in a game this year and the unit has only scored 4 touchdowns in 7 games. Kittle has the only 100-yard effort and he only has 1 touchdown this year.
If the 49ers want to win in the playoffs against quality defenses, it will need more diversification and consistency with its offensive attack, which is where Sanders can help immediately. With Joe Flacco, Sanders has earned 86-yard, 98-yard, and 104-yard weeks and two touchdowns as the second fiddle to Courtland Sutton. His 30-367-2 season box score doubles Samuel's team-leading production prior to the trade.
Expect Sanders to earn the primary role and become Garappolo's go-to option. Look for Goodwin's targets to decrease but his efficiency to increase—if he can hold onto the ball AND stay healthy, which has been no small feat for him.
Samuel should continue earning high-leverage, gadget, and glorified running-back-in-space targets. His efficiency should also climb but his weekly production will remain as unpredictable Goodwin's. Both Goodwin and Samuel will have an enhanced opportunity to deliver fantasy value against reactive and undisciplined defenses like Arizona (twice), Seattle (its secondary, not its linebackers) and Atlanta.
Kittle should see a significant bump in production that could lead to bigger plays because of Sanders's ability to stretch the field vertically and horizontally, which will run off coverage that would otherwise reach Kittle earlier when he transitions upfield after the catch. Look for Kittle to have big weeks against the Cardinals, Packers, Ravens, Saints, Falcons, and Rams.
Pettis is the wildcard. The attention that Sanders and Kittle command should give Pettis a lot of winnable matchups from the slot or against No.2 corners from the outside. At the same time, Sanders's presence and the 49ers' reliance on 21 personnel (two receivers, two backs, and one tight end) with the run game won't elevate Pettis's volume unless Kyle Shanahan's rationale for the acquisition is to use more three-receiver sets of 11 personnel.
If the 49ers increase its usage of 11 personnel, Pettis becomes a good flex-play in fantasy. If it doesn't, he's a bye-week or match-up play if the rest of the depth chart remains healthy.
For all of you skimmers out there, here's the re-draft outlook:
- Garappolo: An enhanced shot at earning top-15 production for the rest of the year but consider him on the low-end of that spectrum as a match-up play.
- Kittle: Sanders's presence bumps Kittle from low-end TE1 production to elite TE1 production.
- Sanders: He has top-15 WR potential in PPR leagues the rest of the way.
- Pettis: Top-48 WR potential in PPR leagues if 49ers maintain alignment patterns with 21 personnel vs. 11 personnel. He has top-36 potential if the 49ers use more 11 personnel after the trade.
- Goodwin, Samuel, and Kendrick Bourne: Strictly bye-week matchup plays versus reactive and undisciplined defenses.
Good luck this week, and may all of your bold calls come true.