Welcome to Week 3 of the 2020 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discusses fantasy long shots, "big-year" performers whose careers might be just the beginning, players our staff can't quit on, and our panel's best in-season moves in their leagues.
WEek 10 Grab BAG
Matt Waldman: Answer one of the questions below.
- Is there a chance that Mike White could earn the job ahead of Zach Wilson for the season with another strong performance?
- Can DeSean Jackson deliver ROS fantasy starter value for the Raiders in lineups with 4-5 receivers?
- Is Kenneth Gainwell a bust in Philadelphia? One could argue that the Eagles personnel department is fixated on a Donnel Pumphrey-like scatback?
- Could Le'Veon Bell be rounding into form as a fantasy contributor in Baltimore?
Which one of these options can exceed the above expectations?
Mark Schofield: When it comes to White the answer is negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full.
One of the more intriguing NFL stories from the past few weeks, at least from where I sit, had nothing to do with disgruntled wide receivers, vaccinations, or anything else. It was when intrepid New York Jets fans noticed during the Jets' shocking win over the Cincinnati Bengals that on the sidelines, standing next to an injured Zach Wilson and wearing a Jets hat and a headset, was John Beck, Wilson's private QB coach.
After that was discovered, it was eventually pointed out that the organization added Beck as a coach, to help develop the player they selected second overall.
Why is this notable? Because we know that draft capital, and specifically draft capital expenditure, will guide organizations. If you draft a player with the second pick, you want to make it work. Specifically, with QBs, we have seen teams mold the offensive scheme and talent to that player. The Jets are an example. Wilson played in an offense at BYU that borrowed heavily from the Shanahan/McVay/LaFleur tree. Outside zone, boot action, play action, and all the rest.
The Jets hired Mike LaFleur to install that kind of offense. Wilson played behind a great offensive line at BYU. So the Jets traded up in the first round to add guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and put him next to Mekhi Becton, hoping to protect Wilson's blindside for the next decade.
Now, the Jets are adding Wilson's private coach to the staff.
So it might be possible that the organization decides to let White play, but that will only come about if the team feels it is best for Wilson to sit. Not because White has gone out and won the job.
Dan Hindery: I agree with Mark. White will have a great shot at earning the starting job for Week 11, however, it has less to do with his play and more to do with what Wilson has been lacking. This is a situation where nothing is likely to be written in stone after this week. White could have a monster Week 10 performance and keep the starting job, but if he struggles for a few weeks later in the year and the Jets are not playing for anything, Wilson will get another chance this season.
White should remain the starter until he fails. Any other course of action would be bad for everyone involved, especially Wilson. If Wilson is given the starting job back prematurely, every time he struggles there will be calls for White. Maybe White is the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner. More likely, he is Gardner Minshew, AJ McCarron, or one of the many other late-round quarterbacks who has some quick success but is not able to sustain it over the longer term.
Haseley: Despite the Jets' recent hiring of Beck, the Jets may be better off going with Mike White for the immediate future while Wilson continues to learn from the sidelines. It's the opposite approach of what the Bears have done with Justin Fields. Instead of letting him learn from the bench, they are letting him learn on the field. So far it has worked to their advantage. The fact that both White and Josh Johnson have shown success in the Jets offense while Wilson has struggled, is a concern, perhaps a big concern. Wilson is recovering from a PCL injury that will keep him sidelined for a few more weeks. In the meantime, White will have his audition and it could prove to be effective and beneficial to his career.
Ryan Weisse: I'm going with the White-Wilson question. There's absolutely a chance that White could earn the job over Wilson but I have my doubts.
White had one good game. One. Sure, that's one more than Wilson, but we are also comparing a three-year veteran to a rookie. White may not have played early in his career, but he has been in the NFL since 2018 and preparing for this moment. This is not a slight to what he did against the Bengals. It was awesome but should not be the expectation. From a fantasy perspective, the only player to see a real bump in value with White was Michael Carter II because he dumps the ball off 10-plus times per game. Maybe they could give Wilson a few of those easy plays when he comes back.
Wilson needs to eliminate the turnovers. Hopefully, this time off will help with that problem. But White has also thrown four interceptions in the equivalent of two games. Two of those four were against the same Patriots defense that beat up on Wilson earlier this season. The Jets spent the draft capital, and there is no reason to give up on a quarterback after six starts. It's not like they are making the playoffs.
Jason Wood: I'll tackle Kenneth Gainwell —
Waldman: Which has been easier to do than expected.
Wood: Haha! Ok now...It's been an odd journey for the rookie. By all accounts, he had a strong training camp and preseason, which was enough to warrant carrying him as the No. 2 behind Miles Sanders over Boston Scott -- who was relegated to the practice squad. But just as Sanders heads for IR, the coaches totally reshape the conversation by not only moving Boston Scott into a feature role but also re-signing Jordan Howard and putting him into a timeshare with Scott.
Gainwell has been used sparingly since. It's hard to have a strong stance on what's happening in Philadelphia given the new coaching staff and a lack of track record. As an Eagles fan, I'm pleased to see the team re-commit to a ground attack. But I'm puzzled as to what Gainwell has done, or hasn't done, to warrant the demotion. I don't think we can call him a bust halfway into his rookie year, but clearly, he needs to regain the coaches' trust.
Troy King: The Jet’s drafted Wilson second overall and have been playing him since the beginning of the season. If they were concerned about development, they should have gone with the “Trey Lance” approach and had a vet start from the beginning. At this point, when Wilson is healthy, it makes sense to put him back out there and improve with real game experience.
Waldman: A follower of mine on Twitter has asked me about DeSean Jackson all year and followed up this week when Jackson signed with the Raiders so I'll share my thoughts on the veteran. It's obvious that Jackson can still separate in the vertical game, especially after seeing him connect with Matthew Stafford through summer practices and then against the Buccaneers.
The most important questions are whether he can acclimate fast enough to the Raiders'offense, command Ruggs' share of targets, and stay healthy enough to deliver weekly impact. Although the Raiders no long have Jon Gruden in the fold, the scheme hasn't changed and Gruden is an old-time Bill Walsh disciple descending directly from Andy Reid's influence.
Jackson played much of his career in this offense, even if the verbiage might have differences. I'm confident that Jackson's signing has a lot to do with his potential to be an impactful presence on the offense as soon as he learns the basic verbiage of the plays. As for Ruggs' targets, we know that Ruggs ran a lot of posts, go routes, deep crossers, and over routes. These are man-to-man routes or patterns working in conjunction with play-action and will get open in zones.
Although confident in Jackson's abilities, I'm less confident in him earning 5-7 targets a week. However, 3-4 targets seem reasonable and there is the weekly potential where Jackson could start hot in a game and the opposing defense lacks an answer. On the occasions this happens, Jackson could elevate your entire roster with one huge afternoon.
The problem is his age and rate of injuries over the past 3-4 years. I'm not confident in him staying healthy long enough to get weekly starter production for the rest of the season. As desperation plays go, he's worth the risk and riding him for all that you can get if he proves productive early.
This Year Only Or Just the BEginning?
Waldman: The following players are fantasy starters this year. Which ones do you believe are clear "one-year-only" candidates when it comes to their current performances as listed below? Which ones do you believe are just beginning to make their mark as fantasy starters for multiple years?
- Cordarrelle Patterson: Top-15 RB.
- James Conner's return as a top-15 RB.
- Noah Fant: Top-12 TE.
- Dawson Knox: Top-12 TE.
- CJ Uzomah: Top-12 TE.
- Marquise Brown: Top-12 WR.
- Christian Kirk: Top-24 WR.
- Jalen Hurts: Top-12 QB.
- Carson Wentz's return as a top-12 QB.
Pick three from this list and explain your view.
King: Uzomah is this year-only candidate. Unfortunately, his production has been inconsistent and unsustainable. He is averaging about three receptions and three targets a game for a nine percent target share. He happens to have five touchdowns, which is propping up his overall numbers. With the other weapons in the offense, it’s highly unlikely we see Uzomah will ever be a focal point.
Hurts is a one-year-only candidate simply because of the unknown around his future. The Eagles are a bad team with a new regime that isn’t tied to Hurts. It is very likely that the Eagles draft a QB in next year’s draft. If Hurts gets another starting job, he has the ability to be top-12 again, however, there are only so many projected starting quarterback vacancies around the league.
Brown has only just begun. The Ravens finally have a solid balance between running and passing the football. Brown is also clearly the number one receiver on the team, commanding a 25% target share. He is also averaging about 9 targets a game and 85 yards. The Ravens have found success with this model and after this career year, I don’t see things slowing down for Brown.
Wood: Patterson is probably this year only. He's already 30 years old, is playing on a one-year bargain contract, and the Falcons are over the cap heading into 2022. Teams don't build around aging veterans, much less those who converted positions late in their careers. It's possible Patterson re-signs and plays a similar role in 2022, but it's far likelier Arthur Smith and the front office prioritize drafting one or two every-down bell-cows to set the offense on its intended course.
Conner was a Top 15 fantasy running back for the Steelers in 2018. He's currently RB6, which is remarkable considering he's had to share touches with Chase Edmonds for most of the season. Both Edmonds and Conner are set for unrestricted free agency after this season, so nothing is guaranteed. But Edmonds is banged up and ineffective season-to-date while Conner looks like the league's best short-yardage back this side of the now-injured Derrick Henry. I'd say it's more likely the Cardinals re-sign Conner and give him the 1-A role for a season or two beyond 2021.
As we discussed in last week's roundtable, Brown is a force of nature. Those ill-timed drops early in the season have somehow obscured the narrative. He's an elite playmaker, and what he's done in a run-first scheme is a sight to behold. He's only 24 years old and is on pace for 1,200+ yards and double-digit touchdowns. He'll be a fantasy starter for many years to come, as long as he remains healthy.
Schofield: I will buy into the Kirk hype because as I wrote earlier this year when you see teams call plays and designs for a specific receiver, that should be something that sticks in your mind. We saw that earlier this year even with DeAndre Hopkins on the field, and we saw it again Sunday. The big completion from Colt McCoy to Kirk came on a concept designed for the receiver, as was a fake screen concept earlier in the game. Kliff Kingsbury is calling concepts for Kirk, and we should be paying attention.
I'll also buy into Hurts from a fantasy perspective. His ceiling in the NFL might be that of a "QB you can win with," but because of what he can do with his legs, he is going to be a strong fantasy play the rest of the season. Now reservations with Hurts might come from a "what happens down the road in Philadelphia" perspective, but looking at the next draft class...Hurts might get some more time to run the show in Philly.
I'm also buying the emergence of Knox in Buffalo. I think this is sustainable from a schematic standpoint as well, both in the short- and the long term. Like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills are facing a lot of the two-high coverage shells we are seeing defenses use to try and A) Force the offense to run, and B) Keep designs in front of them.
But the weakness of those coverages? The middle of the field. That's why the Tampa 2 was invented, to try and match tight ends and slot receivers as they attacked between the safeties. With the Bills seeing these looks, Knox is going to be a part of how the offense looks to respond.
Weisse: Get used to seeing Brown as a top-12 wide receiver. We've seen this production out of Brown before, but this is the first season he is putting it all together. He's hit 50-plus yards in seven of eight games and scored a touchdown in five different games. The best part is that he is doing it while Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman are still being targeted. The team is throwing the ball more than they did in 2020, and that will be paramount to him remaining a top fantasy option moving forward. As Lamar Jackson improves, Baltimore's pass attempts will continue to rise, and there will be no worry of "too many mouths to feed." Even if they remain a run-first team, Brown will see the target volume needed to keep himself near the top of fantasy rankings.
There is no reason that Patterson can't continue as a top-15 running back after this season. It took years, but Arthur Smith finally showed the NFL how to use him, and that will continue past 2021. He's never going to produce high-carry volume, but that is the very same reason we don't have to worry about the 30-year-old cliff that most running backs fall off of in their careers. Targets are worth far more than carries, and Patterson will be, at worst, the fourth passing option in this offense in 2022 and beyond. Even if you took away four of his seven touchdowns this season, he would still be the RB13 in PPR scoring. Do you play in non-PPR? He's the current RB8 in that format and would be RB17 with just three of his touchdowns. His volume is different, but it is also more valuable for fantasy football.
Uzomah will not be a top-12 tight end next year and may not be one to end the 2021 season. Remember Robert Tonyan Jr? Not to pile on to his injury, but he averaged just six fantasy points per game when he got hurt. His 2020, where he finished as the TE4 on just 59 total targets, was built on 11 touchdowns. That kind of season is tough to replicate, especially for a tight end. Uzomah, and to an extent, Dawson Knox, are walking that same path. Uzomah plays on a team with three good wide receivers and multiple running backs that can catch the football. He is on pace for just 52 targets this season but has already scored five touchdowns. He's also catching the ball at a 15% higher average than just about any other tight end in the league. Regression to the mean comes for everyone, and Uzomah will be the next victim. Don't get trapped in drafts next season.
Hindery: Hurts will be a top-12 fantasy quarterback for as long as he is a starting NFL quarterback. He is just too productive as a runner not to be. In his 13 career starts, Hurts has averaged 9.6 fantasy points per game as a runner. The only real question is whether he can keep a hold of the starting job for another season. Hurts is only 4-9 as a starter and he needs to start stacking some wins down the stretch if he wants to get another season. He could get a stay of execution due to the lackluster 2022 rookie class at quarterback.
Wentz is unlikely to be a top-12 fantasy quarterback next season. He is not even a top-12 quarterback now if you look at it in terms of points per game (15th). His fantasy ranking has benefitted from others having early byes and missed games from Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and others who are outscoring him on a per-game basis. Wentz is also probably going to have to compete with younger guys like Trey Lance and Justin Fields who may take a step forward and have much more rushing upside. There is a lot of strong competition to be a top-12 fantasy quarterback at this point.
Knox should remain a top-12 fantasy tight end moving forward. He has emerged as a favorite target for Josh Allen, especially in the red zone. Given how pass-heavy and prolific the Bills offense has been, he is well-positioned to remain a fantasy starter next season.
Haseley: Conner is no stranger to injuries and hardships. He could be a league winner-this season or he could get hurt in his next game and struggle to produce what we've seen in the first half of the season. Looking back at Conner's history, he's been through a lot. He developed Stage-2 Hodgkins-lymphoma in college, which he overcame. He has had multiple MCL injuries, a high ankle injury, concussion, a shoulder injury, and he re-injured his shoulder after returning too soon. While I hope it doesn't happen, the injury risk for Conner is high. He signed a one-year $1.75M contract in a proven year. Who knows where he will be in 2022, but it may not be in a place where he can have similar results. He's a one-year guy.
It sure looks like Knox has "figured it out" as an NFL tight end and is poised to be a fantasy-relevant option on a high-scoring team, at least until the end of the 2022 season. He is an unrestricted free agent in 2023. My gut says we will continue to see Knox flourish in Josh Allen's offense.
Brown has been a surprise this season. Any Ravens receiver as a fantasy option is a surprise in a Lamar Jackson-led offense, but here we are. Brown may not be a top-12 receiver in the second half of the season due to the presence of Rashod Bateman, but also the law of averages catching up to the Ravens receivers in general. Brown is a classic example of a sell-high while you can still get good value. The Ravens are not a high-volume passing offense and it stands to reason that the roller coaster may be coming back down bringing Brown with them.
Waldman: Give me Knox, Brown, and Kirk. All three have starter athletic traits and have developed the advanced techniques required of their roles in the passing game. All three have top quarterbacks as well.
Don't STop Believing/I Can't Quit You
Waldman: At one time or another, everyone has a player that hasn't performed to their expectations but they believe if given a real chance to shine that they will deliver. Jene Bramel couldn't quit Mark Ingram II during Ingram's early years with the Saints. Share a current player who fits that description for you.
If you're inclined to give one of those "I've outgrown this behavior/I'm so mature type of answers," give us a player who fits this description from the past but be forewarned, I will make fun of you.
Hindery: He has not been a complete bust or anything but Josh Jacobs has been disappointing this season given where he was drafted. He just can’t seem to stay healthy. How many games in his career has Jacobs actually been feeling good and not limited by a nagging injury? We also have never seen him consistently involved as a pass-catcher, which is frustrating given how well he caught the ball at Alabama. He has played 70% of the snaps in a game just three times total in his career and I would love to see what he could do in a true three-down role.
Wood: I'm going to give you one that I've finally thrown in the towel on, and one that I'm still holding out hope for. Mecole Hardman was one of my favorite late-round grabs in drafts this year, even though we haven't seen him put up big numbers, even for a short window, before. Like many, I thought the Chiefs offense was elite and something you needed to grab pieces of, and the idea of grabbing Hardman in the year when Sammy Watkins left the team made sense. But needless to say, the Chiefs offense has fallen on hard times and Hardman has done nothing to help alleviate the inconsistency.
The one I'm still hanging onto is Van Jefferson. Matthew Stafford has been as good as advertised for the Rams, he's reinvigorated the offense and has Sean McVay looking like a play-calling maestro again. And Cooper Kupp is on pace for a record-setting season while Robert Woods continues to put up very strong numbers (albeit a bit more volatility this year than his teammate). That leaves Van Jefferson as the third wheel, but he's looked great in his snaps and I believe he has the overall talent to be an impact fantasy starter once either Kupp or Woods move on.
King: Rondale Moore. We have seen a taste of his explosiveness and the different ways he is able to be utilized in the Cardinals’ offense. Unfortunately, he is only playing 55% on snaps on the season. Prior to Week 9 where he was forced to start due to Hopkins and Green being out, Moore’s career-high in snap rate was 61%. He is also only seeing about 5 targets a game. He is electric with the ball in his hands, but there is a real concern if he will ever get the volume to be a trustworthy option in the offense.
Waldman: I probably should have excluded rookies and second-year players from this equation but at the same time, we all get a lot of questions from readers and listeners who abandon any positive expectation for young players who don't produce immediately.
Haseley: For me, this player is Mo Alie-Cox. He has so much promise and the ability to be a fantasy juggernaut on a team that has utilized the tight-end position well in the past, not to mention a quarterback who has done the same. Just when you think he could be turning the corner, he regresses into an inconsistent, unreliable, disappointing roster clog. I don't want to drop him, for fear of the eventual turnaround that we all dread when we drop a promising dynasty prospect.
Weisse: It's always hard for me to give up on a player when I see a glimpse of something great. I remember watching Jimmy Graham fill in for an injured Jeremy Shockey in 2010 and instantly thought, "this kid is going to be good!" When he blew up, I already had him on all of my teams and felt a sense of pride, like I had discovered him. Unfortunately, I've also been wrong plenty. Steven Sims Jr., Albert Wilson, Dede Westbrook, and Kenny Stills immediately come to mind.
Right now, I can't stop believing in Gardner Minshew. Maybe it's how he carries himself. Perhaps it's because I, too, am mustachioed. But he has not been bad on the field, and you cannot convince there are 32 better quarterbacks in the NFL right now. In two seasons, 20 starts, he completed 62% of his passes for 5530 yards and 37 touchdowns--all with questionable talent around him. Plus, he's added another 500 rushing yards, which is great for fantasy value. I like Jalen Hurts a lot, but I won't be upset if I see Minshew enter the game, and I don't think Eagles fans will be either.
Schofield: For me, that player is Evan Engram. Ever since studying him at Mississippi, and then seeing him at the Senior Bowl, I have believed that he is the kind of matchup nightmare of a tight end that is built for the modern NFL game.
So when he catches a vertical route for a TD like he did early Sunday against the Raiders, I find myself truly believing again. I won't give up this ghost.
Waldman: So the pattern is never full for Engram?
Scofield: Roger, and I don't mean Goodell.
Waldman: Since we're not excluding rookies, I'll start with Trey Sermon. While I'm pessimistic that he'll earn a shot in San Francisco without the team firing Kyle Shanahan, a system coach who has built a good offensive scheme but is generating an increasing amount of scrutiny for his personnel management. Elijah Mitchell fits the primary thing that the 49ers like to do with its ground attack and that's run perimeter plays like Toss where their all-world tight end and fullback give them a huge advantage opening creases where a straight-line runner with top speed can thrive.
Still, as well as Mitchell has played, Sermon was equally productive during his playing time in Mitchell's absence and actually had contextually more difficult attempts with greater success. While not as fast, Sermon is more versatile with the type of run blocking schemes a team can utilize, which makes an offense less predictable.
I'm hoping the 49ers trade Sermon to a team that could get more from him. Seattle has talent on the depth chart but injuries and contract expirations may lead to a potential opening. Miami will probably seek a speed back to complement Miles Gaskin but there could be an opportunity there. If Derrick Henry can't return to form, Sermon has the profile to fit in Tennessee. Sermon could also be an intriguing fit in New Orleans or Baltimore if the Saints want a younger option with Mark Ingram II's ability to complement Alvin Kamara or if the Ravens' injured starters can't return to form.
I like Dan's mentioning of Jacobs, an excellent football player whose nagging injuries and underutilization in the passing game is sad to see.
I will make those not familiar with my work laugh but I believe Chad Kelley was a superior talent in the 2017 class of quarterbacks and I only had Patrick Mahomes II ranked ahead of him when not factoring in his off-field behavior before and after the draft. I've seen fans and media laugh when Kelly, the Colts' third-string quarterback at the time, told the media that he could beat any quarterback in a race other than Lamar Jackson.
They didn't know that Kelly was a top dual-threat player when he arrived in Clemson and then prompted got himself kicked off the team for arguing with coaches. Even when Kelly was a year removed from an ACL tear and only months past hernia surgery, he showed off his breakaway speed on tape against Georgia's perennially athletic defense, splitting a safety and cornerback (each with legitimate pursuit angles) for a touchdown of over 50 yards.
More important, Kelly has an excellent pocket feel and the rare confidence to get the ball out into tight windows that had favorable leverage for the receiver.
I don't believe Kelly will ever get a chance to become a contributor in the NFL after the debacle in Denver because no personnel executive will want him as the face of the franchise. Still, I have no doubts about his talent and when considering Kelly strictly on his skills and willingness to work, he and Mahomes should have been three years into one of the league's best rivalries of this generation of football.
FBG Staffers' Best In-SEason Moves, Thus Far
Waldman: What's the best trade, waiver-wire addition, subtraction, or long-term lineup decision you've made in a league this year?
Schofield: For me, it was the decision to add Knox after seeing how the Buffalo Bills were incorporating him into the offense early in the season. Many thought the Bills were going to rely heavily on 10 personnel, four-receiver packages after using so much of that grouping last season. But the utilization early of Knox in their passing game had me running to the waiver wire.
King: I'm going to look ahead and predict that acquiring Antonio Brown will pay dividends by year's end.
Weisse: I've already spent a ton of time talking about him, but my best move was easily acquiring Patterson in any league that I did not draft him. Outside of his solid performance thus far, his dual-eligibility has saved me from the bye week headaches that others had in Weeks 7 and 9. It doesn't matter if I need a running back or wide receiver; Patterson is there for me.
I'll add that I traded away Darren Waller after his monster Week 1. That performance was never going to be repeatable, and I either got back Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews plus another piece, and that could not have worked out better to this point.
Haseley: This has already been discussed but for me, Patterson has been a roster savior. His ability to be a dual-threat fantasy producer has come in handy several weeks. He has by far been my most favorite addition via waivers. Honorable mention to Dalton Schultz whom I was able to snag in a few leagues early on in the season.
Hindery: Unfortunately, there has not been a home run waiver wire gem for me this season. The best I have managed is grabbing CJ Uzomah off of waivers early in a few leagues. He has given me a couple of big weeks when I was forced to start him due to my other tight ends being injured. Uzomah has a real connection with Burrow and has quietly been one of the more consistently productive tight ends in the NFL. Over the last six weeks, he actually ranks as the TE4.
Wood: Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but I subscribe to this awesome scouting service called the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. The guy who runs it, Matt Waldman, totally convinced me that Khalil Herbert had the requisite skills to be an impact, every-down tailback if the situation arose. So when David Montgomery (who is my most rostered player across all my leagues) got hurt, I grabbed Herbert while most overpaid for Damien Williams. It's kept me afloat and in contention while Montgomery was on the mend.
Waldman: And to think I made fun of your Eagles' back. Kind of you, Wood. Herbert absolutely was a great fantasy RB1 bridge for me as well. I've also benefitted in multiple leagues with the additions of Patterson and Schultz early in the year.