Welcome to Week 7 of the 2020 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate reserve running backs with short-term value, the Footballguys Subscriber Contest, Buy-Sell-Hold in dynasty formats, and players poised for a second-half surge.
- Reserve RBs of Merit
- Footballguys Subscriber Contest
- Dynasty Buy-Sell-Hold
- Second-Half Surge Candidates
The Reserve RB Label Game
Matt Waldman: For each RB below, you must assign a value tier for the next 3-4 weeks. If you wish to share their outlook for the season and beyond, you may do so. Labels to choose from for a 12-team, PPR format include RB1, RB2, Flex (RB3), Bye-Week, Reserve with Little Value.
You can use labels as many times as you want. It's not a game of matching one for each back. Explain your answers.
Chad Parsons: Damien Williams *should* be back this week and David Montgomery will be shortly to follow. Herbert will be part of a committee with Williams but pushed back by Montgomery. I am more interested in Herbert for dynasty than redraft as Herbert is a strong candidate to be the clear RB2 and injury-away option to Montgomery in 2022. This makes Herbert a flex.
Antonio Gibson's shin is worrisome and McKissic stands to benefit in PPR more than Jaret Patterson or anyone else on Washington's radar. RB1 is in play for McKissic so I see him as an RB2 with upside. Stevenson is a fumble away or whiffed blocking assignment from the doghouse again. Beyond Damien Harris, I have little faith in any back having a stabilized and projectable workload here so I'm labeling him a reserve with little value.
Rashaad Penny should return this week and Chris Carson could follow shortly. Also, Collins is already dinged up from running hot over the course of a few dozen touches. I am skeptical Collins holds up over much of a sample size if leaned on in the coming weeks, so I'm considering him a bye-week option.
I am more bullish on Williams than Clyde Edwards-Helaire as Williams does not have to split with a secondary back as solid as himself - as Edwards-Helaire did. I'm labeling Williams an RB1. Evans is a reserve with little value. Samaje Perine should be back the next game and Joe Mixon is healthy. Evans is officially interesting in dynasty, but just one of the intriguing RB3 NFL depth chart types for now in redraft assessment.
Jason Wood: Herbert has shown well given his opportunity but Damien Williams should be back this week, and David Montgomery will resume the bell-cow role in a few weeks. If Herbert only had to overcome one veteran injury, I'd be more enthusiastic but he needs both Williams and Montgomery to have another setback. He's a flex.
McKissic is not a naturally gifted runner and has never been asked to carry the load. Washington isn't going to start now, regardless of Antonio Gibson's status. Curtis Samuel can't be counted on but he's theoretically still poised to return in which case he'll naturally command some of the same targets McKissic would otherwise receive. He's a PPR-RB2.
Stevenson is a reserve with little value. Coach Belichick isn't one to push rookies unless they're out of this world.
Williams may not have the explosiveness to turn an average play into an unforgettable one, but he's also disciplined and gets every yard that's blocked. In many ways, he's a better fit for the Chiefs offense over Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and I wouldn't be surprised if Williams remains the workhorse even after (or if) Edwards-Helaire returns from Injured Reserve.
Evans has the wheels and open-field vision to become a third-down specialist for years to come, but he's not going to have the opportunity in 2021. Joe Mixon looks healthy again, and Samaje Perine should return soon after missing the week with Covid-19. He's a reserve with little value.
Ryan Weisse: The Bears have a Week 10 bye, and I can't imagine bringing David Montgomery back before Week 11. That means three games of just Herbert and Damien Williams. In the last two games, Herbert has turned 37 carries into 172 yards and a TD. We know who Damien Williams is; Herbert could easily win over this backfield until Montgomery is back. He's an RB2.
Weisse: Like Jason, McKissic is a PPR RB2 on an 'every-other-week" schedule right now. His good weeks are followed by bad, making him impossible to trust in your lineup. However, with Antonio Gibson unlikely to be at 100% anytime soon and a nice matchup with Green Bay in Week 7, McKissic could break that trend this week.
Over the long term, I'd call Stevenson an RB2, but for the next three weeks, he's a bye-week fill-in. His Week 1 fumble slowed his ascension, but the Patriots were always going to get him involved in this offense. Injuries have opened a path; he just needs to seize it. It may take some time to fully earn Bill Belichick's trust, but he will be fantasy-relevant once he does.
The RB1 role for the Seahawks has value, but will Collins be healthy enough to hold on? He had a great night against a tough Steelers run defense, proving he can do it against a good team without the threat of Russell Wilson. That is a huge step, and if he were 100% healthy, he might be an RB1 for a month, but he's not, and Rashaad Penny is coming off of IR this week. He's a flex play.
Williams has almost no competition for touches over the next few weeks, so that alone makes him very valuable in fantasy football right now. However, we've also seen the RB1 role for Kansas City struggle this season, so he's not a sure thing by any stretch. Nevertheless, if Williams continues to perform, he might carve a role for himself even when Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns. As always, you want a piece of this Kansas City offense, and Williams offers a solid entry point as an RB2.
It was a great catch by Evans in Week 6, I'll give you that, but he is barely even worth a roster spot in 12-team leagues. Coming into this week, he was averaging two fantasy points per game. As long as Joe Mixon is healthy, that is the production you should expect. It was a nice catch, though.
Sean Settle: After the strong showing last week, Herbert will remain a Flex option in the short term. Williams should return sooner than later, and David Montgomery will resume his role as the starter when he returns from injury as well. Herbert showed flashes that will give him long-term value in this offense, but he will see a major reduction in playing time once the backs ahead of him return. Fire him up as a Flex for now until the other guys' return.
There has always been PPR value with McKissic. He has proven to be the preferred pass-catching back and has been getting more playing time with the injury to Gibson. He has the speed and elusiveness to make the big play and has little competition in this offense outside of Terry McLaurin right now. Fire up McKissic as an RB2 with confidence with potential RB1 numbers in the right matchup.
There is a giant void behind Damien Harris in the New England backfield and every back is a single mistake away from being benched. Brandon Bolden has been handling pass-catching work and there is little information on the injury to James White. Stevenson may poach some goal-line work, but the unpredictability of the New England backfield makes him a reserve candidate with little value.
Collins is doing the best with the opportunity he is given right now, but we may have seen his best game last week against Pittsburgh. Penny is slated to return, and Chris Carson should not be side-lined long. Collings is a great fill if you are struggling with Byes for the next few weeks but is likely just a reserve candidate once Carson returns to the mix. He's a bye-week option.
Williams has huge upside for as long as Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out. He is not splitting reps with someone that is going to take away goal-line carries or force a smaller workload. He plays in a very explosive offense and seems to fit the scheme better than Edwards-Helaire. Fire up Williams wherever you can, and he will still be a flex option IF Edwards-Helaire returns this season.
It was fun to watch this past week, but Evans will not see enough playing time with Joe Mixon healthy and Samaje Perine back next week. The Bengals are quickly turning into a pass-first offense and there is little value for a third running back on the depth chart.
Stevenson has yet to show he can be relied upon and behind Damien Harris, we have other backs such as Brandon Bolden to chip in. Stevenson may get more work as the season unfolds, but unless I had a deep roster I would rather look elsewhere.
I like Collins better than Flex on a week-to-week basis, but looking 3-4 weeks down the line is a harder proposition. Chris Carson could be back. Rashaad Penny could be playing or be gone again. History dictates the latter. Collins himself struggles with a regular workload, so week to week is a better way to look at Collins. Ride him while you can.
Williams is a nice option to have. The way Kansas City is playing though his upside is limited to top-end RB2. Williams would need 20 carries a game consistently to be viewed as an RB1, so while he managed that against Washington, he will not do it regularly. He's an RB2.
Scott Bischoff: Herbert has looked excellent over the past game and a half, splitting time with other running backs and then getting the start on his own last week. He can be productive for fantasy purposes but will be splitting time now with Williams while running back David Montgomery is out. He's a flex option.
McKissic is an excellent pass-catching option out of the backfield, and he is also reliable in pass protection which is critical for a third-down option. It comes down to how Washington's games look from a script standpoint. I'm comfortable playing him in PPR situations if I see Washington behind and throwing.
Stevenson is behind a slew of other backs that can make plays like him, and it is tough to see him emerging from this group to carve out a role right now. He is a talented player, but the road to fantasy production is littered with others in his way.
The news on Chris Carson's neck injury sounds grim, and it feels like he will miss extended time. Collins stepped into a great situation as the Seahawks love to run the ball. He needs to stay healthy and fend off running back Rashaad Penny, and if he can, he can produce solid fantasy numbers over the next month as an RB2.
Williams is starting in one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and he will benefit from their ability to score in bunches. There will be up-and-down volatility with his usage as he may not see a significant number of touches every week. However, he is capable of producing strong RB2 numbers over the next month.
Evans might pop here and there in the passing game, but the road is blocked in front of him as far as the running game goes. He is not jumping running backs Joe Mixon and the others in front of him without injuries.
Chris Allen: It’s been a couple of weeks, but Herbert looks like the better fit to the Bears’ scheme than Damien Williams. Regardless, Chicago’s rushing attack was eighth in EPA per rush last week and in the top half since Herbert took over in Week 5. He’s also factoring into the passing game after running a route on 81.1% of Justin Fields’ dropbacks. Herbert may continue to see RB1 usage, but the Bears are a bottom-5 team in both yards per drive and points per drive, limiting Herbert’s weekly upside. Until we see more from Fields, Herbert is capped as an RB2.
McKissic’s value is directly tied to Gibson’s health. Gibson’s snap share hit a season-low (39%) on Sunday, while McKissic saw a season-high in touches (16). He was already leading his position in routes run and targets through six weeks, but Gibson still maintained his command of the carries. The next few weeks lend themselves to pass-heavy scripts with Washington facing Green Bay, Denver, and Tampa Bay. At worst, McKissic is a solid flex option but can instantly move to an RB2 should Gibson be ruled out.
Waldman: I'm with Ryan and Chris. Williams doesn't run zone as well as Herbert and is better cast as a gap runner and space player on passing downs. ESPN's Matt Bowen and I see the same things on tape — excellent cutback ability and a better fit with the offense. Williams was the proven commodity with playing time. He'll be the No.2, in title only, when Montgomery is back due to his role, but Herbert will at least earn a true split and likely the majority of the touches if Montgomery were to get hurt again. Coaches don't give rookies fourth-quarter carries to salt away a close game unless they trust the player. They trusted Herbert with this role when Williams was healthy.
I see few of you watched the Cowboys' game when it comes to your thoughts on Stevenson. Of course, those who watched him during the preseason and touted him were giddy over him running through huge creases that my three-legged cat on tranquilizers could have earned at least 8-10 yards. Stevenson actually ran through people at the goal line last week. He had a pair of nice runs that showed off his movement and finishing power in addition to the green-zone opportunity, which is something Bill Belichick doesn't just give away with the generosity that Oprah once gave away gifts to housewives on daytime TV.
Stevenson also looked strong as a receiver, including a seam target where he beat a defender in space for a nice over-the-shoulder grab. He has looked good, the drumbeat on him from the coaching staff has been solid for three weeks now when following practices, and he played well in the Cowboys game. I see him as a bye-week play who could pass as a flex-option regularly and potentially deliver RB1-RB2 upside if Harris gets hurt.
Allen: I want to say RB2/Flex for Stevenson, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Stevenson should complement Damien Harris but still needs to earn the role and improve his pass protection skills. He converted his goal-line attempt in Week 6 and caught all three of his targets. However, his snaps stayed relatively the same while his touch share ticked down. He did run more routes than Brandon Bolden last week, and Bolden’s offensive snaps were nearly cut in half, which may mean he’s getting phased out. But it was just one game, and we’ll need to see consistent usage out of him before we can boost his value.
Collins would profile as an RB2, but the workload seems to be taking its toll. A hip injury sidelined him in Week 6, and we still don’t know more about his status. Week 7 against the Saints doesn’t set up any better for the 27-year-old veteran, and Seattle has a bye in Week 9. So, at best, we’d feel confident starting Collins once (against Jacksonville in Week 8) over the next four weeks. However, with the offense dropping to just 23.1 yards per drive with Geno Smith, Collins’ situation doesn’t lend itself to favorable conditions moving forward.
Williams certainly has the upside of an RB1, and he has benefitted from Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s absence. But half of his points in Week 6 came from two touchdowns. Two touchdowns came from within the three-yard line. Projected opportunity and being attached to the Chiefs’ offense will make Williams look like a locked-in starter each week. However, he’s yet to clear 90 scrimmage yards in any game with Edwards-Helaire out of the lineup.
It was fun seeing Evans get into the end zone, but, even with Samaje Perine out, Evans had just 7 of the 31 running back carries while the game was still competitive. Mixon doubled his routes run and targets, and Perine will likely dig into that workload once he returns. AT best, Evans is a deep stash in case more injuries, or COVID issues occur.
Footballguys' Subscriber Contest
Waldman: Footballguys has a fantastic subscriber contest. Let's talk about our participation, although we're not eligible to win.
- Is your team still alive?
- What was your strategy for picking a team? How many players did you use?
- Who are your four most expensive players?
- Who are your four cheapest players?
- Who are 1-3 players who have matched or outperformed his price on your team?
- Who are 1-3 players who have underperformed to their prices on your team?
This is was a topic last week, but I wanted to use it for two weeks so we could include some of our staff who weren't participating in Week 6's Roundtable.
Hicks: Fortunately, I am one of the seven staffers still alive.
Usually, I pick the bones of the middle-level players and avoid the top tier. This year I consciously had an elite player at all positions and picked around them. I always pick 30 players where possible. I always choose three kickers and three defenses to deal with a week-to-week variance and byes. That leaves 24 players to use on the other four positions.
Patrick Mahomes II, Tyreek Hill, Ezekiel Elliott, and Travis Kelce were my most expensive options. Too much reliance on the Chiefs and their bye in week 12 will see my elimination if I make it that far. Ideally, I would have preferred an elite player from four different teams with four different byes.
I had three defenses worth $2 and two of my three kickers cost $3. Outside that, I had three wide receivers valued at $3 (Desean Jackson, Marques Valdes-Scantling, and Demarcus Robinson and two running backs that cost the same (Rhamondre Stevenson and Wayne Gallman). I have nine other skill players costing $5 or less, meaning 20 of my 30 strong rosters cost $5 or less.
Running back is by far my weakest unit and throwing $16 at Damien Harris is probably my biggest regret. He has counted four times to my score, but that highlights the lack of depth I have here. Spending $10 on Jameis Winston was unnecessary given the amount spent on Mahomes. Taking both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo for about the same price, which I also did, was all I needed to do.
Weisse: My team barely squeaked by in Week 6. My goal was to fit Christian McCaffrey, a small group of starting running backs, a stud TE, and as many WRs as possible into my lineup. I trusted my projections, so I started by looking for guys I thought were undervalued. I ended up with 25 players.
McCaffrey, by far at $39 was my most expensive. Then it jumps all the way down to $16, with a tie between Mark Andrews, James Robinson, Damien Harris, and Tyler Boyd. I have the Browns defense and Brandon McManus at $3 and another tie at $4. I added Jason Sanders, Dan Arnold, Bryan Edwards...and my savior, Cordarrelle Patterson. All were my cheapest options.
Patterson has obviously crushed his price. He's tied for the third-cheapest on my team and has put up great points every week outside of his bye. Mike Williams ($12) has also done more than most expected this early in the season.
It's hard not to say McCaffrey has been my greatest disappointment. He was great for two weeks, but injuries got him again. If I can survive his stint on the IR, I'll be happy to have him, but it's going to be rough. Along that same vein, I'm not sure spending $13 on Michael Thomas was a wise choice. He is eligible to return this week, and they are already saying it's likely not happening. I also lost Gus Edwards ($11) before the season started, but that's just fantasy football sometimes.
Wood: I missed the cut by three points this week. I used 28 spots, and generally target 3 defenses, 3 kickers, at least 4 quarterbacks, and tight ends, and then as many receivers/running backs as I can make fit with my remaining salary. I try to add lottery ticket cheap players who, if they hit, could be league winning. There's no real point in a contest like this to play for a 20th percentile finish. It's win or go home.
Ezekiel Elliot ($27), David Montgomery ($22), Allen Robinson ($23), and T.J. Hockenson ($19) were my most expensive players. Cowboys defense ($2), Browns' defense ($3), Vizcaino ($3), and Hopkins ($3) were my cheapest. Montgomery looked like a masterstroke before heading to IR. Tom Brady ($17) is the best quarterback through six games and came cheaper than quite a few others. Michael Pittman Jr ($9), Chuba Hubbard ($5), and James Robinson ($16) have handily exceeded the expected value.
Gus Edwards never played a snap and is an anchor at running back. But my Achilles heel is the receiving corps, where Robinson, Randall Cobb ($6), Van Jefferson ($5), and Bryan Edwards ($4) have all fallen short of hopes, even as cheap roster adds.
Parsons: My team was ousted in Week 2, by far the earliest exit in my subscriber contest history. I went with a balanced approach and always come within a spot or two of maxing out the roster limit if I do not fill every spot. I paid up for Kareem Hunt and Keenan Allen as my only players of $20 or more as I take a balanced approach most years, building from my low-priced sleepers first and spending higher prices with extra money remaining at the end.
My low-priced must-have players were Marquez Callaway (extended window as a WR1 with no Michael Thomas), Mark Ingram II (NFL RB1 for just $3), Jimmy Garoppolo (expected a long leash as a starter for $4), and DeSean Jackson (best ball special, paired with Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay, all for $3).
James Robinson, Matt Ryan, and Antonio Brown were my best values for their cost. On the flip side, Robert Tonyan Jr was a complete bust as my highest-salary tight end, and Trey Sermon benefitting from Raheem Mostert out for the season has turned into a mirage.
Waldman: I am still alive but this week is looking rough with key players out with injury. Usually, I get knocked out between Weeks 4-7, often due to injury. This year, I rolled with a mix of "my guys" I wanted in re-draft formats who I thought were premium producers for mid-range prices and then went cheaper options with the exception of three running backs: Antonio Gibson ($26), Nick Chubb ($26), and Kareem Hunt ($20) as some of my most expensive players. The only other players I paid at least $20 to acquire were Mike Evans ($21) and Chris Godwin ($20).
As you can imagine, my strategy involved the Tampa Stack and I'd say Tom Brady ($17), Antonio Brown ($10), and Rob Gronkowski ($9) have been decent values although Gronkowski's injury has me leaning on Jared Cook ($10) who has been up and down.
Like everyone else, I spent no more than $3 on my three defenses — Cleveland, Green Bay, and Dallas. And Dallas has been a bargain for me. My cheapest skill players were $3-$5 plays on A.J. Green, Marquez Callaway, Sammy Watkins, Bryan Edwards, DeSean Jackson, and Albert Okwuegbunam. Edwards, Okwuegbunam, Justin Fields, Trey Sermon, and Gus Edwards are the only players who haven't registered enough points to contribute in the contest for my roster in any given week.
I actually lucked out in Week 4 because Brady had a rough game and if it weren't for Trey Lance's strong second half as an injury-sub for Jimmy Garoppolo, I wouldn't have made the cut. Week 9 is my heaviest bye week due to the Tampa Stack, but with Fields starting for the rest of the year, I was hoping he and the Browns' backfield can carry me over what seems like an annual hump for me in this contest but with my three starting running backs and most expensive options out this week, I'll need Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to have a huge week to compensate and hopefully squeak past the cutoff.
Waldman: From the following list of players in dynasty leagues, which three players are you buying, selling, and/or holding?
- Baker Mayfield
- Tua Tagovailoa
- Darrell Henderson
- Damien Harris
- Donovan Peoples-Jones
- Diontae Johnson
- K.J. Osborn
- Zach Wilson
- Tommy Tremble
Who do you like? Who are you giving a shot to work things out? And, who are you ditching at the side of the road?
Bischoff: Tremble is just scratching the surface in the passing game, but he'll get on the field because he is a capable blocker right now. Also, when intelligent people do things to make a player jump up the roster, I take notice. The Panthers traded Dan Arnold, a relatively capable tight end that moved Tremble into a more significant role, and while I don't expect all that much now, I like him for the long term. Buy.
Wilson takes a lot of heat for his game, and while some of it is fair, some of it is not. However, it feels like he can be acquired for much less than what was paid in rookie drafts, and there is leverage to be gained. It takes time for quarterbacks to develop, but he has already shown flashes of playmaking ability that others in this class lack. I loved his game coming out of BYU to be fully transparent, and little has changed for me. I am scooping Wilson up wherever I can as I believe he has a chance to be a very strong fantasy producer in the future. Buy.
Henderson has been productive, but there is a reason the Rams made a trade to acquire running back Sony Michel. Henderson has had a lot of touches to start the season, but it feels like a situation that cannot sustain. His value is super high right now, and if you can find someone needing running-back help, you may get someone to overpay for what Henderson will deliver in dynasty formats. There may be short-term regret, but moving him now is the right move. Sell.
Weisse: Sell Harris. Whether I was in "win-now" mode or rebuilding, Harris would be a piece I was looking to move. His third-year breakout is only amounting to one more fantasy point per game than last season, and he'll be 25 next year. That doesn't make him old, but he's certainly not young by NFL or dynasty standards. The Patriots drafted a running back this year, and they'll probably draft another next year. Based on their history, there is no reason to believe he will remain a high-volume play. Trade him before they start giving Rhamondre Stevenson the ball.
Settle: Miami is moving in the wrong direction in just about every aspect of the game right now. There have been talks of a Deshaun Watson trade for months now and the front office does not seem invested in Tagovailoa at all right now. This is a case of trying to move a guy while he is still a starter in the league and before he goes down the route of Josh Rosen and other highly drafted QB busts. Sell.
This is a chance to sell high on Johnson. With Juju Smith-Schuster out for the season, there is going to be a lot of opportunity for Johnson. However, changes are coming to Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is on his way out and this team is going to be in transition. They have found a workhorse in Najee Harris and a shift in offensive philosophy is likely. Sell the upside of Johnson this season and move on before more changes come.
It has been a long time since a third WR has emerged for the Vikings. They are a run-heavy offense with Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson commanding the largest part of the target share. However, Kirk Cousins has made a living on short to intermediate throws and has found a new target in Osborn. With Thielen on the older side, Osborn and Jefferson could become the new WR duo in Minnesota making Osborn a great hold candidate for the future.
Parsons: I am a buyer on Peoples-Jones. Yet another wasted talent in the Michigan program, Peoples-Jones has lauded physical traits and is putting together a solid stretch of production despite being on a crowded offense with a merely okay quarterback. With Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry question marks for 2022, Peoples-Jones is auditioning for an expansion of his opportunities by the week.
Mayfield is overrated in dynasty terms. The Browns' early success has blurred the lines of what Mayfield has done in fantasy terms and I would recommend pivoting to an older, but more established fantasy option, like a Kirk Cousins type in Superflex formats.
Tremble concerns me from the vantage point of the historical timeline for a rookie tight end to become fantasy viable, especially non-Round 1 prospects. Many assumed Tremble would immediately elevate with Dan Arnold's trade to vacate the depth chart, but Ian Thomas has largely picked up the slack. Also, Carolina has a quality wide receiver depth chart to limit the upside of the tight end position without an elite quarterback to facilitate as well. I would rather wait on Tremble for a season or two beyond diving in as a buyer.
Allen: Most of what I’ve learned about wide receivers from a dynasty perspective has me wary of Osborn’s long-term value. He had a late breakout age (21), didn’t earn a high target share, and was mediocre as an athlete. But it’s hard to deny the role he’s carved out in Minnesota. While third in routes run, he’s finally overtaken Tyler Conklin in targets after sealing the win for the Vikings in Week 6. Since receiving just two targets in Week 3, Osborn’s targets per route run have increased back to what we saw earlier in the season at 20.6%. He’s worth adding in a small-value trade as his target share over the last three weeks reflects WR2-WR3 usage with upside.
Mayfield has played in 52 games since 2018, and he’s been a top-12 fantasy quarterback in just 15 of those games. We can say he had a lost season under Freddie Kitchens. We can even say the passing game didn’t improve until they bolstered their offensive line. But Mayfield himself hasn’t shown the requisite skills to carry his team or our fantasy rosters. To date, his completion-percentage-over-expectation and overall offensive efficiency are league average. Even his clean-pocket statistics are adequate at best. Meanwhile, we’ve seen older quarterbacks with less trade value produce similarly. I’d move Mayfield while possible, given his team and injury situation.
I hope Tagovailoa succeeds, but I’d rather watch his story unfold on someone else’s roster. He had an impressive showing coming off of injured reserve (albeit against Jacksonville), but the matchups won’t always favor him. Plus, Miami has somehow ruined a rebuilding effort. Their highest-paid receivers have both missed multiple games. The Dolphins’ offensive line has been below the league average in adjusted sack rate for the last three seasons and dead last in pass block win rate this year. All of which has contributed to an unproductive backfield filled with players unable to create independently consistently. But they got Jaylen Waddle! Deshaun Watson rumors aside, Miami as a franchise has multiple decisions ahead of them (from coaching staff to players) that will directly affect whomever they have under center. If I can sell Tagovailoa, I’ll take what I can get.
Wood: I'm not sure what Tagovailoa can fetch but I'd happily swap him for an attractive draft pick in 2022 or 2023. The Dolphins are a mess despite lofty preseason expectations, putting Brian Flores' job in jeopardy. Given the Dolphin's dalliances with DeShaun Watson, and Tagovailoa's injury and performance-related shortfalls, it's better to get out while he's still viewed by some as a young starter versus the middling backup he's probably going to become in a season or two. Sell low.
The easiest sell on the list because he's playing well and can help a contender this year, but his future value is deeply at risk given the uncertainty of the Steelers quarterback situation in 2022 and beyond. Sell high.
The Vikings have one of the best receiving duos in the league and aren't pass-happy enough to support the third option consistently. But Osborn has been demonstrably better than any WR3 the Vikings have fielded under Mike Zimmer, and with Adam Thielen on the wrong side of 30 years old, it's not out of the question Osborn will be a multi-year starter in Minnesota alongside Justin Jefferson. Buy.
Adam Harstad: Not to pick on Jason and the others here, but I do want to push back on this “uncertainty is bad” stance that I see a lot.
If a player’s current situation is great, then sure, any uncertainty is a negative. Mike Williams has looked awesome playing in a dominant Chargers offense, but the fact that he doesn’t have a long-term deal is very concerning for his dynasty prospects. (Witness classmate Corey Davis leaving for the Jets after his breakout season.)
When a player’s situation is bad, though, uncertainty is a net positive. One of my favorite moves over the last few weeks of the season is to fill my roster with impending free agents in terrible situations and hope that “uncertainty” lands them somewhere more favorable next season.
Ben Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer, but he’s clearly not the quarterback he once was. Pittsburgh may rank 8th in pass attempts, but they’re 17th in passing yards, 22nd in passing TDs, and 28th in net yards per attempt, trailing such juggernauts as the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets. Smith-Schuster is likely gone in free agency and I think Pittsburgh’s quarterback play is as likely to be better next year as it is to be worse.
Moreover, it seems virtually everyone is scared off by Johnson’s uncertainty. It’s hard to sell high when no one is valuing him that high in the first place. Footballguys’ consensus dynasty rankings have him at WR22, and no individual ranker has him higher than WR19. Meanwhile, as of this moment our rest-of-season rankings have him up to WR11 going forward.
Johnson is ranked behind at least four receivers who are three or more years older and projected to score fewer points than him the rest of the way (DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Mike Evans, and Tyler Lockett). He’s ranked behind Mike Williams despite both players having similar projections but Williams being two years older and having much more concerning uncertainty around his future.
If nothing else, if we’re right about how productive Johnson is going to be going forward, his dynasty value will certainly rise over the coming months in response. It’s possible we’re wrong, of course, but historically we’re right more often than we’re wrong. We have a proven track record on our rest-of-year projections. This means it’s probably much more likely Johnson’s value goes up from here than down.
Even if you definitely wanted to sell, doing so now would be selling low, not selling high. Better to wait a month or two and sell for even more.
Better still to buy now at a discount, benefit from all those points, and watch his value go up on your roster to boot.
Hicks: I won’t say it as well or as Adam, but Johnson is an anchor for your dynasty squads' future. He has one more year in Pittsburgh before free agency and is head and shoulders the preferred option over Chase Claypool, who is just not getting on the same page as Roethlisberger. Next year, who knows what happens in Pittsburgh? JuJu Smith-Schuster is probably gone and Pittsburgh begins the post-Roethlisberger era. Johnson will still be the number one and a popular free-agent target for other NFL teams in 2023.
I have seen enough to feel that Tremble will, with hard work, luck, and improvement, be an elite fantasy tight end. Years two and three can be brutal for young players at his position so we need to play the long game, but that is what we have to do here.
If you have depth at running back and can get a good price, cash in now. The price of regret when it comes to Henderson is a week-to-week proposition. How will you feel if Henderson gets injured again? Injuries happen at running back, but more so with him. Cam Akers promises to be back next year, so Henderson is on a short timeline anyway.
Weisse: I get the uncertainty aspect that others have brought up, but I am in complete agreement with Adam, it's probably driving down his price, and I'll buy the dip. He is a perfect piece for a contending team and is still only 25 years old (young for WR, not RB). His QB issues can't get much worse than they were in 2019, and he was still dropping almost 10 fantasy points per game with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback. He's not QB-proof, but he will still put up decent numbers.
I can't imagine giving up on a rookie QB after five weeks, but it would seem that is the climate of the fantasy world right now with Wilson. There is no guarantee that he'll be good, but it won't cost you much to find out. If you're playing in a single-QB league, throw out an offer one round later than he was drafted, or even a bench RB or WR if that team is in trouble with this Week 7 bye slate. One part of his game that has not made its way to the NFL yet is running ability. He's not Lamar Jackson, he's not even Daniel Jones, but he did run for over 600 yards and 15 touchdowns in college. If he can add that and limit the INTs, he could be a playable asset in time.
Second-Half Surge Candidates
Waldman: Name two players you believe are about to go nuclear in the second half of the fantasy season. Or to tone down the clickbait factor, at least have a notable surge in production.
Wood: Two weeks ago people were talking about dropping Robert Woods, and now he looks like his usual Top-12 self. Calvin Ridley is more talented than Woods and has a clearer, more consistent path toward massive target share. The Falcons are going to have to throw a lot, and Ridley should be in line for positive regression at a time when you can acquire him via trade for a deep discount.
I've been hard on Dallas Goedert, and it's been justified. Fantasy analysts wanted Goedert to be a thing for the last few seasons, but Zach Ertz was better than Goedert in nearly every way. Regardless, Ertz is now in Arizona and Goedert is playing for a contract either in Philadelphia or elsewhere. Given the disappointing progression of the Eagles' receivers outside of Devonta Smith, Goedert could see target share and red zone opportunities to match the likes of Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson.
Settle: Someone that I have been holding on to since draft day in the hopes of a second-half blow-up is Thomas. He is walking into a great situation if he can come back healthy. Jameis Winston has played well so far with next to no weapons at receiver around him. Thomas would likely see 25% or more of the target share in this anemic receiver group and would only have to contend with Alvin Kamara out of the backfield. The biggest question with Thomas is if his ankle is truly 100% when he returns. If healthy, he will easily be a WR1 the rest of the season.
After the trade of Julio Jones, it was supposed to be Ridley’s time in this offense. Unfortunately, a combination of injury and poor overall team play put that on hold during the first half of the season. Ridley is undoubtedly a top talent at WR and should see a huge uptick in targets and points in the second half. The Mike Davis experiment seems to be over and it should be a combination of Kyle Pitts and Ridley the rest of the way for Atlanta. Matt Ryan may be on the back end of his career, but he still has enough to force the ball downfield to Ridley 10-plus times a game the rest of the way.
Hicks: Heading into 2021 it was assumed there would be a timeshare at running back in Tampa Bay. Over the last few weeks, Leonard Fournette has made that assumption null and void. He is the dominant ball carrier on an explosive offense. He will get rushing attempts, receptions, touchdowns, and yardage to please even the fussiest fantasy manager. A clear top-six running back for the remainder of the season.
I would be happier if Denver were playing better football and Melvin Gordon III was being phased out. Neither is happening now, but the latter is coming and with that Javonte Williams stands to benefit. The second half of the season sees a lot of rookies shine through as they come to grips with the pace of the game and become more comfortable at this level. We will see many rookies, at all positions, go nuclear soon. I favor Williams.
Allen: Miles Sanders' snaps have steadily increased over the last four weeks (60% to 83%), along with his share of the offensive touches. Sanders was battling it out with Kenneth Gainwell but, since Week 4, Gainwell’s touches have ticked down each week to a mere 8.3% in Week 6. Plus, Gainwell’s takeover was somewhat overblown as a quarter of his workload came late in the game after each contest had long since been decided. After a rough start, Sanders should benefit from a decent short-term schedule with matchups against the Raiders, Lions, and Chargers. I’m not expecting a top-12 performance from Sanders, but at least one dive into the end zone for the first time this season.
Like Kyle Pitts, the underlying usage has been there for Ridley. He’s led the team in routes run and targets in every game he’s been active while maintaining a 48.3% share of the team’s air yards. But, the offense as a whole has struggled to adjust under Arthur Smith. What once was a productive offense (in or near the Top 12 in offensive yards per drive for three seasons) has been middling at best. After their bye, Ridley has better matchups with Miami, Carolina, New Orleans, and Dallas over the next four weeks. All four have allowed at least one 100-yard receiver, and three of the four have had two or more reach the century mark. Atlanta’s pass rate over expectation continues to tick up along with Ryan’s downfield aggression. Ridley's fantasy production will start to meet our draft expectations if the passing game comes out of the bye more in sync.
Parsons: I see Thomas as a sleeping giant for the later part of the fantasy season. Jameis Winston has been sneaky decent, especially for a passing game without Thomas and Tre'Quan Smith, plus no notable impact from Adam Trautman. They are literally rubbing sticks together for impact players. Thomas can walk in (healthy) and be a fantasy WR1.
Chase Claypool has the look of a superstar. There have been notable deep targets with a failed connection from Ben Roethlisberger, defensive pass interference penalties, and a number of 'just missed' big games and plays for Claypool. With no JuJu Smith-Schuster, the wide receiver position consolidates and Claypool's rookie season profile (draft position, physical traits, Year 1 production) point to a fantasy WR1 on a heavy majority of historical cases. While it may not be until 2022 or beyond, Claypool is a 'double-down until it happens' with your fantasy exposure in the meantime.
Weisse: I am of the belief that Michael Carter II will be a solid RB2 down the stretch. This barely qualifies for the "notable surge" part of the question and is far from going nuclear, but running backs are hard to come by in fantasy right now, and Carter is available in around 50% of leagues after the Jets Week 6 bye. He is already handling 50% of the team's carries, and he leads the position in targets. He has also turned eight red zone carries into two touchdowns already. It will be interesting to see if they spent the bye getting him more involved in the offense, and this might be your last chance to get him at a reasonable price.
I also look for Claypool to put together a solid rest-of-season after the Steelers Week 7 bye. It was a rough Week 6, but with no Juju Smith-Schuster, Claypool is just about a lock for 7-10 targets per game moving forward. He hasn't found the endzone nearly as much as he did in 2020, and that is precisely why I think he bounces back. Last year, he scored 11 total touchdowns and had some absolutely crazy single-game stat lines. He's hasn't done anything close to that in 2021, scoring just one touchdown so far. But, if you believe what we saw last year was the real Chase Claypool, then the boom is coming. Ben Roethlisberger is starting to throw deep more often, and Claypool is due for some touchdowns to fall his way.
Bischoff: Ridley is the most straightforward answer here as he has been disappointing through four games with the Falcons this year, but that is because the expectations we set for him were so high. He has 42 targets in four games, so there aren't problems with volume. The entire Falcons offense has seemed out of sorts, except for running back/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. I am going back to the well with Ridley, with the expectation he steps it up and gets it going against Miami in Week 7.
Jeudy is a legitimate WR 1, and he fits quarterback Teddy Bridgewater exceptionally well. Once healthy and ready to go, I expect Jeudy to easily be the Broncos WR1 for the rest of the season. I am looking at him to see 10+ targets weekly, and I think he will be a WR 1 for the rest of the season once he returns to the lineup.
Keith Overton: Since no one has mentioned Freiermuth, I didn't want to let him slip by. He's been quickly gaining confidence, and the confidence of Ben Roethlisberger, within the Steelers passing game over the past few weeks. In his first game since JuJu Smith-Schuster was placed on season-ending IR, Freiermuth played a season-high 60% of offensive snaps with seven receptions on seven targets for 58 yards. The Steelers' offensive line seems to be coalescing after one-third of the season, which is typical under Mike Tomlin when the unit begins the year with question marks at multiple positions. And the Week 7 bye is well-timed to give the offense a rest and an opportunity to refine the game plan.