Welcome to Week 9 of the 2021 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate the Titans' offense after Derrick Henry's injury and Atlanta's offense post-Calvin Ridley, Love/Hate, and players our staff expect to slump in the second half of the season.
The Post-Henry Titans
- What fantasy value do you believe the 36-year-old Peterson offers this year?
- Is there another back on the Titans roster of potential value?
- Do you expect another signing or trade?
- Does any non-runner gain or lose fantasy value with the absence of Henry?
Ryan Weisse: I am all about Jeremy McNichols in this transition. Adrian Peterson is an all-time great, but he is also 36 years old and averaged 3.9 yards per carry last year with Detroit. Basically, he is not close to Derrick Henry, and that means it will be more of a split with McNichols, maybe even favoring the former. This season, seeing just 18 snaps per game, McNichols has the 12th-most receiving yards among running backs. Derrick Henry had the 18th-most. That work will funnel to McNichols, as Peterson hasn't crossed 250 receiving yards since 2010. I like McNichols in all formats but love him in PPR.
As far as signing another running back, with Darrynton Evans also hitting the IR and out for the season, it seems likely that Tennesee might bring one more back in but not inevitable. This season, they've given carries to Mekhi Sargent and they have Dontrell Hilliard, who has some playing experience with Cleveland and Houston over recent years. If Peterson and McNichols do their job, there is no need to add more.
I would say all pass-catchers benefit in that red zone touchdowns can now be evenly spread. Henry has scored 10 touchdowns this season, and eight of them from inside the 20. The rest of the team has scored 12 in the red zone. A couple more touchdowns heading AJ Brown's way will make fantasy managers smile. Maybe Julio Jones could even find the endzone, though I'm less optimistic about that happening. It's a double-edged sword for Ryan Tannehill. While he is likely to throw more touchdowns, he will also see more pressure and double-coverage. The respect defenses had to give Henry will be evident very quickly.
Dave Kluge: This is a good situation for Peterson. While I don’t think that he’d be able to hold up to an entire season with a heavy workload, expecting 6-10 weeks of production seems totally reasonable, even at his age. He won’t get 100% of Henry’s touches, but even 60% would make him a viable asset in fantasy drafts. That being said, I like McNichols. He’s a bit short, but he’s compact and has elite measurables across the board. I’d be shocked to see the Titans make any more moves as a corral of Peterson, McNichols, Sargent, and Evans should get them through the rest of the regular season.
Chris Allen: Peterson offers low-end RB2/Flex value with an RB1 ceiling based on their schedule. Tennessee's offensive line was below the league average in adjusted line yards and has had multiple linemen in and out of the lineup due to injury. At best, Peterson garners the early-down and short-yardage work and capitalizes on their opponents with softer run defenses coming up (Houston, New England, and Jacksonville). I, too, like McNichols, but the offense needs to shift its offensive philosophy to stay afloat in the division.
In Henry's absence, the assumption of rational coaching would point to anyone involved in the passing game gaining value. I’m looking at A.J. Brown specifically. Quickly signing a 36-year old free agent and giving him the same workload that wore down his predecessor to the point of needing surgery makes no sense. A shift to more 12 personnel (a staple of the Titans’ offense in years past with Arthur Smith) or more designed runs for Ryan Tannehill may buoy their overall efficiency. Regardless, adjusting to life without such a vital piece of the offense will require some growing pains, which may look like a net negative for the entire team in the boxscore.
Jason Wood: While I know a lot of smart people, including Ryan, are excited by McNichols, I'm skeptical because of the expediency of signing Adrian Peterson. If McNichols had the coaches' trust, wouldn't it make sense to give him a game or two in a lead role and then decide if a veteran addition was necessary? Ultimately, I don't think I'm going out on a limb in saying neither Peterson nor McNichols can replicate Henry's excellence. The Titans were good because they were willing to stick with the ground attack even during game scripts when 90% of coaches would've started throwing the ball with abandon. I question whether they'll be able to maintain that philosophy when the tailbacks under center aren't able to make those difficult third-down conversions or break big plays.
When we last saw Adrian Peterson in Detroit, he started 10 games. In those games, he had 114 carries for 353 yards (3.1 per carry) but he scored 7 rushing touchdowns. If Peterson hasn't lost his ability to plunge in from two yards out, he could be a viable flex play in an NFL where almost no team has an every-down back anymore. But he'll absolutely be touchdown dependent, and that's assuming McNichols doesn't take the No. 1 role.
As to who else wins or loses, the simple answer is: Everyone loses. Very few players were as integral to the success of their units as Henry, and if the Titans are forced to throw more, it's going to mean fewer sustained drives and more turnovers for Ryan Tannehill. A.J. Brown may benefit from becoming over-targeted, but he was already at or near the top of the receiver rankings.
Andy Hicks: Depending on the scoring system, Peterson should be a flex/bye week option that will be dependant on touchdowns for his fantasy success. McNichols will be utilized to what the team believes are his strengths, catching the ball out of the backfield and being a change of pace back.
How Peterson looks will determine if we get further down the depth chart or how valuable McNichols will be. The Titans will have other options under consideration, they are in too good a position to have the Henry injury derail their season. There will be available backs sitting on practice squads and free agency that can help them. The entire team faces a potential crisis that they will need to address quickly. Opposing defenses can switch to extra pressure on A.J. Brown and Ryan Tannehill and force the Titans to play to weaker options.
Victoria Geary: Peterson started 10 games with the Lions last season, tallying 604 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Though he is a seven-time Pro Bowler, we should not have high expectations for Peterson to slot in as an RB1 on a weekly basis as Henry was. That being said, he was a fantastic pick off the waiver wire knowing Henry is likely out until the fantasy playoffs at a minimum. I will be ranking him as an every-week low-end RB2, though the Titans have two tough matchups approaching in the Rams and Saints. Their fantasy playoff stretch includes the Steelers, 49ers, and Dolphins.
McNichols has 56 career carries and has seen most of his value come primarily in the passing game. Is that a testament to his ability, or because Henry has been an unstoppable force? It's worth noting McNichols rushed for over 1,700 yards in his final season at Boise State, so he is certainly capable of carrying a heavy workload. If Peterson can’t handle the bulk of the work, we will likely see a committee each week in this Tennessee backfield. Other rostered running backs Hilliard and Sargent have a combined 24 career carries.
Expect a decrease in offensive efficiency with Henry sidelined, as teams will have more success stacking the box against either Peterson or McNichols than they did try to stop the bulldozer that is Henry. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will need to step up for the team, and wide receiver AJ Brown should be the beneficiary of his bigger performances in the weeks to come as they try to keep up with teams like the Rams and Saints.
Jordan McNamara: Peterson has been a declining player for a few years so I do not expect him to be a big contributor. I actually think his signing and the lack of trade at the deadline is great news for McNichols. I expect the offense to increase its passing volume, which should benefit Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones. This could be a classic Ewing Theory, as removing the 4.3 yards per attempt Henry was averaging pre-injury and replacing those carries with the 7.6 yards per attempt Tannehill is averaging could accelerate the offense.
Waldman: Name a player in the fantasy industry who gets too much hate and one that earns too much love. Dave and Ryan, since you answered last week -- pick one player from the answers you also love and one you hate. It can be the opposite of the writer's assessment if that's how you feel.
Allen: DeVante Parker catches quite a bit of skepticism from the fantasy community every year. I can imagine Dolphins’ fans had the same feelings towards Parker as Titans’ fans had towards Corey Davis. Regardless, we’re now in the third year where, when active/healthy, Parker’s earned 8.1 targets per game. Over his last 35 starts, he’s finished in the Top 12 seven times and had 16 top-24 finishes. Even if we have questions about Tua Tagovailoa, I’ll take the utilization and results at his depressed value.
As we pass the trade deadline, the season drafters envisioned for Javonte Williams takes another hit. The love for Williams has caused us to overlook the simple fact that Melvin Gordon III has played well. At least, well enough to maintain an even timeshare with Williams. Gordon has been more efficient as a rusher (25th in success rate compared to Williams’ rank at 36), but the rookie has been the better receiver (1.18 yards per route run versus Gordon’s 0.94). A scenario still exists where Denver falls out of playoff contention, and Gordon cedes work to Williams. However, for now, Williams is sharing a backfield on an anemic offense for the foreseeable future.
Geary: Terry McLaurin was loved by many throughout the offseason, so much so that his ADP shot up to WR10 overall in drafts this summer. And yet, he has only finished as the WR29 and WR20 in his first two years in the league. We can’t deny that the injury suffered by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has hindered McLaurin’s value and performance, but his week-to-week volatility from years past has certainly stayed the same. McLaurin has just 10 games with 15 or more PPR points out of his last 23 games, giving him more of a boom/bust expectation rather than the consistency you would expect from a top-10 WR pick in your draft. His talent is undeniable, but the erratic week-to-week guessing game has been a bit frustrating as a fantasy manager.
Gordon II has gotten a significant amount of backlash this season, the majority coming from rookie Williams truthers who understandably would love to see Williams shine sooner rather than later. Throughout the offseason, many believed Williams’ talent would be enough to take the starting role from Gordon eventually, but that has yet to happen. In addition, Gordon was not traded before the deadline, so it’s time we accept Gordon is here to stay. Why wouldn’t the Broncos run Gordon into the ground in the final year of his contract? The Broncos backfield remains a committee for now, but Williams will get his shot to lead in 2022. I agree with Chris.
Hicks: This would have sounded better in the preseason, but I feel it is still valid now. Matthew Stafford gets too much love. Right now he is riding on an amazing wave as the Rams are playing well. Yes, I will base the negative side of this argument on his time in Detroit, but at some stage, he has to win something of significance. He has only exceeded 30 passing touchdowns in a season twice but obviously should fly past that this season. Wins. Outside the Jim Caldwell period with the Lions, his record was poor. He may have one of his best fantasy seasons in 2021, but then what? No playoff wins are something that he needs to fix this year as an immediate goal. Everything is in place for Stafford to make me look silly. Let’s see it then.
As for someone who gets too much hate, hate is probably the wrong word but Brandin Cooks receives no love. He continues to be passed from one NFL team to another and every year he ranks as a fantasy WR2 or better. He is likely to finish this season ranked in the top 30 all-time in receiving yards after eight seasons and in 2021 he is the only shining light on a stinky Texans team. If you asserted that Cooks had a hall of fame resume right now you would get laughed out of most conversations, but his numbers are there.
McNamara: I think Ja'Marr Chase is a good football player, but for the reasons Chad and I laid out on last week's Dynasty Show, he is overvalued. He is living on high efficiency which is bound to regress, the same way A.J. Brown was early in his career before looking more like a WR3 than WR1 in scoring in year three.
If there is any fade on the Patrick Mahomes II market in dynasty, I'm buying. Mahomes is an elite player on an elite track, and I expect this to be a temporary oscillation on an elite career arc.
Wood: Marquise Brown gets way too much hate. Everyone remembers the three drops a few weeks ago, all of which could have been touchdowns, and talks about him like he's a weight on unlocking the Ravens passing attack. The reality is quite different. He's pacing for 89 receptions, 1,375 yards, and 15 touchdowns. Those are elite numbers on any team, but wildly impressive in the context of a Baltimore offense that ranks 21st in attempts.
Waldman: Adam Harstad has been on the Brown Train for a while. Kudos to him as well.
Wood: The overrated player has to be Kenny Golladay. Look at what Matthew Stafford is doing in Los Angeles and then consider Golladay had a 58% career catch rate in Detroit. He's also missed time in four of five seasons and has one outlier (11 touchdowns in 2019) year when he scored at a rate commensurate with top-tier skill players. Golladay was one of my table-pounding busts this summer, and I think his contract will be one of several that cost Dave Gettleman his job.
Weisse: This was a great segment in Week 8's roundtable, and everyone had great views, but I have to disagree with Dave on Nick Chubb. In fact, I'd go the complete opposite on the argument. Chubb gets too much hate from the PPR community. His ADP was around RB11, which was more than fair, but every analysis about him ends with "he's non-existent in the passing game." While somewhat true, it doesn't matter.
So far in 2021, he's averaging 15.1 fantasy points per game in PPR, good for 17th most in the league. That's just one point fewer than Joe Mixon, and ahead of David Montgomery and Dalvin Cook, all considered three-down backs. In 2020, he was the overall RB11 in just 12 games played and the RB8 in 2019. He consistently averages over five yards per carry, and he scores touchdowns. With his rushing volume, that gets it done in fantasy. There are very few players that transcend the need for passing usage in PPR. Derrick Henry is one; Nick Chubb is another.
As far as too much love, and I'm as guilty as anyone, but I'm going to agree with Victoria on McLaurin. I know the quarterback situation is bad in Washington, but leaguewide, he is 4th in targets at the wide receiver position and the WR15 in fantasy. Nobody has done less with more this season. Yet, when he has a great game, everyone freaks out and calls him elite. He has five games with 10.2 or fewer fantasy points this season and three with more than 25. In his first two seasons, his best fantasy finish is WR20. He is a good player, but more Brandin Cooks good, not Davante Adams good.
Kluge: I love that Ryan refuted my Chubb take by pointing out that his ADP was RB11, and his current ranking is RB17. That’s exactly why I think he gets a bit too much love! He’s underperforming relative to his ADP, and analysts are still trying to justify his value. He’s a great runner, but his position as a back in a committee with no involvement in the passing game gives him a low ceiling. Splitting goal-line work with Kareem Hunt and seeing a career-low in targets is a tough hurdle to get over. His likelihood of finishing as an RB1 in PPR leagues this year is pretty slim, but people are still comfortable ranking him there for whatever reason.
I also love that Jason called out Marquise Brown. Both Dan and I highlighted him last week, and it’s fantastic that he’s finally getting some credit as a solid fantasy asset.
Waldman: So what I'm hearing, Dave, is that Chubb is underperforming to draft-day expectation.
One of the most important things I ever learned was the value of knowing the frame of reference of a person's argument. So before we go further, what's mine? We all know I'm a huge fan of Chubb's talent and a dyed-in-the-wool promoter of Chubb's fantasy value. I've shared this analysis in this week's Gut Check so, if you've already read it, there's nothing new to see here before you move on to the next topic. For those of you that get news from talk-show TV, that may trigger your belief that I'm biased.
But what requires less bias: Going along with every TV network, media outlet, former NFL player, and NFL scout on earth that said Saquon Barkley was, far and away, the best running back in his draft class when missing on this take wouldn't hurt your brand in an industry where the majority of your income comes from selling a draft publication? Or, going against all of that for a player that few believed was anything more than a second-round reach and damaged goods and didn't even begin the year as a starter?
My scouting process isn't error-free but it is designed to limit bias. Suffice to say, I have practice when it comes to finding ways to limit bias in my analysis.
So, when I looked at Dave's perspective, the first thing I wondered was, "how many first-round picks have performed to first-round value thus far?
Here's the ADP data that Footballguys collected from September 4 for PPR formats and their current fantasy value by position — "RB1 = first-ranked RB, etc."
- Christian McCaffrey - RB42 (5 games missed due to injury)
- Dalvin Cook - RB28 (2 games missed due to injury)
- Alvin Kamara - RB7
- Derrick Henry - RB1 (will miss the next 6-10 weeks due to injury)
- Ezekiel Elliott - RB10
- Davante Adams - WR7
- Travis Kelce - TE1
- Aaron Jones - RB5
- Tyreek Hill - WR2
- Austin Ekeler - RB3
- Saquon Barkley - RB37 (3 games missed, so far, due to injury)
- Jonathan Taylor - RB2
One-third of this list isn't already failing to meet expectations due to injury and we have another six weeks before the fantasy playoffs. By the way, Nick Chubb's consensus ADP was 13 and if you go beyond Footballguys collection of data to site-specific ADP, Chubb was 14 at Underdog and 18 in the FFPC's ADP.
Chubb's best PPR ADP was 10 at MFL and his non-PPR value was 7. He was the ninth RB selected based on Footballguys' September ADP monitoring.
Currently, Chubb is RB21 with two games missed due to injury if looking at total points. At the same time, if you are projecting performance for the rest of the year, it's wiser to consider fantasy points per game rather than total fantasy points when evaluating players who missed time with a minor injury that isn't expected to inhibit their play moving forward.
In this case, Chubb's Fpts/G of 15.5 actually places him 15th among RBs and just 0.9 points of No.13 runner Joe Mixon's pace. Considering that Hunt is 12th and Hunt will be out at least another 2-3 weeks and most likely not returning until Week 14. Even with D'Ernest Johnson assuming much of Hunts' role, Chubb is a good bet to at least be 12th in Fpts/G by the end of this month.
After looking at September ADP and current Fpts/G, there are some questions worth considering:
- Is Chubb really under-performing to expectation? His ADP was low-RB1 and his Fpts/Gm is high-RB2.
- Even if you judge solely on the criteria of total points, not a wise method for projecting performance solely on its own, are we being unrealistic to expect our first-round or early-second-round picks to perform exactly as they've been drafted?
- When factoring in the annual rates of injury and underperformance, why aren't we considering a player meeting expectations if he is performing as a starter after being drafted as a starter?
I don't think there's really much to justify about Chubb's fantasy value unless you began this exercise with the expectation that because Chubb was the ninth RB taken that he must perform as an RB1. While it's ideal to hit bull's eyes when drafting, I've long espoused the philosophy that your first-round picks aren't meant to be bull's eyes as much as they are meant to be safe picks relative to their draft position.
It means that I'm expecting starters with my first four picks. Depending on my strategy, I might even expect the same from rounds 5-8. After all, in most leagues, there are only 6-8 spots in a starting lineup when not including kickers and tight ends.
And because many in the hobby don't draft quarterbacks and tight ends until at least the eighth round, you're often not drafting true starters after the fourth round as much as you're drafting players you hope will perform as starters when you decide to use them to injury, bye weeks, and earlier picks underperforming.
Plus, the late rounds are the area where the best drafters find 1-2 players who far exceed expectations and change the scope of rosters. This is especially impactful because these players avoid seeing the waiver wire.
I don't think Chubb's performance needs any justification. However, I think any belief that you must hit bull's eyes in your first 2-4 rounds is unrealistic and may need further explanation. Delivering starter production is a successful return on investment even if there's a huge amount of pressure that analysts and fans place on the first pick offering no less than elite production value.
The Post-Ridley Falcons
Waldman: With Calvin Ridley stepping away from football for an undetermined period of time, let's discuss the Falcons.
- How does this impact Kyle Pitts fantasy value?
- Other than Pitts, whom does Ridley's absence help the fantasy value of on this team the most?
- Other than Pitts, who does Ridley's absence hurt the most?
McNamara: I think the absence of Ridley, should open up a leading role in the offense for Pitts. TE1 is firmly in his range of outcomes for 2022 drafts, and this will solidify that elite price. I think Tajae Sharpe is a potential beneficiary. He was with Arthur Smith in Tennessee, knows the offense, and can contribute to the offense in Ridley's absence. The player this hurts the most is Matt Ryan. Without Ridley, Ryan is down his two best receivers off last year's team. With a changing offensive scheme, the changing personnel does not help Ryan's production.
Kluge: The gut reaction would be that this is good for Pitts, right? For a rookie that just turned 21 years old that has to learn the most challenging position in football, it makes you think a bit. He’ll undoubtedly get more opportunities, but he’ll also draw more coverage. Overall, I see it as net neutral for Pitts. This situation does open up more chances for Cordarelle Patterson to get involved in the passing game, though. He’s been steadily seeing an increasing role on both the ground and through the air. He has a chance to solidify his role as the team’s WR1 with Ridley gone. The only person that gets a negative adjustment from Ridley’s news would be Matt Ryan. Any quarterback would struggle from losing their best offensive weapon, and this should impact Ryan’s production over the rest of the season.
Allen: First and foremost, I salute Calvin Ridley for having the courage to put his mental health first. I hope he finds the support and peace that he needs.
As for Pitts’ fantasy value, the Panthers may have given the rest of the league the blueprint. Not every team can boast of having a former All-Pro corner on their roster to lock up Pitts, but Stephon Gillmore gave the rookie a few lessons on Sunday. Pitts finds himself stuck between lacking playmakers around him to warrant more coverage and having a quarterback too hesitant to throw into tight windows until it’s too late. Plus, their next three games (Saints, Cowboys, and Patriots) certainly won’t help the situation.
Russell Gage should get a boost and, hopefully, see at least one target, but the player(s) we should focus on is Cordarrelle Patterson or Mike Davis. Patterson will be the popular pick, but Davis has seen multiple targets in all but one game. Ryan should continue to use both as extensions of the passing game to open up opportunities for the less-proven pieces of the offense.
Weisse: You have to believe we got a glimpse of what to expect for Pitts in Week 8. With no Ridley, there is no reason for defenses not to play him high-low on literally every play moving forward. There is no other threat worthy of their focus, and I love Cordarrelle Patterson as much as anyone. It might not result in two catches for 13 yards every week for Pitts, but if he does not score touchdowns, his top-5 upside left with Ridley.
It will be interesting to see how Atlanta adjusts their game plan, knowing that Ridley is not available. Russell Gage was not targeted once, and there was no significant uptick in targets for Patterson. However, I expect that to change. Patterson might end up playing wide receiver more, and that might even open things up for Mike Davis getting more playing time. If that happens, more targets for Patterson and more volume for Davis will obviously help both.
Outside of Pitts, nobody is hurt worse than Matt Ryan. He's already the QB21 in fantasy with just 13 passing touchdowns. Two of those scores went to Ridley, and all other Falcons' wide receivers have combined for just two on the season. That alone would be a 15% drop in production with no one to fill the gap. Ryan is unplayable in even the best matchups until Ridley is back on the field.
Geary: The Falcons seemed to be caught off guard when Ridley was declared out last week mere hours before kickoff, so it’s safe to assume they didn’t have a chance to properly game plan without Ridley in the lineup. That being said, a star player of Ridley’s caliber in an offense certainly helps other players like Pitts get open more often, as Julio Jones used to do for Ridley. Pitts is arguably the most talented pass-catcher on the Falcons offense now, and teams will likely game plan around double-teaming Pitts or jamming him at the line of scrimmage. We shouldn’t dismiss running back teammate Cordarrelle Patterson here though, who has emerged as a favorite target of Matt Ryan’s and is at least one other player on the roster who has the potential to take attention off of Pitts.
Many believed Ridley’s absence would benefit the likes of wide receiver Russell Gage in last week's matchup, but instead, Gage ended the day with zero fantasy points, disappointing managers everywhere. Arthur Smith and company would be smart to get both Gage and Tajae Sharpe more involved in the offense in the coming weeks, who will likely be the beneficiaries of targets and production with Ridley out of the lineup.
Hicks: If the game against the Panthers is any indication, Pitts is likely to struggle with the extra coverage his way. The Falcons simply cannot cope with a weak running game, the loss of Julio Jones in the offseason, and now, the potentially extended absence of Ridley. Matt Ryan cannot do it all and Cordarelle Patterson can’t line up everywhere. Any fantasy value Ryan had is lost. I would be reluctant to start anyone on this team outside Patterson and Pitts.
Wood: Let me start by saying I hope Calvin Ridley finds peace and wellness in the coming weeks and months. As for the Falcons offense, it can ill afford Ridley's absence. The team already ranked 24th in yards per attempt, and now becomes even easier to defend.
I need to tip my cap to Sigmund and other staffers who advocated for drafting Kyle Pitts in the early rounds, despite history's unkindness toward rookie tight ends. Their supposition that Pitts' game being more a receiver would allow him to flourish in Year One more than classic tight ends who need to also be adept as run blockers and pass protectors. Although Pitts' first few games were uninspiring, he's found his footing and is on pace for a stellar season. He's on pace for 80 receptions and 1,175 yards. The only fly in the ointment is his touchdown pace (he has one score in seven games), but touchdown volatility argues for some positive regressions in November and December.
Unfortunately, Ridley's absence changes the calculus for Pitts as he is now -- far and away -- the key defensive target. Opposing defensive coordinators are going to bracket him, throw double and triple teams at him, and generally force Matt Ryan to win by throwing to others. In a league with few viable fantasy tight ends, Pitts should remain a must-start, but he'll have to prove he can handle the constant defensive pressure much in the way we're seeing T.J. Hockenson deal with being the only target in Detroit.
Russell Gage is the biggest beneficiary, although not enough to be a consistent fantasy asset. When Ridley and Gage were both out in Week 5, Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe both played 80%+ of the snaps. But this past week, Gage played 68% of the snaps, as did Sharpe, and Zaccheaus' snap count fell to 40%.
Waldman: I agree with Wood in the sense that I expect Pitts' production to be inconsistent moving forward. Ridley was the one receiver other than Pitts who wasn't an incomplete player at the position. I'm hoping we don't see Atlanta attempt to use Patterson as a true wide receiver because his role is perfect the way it is. I doubt they will.
I'd look to Hayden Hurst picking up a lot of the slack. If I'm the offensive coordinator and looking at Atlanta's personnel, I'm keeping Pitts detached from the formation and rolling with Lee Smith and Hurst in the existing 11 and 12 personnel alignments. Smith is an excellent blocker and can stay in the pocket in 11 personnel while still using the combination of Patterson, Mike Davis, Pitts, and Hurts as receivers.
This personnel also allows Atlanta to run with two tight ends but use Pitts outside and work him deep on play-action passes. And when in two tight end sets, this grouping gives Ryan the flexibility to shift Davis and Patterson in or out of the backfield and find matchups that help them in the passing game.
I wouldn't be surprised if Hurst earns enough volume to produce as a top-10 option at his position the rest of the way.
Second-Half Slump Candidates
Waldman: Name two players you believe are about to fizzle in the second half of the fantasy season. Or to tone down the clickbait, at least have a notable decline in production.
Weisse: While his first half wasn't fantastic, Alvin Kamara has been pretty good for fantasy. However, as the Saints lose Jameis Winston and move back to Taysom Hill, I'm worried. Kamara is averaging just about 20 fantasy points per game in 2021 and ranks as the RB7 in fantasy. In Weeks 11-14 last year, Kamara averaged 14.2 fantasy points per game with Hill at quarterback. That would undoubtedly drop him out of the top-12 and maybe even the top-20 in fantasy.
Unless the Ravens change their game plan up or agree to focus on just three players, either Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews are in for a dip. The team only throws about 30 times per game, and Rashod Bateman was targeted six times in each of his first two games with the team. In Week 6, Brown was held to just four catches for 35 yards, and Mark Andrews recorded just three catches for 48 yards in Week 7.
As Bateman becomes a more significant part of this offense, his targets have to come from someone. There will still be good games, but it's hard to see Brown playing like a top-10 fantasy wide receiver to finish the year. Andrews will stay in the tight end Top 5, but that's more of a product of how bad fantasy tight ends are right now.
Wood: Jalen Hurts is a top-5 quarterback in many scoring formats, and if he remains on the field I see no end to his fantasy value. However, those who are enjoying a strong start to their fantasy seasons thanks to Hurts need to make sure they have a viable alternative down the stretch. Hurts' fantasy success is anathema to what's happening on the real football field. The Eagles offense -- putting aside this last week's drubbing of the Lions thanks to a power-running attack led by two guys from the practice squad -- has been disappointing. The passing game is virtually non-existent. Quite a few of the Eagles' scores have come in catchup time when opposing defenses are playing prevent. With the franchise set to come out of salary cap hell in 2022, and armed with a treasure trove of draft picks, the front office is not married to Hurts. Nor should they be. Don't be shocked if Gardner Minshew gets a few opportunities down the stretch, just so the coaches can assess whether it is Hurts holding back the receivers, or not.
Did you know Dalton Schultz has more PPR points than Kyle Pitts, Darren Waller, and Noah Fant? That's not sustainable with Michael Gallup returning to the lineup. While Schultz has firmly established his role as the No. 1 over Blake Jarwin, the target and touchdown rates scream for regression in the coming weeks.
Hicks: D'Andre Swift somehow is in the top six fantasy running backs despite his season-high rushing yardage total in any game being 51 yards. Catching a bunch of dump-offs every game is still counting towards his fantasy stats, but these are not indicative of an elite running back at work. The ability to stay healthy is his saving grace. Expect his numbers to regress.
Travis Kelce may be a more controversial choice. He is either out of sync injured or aging. Maybe all of the above. The odds are that the situation corrects itself and he once again dominates the tight end field, but his days as the runaway number one tight end are over.
Geary: Kelce had his worst performance of the year for both fantasy and real-life this week against the Giants, catching four passes for a measly 27 yards. Kelce averaged almost 21 PPR points per game in 2020, a full 5 points more per game than he's averaged so far in 2021. With Kansas City struggling mightily on offense and the Giants giving future opponents the ammo they need to take Kelce out of the game, we may not see his past years' dominance stick around the rest of the year.
Mike Williams started the season on fire, averaging 30 points per game outside of his matchup against the Raiders. Fantasy managers were elated to pluck a top-performing WR1 off their draft boards at a WR47 cost. Since Week 5, Williams hasn't topped 4.7 PPR points in a matchup, as defenses have laser-focused on taking him out of the game. I don't necessarily think we will continue to see low production from Williams throughout the remainder of the season and will continue to throw him into my starting lineups. However, we need to adjust our expectations to a more boom-or-bust player on a weekly basis. His fantasy playoff schedule is fantastic, including matchups against the Chiefs, the Texans, and the Broncos.
Kluge: James Conner is the goal-line back on a powerhouse offense, but his pace seems incredibly unsustainable. He has a total of seven carries inside the five-yard line and has converted those to six touchdowns. Through eight weeks, Chase Edmonds has outplayed Conner in snaps seven times. In the passing games, Edmonds sees 37 targets to Conner’s 5. Conner’s pace has been highly touchdown-dependent. In standard leagues, 55% of Conner’s fantasy points have come from his touchdowns. I’m expecting Edmonds to retain his role in the offense and Coner’s touchdown production to regress.
McNamara: Chase is due to cool off because he is nearly a touchdown worth of fantasy points per game over expectation, which is unsustainable. If the volume of the Cincinnati offense does not increase, Chase will regress. Swift is performing under his expected points and his rushing yards while living on high volume. He profiles as due for some regression, which could be more impactful if his volume shrinks in the second half of the season.
Allen: Deebo Samuel and Cooper Kupp are on pace for over 1,900 receiving yards. I can see Kupp getting there. Kupp plays on an offense that’s third in pass rate over expectation with a quarterback who ranks first in EPA per play, Adjusted Yards per Attempt, and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. Jimmy Garoppolo makes the Top 12 in each efficiency metric, but the 49ers are 30th in pass rate over expectation, and Garoppolo hasn’t been nearly as accurate. Plus, we’re now seeing Brandon Aiyuk emerge from Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse, and the team expects George Kittle to return to practice this week. While Samuel is already having the best season of his career, I’d expect a lesser receiving total at the season’s end than what he’s currently pacing to hit.