The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality of football analysis. Football analysis—fantasy and reality—is often dramatized because there's a core belief that it's more important to entertain than to educate.
I don't live by the idea that it's better to be lucky than good. While I want to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, I prefer to get the process right. There will be a lot of people talking about how they were right to draft or start specific players. Many of them got the right result but with an unsustainable process.
The Top 10 will cover topics that attempt to get the process right (reality) while understanding that fantasy owners may not have time to wait for the necessary data to determine the best course of action (fantasy).
As always, I recommend Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece which you'll find available on this page, Monday night. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often towards players who flash elite athletic ability and I err more towards players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.
STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: WEEK 11'S CLIFF'S NOTES
The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points.
- The idea that players "get coached-up" by NFL position coaches is mostly a myth. Team practices are scheme rehearsals, not technique lessons. The best players develop because they initiate and implement training methods to improve their technical prowess and the emergence of Steelers' wide receiver Diontae Johnson is an illustration of a player who has developed his own exercises to become a better ball tracker and catcher.
- Speaking of ball tracking, A.J. Green's tracking is as textbook as you'll find in the NFL. In contrast, DK Metcalf has dropped numerous targets during the past two weeks that could have changed Seattle's fortunes and it's because there are tracking and catching techniques he knows how to use but hasn't ingrained the optimal way to apply it.
- Last week's "Replacements" headliner Matt Breida had another notable outing. His speed and understanding of how to set up blockers and defenders make him a legitimate threat to usurp playing time from Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.
- Fantasy football is hyper-focused on individual performances. Real football is a team sport that requires a blending of stand-out individual plays within the fabric of teamwork. The first example of these statements performing at their best is Jonathan Taylor and the Colts' run-blocking. Taylor and his line are delivering elite production and it's important to phrase it as "Taylor and his line" as opposed to Taylor, alone. If you hyper-focus on Taylor, you lose sight of what usually makes a back a consistent fantasy force.
- Of course, there are exceptions or different cases to the point above. D'Andre Swift is a back who is asked to do most of his work in space. When the Lions use him between the tackles, they use run schemes that lessen the bulk of the decision-making/conceptual creativity to fall on Swift.
- Brandon Aiyuk's work in traffic is becoming a notable part of his emerging game.
- Last week, I highlighted Marcus Johnson as a "scheme player," and explained the difference between a "scheme" and "matchup" player. Pat Friermuth and Dawson Knox are emerging as consistent matchup players for their offenses.
- There's a lot of emphasis on X's and O's in football media. However, a Josh Allen interception underscores a point that personnel and execution make the scheme as often as the scheme makes the player.
- One of the perfect marriages of scheme and personnel in football is the End-Tackle Twist. A play designed to confuse offensive linemen and create sudden pressure that catches quarterbacks by surprise, the E-T Twist sealed victories for the Cardinals and Chargers this weekend and made Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson look worse than they were.
- Fresh Fish: Chris Jones and the Chiefs defense took Cowboy's substitute left tackle Terence Steele to the woodshed. Steele is Dallas' starting right tackle, but he's a liability on the left side.
- Atlanta's offensive line is contributing to the reckless endangerment of quarterbacks in North Georgia.
- Seattle and Pittsburgh's offensive lines could not handle the E-T Twist.
- Baker Mayfield's contextual accuracy was overrated prior to his injuries. Now? It's getting to the point where he's beginning to be an on-field liability.
For those of you who wish to learn the why's, the details are below.
1. PLayers Don't Get "Coached-up" — Exhibit S: WR Diontae Johnson
It's becoming a professional mission of mine to help readers understand that players don't get "coached-up" in the NFL (or even college football) in the ways that football fans and analysts often characterize. Over the past 17 years of scouting rookie talent, I've seen the following response to a player who displays a significant technical lapse to their game.
That's not a big deal. Once he's drafted, he'll get coached up and learn how to do the work. What's important is his [production share and/or workout metrics].
Stephen Hill. Bishop Sankey. Andre Williams. C.J. Prosise. Jeremy McNichols. Mecole Hardman. Zay Jones. Taywan Taylor. Carlos Henderson. Breshad Perriman. Sammie Coates Jr. Tevin Coleman. Knile Davis. This is a Baker's Dozen of runners and wide receivers with glaring technical and conceptual deficiencies where I heard these "will get coached up," responses. If their careers aren't already over, their promise as high-end starters is already dead in the water.
Fans and media either don't know or think hard enough about the nature of NFL practice. If teams called practices "rehearsals," it would probably help because that's what football practices are — meetings where individual players and coaches work on the macro skills required to execute as a team. Yes, they warm up with technical drills for each individual position but those exercises only help a player improve a limited amount.
After all, many variations of these individual exercises are used at most high schools across the country. They may help a 16-year-old wide receiver develop into a competent high school player, but the gap in knowledge and technique between a kid with Pop Warner experience (at most) and a kid competing for a roster spot at a high school is a canyon.
In contrast, the gap in knowledge and technique between an NFL hopeful and an NFL All-Pro comes down to a small margin of execution that can barely pass through the eye of a needle. Yet, most starters play at a level with such a low margin for error, mistakes are magnified in importance.
This is why top athletes entering the NFL can rarely excel or even "get by" solely on athletic ability alone. Exhibit A of this point is one I've pinned to my Twitter Account: Tony Gonzalez.
Refer to this every time you or someone fan wonders-assumes: “Players will/do get coached on positional fundamentals and advanced techniques in the NFL.”— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 3, 2021
Or watch Tony Gonzalez break it down.https://t.co/rV1hWViEom https://t.co/EkU24XE1q7
The best players figure out that developing and ingraining the smallest details create the greatest advantages and they take it upon themselves to create and implement training exercises devoted to correcting and/or enhancing existing football skills. Diontae Johnson is the latest example of a player I've discovered to be taking the development of his game into his own hands.
Johnson had a penchant for drops at Toledo and early in his career with the Steelers. NBC profiled Johnson's pre-/post-practice regimen with tennis balls designed to improve his tracking and catching of the ball.
This exercise helps Johnson practice the vital ability to find the ball with his back to the quarterback and at the latest points of its trajectory. This simulates what he encounters as a receiver. It also helps him learn how to attack the target with the optimal fingertips-first catching technique because of the size and texture of the ball.
Johnson led the NFL in dropped passes in 2020 with 16, according to Sport info Solutions. I couldn't find his exact number of drops, but checking NBC Sports' current statistics for the leaders in drops for each conference, the leading pass dropper among Steelers wide receivers based on a minimum number of targets is Chase Claypool with 2.
Clearly, Johnson's efforts are paying off. Of course, like most acquired skills, consistent work is part of maintaining consistent performance. Right now, Johnson is putting in the work and ingraining that exercise into a training habit.
2. The Technical Contrast Between WRs AJ Green And DK Metcalf
Top wide receivers should bail out quarterbacks when they deliver targets that lack pinpoint placement. There are obviously limits to the truth of this statement but we're talking about reasonable situations. Last week, I profiled the two drops D.K. Metcalf committed against the Packers.
Second drop for DK Metcalf today on a slant. Both targets featured poor hands position by Metcalf. This target was pinpoint. The other was behind Metcalf but still catchable. pic.twitter.com/pfrNA8GdYB— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 15, 2021
This week, Metcalf dropped a pair of passes that could have changed the outcome of the Seahawks-Cardinals game — challenging targets for sure, but perfect throws from Russell Wilson — passes one expects an elite receiver to win. While both drops would have been understandable if Metcalf used the optimal technique and the resulting contact jarred the ball free, the fact that Metcalf generated the drops before the contact due to subpar technical skill is something he must correct if he wants any shot of becoming a consistent force in the NFL.
After all, the aren't many NFL quarterbacks who can place the ball this well in these scenarios below as consistently as Wilson has throughout his career.
Metcalf knows how to use the correct technique but it's becoming clear that has practiced the scenarios where he needs to respond with the optimal technique when the ball arrives at chest level or over his shoulder against tight coverage. Bucket-catching technique is acceptable when a defender can't reach for the ball but in both cases, the defense is in a position to defend the target.
Metcalf also has to practice using the correct hand position when catching targets that are at a chest-level height and above. His first reaction is the suboptimal technique and that's what's hurt him. This is a problem that spans as far back as his years at Ole Miss.
It's obvious that Metcalf hasn't gone to the lengths of isolating specific target heights and working on the correct technical reaction to them. Until then, Metcalf will remain less reliable on targets that his quarterback and coaches will expect him to make according to his draft capital, paygrade, 2020 production, and athletic ability portend.
The first place Metcalf could have looked on Sunday to begin his future lesson plans is across the field to A.J. Green. The former All-Pro is the textbook example of how to use his hands.
Another textbook catch from AJ Green. pic.twitter.com/BPoDS2bWv4— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 22, 2021
It's also no surprise that Green is a fantastic tracker of the ball.
Green may have preternatural talent, but most top talents do. They also work hard at the details of their craft.
What does this mean for fantasy GMs? Unless the Seahawks have consistent success scheming Metcalf open or the offensive line can give Wilson enough time to throw deep and uncontested targets that lead Metcalf under the ball, don't count on elite production from Metcalf year-to-year. Seattle has been using Metcalf more as an option in traffic and he's not making the most of the opportunities.
Metcalf began the first five weeks of the season as the No.10 PPR option. He's 18th on the same list after 11 weeks. The obvious analysis is that Wilson's absence hurt Metcalf and the offense. The more impactful point is that, even if Metcalf was still 10th on the board
3. RB Matt Breida Is Sneaking Up the Bills' Depth Chart
Last Thursday, Breida was the headlining recommendation in my Replacements column after he impressed the Bills with his performance against the Jets.
The Skinny on Breida: I've been monitoring Breida in deep dynasty leagues since he left San Francisco. Although Breida didn't work out in Miami, what he showed in San Francisco was too good to completely write him off as a viable talent. He's a breakaway runner with excellent decision-making and decent strength for his size.
San Francisco rode Breida during the middle of 2018 and early 2019 as its lead back. Breida delivered 1,437 yards and 4 touchdowns on 276 attempts during this span, including a quartet of 100-yard games. He also generated 46 catches, 381 yards, and 3 scores in the passing game. If it weren't for frequent injuries that cost him parts of games, if not entire weeks, you may have never heard of Raheem Mostert.
In one dynasty league with deep rosters that I recently joined and inherited a squad with Nyheim Hines and D'Andre Swift as my running backs — not some of my running backs, but my running backs, period — I added Breida this summer and kept him until a few weeks ago. Finally thinking it was safe to drop him since he hasn't been on the active roster, Breida got promoted and earned two scores during last week's romp of the Jets.
While easy to think that Breida only earned this playing time due to the blowout, but his speed and hard running style have impressed his teammates (again, speed is the cleavage of the NFL) and the coaching staff liked his one-cut style. Neither Zach Moss nor Devin Singletary offers the speed Breida brings to the team. Although Singletary has earned five yards per carry, he and Moss are at a near 50/50 split in touches. In this sense, neither runner has stood out this year.
Recommendation: Breida remains on the active roster this week and his eye-catching speed will earn him more touches in the coming weeks. If he can make the most of his touches, hold onto the ball, and stay injury-free, there's a legitimate chance for Breida to carve out a role in the rotation and diminish Singletary and/or Moss' fantasy value.
If you're desperate or you have the roster space to add a luxury pick with high upside, Breida's proven skills could fill the vacuum in Buffalo for an explosive runner.
Breida once again looked good during a blowout — this time, the Colts burying the Bills — however, Breida saw much of his playing time when the game was still a contest.
The fact he's earning pass-pro reps for Josh Allen during the first drive of the second half is a telling indication that the coaches want Breida on the field and expect him to provide a spark to the offense. Especially when basing it on Breida's first-half play that demonstrated two things that neither Devin Singletary nor Zack Moss has: speed AND fluent skill to set up defenders and blockers.
Breida is the most proven NFL back on the Bills' roster. If he stays healthy, look for Buffalo to lean on him as a contributor and give him more touches during the final weeks of the regular season. It may be a three-headed committee but if you have the luxury to have Breida sitting unused on your bench, he could eventually be the winning piece for Week 17 against Atlanta's lowly run-stopping unit.
If you're desperate for a back, then a low-cost bet on Breida should give you a puncher's chance at a big play and/or flex production against a tough slate of defenses between Weeks 12-16 that include the Saints, Patriots, Panthers, and Buccaneers.
4. "RB Jonathan Taylor And the Colts' OL," LIke Most Ideal Run Games, Should be Communicated As a Singular Entity
The fantasy community has already crowned Jonathan Taylor the new king of running backs now that King Henry is sidelined with a foot injury. Not surprising, given last year's stretch-run and this year's production.
Last eight games for #Colts RB Jonathan Taylor:— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 21, 2021
- 114 yards, 1 TD
- 169 yards, 2 TDs
- 158 yards, 2 TDs
- 110 yards, 1 TD
- 122 yards, 1 TD
- 200 yards, 2 TDs
- 126 yards, 2 TDs
- 204 yards, 5 TDs pic.twitter.com/t4Bs0B5Clh
Taylor is a gifted runner whose initial acclimation to the NFL triggered the reactive tendencies of many fans and analysts, leading a contingent of the public to worry they had another Trent Richardson on their hands. While the stretch run of 2020 assuaged those concerns, there's an underlying issue with the state of running back analysis.
Most don't know how they matter because they interpret the limited context of the data to conclude that they don't matter as much as we once thought. However, this has led to arguments about running backs that are extreme and untenable because they reveal there's little contextual knowledge out there about the techniques and concepts that running backs must learn to manipulate and negotiate their working environment — a region that has as much or more density of players per yard than any other working space among players at any position.
Running back is so misunderstood for many reasons. One, it's a highly athletic position that must incorporate its skills at a speed mimicking instinct but isn't simply instinct. Two, teams use running backs in a broad range of roles and the public hasn't considered how this changes the way the position should be scouted.
Three, effective running backs also span the height-weight range a cornerback to a defensive end. No other position has that range. It also means that this wide range of sizes and roles for the position leads to different styles of running that lean on different athletic skills. Dalvin Cook is a much different runner than Saquon Barkley. Both are excellent runners and there are stark differences in their Combine Metrics. And if you don't understand how those workouts translate to the field, you were likely to be far more concerned about Cook's potential success than you should have been.
There's also the role of the runner with his offensive line. This is the team portion of the job:
- Reading defender alignments pre-snap and understanding how to set up or avoid those defenders if they pose a threat to the integrity of the play design.
- How to negotiate penetration into the backfield and still be on track to hit a designed crease.
- How to manipulate defenders into getting blocked.
- Timing the blocks so you can get through the hole.
- Knowing which plays you can cut back and which plays you can't.
- Understanding when to use specific cuts, changes in stride length, and pacing changes based on all of these factors.
- The difference between approaching creases on zone plays versus gap plays.
- Managing risk based on field position and down-and-distance.
If you take the extremist view of running backs as gospel, then you are ignoring all of this context. You might as well presume that all running backs are football's version of Rain Man.
Taylor has all of these skills in the bullet points above — at least at a baseline level that makes him good when you evaluate a running back outside of the context of his offensive line. However, in order to do this, you must have a grading system that operates on the premise of evaluating the player's athletic ability, techniques, and concepts expressed in a way where he's doing everything he should to put his team in a position for success.
A good grading system allows you to see if the player performed well regardless of whether blockers didn't and the yards didn't come — translatable skills, athletic ability, and concepts. This is why backs like Joseph Addai and Matt Forte earned high grades in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio despite delivering paltry production against top competition in contrast to Darren McFadden and Bishop Sankey, who had great stats but they were far more often the beneficiaries of great plays from teammates.
Most don't know the difference. It's why there was a debate about Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott's skills. I have no problem with the argument about the contract value of the position based on injury and the high value a back of average can generate in a specific scheme where the onus of skill is weighted more to the offensive line. However, there are situations where the back has at least equal value to the line, and that difficulty with generating data with the context of information bulleted above can lead to provocative but ignorant arguments about the value of highly skilled players.
It won't surprise me if Taylor will be the next on this list if the Colts' line gets hurt and Taylor's production falls from the elite tier. A good example of a play that's a marriage between Taylor's skills and the skill of his offensive line is this big-play run where Taylor breaks multiple tackles but the run doesn't even get past the line of scrimmage if not for the offensive line and, specifically the effort of tight end Jack Doyle.
And by the way, the first account commenting on this Tweet is someone you should follow if you have a deep interest in analytics and film study. I don't know if he'll ever become active enough on social media for the general football fan's liking when it comes to sharing his expertise in these fields (and I promise, he's in the 99.999th percentile of anyone in football in these areas although I cannot give you any more detail than what's on his profile) but I'd follow just in case he decides to do so.
Another complicating factor with running back evaluation is how a team maximizes the skills of limited or specialized talents. Calling D'Andre Swift a limited talent sounds insulting but labeling this scatback who does his best work in space (or behind blocking schemes that try to simulate open space) a "specialized talent" has more nuance to accommodate that what he does well, he does well at a highly productive level.
More on that below.
5. D'Andre Swift and run Game Roles in Contrast to the "Taylor Ideal"
As I've mentioned this summer and as recently as last week, Swift is at his best in open space or behind blocks that don't ask him to make high-end reads of the box (the offensive and defensive line). Zone plays demand more from the back's conceptual and technical understanding of the position. Gap plays certainly require technical and conceptual skills but they demand more from the back's raw athletic skills in contrast.
When asked to account for the list of things I mentioned earlier, Swift makes more mistakes than you want from a back in a role like Taylor:
However, ask Swift to execute on a play like the one below, and it's in his wheelhouse.
And, when the offense catches a defense overplaying one side of the field, lookout...
#Lions catch Browns defense with over half of the personnel on the left side and use jet motion to reinforce that alignment to their advantage.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 21, 2021
Result: Swift gets the huge runway he needs to reach top speed pic.twitter.com/Cbi3W0o3IT
Of course, Swift will also take advantage of plays where running straight downhill with little change of direction is required.
This is a nuanced argument that many good fantasy players will argue against in its raw form: "75 of his 110 yards came on 3 plays." Like most fantasy hobbyists, I agree that the raw form of this argument is flawed. However, if you can pinpoint where the player succeeds and fails then you develop a better understanding beyond labeling the player "good/bad."
Swift isn't as good as his data if judging him alongside all running backs. He is as good as his data if judging him based on the likelihood of the Lions and the Lions' game scripts giving him opportunities to succeed in space or in "simulated space" like the plays above.
When that begins to change, it will be time to pivot from Swift. Until then, enjoy.
6. Brandon AiYuk's Acclimation to Heavy Traffic
Out of Kyle Shanahan's doghouse, Aiyukl has 19 targets, 16 catches, 200 yards, and 2 scores during the past three weeks of football. The common thread underscoring this production is Aiyuk's ability to win on the slant route — something he was known for at Arizona State — and his ability to win in traffic, a quality of his game that has improved since coming to San Francisco.
Aiyuk's presence allows the 49ers to use Deebo Samuel more often as a running back and still have a threat in the passing game (in addition to George Kittle) that opponents must take into account. This is something I'll be highlighting in this week's Gut Check.
7. The Fantasy Value of Understanding Scheme PLayers vs. Matchup Players - Part II: Pat Freiermuth and Dawson Knox
Scheme Players are individuals who have the baseline skills to produce in the NFL if placed in an offense that asks them to execute plays where there's minimal effort to defeat an individual defender one-on-one. Matchup players are your starters who can win one-on-one.
The best players are matchup players who can consistently challenge top individual opponents. Think Jefferson and Chase at wide receiver, Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffery at running back, and Patrick Mahomes II at quarterback. Freiermuth and Knox have made the transition from players solely useful with schemed plays to matchup players who a quarterback can force the ball towards in a key situation.
I showed Freiermuth's game-winner against Cleveland a few weeks ago. However, it's also nice to see that his ability to win one-on-one against formidable coverage creates red-zone scenarios where his offense can use the threat of him in the back of the end zone to set up quick-hitting targets at the line of scrimmage as a constraint against expectations.
Fast motion to 4x1, tunnel screen w/TE the other way pic.twitter.com/VCRzTpbnLS— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) November 22, 2021
If you're still waiting on Irv Smith, you might want to cut bait and invest in one of these two youngsters. Even at a premium.
8. Most Production Is the Marriage of Scheme and Individual Execution from Its Personnel
This is the truth that slips through the cracks of general football fan knowledge. In the effort to sound knowledgeable over drinks at a business dinner, party, Sunday afternoon at the bar, we glom onto the quick blast of 90-second knowledge bombs dropped on major media. The latest in schematic football hipness is Cover 2 or 2-Man coverage that has stifled high-scoring teams with young quarterbacks and/or offenses that can't be patient enough to take shorter throws.
Scheme is football catnip to young men and middle-aged men in the same way that gadgetry and tools have an appeal. It's a quick way to achieve the appearance of knowledge and skill. For most, learning new terminology is the satiation of healthy curiosity and impressing peers with newfound knowledge is a fringe benefit. Of course, there are also some with cases of extreme insecurity who use terminology to intimidate others into silence for fear of looking ignorant when they actually lack the knowledge they want others to perceive.
A good example is this Josh Allen interception. It's easy to simply say that Josh Allen shouldn't have thrown into this two-man coverage. Two-Man is two-high safeties with cornerbacks playing man-to-man underneath. However, dictating a decision according to coverage is simplistic. It may cover enough scenarios you watch for your take to be correct but it's superficial knowledge.
Allen makes the right leverage read on the safety. You can argue that with the corner playing man-to-man, he was trusting Gabriel Davis to get open, and instead, the Colts' cornerback played the route well enough to block the receiver's break and give the safety the room to win. This is more about the execution of the play rather than the scheme itself.
This may be considered a bad decision by Josh Allen but the #BillsMafia QB reads the S leverage well.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 21, 2021
It is the #Colts CB who undercuts the WR’s break and gives the S room and best angle to the ball pic.twitter.com/hb1oEzuZlj
The best quarterbacks have tighter margins for error and that translates to coverage scenarios that your average or below-average former quarterback on your favorite three- or four-letter word station will say is prohibitive. Think of it this way: it may have been a horrible idea for Kellen Winslow II to perform motorcycle stunts in a parking lot but for a professional stuntwoman with a resume studded with major motion pictures, it's called practice.
It's these types of plays where fans are more apt to say, See, Josh Allen was always bad. He's been propped up by surrounding talent. And I'm mad about it because Lamar Jackson got a raw deal during that draft and Allen was overrated. Now's my chance as a Jackson guy to go after Allen.
I know it's not as fun, but you realize you can like Jackson, respect Allen's game, and not have to like Allen? All three things can be available to you as well as thousands of other combinations that don't lead to inaccurate football takes.
9. The Tackle-End Twist: A Marriage that Divorces Quarterbacks from Fantasy Production
One of the perfect marriages of scheme and personnel in football is the End-Tackle Twist. A play designed to confuse offensive linemen and create sudden pressure that catches quarterbacks by surprise, the E-T Twist sealed victories for the Cardinals and Chargers this weekend and made Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson look worse than they were.
Four sacks (at least my eyeballing of it) of Russ Wilson came from the right side of #Seahawks OL and from twists.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 22, 2021
Twists often break open late in the play and the QB has no indication of a compromised pocket until DL is in QB’s lap. pic.twitter.com/c2fGJO0hEn
E-T Twist gets Roethlisberger…like Seattle-Cards gm, QB usually doesn’t feel E-T Twists until the pressure is in their lap pic.twitter.com/wag94kgD61— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 22, 2021
Twists generate the type of pressure that sneaks up on a quarterback. It's often slow-developing when considering that the defender doesn't break the protection of the pocket or reach the quarterback with a lot of visual lead time for the quarterback to anticipate it. However, once the pressure reaches that point, it's often interior pressure that's in the quarterback's lap and in a sudden fashion that is difficult to navigate.
Twists work best when quarterbacks are in situations where they have to attack downfield in an intermediate and deep passing situation. Twists give the quarterback a false sense of security in the pocket because of the time they often take to work. Short passing nullifies a lot of twists but if you're behind like Wilson and Roethlisberger, they play into the defense's hands.
Especially when one of your most dangerous receivers drops passes. Wilson, you can ask Roethlisberger about what that was like for him last year. Maybe you can float that tennis ball exercise past Metcalf.
10. FRESH FISH: WEEK 11
Fantasy football is a cruel place. We're always searching for the weakest link. While we don't want anyone facing the wrath of Hadley, we'd love nothing more than our players to face an opponent whose game has come unglued on the field.
In the spirit of "The Shawshank Redemption," I provide my weekly shortlist of players and/or units that could have you chanting "fresh fish" when your roster draws the match-up.
Special of the Week: Cowboys substitute LT Terence Steele
The Cowboys' offensive line gave up four sacks to Chris Jones, who mostly terrorized Steele, the starting right tackle who had to move to left tackle to replace the injured Tyron Smith. IDP Alert: elevate your value of pass rushers against the Cowboys for as long as Smith is out.
Here's the rest of the list.
- The Chargers' defense is as friendly of a unit as I've seen of the teams in the league with good offenses. Even as a top-10 unit statistically heading into the Steelers' game.
- Atlanta's offensive line has gaps in athletic talent, skill, and resilience. Josh Allen and Feleipe Franks threw consecutive pick-sixes at the end of the Patriots game. No quarterback wants to venture into the waters of Atlanta's pocket because the linemen are wearing chum as a uniform.
- The right side of Seattle's line gave up at least four sacks against the Cardinals.
- Baker Mayfield: With his pocket issues, decision-making, and accuracy issues, he's a gilded butterfly of a starting quarterback before you account for the knee and shoulder injuries that are exacerbating his skill gaps. He kept Detroit in this game.
Thanks again for all of your feedback on this column. Good luck next week and may your bold call come true.