The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between the 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.
Why not both?
Whoever said it's better to be lucky than good did not understand the value of the process. Being good generates luck.
The goal of this feature is to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, but the fundamental mission is to get the process right. It's a rush to see the box score or highlights and claim you made the right calls. Without a sustainable process, success is ephemeral.
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).
My specialty is film analysis. I've been scouting the techniques, concepts, and physical skills of offensive skill talent as my business for nearly 20 years.
The Top 10 will give you fantasy-oriented insights rooted in football analysis that has made the Rookie Scouting Portfolio one of the two most purchased independent draft guides among NFL scouts. This is what SMU's Director of Recruiting Alex Brown has told me based on his weekly visits with scouts during his tenure in Dallas as well as his stints at Rice and Houston.
Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece, that's available Monday nights during the season, is also a good source of information to begin your week as a fantasy GM. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often toward players who flash elite athletic ability, and I err more toward players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.
Straight, No Chaser: Week 8 Cliff's Notes
This week, I'll be examining a lot of players who should be on your Waiver Wire Rolodex. Are you young enough to wonder what a Rolodex is? It's the precursor to your smartphone's contact list and after your fantasy drafts, it's wise to build a preliminary list of free agents who have the talent, depth chart spot, and/or offensive scheme to deliver fantasy value for your rosters if and when an opportunity arises.
The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points. I always provide bullet points for those lacking the time to see the tape examples and expanded commentary.
- The Term "Cooked" is Cooked, But If Hopkins Is Cooked, He's the Potlikker: I'm old enough to remember when the fantasy community thought DeAndre Hopkins was on the decline. He may be, but the rate of any decline in his game was overstated. Congratulations to those who could afford to be patient.
- Pollard Mania is Ridiculous: I've always said Tony Pollard is a good complementary back but Dallas remains the epicenter of analysts overvaluing contact balance data, long speed, and lacking a balanced perspective about how runners and offensive linemen function.
- Kyle Shanahan: McCaffrey Is A Force Multiplier: Two weeks in and Shanahan is rising to the challenge of making the most of one of the best offensive weapons in the NFL.
- Ehlinger Is A Net Upgrade to the Colts' Offense: Sam Ehlinger isn't a better quarterback than Matt Ryan, but what he does well is a better fit for the Colts right now.
- Sell High on Davis Before He's Wearing a New Jersey in 2025 Peerless Price, Alvin Harper, and Kenny Golladay are part of the Gabriel Davis spectrum of archetypes but many continue to see Davis as a future primary option. Don't be surprised if the NFL does, too.
- Buy High on Olave Invest in players with 8-10 years of starter potential. Chris Olave has that profile.
- Hill and Waddle Are Tag Team Champions: Both players excel individually, but they are even better together. Jaylen Waddle is also a "buy high."
- Kamara Got A Taste of the End Zone, Will He Sustain His RB1 Value: Alvin Kamara's remaining schedule may appear prohibitive on the surface, but Is it really?
- Detroit's Offensive Line Is A Long-Term Fantasy Asset: This unit nearly makes the Lions' skill players plug-and-play starters.
- Fresh Fish: Two quarterbacks, a rule, and a rulebreaker make the list.
Let's turn this mother out...
1. The Term "Cooked" Is Cooked: But If DeAndre Hopkins Is Cooked, He's the PotLikker
Personally, I value cooked items. For me, "cooked" has always implied preparation and craft. The exceptions are fruits and some vegetables which are often better raw.
DeAndre Hopkins ain't no vegetable. But if he were, he'd be some greens that were washed, combined with all the soulful ingredients that make a great potlikker, and simmered until you have the liquid gold that is his game.
Hopkins is the ultimate craftsman whose knowledge of angles, physicality, tracking, and close-quarters techniques as the catch point make him almost as dangerous as he was at the height of his production peaks in Houston. Considering that the Cardinals also move Hopkins inside to match up with safeties at various points of a game, Hopkins might be even more dangerous.
Watch this route and ignore the defender. Then, watch this route with the defender in mind. You’ll see how good DeAndre Hopkins is as a route runner and that it is less about dynamic movement than msn realize and more knowledge of angles and pace #AZCardinals pic.twitter.com/5jgElMIvIh— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 31, 2022
Kyle Murray told the media that he's had a natural and immediate rapport with Hopkins from the first day of Hopkins' arrival. That's in stark contrast to A.J. Green, who told the media last spring that he and Murray were still trying to strengthen their connection after Green earned 900 yards in 2021. Based on mid-season returns, it hasn't happened.
Hopkins is one of the craftiest receivers I have ever studied. If you encounter a fantasy GM in your league with a moment of foolishness who thinks Hopkins is a sell-high option, see if you can talk him down a little and steal this player.
Fantasy Advice: Hopkins dominated targets against the Vikings, who chose to place Patrick Peterson elsewhere in coverage. Even so, the Cardinals' ability to draw matchup advantages with Hopkins won't go away. Hopkins faces the following teams for the rest of the season. Here's how they fare against receivers in terms of fantasy production and which receiver archetypes fare well against them:
- Seahawks: Only two units are stingier to receivers, but the quality of competition has been below average. Good route runners like Jerry Jeudy and Chris Olave have fared well, and contested-catch options like Courtland Sutton, Mike Williams, Drake London, and Darius Slayton have also been productive. Hopkins is a good blend of both.
- Rams: This unit is 16th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to receivers and is only this high because of key injuries to quarterbacks or receivers who made them look stingier than they are.
- 49ers: The 10th-most generous pass defense to fantasy receivers, matchups with Seattle and Kansas City are a factor in the ranking, but they are vulnerable to ball winners and slot options.
- Chargers: The 11th-most generous unit, and they're consistently giving.
- Patriots: 18th on the generosity list, they still gave up points to lesser versions of the Hopkins archetype: Allen Lazard, Josh Reynolds, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Denzel Mims.
- Broncos: The best unit on this list against receivers, only Davante Aams has logged a 100-yard game. Alec Pierce came close with 81 yards. Only Brandon Aiyuk has scored a touchdown. That said, other than Adams, no receiver the Broncos has faced is as crafty as Hopkins.
- Buccaneers: 23rd in generosity to fantasy receivers, the rating is inflated thanks to facing a Prescott-Less Cowboys, the Packers, Atlanta, Kenny Pickett, Carolina, and a banged-up Baltimore passing game.
- Falcons: The second-most generous unit this year, and for good reason. Even a pair of Carolina receivers had fantasy-worthy production this weekend.
You want Hopkins on your team. If you can find a fantasy GM with ageist tendencies who is more about data than on-field skill, you might find a way to deal a younger player with a hot profile for this subset of GMs in exchange for Hopkins, most likely a more productive option.
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