Unlock More Content Like This With a Footballguys Premium Subscription
"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
You know the mission. If you don't, read it here (and thanks for checking this out for the first time)
STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: WEEK 11'S 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. After your fantasy drafts, it's wise to build a preliminary list of free agents with 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.
- Wishful Thinking: Is Odell Beckham Jr Back?
- Emerging: Khalil Shakir Made Good on His Start
- Finally: I'm Coming Around on Jaylen Warren
- Mourning: The Bengals Offense without Joe Burrow
- Coping: The Ravens' Offense without Mark Andrews
- Wondering: The Browns' Offense with Dorian Thompson-Robinson
- Hopeful: Justin Fields' Return to Action
- Potential: The Packers' Passing Game
- Lesson: C.J. Stroud's Three-INT Outing
- Fresh Fish
1. Wishful Thinking: Is Odell Beckham Jr Back?
The safe bet is that Beckham's three-game streak of worthwhile fantasy production is a nice run for an aging wide receiver who was once an elite NFL player. The 31-year-old Beckham had injury-riddled seasons in 2017, 2018, 2020, and at the end of 2021, which cost him the entire 2022 campaign.
There was talk that Beckham's surgically repaired knee was too delicate to hold up to football again. There were also workout videos that suggested otherwise.
One thing I've learned from podcasting with my co-host Brandon Angelo — a sports and human performance specialist who works with top athletes — that isn't as obvious as it should be until you hear it is that a player "healthy" enough to return from injury is often a far lower bar than we imagine.
A good example right now is Tony Pollard, who had surgeries on a broken leg and his ankle. His ability to move and withstand punishment is good enough to return to the field. His explosion and top-end agility are not what they were prior to his injuries.
The return to previous athletic form can take much longer than the NFL's timeline. The reason coaches often want their starters back as soon as possible — even with the downside of that player not performing to his peak athletic ability — is the player's knowledge of the scheme and execution of the complete game plan.
The optics of Pollard screwing up a pass protection plan that costs the offense Dak Prescott are more favorable for the coaches than Rico Dowdle making the same error with a "healthy enough to play" version of Pollard on the bench.
Finishing up with Pollard, we can only hope that Pollard doesn't aggravate his rehabbed injuries this year to the point that it robs him of his explosion long-term. This often happens with NFL players, especially at running back.
This is probably the root issue behind Sean Payton initially having a conflict with Michael Thomas when the Saints' receiver was beginning his rehab for a troublesome foot injury. Thomas has always been known as a detail-oriented perfectionist. This behavior pleased Thomas's coaches when he applied it to learning an offense and being on the same page with his quarterbacks.
Based on what we know publicly about the situation, I'm betting Thomas didn't want to return to the field when he was the "NFL's version of healthy," and this irked Payton. I'm also betting this is why Beckham took as much time away from the game as he did, and this generated rumors that his knee is held together with tattered duct tape that needs a good press to what it's covering before you use it.
Based on what I've seen over the past three weeks, Beckham's acceleration, stop-start quickness, long speed, and mobility are all looking good. He's one of the two best big-play weapons for the Ravens right now.
Masterful route by Odell Beckham.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 19, 2023
Sells the slant. Then sells the sail and fools CB into thinking CB has sail covered (he does) but it’s not a sail but a go and that’s when Beckham separates with the ball already out.
Pinpoint throw by Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/rz2PZ7yHxa
The $64 question is whether Beckham's knee can hold up enough for fantasy GMs to rely on him down the stretch. As is the case with all players returning from major surgeries, the incidence of recurrence is higher, and age can be a factor.
However, we've learned that the increased rate of recurrence isn't prohibitive enough to avoid the player. The fact that Beckham took the extra time to rehab his knee and multiple teams were interested in his services is a good indication that Beckham's time away was to make sure he'd be much closer to his pre-injury self than healthy enough to run around but looking like a[n injury-] hungover Tony Pollard.
With Mark Andrews out for the year, expect Todd Monken to put more of the offense on his trio of receivers, including Beckham, because the loss of Andrews isn't as impactful on the ground game as it is on the passing game. More on this later, but expect Beckham — who has been fantasy WR11 since Week 9 — to continue delivering top-24 production at his position.
2. Emerging: Khalil Shakir Made Good on His Start
Yes, the Bills listed Shakir as a starter before today's game. That's a telling indication that new offensive coordinator Joe Brady and the Bills' staff have seen enough progress from Shakir this season to make him a significant part of a game plan.
Shakir often made impactful plays as a contributor during his past year and a half in the NFL. This catch was one of my favorites last year. His drops in training camp and practice kept the Bills from giving him a bigger share of snaps.
As you can see with the favorite play from last year, Shakir is a big-play option as a ball-winner on trust throws, which you don't get from Deonte Harty or Trent Sherfield. He's also a better route runner against man-to-man coverage, which makes him a player Josh Allen can trust with match-ups and not just target on plays schemed specifically for him. This is the downside of Gabriel Davis's game.
Like Harty, Shakir can give you production after the catch. In addition to the linked play I just shared, here's the best example from the week.
Shakir is WR27 in PPR leagues since Week 7, outperforming Chris Godwin, Jakobi Meyers, and George Pickens (who all have the same number of starts) during that stretch. Since Week 9, Shakir is WR24 and just 0.1 points behind teammate Stefon Diggs and ahead of Adam Thielen, DeAndre Hopkins, Terry McLaurin, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Jordan Addison.
Don't count on Shakir remaining ahead of most of these names, but he has earned a spot in many starting lineups that allot for 3-4 receivers. The Bills have come around on Shakir, so should you. With the Eagles (1), Chiefs (24), Cowboys (30), Chargers (2), and Patriots (11) as the remaining teams on his fantasy schedule, Shakir faces 3 of the 11 most generous teams for fantasy production at his position.
Considering that the Jets (32) are the stingiest pass defense in the league to receivers, the tough matchups against the Chiefs and Cowboys might be where he shines brightest due to the caliber of coverage that Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid may earn.
If you're seeking a candidate for a big stretch run, Shakir belongs on your shortlist.