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STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: WEEK 8'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.
- Joe Burrow and the Bengals Offense Is Back
- Unleashing Kincaid: Why Your Patience Is Paying Off
- Brock Purdy Is For Real
- For Real? Will Levis' Pro Debut
- Replacing Kirk Cousins: Minnesota's Fantasy Outlook with Jaren Hall
- Baker Mayfield Is Functionally Productive
- Rachaad White Is Improving As A Runner
- How Much Ceiling Can Trey McBride Touch This Year?
- Khalil Shakir Gaining Ground?
- Fresh Fish
1. Joe Burrow and the Bengals' Offense Is Back
The Bengals delivered a statement game against a quality 49ers squad in San Francisco this weekend that its offense is back. Joe Burrow averaged 8.8 yards per attempt on a 28-for-32, 383-yard, 3-score afternoon that included 19 consecutive completions during the first half.
Most importantly, Burrow looked 100 percent recovered from a calf injury that he aggravated early in the season and continued playing through. The biggest tell that Burrow is back is the return of his mobility.
The calf looks comfortable pic.twitter.com/3Cktg478og— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 30, 2023
Joe Burrow understands better than most QBs that climbing pressure and staying inside the tackles has a lot of benefits as initial solutions vs pressure.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 30, 2023
Top pocket maneuver in NFL #Bengals pic.twitter.com/TLulJAWSbS
Few quarterbacks in the NFL possess both the mobility and the precision to consistently maneuver the pocket as adeptly as Burrow has shown since he became a starter at LSU. The teaching point for executing elite pocket movement as well as noting it as an evaluator of talent, is the economic precision of the player's feet.
I'll discuss this in greater detail in the segment on Brock Purdy later in this feature. When a quarterback like Burrow, Purdy, or Lamar Jackson has the skill to maneuver with economic precision, it generates an inherent confidence to stand and deliver in tight confines because they've developed a baseline understanding that they don't need as much room to operate.
Joe Burrow play action dig to Ja’Marr Chase. Confident throw from a tight pocket. pic.twitter.com/aPBqAsxSX5— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 30, 2023
Because a quarterback's footwork is a window into how precise a passer is processing the game, it's no surprise that quarterbacks who function well in tight pockets also develop a knack for anticipation throws into tight windows of coverage.
When a team has a quarterback with this level of precision as a passer, the timing passing game becomes nearly impossible to stop when a player like Burrow gets paired with a receiver of JaMarr Chase's skills.
The 49ers' coverage below is designed to stop Chase with high-low defenders, but when thrown with this level of anticipation and placement, the corner route is a double-coverage-beater. This is nothing new. Burrow-Chase joins the likes of Matt Ryan-Roddy White, Matt Stafford-Calvin Johnson, Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs, Carson Palmer-A.J. Green, and several more QB-WR combinations that illustrated the power of having a true primary receiver with an excellent anticipation-thrower.
Burrow is healthy, Tee Higgins is feeling better, and Ja'Marr Chase is earning time inside and outside in the way the Chiefs used Tyreek Hill in Kansas City to maximize his opportunities for mismatches. Joe Mixon ran with the explosion of being fired from a cannon. Even Irv Smith made his annual flirtation with fantasy GMs.
Okay, we won't go that far, but Burrow and the Bengals appear ready to course-correct their first half of production and make those who drafted them much happier at the right time.
2. Unleashing Kincaid: Why Your Patience Is Paying Off
The Top 10—otherwise known as the Dalton Kincaid Center for Patience—has been in business since Week 1, and it appears the Dun and Broadstreet on Kincaid is looking bright after Week 8
Dun & Bradstreet...
Not in Maurice "Snoop Miller's" world, it isn't, and Kincaid is a gangsta on the rise. Buffalo made it a point this week to feature Kincaid as the first read in red-zone progressions or as the featured option with scheme plays. Although none of the plays in the green zone (inside the five) led to a touchdown, the intent and effort are important positives for Kincaid's future value.
Dalton Kincaid absolutely has the athletic ability and ball carrying skill to make this shovel pass a repeat play in the red zone. pic.twitter.com/DOsgK6o08b— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
Bills made an effort to feature Dalton Kincaid in the Green Zone pic.twitter.com/mP4YVwoAWw— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
I like that Josh Allen has Dalton Kincaid as his first read again in the red zone, but not in this play.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
Pre-snap, Allen should know Kincaid will be covered up with no secondary receiver to influence the coverage triangle away from Kincaid’s break area. pic.twitter.com/JZYdCrTlM7
The obvious reason the Bills featured Kincaid in this area is that Dawson Knox is out. Another is that Kincaid is long, tall, athletic, and skilled at winning trust throws. A bigger reason was that at least in real games through Week 7, Allen had failed to take the next step and develop a big-play rapport with Kincaid.
Most everything Allen did with Kincaid was a check-down or a designed quick-hitter that leaned on Kincaid's yards after the catch in the flats where he could juke a linebacker or run through a safety. I think the Bills' staff used Knox's injury as an opportunity to feature Kincaid and hope it would serve as a bridge in Allen's mind to begin looking for the rookie on plays that broke down.
Early in the game, you could see that Allen wasn't reading the field pre-snap with the intent of exploiting Kincaid when there was a legitimate opportunity.
Again, good read and completion by Josh Allen— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
Still, pre-snap, the single safety at left hash and coverage triangle around Kincaid’s seam route made this a viable first look to the LB inside to determine the deep seam that came open. pic.twitter.com/W716G67HpE
This is the type of play that a Pro Bowl QB should be recognizing as an opportunity to exploit the defense with a TE that has Pro Bowl ability. I'm not bashing Allen hard here. While Allen can lead more with his athletic ability and experience lapses of conceptual savvy that can frustrate a teammate like Stefon Diggs, it's understandable that quarterbacks need proof that a young player is ready for these moments. This is likely the case here.
If that Allen-Kincaid connection reaches another level for the rest of the year, I'm predicting the starting point for that ascension began in Week 8 and specifically, on this play below.
Great scramble adjustment on this stop route by Kincaid to work open and then score. pic.twitter.com/JlDY21OXub— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
Kincaid was so smooth and immediate with his route adjustment that he gave Allen plenty of time to find him. I think this play influenced Allen's willingness to make this back-shoulder trust throw to Kincaid on this hot read early in the second half and then the scramble adjustment at the left sideline later in the game.
Josh Allen making the good pre-snap read in the 2nd half and Dalton Kincaid is on the same page.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
Great catch on a difficult target, too.
If Allen and Kincaid continue enhancing this connection, look for breakout production for the rookie. pic.twitter.com/y7nOo51SEr
This scramble adjustment and catch on a trust-throw from Josh Allen plus the last two clips I showed are great indicators that Dalton Kincaid could be in store for a big month. pic.twitter.com/EemZpthz7a— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2023
We'll see if Week 8 was the game where it dawned on Allen that Kincaid is a match-up weapon he can exploit with the rapport he's only shown with Diggs. I think these examples of Allen's mental adjustments, willingness to make trust throws, and Kincaid's effortless execution of them are evidence that Kincaid is about to have a top-five month as a fantasy tight end.
The Bengals (1), Broncos (3), Jets (5), and Eagles (7) are next on the schedule. The numbers next to their names are how generous they are to tight ends in fantasy football relative to the rest of the NFL.