Crystal Ball Week 11 2018

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano Unbelievable. Nonsensical. Selfish. Making a stand. Long term planning. Foolish.

There are many ways to describe the Le’Veon Bell holdout. Thumbing his nose at $14.5 million to prove a point that he was worth more elsewhere and sitting out an entire season seems incredibly foolish to many, but to others Bell is a hero.

In the world of franchise tags and rookie contracts, NFL teams have the ability to hold onto a player for a significantly lower salary than what would be considered “market value”. In regards to younger players, this allows the team to spread their salary cap funds elsewhere, paying key positions like quarterback, wide receiver or left tackle a premium. Running backs seem to get the short end of the proverbial stick in this sense, as their “shelf life” or expected length of career is only so long. Widely considered one of the most physically demanding positions to play on the field, running backs are asked to do now more than ever – be adept pass blockers, play all three downs if possible, and catch passes as a receiver if need be. In that sense, in the defense of Bell, it makes sense for a top-tier running back to hold his ground and demand to get paid when his contract is reaching its final stages.

Sadly for Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers had an extremely adept replacement for him in James Conner. His tremendous production and enviable work ethic made Bell an expendable piece of the puzzle. Though he may not demonstrate the same trademark patience as Bell waiting for blocks to develop, Conner is a very physical runner capable of being a true bellcow back. His 771 rushing yards through nine games rank him third in the league just behind Ezekiel Elliott (831) and Todd Gurley (988). Conner also ranks inside the top-10 at the position in receptions with 39, and receiving yards at 387. Considering where he was drafted earlier on in August or July, Conner is perhaps one of the best investments that Fantasy owners have ever stumbled across.

Le’Veon Bell’s legacy will be forever tainted in the eyes of Fantasy owners for this 2018 holdout, and what the ramifications were to their team. Given his high price point throughout the draft season, he will go down as the worst pick in Fantasy history, without question. Beat writers and agents teasing us with lies about when he would or wouldn’t report back to the team, coupled with his attitude throughout the process will jade many owners into ignoring him completely in the future, and I can’t necessarily blame them. In the Football Diehards staff draft held in late August I was “lucky” enough to have the second pick in the league. Selecting Bell seemed like a no-brainer at the time. I too, fell prey to his upside and allure there.

Mistakes were made.

Q: Evan – just saw the news break yesterday about the upcoming epic game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams being moved back to L.A. due to poor conditions with the playing field in Mexico City. Does this have any effect from a Fantasy standpoint for any of the players?
A: Not necessarily. I’d have to imagine that the players on both teams are both frustrated and relieved to not be playing in Mexico, due to the last-minute change of plans. It was reported that the Rams were actually training in Denver to acclimate themselves to the high-altitude, but players were threatening to boycott the game after seeing pictures of the field (including Todd Gurley, no less). Treat it as a normal home game for the Rams. Both teams will (and should) put up a ton of points in this one. Mahomes and Goff can both be viewed as QB1 options, and Hunt and Gurley as RB1s as well. This will be a points scoring bonanza, and the current Vegas projection is 64 points scored, with plenty of people taking the “over”.

Q: Your New York Giants actually won a game!!
A: Ugh. Even in a season where the best that I can hope for is the team to tank and acquire the first overall draft pick, they can’t even do that right! It was good seeing Big Blue come away with a “W” for the first time in six weeks, but I’m not kidding myself – this is still a terrible football team.

Q: What should Fantasy owners make of the Seattle Seahawks backfield? This is a mess.
A: Yes, yes it is. In a perfect world where all three running backs were healthy, I’d still have to imagine that Pete Carroll ends up giving Chris Carson the highest number of overall touches. The most recent reports have him actually coming back healthy on the Thursday night game against the Green Bay Packers, and I’d view him as a mid-range RB2 in that scenario. With that said, Rashaad Penny played tremendously in his “breakout” game in Week 10, and clearly outshined Mike Davis. Carroll went out of his way to praise the rookie after the contest was over, stating that “he finally looked like the guy that we drafted”. Owners dropping high waiver-wire selections and a large amount of FAAB on Penny would do best to temper their expectations. Any of the three backs will succeed in Seattle if they are given 20-25 total touches. I’d imagine that Penny is now the handcuff for Carson, but unless the latter ends up sitting out the game, Penny isn’t a startable commodity.

Q: Josh Adams played well again, has your opinion of this situation in Philadelphia changed at all?
A: Nope. Echoing last week’s thoughts – I’d love to have Adams on my team, but the Eagles are still going to give Corey Clement and Wendall Smallwood touches, and that severely limits the upside of Adams. Even with Darren Sproles missing additional time to tend to his ailing hamstring injury, I just can’t envision a scenario where Doug Pederson all of a sudden gives Adams every snap out of the backfield. Adams is a great option in dynasty or keeper league formats, but he would be riding my bench right now otherwise.

Q: Rex Burkhead was dropped in my league, and I’ve read reports about him coming back. Is he worth an add? I’ve seen other Fantasy writers talk about adding him.
A: I wouldn’t. Burkhead is eligible to return in Week 13, but will still be behind James White and Sony Michel in the depth chart. Burkhead can do a little bit of everything well, but doesn’t have one individual trait that makes him a superior option to either of the aforementioned players. He may see 3-5 touches a week, but barring an injury to someone in front of him, he’s off my radar.

Q: Is John Ross the A.J. Green replacement?
A: In a way, yes. A number of the targets that would ordinarily have gone to Green will now be funneled his way, with Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah benefitting as well. Ross actually had more looks than Boyd this past week, but I don’t envision that as a trend. Ross is still the same player that was drafted out of college – a situational deep threat and down-field burner that is capable of running a limited number of routes. He has value, but I wouldn’t deem him as “startable” outside of 14-team or deeper leagues.

Q: Speaking of another player who will benefit due to an injury – Josh Reynolds of the Rams. Everyone hated seeing Cooper Kupp go off with an ACL tear, but this kid looks promising. Thoughts?
A: When Kupp missed time earlier this year, Reynolds was used sparingly in the passing game, and remained behind Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Todd Gurley for targets. I don’t foresee a major shift in that philosophy here. There are too many mouths to feed in this offense that is still predicated upon running the ball. Given that this is another brutal bye week with Fantasy-relevant teams sitting out, Reynolds can be used as a FLEX option in standard leagues, but outside of projecting 3-4 catches and a small chance of a touchdown each week, I’m not sold on him being a long-term solution. Hold off rushing to acquire him.

Q: The tight end position is awful. Absolutely terrible. I drafted Rob Gronkowski (who has done nothing) with Delanie Walker as his backup. Needless to say, I’ve been disappointed. Is there ANYONE on the waiver wire who isn’t already widely owned that I can start this week?
A: I’ll agree with your assessment there. Woof. The first two names that come to mind would be Jeff Heuerman of the Denver Broncos and Jonnu Smith of the Tennessee Titans. Heuerman is the more preferable choice of the two due to overall volume, especially after the departure of Demaryius Thomas and the injury to Jake Butt. Prior to the team’s bye week he secured 10 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown, and has been third in the pecking order for the team.

Smith is more of a touchdown-or-nothing choice. He’s seen a dramatic increase in snaps after Walker was lost for the season, and appears to be a favorite choice of Marcus Mariota in the red zone. The Tennessee Titans don’t have very many big-bodied options to rely upon outside of Corey Davis, so Smith’s scored aren’t necessarily a fluke.