Crystal Ball Week 6 2018

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano

When one takes a step back and puts Fantasy Football in perspective, it is rather comical how owners are affected by the extreme highs and lows that it presents. Few things are as exciting as the thrill of the draft and rolling with a well-executed team, having a player that you’ve backed since college finally breakout, or posting a come-from-behind victory on Sunday or Monday night.

Sadly, it presents its fair share of lows as well. Player injuries, getting outbid on the waiver wire, underperforming studs or heartbreaking losses come with the game. Take it from someone who has been playing this game for more than half my life – the frustrations and bad breaks stick with you a lot longer than hoisting the championship trophy.

So how do we combat the blues of a hobby that is totally and completely out of our control? How can we take solace in losses and hold our heads up high? Celebrate the small victories.

This past week I had a number of difficult decisions for my FLEX spot in several leagues, ranging from taking a gamble starting unproven talent like Marquez Valdes-Scantling or rolling with injury-riddled question marks, like Keke Coutee and Josh Gordon. I took the time to weigh the pros and cons of my bench options and actually ended up starting the players who scored the most points, helping to propel my squad to a win in Week 5. It might not amount to a hill of beans in the long-term. This team very well may miss the playoffs at the end of the year (I appropriately named it “Murphy’s Law”, since it has suffered its fair share of ridiculously bad beats of late). Yet for all the uncertainty, I can rest peacefully knowing that my decisions made a difference.

Given how integrated Fantasy Football players are with social media coupled with easy access to statistics and film, every play has seemingly been placed under the microscope. Every bad throw scrutinized, every kick missed bemoaned and every stop at the goal line lamented over. I’ve been “that guy” more times than not that takes to Twitter or Facebook to grumble and complain about Fantasy Football when I’m frustrated. My wife needs to remind me to take a step back, inhale a deep breath and understand that we I have zero control over things, so there is little use being upset when a call doesn’t go my way.

Since I needed to be reminded personally, I’ll echo her thoughts – this is a game of extremes. One moment your star running back is scoring his third touchdown of the week (bless you, Todd Gurley) and the next your favorite team loses to a 63-yard field goal with no time left (sigh). The good news though? Life goes on. And we can look forward to pressing the reset button and letting everything start from scratch again next week.

Q: What happened with Julio Jones this week? I started him in what was supposed to be a shootout against the Pittsburgh Steelers and he laid a giant goose egg through three quarters!!
A: I’ll agree that this was a major surprise, especially considering the amount of points scored by both teams. On the positive, Jones still saw nine targets, catching five passes for 62 yards in the fourth quarter. His overall numbers have continued to be impressive from an overall standpoint, averaging seven receptions for 113 yards per game, but the continued lack of utilization in the red zone coupled with the emergence of Calvin Ridley is concerning. The Atlanta Falcons know that they need to get Julio involved early, but have continued to fail to do so. He remains a WR1, but is fading towards the end of the pack with each passing game.

Q: Leonard Fournette is already expected to miss Week 6 per Ian Rapoport, and Corey Grant just landed in injured reserve with a foot problem. Where should owners view T.J. Yeldon moving forward?
A: Yeldon’s skillset makes him a high-RB2 with Fournette sidelined. His ability to catch five or more passes each week gives him a nice floor in PPR formats, and he is a capable enough runner to take on 10-15 carries each week as well. One has to wonder if the Jacksonville Jaguars will bring in additional help in the backfield with a bare cupboard.

Q: Saw your thoughts about Marquez Valdes-Scantling and I started him this week. Good call! Will his strong performance in Week 5 mean that he will see additional snaps? Or is “MVS” a one-week flier that can now be dropped?
A: The absence of both Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison resulted in MVS seeing 10 targets in Week 5, the third-most on the team behind Davante Adams (12) and Jimmy Graham (11). All reports have Allison returning next week against the San Francisco 49ers, but Cobb’s long-term outlook is shakier. For those who didn’t watch the game, it was evident that MVS has earned the trust of Rodgers, especially around the red zone. In redraft formats he will be a bench play with Allison returning, but in keeper or dynasty formats he is worth holding onto should he continue to climb the depth chart.

Q: Speaking of the Green Bay Packers, why does Mike McCarthy hate Aaron Jones so much? He’s clearly the most talented player in their backfield but never sees enough touches!
A: I’ll agree that Jones is the most capable runner on the team, over Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams. With that said, McCarthy trusts Williams more in pass-blocking situations, and the Packers inept defense is a liability. Against weaker teams I would expect Jones to be on the field more. It is a very frustrating situation to be sure. McCarthy isn’t exactly known for being the brightest coach, either.

Q: Lamar Miller. Droppable?
A: Not yet. Miller was “active” but didn’t play on Sunday night, in favor of Alfred Blue. Early news items suggest that Miller will be fully recovered from his chest injury in time for Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills currently rank in the middle of the pack as a run-defense, allowing 97 rushing yards per game (ranked 12th).
I’ve never been a big Miller supporter, and even when he returns I’d be hesitant to consider him anything more than a FLEX option. He has averaged less than 4.0 YPC since 2015, not particularly inspiring. Additionally, D’Onta Foreman is “on track” to return when first eligible in Week 7, per Bill O’Brien. When (not if) Foreman takes over, Miller can be safely dropped. I can’t envision that taking very long.

Q: Both Brandon Cooks and Cooper Kupp suffered concussions in Week 5 and are in the league’s protocol. Does this make Josh Reynolds an attractive waiver wire add?
A: For anyone who didn’t see the hit on Cooks live, feel free to see the highlight. Ouch. Cooks’ injury history and past concussions make his status for Week 6 difficult to predict, but one would assume that the Los Angeles Rams would play it safe with him. The Kupp concussion really came out of nowhere, as he simply wasn’t on the field in the second half. In their absence Reynolds played well in the second half, catching two passes for 39 yards and adding in another 10 yards on a rushing play. I’d be more open to streaming Tyler Higbee or Gerald Everett as an emergency add over Reynolds, if pressed. Reynolds does gain a temporary boost in value, but expecting him to produce much more than a handful of catches on a run-first team is asking a lot.

Q: I drafted Doug Baldwin as my WR2 this year despite the injury news around draft time. Even though he has been active he hasn’t produced much, and several players on my bench are outperforming him. Is he startable in 12-team leagues?
A: Baldwin tried to warn Fantasy owners that he wouldn’t be playing at 100 percent entering the season. Despite that, he was still drafted as the 16th WR off of the board, ahead of Juju Smith-Schuster or Golden Tate. I was, and still am, baffled by the optimism others had. The Seattle Seahawks have reverted to a run-first team behind Chris Carson and Mike Davis, and Russell Wilson’s injuries have hindered him from extending plays. Will things get better for Baldwin? Perhaps to a minor degree, but I have him as more of a WR3/FLEX than WR3/WR2 for the remainder of 2018.

Q: Amari Cooper. Need I say more?
A: I’m… baffled. After each week where Cooper is seemingly neglected by Jon Gruden, he comes out and makes a public statement that he is the focal point of their passing attack and needs to see more targets. The following week he blow up… then promptly has another dud. On the bright side, Cooper does have a favorable schedule for the rest of the season against weak passing defenses:

Week 6 (Seattle): 7th ranked against the pass
8 (Indianapolis): 28th ranked
9 (San Francisco): 15th ranked
10 (Los Angeles Chargers): 19th ranked
11 (Arizona): 13th ranked
12 (Baltimore): 5th ranked
13 (Kansas City): 31st ranked
14 (Pittsburgh): 29th ranked
15 (Cincinnati): 21st ranked
16 (Denver): 16th ranked
17 (Kansas City): 31st ranked

Knowing this ahead of time, teams that are currently out in front of the standings that are able to make a low-ball offer to acquire Cooper and start him during the Week 13-17 stretch would benefit. Teams that are trying to get rid of Cooper can’t expect much in return, and would be happy with a viable FLEX in return.