Crystal Ball Week 7 2018

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano

I participated in my first Fantasy Football league back in 2006, and in the decade and change that has passed, one key factor remains constant – the owners who win the league are those who are best prepared, and can adapt when necessary.

A quick look over this year’s group of running backs and tight ends is enough to make anyone cringe. Examining the top 12 selections at RB ranked by ADP, less than half have returned a fair investment. Both underperformance (David Johnson, Jordan Howard) and injuries (Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman, Dalvin Cook) have marred the once promising landscape, forcing owners to search for alternative options on the waiver wire, or plug in handcuffs that are inferior talents. Tight end is perhaps even worse. Rob Gronkowski has caught four passes or less in four of the first six games, and scored just one touchdown. Kyle Rudolph is purely TD dependent. Evan Engram, Delanie Walker and Jack Doyle have suffered injuries. David Njoku has failed to live up to his “sleeper” billing that many donned on him.

Disappointments galore, to be sure.

With a quarter of the Fantasy season already long gone and owners dealing with bye-week blues, playing the waiver wire and grabbing long-term investments before their price tag skyrockets is the best way to supplement your team. I say “supplement” because there are very few instances where talent will emerge from the wire in deeper formats that will turn into a pure stud. Sure, it can happen in rare circumstances or if season-long injuries occur, but the majority of all acquisitions will typically be one-week rentals and FLEX options.

Since the depth and knowledge base of every single league is different, it is important to submit questions to yours truly if you need assistance, or recommendations on pickups. Both in my “Diehards After Dark” Q&A session Tuesday evenings and in this article, I submit blanket statements and discuss high-level pickups. Some may be already owned, others may consider that I touch on things too deep. To each their own. Use both as a reference guide on who to target, and keep sending me your questions on Twitter (@Roto_Wizard) for more specific thoughts.

Q: Devonta Freeman. ARRGGHHH!! Who is the backup to own now in Atlanta, Tevin Coleman or Ito Smith?
A: Coming from someone who is a season-ticket holder to the Falcons, I’m able to provide a decent amount of insight on this one. I’d expect Coleman to initially out-touch Smith on a weekly basis, but for both players to be relevant moving forward. On Twitter I mentioned that Coleman fits into the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 discussion, with Smith filling in as a week FLEX option. Having watched this team live plenty, here are a few things to know. First and foremost, Coleman hasn’t exactly been the picture of health since being drafted by the Dirty Birds back in 2015. He has failed to reach 16 games each season, and as his usage increases, the wear and tear on his body limits his effectiveness. In an ideal scenario, Coleman would remain the second fiddle and come on with fresh legs. His burst in open space creates problems for defenders, but he is an “outside” runner, meaning that the Falcons usually hand him the ball on plays call outside the tackles – sweeps and screen passes.

Smith is a very, very intriguing pickup if available. Most waiver wire columns will have him stuck behind other recommendations like Marlon Mack or Latavius Murray, but he would actually top the list for me. The team has pulled Coleman in favor of Smith in each of the past three weeks in the red zone, and his elusiveness to make himself “small” (at 5’9 this is certainly possible) and difficult to tackle is obvious. A fourth-round selection out of Southern Miss, the Falcons are very, very high on him. Don’t be surprised to eventually see him take over the role on the higher end of a 60/40 split in touches.
Q: You mentioned Marlon Mack earlier and in previous columns as well. Still like his upside? Or will he just be another body in a horrible backfield?
A: FINALLY healthy, Mack instantly inherited the lead role for the Indianapolis Colts, seizing early down touches from Nyheim Hines. Mack is still every bit as dangerous as I once touted- he is a jitterbug in space that is capable of Saquon Barkley-esque moves, and has the ability to tear off chunk plays at will. His desire to always hit the “home run” play is his major weakness, and Mack will sometimes fail to let blocks develop and exhibit poor patience. He was able to total 91 yards on 13 touches in Week 6, and Fantasy owners should expect him to take on an increased usage against the Buffalo Bills. I would hesitate to go “all in” on him with FAAB or a waiver claim since his boom-or-bust nature makes him difficult to trust as a plug-and-play option, but due to the thin current waiver wire he is worth an add.

Q: Looks like Greg Zuerlein is finally coming back healthy for the Los Angeles Rams. Worth a waiver wire bid on a kicker? You always say that it doesn’t matter who your kicker is….
A: With defenses and kickers I normally stream them each week. That said, if Zuerlein is available in your league, feel free to grab him. The Rams have by far the most potent offense in the league right now, and if nothing else, his extra-point floor gives him tremendous upside. “Greg the Leg” has the trust of his coaches at long range, and has plenty of strength to make 50-yard field goal tries with ease. There are very few exceptions to the rule about bidding for, or rostering multiple kickers. He would be one.

Q: Any updates on D’Onta Foreman? Lamar Miller continues to be rotting away on my bench…
A: For not it appears that Foreman is still in the process of recovering from the Achilles injury that he suffered last season. When asked if he was going to come off of the PUP list this week, Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien said no. Once a player is brought back and begins to practice from the PUP, the team will have 21 days to reinstate him. So, what does all of this mean? Expecting him back as the unquestioned starter entering Week 7 was setting the bar rather high, so temper your excitement. When all three players are healthy, Foreman deserves to see the bulk of opportunities in this Texans backfield. I’d expect him to be the unquestioned starter no later than Week 9 or 10, barring a setback. He is more of a long-term stash than immediate add, but deserves to be on a roster even in the shallowest of formats.

Q: This past week I started Corey Clement, but Wendell Smallwood received the most touches. Who is the one to own in this Philadelphia Eagles backfield?
A: Another annoying situation to be sure. Clement performed well enough in his return to the field in Week 6, rushing 11 times for 43 yards and a touchdown, in addition to catching three receptions for 26 yards. Clement started on the bench behind Smallwood, but I wouldn’t read into that usage too much. His “mini-bye” week following Thursday’s game has allowed his nagging quad injury to heal, and I would fully expect that Clement will see the bulk of the touches in the future. Smallwood will remain a complimentary piece and a superior receiving threat, siphoning away work on obvious passing situations. I’ve read plenty of thoughts on social media about Josh Adams finding a role, but the Eagles seem comfortable with their current options. As a keeper or dynasty stash I suppose owners could do worse than Adams, but it would take another injury for him to see meaningful snaps in 2018.

Q: Can you give me one waiver-wire receiver that you are higher on than your colleagues, and one who you think is being overhyped?
A: Sure thing. Starting with my “shy away” player, I just don’t have the same level of love for Antonio Callaway as most. Since starting for the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 he has one touchdown catch total, and averages three receptions for 37 yards. Callaway has dropped several passes that would have greatly boosted his statistics, but remains a situational deep threat on a run-first team with a rookie quarterback. None of those other variables have him as a “must start” or even “must add” option for me. The Browns right now are built upon a three-headed attack in the backfield and strong defensive core. Even when trailing and in obvious passing down situations, Callaway shares targets with Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and the recently signed Breshad Perriman. All three running backs are also competent pass-catching options as well. I’ll pass.

I’ve long been high on Rishard Matthews talents, and it was encouraging to see him play so well for the Tennessee Titans the past two seasons. His departure from the team was shocking, and I’m stunned that he hasn’t signed with a new team yet. Multiple media outlets have confirmed that he has worked out for the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals. At this point it seems like just a matter of time before he latches on somewhere. As a player who was universally cut on Fantasy rosters and completely off the radar, I’d be willing to bet that he surprises owners sooner rather than later. Over the last three seasons Matthews has averaged 15 yards per reception and has scored 17 touchdowns. He is still just 29 years old, and by all accounts is completely healthy. If Matthews doesn’t sound like “your cup of tea”, I’d also be willing to endorse David Moore from the Seattle Seahawks, who has scored three touchdowns in the last two weeks and is emerging as a favorite target for Russell Wilson.
Q: Can you provide me two or three defenses worth considering in Week 7?

A: Tossing aside the most commonly owned and started options, I’d say that the following appear to be worth grabbing:

Indianapolis Colts at home against the Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Detroit Lions on the road against the Miami Dolphins