As the fantasy playoffs draw near and managers search for the guy destined to step up in the last few weeks, I looked at the handful of players slated to return from suspension, hoping to share info that might help you determine their value.
But alas, fantasy football is more unpredictable than ever in 2019. Coaches and players seem determined to make our brains explode with unexpected decisions.
Week 10 did not clear much up at all. The list of roster questions grew even as our waiver options shrunk. Here are some of the players I’m losing sleep over, and some I am not, as I look ahead to the fantasy football playoffs.
Nick Chubb still top dawg in Cleveland
Cleveland fans were happy, if not completely satisfied, with Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills. But if folks in Ohio worried about what almost was, fantasy footballers rostering Nick Chubb were ecstatic.
Kareem Hunt returned from his 8-game suspension. If you held Hunt for 10 weeks, you are modestly satisfied with his 74-yard debut and 7 catches (on 9 targets) in the passing game.
Chubb fans were happier to see their RB-1 get 20 touches, the same amount he’s had over the past several games. He raced to another 100-yard outing, too.
Neither running back scored, but they still finished as the RB-11 and RB-12 in PPR leagues. Chubb remains a must-start in all formats. Hunt should be in PPR lineups, and you could do worse than flexing him in a standard league, too.
Mahomes back, but something is afoot in KC
Patrick Mahomes was back behind center quicker than most experts predicted, but he showed no signs of rust or lingering injury issues.
Mahomes threw for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. His recovery wasn’t deemed inarguably complete though until he leaped into the air and delivered a perfect pass over oncoming rushers.
Before the game, more folks were talking about how Andy Reid opened a fantasy football mystery by benching LeSean McCoy.
Reid says McCoy had a pre-planned day off to keep him fresh. But if that is the case, why did he practice all week? Is Reid really resting McCoy to be a powerhouse fantasy football championship maker?
Or is Damien Williams going to take over down the stretch? Williams handled 24 touches in a mostly-solo performance. He did alright, but he wasn’t any kind of force.
Jets Herndon doesn’t take off
Herndon’s invisible man memes won’t end after he saw two targets (and only caught one) against the Giants in Herndon’s 2019 debut.
Part of me wants to take a victory lap after I warned you all that a new head coach and offense meant Herndon’s role was not defined, making him far from a sure thing to repeat last season’s late run.
But Herndon split time and targets with Ryan Griffin against what has been, for all the Giants’ faults, a top-five DST versus tight ends most of the year (currently #7).
So I wasn’t ready to give up on Herndon just yet, until Monday’s news that he broke a rib and will miss “some time.” Put Griffin on your roster. He’s as good as most available tight ends.
Holding out for more Green?
Week 10 was supposed to see the return of AJ Green from his injury rehab, which some suspect is actually a hold-out. Green has made no secret of his desire for a long-term deal, but he hit the practice field last week, raising hopes of a return.
Unfortunately, Green reported some swelling in his surgically repaired ankle and was quickly ruled out. When asked about the seriousness of the issue, Green bluntly said he needed to be 100% before he would risk taking the field.
With a rookie quarterback leading the 0-9 Bengals, it’s a good bet Green will never be 100% until he signs a new contract. That won’t happen until the offseason.
If you’ve been holding Green, this is your sign to let him go, despite the “day-to-day” label they keep sticking on him.
Send in the Clown?
Antonio Brown’s bizarre social media releases saw him blast the NFL and vow never to return just days before walking that back and assuring fans he looks forward to taking the field again this season.
In fact, Brown has a scheduled meeting with the NFL this week. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told reporters he expects the league to clear his client immediately and open the door for free-agent negotiations.
Without a doubt, this is a talent difficult to pass up. But the “fool me once…” mantra rings in my head. Brown simply can’t be trusted to stay on a team and/or contribute. His tweets of this week don’t indicate a conciliatory or healing tone.
This is no time to waste a roster spot on such a risk.
Whatever the rich guy wants!
Another wasted roster spot is the one someone is holding for Rob Gronkowski. Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft is a rich and powerful person. He usually gets what he wants.
So, when word went out that Kraft told Gronkowski he wanted him playing for the Patriots in December and through the playoffs, Gronk’s name started disappearing from waiver availability lists.
If you have seen or heard Gronkowski speak recently, you probably didn’t pick him up. Gronkowski is pain-free for the first time in years. He is happy doing what he is doing. He looks healthy and has a cause (legalizing marijuana for pain in the NFL.)
I just can’t see him subjecting himself to the torture of the NFL again, especially in the harsh New England winter.
No good answers from the desert
It wasn’t much of an absence, but the return of David Johnson from injury was supposed to help us understand how Kenyan Drake would fit into the Cardinals’ rotation.
Johnson’s disastrous 6-touch day muddled the situation instead. His 5 carries for 2 yards was enough to make Drake (17 touches) appear to be the winner of any perceived competition.
The thing is, Drakes 3.5 yards-per-carry and 6 yards on 6 catches only look good in comparison to Johnson.
Heading into Week 11, we need to know if Johnson was less-than-100 percent as we kick back and wait to see what the return of Trey Edmunds does to the mix.
The Mystery Lion
Ty Johnson was knocked out of this week’s game with a concussion. Matt Stafford was a late scratch after doctors talked him out of playing with broken bones in his back.
Jeff Driskel’s numbers were not awful, but he isn’t Stafford. What would help is a strong running game with a runner who can carry the offense for short spurts.
No one currently on the Lions’ roster has jumped at the chance to take that job. The Lions were linked to Mike Davis almost immediately after his release by the Bears, but the Panthers claimed him off waivers first.
JD McKissic’s receiving role is locked down, but we know the Lions are looking for someone to step into the lead rushing role.
CJ Anderson is still out there, as are Jay Ajayi and others. Whoever it is, desperate fantasy RB situations could benefit from signing the next Lions rusher.
James Connor told reporters he expects to play Thursday against the Browns. No verification came from the team. The question is whether Pittsburgh tries to go easy on Connor by letting Jaylen Samuel handle third-down and pass-catching duties for another week.
If you are desperate for running back points, you could probably flex Samuel in PPR and you have to play Connor if he starts.
Nick Foles will manage the Jaguars offense against the Colts. The Colts have played to their competition this year, but you could do worse than Foles if you’re trying to cover the Week 11 byes of Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.
Foles pushes Westbrook up the wide receiver ranks, but don’t completely discount DJ Chark. He is not going away.
Other Week 10 comings and goings
Some fantasy football owners look forward to the return of Saquon Barkley and Cooper Kupp after the pair practically disappeared in Week 10.
Barkley labored behind a revamped Giants offensive line that let him get hit behind the line of scrimmage on 11 of his 13 carries. If not for a 22-yard catch, Barkley would have finished the game with 7 yards on 15 touches.
That would have been better than Cooper Kupp who put up a big fat goose egg on a day when the Rams were missing Brandin Cooks and needed a spark offensively.
Barkley is on a bye this week, but I’m starting both these guys next time they take the field.
Fantasy football players are smart
Anyone who plays fantasy football has lamented the silliness of the shovel pass, especially when the “shovel” is practically a drop into the hands of a runner.
How many of us have been victimized by the apparent end-around run that got called a pass? It can change games. Tom Brady picked up 5 late points on an end-around that went for a 28-yard touchdown and, well… actually, I had Brady, so it worked out great.
But you get the point!
Buffalo Bills fans, at least those who don’t play fantasy football, are lighting up social networks insisting a wrong call cost them a victory over the Browns.
Baker Mayfield pushed the ball in front of himself as Kareem Hunt came around to collect it. Hunt missed it completely, and it fell to the ground harmlessly; an incomplete shuffle pass.
The Bills picked it up thinking it was a fumble, which would have ended the game there. The review confirmed shuffle pass, and not a fumble… a call that all fantasy football players agreed with.
More fantasy in reality
Sometimes, I have trouble distinguishing my fantasy football mind from my real football mind. One such moment happened after the Jets-Giants game.
That was when I heard Sam Darnold say the Jets could run the table and have a shot at the playoffs.
Talk about fantasy!
Preseason mistakes can work out sometimes
Anyone who read my preseason top-100 (or quite a few other pieces I wrote about the 2019 season) knows I was a little down on Derrick Henry coming into the season.
Alright, I was WAY down on Henry, dropping him to the lower tiers of RB-2 territory, and not even expressing confidence in that.
Then, I had a disastrous draft where I fell asleep. The auto-draft system had a severe no-RB bias. It left me with 2 quarterbacks, 2 kickers, 2 DSTs, 7 wideouts, 2 tight ends and exactly 2 running backs- Latavious Murray and Derrick Henry.
Well, now I own the RB-2 in Henry. And I still have a shot at the playoffs.
Henry (33.10) and Dalvin Cook (31.30) lead all running backs in scoring this week as they led their respective teams to strong real-life and fantasy football victories.
Wide receivers ruled the top ten scorers list, led by the overall #1, Christian Kirk. Kirk snagged his first 3 touchdowns of the season, including a beautiful 69-yard strike in-stride from Kyler Murray. Overall, Kirk had 6 catches for 138 yards.
Rookie Darius Slayton of the Giants caught 10 passes for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns to take the WR-2 spot with 34.10 fantasy PPR points. He finished ahead of Tyreek Hill (33.00) and Amari Cooper (31.70).
Lamar Jackson’s twisting and turning touchdown run through what seemed like every defensive player on the field highlighted his QB-1 performance. Jackson ended his day after the third quarter with 288 total yards and 3 passing touchdowns.
Daniel Jones (30.32) and Patrick Mahomes (29.42) took the QB-2 and QB-3 spots. Wide receiver Michael Thomas (13 catches/152 yards) rounded out the top ten overall scorers with 28.20.
Mark Andrews (23.20), Travis Kelce (20.50), and Kyle Rudolph (19.80) took the top tight end spots, while the Steelers (25) and the Ravens (24) set the pace among DSTs.
Injuries of note
Tight end is a tough position to replace, so the sight of Austin Hooper limping severely as he left the field Sunday was disconcerting, to say the least. MRI called it an MCL sprain with undetermined recovery time.
It is not likely that the Falcons’ backup, Luke Stocker, will be asked to replicate Hooper’s role. Calvin Ridley could see some more passes thrown his way instead.
Atlanta might also have to deal with the loss of Devonta Freeman. After he left last week’s game with an ankle injury, Brian Hill filled in and took 20 touches effectively. With Ito Smith not expected back, Hill is the running back to pick up on waivers this week.
Pittsburgh’s Ryan Switzer left the game with a back injury.
Matthew Stafford’s fractured back will be the topic of much discussion. Detroit would do him a favor keeping him out of Week 11’s battle with Dallas, but Stafford is anxious to get back. If he plays, the back could make him a risky start even at home.
Other waiver considerations
I mentioned Nick Foles, but another quarterback I’d stream in Week 11 is Derek Carr. Carr is as comfortable as ever behind an improving offensive line. That makes all the difference in the world. Against an inept Bengals team, it makes for a high fantasy scoring day.
Sam Darnold will be a popular streamer lining up against the Redskins after his QB-7 performance against the Giants. But I have a hunch that coming off the bye, Washington’s defense will be anxious to hit people, especially a young quarterback.
Brian Hill and JD McKissic are the two must-grab running backs this week. Another consideration to put on the bench is the Dolphins’ Myles Gaskins.
If Miami is serious about winning more games, they have to bench Ballage after another 2-yards-per-touch game. Gaskins should get an opportunity, at the least.
There aren’t any sure deals at wide receiver for Week 10, but there is a slew of worthy risks. Cole Beasley scored for the third week in a row with a 4/74/1 line. Josh Allen can’t throw deep, but he can hit Beasley on crossing patterns or in the flat.
James Washington threw up a 6/90/1 line against the Rams. Was it a breakout or a fluke?
Hunter Renfrow didn’t do much this week, but he’s had some significant games for Oakland. With a couple of light opponents coming up, you could do worse in your WR-2 or flex spot.
Allen Lazard was on the receiving end of several Aaron Rodgers scramble-throws. He has a knack for finding Rodgers’ eye and that can’t be a bad thing.
For future reference, Darius Slayton is worth a bench spot. After the Giants’ bye week, he goes against a light schedule. With Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard no locks to return, Slayton should still be the Giants’ top outside target. Even with a full receiver corps, Slayton is the deep threat for New York.
Ross Dwelley of the 49ers gets to score a touchdown against the Cardinals this week. Its just something Arizona does for opposing tight ends. Even OJ Howard scored against them!
If Adam Thielen does not return, Kyle Rudolph remains the top end zone target for Minnesota. Jacob Hollister seems to be on Russell Wilson’s good side, too.
Oakland’s defense goes against the Bengals. I like both the Jets and Washington DSTs playing each other.
And that is that… after this
It was a rough week for the Opperman fantasy football empire. I needed a Monday Night Miracle to salvage a 3-7 mark. This comes after four incredible weeks with a 36-4 record.
Hopefully, I didn’t take any of you down with me. But just as a reminder, this is best guesses. And there are a plethora of factors working against us.
I also just wrapped up two months of travel, finally returning home to share my thoughts and set my lineups in familiar environs and with my favorite coffee mug by my side.
Yeah… I’m sure it was the coffee mug that made last week bad. No doubt we’ll all do better this week.
In next week’s wrap up, I’ll offer some suggestions for those of you destined for playoff glory. You’ll find the best bench stashes for Weeks 14-16 based on DST rankings and opponents.
Don’t miss it!