Wednesday - Apr 24, 2019

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Deeper & Down

After a good week for last week’s picks, let’s get right into seeing if we can help out those of you in the deeper and deepest of leagues in

“Deeper & Down”

Kelley Washington (BAL, WR) 5%

I’m not entirely sure what they’ve been doing to

Joe Flacco in the offseason – a player most fantasy managers were able to pick up as a QB2 in the latter-to-last round of their drafts – but it sure is working (to the point where I’m even considering trading Drew Brees in one league where I drafted Flacco in the penultimate round to cover for his bye week). He’s currently fifth in the league for QBs behind only Brees, the Mannings and Schaub. He’s opening up.

Baltimore

has an established running game and a defense that has held opposing backs to sub-100 yard rushing games for an NFL record breaking 37 straight games. So how and why would you want the WR3 off the depth chart?

If I asked you who the WRs 1, 2 and 3 are for

Arizona, you’d reel off the names Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Some of you might be able to list the Indianapolis, Green Bay and Jacksonville WR hierarchies, too (no, I won’t even ask you to guess which order the New Orleans WRs are supposed to be in!). So, let’s make it even easier. Name the WRs 1 and 2 for

New England? Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

Houston? Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter.

Detroit? Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson. Baltimore? Derrick Mason and … and … (no not Todd Heap, we said WR 1 and 2).

You see my point.

If you’re a veteran fantasy manager or a Baltimore fan, then you’d be screaming “That’s obvious, it’s Mark Clayton!”, but given the prevalence of the run and Flacco’s leaning on Mason last season, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it offhand. Officially, Clayton

IS the WR1 and Mason the WR2 on the Ravens depth chart. Really? Unlike “The Monkee’s” I’m not a believer …

Here are the stat lines for Clayton, Mason and Washington through the first three games of the season:

  • Mason: 12 receptions, 196 yards (nine of them for first downs), 1 TD

  • Clayton: 9 receptions, 132 yards (seven of them for first downs)

  • Washington: 12 receptions, 167 yards (10 of them for first downs), 1 TD

More first downs than the other WRs and also tied for TDs with Mason. He’s also been immaculate in his pass-catching ability – bringing down 12 passes from 13 looks, with the only drop being a TD pass in the second quarter of last week’s game.

Take Mason’s long run and TD off those stats and add the only pass dropped by Washington in three games. He’d have more receptions, yardage and TDs to go with more first downs. That would make him the most productive WR on a successful offense. Less than 6 percent owned. Yes, you 24 percent owning

Deion Branch with all one point of fantasy relevance to his name in three games. You should be looking shame-faced about now …

Washington, given the Air-Flacco-Demo-Show going on in Baltimore at the moment, has a very clear path to fantasy relevance. This guy is one for all formats for anyone lacking trustworthy WR depth and may well even be a more reliable, week-in, week-out play than either Mario Manningham or Pierre Garcon.

Andre Caldwell (CIN, WR) 9%

Ah, one player’s injury is another player’s opportunity!

Chris Henry was a favorite draft sleeper this season – and with extremely good reason. Contract year? Check. Reformed habits? Check. Proven red zone target? Check. Existing QB chemistry? Check …

For all that however, he’s been awfully quiet of late … which will be the quad injury. The quad, incidentally, just happens to be the largest muscle group in the entire human body. In case you were wondering it’s that big group of muscle’s from your knee up to your hip/groin. Even if you have “pythonesque” biceps? You’re still supporting yourself on quads that will be at least as big, and 99 times out of 100 bigger. So, whilst it’s well and good to say “it’s just a tweak”, it’s a tweak to a muscle group that provides the vast majority of the propulsion to your running ability.

“It’s been killing me,” Henry said about his ‘tweaked’ quad. “I can’t really open up … I never had an injury like this … I don’t want to miss any time.”

The other problem Henry has had is that he’s been TOO successful in preseason.

They weren’t going to let the ball go over their heads,” quarterback Carson Palmer said after the opener against Denver. “They played two deep safeties — as deep as a safety that I’ve ever seen. Their mindset was to not let us throw the ball downfield. We tried to a number of times, but you just can’t force it. We had Chris on a number of deep routes, but if he’s double covered … they have two really good cover corners and an experienced safety in (Brian) Dawkins. They lined up 25 yards deep and started backpedaling. They weren’t going to let the ball go over their heads. They wanted to keep the ball in front of them, and they did a good job of that.”

So, as with Washington let’s take a look at the numbers behind the hype and established hierarchy:

  • Chad Ochocinco 14 receptions, 234 yards (12 of them for first downs), 1 TD

  • Laveranues Coles 8 receptions, 54 yards (six of them for first downs), 1 TD

  • Caldwell 14 receptions, 122 yards (seven of them for first downs), 1 TD

As teams now look to stop No. 85 and double up there, it’s leaving room for Caldwell. Caldwell spent the offseason working out in California with

Palmer – and it shows. Of the game-winning TD against the Steelers in the final seconds, Caldwell had to adjust his route to run underneath James Farrior, who had dropped deep rather than behind him as was planned on the play:

“We were thinking alike on the play and I caught it right on time …,” Caldwell said of the play. “It was like we were reading each other’s minds. Sometimes you have to make adjustments on the run.”

In a balanced offense, where Cedric Benson is making people respect the running game (he is now a fantasy Top 5 RB), a former first-round, first overall pick QB and former Top 5 fantasy QB orchestrating the offense and a relatively favorable schedule? You have to feel good about Caldwell’s emergence as a clutch player for Palmer (eight of 14 receptions coming in the fourth quarter). Like Washington and Garcon,

Caldwell is a player you should roster for the entire season.

Oh, by the way – he’s playing against Cleveland this week …

Davone Bess (MIA, WR) 8%

You can’t talk about this pickup without talking about the Miami QB situation.

Chad Pennington is out for the season; thus begins the Chad Henne era. Henne has a couple of things Pennington has, but he also has a couple of things he doesn’t … some of them not entirely good.

He has a bigger arm – which would be great for Ted Ginn, Jr. owners, if only Ginn could actually catch. I don’t know if Ginn and

Limas Sweed (more on shortly) hang out together? But if things get any worse for either they may want to form a mutual support group. So, cannon arm? Check. Laser guided accuracy? Well … that’s more the “other” Chad’s thing. In fact if you could just combine Henne’s arm and durability with Pennington’s football smarts? You’d have one scarily good – if a little surreal looking – QB.

Here’s all you need to know:

  • When Henne came on for Pennington, he threw Bess’ way seven times in under two quarters. For a sticky-handed WR that played in a prolific, pass-heavy college attack he’s used to it.

  • Bess is the team’s leader in receptions and yardage thus far.

  • Buffalo has lost three crucial components of their defense. Not only will tackling (and injury) beast

    Paul Posluszny be out, but the Bills will be reeling from the news that both their starting strong safeties are injured (Donte Whitner and Leodis McKelvin, who is likely out for the season with a broken leg). Second-round pick, rookie Jairus Byrd, will be thrown in against Miami, while Drayton Florence, Ashton Youboty and Reggie Corner will be in the rotation at cornerback.

  • In their last meeting, Bess took Buffalo for 74 yards on nine receptions.

Jake Long, Henne’s college compatriot from Michigan, will buy Henne the time he needs. I expect a rough outing or two as teams won’t just try to confuse him with different defensive reads – and make no mistake they will succeed, at least initially – but Bess is the only WR they have that can catch. And just as Jabar Gaffney is Denver’s

Eddie Royal version ‘09, Bess is Miami’s

Greg Camarillo version ‘09. He’s not going to be a home-run hitter, but he will get you a steady return of points per game.

In points per reception leagues, he’s fantasy gold and won’t stay on the wire beyond this week.

Mike Wallace (PIT, WR) 3%

This add is all about three things – Limas Sweed, his drops and the Pittsburgh running game (or lack thereof):

“Quite frankly, he’s not catching the football when he’s deep down the field …,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Limas Sweed. “ If and when he’s given his next opportunity to make a similar play, he better make it.”

You’re coach Tomlin – you just lost one by the narrowest of margins to one of your biggest historical rivals (Carson Palmer) and you have two young WRs … one who just caught 100+ yards on seven catches and the other dropped a TD pass that would’ve sewn the game up and was a miserable one for five catching.

Sweed is on notice. Wallace has already caught up with him. He’s gone from off the depth chart to joint WR3. Now, it’s Pittsburgh? Surely it’s hardly worth adding anyone from the Steelers roster who’s surname isn’t Ward (or the mercurial Holmes) as a fantasy WR? Say it ain’t so! Well, that’s certainly been true enough in the past couple of seasons. In fact only since the playoffs last season has Holmes started to emerge as a legitimate career threat and whilst Ward – like him or loathe him – is a warrior, even he can’t fight advancing age. So the hunt for someone to play opposite Holmes is picking up intensity as time catches us all up.

Based on his abilities, attributes and achievements at the college level, Sweed

was that guy, but currently he’s conspiring to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as someone else now looks to cement that role for themselves.

The “Steel Curtain” is being run on and, with the loss of Troy Polamalu, being thrown at. With no running game established, “Big Ben” is going to be tossing the ball downfield more than he has done. We know he’s got the arm strength and can buy the time for a deep ball. If Wallace gets the opportunities? He could be the

“Pierre of Pittsburgh.”

I would add only one cautionary note: Beware of

Shaun McDonald. Sweed and Wallace are split ends rather than slot receivers, which is more McDonald’s forte (see “the Detroit years” under Mike Martz with

Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams). He performed well in preseason and might get the nod ahead of Williams, but he’s more a Holmes handcuff than the deep threat they lost in

Nate Washington and hoped to replace with Sweed.

I prefer Caldwell followed by Washington, Kenny Britt (see below) and Bess for adds this week. As with Wallace, he’ll be more hit-and-miss than the other players, with the possible exception of Britt (see below). Like Britt however, he is

more than capable of a long TD.

Kenny Britt (TEN, WR) 10%

He’s leading the Titans in yardage, tied for first with passing first downs (with Justin Gage) and has more receptions than Nate Washington (10 versus seven), but less than Gage (13 versus 10).

 

He’s playing the Jaguars this week, who are 32nd in the league against the pass …

Chris Johnson is obviously the fulcrum of this offense, but when behind – and the Jags can score against the Titans D – and Kerry Collins has to fly the ball out? Gage is the main man and more likely than not the only decent cover player in the Jags secondary will be on him in

Rashean Mathis. Leaving rookie Derek Cox on Britt, and giving up to Britt two inches on height, which Washington doesn’t have (Cox and Washington are both 6-foot-1, Britt is 6-foot-3).

It is worth noting that Tennessee has looked Washington’s way on one-in-every-four trips to the endzone, but with Jacksonville giving up 3.33 plays per game of over 20 yards through the air (putting them in the same bracket as Browns and the Buccaneers) it’s looking favorable that Britt may just break off another long one in much the same way as he did in Week 1 against the Steelers, no less.

At 10 percent owned, this will probably be the last call to board the Britt bus.

K. Kolb (PHI, QB) 9%

If you have the room and if you need a QB. Maybe a Jake Delhomme owner? Or someone needing a QB for Week 5 cover – Jay Cutler, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees owners, that means you!

And no, I am perfectly aware that Donovan McNabb is now and (for this season at least) remains the incumbent starter. What I am is skeptical that:

  • McNabb will be 100 percent match fit

  • The Eagles would risk him at home against a team as bad as the Buccaneers

A rib injury is painful. No really – you just cannot give it 100 percent rest. It hurts every time you take a breath. Your ribs are in motion all day and night, as are the intercostals muscles that hold them together. It’s why they are flexible and some of them only joined at one end.

Now in “slow-mo” (and preferably done alone, not in the office where you will draw perplexed looks), pretend you are throwing a ball. It’s all shoulder, arm, wrist and a big, big twisting motion of the toros/sides. Ouch!

Do not be surprised if the Eagles decide to give him another week to heal up. It’s a long, long season and he’s no spring chicken. If he’s anything less than 100 percent, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world them to rest him in favor of Kolb in a very, very friendly and favorable matchup at home against a bilious Buccaneers defense. In fact, it might just be a very responsible one, so don’t expect it to come to fruition! Just don’t be surprised if it does …

This is all about speculating to accumulate. Right now you have a 0 percent of owning McNabb vs. Tampa Bay. Right now, you do have an opportunity to own a QB in the same offense that has a 50/50 chance of starting against Tampa Bay. If you own any under performing player riding the pine, it’s time for a bit of “team management,” or in other words, cut them.

What’s the worst that can happen? You hear McNabb will play Week 5 and you go and add the

Marc

Bulger/Matthew Stafford/JaMarcus Russell/insert fantasy unfriendly QB available on waiver here* you would have made anyway at the end of Week 4 …

Dishonourable mentions:

LeSean McCoy (PHI, RB)

– He’s worked his way into a committee situation, even assuming Brian Westbrook is good to go. If anyone has dropped him for the bye week, making the massive assumption that Westbrook will be good-to-go in Week 5? Go grab him; he has home-run potential and in a potent offense is flex worthy week in, week out.

He’s 48 percent owned right now, but that’s already down 2 percent. Look for it to go into decline further as the bye week approaches and then plummet if Westbrook is declared healthy. He’s a worthy flex play regardless of Westbrook’s health.

Keenan Burton (StL, WR, 2 percent)

– The repulsive Rams are going to concede points early and often. Whilst Steven Jackson is the focal point of the offense, with Torry Holt gone, Laurent Robinson out for the season, Donnie Avery likely owned but under performing, the second-year WR

Burton could benefit.

Maurice Morris (DET, RB, 3 percent)

– No Kevin Smith? Mo Morris. He’s no between-the-tackles pounder, but he’s does do a passable job, and after all someone has to run the ball. Chicago isn’t the defensive behemoth of yesteryear ranked 13th against the pass and 12th against the rush – they’ve been “okay.”

 Aaron Brown could provide platoon support – but from five carries for six yards and being a rookie? He’s likely the junior partner there.

Accountability:

Tashard Choice – 82 yards rushing, 36 yards receiving, 1 TD

Pierre Garcon – 67 yards receiving, 1 TD

Malcolm Floyd – 67 yards receiving (Same as Garcon, but no TD – I hope by now no one is still holding onto Chris Chambers)

Malcolm Kelly – 14 yards (but was hit on a fade route in the end zone that never completed for a TD)

Marcedes Lewis – 18 yards (but did play on a team that posted over 30+ pts, so was in the right matchup)

Jermichael Finley – 0 yards (see above comments for Lewis)

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