Some weeks on the waiver wire are more obvious ones than others — this is not one of those weeks. There weren’t any breakouts that came out of nowhere this past weekend, nor were there any serious injuries opening the door for a young star to emerge, so on these weeks it’s best to make a preemptive strike. I have mentioned these before, as recently as last week with Tre’Quan Smith, but with the NFL trade deadline looming next week, this is the week to be making moves with that in mind.
One player whose name has been swirling around in trade rumors is Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas. His base salary jumps to $14 million in 2019, the final year of his contract, and his performance to date will not justify such a pay raise. His annual performance had already been sliding since peaking in 2014 and currently he’s on pace for his worst season since 2011, his second year in the league. After seeing 21 targets in the season’s first two games, with an abysmal 11 target 5 catch 18 yard game against Oakland, his workload has been scaled back as he’s averaged just 5.6 targets per game the last five weeks.
Why would another team trade for that? Well, the Broncos probably won’t get much because of Thomas’ salary, but several teams in the league are struggling to field three quality wide receivers each week. Geronimo Allison has been a pleasant surprise for the Packers, but with Randall Cobb again slowed by injury they only have rookies behind Allison and Davante Adams. The Bears have Anthony Miller playing through a rather serious shoulder injury because they lack options behind Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Thankfully the Eagles got Alshon Jeffery back because their best option behind Nelson Agholor was recently signed off the street in Jordan Matthews. And those three teams are just contenders from the other conference!
A loss this week against the 1st place Chiefs would put the Broncos at 3-5 and almost certainly two games out of a wildcard, assuming one of the Dolphins, Steelers, or Bengals win. They drafted Courtland Sutton with pick #40 in April’s draft, who entered the league with a remarkably similar skill-set to that of Thomas in his prime. The Broncos didn’t even want to draft him; they wanted an offensive lineman. However, they didn’t feel there were any available that were worth that pick, as they had Sutton graded that much higher than all other options. Every team in the league regurgitates a similar script after the draft, but rarely do they admit they wanted to address another position group at a specific spot when discussing a selection. That note has stuck with me ever since reading it several months ago. They would have every incentive to make the move to give Sutton a half season cameo as the lead outside receiver, so they’re in a better position to self assess their offense going into 2019.
It helps Sutton’s case that he’s flashed when given opportunities so far, but he’s not without warts. This is why he’s still available on more than 90% of waiver wires though. He came into the league as a productive but inefficient player and that trend has continued. His 17.6 yards per catch is a head turner, as are the plays he’s made on his way towards that number. He’s also only catching an unacceptable 42% of his passes. Part of this is on his quarterback, but that was the defense Sutton supporters had for him as a prospect too. He bears some blame as well, but not every player develops differently. And remember, we’re evaluating players that are available at the end of October. You’re not looking for starters at this point in the season; you’re looking for players you may want to start a few weeks from now.
What are the percentages that Sutton becomes a quality starter sometime in November? I don’t know, but after assessing his skill set, possible situation, and the upcoming schedule it’s well within the range of potential outcomes. He’s not just a big body, red zone target. His current play is reminiscent of Kenny Golladay this time last year, minus the balky hamstring. He has impressive body control for a big man (6’3, 220) and his athletic composite score graded in the 86th percentile. He has big, strong hands that he uses very well at the catch point. His weekly ceiling may remain capped with Case Keenum under center, but a few more losses and a change to Chad Kelly may be in the works. With it would come the usual growing pains, but he would be a much better fit for Sutton regarding his down field opportunities. Lastly is the schedule: the Chargers are the best pass defense remaining on the schedule and they give up the 18th most fantasy points to wide receivers. The schedule is littered with soft pass defenses for the rookie to dissect.
This week’s Flavor of the Week is: Duck Fat French Fries.
Ever had french fries cooked in duck fat? If you haven’t you should because it’s impossible to screw them up. That said, whether they’re just something good to soak up with a few beers while you watch the game or so great that you return to the same joint every week depends on how it’s prepared. It’s all about the chef and the ingredients that they’re using and before tasting it’s all unknown. That’s where we are right now; waiting on our duck fat fries. Are they going to be just okay and we’re considering something else next week? Or are they going to be head turning and have us coming back for more? We’ll see what this chef has in store…