Is the Baltimore Ravens backfield undergoing a changing of the guard? Will two popular rookie wideouts help propel your fantasy team into the playoffs? Are things in the Denver Broncos backfield truly settled? Senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson tackles those questions in his latest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from me and everyone here at FantasySharks.com!
– Matt Wilson
We’re just 11 weeks into the regular season, but…
1. Are we seeing a true changing of the guard in the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield?
The Dude: Gus Edwards
The Damage: Seeing Edwards, an undrafted rookie free agent, dominate the touches in the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield during the team’s blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday was rotten surprise at the very least for owners of Alex Collins, Javorius Allen and Ty Montgomery. Who is this Edwards guy? The Rutgers product made his quiet Baltimore debut back in Week 6, carrying 10 times for 42 yards in mop-up duty during the Ravens’ shutout win over the Tennessee Titans. Between Week 7 and Week 10, Edwards toted the rock a very subtle five times for 22 yards, showing absolutely no signs that he was ready to breakout.
Edwards didn’t start the Bengals game. Collins did as usual but was largely ineffective aside from a seven-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which accounted for seven of his 18 rushing yards on seven carries for the day. Collins’ struggles clearly opened the door of opportunity for Edwards. Listed at 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, the power runner carried 17 times for 115 yards and one touchdown, which were all career highs, but didn’t draw any targets. As for Allen, he carried just once for two yards and Montgomery didn’t touch the ball. Should fantasy owners expect a timeshare backfield with Collins/Edwards leading the charge going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
I don’t think Collins is going to disappear completely – there won’t be a true changing of the guard in the Ravens’ backfield – but he and Edwards likely will dominate the touches going forward. How will Baltimore divvy up the touches between the two? Good question. Only the Ravens know for sure, but I suspect it’ll be a hot-hand arrangement with a preference for Edwards right now. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry to Collins’ 3.6 yards per carry. During Edwards’ lone season at Rutgers, he rushed for 713 yards and six touchdowns (4.3 YPC) and showed some receiving ability with 13 grabs for 103 yards and one score. It’s not clear whether Baltimore will use Edwards as a receiver. He’s definitely a waiver-wire priority pickup this week. Landing a healthy running back with big workload potential at this point in the season is fantasy gold. Edwards’ schedule from Week 12 through Week 16 is loaded with very favorable rushing matchups and no scary ones.
2. Is this rookie wideout finally emerging? Or is he just teasing fantasy owners again for the third time in the last six weeks?
The Dude: Tre’Quan Smith
The Damage: As you probably know, Smith exploded onto the fantasy scene back in Week 5 while starting in place of the injured Ted Ginn (knee), compiling three catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns on three targets against Washington. After the New Orleans Saints’ Week 6 bye, however, Smith, a popular waiver-wire add, didn’t build on his performance against the Burgundy and Gold in his two ensuing road contests. The rookie compiled a 3-44-0 receiving line (six targets) versus the Baltimore Ravens (Week 7) and a 3-18-0 receiving line (four targets) against the Minnesota Vikings (Week 8). Smith said hello again to fantasy owners in Week 9 with a 2-23-1 effort (three targets) during his team’s home victory over the Los Angeles Rams. With fantasy owners interested once again, however, Smith disappointed spectacularly the following week with a goose egg on zero targets in a road contest against a very burnable Cincinnati Bengals defense (Week 10).
This past Sunday, Smith erupted with a monster performance that was like Thor’s landing in Wakanda during Avengers: Infinity War. Moore hauled a career-best 10 catches for 157 yards and one touchdown on 13 targets during his team’s blowout victory over the reeling Philadelphia Eagles. No other New Orleans receiver drew more than five looks in that contest, and Smith had amassed just 10 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns heading into Week 11 action. Is Smith for real this time or is he fantasy football fool’s gold?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Rookie wideouts are a strong temptation in fantasy football. It’s like going on a diet and having somebody place a huge hot fudge sundae on the table in front of you. You want to eat the sundae, but you know you shouldn’t. You want to start rookie wideouts in your fantasy lineup even if you’re trying to make the playoffs, but you know you shouldn’t because of the risk. Rookie wideouts are usually hungry to prove themselves, and it’s always fun to show off in front of other owners in your league with a diamond-in-the-rough player that you found and they didn’t. However, rookie wideouts, unlike rookie running backs, can be inconsistent from week to week. Is Smith for real? He has shown a pattern of scoring in home games, so I’m giving him a cautious thumbs up. With Ted Ginn (knee) and Dez Bryant (Achilles’ tendon) both parked on injured reserve and only aging Brandon Marshall as competition, there should be plenty of opportunities for Smith.
While he’s New Orleans’ second wideout, Smith is the fourth option in their passing attack behind Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. I don’t think I’d start Smith in a road contest until he proves that he can produce outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Moore’s Week 12 home matchup set for Thanksgiving night versus the Atlanta Falcons looks favorable, but the Saints’ next three games are all road contests.
3. Is this rookie wideout finally emerging? Or is he just teasing fantasy owners again for the second time in the last month?
The Dude: D.J. Moore
The Damage: Back in Week 8, the rookie wideout made a strong blip on the fantasy radar by compiling what was at the time career highs of five catches for 90 yards on six targets to go along with two carries for 39 yards during his team’s home victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It had looked like Moore finally turned the corner and was acclimating himself to the NFL game. However, he followed that performance up with a very surprising 1-16-0 dud receiving line (two targets) versus the leaky Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary (Week 9) and a 4-20-0 receiving line (five targets) against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 10), which got him either kicked to the end of fantasy benches or tossed back into free-agent pools.
We had another Moore sighting this past Sunday. He erupted for new career highs of seven catches for 157 yards and one touchdown on eight targets during the Carolina Panthers’ controversial road loss to the Detroit Lions. Is Moore for real this time or is he still fantasy football fool’s gold?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
Is Moore for real this time? I doubt it. While he can clearly be a fantasy factor despite the Panthers’ preference to utilize a run-first scheme with Christian McCaffrey as the centerpiece of their score unit, I don’t think Moore is a safe weekly play. Unlike Tre’Quan Smith’s home/away splits, Moore hasn’t shown anything remotely resembling a pattern in his production. Like most rookie wideouts, Moore’s production likely will be hit or miss for the rest of the season. In the Detroit game, he exploited some weak cornerbacks while Devin Funchess was tied up with Darius Slay, who is far and away the Lions’ best cover guy. Looking ahead to Week 12, Moore is a shaky play at home versus a Seattle Seahawks defense that has been up and down against the wideout position. He draws a great Week 13 matchup, but it’s against the same leaky Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that limited him to one catch two weeks ago.