Is there a new fantasy relevant deep threat in Arizona? Is there a new No. 1 tailback in Washington? Following the retirement of Arian Foster, who is the presumed No. 2 tailback in South Beach? Which star running back is dangerously on the verge of being overworked? And if he goes down, who would replace him? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson gives us his take on those four player situations as he sifts through the Week 8 aftermath in his latest version of the “Traps & Trends 10.”
1. ARE WE WITNESSING A CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN THE ARIZONA CARDINALS’ RECEIVER CORPS?
The Damage: The struggling and banged-up Michael Floyd entered Week 8 ranked fourth on the Arizona Cardinals in catches and fourth in receiving yardage. On the season, Floyd has hit pay dirt in three games, but he hasn’t topped 65 yards in a contest all season.
This past Sunday, Floyd, battling through a hamstring injury, wasn’t targeted during his team’s road loss to the Carolina Panthers, posting his second doughnut of 2016. During the days leading up to the Carolina game, the Cardinals had been dropping hints that they planned to get J.J. Nelson more involved, and they didn’t disappoint. Nelson racked up eight receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns on a whopping 12 targets. Is this the beginning of the Cardinals phasing out Floyd and phasing in Nelson?
The Diagnosis: TREND
No, I don’t have sources with Arizona. I’m operating with an old-fashioned standard called common sense. Nelson’s performance against Carolina wasn’t a fluke. He led all Cardinals wideouts with 65 snaps played, and both of the second-year pro’s scores came on targets inside the red zone. Granted, Arizona was throwing a ton in comeback mode, but Nelson helped jumpstart what had been a sputtering passing attack. Thanks to the boost from Nelson, the sputtering Carson Palmer passed for a season-best 363 yards and tossed three scoring strikes in a game for only the second time this season. The production from Michael Floyd, as mentioned, has been disappointing so far during his contract season. Since we’re right around the midpoint of the 2016 campaign – and the Cardinals have a Week 9 bye – this is, in my opinion, the ideal time for them to promote Nelson, which I think they’ll do. The move makes a ton of sense, and so does stashing him on your bench.
2. ARE WE WITNESSING A CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN THE WASHINGTON BACKFIELD?
The Damage: With Matt Jones (knee) sidelined due to a knee injury, Kelley drew the start in Week 8 during his team’s clash with the Cincinnati Bengals across the pond in jolly old England, which ended in a tie. He racked up 87 rushing yards and one rushing score on 21 carries but didn’t catch either of his targets. While Kelley ran with some respectable power, his longest run of the game was just 16 yards. Was Kelley’s performance solid enough to supplant Jones as the starter?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
If you own Jones, don’t cut him. If you’re needy at running back, Kelley may be able to help you. Not to take anything away from his solid outing, but the Washington backfield likely will belong to the more-talented Jones whenever he returns following the team’s Week 9 bye. Granted, Jones lost fumbles in two of his last three games, but the size-speed specimen also notched 100-yard games in two of his last four contests. However, don’t give up on the plodding Kelley right now. I think he played well enough to earn some regular carries each week going forward, and Kelley’s role will expand if Jones continues to struggle with ball security.
3. ARE WE WITNESSING A CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS BACKFIELD?
The Damage: Ingram’s Week 8 outing against the Seattle Seahawks was far and away his worst performance in years. He toted the rock three times for minus-nine yards and lost a fumble midway through the first quarter (it was Ingram’s second straight game with a turnover) and was benched. If your league deducted points for the fumble, Ingram likely gave you a negative scoring total. Ouch. Backup Tim Hightower operated as the New Orleans Saints’ lead three-down runner for the rest of the afternoon. He carried 26 times (Ingram hasn’t carried more than 18 times in a game this season) for 102 yards and caught one pass for zero yards on three targets. Has Ingram permanently lost his job?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
Unless the Saints say something to the contrary, I think Ingram will return as the lead runner in Week 9. However, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is clearly losing patience with Ingram’s ball security problems. As for Hightower, his 100-yard game looks nice on the stat sheet, but the plodding runner was stuffed five times on five goal-line touches (four rushing attempts and one reception). The door is still open for Ingram to bounce back, and a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers is just what he needs. However, if you’re an Ingram owner, yes, you should be worried, and you should pick up Hightower if you haven’t already. If you’re desperate at running back, Hightower is worth a dart throw.
4. IS THERE ROOM FOR TWO FANTASY RELEVANT TIGHT ENDS IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL?
The Damage: Since everyone knows Reed is a stud when he’s healthy, this is obviously about Davis. In six of Washington’s eight games played so far this season, Davis has started alongside Reed in two-tight end sets – except in Week 6 and in Week 7, which is when Reed was parked on the injury shelf due to a concussion. Davis, following a mixed-bag start to the season statistically that was more bad than good, has produced solid numbers in the last three weeks.
As mentioned, Reed was out of the lineup in Week 6 and Week 7. However, he and Davis played together in Week 8, and Davis produced a rock-solid receiving line. Reed, in case you’re wondering, compiled nine catches for 99 yards and one touchdown this past Sunday. Can Washington’s passing attack support two tight ends? Will Davis remain fantasy relevant with Reed back in the starting lineup?
The Diagnosis: TREND
The answer to both questions is “yes.” Washington will remain a high-volume passing attack. Kirk Cousins has averaged 40 attempts per game, and he has attempted fewer than 34 passes in a contest just once this season. Cousins also seems to prefer the two-tight end sets and having Davis as an extra check-down option. The chemistry between Cousins and the banged-up DeSean Jackson has been borderline nonexistent so far this season, which is another thing working in Davis’ favor. Granted, he has scored just once, so consider him a solid fantasy TE2 that comes with regular fantasy TE1 upside mainly in PPR leagues.
5. WE FINALLY HAD A DUKE SIGHTING IN CLEVELAND. IS HE HERE TO STAY?
The Dude: Duke Johnson
The Damage: The receiving back extraordinaire racked up his best outing of the season in Week 8, compiling six catches for 87 yards on eight targets and amassing 29 rushing yards on four carries. It was Johnson’s first outing of the season with at least 80-plus total yards. After a largely disappointing start to the season, is it safe to start “The Duke” each week again?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
I don’t think Johnson is the long-term answer to any running back problems that your team is having. During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Johnson has racked up his most productive games with Josh McCown under center. The 37-year-old McCown has mastered the art of using Johnson as a check-down option, but rookie Cody Kessler hasn’t. As long as McCown is directing the Cleveland Browns offense, Johnson has fantasy RB2/RB3 value in PPR leagues. However, the Browns have made it clear that they want to see what rookie Cody Kessler (concussion) can do. If Kessler doesn’t return this week, Johnson looks like a solid start once again. If Kessler returns to the starting lineup, all bets are off on Johnson.