Week 11 Recap: DONUT
An interesting topic came up this week on Twitter: trade vetoes. The impetus for it was a particularly egregious veto in one of my leagues. The trade in question involved the commissioner, who offered a deal that was accepted by another owner. But then, for reasons still unknown, he vetoed his own deal. Even worse, no explanation was given (to be fair, this is an inexperienced commissioner and it may have been an honest misunderstanding). While this is a very extreme example, I have long held the belief that vetoes should not exist in fantasy for any reason other than obvious collusion.
The real trick to avoiding such potentially ugly situations is to only play in leagues with strong, competent commissioners, a solid constitution, and people you can trust. While it isn’t always easy to pull that off, if you can, your fantasy season will be a lot more enjoyable.
And with that, let’s get into the recap.
Colts 30, Titans 27
Coby Fleener has largely been a disappointment in 2013. Expected to pick up the slack after season ending injuries to Dwayne Allen and Reggie Wayne, he hasn’t exactly risen to the challenge. To that point, Fleener was 25th out of 33 tight ends in Net Expected Points (NEP) per target. So what did he do this week versus one of the best pass defenses in the NFL? Post a career best game, of course.
More important than Fleener’s stat line was that he looked like a legitimate NFL tight end (something we haven’t been able to say to this point). I don’t know that this outing changes a ton in terms of where people thought Fleener was (high-end TE2) but I do think it gives previously missing legitimacy to those projections.
Let’s get this out of the way: Donald Brown is the only Colt running back worth starting (and probably owning). He is finally showing the first-round talent he was drafted for, displaying patience, vision, and burst. The Indy O-line and play calling are both still questionable, but Brown is a guy you could play at flex in a pinch. There are a couple caveats, as the Colts are still likely to get Trent Richardson some play in what is not an easy schedule to finish out the season (AZ, TEN, CIN, HOU, KC).
Kendall Wright is a guy who could pay off down the stretch (especially in PPR leagues). Averaging 8.4 targets per game, he also sports the league’s ninth-highest catch rate among the 75 wide receivers with 40 or more targets. Basically, the only reason he is not in the WR2 discussion is the abject lack of those doggone hard to predict touchdowns. It seems to me that as productive and efficient as he is, the big game(s) is/are on their way.
Buy: Coby Fleener as an actual top-12 tight end, not just a player people rank there.
Sell: Chris Johnson. If you want to keep guessing which games he will show up in, go for it. If I were you, I’d find somebody who loves him and make a deal before the deadline. (Check out previous recaps or my full column on Johnson for more on my take.)
Hold: Delanie Walker is a TE2 in TE1 clothing. He has double-digit fantasy points in three of the last four games, but has topped five points in only two of the other six. He is a guy you can stream in good matchups, but don’t consider him a plug-and-play TE1 just yet.
Bills 37, Jets 14
E.J. Manuel returned to the role he occupied so well before the knee injury: a quarterback who sustains value of his supporting cast. As long as he is healthy, the three guys you’d generally consider starting (Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Stevie Johnson) should be just fine.
Speaking of Spiller, despite offering almost zero production, he finally looked healthy. The Bills have a Week 12 bye, after which they get the Falcons, Bucs, Jags, and Dolphins to finish out the fantasy season. I think Spiller is perhaps the best "buy low" candidate in the NFL. If you are playoff bound, see about dealing some spare parts for the former Clemson Tiger. He has league winning talent, a nice schedule, and a full two weeks to get back to 100%.
There is but one Jet even worth discussing. Anybody aside from Chris Ivory is unstartable in all but the deepest of leagues. After another quality showing, I like Ivory as a high-end flex/low-end RB2 who offers RB1 upside in good matchups.
Buy: C.J. Spiller
Sell: Every Jet not-named Chris Ivory.
Hold: Marquise Goodwin is the new Kenny Stills in that he is not a trusted every week play, but is a great speculative add for the end of your bench. If he gains a bigger role and some consistency, Goodwin might have the ability to make a difference in the playoffs of 12-plus team leagues.
Bears 23, Ravens 20
Ray Rice looked surprisingly good in this game. While he still lacked some of the lateral quickness he is known for, Rice seemed to have more burst and power than in the tape I’ve watched from other games this season. Disclaimer: The Bears run defense is among the worst in the NFL, ranking 25th in fantasy points allowed and 24th in our Adjusted Defensive NEP rush (ADNEP/R) ranks. Regardless of how/why Rice piled up so many yards, his owners should be ecstatic since this gives him real life trade value. Find somebody who is willing to pay a fair price and move on while Rice’s value is at its highest.
The Bears and all of their fantasy options continue to look good. Save for Brandon Marshall, the offense showed up, which creates a nice teaching moment for me: Play your studs. I had a flood of Twitter questions about benching Alshon Jeffery this week due to inclement weather in the Windy City. I totally get the sentiment behind it, but the NFL’s number 11-ranked fantasy receiver coming into this game doesn’t suddenly become unstartable because it is windy.
Buy: A significant upgrade to the projections of most any player facing the Bears’ defense.
Sell: Ray Rice ran better, but the offensive line is a disaster and he still didn’t look quick in and out of cuts. Sell high.
Hold: Your hand to your heart and keep the people of Northern Illinois who were affected by Sunday’s tornados in your thoughts.
Bengals 41, Browns 20
Jordan Cameron owners are seeing their stud tight end slowly regress to the crowded group of guys in the 6-12 range at the position. It's frustrating to be sure, especially considering the trend didn’t change out of the Browns’ bye week. On the good side of things, Cameron is still seeing enough targets to be very productive. Even if his upside is capped, the second year pro is a clear-cut TE1.
About seven out of three start/sit questions I get asked are about Josh Gordon. Due to that, I want to make something clear: Josh Gordon is a top-15 wide receiver with weekly WR1 upside. With his talent and the incredible amount of targets he sees, Gordon is nearly as matchup proof and quarterback proof as a player can get. If you can’t find room for him in your lineup, get your buns to the trading block and make a deal.
I am going to gloss over the Bengals because I am allergic to cats. And also because nothing in this game changes anything about any Cincy player or their value rest of season (ROS).
Buy: Josh Gordon
Sell: The odds of another 93-yard, three-touchdown passing performance anytime in the next 50 years.
Hold: Jordan Cameron
Eagles 24, Redskins 16
Robert Griffin III spends more time on his back than does Sleeping Beauty. (Easy, guys. She sleeps a lot. Get your minds out of the gutter.) If Griffin, his coaching staff, and that offensive line don’t figure out how to cut down on the amount of hits he takes, the young passer will either be dead or in a wheelchair by the time this column is over. The way RGIII’s body gets thrown around reminds me of the plastic rain ponchos that kept blowing across Soldier Field Sunday. Seriously.
Buy: An on-field security detail for RGIII before he gets decapitated.
Sell: Anybody who doesn’t believe in a Nick Foles-led Eagles offense. I’m not sure if he is good, or if this offense is good, or both. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Just keep smiling while these guys rack up the fantasy points.
Hold: The Redskins offense. They should have had a huge game, but RGIII’s surprisingly poor play over the first three quarters held them back. The schedule is a mixed bag (they still face the 49ers and Chiefs), but there is too much talent on this offense to not be productive.
Steelers 37, Lions 27
Despite huge games from Big Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, we didn’t learn much on the Pittsburgh side of the ball. The same can be said for the Lions who, save for benching Reggie Bush for large parts of the game, did more or less what they always do.
It doesn’t mean much, but here is an interesting factoid: Matthew Stafford had 327 yards at the half but finished with only 362. How does that even happen?
Buy: Antonio Brown as a legit WR1 in any format. He is knocking on the door of the top five, you guys.
Sell: Any notion of Le’Veon Bell as anything more than a gets-what’s-blocked RB2. Both numberFire and yours truly have, at times, looked at him as a borderline RB1, but the Steelers offensive line just isn’t good enough to allow that to happen.
Hold: Reggie Bush sat quite a bit of this game due to some fumbleitis and, according to head coach Jim Schwartz, the field conditions. The Heinz Field turf was coming up in chunks the size of Volvo’s all day; not exactly conducive to a productive outing from a shifty guy like Bush. He remains an RB1.
Buccaneers 41, Falcons 28
The Falcons are worse than getting root canal on your birthday without Novocain from an overweight, drunk, shirtless Russian dentist who just lost $25,000 betting on horses. From a fantasy point of view (or POV for those of you who went cross-eyed when I made the Sleeping Beauty reference above), Matt Ryan has played his way out of the top 10, Steven Jackson is Michael Turner with better hair, Tony Gonzalez is unreliable, and Harry Douglas is not going to be nearly as relevant when the matchup isn’t so amazing.
Roddy White, on the other hand, may come around eventually. But in a terrible matchup (Revis Island is not exactly a tropical paradise) this week, he hauled in only three of nine targets. The news isn’t a lot better next week in a faceoff with the Saints’ fourth-ranked pass defense (according to our Adjusted DNEP/Pass ratings). Things get easier thereafter as they play Buffalo, Green Bay, and Washington. White could actually be a decent buy-low candidate.
Released by approximately 26 teams, including the Newark Nightsticks who play in the Highway Patrol division of the amateur Delaware Order of Nightshift Union Troopers league (DONUT for short), Bobby Rainey has had significant games each of the last two weeks. On top of a blistering stat line (223 total yards, four touchdowns) since Mike James broke his ankle, he also passes the eyeball test, showing the necessary burst and wiggle to get to the second level. Perhaps just as important, the Tampa Bay offensive line has come to life, blocking better than at any point in this season. With consistent touches, Rainey is an instant flex consideration with upside for more.
Buy: Roddy White as a potential league-winning "buy low" type guy. You might not want to make this move if you are on the fringes of the postseason, but this is the sort of thing that could pay off huge if you can afford the obvious risk.
Sell: Tim Wright as anywhere near the top 12. I’ve not been a believer, and after he saw only three total targets the last two games, you shouldn’t be either.
Hold: Bobby Rainey. I can’t quite say buy, but he should be rostered and, perhaps, started in Week 12. There is some risk involved, but the volume is likely to be there and he hasn’t given us a reason not to believe.
Cardinals 27, Jaguars 14
It would be a lot easier to get excited for Michael Floyd’s breakout game if the Card’s offense had any level of consistency to it. Carson Palmer has been more reliable in recent weeks, but until Sunday, he hadn't topped 17 points the entire season. Despite the obvious warts in Arizona, they host the lowly Colts pass defense next week, and with as many as six or seven playable wide receivers on bye, Floyd enters the discussion.
I don’t know what a Danny Noble is and I don’t care. More precisely, I don’t care about anybody other than Cecil Shorts in Jacksonville. After another quiet outing, Shorts was furious after the game, saying, “To have one target until seven minutes left in the game, that's (very naughty word) dumb. That's dumb, period.” I agree that it is dumb and I would expect Jacksonville to correct that starting Week 12.
Buy: The relief I feel when I think about only having to cover these two abominations for another six weeks.
Sell: As painful as this is, I am selling Andre Ellington. Bruce Arians has no intention of giving him consistent enough work to give him anything more than boom or bust status. With the busts happening more than the booms lately, he is not a guy you want to rely on if you can at all help it.
Hold: Rob Housler as the latest in a string of young tight ends pushing for consideration in the back end of the top 12. His production metrics aren't great, but his production didn’t pick up until a week ago so we don’t have much to go on there. And while he has looked very good the last couple weeks, the lack of long term evidence makes him a hold for now.
Raiders 28, Texans 23
I didn’t catch much of this game, but indications are Matt McGloin was a bit of a revelation. I do have some concerns about the actual fantasy viability of an undrafted rookie who threw for a touchdown at an unsustainable rate of once every six completions. For now let’s just hope he, or whoever the quarterback is in Oakland next week, does enough to keep the rest of the offense above water.
(Please note that numberFire has a column scheduled for this week where we will look into McGloin much more in depth than I am able to here.)
While we are talking Raiders offense, Rashad Jennings had yet another big game. Already ranking in the top 10 in NEP/rush for the season, next week he faces the Titans and their 16th-rated rush defense (according to Adjusted DNEP/Rush). Considering Tennessee is loaded in the secondary, the Raiders will likely rely on the run to move the ball, setting Jennings up for another nice showing. Pencil him in as an RB2.
Last week I had Case Keenum listed as a sell, stating that all the QB1 talk being bandied about was craziness. While I was/am not a huge fan of his fantasy status, I certainly didn’t expect him to get yanked in favor of Matt Schaub the very next game. We haven’t been given any indication what to expect going forward, but for the sake of fantasy, let’s all hope Keenum is back under center. I do not particularly believe in him, but I do believe he will keep blindly chucking the ball towards Andre Johnson, and that’s good enough for me.
Buy: Rashad Jennings
Sell: Houston's quarterback situation. I don’t see a good reason to get into it too much since it may be a moot point, but I sat down Saturday and watched every snap of Keenum’s tenure in Houston. And while he is just fine at times, he made what I consider a bad decision about once every seven throws. Essentially, he gives the defense a chance to make a play 4-6 times per game. That decision making and his inability to handle the blitz or adjust to defenses may have cost Keenum a job. And it isn't like Schaub has been any better. Either way, you don’t want any part of this looming train wreck.
Dolphins 20, Chargers 16
Because this game gave us nothing worth discussing, I thought it may be fun to mock the Dolphins. But then I realized only a bully would pick such an easy target, so I decided to be the better man and walk away.
See what I just did there?
Buy: I am fully buying that Ryan Mathews is finally filling his potential. We had him as the 23rd-ranked runner ROS coming into the week, and that should rise a bit after another great effort. I’d put him solidly in RB2 territory.
Sell: The Dolphins running game. Just do yourself a favor and stay far, far away.
Hold: Keenan Allen left in the second half with a knee injury. One of the bigger surprises of the season, Allen has been fantastic, ascending to the top 20 of numberFire’s ROS rankings. I fully agree with that assessment, and unless this injury is significant, expect Allen to be a WR2 in all formats every week.
Saints 23, 49ers 20
In a pretty uneventful game as far as faux football is concerned, the major thing of note was Marques Colston showing up for a second consecutive game. He seems to have lulled us into a (likely false) sense of security by inserting himself back into the WR2 discussion. A matchup against Atlanta next week should be fun, but tougher times follow (on the road in Seattle and at home against the Panthers in Weeks 13-14).
Buy: The Saints offense has found more balance over the last two weeks, working Colston and, to a lesser extent, Darren Sproles back in. Two big wins came along with it, so I am inclined to think there is more to come.
Sell: Colin Kaepernick is not a plug-and-play starting quarterback in a 10-team league. He hasn’t been for a bit now, but this sort of performance really seals the deal.
Hold: Out hope that Michael Crabtree is back soon and can bail San Francisco out of the offensive malaise in which they are currently mired.
Giants 27, Packers 13
Scott Tolzien wasn’t able to get into the end zone, but did buoy the fantasy value of Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin. It seems like James Jones is going to be less involved with the inexperienced signal-caller under center, but Aaron Rodgers could be back soon, so hopefully you can wait it out. For the time being, there is reason to expect more of the same, or better, next week against the Vikings and their 473rd-ranked pass D.
Buy: The Giants’ defense has been playing much better of late, especially against the run, as they rank seventh in the NFL in Adjusted DNEP/Rush. They are no cakewalk for opposing running backs.
Sell: James Jones, as long as Aaron Rodgers is out.
Hold: The Giants’ offense is coming around slowly. Victor Cruz is once again flirting with WR1 value and Andre Brown is a very solid RB2. Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle are hit or miss, but both are worth a weekly look based on matchup.
Seahawks 41, Vikings 20
Percy Harvin is back! Sorta. Outside of an explosive kick return, the former Viking didn’t see the field much. This was to be expected in his first game back, as Seattle didn’t feel it necessary to press him into game action. With a Week 12 bye, expect to see a full complement of Harvin in the Week 13 showdown with the Saints in Seattle.
Buy: A time machine and fast forward to the Seahawks/Saints contest two weeks from now. I can’t wait.
Sell: Seattle wide receivers in any game they are liable to win by double-digit points. Eighteen passes all game? Not enough to sustain consistent value for anybody outside of the insanely efficient Russell Wilson.
Hold: Percy Harvin
Broncos 27, Chiefs 17
On a non-fantasy side note, I would be willing to bet good money that the Chiefs don’t win any game this year where Alex Smith matches or exceeds the 45 attempts he had against the Broncos.
Now that I got that out of the way, this division showdown featured the second consecutive good performance from the mercurial Dwayne Bowe. We have been fooled before, but the talent has always been there, and now with 26 combined targets the last two games (he had 29 total his previous five) he may once again be worth your consideration.
Buy: The Chiefs’ defense couldn’t get to Peyton Manning, and it cost them. That said, they did a better job of containing the Broncos’ offense than anybody else this season. The Chiefs may not be a great team, but they have a really, really good defense.
Sell: Alex Smith’s win/loss record. It is one of the most overplayed things in the NFL. He is a game manager who has no ability to take a game over. Smith is not a Superbowl caliber player, something that was painfully obvious Sunday night.
Hold: Knowshon Moreno has been sliding a bit as of late, putting up 11 or fewer points in three of four contests. With Montee Ball also coming on a bit more (28 touches, three touchdowns over the last three weeks), Moreno may no longer be an RB1, but is still as solid of a start as there is in fantasy.
Bonus Hold: Wes Welker left the game with an apparent concussion. This isn’t his first, so monitor his status closely throughout the week. Here is to hoping the stud slot receiver is OK.
Last week I introduced the Pumpkin Head award (so named in honor of the estimable ginger, Andy Dalton), which will be given weekly to the player who most outperforms their real world talent with fantasy production. This week’s winner is none other than Jarius Wright, who scored 18 points on only three receptions. That total is five more than he had across the entire season coming into the game.
Congrats to Jarius and see you all next week.