5 Players to Stash in Fantasy Football

These lightly-owned players could prove difference makers down the stretch.

Odell Beckham didn’t play in his first game as a pro until Week 5 last season. We all know what happened after that.

Beckham racked up one-handed grab after one-handed grab en route to over 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games. Before that, Giants fans were expecting to see Victor Cruz salsa dancing in the end zone and Rueben Randle unable to fulfill his potential as a competent wide receiver.

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson didn’t have his first double-digit carry game until Week 7 last year. Once given the chance, Anderson rushed for at least 80 yards in 7 of 9 games and racked up 8 touchdowns to close out the season.

These were perhaps the two biggest pickups for fantasy teams last season. A team sitting at 2-4 that picked up both of these guys potentially put them back in the playoff hunt. Never stop looking ahead during fantasy. It doesn’t matter what a player has done for your team; it matters what they will do. 

There are lightly-owned players in fantasy leagues that could provide week winning upside if situations break the right way or injury opens up the door to fantasy relevance.

Here are some to target.

David Cobb, Running Back, Tennessee Titans

Yahoo Ownership: 7%
ESPN Ownership: 6.6%

The Tennessee backfield has been a disaster again this season. Bishop Sankey has continued his uninspiring running from his rookie season into his sophomore year. Dexter McCluster is still in the mix catching passes and taking enough work to keep anyone else from flex appeal. Terrance West fumbled himself out of the rotation, and Antonio Andrews appears to be just another guy. Sankey and Andrews are both averaging just 0.01 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry, which compares a player's performance to expectation-level. That's above the typical league average (roughly -0.02 because rushing is inefficient by nature), but nobody has laid claim to the job.

Not only are fantasy owners flummoxed as to which running back will get the most carries in a given week, it appears head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the coaching staff have no idea either. No running back is guaranteed touches on a weekly basis.

Set to return in Week 9 from the injured reserved-eligible to return list, David Cobb is coming into a situation with no clearly defined rotation or lead. Drafted in the fifth round in the spring, Cobb was expected to push Sankey to lead the committee but suffered a calf injury in the preseason.

Cobb showed flashes in limited preseason action, rushing 19 times for 79 yards in 2 games. The Titans have shown they can move the ball with rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and talented wide receivers on the roster. Without playing a regular season snap, perhaps the hopes for Cobb are high because of the poor play of the running backs ahead of him.

We know what Sankey is. He couldn’t beat out Shonn Greene last season and probably couldn’t beat out Trent Richardson if given the chance. The door is open again this season for someone to lead the backfield. Cobb is more likely than the other backs that have carried the ball for the Titans this point.

Roy Helu, Running Back, Oakland Raiders

Yahoo Ownership: 3%
ESPN Ownership: 4%

In 2011, Roy Helu was fantasy-relevant under Mike Shanahan with the Washington Redskins, finishing the season with over 1,000 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Expected to be the lead back for Washington heading into 2012, Helu battled injuries to his toe and Achilles before being placed on injured reserve after Week 3. Rookie running back Alfred Morris ended the year with over 1,600 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Morris’ success relegated Helu to third down work when he returned in 2013.

His first year in Oakland has been much of the same as his career with Washington. Injured for much of the preseason, Helu was a healthy scratch Week 1, saw zero touches Week 2, and caught just one pass Week 3. With just 14 touches on the season, Helu hasn’t seen much action. So, why is Helu a stash player?

The answer is because lead back Latavius Murray has struggled at times through five games. Murray has been held to under 50 rushing yards in three of five games. Heading into their Week 6 bye, Murray saw limited second half action in back-to-back games. Out of 37 running backs with at least 50 carries on the season, Murray ranks 28th with a Rushing NEP of -0.07 per attempt. Based on this metric, on average, he negatively impacts the Raiders offense with each carry. Further, only 35.80% of his carries have led to NEP gains for the Raiders, also ranking 28th, so he's not been a consistent runner.

Whether he was benched or injured is unclear, but the Raiders have shown they are willing to go away from Murray. He has looked good at times, and his season projections are respectable. It would likely take an injury to Murray for Helu to have real fantasy value, but that is in the realm of possibilities. Murray missed all of his rookie season after being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury and has been banged up already this year.

Coming out of the bye, Murray is expected to be healthy and ready roll with lead back duties. If he struggles out of the gate or injuries slow him down, Helu is a player worth keeping an eye on.

Khiry Robinson, Running Back, New Orleans Saints

Yahoo Ownership: 3%
ESPN Ownership: 8.6%

Chris Ivory spent three seasons in New Orleans fighting for carries in a crowded backfield before leaving for the Jets and a chance to be a featured running back. When healthy, Ivory has been beastly in two seasons away from New Orleans. Khiry Robinson looks a lot like Ivory with his violent, physical running style. The Saints have a history of finding running back talent from nowhere in Ivory and former running back Pierre Thomas, and Robinson looks to be another one of these finds. 

In limited action this season Robinson has rushed for 148 yards on 38 carries and 2 touchdowns and caught 14 passes for 99 yards. Robinson averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2013 and 4.8 in 2014. When he’s played, he’s been very effective. The guy ahead of him, Mark Ingram, has had injury problems in the past; missing 14 games in four seasons. If Ingram suffered an injury, Robinson would be the main recipient of Ingram’s workload.

The Saints as a team are down, but the offense can still rack up yardage and put points on the board. They rank ninth in Adjusted NEP per play. Robinson could settle somewhere close to a high end number two or low end running back one if Ingram were shelved.

Javorius "Buck" Allen, Running Back, Baltimore Ravens

Yahoo Ownership: 19%
ESPN Ownership: 15%

When Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on season ending injured reserve two weeks ago, the number two back in Baltimore became clear. Rookie Javorius "Buck" Allen is now the number two and handcuff behind Justin Forsett.

After a slow start, Forsett has rushed for over 120 yards in two of three games. Forsett played through an ankle injury in Week 6, finishing with over 100 total yards. Behind Forsett, Allen has seen limited playing time through six games but has been productive when given the opportunity. Allen is currently averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 30 attempts. His Rushing NEP per carry this season is a positive 0.06, which ranks 12th among 53 backs with at least 30 carries. Forsett’s is 0.00, which ranks 20th. The sample size is larger for Forsett, but based on this metric, Allen has been more effective per carry. Forsett ranks ninth in Success Rate (47.12%) in that subset, and Allen (43.33%) ranks 15th.

The knock on Forsett as a 30-year-old career journeyman is his size (5'8" and listed at under 200 pounds). It’s odd for a running back to have a career year at 29 years old, but Forsett did just that last season finishing with 1,266 rushing yards, 263 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns.

Like most players on this list, Allen’s value is mostly tied to the chance the guy ahead of him misses time to injury. Forsett has been relatively healthy in his NFL career but has seen limited work. He carried the ball more times last season than any of his previous two seasons combined.

The Ravens have been bad, and as the season goes on Allen may carve out a larger role in the offense as they look forward to next year. An injury to Forsett could give Allen running back two value this season.

DeVante Parker, Wide Receiver, Miami Dolphins

Yahoo Ownership: 10%
ESPN Ownership: 16.5%

Missing all of training camp and playing in zero preseason games, first-round rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker is still getting up to speed in the NFL. In five games, Parker has just 4 catches for 49 yards on 8 targets.

The Dolphins are deep at wide receiver with Jarvis Landry playing the slot and leading the team with 51 targets on the season. Rishard Matthews has been the surprise of the receiving core with 363 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Offseason additions Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings  have also been playing ahead of Parker at wide receiver. The depth of the receiver position in Miami has kept Parker off the field, but Jennings has shown nothing and Stills has a reputation as mainly a deep threat specialist. After struggling for two seasons in Minnesota, Jennings has just 67 yards in his first season in Miami, and his Reception NEP per target (0.13) is beyond horrible. Stills has caught just 10 passes on 18 targets. 

It may take an injury or losses to mount up for Parker to see more playing time, but there’s a possibility. Parker has the talent and first-round pedigree the Dolphins could use as the season progresses. If Parker can keep getting acclimated to the offense, the new coaching regime will want to see their first-round rookie on the field before the season ends.