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In today’s installment, I want to give you a peek behind the curtain as to my motivation for writing this article each week, but I’ll start with a mea culpa on the Green Bay Packers passing game.
My gut call on the Packers pass-catchers was that they were more likely to surprise in a positive way in their first game with Brett Hundley at quarterback than they were to surprise in a negative way. I felt this way because I assumed that the fantasy community would expect nothing short of a total implosion with Hundley under center. I didn’t expect a total implosion, but I reasoned that even if that’s what happened, the perceived value of players like Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, etc. would probably be no worse than they were prior to kickoff.
As it happened, we did wind up with the extreme negative scenario that was required to actually see the value of these pass-catchers depressed even further than they were immediately following Aaron Rodgers’s injury. Such is life with fantasy football. Not all of our calls can be correct. The inevitable penalty for getting lots of our calls right is that we’re going to get a lot of our calls wrong too, and sometimes we’re going to look bad doing it. We can only hope, that at the end of the day, we did more good than harm to our fantasy rosters.
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Aaron Jones Recap
On the other hand, something arguably more important did come out of the Packers game, and that was the revelation that Aaron Jones looks like he’s for real and, at least for the time being, the guy in Green Bay. I predicted that fantasy owners would drop him in droves after Aaron Rodgers’s injury and a poor Week 6, but I implored my readership not to follow the herd.
Aaron Jones’s Week 7 outlook reminded me a great deal of Jordan Howard’s outlook heading into Week 7 of the 2016 season. Howard had burst onto the scene impressively in Weeks 2 and 3 of 2016 with consecutive 100+ yard games after an injury to Jeremy Langford. Aaron Jones made a similar impact in the second half of Week 3 and all of Week 4 of 2017 when Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams went down in the same game.
After Howard logged just seven carries for 22 yards in a blowout loss to the Packers in Week 6 a year ago, fantasy owners listened to the people who said John Fox doesn’t trust rookie RBs, who said that Ka’deem Carey had looked better, who said that Jeremy Langford would be back imminently, who said Howard couldn’t succeed against Minnesota’s tough defense, and with a bye on tap in Week 8, it was time to drop him. In 2017, fantasy owners listened to the people who said that it was Ty Montgomery’s gig, who said that the Green Bay offense was going into the tank without Aaron Rodgers, who said that with the bye coming right up, there was no reason to hold Jones if you weren’t starting him this week.
I don’t know if Aaron Jones is going to make the same impact that Jordan Howard did in 2016, but suddenly that scenario doesn’t seem unthinkable. This column exists for you, the reader who didn’t drop Aaron Jones before this week’s game. I’m right there with you and I’m excited to see what the rest of the season holds.
Do Not Cut – Quarterbacks
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)
The winless Cleveland Browns are surrendering the second most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Marcus Mariota entered Sunday’s contest posting at least an acceptable fantasy point total in all five of his games played and he threw for over 300 yards on the road against Indianapolis on Monday night. His hamstring might still have been bothering him, but surely it wouldn’t keep him from lighting up the hapless Browns defense, right? It’s easy to put a performance like this under the microscope. Fantasy owners who started him expected a big day. This wasn’t a run of the mill disappointing outing, it was an inexplicable faceplant for fantasy purposes.
If we can’t trust Marcus Mariota to shred the Browns defense, why should we be interested in holding him through the bye, especially at a position as deep as QB? I usually need a darn good reason to include a QB in this column, but I believe I have one with Mariota. He has a bye followed by three straight tough matchups, but once we hit Week 11, he has one of the easiest schedules for any QB the rest of the way, and we can probably expect that his hamstring will be a bit healthier by then. Remember, this is a guy who scored 19 TDs over a six game period in the heart of the 2016 season.
Aaron Rodgers is gone, Carson Palmer is gone, and Matt Ryan has confounded fantasy owners by descending right back to mediocrity in 2017. I’m not letting one bad game put me off of Mariota’s upside, even if the matchup looked like a sure thing. Even if I also have Deshaun Watson or Alex Smith, I’m holding tight with Mariota if I have room.
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Do Not Cut – Running Backs
Orleans Darkwa (New York Giants)
Darkwa’s 117 yard rushing day, against what had been an absolutely dominant Denver run defense in Week 6, was one of the most surprising developments on the young season. It was easy to look at that game and think that it was an absolute fluke of a performance, and that is precisely the way most in the fantasy community characterized it. Nobody seemed to want to give Darkwa any credit for having two consecutive 13 fantasy point efforts, nor did he seem to get any bonus points for impressing against an especially tough matchup, but I get it.
The Giants as a whole have been a disaster for the running back position all season, using lots of different guys and churning out mostly the same dismal results. We’ve seen sparks from Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa, but to this point people didn’t want to buy in on a nice couple of games for a player that doesn’t figure to be a big part of the franchise’s future plans. I understand being skeptical of Darkwa, but I still think he should be held even during his bye week. Yes, he got out-snapped by Gallman in Week 7, but I’m not going to totally forget about Weeks 5 and 6.
He’s still the Giants running back I’m betting on for the moment, and with as quickly as the RB position falls off a cliff after the first 15 or so guys, I’ve seen more potential from Darkwa than I have from at least a dozen RBs that are currently owned in 75% of leagues or more.
Do Not Cut – Wide Receivers
Danny Amendola *PPR only,* (New England Patriots)
The recurring theme here is that it’s easy to overreact to a one-game sample, especially when a player seems to be in a prime spot to produce, but fails spectacularly. Amendola caught just three balls for 17 yards in what figured to be a shootout on Sunday night, leaving fantasy owners scratching their heads, and in many cases ready to give up on him. I can certainly understand the temptation in shallower standard formats, but I think he’s still a very interesting player going forward in PPR leagues.
Amendola has caught at least three passes and commanded at least five targets in every game he has played. He’s still one of the primary pass catchers in a Tom Brady offense. Cutting the WR36 in PPR is probably not going to come back to bite you in epic fashion, but I do feel like Amendola will continue to be useful in PPR and is a near lock to be added by another team if you drop him.
Sterling Shepard (New York Giants)
Shepard missed an opportunity to tantalize us with a big game as the clear number one WR in the Giants offense before the bye as he just couldn’t get healthy enough to play in either of the last two games without Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. Sight unseen, and with a bye coming up in Week 8, it’s easy to envision a scenario where he’s squeezed off of some fantasy rosters. In the aftermath of the Giants WR apocalypse, the position as a whole has combined for just 67 yards receiving over the last two full games, including Roger Lewis, a player who has generated hype in some fantasy circles in his own right.
In their previous three games, the Giants had been averaging 208 yards per game from WRs, fully six times more than what they have done since. There’s a tremendous opportunity vacuum here. It’ll be a big test for the second-year wide receiver, but even if he can be 75% of Beckham, he can be a must start for fantasy purposes. 75% of Odell Beckham’s season long production in 2016 is roughly equal to Rishard Matthews, the overall WR15 from a season ago in standard formats.
Robert Woods (Los Angeles Rams)
The Rams’ headliner WR going into 2017 was the recently acquired Sammy Watkins. Rookie slot man Cooper Kupp also generated his fair share of hype as a super productive collegiate player heading to a Sean McVay offense in which he figured to be a key cog. Robert Woods’s sleeper stock, riding high through mid-August, plummeted when the Bills and Rams made the blockbuster deal that sent Watkins to the west coast. Woods isn’t the sexiest name I’ve ever put on this list, but he does have four double digit PPR efforts and four games with at least five catches over his last five contests.
He leads the Rams in receiving, with 381 yards and is pacing for 62 catches for 870 yards for the season. The only thing that has been missing is that he notably has yet to find the end zone. Meanwhile the Rams offense is leading the NFL in scoring at 30.3 points per game. Credit Sean McVay because last season the Rams averaged less than half that number for the season at 14.0 points per game. All this is to say that although the fantasy results for Robert Woods have only been middling to this point, the underlying indicators suggest that he could be a high end WR3 going forward if he can manage some positive TD regression. He’s another player that might be difficult to hold through his Week 8 bye, but there should be rewards coming in the second half of the fantasy season for those that can make room.