Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Week 8 fantasy football moves to make now

Week 7 brought us some great, close games with dramatic endings, new injuries that will re-shape the fantasy football landscape, some familiar faces continuing to do extraordinary things, and a record-breaking clinic in Denver. Major congratulations to Peyton Manning who has set the all-time NFL record for most passing TDs in a career. When Manning is done, it's seems unlikely we will see that record touched in our lifetime. Like Jerry Rice on touchdowns scored, Manning will be in his own stratosphere where he's done. For me, I have been playing fantasy football for 25 years and not only cheered or jeered for all of Brett Favre's then record 508 TD passes but now all of Peyton Manning's 510. 

Before we even get into the action, the week started off with a bang as Percy Harvin was suddenly traded from Seattle to the N.Y. Jets. Despite a hefty price to acquire Harvin (including a 1st round pick) and paying him a ton of money (including a $12M signing bonus), the Seahawks has had enough. Doug Baldwin is a high-target free agent pickup if he's available. Baldwin was miscast as a perimeter receiver. He's much more comfortable in the slot and we saw this week with a 7-catch, 100+ yard game and a score. Rookie Paul Richardson also should be on the radar. Richardson quietly had 4 receptions this week and he should be a benefactor of more playing time with the Harvin trade. At Colorado in college, amazingly, Richardson average length of touchdown exceeded 40 yards on 21 scores. 

The Buffalo Bills came into the day with a tandem of starting running backs in one of the league's most run-centric offenses. What the Bills left with is a lot of uncertainty and the icing on the bitter cake for C.J. Spiller's disappointing season. The Bills lost both Fred Jackson (groin) and Spiller (broken collarbone) in a short span Sunday, and both were removed from the field on carts. Jackson will likely be out about a month while Spiller is done for the year.  Journeyman Anthony Dixon filled in and may start but Bryce Brown (4.6 yards per carry career average) has more upside (Brown had two straight games of 160+ rushing yards back in 2012). Both should be owned. 

Jacksonville continues to look for a spark to help their ground game and for a week they found one in former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson who darted through the Cleveland defense for 127 yards and a touchdown.  I don't personally expect this performance to be the norm, especially considering Jacksonville's upcoming schedule, but nonetheless Robinson made a big statement and is a also must add if you are looking for running back help. 

Jonas Gray looks to be New England’s #2 RB for now. He had just three carries last week but Brandon Bolden had zero, and Gray played on 12 snaps. It's hard to guess New England running back splits on any given week but if you are desperate Gray is worth a look with Stevan Ridely out for the season. 

The Rams backfield may finally becoming clearer as Tre Mason (St. Louis) looks to have taken the reigns. Mason got the start this week and played very well helping the Rams to defeat the Seahawks at home (averaging 4.7 yards per carry against Seattle). Mason touched the ball 18 times versus 7 for Benny Cunningham, while Zac Stazy didn't even log a carry. Mason has big-time upside and he should hands-down be the #1 waiver claim if he is available. Mason gets to top speed quickly and despite his size he has a nose for the endzone (Mason scored 24 times for Auburn last year and he broke Bo Jackson's single-season Auburn rushing record last year with 1,816 yards en route to being named 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year). 

Sticking with the Rams, Tavon Austin has been a major disappointment thus far in the NFL, especially as Austin was the first receiver selected in the 2013 NFL Draft as the 8th overall pick (who St. Louis traded up to get). Austin hasn't done a ton but he is getting consistent touches at least (including 8 carries the last two weeks). He's worth a deep roster stash. 

Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis) played more snaps than Hakeem Nicks this week (23-19), perhaps setting the stage for Moncrief to get more snaps in the second half of the season. Moncrief has a tremendous amount of upside and it looks as though Reggie Wayne will miss a few weeks. Definitely take a flier on Moncrief if he is available in your league. 

In Cleveland, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins collected his first-ever 100-yard game in the NFL. Hawkins remains a solid fantasy asset (although he has yet to score a touchdown this season). Josh Gordon shouldn't be on your waiver wire, and if he is on a roster in your league you may be able to acquire him from a team needing fantasy production now. Gordon is eligible to return Week 12. 

Robert Griffin III (Washington) is close to returning to the field from his dislocated ankle. Make sure he isn't on the waiver wire as he could be a nice boost and still has upside. RG3 was back on the practice last week and there is a chance he could return for this week's game against Dallas on Monday Night Football. Washington's offense remains littered with a lot of offensive weapons to make noise. 

I don't see Geno Smith (N.Y. Jets) as a fantasy starter, but he has to get a significant positive bump with the Percy Harvin trade. Smith does come off a game where he failed to turn the ball over for the first time this season, he's adding to the bottom line with some rushing yards (Smith is on pace for 318 yards rushing this season) and Smith now has a nice collection of pass-catchers in Harvin, Eric Decker and Jace Amaro.

If you're looking for a better tight end option, Gavin Escobar (Dallas) could offer some upside down the stretch. Escobar comes off a 2-touchdown game and now has three scores on the season (versus one score for Jason Witten). However, Escobar still is going to be a hit or miss in terms of workload as Escobar isn't likely to overtake Witten this season. It's may seem odd, but Witten doesn't really need to be owned right now. 

Other fantasy notes 
Also, major congratulations to DeMarco Murray who has run for 100+ yards in seven straight games to start the season, breaking a Jim Brown record that had lasted for 56 years.

Your scoring leader for the week was none other than Russell Wilson of the (surprise!) .500 Seattle Seahawks. Wilson overcame a slow start against a rejuvenated Rams front seven to throw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, while again rushing for over 100 yards (106) and another touchdown. The 300-yard passing and 100-yard rushing performance was the first in NFL history!

Ronnie Hillman (Denver) again looked excellent on the ground. I don't see any way Montee Ball gets his job back.

I have been talking about the uniquely gifted rookie receiver class of 2014 all off-season and this year. They are having tremendous impact. Sammy Watkins (Buffalo) and Odell Beckham Jr. (N.Y. Giants) both had two scores this week while Allen Robinson (Jacksonville) found the end zone for the first time in his career against the Browns. Robinson is averaging 8.3 targets per game since Week 2 has quickly become a solid low-end #3 starting fantasy receiver. 

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