In last Week’s Running Back’s piece, I waxed for a bit on what I believed was essential for player evaluation, specifically looking towards a draft and a season long investment. Now though, we have to look at transitions in some ways as being one of two types: Weekly, and Season Long. Trades and Waivers, to a large extent, are more Season Long moves. This article is purely about Fantasy Football, the Weekly Game inside the Season Long Game.
How I or anyone evaluates players is obviously still a large crux on any recommendation you’re going to make. If I think a guy is just plain awful or extremely undervalued, that could obviously impact liking a match-up or not. But ultimately for this article it is going to come down entirely to the opposing defense and the match-up that creates. Is the Running Back facing a Tough/Easy front, or likely to see an advantageous game script based on their skillset? Could a WR benefit from being on the opposite side of a lock-down Corner taking away his own team’s #1, or could the game script simply dictate a huge passing volume leading to a high number of fantasy points? I will take a look at various tiers of players and recommend start/sit designations based on how their match-up could impact them having one of the better games of their season, or one of the worst games of their season.
Derrick Henry @ Miami Dolphins
While the new Offensive Coordinator and teammate Dion Lewis had me knocking down Derrick Henry in my first football article with MLFS, I believe that this match-up is likely to be very favorable for the Tennessee Titans. This isn’t to make any mention of the potential lackluster run-defense of the Miami Dolphins. They are losing Ndamukong Suh. PFF gives them the worst Run-Defense grade in football heading into 2018. I like Lewis better as a running back because I think he’s a better skilled runner and can run better through traffic, but against weak fronts, I do still believe Henry is the bulldozer or battering ram you’d want to consistently use to grind out an old-school football win. I see the Titans running all over the Dolphins in Week 1, and wouldn’t be surprised to see both Lewis and Henry and terrific Week 1 performances.
Joe Mixon @ Indianapolis Colts
I’m not the biggest believer in Joe Mixon this year. I think Marvin and co. will ultimately impact his value negatively. That said, Indianapolis is not a front that I’m afraid of putting many Running Backs up against. Less of a headline than the Dolphins losing Suh, but the loss of Johnathan Hankins (still a FA) is likely to have a negative impact on the Colts Run D, as he was their highest rated run defender. The Bengals on the other hand have a stout front and the Colts may be starting a mid-round rookie RB, and while I like Jordan Wilkins, I don’t expect him to have much success here, meaning unless Andrew Luck slings for 400 yards in his first game in a year, I think the Bengals get a win here.
Peyton Barber v. New Orleans Saints
Ronald Jones might not be a bust yet, but I do believe he needs to make progress from where he is right now to be an NFL contributor. His size has not projected well against NFL sized fronts and he doesn’t have the chops yet in the passing game to be reliable there. Peyton Barber should play as many snaps as he can handle against the New Orleans Saints. And while the Saints have a much improved defense with a strong pass rush, the Saints have some questions at Linebacker, which drives their inefficiency against the run. Barber may not be in a good game script, but I do believe he’ll see a high enough snap% against questionable linebackers that he should be in quite a few line-ups headed into Week 1.
Jordan Howard @ Green Bay Packers
And oh, how this pains me. I’m a HUGE Howard believer for this year. That said, Jordan Howard is much less likely to have a good game when the Bears are in a bad match-up. The two worst Match-Ups the Bears get year-to-year are @GB and @MIN. Howard at the least in unlikely to have even a chance of getting too many “Run-out-the-clock” carries against Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay was also ranked by PFF as the #1 Run Defense heading into 2018. They were one of 9 teams last year to allow a sub-4.0 YPC, and their Run Defense overall probably got a bit knocked too much because of game scripts surrounding an Aaron-Rodgers-less Packers. With Aaron back, Green Bay has the potential to be a “start your receivers, bench your running backs” kind’ve defense. Still a start in deeper leagues for me, and in numerous situations. But Howard is closer to a low-RB2 than a low-RB1 in a 12-Team League for me this week, which means you might have two better RBs on your roster.
Also let’s put a big NO DUH on not starting either Alfred Morris or Matt Breida against the Vikings this week. I like the potential of Running Backs, specifically Breida in this case, having value in a Shanahan offense. But I’m not willing to roll the dice on how this timeshare works out against one of the most stout defenses in the league during a fresh Week 1. Same goes for Jordan Wilkins against a tough Bengals D-Line if he happens to start for the Colts. These guys will have their day I believe this year. If Wilkins or Breida are somehow still unavailable, sprint to them. But they are not set-up in situations where I’m willing to put them in as an RB2 in anything but the deepest of leagues or most dire of Week 1 situations.
Allen Robinson @ Green Bay Packers
I’ll put this one in for the same reason as the Howard mention above. The risk here is that Nagy’s conservative Preseason decision making has meant that we haven’t gotten to really see Allen Robinson at all. But by all accounts he will be healthy and practicing. If AR gets a full practice by Thursday, I believe he has a very good shot at having one of his better target games as the Bears will have to try to beat the Packers corners on the outside. The Packers spent a lot of draft capital to bring in a lot of talent at that position in Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, but while I like these two players, I don’t know that they’ll make enough impact for this Packer’s secondary in their NFL debut.
Jarvis Landry v. Pittsburgh Steelers
Not to completely contradict having faith in Allen Robinson despite the missed time, but I do believe that the camp time and rapport between Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry has a chance to make Landry a much bigger impact receiver at the beginning of the season. Some people also buy into a huge Browns’ turnaround, but while players like Tyrod (or Baker), Jarvis, Josh Gordon, Duke Johnson, and Carlos Hyde make me want to believe this narrative, Hue Jackson, Todd Haley, and Gregg Williams have me questioning whether it comes to fruition. I think the Browns get beat around by a Steelers team that doesn’t want to make there be any doubts about who is dominant in the AFC North. Expect there to be some passing volume for the Browns.
Nelson Agholor v. Atlanta Falcons
This one will be mostly short, and is obviously due to injuries to Alshon Jeffery. While I don’t have the most confidence in Nick Foles, I also don’t believe Philadelphia is silly enough to try and put Agholor on the outside, and I don’t believe Desmond Trufant will shadow Agholor inside, meaning that Agholor might be a slot target hog both this week and next week or until Alshon Jeffery returns.
Jermaine Kearse @ Detroit Lions
Now time for some deeper pulls/lower percentage plays. Jets @ Lions does not figure to be a very good game for the Jets in my opinion. The Jets run D may be able to stifle the Lions at first, but I do expect Matt Stafford do put up adequate points, leading the Jets to pass the ball a lot. With a rookie QB in Sam Darnold, the path of least resistance is where this game plan will mostly head. That could mean some extra receptions for RBs and TEs, but for the WRs, I think it means avoiding Robby Anderson, who I believe will likely see a lot of Darius Slay. One of the Lions’ weakest secondary grades on PFF comes at the #2 CB position, so I believe there’s a chance that we see a lot of Kearse in this game.
EDIT: Kearse is actually OUT week 1. My bad here, but I’ll leave it up for the initial take anyway. FWIW, I do think he has match-up potential in similar situations later in the year. I don’t think Robby Anderson is a #1 I trust to take on and beat good coverage consistently.
Paul Richardson @ Arizona Cardinals
This is similar to the above, though I don’t actually know who Patrick Peterson will shadow. I’m going to guess he won’t shadow Jamison Crowder, but with legitimate starting safeties in Antoine Bethea and Budda Baker, I believe that this game situation also opens itself up to an outside receiver. I’m going to guess because of his body and big play threat ability, as well as history on the offense, Josh Doctson ends up seeing the most of Patrick Peterson, lending Paul Richardson an opportunity to beat-up on the lesser Jamar Taylor. If the word on the street is saying that Richardson will be shadowed by Peterson, the same logic applies– I just want Josh Doctson instead.
Tyreek Hill @ Los Angeles Chargers
Tyreek Hill’s ability to make a game breaking play right now seems like it could happen against any defense, and if you choose to bench that you risk regret. But if we’re predicting a situation where I believe a big game has a lesser shot of happening, this is just about it. Hill is likely to see a lot of Casey Hayward, PFF’s #2 CB in 2017, and is playing with Patrick Mahomes in just his second career game and first as the actual Starter of the Kansas City Chiefs. Hayward didn’t completely erase Hill last year (10 Receptions on 14 Targets for 165 Yards and 1 TD between two games, or a 5/82.5/0.5 line), but Hill also didn’t have one of his bigger performances. Like Howard at a different position, I have Hill as a season long low-end-WR1 but a Week 1 low-end-WR2, meaning he’s probably starting in a good number of leagues, but it is possible especially in a 10-Team league that you have viable alternatives, and I don’t like him for DFS. Could be a good week for Sammy Watkins even.