This week we take another look at the “Standout Fantasy Performers.” from Week 8.
The theme is the same: we’re not necessarily looking at which players had the best week, although, if fitting you’ll see the top scorer at his respective position listed, but we’ll discuss players who had a good week despite going up against a tough defense, broke out of a slump, emerged as a sleeper or just plain overcame the odds. Before it’s all over, we’ll take a look at what each of these players can expect in Week 9.
Andy Dalton, QBLast Week: Mike Glennon (The Carolina Panthers are the toughest team against fantasy QBs and the rookie out of Tampa Bay managed to put up 15 fantasy points on them with no interceptions.)
There’s something on fire in Cincinatti and it’s not Andy Dalton’s hair – it’s his game. This past Sunday, the red-headed wonder completed 19 of 30 passes for 325 yards and 5 TDs with 1 INT. Those of you who took notice of his two previous games before that and decided to start him week 8 certainly got more than you expected. He probably helped you sneak out a win this week like he did for me. I admit, it was a gamble and I wasn’t at all convinced that he was going to pull through, but I just couldn’t bring myself to start Tom Brady again.
Bottom Line: Brady might just have earned a spot drinking Gatorade on my bench for a couple of games thanks to Dalton’s massacre of the NYJ on Sunday. Granted, I realize it was only the Jets, but Brady has been fairly disgraceful this season and Cincinatti’s signal-caller has averaged 344 yards and almost 4 TDs per contest since his two-game skid in weeks 4 and 5. He seems to have found a good niche with his offense, to say the least. It is pretty important to note that 4 of his 5 TDs on Sunday went to Marvin Jones who has made it clear that he’s a hungry redzone target, which is great news for Dalton. The proverbial question is can he keep this up? Sure he can – but will he? Well it’s safe to say he most likely won’t get 5 TDs again this season, but averaging around 3 isn’t far-fetched, especially this week against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are the definition of mediocre against fantasy quarterbacks, ranking around 18th in fantasy points allowed to the position. Tom Brady couldn’t really get anything going (no surprise based on what we’ve seen so far) but the Patriots did focus on the run quite a bit over the weekend. Dalton should be able to keep his 300+ yard streak alive and get you 2 touchdowns at the very least against the Dolphins secondary.
Marvin Jones, WRLast Week: Harry Douglas (In the stead of Julio Jones, Douglas topped 100+ receiving yards again and led the league in targets for week 8.)
If you find yourself discussing Andy Dalton’s performance in week 8, you are most certainly also talking about Marvin Jones. That’s not a name we were all expecting to hear too often this season, but after the game he had on Sunday, I’ll utter the words “Marvin Jones” every moment I can until the end of the year, just because he deserves it. In the past three weeks, Jones has been one of the most efficient receivers of the season, but not for the typical reasons we might call a receiver “efficient,” per say. The second year receiver out of Cal has 15 receptions for 250 yards and 6 TDs since week 6 – and that’s with only 68 offensive snaps over that three game span. Just to put some perspective on that for you, A.J. Green had 82 offensive snaps in week 6 alone. That’s not even the most impressive part though. This stat line would be nothing without the numbers Jones put up in week 8. He finished the day with 8 receptions on 8 targets for 122 yards and 4 TDs on a mere 18 offensive snaps. That right there could be the most efficient game of any wide receiver ever, considering the amount of time he spent on the field. I haven’t dug deep enough to confirm it, but it’s not out of the realm of consideration.
Bottom Line: Marvin Jones had a staggeringly impressive breakout game and certainly deserves a spot on rosters for his ability to be a reliable redzone threat. The biggest red flag here, however, is that Jones sees the field less than one-third of the team’s offensive plays. This could be worrisome in the long run if he were to continue in that trend. What’s more likely is that Jones will see a steady increase in his playing time since gaining the trust of his coaches and quarterback over the last three weeks. The Bengals face the Dolphins in Miami on Thursday and should be able to put some points up through the air despite how stingy the Dolphins are against fantasy WRs. Whether Jones sees an increase in his snap count or not, we have to remember that sometimes it’s not always about what you’re given but what you do with what you’re given. Jones is likely to succeed the role as the main target across A.J. Green before the end of the season, even when Andrew Hawkins returns, so long as Jones can continue his efficiency. The return of Hawkins is worrisome though, as he is also a talented and quick receiver.
Andre Ellington, RBLast Week: Roy Helu (Despite being featured on 11 more offensive plays than starter Alfred Morris, Helu made hardly anything of his opportunities in week 8)
Before the season began, I kicked around the idea of Andre Ellington as a deep sleeper for the year. I’ll be honest, I had forgotten about him until about week 5 when I began to take more notice of his utilization in the passing game. In week 8 however, the passing game had little to do with his utilization when he was called upon by the Arizona Cardinals to replace an ailing Rashard Mendenhall. Looking back, I wish I had tooted my horn a bit more on him so I could take credit for predicting his breakout game. Nonetheless, the rookie from Clemson made the best of every one of his 15 carries by carving the Atlanta Falcons defense for 154 yards and a touchdown, while averaging over 10 yards per carry.
Bottom Line: The Arizona Cardinals haven’t had a 100 yard rusher since the last time they played the Falcons in week 11 last season. In all reality, the Cardinals haven’t had any real rushing threat since Beanie Wells had his 1000+ yard 10 TD season in 2011. I’m not saying Ellington is going to emerge as a rushing giant for Arizona, but he definitely showed his ability to utilize his opportunities in his first start on Sunday. He has solid RB2 value while Mendenhall is out, but once the former Steelers running back returns he should resume his role as the early-down back with Ellington supplementing him as needed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals stick with the hot hand in a committee backfield game to game, but the reality is that Mendenhall will most likely be the starter when he’s healthy enough to play. The Cardinals have a bye this week, however it isn’t a bad idea to add Ellington and monitor the backfield situation in Arizona going forward. With his ability to find running lanes, he should boost his snap count at least marginally and could be worth some FLEX appeal in deeper leagues once Mendenhall returns. Until then, if Ellington starts, he is worth a start on your roster provided you don’t have anyone better. The Cardinals play the Texans in week 10 who are currently allowing less than 100 rushing yards per game to opposing backs.
Jimmy Graham, TELast Week: Rob Gronkowski (The Patriots resorted to the run game and Tom Brady didn’t do much with his pass attempts as Gronk got a mere 5 targets and 27 yards on Sunday against the Dolphins.)
Week 8 was a rough week for tight ends. While there were a couple solid games, not a single tight end recorded over 100 receiving yards and only five found the endzone (compared to 14 last week). So, with that said, I’m just going to discuss Jimmy Graham. As the highest scoring tight end in week 8, Graham didn’t have to do much to receive the honor. Due to a partially torn plantar fascia, he only saw the field for 18 offensive plays, mostly in scoring situations. As you can see by his 3 catches for 37 yards and 2 TDs, Graham might as well change his name to “scoring situations” because that’s pretty much exactly what he is: a walking (limping) scoring situation.
Bottom Line: The reason I chose to bring up Graham this week is not because he’s putting up numbers that could easily be confused for a top 5 WR. What I want to talk about is Graham’s foot. We learned earlier in the week that his diagnosis is a “partially torn plantar fascia” which is not a fun time (see: Antonio Gates). It’s actually quite the painful and nagging injury that usually takes at least 4 months of rest to fully heal. That said, Graham can clearly play through the injury – via painkillers – but not for his typical amount of snaps. I hate to say it but it’s looking like this injury could bother Graham for the rest of the year which means much less time on the field for the league’s top tight end. He should still see the field in scoring situations much like he did this past week, but not having him on the field often is an aggravating situation for fantasy owners. Graham showed us he can still make something out of almost nothing, however every play he runs risks injuring that foot further. Should the Saints make the playoffs, Graham could even be sat for the last few games – although that is nothing more than deep speculation for now. All of that aside, the fourth year tight end belongs in your lineup every week that he is active unless a larger setback occurs. The Saints go to New York to face the Jets next which should be a good opportunity for Graham to find the endzone yet again. Don’t be surprised though if he doesn’t break 20 snaps again. This injury makes Graham a sort of “feast or famine” type of fantasy play with a heavy accentuation on the “feast” aspect.
Josh Brown, KLast Week: Steve Weatherford
In week 8 the Giants scored 15 points against the Philadelphia Eagles… oh wait, no, that was just Josh Brown doing all of the scoring. The 34-year old veteran kicker hit all 5 of his field goals in week 8, helping the paltry New York Giants to their second win of the season.
Bottom Line: In typical Giants fashion this season, one player did all the scoring work for the struggling squad (a few turnovers by their defense helped too). Brown hasn’t been a factor in fantasy much this season. In fact, he only attempted two field goals in weeks 3 through 6 and missed them both. He’s reached double digits the last couple of weeks, but Brown really makes the list because, if not for him, the Giants would be 1-7 right now. He’s not worth a spot on any fantasy roster outside of a desperate bye week filler, even if he didn’t have a bye this week himself. However he’s hit all 8 of his field goal attempts in the last two games and the Giants seem to be fine with leaning on him if they need to. They host the Raiders in week 10.
Denver Broncos, D/STLast Week: Buffalo Bills
Par for the course with the Denver Broncos D/ST, they gave up a lot of points and saved face with turnovers, sacks and TDs. That’s 3 sacks, 4 INTs (1 for TD) and 1 fumble recovery. One of those sacks happened to be Von Miller’s first of the season since finishing his 6-game suspension. As if it wasn’t enough, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned an interception for a TD in the 4th quarter to add a handful of nails to the coffin for the Washington Redskins in week 8.
Bottom Line: The Broncos D/ST stands out yet again because, despite the points they allow, there are enough playmakers on the squad to get you plenty of fantasy points which has made them a decent team to own this season. Even more impressive is the 13 QB hits they got on RG3, who seemed unable to escape the stacked box all game. The Broncos sit 9th overall for fantasy defenses which isn’t a bad spot considering they’re the only team in the top 12 who has allowed over 200 points this season. They’re currently on bye but will face rival San Diego Chargers in their own house for week 10. Rivers has only thrown 5 interceptions this season, but the Broncos D sits tied with the Seahawks at the top of the NFL with 13 picks. Expect the mile-high squad be worth double-digit fantasy points in week 10.
Last Week: Vincent Jackson (The veteran caught 5 for 79 yards against the Panthers in week 8.)
Jordy Nelson, WR
Of course we could be discussing Calvin Johnson’s historical 329 yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys but why state the obvious. Jordy Nelson, on the other hand, is on a much more “under-the-radar” type of streak. Over the last three weeks he’s scored 4 touchdowns on 16 catches for 278 yards. His 7 catches for 123 yards and 2 TDs in week 8 should act as a nice momentous push into Monday night. He has 7 total TDs on the season and now that he’s the main receiver in Green Bay it won’t be as difficult for him to keep this trend going.
Bottom Line: With Randall Cobb out for the season, Jermichael Finley uncertain to return and James Jones on the mend, Jordy Nelson has been reaping the benefits of their absence, mostly in the form of touchdowns. It’s very reminiscent of his 2011 season where he finished with 1200+ yards and 15 TDs. Having already matched his touchdown total from last year, Nelson will look to keep his streak going in week 9 when the Packers host the Bears on Monday night. Chicago’s defense has been a shell of its former self as of late but Charles Tillman has 3 interception this season and will look to make it 4 this week. Nelson is a must start week to week because of his ability to make spectacular plays – as we saw in the endzone against Minnesota – and his presence as the #1 receiver for Aaron Rodgers. Anyone getting targets from Rodgers has a solid chance to succeed.
Sleeper To Watch:
Last Week: Peyton Hillis (The recent addition to the Giants didn’t get the start in week 8 but did get the majority of the touches as he went for 70 yards on 20 carries.)
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
As in the case of Jordy Nelson, the “next man in line” is often the philosophy of the NFL with the plethora of injuries that come tagged with every season. The difference between DHB and Nelson is that the Green Bay wide out has already established himself as a legitimate receiver. With Reggie Wayne out for the season, Andrew Luck will look for DHB to pick up the slack and targets in the passing game along with fellow starter T.Y. Hilton. Heyward-Bey has always had trouble with football skills that he has typically tried to make up for with sheer athleticism.
Bottom Line: The former winner of the Al Davis “Who runs the fastest?” sweepstakes, Heyward-Bey hasn’t done much with his career. He’s had a slow start to the season with 18 receptions for 190 yards, but saw his first touchdown of the year in week 7 before his bye. Week 7 also happened to be DHB’s first game with over 6 targets which could possibly be a correlation to pay attention to with him going forward. Heyward-Bey is a large, speedy runner who has the ability to get loose and make big plays in the open field. His downfall comes from dropped passes and difficulty getting open. Now that he’s playing under a gifted quarterback like Andrew Luck, DHB has a better opportunity than ever to take advantage of the targets he’ll get with Reggie Wayne out. The Colts play the Texans in week 9 on Sunday night in Houston and trying to catch a football in Houston is like trying to grab a fly in midair. The Texans defensive squad is the only team that is holding WRs to an average of less than 100 receiving yards so far this season. With that in mind, Luck should be able to get something productive going and with DHB expected to see possibly 8 or more targets, the odds of him breaking loose are much greater and worth a flier this week, especially if your options are limited.
For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff