ITB Fantasy FB Corner: Cowboys’ Dalton Primed For Resurgence?
We’ve reached Week 6 of the fantasy football season, which means more overthinking lineups, roster tinkering, and dealing with that impulsive owner who tirelessly submits weekly trade proposals.
Nevertheless, Week 5 brought some unexpected standouts as well as some unfortunate injuries. Here, I offer insight on this week’s trends as well as provide analysis on players who could help you win your matchup.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
* Veteran Andy Dalton assumes the role of starting quarterback for the Cowboys for the remainder of the season.
Dalton, who has started 133 career games since entering the league as a 2011 second-round pick, leads a high-octane Cowboys offense. The last time Dalton had this much firepower at his disposal was 2015 with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, and Giovani Bernard. He turned in a career-best completion percentage (66.1), while his passer rating (106.2) and average yards per attempt (8.4) ranked No. 2 and No. 3 among NFL quarterbacks that season, respectively.
Given Dalton’s history of elevating his play when surrounded by a strong supporting cast, the 32-year-old makes for an enticing long-term add – if you can cope with his inevitable inconsistencies.
The next four weeks, the Cowboys will face the Cardinals, Washington, Eagles, and Steelers before their Week 10 bye.
Other waiver wire quarterbacks to consider: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater
* The most important news this week will be the status of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who exited Sunday night’s game with a groin injury. Second-year running back Alexander Mattison shouldered the heavy lifting in his absence, with 20 carries for 112 yards and three receptions for 24 yards.
I’m of the belief that Mattison is the most important running back handcuff in fantasy football and also confident that there are a number of teams he’d start for across the league. The 5-11, 221-pound bruiser has a workhorse build that accompanies his instinctiveness, burst, and contact balance.
The Vikings also have a running back friendly slate in the coming weeks: Falcons, BYE, Packers, Lions.
Should Cook miss any time, Mattison becomes a weekly top-10 play. Given the former’s injury history, Mattison offers standalone value. The Boise State product should be among the top waiver priorities.
*With Le’Veon Bell out in New York, the Jets’ backfield now consists of 37-year-old Frank Gore, rookie La’Mical Perine, and second-year pro Ty Johnson.
Though Gore is currently slotted as the de facto No. 1, the veteran has just 55 carries for 174 yards and zero touchdowns through five games. In a lost season, now’s the perfect time for the Jets to see what they have in Perine, a 2020 fourth-round pick. Perine has logged 15 carries for 56 yards across four games. He failed to yield any offensive touches on Sunday.
Perine demonstrates patience at the line of scrimmage and better-than-average vision but lacks the burst or long speed to break off long runs consistently. His pass protection is a work in progress, which could limit his usage, but the former Gator should thrive in a complementary role.
Only add Perine in deep, mixed leagues until his usage is determined. If the Jets couldn’t find a way to get Bell into a rhythm, it’s hard to envision them crafting a successful blueprint for any running back.
Others to consider: Damien Harris, Chase Edmonds
* Could there be a changing of the guard at the No. 1 wide receiver post for the Bengals? It’s certainly trending that way?
Even before A.J. Green, a long-time offensive centerpiece, exited Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, the veteran pass-catcher looked like a shell of himself. Green’s routes are no longer being run with precision or urgency, he provides little in terms of downfield separation, and he’s endured his share of uncharacteristic drops.
It appears Father Time has caught up with one of the all-time Bengals greats, but the team selected a carbon-copy of the rangy pass-catcher in the second-round of the 2020 NFL Draft in Clemson’s Tee Higgins. Higgins has the catch-radius, body control, and physical traits to win in contested-catch situations that makes life easier for young quarterbacks.
With Green’s status up in the air, Higgins should see an uptick in snaps exclusively from the X position. While the 6-4, 216-pound receiver is slightly behind Green in snap allocation, Higgins has accounted for 61 percent of the snaps through five weeks.
More importantly, Higgins ranks third on the Bengals in targets with 30, just four behind Green. For reference, Higgins has yielded no fewer than six targets in four straight weeks.
It’s become clear that Higgins is developing a rapport with quarterback Joe Burrow and it’s only a matter of time before he permanently supplants Green.
I’d target Higgins on the waiver wire ahead of the likes of Kansas City’s Mecole Hardeman or Las Vegas’ Henry Ruggs, who offer infinitely higher ceilings but sporadic volume.
Aside from Sunday’s matchup against the vaunted Colts’ defense, Higgins faces the Browns, Titans, and Steelers secondaries, with a Week 9 bye sandwiched in between. Sign me up.
Others to consider: Chase Claypool, Travis Fulgham, Preston Williams
Flex Plays I like
Bucs RB Ronald Jones vs. Packers: The Packers enter the road matchup allowing 105.8 rushing yards per game. Jones, who has logged 37 carries for 217 yards over the past two weeks, could be in for another substantial workload.
The USC product might not have much competition for carries again this week, as Leonard Fournette (ankle) and LeSean McCoy (ankle) were limited participants on Wednesday. Between Tampa Bay’s banged-up running back room and depleted receiving corps, look for Bruce Arians to feed Jones early and often in a favorable matchup.
Washington Footabll Team RB Antonio Gibson vs. Giants: Game script has impacted Gibson’s effectiveness over the past two weeks, but that shouldn’t be an issue this week against the Giants.
Gibson trails fellow running back J.D. McKissic in snaps, and hasn’t played more than 43, but this should be the week that changes. Look for Scott Turner to scheme ways to isolate Gibson on the woeful Giants’ second level and take advantage of his receiving prowess. The game should remain competitive throughout, making Gibson a strong play this week.
Ravens WR Marquise Brown vs. Eagles:
The lightning-quick Brown averages seven receptions (14.5 yards per reception) a game this season. On Sunday, he’ll face an Eagles secondary that struggles with vertical speed and short-area quickness. The Ravens are a fast-break team facing a team stuck in neutral. If Lamar Jackson can buy time outside the pocket, he should find enough space to launch some deep shots to Brown.
Jags WR Laviska Shenault vs. Lions:
Quick: Who is the Jaguars’ No. 2 running back? Through five weeks, it’s rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Only James Robinson (73) and Gardner Minshew (18) have more carries.
Yes, the Jaguars have activated the 21-day practice window for Devine Ozigbo, and he could very well return this week. But that won’t impact Shenault, who has proven he can manufacture yards in myriad ways for a dismal Jaguars offense.
Shenault has caught 12 passes for 165 yards (14 targets) over the past two weeks and carried the ball once for five yards. Shenault is one snap behind D.J. Chark for second-most snaps at the position, so he is firmly entrenched into the weekly gameplan.
The Lions defense has been suspect, particularly on the back end, which should create opportunities for Shenault to continue his momentum.
From @ChuckMarsilio: Earlier this month, the Jets signed former Detroit Lion Ty Johnson. Do you see him stepping up and taking on a large role in the backfield now that Bell has been released? Is he worth a stash?
I appreciate this question! Big fan of Ty Johnson’s game. Had a chance to catch his Pro Day at Maryland ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Johnson was a sixth-round pick of the Lions last year and forced into action due to a rash of injuries. The rookie played in all 16 games (1 start), carrying the ball 63 times for 273 yards. He added 24 receptions for 109 yards on 31 targets.
Johnson’s relatively pedestrian output isn’t indicative of his capabilities. He struggled to find his footing behind a makeshift offensive line, and injuries limited Matthew Stafford to just eight games. The David Blough- and Jeff Driskel-led offenses often fell behind early, which ultimately altered the game script.
Johnson fell victim to a numbers game with the Lions and was waived earlier this month. He ended up with the running back-needy Jets merely hours later. While his path to playing time seemed tenuous at best as of Tuesday, the door has re-opened due to Le’Veon Bell’s release.
Sure, the Jets’ running back landscape is less than appealing right now, with veteran Frank Gore fronting the backfield and unproven options behind him. But with Adam Gase in survival mode amid a lost season, it behooves the team to utilize Johnson and rookie La’Mical Perine to see what they have. Perine only has 15 carries over four games, so the Jets could lean on Johnson’s experience while Perine continues to develop.
The Jets offense lacks for explosive playmakers, and Johnson can provide a spark if given an opportunity. He has blistering speed and burst, and perhaps most importantly, he can provide a boost to a lackluster passing game. Johnson is someone to monitor, but until we see how the snap allocation is divided post-Bell, I wouldn’t advise stashing just yet. Thanks for the question!
Q. From @RonNewman1985: Ekeler out. Jacobs on a bye. Loaded at receiver (Moore, Scary Terry, woods, Parker, Robby Anderson) what are some realistic trade scenarios you could envision to trade a receiver for a Back in a ppr format for teams like mine?
A. Hey Ron, appreciate the question! Man, talk about a tough spot. Since you have an abundance of talent at WR, I’d suggest packaging Parker and Anderson for someone like David Montgomery or Ronald Jones. I like both players this week and ROS.
Montgomery is a volume runner who needs more than the 10 carries a game he’s gotten the past two weeks to truly make an impact. However, you have to like what he’s done as a receiver, catching 10 passes for 60 yards over that span. While the numbers themselves won’t jump off the page, it’s encouraging to see the team utilize him in the passing game. He’s yielded 14 targets with Nick Foles at the helm, a number I expect to rise moving forward.
On the other hand, Jones has evolved into a volume runner for Tampa Bay. He’s recorded 37 carries for 210 yards and has also seen 14 targets in the passing game over the past two weeks. For a player who struggled as a receiver earlier in his career, this could be a sign of things to come. Fournette and McCoy still loom, but both have dealt with nagging injuries as of late.
Of your receivers, I chose Parker and Anderson from multiple reasons. Anderson is a one-dimensional pass-catcher who is typically all-or-nothing each week. Not a volume receiver, so if he doesn’t reel in a long reception, it’s hard to rely on him each week. Parker has been great for Miami, but he’s another player that has battled injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. Sell them while their value is high and prosper!
Good luck to everyone this week.