ITB Fantasy FB Corner: Time To Pick Up Tua, Antonio Brown?
We’ve reached Week 7, folks. The playoff picture is beginning to come into focus, which typically incites countless desperation heaves and indecisiveness from fantasy owners.
While I wasn’t surprised by many of the developments to emerge from Week 6, lackluster performances from Andy Dalton and Alexander Mattison was not something I anticipated.
In any event, this week’s notebook is brimming with information – including answers to your questions – so let’s get to it!
*Despite navigating the Dolphins to within one game of first place in the AFC East, the Ryan Fitzpatrick era has abruptly ended. The Dolphins will turn controls over to rookie Tua Tagovailoa in Week 8. Nearly a year removed from sustaining a potentially career-threatening hip injury at Alabama, Tagovailoa, the fifth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, will lead a team with playoff aspirations. Tagovailoa is a tremendously accurate touch-passer who can scan the field to work through his progressions and offers mobility to extend plays outside the pocket. Though adding him at this juncture is premature, as we don’t know exactly how the offense will look with Tagovailoa at the helm, there is reason for optimism.
* Any owner who rosters Mark Andrews, Mike Gesicki, or Trey Burton is likely hunting for a bye week fill-in. While the tight end position has become the equivalent of a fantasy football wasteland, see if Dallas’ Dalton Schultz, Washington’s Logan Thomas, Houston’s Darren Fells, or Philadelphia’s Richard Rodgers are available (in that order).
Speaking of tight ends, Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz is expected miss 4-6 weeks due to an ankle sprain. Check your waiver wire for Dallas Goedert’s availability. The third-year tight end is nearing his return and possesses top 10 upside.
*Chargers running back Justin Jackson, who out-snapped rookie Joshua Kelley 42-25 in Week 5, was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday (knee). The Chargers tandem has a favorable matchup this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jackson’s injury history is a big reason why I haven’t completely written off Kelley. On Wednesday, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told reporters that Austin Ekeler’s return would be “later rather than sooner.”
While on the subject of running backs, Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (illness) was not listed on the injury report and appears on track to play Sunday against the Chiefs.
* Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) didn’t practice on Wednesday. His status for Sunday remains in question. While many expected an increased target share for the speedy Mecole Hardman, it was Demarcus Robinson who was the beneficiary. Robinson, who surprisingly led all Chiefs pass-catchers in snaps in Week 6 (69), yielded six targets against the Bills.
Deep-league adds to consider (12-14 team)
49ers RB JaMycal Hasty: When I saw that Hasty signed with San Francisco as a UDFA, I remember remarking that he was their second-best running back and ideally complemented Raheem Mostert. To say that I was shocked to learn that Hasty didn’t make the 53-man roster was an understatement, and I was equally floored that he cleared waivers and resurfaced on the practice squad – but I digress.
Mostert is nursing a high-ankle sprain that knocked him out of Week 6 and Jeff Wilson has been slowed by a calf injury. Hasty produced in their absence, churning out 37 rushing yards on nine carries. Hasty isn’t likely to assume pass-catching duties – that’s still Jerrick McKinnon’s forte – but the 5-foot-8, 205-pound is equipped to handle volume despite being best-suited as the downhill hammer in a backfield committee.
Washington RB J.D. McKissic: Somehow, some way, McKissic has seen more playing time over third-round selection Antonio Gibson through six weeks. While the decision is puzzling, it’s hard to argue against McKissic’s production, particularly from a PPR standpoint. The free agent addition has accumulated 22 receptions (26 targets) for 166 yards.
McKissic has out-snapped Gibson on the season 199-174, though I think it’s only a matter of time before the tides turn in favor of the more talented player. However, McKissic’s upcoming slate of games is enticing: DAL, BYE, NYG, DET, CIN, DAL.
Colts WR Marcus Johnson: Don’t look now, but the Colts may have re-discovered their vertical threat. Johnson, who reeled in 17 receptions for 277 yards (16.3 YPC) and two touchdowns following a midseason practice squad promotion last season, is up to his old tricks.
Johnson spent much of training camp sidelined with an injury and failed to make the 53-man roster. However, he was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 23 and elevated to the active roster by Oct. 3. In three games (2 starts), Johnson has parlayed 12 targets into nine receptions for 188 yards (20.9 YPC).
Johnson played 40 offensive snaps against the Bengals, accounting for nearly 64 percent of the snaps. If you’re looking to take a flier on upside, keep an eye on Johnson.
Flex Plays I like
Bucs RB Ronald Jones vs. Raiders: Last week, I recommended Jones as a strong flex play, and he delivered in a big way, to the tune of 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns. That now makes three consecutive weeks that Jones has surpassed the 100-yard rushing barrier. Even when Fournette (ankle) returns, Jones has a stranglehold on the RB1 spot in Tampa Bay. The third-year pro runs with confidence, conviction, and decisiveness, so there is no need to tinker with a successful formula.
Jones gets the Raiders this week on Monday Night Football. Las Vegas has allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs. Bills RB Devin Singletary vs. Jets: The Jets have surrendered the seventh-most points to running backs, and Singletary faces little competition for carries. Even rookie Zack Moss returning to the lineup last week from a lingering toe injury didn’t cut into Singletary’s snap share. I expect the Bills to strike fast and jump out to an early lead – which should ultimately lead to a positive game-script for Singletary owners.
Lions RB D’Andre Swift vs. Falcons: Swift out-snapped Adrian Peterson (29-27) and outproduced the veteran (14-116-2) in a highly anticipated breakout performance. The Lions appear to have made a concerted effort to increase Swift’s workload following the bye week, a trend that figures to continue for the rest of the season. This week, the rookie gets the Falcons and their No. 20 ranked run defense. Fire him up with confidence.
Bengals WR Tyler Boyd vs. Browns: Much like Robert Woods, Boyd is among my favorite fantasy wide receivers. Tough, dependable, consistent player who typically yields a ton of targets each week. Over the past three weeks, Boyd has been targeted 22 times, reeling in 16 receptions for 186 yards. He also produced two carries for 29 yards. Not monster numbers by any means, but consistent. Boyd may not be a flashy player, but I’ll take his production over a more enticing, volatile option almost every time. His developing rapport with Joe Burrow only adds to the intrigue. This week, Boyd gets a Browns defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to slot receivers. Sign me up.
Jets WR Jamison Crowder vs. Bills: This may not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, but Crowder is the best pass catcher on the Jets’ roster. The dependable slot receiver is averaging a league-best 11.5 targets per game through six weeks and will now face a Bills defense that has struggled to defend the short-intermediate routes over the middle. Crowder isn’t a field-stretcher – he does his damage underneath and after the catch – but should be good for 7-8 catches. However, he was listed as limited on Wednesday (groin), so you’ll want to monitor that.
Q: @AJDraftScout: Do I snatch up Goedert + Reagor, or wait?
A: Doug Pederson said Wednesday that he wasn’t going to put a timetable on either player, but that they were both doing well and on schedule. I think there’s a strong possibility both suit up for the Week 8 clash with Dallas. Goedert has a much clearer path to targets.
Q: From @jayyorizzo: What do I do with Antonio Gibson since apparently they won’t let him catch passes? A: Washington’s use of Gibson has been maddening! He’s clearly their best option but was outsnapped by J.D. McKissic 39-27 last week. Still, Gibson is averaging 10 carries and five targets a game the past two weeks. Start him with confidence against a reeling Cowboys defense.
Q: From @PhillySport2019: Start Chark or Fulgham? A: Chark yielded 14 targets last week – 14! – but only mustered seven receptions for 45 yards. The Jags' offense can be volatile, and with Shenault and Keelan Cole emerging, I’m staying away. Fulgham has been remarkably consistent the past two weeks – against formidable secondaries, nonetheless. Fire him up against a woeful Giants defense.
Q: From @Chutters2TG: Thoughts on adding Antonio Brown given the recent reports of SEA interest in him? A: I think it’s worth a speculative add if you have space. Any time you can add a potential game-breaker to your roster midway through the fantasy season, it can alter your season. Prime examples would be Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon in 2013. If AB latches on with Seattle, you have yourself a lottery ticket, my friend.
Q: From @DSaxOne: Do you feel comfortable starting Le’Veon this week?
A: I also have LB in one of my leagues and I am hesitant to insert him into my lineup. I suggest waiting a week for Bell to get acclimated and integrated into the Kansas City offense. Within two weeks, I think he’ll take over the bellcow role. Edwards-Helaire has been terrific, but I’ve always felt he was best suited as a complementary piece to keep him fresh, rather than a volume runner.
Q: From @Froley393: Lockett or Allen Robinson? A: Lockett.
Q: From @patquinn26: How should I view Chase Claypool?
A: Great question. Claypool has yielded 15 targets over the past two weeks, six more than Juju Smith-Schuster. That said, Diontae Johnson is expected back this week and James Washington emerged against the Browns. Claypool adds a unique dimension to the Pittsburgh receiving corps, in that he can work all three levels of the field, boasts tremendous body control, and can manufacture yards after the catch. He will continue to get his targets, but temper expectations.
Q: From @philly_weekly: Matt Ryan or Matthew Stafford? Opponent has Julio Jones in case that impacts your decision.
A: Matt Ryan returned to form last week against the Vikings, and I would expect more of the same on Sunday in another plus matchup. I like the tactic behind deploying Ryan – every point Julio gets is somewhat mitigated by Ryan’s production.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Listen to the latest "Inside The Birds" podcast here: