PLAY or STAY AWAY?
Fantasy Football is a cruel game. One minute you could be celebrating a touchdown, the next you’re watching your player suffer a gruesome injury only to be carted off the field. In many ways, as Fantasy GMs, we feel some of their pain. All offseason we spend circling these players on our lists, hyping them up, getting into heated debates with our leaguemates about who has more upside, and watching all of that disintegrate as our favorite players’ seasons end. A part of us, or at least our roster, dies in that moment. Last week was a brutal one! We saw major injuries to both Ben Roehtlisberger and Drew Brees. As catastrophic as those injuries are to the player, each team’s Super Bowl aspirations, and to the NFL’s ratings, it has a much more personal impact on us and our Fantasy Football rosters. Those with Alvin Kamara, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and, of course, those who actually rostered Drew and Ben are scrambling to pick up the pieces and figure out what it all means. I am here to tell you: I HAVE NO IDEA! When you play this cruel game as I have, for over ten years, you l learn to love the players but not get too attached. Understand that this is a game of attrition and you will need to dig deep within yourself and continually reassess your roster and most importantly: what you think you know! As mentioned, I have been playing for over 10 years; I have won championships, gotten last, made good trades, bad trades, and everything in between. The point of this is to say I will play 10 more years and still not know it all. I am not claiming to KNOW anything. I am simply asking you to join me on this journey playing this unbelievably frustrating, infuriating, and extremely satisfying game. But understand me when I say: I am in the trenches with you! I am in 5 leagues currently with an overall record of 2-8. I am continuously berated with comments like “pfffft! Fantasy Whisperer? HA!” or “Maybe I should start a podcast!” I want you to win, I want to win, and that means I will be wrong and I will be right, but I promise I will always be true to my research, my belief system, and to you, WhisperNation. Just remember a wise man once said, “Never take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with,” and when the dust settles after Monday night’s game, it will be you who is responsible for the result. With that being said, let’s go get you that W!
As always, this article is all about giving you a fresh take on some guys that I feel have the clearest path to succeed at their position and the dudes who are going to have a real hard time getting it done on gameday.
Matthew Stafford All the talk coming into the 2019 season for the Lion’s offense was how much they are going to run the ball. They hired Darrell Beve as OC, who in his 11 years as a play caller has averaged 30 rushing attempts per game. They cut Theo Riddick and publicly paved the way to have Kerryon Johnson be the focal point of their offense. Kerryon has spent nearly all offseason on the lips of every fantasy football analyst as a locked in breakout RB1/2, present company included. This is not a knock on Kerryon, who I still project big things for in 2019, as much as it is a flashlight into what the Lions have actually done. Very quietly, the Lions got Marvin Jones Jr. back healthy to pair with Kenny Golladay, added Danny Amendola and Jesse James, and drafted an elite talent at tight end: T.J. Hockenson. That was all before the start of the season. Now, two weeks in, Stafford has thrown for 5 touchdowns, the Lions have the 6th most passing yards in the NFL, and he is the QB5 in fantasy football. This week Stafford will look to build on his productive start as the Lions travel to the city of brotherly love to take on the Eagles. The Eagles have, in many ways, picked up where they left off last year by surrendering big performance to QBs. Sure Matt Ryan just torched them, but even Case Keenum posted a QB6 performance against them in week one. Stafford has the perfect combo of momentum, weapons, and a choice matchup, and you should capitalize.
Chris Carson 2 games and just as many fumbles into 2019 and I can already hear the simultaneous snickering of the Rashaad Penny truthers and grumbling from the Chris Carson owners. After Carson’s latest fumble last week against the Steelers, Pete Carroll turned to Rashaad Penny to carry the load for Seattle. Penny was impressive, rushing for 62 yards on only 10 carries; however, while I believe Penny could look to close the gap in touches, this team is better when Carson leads the backfield. Fumbles aside, Carson has been the clear lead back for the Seahawks, garnering over 51 percent of the team’s rushing attempts. On top of that, if Carson ever had a get right spot, this is it! Seattle will host the Saints this Sunday, who as mentioned in the intro that you likely skipped, just lost Drew Brees. Vegas has the Hawks as nearly 5 point favorites, and we know they will look to establish the run and pound the Saints into submission. New Orleans, through the first two weeks of football, allows on average the 6th most fantasy points to the RB position. Predictably, Seattle is within the top 10 in rushing attempts, and given the matchup, Carson could end up within the top 10 at his position this week.
Cooper Kupp It is hard to find a bigger fanboy for Cooper Kupp than yours truly. Ok, well maybe Matthew Berry. To be fair, I drafted Kupp in 4 of my 5 leagues last year. I was devastated in Week 10 when he tore his ACL and ended his season. Kupp was on pace to finish top 5 at his position before the injury. He clearly has a connection with Goff, and if you followed us this offseason, you know I was urging you to invest in Kupp as the blue chip Rams wide receiver for 2019. My question was never the chemistry with Goff, his talent, or even the other pieces in the offense; my concern was how long would it take for his legs to get back underneath him given the injury timeline. Well that question was answered last Sunday as Kupp burned the Saints secondary for a 66 yard burner that nearly scored a Rams touchdown. Kupp is leading the team in targets and will look to build on his 5 catch, 120 yard outing this Sunday night in Cleveland. Now on paper, facing a Browns’ defense that has allowed the fewest points on average to the WR may be concerning to you, a closer look at Cleveland’s opponents reveals a Titans team with the repeat underachiever Marcus Mariota at QB and, most recently, the Jets who were considering having Adam Gase play QB on Monday night after Trevor Siemian’s injury. The Browns have yet to face an offense the caliber of the Rams and with an over/under of 49.5, per Vegas, this game sets up to feature some fireworks. Don’t let the matchup scare you, Kupp is a lock.
T.J. Hockenson Hockenson was one of the hottest topics in this young NFL season, but, like, that was so two weeks ago! *Insert eye roll here* Hock dominated week one with a 9 target, 6 catch, 131 yard, and a touchdown performance that had many in the Fantasy industry dubbing him “Gronkenson.” Of course, in week two, he saw only three targets, catching only one of them for 7 yards. WOOF. This is your friendly reminder that Hockenson is a rookie and rookie pass catchers typically take a year or more to fully reach their potential, even the greats. Hockenson’s long-term value aside, this week presents an opportunity for him to earn your trust back. As stated above, I am fond of the Lion’s prospects as a passing offense this week against the Eagles. With the lack of legitimate week-in and week-out tight end starters, Hockenson’s upside each week is too attractive to pass up.
Carson Wentz Was it just me, or was last Sunday night in Atlanta a little tough to watch at times? Carson Wentz watched as DJax, Alshon, Dallas Goedert left the game with injuries. Then Wentz, himself leaves the field briefly clutching his ribs only to return and start running into contact again and again. Wentz then even entered concussion protocol before returning to the game, throwing for a touchdown and running for another. He salvaged his day, but things are looking a little rough for Carson and his receiving corps. Wentz struggled mightily against the Falcons as he threw for 2 picks and was sacked 3 times, failing to eclipse 250 yards passing. Wentz will face a Lions defense that has yet to let an opposing QB score more than 21 points against them in standard scoring leagues. Given Wentz’s ADP this past draft season, it may be hard for you to bench him, but if you wavered a stronger matchup play or have a solid backup, you may want to deploy said backup plan. If you can’t bring yourself to do so, temper expectations and attempt to recoup points via upside moves at other positions on your roster.
Mark Ingram The PPR scoring RB #12 has had himself a nice start to 2019, amassing over 150 yards and 2 touchdowns through the first two weeks. Ingram is on a rush heavy Ravens squad that looks to be one of the more explosive offenses in football, and he is averaging 5.5 yards per carry to boot. All of these nice things seem to be leading to a “but,” and you know what Ned Stark said about everything that precedes the word “but,” right? It is not exactly Ingram or his recent injury that concern me. The Ravens seem happy to go with a “hot hand” approach as they have now given Gus Edwards nearly as many carries (20) as they have Ingram (27). This trend, coupled with the fact that teams typically have to throw when playing against the juggernaut that is Kansas City, has me worried. The style of play the Chiefs force their opponents to play has them only allowing 11 points on average to opposing RBs this year. Also, Ingram draws his targets from Lamar Jackson who was the least likely to throw to his running backs last year. I do not view Ingram as matchup or gamescript proof, and this week is no exception.
Julian Edelman Tom Brady must be hooking Edelman up with the sickest pair of Ugg boots or a lifetime supply of avocado ice cream at this point. All during last year’s playoff run, Edelman watched Brady post hype videos left and right with Gronk featuring P. Diddy lyrics. How did Edelman respond? By winning SB MVP and helping Brady and the Pats win yet another ring. For Fantasy purposes Edelman’s stranglehold on this team’s targets was looking very choice heading into the last month of Summer. First round talent, N’Keal Harry was struggling with the playbook before being lost for the year to injury, Gronk had retired, and Gordon was suspended. Then more social media photos of Brady working out with Gordon surfaced, and within a couple weeks, Gordon was reinstated by the NFL. Finally, just last week, Edelman watched as the Patriots signed Antonio Brown. The Patriots in the matter of a month went from one of the barren receiving corps in the NFL to one of the most talented. Typically a target monster, Edelman only saw 4 targets last week which he turned into 4 catches for 51 yards. The Pats play the Jets this week; this matchup is as good as one that Edelman will get, but I have trust issues with all the Patriots WRs, at least until we can see a few weeks of how Brady will target each guy while they all share the field. I think the games of 10+ targets for Edelman may be behind him, much to the joy of the Patriots and the dismay of your roster.
O.J. Howard “He can play a heck of a lot better than he’s been playing!” No that’s not some disgruntled fantasy football GM yelling at his T.V. after watching Howard fail to draw a single target in week 2, that is his head coach Bruce Arians speaking about his star tight end. Howard inexplicably has not been start-worthy in 2019 after looking like a surefire breakout. In all fairness, Jameis Winston has not looked sharp, and the offense has sputtered at times. Perhaps things will turn around for Howard, but I cannot advise starting him until we see it, and while this matchup against a depleted Giant’s secondary is juicy, Howard cannot be trusted.