Six years of data that point to your next move at each position after Week 3, a third sanity check, and players I’d trade for and trade away.
Welcome to my in-season column. If you’re seeking strategic tips, match-up advice, game observations, IDP info, and dynasty advice with a little bit of current “football” events opinion (if anything involving the madness of the NFL commissioner’s office actually qualifies) added into the mix then you’ve come to the right place. Think of the in-season Gut Check column as a department store with a variety of areas:
- Futures (Rookies and College Prospects)
- Wild Side
RE-DRAFT: SANITY CHECK
The most challenging thing about the first three weeks of the season is discerning which events are a sign of things to come and which are fool’s gold. I’m dividing this basic diagnosis into four categories:
- True Positives: What you saw that was good in Weeks 1-3 is what you’ll get in the foreseeable future.
- False Positives: What you saw that was good in Weeks 1-3 is an illusion or rare confluence of positive circumstances.
- True Negatives: What you saw that was bad in Weeks 1-3 is what you’ll get in the foreseeable future.
- False Negatives: What you saw that was bad in Weeks 1-3 is an illusion or a rare confluence of positive circumstances.
I’ll be playing this game for one more week. Let’s do a quick Week 3 review past lists:
- WR James Jones (True Positive): “Thank God James Jones is a Packer,” is what I believe Aaron Rodgers told ESPN after the game. ‘Nuff said.
- WR Keenan Allen (True Positive): Allen has been feast or famine the past three weeks, but two weeks of feasts keeps the needle pointing towards the optimism end of the forecast needle. Not a classical No.1 receiver, but he’s often a reception magnet and Antonio Gates’ imminent return should only help.
- RB Danny Woodhead (True Positive): A dip from the past two weeks, but I believe Woodhead and Gordon should have solid weeks against the Browns.
- TE Tyler Eifert (True Positive): He dropped a potential touchdown and besides contributing to a sack-fumble-touchdown for the Ravens where he couldn’t contain Elivs Dumervil, Eifert was not a huge factor. He’s a good football player, but I’m growing skeptical that he’s a future dominant force. Think of a young Greg Olsen.
- WR Travis Benjamin (True Positive): I’ll have more to say about Benjamin below, but there were five targets where he had a chance to score if Josh McCown was accurate. His decent, but not great outing despite the previous point keeps me optimistic about his fantasy prospects.
- QB Johnny Manziel (True Positive): Getting benched is a big strike against my view of him last week. McCown does what the coaches expect him to do–make the right reads, go through the correct progression, and keep the game plan on course. But McCown can’t extend the play like the more disciplined version of Manziel that we saw for the previous two weeks. With 6:44 left in the third quarter and down 20-3 McCown had Travis Benjamin in single coverage up the left side and when pressure compressed the left side of the pocket, McCown wasn’t confident enough to roll outside and to his left to make the attempt to throw on the move to Benjamin deep. McCown moved right and tried to climb the pocket when Manziel has shown the skill to do what I just described. The Browns’ staff wants consistency and established knowledge. I get it, but it’s a play-not-lose strategy for a staff that doesn’t want to lose its jobs.
- TE Crockett Gillmore (True Positive): A 3-catch, 40-yard stat-line isn’t much, and Maxx Williams slightly out-pointed Gillmore, but I still like what I’m seeing and the receivers outside of the alien wearing No.89 aren’t doing enough to make you think Gillmore won’t remain a viable part of the offense.
- WR Steve Smith (True Positive): My third receiver to defend the planet. More on Smith below.
- WR Michael Crabtree (True Positive): Bad call on my part when I thought aloud last week that Crabtree might be the guy to own in this offense despite Cooper likely to have better weeks more often. Cooper is clearly the man here. Crabtree is a slightly slower version of what he was and it’s a testament to his work ethic that he’s still a viable NFL option.
- QB Matthew Stafford (True Negative): I’m not one in the “Stafford sucks” camp, but this offensive scheme needs major adjustment.
- WR Sammy Watkins (True Negative): Watkins made two nice grabs this weekend–one of them was out of bounds in the end zone. Too bad he also got hurt and missed the rest of the game. Percy Harvin is the guy to own for now.
- TE Dwayne Allen (True Negative): Allen didn’t play this week.
- TE Greg Olsen (True Negative): Last week, I said, “If Ted Ginn catches his deep opportunities, it’s likely to be a good day for Olsen up the seam. If not, look for defenses to keep the clamps on the veteran.” Ginn had a good day and Olsen had a great one. I’m optimistic about what I’m seeing with the Panthers. The passing offense should be a good match-up watermark for determining how good defense is. If Carolina has success, the defense is average at best.
- RB Justin Forsett (False Negative): He still looks solid, but “solid” doesn’t win fantasy championships unless “productive” is in the same sentence.
- QB Peyton Manning (False Negative): Look at that, the Broncos found a compromise. That’s called teamwork. If the Broncos win a Super Bowl with this offense, the ground game will have improved a lot between now and December. They’ll make the playoffs and so will many Manning fantasy owners.
- WR Odell Beckham (False Negative): Keep on truckin’.
- WR John Brown (False Negative): I know it’s a tough patience play, but Brown’s 3-62 performance also included a deep crossing route on thrid down where Brown came up a yard shy of a touchdown. It may seem counter-intuitive to think that Brown will benefit from Michael Floyd returning to form, but Floyd will make it easier for the Cardinals to find optimal match-ups for Brown that result in more production. Floyd had an excellent catch up the left flat where he high-pointed the ball over Antoine Bethea, but a holding call nullified the 50-yard play. Floyd also earned a vertical target in the end zone during the late third quarter, but the receiver interfered with the defender.
- RB Frank Gore (False Negative): Two touchdowns added to some of the same good running I saw the past two weeks should help fantasy owners feel better about Gore. He’s a fine play this week against Jacksonville.
- TE Jimmy Graham (False Negative): I told you that the Seahawks would make some tweaks for Graham. They need to make more, including not asking him to pass protect or for the ground game to run to his side. Ever.
- Bills’ Offense (False Positives for Tyrod Taylor, Percy Harvin and Karlos Williams): I’ve seen enough and I was wrong. I was too cautious on all three. Funny enough, I still own Harvin in multiple leagues so I’m happy to be benefiting there. The Bills aren’t totally predictable with how they use Harvin, but they are giving him routes where he can either get behind defenders or have open space beneath them to operate after the catch. Williams has improved his patience while still remaining decisive. He’s running more frequently with his head up and taking a slower pace on gap plays so he’s taking a good approach behind his pulling guard. At this point, Williams is out-performing a banged-up and hesitant LeSean McCoy. Taylor’s work has been consistently good enough as a decision-maker and thrower that I’m convinced Buffalo’s offense has enough bite for fantasy owners. I’m a fan of how Buffalo stretches the field horizontally and vertically both with the run and the pass–it’s a consistent aspect of the offense that has worked this month. There will be more tests for the Bills and some bumpy weeks, but there’s enough weaponry in Taylor, Harvin, Williams, Charles Clay, Robert Woods, Watkins and even Chris “7-11” Hogan to use the first five names in many fantasy lineups.
- Dexter McCluster (False Positive): McCluster got the start, but it was about as juicy of a reward as a gold star on the elementary school bulletin board. Antonio Andrews was the most productive Titans back this week. It’s a carousel right now for Tennesse’s run game. I did like the ability Andrews displayed to earn yards after contact. If you need to jump the gun and be aggressive but cheap about taking a RB, Andrews is worth a flier.
WILD SIDE: A SIX-YEAR DOSE OF PERSPECTIVE ON WEEK 3 VS. REST OF SEASON
Two years ago, Aaron Rodgers had to tell the media and public to relax. Last year, the football viewing public had a fork in Tom Brady and the Patriots entering Week 4 as teh No.27 fantasy quarterback. And two weeks ago, the vultures had Peyton Manning’s career on a death watch.
There are a lot more examples like this from last year alone: Read the rest at Footballguys.com