With a quarter of the NFL season in the books, it’s becoming a little more clear which teams are contenders and which teams are pretenders. Similarly, in Fantasy Football, we’re getting a clearer idea of which players are going to produce week-in and week-out, and which players are situational players or lottery tickets, or just players you simply can’t trust.
Julio Jones, for example, is a monster. Matt Ryan and he produced 300 yards together this past Sunday (Ryan threw for an eye-popping 503 yards total! In one game!) and they possess the number-one ranked offense in the league. Their running back picture remains a little muddy, but it’s safe to say that both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are FLEX starters at worst, and RB2/borderline RB1 at best. Still others seem to have major question marks or have washed out completely. Namely, Jamaal Charles (very sparingly used against the Steelers on Sunday night), Thomas Rawls (he looks to have been usurped by Christine Michael regardless of health), and Arian Foster (true, he might regain his throne when healthy, but the Dolphins’ running game has been abysmal, and it’s safe to wonder how well that offensive line will be able to block for him if his injuries linger). Let’s look at a few players who are gaining value now, and a few who are slipping. Remember, this is not a full-season forecast, but rather a week-to-week look at players who might be worth going after, or ditching altogether.
Terrance West – For those of us who have waited with West on our benches for these first few weeks, we were rewarded for our patience with a 113-yard, one touchdown game from the newly anointed starter in Baltimore. West looked good (5.4 YPC), and no longer has Justin Forsett to worry about as the Ravens jettisoned the older player to make this picture a little clearer. Rookie Kenneth Dixon could be back as soon as this week, but I would imagine they’ll work him back slowly from his knee injury, making West a safe RB1 against a Washington squad that is putrid against the run, having surrendered 702 total yards from scrimmage to opposing running backs thus far.
Isaiah Crowell – Some numbers for you to store in your brainscape about Crowell: Zero, Four, Three, Two. No, that’s not the combination on his luggage. Zero is for the number of wins the Browns have; Four is their number of losses. Three is how many quarterbacks have started for the team in those four games thus far, and two is where Crowell ranks in terms of rushing yards in the NFL. He has touchdowns in three of the four contests, has rushed for 120 or more twice, and is doing it on relatively limited carries (he hasn’t had more than 18 in a game yet), making his 6.5 YPC best in the league. Hue Jackson is doing well for this youngster, and the arrows are all pointing way up for the 23-year old Crowell. Start him with confidence as a solid RB2 with RB1 upside.
LeSean McCoy – Shady has a tough slate of games upcoming with tilts against the Rams, Niners, Dolphins, Patriots, and Seahawks all before the Bills’ late bye. However, after dismantling two perennial Super Bowl favorites in successive weeks, perhaps there are no worries in Orchard Park. McCoy has 384 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns through as many games. He is a borderline RB1 despite the schedule, but should be in all lineups each week because of his usage, particularly with Sammy Watkins now expected to miss significant time.
Todd Gurley – Nothing seems to be working for the wunderkind this year. He’s yet to top 100 yards in a game, has had three contests of 47, 51, and 33 rushing yards, and aside from Week 3’s fortunate two-TD performance, the end zone has been hard to find for Gurley. These next three weeks’ games against the Bills, Lions, and Giants should be telling and we’ll know what’s in store for Gurley this year. Simply put, defenses are challenging Case Keenum, a very average quarterback, and daring him to throw. What’s even more strange is the Rams are 3-1 after winning three in a row against the Seahawks, Bucs, and Cardinals – none of whom are slouches. I’m not writing Gurley off yet, and you have to be sweating a bit if you have him on your team, but do not sit him (he’s too good, and always a big play threat) yet. Give it these next couple of weeks. But I wouldn’t be afraid to trade him after a good game either if you can get some solid value in return.
Giovani Bernard – More than anything, Bernard’s usage is the most maddening aspect of his season thus far. With only one touchdown on the year, and a 2.7 YPC average thus far, it seems that Bernard and Jeremy Hill are firmly in platoon mode, making it hard to trust either back as more than a FLEX play. Bernard excels in space, and has had a 100-yard receiving game this year (the game with the lone touchdown, sadly). The talent is there, and it remains to be seen if Hill contracts another bad case of fumble-itis, or if the return of Tyler Eifert will open things up. It should also be noted the last three games for the Bengals were against the Steelers, Broncos, and Dolphins, all stout run defenses. Hold Bernard, but if you bench him for a week in favor of a better option, you won’t hear any complaints from me.
Chris Ivory – Ivory followed up a terrible Week 3 (12 rushes, 14 yards) with a horrible Week 4 (eight rushes, 29 yards). He was outplayed and out-touched by T.J. Yeldon who produced 117 yards on 18 touches on the day in foggy London town. What was telling, though, was that Ivory was in later in the game when the Jaguars were trying to salt this one and bleed the clock. He’s certainly worth a hold, and perhaps the bye week will allow him to get even healthier before three cherry games against the Bears, Raiders, and Titans to follow. He’ll have RB3/FLEX appeal once the Jags are back, so don’t give up on him just yet.