By Gerry Love - SPM Fantasy Staff
They are the old standbys. The guys who just a couple years ago carried your fantasy football team to the playoffs or helped you win a championship. Players you could rely on from week to week to be consistent, keep your team competitive and occasionally have a huge performance to carry you to victory.
These are veteran players who have been around for a while and have earned your trust, but time flies in the National Football League. Yesterday’s star running back is today’s LeSean McCoy or Frank Gore. The WR 1 who became a WR 2 but was still really consistent just two seasons ago is today’s A.J. Green or Marvin Jones. That great tight end who was top five at his position every week, yeah say hello to Zach Ertz and Eric Ebron.
As injuries mount and your league’s trade deadline approaches – and as you scan the waiver wire and available free agents – you see some very familiar names. A lot of players who may have helped you or other teams in the past are available. Some of the names we mentioned above might be there and some others that are even more surprising. As you check the numbers and try to fill holes on your team, some of them might be appealing.
While there definitely has been a changing of the guard and influx of youth at skill positions in the NFL over the past year, some blasts from the past who had leveled off or almost disappeared have shown signs of life lately. So, how do you know if it’s the right time to take a chance on them or to finally cut bait for once and for all.
Here’s a quick look at some of those players and what to do with them:
Jimmy Garoppolo – Never considered an elite QB, Garoppolo has been a functional fantasy backup who put up consistent numbers and could throw up a top-five week occasionally. Injuries have hampered him this season, and he probably came back too soon. His abysmal showing in that return, a 43-17 loss to the average-at-best Dolphins, led to an in-game benching and his release by many fantasy team owners. Since then he has responded by completing 43 of 58 passes in a pair of victories for an average of better than 270 yards and 3 TDs. He’s still young and still developing. His running game has been depleted by injuries, and his coach is brilliant at scheming to highlight his team’s and players’ strengths. He has some favorable matchups ahead and is worth picking up as a backup and using when your top guy has a bye or a tough matchup. Not a bad value pick in certain weeks for DFS either.
Kirk Cousins – Cousins was signed and then extended for crazy money before the Vikings’ offense decided to go ultra-conservative. He put up record-setting numbers in a more wide-open offense in Washington before signing with Minnesota, but was always known for making the critical mistake at the worst time. The same thing happened initially with the Vikings, so maybe the combination of having an elite running back and Cousins’ penchant for the costly mistake has led to that conservative approach. Well, the Vikings are 1-5 and can only afford to lose one – maybe two – more games to have a shot at the playoffs. There are whispers about the head coach’s job security. Something has to give. Cousins and the offense have shown recent signs of life as he has thrown for 251, 260, 249 and 343 yards in his last four outings with 9 TDs and 6 interceptions. That includes two games in which he threw for 3 touchdowns. Adam Thielen has become an elite option again thanks to the emergence of Justin Jefferson on the other side. Cousins is worth adding as a spot-starter and for insurance in case your top QB has a bye or gets hurt. Also watch for the right matchup to use as a DFS starter for certain weeks.
Phillip Rivers – Weakening arm. Penchant for critical mistakes. Very few weapons other than a strong RB. A good defense. This all points to poor numbers and a conservative offensive approach. His time has passed. Stay away.
Andy Dalton – His injury just makes the temptation easier to resist. No. Dallas is a trainwreck.
James White – You might think that he would be a consistent 10-plus-point-per-game guy in Josh McDaniels’ offense between receiving and rushing. And while he has the potential to catch 5 to 8 passes on a given week with a few carries mixed in, the Patriots’ inefficient offense, the team’s longtime committee approach at running back and the prospect of Cam Newton being the top running option point to leaving White on waiver wire. Same for Rex Burkhead.
Duke Johnson – Coming into the season it was thought that he would have a pretty large role in the Texans’ offense as a change-of-pace back and receiving-down option, but David Johnson has gotten the bulk of the work in most situations. No.
Peyton Barber – His touches are up in recent weeks, but it looks like a three-way split in D.C. with Barber on the low-end of the three-headed RB totem pole behind J.D. McKissick and Antonio Gibson. He’s a no unless Gibson gets hurt, which may make him worth picking up as a flex option. McKissick is running well and getting 10-12 touches a game. If you have room, he’s worth a depth spot on your roster and would be a starting option if Gibson goes down.
Tony Pollard – If he’s available and you have room, given Zeke’s and the team’s struggles, you would think at some point his snaps and touches would have to go up. Why not? He could be a solid starter on many other NFL teams.
Phillip Lindsay – If he wasn’t so injury prone, he’d be worth having on almost any roster. He rushed for 101 yards in Melvin Gordon’s absence Oct. 18 and 79 on just nine carries last week vs. the Chiefs in a blowout loss. Oddly he’s had no receptions in those games, and receiving has been perceived as one of his strengths. Lindsay remains questionable almost every week, but Gordon has never been the picture of health, either, and Lindsay has shown his explosiveness in recent outings. A suspect passing game should give him more opportunities down the stretch, too. Worth picking up as a depth player and possible starter if Gordon gets hurt. Also worth an occasional value flex spot in DFS based on the matchup and Gordon’s status.
Jordan Howard – He’s done. Absolutely not.
Randall Cobb – Since Bill O’Brien was fired, Brandin Cooks has emerged as a solid WR2 option behind Will Fuller. Cobb showed promise earlier in the season, recording 95 yards and a TD vs. the Steelers and averaging between 4 and 6 targets per game. He had 8 catchers for 95 yards on 10 targets in Houston’s most recent game. Will Fuller is being shopped as is Kenny Stills. If either or both of those guys are moved, Cobb’s snaps will go up and so should his targets. Worth adding in a depth role if you have space.
Nelson Agholor – He’s never been the guy, but has shown flashes of having the explosiveness and playmaking ability to be a solid WR2 in the NFL. His lack of consistency and focus – or drops for the less-sensitive readers – have hurt his ability to move into that role on a full-time basis. This season has been a microcosm of his career, but he got a season-high nine targets in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, recording 107 yards and a TD. He has a touchdown in each of the last three games, and his big-play ability provides a nice upside. A solid depth and flex pickup. Also worth considering as a WR3/flex option in DFS when the matchup is right.
A.J. Green – Three weeks ago the assumption was that he was done unless the Bengals could move him to a situation that suited him better. Green was drafted in most leagues as a possible WR2 or flex option as long as he fully recovered from past ailments. He was non-existent and frustrated with his role and usage early in the year, with everything coming to a head Oct. 11 vs. Baltimore. That day he had had no catches on 1 target a week after having 1 reception for 3 yards on 5 targets vs. a weak Jacksonville defense. Since then he has been targeted 24 times and caught 15 balls for nearly 200 yards in two outings. Still no TDs, but the Bengals may be showcasing Green for a possible trade, making him a decent flex play who may become a WR2 if he ends up in the right situation. Keep your eyes on him as a WR3/Flex option in DFS, too.
Julian Edelman – Was worth a roster spot in hopes the Pats figured it out down the stretch before having surgery this week. Stay away.
Sammy Watkins – Has fallen off the face of the earth a bit in Kansas City thanks to nagging injuries and a plethora of talent around him. If one or two of those guys gets hurt, though, Watkins could become a WR2 option and he always has huge upside in case you need a guy on a bye week. Still worth a roster spot.
Emmanuel Sanders – With Michael Thomas banged up or suspended all year, Sanders finally was making progress before heading to the Saints’ COVID list last week. He had 12 receptions for 122 yards on 14 targets Oct. 25 against a decent Chargers defense and 6 receptions on 9 targets for 93 yards the week before vs. Detroit. Not a bad guy to have for the stretch run in case you have bye issues or key injuries.
Anthony Miller – In the right offense this guy could be a DeSean Jackson type of player. He’s not in the right offense in Chicago, but we’re not sure that offense is good for anyone. His usage and numbers are just too inconsistent despite a huge weekly upside. Stay away unless you’re stacked and can afford an upside guy on weeks you have players on byes or out with minor injuries.
T.Y. Hilton – He as a productive No. 1 when healthy last year with QB Jacoby Brissett, who could actually get the ball down the field and use Hilton’s stretch ability. That’s not the case this year. Like Miller, he’d be great in the right system with the right QB. That’s not Indy. Leave him alone.
If you don’t have Travis Kelce, George Kittle or perhaps Mark Andrews, none of the other tight ends really separate themselves consistently. Several others have the ability to put up a big week but also can completely disappear. Your goal should be to find a guy on a weekly basis who can get you 50 to 60 yards and a touchdown. Two TDs would be a huge bonus. There are guys on the waiver wire each week with the potential to do this. Some to consider are:
Jimmy Graham, Tyler Higbee, Logan Thomas, Greg Olsen, Evan Engram
Players who have high upsides and low prices also can be streamed or used in DFS against the right matchups:
Darren Fells, Gerald Everett, Richard Rodgers, Trey Burton
With another solid week, Rodgers and Burton would shift to the other list.