It's been said more than once - including several times by me -
that touchdowns are the lifeblood of fantasy football. Unfortunately
for most, touchdowns are fickle by their very nature and can be
highly unpredictable, even for the most talented of players. NFL
history is littered with players who showed a "nose" for
the end zone one year, only to "lose their way" the following
season. In many ways, touchdowns are football's equivalent to the
home run in baseball. Some players are just naturally more talented/bigger/stronger
than others, while others take full advantage of their supporting
cast. Just like some sluggers are a virtual lock for 40 homers per
season, some players are almost guaranteed to score at least 10
touchdowns if they can stay healthy all year.
For the vast majority of players, it's not that easy though.
Sometimes, even the most dominant players of a generation find
it difficult to pay homage to the latest dance craze or play duck,
duck, goose (or duck, duck, gray duck for Minnesotans), as
was the case Monday night. However, a lack of touchdowns isn't
the only reason players start the season out in a less than ideal
fashion. Identifying which players are that season's "slow
starters" and which ones just aren't going to live up to
their draft value as early as possible is sometimes just as important
as identifying potential values during the draft or on the waiver
The task this week will be to figure out which players fall into
which category. For the sake of time and space, I'm going to limit
the scope of this piece to quarterbacks, running backs and receivers
who finished inside the top 50 at their positions in PPR leagues
in their last (at least mostly) full season. Players must be outside
of the top 20 at their position this season and played at least
four games in order to "qualify." Some of these will
be more open-and-shut cases than others, so forgive me in advance
if I don't go into equal detail about every player.
Just to be clear, the totals you see under each player's name
below is his production from this year versus the production he
accumulated through the same number of games last year (or in
some cases, 2015).
Keep the faith with Roethlisberger? He
probably isn't a QB1 but we can be confident his "spike"
weeks are coming.
Analysis: This was supposed to
be the long-awaited season in which Big Ben finally had all of
his weapons at his disposal, free from injuries (including his
own) and suspensions. Instead, he is forcing the ball to Antonio
Brown more than ever (12.8 targets per game for a 16-game pace
of 205, which would beat Brown's previous career high of 193 in
2015) and the offense appears disjointed. His connection rates
Bryant and Le'Veon
Bell are about the same as they have been, so the biggest
differences from last year through five games are: 1) he has been
sacked nine times this year after taking 17 in 14 games last year,
2) he has played one more road game in 2017 (by now, most of us
are well aware of his dramatic home/road splits) and 3) he hasn't
had the luxury of picking apart what were somewhat challenged
secondaries at the time (like he did to the tune of nine touchdowns
versus no interceptions against the Chiefs and the Jets in Weeks
4-5 last season). In fact, Cleveland is perhaps the only opponent
this season he probably should have dismantled, but that
game was not at Heinz Field and Bell had been with the team less
than two weeks back in Week 1.
Keep the faith? Yes, but there
will be his usual peaks and valleys along the way. My Preseason
Matchup Analysis grid warned of a slow start, but Roethlisberger
should be primed for a moderate rebound with upcoming games against
the Bengals (at home), Colts (road), Titans and Packers (both
at home). Whether or not Big Ben eventually finds a groove with
Bryant, the offense is much too talented to not kick this thing
into high gear in the near future against a favorable schedule.
With the ever-increasing number of quality quarterback options
available and his well-documented injury history though, I wouldn't
want Big Ben as my QB1. But we can be confident his "spike"
weeks are coming.
Analysis: Ryan was a model of efficiency last year. His 9.3 yards/attempt
was the highest mark from any quarterback since Kurt Warner (9.9)
steered the ship for "The Greatest Show on Turf" in
2000. Owners hoping Ryan was going to repeat that level efficiency
were only fooling themselves, especially considering the change
at offensive coordinator from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian.
It should also be noted Ryan began 2016 with games against the
Buccaneers, Raiders, Saints and Panthers - all of which had significant
questions in the secondary to start that season. After averaging
31.4 fantasy points (six points per passing touchdown) over that
stretch, Ryan's per-game mark dipped to a much more reasonable
23.5 over the remainder of the fantasy season. Instead, he is
currently performing at about the same level and pace he managed
Keep the faith? If you are hoping for last year's production
again, then no. If you are expecting slightly better than pre-2016
Ryan, then yes. In all honesty, anything compared to last year
would be a slow start for Ryan. With that said, business should
start picking up for him in short order, as Miami, New England
and the New York Jets don't exactly constitute a murderers' row
of pass defenses at the moment. The urgency to include Julio Jones
more heavily into the game plan - particularly in the red zone
- is going to have to pick up some point (more on that later),
even if recent history tells us expecting Jones to become a regular
visitor to the end zone might be a bad bet.
Analysis:Devonta Freeman's huge contract extension right at
the end of the preseason should have been a pretty clear signal
Coleman probably wasn't going to see his role increase from last
season. Coleman scored four touchdowns in his first four games
last year, including three inside the 10, in a bit of a fluky
manner. Freeman finished 2016 with 50 red zone carries, including
27 inside the 10 and 17 inside the 5. Coleman went 21, 11 and
three, respectively. Once the short touchdowns dried up in 2016,
Coleman made up for it almost immediately by consistently hitting
big plays and finding pay dirt on a handful of those. While he
is proving against this year he can make those explosive plays
on a regular basis, it's hard for any player - no matter how talented
- to consistently thrive with a reduced workload (at least when
compared to Freeman's) via the big play. With that said, he's
doing more with less so far this year (6.3 YPC this year, 4.4
in 2016), and the only real difference statistically is the three-touchdown
Keep the faith? Yes. Coleman hasn't exactly been a disappointment,
especially for a runner who is only slightly more involved than
most backup running backs. Trying to predict when Coleman is going
to take at least one of his two big plays per game - usually one
carry and one reception - to the house probably isn't worth the
trouble, but he has been consistent enough in his limited role
that he will continue to be a high-upside flex play - and probably
even a low-end RB2 in deeper leagues - most weeks. Coleman is
far from a disappointment and is actually enjoying his finest
year as a pro; the only thing that's missing are touchdowns at
Analysis: I'm hesitant to even include Blount here, as no one
in their right mind was expecting Blount to repeat his 18-touchdown
season with the Patriots. I'm choosing to include him here to
provide readers with a five-game comparison as much as anything.
In all honesty, he has been much better than I expected (and certainly
given how bad he looked in the preseason). After averaging 3.9
YPC with New England last year, Blount boasts a 5.8 YPC as an
Eagle thus far.
Keep the faith? Yes. Blount is performing about as well as any
rational owner selecting him in the double-digit rounds could
have expected. Wendell Smallwood looms as a threat to his workload,
but he's hurt at the moment and Blount isn't really doing anything
to lose his role in the offense. While I doubt he maintains his
efficiency all season long, it's reasonable to believe the 12-14
carry range he seems to have established so far will continue
for the foreseeable future.
Analysis: The Titans' running game
as a whole has been a disappointment the season, so I decided pair
Murray and Henry together. I rarely cite the work of other analysts
for a multitude of reasons, but I donít consider ESPN's KC Joyner
(a.k.a. The Football Scientist) to be a fantasy analyst per se.
I respect his work and particularly value his good blocking rate
(GBR) metric. According
to Joyner, the Titans rank second in his GBR, which measures
how often an offense gives its ball carriers quality run blocking.
While Murray's efficiency (5.83 YPC over the last three games) has
been on the rise over the last three weeks since he was obviously
limited by a preseason hamstring injury, Henry's (3.84) has not.
This is not to say I question Joyner's grading, but outside of Henry's
17-yard TD run versus Jacksonville in Week 2 and Murray's 75-yard
scamper on an off-tackle play against Seattle in Week 3, I'm struggling
to remember many times in which I have seen good blocking from the
Titans this season, especially on runs between the tackles. Tennessee's
commitment to the running game isn't as strong as it was last year
and, as proof of that, look no further than the decreased number
of rush attempts for Murray and Henry combined. Worse yet, opponents
have attempted 149 rushes versus the Titans' 131, something that
would have been unheard of last season.
Keep the faith? A very weak yes. There's no question this has
been an odd start to the season for the Titans, who began with
Murray hobbled for two weeks before completely falling apart against
Houston in Week 4 and playing without Marcus Mariota in Week 5.
I'm still a believer in the Tennessee running game, specifically
Murray. The Titans' coaching staff appears to be seeing the same
thing, as Henry has played a total of 29 snaps over the last two
contests. Having said that, I traded Murray for Michael Crabtree
a couple of weeks ago in one of the two leagues I drafted him
because the offensive line just isn't doing anything to make me
believe. It would be one thing if Murray and Henry were dancing
in the backfield and wasting good blocking, but the Titans' offensive
line seems to be losing at the point of attack much more often
than I remember last year. Mariota is easily on pace to set a
career high in rushing attempts, which I believe is as much an
effort to utilize his athleticism more often as it is a realization
the traditional running game just isn't working like HC Mike Mularkey
wants it to right now. In short, I'm hopeful the Titans get things
going in the running game - they should against the Colts this
week - but I'm not overly optimistic at this point.
Analysis: Outside of slightly fewer rushing attempts that were
going to Adrian Peterson and slightly more targets, Ingram is
basically only missing a pair of touchdowns from last year's numbers.
In a bit of irony, Alvin Kamara has the one rushing and one receiving
touchdown in this backfield through four games.
Keep the faith? Yes. Technically, it's hard to say Ingram is
off to a slow start when so many of his numbers are similar to
last year, but his outlook got much rosier with Tuesday's trade
of Peterson to Arizona. But let's be realistic, as Peterson was
only averaging 6.75 carries and 0.5 receptions per game, so it's
not as if Ingram will go from 10.5 carries per game to 16-18.
However, Ingram was a 1,000-yard rusher last year averaging 12.8
carries, so it's not as if he needed much of a bump in workload
anyway. Referring again to my Preseason Matchup Analysis grid,
matchups should not be much of a problem going forward, even if
Buffalo (Week 10) and Washington (Week 11) continue to play the
run at the level they have to this point.
Analysis: I can pretty much repeat everything I just said in
the first part of Ingram's summary. In fact, if Stewart had cashed
in one or two of his four rushing attempts inside the 5 so far,
he probably doesn't get a mention in this article. In fact, the
only reason his numbers through five games last year look as good
as they do is because he posted consecutive two-touchdown games
in Weeks 3 and 4. He has rarely been much of a contributor in
the passing game, so the fact he is on pace for almost 20 receptions
is a bit of a bonus.
Keep the faith? Yes. Carolina's entire running game is struggling,
as Stewart (3.3 YPC), Christian McCaffrey (2.8) and Cam Newton
(3.1) are all averaging well below four yards per carry - generally
considered the acceptable standard in the NFL. The workload has
remained consistent, however, and that is a promising sign as
the passing game appears to be thriving. For his career, Stewart
averages a touchdown for every 35 rushing attempts, so he is "due"
for at least two scores at this point. As a team, the Panthers
have two rushing touchdowns through five games after running for
at least 14 in each of Newton's "healthy" years, so
there's even more reason to be optimistic about Stewart becoming
a serviceable flex option in the near future. I wouldn't expect
Stewart's breakout game to come against Philadelphia this week,
but history suggests his time is coming.
Analysis: The Beast Mode revival tour has been a bit of a disappointment
to this point. Lynch had a strong opener and scored twice in the
last four weeks to salvage RB2 value in most leagues, but with
no more than 12 carries in any of his last four games, Lynch's
owners are pressing their luck by continuing to start him. In
his defense, Oakland's offensive line (4.08) is right about at
the league average (4.04) in adjusted line yards per Football
Outsiders after sporting a solid 4.39 average in 2016. As such,
Lynch's 3.4 YPC isn't as bad as it looks, at least until you compare
it to Jalen Richard's 5.3. Then again, the Raiders made it pretty
clear during the summer they intended to use Lynch in the same
way they did Latavius Murray last year (at least early this season
while Lynch was getting back to football), even if they didn't
come right out and say it.
Keep the faith? No. Although not to the degree of the Titans
above, Oakland has had its own odd start to the season. The first
two games weren't overly competitive, while two of the Raiders'
last three opponents have stuffed the run this season better than
most could have expected. Of course, QB Derek Carr exited early
in Week 4 and did not play last week, throwing further doubt into
what kind of team the Raiders really are. With that said, I don't
see Lynch rediscovering his inner "beast mode" much
more this season. This week's opponent - the Los Angeles Chargers
- may give his owners a chance to sell higher than they could
have a couple weeks ago, but upcoming games against Kansas City,
Buffalo and Miami do not bode well for his chances to hold that
potential increased value very long.
Analysis: Per Football Outsiders, Miami ranked 31st in "stuffed"
percentage (runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) and
third in second-level yards (yards earned between five and 10
yards past the line of scrimmage, divided by total running back
carries) in 2016, suggesting Ajayi was doing a lot to make his
line look better than it was. This year, the Dolphins ranked 30th
in "stuffed" percentage and eighth in second-level yards.
It's a fancy way of saying there was a reason for Ajayi's inconsistency
last year and it is playing out in a bigger way this year, in
large part because Jay Cutler is doing next to nothing to make
defenses fear the passing game. Since rushing for 122 yards and
averaging 4.4 YPC in the opener, Ajayi has mustered a total of
139 yards on 2.9 YPC over the last three games.
Keep the faith? No, with a caveat. It's important to remember
Ajayi's early numbers last year came before his rise to the top
of the depth chart, so it is more than a bit troubling his fantasy
production is roughly the same now as it was in 2016 despite 45
more carries. Remember HC Adam Gase's assertion Ajayi would play
all three downs? That got scrapped after logging 64 snaps in the
opener, as the former fifth-round pick hasn't played more than
46 since. Ajayi is in the weird place in fantasy in that his owners
have really no reason to fear him losing his job anytime soon,
yet they also have very little reason to believe he's going to
turn his season around given his surroundings. Volume is on Ajayi's
side, however, so it is quite possible he'll be the highly unpredictable
fantasy property he was last year - minus the three 200-yard games.
Gase has proven to be a smart coach time and again - first as
a play-caller and last year as the man in charge - so he's on
the short list of coaches I believe can fix this offense, even
if it means benching Cutler for Matt Moore or something even more
Analysis: HC Hue Jackson recently told The Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"Anything that's going on with Isaiah, I take responsibility
for. Until we get this guy in a rhythm of running, it's unfair
for anybody to question what he's doing. We have not been in a
situation where we can hand this guy the ball the way I think
you have to hand a back the ball. All of those questions can be
directed at me. Until we're able to do that can I tell you exactly
what it is. I believe in Isaiah Crowell. No question. I have to
get this guy the ball handed to him." No Brown interior lineman
is grading any higher than 72.1 as a run-blocker, per Pro Football
Focus. That's a problem for what should be a highly competent
front five that added Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter. But it goes
beyond that. Whereas the metrics above suggest Ajayi does not
deserve much of the blame in Miami, Football Outsiders has Cleveland
ranked third in "stuffed" percentage and 26th in second-level
yards, meaning Crowell & Co. aren't taking advantage of the
opportunities they are getting to create big runs.
Keep the faith? Regrettably no. Metrics only tell part of the
story. Most backs, especially ones as talented as Crowell, breaks
off a big run every so often to boost what is usually an otherwise
pedestrian average. How often they do so typically determines
whether they have a successful season or not. Crowell was breaking
off big runs in 2016 - in fact, over 20 percent of his rushing
yards last year came on three of his 198 attempts - but they hasn't
been a hint of those this year, so owners are naturally disappointed.
The Browns are also making it nearly impossible for the 24-year-old
to overcome his slow start with the extreme volume Jackson seems
to want to give to his back, as Cleveland has held a lead for
a total of 5:06 this season. Until that changes, Crowell probably
isn't going to be of much use in fantasy.
Analysis: If it seems like we've seen this movie before, it's because
we saw a similar version last year. The major difference: Jones
posted a 12-300-1 line against Carolina in Week 4 last season, essentially
making this year's production pale in comparison to last year's.
Prior to that explosion, Jones was ranked 38th among receiver in
overall PPR scoring, which is exactly where he finds himself now.
As many owners are probably aware, Jones finished the season eighth
at his position. While he sprinkled in his fair share of duds along
the way after the Panthers' game, he was mostly a joy to own the
rest of the way (don't remind his owners last year about missing
the first rounds of the fantasy playoffs though). Given his all-world
talent, many considered last year's final line (83-1,409-6) to be
a disappointment. His current 16-game pace this season? 76-1,180-0.
Keep the faith? Yes. Remember, Jones reached last year's numbers
in 14 games. In my opinion, owners can choose to believe one of
a few things when it comes to Jones: 1) he is allergic to the
end zone, 2) the Falcons only use him when they absolutely need
to or 3) Atlanta is going to realize at some point offense is
just easier when the ball is thrown in Jones' direction. A safety
over the top or a double team does not dissuade Roethlisberger
from throwing to Antonio Brown in any situation, and it's not
like the Falcons have other options like Martavis Bryant or Le'Veon Bell to lean on (even though Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and
Mohamed Sanu are no slouches). Jones' schedule doesn't get any
harder - it might actually get easier - the rest of the way, so
he seems as obvious as a bounce-back candidate as any player on
this list, if only because his track record suggests he will.
Analysis: The arrival of Christian McCaffrey and loss of Greg Olsen was supposed to free up Benjamin to do his thing, especially
in the red zone. Apparently, things don't always work out as planned.
Although Benjamin missed most of Week 3 due to injury, it doesn't
quite explain how a slim-and-trim behemoth like he is has seen
13 fewer targets than he did at this point last season, when he
admittedly struggled in his first year back from ACL surgery.
With that said, the only thing really missing from KB's actual
counting numbers from last year to this year are the touchdowns,
as he could have easily accumulated the four receptions and 36
yards he needs to tie 2016's production in the roughly three quarters
of action he missed two weeks ago. As much as we want to believe
sometimes that every team starts the season out on equal footing
based on how much rest their players during the exhibition season,
such is rarely the case. The Panthers stretched out Cam Newton's
recovery time from offseason shoulder surgery about as much as
they could and probably paid for it in their loss to the Saints.
With that said, the first three games are beginning to look more
and more like Newton's preseason. Devin Funchess is also in the
midst of the best two-game stretch of his career and seeing a
ton of targets (converting on 14 of the 17 throws in his direction
over that time), which is another factor owners didnít have
to account for last year.
Keep the faith? Yes. While some may be worried Funchess is starting
to move past KB, I choose to believe Cam has grown enough as a
passer to recognize which receiver has the better matchup on a
given play. It goes without saying New England and Detroit probably
were not expecting Funchess to beat them, or else we would have
seen him face Stephon Gilmore and Darius Slay a lot more often.
If Newton's play the last two weeks is indicative of what he will
do the rest of the season, there will be enough to go around for
every notable Panther pass-catcher. As opponents start to show
more respect to Funchess, it's reasonable to believe it will Benjamin's
time to shine. It's not as if KB isn't doing well in his own right,
catching eight of the 10 passes thrown his way over the last two
weeks while averaging 20 yards per reception. The Patriots and
Lions were supposed to be to a Benjamin's toughest matchups and
he aced them, so sit back and enjoy what should be a fun ride
the rest of the way with him.
Analysis: I ranked Cooper lower than most (based on some preseason
comments for my adoring fans) in my Big Boards, although there
is no way I saw what has transpired over the last four games coming.
(Let's be honest, no one did.) His stat lines over the last three
games would be a disappointment for Seth Roberts or Cordarrelle Patterson: 1-6-0, 2-9-0 and 1-8-0. Perhaps we should have seen
it coming in Week 1 when he failed to convert on three straight
red zone plays near the end of the first quarter, almost as if
the team wanted him to prove it was his time to take over Michael Crabtree's place as the go-to guy near the end zone. Drops have
obviously been a problem. While different sites use different
criteria for drops, I've seen him charged with as many as six.
That's a confidence issue.
Keep the faith? Yes. I suppose it's easy to keep the faith on
a player who isn't on any of my rosters, but let's keep in mind
that Cooper is only one of four receivers in NFL history to amass
at least 150 receptions and 2,200 receiving yards over his first
two seasons. We've seen what he can do. One can easily tell from
his last year's five-game split Cooper didn't excel with efficiency
at the start of last year either, but he came around to catch
62.6 percent of the passes thrown his way over the final 11 games.
So owners must ask themselves: Can he look in the mirror and remind
himself how good he is? Sometimes, it is that easy. Non-Cooper
owners have to decide for themselves if they want to believe Cooper
is in a bit of psychological or if his insanely poor production
is the "new normal." It's an easy call in my mind. Convincing
the current Cooper owner in your league to part with his second-round
pick - in many cases - for a fringe starting running back and/or
receiver may be the harder part.
Analysis: Thomas did a great job of maximizing his opportunities
early last season, catching an otherworldly 77.8 percent of his
targets. If he carried that rate from last season over into this
year and kept this season's YPC, he is probably another player
who would not appear on this list. It doesn't help matters Emmanuel Sanders has six red zone targets to Thomas' two either. (Last
year, both receivers finished with 18.) These things, especially
with two such talented receivers, tend to level out over time.
The real concern: even taking into account the fickle nature of
scoring touchdowns, owners have a right to be concerned about
his fantasy ceiling. Going back to last season, Thomas hasn't
scored a touchdown in 10 straight games. Then again, considering
how ridiculously open some of Denver's other receivers had been
on Trevor Siemian's scoring passes this year, it really shouldn't
be that much of a surprise Thomas has yet to catch one. In addition
to his decrease in the efficiency, Thomas is 13.7 YPC so far in
2017 (last year's five-game split was 15.8).
Keep the faith? Yes. Thomas fell from the ranks of the elite
- especially in the red zone - just about as soon as Peyton Manning's
right arm became a shell of itself. (Is that even possible, literally
or figuratively?) However, what Thomas lacks in efficiency these
days, he tends to make up through volume, so even though his play
has declined, his 120-plus targets figure to give him about an
80-catch floor. For what it's worth, Sanders is averaging 9.5
YPC but scored twice against Dallas in Week 2, so is he really
having the better season? The point to be made here is that Denver's
passing game has really only clicked once this season. Thomas
probably will never come close to reaching the heights he once
did with Manning at his quarterback, but if you drafted in him
in the fourth-round area (where I had him ranked in the preseason),
you probably weren't expecting him to be anything more than a
high-floor WR2 anyway. He should be able to achieve that.
Analysis: Expecting Bryant to blow the doors off of the fantasy
world like he did at about the midpoint of the 2015 season was
a lot to ask, even with all the offseason hype about his new-and-improved
physique. What wasn't supposed to happen was JuJu Smith-Schuster
seeing more snaps and running more routes than Bryant for three
straight weeks this early into the season. The Clemson product
has been an enigma to say the least so far, exceeding expectations
in the most difficult on-paper matchup he had while falling short
of 50 receiving yards in his other four games. In two of those
four contests, he saw eight targets, so it's not as if he is in
the doghouse. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Bryant ranks fourth in the
league in average target air yards (how far down the field they
are being targeted on average) at 27.35, so it's not as if he's
blowing easy opportunities.
Keep the faith? Yes, but let's just say I have my concerns. Players
who miss a full season of football - especially those who sit
out due to non-injury reasons like suspensions - rarely seem to
hit the ground running, especially from a fantasy perspective.
Whereas we can bet on the talent with a player like Amari Cooper,
Oakland doesn't have any other options it loves like Pittsburgh
seems to love Smith-Schuster. On the plus side, the rookie isn't
exactly dominating the box score each week and has yet to see
more than six targets in a game, so perhaps the Steelers see him
as a well-rested, short-area complement to Bryant and probably
as a better short-to-intermediate route-runner. The simplest explanation
for the poor start I can come up with is that Big Ben and Bryant
simply aren't hitting on the deep ball yet, which is always the
risk owners run when investing a high draft pick into vertical
receivers. Roethlisberger may not be among the best quarterbacks
in the league anymore, but I'm willing to bet his connection with
Bryant picks up as the season progresses.
Analysis: It's important to note some of Pryor's early production
from his brief stint as a quarterback with the Browns. I struggled
ranking Pryor during the preseason for two key reasons: 1) was
he simply a top fantasy receiver in Cleveland last year because
of extreme volume or 2) would HC Jay Gruden make me eat my words
for questioning his competency as a play-caller? The early returns
are in and the answers appear to "yes" and "no."
Pryor hasn't helped his cause with a few drops, but I feel confident
in saying most teams' supposed top receivers would suffer concentration
lapses from time to time if they were seeing no more than five
targets in their last three games. Pryor was always going to be
a poor bet to match last year's production with the Browns simply
because there are more mouths to feed in Washington, but the Redskins
have somehow managed to take the ball away front the right arm
of their $25-million quarterback an average of 7.7 times per game
more than they did last season in an effort to put the ball in
the hands of Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine. I understand why any
coach a more balanced offense, but Gruden seems to be forcing
The bigger mystery to me has been the disappearance of Crowder,
who was the source of plenty of lavish praise from his head coach
over the summer. Somehow, despite moving up the depth chart with
fewer proven receivers to keep happy and Jordan Reed battling
injuries, Crowder has been utilized less so far. In 2016, Crowder
led all Redskins with 16 red zone targets and seven receiving
touchdowns. This season, he has two catches on four red zone targets
for minus-four yards.
Keep the faith? Let's just say I'm more optimistic about Crowder
that I am Pryor. As luck would have it, Gruden seemed to admit
his oversight regarding Crowder's lack of involvement through
the first quarter of the season on Tuesday, telling the Washington
Post: "I think youíll see more of Jamison Crowder,
hopefully. He is one of our best skill players. We have got to
get him more involved in the offense. That is partly my fault,
to get more balls targeted for him. Whether itís quick game,
whether itís getting the ball out in space somehow, bubble
screen, whatever it might be. I have got to get the ball to him
in space more often and get him the flow early." While he
is on pace to have his worst season as a pro, Crowder is at least
converting the relatively few opportunities he's getting. Pryor
is not. Unlike a number of the other players above, the responsibility
for both players realizing their potential (fantasy and reality)
lies with the play-caller (Gruden), who has to be willing to occasionally
shed his desire to run a balanced offense in order to make sure
he's engaging all the pass-catching talent he has at his disposal.
None of Washington's receivers are on pace for 100 targets just
one season after former OC Sean McVay found a way to get each
of his top three receivers at least 99. At the moment, Chris Thompson
is leading the team by a wide margin in receiving. While that
might be acceptable in a place like Buffalo, Washington is far
too talented at wideout to have a part-time running back pacing
the team in receiving yards.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.