The Most Reliable Wide Receivers in Fantasy Football

September 5, 2015

At this point I do not think I have to prove to you who you should be building your team around.  My Most Reliable Quarterback list detailed how your QB could have 6 or 7 defenders coming for him on any given play; and while touching the ball on every offensive play can be a gift, it can also be a curse.  I also established that the running back position is the absolute worst position to put your faith in as they are the only position that will have 11 defenders running for them on nearly every touch of the ball.  The running backs have proven to have the shortest shelf life, and the worst part is they sometimes fall off that cliff right in the midst of your season.

So that brings us to the receiver position.  The Wide Receiver has the value of a Quarterback in the sense that a true number 1 or 2 receiver will rarely miss an offensive snap.  Receivers enjoy the fact that most of their touches occur downfield and they are generally exposed to fewer defenders than any other skilled position.  Furthermore, the hits that receivers take; although vicious at times, are usually from smaller defenders such as corner backs and safeties.  From and injury and reliability standpoint it is a no brainer that your team should be built around a number one receiver.

There are simply too many receivers for me to give you all of them in one post but you can click here to look at the full SEP rating list.  My goal is to help you figure out which of the number ones you should be considering for your first and maybe even second pick.  Most of the fantasy experts agree on picking a wide receiver first, especially in PPR leagues; but do you really want to spend a first round pick on a player who you can not rely on?

Just like most of these positions, you will see a reliability premium on youth.  In fact I will tell you now that Amari Cooper comes in as the most reliable receiver in the league with a top rating of 107.  At the other end of the spectrum is an oldie but a goodie with the veteran Reggie Wayne rated as the least reliable wide receiver with a rating of 70.  The valuable information is in the middle.  Despite that fact, I am sure that not many of us will make Amari Cooper or Nelson Agholor as our first pick.  So instead of going through the entire list, I looked at number one targets who are projected to be owned heavily in fantasy football.

It is my advice to weigh these reliability ratings with production projections to make your picks.  Keep in mind that most projections account for a player who is playing every game in his normal capacity.  If you were to use those types of numbers exclusively, it would truly be a fantasy scenario as we know that the only thing that is guaranteed in the NFL is injuries.  So while someone may project 12 touchdowns for your receiver, it will mean nothing if that receiver misses 3 games or plays the last half of the season with a nagging hamstring injury.  Here are a few Wide Receivers and Tight Ends that most of us should be interested in.

I used weight, speed, experience, football IQ, injury history, position norms, and other factors to create a rating system that predicts which fantasy football players are the most reliable.  I call this my SEP Rating as it primarily consist of SCIENCE, EVIDENCE, and PERFORMANCE. I put just a pinch of subjective into these ratings as I believe there are simply some things that you have to assess with your eyes and not through data.  

NUMBER ONE OPTIONS WITH SEP RATINGS OF 90 AND ABOVE

Mike Evans: SEP Rating – 101

I consider Mike Evans the number one in Tampa Bay although Vincent Jackson may have something to say about that.  Ironically Evans is now nursing a hamstring injury.   Many owners will be concerned about this as these hamstring injuries are notorious for lingering.  I tend to worry less about a player this young having nagging injuries as technically a nagging injury is simply an injury that will not heal.  Generally speaking, healing is not something you have to worry about at this age as it tends to happen fast and furiously.  Evans is one of the biggest wideouts on this list coming in at 231 lbs and you can count on him to not likely go down from a big hit, as he is generally the larger man in most of his collisions.  Mike Evans will serve as an excellent fantasy option to build a team around for years to come, especially if Jameis Winston is as good as advertised.

Brandon Cooks: SEP Rating – 101

Although Brandon Cooks is almost the opposite of Mike Evans, he comes in just fractions below him for reliability.  Cooks injury last year is more of an anomaly than anything.  He suffered a broken thumb about mid way through but I do not feel that this is a direct reflect on his durability.  Brandon Cooks does concern me with his weight which is 189 lbs, but his 4.33 speed and shifty agility makes him elusive enough to avoid many big hits.  He is actually the only number one option under 190 lbs anywhere near the top half of this list.  I had Brandon Cooks last year on my fantasy team and may have been a year too early.  I think he has a chance to be a PPR beast this year similar to Antonio Brown, and with a reliability rating this high he may just be the better option.  The only flag I would put on Cook’s is to take him on a year to year basis.  Getting him in a dynasty league may not be the best idea as while I think he will be fine for this year, that small frame will wear down has his career progresses.

DeAndre Hopkins: SEP Rating – 101

Hopkins comes in last for our three-way tie at 101.  With Andre Johnson gone, it is very clear that DeAndre Hopkins is the man in Houston.  Hopkins is not too big and not too fast, which is how I like my players.  Sometimes I fear the Freaky Talented athletes who are too big or too fast as their bodies simply can not sustain that level of talent.  Hopkins has no significant injury history to speak of and he is playing in a division in which the only real defense wears the same uniform that he does.  Now I am no draft strategist but while some people will be ecstatic to get the first or second pick in their draft and pull a Julio Jones or ODB, I would feel just fine picking late and getting any 2 out these 3 receivers that top this list to build my team around.

Jordan Matthews: SEP Rating – 100

I think the secret is out that Matthews is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of the offense who will likely run the most plays in the NFL this season.  The better news is that I expect him to be around for just about all of them.  Jordan Matthews looks like a big receiver on the field but at 212 is really not that big.  The trick is that he is always in the slot and these days the slot defenders all seem to be the little quick guys.  I guess it goes with Chip Kelly’s theory that big guys beat up little guys.  I expect Matthews to dominate the slot this year and to not take many big hits.  Despite his position, many of his routes are going toward the sideline and many of his hits are from that little slot defender that is covering him.  When you add in the Sports Science system that he is in with the Eagles, Jordan Matthews earns his spot as one of the most reliable wide receivers in the league.

Odell Beckham Jr.: SEP Rating – 99

This is the one that many of you have waited for as the most electrifying receiver since Randy Moss is at the top of many draft boards.  In my opinion this rating supports taking Odell Beckham Jr. very high.  Most of us are aware of the ongoing hamstring issue that Beckham has endured, but I think it may just come with the territory for him.  While he did not run a historically fast 40 yard dash at 4.43 seconds, on the field the Freaky Talent that he possesses is clear.  My guess is that he is more 4.3 on the field and that is a difficult job for those hamstrings to endure.  I think Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants training staff will get this hamstring thing figured out and that his reliability level may start to work its way up to his talent level in the near future.

Keenan Allen: SEP Rating – 97

Keenan Allen is somewhat of a sleeper on this list but that may be a good thing for you.  The item that pops out for Allen to me, is that despite being a modest size of 211 lbs, he only ran a 4.71 40 yard dash.  In essence, Allen is a possession receiver who relies mostly on skill.  He falls in my Supremely Skilled group and you will find that these are generally the most reliable players you will find.  Allen has a few missed games over the past few years and had a collarbone injury last year.  His modest measurable’s and tendency to not hang around the middle of the field should keep on the field as the Chargers number one option.

T.Y. Hilton: SEP Rating – 96

When it comes to T.Y. Hilton I say get him while he is hot.  Although he ranks fairly high on this list right now, I would not be picking him up in dynasty leagues as a long-term option.  Hilton weighs in at 178 lbs and is tied with DeSean Jackson for the lightest receiver in the league.  When I noticed this, I realized that Hilton and Jackson are almost like twins aside from the 3 year age advantage that Hilton has.  Same weight, same 40 time, Similar stats.  Remember that these reliability ratings are a year to year assessment and with a small frame like both Hilton and Jackson have, the hits may add up and lead to a few missed games.  But for now T.Y. Hilton has no real injuries to speak of although he is on concussion protocol now, and you should be able to get his upside as a center piece number 2 receiver on your team.

Dez Bryant: SEP Rating – 93

Dez Bryant has proved to be a gamer over the years as despite a few injuries over the years, he is always in uniform on game day.  Dez is moving into veteran territory as he hits 27 years old this season.  Although Dez may start showing the effects of a hamstring strain or ankle injury here or there as he ages, he is still a good option as your number one receiver.  Furthermore the Cowboys seem committed to running the ball which should preserve  Dez Bryant to simply make big plays and avoid the excessive hits that wide receivers that do not have a reliable running game are sometimes forced to take.

Antonio Brown: SEP Rating – 92

Antonio Brown falls a little lower on this list for good reason. Browns 133 touches last year was more than 20 touches greater than any wide receiver in the league.  Brown does get down the field a lot but he also takes a lot of short stuff in which he may encounter ends and linebackers that pack a bigger hit than the corners and safeties down field.  In PPR leagues, he is untouchable and this rating should not affect his value.  However in standard leagues I would be mindful that a 186 lb receiver with that many touches who does not really dominate in the end zone may be more risk than reward as an absolute number one pick.  With that said, Brown is only averaging 1 missed game per year and currently has no injuries to mention.  If you really want to get ahead of the game you may want to look at Antonio Brown Jr a.k.a. Brandon Cooks as he offers many of the same positives in a younger more reliable package.

A.J. Green: SEP Rating – 92

A.J. Green surprised me a bit to be on the top half of this list as it seemed like he was out for a while last year with that turf toe injury but in actuality Green has only missed 3 games over the past 3 years.  I have my reservations on A.J. Green for other reasons, but from a reliability standpoint he is showing to be a bit more reliable than a few receivers that are his age and younger.  The benefit that comes with Green is that he is generally going to stay on the outside rather than running those over the middle routes which allows his 207 lb frame to take very few big hits.

Demaryius Thomas: SEP Rating – 91

Demaryius Thomas seems to still be a quiet but dominate receiver despite his Freaky Talented size and speed.  At 229 lbs and running a sub 4.4 40 yard dash, the only human that can even compare to Thomas is Calvin Johnson.  Being that Johnson rates as 6 points less reliable, I think picking between the two should be easy.  Thomas could probably even be a little higher on this list if he did not have the second most touches for receivers last year.  I expect his touches to go down with Kubiak as his head coach but his production may still be elite.  With no games missed since 2011, Demaryius Thomas is a safe number one to build any fantasy team around.

 

NUMBER ONE OPTION BELOW SEP RATING OF 90

Randall Cobb: SEP Rating – 88

Aaron Rodgers new number one is already off to a shaky start with an AC sprain.  He should recover and be ready to play but if they try to change his role to compensate for Jordy Nelson, I do not think he will last long.  Cobb is already at higher risk as a slot who very often takes short passes and the many hits that go with them.  Cobb has missed 11 games over the past 3 years as a clear 2nd option, and without someone stepping up to take the attention from him, there may be more big hits coming his way.

Julio Jones: SEP Rating – 87

This one will burst a lot of people’s bubble as I am hearing about Julio Jones in the first round almost everywhere.  It’s hard to disagree with, considering the talent level.  My problem is that Julio Jones is Freaky Talented and with an average of 4 games missed per year over the past 3 years, his body is showing me that it can not tolerate the talent that he is pushing out.  Jones is not as big as Megatron or D. Thomas at 220 lbs but like them him he is sub 4.4 40 yard dash.  Despite missing one game last year, Julio still managed to have the 4th most touches for receivers.  Based on what I am hearing about the new offense that Kyle Shanahan will bring, Julio will likely get even more touches.  At 26 years old you would think that Julio is in his prime and could withstand the volume, but these numbers do not lie, and as his volume goes up so will his risk for injury.  All I can say is be careful.  Jones most definitely has the talent, the offense, and the quarterback to support building your team around him, but if he misses his usual 4 games how will you fill that Julio size gap on your roster?

Jimmy Graham: SEP Rating – 86

You may not have known it until now, but I did include tight ends with the receivers as truthfully they are not worth making a separate algorithm for.  Jimmy Graham is not the highest rated tight end, but he is the first big time tight end on this list.  The tight ends ranged from an SEP rating of 97 down to 73, so Graham rates fairly decent for TE reliability.  Overall the position does not match favorably with the wide receivers as most are going to the middle of the field and being hit by linebackers and safeties who have running starts.  Graham could almost pass for a wide receiver during his time with the Saints, but make no mistake he is not one.  Jimmy Graham is older than most think at 28 years old and he could be the poster child for Freaky Talented tight ends as he ran 4.56 40 yard dash at 265 lbs.  I think picking him or Gronk as your first tight end is the obvious plan if you can execute it, but don’t lose your mind and center your team around either.  At the end of the day they don’t produce as much as number one wide receivers and are at a higher risk to miss games based on the nature of the position.

Calvin Johnson: SEP Rating – 85

Word on the street is that Calvin Johnson may have some lower extremity issues that simply will not go away.  I have always considered Johnson King of the Freaky Talented group and while that title comes with some lofty stats in the prime of his career, it also comes with a steep drop off as the talent over rides the body.  I am afraid that Megatron has already seen his mountain top and is on his way down.  I am not saying that he won’t get you a lot of fantasy points on the way down from that mountain, but you may want to temper how high you pick him at this stage of his career.  Johnson has only missed 5 games in the past 3 years but he has played in a few games in which he was simply a less than 100%  decoy.  At 29 years old, Calvin Johnson is not exactly MJ on the Washington Wizards, but I think late in the year is when we start to see him transform into a different type of player.

Jordy Nelson: SEP Rating – 85

Not much to say as Jordy Nelson’s season is already over.  I am sure he will return next year and play at a semi high level, but I think many of us should wave good-bye forever to the 2014 Jordy Nelson as we will not see that guy again.

Rob Gronkowski: SEP Rating – 83

Rob Gronkowski is likely to be most people number one wish at tight end but with 15 games missed over the past 3 years, he is another player that I would be careful where I draft.  Gronk is definitely a physical beast and although not as Freaky Talented as his only true competition from a talent standpoint–Jimmy Graham, he is a Freak in his own right.  As long as you take Gronk or Graham at the right spot, there are no worries.  The take home message is that these tight ends who seem to put up receiver numbers are not as reliable as real wide receivers and should not be regarded as true center pieces.

Greg Olsen: SEP Rating – 83

The targets that are coming Greg Olsen’s way with the subtraction of Kelvin Benjamin is going to push him up a bunch of draft boards.  Olsen shows a great track record of playing through injuries with no games missed  over the past 3 years, but playing through hurt and injuries gets more and more difficult as you get older.  At 30 years old, Olsen’s body may be ready to rest some of those injuries and not play through them.  When you add in Cam Newton who seems to think all of his receivers are seven-foot tall as he throws everything high, we may be in for a banged up Olsen.  With more targets comes more risk.  Now we all want the targets, but look for Olsen to tap out at some point in the season if it turns into the Cam and Greg show every week.

Brandon Marshall: SEP Rating – 83

Brandon Marshall is probably on the tail end of being a number one receiver at 31 years old.  He has shown some toughness over the past few years as he has played through injuries.  Marshall has only missed an average of one game per year over the past few years.  The problem is that a player who is playing through an injury, gives fantasy owners too much of a headache.  If I remember correctly Marshall burnt a few of us last year when he hobbled through a game to score multiple touchdowns, but then followed that performance with goose eggs.  A hurt or injured player is bad for business in fantasy football and unfortunately this is what I expect Marshall to be on a team where he is by far the most proven go to weapon.

Jeremy Maclin: SEP Rating – 82

I would always hold my breath when Maclin got hit while he was with the Eagles as he always seemed to get up hurt.  Many of those times he ended up fine but he was notorious for the Allen Iverson face, always wincing in pain.  Aside from missing a year with an ACL, Jeremy Maclin has been pretty consistent suiting up week to week.  As hard as Maclin may be to trust not to get hurt or injured, he may be hard to pass up as a WR2 as Andy Reid is sure to target him heavily every single week.  In a PPR league, I think that Maclin is definitely worth the risk, but don’t be surprised if his 198 lb frame can not take the pounding of being a number one receiver that is expected to run every route.  If Andy Reid decides to use Maclin as more of a deep threat and outside the hash guy, it may help Jeremy Maclin’s stay on the field as a quality fantasy WR2.

Click here to see the complete list of SEP Reliability Ratings for wide receivers and tight ends and check out the SEP Reliability Ratings for every position at TheInjuryReportDoctor.com.

 

FANTASY FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS!

December 4, 2014

With most either getting ready or already in playoff mode, I thought I would cover some of the injuries that may literally make or break your season.  Here are some of the key injuries to take note of, as well as what you can expect:

rashad jennings

Rashad Jennings is suffering from an ankle injury from this past weeks loss vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.  This is one of the biggest injuries for league play and one day players as Jennings was in line to face the awful run defense of the Tennessee Titans. The Titans have been a running backs dream this season and I think that Jennings will unfortunately miss out.  Initially the injury was said to not be serious but Jennings was quoted as not being able to put enough weight on his foot when it first happen.  These details likely suggest that he is dealing with a simple grade 1 or 2 low ankle sprain.  Although this may not be a serious injury, it will still need to go through the phases of healing.  Like most ankle injuries, this will limit Jennings ability to cut and plant on that foot and should take 1-3 weeks of rest and treatment to heal.  My guess is that Jennings is currently dealing with a swollen ankle that gives him pain if not supported significantly.  The training staff should be focused on getting the swelling and pain under control and we may see him give it a go with a heavy tape job, but I would need to see him practice at least on Friday to have any faith.  If you are in a league, a Friday practice and good reports may allow you to start him, but for one day fantasy it would be impossible to pay that premium price for damaged goods (wish they would adjust the prices mid-week). Unfortunately those who were licking their chops for this matchup will either have to trust Andre Williams,  his back up, to still light up this poor run defense or look elsewhere for a quality running back.  I would give Jennings until week 15 if it were my line up; after all it’s not like the Giants are in the playoff hunt and that he will pull out all the stops to get on the field.  For league players, I would just pick up Williams.  For one day players, there are other backs to consider near his price point (Eddie Lacy and Joique Bell are my picks for now).

Alshon Jeffrey’s injured hamstring is likely on many people’s minds.  If I had to pick my least favorite injury for one of my fantasy players to have it would be either a groin strain or a hamstring strain.  I despise these injuries mostly because they are the lingering type.  In many cases with a hamstring strain, a player will seem to come along well, may be practicing again, and be generally pointing in the right direction; and with one simple stride that player will do what all fantasy owners dread seeing–abruptly slow up and grab the back of their leg in pain.  Many of the other injuries are easy to predict, but a hamstring strain can feel like rolling the dice.  The good news is that Jeffrey appears to have been struggling with hamstring issues as early as week 3 of the season and has now been dealing with it for the past 2-3 weeks, and during that time his production has been good.

The infamous hamstring pull or strain is generally a result of one or more of the hamstring muscles stretching to forcefully or quickly.  This can happen for a number of reasons, but I believe that in many cases these athletes are simply too fast for their own bodies.  This may be the case for Jeffries as he clocks in at a 4.48 with his 40 yard dash; and for a receiver standing 6’3″ and 216lbs that may almost slot him in the “Freaky Talented” column (although my verdict is still out on that).  During the process of running, these athletes can sometimes just simply be thrusting their legs into extension (a straight knee position) too fast, and when this is combined with any contraction of the hamstring; the athlete will typically experience a strain or even a tear of the muscle fibers.

Additionally, some individuals simply suffer from muscle imbalances.  Despite state of the art facilities and the top strength and conditioning professionals in the country, some athletes are still disproportioned.  With respect to hamstring injuries, the culprit would be extremely strong quadriceps (thigh muscles on the front) combined with slightly less strong hamstring muscles (thigh muscles on the back).  While in full speed action, if both sides are acting at their max capacities, the quadriceps can over power the hamstrings and in the process injure the hamstrings.

These are all things Alshon Jeffrey and his team should examine in the offseason to reduce his chances of repetitive hamstring issues next year, but for now I would expect Jeffries to play.  Despite him playing, I would not play him on my fantasy team regardless of the upside he may possess .  As I stated before, you are one stride away from that moment of him grabbing the back of his leg and ending your fantasy season.  Combine that with the fact that he has to share with Brandon Marshall and the fact that Jay Cutler can not be trusted and I would simply look elsewhere for nearly all formats.

T.Y. Hilton was also limited on Wednesday with a reported hamstring injury.  The timing of this being a Wednesday injury is the most troublesome factor to me as a T.Y. Hilton owner.  Hamstring strain recovery feeds off of time to recover, and with a mid-week starting point, Hilton may be feeling some restrictions on Sunday.  Additionally, Hilton is definitely in the “Freaky Talented” column based off his 4.34 speed alone.  With his game being primarily based on his speed, a hamstring injury may bump Hilton’s stock down significantly.  The Indianapolis Colts also have to leave the comfort of their temperature and surface controlled dome to go to Cleveland.  As hard as it may be for a league player (I know as I own T.Y. in my league), this is a week I would have already considered sitting Hilton but any signs of a hamstring issue beyond Thursday would reserve a spot on the bench for T.Y. Hilton on my team.  The good news is that wide receiver would have to be the deepest position in fantasy right now and you should be able to find a good matchup this week for league play (I have the luxury of Randall Cobb, Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans as my other wideouts…..ha ha).  One day players should not even consider Hilton an option.

DeSean Jackson has a lower leg contusion.  Those who are familiar with me know that a contusion is just a fancy word for a bruise.  Jackson may take a little time to manage any pain or swelling associated with the injury but he should be a full go.  His presence is a domino effect for any offensive Washington player you may have.  He opens up Jordan Reed who should continue to be a PPR monster, he allows Colt McCoy to likely put up 20 + for his 3rd straight time as a starter, and he gives Alfred Morris a chance to run in a box that would not dare stack 8 with Jackson as the deep threat.  I am not sure DeSean would be my guy at receiver but in one-day PPR play, I think Reed and McCoy hold good value due to his presence.  Use the information as you see fit, but expect him to be ready to go.

Dwayne Allen is back after suffering an ankle sprain.  I think he took the perfect amount of time off as an ankle sprain generally is a 1-3 week injury, and he took the 3.  I expect Allen to be effective, and with my expectations for T.Y. Hilton being low, you may find Allen to be a low-cost/high reward option especially in one day play.  Coby Fleener is the obvious buzz kill for those who own Allen in traditional leagues, but simply stated–Dwayne Allen is a better football player than Coby Fleener (for now).  That may be unpopular to the highlight watchers of the recent weeks, but most who really pay attention know this to be true.  So in this spot, I would roll with Allen and expect things to slowly return to normal in which Allen is the obvious TE1 on the Indianapolis Colts.

How about some defense?  They say defense wins championships and this can be true in fantasy football too.  Aqib Talib has the hamstring bug too.  Talib will have about 2 weeks off from game action by the time the Denver Broncos face the Buffalo Bills, but I would watch out for him having some difficulty.  I especially think he will have difficulty if he somehow get matched up with Robert Woods.  If he covers Sammy Watkins as expected, their injuries may cancel each other out as they are both banged up.  Denver got away with missing their #1 corner vs. the Kansas City Chiefs as the Chiefs have no wide receivers, but I am not so sure they will fair as well without Talib against a respectable wide receiver duo.  Owners of the Denver D/ST should pay attention and look for a good matchup this week instead of using a defense that may be without a true #1 cornerback, as I think I have cemented how I feel about depending on players with hamstring strains.

The other cornerback that may cause a fantasy domino effect is Vontae Davis who is coming off a concussion last week.  I will eventually talk about concussion a little more in-depth, but one of my simple rules is to not trust a player to play at their best the week following a concussion.  There is complicated evidence out there that correlates concussions with poor performance, but my stance is more from a common sense point of view.  Concussion cloud the brain and typically take the player out of their normal routine.  I believe that many of the players in positions in which studying the opponent is key, will suffer the most, shortly after a concussion.  I especially worry about defensive players who need to read and react to the offense and as the corner that makes that defense go, Vontae not being at full capacity may spell disaster in Cleveland.  I think the Davis concussion takes the Colts out of the starting D/ST conversation as I believe he is the single most important person on their defense.  I also think his injury bumps Josh Gordon stock up. Gordon already has a QB in Brian Hoyer with something to prove and he gets what may be a shoot out vs. Andrew Luck.  When you add in a recovering Vontae Davis, I think Gordon will be lighting up the scoreboard this week.  If one day players can get lucky enough for Davis to not play, I think Hoyer and Gordon could be the value play of the week.

Quick notes:

Reggie Bush- You can’t trust him.  He’s been out too long with this ankle injury.  Maybe during the regular season you could take a chance but at playoff time he is too much of a gamble.  He made our running backs running out of time earlier this season and is fully living up to the injury prone status that I predicted.

 

bush in new orleansbush in miamibush in detroit

Greg Olsen –The proof is in the pudding.  Make sure he gets back to practice before believing that his swollen knee is not a problem.  With tight end being such a tough position to fill, I think if he practices he should start in all league play.  As a one day option, he would be way down my list.

Larry Fitzgerald- He should be back this week but watch his practice pattern.  If he misses any practices, I would  throw up a red flag for a set back.

Andre Ellington-He needs to rest and heal!  Unfortunately his owners will have to scramble to find a RB1 that can get them through a playoff run.  You better start matchup hunting.

Good Luck!

Could Injury Really Cause A Peyton Manning Led Team To Miss The Playoffs?

November 22, 2014

You can type in “NFL injuries” in any search box and get the details of who is in and who is out, that is the easy part.  The more important questions are how long will they really be out? Will they actually play well when they come back?  What players are at highest risk to get hurt next?  How will one injury affect the performance of other players?  Being caught off guard by any of these issues could derail your fantasy line-up at a time where you can not afford any glitches.  For many, playoff time is coming and for you one-day fantasy players, your time is running out to win the big one.  I will discuss which injuries I see coming and which injuries I see going, and more importantly look at all of the angles that will decide whether you win or lose with your lineup.

Lets go by position:

Quarterback

Some of you have been unlucky and lost your starting QB.  Former fantasy owners of Nick Foles and Carson Palmer are the primary victims here.  For those who took the obvious option of picking up Mark Sanchez immediately after Foles got injured–good job!  I’m not too sure on Stanton and definitely would not feel good with him as my QB down the stretch with the vicious schedule that Arizona has remaining.  It is clear that neither of these QB’s (Foles and Palmer) will be back this year, or at least not in time to have a fantasy impact.

If you were not able to get in the Sanchez sweepstakes, then my suggestion would be to look at Shaun Hill as he is now injury free and the Rams have endured a tough schedule that will now lighten up just a little.  Another not so obvious option would be Zach Mettenberger, who I do not think is great by any stretch, but he has a great selection of defenses to face to close the season and a monster arm.  Last but not least is a stretch for most, but I believe Colt McCoy will finish the Washington Redskins season as a starting QB.  McCoy is also not the greatest but he will literally be playing for his NFL career, he has a ton of weapons, and he has good match ups.  I would spend a little time telling you how McCoy gets that job, but if you have a TV, a phone, or any type of electronic device I am sure that you have seen the train wreck that is RG3.

My bet is you can get any of those 3 players today and even if they just sit on your bench while you have another borderline QB playing, you will not end up in the back of the waiver line if they get hot.

peyton-manning-in-cold-weather
Fantasy owners and Peyton Manning may miss the RCA dome as this season goes down the stretch.

As for the great Peyton Manning, he is being hit by the injury bug indirectly.  With his number 1 and 2 running backs out, Julius Thomas’ status being unclear at Tight End, and his number 2 Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders just being cleared from concussion protocol; the future Hall of Fame QB may have the deck stacked against him.  Combine the injuries with the fact that his next 4 opponents all currently rank in the top ten for total defense and that 3 out of those 4 games are likely to be played in cold weather, and you may just have given the ingredients for the kryptonite recipe.  The only thing that may be missing is whipping winds and a few snow flurries.  In any case, those who pay close attention know what bothers Peyton.  When he is pushed off his spot, he is obviously uncomfortable.  When he has to hold the ball, he is uncomfortable.  With these defenses and bad weather coming, I project some sub Manning like numbers.  Now I am not talking Alex Smith mediocrity, but chances are that Peyton is carrying your fantasy team in any league play and he is eating up your salary cap in any one-day play; so you absolutely need him to put up Manning like numbers.

While I do not see a day in which I tell you to sit Peyton Manning unless it is for Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers, I think Manning owners should prepare for a more conservative output and therefore be aggressive with the remainder of the roster.  For Peyton and the Denver Broncos, I see very little chance of not making the playoffs, but for my fellow fantasy players this tough stretch falls right at a crucial time in regard to fantasy playoffs.  In the end start Peyton as usual, unless you see wind and snow in the forecast; then I may look for one of the QB’s I listed above to hold the fort for one week.  This is the closest I will get to betting against Peyton Manning and frankly it feels a little uncomfortable.  Lets see what he does over the next month.

Running Back

Running Back becomes very important in November and December as many of the outdoor teams will start to slow it down with hand-offs and short dump off passes.  However as these running backs have their workload increased you may also see more injuries.  I predicted way back in the first half of the season that DeMarco Murray would not make it through the entire season and now that its week 12, some may think I was wrong……NOT!  All of you DeMarco Murray owners better have a back up plan, because it’s coming.

Another running back to beware of is Arian Foster.  Earlier this season, I compared Foster to Steven Jackson as he is an oversized back who gets injured regularly.  He is living up to this comparison and if he does not do something different this off-season ( I would suggest some type of Yoga/Pilates blend and a very clean diet), I think you should think long and hard before drafting Foster early.  As you can see, when you need Foster most he will not be there for you.  At this point, I don’t think anyone will get caught off guard with Foster being out as he seems to be on the injury reports on a weekly basis.  The important thing is to not get your hopes up with this “game time decision” talk.  I do not see him making it back in an effective way this week as he is only been out for 2 weeks with a groin injury that should likely take at least 3 weeks to heal.   We explained the nagging groin strain a few weeks ago when predicting Monte Ball needed 3-6 weeks off before returning.  As most of you know, Monte Ball did sit out for 6 weeks and then re-injured his groin on his first game back.  Hopefully that lets you and Arian Foster know how serious this injury can be. The easy fix is to keep Alfred Blue on your bench no matter what. If you do own Foster or Murray or maybe even had Ronnie Hillman or Ahmad Bradshaw, there are a few options out there for you to consider:

Arian+Foster+Houston+Texans+v+New+England+F250cpNTtbDl

C.J. Anderson could not have timed it better in regard to fantasy playoffs.  With Ronnie Hillman down for at least another 2 weeks with a foot sprain (that should take a total of 3 weeks to heal) and Monte Ball out again with a strained groin , C.J. Anderson will basically have the backfield to himself.  I expect Hillman to come back by week 14 and I expect Ball to be a non factor for the remainder of the fantasy season as his re-injury tells me he really needs to give that groin another 3 weeks  or more to heal and then return slowly (I don’t expect him to play until the NFL playoffs).  Furthermore, Peyton plus the cold means more running plays and more short passes.  The only fear is that the volume that Anderson receives in the next few weeks will get him injured too.  The good news on that front is that this is almost like game 4 for Anderson, as he has not played much this season.  In my opinion he is the top running back to pick up down the stretch.  Do anything you can to get him for your leagues and one-day players should spend whatever he cost to get him in the line up.

Another back who’s fantasy value just got a big boost is Trent Richardson.  I say this reluctantly as prior to this injury, I literally considered him a bottom 10 back that I would never consider starting.  However, the bottom line is Ahmad Bradshaw and his fractured fibula means he is done, and for now Trent will get all the goal line carries as well as a likely 20+ total carries per game.  In a more traditional running back way, I think this will actually help Trent Richardson, who has the potential to be a wear on you/hard to stop at the end of the game back.  The final kicker is really to look at the Colts remaining schedule.   There are some blowouts coming and you know who will be killing that clock, even if it is 3 yards at a time.  Look for some fantasy numbers in the form of 25 carries for 72 yards with 2 touchdowns with 2-3 catches sprinkled in.  I think many of us can live with those 20 + fantasy points.

Giovani Bernard appears to be ready to return for week 12 and based on reports of a hip pointer and a clavicle issue, he appears to have taken the proper time off.  For some, this may seem to be a good thing, but I look at this as a lose-lose situation for fantasy owners.  Jeremy Hill showed the ability to be a fantasy stud while Bernard was out and Bernard was a stud before he got hurt.  When you put two fantasy studs in one backfield, unfortunately they turn into one half a stud each.  If you already have Bernard and are in a PPR format, he is definitely worth keeping, but I do not see the Bengals taking Hill back to his previous role of simply spelling Bernard.  I see a backfield that will almost be half and half which is a disaster for fantasy owners.  If you can trade either of these player based off of name value, now would be a good time.  Jeremy Hill owners may consider sitting tight for a couple of games, as Bernard is undersized and as the cold weather sets in, he may be in line for another injury.  If I could pick, I would much rather the style of Hill to carry me to the fantasy playoffs, but by no means would I wish injury on any player.

Wide Receiver

It appears that the wave of wide receiver injuries is over with Megatron, A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, and Odell Beckham Jr. all back and healthy.  Despite this abundance of health at the position, there are some injuries that will make some receivers more attractive than others.

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T.Y. Hilton is already a must own everywhere but for you one-day fantasy players who are comparing T.Y. to Dez or Megatron or Jordy Nelson on a weekly basis, here is the reason why T.Y. might have eclipsed many of them.  With the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, the Colts have lost their only receiving back.  Additionally, the Colts have an injury to their best tight end Dwayne Allen.  Allen is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury but I expect him to miss at least one game or at the very least see less time on the field.  This means more Coby Fleener during the competitive portion (there will be garbage time for Trent Richardson to get his!) of the Colts games; it means less running as Allen is the obvious running game tight end while Fleener is the passing game tight end.  T.Y. is by far the most targeted player for Andrew Luck and these injury developments likely just increased his targets.  As we hit the stretch for the fantasy season, I think T.Y. Hilton will be as good as it gets at the receiver position.

Demaryius Thomas may also get a little bump up from his already superstar status after The Dnever Broncos lost Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas in week 11 to injuries.  Sanders went down with a concussion and looks to be probable for week 12, however there is evidence out there that correlates concussions to poor performance shortly after recovery from said concussion.  As for Julius Thomas, he appears to have a simple low ankle sprain but he likely will miss a couple of weeks.  This sets up for Demaryius to have an even bigger role in the Broncos pass game.  We may even get a Wes Welker flash back for my fantasy league players who are desperate for a short-term play at receiver.

Brandin Cooks thumb fracture has effectively ended both his fantasy and real football seasons.  This means someone who is healthy on the Saints likely gets more targets as Cooks was the second most targeted player on the team to Jimmy Graham, and the most targeted receiver on the team.  This is a tough call between Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but I would take a chance on Colston as Drew Brees targets him more than Stills, and Brees and Colston have more history.  This must be a cautious play as Cooks injury may actually just lead to Colston, Stills and who ever replaces Cooks to split the targets by 3, which would make no one happy.  This may be one to take a look at for a week or two before making a move.

Now this one has nothing to do with an injury per say, but those who read my work often know that I split my skilled players into Freaky Talented and Supremely Skilled.  Around this time of season the Freaky Talented group will start to slow down as the weather elements may not be ideal for their talents to fully shine.  Additionally, it is my theory that these Freaky Talented athletes need pit stops to rejuvenate as they max their bodies out while utilizing all of their god given talent.  But if I can get one of the most Freaky Talented players in the league with completely fresh legs at this point in the season, I am all over that!.  Josh Gordon is exactly that.  Not only does the physical play in his favor, but the mental sounds like it is ready too. One of the first quotes given to nfl.com from Gordon was “I’m going to tear this league up”.  If your league is anything like the one I am in, Gordon has been owned all year despite not playing…he is that coveted.  If there is any way to get him, I would go for it.  For one-day fantasy players, this may be the only week you will get him cheap.  After he faces the worst pass defense in the league down in Atlanta, my guess is that his price will be right up there with the elite wide receivers where it belongs.

Marqis Lee is a low-level benefactor of the foot fracture that Allen Robinson suffered.  This consideration is more for the one-day fantasy players who have the bare minimum to spend on a flex player that has the chance to actually do something.  The two things I think I know is that Lee will now be on the field in all 3 wide receiver sets (with Robinson out) and that Lee has lots of talented.  Everything beyond that is a gamble….your choice.

Tight End

As I mentioned earlier, the Dwayne Allen injury may officially push Coby Fleener to the TE1 conversation.  Fleener has been inconsistent despite being Andrew Luck’s teammate in college, but now he appears to be ramping up.  1-2 weeks of Allen being out may generate a role for Fleener that will become a little more permanent int the Colts offense.  Additionally, if Trent Richardson does not take advantage of his opportunity like I think he will, you may see the Colts just turn into a pure passing team in which Fleener stays on the field a bunch more as run blocking would not be needed.  I would keep my eye on Fleener in fantasy leagues and pick him up if a roster spot is available.  He is also a good one-day play if you don’t want to spend on one the big three of Gronk, Graham, or Thomas.

Some of you may be waiting for Jordan Cameron to be cleared from the concussion protocol and are ready to plug him in as your starter.  I would look in another direction.  Again, performance after concussions can be tricky and with the reports indicating Cameron having some long-term concerns, I would simply stay away from Cameron this year.  Any return will be on egg shells and the likelihood of poor performance or another concussion is a very real possibility.

Tight End is a tough position to pick up late in the season and in most cases the match up should dictate who you play, but there are a few that you may be able to pick up and fill in with.  Zach Ertz had a big buzz at the beginning of the season but that buzz has faded fast.  I am not saying Ertz will win any week for you but I think the addition of Mark Sanchez to the equation allows him to not lose a week for you.  Sanchez and Ertz have a relationship that ranges from preseason as they both had significant 2nd team reps.  Sanchez is definitely looking for him more than Foles did.  Now all Ertz has to do is find a way to stay on the field for more snaps and you may have a decent TE2.

Defense/Special Teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to get real healthy and are likely sitting there waiting to be picked up in most leagues.  With the return of 5 starters including their leader-Troy Polamalu as well as the addition and rejuvenation of the great James Harrison, the Steelers may look like the traditional Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch.  The tricky thing with these injuries is that when the players make it through and the team stays competitive, the return from injury is that much greater.  The Steelers should have a lot of fresh legs on the field vs. many who are simply worn down from the grind of a 16 game season.

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Sproles may be the biggest little reason to start the Eagles DST!

The Philadelphia Eagles should be on everyone’s radar as they are having a near historic year on Special Teams with punt blocks, field goal blocks, and even extra point blocks.  Combine this with arguably a top 3 punt-return man in Darren Sproles and Chris Polk who already has a kick return for a TD and you would think picking them up is a no brainer.  But then the leader of the defense Demeco Ryans goes down and Aaron Rodgers puts up a million points.  I can see how people may get nervous about this being their starting defense.  As bad as the Demeco Ryans injury is for the actual defense, I think the response to the injury by the Eagles is even more telling.  Instead of looking for another linebacker to replace Ryans or even just looking for another defensive player, the Eagles signed Chris Prosinski.  Posinski is a safety from Jacksonville who is primarily a Special Teams stud.  They added him to a Special Teams that already boast Chris Maragos who is arguably the Michael Jordan of Special Teams.  So while losing your middle linebacker is bad, the Eagles may have gotten even better with rushing the quarterback by bringing more speed and agility to the linebacker position with Mychal Kendricks as the new focal point.  The bigger point is that I don’t think any other team in the league takes Special Teams as serious as the Eagles and frankly that is where all the points are coming from rather than the actual defense.  They should be the premiere DST going down the stretch in all formats despite losing the leader of their defense for the remainder of the season.

Good Luck