Waiver Wire Pickups -
SS George Iloka, Cincinnati (Not in current Week-6, Top-40 DBs on Fantasy Pros)
During the past two games, George Iloka has 8.5 tackles per game (6.0 solo) with 0.5 PDs per game. In Week-2 vs. Matt Ryan, Iloka had 2 interceptions and 3 PDs. He's been a high-level producer in three of his four games in 2014 (the last three played). He has played all but one snap on defense through Cincy’s four games this year.
Iloka is like a linebacker playing Strong Safety. At 6'3 and 220-pounds, he's very active, and a decent (not great) tackler. He was an average-to-good player for Boise State (63 tackles in his best season in 13 games), and was a 2012 5th-round draft pick for Cincinnati.
Iloka is playing much better in the pros...and playing much better as of late. The one caution here is: His numbers have been rising with Vontaze Burfict sidelined. We'll have to see if Iloka's spike is his experience shining through, or if he's just taking advantage of an opportunity with Burfict out. Either way, he is one of the more popular fantasy pickups this week.
ILB Avery Williamson, Tennessee (Not in current Week-6, Top-40 LBs on Fantasy Pros)
Our computer scouting models are loving what it sees so far with Avery Williamson. He's had an opportunity created by an early season-ending injury to Zach Brown, and he's coming on strong since his debut in Week-3.
During the past two weeks he's had identical tackle totals: 7 tackles, 6 solos in each game. The kicker is...he's been only played about half the defensive snaps in those two games. With more time, may come a push toward double-digit tackle totals in games…he’s certainly pacing that way through the last two games. In the past three weeks, Williamson's snap counts have jumped from 13 to 26 to 54.
Williamson is a very aggressive and willing tackler. I was watching his tape against Indy and Cleveland (his last two games), and loved what I saw. Our NFL Draft scouting models liked him coming out of Kentucky this year (5th-round pick by the Titans). He has solid-OK measurables and athleticism, but his college output is what drives our computer grades: He boasted 135 tackles in 12 games in 2012, with 102 tackles in 12 games this past season. In his 2012 season, he posted 20 tackles vs. Vanderbilt...one of six games he posted 13 or more tackles in a game.
Williamson played the second most snaps of any Tennessee linebacker in Week-5 (two snaps behind Wesley Woodyard). He is a ‘bet on the come’ play…grabbing him right before a potential breakout…if there is one coming.
DT Marcell Dareus, Buffalo (Current #28 for Week-6 among the DLs)
Not that Marcell Dareus is an unknown name…most know him as the former #3 overall NFL Draft pick for Buffalo in 2011. He's been a decent pro, but not as great as once hoped. Much of what Dareus is known for is substance abuse issues and/or weight problems during the offseason.
Something has changed of late: Dareus has 5.0 sacks in his last three games, including 3.0 sacks last week against the Lions. He may just be on a hot streak, but his recent run is leaving him a little undervalued, and available off waivers for many this week.
-- R.C. Fischer
Waiver Wire Pickups -
1. RB Andre Williams, NYG:
Andre Williams stepped up when the Giants needed him most when lead halfback Rashad Jennings went down with an injury against the Falcons. Williams rushed 20 times for 65 yards and a score while adding a pair of catches for 18 yards. Though he only rushed for 3.3 yards per carry, Williams has an easy looking schedule coming up during the next couple of games.
With Rashad Jennings' MCL sprain likely sidelining him for at least 2 weeks, Williams should have a field day facing the run defenses of the Eagles (24th in the league - allowing 132 rushing yards per game) and the Cowboys (ranked 20th in allowing 122 rushing yards per game). Expect him to come close to high RB2 to low RB1 numbers during these next two contests, making him a great choice out of the fantasy pickups.
2. RB Ronnie Hillman, DEN:
Ronnie Hillman has been put in a position to succeed, as lead back Montee Ball will be missing some time after sustaining a groin injury. Hillman is not as dynamic as Ball, but he can be implemented into their offense as another player who will benefit from having Peyton Manning run the offense. With Peyton causing defenses to prepare for the pass on almost every play, Hillman should be able find some open running lanes. The 23-year-old out of San Diego State managed 64 yards on 15 carries this past Sunday, and will look to keep the ball rolling. He can be added as a short-term bye week replacement/low-end flex until Ball returns.
3. TE Dwayne Allen, IND:
Dwayne Allen is a very solid TE at this point, as he has caught 4 touchdowns in 5 games thus far. His 3 game scoring streak is quite impressive, as he has become one of Luck's favorite red-zone targets. However, he has no value outside of touchdowns. Allen has received a total of 20 targets, only averaging 4 per game. Without getting too many looks his way, it is still difficult to expect that Dwayne Allen can produce on a consistent basis. He can currently be added as a low-end TE1 until he starts receiving more targets.
4. RB Branden Oliver, SD:
Oliver stole the show in San Diego's complete dismantling of the New York Jets on Sunday. Starting tailback Donald Brown left in the first half due to a concussion, and undrafted free agent Branden Oliver exploded. He lit up the Jets for 182 total yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 touches (19 rushes and 4 receptions). The 23-year-old unexpected rising star out of Buffalo should be added in all fantasy formats, as he is likely to continue to succeed in their offense. Even if Donald Brown is cleared to play next week, it can be expected that Oliver will receive most of the carries. Oliver can be used as a low RB2 with major upside for the next few weeks.
Fantasy Injury Updates -
Ronnie Hillman has been on the fantasy radar for some time, but he may just slide into the lead back role this week with the absence of Montee Ball. Ball suffered a significant groin injury yesterday against the Cardinals and may be on the NFL injury updates list for several weeks.
Hillman rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries against the Cardinals after Ball went down. The numbers don’t sound gaudy, but Arizona has one of the better run defenses in the league. Hillman is far from a bruiser, but he makes good cuts, can catch the ball and is very quick on his feet.
He may not get as many snaps as Ball did, because BLOCKING is not his strong suit. That’s a big drawback when Peyton Manning is your quarterback, but fantasy owners looking for a boost in the running back department could do worse.
If this sounds like a lukewarm endorsement for Hillman, it is, but with this season’s deteriorating running back situation, he needs to be added in most fantasy formats. Stay tuned to our injury updates on Fantasy Focus for developing news.
NFL Injury Updates -
Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson told teammates that despite his ankle woes (he's been on the fantasy injury updates list for a majority of the season), he’s going to play today against the visiting Bills, according the NFL Network.
Johnson is not 100 percent and has been used primarily as a decoy over the past couple of weeks.
He missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, but is expected to be better off than he was last week when only played 57 percent of the team’s offensive snaps against the Jets.
Megatron was limited at practice on Friday and the team is obviously trying to give his ailing ankle some time to heal. Stay tuned for injury updates with Fantasy Focus for developing news.
Fantasy Sit Start -
Houston at Dallas – Tony Romo
Don’t look now but Romo seems to be rounding into shape as we pass the quarter pole in the season. Granted, the New Orleans Saints haven’t yet learned what the word defense truly means, but he still had to go out and perform, which he did. The formula of hitting them often with DeMarco Murray and throwing only when the opportunity presents itself is working fine as the Dallas Cowboys are atop the NFC East. This week should be more of the same, which is perfect if you’re looking for solid low-end QB1 numbers. Romo will dazzle now and again as a weekly leader in passing yards but 250 yards and two touchdowns should be the norm moving forward. As long as Romo continues that pattern here against Houston, we’ll be able to trust him to live up to those numbers for the remainder of the season.
Buffalo at Detroit – Calvin Johnson
It looks as though Johnson has been more of a decoy the past two weeks than an actual offensive threat. This ankle injury sucked the life out of what should have been a fantasy field day against the New York Jets last week. Johnson was on and off the field constantly, giving way to Golden Tate to lead the charge. Now that he has had another week under his belt to recover, we should see the real Calvin Johnson on Sunday. If we see the version of Johnson that played against the Jets in Week 4, we could have a serious problem on our hands. We would have to begin to question the severity of the ankle injury as Chicago’s Brandon Marshall has been battling through one himself but still has managed to put up elite fantasy performances. Hopefully Johnson will be back to his old tricks on Sunday, because if not, we could be looking at a high sprain which we know ruined the entire 2013 season for wide receiver Roddy White .
Baltimore at Indianapolis – Steve Smith
How long can Steve Smith possibly keep this pace up? Until we see otherwise we’ll have to go with forever. A large portion of Smith’s stats last week came on a fluke play where he brought down a tipped pass and took off for a long touchdown score. Even taking away that 60-yard touchdown, Smith would still have finished with roughly 80 yards and with the other touchdown he brought in. Those are still amazing and very useful numbers for a man of his size and age. Smith should be able to do more of the same here against Indianapolis as every game against Andrew Luck always turns into a high-scoring affair. If Smith continues on this pace, he could finish with the best numbers of his career and become the most debated player in regards to his ranking entering 2015.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans – Mike Glennon
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense simply looked better with Glennon than it did with Josh McCown. That’s not saying that they have gone from bad to great all of a sudden. They simply went from bad to not as bad, but still bad. Glennon gave the Buccaneers a much-needed shot of adrenaline last week with a last-minute drive to edge out the Pittsburgh Steelers. Perhaps this confidence boost will carry over as Glennon will now face the same New Orleans secondary that allowed Tony Romo to have his best game of the season last week. If Glennon can get Vincent Jackson going over the top and Doug Martin underneath, he could push for 300 yards here in Week 5. That would make coach Lovie Smith’s decision more difficult as to who will quarterback the team once McCown is back.
Atlanta at New York Giants – Eli Manning
Manning finally has the Giants offense coasting. Using Rashad Jennings as a battering ram and then making high percentage throws is what is going to make this offense click. Last week, those high percentage throws turned into 300 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. As long as Manning can keep hitting those short routes and avoid turnovers, keeping his offense on the field, he could be in for more of these kinds of numbers down the road. We just need to see it happen more than once given how horrible Manning has looked since 2013. Two big time games would be a very loud and clear indication that he’s got the offense locked down and can once again be trusted as a QB1. If he were to come out and throw for 190 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, How could we trust him?
Fantasy Sit Start -
1. WR Julian Edelman, NE:
Edelman has been Tom Brady's favorite wideout through 4 games, drawing 22 targets thus far. Despite his rapport with Brady, after a miserable overall team performance a week ago, Edelman struggled to produce against a strong Kansas City Chiefs defense. The Chiefs bigger corners gave him a tough time through out the game. The Bengals defense will be just as big of an issue for them during the team's Week 5 Sunday night contest. The Bengals are fourth in total yards allowed (1,058) through the first four weeks, and second in passing yards (718). Expect Edelman to continue to struggle, regardless of how many times he's targeted. Try and find a replacement, as New England's offense will have a difficult time producing anything of substance in Week 5.
2. RB Darren Sproles, PHI:
Sproles has had a much greater impact for the Eagles than any of us could have imagined beforehand, but is now coming off two straight subpar performances. He has seen his role diminish greatly after starting the season off as a top fantasy play, producing heavily in both the running and passing game through 2 weeks. Unfortunately, the Eagles have responded by decreasing his workload significantly, not allowing him to be too effective for them. Sproles has 8 total touches in his last two outings, and don't expect much more from him as they host St. Louis on Sunday.
Fantasy Football Start:
1. WR Sammy Watkins, BUF:
Watkins' talent is enough to make him a solid start this week at Detroit. The rookie standout has been inconsistent during the first quarter of the season, as one would expect from a lackluster Buffalo Bills offense. With a recent change at quarterback, Kyle Orton will be at the helm this week, rather than E.J. Manuel. Watkins has expressed satisfaction with Orton already, stating that "the ball is coming out faster" than it was with Manuel. With only a week to start with the first-team offense, one can only imagine how much time they have been working on getting the ball to Watkins. He is a match-up nightmare with his size, speed and good hands and can be used as a WR3 with major upside this week.
2. RB LeSean McCoy, PHI:
It may seem obvious, but Shady McCoy is a must-start this week. This performance could make or break the season for him, as he has had a very tough time out of the gate. McCoy has yet to crack 100 yards on the ground through 4 games, or even 80 for that matter, but expect a breakout performance against St. Louis. The Rams rank 19th against the run, after having allowed 155 rushing yards per game to start the season. This is an ideal match-up for McCoy, and look for him to exploit the porous run defense for his best performance of 2014 to date. McCoy can be pegged as a top 5 RB this week in standard fantasy formats.
TE Fantasy Football News -
Alongside the running back position, tight end is one that doesn't have much depth. After fantasy TE studs Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, and Martellus Bennett (so far), there is a massive drop-off in production and consistency. There are a few tight ends trying to make their case as viable options for the remainder of the season, but temper your expectations.
Larry Donnell, Dwayne Allen and Austin Seferian-Jenkins have the athleticism and body-type to be decent fantasy football TE options, but which one will produce the biggest bang for your buck during the rest of the season?
While Giants tight end Larry Donnell will be hard pressed to ever duplicate his 3 score effort from Week 4 against the Redskins, he's certainly been one of the few bright spots for the New York Giants this season. It looked like the Giants might not win a game this year, until Eli and Donnell got on the same page and torched the Washington secondary in front of a national Thursday night audience.
At 6'6" and 269 pounds, Donnell is a mismatch for almost any linebacker or safety. Donnell won't stretch the field, but he's a great weapon in the red zone and has become one of Manning's favorite targets this year. With the Giants primed to be trailing in a bunch of their games, it's safe to say that Donnell will continue to see plenty of targets and will remain a TE1 for the rest of the year.
There are many things to like about Dwayne Allen. He's on a great offensive team that scores a ton of points, but there just may be too many mouths to feed in Indy. Not only does Allen have to share targets with T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks, but he has to share targets and playing time with fellow tight end, Coby Fleener.
Allen has actually produced decent fantasy numbers thus far (minus a goose egg in Week 2) but that's because he has three touchdowns. Without his touchdowns, his yardage and receptions are not enough to warrant Fantasy consideration. Unless Fleener is inactive for an extended period of time, Allen should not crack any starting lineups.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins comes from the new-age mold of Tight Ends. He's 6'5" and 262 pounds and the Bucs drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft in hopes that he would control the middle of the field and create match-up problems.
Seferian-Jenkins hasn't been able to get anything going yet, but he's worth keeping an eye on and may be more productive with Mike Glennon at Quarterback. Seferian-Jenkins might be a few games or even a year away from fantasy relevance, but he has all the tools to be a Julius Thomas-type of player, he just needs more time to adjust to the speed and complexity of the NFL.
Waiver Wire Pickups -
DB: Bradley Fletcher, Philadelphia
During the past two weeks, Bradley Fletcher has averaged 8.0 tackles (7.0 solo) and 2.0 PDs. In fact, he has two PDs in each of his last three games. He's a corner back making aggressive tackles, and he is one of the league leaders in PDs. Visually, I think Fletcher has been playing some of the best all-around CB in the entire NFL. He should continue to see action as teams shy away from Cary Williams on the other side of the ball, making him one of the better options out of the fantasy pickups.
Fletcher is a former early 3rd-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams (2009), who has been much better since moving on to Philadelphia. There are plenty of snaps and plays happening in Eagles games (SF had 42+ minutes Time of Possession alone last week.) Look for Fletcher to keep producing solid IDP numbers...and he is due for an interception (he has been close several times this season).
LB: Justin Durant, Dallas
Justin Durant has always been a 'solid' NFL LB, but he's never been 'great' for output. In his first seven seasons (2007-13), his best season was 2012 with Detroit, where he made 103 tackles in 16 games. It's the only time in his seven NFL seasons that he has played all 16 games. Outside of that, he has been a 10-14 game per season guy.
During 2014, Durant has already missed two games with nagging injuries. However, in the two games he has played: 8.0 tackles (5.0 solo) and 1.5 PDs. Durant has averaged 2.3 PDs per season over his seven years/89 games played...but he already had three PDs in his two games this season. In addition, he has an interception and forced fumble to his credit this year.
Coming out of Hampton in 2007, he was a mid-2nd-round draft pick for Jacksonville, and was a tremendous athlete (4.5+ 40-time, great agility, 25 bench reps). Up until this season, he has never never had strong numbers, but this season, playing in Weeks 1 and 4...he's made eight tackles in each game. To be fair, the Cowboys have a had several injuries to deal with on defense (now, Bruce Carter is going to be out, which pushes up Durant's stock), so this is probably more of a 'of the moment' spike, but it's something to watch if the Cowboys continue to deal with injuries with their front-seven.
DT Chris Jones, New England
At our NFL Draft scouting website College Football Metrics.com, we rated Chris Jones as one of the best 4-3 DT prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. He has an amazing burst/push off the line, and a knack for getting into the backfield. He is an undersized DT, who uses speed as his weapon. He was the 2012 MAC Conference Defensive Player of the Year, tallying 42 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, and 12.5 sacks in 13 games. He led the MAC Conference in sacks that season, and was #9 in the nation as well. He can play.
Last year, when thrust into playing time due to Pats D-Line injuries, Jones responded with 6.0 sacks in 12 games he really played in (amazing for a rookie DT, playing out of position in a 3-4 from time to time). He also had three games last year where he had eight or more tackles in a game...again, stellar for a DT for Fantasy Football purposes.
Jones missed Week-1 this year, and has been a little banged up so far, but is showing signs of getting back up to speed: He's grabbed 2.5 tackles per game the last two weeks, and got a half a sack at KC Monday Night. Jones is not a feature DT...but somehow he always seems to find numbers for Fantasy. Keep him on a watch list.
-- R.C. Fischer
Waiver Wire Pickups -
Running Backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, MIN:
Jerick McKinnon is nothing short of a freak athlete and is clearly the more impressive of the two tailbacks in Minnesota. It didn't take him long to break out as he rushed for 135 yards and 18 carries against the Atlanta Falcons. Although he is still considered the "change-of-pace" back by Head Coach Mike Zimmer, his play shows how much more fit he is to lead Minnesota's backfield after averaging a whopping 7.5 yards per carry. Definitely one of the better fantasy pickups around.
The current lead back is of course Matt Asiata. He led the Vikings backfield during Week 4 with 20 carries for 78 yards and 3 scores. At this point in the season, either player will give your team a solid boost. But if you are thinking long-term, grab McKinnon if you can. He should be added in all standard leagues as a strong flex play with major upside in the foreseeable future, while Asiata is more of a low-rate flex/bye week replacement tailback with little room to grow down the line.
WR Jarius Wright, MIN:
Wright had an impressive showing during Week 4, breaking out for a team leading 8 catches and 132 yards. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seemed very comfortable leaning on Wright for production, targeting him ten times. This is a bit of surprise in that he plays behind Greg Jennings and Cordarelle Patterson.
Wright was on the field much more during Week 4 due to the amount of 3 WR sets the Vikings ran, partly because of Kyle Rudolph's absence. As for now, Jarius Wright is yet to be a reliable standard fantasy league wideout, but if he and Bridgewater continue to build rapport, he could be worth a look down the road.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN:
Bridgewater led the Vikings to a win in his first start as an NFL quarterback and is only going to get better. He went 19-30 through the air for 317 yards and no touchdowns, but picked up a score on the ground to go along 27 yards on 5 carries. With Matt Cassel going down to injury, Bridgewater was thrown into the fire.
He ran the offense efficiently, looked comfortable and avoided committing any turnovers, which is a positive sign that he will be solidified as their starter for the future. Bridgewater could be added as a back up QB/bye week replacement in standard leagues because of his potential, as well as the Vikings soft schedule.
RB Fantasy News -
Before the season began and everyone prepared for their league drafts, there were many issues up for debate. Should you reach for an elite QB? How safe a pick is Gronk at TE? How long can you wait to take a WR?
Filling a roster can be tough; a delicate balance of star power and depth. There were many issues to sort out for people, but those with the first two picks in most leagues felt good about how their squads would begin. It would be some combination of Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy. Perhaps Jamaal Charles would sneak into the top 2 across some drafts, but no one could be faulted for grabbing AP or Shady.
Well, through the first month, owners of both RB's are stuck in no man's land.
For McCoy in particular, there are concerning trends, especially from the last two weeks, that may not resolve themselves quickly. Yesterday's display against San Francisco was a disaster for Shady and the Eagles' offense in general.
Philadelphia failed to put any points on the board as a direct result of their offense, relying on special teams and defense to remain in the game. Furthermore, fantasy RB McCoy had 17 yards on 10 carries after only managing 22 yards on 19 carries last week. He's also put up a big doughnut in the receiving game each of the the last two weeks. Not quite the RB fantasy football stud he has been in the past.
This limited, but startling, pattern has a chance to extend out for a while. Why? First of all, the Eagles offensive line is beat up. Although Lane Johnson is scheduled to return from suspension, the Eagles line have been playing without 3/5 of their starting line.
The next two weeks feature St. Louis and the New York Giants as opponents for the Eagles. The Rams have a fierce defensive line, who will look to destroy the aforementioned O-line and stop any momentum for McCoy. The next week against the Giants presents Philadelphia with a division opponent that seems to have found answers on both sides of the ball. The bye week following that game may be just what the doctor ordered for health and morale purposes in Philadelphia.
It must be mentioned that the Eagles are still 3-1, and had a chance to win the game yesterday despite their offensive struggles. And although Shady has had two rough weeks in a row, he has a great chance to rebound against the Rams, even with their stout D. Despite their strong pedigree, the Rams have allowed over 150 rushing yards per game so far this season. It's a small sample size, but perhaps Shady just needs to break one big run to get his confidence back.
If you own McCoy, you are no doubt frustrated. This might be the week to dangle him out to others in your league to see what you could potentially get for him. If someone offers you a great deal, i.e. a top-tier RB and another solid flex player, you should consider it. However, remember that there's a chance Shady regains his form and picks up where he left off last year.
Chances are you have a solid squad around McCoy, still winning matchups and hoping that this is just a blip on the radar. In this vein, you and Chip Kelly are on the same page.
Stay tuned to ASL's RB news for the most comprehensive RB updates!