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Cloudy with a Chance of Knee Jerk: Redskins v. Giants

Eli Manning Face

In the hours following a Redskins game, thoughts and ideas and assumptions run rampant through the mind of a Washington fan, forcing a scattered and cloudy backdrop between the ears. 

Here are my initial notes following the Redskins’ 45-14 blowout loss to the New York Giants.

* * *

Consume too much terrible football, and this is what the morning after feels like.

For this week’s edition of Cloudy with a Chance of Knee Jerk, we’ll go with the old-fashioned breakdown of separating the Redskins’ play into two categories — the good and the bad — making for a horrifically lopsided affair.

 

First up, the GOOD…

- Late in the third quarter with the Redskins trailing 31-14, Tress Way crushed a punt 77 yards (a helpful bounce included). On top of that, the Giants committed a holding penalty, tacking on more yards to the end of the kick.

Tress Way punted from the Redskins 10-yard line. Seven seconds later the Giants were beginning their drive at their own 7-yard line. A net gain punt of 83 yards. By far the best play of the game for the Redskins.

 

And that’s about it, so we’ll just mosey on over to the BAD…

- Perry Riley Jr. in coverage is a thing — but it’s not a good thing. It’s a terrible thing. It’s not an effective thing, or a useful thing, or even a tolerable thing. It’s just a thing that floats around with late reaction and inadequacy. It’s a thing with very little room for improvement, yet a thing that you really, really need. It’s a disgusting thing.

Simple dig for a first down? No problem.

Perry Riley I

In the redzone with decent position…

Perry Riley II

Doesn’t matter…

Perry Riley IIA

- There were a few bad calls in the game, no doubt. But 11 penalties for 88 yards is a very bad line of numbers if your team has any interest in winning the game.

- Niles Paul took a serious shot down the middle of the field, and thoughts are with him during his recovery. He has become a real weapon in this offense and the Redskins will need him moving forward.

- Which reminds me — will Jordan Reed ever play again? How does one enhance the strength of glass?

- The Redskins lacked a sense of urgency against the Giants, which can’t be blamed on short rest, or the day of the week, or any other bullshit. They just didn’t look into it.

- Brian Orakpo.

- Does anyone else find Tyler Polumbus fun to watch at right tackle?

Strip Sack

…anyone?

- While on the topic of the offensive line, left guard Josh LeRibeus sure is a hoot, huh?

He’s slow. Too slow. Less than a half-second after the snap and LeRibeus has his back to the LOS and he’s chasing his man. Either that or he’s being blown off the ball — literally.

Blown past.

LeRibeus I

Chasing.

LeRibeus II

Blown off (leads to INT).

LeRibeus III

- What an awful game for David Amerson. He was exposed all night long. Couldn’t tackle, couldn’t cover. At one point tight end Larry Donnell was split out wide and a simple dig route completely caught Amerson off guard. As if he’d never seen the route before.

- Bashaud Breeland! My boy! He’s going to be a stud!

That was me last week. And while I do believe Breeland can be very good, last night wasn’t a great night. He was up there with Amerson as being NOT GOOD.

- Nice to have you back, Brandon Meriweather. Great stuff. Especially in the redzone. And with terrible angles. And when balls hit you right in the hands for should-be interceptions.

/sarcasm font

- Although there were a couple good coverage plays (ie Akeem Davis at some point), the Redskins special teams unit sucks. Unless your name is Tress Way, I don’t have anything nice to say to you.

- We go through this every year, so we might as well keep it fresh:

#FireJimHaslett

But, like, maybe for real this time?

Jay Gruden comes in, he and Haslett are buddies, it costs the Redskins less to keep the defensive staff, Haslett and Co. are retained. I get it. I get the whole thing. But at some point, when your defense not only looks bad, but also looks unmotivated and unprepared, that’s not something to be swept to the side and chalked up as a bad day.

Not to mention, it’s not like Thursday night was the first time we’ve seen the defense look like this.

Haslett’s defenses are good when they face bad offenses. He comes out with decent blitz looks when he plays teams he doesn’t feel threatened by. But put him up against a decent opponent or a threatening offense and he tinkles on himself — four-man rushes, no pressure, Cover 2 only, cushions on cushions, etc.

- Next up on the fry line…E.J. Biggers! Lost, confused, and, um, not good.

EJ Biggers II

- That’s really the meat of it. Everything on the defensive side of the ball aside from Ryan Kerrigan, maybe Chris Baker, and an injured Jason Hatcher came down to what appeared to be an unprepared, lost, and confused unit.

And to make matters worse, when said unit was confused, they just kind of looked around at one another, smirked, and joined in on this pre-school giggle.

(Not really, of course. At least I hope not.)

- After claiming he would try to avoid saying the R-word, Phil Simms did in fact use the R-word. Multiple times. He also wasn’t good at calling the game. He said things like, “You’re clearly not going to win this game, so there’s no reason to take chances with the football” when there were more than 13 minutes left.

I only list Simms under the BAD category because Simms himself is bad. In reality, Simms failing at simple tasks in reference to topics he’s so passionate about is amusing.

- Eli Manning and his face. We all had to see it, and as always it was bad. We all hate it.

- Watching Eli Manning run for a touchdown.

- Logan Paulsen‘s FUMBLE. Except not really a fumble. More like a here-you-can-have-it kind of handoff to the opposing team.

Paulsen Fumble

This one’s tough, though. Paulsen is a no nonsense kind of player and we always hear about how hard he works off the field, so you hate to see the guy get manhandled and robbed the way he did.

At the same time, you could argue that specific turnover as the turning point in the game. There was less than two minutes to go before half, the Redskins were down 21-7 and at the Giants 23-yard line. They were guaranteed at least three points, and then the ball to start the third quarter. Instead, Paulsen decides he’s in the giving mood and voila!

- Kirk Cousins and his FOUR interceptions. From franchise savior to Rex Grossman 2.0 in about 72 hours.

- This series of events:

Following Paulsen’s charity event, the Giants are on their own 48, toss one deep and draw Breeland for interference. 17 yards.

Next play, 18 seconds left, Ryan Kerrigan sacks Manning and takes the Giants from the Washington 35 to the Washington 40. Very nice. Giants are forced to use a timeout.

Next play, 12 seconds left, incomplete pass. Great. Giants call a timeout with seven seconds to go.

Next play, on 3rd-and-15 from the Washington 40, Manning drops a pass in between whatever that shit is we refer to as a secondary for a 29-yard gain. Cruz then steps out of bounds with one second remaining.

Cruz Catch

Next play, Josh Brown nails a 29-yard field goal to extend the lead 24-7 heading into half.

That really happened.

- The plays described above pretty much summarize the entire game for the Redskins. It was bad, it was ugly, and it was borderline unprofessional.

Better luck next week.

(Next opponent: Seattle Seahawks)

(Seattle Seahawks: Defending Super Bowl Champions)

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 4

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap. Others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

* * *

Last week’s bin featured plenty of performers, including Ahmad Bradshaw ($294.47/fPt) for the second consecutive week, Travis Kelce ($293.65/fPt) with his helpful diving score, and Julio Jones (187.03/fPt) with an incredible 40-point outing against the Bucs.

The most depressing part of NFL Week 4 has to be the lack of quality games on the schedule. And by quality, I mean entertaining. Thankfully, however, it doesn’t appear to effect the haul of players we can roster with cheap price tags.

Embrace the Bortles Empire; bleed the blood made from your love for Kirk Cousins; remember to walk, not run from Mike Glennon; and as always, best of luck.

 

Quarterback

Blake Bortles ($5,800) @ SD

The Chargers are a decent streaming option on defense this week, so playing Blake Bortles goes somewhat against the grain. Fact is, the greenhorn is the Jaguars’ best option at quarterback and he’ll get one helluva an opportunity at a replaceable position for less than $6,000.

 

Running Back

Ahmad Bradshaw ($5,800) v. TEN

Between Week 2 and Week 3, we saw an $800 increase in Ahmad Bradshaw’s salary. And now — after another solid performance and further recognition as to who the best back in Indianapolis is — we see an increase of $1,000.

Still, Bradshaw’s worth every penny. Not only is his 18.8 fPts per game enough proof, but that leaky Tennessee defense has allowed more than 320 rushing yards in their last two games.

At some point Bradshaw won’t be a bargain anymore thanks to rising stock price, but we’re not there yet. Roster Bradshaw and bank.

Pierre Thomas ($5,400) @ DAL

The Dallas defense actually totes some decent stats against fantasy running backs this season, but remember that their average received a boost following their Week 2 matchup against the “forceful tandem” of Dexter McCluster and Shonn Greene.

Khiry Robinson may be the guy receiving a bulk of the carries in New Orleans, but Pierre Thomas is your No. 1 in PPR formats.

Give me Thomas against a Dallas defense susceptible to effective offenses.

Donald Brown ($5,400) v. JAX

It’s the process of elimination in San Diego…

Ryan Mathews is out.
Danny Woodhead is out.
Donald Brown is not.

And then, of course, there’s the factor of opponent…

The Jaguars give up 160 rushing yards per game.
The Chargers play the Jaguars in San Diego this weekend.

And there you have it. $5,400 is a steal.

Matt Asiata ($4,500) v. ATL

Matt Asiata is not great. We’ll just get that out of the way. But he’s the lead guy in Minnesota right now and the Atlanta defense gives up gobs of points to opposing running backs.

Take last week for example. Even with the Buccaneers getting blown out and embarrassed on national television, Bobby Rainey was still able to rack up 15.5 fPts against the Falcons by rushing for 41 yards and hauling in seven passes for 64 yards.

That’s just the way it goes. Even if you fumble twice and don’t score, running backs eat against Atlanta. And for $4,500, you have to like Asiata’s odds.

 

Wide Receiver

Brandin Cooks ($5,300) @ DAL

Give up 330 yards and three touchdowns to Austin Davis and your defensive unit is officially on blast.

But even before the Cowboys screwed around and gave up seven catches and 75 yards to Jared Cook, Brandin Cooks was amassing targets to the tune of eight per game and the rookie is averaging better than 15 fPts through three weeks.

Golden Tate ($4,700) @ NYJ

Golden Tate hasn’t scored less than 10 fPts in a game so far this season, yet we see his stock price dip from a dumpster-diving $5,000 last week to just $4,800 against the Jets this Sunday. Not sure what to make of it, but positive I’m not ready to ditch him.

Tate is catching better than 75 percent of his seven targets a game in a high-powered offense. Despite the respect I have for the Jets’ defensive front, that secondary is not nearly intimidating enough to move me off Tate at his lowest cost so far this season.

Markus Wheaton ($4,200) v. TB

Did you happen to see Tampa Bay’s defense last Thursday?

Markus Wheaton isn’t Julio Jones. I get that. But the Bucs can’t be trusted.

Wheaton would be a nice add for the fantasy owner who fills in his core positions and then checks to see what he has left over to fill the flex spot. $4,200 is chump change.

DeAndre Hopkins ($4,800) v. BUF

DeAndre Hopkins is quietly piecing together a very nice three weeks to start the season, including more than 220 yards, two touchdowns, and nearly 51 fPts through three games.

The Houston offense is indeed limited by its quarterback play, but the Buffalo defense has been kind to the opposition thus far, giving up more than 267 passing yards per game.

It’s hard to gauge confidence in Hopkins week in and week out simply because it’s nearly impossible to trust Ryan Fitzpatrick. But at this price, you have to at least consider Nuke this Sunday.

Mike Evans ($4,200) @ PIT
Vincent Jackson ($5,100) @ PIT

These two are grouped together on purpose and they make the bargain bin for a couple of reasons.

  1. It feels weird saying it, but Mike Glennon is the best quarterback in Tampa. He’s expected to get the start this week and that actually increases the value of the Buccaneers’ giant outside receivers.
  2. The Pittsburgh defense was dealt a few blows last week in terms of injuries, one of which was cornerback Ike Taylor.

Again, I remember how terrible Tampa Bay looked last Thursday. I remember feeling bad for them, and wondering when we’d see Napoleon Dynamite enter the game, and how much longer head coach Lovie Smith would wait before walking off the field with his two hands in the air, middle fingers FULLY extended. I remember all that.

This is a risky play. Admittedly so. But I think it’s worth a thought.

Being that he’s the better receiver right now, Vincent Jackson is probably the better start. But at just $4,200, Mike Evans can catch two passes and a touchdown and you’re banking great value.

 

Tight End

Travis Kelce ($3,700) v. NE

When I say I’m obsessed with Travis Kelce, I mean it.

There’s not a better bargain tight end week in and week out than Travis Kelce. We did see a $700 increase in cost between his 12-point outing in Week 2 and before his Week 3 matchup against Miami, but a price below $4,000 is nearly undeniable on your roster.

Ladarius Green ($3,700) v. JAX

Jacksonville is to tight ends what Atlanta is to running backs.

In other words, tight ends love going against the Jaguars.

The only concern about Ladarius Green, however, is that despite his six targets compared to just one for Antonio Gates last week, the ratio appears to be a tough one to forecast.

Clearly Green is good enough to produce against the Jaguars, but I’d tread cautiously based on usage.

 

Film Breakdown: Kirk Cousins Week 3 vs. Philadelphia

Kirk Cousins II

During his weekly press conference late Monday afternoon, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was asked about the play of Kirk Cousins and the areas in which he could afford to improve.

Gruden wasn’t bashing Cousins by any means, but rather keeping it honest. While he praised the quarterback for leading an offense when trailing in the second half and soaking up valuable experience throughout, he also mentioned a few times where Cousins may have misread the pocket and rushed his throws — sometimes flinging a pass a bit too early when he could’ve (should’ve) waited that extra second, half-second longer in order to allow his receiver to get open.

Had the final outcome been different, perhaps it wouldn’t be the case. But because the Redskins lost on Sunday, Cousins’ brilliant performance of more than 400 yards and three scores is cast in the shadows of a couple poor throws in the final eight minutes of the game.

  1. With 7:34 left to go in the fourth quarter, Cousins drops back and attempts to drop one into Niles Paul down the right seam. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is playing single-high, reads Cousins’ eyes, and comes up with an outstanding diving interception.
  2. With 1:52 left to go in the game — on what would be the Redskins’ final possession — Cousins fires a pass left in the area of Pierre Garcon and misses him. After creating separation off the line, Garcon clips the top of his route with a nasty head-fake, slants in, and presents Cousins with a nice target. The ball sails behind the receiver.

Gruden didn’t go into specifics in terms of what throws he believed were the rushed ones and which pockets he thought Cousins could have done a better job at feeling. But given the timing and results of these two throws, it’s safe to assume the coach went back and took a hard look.

Looking first at the interception…

Cousins INT A

…the Redskins run curl routes with outside receivers DeSean Jackson (bottom screen) and Pierre Garcon. Andre Roberts will work the left seam from the slot position, and tight end Niles Paul will get out from his inline position and work down the right seam.

Meanwhile on defense, safety Malcolm Jenkins makes his way back to the single-high look before the snap.

Cousins INT II B

The above shot gives you an idea of the timing and angles behind the pass. Cousins has reached the peak of his drop, has planted his back foot, and is attempting to fire the pass.

You can see Jenkins has already given himself a great jump on where Cousins will ultimately go with the ball, and Paul (a tight end, remember) has yet to gain any separation from the defensive back in coverage.

Last week we saw Cousins freeze the Jacksonville defense by looking one way, selling the linebackers and/or safety, then resetting his feet and going elsewhere with the ball. A move like that would’ve been perfect in this situation, maybe taking a second longer to pump fake, thus moving Jenkins out of position, then repositioning his feet and firing down the left seam in a (typically) better matchup between a speedy receiver (in this case, Roberts) and a defensive back.

Cousins INT I

But does Cousins have time for a pump fake? Can he sell the safety enough with the amount of time his offensive line is giving him?

From the above screenshot, the answer would seem to be yes. But that’s easy for the chubby guy behind the computer to say.

With Cousins at the top of his dropback from this angle, you’ll notice Jenkins anticipating and beginning his path to the soon-to-be-throw. And also from the view of this angle, Cousins is investing a lot of confidence in his tight end to get behind/around the defensive back between the time of his release, and the ultimate landing position of the pass.

A couple other things to notice here, including left guard Josh LeRibeus who was subbed in for the injured Shawn Lauvao. Although LeRibeus appears to have decent position in this shot, defensive lineman Fletcher Cox is winning that battle.

Did Cousins feel the pressure from Cox up the middle and feel the need to fire? Or could he have shifted feet one time and fired left side?

Also, notice No. 29 for the Eagles on the left of the shot — that’s the guy covering Andre Roberts. Judging from his chase-like position, Roberts would appear to have a leg up on Paul in regards to beating his coverage (Roberts’ position in shot No. 2 shows this as well). If Cousins wanted to place a well-timed ball down the seam, Roberts would seem to be the ideal matchup in this situation.

Again, this an easy look and measure by yours truly. In game action, everything and everyone is moving at about 100 mph. Cousins needs to make decisions quickly and get the ball out even faster.

This throw, however, could be one Gruden was asking for another half-second out of Cousins to hang in there, adjust his feet, and take a safer shot elsewhere with a better chance for positive results.

And next a look at the final pass of the game for Cousins…

Cousins Miss A

…taking a look at Pierre Garcon (a pass-gobbling monster in this game) on sort of a dig route on the left side.

Garcon receives press coverage off the line, and the safety making his way back will protect against anything deep on that side of the field.

Cousins Miss IIGarcon cleanly and easily beats his man off the line, so his next bout is with the safety. His head fake outside gets the safety moving in that direction, in turn opening up his actual angle to the inside. Mr. Reliable shows up yet again, and prepares to give his quarterback a nice target on fourth-and-the-game.

Cousins Miss III

In the shot above, the ball is already out of Cousins’ hand, seemingly at the sign of Garcon’s initial move at the top of his route.

The pocket seems a bit congested, but with another half-second or so, Garcon is running into wide-open space and the safety on his side of the field wouldn’t have a shot at making a play on the ball.

This seems like a rush job by Cousins. It’s the final minutes of the game, your team is down, and it’s the final play to stay alive and you get a little antsy. Instead of anticipating where your receiver’s going to be, you throw it to where he is, and at that point it’s too late.

While this may or may not be a throw in which Gruden talks with Cousins about pocket presence and timing, the fact remains that if Cousins can throw the ball at all from this pocket, then he could’ve delivered a better pass.

Coulda’, shoulda’, woulda’. And again, couch quarterbacking is way easier than the real thing.

All said and done — and despite the loss and these couple of errant throws — there were good things to come out of the Redskins offense last Sunday, including Kirk Cousins.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Knee Jerk: Redskins v. Eagles

Redskins Eagles Brawl

In the hours following a Redskins game, thoughts and ideas and assumptions run rampant through the mind of a Washington fan, forcing a scattered and cloudy backdrop between the ears. 

Here are my initial notes following the Redskins’ 37-34 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

* * *

- Shutting down LeSean McCoy to the tune of 22 yards on 20 carries and just one catch for zero yards deserves some praise; especially when you consider McCoy ran for more than 180 yards last September against the Redskins. If there was one aspect of the game in which the Washington defense did well, it was containing the Eagles’ best player and all-around ground game.

- Losing DeAngelo Hall for the season to a torn Achilles is a massive blow to the team. Some may describe it as addition by subtraction for this defense (which is actually happening), but they’d be wrong. Hall is a playmaker on a unit that has very few. Losing him will hurt.

- Bashaud Breeland, come on down! I’ve been pretty high on the rookie throughout the preseason and these first few weeks. With Hall done for the year, Breeland could shift atop the depth chart, and his progression and development should be fun to watch. He’s an instinctive player with good size and an aggressive attitude.

- DeSean Jackson‘s return to Philly was fun — five catches for 117 yards and a score — but not nearly as enjoyable without a win. Still, it was good to see Kirk Cousins hook up with Jackson on a perfectly placed long ball.

- Speaking of hookups, Pierre Garcon was the man on Sunday, pulling in 11 catches for 138 yards and a score. He pulled in some really tough grabs throughout the game, played tough, and should remain Cousins’ most reliable target.

- Special teams in Washington still sucks. They may have brought in a new coach, added a few pieces, talked about an improved unit — but so far, they haven’t shown anything. Punter Tress Way is solid and Andre Roberts is a huge upgrade as a returner, but both pieces are quickly forgotten when you let up 102-yard kick returns for touchdowns and botch 33-yard field goals.

And to make matters worse, the Redskins’ woes on Sunday were direct bullets to the foot.

  1. Chris Polk’s 102-yard return came directly after the Redskins opened the game with an efficient drive that put them up 7-0 midway through the first quarter on the road. Rather than building off momentum, the special teams unit acts as the defibrillator and gets the Eagles crowd right back in the game.
  2. Kai Forbath‘s 33-yard miss came in the final quarter of the game and would’ve given the Redskins a 30-27 lead. Three (should-be) easy points a team that certainly needed them at the end.

- To football fans, Chris Baker‘s mega-block on quarterback Nick Foles was legal. The NFL rule book, however, says otherwise.

If at the time of a turnover the quarterback becomes a defenseless player, then he shouldn’t be allowed to try and make a play in the case of a return (INT or fumble). If the NFL wants to keep the rule the way it is, then the quarterback needs to physically remove himself from the play by getting to the sidelines, taking a knee, or playing dead.

- And in regards to the brawl that ensued as a result of Baker’s block: shame on David Amerson for jumping around like an idiot and throwing unnecessary punches. Not only does he risk injuring himself (at a position the Redskins desperately can’t afford to lose anyone), but he’ll also draw fines when the league goes back and looks at it. Stupid.

- Is Brian Orakpo on milk cartons yet?

I may not be the one signing his checks, but I’d be willing to bet the Redskins didn’t decide to pay Orakpo $11 million this season to just play the run. They need him as a pass rusher and playmaker and we’ve yet to see that.

- Once upon a time people talked about the Redskins offensive line, the zone blocking scheme, and how a dropback passer couldn’t succeed throwing the ball 50 times in a game.

Kirk Cousins threw 48 passes for 427 yards and three scores, while taking no sacks.

- A quick tip of the hat to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Despite taking a good number of shots, he hung in there and still finished with 325 yards, three touchdowns, and the victory.

- The Redskins finished with 10 penalties for 131 yards. That’s pretty terrible.

- Last week I was applauding inside linebackers Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley Jr., but Sunday’s game finished a bit differently. Robinson was targeted often and Perry Riley Jr. was beat on more than one occasion in pass coverage (including at least one touchdown).

- Blame whoever you want, the Redskins pass rush wasn’t good enough. No sacks, either.

- Another injury that will hurt this Redskins team: Duke Ihenacho. He was solid on special teams and would’ve likely been called on to help at safety later in the year. Tough break for the recently signed free agent.

With that, Chase Minnifield is called up to the 53-man roster.

- I don’t have the screen grabs for it just yet, but defensive lineman Frank Kearse had a helluva stop in the game.

- Safety Brandon Meriweather didn’t look good in his first game back. He was exposed in coverage and appeared rickety. Better with time, hopefully.

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 3

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap. Others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

* * *

Last week’s bin featured plenty of solid plays for a low cost, including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Giovani Bernard, and Travis Kelce. But the best bargains were Ahmad Bradshaw ($150.37/fpt) and Niles Paul ($129.70/fPt).

Best of luck in Week 3. In the meantime, I’m going to fight the urge to love Torrey Smith again, recognize myself as a bully for the way I’ve treated E.J. Manuel, and continue to eat this sandwich for dinner every night.

 

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill ($6,300) v. KC

I was thinking Ryan Fitzpatrick might crack the list for the second straight week, but then I remembered last week was a near-perfect game for the thickly bearded Texans quarterback, and our lineups aren’t wowing anyone with 13-point performances.

Instead, taking a shot on a guy like Ryan Tannehill (who’s cold right in terms of fantasy production) provides us with a capable quarterback for a low (yet fair) price. The Kansas City defense was lots of fun last season, but has yet to show anything through two games besides their ability to allow more than 40 fPts to opposing quarterbacks.

 

Running Back

Ahmad Bradshaw ($4,800) @ JAX

I wrote about Ahmad over at Gridiron Experts and named him one of my three starters this week. Not only is he the Colts’ best tailback, but he’s more versatile (and therefore more valuable) and sees more opportunities than Trent Richardson does.

We’re all in the majority in saying the Colts should handle Jacksonville and log their first win of the season. And once the lead is established, Bradshaw is the more trusted back called upon to run out the clock and close the Jags.

Shane Vereen ($5,100) v. OAK

Bill Belichick done shafted us again last week. Typical, really.

Although Stevan Ridley was fed the ball last game, this week should be a big one for Tom Brady (where are you, Tom?) and the New England offense, which in turn leads to more PPR gobblin’ from Shane Vereen.

There may be some hesitation here because of the possibility that Belichick sticks with the hot runner, and that’s likely why we see a dip in Vereen’s price. But Vereen has too high a ceiling not to cough up the five grand for him against this Oakland defense.

Doug Martin ($5,900) @ ATL

I know it’s only been two games, but there’s a free buffet in Atlanta where literally EVERYONE eats. Dougie Martin might still be nicked up, but he practiced all week, is listed as questionable, and SHOULD get the start.

Another guy to think about here is Martin’s backup, Bobby Rainey ($5,800).

The equation is rather simple: monitor the Bucs’ injury report and buy whatever running back gets the nod. The Falcons run defense couldn’t stop Trent Richardson.

 

Wide Receiver

Julian Edelman ($6,000) v. OAK

Once again noting the anticipated day for Tom Brady and the Pats offense, Julian Edelman should be a direct beneficiary.

Andrew Hawkins ($5,000) v. BAL

The Browns weathered a huge blow with the loss of Josh Gordon, but have helped themselves with offseason signing Andrew Hawkins, who has just as many targets through two games as Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown.

Hawkins has yet to get into the end zone this season — and the track record between Cleveland and Baltimore certainly doesn’t improve his chances this week — but Hawkins is a double-digit guy week in and week out.

Julio Jones ($7,500) v. TB

The Buccaneers defense was an intriguing unit heading into the season, but after giving up efficient quarterback play to Derek Anderson and Austin Davis, all faith has been lost.

Matt Ryan may be coming off a poor performance last week, but Tampa Bay isn’t Cincy. And so far this season, it was the Tampa defense that allowed Kelvin Benjamin to go off in his NFL debut in Week 1, and the Tampa defense that helped remind us Brian Quick was still a thing last Sunday.

So yeah — if the Bucs give up big games to rookies and forgotten names, Jones should rip ‘em to shreds.

Golden Tate ($5,000) v. GB

Through two weeks, Golden Tate has played more snaps than Calvin Johnson.

No, not the same production, obviously. Point is, Tate doesn’t lack opportunity. The Lions are a high-powered offense, Tate will get his targets, and the Packers defense have yet to prove anything.

 

Tight End

Dennis Pitta ($4,400) @ CLE

It was Owen Daniels starring as the tight end who stole the show last Thursday, but it’s Dennis Pitta who remains Joe Flacco’s BFF.

At this price, Pitta is too good a PPR option to pass up.

Meanwhile…

*cuts to scene of Torrey Smith wandering around in the desert wearing nothing but ripped shorts, searching anywhere and everywhere for these so-called “targets”*

Travis Kelce ($3,700) @ MIA

All Kelce. All the time.

I don’t care if Dwayne Bowe is back. And the loss of Jamaal Charles probably helps Travis Kelce’s case. He’s one of the few playmakers on this Chiefs team, yet his cost doesn’t reflect it.

Take the candy and run.

 

Cloudy With a Chance of Knee Jerk: Redskins v. Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars v Washington Redskins

In the hours following a Redskins game, thoughts and ideas and assumptions run rampant through the mind of a Washington fan, forcing a scattered and cloudy backdrop between the ears. 

Here are my initial notes following the Redskins’ 41-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. 

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  • Not that it should come as any surprise, but right guard Chris Chester struggled in pass protection. Despite Pro Football Focus’ positive 1.7 pass block rating, Chester gave up lots of ground when attempting to keep the quarterback clean. Fans will remember one play in particular — DeSean Jackson’s first-series long ball was ultimately ruled a no-catch (which didn’t and still doesn’t make sense) and the Redskins were faced with third down. The Jaguars ran a stunt on the right side of the line, Chester was blown off his spot, and Robert Griffin III ends up taking a sack. The Redskins went from long gain, to bad call, to a sack, to punt.
  • While the 41 points were nice, it was the Washington defense that should earn the biggest applause. Some of the statistics and numbers they put up were nothing shy of staggering — like not allowing the Jaguars to run a single offensive play on the Redskins’ side of the field until the fourth quarter. Or holding the Jaguars to just eight first downs the entire game. Or their ability to hold a professional football offense to less than 150 total yards over four quarters. Or how about those 10 sacks? Ten. Double digit sacks for a defense from a year ago that wouldn’t know an effective pass rush if it fell into their lap. Absurd numbers, and very easy to get used to.
  • Speaking of the defense — hats off to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett for coming in aggressive and staying that way. I’m one of the many who has been critical of Haslett over the years, and that won’t necessarily change this season. But the aggressiveness was nice. It’ll be interesting to see if that sort of style sticks throughout the remaining 14 games, or if he reverts back to his “Hesitant Haz” persona against threatening offenses and rolls out those gentle pass rushes.
  • And sticking with the defense for just a tad longer — how good is Jason Hatcher? This dude’s one of the best interior defensive lineman the Redskins have had in a very long time. He’s huge, he’s physical, he’s quick, he’s smart, and he’s a large part of why the Redskins have been so successful on defense this year. I’m absolutely in love with this guy and people probably won’t understand how important he truly is until the Redskins have to push through a few games in the unfortunate case of an injury. So, so good.
  • A guy not in the “so good” category but worthy of praise for his play yesterday: linebacker Brian Orakpo. One game isn’t going to change my mind, but Orakpo played very well both against the run, and as a disruption against the pass.
  • No question as to what category linebacker Ryan Kerrigan belongs in. He’s fantastic. Four sacks on Sunday and active hands. So money, this guy.
  • While on the topic of linebackers, I thought both Perry Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson played well inside. Both were all over the field and I think Robinson can be a stud.
  • When the Redskins hired Jay Gruden to become their next head coach, there was some worry as to what would happen to fullback Darrel Young. During his time in Cincinnati as an offensive coordinator, Gruden didn’t really implement a fullback in his offense. Thing was, he didn’t have a talent at the position quite like Young. Not only was Young’s touchdown catch an easy one to celebrate, but he’s so effective in the blocking game. Thanks to his brick wall block at the goal line, Alfred Morris was able to get into the end zone to give Washington the 14-0 lead.
  • By the way, another stocky guy on offense to mention: tight end Niles Paul. Filling in for the injured Jordan Reed, Paul stepped in and led the team in catches. He was originally drafted by the Redskins as a wide receiver, and I don’t think anyone doubted his ability to be a reliable passing target. Does he have his frustrating drops? Certainly — we saw one late in the third quarter. But Paul is leaps and bounds in front of Logan Paulsen as a pass catcher, and his athleticism is underrated. Paul has the speed to get down the seam, he can turn it up field from the flats, and he plays with an incredible amount of aggression that gives him a good chance at additional yardage after the catch. His touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty — using his hands like a veteran BEFORE the catch, adjusting his body, and high-pointing the football.
  • As much as we all love Alfred Morris as a consistent earner (intentional Sopranos reference), Roy Helu Jr. showed very well on Sunday, once again demonstrating the physical attributes that separate him from his backfield partner. Helu is an incredible athlete with surprising explosiveness and superb balance. He’s also a smart football player with a good sense of where he is on the field and what his best angles are. It was just before halftime when Helu took a checkdown pass on 3rd-and-4, worked to churn out the first down, and also made sure to get out of bounds to preserve time. Not only was that catch a timely third down conversion, but it also put the Redskins in position for a 45-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-7 before the half (a sack would ultimately negate such chance). Nice game for Helu.
  • Before DeSean Jackson became available via trade, the Redskins had signed Andre Roberts with the idea in mind that he’d be their No. 2 wide receiver. Obviously Jackson adds a new dimension to nearly every offense in the league, so in no way am I downplaying his addition. But there’s also no doubt that Roberts can handle prime wideout duties himself. He’s an underrated receiver with fearlessness, smarts, and YACability — all attributes of a reliable stud. And that’s without mentioning his kick/punt return ability.

Here’s a look at Roberts’ 31-yard catch from early in the second quarter.

Roberts lines up in the slot and will run a soft in behind the linebackers.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Roberts I

While it’s a great play for Roberts, the entire thing happens thanks to Kirk Cousins and his ability to freeze the linebackers with an effective look-off to the right side.

You’ll notice the middle linebacker (highlighted) is already baiting towards the far receiver thanks to Cousins’ selling eyes and body position.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Roberts II

Before they know it, the linebackers are steps behind and Roberts is nestling in behind for a huge gain. Cousins does a good job resetting his feet and firing in a good pass.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Roberts III

  • Rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland is going to be really good. He’s feisty and physical with the size/speed attributes to boot. His future is bright.

Here’s a look at a great jump Breeland had on a screen pass that nearly went the other way for a touchdown.

It wasn’t the toughest of plays to sniff out I suppose, but the rookie wastes zero time breaking on the ball. Below you can see the ball hasn’t even left the quarterback’s hand yet, but Breeland reads it quickly and already begins his attack on the receiver.

Week 2 Snap_Breeland Read I

Seeing as how the ball hits him in the hands, Breeland should’ve come up with this thing, and it was an easy score if he does. At the very least, he breaks up the pass and takes away a first down for the Jaguars.

Week 2 Snap_Breeland Read II

  • On the opposite end of the young defensive back spectrum: safety Bacarri Rambo. He’s just not good. Just when you think he’s starting to get it, he takes another one of his now-famous ATROCIOUS ANGLES and gives up a score.

The ugliest play of the game for the Redskins defense was in the second quarter when Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis caught a pass on the right sideline and turned it into a 63-yard score.

Below you’ll see Lewis spread out wide with DeAngelo Hall covering. At this point, quarterback Chad Henne is just about to release the throw and Lewis looks to be in a decent position against Hall. I could be wrong, but it appears as if Hall misplayed his position, likely thinking he was deeper and more in position to make a play. Still, the veteran corner doesn’t flinch at reading the quarterback’s eyes and motion.

Week 2 Snap_Marcedes TD I

Henne ultimately delivers a decent pass over Hall and into Lewis’ window. You’ll also notice safety Bacarri Rambo arriving fashionably late to the sideline.

However, despite being behind, Rambo has a good angle on Lewis to at least tackle him as soon as he catches the ball, whether it be dragging him to the ground or shoving him out of bounds. Clearly this isn’t a play that should go for six.

Week 2 Snap_Marcedes TD II

Oh but it does. Thanks to a terrible angle by Rambo who (for some reason) attacks the tight end’s front side rather than make things easy and hitting him from behind at the thighs, Lewis is able to shed a weak tackle attempt and chug his way to the endzone.

Ugly, ugly play.

Week 2 Snap_Marcedes III

  • Washington had a lot of penalties (11 for 98 yards) and, as always, the bonehead ones were the most memorable. That needs to be corrected.
  • You don’t even have to be a Redskins fan to appreciate rookie wide receiver Ryan Grant. All you have to do is appreciate the game of football. He was an under-the-radar prospect, mid-round guy who looks nothing close to a player seeing just his second NFL regular season game. He understands route running, he has solid hands, and he always knows where the first down marker is. His leaping catch down the sideline on a 3rd-and-4 early in the fourth quarter was a thing of brilliance.

First thing to note is how well Cousins hangs in the pocket, steps up and delivers a nice pass on a big down and distance.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Grant I

As a savvy route runner, Grant had already done enough to beat his man, and then he was able to pull off an acrobatic catch to pick up the first down and extend the drive.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Grant II

  • Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne may have stared down a receiver harder than a college freshman, but tip of the cap to safety Trenton Robinson for a solid read and pounce to snag an interception. Tough guy and strong work ethic. Deserved it.
  • Oh yeah, I almost forget — Kirk Cousins played pretty well. Sure, people will say things like “It’s the Jaguars, bro” and “Wait until he plays a real team”, which are probably valid points. But at the end of the day, the Jaguars are ranked in the top-32 of every football team in the world and Cousins put together a good game against professionals. He’s quick to get the ball out (which Gruden prefers), he has the arm to make all the throws, he has the mobility to be effective in the 50-series offense, and his pocket presence/awareness is head and shoulders above Robert Griffin III. If Gruden ever had the scratch in his brain that perhaps Cousins was the better quarterback for this offense, now is a prime opportunity to take advantage of it. If Cousins plays well enough, the talk will heighten and upper management will have some tough decisions to make.
  • And what better way to end it than with a dance-down boogie led by defensive lineman Chris Baker?

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 2

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap, others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

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While none of us should take Week 1 in the NFL as gospel, at least we got a taste.

Not all of last week’s plays were fun (we’re looking at you, Shaun Hill), but Knowshon Moreno was a rewarding play, and old man Fred Jackson paid dividends en route to stiff arming Bears safety Chris Conte like an oncoming zombie.

We also got to see Derek Anderson play football, the Bills avoid the E.J. Manuel fallout, and Brandin Cooks remain atop grown men’s hottest athletes list.

Helluva time in retrospect. We’re all #blest.

 

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,000) @ OAK

I know — it doesn’t feel right to me either. But there’s something about me (a guy who doesn’t like fantasy passers) and that $5,000 salary (tied for the lowest of any starting quarterback this week) that all seems to mesh so well.

At the end of the day, you’re getting a starting quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who’s going for the same dollar amount as second-string guys like Mike Glennon and Brandon Weeden. That — to me anyway — is valuable.

And whether Fitzpatrick can/will/wants to throw the ball down the field or not, going against the Raiders defense helps him in this spot.

 

Running Back

Giovani Bernard ($6,300) v. ATL

Gio Bernard may have ran for less than 50 yards last week against the Ravens, but he stuffed the stat sheet with six catches for 62 yards to give us a 17-point performance. That was against Baltimore.

Atlanta gave up nearly 140 yards on the ground to New Orleans last week, including Pierre Thomas (another PPR delight) who chipped in with another six catches for 58 yards.

Don’t fear Jeremy Hill. Allow Gio to feast on the dirty birds.

Shane Vereen ($5,900) @ MIN

As long as PPR sorcerer Shane Vereen hovers around $6k, I’ll continue to roster him. Not only is that whole point-per-reception thing a big deal given the running back’s talent and fit with this offense, but he’s also the Patriots’ most effective and trusted runner. Despite Stevan Ridley edging out Vereen last week by a carry (eight carries total), Vereen’s average of better than five yards is much more attractive than Ridley’s sub-three.

Fred Jackson ($4,000) v. MIA

The Dolphins are one of my streamers on defense this week, so giving the nod to Fred Jackson may seem a bit illogical in strategy. But his value (for a second consecutive week at just $4k) has to be noted.

Despite more than half of his rushing yards coming on one carry late in the game last week, Jackson remains a cog in the Bills offense, and a guy that will continue to receive a decent workload alongside C.J. Spiller.

Ahmad Bradshaw ($4,000) v. PHI

More or less a spitball with this pick, but hear me out.

  • Last week the Colts got down early, trailing the Broncos 24-7 at half.
  • The Colts came out swinging in the second half, for obvious reasons.
  • A result of said swinging was an increased workload for Ahmad Bradshaw.
  • Against the Eagles, there’s a chance the Colts get down early yet again.
  • In such a case, the Colts would then come out swinging in the second half.
  • Not only is Bradshaw the Colts’ best runner, but also their best back in pass-pro and a solid receiving target.
  • Beyond this game — assuming good health and that Trent Richardson remains bad at football — Bradshaw should see an uptick in volume.

Depending on how you think this game will go, Bradshaw could be a steal at just $4k.

Jamaal Charles ($7,400) @ DEN

This may be high dollar amount floating in the bargain bin, but it’s dirt cheap for a talent like Jammal Charles in a situation where we all feel the Broncos are going to blow the doors off the Kansas City Chiefs (wait…do we not all think that?).

If the Chiefs end up winning this game, it’ll be in large part because Charles was effective. That gives you fantasy points.

If the Chiefs lose this game, it’s likely bad for them from the very beginning, which means they need their best player (Hi, Jamaal!) to help get them back in the game if they have any desire to do so. That also gives you fantasy points.

Charles’ stock price is down for obvious reasons (see: Week 1), but don’t nudge your studs off a cliff. Charles is a value buy this week.

 

Wide Receiver

Torrey Smith ($5,000) v. PIT

Joe Flacco threw the ball more than 60 times last week in a losing effort against the Bengals, yet Torrey Smith was targeted only seven times.

That changes Thursday night in Baltimore, in what should be a raucous environment with a lot on the line for the Ravens despite being just two weeks into the season.

Look for a stat line more along the lines of what we saw from Torrey the last time he played the Steelers: six catches for 93 yards, and a touchdown.

Brandin Cooks ($5,300) @ CLE

The longer Kenny Stills nurses his injury, the more opportunities rookie Brandin Cooks will receive. And considering what he was able to do in his NFL debut last week against the Falcons, Cooks looks every bit of the real deal.

Clearly the Browns are a better defense than the Falcons, but the Saints are a dominant offensive team. Not really good, or pretty effective — but dominant on offense.

Sean Payton’s creativity combined with Cooks’ skill set makes for a juicy buy regardless of opponent and assuming consistent workload.

Golden Tate ($5,000) @ CAR

Carolina’s defense is way better than the New York Giants — I get that. But if you believe in this Detroit offense like some people (*points to himself*), then Golden Tate is a guy worth looking for every week. And at just $5,000 (again, I know it’s the Panthers), you know you’re getting targets, and therefore opportunity.

Markus Wheaton ($4,900) @ BAL

Not going as far as to call Baltimore-Pittsburgh a Thursday night shootout, but neither secondary seems threatening. Antonio Brown may be Big Ben’s No. 1 guy, but Markus Wheaton can creep under the radar for a few more weeks and build upon last game’s six catches and 97 yards.

 

Tight End

Niles Paul ($3,100) v. JAX

Go about elbow-deep in the bargain bin and you can have Redskins tight end Niles Paul.

Is he Jordan Reed? Not by a long shot. But he is the best pass-catching tight end in Washington with Reed nursing yet another injury, and in Gruden’s offense he could see an increase in targets the next few weeks.

Travis Kelce ($3,000) @DEN

Week in and week out — I’m buying Travis Kelce stock.

Last week wasn’t as great as we had hoped (7.9 fPts) — not to mention Anthony Fasano gobbled up what should’ve/could’ve been a Kelce score — but the second-year tight end is one of the only playmakers the Chiefs have right now and his price is entirely too low not to roster him.

Love this while you still can. A breakout game from Kelce and his bottom-of-the-barrel pricing quickly becomes a distant memory.

 

Everyone Failed in Ray Rice Case

Ray Rice

The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of Ray Rice on Monday, and the NFL suspended the running back indefinitely following the recent release of a video that showed the 28-year-old Rice striking and knocking out his then-fiance Janay Palmer in an elevator.

The video footage is disturbing. The ultimate punishment for Rice is overdue. The entire situation generates plenty of blame to go around.

 

The National Football League…because commissioner Roger Goodell and every other schmo in charge of handing down disciplinary action in this case failed miserably. Simply claiming that Goodell and his goons dropped the ball with just a two-game suspension would be an understatement.

And are we suppose to believe the NFL had no way of gaining access to this video? Was the entire NFL willing to take Ray Rice for his word and not investigate to their full ability?

So Goodell saw video No. 1 (of the casino floor) and video No. 3 (of Ray Rice dragging his fiance’s body from the elevator like a bag of mulch), but didn’t think video No. 2 (the actual CRIME) was all that important?

According to a statement from the NFL:

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”

The league should add some clarification to their bogus statement:

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, but decided only to see what we wanted to see, which excluded the video from inside the elevator. That video wasn’t easily attainable, but we could have coughed up some coin in order to secure the video. We decided not to pursue the elevator tape and for some reason thought it’d be lost forever. Our only hope now is that we convince everyone to believe that the mega, mighty NFL has the same access, priority, and pull as your standard celebrity news website.”

That’s not to say the NFL is lying about seeing it for the first time. But if that’s the case, at least admit to turning a blind eye rather than assuming the entire public is made up of gullible toddlers.

 

The Baltimore Ravens…because they’re also guilty of ignoring evidence. And everyone from owner Steve Bisciotti, to Ozzie Newsome, to John Harbaugh should be held accountable.

You mean to tell me that not one person in the Ravens organization thought it’d be in the team’s best interest to maybe investigate this a little further? To maybe look into things and, I dunno, ask about that elevator tape before getting in front of cameras and backing Ray Rice as a standup guy?

What type of business/organization hinges their own reputation on the words of a desperate athlete on the verge of taking a massive financial hit?

Support your teammates, the good and the bad, let the justice system run its course, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately the Ravens will make it out of this mess looking a whole lot better than they should. They ignored the classic saying in the NFL that football is a business, and instead attached themselves to a player in order to avoid an organizational black eye.

People will say the organization did the right thing by cutting Ray Rice, but won’t remind themselves of the team’s lack of professionalism and due diligence throughout it all.

 

The State of New Jersey…I won’t pretend to know the law or its limitations in a situation like this, but where the hell was the state prosecutor?

A huge miss in all of this is the state electing not to press charges against Ray Rice. Maybe there’s something about wife not being able to incriminate husband, but how was any of this okay?

According to the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, both requested the video from inside the elevator (aka “all evidence”), yet both claimed to not receive it.

Did law enforcement and the state of New Jersey have footage of Ray Rice beating his fiance this whole time? Did they not find that footage relevant? Was there a reason no punishment was handed down by government officials?

 

Ray Rice…for obvious reasons. For beating women. For being a liar. For betraying his teammates, coaches, and supporters. For tricking us all into thinking he was good guy. For setting a poor example. For thinking he was the exception. For taking everything for granted, including his wife.

 

Janay Palmer…because as much as I feel for her and the fact that she was forced to apologize for her “role in that night”, I also can’t condone not standing up.

I understand it’s probably easy for me to say, and that there’s love, it’s family, it’s the father of your child, it’s financial stability, the thick and thin. But regardless of consequence, no woman should be a victim of domestic violence. And we can only hope this was the first (and last) time.

Additionally, Janay Palmer’s stance and response — whether forced or not — is a disservice to other women. It’s not okay to succumb to abuse, it’s not okay to brush it off, and no amount of money should take place of human rights.

Often times we see victims of violent crimes naturally inherit the responsibility of making sure others don’t become victims themselves. Palmer’s response condoned it.

 

The Public…because there are plenty who fail to understand the concept that fans don’t really know athletes the way they think they know athletes.

Despite (what I’ll refer to as) overwhelming evidence supporting the case of Ray Rice striking his fiance and then pulling her out of an elevator, fans gave Ray Rice a standing ovation during training camp, continued to tirelessly support their star running back, and threw incredibly ignorant shots at all those who blasted Ray Rice on social media for getting away with a crime.

And as a disturbing side note, there are STILL people out there supporting Ray Rice.

 

It’s sad to think that if only the NFL and Baltimore Ravens had seen this latest video footage, Ray Rice would still have a job. The only reason Ray Rice is out of football is because WE saw the latest video footage.

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 1

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap, others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

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The wait is over. Football is back. No need for small talk. Here’s your daily fantasy dumpster dive for Week 1 of the freshest NFL season.

xoxoxo

 

Quarterback

Shaun Hill ($5,000) v. MIN

Would I call this pick a safe one? Eh, probably not. We don’t know how the almighty Shaun Hill will look opening week. But we do know he’s the cheapest starting quarterback option on the card and that he’s going against a Minnesota defense that isn’t exactly threatening.

It not so much concern regarding Hill himself, but instead with the Rams and their game plan against the Vikings. If St. Louis decides to pound the ball on the ground, Hill’s opportunity obviously lessens. And with a guy like Zac Stacy running the ball, the Rams have the power and skill to hammer it as opposed to throw it.

The former Terps star stays put on the list, but there’s plenty of gamble to go along with it.

Geno Smith ($6,500) v. OAK

You, me, everyone — we all seem to be on the Geno Smith wagon this weekend. And why not? The Jets are hosting the Raiders, after all.

Despite pumping Smith even before he was drafted, the quarterback wasn’t consistent enough last season. Sure there were flashes, but he wasn’t a guy you could trust.

This season however, in addition to a tough defense backing him up, Smith has a better supporting cast (here’s to you, Eric Decker) and has shown strides between his rookie and sophomore season.

The Raiders certainly help the play this week, but this isn’t the last of ol’ Geno. Expect to see him as a popular streamer throughout the year.

 

Running Back

Frank Gore ($5,200) @ DAL

So much for respecting your elders.

Even at the ripe age of 31 (which is like 86 in running back years), Frank Gore receives tons of love this week as he travels to Dallas to take on an ugly Cowboys defense. He’s the freshest he’ll be all year, the 49ers should control the game, and it’ll only set you back about 10 percent of your cap.

Fred Jackson ($4,400) @ CHI

Another elderly statesman, and perhaps this one at an even better price that Frank.

I’ve talked before about the E.J. Manuel fallout and what it does to the Buffalo offense, but in this case it actually boosts the value of Fred Jackson (and that’s probably a safe assumption for the rest of the season, assuming good health).

Here’s a few predictions:

  1. Fred Jackson will see plenty of volume
  2. Fred Jackson will receive the goal line work
  3. Fred Jackson will catch the ball
  4. Fred Jackson will lead his team in carries

And a couple things I know:

  1. DraftKings scoring format awards a full point per reception, as opposed to FanDuel who only gives out a half-point.
  2. Fred Jackson is a starting running back, yet takes up less than 10 percent of your payroll.

Add the facts and my predictions together and Fred Jackson ends up looking like Sunday’s steal.

Knowshon Moreno ($4,000) v. NE

I don’t necessarily love the matchup — and I don’t love the fact that not even the Dolphins have figured out their depth chart yet — but I think a healthy Knowshon Moreno (even behind Lamar Miller) is worth the $4,000 pocket change price tag.

Andre Ellington ($6,000) v. SD

Some time back in May, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said he wanted to get Andre Ellington 25-30 touches a game in 2014 as Arizona’s primary back.

I’ve held onto every word ever since.

Ellington has the potential to be a dynamic player in PPR formats and San Diego serves as a favorable foe to kickoff the season. Assuming Arians isn’t a liar, this is a really strong play for the weekend.

That said, Ellington — with his position and cost combined — would appear to be a popular flex candidate this week. If there’s a fantasy owner waiting til the end to fill his flex position, I have a feeling he/she is scrolling somewhere in the $6,000 range and taking a long look at Andre. If you’re looking to diversify, I wouldn’t count on Ellington being your secret weapon.

Zac Stacy ($6,400) v. MIN

As mentioned in the thoughts regarding Shaun Hill, the Rams’ gameplan against Minnesota could very well be run, run, and then run some more. In such a case, Zac Stacy’s volume is well worth his current price, and he’s likely to catch a few passes out of the backfield too.

 

Wide Receiver

Marques Colston ($5,900) @ ATL

With his injury woes from last year seemingly behind him, Marques Colston is another one who makes the list of old geezers with a favorable Week 1 matchup.

This game has plenty of intrigue from an offensive production standpoint (don’t forget Roddy White for $5,900), and Colston will be on the receiving end of about a million of Drew Brees’ two million throws.

Eric Decker ($5,200) v. OAK

If you like the Geno Smith play, you almost have to like Eric Decker too. He’s the Jets’ best receiving threat and Smith will love having a big target to rely on.

While many are critical of Decker now that it’s life without Peyton, I’m on the other side in thinking Decker will be a consistent producer this season and take advantage of what’s sure to be plenty of red zone action.

All that starts this weekend against the Raiders.

Emmanuel Sanders ($4,800) v. IND

When the Kentucky Derby goes wrong, who replaces Wes Welker in the slot?

Even before Welker decided to pop molly and hand out cash while wearing a fedora, Emmanuel Sanders brought a different wrinkle to the Denver offense by way of explosiveness and field-stretching ability. Why not him?

Riley Cooper ($4,400) v. JAX

Despite my love for the Jaguars and the current regime in Jacksonville, the Eagles are going to get after it this weekend and Riley Cooper is a guy who should see his fair share of work. He also happens to be a sizable red zone option, further proving his $4,400 price tag a bargain.

 

Tight End

Travis Kelce ($3,200) v. TEN

The draft crush lives on! It’s been an entire (rookie) season without Travis Kelce, and now, FINALLY, he’s alive and well and ready to contribute.

I know, I know — we haven’t seen Kelce in regular season action. But he has the makeup and skill set to become a top-producer at his position, and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid doesn’t get enough credit for the way he uses his tight ends and the resulting benefit for us fantasy owners.

I’m buying all the Kelce stock this season and a $3,200 salary this week allows you to land a nice talent on a potent offense in what should be a winning effort, all while maintaining roster flexibility.

Zach Ertz ($4,100) v. JAX

Brent Celek may be listed as the starting tight end in Philly, but Zach Ertz is the guy for us fantasy owners. He’s a sizable target with underrated route running skills and good hands in an up-tempo Chip Kelly offense — a perfect fit.

Thing is, at least this week, when you can have Kelce for nearly $1,000 less, it’s hard to pull the trigger on Ertz at $4,100. But even so, he doesn’t take up loads of cap and he has a good chance of scoring against the Jags.

 

Fantasy Football: Tim Wright Traded to the Patriots

Arizona Cardinals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As somewhat of a general rule for this time of year, it’s important we remind ourselves not to buy-in to everything we see and hear when it comes to the NFL preseason. But as fantasy owners, nearly every move requires some sort of due diligence, as we poke and prod for every piece of info or analysis that may or may not be relevant to our upcoming path to league dominance (or something like that).

On Tuesday afternoon, one of those said moves occurred, as the the New England Patriots traded veteran guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a future fourth-round draft pick and tight end Tim Wright.

Judging by a very unofficial Twitter gauge, there were three types of responses to the move…

  1. It floats beneath the radar simply because, despite Mankins being a big name, he himself is not a fantasy producer.
  2. It helps Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin’s draft stock now that the Bucs’ offensive line has been upgraded.
  3. It requires I dig into Tim Wright and find out what kind of player he can be in New England.

While I agree with each of those reactions, I fall mostly into the latter category, acknowledging that a Patriots tight end is usually a person of interest and a situation certainly worth exploring (at least a little bit).

You might remember Wright from a season ago, when the undrafted rookie scored 14 points in Week 4, only to post double-digit totals in seven of his next 11 games and finish as the 16th-ranked tight end in PPR formats.

Listed at 6’4″, 220 pounds and a former wide receiver at Rutgers, Wright totes the size and athleticism necessary to be an effective move tight end, which the Patriots offense didn’t have before Tuesday. Clearly Rob Gronkowski, assuming good health, is the No. 1 option on offense, but Wright gives Bill Belichick another sizable figure who can lineup in the slot and generate mismatches.

It’s difficult to forecast Wright’s production in 2014 for a few reasons, including a new offense, only his second season in the league, and the chance that his rookie year was a massive outlier. But as a typical fantasy owner, there’s a handful of (brief) pieces I’m weighing here.

Last Season’s Foundation

Again, I can’t help but take note of Wright’s production last season and his ultimate finish as the 16th-ranked tight end in PPR formats. His quarterback was Mike Glennon, the Tampa Bay offense as a whole was atrocious, and somehow he still posted decent numbers.

Make of it what you will, but Wright finished as a top-10 tight end five different times, a top-4 tight end three different times, and the No. 1 tight end in Week 15 (typically the fantasy playoffs/championship).

Wright wound up hauling in better than 72 percent of his 66 targets in essentially 13 games of action, racking up 513 yards and four scores. There has to be some sort of love there considering he’ll be on the other end of Brady’s passes now, right?

The Tom Brady Effect

Far from a revelation, but Tom Brady can get more out of his pass-catchers than a majority of other quarterbacks in the NFL. Maybe you want to call it the Belichick Effect, or the New England Effect — it doesn’t matter. History shows that relative no-namers can become household names by working with any combination of the sort.

Surroundings

I’m a believer in a change of scenery/situation and its effect on players, so Wright landing in New England provides room for optimism for a couple of reasons.

  • Belichick’s at least a little bit interested. And he loves Rutgers alumni.
  • Wright has gone from undrafted, to Tampa’s leading tight end, to being traded to one of the most respected organizations in all of football. Not only could his confidence receive a jolt, but how about the fire beneath him to take advantage of the opportunity?
  • This trade comes only a short while after Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith referred to Wright and his preseason performance thus far, saying, “He hasn’t played as well as Tim should be playing. He’s dropped some balls…Tim hasn’t blocked as well inside…Once you’re that H-back and you don’t block, now they say you’re just another receiver…”
  • Tapping the Tom Brady Effect one last time — he’s a master at spreading the ball around. A healthy Gronk will get his grabs, as will Shane Vereen out of the backfield, and Julian Edelman out of the slot. But there’s catches for Wright to make too.

Consistency

What I would be concerned with, however, is Wright’s consistency in the New England offense.

Although I don’t prefer to reference his rookie season in this specific example, it’s hard to ignore Wright’s see-saw production for the better part of the year. While the nine-target games were great, Wright also logged outings in which he only saw one or two passes come his way.

It’s not impossible of course, but labeling Wright a more consistent option now that he’s in New England doesn’t seem like the safest of bets.

Time and Adjustment

Speaking of which, we shouldn’t expect overnight production from Wright. He’ll need a chance to get acquainted and learn the offense before contributing.

Cost and Relative Risk

From a cost perspective, Wright’s current ADP doesn’t even show within the first 13 rounds, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, making him a bargain bin grab at the tail-end of your respective draft.

Because no one is expecting him to light the world on fire, we can keep Wright as a late-round option, yet prepare for the natural climb in ADP based off last season’s numbers and his new situation up north.

And as we all know, risk is attached to cost. If you’re participating in a dyno league or already have your re-draft roster set, clearing room for Wright isn’t exactly necessary at this point. But if you have the room, or you can drop a do-nothing lost-hopeful without shedding a tear, Wright is worth the fly.

 

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