The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL and its implications in fantasy football, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, and other random tidbits. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN or 4for4.com.
THINGS I KNOW
I know Melvin Gordon has underwhelmed. It might be because he has not seen more than 80 percent of the Chargers’ snaps since week six, or that he faced a dominant Jaguars defense last Sunday, but 27 rushing yards on 16 carries is horrendous no matter how you slice it. While eight targets is relatively good for a running back, only 15 receiving yards is still bad. Gordon is a workhorse back who needs to be treated as such, but he also needs to perform when given the chance. I get the Chargers offensive line is not reliable, but a powerful, shifty back like Gordon should be able to create some holes on his own. This Sunday he faces the Bills and their 22nd-best rushing defense. If Gordon does not perform well against them, can he be trusted against a run-friendly upcoming schedule?
I know the Rams are playing great, but they have a tough schedule ahead of them. What Sean McVay has done to this team is the equivalent of what happens during an average Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode. The Rams are completely unrecognizable. Just look at their stats. The team is first in total offense and third in total defense a year after being dead last in both categories. Led by sophomore Jared Goff and superstar Todd Gurley, the Rams offense has posted 33, 51, 33 and 27 points in their last three games, respectively. The defense, on the other hand has been lights out, surrendering only 7, 17, 0 and 7 points, respectively. However, the last three Rams’ opponents are also a combined 8-19. The road ahead is far darker for Los Angeles, as only two of the seven remaining opponents have losing records. If the Rams want to solidify their lead in the division, they will have to kick it up a notch, starting with a trip to Minnesota this Sunday.
I know the Seahawks can not win if Russell Wilson continues to throw like a baseball player. To all the people who say Wilson is an elite quarterback, you are wrong. Wilson is undoubtedly an elite playmaker, but his throws have been too inconsistent to warrant “elite” throwing status. The world’s most overused trivia question seems to be about Wilson’s short baseball career. Unfortunately for Wilson, it seems he still has some baseball left in him, because I watched him throw like a pitcher on multiple occasions during last week’s Thursday night game. NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth also noticed, pointing out how Wilson dips his arm — so that his forearm is pointing to the ground — then winds up on the throw before releasing. This motion is poison in the NFL, as more teams stress quicker releases from their quarterbacks. The unorthodox throwing motion clearly had an effect on Wilson — he missed open throws while the game remained scoreless early. I will credit him, though, as he seemed to regain his fundamentals throughout the game, but if he returns to his baseball motion, the Seahawks will have trouble competing.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know what the situation is like for the Giants. Frankly, I doubt anyone really knows what is going in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Some players have tried to clarify the issues by voicing their concerns anonymously, but apparently the other players are angry that there are “rats” in the locker room. Coupled with a horrible 1-8 record, this has the makings for a busy Black Monday at the end of the season. While the Giants’ owners said they will not fire head coach Ben McAdoo in the middle of the season, and rightfully so, I can’t help but wonder who is on the way out of the Big Apple. As of now, the only two players who have consistently performed well this season are youngsters Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Now, I am not saying this means every other player could be let go, but do not be surprised if new Giants head coach Teryl Austin benches Eli Manning for Josh Rosen in week one of next season. (While that is just a prediction, the Giants are rumored to be looking at a new coach and a new quarterback.)
I don’t know why the Bengals don’t feed Joe Mixon more. Mixon is a true baller who reminds me of Le’Veon Bell. His patience, receiving skills and elusiveness are all top-notch — so can someone please call Marvin Lewis and tell him to give the ball to Mixon more? I know the Bengals offensive line has had its fair share of issues — but doesn’t that make the case for Mixon that much greater? It will take a lot for the 3-6 Bengals to make the playoffs, so why not give the rookie a chance? After all, Jeremy Hill was placed on injured reserve and Gio Bernard has no where near the strength that Mixon has. Mixon can be a bell-cow in the NFL, and using him more might be Lewis’ last chance at saving his job.
I don’t know if I trust a Packers running back. Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones and now Jamaal Williams. They have all had their opportunities this season, but injuries have struck Green Bay yet again, opening up for the rookie Williams to get the bulk of the carries. The situation is reminiscent of last year’s injury-riddled running back unit for the Packers, except this season’s group is missing a key component: Aaron Rodgers. Without the elite signal-caller, defenses are a little more confident in their secondary so they put more pressure on the Packers’ offensive line, making it harder for any Green Bay runner to produce consistently. Besides, Williams’ “best” performance this year was eleven rushing yards on four carries. My pre-draft notes on Williams labeled him as a tall, bulldozing runner with a lack of speed and burst. Maybe Williams can be a goal-line back, but do not expect him, or any other running back on the Packers, to make a sufficient impact.
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR: Chris Godwin
Godwin has been a favorite of mine since his Penn State days, and I was disappointed he was drafted to a team who already had two established receivers. However, Mike Evans’ suspension opened the door for the rookie, who saw 10 targets and played 97 percent of the team’s snaps on Sunday. He only got 11.8 points in PPR leagues, which is slightly above average, but he established himself as a reliable option who should only see more playing time. Keep an eye on his usage, because Godwin is a very talented player, but his playing time caps his value.
PLAYER TO IGNORE: Austin Ekeler
I introduce to you the Most Overvalued Waiver Wire Pickup of the Week. Congrats to the undrafted rookie free agent for scoring twice and producing 26.9 points in PPR leagues, but this is no reason for him to suddenly be a weekly starter. He only played 33 percent of the team’s snaps, which is not enough to be a consistent fantasy option. I’ll take him as a handcuff to Melvin Gordon, but do not expect this type of production on only five targets a week.
Every week I’ll talk a little about a college football player who I think will, or will not, make a great NFL player. This week, I’ll be highlighting Baker Mayfield
A Heisman-favorite, Mayfield has been a strong, mobile leader for Oklahoma. While some point to his short height and inconsistent footwork, his off-field issues are what really concern me. A star NFL quarterback does not criticize the other team or plant a flag in the away team’s field, no matter how funny it was. I need to look at Mayfield more, but his stock has certainly risen in recent weeks. Right now I see a talented playmaker with off-field concerns. Doesn’t that remind you of a certain recent Heisman winner who didn’t live up to his first round status? Early Projection: Late 1st round-early 2nd round
The ‘Hands’ Award: Maurice Harris
No, Harris is not getting this award because he was on the practice squad last week. Harris deserves this award because not only did he lay out for a one-handed snag and scored, but he literally palmed the ball in his hand. This was a legit one-handed catch and not a phony one where the receiver uses his arm to control the ball into his body.
Uniform of the Week: Seattle Seahawks
In arguably the greatest uniform matchup of the season, I’ll give Seattle their DRFN-leading second Uniform of the Week instead of the Cardinals’ sleek black Color Rush uniforms. Once again, Color Rush wins the week as the Seahawks’ all-neon threads are too cool to not acknowledge. I get why some may see them as en eye sore, but I am all in for any Seattle uniform, especially these modern beauties.
Wrestling Move of the Week: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Last week I gave this award to A.J. Green for his chokehold on Jalen Ramsey. This week, it goes to the Steelers’ rookie receiver who re-enacted the fight with teammate Le’Veon Bell. It was utterly hilarious and deserves major recognition, as do all of the awesome new celebrations. If I am being honest though, Bell’s form was slightly better than Green’s.
Revenge Award: Josh Lambo
Almost two months after the former soccer goalie was cut by the Chargers, Lambo kicked the game-winning field goal to beat his former team in a sloppy game. As the cherry on top, Lambo did a spectacular soccer slide to rub the win further into the Chargers’ faces. Revenge has never been sweeter for Lambo.
‘Bad News Bears’ Award: John Fox
Bears’ coach John Fox challenged the fact that Benny Cunningham fumbled the ball at the one-yard line in hopes of getting a touchdown out of the play. However, the refs ruled Cunningham fumbled out of bounds, thus resulting in a touchback, not a touchdown. The Bears could have had the ball on the one-yard line, but instead they lost the ball and potential points. Even funnier than the sequence was Fox’s reaction to the call.
ONE LAST THING
It is no secret that Ben McAdoo’s seat is burning him alive, but what other coaches could be in trouble? I ranked other NFL coaches based on the likeliness that they get fired, though this list will be updated by the season’s end.
- Ben McAdoo – Do I really have to explain this one again?
2. Chuck Pagano – This one has been in the works for a while now, and with GM Chris Ballard’s hiring, Pagano’s time in Indianapolis is surely numbered.
3. Marvin Lewis – Like Pagano, this should have happened already. Lewis has helped coach a talented team to no more than a couple Wild Card losses in his 15 years in Cincinnati. He was lucky he wasn’t canned with his coordinator back in September.
4. Hue Jackson – I know they are in rebuild mode, but the recent front office issues might suggest a new leaf is turning yet again in Cleveland. In two years, he has won only one game. Another new start might be needed for the Browns, even with a better roster than last year.
5. Dirk Koetter – This one is more due to the regime than Koetter. The Bucs have not hesitated to fire a coach just two seasons into their jobs. The last coach to make it to a third season in Tampa was Raheem Morris in 2011, who got fired after his third season.
6. John Fox – Fox should have been gone a long time ago, and let’s be real, he is not getting any younger. Despite being 3-6, the Bears have actually surpassed expectations with a new core of young players ready to lead the team. It will be Fox’s tense relationship with GM Ryan Pace that ultimately could lead to Fox applying for janitorial work next Fall.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Arians – Each year there are rumors that the third-oldest coach in the league will retire. He did it once before, so would he do it again? The team is on the downfall and needs a makeover, so I would not be shocked if Arians gets forced to retire by the ownership.