The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, fantasy updates, and more. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
I don’t know about you, but Week 5 left me heated. Sure there were some sensational moments, which I’ll definitely address later, but I really felt the flames brewing when I was writing this week’s column. I’ll rant about one top franchise while supporting another, scold a veteran for what could have been a disastrous decision, chastise the NFL and one of their most confusing rules ever, hand out some forgettable awards, and so much more.
THINGS I KNOW
I know Aaron Rodgers needs help. I’m sure you knew this too. I’m also sure the Packers’ front office knew this, hence their busier-than-usual offseason. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough as Green Bay sits square in the middle of the NFC North. As further proof, Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the team’s number two receiver during their 31-23 loss to Detroit on Sunday. If it wasn’t for Rodgers, the Packers might never have reached the end-zone. Obviously injuries played a huge factor but the team’s lack of depth is concerning. With the Packers’ championship window slowly closing (with Rodgers, that is), it’s time the front office went out and got some real, proven talent.
I know Adam Thielen is still underrated. For the first player in NFL history to surpass 100 receiving yards in the first games of a season, you’d think there would be a little more respect on Thielen’s name. Alas, many people don’t even regard him as a top-five wide receiver. That needs to change. Thielen has the been the definition of reliable the past couple seasons, let alone this season. Not only is the former UDFA tied for the most targets in the league, but he’s also caught more passes than anyone. It’s not like this is anything out of the blue either. He was a top-ten player in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in 2017. It’s time that Thielen is considered among the NFL’s elite at the position.
I know George Kittle is a blossoming star. I’ve been a fan of Kittle since his collegiate days and it’s time you should become one too. Kittle has established himself as the 49ers’ number one receiving option as he leads the team in targets. He’s also third among tight ends in yards per game and is eighth among all players in yards per reception. Aside from the numbers, and there is a lot to like about them, Kittle is a solid blocker who has surprisingly fluid movement skills. Kittle has proven to not only be the best offensive player on the 49ers but he’s established himself as the best up-and-coming player at his position.
I know Todd Bowles cooled his hot seat a little. A 34-16 win certainly helps, especially following three consecutive losses. Bowles’ seat has been warm for sometime now, though fans prematurely let it cool after their dominant victory against Detroit in the season opener. One game rarely saves a coach’s job, but 323 rushing yards on a formerly-great Denver defense is pretty darn impressive. Bowles will have another chance to tame the flames at home against the very beatable, very banged up Colts on Sunday.
I know now’s the time to start making trades. Week Five is in the books and that means the trade winds are swirling in your fantasy league. It’s a good time to finally make trades. Five weeks is a big enough to sample size to see which players are being utilized effectively and which players are underperforming. Rarely does a player’s season change so drastically after the first five weeks, so you should know that the their performances thus far are probably going to remain the same. Of course, this doesn’t mean the numbers tell the entire story, so don’t overlook additional research when pulling the trigger on deals. Keep reading to see a couple mind games you can pull to help sway your trade partner.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know why people complain about the Giants’ passing on a QB. Too often, I’ll see comments or tweets about how dumb the Giants were for taking, quote, “a RB over a QB”. (I obviously generalized that quote). This is a terrible take. Yes, a quarterback is typically more value to an NFL team then a running back is. That doesn’t mean the Giants shouldn’t have taken Saquon Barkley. Barkley is a generational talent who is literally running away with Rookie of the Year and could very well be a future MVP. He’s certainly been the Giants’ MVP, especially after last night’s all-you-can-eat performance.
To put his production into context, Barkley’s averaging 23.84 fantasy points a game. That statistic to me is the Golden Grail of Statistics because it overlooks one-dimensional stats like rushing touchdowns and shows just how impactful Barkley has been within the Giants’ offense. Barkley’s effect on the team transcends the effect any rookie quarterback could’ve had for New York because Barkley is just that good. Barkley doesn’t need a good offensive line but any of the rookie quarterbacks would. Besides, people forget that Eli Manning is still the 16th-ranked quarterback in terms of QBR and that no rookie quarterback (except Baker Mayfield, but he was off the board) has stats that even come close to mirroring Manning’s stats so far. And yes, I only considered the stats when turned into full-season projections. My point is that the Giants are a better team with Barkley’s greatness and Manning’s inconsistency than they would be with a rookie quarterback and a terrible running back.
I don’t know how different the world would have been had Drew Brees signed with Miami. Let’s assume the Dolphins weren’t scared off by Brees’ surgically repaired shoulder and inked the quarterback to a contract. Three things stand out in this scenario. First, the Dolphins would have a real quarterback. Brees would’ve broken records in Miami with then-coach Nick Saban. Or not. While Brees was a top-ten quarterback with the San Diego Chargers (man, I miss writing that), who knows if he’d be able to recreate the success he’s had with Sean Payton down in South Beach?
Next, New Orleans might have never won that Super Bowl and become a beacon of hope for a battered city. Also, maybe Saban would’ve stayed in the NFL and never turned Alabama into the powerhouse it is now. The “What If” games are pretty fun here, but ultimately, we don’t know what could have happened. So to anyone saying the Dolphins screwed up by passing on Brees, there is no way of knowing how that would have turned out. Maybe Brees gets hurt again or maybe he doesn’t fit in Saban’s scheme. Yes the world could have been very different, especially in Miami, New Orleans, and Alabama, but we’ll never actually know if those differences were for better or for worse.
I don’t know what ‘roughing the passer’ is anymore. The league’s new roughing the passer rule has drawn wide criticism this season and it’s not hard to see why. Before I run through some examples, it’s important to realize that some of these “bad” calls are actually good by the NFL’s new definition. Unfortunately some calls don’t even come close to lining up with the NFL’s new standards. Check out this call against the Colts. It appeared to be an accidental slap to Tom Brady’s facemask, but there’s nothing in the new rule change that truly encompasses that play. Hits to the head are obviously a big no-no, but this didn’t look intentional nor that hard of a slap.
Here’s where things start to really go south, though. By definition, those absurd calls on Clay Matthews I’ve noted this season are correct calls even if you’ve been accustomed to seeing those hits on a regular basis. So then why wasn’t this sack on Andrew Luck NOT a penalty? Two 300-pound lineman completely squashed him with their “full body weight”, something the rule forbids. This new rule has been used too inconsistently to be deemed effective. The fact that almost no players have gotten used to it yet makes matters worse.
I don’t know why Jarvis Landry didn’t step out. With thirty seconds left in the fourth quarter, Landry caught a nice little pass and turned up field for a gain of 17 yards. For some reason, he decided to try and dance for a few extra yards rather than step out and stop the clock. You’d think a veteran wide receiver would know better than that. Some may call it selfish (including me). Some may say Landry was right for never giving up on the play. Whatever you think about Landry’s decision, it could’ve been a crucial mistake in the moment had the Browns lost. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter thanks to Greg Joseph’s clutch game-winner in overtime.
TRIVIA OF THE WEEK
Question: Julio Jones is on pace for 108.8 receptions and 1,848 receiving yards, which would be the best numbers by a WR without him scoring a touchdown. Which Hall of Fame currently WR holds this “record”?
Check out the ‘Awards’ section for the answer.
As fantasy football season rolls on, I’ll be focusing on a couple fantasy-related issues. This can include Players to Watch, Making the Case, questions from readers, or anything fantasy-related.
In one of my leagues, I recently traded Kenyan Drake in exchange for Jordan Howard. You should know that I was the one to offer it. I’ve never been shy about making trades that seem a little more favorable for me. Some might say “That’s a terrible trade!” or “Do you think I’m stupid?” but oh well, eventually one has to go through. When you offer a trade, you obviously want to get the upper hand but you can’t make it seem too outlandish or the other person won’t bite. So how did I pull this off?
Well, I actually used a little bit of an illusion. If you looked at Howard and Drake’s numbers from the past two weeks, you’ll see that Howard scored 2.5 and 0 points while Drake scored 2.6 and 24.5 points. What I hoped for was that my trade partner would see how similarly the two performed the last two games and would view them a little more equally. Then, I hoped he would fall in love with Drake’s massive 24.5-point explosion (or an anomaly) and jump right at the bait. Hook, line, and sinker. I don’t know if this is exactly what happened, but these are a couple potential “tricks” to help disguise an unbalanced trade.
Every week, I’l feature a college football player who recently grabbed the spotlight. This week, Armchair Scout Rob Paul subs in and highlights Deionte Thompson.
It’s going to be a weak safety class in the 2019 NFL Draft. There is one clear stud at the position who each week puts on a show. That’s Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. It’s rare to see a safety go top ten in the NFL Draft but Thompson can be a game changer at the position. Alabama head coach Nick Saban seldom trusts his safeties to play exclusively single high in his defense. That’s been Thompson’s role this year and the last guy he trusted was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Saban clearly recognizes Thompson’s rare skill-set.
At 6-2, 196 pounds, Thompson is a long, lean build at safety. That doesn’t stop him from coming down and thumping against the run. He’s highly aggressive and makes a ton of plays in the backfield with his instincts and explosiveness. In coverage, Thompson is an absolute stud. He has elite range and ball skills. There are few safeties that can cover ground as quickly as he can to make a play on the ball. It’s not only that, but Thompson’s instincts in coverage are impressive. He rarely reads a play wrong or missteps. There isn’t much at safety in this draft but Thompson has All-Pro traits.
Early Projection: Top Ten
The ‘Hands’ Award: Odell Beckham
Who knew OBJ was so good at these? Sense the sarcasm? What makes this leaping one-hander more awesome is that Beckham never used his other hand to control the ball. He palmed it from the start all the way to when he tucked it under his arm. That’s a true one-handed catch.
Uniform of the Week: Los Angeles Chargers
Pretty easy winner this week. While I’ll never advocate for white pants with a colored jersey, I can never hate on the Chargers’ powder blues. They give off such a cool, electric vibe that really pops with the accents of yellow and navy throughout the uniform.
Mr. Bummer: Alvin Kamara
For the number one fantasy player, 6.9 points (in PPR) is pretty disappointing. That’s an understatement, actually. It’s a horrendous performance. I get that Mark Ingram’s return put a damper on Kamara’s MVP-like season. But a guy of Kamara’s talents deserved more than nine touches and four targets, even if a knee injury limited Kamara’s practice time last week.
The Blunder Ball: New York Giants
I could’ve gone with another painful drop, but how could I exclude this hilarious screw up by the Giants’ special teams? I have so, so many questions. Not one, not two, but three different Giants’ players had chances to not screw this up. Yet in typical G-Men fashion, they all did. Where’s the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme when you need it?
The GOAT Award: Drew Brees
What can I say? Breaking the record for most passing yards ever will earn you a spot in the DRFN awards section, as well as other honors I’m sure. And to anyone who ever bashes sports and can’t see it’s importance in the world, show them this Monday Night Football clip of Brees breaking the record. Powerful moment with an equally powerful message.
Trivia Answer: Raymond Berry
Question: Julio Jones is on pace for 108.8 receptions and 1,848 receiving yards, which would be the best numbers by a WR without him scoring a touchdown. Which Hall of Fame WR currently holds that “record”?
I bet some of you thought the answer was Jerry Rice, for some reason. This isn’t totally terrible territory for Jones to be in, but it is a little concerning considering Berry holds this record from way back in 1961.
ONE LAST THING
Talking about Thielen’s rank among the NFL’s elite earlier got me thinking. That got me writing and now I’m sharing. Funny how that all works. Speaking of funny, so is the idea that you’ll all agree with my top-five wide receivers in the NFL right now:
- Antonio Brown – I’m still not ready to dethrone Brown, and honestly, he might not deserve the demotion. Brown’s talent is unquestioned and he’s still producing at an elite rate. The gap between the top-three wide receivers might be narrowing every day, but Brown still reigns over all of them.
- Michael Thomas – Like I said before the season, Thomas could easily go into the 2019 season as the best wide receiver in football. He’s only dropped three balls while posting top-ten stats across the major receiving categories. Of course, stats don’t paint the entire picture and just watching him has left me awestruck more often than not.
- DeAndre Hopkins – Everything I just said about Thomas, I can say about Hopkins. There is no better player at winning passes than Nuk. He’s always playing bigger than his 6-1, 212 pound frame yet can pull off moves like a 5’9” speedster. With a little more consistency at quarterback, Hopkins’ stats could easily reflect an all-time great wide receiver. For now, his skill-set is still out of this world.
- Adam Thielen – I kind of touched on Thielen’s quiet greatness earlier but mostly through statistics. From an attribute perspective, Thielen is one of, if not the best, at running routes. The dude just gets open. Not to mention that his hands are some of the best in the league. He’s not as great in the air as the previous three guys are, but Thielen’s consistency at finding green space is rare.
- Odell Beckham – I’d say Hopkins marks the end of tier one, with Thielen marking the beginning of tier two. There’s an easy case to be made in favor of a higher position for Beckham. His athleticism is unmatched and he always has a knack for finding and securing the ball. Oh yeah, and there’s those crazy one-handers.
Like what you see? Click on my name below to read more of my past work or to check out my website.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.