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 Julio Jones proved he is still a top wide receiver. It still amazes me that I have to even write this, and while it seems a little more obvious after Julio’s 253-yard and two-touchdown performance (50.8 points in PPR leagues), I have a little story to share. It was the trade deadline and I acquired Jones in a package that is not relevant to this argument. After realizing he has, for some reason, only scored in week seven, I gauged the interest of three other owners. They all scoffed and said he sucked. (All three literally used the word ‘suck’ when describing Jones.) I was taken aback. While Jones was 15th in most fantasy points by a receiver, he still averaged 10 targets a game, was a top-target on a proven offense and is, how do you say it, just plain outstanding. Jones is the epitome of a Hall-of-Fame receiver in nearly every manner. That is why when he shushed the doubters for a league-high weekly performance on Sunday, I was not the least bit surprised. As long as he is healthy, Jones will always be a top receiver in this league, no matter how many touchdowns he scores. If he is better than the amazing Antonio Brown, however, is a whole different debate.
I know Alvin Kamara is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. Kamara’s name has flown mostly under-the-radar this season as he has split time with Mark Ingram and previously Adrian Peterson, before Peterson was rightfully shipped away. Kamara’s fellow rookies also haven’t done the Saints running back any favors, as Kareem Hunt, Deshaun Watson and Leonard Fournette have all made headlines as key pieces to their teams. Kamara deserves some of that action. He only averages seven carries a game, and while he averages 50 rushing yards a game too, it is Kamara’s impact as a receiver that has made him extra lethal. His 6.3 targets a game is fourth among running backs while also posting roughly 50 yards a game through the air, including his 101-yard performance on Sunday coupled with two scores. In fantasy, Kamara averages 20 points a game, including two performances over 30 points. Currently ranked as the third-highest scoring running back in ESPN fantasy leagues, Kamara deserves to be recognized as the best rookie in the NFL.
I know benching Eli Manning is a terrible idea. I would have supported this idea a few weeks ago, but can we keep in mind that the Giants have not looked that bad the past two weeks. The defense has held it’s opponent to nine and twenty points, respectively, in the past two games. That is the lowest two-game total this season for the G-Men. Sure, the offense only scored twelve and ten points in those two games, but they did beat the previously red-hot Chiefs in that first game. Clearly, the Giants have been improving, and will get a chance to prove it in their final five games (Out of those five games, four are against a team currently with a losing record.) Why does that make benching Eli Manning a horrible mistake? First, Eli Manning has not been the main issue. In every major passing stat (I looked at touchdowns, yards, completion percentage and times sacked), Manning is ranked in the middle of each category. So how does benching an average quarterback with Super Bowl experience for an inexperienced, mistake-prone backup solve the Giants’ problems? If the Giants have dealt with a terrible offensive line, an injury-riddled roster, a lack of depth at the offensive skill positions and a horrible coach all year, what makes the Giants think those issues will vanish with Geno Smith at quarterback? I usually vouch for starting the young guys down the stretch of a lost season, but things were looking up for the Giants, even if it was a small glimmer of hope. Most significantly, this move not only angered basically every Giants’ fan, but it also nailed the coffin in Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning’s time as a New York Giant. Unless, that coffin was nailed a while ago…
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know if Carson Palmer will retire, but Blaine Gabbert should be a fine replacement. Forget that he racked up a moderate 15.3 fantasy points. Gabbert looked pretty damn good against the best defense in the NFL. He made some incredible throws, including a pair of pivotal ones late in the game to help set up the game-winning field goal. Coach Bruce Arians has taken older, forgotten quarterbacks and revived them before (Palmer), so he could probably do it with a younger, higher-upside guy like Gabbert. Of course, I am doubtful of Arians’ return next year, but starting Gabbert might actually be better than wasting a high pick on an uncertain quarterback class in this year’s draft. If it was me, I would take a guy with experience and knowledge of the team over a younger, riskier quarterback when I should be rebuilding that atrocious offensive line or secondary.
I don’t know why Vernon Davis produced a donut. This baffles me on a personal level because I started Davis and only lost by a cruel .4 points. This horrendous stat confuses me for multiple reasons. With Jordan Reed dealing with another injury, Davis has averaged 12.5 fantasy points amidst 8.7 targets and 71.7 yards a game. That is TE1 numbers, and going up against the worst-ranked defense versus tight ends, I expected Davis to go off. Instead, he dropped his lone target. By the way, Davis set a season-high for himself by playing 91.5 percent of the team’s snaps. I can not fathom how Davis did not record a single catch, let alone warrant one measly target? However, it is pointless to get angry about this. Instead, look for ways to improve, like picking up a defense for Week 14 (which is only if you have to wait a pointless week before your fantasy team plays in the playoffs.)
I don’t know about you, but I am all aboard the Jimmy G train. I was a little queasy when the 49ers traded for an unproven quarterback coming from a system known for bolstering backup quarterbacks, but now I am confident he can succeed. I know it is ludicrous to make an assumption off of one drive, and I also know the drive was in garbage time, but I am really just biased as a Dolphins fan for hoping that Garoppolo succeeds. (I would relish in anything that makes the Patriots look bad.) If he can become the next great San Fran quarterback, which is an immense thing to ask from a guy who has started two games in four years, his revitalization of the team would be one heck of a story. A storied franchise with little success in recent years? Yes. A well-liked, young, and innovative duo in general manager John Lynch and Coach Kyle Shanahan? Definitely. Finally a bad move by Bill Belichick for not keeping a future star quarterback? I sure hope so. Jimmy G and the Return of the Niners. That is one movie I would not only see, but I would record it and watch it after every Dolphins loss to make myself feel better.
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR: Josh Reynolds
Sometimes I forget how much I liked Reynolds coming out of college. My pre-draft notes described him as a master at jump balls who plays big and has strong, reliable hands. Of course, his place on the depth chart capped his value but with Robert Woods out, expect Reynolds to continue to see action in a very efficient Rams’ offense until Woods’ return.
PLAYER TO IGNORE: Randall Cobb
The former fantasy darling has hit rock bottom without his Hall-of-Fame quarterback, and frankly, he should continue to stay there. Excluding the first two games of the season, Cobb has only gotten double-digits three times and has caught five balls just once. His lone touchdown of Sunday night was his second of the season. While there is some name value here, Cobb has not done enough to warrant a roster spot.
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 Quenton Nelson.
Coming from a college (Notre Dame) that excels in producing quality NFL-lineman, Nelson is right now the top offensive lineman in the class. Nelson is a true relentless mauler with dominant blocking skills in the running and the passing game. He is a a strong, tough leader, but his position limits his draft stock.
Early Projection: Between picks 7-15
The ‘Hands’ Award: Marvin Jones
There were many great plays this week, but not so many great catches. Now I do consider a play and a catch to be two different things. The play takes everything into account, like staying in bounds, defensive coverage, situation in relation to the game, etc. The catch excludes everything but the actual player catching the ball; picture the player making the same play all alone on the grass in your front yard. Still, someone has to get this prestigious award. Jones effortlessly snagged the ball with his fingertips while fully extending his arms in mid-stride. I’ll admit though, it was impressive that he did it over two defenders, yet it does not make a difference that he scored.
Uniform of the Week: Cincinnati Bengals
In an upset over the UOTW powerhouse the Los Angeles Chargers who donned their powder-blues (wearing them with white pants curbed my enthusiasm), the Bengals get the nod this week. Orange is not a fantastic color for uniforms, but Cincy’s sleek combo of black and white really makes the white numbers pop. The jerseys looked especially nice paired with black pants and an orange helmet. The best part of course is the stripes, which look fantastic throughout the entire uniform.
The Mirrorball Trophy: Philadelphia Eagles
Awarded to the best dancers on Dancing with the Stars, the league’s best team gets this trophy for their slick rendition of the Electric Slide, which they performed seamlessly not once but twice.
In the words of the great Ron Burgundy, “That escalated quickly.” You can see the full brawl here, which is pretty entertaining. My favorite part is when Aqib Talib snatches Michael Crabtree’s chain again. (Why does Crabtree, or any player for that matter, think it is a good idea to wear a chain during a football game, anyway?)
The Benjamin Button Award: Josh McCown
This fact, courtesy of Kyle Brandt, sums up why the age-defiant McCown gets this award. McCown won’t be getting a gold jacket, but he can expect some recognition in this article.
The Matrix Award: Zay Jones
What. On. Earth. Actually, this really isn’t something that should happen on Earth. I have watched the video multiple times and have no idea how Jones suddenly levitates to his feet. My only explanation is that Jones is secretly Morpheus.
ONE LAST THING
With Week 13 just around the corner, the inevitable is slowly closing in: the end of fantasy football season (at least for most people). It has been a crazy, unpredictable season featuring breakout stars and catastrophic injuries, but through it all, ask yourself: Did you have fun? In my first ever article just three short months ago, I pleaded with fantasy owners everywhere to just enjoy the ride. As the fantasy playoffs loom, some may feel like it was a lost season while others may be celebrating for another postseason campaign. As I have said before, the real loss in playing fantasy football is letting the disappointments overshadow what should be a fun pastime. Expecting to win is one thing, but to only enjoy winning will set you up for some depressing moments. With that said, do not think about those little, unforeseen moments that eventually ruined your season. Instead, look back at the thrill of picking new players, making deals or even letting your Day One team ride out it out all season long. If you can’t find the joy in watching a group of players you chose to create each week, then there is no one to blame for your disappointing football season but yourself. After all, you can’t win everything. You will lose at something, so accepting that and using that to rebound better than ever is a pretty good feeling. To all those who are on the brink of fantasy playoffs, good luck and do not stress about things like your opponent’s kicker nailing a 53-yard field goal to beat you. Those things are out of your control. Besides, playing fantasy sports is just trying to predict the future. So sit back and relax as your favorite players duke it out in a beautifully complex game featuring the peak of human competition. In other words, just enjoy the damn game before it is too late.