By: Justin Lynch
Programming Note: Scott and I will be doing a bi-weekly fantasy football podcast to talk about anything and everything in fantasy football.
Reports that Benjamin came into training camp overweight, slower, and looking up at Devin Funchess on the depth chart all are moot now that the real games have started. In hindsight, we should have known that all those accusations were ridiculous. Benjamin had a huge rookie campaign, but missed out on Cam Newton’s coming out party. Now back healthy, he’s making up for missed time.
Benjamin out-did his week one performance in every category, bumping his 6-91-1 stat line up to 7-108-2 in week two. He also has garnered 21 targets through two weeks against a monster Denver defense and a middling 49ers secondary. Benjamin isn’t quite matchup proof, and other teams will start to gameplan around him, but Cam doesn’t have any other big play options, and Olsen is good enough to get serious attention from defenses. Benjamin is a must-start at this point, and that doesn’t seem like it will be changing.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. I’m not sure Melvin Gordon is good at football. Through two games he’s averaged just under 4.2 yards per carry against decent, but certainly not spectacular defenses. With that said, the Chargers are intent on pounding it with him. His 38 carries through two weeks put him on pace for 304 carries this season, which would have been the second most in the NFL last season, only behind Adrian Peterson. More so, the Chargers first option around the goal line is Gordon, and his three touchdowns have all come from within six yards of the endzone.
Gordon has no competition for carries, especially in short-yardage situations, and now with Danny Woodhead on the shelf, Gordon will become more of a threat in the receiving game. He tallied three catches on Sunday, all after Woodhead was carted off, and it seems that they will try to coalesce Gordon’s initial workload with Woodhead’s role. This means even more touches for Gordon. He may not be the most talented, but few will have the same opportunities to produce. Roll with Gordon on volume, and he should be considered a low-risk start with a high weekly floor.
Sticking with the Chargers theme, Travis Benjamin also broke out this week. Keenan Allen’s ACL tear thrust Benjamin into the number one wide receiver role and Woodhead’s injury made Benjamin even more of a vital piece of the offense. Benjamin was signed as a deep threat, but now will need to be everywhere for this offense, like he was this week. He caught a six yard touchdown as well as a 45-yard score, and had four catches as a supplement.
Benjamin immediately becomes a solid flex play and has the potential to be even more. Tyrell Williams is solid on the other side, and no team will bother doubling Benjamin. Gates will also scoop up some attention from oppositions. But don’t expect this type of performance every week. Benjamin was only targeted six times, likely due to the score of the game, but in any case, a lower number than you would hope. Benjamin also isn’t talented enough to carry an offense, and if defenses focus on stopping him, they will. So, be happy with Benjamin, but don’t go crazy with expectations.
Tannehill couldn’t have had two tougher matchups to start the season. Playing at Seattle and then at New England is as tough as it gets, but Tannehill has carved out fantasy value in both. But this pick is not so much about Tannehill as it is about his situation.
The Dolphins are not very good. In fact, they stink. And this makes Ryan Tannehill the potential 2016 version of 2015 Blake Bortles. The Dolphins fell into a deep hole against the Pats, and then were forced to throw. The Patriots softened up defensively to make sure they didn’t give up a big play, and Tannehill started moving the ball. He had 389 yards passing and two touchdowns, most of which came in the second half.
This will be a familiar tale for 2016 Ryan Tannehill. And most weeks he won’t be going up against Seattle or New England. Last year, Bortles feasted on weak AFC South defenses by tossing it up to his talented receivers. This year, Tannehill will be able to pass all over the Jets and Bills, as well as a number of other weak opponents, by throwing it to his myriad of receivers. DeVante Parker is slowly becoming one of the best young receivers in the NFL, Jarvis Landry is as sure-handed as it gets, Jordan Cameron is finally making an impact, and Kenny Stills is always a big-play threat.
The Dolphins also have zero running game, and are most effective on the ground when Tannehill scrambles. This added element to Tannehill’s game with bolster his fantasy stats, and will allow him to eke out solid outings even in tough games, like he did in week 1. Tannehill may not be the most appealing of options, but the Dolphins necessity to throw combined with Tannehill’s running threat and receiving options make the perfect combination for a quality fantasy option.
Chris Ivory’s health issues and calf injury opened up a huge opportunity for Yeldon to take control of the lead running back position. But Yeldon botched the chance by just 68 yards in two games, and averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. He also produced nothing in the receiving game, gaining just 10 yards on eight receptions. All those receptions may not disappear when Ivory comes back, as Ivory is not much of a receiver, but many of the carries will. Yeldon was a decent plug-and-play option early in the season, but when Ivory is back Yeldon goes to the bench.
Jonathan Stewart and Doug Martin
I don’t usually like to include players who were injured, but I felt I needed to make an exception. Both Stewart and Martin left their respective games with hamstring injuries. We all know how bad hamstring injuries are. They linger, and can flare up at any time.
To make matters worse, Fozzy Whittaker (14-100) did a solid job replacing the aging Stewart, and Charles Sims is a solid option for the Bucs. Sims big play and receiving ability will make it easy for Tampa Bay to lower Martin’s workload when he is back healthy, and if Whittaker can keep producing there will be a timeshare when Stewart is back in the lineup.
The Bucs and Panthers will be careful with their running backs’ health, and it will force a timeshare that won’t help anyone from a fantasy perspective. If the hamstring injury didn’t already scare you off, the potential loss of touches should. Dump them if you can.
Sanders feasts on intermediate routes where he can find open space and move after the catch. Trevor Simien cannot get him the ball. Now failing to top 50 yards in two straight games, it’s tough to see much changing for Sanders. The Broncos passing attack consists of screens to Demaryius, screens and other flat-passes to C. J. Anderson, and curl routes to the tight ends. Sanders quick cuts and 15-yard in-routes aren’t featured in the new offense, as Simien refuses to push the ball down the field. I wouldn’t give up on him, as Simien will gain confidence with experience, but you can’t start him right now, and you may never be able to.
2 Things to Think About
Isaiah Crowell and DeMarco Murray
What to do with these two is quite the conundrum. Crowell followed a 62-1 performance with a 133-1 performance, but he got 85 of those 135 yards on one play. Meaning if you take out one of Crowell’s carries, he would have finished the game with 48 yards on 17 carries, which comes out to an abysmal 2.8 yards per attempt. And with Duke Johnson in the mix, Crowell rarely is a threat to catch the ball.
Murray was aided by a long rush in a similar way, but is showing his worth in the receiving game. 12 receptions through two games has given Murray new life as a fantasy option, but his lack of carries, combined with Derrick Henry breathing down his neck is concerning.
It can be tough to find value at running back, and these two will be potential fantasy MVP’s if they keep up this performance. But these two may also be perfect sell-high candidates. After two good weeks, you may be able to get real value for these two, and get out before Henry takes over or Crowell comes back to earth. Also, remember that both of these teams aren’t very good, and will need to pass throughout most games.
My advice would be to punt on Crowell and try to pair him with a solid bench player or low level starter to go after someone better. Maybe you target a Melvin Gordon or a Mark Ingram, but you try to cut ties while the going is still good with Crowell.
Conversely, I would hold onto Murray. Henry has been decent, but nothing special. And Murray as a receiving threat is huge, considering the Titans will need to throw late in games. Murray also has been a huge fantasy option before, and has shown an ability to perform week in and week out throughout a season. He certainly won’t get the workload he did in Dallas, but he will get his touches, and so far he has made the most of them.
Will aging vets hold up?
Matt Forte and Larry Fitzgerald have shown their worth through two weeks, but can they keep it up? Forte and Fitz are both on the wrong side of 30 and may be getting overworked early in the season. Forte has 52 carries through two games, which leads the NFL. He’s averaging under 3.8 yards per attempt and isn’t a threat in the receiving game, which was so vital to his success in Chicago. The Jets are going to run Forte into the ground, and the 30-year-old back with ankle issues won’t be able to hold up.
Fitz, however, is a bit of a different story. He’s older than Forte, but doesn’t take nearly the same hits. He also has a pair of Brown’s, Michael Floyd, and a monster rushing attack to take the pressure off him. Fitz’s pace will slow, but not so much that I would say dump him. If you can sell high now, go for it, but have more confidence in him than in Forte going forward.
1 Concluding Thought
Quick hits: What to do with under performing players?
Hill needs to watch his back as Gio Bernard is always a threat to take over the primary running back role, especially considering how ineffective Hill has been. He has faced two tough run defenses and is staring at meetings with Denver and New England. I understand why you may want to bail. But his value is as low as it’s going to get. Hold onto him for at least two more weeks. Throw next week’s Denver game out, assuming he continues to struggle, and see what he does week four. He still will get the goal line carries, and I’m sure he will start to come around, just temper expectations.
Tate has struggled, and Marvin Jones is clearly the number one option. But Tate had 11 points in week one and though didn’t catch many passes, was targeted nine times this week. I’m not sure if he will live up to his draft status, but there is no reason to trade him below market value. Wait and see.
Ingram’s struggles come from a lack of touches. This may very well continue considering New Orleans can’t stop anyone, and will need to throw. But the Giants and Raiders both have solid run defenses, and maybe the Saints will start to run more to milk clock and keep their defense on the sideline. I’m worried about him, especially considering his injury history, but two weeks is barely anything.
Fleener’s biggest issue is that he isn’t good at football. But the Saints always feature their tight ends and Fleener may need to just get comfortable in the offense. His eight targets were among the most targets at the tight end position this week, but everyone’s favorite sleeper is starting to look Jordan Cameron-ish. I have a hard time starting him until he figures it out, so hopefully you have another option for the time being.
Watkins foot injury could not scare me more. After being all-in on him in the preseason, I could not be running faster the other direction. That foot is not healing, or at least not healing this season, and it’s going to be an issue every game. With that said, Watkins beat his man twice but two bad throws resulted in missed opportunities that may have been touchdowns for Watkins. He’s super talented, and will be targeted if he’s on the field, but the foot scares me. If you’re feeling risky, then roll with him and hope he starts making plays, but it’s a tricky spot.
The biggest concern is the lack of a passing game. Opponents are stacking the box and Gurley can’t do anything. As we mentioned on our fantasy preview podcast, this is the worst case scenario for Gurley. I’m not sure the passing game will ever be where it needs to be to take the pressure off Gurley, but Gurley is too talented to bail on. Maybe start squirming in your seat a bit, and maybe check the temperature of the trade market, but don’t sell too low.
Overall, you can see the theme here is to sit tight. All these guys have risks, some more than others. But two weeks isn’t a season, and you need to be patient. I know it can be tough when you’re 0-2, but now isn’t panic button time. And selling a stud below market value may come back to bite you later in the season. Just sit tight now, make good waiver wire pickups, and start to see what the trade market is like. In two weeks, we will all have a much better idea of how the rest of the season will go, so don’t make any rash decisions.