By Julian Martinez
Week eight was not an easy week of football to cover. It involved a trade, a benching, and many injuries that will be talked about in the sections to come. So let’s dissect the madness that was the eighth week of the National Football League and what it means for your Fantasy team.
Quarterback: Changing of the guard in the Bay Area
A couple weeks ago, I gave up on Colin Kaepernick, and now it appears so have the 49ers. Barring injury, it looks like Blaine Gabbert, the former first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 draft, is going to be the starting quarterback in San Francisco for the rest of the 2015-2016 season. There is no real value in Gabbert, but this is just a message that if you were one of the few still holding onto Kaepernick, it is official that you can drop him.
I’d like to apologize for my endorsement of Ryan Fitzpatrick in week eight, but injuries are the one thing that you are unable to predict. Fitzpatrick fell victim to a torn ligament in the thumb of his non-throwing hand. Geno Smith came in to back up Fitzpatrick, but aside from his generally bad play, Smith suffered an injury of his own.
At this point in New York, it is looking like it will fall on rookie Bryce Petty, a fourth-round draft pick out of Baylor. Petty is not worth picking up unless you’re truly desperate, but one has to wonder how it will impact the value of Brandon Marshall and Erik Decker in what would have normally been a great match up for the two receivers.
On the bright side, Tyrod Taylor should be back on the field following the Buffalo Bills’ bye week. He will be going head-to-head with a Miami Dolphin team that allowed 277 passing yards and three touchdowns to him in week three. He did not have any restrictions on him in Monday’s practice and should be able to be a QB1-type player like he was to begin the year. And, by the way, his ownership dropped back down to below 50 percent.
It is kind of amazing to look at how criminally under-owned Derek Carr is. Carr’s ownership is at 35 percent and yet he has thrown for 622 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions since coming off his bye. The Raiders are a contender this year and Carr’s managing of the offense is a big reason behind it. Pittsburgh won’t be an easy match up for Carr, but given that he made the vaunted Jets defense look bad this past week, I’m ready to bump him up to lower end QB1 range.
Running Back: Covering injuries to star running backs is starting to become a Forte
So this is a year where we’ve already seen Arian Foster suffer an Achilles tear, Jamaal Charles tear his ACL, and Eddie Lacy/ C.J. Anderson struggle with general ineffectiveness. Now we get to talk about the unfortunate loss of Le’Veon Bell.
Bell, since coming off his early two-game suspension, was everything that owners could have wished, from running for 431 yards and three rushing touchdowns heading into his match up with Cincinnati, to his great work in the passing game. Against the Bengals, Bell fell victim to an MCL tear, which will end his season.
That is why the undoubted number one waiver priority this week will be DeAngelo Williams. Williams was really good when tasked with the starter role in Bell’s absence because of the suspension and now he will be the first one in line for carries again. After Bell left the game, Williams was able to run for 71 yards on just nine carries and even caught four balls for 39 yards. Williams’ ownership is right around 29 percent, which makes him very obtainable on waivers this week.
Another big injury that happened was to Bears’ running back Matt Forte, who also suffered a tear to his MCL, but fortunately it was not of the same severity as Bell’s. In fact, there is a chance that Forte still can suit up for week nine, but in the event he doesn’t the next name on the list and probably my number two waiver pickup of the week is Jeremy Langford.
Langford was a fourth-round pick from Michigan State this year and had 12 carries for 46 yards after Forte left the game against Minnesota. The thing that makes Langford a valuable pickup this week is that his match up against San Diego should be a cake walk as the Chargers have allowed five yards per rush attempts this season. If you miss on Williams, then you should still end up with Langford because at this point he’s probably only owned in dynasty leagues or extremely deep league formats.
The last injuries I’ll talk about in regard to the running back position are the ones out in San Francisco. I’ll preface this by saying I don’t like anyone in this backfield right now with Carlos Hyde being injured, but it deserved to be brought up that they have signed both Pierre Thomas and Shaun Draugh this week.
Thomas will probably fill the role of passing down back now that Reggie Bush was placed on injured reserve due to an ACL tear, suffered when slipping on the concrete in St. Louis. Draugh will get a chance at early down work because of the stress fracture in Hyde’s foot and a broken hand suffered by rookie Mike Davis. Draugh has had two attempts on the year for 10 yards before being waived by the Cleveland Browns.
Wide Receivers: You thought that was it for injuries, didn’t you, readers?
Last week, when Foster tore his Achilles, it was brought up by me that that might have been his last game in the NFL. The same can be said this week about Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. Smith also suffered an Achilles tear and although we expected this to be his last year in the NFL anyway, due to an announcement by him earlier in the year, we did not expect it to come to such an abrupt end.
Smith was far and away the best target in the passing game for Joe Flacco, so he won’t be easy to replace, especially since the Ravens first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman has been sidelined the whole year with a knee injury. The first person out of the gate I see benefiting from Smith’s absence is Kamar Aiken.
Aiken has had his good games this year and has the athletic ability to get open down field, something that is always important when your quarterback has the arm strength of Flacco. Aiken is owned in about a fifth of leagues.
Sadly, another star’s season came to an end. Keenan Allen, after a rough sophomore year in the league, has really bounced back strong. Allen was second in the NFL in receptions (67), behind only Julio Jones (70), and has been the biggest beneficiary of a high volume throwing offense in San Diego. What happened was quite unfortunate, as Allen’s injury was a lacerated kidney. On the bright side, Allen is expected to make a full recovery but now it’s time to look for alternatives.
The big name to grab right now out of San Diego is Malcolm Floyd, who caught two touchdowns this past week against the Ravens and all those targets have to go somewhere now, why not to the 34-year-old? Luckily for Floyd, he will also get a match up with some promise as the Chargers will go against the Bears this coming weekend.
I could see Stevie Johnson also becoming a bigger point of interest in the offense, but the thing with Johnson has been staying healthy this year. If Johnson is on the field, then give him a start in your flex because he was a pre-season darling prior to missing games with a hamstring injury.
Tight End: Big move changes outlook in Denver
It’s not often that we see big trades around the trade deadline in the NFL, but that’s exactly what we got this season. The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos agreed to exchange sixth- and seventh-round draft picks in 2016, and a sixth rounder in 2017 for Vernon Davis to move on over to the Mile High City.
Davis has had a bad string of luck the last couple of years, between injury and just the inability of Kaepernick to get him the ball. Davis is an outstanding athlete, measuring in at six-feet three-inches, and with a 4.38 40-yard dash time, he is not your average tight end. I don’t foresee big weeks early on from Davis as I expect him to have to use these first couple of weeks to adjust to the Gary Kubiak offense and develop a chemistry with Peyton Manning, but once he does this Bronco offense can take off.
I even see Davis as a better athlete than Julius Thomas, whom Manning found in the endzone twelve times last season. Use a high waiver claim on Davis, but don’t break the bank. Consider the pickups I noted early on in this column, unless there is an immediate need for you at the tight end position.
Kicker and DST: A Few Notes
I like the idea of picking up the Jacksonville defense this week. They had a good game against Buffalo prior to their bye, a game where they scored two defensive touchdowns. The reason I like them is that they are about to face a Jets team that might be on their third string quarterback and, even if they aren’t, they’ll be starting the turnover-prone Geno Smith. They are worth the chance, in my books.
Cincinnati should also be a good defense to play this week. The Bengals will play the Browns on Thursday night and given that they will either play an injured Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel, this should be a must-start defense.
Bye Week Teams: Brace yourself, there’s a lot
Kansas City Chiefs