Week Seven: As fantasy league standings begin to really take shape, the men are now separating from the boys. It’s time to draw strong conclusions about a player’s season-long prospects, before it’s too late.
I’ve separated players into “panic levels”: green means don’t panic- these players are going to turn it around and should be targeted in trades. Yellow means a little bit of reconsideration- we may need to readjust our expectations for these players, at least temporarily. And red? You guessed it- glued to the bench until further notice. Without further ado, to panic or not to panic:
Panic Level Green
Le’Veon Bell: After doing some research, I was reminded of something I sincerely cannot believe: Bell has ONE touchdown on the season- scored in Week One. Reason to panic? Absolutely not. Bell has begun to slightly cool off in the past few weeks, but not to the extent owners may think. Yes, Forte and Murray have overshadowed him, but he’s still rushed for 80+ yards the past two games and has the 3rd most receptions for a RB in the NFL.
Even if the Steelers keep passing, he’ll be involved. But in all likelihood, they are going to begin to feed the rock to their emerging star running back to spark their offense from the stagnant mess it has been. Bell still produces when the Steelers are awful offensively- a sign of a top-notch RB1. Target him in trades.
Emmanuel Sanders: Going into the season, we thought Sanders may be the 4th option in the pass offense and a candidate to be overdrafted at his mid-5th round Apex ADP. But with Welker sitting out because of concussion and suspension troubles, Sanders had to fill in as the chain-mover for the offense.
He has exceeded most expectations and has proven he’s moved ahead of Welker in the pecking order on Peyton Manning’s offense. The touchdowns will never pile up because that’s not who he is as a receiver- the Thomas duo will hog those- but you could do a ton worse as your WR2 for PPR leagues. He’s going to continue his career year.
Panic Level Yellow
Matt Ryan: Dirk Koetter has done an admiral job scheming Julio Jones the ball and getting it out of Matt Ryan’s hands quickly, but there is only so much you can do with no running game and no offensive line. It bottomed out last week against the previously hapless Bears. It is one thing for Matty Ice to struggle on the road, but in the Georgia Dome? That’s a red flag.
In the past two games, his only touchdowns have been swing passes to Antone Smith, who took them to the house with his incredible playmaking ability- not Ryan’s. Ryan will bounce back, but you have to consider benching him in mediocre matchups from now on. Until the running game or offensive line improves, he is bound to be inconsistent. Hopefully the coaching staff gives Antone Smith a chance as the featured runner and opens things up for Ryan, Jones and White.
DeAndre Hopkins: Sadly, we knew this day was coming. Turning in excellent performances with very few looks, the regression to the mean was coming. Only one game over 6 targets on the season? We had to know a slow day was imminent. Many Hopkins optimists were hoping that he would start getting an Andre Johnson-dose of targets as they witnessed a changing of the guard at wide receiver in Houston.
Thursday night showed that the Texans are not quite ready to make that leap. While he has all the talent needed to be a WR1, Ryan Fitzpatrick simply cannot support two fantasy studs- for now, the targets tell us that one person is Andre Johnson. I’d still love to own Hopkins as my WR3 with upside but he isn’t the high-end WR2 we thought was blossoming, at least not yet.
Panic Level Red
C.J. Spiller: The sample size is now large enough. Through over 20 games, Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett have proven they either don’t know how to use Spiller effectively, or just don’t care to do so. We are long past the hope that they popped in some tape from the Chan Gailey days.
Not only is he unproductive when he’s on the field, his simple presence is beginning to disappear. His carries have dropped from 15 to 10 to 6 the past three games, with the most recent loss the Patriots resulting in zero catches and 12 out of 69 snaps played. Fred Jackson is simply the more reliable ball-carrier and pass protector, even though he lacks big-play ability. Unless you are desperate at RB, Spiller doesn’t belong in your starting lineup until he starts seeing the field, let alone producing. I’m giving up the ghost.
Doug Martin: Is it just me, or does this smell like Trent Richardson? Buoyed by a record-setting 250+ yard, 4 touchdown rookie year performance against the Raiders, Martin has been going downhill ever since. Even before he went down last season, he had only 1 touchdown in 6 games, averaging two catches a game and 3.6 yards per carry. This year? He’s fallen below 2.9 yards per carry and yet to exceed 45 rushing yards.
If it’s all the offensive line’s fault, why is Bobby Rainey averaging nearly 5 yards per carry? The Buccaneers go into their bye week with one of the most embarrassing 2014’s thus far. I would be absolutely shocked if Martin emerged with the “starting” job, which has resulted in a whopping 12 carries and under 2 catches per game. If you are still starting him, your cautious optimism needs to be considered stubbornness.