The Late Week Hustle - Week 7

The Late Week Hustle

by @dwainmcfarland

Fantasy football is a fluid game.  Yeah, your waiver wires have already ran for the week and you are probably settling in on your lineups, but things change. 

You have new information at your disposal such as drops your league mates made, unexpected late week injuries, and other news.  That is why each week I will be bringing you an update on Thursday or Friday to help you digest new info and make the adjustments you need to win on Sunday or better equip your team for the long run. 

We are entering the heavy bye week period.  For some owners this spells doom, but for smart owners that are hustling it spells OPPORTUNITY.  If you are behind in the standings, now is the time to be aggressive.  Gain points and wins on your opponents who are depending on a few studs that will be on bye. If you are an owner in the lead, now is the time to crush those beneath you by padding your roster with more depth and blocking the weak from becoming strong.

In the content below you will see me refer to player utilization.  Player utilization refers to the underlying drivers that must be there for consistent fantasy performance. 

  • Team plays tell us about coaching philosophy.  Up tempo play callers give us more of what we want in fantasy - volume. 
  • Snap percentages provide us our first indicator of player involvement.  Not on the field, welp you know rest of that equation ...
  • Routes Ran per Drop Back help us understand who coaches want on the field when the ball is in the air.  This is a very telling, yet often overlooked data point.
  • Target percentages are a well known stat at this point, but can be misleading if out of context.  We don't want to pick up a player with 20% of the targets last week when he was only on the field for 50% of the snaps and only ran routes 40% of the team drop backs.

It is ALL about context and these indicators when used together can paint a very telling picture that will help you dominate your opponents by pivoting away from bad choices to find the true gems.  So, let's dive in and start out hustling your league mates.

Late Week Injuries & News

Below is a run down of most skill position injury news we likely didn't have when league waiver wires ran.  If a player missed last week (like Jack Doyle) I likely will not cover them here. 

For each player I provide injury (or other relevant) info as well as the potential downstream impacts to other players on the roster.

RB Carlos Hyde - Traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If Nick Chubb is available on your waiver wire stop reading immediately and make room for him on your roster.  

Hyde has been logging between sixty and seventy percent of the touches over the past 4 weeks and I expect much of that to go to Chubb.  Duke Johnson will cap Chubb's ceiling somewhat due to his role in the passing game, but there will still be some huge games for Chubb soon. 

This is an elite running back prospect with the size and power NFL teams love.  Here are his measurables from the combine (For reference I have also included Saquon Barkley's to the right of Chubb's):

Height: 5'11" vs 6'0"

Weight: 227 vs 233

40 Time: 4.52 vs 4.40

Vertical: 38.5 vs 41 

Broad Jump: 128 vs DNP

Shuttle: 4.25 vs 4.25

3 Cone: 7.09 vs DNP

Barkley posted some of the best numbers we have ever seen.  Had Chubb been in a different class we would have been raving about this combine performance.

Chubb is a back that can grind out hard yards or hit the big play.  We have an extremely limited sample size in Cleveland with 16 carries so we have to curb enthusiasm.  But, so far Chubb's performance is matching the explosiveness he exhibited at the combine.  

He is averaging 10.8 yards per carry with 10.7 of those coming after contact according to Pro Football Focus.  Chubb is also breaking a twenty plus yard run on 25% of his carries.  I suspect the Cleveland coaching staff has seen the same in practice, thus the choice to pivot away from Hyde (who has been a fine addition in his own right).

If you are the Hyde owner, it will be tough to count on him this week with the move occurring so close to game time.  However, if Leonard Fournette's injury continues to linger (which seems a strong possibility given this trade) I see no reason Hyde can't take over the majority of snaps for this backfield.  T.J. Yeldon will keep the passing down work.

RB Marshawn Lynch - Seeking second opinion for groin issue reportedly out minimum four weeks but possibly longer.

If you own Lynch make sure you snap up Doug Martin immediately.  I expect Jalen Richard to keep his duty as the passing down back.  The potential sneaky pick up is DeAndre Washington if you are in a deeper league.  If Martin falters he could be the early down replacement.

RB Dalvin Cook - Went full at practice on Wednesday and downgraded to out by Friday due to his hamstring injury.

This is frustrating for Cook owners, but it is better to let it heal all the way versus risking re-injury which might end his season totally.  This provides a big bump to Latavius Murray who performed well last week against the Bills.  Consider Murray a low-end RB2 versus a Jets team that the Vikings should play ahead against.

RB Isaiah Crowell - Registered DNPs on Wednesday and Thursday due to a foot ailment.  Got in a limited session on Friday.

This is a similar practice pattern to last week for Crowell but is listed with a foot issue versus an ankle one.  He is questionable and if out Bilal Powell gets a small bump due to volume, but the matchup isn't great other than the potential for check-downs as the Jets should be playing behind versus the Vikings.

RB Theo Riddick - Riddick is out this week with a knee issue.

Kerryon Johnson could get a bump up from flex worthy to RB2 assuming the Lions don't introduce Ameer Abdullah into the mix on Sunday in Riddick's stead.  Remember, this is a coaching staff that LIKES the idea of utilizing three backs much like Doug Pederson.  We have seen Johnson clearly outperform LeGarrette Blount yet they continue to split rushing touches equally.  I am rooting for a Johnson break-out, but don't bench studs in order to get him in the mix.

RB Melvin Gordon - Popped up on the injury report Friday with a limited practice due to his hamstring.  He did not receive an injury tag of questionable, doubtful or out by the team.

This is probably nothing to worry about, but just make sure you have options incase it flares up during warm-ups on Sunday.

WR Julian Edelman - Limited all week with a heel issue.

This is one you will have to monitor all the way up until game-time since the Patriots have thrown us curve balls in the past.  If Edelman can't go it gives James White a boost in the short passing game.  Chris Hogan was working from the slot primarily before Edelman got back and now has Josh Gordon to stretch the field, so he could surprise if you are in a pinch.

WR Josh Gordon - Limited all week with a hamstring ailment.

This one is probably nothing, but be sure to monitor.  Gordon followed this regiment last week and played his highest snap total of the season and ran routes on 95% of Brady's drop backs as he led the team in targets.

WR Mohamed Sanu - Unable to practice so far this week due to his hip.  Need to monitor Saturday practice report as this is the Monday night game.

If Sanu can't go this would normally boost Calvin Ridley, but Ridley is dealing with his own ankle issue (see below).  This one is going to be tricky, but right now the safest two Falcons to put your chip down on for bigger roles are Julio Jones and Austin Hooper.  Hooper is a TE1 if either or both Sanu and Ridley are out.

WR Calvin Ridley - Unable to practice Thursday, but got in a limited session on Friday.  The limited practice Friday is encouraging, but we need to see a full practice on Saturday to trust him.  This is likely a dreaded Monday night game-time-decision scenario.

For impact if Ridley can't go see above under Mohamed Sanu.

WR Ted Ginn Jr. - Placed on IR this week.

With this news both Cameron Meredith and Tre'Quan Smith become must adds in medium to larger leagues.  Meredith will work the slot and underneath targets while Smith will work as the field stretcher.  Smith can be an electric player, but it is important to note the deep threat has never been a sustainable fantasy option in the Sean Payton offense with New Orleans (Kenny Stills, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem).  Many analysts will point to Brandin Cooks due to his speed, but he did not play the typical deep threat role.  He was also an intermediate option who operated in the 13 yard average depth of target range. 

Drew Brees is capable of delivering the ball to Smith, but the offense typically flows through short and intermediate passing routes.  If Smith turns out to be a special player there is always a chance the offense adapts to feature him more, but I wouldn't consider it a high probability in 2018 given all the other weapons available.

WR Cooper Kupp - Out for week 7 and potentially another few weeks with an MCL injury.

With Kupp out Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks get bumps.  Facing the Forty Niners pass defense, they are both in the WR1 mix.  If you are in a deeper league there could be some overflow to WR Josh Reynolds and TE Gerald Everett, who have seen a slight uptick over the past two weeks.

WR Jamison Crowder - Out for week 7.

With Crowder out expect to see higher targets for Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson who work similar areas of the field.  In week 6 with Crowder out Reed saw 28% of the targets.

WR Paul Richardson - Doubtful for week 7 due to shoulder and knee ailments. 

If Richardson can't go this just fuels the Thompson and Reed fires more (mentioned above).  Alex Smith doesn't like to push the ball down field and Byron Jones will be locking down Josh Doctson in this scenario.

WR Pierre Garcon - Questionable for due to a shoulder problem that kept him out of practice Wednesday and limited him the rest of the way.

Garcon isn't doing much with his role, but he is occupying potentially valuable targets (25% week 6) in the Kyle Shanahan offense. He doesn't look likely to miss, but if he does Goodwin, Kittle and Breida will all pick up some of the slack.  This would put Goodwin in the WR2 conversation given Marcus Peters' poor performance so far this year.

WR Travis Benjamin - Trending towards a return to the Chargers offense after getting in two limited sessions and one full practice to close out the week.

If Benjamin returns it will impact snaps, routes and target shares for Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams.  In week one with Benjamin active Mike Williams was most impacted from a routes ran perspective.  If you need one of them as a flex play this week I would try to go elsewhere if viable options are available.

DT Gerald McCoy - Out for the Bucs.

This is good news for Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson - nothing major, but enough to make you feel a little warm inside if you plug them in this week.


Waiver Wire - Looking Ahead

First of all, if you haven't read Jim Day's weekly waiver wire article please do so here.  Each week in this space I will focus on a couple of areas:

  • One or two under the radar waiver options I am being proactive on
  • Players on the mend I am being proactive about now

I may or may not have recommendations every week for each category.  

One word of advice before we dive in on these - only you know your league.  If you are in a smaller league some of these guys may not be viable for you.  If you are in crazy deep leagues (like most of mine) many of these guys won't be available. He is averaging 10.8 yards per carry with 10.7 of those coming after contact

I will add context where I can on this where I can, but trust you to hold yourself accountable for making the right choices.

Under the Radar

Previously listed:  WR Taywan Taylor, QB Jameis Winston, TE Geoff Swaim, WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Albert Wilson, WR David Moore

*Nothing new here this week with so many options covered under late breaking news above - those are the priorities*

On the Mend

Below are players that are progressing well and are likely to return to the field soon.  This is not meant to be an extensive list.

Previously listed:  WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Hayden Hurst, TE Greg Olsen, RB D'Onta Foreman, TE Jack Doyle

TE Jack Doyle - The Colts are still calling Doyle "week to week" after missing the last three weeks with a hip injury.  This week he did earn the "doubtful" tag rather than being ruled out immediately which is a sign things are progressing.  This is an offense running as many plays as any team in the league and has little to no running game.  Doyle served as the primary tight end in week one and two, soaking up eighteen and seventeen percent of the targets.  He also outpaced Eric Ebron in snaps and routes ran per drop back. 

Doyle is a must own and it's time to consider grabbing him now if he is available in your league.  He will instantly be a TE1 and will be in the top six conversation on a weekly basis given this years' woes at the position.  Don't let the Ebron surge lull you to sleep.  Doyle is the primary in-line tight end and runs routes out of all personnel groupings.  Ebron is a package player they like to utilize out of the slot and in red zone matchups.  Think Trey Burton to Zach Ertz last year with the Eagles (where HC Reich comes from).

Sneaky Cuts

If you are considering picking up any of the players mentioned above but are struggling with who to cut, there is a strategy I like to utilize when in this circumstance.  I call it floating. 

The idea is to cut a player you can likely reacquire next week (i.e. float) because your league mates won't notice them while you get a look at a player that will actually be on the field (and thus more likely to be a hot commodity next week if they go off).

There are a couple of tactics I like to deploy when floating:

Tactic 1:  Cut middling level players that are on a bye.

This week Ty Montgomery, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant all potentially fit the description depending on your league.

Tactic 2:  Cut middling level players out due to injury this week.

This week Jamison Crowder, Mohamed Sanu, and Theo Riddick are options depending on your league.

Well that is it for week seven.  Good luck to everyone this weekend, unless you by some random chance are playing me!!!

If you want more information similar to what you found in this article you can every Tuesday on The Tuesday Night Hustle pod cast with myself and Brian Drake.  Listen live or on demand.

Additionally, you can follow me on twitter @dwainmcfarland where I am often posting analytical type info and sometimes film break downs.

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