The Late Week Hustle - Week 8

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 (or other news) we likely didn't have when league waiver wires ran.  This isn't meant to be an extensive list of injuries - more focused on the trickle down impact to team mates and their value.

RB Dalvin Cook - Remains out with hamstring injury.

This again moves Latavius Murray safely into flex play and low-end RB2 conversation against the Saints. Vegas predicts a tight game (NO -1) with a lot of points (53 O/U).

RB Sony Michel - DNP Wednesday and Thursday. Monday night game so need to watch report on Saturday. Not likely to play.

Michel had been seeing about 65% of carries over last 3 weeks before injuries.  Based on last week James White likely bumps up from 15-20% of attempts into the 45-50% range which makes him an RB1 lock.  Kenjon Barner will likely be in a similar attempt range, but won't be on the field in most passing situations.  He is a desperation flex play if you have major bye issues or are the Michel owner.

RB Marlon Mack - Full practice on Wednesday, DNP Thursday, full Friday.  You never like to see mid-week downgrades, but the full participation on Friday is a very good sign.

If for some reason Mack can't go, the only back I would consider is Nyheim Hines.  The last game Mack missed Hines saw 71% of the rush attempts while Jordan Wilkins saw 29%.  Hines has a solid floor due to his routes per drop back when Mack is out as well - 68% and 58% last two games without Mack.

RB Bilal Powell - Out for the season with a neck injury.

Isaiah Crowell has been effective this season and now gets a slight bump with Powell out, but it isn't a lock for increased fantasy value.  Last week with Powell only able to go 20% of the snaps it was Trenton Cannon seeing a surge in utilization, not Crowell.  The Jets coaching staff appears to be locked on utilizing two complimentary backs.  The Jets are at Chicago this week as a 7.5 dog so Cannon could be active.  Slot Crowell in as an RB2 with some upside should the Jets increase his passing role.  Cannon has flex value if you are in a pinch.

RB Royce Freeman - Out with ankle injury.

With the Broncos coaching staff under pressure to revitalize the team last week they blew out the Cardinals.  In the process of doing that Devontae Booker saw his least work of the season with Phillip Lindsay dominating snaps (59%).  It is TBD if that was due to the blow-out (Booker is the passing back) or if the staff has finally seen the light on Booker's limited skill set.  With Freeman out this week, if the later is true, Lindsay could provide RB1 value.  However, the Broncos play the Chiefs as a 10 point dog, which means if Booker was only on the shelf due to leading last week he should be serviceable as a flex this weekend and Lindsay would still be a solid RB2 option with Freeman out of the mix (leaves 42% of attempts up for grabs).

RB Theo Riddick - Out with knee injury.

Kerryon Johnson saw an 8% bump in carries last week with Riddick out (7% average for year) which was predicted in this column.  It is worth mentioning that LeGarrette Blount saw his lowest attempt market share since week one when the Lions trailed heavily versus the Jets.  This time it was in a much more competitive game and the carries went to Johnson.  The best news for Johnson owners is that Ameer Abdullah did not come in and take on Riddick's role.  He was mostly a non-factor.  Expect Blount to still block Johnson from RB1 lock status, but Johnson appears to be firmly entrenched in RB2 mix for the week.

RB Matt Breida - DNP on Wednesday and Thursday.  Limited on Friday with ankle injury.

You can't trust Breida right now even if active - as we learned last week.  The bigger issue if active though is the wet blanket it throws on any potential for sparks from Raheem Mostert.  Mostert is already having to give way to Alfred Morris and if Breida goes this is a dreaded three-way RBBC situation to avoid.  If Breida can't go I would move Mostert into the flex with upside conversation based on his big play ability and receiving chops.  In that same scenario Morris can serve as a desperation flex or bye week filler - he did lead backfield in attempts with 38% last week.

WR Cooper Kupp - DNP all week due to MCL ailment.  Listed as doubtful.

I would be surprised if Kupp plays, and even if he does I wouldn't advocate utilizing him since this offense can easily turn to other weapons.  With Kupp out in week seven, Brandin Cooks still nailed his seasonal average target share at 21% and Robert Woods posted 29% (1% above season average). Gerald Everett and Todd Gurley picked up most of Kupp's slack with 8% and 21% of the passing targets.  This week I see Woods as a WR1, Cooks as a WR2 with upside, and Everett as a desperation play at TE if you have exhausted all other options.

WR Robby Anderson -  DNP all week and listed as doubtful.

With Quincy Enunwa already out and Terrelle Pryor recently released the Jets are running out of pass catchers.  This week they signed veteran Rishard Matthews who is an underrated possession receiver, but he won't know the full play book this weekend.  Last week I recommended Jermaine Kearse in this section and he completely bombed with 5% target share.  However, he was second on the team in routes ran per team drop back which is a big indicator for involvement in the passing game.  He also worked from the slot 73% which typically delivers favorable matchups.  The Jets are 7.5 point dogs to Chicago and will likely need to pass which makes me comfortable looking to Kearse again as a solid flex play if you need him.  Rishard Matthews is a desperation play only.

WR Allen Robinson - DNP all week with groin issue.  

I am giving the same advice as last week on Robinson, even if active try and steer clear if you can.  First, this offense is matchup based due to multiple weapons and a strong scheme.  That drives volatility for the skill position players.  Secondly, Robinson was ineffective last week while trying to play through the injury.  If Robinson can't go Anthony Miller moves into the flex conversation.  Taylor Gabriel can be used as a low-end WR2 but his utilization trends are all down three consecutive games.  Trey Burton stays in the low-end TE1 range.

WR Pierre Garcon - DNP all week with knee ailment.  Listed as doubtful.

Garcon isn't of fantasy value, but if he is out it will provide more stability to George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin who are the top two pass options.  Kittle gets the bigger bump (as we saw last week) because he is an intermediate weapon like Garcon.  Goodwin is the deep field stretcher who likely doesn't see a huge bump in targets, but could see a small uptick.  Dante Pettis is returning from his injury as well this week and is a sneaky flex fill-in if you are in a deeper league.

WR DaeSean Hamilton - Out.

Last week with Hamilton out Courtland Sutton ran routes on 96% of the team drop backs which was a season high.  He also accounted for a team high with 40% of the air yards working down field more on his 16% target share.  He is in the flex conversation if you are in a bind. 

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

WR D.J. Moore - Moore has seen 13%, 14% and 14% target share over the last few weeks.  This is a player we discussed on the Tuesday Night Hustle special edition last Friday with special guest Matt Waldman.  Moore is a talented run after the catch WR trapped in a running back's body.  His routes per drop back percentages are holding steadily in the mid 40s right now and should Jarius Wright or Curtis Samuel suffer an injury Moore will be in the WR3 mix.  He makes for a great second half of the season stash if available and you have bench room.

WR Courtland Sutton - SEE DaeSean Hamilton above under late week injuries and news.

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 - Got in limited sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.  Finished the week with a full participation on Friday. 

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 in most formats right now.  He will instantly be a TE1 and will be in the top six to eight 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).

TE Ed Dickson - Practiced this week and could play Sunday.  This isn't exactly a great offense to target, but if you are hurting bad at TE Dickson could be worth a stash to see what happens this weekend if your bench has room.

RB Elijah McGuire - Expected back soon and will likely take on the Bilal Powell role as the season moves along unless Trenton Cannon locks that down quickly.

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 Cole Beasley, Mohamed Sanu, Taywan Taylor, Derrick Henry, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams all fit the bill depending on your league size.

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

This week Pierre Garcon, Theo Riddick, Robby Anderson, and Jamison Crowder are options.

Well that is it for week eight.  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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