The Late Week Hustle - Week 9

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.

Trades & Implications

With all the action this week I decided to create a special section for trades.  For full details including thoughts on each player from @MattWaldman listen to the Tuesday Night Hustle podcast.

Demaryius Thomas - This move likely ends up as neutral for Thomas fantasy owners.  Will Fuller is out for the year.  In games without KeKe Coutee he posted 31%, 28%, 36% and 32% target shares, so when Coutee is out Thomas will carry more value.  As far as rest of the year goes, Thomas is in the WR3 / flex conversation.

KeKe Coutee - Coutee was in line for a potentially huge role (when healthy) until the Thomas acquisition.  Now he and Thomas will split targets behind Hopkins.  Consider Coutee a flex option going forward, but not someone you want to count on.

Courtland Sutton - Sutton was already significantly integrated into the Broncos offense averaging as many routes per drop back as Thomas.  This move should make him the second read more often as Thomas leaves behind a 21% target share.  Sutton is at 13% for the year.  Until DaeSean Hamilton gets back we could see Sutton targeted in the 20% range.  If Sutton doesn't stake a big claim to his piece of the pie, Hamilton will likely cap his upside once healthy.

DaeSean Hamilton - If you play in a deeper league, now is the time to grab DaeSean Hamilton, especially in dynasty formats.  While Sutton provides big play potential, Hamilton is the more reliable route runner.  The Penn State product displayed elite quickness for a man of his size  (6'1" and 203 lbs) with a 6.84 three cone at the combine.  If Sutton falters, Hamilton could find himself in the flex conversation over the next few weeks.

Golden Tate - Unfortunately, Tate gets a downgrade.  He was the lead target (26%) in Detroit in an offense that averages 62 plays per game.  Now he will be the 2nd or 3rd target on a weekly basis in an offense that averages 68 plays.  While Tate is a fine player, when you pair his new competition for targets with learning a new offense the percentage play is to trade Tate for another piece if you can.  I don't see him averaging more than 20% target share the rest of the way.

Marvin Jones Jr. - Marvin Jones is an underrated player (listen to the podcast for more details) and this move likely benefits him the most since he is the most polished receiver remaining on the Lions.  He is a great player to target in a trade before the game this weekend.  He is a flex player at worst and potentially a WR2 moving forward.

Kenny Golladay - Most sites will rank Golladay as the guy most likely to take on targets with Tate gone, but Marvin Jones is still the better receiver at this stage.  Golladay does have WR2 upside, but most likely this move entrenches his value as a trust worthy WR3 or flex the rest of the way.

Brandon Powell - Powell has received a lot of hype from the Detroit fans and some media.  He is worth a pick-up in deeper leagues, but not starter worthy until we see how the playing time between he and T.J. Jones shakes out.  The Lions could opt to make up for Tate's absence in other ways such as giving Theo Riddick or another TE more looks too.

T.J. Jones - See Powell above.

Injuries & Implications

Dalvin Cook - Limited all week with hamstring.

Currently the expectation for Cook on Sunday is 12 to 18 plays.  However, he must make it through pregame without setbacks.  If Cook is active this drops Latavius Murray from RB2 status to low end flex, which is where Cook also deserves to be slotted.

Melvin Gordon - Limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but full participant Friday.

The full practice on Friday is very encouraging for Gordon, but keep an eye on things during pregame Sunday.  If Gordon can't go Austin Ekeler becomes an RB2.

Ronald Jones - Out this week.

Peyton Barber handled 70% of the rush attempts last weekend with Jones ailing.  Unfortunately, Jacquizz Rodgers worked in more on passing downs, running routes on 40% of team drop backs.  Expect more of the same.  Barber is a solid flex option with some upside and Rodgers is a bye week filler if you are totally stranded.

Sony Michel - Limited all week in practice - game time decision.

If Michel were to play this week, it would be a very speedy recovery.  I don't trust him as anything more than a flex play.  If you decide to go (or are forced to go) with Michel, be sure to have another Sunday night or Monday night option available.  If Michel is out, Cordarelle Patterson makes a nice flex play after receiving 40% of carries last Monday.  Monitor Patterson, he was added to the injury report Friday with a neck issue.  Obviously, James White becomes an RB1 if Michel can't go.

Alex Collins - Limited Wednesday, DNP Thursday, full participant Friday due to foot issue.  Likely to play.

This week we learned that Collins has also battled migraine issues, which could explain the Ravens curious approach to utilizing their best back.  Ty Montgomery also arrived in a trade from Green Bay this week which muddies the water even more.  If Collins can't go it makes Javorius Allen a flex play.

Chris Thompson - Out this week.

Thompson just can't stay healthy.  This locks Adrian Peterson in as an RB1 and keeps Jordan Reed in the TE1 conversation (Jamison Crowder also out).  Reed has had three 28% or better target share games in the last five.  He is due.

Chris Carson - Practiced in full Wednesday but downgraded to limited on Thursday and Friday with hip ailment.  Considered questionable.

The hip injury kept Carson out week four so this is a legitimate questionable status.  If he can't go expect Mike Davis to carry the load and move from low end flex option to an RB2.  Rashaad Penny would slot as a low end flex option in this scenario.

Torrey Smith - Out again with knee problem.

Like last week, this puts D.J. Moore in the flex conversation.  Last week with Smith out Moore saw season highs for snaps (71%) routes per drop back (78%) and target share (22%).

Gernonimo Allison - Expected to miss Sunday versus New England.

With Allison out Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be on the field much more, making him a strong WR3/flex play in what looks to be a high scoring affair.  Randall Cobb also is solidified as a flex play with WR2 upside after practicing in full on Friday.

Stefon Diggs - DNP all week.  Considered questionable to play.

Diggs says he is playing, but the Vikings elevated Chad Beebe from the practice squad giving us mixed signals.  If Diggs can't play Kyle Rudolph would get a boost to his floor and upside.  This would also make Laquon Treadwell flex viable if in a pinch.

Kenny Stills - Got in a limited practice Friday after being unable to go earlier in week.  Considered questionable.

If Stills plays he is nothing more than a flex option at best.  The better scenario is giving him another week to heal, which keeps DeVante Parker and Danny Amendola locked in as WR3/flex options.  Parker led the team in target share (28%) and Air Yards (47%) in week eight.

Keke Coutee - Limited all week with hamstring ailment.  Considered a game time decision.

If Coutee can't go that makes Demaryius Thomas a strong flex option even without full acclimation to the play book.  Deshaun Watson holds onto the ball as long as anyone in the league which means Thomas and he don't have to be in perfect timing to make things click.  If Thomas can separate, Watson will deliver the ball.

Cooper Kupp - Limited on Wednesday and Thursday.  Practiced in full Friday.

If Kupp plays consider him WR3/flex worthy.  Even if he can't gain as many yards after the catch, Jared Goff has looked his way more than any other Ram inside the ten yard line.

Corey Davis - Limited first two practices but worked in full on Saturday due to hamstring issue.  Expected to play Monday night.

Davis is only a flex option this week due to his tough match-up versus the Cowboys and Byron Jones.

Antonio Callaway - Practice participation has deteriorated over the week:  Full, limited, DNP.  Considered questionable to play.

I would lean to the unlikely to play side of the questionable equation.  If Callaway is out, expect David Njoku to see more work.  Rashard Higgins, who returned to practice in a limited fashion this week, could also see more targets.  Higgins would only be an emergency option in deep leagues.

Rob Gronkowski - Limited, DNP, Limited.  Game time decision Sunday night.

Make sure to have a back-up plan on this one since it is another late game for Patriots.

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

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, WR Courtland Sutton, 

WR DaeSean Hamilton - See above.

WR Brandon Powell - See above.

WR D.J. Chark - Chark has seen his snaps and routes per drop back rise over the past three weeks.  The Jaguars are searching for answers at WR right now and their second round speedster has leaped Keelan Cole in the pecking order.  It is a tough week to stash anyone due to byes.  If you are in a deep league and have a spot, Chark could turn into a decent stash.

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 Ed Dickson, RB Elijah McGuir

WR Quincy Enunwa - Returned to practice on Friday in limited fashion.  Considered unlikely this weekend despite questionable tag, but likely on track for next game.

The slot WR position has been the work-horse position for the Jets offense.  Here are the target shares for the position:  45%, 28%, 23%, 27%, 25%, 33%, 5%, 40%.  Enunwa, once healthy, will return to this position with Jermaine Kearse working more outside.  This makes him a must own in most formats for the stretch run.

RB Giovani Bernard - Could see action after the bye week.

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 Ricky Seals-Jones, Christin Kirk, Keelan Cole, DeDe Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, and Chester Rogers give us plenty of options.

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

Options this week include Ronald Jones, Antonio Callaway, Geronimo Allison, and Jamison Crowder.

Well that is it for week nine.  Good luck to everyone this weekend, unless you by some random chance are playing me.  In that case, you don't stand a Fighting Chance!

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

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