Start/Bench/Drop: Week 4

Matt Hicks & Adam McKay

Introducing: Start/Bench/Drop where I go through my leagues and find trios of players that could lead to a tough decision for fantasy owners. I’ll then breakdown which, out of the three, I’ll start this week, which I’d keep on my roster but bench, and then which I’d drop. Start/Bench/Drop is so nice, however, that we play it twice: so Adam will be weighing in as well. Alright let’s do this:

-Crowell, Kelley, Cohen (Standard/Keeper/12 Player)

                Matt: Cohen/Crowell/Kelley

This is a tough one (and from my team), I don’t believe it Crowell but I can’t drop him yet, so I’ll bench him, drop Kelley based on health (I’ll likely regret this) and Flex Cohen, who has too much potential to drop, even in standard leagues.

                Adam: As an Isiah Crowell owner, it certainly has been a frustrating ride but he continues to get a ton of volume. He has a tough match-up with Cincy so I would sit this week and start Cohen where he may get a lot of targets in the pass game. Kelley is at the very best sharing the two-down role with Perine so it might be time to cut bait.

-Abdullah, Funchess, West (PPR/Redraft/12 Player)

                Matt: Funchess/Abdullah/West

                Funchess has been consistent in a bad offense (19 points the last two weeks), if the Panthers get it together against New England it could be a big day. I hate that I’m not dropping a Lions RB but   West only has 14 attempts in the last two weeks, it seems like the Ravens like Buck better. Imagine losing you starting job to a dude named “Buck”, that must be tough.

Adam: Let’s be honest here, Cam is just not right. I understand that Funchess might be one of the only receivers left with a pulse but good luck trying to get production in this offense. Abudullah appears to be the RB getting the majority of carries, but maybe sit the Vikings out this week. I like Terrence West sneaking a TD over Buck Allen so go ahead and plug him in your flex.

-Martavis Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Terrell Pryor (PPR/Redraft/10 Player)

Matt: Bryant/Pryor/Jackson

                Bryant has been anything but consistent, however, the Ravens gave up 44 points to the Jags so he’s gotta be able to haul in at least one TD right…right? Pryor has been anything but good, however, he’s still got good potential…maybe? Jackson has looked great so far, but he’s burned me so many times in the past cutting him from my roster just feels so good.

                  Adam: No emotion in fantasy Matthew! I’d prefer to not cut any of these three but if I had to pick one it would be Bryant who is just simply too inconsistent. Pryor has been bad but I do think he figures things out and becomes a reliable option week to week, just not this week with Marcus Peters therefore sit. As much as this hurts me, I’m going with Desean against my Giants. Jackrabbit will shadow Mike Evans which provides Jackson an interesting opportunity.

-Sanu, Lee. Matthews (PPR/Dynasty/12 Player)

                Matt: Lee/Sanu/Matthews

                Lee is getting overlooked amongst the Hurns hype, but he has 11 receptions the last two weeks. More importantly he’s playing the Jets, so he gets the start. Matthews gets dropped because I think Tyrod Taylor forgets he has WRs, Matthews has just 8 receptions through 3 weeks…pass.      Sanu has been surprisingly featured in a dynamic Atlanta offense, but don’t love his match-up.

                 Adam: Sanu has 15 catches in 3 games and has looked more comfortable in his second year with the Birds. I like him in all formats, especially PPR and against at best CB EJ Gaines so go ahead and start. Marquis Lee has been getting looks from Bortles so I’d say keep him in a PPR but sit this week against an underrated Jets defense. That leaves Matthews to the waiver wire until Tyrod gets more comfortable with him.

-Montgomery, Ajayi, Diggs (PPR/Redraft/8 Player)

                Matt: Ajayi/Montgomery/Diggs

                Don’t be a prisoner of the moment; Diggs will not drop 37 points with Case Keenum every week. Ajayi looked terrible last week but he’s got the Saints this week and I expect a huge bounce back performance. Ty Mont’s yardage looked bad last week but he was still featured in the offense, a lot. I bench him vs. the Bears who limited Bell last week but I refuse to drop him.

Adam: Another tough one but in an 8 player league, Montgomery would have to be the one dropped with Jamaal Williams nipping at his heels. Diggs is the number one fantasy receiver in football so good luck making an argument to drop this stud. However, I do like Ajayi against the Saints after a truly dreadful performance against the Jets. Diggs will probably have a field day against this Lions secondary as well but go with Ajayi for the safe bet. Ideally, you want to start both if possible.

On the Fringe: Players who will soon determine their worth in Fantasy

Eric Adams, Staff Writer, Beard Guy

We are entering week 4 of the 2017 NFL Season and while some players have determined their worth in Fantasy Football, others have yet to reveal their true value. In this article, I will take a look at who has yet to round into form and what to expect from here on out.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Giants: The Giants have gotten off to a terrible start. A bad O-line has compromised Eli Manning’s ability to do much of anything and us here at Top 2 are starting to believe they’d be better off starting a tight end in the backfield over a running back. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as the Giants were able to finally put together a solid offensive effort against the Eagles. Also noteworthy was Brandon Marshall catching 8 passes on 11 targets for 66 yards. After catching one pass in the first two games apiece, Marshall may finally be feeling the benefit of being opposite a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. Look for Marshall to have a strong game against the Bucs on the way to a respectable WR3/WR2 season.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders: Everybody’s favorite dancer (maybe not the Jets’ favorite) has been up and down this season. After carrying the ball 18 times for 76 yards in the opener and 12 times for 45 yards and a touchdown against the Jets, Lynch fell all the way to only 6 carries for 18 yards against the Redskins. It’s unclear whether the Raiders have cooled on Lynch or it was simply the flow of the game, but Marshawn will be managed this season so he remains fresh for the playoffs. That is not what fantasy owners want to hear so I would suggest trading Lynch after his next big performance.

Lamar Miller/D’Onta Foreman, RBs, Texans: The Texans have been an interesting team early on. After pulling Tom Savage and going with Deshaun Watson, Houston has managed to resemble a potent offense. They got whacked by the Jaguars, squeaked out a win in Cincinnati and then played the Patriots tough on the road. So Lamar Miller is starting to look more appealing, right? Nope, the early season tealeaves seem to be falling the way of the rookie Foreman. He has looked very solid in a split role with Miller and if you own Miller, you better find a way to grab Foreman as a handcuff. The rookie may very well be getting the bulk of the carries sooner rather than later.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons: Sanu has been very serviceable this season, scoring at least 10 PPR points in each week. A lot of people may not look at Sanu as WR1 but he damn sure is a WR2, and a good one. I view the Sanu situation the same way the Emmanuel Sanders situation worked out. Sanders was never a special player in Pittsburgh before going to Denver where he became a 1,000-yard receiver. I’m seeing the same exact thing happen with Mohamed Sanu. I’m not saying break the bank for him, but he is a very worthy pick-up and very worthy of starting.

Ryan Griffin, TE, Texans: With CJ Fiedorowicz on IR with a concussion, Ryan Griffin has become the starter in Houston. After missing the Bengals with a concussion of his own, Griffin starred in the game against the Patriots catching 5 balls on 7 targets for 61 yards and a score. Someone going to the IR for a head injury is very troubling and I would bet against that person returning this season. Keep an eye on Fiedorowicz’ health but I like Ryan Griffin right now. He showed an early rapport with Watson and the job is clearly his for the time being. You can do worse at tight end so give him a shot, especially against a Titans team that was victimized by the tight end position last weekend.

Hot or Hot Garbage? Breaking Down Fantasy Football Quarterbacks

Matt Hicks

Staff Writer, SEC and Fantasy Football

What do Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Jacoby Brisett, Deshaun Watson, and Jared Goff all have in common? They were QB1’s in Week 3. This week wasn’t an anomaly either; Week 2 featured Siemian, McCown, and Glennon as QB1’s and Week 1’s top performers included Alex Smith and DeShone Kizer making his NFL debut. To make matters worse Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Derek Carr are all outside of the Top 12 QBs this season. Jameis Winston, Carson Palmer, and Andy Dalton aren’t even QB2’s through the first 3 weeks. To put it simply, the Quarterback position is a full on dumpster fire.

Lucky for you, my life is a dumpster fire; this makes me uniquely qualified to help you navigate which quarterbacks are Hot and which quarterbacks are Hot Garbage. To get through as many as possible (and to keep this weak metaphor alive) I’m going through these….rapid fire.

Alex Smith: Hot

Smith is averaging more than 2 TDs per game, and has 0 INT. Note that he has 3 tough match-ups in his next 5 games (Washington, Pittsburg, & Denver). Great trade potential, QB2 with QB1 upside.

DeShone Kizer: Hot Garbage

I love a flashy dual threat just as much as the next fantasy player but Kizer has thrown 3 INT in each of his last 2 games (7 total). He’s also a Brown. Worth stashing in dynasty/keeper leagues but don’t start.

Cam Newton: Stinking Hot Garbage

I went on record for Cam pre-season. I believed in you Cam, you’re making me real sad Cam, why Cam…why. He doesn’t look healthy or comfortable running the ball. Don’t drop yet, but don’t start.

Matthew Stafford: Hot

We know Stafford can sling the ball, but he’s always been turnover prone. Through 3 weeks he only has 1 INT and is averaging 39 attempts per game. I like those numbers, I like Matty Stafford.

Jameis Winston: Hot Garbage

Only 204 yards in Week 1 and 3 INTs in Week 2. Winston also hasn’t used his legs; only 2 attempts for 7 yards so far. Maybe things will get better, but maybe they won’t. Bench option at best in 1 QB leagues.

Eli Manning: Smoldering Garbage

He was burning up fast in Weeks 1 and 2. Eli has no time in the backfield and it’s hurting his fantasy value. He has 39 attempts per game, and now has a healthy OBJ. Not back yet, but worth a bench spot.

Russell Wilson: Hot

Wilson had 2 tough match-ups early (Green Bay & San Francisco) but bounced back with 373 yards and 4 TDs this week. He looks like the old Russell, but some hesitation until we hear about Baldwin’s health.

Jared Goff: Luke Warm

We ran a Twitter poll 53% of people said Goff was the biggest QB shock this season, but I expected this to happen. He’s averaging 274 yards and almost 2 TDs a game. I’m not willing to mark him a QB1 yet, but he’s worth starting based on match-up, or if your other QBs are hot garbage.

What is wrong with the Carolina Panthers?

Eric Adams, Staff Writer

The 2017 Carolina Panthers are 2-1 on the young season. That record, to the blind eye, tells you that they have started out well. However, that is simply not the case and with a schedule that is ramping up, they need to fix things and fast. Unfortunately for Carolina, that quick fix is nowhere in sight when the QB is playing as bad as he is.

It All Starts with the QB

In fantasy football, Matt and I both had Cam Newton as a big bounce-back candidate and that has just not been the case. As a Cam owner last year, I truly believed the offseason would be a good time for Cam to get right and heal. It now looks as if Cam is taking a major step back from his 2015 MVP season. There are major questions about his shoulder and throwing ability as well as the fact that he takes some major hits.

As is the case with any mobile quarterback, Cam relies on his legs to keep the defense honest. With the Panthers going with a new approach to keep Cam in the pocket to protect him more, that mobility threat is greatly diminished. The harsh reality is that if Cam runs less, the Panthers offense won’t be as daunting. If Cam runs more, then he is susceptible to the big hits that hampered his 2016 season. Cam had an average day against a nameless 49ers defense, a mediocre day against a nameless Bills defense and a REALLY BAD day against an awful Saints defense.

Here’s some hope for Cam Newton and his fantasy owners: they play the Patriots next week. I know that sounds like a bad matchup, especially at Gillette, but the Patriots defense is most vulnerable early on in the season before they can get things figured out. Just look at the numbers and you’ll see that the Patriots have the 32nd ranked defense at the moment. While I don’t expect that to stand (they’re way too talented to not get it going), it won’t be a quick fix. As long as Cam doesn’t force throws, which he did a lot against New Orleans, he should be primed for a bounce back game. If he doesn’t and has another bad game, then it might get ugly.

How good is this Panthers defense?

The Panthers have played two really good games on defense against two really bad offenses. The first game against a formidable offense ended badly, giving up 34 points to the Saints and Drew Brees. So obviously the next team couldn’t possibly be more potent than the Saints’ offensive attack, right? Wrong, enter the leagues top ranked offense in the Patriots led by Tom Brady.

The Panthers have a very good front 7, so Brady will surely feel some heat in this game. However, the Panthers have a very young and inexperienced secondary. Although they performed admirably in weeks 1 and 2, they were torched by big plays against the Saints. The Patriots currently have the most plays in the league on offense that has gone for 20 or more yards. Put two and two together and you have “uh-oh” for the Panthers.

Brady is going to pick apart this secondary, even with heavy pressure because he always finds a way. In order for the Panthers to win, they will need to score…A LOT.

My Diagnosis: Stick it out until Greg Olsen gets back

 Olsen is the safety valve for Newton. Losing him for 2 months is obviously going to force the offense to evolve. I don’t see the Panthers being able to keep up with the Falcons but a wild card spot can still happen. It all will fall back to Cam and how he improves this season. If Cam sputters through the Olsen injury then the Panthers are cooked, but if he can string together some wins then they can hang around in an NFC that seems to be lacking this year.

It may not start this week as going into Foxborough to silence the defending champs is a tall task, but if they stay competitive into the game then they can allow themselves to believe that they belong. It looks bleak right now, but this team has the potential to fight back after that ugly loss to the Saints. It starts and ends with Cam and how he responds and that has been the story ever since he walked off the field after Super Bowl 50.

How to Make the Perfect Fantasy Football Trade

Matt Hicks

Staff Writer, SEC and Fantasy Football 

It’s Week 4 and your team isn’t where it needs to be. You’ve been patient the first couple weeks, picking at the waiver wire but it hasn’t paid off. You need to make a trade. Not just any trade, though, you need THAT trade, you know what I’m talking about; the trade that you’ll be bragging about for years to come. The trade that will bring your 0-3 team to the championship, the one that every fantasy player seeks out like Ponce De Leon sought out the fountain of youth (it’s a history reference, read a book). Here’s your step by step guide to finding fantasy treasure.

The Situation

I’m going to walk you through each step by using a real life example from my keeper league, where I’m desperately looking to dig my 1-2 team out of an early hole. My starting line-up is: Newton/Cook/Crowell/Gore/A. Brown/OBJ/Watson/Alex Smith (Superflex), and my notable bench players are: Manning/Kelley/J.J. Nelson/Kearse. The hole I want to address is Crowell as my RB2 (I’m not willing to promote Gore from my Flex spot).

Step 1. Realize that You Don’t Want to “Win” the Trade

This is a common mistake fantasy players make. They seek out an owner in their league who they think they can dupe into making a bad trade. They try to seek the one who is new to playing fantasy football, the one who will take 4 players for 1 player, or maybe the even the one who’s behind on injury news. Don’t be this player. You may win this one trade (or you may get vetoed) either way you’ll be shut out by the rest of the players in your league. In dynasty/keeper leagues this is a move you’ll be regretting for years to come. Instead, you want to find the perfect trade partner, so that you make a mutually beneficial trade. This will also make you a more popular trade partner in the future.

Step 2. Understand the Players in Your League

To find that perfect trade partner, you have to know the players in your league. In my keeper league, we have 12 players, which means I start with 11 potential trade partners. That’s not really true though because I know the players in my league. One player never accepts fair trades, and will only make offers like the ones I mentioned in Step 1 (note that they never find trade partners). I also know there’s an owner who got burned early on in the keeper league, it’s kept them near last place every year since, but it’s also made them weary of all trades. Even when offered very sensible trades, they reject them quick and rarely counter offer. That means I actually have 9 options to make this trade.

Step 3. Find an Owner who Needs a Player You Don’t

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many trade offers I get that make absolutely no sense. I have OBJ/Brown/Kearse/J.J. Nelson so I don’t need another WR. What I do need is to get rid of Isiah Crowell and never look back. To make this happen I look at my assets which include: the above mentioned WRs, an extra QB (in a Superflex league I actually do have tradable QB options), some RB2/3 options in Gore/Kelley, and the aforementioned Crowell. I scanned my league and 8 teams could benefit from one or more of these assets, unfortunately 2 of them are the teams from step 2 so I’m down to 6 potential trade partners.

Step 4. Check How Desperate Your Potential Trade Partners Are

If you’re 3-0 you’re not likely to make a trade, no matter how good the offer is. Remember, you are trying to make a trade that benefits both sides, so if the other owner doesn’t feel like they need to improve their team they won’t be interested in trading reasonably. Surprisingly, nobody in this league is 0-3 so I’ve narrowed down my options to 4 different 1-2 teams. These owners are going to be in the same position as me, anxious and ready to make a move that will get them back above .500.

Step 5. Find Players that Fit Your Need

Don’t overthink this step; don’t trade for a player you don’t need. Also avoid making a crazy package deal that forces you to ship off one of your top players. I mentioned I have a bunch of WRs, so although I have a Flex spot open, I’m not trading for a WR regardless of the value I can get back. From the four teams I have left I’ve found a few players with good value including: Travis Kelce (13 rec, 140 yards, 1 TD) who could provide me an upgrade from Watson and pair nicely with Smith, Marshawn Lynch who I mentioned last week and looks like even more of a steal after a down week vs the Redskins, and DeMarco Murray (slow start but broke out in Week 3) who I could get value from based on age in a keeper league.

Step 6. Don’t Just Offer the Trade

This is critical; you want to reach out to the owner before making the trade offer. This makes the owner more engaged with you, and makes them more willing to counter-offer/explain why they may or may not be interested in the player you offered. You can also explain why you’re offering the trade, to ensure they don’t think you’re ripping them off. I use this opportunity to gauge which players on my team they are interested in. If I decide to make an offer for Kelce I’ll likely need a package so I’d open by saying: “any interest in trading Kelce for Crowell/a Flex level player”. This makes it clear I want to trade Crowell for Kelce, and I’m willing to add in someone with Flex potential, so they’re not going to waste my time by trying to get Cook from me, but it would be reasonable for them to ask for Kelley/Kearse/J.J. Nelson to be added to the package.

Step 7. Seal the Deal and Don’t Look Back

Alright, you’ve done it. You found the perfect trade partner, they’ve agreed to a trade that looks to be mutually beneficial…don’t panic or have second thoughts. Click “accept” and call it a day. If I make this trade and Kelce bombs next week, I’m not going to freak out; I know he’s a good TE and I know Crowell frustrated me through the first 3 weeks. Own your trade, and treat your new fantasy asset like the treasure you’ve worked hard to discover.

Fromm Irrelevant to Irreplaceable: Georgia’s Freshman Quarterback is Leading the Bulldogs to a SEC East Title

Matt Hicks

Staff Writer, SEC and Fantasy Football 

Georgia dominated Mississippi State in what I deemed to be the “Battle of the Most Generic Mascot in Sports”. Likely fueled by the anger of a bitter Uga, Georgia scored early and often in Athens on the backs of Fromm and Chubb. Fromm, the true freshman, has gone from irrelevant to irreplaceable and he continues to fill in for an injured Jacob Easton. Georgia just needed Fromm to be a game manager, and he has managed to do that. He went 9-12 for 202 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT this week, to add to his total stat line of: 43-69, 650 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT. That’s exactly the consistent, safe player they need behind center. Fromm proved he can be flashy too, he threw a beautiful spiral down the field to finish off a big flea flicker play early in the game. Chubb and Swift provided a dual rushing threat, combining for 150 yards on 25 carries, Chubb added on 2 TDs to that.

Georgia (4-0, 0-1) has now defeated a better than expected Mississippi State team, Notre Dame in South Bend, and a pair of weak out of conference opponents. Their talent and schedule, combined with the mess of teams that reside in their division make me confident Georgia is on their way to the SEC East title. Next week Georgia heads north to Knoxville and barring a Butch Jones firing, Dormandy benching, and John Kelly Jr. cloning the Bulldogs will walk out of Neyland with a win. Following that they play Vandy (not in trivia, unfortunately for the Commodores) and then Mizzou, which for some reason still counts as a conference game. The Gators then come into Athens, which hypothetically is a tough match-up. The Gators however look bad. They didn’t beat Tennessee, Tennessee beat themselves (nothing new for the Vols) and does that win against Kentucky even count? I say nay (got it neigh, nay, Kentucky horses…whatever, man). I wouldn’t bet on Florida in this game even if you gave me 10 points. They will then go to Auburn, which could be a loss for them but it wouldn’t drop them below any SEC East (based on head-to-head tiebreaker). Barring a trip up to the Gamecocks (again, that’s more of a Tennessee thing) Georgia is on their way to Atlanta.

We may only be 4 Weeks into the season for the most unpredictable conference in sports but two things seem apparent: that Georgia is for real, and that the rest of the division is not. I’m confident that the Georgia Bulldogs will be playing in Athens, and if they keep building on this foundation, that may even be able to the West a run for their money.