Our usual routine is checking in on Sunday’s injury report, but we’ve yet to discover any player with fantasy impact that’s been hurt. We’ll continue monitoring.
We touted Marcus Mariota several weeks ago and even bragged about said touting in recent weeks. But we’re doing it again anyways because Mariota is moving on up. He entered Week 10 as fantasy’s No. 7 quarterback; he’s likely to end Week 10 even higher after another sparkling performance, connecting on 19 of 26 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns as Tennessee routed Green Bay. Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Philip Rivers followed, and the top 10 leader board culminated with a group of five players totaling 22 points. That group consisted of Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford and Jameis Winston.
Steely resolve: Given his previous off-field behavior, there are varying opinions about Ben Roethlisberger. But when it comes to his on-field abilities and play, most know that he is one of the toughest players, let alone quarterbacks, in the NFL. Following an admittedly poor outing in Week 9 after returning from injury, Roethlisberger was taking big hits while tossing two first-half touchdown passes in Sunday’s game between Pittsburgh and Dallas. He finished with 353 yards and three TDs, the last seemingly to give the Steelers a last-minute victory until an even later TD by Ezekiel Elliott lifted the Cowboys to victory. While Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell are worth starting no matter who’s at quarterback, they’re simply more dangerous when Big Ben is in the lineup.
Last thoughts: When it comes to that playoff push, few teams are typically in need of a quarterback, but there are a few starters out there. Flacco, Carson Wentz, Trevor Siemian and Alex Smith are available in most leagues. Flacco has only three games with 20 or more points this year, but he’s only had one game in which he didn’t reach double digits. The Ravens’ schedule has its challenges, so turning to Flacco (owned in nearly 32 percent of ESPN leagues) is only recommended in an absolute emergency. . . . Wentz started off his rookie campaign strong but, as expected, has found things more challenging as the season has gone on. Owned in 43 percent of leagues, Wentz is really just a matchup play at this point depending on who the QB owners have otherwise. A Week 12 game against the Packers looks appealing at the moment. . . . Like Wentz, Siemian (owned in 18 percent of leagues) is really only someone to turn to out of sheer necessity. His schedule isn’t all that appealing either. . . . Smith probably has the most upside when it comes to this foursome. A week after sitting out with a concussion, Smith didn’t do much in Kansas City’s win Sunday. However, he has at least two tempting matchups on the horizon: Week 11 at home against Tampa Bay and Week 13 at Atlanta.
Entering Sunday afternoon, there hadn’t been any monumental performances among the top tailbacks. That all changed with the Ezekiel Elliott (114 yards rushing, 95 receiving, three touchdowns) show in what was the game of the day between Dallas and Pittsburgh. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews followed with LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell close on their heels. David Johnson, Bilal Powell, C.J. Prosise, Damien Williams and Melvin Gordon rounded out the leader board.
Bounce-back seasons: It will be interesting to see how many owners who win a fantasy championship with the likes of DeMarco Murray and/or Melvin Gordon.
Following a stellar 2014 campaign in which Murray compiled more than 2,200 yards rushing and receiving, the tailback left the Cowboys for the Eagles. Leaving what many consider the NFL’s top offensive line, Murray’s one-year stint in Philadelphia didn’t quite measure up as he finished with 702 yards rushing and 322 receiving. He had nearly 200 fewer carries in 2015 for the Eagles in what turned out to be Chip Kelly’s last season coaching the club. Murray joined the Titans for the 2016 season, but expectations were low, including his fantasy value. Murray has instead been a consistent top 10 performer and entered Sunday as the No. 3 RB in fantasy. For a guy whose ADP was the 52nd pick (19th among running backs), Murray has been nothing short of fantastic.
And who was fantasy’s top tailback entering Week 10? That honor belongs to Gordon. In 14 games in 2015, Gordon had 184 carries for 641 yards (3.5 average) and 33 receptions for 192 yards (5.8 average). In nine games entering Sunday, Gordon had 193 carries for 768 yards (4.0 average) and 28 receptions for 284 yards (10.1 average). And after failing to find the end zone the entire 2015 season, Gordon has scored 11 touchdowns this season (nine rushing, two receiving). It’s been an amazing turnaround for a player whose ADP was the 69th pick (23rd among running backs). The only word of caution for owners heading into 2017: It will be awfully hard for Gordon to duplicate that amount of TDs. He will still be a strong fantasy tailback, but it will hard to expect the same results next year.
Last thoughts: Need help at RB? Here is who’s likely available: Owners should keep an eye on the Giants’ Paul Perkins, who had a career-high 14 touches in Week 9 and could start earning more time — sorry, Rashad Jennings owners. Perkins is owned in 33.5 percent of ESPN leagues. We said it was worth monitoring San Francisco’s DuJuan Harris, who did a bang-up job in place of Carlos Hyde a week ago. Hyde returned Sunday, and while he didn’t perform well, Harris’s situation is a bit muddied in the coming weeks with Hyde’s presence. Harris is owned in 35 percent of ESPN leagues. James Starks is getting the call in Green Bay with Eddie Lacy injured. He finished with 10 points Sunday, but Ty Montgomery is also receiving touches. Starks is owned in 28 percent of leagues, but he is tough to recommend. Miami’s Damien Williams scored twice Sunday, giving him five touchdowns in his past five games. He can’t be recommended simply because he’s not getting many touches behind Jay Ajayi. But in a pinch, Williams could be a spot start in Week 12 at home against the 49ers, who are last in the NFL against the run. Williams is only owned in 4 percent of ESPN leagues. . . . C.J. Prosise has steadily gotten more playing time with the Seahawks, much to the chagrin of Christine Michael owners. Prosise is difficult to recommend playing, but he’s worth stashing if you have the room on the roster. He’s owned in just under 31 percent of ESPN leagues.
Doug Baldwin hadn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3, and because of Russell Wilson’s underachieving play and a lack of scores, Baldwin’s fantasy season has been pretty quiet. On Sunday night, he and Wilson provided the kind of game owners of both players have been longing for. It helped knock Antonio Brown, who produced his second-best fantasy outing of the season with 14 receptions and 154 yards with one touchdown, out of the top spot. The rest of the top 10 leader board consisted of Tyrell Williams, Jordy Nelson, Allen Robinson, Dez Bryant, Willie Snead, Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks and Davante Adams.
Top 10 observation: Before Sunday’s late afternoon games were completed, the top 10 featured three sets of teammates in Nelson-Adams, Snead-Cook and Taylor Gabriel-Julio Jones. Two other sets of teammates, Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe of Tennessee as well as Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman of Baltimore, were also productive in Week 10. We mentioned Gabriel in this space last week. It’s also worth mentioning that Gabriel had exactly one catch Sunday; he simply made the most of it by taking it to the house for 76 yards. When it’s all said and done, Gabriel has scored in double digits for three consecutive weeks. He’s owned in less than 2 percent of ESPN leagues. The Falcons will have fantasy playoff matchups with the Rams, 49ers and Panthers. There’s a lot to like if owners need to consider other options when the postseason arrives.
Last thoughts: The waiver wire is thin, but here are a group of players that may be available. Let’s start with the Steelers’ Eli Rogers. He had 10 targets in Week 9 and he was third in targets behind Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell with Sunday’s game still in progress. Pittsburgh has games against the Browns, Colts and Giants over the next three weeks. Rogers, owned in 19 percent of ESPN leagues, offers some serious upside in those upcoming matchups. Buffalo was on a bye in Week 10, but Robert Woods is coming off a strong outing against the Seahawks in which he hauled in 10 receptions for 162 yards. The Bills will get the Bengals on a short week in Week 11, and home games against the Jaguars, Steelers and Browns have some appeal during the second half of the season. Woods is owned in 16.5 percent of leagues. K.C.’s Tyreek Hill didn’t get much respect in this space a couple of weeks back, but if Jeremy Maclin continues to be hampered by injuries, then Hill has some value going forward. We pointed out Alex Smith’s schedule above; so long as Maclin is on the sideline, Hill could very well be the beneficiary. On Sunday, he had 13 targets, nearly twice as many as any teammate. Hill is owned in 9.5 percent of leagues.