So my picks last week were my best so far in 2018. It’s teasing that a number are just outside what I consider a “hit” or a quality start: a top 12 QB & Team D; a top 30 RB & WR and a top 15 TE. A player ranking inside those numbers means you have an honest to goodness starter in a 12 team league that uses flex for that week. And on a week like last week with 6 teams on a bye, I still feel good that my poorest picks were around 35ish. One has to figure in a lot of leagues many rosters have depth that allow them to have some quality starts on their bench, and some teams without depth as well. My only true whiff were both of my Oakland picks. (So sorry Raiders fans, hopefully Gruden can pull off a baseball style rebuild in the sport of football, it has been done.) So I didn’t have a true #3 or better ranked gem for instance like a few times this year, but the depth of 8 out of 10 picks being very relevant (even on the lower end of the scale) makes me happy.
But that was last week and now it’s this week and I want to do better!. So without further ado:
Teams on Bye: Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Minnesota
Alex Smith, WAS: back again, because you knew it reading this column. Ok, so he ranked 13th last week which is JUST outside of what I call a hit (see above). This week sees him travel to Tampa, who is ranked dead last in preventing fantasy QB points. He is right at the 50% threshold. If you want to get fancy, pick him up this week and see if you can flip him in a trade (likely as an extra piece) before he sees Houston in week 11. But I digress: he’s a super solid pick up and play this week. He would have likely finished top 12 if he had not thrown a rare INT this past week: it was only his third all season (which is why his numbers are almost always relevant).
Ownership: Yahoo 43%; NFL 50% & ESPN 49%.
Baker Mayfield, CLE: time to list the kid. Cleveland has had the worst problems finishing games, but it appears they picked the right guy in Mayfield. He’s had some nice showings thus far, and now gets one the easiest test on his schedule, the woeful Atlanta Falcons. He’s had 3 straight games of two TDs, and it isn’t unreasonable to expect him to reduce his turnover rate this week.
Ownership: Yahoo 38%; NFL 12% & ESPN 15%
Duke Johnson, CLE: in line with the Mayfield recommendation above is this one. Last week Johnson became Mayfield’s safety valve/dump off guy and it worked well. Given the context of it being the first game under a new Head Coach, there’s no reason to think this is going to stop. It is what they wanted to do and it worked well. This is certainly Johnson’s last week to be widely available so get him now if at all possible.
Ownership: Yahoo 48%; NFL 52% & ESPN 50%.
Ito Smith, ATL: it’s perplexing this guy is still available in over 50% of leagues. It’s been week since Freeman went on the IR, and Smith is averaging 9 carries a game and 2 receptions per in his last 3, along with a set of scores. The matchup this week is sneaky: the Browns have a nice pass rush but give up 4.6 ypc on the ground. Smith is around 3 ypc which isn’t great but he is a rookie. There nothing to indicate he won’t be in line for 10+ total touches this week again.
Ownership: Yahoo 22%; NFL 6% & ESPN 32%.
Mike Davis, SEA: I love watching Chris Carson run…when he’s healthy and he doesn’t do that much these days. Seattle is the most run heavy offense in the NFL with 32 attempts per game. At this point in the season, Davis is the only one who has shown consistency and remained relatively healthy. I think at this point, even if Carson isn’t listed on the injury report he will have a decent share with Davis at least, if not take a straight back seat to him. He could be the #1 add this week.
Ownership: Yahoo 44%; NFL 1% & ESPN 9%.
Maurice Harris, WAS: a pure out of nowhere guy who is promoted via injury. Whose injury? Well, the list is Paul Richardson, Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. Want to play receiver for Washington? You might have your chance soon, but meanwhile Harris looks to likely keep his production up, which is possible even if Week 9 was his best game of the year. The matchup this week is very good against the Buccaneers, and might be his best one remaining.
Ownership: Yahoo 1%; NFL 2% & ESPN 1%.
Adam Humphries, TBB: 8 catches for 82 yards and 2 TDs. 27 targets last 3 games. Who is this guy? Well, he’s the guy who stepped up when Desean Jackson began making his usual noise. He certainly appears to be a solid flex option this week. I suspect given his recent usage it won’t stop anytime soon, especially now that Fitzpatrick is getting a second chance at the starter’s gig this season. He’ll continue to ride the hot hand, and Humphries fits the bill.
Ownership: Yahoo 2%; NFL 1% & ESPN 3%.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling, GBP: I recommended him last week. I’ll do it again. If this guy turns into 75% of what Jordy Nelson did with Rodgers as recently as last year (not the Hundley numbers) you have a top 15 WR on the season. Is that a big ask? Yes, but if you apply the eyeball test it’s clear the Rodgers trusts him, and that’s more than half the battle in Green Bay. He looks to be the real deal.
Ownership: Yahoo 6%; NFL 1% & ESPN 3%.
Chris Herndon, NYJ: time to pull the trigger on this guy. The Jets are nearly a fantasy wasteland via injuries, and Herndon hasn’t been injured. Recall that the first few weeks of this year Enunwa was basically playing out of the TE position and leading the team in targets? Well, two months later he can’t stay healthy and Herndon is picking up more targets each week and is turning his few catches into decent yards over the last month. Last week was the first week in a month he didn’t score.
Ownership: Yahoo 14%; NFL 5% & ESPN 14%.
Los Angeles Chargers: I typically try to pick a D playing at home in this column. But the Raiders have turned into an across the board dumpster fire, and the Chargers are one of the least likely teams to show any remorse about that, especially as they surge this season. They are going up, the Raiders are going down. Keep it simple.
Ownership: Yahoo 51%; NFL 53% & ESPN 43%.