Sports have the unique ability to draw out raw emotion.
They provide a medium for fans, players, and broadcasters to be set on the same playing field. For years, I’ve been fascinated by broadcasters coming into my living room every night giving me play-by-play of every sport imaginable. I could hear the pure joy of Mark Vandermeer (play-by-play man for the Houston Texans) as Billy Miller scored the first touchdown in Texans history. I could hear the excitement in Milo Hamilton (Astros play-by-play man) as the Astros made their 2005 World Series run. It was something about their ability to relay to me the happenings in the world of sports that fulfilled my every desire, but most of all it showed that sports enthralls us. This is at the heart of one of America’s growing addictions-- Fantasy Football.
Last year Forbes estimated roughly 40 million people were playing fantasy football putting the market somewhere in the $70 billion range. And now I’ve been given the opportunity to give my fantasy advice to each of my tens and tens of faithful readers (thanks Mom and Dad).
As a broadcast journalism studying striving to get into the world of sports, I’m an avid fantasy football addict. Currently in seven leagues, I have also hosted a few different fantasy football websites. I’ve done Rotisserie leagues, Head to Head, PPR, etc, in addition to winning five fantasy football championships. Outside of class, I'm most likely on my phone or laptop checking stats or proposing trades.
For this first edition of Fantasy Decisions, we will look at the waiver wire and figure out which free agents you need to pluck from free agency. However, this week is the first bye week around the NFL, which may cause some difficulty for fantasy owners. The following teams are on bye: Arizona, Cincinatti, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, and St. Louis.
o Kirk Cousins (owned in roughly 30% of leagues)
§ Cousins needs to be owned in every league. As a backup to Robert Griffin III, Cousins has stepped in and taken advantage of his newfound opportunity since RGIII was sidelined with an another injury. Through two weeks he’s thrown for 677 yards and five touchdowns compared to just one interception. With great wideouts in Pierre Garcon, Desean Jackson, and solid tight ends in Jordan Reed and Niles Paul, Cousins has walked into a great situation. This week Cousins faces a Giants team ranked 27th against the pass. Pick him up and reap the benefits. Prediction: 275 yards, three touchdowns
o Jake Locker (2%)
§ In deeper leagues or two QB formats, Locker is well worth a flier this week. Since putting up 20 points week one, Locker has struggled to the tune of just 10 and eight points the last two weeks, respectively. But if there’s ever a chance to redeem himself, this might be the week. Locker and the Titans travel to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts. Thus far, the Colts defense has been the 5th most fantasy friendly defense against the pass. In a game that the Titans will likely fall behind early in, Locker will be asked to burden the load and that will lead to tons and tons of pass attempts. I could easily see 300 yards and two touchdowns from the Titans' quarterback.
o Lorenzo Taliaferro (1%)
§ The running back position may be the hardest to work on the waiver wire. Typically, any free agents are backups or guys in RBBC’s (Running Back by Committee). Taliaferro falls into the latter category. With Ray Rice’s dismissal from the league, the Ravens running backs have had to attempt to fill the hole. Right now the committee consists of Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, and Taliaferro. With Pierce injured in week three, Forsett and Taliaferro were asked to share the rock. But Taliaferro took the opportunity and ran. Getting 18 carries, he tallied 91 yards and convert a touchdown as well. He’ll continued to be involved even with Pierce likely coming back this week so grab him and flex him against a Carolina defense that just got torched by Le’Veon Bell and LeGarette Blount on Monday Night Football. Prediction: 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown
o James Starks (60%)
§ While Starks may very well already be roistered in your league, he’s worth a flier for those leagues in which he’s available. Eddie Lacy has struggled mightily to begin the year, albeit against some tough run defenses. But the more Lacy struggles, the more Starks will be involved in the rushing attack. If you’re a Lacy owner, sprint to get Starks as insurance. But even for non-Lacy owners it may be worth a roster spot to see how the Packers backfield develops. Prediction: eight carries for 47 yards
o Cecil Shorts III (90%)
§ Shorts is already more than likely owned in your league. But I’m in multiple leagues where he’s available and I’m praying he falls my way this week. After being sidelined with a hamstring injury in weeks one and two, Shorts came back in a big way Sunday getting five receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown. But maybe more importantly, he was targeted 10 times. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has named Blake Bortles, the rookie QB, starter for their week four matchup with the Chargers. With a depleted roster and a young quarterback antsy to sling it around, expect even more targets this week for Shorts. 15 targets and eight receptions aren’t out of the question.
o Jeremy Kerley (1%)
§ We saw on Monday Night Football that the Jets are dying at wide receiver. The injury to number one receiver Eric Decker certainly didn’t help, but it did give Kerley an opportunity to step up. You could see Geno Smith felt safe throwing it to Kerley who ended with seven receptions and a touchdown. Through three weeks, Geno has targeted the wide receiver 24 times. And with Decker more than likely hindered, if not totally out, Kerley assumes to see his fair share of targets again this week against Matthew Stafford and the Lion’s aerial attack. I could see nine receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown for Kerley this week.
o Brian Quick (20%)
§ Quick and the Rams are on bye this week so if you do grab him, he’s riding the pine. But he’s certainly worth adding for future weeks. The wide receiver is the Rams deep threat but also is catching a good number of passes. Through three weeks, Quick has either seven receptions or a touchdown in every game. That’s viable WR2 production and certainly a good flex play. One of my main mottos in fantasy is this: To be an elite owner, you have to be ahead of the curve. It’s my golden rule of fantasy. This means grabbing guys on their bye week, a week ahead of when they’ll actually play. It means looking at matchups two weeks down the road, not just this week. All this to say, pick Quick! Prediction: Bye
o Owen Daniels (5%)
§ Daniels, owned in just 5% of leagues will see that number dramatically spike this week. Dennis Pitta, the Ravens starting tight end went down with a hip injury Sunday that will need season-ending surgery. Pitta owners will be searching the waiver wire for a replacement, and I think they need not look further than the next man up. Kubiak loves his tight ends and a full week with Daniels manning the starting spot during practice will lead to a solid bonding between Flacco and the trustworthy pass catcher. Already recording two touchdowns to his credit this year, look for Daniels to add to that total this week against the Panthers. Prediction: five catches, 47 yards and a TD
o Larry Donnell (3%)
§ If you couldn’t tell by now, I love the targets statistic. I really think you can tell who a QB favors by looking at his receivers’/tight ends’ target numbers. Donnell, a target machine, is definitely not a household name, even to fantasy owners. On the year, Donnell has accumulated 23 targets and has wrangled in a staggering 18 of them. This 78% catch rate is likely to drop but for now, Donnell looks like a very steady play at a position where consistency is rare. He’s had at least five receptions in every game this year and faces a Redskins defense that will be paying most of their attention to Giants RB Rashad Jennings. Prediction: seven catches, 76 yards
· Defense/Special Teams
o Dolphins D/ST (1%)
§ At this position every week, I want to point out a defense I like for those who stream defenses. For those who don’t know, streaming defenses means playing the matchups and switching up your defense every week. This week that defense is the Dolphins. Going up against the helpless Raiders, Miami seems to be a very solid play this week. Through three weeks this year, this unit has accumulated at least 10 points in two of the games. The pass rush has been solid with nine sacks to their credit thus far, and they should eat up Derek Carr as he sits behind a less than average offensive line. Don’t be surprised to see five sacks and an interception or two from this group come Sunday.
Side note: Until Blake Bortles proves me wrong, I truly believe whoever plays the Jacksonville Jaguars should be the number one streaming defense every week. But that’s too easy to write about. Nonetheless, the Chargers sit atop the totem pole this week thanks to their incredible matchup.
o Matt Prater (8%)
§ Although, I won’t be featuring a kicker every week, Prater is a special case. Suspended for the first four weeks of the season, Prater won’t be eligible to play until week six thanks to the Broncos bye this week. However, if you follow the golden rule, you know to stay ahead of the game. Pick him up this week or next if you’ve got the extra spot on your bench. I believe that unless your last bench guy has phenomenal upside, it would be better to own Prater and wait on him for week six. He’s has a great record from short, medium, and long distances and last year he converted field goal attempts at a staggering 94% conversion rate. Pick him up if you can and reap the benefits of having the league’s most productive fantasy kicker through the rest of the year and into your playoffs.
I’ll be here every week for you. Feel free to send in your lineup questions, waiver wire thoughts, or trade help to FantasyDecisions@gmail.com