Tue Oct 15 8:43am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Sam Darnold is making strides
This seems to be a theme with this column, but as the season progresses, it really does get harder to find quality options on waivers. Teams have byes and injuries, so the pickups become a lot more frequent. And the players breaking out are harder to find as well because a lot of roles are established with less uncertainty in the game. These factors make it tougher on a weekly basis as the season progresses. So don’t get too frustrated with the waivers going forward. Just remember that all the owners are facing the same issues as you.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings. It is time to believe in Cousins again. He has two straight huge games, throwing for 300-plus yards in each of his last two games while totaling six touchdowns to just one interception. He is playing with much more confidence and finally taking advantage of his great receiver duo. Cousins was dropped in many leagues after his slow start but his recent play should cause him to be grabbed in all those leagues once again. He is available in 30 percent of leagues.
Sam Darnold, Jets. Darnold returned from his bout with mono and had his best game of the season, beating a pretty good Cowboys teams. Darnold was 23-of-32 for 338 yards and two touchdowns with an interception las week. He has the tools to produce in this league and could be a good spot starter the rest of the way. He was impressive last week.
Case Keenum, Redskins. Keenum might not be the best NFL quarterback but he has produced for fantasy teams this year when in the starting lineup. He has multiple touchdown passes every game he has started and finished this year. He has at least 17 fantasy points all those games, too. He is another player worth consideration as a spot play for fantasy teams in the right matchup. He is producing.
Chase Edmonds, Cardinals. David Johnson was able to play last week, but Edmonds got his chances once again. He scored a touchdown for the second straight game. He also has at least 14 fantasy point two straight games. The Cardinals might need to manage Johnson’s workload a little better gong forward, giving more weekly touches to Edmonds. And Edmonds is making plays with his work, which is encouraging.
Mark Walton, Dolphins. With the Dolphins struggling to run the ball, Walton got his most chances of the season last week. He played pretty well, rushing six times for 32 yards while catching five passes for 43 yards. He had 11 touches for 75 total yards. He might be playing his way into a bigger role going forward, making him worth a speculative look if you are desperate for running back help.
Benny Snell, Steelers. Snell had a season high 17 carries last week for 75 yards. It was the first time al year he had more than three carries in a game, so this performance was unexpected. The Steelers were run heavy with a third-string quarterback starting, though. Snell was impressive with his work and could be getting a few more weekly chances the rest of the way. James Conner hasn’t exactly excelled with his chances this year, so the Steelers could start given their rookie back more looks.
Darrell Henderson, Rams. Henderson got his most work of the season with Todd Gurley out. Henderson played pretty well, rushing six times for 39 yards. He outplayed starter Malcolm Brown in the game, which is encouraging. Gurley is an injury waiting to happen, so Henderson is worth adding if you have the roster space. His role could continue to increase in this offense.
Jaron Brown, Seahawks. Brown found the end zone twice last week, scoring for the first time all year. He has multiple receptions four straight games and is getting some consistent work in the Seahawks passing game. He isn’t a sure thing but has some red-zone potential and is getting weekly catches, making him a player to consider streaming if you need receiver help because of injury or bye weeks.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins. Parker had just three catches for 28 yards last week but one of those catches was a touchdown reception. This gives him scores two straight games and at least three receptions all but a game. The Dolphins are a mess, but Parker has the highest ceiling of any of their receivers, making him another player to consider if you need someone for a spot play.
Jamison Crowder, Jets. The return of Sam Darnold was a huge positive for Crowder. He had a great game in Week 6, catching six passes for 98 yards. Remember, he had 14 receptions for 99 yards in Week 1 when Darnold was playing. He might not score many touchdowns but he has big reception potential as long as Darnold is in the lineup. Crowder is available in 41 percent of fantasy leagues.
Darren Fells, Texans. The Texans are incorporating the tight end into the offense a lot more these days. And Fells is the top target at tight end for them right now. He had a season high in receptions (six) and yards (69) last week. And he had a two-touchdown game the previous week. His value is going up in this very good Texans offense.
Hunter Henry, Chargers. Henry was dropped in many leagues after his early-season knee injury. But for all the owners that held onto him, he paid off in a big way in Week 6. Henry had eight receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns. In two games this year, Henry has 12 receptions for 160 yards. He is a huge part of this offense and a legit No. 1 fantasy tight end. He is available in 25 percent of leagues. This will be the last week you can grab him if you are in one of those leagues.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue wants a long-term deal and is looking for $22 million annually. Ngakoue said he would be unlikely to show up until Aug. 11 if he had to play under the franchise tag. The young pass-rusher has compiled 37.5 sacks (second on the all-time franchise list) since being drafted in the third round of 2016. He also has 14 forced fumbles in that time. If the Jags place the tag on Ngakoue, which ESPN's Mike DiRocco expects, it would be for around $19.3 million in 2020. The 24-year-old (25 next month) had eight sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception last year and is firmly in the mix in IDP leagues with what he's done the last four seasons.
The Indianapolis Colts are unsure if kicker Adam Vinatieri, who will be a free agent next month, will return in 2020. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer is rehabbing the knee injury that he dealt with last season, and he hasn't decided yet on if he will retire. The 2019 season was the worst year of Vinatieri's long career, as he missed 14 kicks total -- eight field goals and six extra points -- and landed on Injured Reserve in Week 13. The Colts also signed Chase McLaughlin to a one-year extension in January, so Vinatieri might not be back even if he decides to keep playing.
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to pick up quarterback Matt Schaub's $2 million option for the 2020 season, according to a source. Schaub made just one start in 2019 and was underwhelming in place of Matt Ryan. The veteran signal-caller attempted 67 passes for 580 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in parts of six games last season. He'll be 39 in June and is a shaky backup option if Matty Ice were to miss any more games next season due to injury. Even if Schaub is starting games at some point next year, he'd be a shaky second QB in two-quarterback leagues.
Free-agent LB Vontaze Burfict (Raiders) was reinstated by the league in January and has reportedly been working out at his alma mater (Arizona State) in an effort to returning to the NFL in 2020. Burfict was suspended for the final 12 games of the 2019 season after delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit to Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is seeking a long-term deal that pays $22 million annually. The franchise tag would be worth around $19.3 million if used on him.
Fantasy Spin: Ngakoue was tied for fifth in fantasy points at the position last season in 15 games. It was a down year that he only had eight sacks, and there is certainly is more in the tank.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler needs to see 15 to 20 touches per game, according to head coach Anthony Lynn.
Fantasy Spin: Ekeler is one of the more versatile backs in the NFL, and he finished 2019 with 92 catches and eight receiving touchdowns. There's a good chance he will be he unquestioned top back and a potential RB1 in 2020 if Melvin Gordon doesn't return, but even if Gordon is back, Ekeler can be a RB2 in PPR formats.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Sunday that the team isn't pursuing a long-term contract extension with running back Marlon Mack currently. It doesn't mean that it's not on the table or that the Colts don't want to keep Mack around for the long-term, but it's not a pressing issue. The 23-year-old (24 next month) is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season. He's been the starter the last two years and had 247 carries for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. However, he's also missed eight games the last two seasons, so Indy might be hesitant in thinking he'll continue to be a lead back for years to come. Mack does have a strong offensive line in front of him, but he'll be more of a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 going into the final year of his contract in 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. credits his success in 2019 to an improved commitment to preparation, and Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com believes Chark should deliver 1,000 receiving yards and eight to 10 touchdowns in 2020.
Fantasy Spin: Chark emerged as the top receiver for the Jaguars in 2019, and while Jacksonville is unlikely to have a high-powered passing attack, Chark should be able to deliver WR3 production as the No. 1 option.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had eight catches on 11 targets in the six quarters he played with QB Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) in 2019, and Brooke Pryor of ESPN believes Smith-Schuster needs another 'reliable offensive weapon' to be at his best.
Fantasy Spin: While Smith-Schuster's numbers would have been better with a healthy Roethlisberger under center, we still don't know if he can replicate his monster 2018 numbers as the go-to option of the passing attack.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki will likely be used as a slot receiver in sets featuring three or more receivers in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: After a quiet rookie year, Gesicki showed signs of life in 2019, finishing with 51 catches for 570 yards and five touchdowns. He could be worth a flier as a high-upside TE2.
The Baltimore Ravens are hopeful of re-signing DE/LB Jihad Ward, a pending unrestricted free agent. The team thinks he fits well with them and they like his motor, versatility. The two sides have had discussions over the past week.
New England Patriots FS Devin McCourty might be a candidate for the franchise tag, and he could cost $11.5 million against the cap if that's the route head coach Bill Belichick and company elect.
New England Patriots PK Stephen Gostkowski (hip) has one year remaining on his contract, but he is 36 years old and coming off hip surgery. Releasing him would free up nearly $3.5 million in salary cap space.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack is not in line for a contract extension at this time. '(Marlon), we love him, but we love the other two guys. We want him back and he wants to be back, really. There were some mis-reports that we were pursuing an extension there. That's not the case. I don't know where those came from,' team owner Jim Irsay said Sunday, Feb. 23.
Indianapolis Colts PK Adam Vinatieri (knee), set to be an unrestricted free agent March 18, is undergoing rehab after surgery in December to repair a damaged meniscus and patellar tendon in his left knee. 'Adam knows how much I think of him. He's unbelievable. We'll see. He's in rehab mode now and we're in the middle of trying to put the team together,' owner Robert Irsay said Sunday, Feb. 23.
San Francisco 49ers restricted free-agent LB Elijah Lee probably will not receive a tender offer this season but the team may look to sign him to a minimum level contract, in the opinion of NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco.
Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett is a player on the rise, but the Colts will consider all options at quarterback this offseason, according to owner Jim Irsay.
Fantasy Spin: The Colts have been linked to Philip Rivers this offseason, but the team can consider several options if they do not want Brissett to be the starter in 2020. The Colts have a solid group of pass catchers, so their starter could be a low-end No. 1 or a No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues depending on the player.
Tennessee Titans impending free-agent QB Marcus Mariota likely will not re-sign with the Titans this offseason, in the opinion of TitansOnline.com's Jim Wyatt.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) had a doctor visit on Friday and said, "It was a good report. I got to bypass the tennis ball throwing for a month and go right to the football. Still going to be about 2.5-3 months until I get total clearance from doc but we are doing good!" The Steelers posted a video on Twitter of Roethlisberger lightly tossing a football in a gym on Saturday. The veteran gunslinger played in just two games in 2019 before needing season-ending right elbow surgery. He seems to be coming along well and should be ready for the season opener in 2020, barring any setbacks. Big Ben is injury prone at his age, but he put up career highs in passing yards and touchdowns in 2018 and will be a QB2 with QB1 upside if he can stay healthy.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) said he has been cleared to start throwing a football but is still about two and a half to three months away from receiving full clearance.
Fantasy Spin: Roethlisberger probably will not do much during offseason workouts but appears to have a good chance to be ready for training camp. He has posted very good numbers over the last several seasons and could be a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback if he is healthy.