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 email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Atlanta Falcons two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper will become a free agent on March 16, and he could reset the tight end market with his next deal. Hooper was fifth in the league in catches among all players with 52 through the first eight games of last season. He missed three games with a knee injury but still managed to finish with a career-high 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Hooper is expected to top Jimmy Graham's $10 million per-year-average from his 2014 contract with the Saints, even if the Falcons re-sign him. With the Falcons having little room with the salary cap, they'll have to do reshuffling to keep Hooper. Staying with Atlanta would probably be best for his fantasy stock, but Hooper could easily remain a high-end TE1 if he goes elsewhere.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen), who had surgery on Jan. 21 on a core muscle, posted a video on his Instagram of him running on a treadmill on Thursday. A league sources estimates that Beckham will be healthy in a month. There's no guarantee that OBJ will take part in the offseason program, which begins on April 6 for teams with new head coaches. Cleveland's new offensive system will challenge quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won't be able to work with his top receivers until training camp. If Beckham and Mayfield can get on the same page, they should have a good shot to improve on their numbers last season. However, Beckham will be seen as more of a low-end WR1 with upside until the Browns prove us wrong.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have considered signing quarterback Jameis Winston to a two-year deal this offseason, with the first year guaranteed and the second year a team option, according to sources. The first year of the deal would be roughly the same as the franchise tag of $27 million. Tampa could also just use the franchise or transition tag, with the transition tag around $2.5 million cheaper than the franchise tag. The 26-year-old led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and 33 touchdowns last year, but he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. Winston's fantasy value will be the highest as a QB1 if he stays in Tampa with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top two receivers.
The Chicago Bears are releasing wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and cornerback Prince Amukamara on Friday, according to a source. Gabriel played in just nine games in his second and final season in Chicago in 2019 because of injuries, catching only 29 passes (48 targets) for 353 yards and four touchdowns. He's still on the right side of 30 years old but offers a limited upside in fantasy and limited size (5-foot-7, 168 pounds). Gabriel did manage a career-high 67 catches, 688 yards and two scores in 2018. Depending on where he lands in free agency, he's likely to be a complementary piece of a passing offense. Amukamara, 31 this June, had 53 tackles (44 solo), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 15 games for the Bears last season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) is making good progress from the plantar fasciitis issues he dealt with last season. In his first year with the Raiders, Williams caught 42 passes for 651 yards and six touchdowns. He only missed two games but was slowed by his foot issues, mostly in the second half. Williams started off with five touchdowns in his first five games, but he predictably fell off from there with just one more touchdown on the season. He gives the Raiders a downfield threat, but the problem is that quarterback Derek Carr doesn't often challenge defenses deep. If Las Vegas addresses the receiver position in free agency or the draft, Williams could have even more trouble being a consistent performer. As of now, he's a touchdown-dependent flex option.
The Jacksonville Jaguars exercised their team options for fifth-year wide receiver Chris Conley and fourth-year safety Jarrod Wilson on Friday. Conley will be under contract for 2020, while Wilson is now under contract through 2021. Conley set a career high in catches (47), receiving yards (775) and yards per catch (16.5) in his first season with the Jaguars in 2019. He managed five touchdowns in all 16 games (14 starts). The 27-year-old has 10 touchdowns in the last two seasons, but his fantasy ceiling is limited in a run-first offense while also competing for targets with D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook. Think of Conley as more of a WR5/flex play in deeper leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery could be open to a trade if the team explores one this offseason. However, he could be tough to trade coming off a Lisfranc foot injury while having high salary cap numbers the next two seasons. Jeffery has a history of injuries during his playing career and managed to play in just 10 games for the Eagles in 2019, catching 43 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns. It was his lowest yardage total since his rookie year in 2012 with Chicago. The 30-year-old posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears in 2013-14, but he's become an inconsistent, injury prone wideout the last two seasons in Philly. A change of scenery wouldn't necessarily make him any more attractive to fantasy owners.
The Washington Redskins are growing increasingly hopeful that left tackle Trent Williams will return to the team, as head coach Ron Rivera has made him one of his offseason priorities in trying to get him to return. Williams held out last season because of beef with the team's previous front-office regime and training staff, but those parties are all gone. Rivera and Williams have had positive phone conversations, and it sounds like they have a good shot to retain him. It's all good news for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who looked a little overmatched in limited playing time in his rookie season. The 'Skins are slowly rebuilding, and having Williams anchor down Haskins' blind side would be huge.
The Indianapolis Colts are expected to be in the market for wide receivers this offseason, and they've already been linked to Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Agholor had his best season in 2017 when Frank Reich and Mike Groh were offensive assistants -- they are both with the Colts now. In just 11 games in 2019, Agholor disappointed with 39 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns. An injury ended his season early, but he couldn't take advantage of DeSean Jackson's injury that kept him out for the majority of the year. A change of scenery would probably serve him well, but he wouldn't be guaranteed a large role in Indy's run-first offense with questions at quarterback.
The Detroit Lions plan to release defensive tackle Damon Harrison in the coming days, according to a source. The move will free up around $6.7 million in salary cap space but will leave the team with a hole on their defensive line up the middle. Even though Snacks Harrison had a down year in 2019 due to knee and groin injuries, he was their best defensive player in the second half of 2018 after he was acquired from the Giants. Harrison finished with 49 tackles last year, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2012, and he only had two sacks in 15 games. He will consider retirement this offseason while seeing what materializes in free agency. In his prime, Harrison was one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in the game.
The Tennessee Titans aren't expected to pick up wide receiver Corey Davis' fifth-year team option for the 2021 season. If the Titans were to pick it up, Davis would be owed around $15.8 million in 2021. The 25-year-old former fifth overall pick in 2017 had 65 catches for 891 yards in his sophomore season in 2018, but he regressed in 2019 when he had only 43 receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie A.J. Brown became the Titans go-to No. 1 receiver last year. Tennessee envisioned Davis becoming that guy when they drafted him, but he's failed to live up to expectations in his three seasons. Heading into 2020, he'll be a WR4/5 without much upside in this run-first offense.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said on Thursday that wide receiver A.J. Green is "a guy we want to be around." Green hasn't played in a game since December of 2018 and hasn't been a Pro Bowler since 2017 in his last full season. He's due to become a free agent next month and has played in just nine games the last two years, but the Bengals could still use him. If Cincinnati can't reach a long-term extension with the veteran, they're likely to use the franchise tag on him. Turning 32 this summer, Green has had 1,000 yards receiving in six of his eight seasons, but his fantasy stock will be way down since he hasn't been able to stay healthy of late. If he remains with the Bengals, as is expected, he'll likely have LSU quarterback Joe Burrow throwing him passes in 2020.
The Washington Redskins released tight end Jordan Reed on Thursday. The move was expected and will save the team $8.5 million in salary cap space. Reed missed all of the 2019 season with a concussion, his seventh documented one in his seven seasons. He was just cleared from the league's concussion protocol on Wednesday and has never played a full season in the NFL due to head and other injuries. Despite the lingering concussion concerns, a source close to Reed said he wants to continue playing. In a career-high 14 games in 2015, Reed had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Without Reed in the picture, Washington's top tight end is Jeremy Sprinkle, who had 26 catches in 2019. However, he's considered more of a blocker, so the 'Skins will surely look to bolster the position in free agency or the draft. If Reed continues his career and lands elsewhere, he'll strictly be a low-end injury risk as a TE2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is expected to be sidelined six to eight months after having surgery to shave down some cartilage and remove two pieces of bone embedded in the labrum of his left hip on Feb. 4. The Browns expect Landry to make a full recovery for the 2020 season, but he might be limited in training camp and could be questionable for the Week 1. He will be on crutches for two weeks and then can continue with physical therapy and riding a stationary bike. Despite dealing with the hip injury in 2019, Landry didn't miss a game for the sixth straight year and had career highs in yards (1,174) and yards per catch (14.1). His six touchdowns were the second-best total of his career. With a new coaching staff in place, losing repetitions in training camp could be problematic. Landry will have some added risk as a WR2 in PPR leagues in 2020.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen met two figures that voided the final three years of his contract by securing six or more sacks and playing 57 percent or more of the defensive snaps in 2019. As such, Griffen has exercised his right to opt out of his deal, according to a source. That will free up roughly $13 million in salary cap space for the Vikings, with $800,000 in dead money. The 32-year-old was already at risk of being cut with a $13.9 million cap hit in 2020. The Vikings might try to keep him around at a reduced price, as Griffen had eight sacks and 24 QB knockdowns last season. He's been a great complement to Danielle Hunter on the other side of the line, so losing Griffen would be a blow to the Vikes pass rush.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (core) should be completely recovered from his core muscle surgery in about a month, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: It appears like Beckham should be ready of offseason workouts as long as he does not suffer a setback. He will be working under a new offensive scheme next season but is still one of the top receivers in the NFL. He will be a weekly starting option in fantasy leagues in 2020.
Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed was released Thursday, Feb. 20, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Reed wants to play next season, so fantasy players can keep an eye on the situation. He probably will receive interest from teams but is a risky option because of his injury history. Reed could be a No. 2 tight end in fantasy leagues if he starts for a team.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) is scheduled to have his grievance against the Oakland Raiders heard by an arbitrator in May, according to a source.
Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr recently posted an photo on Instagram of himself talking with Chicago Bears DL Khalil Mack following a game last season, and the post is part of speculation that Carr could be traded to the Bears this offseason and reunited with Mack.
Fantasy Spin: The Bears have said they expect Mitchell Trubisky to be their 2020 starter, but they also said he could have competition in the QB room, and Carr would certainly provide as much. Stay tuned ...
Washington Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar said that he reached out to the team to discuss a reasonable contract restructure, but the team declined to have conversations, according to sources close to Dunbar. Despite denying that he requested a trade, Dunbar remains adamant in his desire to be traded or released. The 27-year-old was one of the better cover corners in the league last season, but it's looking like the new regime in Washington isn't falling for his contract demands. There's a good chance that they'll look to trade Dunbar this offseason if they can't work something out with him. He had 37 tackles (31 solo) and a career-high four interceptions in 11 games played in 2019.