Adrian Peterson is free! On Tuesday, AP was traded from the New Orleans Saints (who seemingly never wanted him?) to the running back-desperate Arizona Cardinals. He is here to save the day for all fantasy owners who stashed him through the first few weeks or were able to submit a successful waiver claim for him after the trade. Our prayers are answered. All is right in the world. Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Right?

Well, kind of. There is no doubt that getting traded from the pass-happy Saints, where Peterson was an odd fit from the second they signed him, to the Cardinal who lost David Johnson in Week 1 and have gotten zilch from the running back position in the weeks since, significantly improves Peterson’s fantasy value. The questions we have to answer now are: just how much has it improved? And what exactly can we expect going forward?

In the last few weeks, AP was not seeing regular touches, and his value was pretty much nonexistent. When he signed with the Saints in the offseason, you could hear a collective “huh?” from football fans and writers everywhere. We gave the Saints the benefit of the doubt and figured they knew what they were doing, but it turned out exactly how we all thought it would. Peterson was an odd fit for a Saints team that likes to pass the ball and likes to operate out of the shotgun, two things that don’t mess with Peterson’s style. Add to that the presence of Mark Ingram and youngster Alvin Kamara, and it is no surprise the team moved on from AP.

With the Cardinals, Peterson should get plenty of opportunities. Chris Johnson has not looked good in a couple years now, and he was a free agent until David Johnson got hurt. With Peterson entering the fold, the Cardinals did not even wait a week or two before cutting CJ. He got cut to make room for AP.

There are, however, a few reasons to roll our Peterson optimism back to “cautious optimism.” For starters, he is moving to a new team with a new playbook in the middle of a season. The complexity of NFL playbooks and schemes is why we don’t see a ton of in-season trading in the NFL. It is very difficult to fully learn everything while also preparing to play every week. To start out, they are going to have to feed him plays in bunches and get him acclimated a little bit more every week. Early playing time/snaps are question marks for Peterson right now.

Next, there is the issue of the Arizona offensive line. They’re bad. They’re really bad. They are particularly bad at run blocking, which is the primary reason the Cardinals have struggled so much on the ground this season. If they can’t open up some room for Peterson, he might have a fairly low ceiling in Arizona.

Lastly, the Cardinals are another team that likes to throw the ball. Carson Palmer currently leads the NFL in passing attempts. Part of that is likely because they have struggled to run the ball so much that they have been forced to pass, but they are not going to flip the script and decide to run the ball 60% of the time just because Adrian Peterson has arrived. Peterson is not much of a pass-catching back, so will he get enough touches to be valuable on a weekly basis for fantasy owners?

These are all valid questions that cause concern. Of course, the upside with Peterson is definitely worth taking the chance on him, even if just to stash him for a couple weeks while you see how he looks in that offense. Just don’t get your hopes up too high until we actually see him getting the ball with some space to work with.

Now, to the charts!

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Well folks, after four games, the Adrian Peterson experiment in New Orleans has come to a close. After an offseason deal worth $7M for two years, the Saints have traded away AP to the Cardinals for a conventional draft pick. Simply put, the Saints wanted to get rid of him, and this was the fastest way, and easiest way possible. This now leaves New Orleans with three running backs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and youngster Trey Edmunds. Meanwhile in Arizona, Adrian Peterson now jumps into the wasteland that was the RBBC with David Johnson’s injury, now competing for touches against Chris Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, and Andre Ellington.

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The talk of this week at the running back situation has been Wendell Smallwood. If you don’t believe me, take a scroll through the last dozen or so Razzball articles to see the takes and advice. With Darren Sproles somehow breaking his arm and tearing his ACL on the same play, there are touches available in Philadelphia. LeGarrette Blount is still around and actually looked productive on Sunday, and Corey Clement scored his first career touchdown and could rotate into games going forward, but Smallwood is the guy who stands to benefit the most from the Sproles injury. If you don’t believe me, the Eagles offensive coordinator said as much in his press conference on Tuesday. I have the transcript if you want it.

For me, though, there is a more exciting running back to target. Heading into Week 3, we knew two things: 1. There would be a new offensive coordinator. 2. Marvin Lewis has been coaching the Bengals for 15 years without winning a single playoff game. Number 1 is relevant for fantasy owners, while number 2 is simply fascinating.

The position to watch in Week 3 was running back, as it was expected that we could see more Joe Mixon and less Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. And that is exactly what happened. Mixon looked like the complete running back he was projected to be coming out of college, gaining more than 100 yards from scrimmage on 21 total touches. Expect that trend to continue going forward, as Mixon should only get better and the Bengals should continue to ride him.

I talked up Mixon last week as a great buy-low option prior to the change at offensive coordinator. Hopefully, you either drafted and stashed him or grabbed him on waivers last week because he is less likely to be available this week. But if he is, grab him and go. On the flip side, I would also try to hold onto Jeremy Hill and/or Giovani Bernard if you have the kind of league that provides you with the roster/bench space to do so. It looks like Mixon will be the guy, but we have seen before that one week doesn’t mean everything and that injuries happen all the time. If you have to pick one, I would probably lean Bernard in PPR.

To the charts!

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This season the Eagles thought they had that famous combination, pairing LeGarette Blount and Darren Sproles (only to have Sproles break his arm and tear his ACL, brutal, and get replaced by another Lighting). The nickname for a running back combination, typically a larger, burlier back and a shiftier, quicker back has been passed down through the years. Beginning with the backfield of one Archie Manning, the original Thunder and Lighting were the Saints duo Chuck Muncie and Tony Galbreath, so dubbed by Hank Stram (I don’t remember this, uh, since I wasn’t born yet, so thanks NY Times, though the link is about the tough life of Muncie, worth the read, but come right back!).

In more recent years we’ve had CJ2K (more on him later) and LenDale White (I still remember winning leagues with White scoring 15 TDs back when leagues weren’t rewarding .1 for rushing & receiving yards and TDs were what won leagues) Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott(and later TJ Duckett), Tiki Barber and Ron (the Cocaine Train) Dayne and I’m sure I’m missing a bunch (so feel free to add your favorite).

A google search yields multiple teams are working on their own T&L this season including the Bears (Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen), the Dolphins (Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake), Atlanta (though I’m not really sure which is which), Cincinnati (Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard formed a piss poor T&L, just let Mixon be the number one already) and…wow, this is such a lazy way to refer to running back combinations so let’s all agree to never use the term Thunder and Lighting…except in the title of this post. But after that, no more, ok?

Onto the Values! At this point I’m going to assume you’ve spent at least half of a $100 budget (If you have more, add a few dollars to the bids, what do you have to lose?) So with that remaining Grant this week we’re spending it on:

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Well the top guys of a week ago did not live up to their hype, did they?  Here are their stats from Week 2:

Javorius Allen – 5 Rec, 35 yards, 66 rush yards, 1 TD.

Kerwynn Williams – 22 rush yards.

Kenny Golladay – 1 Rec, 8 yards.

Tarik Cohen – 8 Rec, 55 yds, 13 rush yards, 1 fumble lost.

Nelson Agholor – 1 Rec, 9 yards, 1 TD.

Williams was quiet this week as the Cardinals looked bad against Indy and Chris Johnson definitely took carries. The whole Cardinals offense still doesn’t look right; let’s hope they get back on track Week 3 but Johnson & Ellington were on the field in overtime and that worries me. On the bright side: Williams is also their return man to add to his value. Don’t cut bait after one week…

Allen looked good on his TD run and is settling in as Woodhead light, which is a hoppy sardines-infused dark chocolate almond butter IPA with less calories. Flacco likes to throw so Allen should remain a flex play, although West is still the bellcow there.

Cohen could have looked better, but Howard was also terrible and the Bears simply got owned, so that Cohen salvaged some fantasy value is good to see. Cohen clearly benefits from being on the field for all the passing the Bears will do. So hold him if you added him last week because better days are coming.

Agholor salvaged some value catching a garbage time TD (though based on that score the Eagles actually had a chance to win (on a Hail Mary), so was it really in garbage time?)

Razzball Football’s partner FantasyDraft is starting a new sign-up promotion this week, all new depositing signups receive a free $4 “Everyone Wins” NFL GPP ticket for the upcoming Sunday slate along with offering all players 4% cash back on their initial deposits! 

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Welcome to another edition of Jay’s (hey, that’s me!) Review of all things Week 2. Except for Monday Night Football, just as bad as Thursday Night Football, but now without Chris Berman. So slightly better. Maybe. Who knows actually? I’m just waiting for when the NFL figures out how to have a game on every night and additionally draw out the NFL Draft for entire offseason. You think it might not happen, but Roger Goodell is already telling Robert Kraft to hold his beer (usually it’s his penis). So yeah, that was basically me saying that MNF is too late for this existential journey, maaaan. And sure, what I just typed may have come off as sassy, but that’s only because MB RSVP’d (so many acronyms, so little time!) probably the best GIF from Week 2 with the Lynch Safety Dance. You probably only understood that reference if you’re a member of AARP, but hey, on the bright side, more acronym dropping. So instead, I have chosen Todd Gurley to shine my light upon with the utmost care and love. Which is what I also refer to as a boner. And behold above, if that GIF doesn’t turn you on, I don’t want to be off. I feel like this could be the new Dyson’s vacuum cleaner slogan. Or the first last line I’ll ever say to a first last date. The possibilities are endless, just like a world with a functioning Todd Gurley. Is he back? (Maybe?) Was he ever gone? (Yeah.) (Vague) Answers to these questions and your usual daily allotment of hot takes, yokes (jokes in egg form, or I guess I could have just corrected the typo instead of typing this long sentence out… wait, am I still typing?), and your Week 2 Top Plays in GIF form are all after the jump!

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Does anyone else get the old Sherwin Williams jingle stuck in their head when they see Kerwynn Williams’s name? No? Just me?

Anyway, welcome to the 2017 Handcuff Report. For those who followed this post last season, welcome back. For those who are new, where were you last year? Too good for us? I have researched other available handcuff reports and tell give you my completely unbiased opinion that none of them are half as good as this one. Shame on you, and welcome.

So, first things first: what exactly is a handcuff? For the fantasy football n00bs out there, or perhaps for those who have taken the last few years off, a handcuff is a backup who will likely take over as the starter in the event of an injury, extreme ineffectiveness, off-the-field trouble, or coach’s decision. There are probably other reasons that I am forgetting here, but those are the most common one.

Most NFL teams now run a running back by committee of some sort. While not every team is as unpredictably maddening as the Patriots, most teams share the load in an effort to keep guys fresh and give defenses different looks. With fantasy leagues more competitive than ever, thanks to sites like Razzball offering great advice, it is important to recognize trends and identify value quickly. If you drafted a stud running back early, you might want to grab his handcuff in case of injury. Or if you went zero RB or went really light on RB early, you might want to squat on a couple handcuffs or, especially in PPR leagues, grab a change-of-pace/pass catching back. With the influx of young running backs and each team having two or three options this season, I tended to do the latter in drafts this year. For every Melvin Gordon, I have like two Shane Vereens or Theo Riddicks this year. Speaking of young running backs:

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playoffs

If you are reading this, congratulations. And I don’t say that just because you are fortunate enough to be reading one of my articles. If you are reading a fantasy football article in Week 14, it is likely because you are in the playoffs and still have a reason to care about your team and your lineup. So, congratulations. I mean it. To those of you who didn’t make the playoffs: see you in hell, candy boys! This is, unfortunately, the last Handcuff Report of the year. It has been a great ride, but we are wrapping things up as the fantasy playoffs begin!

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markingram

It’s Week 13, which means we are heading into the fantasy playoffs soon. I know that because my readership has dwindled the last two weeks, as many fantasy owners have been eliminated from the playoffs and are throwing in the towel. But that’s OKAY. That just means we can be more serious and a bit more intimate now. It’s just me and you, playoff hopefuls.

Heading into this week, Tim Hightower was a name to watch because Mark Ingram was still in the concussion protocol and was questionable to play. If Ingram couldn’t go, Hightower was going to be a high-end flex/RB2 to throw into lineups before they locked on Sunday. But word came out on Sunday morning that Ingram was going to play, so many likely left Hightower on the bench or on the waiver wire.

But something funny happened. It didn’t matter that Ingram played. Ingram and Hightower combined for three touchdowns and almost 300 yards, with Hightower accounting for 51 rushing yards, 54 receiving yards, and one of the touchdowns. Although, Hightower’s final stat line would look a bit different if not for the late 50-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Willie Snead. If Hightower can keep producing even with a healthy Ingram, he can help out some of the needier fantasy owners come playoff time.

To the report…

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rawls

If you are like me and drafted Thomas Rawls in August but managed to stay patient and hang onto him until now, take a bow. I’ll bow with you. September and October were some dark times, my friends, but here we are. Rawls is the top dog in Seattle, and it looks like it will stay that way for the rest of the season now that Christine Michael got shipped out of town and C.J. Prosise is hurt. We did it, guys.

Prosise ran for a 72-yard touchdown in the first quarter on Sunday, but he left the game in the second quarter. It was pretty much all Rawls for the rest of the game, with a little bit of Troymaine Pope (who also got hurt). The Seahawks getting rid of Christine Michael meant they were ready to roll with Prosise and Rawls as their top guys and that they were confident Rawls would be healthy and effective. Now that Prosise is out of the picture, it’s all Rawls, baby.

Rawls rushed 14 times for 57 yards (4.1 YPC) and added three catches for 31 yards, giving him 88 total yards on the day. Heading into the fantasy playoffs, getting an every down back like Rawls into your lineup could be just what your team needs to get that extra edge (I know my team, where I went zero RB and took Rawls as my RB1 LATE, is sitting pretty now that I have him back). The best part about the Prosise injury* is that it means Rawls will see more action on passing downs. They will find a way to spell him here and there, but Rawls should be an every down back going forward and should catch his fair share of passes.

Things change quickly in the NFL, and it seems like just last week we were excited about the idea of a Prosise-Rawls backfield combination. But this week was about much more than Thomas Rawls and how happy we all are to have him back.

To the report. . .

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