Is the phrase, “Back in Black” work here? I’m currently wearing a white t-shirt, but oh well. This is the first of a weekly series I’ll be writing about arguably the most underrated part of anyone’s quest to winning their Fantasy Football league: their bench. You heard me, your Fantasy Football team’s bench players. What happens when you suffer an injury like Dez Bryant, have a suspension like Le’Veon Bell (no, not Tom Brady) or just your starters aren’t cutting it? Your bench plays a pivotal part in helping to make sure you are well prepared for when anything may arise. Often times, the teams and owners that win their leagues at the end of the season are those who pick up the right players and drop the wrong ones. This is what this weekly series will address, figuring out who to add, who to drop, and who to keep. So those of you who still have Josh Gordon on your bench, for example, it may be time to drop him (the first tip is on the house). So kick back, open your eyes wide, and enjoy the ride.
Obviously as I mentioned above, the Dez Bryant injury is a killer for most fantasy teams who drafted him, as he was a 1st round pick in most leagues this year and he may not even play again this season. He is still worth keeping on your bench because there is a chance he may come back this season. But in the meantime, we need to figure out who to get in Dallas who will step up (hopefully) in his absence. Terrance Williams is a guy I’m not too confident in, as he has not done much to cement himself as a solid #2 wide receiver, but he should be on your roster if he somehow made it to the waiver wire. Cole Beasley is someone who does intrigue me though, because he does the ability to play a poor-man’s version of Wes Welker for the team and be a somewhat solid slot receiver who could see a lot of targets. Not saying he is worth starting, but he is someone (especially in PPR leagues) who should on someone’s roster.
One more player in Dallas that catches my eye is Lance Dunbar (a Cowboys RB? OH NO). In all seriousness though, he saw eight targets in week one and caught every single one for 70 yards. Part of this damage was done even before Dez went down. This might be the year that Dunbar gets utilized in a serious passing-down back role like Joique Bell in previous years for example. With the run game suffering in Dallas & the Dez injury, Dunbar could certainly see a solid number of targets every week and should be on most benches, especially in PPR leagues where he could have some low-end FLEX appeal.
Switching over to a team that surprised a lot of people in Week 1 and actually beat the Vikings, is the 49ers. They won their game on Monday night due in large part to Carlos Hyde’s breakout performance. He has RB1 appeal going forward based on his talent & volume alone. What was more interesting is that Mike Davis, the team’s 4th round pick this year, was inactive for week one. He was a healthy scratch in favor of former rugby star Jarryd Hayne. Reggie Bush went down early in the game, forcing Hayne in a backup role where he had four rushing attempts and one reception. Not the most impressive start, especially with a fumble in that game as well, but this is more about Davis than anything. Davis is someone that some people drafted late in redraft hoping that he got the backup role, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I would recommend dropping Mike Davis from all re-draft leagues for the time being and unless your league scores return yards and touchdowns, Hayne isn’t worth owning right now either.
Shifting over to the division rival Seahawks, a particular rookie wide receiver (who I believe could be the next Devin Hester in terms of punt/kick returning) named Tyler Lockett impressed in Week 1, as he had the entire preseason. Seattle spent a big fortune to move up in the 3rd round of the draft to select Lockett, so obviously he is someone that the team thinks very highly of and he has not disappointed so far (unlike their offensive line). He scored a return touchdown in his NFL regular season debut last weekend and also reeled in all four of his targets for 34 yards. Lockett is the type of deep threat that Seattle so desperately needs and he could be in line for a big role this season considering the lack of depth at the wide receiver position for the Seahawks. He needs to be owned in most leagues going forward as his role could expand and is a threat for a return touchdown every week. Especially for leagues that score return yards, Lockett could have WR3 value by the end of the season.
So, of course the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. My love for C.J. Anderson is well documented and he is coming off two straight disappointing games. What I will point out in his defense though, is that he has had to face two of the NFL’s best defenses and also played this Thursday on a short week of rest as he is dealing with a toe injury and because of that injury, was on a pitch count for this game. I fully expect him to bounce back and produce RB1 numbers soon. In the meantime though, Ronnie Hillman is something has seen an uptick in snaps & touches on the field. While I do not believe he is anything more than a handcuff, he needs to be owned in all leagues. We have seen flashes of great play from him in the past and received 21 carries in the first two games so far. Anderson is clearly hampered by his toe injury and Hillman has been the main benefactor of that. In the Broncos’ offense and with that many carries to start off the season, Hillman needs to be owned for the time being. One more thing about the Broncos. Cody Latimer was pegged by most as the #3 WR for Denver this season but is clearly nothing more than their #4/5 receiver right now and does not deserve to take up a roster spot in most redraft leagues, so drop him for Tyler Lockett like I suggested (duh).
Where is the love for Dion Lewis? His story is quite incredible actually, as he did not play last season after being cut by the Browns in 2014 and missing all of 2013 with a broken leg. He gets signed over this offseason with the Patriots, not being projected being on the 53 man roster by the end of the preseason by most, and then goes out and gets 120 all-purpose yards on 19 touches. Now granted, it was against a porous Steelers defense and LeGarrette Blount was suspended for the game, but it’s still very impressive. Blount will come back and be the main running back on 1st & 2nd down, but the 3rd down role previously left by Shane Vereen seems to be locked up by Lewis. Vereen finished 2014 as the 19th best running back in PPR leagues (mid-tier RB2) and with Brandon LaFell out for at least the first six weeks, Lewis could put up some very good stats in the meantime. In short, he needs to be owned in all leagues, PPR or standard. In PPR leagues, he has RB3 value right now and is a weekly FLEX option. In standard leagues, he is probably a RB4, but one of the better RB4 options right now.
One more player to point out is also another rookie who has impressed beyond where he was drafted in May. Karlos Williams is the direct back-up to LeSean McCoy. He impressed so much that the Bills released both Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown, and even in week one, Williams made a strong impact. He finished week one with six carries, 55 yards rushing, and a touchdown as well. News broke on Thursday that McCoy actually was pulled from practice that day due to his bothersome hamstring injury. Head coach Rex Ryan said that he “hopes” McCoy to be ready for Sunday, but that is far from a guarantee right now. Considering how long this hamstring issue has been bothering McCoy (for over a month now), maybe him sitting out on Sunday may not be the worst idea. With that being said, regardless of whether or not McCoy plays this week, Williams warrants a roster spot on both redraft and dynasty rosters alike. If McCoy plays, he will be limited, opening up Williams to secure anywhere from six to ten touches. He will also be facing a Patriots defense that gave up 127 yards rushing to DeAngelo Williams in week one. Williams should be on your bench ASAP and stay that way going forward and would become a RB2 if McCoy ever doesn’t play.
That’ll do it for this week, now go take my advice and go win week 2 and make sure to shower me with credit afterwards.
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