Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: dissecting the RBBC situation in New England. Dialing back expectations for Dede Westbrook. And a figuring out a plan for Alfred Morris.
Can you give us your take on the ultimate Running Back by Committee at New England? Watching the Patriots dissect Denver's Defense last weekend was an eye opener. Why is Dion Lewis being platooned with Burkhead and White when he seems better than both of them? Is Gillislee totally out-of-favor, because he isn't a good receiver/blocker, so they'll use Lewis or Burkhead for short-yardage carries? Since NE's wideouts mostly seem to be decoys, will their offense continue to feature tight ends and RBs, deployed around the line of scrimmage, so Brady can keep throwing darts to them?
Drew Paterson (Ferndale, WA)
Mike Gillislee wasn’t active at Denver, and I don’t think we’ll see him on the field again anytime soon. They gave him a chance, and it didn’t work out. He wasn’t effective enough, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry. Unlike those other backs, he can’t be utilized as a receiver (didn’t catch a pass all year). He was supposed to be their short-yardage back, but he wasn’t good enough in those situations. In their first eight games, they gave him the ball 13 times when they needed 1 yard to either score or keep a drive alive, and he was successful on only 6 of those plays. Those are key. He missed on two fourth-and-one carries in the opener against Kansas City, plays that contributed heavily in the team losing that game. So they’ve moved on. Rex Burkhead is their next biggest back (at 210, he’s only 10 pounds lighter); I believe he’ll be the primary short-yardage runner in the second half of the season, maybe punching in a half-dozen touchdowns. Dion Lewis should be their leading ball carrier, but he weighs only 195 pounds. I don’t think they want him carrying more than about a dozen times per game, and there will be some opponents where his shifty style doesn’t play well. So I think Burkhead fits in as their second runner, carrying the ball 5-10 times in most games. There will be some weeks (I think) that Burkhead gets the hot hand and carries more than Lewis. And James White is more of a traditional third-down back, filling the role previously held by guys like Faulk, Woodhead and Vereen. White is averaging 14 rushing and 42 receiving yards so far. With both White and Burkhead, I think they get used like chess pieces in the passing game. They can line up in the backfield or flex outside, making it hard for defenses to account for them. I’m in agreement with your opinion that the wide receivers are largely decoys in this offense. The system isn’t about forcing the ball into the hands of Brandin Cooks. Instead, you’ve got a host of wide receivers running around – Cooks, Hogan, Amendola, Dorsett – and in the scramble to cover everyone, defenses often are left in some hopeless coverage situation, with a tight end (Gronkowski or Bennett) or a running back (White or Burkhead) isolated in a mismatch against a lesser player. The Patriots are starting to get things dialed in, and I expect we’ll see them playing in another Super Bowl in February.
It looks like Dede Westbrook will finally be activated for Week 11 at Cleveland. In one of my leagues there are literally eight teams vying for four spots and this is the last week of the regular season for us. Scoring is PPR. I'm considering starting Westbrook in my second flex spot. My other options are Latavius Murray vs the Rams, Darkwa vs. the Chiefs or Ty Montgomery vs. the Ravens? I know it's a complete flyer for sure but sometimes in highly competitive leagues you need to take flyers, and considering the other matchups look fairly challenging it seems like a good spot to take a flyer on Westbrook, who was the most productive rookie in the preseason. On the other hand, I hate it when I over manage a team instead of putting the best guy on the field and leave it alone. I know weed is legal here in Portland but I promise I'm not smoking the stuff.
Jay Harding (Oregon City, OR)
I noticed Westbrook in the preseason. He caught touchdowns over 40 yards against the Patriots and Falcons, and he caught 6 passes for 131 yards against Tampa Bay (I think all of the production in that game came in the fourth quarter). He’s small, but he’s fast and looks good – like he might develop into another DeSean Jackson. He was a fourth-round pick, but I think he would have been selected two rounds earlier if not for off-field issues in college. While at Oklahoma, he was arrested twice in domestic violence incidents. If you start Westbrook, I think it’s with the hope he hits on a long touchdown. The Browns have allowed 19 TD passes in nine games. But if the Jaguars were excited about using Westbrook a bunch, I think they would have activated him two weeks ago. He was healthy enough to play against the Bengals and Chargers, but they didn’t even add him to their roster. Now Allen Hurns is hurt, but I’m expecting they’ll move Keelan Cole into the starting lineup to take that spot. With Westbrook, I think you’re looking at a third or fourth receiver who’ll (hopefully) get on the field for a few plays. The smarter player, I think, is to plug in Orleans Darkwa. He’s not much of a pass catcher (just 8 receptions in his last four games) which works against him in PPR, but he’s a serviceable enough banger between the tackles, and I like his matchup just fine. Only three defenses have allowed more rushing yards than Kansas City, and only three have allowed more rushing touchdowns.
What is the best thing to do if you have Morris ... use him as long as possible, try and trade him right away? What's he actually worth in a trade right now?
Bill Petilli (Harrison, NY)
I wouldn’t be excited about using Morris this week. I think I have him in three leagues, and I’m not using him in any of them. He’s a decent power runner, but the Eagles rank No. 1 in run defense, and it looks like the Cowboys won’t have left tackle Tyron Smith. If Dallas falls behind in this game (definitely a possibility) I don’t know that he’ll even play much. They don’t like him in the passing game, either as a receiver or in protection. When the Cowboys fell behind in the Atlanta game, Rod Smith ended up playing a lot more. There’s also the troubling reality that Dak Prescott tends to call his number often around the goal line – he’s scored 5 TDs on his own. So if you’ve got Morris, I think the plan should be to leave him parked on the bench. You’re watching him and gauging whether he can be used in future weeks. On Thanksgiving Dallas is hosting the Chargers, who rank last in run defense, but that unit has played a lot better the last two weeks. We’ll see what the teams do this week, but right now I’m not counting on using Morris in Week 12.
Between the positions of RB, QB and WR, which is the toughest position to rank?
JEFF POWERS (Coral Springs, FL)
I don’t think any of them are easy, but I would say wide receiver. With that position, I think it’s more often dependent on one or two plays. If they make the plays, they’re a hero. If not, then perhaps they’re not a factor at all. In the Super Bowl, for example, Taylor Gabriel caught only 3 passes. He wasn’t a big factor. But in the fourth quarter, he was open for what would have been the win-clinching 65-yard touchdown. He would have a great fantasy day. But Devonta Freeman missed the blocked, Matt Ryan got sacked and fumbled, and 10 years from now most football fans won’t be able to recall the name Taylor Gabriel.
We had the following trade attempt in our league and we reversed, although I would like to get your opinion if it was obviously collusion. The point structure is .5 point PPR with 6 points for all touchdowns and .1 for every 3 yards passing so 1 point for every 30 yards passing. 7-2 team trades Brees and Ted Ginn to team tied for last place for LeVeon Bell. The last-place team does have Carr only, although QB's like McCown were available, ten-team league. Your insight is always appreciated.
Todd Blinn (Obetz, OH)
Collusion. That’s a strong word, requiring a high standard of proof. Are these two teams intentionally undermining the league? I don’t see anything to support that. Far more likely, one owner selected Brees and has grown tired of watching him hand the ball off every week. For fantasy purposes, he’s been a big disappointment. The other owner used his first-round pick on Bell, and he’s been a little less than that crushing dominant player he was hoping for – 5 touchdowns in nine games prior to Thursday night. I believe the first-place team is hoping Bell gets hot and takes his team to another level. I think the last-place team is hoping that the Saints in their upcoming games turn more to pass, with Brees re-emerging as a top-3 quarterback. This league uses 6 points for touchdown passes, so quarterbacks are important. Plus the last-place team gets a depth receiver tossed in. If I were the commissioner in this league and this trade proposal came across my desk, I wouldn’t be considering having owners vote whether it was legit or not.
I have an opportunity to pick up Olsen off waivers and drop Brate, but due to our salary cap, I would also have to drop D. Murray. Burkhead is still available, and the closest in the redrafter rankings to Murray (.5 point difference). This is a .5 ppr league. My other RBs are Fournette and Kamara, and my other TE is Kroft. Do you see a clear advantage with either Olsen/Burkhead or Murray/Brate, or is it basically a wash between the two pairs of players?
Roy Sherman (Columbia, TN)
I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the pairs, but sign me up for Olsen and Burkhead. The Bucs might be souring on Brate; he’s caught only 2 passes for 19 yards the last two weeks. With this being PPR, you need a tight end who’s catching balls consistently, and I don’t know that Kroft can be counted on every week. Olsen could be your guy. He’s supposedly healthy and ready to role, and the Panthers need to add another pass catcher into their arsenal. With the running backs, Burkhead might be better than Murray. The Patriots might be hitting stride right now, and he’ll catch passes and score 1-yard touchdowns.
Seattle’s helmets look to have a top stripe made of Kevlar-or carbon fiber. Is that what it is? And are there any other teams that have this material?
derek king ()
It’s just how they’re painted. As far as materials and construction, they’re the same as all the others. For me (with helmets) it’s the Vikings that stand out. They’ve got the matte finish. Almost all of the teams having glossy helmets, with a shine to them. Minnesota’s are different; there’s no reflection coming off of them. Cleveland seems to be doing something similar, but not to the same level. Jacksonville has the half-and-half helmets (which I hate), with glossy on the gold half and flat black on the front.
I'm trying to decide which player to start in a flex spot this weekend. Your point projections for my league's customized scoring show the 3 possible RBs -- Damien Williams, CJ Anderson and James White -- all scoring more points than the 3 possible WRs -- Sanu, Ginn and Crowder. But when I look at the overall rankings for all positions, the order is different: Williams is still on top, but Sanu ranks higher than CJ, and all the WRs rank higher than James White. What don't I understand?
Eric Pryne (Vashon, WA)
When picking a flex player, go with the player who projects to score the most points. In the position-by-position rankings, there’s a number next to each player’s name, and you click on it to see his projected yards and touchdowns. Please disregard the “overall” section. It’s a spillover from the overall rankings (what you see in August, or on Tuesdays with the revised Redrafter rankings). With the overall, there’s some attempt to have weighting to account for the scarcity between the positions. With a flex decision, that doesn’t apply – you just want to look at the projection for what the player will do.