Jay Ajayi - RB - Miami Dolphins
To be honest, I feel like I should be covering Kenny Britt here but I just can't bring myself to watch multiple games of the Rams offense. I've already watched all the primetime games this past week. So I figured I'd go with the surprise 200-yard rusher who also fits into a popular theme of this NFL season, which is redemption stories.
Christine Michael, Terrelle Pryor, Terrance West, Kenny Britt etc are all players who are having breakout seasons after having a near career death experience. Often times we overlook the fact that athletes are human too. They're not perfect and just like everyone else in the world it might take a second or third chance at something until the metaphorical light bulb finally turns on.
Talent certainly creates opportunity and it's awesome to see these players finally take advantage of that opportunity and flourish. A player who many might not consider in the group of players I mentioned above is Jay Ajayi. The second year man out of Boise State was Lamar Miller's backup as a rookie and is now splitting duties in Miami. With all the running back committees around the NFL these days that seems pretty standard, right?
Not so fast my friend. Despite the positive reviews coming out of the training camp this year the Dolphins have seemingly done everything possible to find someone to overtake Ajayi's default role as the starter. It started with signing restricted free agent, CJ Anderson, to an offer sheet that Denver eventually matched. Miami then brought in Cardinals RB Chris Johnson for a visit. Like Anderson he opted to stay with his old team. Miami then spent a 3rd round pick on Kenyan Drake and brought in Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas for more RB depth in camp. Then in middle of July the Dolphins signed Arian Foster to compete for the starting job. Foster performed well in camp and won the starting role heading into the regular season. Ajayi, who had a disappointing preseason plagued by drops and fumbles, didn't handle the news well. Details haven't been released on what exactly happened in the Dolphins facility but Ajayi was not allowed to travel with the team to Seattle in Week 1. Head Coach, Adam Gase said it had to do with maturity and professionalism and that those were areas that needed to improve.
It appears Ajayi got the message and since receiving that wake up call he's been the best back in Miami. Adam Gase recently spoke on Ajayi saying he had, "a bad 10 days between the last preseason game and the opener" but has lived up to his expectations since.
So with Arian Foster back healthy how should we handle this backfield going forward? I wish I could tell you with full certainty but I can't. I'll take my best stab at it. I think we were all surprised to see Foster only play 11 snaps and receive 5 touches for 15 yards in Week 6. Gase preached in recent weeks how he needed to get the offense in a better rhythm which meant settling on a lead back rather than using the RB carousel they used for a number of weeks. With his 200-yard performance I think Ajayi bought himself another week or two of locking down that lead back role in Miami.
Here are some highlights from Sunday:
What stood out most in last weeks game is that Miami changed it's offense quite a bit. Now this might be because of how banged up the Steelers front seven was. They were missing their two best defenders in Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier. So it's possible they thought lets run the ball down their throats.
Miami used two TE sets quite often in the run game. Dion Sims, MarQueis Gray and Dominque Jones all played more than 25 snaps. Now re-watch the plays above and I think you'll see a consistent theme. I'll also mention that this is the first week Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil and Mike Pouncey have all played together along the line.
I'm hopeful that Miami will use this approach more often in the coming weeks because their receiver corp is still a work in progress. Jarvis Landry is a very good slot WR. On the outside though DeVante Parker is still a work in progress, Kenny Stills is inconsistent and Jordan Cameron is still injured. Ajayi is the best back for this heavy set ground game approach.
In the offseason I talked about how Ajayi is a pretty good receiving back but I haven't been that impressed with that aspect of his game this year. He can for sure still get the job done there but I think Arian Foster is best suited for that role. Foster might not have much left as a between the tackles runner bun man is he still smooth as ever in the passing game.
So going forward lets recap everything one more time. I think Ajayi has done enough the past month to lock down the "lead" back role. That likely means 15 or so touches a game. This will vary depending on the game script. We saw him run the rock 25 times in a win for example. If Foster ever gets back to a true 100% he'll obviously get some work in the ground game but will be most effective used as a receiver that gets 4-5 catches per game.
The Dolphins have a pretty tough schedule in the coming weeks - Buffalo, BYE, NYJ, @SD, @LAR, SF. The games vs SD and SF are plus match ups.
Ajayi should be seen as a decent RB3 with upside. The upside coming if Miami has overcome their offensive line struggles and stick to more of these 2 TE sets that worked so well this past week.
BYE WEEK: DALLAS & CAROLINA
Week 6 Thoughts: The big news this weekend was Ben Roethlisberger tearing the meniscus in his left knee. Schefter reported that he had a clean up procedure on Monday morning and that should keep Big Ben out a few weeks. Pittsburgh plays New England this week before their Week 8 BYE. Roethlisberger recovers faster than most from injury so maybe we see him Week 9 vs Baltimore...There are so many great streaming plays this week it's hard to pick from. Instead of rambling on each QB here is a list who has great match ups that I won't cover below: Andy Dalton vs CLE, Tyrod Taylor vs @MIA, Marcus Mariota vs IND.
Kirk Cousins - Washington Redskins
The Lions have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. They just allowed Case Keenum to throw for 300+ Yards and 3 TD's. He even rushed for a score. Heck, Detroit even made current QB15 *Aaron Rodgers* look like Drew Brees a couple of weeks ago. It's not a given that Jordan Reed is back but Detroit has allowed at least 16 fantasy points to every QB they've faced this year. I think Cousins is in for a nice day.
Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick wasn't perfect last week but he still put up over 20 fantasy points in most formats. He rushed for 66 yards and just like I said with Mariota last week he has a high floor and a tremendous ceiling due to his legs. The 49ers are playing against a Tampa defense that is vulnerable through the air and with Kaepernick behind center the deep passing game is finally there in San Fran.
Week 6 Thoughts: We still don't quite know what's going on with Theo Riddick. The Lions haven't said much so monitor his situation this week. I'll talk more on the Lions backfield below...It's promising to see Jonathan Stewart pick up two TD's this past week. With all the shots Newton has taken so far this year you wonder if they'll rely more on him near the goal line this season...Devontae Booker saw only 16 snaps last week but he just looks fresher than CJ Anderson. He'll be getting a bigger workload in coming weeks...Jaquizz Rodgers is a must add if he's out there. Doug Martin reaggravated his hamstring injury last week and it appears he'll be sidelined for a few more. This week Tampa plays San Francisco who has given up RB7, RB6, RB1 & RB2 finishes to running backs the past 4 weeks. Rodgers saw 35 touches in his last game. The volume and plus matchup is there....The Packers acquired Knile Davis from the Chiefs this week. He's super talented but he's had problems holding onto the football. I think Davis and Don Jackson will split Lacy's between the tackle work these next few weeks with Green Bay favoring the hot hand here. So we're looking at 8-10 touches a game from these guys. I don't see a ton of value while the Packers offense is still sputtering but they're worth speculative adds in deeper bench leagues...Latavius Murray is back practicing so Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are not must holds at this point in the game...If Terrance West is still available I'd put big FAAB on him. Again he's looked very good and new OC Marty Mornhinweg fed him the ball 27 times last week...I'd still keep an eye on Paul Perkins. Rashad Jennings hasn't looked great and Orleans Darkwa didn't play a snap last week...Speaking of snaps I'd sell Ryan Mathews right now if you can. Mathews played 11 snaps last week and touched the ball 9 times for 60 yards. I love Ryan Mathews as a talent but it appears that Doug Pederson is happy with his committee approach. Darren Sproles led all Eagles backs with 23 snaps, Wendell Smallwood had 10 and Kenjon Barner had 8...LeSean McCoy left practice with a tight hamstring on Wednesday. It doesn't sound serious but the next 24 hours are pretty crucial to see if he plays on Sunday. Mike Gillislee has been terrific in his limited action this year averaging 6.8 YPC. He's worth a stash these days in deeper leagues. Jonathan Williams is another Buffalo back to take note of.
James White - New England Patriots
Tom Brady has talked up James White in the past and White has been a stud with Tom Brady under center so far in 2016 and at the end of 2015. With Dion Lewis still not practicing White's role should still be consistent for a while. He saw a career high 7 carries in Week 6 and has been targeted 15 times the past two weeks. I mentioned this in the Week 1 Waiver Wire column but in PPR formats, White was RB5 spanning Weeks 10-16 last season. During that 7 game stretch White scored 6 TD's while averaging 4.5 receptions for 50 yards receiving per game. He's continued that pace so far this season with Brady behind center. He's a nice flex play while Dion Lewis is still out.
Zach Zenner - Detroit Lions
Zach Zenner is here because he's the only healthy RB on the roster that has some experience in this offense. He's a capable all around back but isn't anything special. We've yet to hear word on what is up with Theo Riddick and Dewayne Washington is still recovering from his foot sprain. Justin Forsett may see some work but I'm still giving the edge to Zenner if you need a body. Zenner had 16 touches for 78 yards in Week 6.
SLEEPER RUNNING BACK
Mike Davis - San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde has been ruled out this week with a shoulder injury. There is optimism that this will be just a one week absence but AC joint sprains can be tough for RB's to play through. Thankfully the 49ers have their BYE win Week 8 so Hyde should be good to go in Week 9. Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn will likely split duties in Hyde's absence but I will point out that Davis outsnapped and touched Draughn last week. Davis might see more of the between the tackles work with Draughn being more of the receiving back between the two. Tampa Bay has been generous to RB's this year giving up 6 rushing TD's in 5 games.
Week 6 Thoughts: Of course Sammie Coates puts up a zero after his breakout performance. Don't drop him though if you can. There aren't many players who can put up 30 points games with ease...Could this be the week Alshon Jeffery finally scores a TD? I think so. Green Bay will be without their top 3 corners this week meaning the Bears wideouts will be facing LaDarius Gunter, Demetri Goodson and Mycah Hyde....Cameron Meredith might be a must start these days. He's had 27 targets the past two weeks filling in for Kevin White...Golden Tate had more yards in Week 6 than he did Weeks 1-5. Tate's obviously got the talent but I'm wondering if this explosion had to due with Riddick being out of the lineup...Vincent Jackson tore his ACL and is done for the year. Mike Evans should see crazy volume from here on out...I know Jeremy Maclin has sucked so far this year but don't drop him. I might even say go out and see if you can get him for cheap...Travis Benjamin has lost a fumble in 3 of his last 4 games and has easily been outsnapped by Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman the last two weeks. I found that interesting.
Kenny Britt - Los Angeles Rams
Kenny Britt is on pace for 107 targets, 80 receptions, 1,312 Yards & 5 TD's this year. Dating back the last calendar year he's played at roughly a WR3 level - 15 Games, 86 Targets, 54 Receptions, 949 Yards, 4 TD. Case Keenum has some DGAF to his game and is certainly willing to take shots downfield to Britt when the Rams offense isn't mindlessly feeding Tavon Austin. Britt needs to be owned in all formats.
Torrey Smith - San Francisco 49ers
As I mentioned earlier the 49ers deep passing game should come to life with Colin Kaepernick now starting. Well, at least we're hoping it becomes more of a thing. That's positive news for Torrey Smith who had a 53-yard TD on a blown coverage last week. Kaepernick missed him on a deep post as well that would've gone for another score. Smith is a nice end of the bench stash right now to see if he becomes a relevant fantasy option. Smith is still a good wide receiver just in a garbage situation.
SLEEPER WIDE RECEIVER
Ty Montgomery - Green Bay Packers
Montgomery is one of the biggest waiver wire storylines this week so he probably isn't much of a sleeper but alas he needs to be touched on. Montgomery played 22 of his 36 snaps out of the backfield last week and looked great in doing so. When healthy the past two seasons he's become one of Aaron Rodgers favorite targets. Last week he hauled in 10 receptions for 98 yards on 12 targets. With Lacy and Starks now sidelined perhaps for numerous weeks I don't see Montgomery's usage changing.I think he'll receive a carry or two but most of his value will be in passing game where he'll see 7-8 targets a game. Some people brought up the fact that he'll be the WR3 now but I think Janis slides into that role. The one downside with Montgomery is that he is classified as a WR so you'll likely be using your Flex spot on him.
Week 6 Thoughts: Antonio Gates admitted he isn't 100% and with Hunter Henry looking phenomenal Gates isn't a must hold. With how much of a disaster the TE position is these days I think you can feel safe starting Henry...With Sims, Martin, and VJax sidelined Cameron Brate volume of targets should continue to be steady. I know he was a disappointment last week but the process was right because the opportunity should be there...Charles Clay has had 3 straight weeks of 5 receptions...Coby Fleener continues to be a mystery but he's in a great offense and they're finding ways to get him the ball so he should be rostered in all formats. Josh Hill actually saw more snaps than Fleener - 46 to 41 - and had an impressive TD grab. I'm going to keep my eye on him.
Jack Doyle - Indianapolis Colts
Like we all expected coming into the season Jack Doyle is the TE10 through 6 weeks. With Dwayne Allen on the shelf for possibly a month due to a Grade II high ankle sprain Doyle should receive a ton of work. TE's are receiving 22% of the targets in the Colts passing game and with Dorsett nursing a hamstring injury and Moncrief still out the TE might be the #2 option in the passing game. I know Doyle is a no-name guy but he should be a nice option at TE for the next month.
SLEEPER TIGHT END
CJ Fiedorowicz - Houston Texans
The third year TE out of Iowa has now put together an impressive three game stretch working the middle of the field. It's clear he's built a chemistry with Brock Oswieler and has quietly been the 2nd most targeted Houston Texans over this three game sample. Will Fuller is still nursing a hamstring injury so if you're a Greg Olsen or Jason Witten owner and need someone to fill during their BYE week Fiedo is certainly an option.