Davante Adams - WR - Green Bay Packers
I think what I enjoy most about sports is the human aspect of it. All the different personalities we're able to see on a daily basis is incredible and I try to enjoy them all. From Tom Brady losing his mind on the sideline, Bill Belichick's one word answers in press conferences, Richard Sherman's dominant play followed up with his outspokenness on and off the field, Gronk making 69 jokes, Cutler moping around on a sideline, Aaron Rodgers straddling the fine line of confidence and arrogance and Marshawn Lynch's one of a kind personality. We're all able to see these athletes larger than life physiques and personalities on display and at the end of each day it's a beautiful smorgasbord.
That's the side of the coin that we can see. What we aren't privy to is how each athlete is wired and how they're handling the physical, emotional and mental aspects of being a professional athlete. Despite how we treat athletes on game days, they're not robots, and often times are 20-something year olds just trying to figure out life themselves. They are going through the same everyday hurdles that everyone else does all the while performing their job in the spotlight. Now, I'm not telling you to sympathize for athletes more than you would for anyone else but I think it's just good to have perspective because that might be exactly what we all needed in regards to Davante Adams.
After compiling 233 receptions, 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns in just two seasons at Fresno State the Packers selected Davante Adams 53rd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. His career didn't get off to the start that many expected. Sure, Adams had some promising games as a rookie, most notably his performance in the divisional round of the playoffs vs the Cowboys where he caught 7 balls for 117 yards and a score, but for the most part he was just another guy in a high powered offense.
Then the offseason rolled around and glowing reports were flowing out of Packers camp daily about how impressive Davante Adams had been looking. Coming out of school, Adams was still raw as a route runner. An incredible college receiver in his own right, he made much of his living off of Derek Carr throwing beautiful fade routes and feasting on poor MWC defenses. The physicality and skill it takes beat a starting NFL corner is a different beast that Adams had yet to master but after Adams showing in the playoffs and all the praise thrown his way during training camp it appeared that Adams had improved enough to make the leap from contributor to budding star.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Adams sophomore campaign was an abject failure and in a sink or swim environment like the NFL, Adams head was below water for most of the season. In 2015, Pro Football Focus ranked Adams 181 out of 182 NFL wide receivers. Adams name doesn't need to be dragged through the mud more than it already has been the past year but I'll just say the above referenced play happened all too often in 2015.
2016 has been quite the turnaround so far. Through the Packers first 7 games, Adams has been the most reliable Packers traditional wideout. The past two weeks he has caught 25 passes, a Packers record over a two-game span.
So what's changed from 2015 to 2016? From an outsiders perspective it's clear Adams is over the ankle injury that hobbled him much of 2015 and it could just be another year full of growth and comfort in the NFL. Only Adams knows for sure but I imagine 2015 was likely a very trying time for the then 22-year old. Physically he was playing through injury and emotionally and mentally he had a lot on his shoulders replacing Jordy Nelson and being thrust into a spotlight.
Simply though Adams is just a better player in every facet of his game this year. There have been numerous times where Adams has bailed out Rodgers by hauling in balls that have required difficult adjustments or 50/50 situations that where Adams had to win at the catch point. Per NFL.com's, Next Gen Stats, Davante Adams is an NFL best 9 for 9 in contested situations this year - meaning passes where he was targeted with less than one yard of separation from the defender.
Adams has had some favorable match-ups in the secondary this year but it's clear his routing running has been refined. Again, per Next Gen Stats, Adams is creating 2.37 yards of separation at target, 9th best among 29 WR's who have received 40+ targets lined up outside. For perspective Jordy Nelson is only creating 1.96 yards of separation.
So while we can see the growth of Adams as a player on the field it's also evident that Adams has regained the trust of the Packers coaching staff and Aaron Rodgers. On short notice last week Adams was asked to fill the receiver/running back hybrid role that was previously filled by Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery. Adams filled in seamlessly and looked comfortable doing so.
Adams looks comfortable out of the backfield, in the slot and split wide. That's something I wouldn't have anticipated saying 12 months ago. It crazy sometimes how much a player can change in a year and maybe with a 23-year old, like Adams, we should have been more patient.
From a fantasy perspective I think Adams is a safe WR3 these days with WR2 upside if Montgomery and Randall Cobb miss anymore action. Sure, Adams is an integral part of this shorter passing game that has ignited the Packers offense but with a full cast of characters around I don't suspect 12 catch games to be the norm. Which means now might be the perfect time to sell him high to an owner who desperately needs a win this week and is being hurt by BYE's. I would trade Adams for Nuk, Eifert, Fitzgerald or Alshon while they're on their BYE's.
WEEK 9 BYE: Chicago, Cincinnati, New England, Arizona, Washington & Houston
Week 8 Thoughts: What a disappointing season for Russell Wilson so far. He hasn't thrown for a TD in three straight games and has been nonexistent as a runner due to his knee injury. In short bench leagues I won't blame you for dropping him because QB is the most replaceable position in fantasy football....Ben Roethlisberger is questionable to return this week vs a Baltimore D that typically plays the Steelers tough. I don't think Ben is a must play this week even if he's ready to go...Matt Ryan and Derek Carr certainly should be in the MVP conversation at the midpoint of the season....Blake Bortles career touchdown passes by quarter: 4, 15, 13 and 26 - that sounds about right...With 6 teams on BYE Ryan Tannehill isn't the worst streaming option vs a NYJ D that has been torched through the air.
Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers
With 6 teams on BYE Kaepernick is easily the top streaming option this week. This 49ers vs Saints match up profiles the two worst defenses in the NFL on a points given up per game basis, both at over 30 PPG, so this should be a high scoring affair. Through his first two starts Kaepernick has averaged 75 rushing yards per game, which gives him an awesome floor to start. If there is any week to get a QB1 performance out of a 49ers QB it's this week.
Week 8 Thoughts: I know it was vs a Jacksonville team that threw in the towel early on the Thursday Night Football but Derrick Henry showed why he's a must own handcuff at this point. He's an RB1 if DeMarco Murray ever goes down again..Ryan Mathews played 8 snaps in Week 8. He's had some costly fumbles this year but he's still the best back in Philly. He doesn't have any real value currently but lets hope that Doug Pederson wakes up like Adams Gase did and just rides the best back on the roster...How about Jonathan Stewart with back-to-back 2 TD weeks. He's looking like a mighty fine high-end RB2 as long as they continue to steer away from using Cam at the goal line...Carlos Hyde is questionable this week with a shoulder injury. The Niners used a committee approach in Week 7. DuJuan Harris surprisingly led the way in touches with Shaun Draughn scoring the lone TD. If Hyde is a no-go I don't know if there is any back you can play with confidence...I'm interested to see if Paul Perkins gets more work coming out of the BYE week. Considering Ben McAdoo gave Andre Williams the longest leash in the world I'm not getting my hopes up until I see it on Sundays.
Charcandrick West - Kansas City Chiefs
The Charcnado returns to relevancy with Jamaal Charles now on IR and Spencer Ware currently in the concussion protocol. If Ware is unable to suit up Sunday vs Jacksonville, West becomes a low end RB1. Jacksonville has allowed the 6th most points to opposing running backs per game this season. Now from a rest of season perspective I think you need to treat West just like we did at the start of the season when Charles was sidelined. West will see some work every week but the job is still clearly Spencer Ware's when healthy.
Tim Hightower - New Orleans Saints
This whole Saints RB fiasco is just terrible and benefits no one. As you probably know, Mark Ingram was benched after fumbling last week which led to Hightower amassing 29 touches. What makes this even more tilting for Ingram owners is that his high for touches this year was 24. Who knows if this was just a wake up call for Ingram or if it's truly a timeshare heading forward. It wouldn't be the first time Sean Payton's RB usage surprised people (CJ Spiller, Chris Ivory etc). The Saints face San Francisco this weekend so there should be enough work for each back to have stand alone value but this situation will likely be one we play by ear in the coming weeks.
SLEEPER RUNNING BACK
Peyton Barber - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coming into this season there wasn't a player I was rooting for more than Peyton Barber. The UDFA rookie out of Auburn left school early in hopes of providing for his mother who is dealing with health issues and is currently without a home. Barber was well aware that he wasn't a 1st or 2nd round pick but knew an NFL paycheck of any kind could go a long way in providing for his family. Barber made the Bucs practice squad and is now on the verge of seeing important action as the Bucs RB depth chart has become depleted due to injures. Barber is a worthy NFL back, a hard nosed runner who can punishes defenses. He's more along the lines of the Terrance West spectrum of backs.
Week 8 Thoughts: Alshon Jeffery finally caught a touchdown pass! How about that?...Ty Montgomery should be suited up on Sunday. He should maintain the same role he occupied in Weeks 6 & 7 with James Starks and Eddie Lacy sidelined. If Randall Cobb is out with his hamstring injury Montgomery could be in for a big day vs a porrus Colts defense...Dez Bryant looked to be fully recovered from his knee injury. He's had 100 yards or a TD in the past three games he's played in. I think you can consider him a low end WR1 the rest of the season...Allen Robinson still has yet to top 75 receiving yards in any game this year...Now is the time to sell Marvin Jones if you're still able to get a decent return. His play hasn't declined by any means he's just in an offense that has no problem spreading the ball around. So instead of getting his 10 targets a game he's seeing more around 6-7 these days....Tyrell Williams is a WR who I think can quietly be a huge factor down the stretch. Dontrelle Inman is a JAG and Travis Benjamin is slowed with a PCL injury. Williams isn't 100% himself and is coming off a 1 catch, 4-yard performance so now is the perfect time to buy. SD has a great schedule down the stretch.
Mohammad Sanu - Atlanta Falcons
With Julio Jones hobbled by injury it was great to see Sanu step up this past week and carry the Falcons passing game down the stretch, eventually leading to his game-winning TD reception. Sanu does most of work in the short and intermediate passing game and with Tamme and Coleman sidelined with injury and Julio Jones not at 100%, Sanu should see more targets his way. Matt Ryan is playing at an MVP level and the passing game is firing on all cylinders so it's only logical to try and get a piece of that pie. Sanu isn't a league winner but is nice bench depth as we head down the stretch and through the BYE week gauntlet. He's got a great match up this week vs Tampa Bay.
JJ Nelson - Arizona Cardinals
JJ Nelson scored twice and saw a team high 92% of the teams snaps at WR this past week so it's safe to say I picked the wrong Cardinals wideout to highlight last week. On Monday, Bruce Arians confirmed that JJ Nelson is a starting WR in the Cardinals offense and it's clear he has supplanted Michael Floyd in 3 WR sets. Nelson is know for his blazing speed (4.28 40) but has been effective in the short passing game in recent weeks making most of his living off creating separation on comeback routes.
SLEEPER WIDE RECEIVER
Tyreek Hill - Kansas City Chiefs
Hill is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Before being dismissed from Oklahoma State due to a gruesome domestic assault situation he was lined up all over formations and actually saw most of his time at running back. So don't be surprised if he sees an increased workload if Spencer Ware is unable to go on Sunday. Hill for the meantime is making the most of his touches and against Jacksonville this week he could be a nice what the heck flex option in deeper league. Keep your eye out for him because he is a legit talent.
Week 8 Thoughts: Hold on to Martellus Bennett through his BYE if you can. I think he's still a Top 10 TE the rest of the season...It sounds like Dwayne Allen is close to returning so that Jack Doyle honeymoon was short lived...Jared Cook is still a week away from returning...With so many top TE's on BYE you might be forced to start like a Dennis PItta, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates this week.
Eric Ebron - Detroit Lions
Ebron had an outstanding game returning from ankle and knee injuries that sidelines him for the past three weeks. Ebron again proved to be the dynamic middle of the field target the Lions hoped he'd be this year. Detroit faces the Vikings two of the next 4 weeks and when you throw in the Lions Week 10 BYE, Ebron doesn't become the most attractive target but if you believe in his talents and opportunity the risk is worth the reward.
SLEEPER TIGHT END
Austin Hooper - Atlanta Falcons
As I mentioned above, Jacob Tamme will miss this coming week which makes Hooper one of the best streamer plays. The rookie out of Stanford was my top TE in his class and has played well so far in his limited action. Hooper has the ability to split a seam and become a downfield threat in the passing game and is a willing blocker. Jacob Tamme has been quiet the past month or so but the Falcons have shown to be willing to feed the TE when the match up dictates.