Paul Perkins - RB - New York Giants
After winning a fantasy football championship it's intrinsic to take a step back after the season and examine your roster. Of course every team has a handful of studs that carried you to the playoffs but there is usually one player who changed your season out of nowhere. Your trump card, so to speak (I couldn't resist).
Two seasons ago that player for you may have been CJ Anderson, Jeremy Hill, Joique Bell or Matt Asiata. Last season for many it was David Johnson, Tim Hightower, Buck Allen, James White or Rashad Jennings who put the team on their back when it mattered most. As we near the home stretch of our regular seasons it's now time to find your diamond in the rough. These candidates typically come from the running back department because of how volatile the position is. As you know running backs come out of nowhere every week due to injury but in some cases a players talent can create more opportunity for themselves. Lets try to weave through a couple of potential season changing candidates at the moment.
Peyton Barber - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Love his story and his game. He doesn't run with quite the anger and brutality of his relative, Marion Barber, but he's not to be taken lightly. Jacquizz Rodgers helped keep some fantasy owners afloat with three awesome weeks before his injury, so we know there definitely is value in the Tampa running game. At the moment Barber looks like a solid play this coming week vs Chicago but Doug Martin should be back any day now. I know, I know, we've already gone down that path this year with Martin. Tampa Bay has an awesome schedule down the stretch, including match ups vs New Orleans in Weeks 14 and 16 so whatever Tampa Bay back is healthy at the moment will be in our starting lineups.
Kenneth Dixon - Baltimore Ravens - A favorite of many in the NFL draft and fantasy football community, Dixon finally got more involved in the offensive game plan this week. Going into their Week 8 BYE, Coach John Harbaugh noted that he wanted to get Dixon more involved and they actually backed that up. Dixon saw 11 touches to Terrance West's 16. Both were disgustingly ineffective with their work but that's not totally surprising since the Baltimore offense hasn't been the most fruitful this year. Dixon has the talent of a 3-down back and everything is trending in the right direction but I doubt they hand the reigns totally over to him. West has played well for the most part and Dixon has had trouble staying healthy on top of that.
Robert Kelley - Washington Redskins - 10 Weeks into his NFL career the UDFA out of Tulane is now the incumbent starter in Washington. Kelley is a downhill, decisive runner who has performed well given the opportunity in the preseason and regular season. Head Coach, Jay Gruden, stated last week that Kelley would receive the bulk of the carries and that Matt Jones would have to win his job back. Chris Thompson will still be a major player in the backfield, mainly as a receiving back, so keep that in mind. The Redskins play two of the more stout run defenses in the coming weeks (Green Bay and Minnesota) so I think it's extremely unlikely that Kelley just runs away with the job during that stretch. Can Kelley be a back that gets you 15 carries for 70 yards and give or a take a TD some weeks? Sure. He's more than capable of that. I'm just not sure he has quite the season changing upside of this next back.
The back who is currently available in most leagues that I believe has the best chance to become a real difference maker down the stretch is, Paul Perkins. The reason why is because he has the talent, his opportunity is growing and the schedule is in his favor.
The rookie out of UCLA's game closely resembles Devonta Freeman's because of his spectacular agility and footwork. Perkins lateral agility and stop-start burst leaves defenders grasping for air in the tightest of spaces. Per Pro Football Focus, Perkins graded out as the most elusive back in the 2016 draft class. Perkins forced 85 missed tackles on 265 touches last season. To put those numbers in perspective, Derrick Henry forced 86 missed tackles on 406 touches and Ezekiel Elliott 56 missed tackles on 317 touches.
Perkins isn't a speed demon but he has that same 40-60 yard breakaway ability that we see with backs like Ajayi and Melvin Gordon.
Although he's not the biggest back (5'10", 208 LBS), Perkins has very good power due to his willingness to keep his legs driving through contact as he contorts and slips through defenders for that extra yard.
Perkins isn't on the same level as a receiver as Darren Sproles, Le'Veon Bell or Devonta Freeman, in the sense that you're not going to split him out wide to exploit mismatches in coverage. However, Perkins is a reliable receiver out of the backfield and as we alluded to earlier is a menace in space.
Like most rookies, Perkins must improve as a pass blocker to become a three-down back.
Coming out of their BYE, Ben McAdoo expressed to the media that they were looking to get Perkins more involved. Well that was indeed the case this past Sunday when Perkins saw the same amount of touches as starter, Rashad Jennings. Perkins however out gained Jennings 47 yards to 39 yards, all the while showing good vision and explosion on a few of his touches. Right now it appears like the Giants backfield is more of a 50/50 split but don't be surprised if the Giants ride one back if they get hot. McAdoo isn't against a lead back. We saw that in 2015 when Rashad Jennings led the NFL in rushing yards over the last 4 weeks of the season. If someone is going to take over the backfield it's going to be Perkins. He's more agile and explosive than Jennings and is 10 years younger. When you're playing behind a poor offensive line that matters.
Ahh, so we've finally got around to the offensive line. It's such an important piece to a running backs success and Giants have yet to get the running game going this year. So if the line sucks and Paul Perkins is in a timeshare why in God's name am I a Paul Perkins truther right now. Well, according to Football Outsiders DVOA metric, the Giants play arguably one Top 10 rushing defense the rest of the season. Here are their upcoming opponents with their rank: (CIN (22nd), CHI (23rd), CLE (29th), PIT (14th), DAL (8th), DET (26th), PHI (11th) and WAS (31st). I think more bountiful fantasy days are on their way. A resurgent passing game should open things up too.
In fantasy football you need to skate to where the puck is going to be. It pays to be forward thinking because by the time Paul Perkins takes over this starting job it'll be too late. Don't be afraid to take chances.
Week 10 BYE: Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis and Oakland
Week 9 Thoughts: It's obvious Ben Roethlisberger is still recovering from his torn meniscus. It still might be a struggle this week vs Dallas but he should be able to get back on track vs Cleveland and Indianapolis in Weeks 11 and 12...If Carson Palmer was dropped he's another great streaming option as Arizona is facing a 49ers team that has given up multiple TD's passes every game after Week 1...Russell Wilson easily played his best game of the season last week but now faces a tough New England team. Nice job NFL with scheduling a team to fly across country on a short week. Not to mention the major time zone change...Just a reminder that Aaron Rodgers is now on pace for 40 TD passes...Drew Brees faces Denver this week at home. I'm torn on what to think here because I'm of the belief that you just don't play QB's vs Denver. Here is how a couple of Top QB's have faired this year: Derek Carr - 184 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, Philip Rivers - 178, 1 TD, 0 INT, Jameis Winston - 179 Yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, RuTD, Andrew Luck - 197 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, Cam Newton - 194 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, RuTD...Joe Flacco is probably the most popular choice for the top streaming option this week. He faces the worst pass defense in the NFL, in Cleveland, so it should be a perfect spot especially at home but I just can't get fully onboard. Brock Osweiler was in a perfect get back on track game vs DET a few weeks back and we saw how that turned out. Sometimes bad QB's are just bad no matter the match up. I get the reasoning for it but I'd rather try Cutler.
Jay Cutler - Chicago Bears
The Bears face a Buccaneers defense that has given up 857 yards and 8 TD's and 0 INT through the air the past two weeks. Now, Jay Cutler isn't Derek Carr or Matt Ryan but with Alshon Jeffery, Zach Miller, Eddie Royal and Cam Meredith all coming off a BYE they should be rested up and ready to go. The Bears are the only team without 3 offensive touchdowns in a game this year. That has to end this week, right?
Week 9 Thoughts: How about Melvin Gordon?! After not scoring a TD as rookie he has a NFL leading 11 through 9 weeks. Now this doesn't happen if Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen don't tear their ACLs but Gordon is proving that he still has the talent we all saw at Wisconsin...DuJuan Harris looks like the same creative and agile runner that flashed in his limited action with Green Bay. Carlos Hyde should return this week but I think Harris has supplanted both Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn in the RB pecking order in San Francisco...Derrick Henry left Sunday's game with a calf injury and those can be tricky. Antonio Andrew is next in line and is someone you'll want to pounce on if Henry and DeMarco Murray are ever sidelined...Much is being made of CJ Prosise playing 8 more snaps than Christine Michael on Monday night. Right now Michael is a "hold" because you probably can't trade him for much. Prosise on the other hand might be worth an add in deep bench leagues. I'm just not going crazy over him because Thomas Rawls is returning soon and the Seahawks still like Michael...Dion Lewis is returning this week and I probably should have worked him into my Paul Perkins piece. I hope we see the Dion Lewis of old but as I said last week, I think the Patriots will be careful with Lewis and make sure he's good to go for the playoffs...Jordan Howard established himself as the bonafide starter prior to the Bears BYE week so I'm fully expecting him to get 11 carries in Week 10 because John Fox is the worst.
Chris Ivory - Jacksonville Jaguars
Ivory broke the century mark for rushing yards (107) for the first time this season on 18 carries. TJ Yeldon is still seeing the majority of the receiving work in the backfield so both players ceilings are limited because of that. New Jaguars OC, Nathaniel Hackett, spoke about how the Jaguars needed to improve a dormant run game and that is exactly what they tried to accomplish in his first game calling the shots. The Jaguars should be able to remain competitive against their remaining schedule so more weeks like this could be on the horizon. Ivory is really just an RB4 at the moment but the needle is pointing up.
Darren Sproles - Philadelphia Eagles
Sproles is the clear lead back in Philadelphia now as he's played 80% of snaps the past two weeks. Ryan Mathews has a TD the past two weeks but he's played just 8 snaps in both games. We all know what Sproles brings to the table and given the workload he's receiving he's a fine RB2/Flex play while it continues. This week the Eagles face Atlanta who has allowed the most receiving yards to running backs in the NFL.
SLEEPER RUNNING BACK
Kapri Bibbs - Denver Broncos
Bibbs pops on our radar after taking a screen pass 69-yards (nice) to the house on Sunday Night Football and Coach Kubiak saying that Bibbs earned more work going forward. Devontae Booker hasn't been very impressive in his first two starts filling in for CJ Anderson and is likely still battling a shoulder injury, so I think we can expect his workload to decrease a tad. Bibbs isn't starting lineup worthy by any means but because of the Broncos run centric offense he should be owned in most formats. Bibbs is a compact, one-cut runner without any real impressive trait.
Week 9 Thoughts: It appears that Pat Shurmur is turing Stefon Diggs into Jarvis Landry. Diggs had 13 receptions for 80 yards in Week 9. I wish Diggs was on a different team because he'd be special in a pass heavy offense. Like TY Hilton numbers...Speaking of the Vikings pass game, we finally got to see a little of Laquon Treadwell. He caught his first pass of his career on a nice 15 yard in route. With Norv Turner gone I hope they start using him more...Now might be the time to trade Ty Montgomery. Reason being is that James Starks will be returning and is likely to take over the majority of the traditional running game touches and Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams will still continue to be the Big 3 in the passing game. There is just so much ambiguity on his role in the future so I'm trying to get out while I'm ahead...I'll highlight DeAndre Hopkins promising schedule the rest of the season - JAX, OAK, SD, GB, IND, JAX, CIN, TEN...Cole Beasley has had over 50 receiving yards in every game this season...I said this last week but go and buy Tyrell Williams right now. He's has a great chance to be that season changer down the stretch. San Diego is done playing Denver for the year...Jeremy Maclin can be dropped. It's just not happening this year and he's currently nursing a groin injury...As the Steelers offense comes together again with the return of Ben Roethlisberger now is the time to pick up Sammie Coates if he's been dropped. There are not many players if fantasy where you can easily tell a story of them scoring 30 points. Coates is one of those guys.
Rishard Matthews - Tennessee Titans
Matthews has now led the Titans WR's in snaps the past two weeks and has overtaken Tajae Sharpe as the WR1 in this passing game. I know that's not saying much and the Titans have a run heavy offense but we've seen Matthews be super efficient with his touches just a year ago in Miami. Matthews has 5 TD's over the past 5 weeks and is clearly Mariota's go-to receiver in the red zone. The touchdowns will be hard to sustain but I think Matthews can reasonably be a WR3 from here on out.
Sterling Shepard - New York Giants
Shepard had a 4 game stretch where he didn't reach the end zone or top 32 yards so he might have been dropped. Week 9 wasn't a day for the ages but he did reach 50 yards and hit pay dirt. Shepard's been targeted at least 6 times in every game since Week 1, so that's not really an issue. With the Giants passing game showing life this past week and Victor Cruz nursing a sprained ankle there could be more days like this in the near future for Shepard as they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
SLEEPER WIDE RECEIVER
Sammy Watkins - Buffalo Bills
He might not be on your waiver wire but let this serve as a reminder for you to go check because he is eligible to return in Week 12. Watkins is as talented as they come so if you can make a roster spot for him just to see what happens I advise you too. Buffalo has incredible match ups in Weeks 13-16 as they play Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Miami. It doesn't get better than that.
Week 9 Thoughts: I swear Antonio Gates has nine lives. He's now led or tied for the team lead in targets the last 3 weeks and leads all TE's now with 14 red zone targets...Jimmy Graham is the top targets in the passing game in Seattle and as I stated in the Week 5 Waiver Wire article, Russell Wilson has trust in him in any situation...Gary Barnidge is still searching for his first TD this season which means he'll likely score twice on Thursday night...Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert and Gronk return to lineups this week. Here is to hoping they all remain healthy down the stretch...Josh Hill has played twice as many snaps as Coby Fleener the past two weeks so no need to hold onto Fleener any longer.
Lance Kendricks - Los Angeles Rams
Kendricks has had a least 5 receptions and 8 targets the past 3 weeks. During that span he's led the team with targets at 29 and faces a Jets defense who have given up the 10th most points to TE's this year. Nothing wrong with riding the hot hand a TE when you're streaming the position.