Minnesota Vikings - RB - Jerick McKinnon
In the later rounds of fantasy drafts I'll always preach selecting high-upside players over a known commodity who wouldn't even crack your starting lineup if everything went right for that player. The high-upside players that I speak of are usually uber athletes who could blossom into impact fantasy assets given their opportunity in an offense or a talented back up running back that could produce quality numbers if the starter would go down. Jerick McKinnon falls into both of these categories and if you were wise enough to select him in your drafts that lottery ticket is paying off quickly.
McKinnon's all-world athletic traits translate over to the football field. As a runner McKinnon has shown surprising patience and creativity. Typically players with McKinnon's athletic abilities rely solely on their speed rather than running the play as it was designed. As you would expect McKinnon has excellent burst and doesn't lose speed as he weaves through traffic. McKinnon isn't a punishing runner and most of his power is built off of momentum.
His first two years in the league McKinnon was used as a change-of-pace back who also saw action on passing downs. McKinnon is a pretty versatile receiver out of the backfield and looks like a natural the way he transitions from receiver to ball carrier after the catch.
With Peterson likely sidelined for a few weeks the Vikings will rely on Matt Asiata and McKinnon. Asiata out touched McKinnon 7-3 after Peterson's injury on Sunday night but Vikings beat reporter, Matt Vensel, expects a 65/35 split of carries between McKinnon and Asiata, with Asiata as the goal-line guy.
Asiata will surely limit McKinnon's upside but I think we're still looking at 15+ touches a week for McKinnon.
Right now Adrian Peterson is still evaluating his options. Peterson would either have the part of the meniscus removed or he could have surgery to have the meniscus fully repaired. Adrian Peterson is a cyborg, so I can't say when he'll be back but from what we know I would expect him to be out until Week 7 at the earliest. The Vikings have a Week 6 BYE so that would theoretically leave 3 games for McKinnon and Asiata to split duties. These three games would be against, Carolina, New York and Houston. That's tough sledding for any running back and especially when you're running behind this disgusting Minnesota offensive line.
McKinnon is an ascending talent and definitely someone you should try to acquire if he is a free agent but I wouldn't blow your whole waiver wire budget on him until we know how Adrian Peterson is going to handle this meniscus tear.
Now lets assume Peterson has the damaged portion of the meniscus removed and is able to return Week 7 like I stated above. I still don't see McKinnon as much more than a real low-end RB2 or flex play in most formats when you factor in the Vikings upcoming schedule, offensive line struggles and Asiata taking the goal line work.
On a side note you might be able to acquire Asiata for cheap since everyone is going after the superior talent in McKinnon. Asiata is worth a bench spot in most leagues.
Week 2 Thoughts: Joe Flacco has another awesome matchup. He is facing a Jaguars team that just gave up 38 points and 4 TD's to Philip Rivers...I cannot believe Cody Kessler and Jacoby Brissett are starting games in the NFL. Let alone in the 3rd week of their rookie seasons...Marcus Mariota is facing an Oakland D that has been torched through the air so far. But then you remember his coach is Mike Mularkey and he would rather run the ball 8 straight plays in the 1st quarter. Does he not see how well Mariota works in an up tempo spread out offense? Again never assume rational coaching in the NFL.
Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins
Tannehill faces a horrific Browns unit in a game where Vegas sees Miami as the heavy favorite. Tannehill had an ugly Week 1 performance followed up by an outstanding Week 2 because the Dolphins were playing from behind the whole game. Garbage time points count just the same in fantasy. Anyways here are a couple of reasons to like Tannehill this week: 1. The Browns are #NotGood. 2. With Parker healthy Tannehill has a talented set of weapons to throw to. 3. The Dolphins don't believe in running the football. 3. Tannehill has hidden value as a runner. He has 11 rushing attempts already on the year.
Week 2 Thoughts: Jeremy Langford had another terrible performance, which is right in line with what he showed as a rookie. I hope I'm covering Jordan Howard in this section next week. He deserves a longer look...With Danny Woodhead tearing his ACL the Chargers signed Dexter McCluster. McCluster played under Chargers OC, Ken Whisenhunt, in Tennessee and could be worth an add if he takes over the Woodhead role in the San Diego offense...Terrance West and Justin Forsett haven't really impressed so far. Kenneth Dixon might be able to take over this backfield once he returns from an MCL injury in a week or two. In deeper leagues he might be a guy you should sneakily target right now while everyone races for other RB's this week...Eddie Lacy still looks like Mike Tolbert this year. I'd try to sell him now while someone still might value him...Here are my quick thoughts on the Tevin Coleman & Devonta Freeman committee. Coleman deserves the looks he's getting but Freeman is still a much better between the tackles runner and his ability to get the most available out of each run will show in Weeks 4-6 when Atlanta plays CAR, DEN, SEA. Coleman always has the chance to break an 80 yard run to make you forget about his 4 yards on 7 previous carries. Freeman isn't worth the 3rd round pick in retrospect but he's still seeing 16 touches a game. It's not the end of the world...Isaiah Crowell has NFL starter level ability and has looked great so far. I'm interested to see how the Browns offense looks with Cody Kessler at the helm It's going to be a disaster either way but do they pound the rock with Crowell while they're still in the game to try and shorten it? Do they turn to Duke Johnson and have Kessler do simple dump downs to him to move down the field?...Charles Sims should be owned in every format since he has flex appeal even when Doug Martin is healthy...If anyone dropped Christine Michael because Thomas Rawls was named the starter pick him up. He's continued to receive praise from Pete Carroll.
Jay Ajayi - Miami Dolphins
Well it took less than two weeks for Arian Foster to be sidelined with a soft tissue injury. Foster is apparently day-to-day but I'll believe it when I see him practicing. Foster isn't a quick healer and in his absence I expect Ajayi to be the lead back against a porous Browns defense. I know rookie Kenyan Drake was the back who scored the touchdown last week but Ajayi still had double the amount of snaps as Drake in Week 2 on top of being the superior talent. Now this is a reminder that talent isn't everything. Ajayi's play since Foster was signed has been pretty poor and he was in Adam Gase's doghouse just a week ago. We also need to factor in that Adam Gase has no problem throwing the ball 70% of the time. The Dolphins only have 36 rushing attempts the first two weeks and why would you continue to run behind a terrible run blocking offensive line? Miami is basically starting 4 tackles along the line so they're not a mauling unit by any means. Ajayi has an advantageous matchup this week and could be an alright RB2/Flex play depending on Foster's status. Again don't blow your budget but with Foster's injury history a bigger role could be on the horizon.
Cameron Artis-Payne - Carolina Panthers
The 2nd year back out of Auburn has been inactive for the first two games but that's because of his limited impact on special teams. With Stewart out of the picture for a couple of weeks Artis-Payne will likely receive the most work between him, Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert. I'd expect the carry distribution to look something like a 50%-25%-25% split between Artis-Payne, Whittaker and Tolbert with Newton obviously being a factor near the goal line. If you were hit hard by the Peterson, Foster, Abdullah etc. injuries Artis-Payne could be a decent filler but just know his upside is limited by Newton and the committee of backs around him. How much value is that worth in the end?
SLEEPER RUNNING BACK
Dwayne Washington - Detroit Lions
The rookie out of the University of Washington is a tantalizing talent but a work in progress to say the least. Washington is a a former wide receiver turned running back who has yet to master all the nuances of the running back position. As a runner you get the feeling that he lacks the natural intuition someone who has been a running back their whole life may possess. He only had 226 carries in college. Washington also needs to severely work on ball protection and is inexperienced as a pass protector.
So what's the appeal with Washington? He has the size, speed and power of someone like Adrian Peterson. There is no hyperbole there. He's 6'1", 223 lbs and runs in the 4.40's. Washington has shown his pursuit angle erasing speed in the preseason carrying the ball and returning kicks and is the clear power back in Detroit.
Theo Riddick should still see time as a change-of-pace back and will handle nearly all of the passing down duties in Abdullah's absence but I think Washington might have a real opportunity to make a name for himself in the coming weeks. He already handles the goal line work and kick return duties and could snag even more work if he impresses in Abdullah's absence.
Joique Bell's corpse worked out with the Lions today. I guess he knows the offense but I hope the Lions would try to develop a young talent rather than hand the ball off to a sloth. Never assume rational coaching in the NFL though.
Week 2 Thoughts: Sterling Shepard, Will Fuller and Corey Coleman all went over the 100 yard mark last week. Some other rookies that are roster worthy are Tyler Boyd (CIN) and Michael Thomas (NO)...Alshon Jeffery should be fine in Cutler's absence. Josh Gordon and DeAndre Hopkins have done well with Brian Hoyer slinging them the ball in recent years...Donte Moncrief is having an MRI on his shoulder and it looks like he will miss a couple weeks. I talked about Phillip Dorsett last week and he is a must add with the Colts having some juicy matchups in the coming weeks (SD, JAX, CHI)...John Brown owners hang tough you'll have better days. Keep him another week if you can...Nelson Agholor might be a thing if he could make a contested catch.
Quincy Enunwa - New York Jets
Enunwa was originally going to be in the player spotlight this week but Adrian Peterson's knee injury caused me to call an audible on that decision. Enunwa is an enticing blend of strength, size and speed. Physically he is reminiscent of someone like Terrell Owens. The Nebraska product stands in at a rocked up 6'2", 225 lbs and ran an impressive 4.44 40-yard dash at the 2014 combine. The third year pro has come into his own with the addition of Chan Gailey as the offensive coordinator. Although Enunwa is listed as a WR he is essentially a chess piece that Gailey uses all over offensive formations and at times is used as a pseudo tight end. Below is a clip of Enunwa coming across the formation as a blocker to seal a running lane for Forte.
Enunwa has always had the physical tools to be a starter in this league but lacked as a route runner and had inconsistent hands. According to SportingCharts, Enunwa had a drop percentage of 10.9% in 2015. The 5th highest among players targeted over 40 times. So far this year Enunwa's play has been stellar and drops haven't been an issue. Through two games Enunwa has 13 receptions on 14 targets for 146 yards and a TD. Going forward I think Enunwa has real WR3 value as he'll typically have the easiest matchup among the wideouts and is a WR2 if Marshall has to miss any time with his MCL sprain.
Victor Cruz - New York Giants
It's great to see Cruz salsa dancing in the Meadowlands again. Cruz had struggled to come back from a patellar tendon tear that occurred nearly two years ago and is now looking like a potential fantasy factor again. Cruz is essentially the WR3 in this offense but that shouldn't be a concern of yours since the Giants run the most 3 WR sets in the NFL. Through two weeks Cruz has caught 8 of 12 balls headed his way for 125 yards and a TD. I think 6 targets and 60 yards a game are pretty reasonable expectations for Cruz going forward.
Jamison Crowder - Washington Redskins
The jitterbug slot receiver has been the most targeted Redskin (18) and is 2nd in the NFL with 5 red zone targets through two weeks. Now, this could be a main reason why the Redskins have struggled in the red zone so far but it's fair to point out that Crowder is the security blanket for the struggling Kirk Cousins. Crowder isn't a sexy player and I wouldn't really spend much of a free agent budget on him but if you're looking for a WR, Crowder is an underrated value in PPR formats.
DeVante Parker - Miami Dolphins
Parker is surprisingly owned in the majority of leagues but if he was dropped after being inactive Week 1 go and scoop him up. He might even be an intriguing trade target. Parker has been often injured as a pro and been called out by the coaching staff for basically being soft but he's put up terrific numbers down the stretch in 2015 and in his first appearance this year.
Scott Barrett of PFF provided these numbers and they might surprise you. Look at these two Dolphins WR's over their last 7 games:
Jarvis Landry - 78 Targets, 53 Receptions, 537 Yards, 0 TD, 104.7 PPR Points
DeVante Parker - 55 Targets, 30 Receptions, 551 yards, 3 TD, 103.1 PPR Points
Parker still leaves plenty of yards on the field and struggles against press coverage but he's got skills that you cant teach and if Tannehill is going to feed him the ball results will follow.
SLEEPER WIDE RECEIVER
Josh Doctson - Washington Redskins
A 1st round pick isn't really a sleeper but I guarantee Doctson is on plenty of your waiver wires in redraft leagues. Doctson missed all of the preseason due to an achilles injury and has slowly been worked into the Redskins game plan the first two weeks. The Redskins have mainly used Doctson in high leverage situations, targeting him 3 times already in the end zone. All of those attempts have failed as Cousins has thrown some terrible fade passes but you have to like how the Redskins are making it a point to get him the ball in those situations. This is more of a preemptive pickup because you won't be starting Doctson any time soon but I expect him to take over Pierre Garcon's role in the Washington offense by midseason.
Week 2 Thoughts: Coby Fleener is just a disaster in New Orleans. I'm still holding onto him, maybe foolishly, for another week or so...Gary Barnidge had another disappointing performance. Again, I might wait a week to see who Cody Kessler relies on in the passing game but I can't blame you if you're in a short bench league and need to drop him...The Lions have given up 4 TD's to TE's already this year. Dare I say stream Jared Cook?....With Peterson injured the Vikings may move to a more pass oriented approach. Monitor Kyle Rudolph this week. He looked to have some chemistry with Bradford on Sunday night
Dennis Pitta - Baltimore Ravens
Dennis Pitta everyone! Welcome to 2012! Just like Victor Cruz it's great to see someone like Pitta battle back from a serious injury. In Pitta's case two gruesome hip injuries. Pitta has the TE job locked down in a pass heavy offense. Pitta was targeted 12 times in Week 2 hauling in 9 receptions for 102 yards. Again, Baltimore has a favorable schedule in the coming weeks and I think we'll continue to see TE1 production from Pitta going forward.
SLEEPER TIGHT END
Jacob Tamme - Atlanta Falcons
Tamme leads the Falcons in targets through two weeks with 16 and that workload may continue with Julio Jones being hobbled with various leg injuries. Tamme's 8 high percentage targets a week builds a nice floor. He's a viable TE target if you're in the need of help at the position. Atlanta plays the pathetic Saints pass D this week.