By Todd Colburn
Follow on Twitter @colburnfootball
Flex Appeal is our weekly look at the sometimes painful process of deciding who to start in your flex position. We’re going to look at four categories of flex starts each week based upon their “flex appeal.” Please note: To determine a flex play, I am using our own Crystal Ball Rankings for the given week, and I’m looking at least the 24th position rank or beyond (assuming a 12-team league). For those of you reading this for the first time, our categories work like this (see if you can spot the very clever tie-in with the title of the article!):
Marriage Material: This could be a free agent pickup or a player already on your roster that we would deem worthy of taking home to mama. Introduce him to the folks, feel free to include him in the family portrait – he’s going to be around in your flex spot (or more) for a long time. You two might want to look at getting a dog. This player has value for you, not just this week, but likely beyond this week. He’s a keeper!
Love Him and Leave Him: This player has some flex appeal, but you’re really just using him for his matchup this week. There are some red flags that give you pause: maybe he’s an injury risk, maybe he wilts under superior competition, maybe his last fantasy owner was a club promoter (RED FLAG!). Hey kids, with relationships like this, there will always be risks involved. Either way, this guy ain’t marriage material; you just need him for what he can do for you this week.
Last Call: Look, the bar is closing, and you’re desperate. Jonathan Stewart was a late scratch; quick, who can I add to my roster?! Let’s be honest. There isn’t much flex appeal here, but you need the best possible flex option in a pinch. We’ll give you the best of a rough-looking lot.
Adrian Balboa: We all remember Adrian back in Rocky, right? She was rockin’ the horn-rimmed glasses, seven sweaters, and a knit beanie that wasn’t doing her any favors. This is someone that we think you should consider because, like Rocky Balboa, you have the vision to see the hidden flex appeal where others can’t get past the horn-rimmed glasses (which are, like, cool now, right?). Buy this player some contact lenses and get him on your roster. Down the road, after a makeover, you’ll be so glad you did.
Donald Brown (FI Rank: RB26, PP: 11.6) – I’m starting to think I may be the only guy who’s married to Donald Brown, but I press on nonetheless. It’d help if Brown would start making me look smarter by…you know…scoring and stuff. That said, I think his odds week-to-week of getting 50+ yards and a TD are high enough to put him within the top 25 RBs in the league. This week’s matchup against Green Bay is not too shabby – the Pack is decidedly middle-of-the-road when it comes to their performance against running backs. The matchup alone would prompt me to start Brown ahead of Chris Johnson (@ MIN), Fred Jackson (@ SFO) or Rashard Mendenhall (vs. PHI) in his first game back from injury.
Kendall Wright (FI Rank: WR77, PP: 4.1) – Did you think that Wright had sort of a rookie/2nd year thing going with Jake Locker that would go away with Matt Hasselbeck as the starter? You may not realize this, but Wright has led all Titans in targets for the past three weeks. Though I’m a believer in Nate Washington picking things up soon, the fact is that Wright is a good bet for 8-10 targets each week. And though Wright hasn’t exactly exploded for a big yardage game, he has gotten a TD in two of the last three weeks. Meanwhile, Kenny Britt is out yet another week with an ankle injury. I think Wright is a superb flex play and will be throughout the season.
Andre Brown (FI Rank: RB31, PP: 11.5) – After our most recent FINAL DECISIONS podcast this past Sunday (check it out here on Sunday at 12:30 EST: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fantasyinsights), I must have come off as a relative of Andre Brown’s. After watching Brown romp through defenses in Weeks 2-3, it sure seemed like he was a force that would have to be reckoned with, Ahmad Bradshaw or no. Instead, it was 6 meaningless touches. Meanwhile, a report comes from Marc Sessler at NFL.com that says the Giants want variety in the backfield and that they will ride the proverbial “hot hand.” Brown is reportedly struggling with pass protection, so perhaps they might give Brown early-down duty. Regardless, I’m going to foolishly keep riding this train – I fully expect Brown to be fantasy relevant once again this season. It could come in Week 5 with a nice matchup against the Browns.
T.Y. Hilton (FI Rank: RB51, PP: 6.8) – In our Week 5 Crystal Ball Rankings, our resident swami Dish Adams called Hilton an “interesting high-upside flex play.” With a christening like that, it’s no wonder that Hilton makes it into Flex Appeal. He’s flexy, there’s no doubt about it; the speed is tantalizing. He has quickly seen his targets ramp up in three weeks, and he has certainly delivered the week his targets jumped to 8 (113 yards receiving, 1 TD). He faces the Packers this week, and no doubt their attention will be on stopping Reggie Wayne. The Packers will likely need to double Wayne to stop him (they didn’t double Colston last week and you saw what that meant). I like Hilton both this week and beyond, but he’s not for the faint of heart. Call him a high-risk, high-reward flex play.
Love Him and Leave Him
Jackie Battle (FI Rank: RB37, PP: 4.4) – Jackie is moving up in the world in Flex Appeal (Last Call last week!). Much is being made of Norv Turner’s refusal to name a starting running back in Week 5. Now I’m as big a fan of Jackie Battle as anyone who plays fantasy football (dubious honor?), but even I don’t believe he’ll supplant Ryan Mathews as “the man” in San Diego. But goal line carries? Oh absolutely.
Domenik Hixon (FI Rank: WR76, PP: 4.3) – I can’t say that I expect Hixon will repeat his performance from Week 4 (6 rec, 114 yds on 11 targets), but without Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden in the lineup, I could see 10+ targets again for Hixon. The matchup with Cleveland is a juicy one (2nd most fantasy points allowed to WRs), so it’s reasonable to expect great numbers from Hixon this week.
James Jones (FI Rank: WR31, PP: 11.4) – If you followed our advice in Week 4, you started James Jones in your flex spot and it paid off big time. Not only is Greg Jennings out this week (again), but the WR-friendly Indianapolis Colts secondary is across the line of scrimmage. Lots of flex appeal for a second week in a row. Your time with Jones worked out well last week, why don’t you give him another chance?
Greg Little (FI Rank: WR47, PP: 7.7) – I can’t give Little a very strong endorsement because, honestly, there is not much to like here. This week Little epitomizes this category of Flex Appeal: I am only interested in this guy for his matchup and circumstances this week. Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin are out this week, and the Giants will gear up to stop Trent Richardson. Last week, Little tallied 4 catches for 77 yards – this represents the majority of his upside; though this blind squirrel might find his endzone acorn this week.
Michael Crabtree (FI Rank: TE27, PP: 11.8) – Crabtree has not done anything to make me believe that he will one day live up to the hype that came with him in the draft. Right now, he is what he is – a mediocre NFL wide receiver. And sometimes, mediocre is all you need. This week, I look for Crabtree to be good – if not because of his skills, then the lack of the Bills’ skills (tied for most TDs given up to WRs in the league). I look for him to find the endzone this week.
Jeremy Kerley (FI Rank: WR52, PP: 6.5) – It’s getting late, and you’re two injuries and a bye week with which to contend. It’s Sunday morning and you need to grab someone off of free agency. Who are you going to choose for that flex spot, oh desperate one? You could go Jason Hill here, but I don’t like the fact that he was just signed and wasn’t playing football. Chaz Schilens? He’ll get hurt coming out of the tunnel. Kerley is a decent bet for a flex-worthy 50-60 yards receiving on 4-5 catches…maybe a TD (he has two, so it’s not unprecedented).
Bernard Pierce (FI Rank: RB38, PP: 4.3) – Pierce is getting ever-so-slightly more touches each week. The Ravens should knock out the Chiefs expediently, and there is a chance that Pierce gets the better part of the 4th quarter mop-up duty. Pierce is a dynamic player who just needs more touches. This might be the matchup that gets him more touches.
Scott Chandler (FI Rank: TE18, PP: 5.6) – This is not an overreaction to last week. Chandler has “regression to the mean” written all over him (you know, that would be a really lame phrase to have written all over you); however, the 49ers have given up the 2nd most touchdowns to TEs in the league this year. Chandler doesn’t seem to do much more than find the endzone – it seems like a match made in heaven.
Robert Meachem (FI Rank: WR38, PP: 10.5) – Let’s make one thing abundantly clear. I don’t like Meachem. But at Last Call, that really doesn’t matter much, now does it? You need to plug a guy into your lineup – how about Meachem, who faces a defense that gives up the 4th most fantasy points to wide receivers in the league? Also, consider that Meachem will be motivated beyond the typical to show up his former team. All signs point to a decent flex performance this week.
Shonn Greene (FI Rank: RB45, PP: 3.8) – Admittedly, this is an odd inclusion in this category, but the hate has gone too far. Even deep within the bowels of Fantasy Insight’s own crystal ball, our rankings assume Bilal Powell is the lead back in New York. Rex Ryan came out and said that despite Powell receiving more snaps than Greene in Week 4, it was not indicative of a change in the depth chart. Now I’m not so naïve to think that a coach can say one thing and do another, but I truly believe that Greene remains the feature back. Even when Powell supposedly “started” Week 4, he only got four carries to Greene’s 11. My suspicion is that Greene will pick things up once Tebow starts at QB in the offense (and this will happen at some point). I don’t know that Greene’s value has ever been lower. I’m not saying that he will be a Top-10 running back this season, but I do think that he will be more useful for fantasy than he is currently. See past the ugly and enjoy the payoff. Oh, but keep an eye on recent pickup Jonathan Grimes just in case…just sayin’.