Flex Appeal – Week 7
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 25th 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.
Phillip Tanner (FI Rank: RB33, PP: 5.2) – DeMarco Murray is out for Week 7 with a foot sprain, and suddenly hot Felx Jones is the pickup du jour. I watch Jones throughout the season (and in preseason), and I’m not ready to believe that he is suddenly a feature back that will deliver any time he gets 15+ carries. Jones’ performance in Week 6 is mostly Ravens-related in my opinion – this is going to be a bad run defense from here on out, folks. Jones won’t be able to carry this load. Tanner does not project to be a star, but he’ll get plenty of opportunities to warrant a flex spot. As for marriage material, foot sprains are problematic for running backs, and Murray isn’t exactly a bastion of health and stability in the first place. I think Tanner will have consistent opportunity for the remainder of the season.
Kendall Wright (FI Rank: WR39, PP: 7.2) – The Titans have seen a few different receivers come to the forefront – Kenny Britt and Nate Washington have each flashed and faded; Jared Cook has had a few nice moments…but through it all, the steady rookie has been getting either 8 or 11 targets since Week 1. He has the trust of both Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, and he will continue to get these targets going forward. He’s also got a fabulous matchup this week against the Bills, who have given up the 4th most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. I’d love to plug Wright into my flex spot through the rest of the season.
Baron Batch (FI Rank: RB45, PP: 3.9) – With Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman out in Week 6, Batch was the guy who took the reins. He did okay filling in for the starters, even managing a goal line TD. The thing is that Dwyer has had multiple opportunities to prove that he can be a feature back – he doesn’t have it. He’s not the guy. He just isn’t. You see it, right? Now that doesn’t mean that Dwyer isn’t getting first crack at the carries – he is; look, nobody said the choices OC Todd Haley make are based in rational thought. The matchup this week against Cinci is nice (9th in points allowed to RBs) – long-term, I’ve yet to come up with any RB that slogged through an Achilles’ issue for a season. If Mendenhall is dealing with a dinged up Achilles’, that seems to portend a more serious version of it in the future. Yes, this is a bet, but I’ll bet against a weak Achilles’ tendon all day (does Vegas lay odds on that?).
Jeremy Kerley (FI Rank: WR65, PP: 4.5) – I had Kerley in the Love Him and Leave Him section of this article last week. I also went on our FINAL DECISIONS podcast (check it out LIVE on Sundays at 12:30 EDT: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fantasyinsights), and I was the only one on our panel of experts to choose Kerley to start of Jermaine Gresham. In hindsight it was a wrong call, but not for the reasons offered by my colleagues on the show. It was brought up that with Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller back, Kerley’s targets were going to go down and he would be less productive. The thing is…he led the team in targets. Hill and Keller accounted for 4 total targets in that game. The deal was that Indy’s run defense was so poor, that there was no reason to force the passing game. This week, the Jets play the Pats. There is no way the Jets will be able to run on the Pats. And against that offense, the Jets will have no choice but to pass the ball. Sanchez’s number one target is Kerley (and will be for the rest of the season). I’m stubbornly sticking with my guns here and saying Kerley will be a great play this week and beyond. P.S. The Pats’ secondary is TERRIBLE.
Love Him and Leave Him
Daryl Richardson (FI Rank: RB37, PP: 4.6) – It remains to be seen whether or not taking carries away from Steven Jackson is limiting his potential for the Rams, as he is one of those backs that tends to get better as the carries mount and the game goes on. But the Rams like the idea of a thunder & lightning backfield, and in fairness, Richardson has given them reasons to keep feeding him the ball. He has struck for runs of 53 and 44 so far this season. This may be one of the few weeks that you can use Richardson, though. The Rams schedule looking ahead is brutal for running backs (NEP, SFO, ARI, MIN, TBB, SEA). The Packers are by no means a shut-down defense, and Richardson should be a useful flex option this week.
Donnie Avery (FI Rank: RB33, PP: 5.2) – At first glance, all I see is a pathetic 21 catches on 48 targets. Upon closer examination, the Colts have played some tough pass defenses. The one week Avery caught the majority of his targets (Week 2), he went for 111 yards receiving. This week, the Colts draw the Browns, a defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers. What’s that you say? Joe Haden is back from suspension? Oh yeah, sure, I know – guess who he’s shadowing all game? That’s right…Reggie Wayne. Avery will have a very productive Week 7.
Domenik Hixon (FI Rank: WR56, PP: 5.2) – I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t Hakeem Nicks almost back to 100%? Doesn’t Hixon fall off when Nicks takes back over?” Yes, there is a lot of talk that Hixon goes back to irrelevance when Nicks comes back fully healthy. But keep in mind that the only week that Hixon has not been flex-worthy was Week 2, when he was knocked out of the game early after one catch. That game, Martellus Bennett went off. Since then, Bennett has returned to fantasy irrelevance; Hixon goes back to the #3 in an offense that attempts the 9th most passes in the league. There will continue to be targets to go around, even with a healthy Nicks. Oh, did I mention that the Giants face off against the team who gives up the most fantasy points to wide receivers? Flexy!
LeGarrette Blount (FI Rank: RB27, PP: 8.7) – Blount repeats in this section for the second week in a row. We were right about his opportunity against a lousy Chief defense. This week the opportunity is even greater against the New Orleans run defense. The Saints give up the most fantasy points to running backs of any team in the league. Blount had 58 yards and a score on only 7 carries. I don’t know that there is enough of a sample size to tell us if Blount’s success is matchups-related; for the moment, I’m going to assume it is. For instance, I’m sure not using Blount against the Vikings in Week 8; but his usage as a goal line back against Washington was profitable for fantasy (Washington = Top 10 run defense). Bottom line, I’m not ready to think of him as marriage material quite yet, but after a go with Blount this week, you might be ready to make a deeper commitment!
Shane Vereen (FI Rank: RB54, PP: 2.8) – I continue to maintain that Vereen is the best back in the Patriots’ backfield. To this point, I’ve obviously looked ridiculous (nothing new here). But Steven Ridley has wilted a bit against tougher defenses. Brandon Bolden is out this week, and he had gotten 10+ carries in 2 of the last 3 weeks. If there are 10-15 carries up for grabs, they are going to Shane Vereen. At minimum, he’ll be in on passing downs. Vereen has the ability to do something with the ball that Ridley can’t do – take it to the house. I like Vereen as a desperate flex option in deep leagues where there is not much on the waiver wire. Buyer beware, for sure, but it’s last call.
Montario Hardesty (FI Rank: RB52, PP: 3.2) – Trent Richardson is good to go for Week 7, so there are definitely diminished expectations for Hardesty this week. There is definitely a chance that Richardson goes off against the lousy Colts’ run defense and Hardesty doesn’t sniff a carry. Then again, Richardson is nursing tender ribs, and another big shot taken to the ribs could mean another chance for Hardesty. He may get more touches than typical anyway, as a way to limit Richardson’s carries. Hardesty is an interesting option in a week with few options sitting on the waiver wire.
Chris Givens (FI Rank: WR47, PP: 5.9) – Givens has become a very en vogue waiver pickup over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps it is because he has three straight weeks with a 50+ yard reception. Obviously there is some potential for Givens to be step up and replace Danny Amendola as a top target for Sam Bradford. He is averaging 6 targets over the last two weeks. There is a lot of risk in assuming he is going to deliver yet another huge play in Week 7, but it’s clear that the Rams are going to look his way.
Delone Carter (FI Rank: NR, PP: NR) – For the second week in a row, we surveyed the ugliness in search of the hidden beauty, only to find the same results waiting for us. Carter is a hidden beauty just waiting to be made over. We thought it might come versus the Jets last week, but clearly the game got out of hand, and the Colts had to abandon the run game. This week against the Browns, the Colts will be able to hang for four quarters, and there may well be 25 carries to go around. Vick Ballard doesn’t deserve those carries – I’m as certain of this as I am of anything in fantasy football. Who does that leave? Our man Carter, who will prove that he belongs ahead of Ballard on the depth chart.