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.
Pierre Thomas (FI Rank: RB33, PP: 7.2) – I have been a long-time advocate of Thomas getting a full-time job in New Orleans, but the Saints keep wasting opportunities on Mark Ingram. Last week against one of the best run defenses in the league (TB), Thomas got his highest number of carries for the season (13). I see this trend continuing, and Thomas being a viable flex play going forward. He’s tied for the team lead in red zone looks among running backs, and he should be getting more time in the end zone soon. I like him this week against the Broncos and going forward.
Cecil Shorts (FI Rank: WR46, PP: 7.2) – Shorts has darted in and out of fantasy relevance this season, but he’s now got the starting job in Jacksonville. That resulted in 4 catches for 79 yards and a TD last week, and he is showing his QB that he can deliver. After a 10-target week last week, he is now second on the team in targets. Look for this trend to continue this week versus the Packers.
Donald Brown (FI Rank: N/R, PP: N/A) – Brown is questionable for this week, but he practiced fully on Thursday and Friday. The matchup this week against the Titans could not be better. Vick Ballard didn’t really prove a whole lot last week against the Browns, a team that’s given up the 4th most rushing yards to RBs this season. I see Brown getting 10-15 carries this week, making him a viable flex option this week. If he doesn’t suffer a setback, then Brown is better than a flex option.
Ryan Broyles (FI Rank: WR32, PP: 11.1) – Broyles is a special player who is just now getting his opportunity with the Lions. Broyles was a TD machine at the University of Oklahoma, and he did some of his best work in big games. The Lions really need him to step up, and he is up for the challenge. The Seahawks aren’t a particularly good matchup, but they will undoubtedly be focusing their attention on stopping Calvin Johnson (which very well may prove to be a big component to Broyles’ value this year). But beyond this week, Broyles is putting out some serious flex appeal, now that he is getting his chance.
Love Him and Leave Him
Michael Bush (FI Rank: RB29, PP: 8.8) – Bush and the Bears face the Panthers this week, and the Panthers give up the 8th most points to running backs. Bush hasn’t exactly reprised his 2010-2011 role of uber-touchdown vulture, but he is tied for the team lead in red zone looks (tied w/ Brandon Marshall, not Matt Forte). He’s still consistently getting opportunities to score, and this week, he’s getting them against a soft run defense.
Brandon Stokley (FI Rank: WR36, PP: 10.3) – The Saints give up the 2nd most fantasy points to wide receivers; Stokley is an occasional security blanket for Peyton Manning, he has scored a TD in two straight weeks (three on the season). Look for Manning to go his way again in the red zone this week, for what is sure to be a high-scoring affair.
Daniel Thomas (FI Rank: RB44, PP: 4.0) – The Dolphins played the Jets in Week 3, and Thomas had his best game of the season, with 80 total yards and a TD. Granted, Reggie Bush injured his knee in the first half, and Thomas got 19 carries. Don’t expect 19 carries here, but Thomas got 10 carries in his last game. He has had two weeks rest and should be fresh for this game. Meanwhile, Bush’s performances over the last three weeks have gotten worse each week. Look for Thomas to be a solid flex start against a Jets defense that struggles to stop the run without Sione Pouha.
Greg Little (FI Rank: WR43, PP: 7.7) – So last week, against the Colts (the 8th best defense to face for wide receivers), Little caught 6 passes for 52 yards and a score. This week, guess who Little faces? The 5th best defense for wide receivers! It’s a great matchup, Little is leading the team in targets, and the defensive attention will likely be focused on stopping Josh Gordon.
Shane Vereen (FI Rank: RB40, PP: 4.4) – The Rams are not a good matchup. They have been beyond solid against the run. So why is Vereen listed here? Because Belichick is starting to go with a bit of a “hot hand” approach with his running backs. Ridley will get the first shot, and will be ineffective. I believe Vereen will get the next opportunity and he’ll outperform Ridley. Last week, Steven Ridley only had 32 of 80 snaps; Danny Woodhead had 31 of 80 snaps, and Vereen saw 17 of 80. He was very effective with his 8 carries (49 yards). As far as I’m concerned, he’s the most talented back on the roster, and I believe that Belichick will give him more opportunities after studying the film. Not a huge endorsement, but you’re desperate.
Brandon Gibson (FI Rank: WR51, PP: 6.7) – Quite simply, Gibson is becoming a larger and larger part of the Rams offense. He has had 16 targets over the last two weeks, while producing 150+ receiving yards over that time. He’s Sam Bradford’s go-to receiver, so you can count on 5-7 catches this week, with 50-75 yards receiving. Not bad for a desperate flex start. It’s also worth noting that he’s gotten a red zone look each of the last two weeks – just hasn’t punched it in yet.
Andre Brown (FI Rank: RB45, PP: 3.6) – I thought it was interesting to see Brown get a successful goal line carry in Week 7. Though he only got 5 carries in the game, you wonder if the team will continue to look to him as a goal line back, if only to save Bradshaw from some wear-and-tear, similar to what the Titans are doing with Jamie Harper. Bradshaw is questionable this week with a foot injury, and he practiced on a limited basis on Friday. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going in Week 8, but he could very well be limited. Considering injury risk and a potential goal line role, Brown makes a good flex start in a desperate situation.
Emmanuel Sanders (FI Rank: WR64, PP: 5.1) – Simply: The Redskins give up the most fantasy points to wide receivers of any team in the league. Yes, you’d rather have Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, but if you’re desperate, why not take a gamble on Sanders? You know he’s good for 3-4 catches; facing such a forgiving secondary, perhaps he breaks one of those catches open.
Jon Baldwin (FI Rank: WR74, PP: 4.3) – Yeah, at first glance, Baldwin doesn’t get me too excited either. But then again, his situation may not be the same going forward. Dwayne Bowe is the subject of some trade rumors. His contract will make it difficult to find suitors, but imagine someone with Bowe’s skills on a contending team that needs a push. Tuesday is the trade deadline, and if Bowe does get moved, then hello Mr. Baldwin! Baldwin is averaging almost 5 targets a game and this number will most certainly go up if he moves to the #1 WR spot. If you are in a deep league with roster space, perhaps a speculative add in advance of the trade deadline makes for a nice, flexy lottery ticket.