For a deeper review of players that are either new to the scene or playing differently than expected, Double Coverage will give the respective views of John Tuvey (Start Bench List) and David Dorey (Game Predictions and Player Projections). We'll bring 47 years of combined fantasy football experience to bear and hopefully a few things to think about as you manage your fantasy team.
RB Ronnie Hillman (DEN)
TUVEY: Like clockwork, once a month Hillman gets a healthy chunk of carries in relief of Willis McGahee; happened in Week 4, happened again in Week 8. So circle Week 12 on your calendar, when the Broncos play the abysmal Chiefs and it’s very likely Hillman gets another workload worth talking about. And if you’re looking for a sneaky championship week helper, the Broncos tangle with the Cleveland Browns in Week 16. What do these games potentially have in common? In Week 4 Denver beat up Oakland 37-6, and in Week 8 they drubbed the Saints 34-14. Would the Broncos dropping a 30-burger on either the Chiefs or Browns surprise? No. And Hillman hasn’t done much outside of those two games, so the Denver backfield is still a Willis McGahee production. But he is getting up there in age so stashing Hillman as a potential dynasty project or relief should Willis tire down the stretch makes some sense.
DOREY: Willis McGahee is 31 years old and Hillman is a rookie so on the face of it - is Hillman the replacement for McGahee next year? Will he become a bigger factor this season even at the expense of McGahee who is rocking it on a bunch of my fantasy teams? I don't think so. Not when he is 5-9, 190 pounds. What he can develop into is a solid third down back with the ability to catch passes. But he has to learn to pass protect better before taking a big chunk of that work. Hillman only caught five passes for 33 yards on the year and that was only because he caught a 29-yard pass in week four against the Raiders. He looked interesting last week because he was playing the Saints and EVERYBODY looks good against the Saints. Hillman doesn't do much for me, honestly. Not this year and probably not in the future either.
WR Torrey Smith (BAL)
TUVEY: Smith has largely been who we thought he was, a big-play home run hitter also prone to the strikeout. After hitting big in Weeks 3 and 4 Smith has offered just a touchdown and a top-end game of 41 yards since then. But his 10 targets prior to Baltimore’s bye last week hint that another long ball is coming—maybe this week in Cleveland. I thought Smith might provide a little more consistency, maybe step into an every week WR2 role, but Joe Flacco’s inconsistency—especially on the road—has contributed to that not coming to fruition. But before you bail on Torrey entirely, consider a championship week home date with a Giants’ secondary that’s been known to give up some big plays.
DOREY: I did not like him last year. I did not like him this summer. Don't get me wrong - he has talent. The 2.26 pick from 2011 does have four touchdowns this year. What I never liked is his inconsistency but at least some of that is about the system he is in and Joe Flacco. Smith blew up in week three last year with 5-152-3 in St. Louis. He produced 6-165-1 versus the Bengals. He was somewhat encouraging with three scores in his last six games but last year but ten of his games ended up under 40 yards. A feast or famine guy. This year is no different. He's produced games with 6-127-2 (NE) and 6-97-1 (CLE). But otherwise he's been stuck around 50 yards or lower. He just doesn't have consistency to interest me. I am far more interested in the 80% of games than the 20% of games. Until they at least change the offense, there is no reason to expect much more.
TE Brandon Myers (OAK)
TUVEY: Myers has quietly posted the seventh-most catches and sixth-most yards among tight ends, so if you’re in a performance-scoring league he should already be on your radar. Then there’s that whole “zero touchdown” thing that’s holding him back in most fantasy formats. But the guy is the fourth-most frequently targeted tight end, and he’s on less than half of MFL teams. After being a relatively strong position for the first part of the season tight end is thinning a bit; getting a guy who sees more opportunities than 90-plus percent of his counterparts seems like a logical move.
DOREY: Myers is an interesting tight end that probably won't ever be much more than he is now. He ends up with 40 to 60 yards each week and usually has five catches. That's decent enough to cover a bye week to be sure. But he has never scored in his four years in the league so expecting him to become a red zone target is probably overly optimistic. Watching the Raiders offense this year leaves me with the distinct sense that they'll probably have yet another offense in there for 2013. What they are using this year with Greg Knapp just isn't working well and seems to misuse many players, Darren McFadden most notable. Myers has become a possession kind of tight end in this offense but it would be a genuine surprise if he turned into anything more than he already is. This is his fourth season with Oakland. He's not suddenly coming into his own.
WR Cecil Shorts (JAC)
TUVEY: Shorts continues the rich tradition of Division III ballers who find success at the NFL level; there’s he, Pierre Garçon, Fred Jackson… okay, so it’s not an extensive list. But at present Shorts is outperforming high-priced free agent Laurent Robinson and first-round pick Justin Blackmon as the Jaguars’ go-to wide receiver. Maybe because he’s more used to the level of quarterbacking the Jags are getting from Blaine Gabbert? That’s not a bad theory, though it may be an insult to D3 QBs. The bar is set pretty low in Jacksonville, and being the Jags’ WR1 equates to about a fantasy WR3. But Jacksonville’s upcoming schedule isn’t particularly strenuous, so having a guy who’s seeing the majority of his team’s targets certainly isn’t a bad thing—at least through the bye weeks, maybe even into the fantasy postseason.
DOREY: You have to love Shorts because it is pretty rare for any wide receiver to start to step up at mid-season. This is hard to evaluate. The Jags started out with Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon as the starters and paid a ton of cash to have them. Of course, Blaine Gabbert rendered them useless. The Jaguars have the worst passing game in the NFL for the second year. And suddenly the 4.17 pick from last year shows up like a flower on a dung heap. He produced 4-71-1 in Oakland and 8-116 in Green Bay. Those sort of stats are astronomic for the Jaguars. And while Laurent Robinson is healthy again, he is not getting his job back because of Shorts. The problem I have, aside from the Jaguar on the side of his helmet, is that we all saw that Laurent Robinson was great the one time he was with a decent quarterback. He ended up with 11 touchdowns and 858 yards in Dallas as the #3 receiver. In J'ville, he's a complete flop. I watched Blackmon all last year at OSU and the guy should be a great possession receiver who can catch it in traffic and is great in the end zone. In J'ville, he's a complete flop. I'll watch Shorts but I just cannot imagine that he can sustain any consistency with the Jaguars. They've already killed a proven performer and killed the rookie wideout with the greatest potential and upside. I cannot imagine that Shorts was just a star waiting for the others to flop.
QB Philip Rivers (SD)
TUVEY: After being a top-10 fantasy quarterback for five of his six NFL seasons—including the last four in a row—Rivers has dropped to 18 this year; that’s not even an every-week starter. You got a little bit of play from him this week, a couple touchdowns against a woeful Kansas City team. And now you have a few extra days to sell high, because his schedule the rest of the way is brutal. Next week’s tilt in Tampa is the most favorable matchup left on his schedule; after that he’ll be fighting an uphill battle. And he’ll be doing so with a cast of wideouts that includes two guys the Chargers just pulled off the street. It’s good news for Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd as the only guys on a first-name basis with Rivers, but in general the 220 and 2 Rivers gave you against the Chiefs feels like the high end of his remaining efforts
DOREY: Rivers is one of those guys who has played well in the past and somehow through the years I do not ever recall having him on any of my teams. Looking like that string is not going to be broken any time soon. There is one undeniable fact this year - something is not right. Rivers is not producing as he has in the past despite playing in the same scheme for a long time now. So it could be Rivers - and I would not rule that out - and some believe he has something undisclosed with his arm or shoulder or brain or whatever that impacts his throwing. He just has not seemed nearly as sharp. He is on a pace for 3700 yards and just 20 touchdowns. That's actually where he started out back in 2006 and 2007 before he jumped up to 4000+ yard seasons with 27 to 34 touchdowns. It would be easy to say that it is the fault of the receivers. Not hard to prove that Antonio Gates has one foot in the pasture already. Robert Meachem was a horrible free agent pickup that virtually no one else thought was a good idea. But two years ago all the wide receivers were all hurt then as well. Remember 2010? Patrick Crayton, Buster Davis, Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Kelley Washington, Seyi Ajirotutu, etc.. Vincent Jackson was injured almost the entire year and yet Rivers ended up with 4710 yards and 30 touchdowns. I think his problem relates to several factors - bad receivers, aged Antonio Gates and an offense that has just gone stale. It is predictable and well documented. I think it all ends up that Rivers is just average now. At best.