Nick Shook on Fantasy Football: Last-minute picks and some surprises

By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full post on Ohio.com

Week 1 is just about here, finally, which means it’s time to set your lineups. If you’ve yet to draft, you still have time, and I still have some advice for you, for both now and a few weeks later.

We’ll keep this opening section brief this week, because you won’t struggle too much with setting your lineups. Your drafts, projections, and countless hours of studying will help you with that.

Also, keep an eye on Tennessee Titans running back David Cobb. I hear he’s been opening some eyes down in Nashville. If he’s healthy, he might be a nice waiver grab for your team’s depth.

Thank-me-later picks

Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

You watched Maclin last season in Philadelphia (85 catches, 1,318 yards, 10 touchdowns). You saw fellow fantasy owners snatch him up super early and reap the rewards. And you’ve since witnessed him fall farther down the board than Brady Quinn during the 2007 NFL Draft.

But fear not, Maclin fans. Although the Chiefs haven’t registered a touchdown completion to a wide receiver in more than a calendar year, that doesn’t mean Maclin is radioactive.

Maclin never topped 1,000 yards in coach Andy Reid’s offense in the past, back when the two were in Philadelphia, but he was part of a receiving corps that also included DeSean Jackson, who’s now in Washington. Maclin is option No. 1 in Kansas City, and although Alex Smith prefers the short pass, preseason action has shown he isn’t afraid to feed Maclin the ball. The two connected seven times for 65 yards and a touchdown in the first half of Week 3.

This isn’t an aberration, but a sign of things to come.

John Brown, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals

Brown reeks of a big-play threat, which is akin to leisurely strolling along a sidewalk with a wheelbarrow and happening upon an ATM spewing out $100 bills.

The speedy wide receiver from Pittsburg State was one of the surprises of the 2014 season thanks to these plays. Want proof? His longest reception of the season was a 75-yard touchdown.

Though his statistics (48 catches, 696 yards, five touchdowns) are deceiving, he and quarterback Carson Palmer developed quite the rapport before Palmer was lost for the season due to a knee injury. Palmer is now healthy and back to lead the Arizona offense, and Brown could be deadly in fantasy leagues.

Players to watch

Darren McFadden, running back, Dallas Cowboys

It’s been quite the task for Dallas to solve its backfield quandary. Since letting lead back DeMarco Murray waltz to Philadelphia with a TV crew in tow, the Cowboys have adopted the “running back by committee” approach in an attempt to find a leader. It hasn’t been easy.

Once a first-round selection, McFadden hasn’t had it easy in the NFL. He’s left Oakland for Dallas, and although he’s struggled through injuries, he had an impressive outing in Week 3 of the preseason against the Minnesota Vikings. McFadden gained 37 yards on four carries and finally put a bit of separation between he and Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.

Randle showed flashes of his breakaway speed in a 63-yard run against Washington last season. But he hasn’t done much else, especially seeing as he was just a spell back to Murray in previous seasons.

This situation hasn’t yet sorted itself out, and it’s likely to be fluid for at least the early part of the season. But there’s a reason McFadden was once a top selection of the Raiders — he has premier talent, which shines through on the field, as long as he’s healthy enough to stay on it. This is one to watch, but not yet act on as of now.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, running back, Baltimore Ravens

Justin Forsett earned the starting role with his performance in 2014 (1,266 yards, eight touchdowns on 235 carries for a 5.4 yards-per-carry average). But as many fantasy players know, the vulture lurks on the sidelines, waiting to steal short-yardage touchdowns from prominent running backs.

Baltimore’s 2015 vulture is Taliaferro. The 6-foot, 225-pound running back scored four touchdowns on just 68 attempts in 2014, and as the Ravens again look to lean on Forsett for most of their carries outside of the red zone, it’s plausible to think Taliaferro will see more of these goal-line attempts.

It’s not a sure-fire strategy to start a vulture. A bruising back who totes the ball 25 to 30 times a game — think Washington’s Alfred Morris (265 attempts for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014) — would be more reliable. But if needing a second running back in your lineup, a guy like Taliaferro could reap fantasy points in a limited role. He could also post a zero on the scoreboard for the week. The choice — and risk — is yours.

More to come

After Week 1, we’ll provide some waiver wire advice in the middle of the week on Ohio.com. You know who you’re starting this week, because you’ve already told all of your friends — and possibly, random strangers, if you’re the boastful, outgoing type — about how stacked your squad is, and how no one will stand a chance against the Cuyahoga Falls Crushers.

Telling others about your fantasy team is like opening up your wallet photos to show off your seven pets and four children to the guy pumping gas next to you. That person and Maclin, who let it be known on Twitter that he hates fantasy football, do not care.

But it’s OK, because I care. Send along any questions to me via Twitter @TheNickShook, or email me at nshook@thebeaconjournal.com. If enough of you are entertaining, maybe we’ll run a mailbag column, and maybe I’ll become the next Bob Dyer. We can all dream, right?

Happy fantasy footballing to all of you.

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