East Notes: Cousins, F-Jax, Bills

NFL News
September 13, 2015

After Geno Smith suffered a broken jaw at the hand of former teammate IK Enemkpali, the Jets did not know how long their starting quarterback would be sidelined. In their efforts to address the situation, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the Jets called Washington to discuss the possibility of trading for Kirk Cousins (Twitter link). Now, of course, we know why Washington was unwilling to seriously entertain those communications.

Washington, though, was not the only team the Jets contacted. As Rapoport adds in a separate tweet, New York did its due diligence and made plenty of phone calls around the league before ultimately settling on veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead them at least until Smith’s return.

Now for some more links from the league’s east divisions:

  • We learned yesterday that Robert Griffin III was listed as Washington‘s third-string quarterback behind backup Colt McCoy for today’s game against Miami, but as NFL Media’s Jeff Darlington reports, RGIII will remain third on the depth chart moving forward (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). As Darlington said, “After further consideration the team is more likely to keep Griffin as the third quarterback because of the financial repercussions that they would face if Griffin were to enter a game and be injured.”
  • Long before Fred Jackson signed with the Seahawks, he was supposed to be a member of the Steelers, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. After the Bills acquired LeSean McCoy in March, Buffalo GM Doug Whaley told Jackson that he would be released. Jackson had effectively worked out a deal with the Steelers and was en route to Pittsburgh when he was told by Buffalo team officials that he was too important to the Bills and the community to let go. When Jackson actually was let go a few months later, the Steelers had long since signed DeAngelo Williams to be their primary backup. That saga is what precipitated Jackson’s recent remarks that Whaley had lied to him.
  • When Bills head coach Rex Ryan was with the Jets, he tried to acquire Tyrod Taylor, as Albert Breer of The NFL Network tweets. According to Breer, Ryan did so on the advice of some pretty respected names who were teammates and coaches of Taylor when he was in Baltimore: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Cam Cameron, and Jim Caldwell.
  • When Taylor signed with the Bills this offseason, his three-year deal that will pay him just $750,000 in 2015 made it clear that he was a backup quarterback. But as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, nothing prevents Buffalo from giving Taylor a new contract at any time, and although there has been no indication that will happen, Florio believes it should.
  • Muhammd Wilkerson‘s contract situation has garnered a great deal of media attention, but as Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com writes, the Jets have two other important defensive starters who are in the final years of their respective contracts: Demario Davis and Damon Harrison. As Cimini writes, the Jets have made no push to sign either before the start of the season, as they want to see how the players fit in the team’s new defensive scheme before making a long-term commitment.

Kam Chancellor Updates: 9/13/15

NFL News
September 13, 2015

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor will watch his team’s season opener against the Rams today from afar, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggests that there is potential for a compromise at some point in the near future. Here are a few notes on Chancellor’s situation, and we will update this post as necessary should there be any further developments in this saga today:

  • Rapoport tweets that Chancellor wants to earn $9MM in 2016, while the Seahawks have offered to pay him $8.1MM, with no change in his 2015 payout.
  • In a separate tweet, Rapoport adds that Chancellor wants the team to waive all of the fines that he has accrued over the course of his holdout. The Seahawks, though, have been unwilling to waive everything at this time. As Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com points out (via Twitter), between salary and bonus money, Chancellor could potentially lose $500,000 just by missing today’s game.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the best way for Chancellor to get his fines waived would be to allow the Seahawks to facilitate the resolution. League sources indicate that if Chancellor reports to the team and appears to be in good shape, a compromise could be reached in short order. However, although Seattle is open to waiving a substantial portion of the fines that Chancellor has accrued and to shifting some future money into next year’s contract, the team does not plan on dramatically sweetening his deal. After all, Chancellor is already the top-earning strong safety in the game.
  • Former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, who currently works as an NFL Media analyst, says Chancellor wants to be paid for more than just his work as a strong safety. Per Robinson, “[Chancellor] does a lot of (head coach) Pete Carroll‘s dirty work. He talks to players who need talking to because again, Pete doesn’t accentuate the negative.” Robinson also says that Chancellor lines up fellow safety Earl Thomas on every play, which Thomas himself confirmed (via Connor Orr of NFL.com).

Mike Evans a gametime decision

Fantasy Football, NFL News
September 13, 2015
InjuryTeam will make the call after pre-game warmup

Bucs WR Mike Evans (hamstring) feels good and is optimistic about playing. But the team will make the call after he works out pregame. (Ian Rapoport on Twitter)

Nerdy Football Analysis: Evans got in a limited practice Friday. It was noted by several beat reporters that he looked good on the field. Most believe he will suit up but we won’t know for sure until later this afternoon. The Bucs play at 4 Eastern.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings: Reviewing Fringe Flex Players and Advice

Fantasy Football
September 13, 2015

On Thursday night, Dion Lewis displayed the value of a sneaky fantasy football flex play.

Riding the New England Patriots’ revolving running back carousel, the 24-year-old amassed 120 total yards (69 rushing, 51 receiving) during a 28-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. With LeGarrette Blount serving a suspension and Jonas Gray surprisingly cut before the season began, Lewis seized the opportunity in his first game since 2012.

He’s the first but far from last player to exceed expectations this season. Several benched and unowned guys will tear the house down while established commodities deliver duds. Nothing ever fully follows the script, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from forming logical estimations for Week 1.

Here’s a look at flex rankings, tailored for standard scoring, for the opening weekend. After that, let’s dive deeper at players on the cusp of starting status.

RB Alfred Blue, Houston Texans (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)

Without an opportunity, even the most talented player becomes a meaningless fantasy option. But fantasy managers often fall into the trap of assuming anyone receiving reps automatically deserves their undivided attention.

Although Arian Foster has made rapid progress in his recovery from an offseason groin injury, he will not suit up for the Houston Texans on Sunday. That clears the way for Alfred Blue, who will look to do his part for a depleted offense, per the team’s Twitter page:

If he gets 36 carries like he did last November against the Cleveland Browns, the understudy will certainly make a great flex play. Still, the 24-year-old needs such a high-volume workload to flourish after averaging 3.1 yards per carry last year. Aside from the 156 yards compiled against Cleveland, he procured 154 total yards in two other games without Foster.

After getting worked to the ground against the Browns, Blue recorded 138 rushing yards on 65 carries over Houston’s final six games. Even with the likelihood of 15-20 touches, he’s more of a placeholder than difference-maker.

Considering Kansas City relinquished 4.7 yards per carry last year, stable touches make Blue flex-worthy for many owners. Just temper expectations. If 75-80 yards sounds good for someone needing to replace Foster, take the plunge and hope he stumbles his way into the end zone.

WR Rueben Randle, New York Giants (at Dallas Cowboys)

Victor Cruz won’t put on his dancing shoes just yet. The New York Giants officially ruled out the wide receiver playing his first game since Oct. 12, when he suffered a torn patellar tendon in his knee.

As a result, the widely ignored Rueben Randle will once again start alongside Odell Beckham Jr. Although a volatile option, he can make a major impact during a Sunday night shootout with the Dallas Cowboys.

Randle scored only three touchdowns last year, but he also amassed 938 yards on 127 targets while closing the 2014 season with 290 yards over New York’s final two games. While some may have expected him to take a back seat once Beckham emerged, he instead shined with defenses drawn to the star rookie.

Despite defying basement-low expectations last year, Dallas’ defense enters this NFC East showdown with some secondary concerns. Nerdy Football’s Matt Camp examined issues that present an opening for Randle:

Now, with a chance to get his season off to a strong start, Randle faces a Dallas secondary that lost their best cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, to a torn ACL and MCL just a few weeks ago. With that injury, the Cowboys are left with Morris Claiborne attempting to come back from a torn patellar of his own and Brandon Carr, who has been a massive disappointment since signing back in 2012.

The Giants have plenty of their own personnel concerns on defense, but that’s more about a general lack of talent. What this adds up to is a possible high-scoring affair with two quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to throw it in Manning and Tony Romo. Beckham should draw plenty of attention as the team’s top weapon, which could open things up for Randle to take advantage and with a height advantage over both Carr and Claiborne. Randle can go up and get jump balls and be a factor in the red zone.

Risk is inherent for any non-stud wideout, but Randle twice finished games with single-digit receiving yards, notching a lone yard during last year’s Week 1 slate. He also managed an inefficient 55.9 percent catch rate, so a breakout effort is far from a done deal.

If the alternatives are guys like Eric Decker, Mike Wallace and Torrey Smith, go ahead and roll the dice. Don’t, however, sit a Jeremy Maclin or Allen Robinson.

WR John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (vs. New Orleans Saints)

During a solid yet unspectacular rookie campaign for the Arizona Cardinals, John Brown collected 48 catches for 696 yards and five touchdowns. Had Carson Palmer not torn his ACL, the sophomore wideout would have received much more attention in draft rooms.

In six games with the veteran quarterback, Brown produced 315 receiving yards and three touchdowns, which prorates to 840 yards and eight scores over a full 16 games. NFL.com’s Matt Harmon compared the undersized pass-catcher to T.Y. Hilton, who notched 861 yards and seven scores as a rookie before breaking out:

John Brown performed markedly better when the team’s starting quarterback was in the lineup. Had Palmer played out the full season, it is not out of the question Brown would have finished right in line with Hilton’s 2012 season. The two players have very similar skill sets, and are both in the 5-foot-10 and 180-pound [Bruce] Arians‘ mold. For his encore, Hilton recorded 82 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns. No one should rule out Brown having a similar season, if Carson Palmer plays all 16 games.

Week 1 presents the perfect opportunity to ignite his breakout campaign. The New Orleans Saints, last year’s No. 31-ranked defense, declared cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Jairus Byrd out for Week 1 in Friday’s injury report. Meanwhile, Michael Floyd isn’t a lock to compete for Arizona.

Brown won’t receive as many targets as Randle, but he is a bigger threat to break free for a major play. Unless he realizes the Hilton comp, Brown is a high-upside matchup play ideal for a flex gamble.

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Dwayne Bowe expected to be inactive

Fantasy Football, NFL News
September 13, 2015
Hamstring injury

Browns WR Dwayne Bowe (hamstring) will be inactive vs. #Jets, sources say. A 3rd stringer on the depth chart, his deal has $9M guaranteed (Ian Rapoport on Twitter)

Nerdy Football Analysis: Bowe missed a good portion of training camp with a hamstring injury and has been unimpressive when he has stepped on the field. Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins are expected to get the start.