Fantasy football decisions don’t get easier closer to kickoff. After spending days deliberating over Week 3 lineup choices, most managers will end up making a last-second gut call.
Regardless of the league, several owners agonize over the treacherous flex spot. Take the boring choice for a few points or gamble on someone who can win the matchup or deliver a fat zero?
Can fantasy players ever trust a New England Patriots running back? How about anybody on the Jacksonville Jaguars? Is an interesting option who is playing on Monday night worth the risk? Let’s take a look at those troubling dilemmas. For those ambivalent to those specific flex options, take a look at Week 3 rankings for standard and points-per-reception (PPR) scoring:
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots
In his first two NFL games since 2012, Lewis has compiled 258 total yards with 10 receptions and a touchdown. Expected to replace Shane Vereen as a pass-catching back mostly reserved for third downs, he has also averaged five yards per carry.
LeGarrette Blount’s return from a one-game suspension didn’t end Lewis’ fantasy relevancy. According to Pro Football Focus, the 24-year-old lined up for 73 of New England’s 86 offensive snaps against the Buffalo Bills. Blount received two touches in seven snaps.
If that division of labor persists against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lewis is a top-15 PPR back and a solid flex play in standard scoring. Yet Blount is going to eat into that workload eventually. MassLive.com’s Kevin Duffy examined New England’s running back usage over the last few years compared to 2015’s opening two weeks, during which Lewis has earned 74 percent of the touches from the backfield:
…In recent seasons, only Stevan Ridley in 2012 and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2010 have received over 50 percent of the touches out of the backfield. Both players are true grind-it-out, between-the-tackles backs. Many have compared Lewis to Danny Woodhead, who between 2010-12 never handled more than 28.2 percent of New England’s backfield touches.
Others have compared Lewis to Kevin Faulk, who in 2003 was the recipient of 44.7 percent of running back touches, essentially on the higher end of a timeshare with bruising back Antowain Smith. And there are several reasons to believe this could be the case with Lewis in 2015.
Lewis owners held their breath after each of his two fumbles, but Belichick didn’t abide by his zero-tolerance reputation for rushers who turn the ball over. That’s a good sign for continued opportunities, but there’s always the chance Lewis vanishes.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The other rusher in the New England-Jacksonville clash actually has the better matchup. The Patriots have yielded an NFL-worst 5.7 yards per carry, and T.J. Yeldon as emerged as the Jaguars’ undisputed starter after pounding the rock 25 times in Week 2.
Per Pro Football Focus, only six running backs (in a list surprisingly led by Lewis) have logged more snaps than the Jaguars rookie. His 37 carries ranks sixth, and his 3.0 grade places third behind Carlos Hyde and Giovani Bernard:
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson told ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco that the Jaguars hoped to give him at least 20 carries against the Miami Dolphins last weekend. He’s more than willing to expose the 21-year-old to a high volume of touches if the situation allows for it.
“It just depends on the game,” Olson said. “He certainly can handle that load.”
The game, however, may make it difficult to run the ball so regularly. Yeldon received a dozen carries in Jacksonville’s Week 1 loss to the Carolina Panthers, and it’s fair to say the current AFC South leaders are probably going to fall short against the defending Super Bowl champions.
DeAngelo Williams and LeSean McCoy both enjoyed enough success playing from behind, so Yeldon should still get afforded around 15 handoffs, which could lead him to 75 yards and a score against New England’s leaky run defense. He’s a fine No. 2 back or flex play in either scoring format but a safer standard option.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
There’s nothing more frustrating than an uncertain playing status attached to someone slated for Monday night. Despite an underwhelming start, Davante Adams would remain a worthwhile choice if not for an ankle ailment.
After returning to practice on Friday in a limited capacity, the 22-year-old wide receiver downplayed the issue to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky:
Expected to shine once Jordy Nelson went down, Adams instead posted 92 combined yards through the Green Bay Packers’ first two games. Yet he’s far from a lost cause. While James Jones stole three touchdowns, Adams has nine catches on 13 targets to the veteran’s five receptions in seven chances. If you think the 31-year-old will collect 60 percent of his grabs in the end zone, fine. But no, Jones won’t.
Were the Packers playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, managers could make a game-time decision. If anyone leaves Adams in their starting lineup leading up to Monday night, they’d have to settle for using Ty Montgomery or Chris Conley as a last-second heave (assuming Jones isn’t available).
It would be a tougher call if he was thriving, but play it safe and bench Adams.
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