1. Devonta Freeman at Titans
Holy hat, what a year this guy is having. It’s early, yes, but Freeman is conjuring memories of 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson, 1998 Terrell Davis and 1973 O.J. Simpson. But must the comps begin and end with great seasons by running backs? Freeman has thus far been the fantasy equivalent of 1605 William Shakespeare, 1879 Thomas Edison or 1976 Peter Frampton. (Trust me, kids, Frampton was HUGE that year.)
Through six games, Freeman has racked up 801 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. He’s churned out nine of those TDs in his last four games, a span in which he’s averaged 181.3 yards from scrimmage. Can he continue to produce such gaudy numbers? Well, the Matt Ryan–Julio Jones connection discourages opponents from stacking the box to stop the run, and Football Outsiders’ metrics indicate that Atlanta’s offensive line has been one of the better run-blocking units in the league. The Falcons visit Tennessee this weekend, and Freeman will face a Titans defense that’s being gouged for 129.6 rushing yards per game.
2. Cam Newton vs. Eagles
Newton has been the MacGyver of fantasy football this year, capable of creating wondrous things out of ordinary materials. Newton was pushed down fantasy draft boards in August because of legitimate concerns that the season-ending knee injury to Kelvin Benjamin left the cupboard bare at wide receiver. Ted Ginn Jr. makes the occasional play but is woefully inefficient, with 13 receptions on 29 targets this season for a 44.8% catch rate. Rookie Devin Funchess is raw, Philly Brown has ping-pong paddles for hands and Jerricho Cotchery is barely clinging to NFL life. The only dependable tool in Newton’s kit is tight end Greg Olsen, who probably deserves to be targeted 25 times per game.
While most of the meaningful waiver-wire players emerge relatively early in the season, there always seems to be a player who two who don’t show up until about halfway through the year, and then become fantasy mainstays over the final eight weeks. Last season, it was C.J. Anderson and Martavis Bryant who delighted their owners with a mid-season breakout. They’ve gone in different directions in 2015, but they’ll always be the one-time carriers of that torch. Who might follow in their footsteps this season? We present a few options below, leading off with the best candidate.
This week's Droppables come with an important preamble: Every fantasy league and roster is different. All recommendations on players to drop and players to add need to be considered within the context of your league. A player is not instantly devoid of fantasy value if he appears on this list. You shouldn’t instantly dismiss a player out of hand if we call him droppable. If a player is tabbed droppable, it means that you shouldn’t be afraid to cut him loose. Whether that’s for a new receiver who has emerged (like Stefon Diggs), a spot starter at quarterback (looking at you, Aaron Rodgers owners) or a running back handcuff (James Starks, anyone?), a player who is droppable can be the guy on the chopping block. It doesn’t mean you have to swing that ax, but you no longer need to give him priority status on your roster.
You’re going to remember where you were when you read the Week 5 edition of the SI.com Risers and Sliders for the 2015 season. Why is that, you ask? Well, one of the most famously anemic offenses has a pair of players trending in the right direction. If it weren’t for the marginalizing of quarterbacks in one-QB fantasy formats, that same team could actually claim three risers with one-third of a season in the books. It has been a long time since the franchise in question had the attention of the fantasy community, but times change in the fantasy community. It’s an incredible world in which we live.
Jamaal Charles’s injury doubtlessly sent his owners into a tailspin on Sunday. Now they’ll have to try to land a reinforcement on the waiver wire, though they should also explore the trade market. No one can adequately replace Charles, but buy-low targets like Lamar Miller and Jeremy Hill could do a much better job of at least providing RB2 value than anyone you can grab off the free agent scrap heap this week. Having said that, even buy-low targets will cost you an asset that you can hold on to if you’re replacement shopping for Charles on the wire. If that’s where you’re headed, consider the players below.
Every week, the fantasy community as a whole moves en masse to grab players off the waiver wire. There is a widely ignored element on the other side of the equation, and that is the players who are dropped for the shiny, new toys. We want to give you the inputs for both sides. Not only will you continue to get our waiver-wire recommendations every Monday, but we’ll also let you know the players you can safely drop when you make your moves.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
Even if you weren’t high on Anderson heading into draft season, you could not have seen this coming. Five weeks into the season, Anderson, who was a late-first or early-second round pick, is droppable. Forget about 100-yard games, Anderson barely has a 100-yard season to this point. He has rushed for fewer than 50 yards in every game. His best game of the season was in Week 4, when he totaled 70 yards from scrimmage. Anderson is averaging 4.28 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues, which puts him on par with 2014 Bryce Brown. Ronnie Hillman hasn’t been much better, and you’re likely in a shallow league if you’re thinking about making this move, but the fall from grace is complete. Anderson can be dropped in shallower formats.
As a rule, any time a running back breaks a two-year drought of backs being selected in the first round of the draft, even though he was coming off a devastating knee injury, and then runs for nearly 150 yards in just his second-ever NFL game, that guy is going to be among the players trending upward in Risers and Sliders. The Rams' Todd Gurley, however, was not alone in fundamentally altering his fantasy value for the better in Week 4. At the same time, some players who have done nothing but disappoint this season have to be downgraded, even in cases where they’ve already been pushed down the rest-of-season rankings.
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
Let’s start this off with the guy whose value changed the most as a result of the Week 4 action. Gurley got his first significant amount of playing time in Sunday's game against Arizona and immediately showed why the Rams took him with the 10th pick in the draft, even though he was less than six months removed from an ACL tear. Gurely racked up 146 yards on 19 carries and iced the Rams’ impressive win over the previously undefeated Cardinals. It wasn’t just that he picked up 146 yards, though. It was the way he did it. Here were the Rams’ five longest plays from scrimmage last week: