The fantasy football season is filled with disappointment, but poor performances from star players are becoming more costly as we get closer to the end of the year. One bad game from a normally reliable player may be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in your fantasy league. These are the three players that disappointed their fantasy owners the most in Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season.
Brandin Cooks had the perfect opportunity to succeed when he got to play a struggling Rams defense at home in New Orleans. While Drew Brees and the Saints had a great offensive game, Cooks was nowhere to be found. The top receiver on the Saints failed to get one catch in a game that saw the team score 49 points. Nearly every offensive player on the New Orleans Saints helped their fantasy owners in Week 12 expect Brandin Cooks. The star wide receiver, who is considered one of the fastest players in the NFL, recently expressed his frustrations over his role in the offense. These comments usually forces the coaching staff to get a player more involved, so it would not be surprising to see Cooks have a few huge games before the end of the season.
Antonio Gates was given a difficult matchup when he had to go up against the Houston Texans in Week 12, but fantasy football players still expected a decent performance from the great tight end. Gates was coming off his two best games of the season, and he had scored a touchdown in three straight games before Week 12. Just like Brandin Cooks, Antonio Gates went the entire game without getting a pass thrown in his direction. Backup tight end Hunter Henry’s touchdown late in the game just added more salt in the wound for Gates’ fantasy owners. This game may cause some people to abandon Antonio Gates, but the aging tight end has a great schedule coming up. If he returns to his normal role in the offense, then Gates should find a way to score a few more touchdowns this season.
Russell Wilson was coming off three straight great games after finally fully healing from his ankle injury, but he produced his worst game of the season in Week 12. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense had Wilson under constant pressure, so the great quarterback never had much time to find an open receiver. Since Wilson was forced to only throw short passes, he finished the game with 151 yards. Nearly all of Wilson’s fantasy points in Week 12 came from his 80 rushing yards. The Seattle Seahawks have a very favorable schedule the rest of the season, so Wilson should be a top-tier fantasy quarterback in Week 13 and beyond.
Coming off the biggest Thursday with three Thanksgiving games there seems to be a renewed call to get rid of some midweek contests. Even John Madden is critical saying “it just doesn’t work”. The league is reportedly revisiting the subject to consider ending or limiting Thursday Night Football.
My suggestion that I first wrote about in 2014 is simple. Add a second bye week and pair all teams playing on a Thursday with a bye. This way, there would be 11 days before and still 10 days after.
Playing on four days rest and all of its problems would be eliminated. There would be no more health and safety concerns. Players like Andrew Luck who missed the Thanksgiving game with concussion could then play and improve the competitiveness of the game. There would be no need to schedule only regional matchups to avoid long flights and thus provide more compelling matchups. Teams would be able to install normal game plans and the quality of the product would improve.
Teams look forward to the bye week and there are often complaints that the singular break comes too early or too late. Byes are universally acknowledged to be good for player health and recovery so why not have one in the first half of the season and another in the second?
To alleviate the CBA and scheduling concerns of adding a week to the season, the league could get rid of one preseason game. The money lost doing that would be more than made up for by the TV revenue of an extra Sunday, Monday and Thursday game as well as an extra slate of games in the regular Sunday slots. Currently, it is impossible to follow all the nine or ten early games or the three to four later games and spreading 16 weeks of football over 18 weeks would barely be noticed.
A second bye week was tried in 1993 but that was over two decades ago and the league only had 28 teams at the time instead of 32, so it was like four teams were on a perpetual bye already in terms of scheduling.
Heck, if this happened, the league could even add a Wednesday night game and there would be no short week issues.
The bottom line is, I believe players would be in favor of adding a second bye and pairing Thursday games as long as it didn’t lengthen the season. Owners will be for it as there would be more dollars to be had. Fans would get one more week of meaningful football. In the end, this is a rare opportunity for the NFL to improve safety and increase revenue at the same time.
MMMD 1: Derek Carr finger dislocation
Finger dislocations are commonplace in the NFL. Often players will put their own fingers back into place without even running to the sidelines to seek medical help. Most linemen tape their fingers to help prevent dislocation. Most of us have seen the gnarled finger joints of ex-players.
Derek Carr’s right fifth finger dislocation brought lots of attention as it was publicly visible, resulted in a turnover, he ran off the field with pain, everyone always notices the quarterback and it was on his throwing hand.
By video, it was a pinky finger dislocation without associated fracture. The PIP joint is the most common one dislocated and once reduced is stable. Carr did go to the locker room for likely X-rays, tape/splint support, medication/treatment and returned with a glove to lead the Raiders to victory.
Although he will be more sore and swollen after the game, Carr will play next week against the Bills. There may be some practice time and game modification but he should still perform well. Note that Carr lined up in victory formation from the pistol, likely to avoid the pain from a direct under center snap on his top dominant hand.
MMMD 2: Brady and Gronk
Both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski started the game as expected and the Patriots were lucky to escape the Jets with a win.
Gronk chest issue and presumed pneumothorax was not a problem but he did leave the game early due to a back issue after a diving attempt at a pass. He did not return and was seen after the game walking stiffly and needing to use handrails on steps. By video, this is not a recurrence of disc herniation that has necessitated previous surgery. Back spasms can be tricky and this hopefully remains a short-term setback.
Brady seemed to be off his normal game throwing high several times. He was clearly bothered as the Patriots QB even supported and favored his right knee as he sat down on the bench. I don’t think this is related to the Kam Chancellor hit to the thigh from two weeks ago. In any case, I expect this to be a relatively minor issue going forward.
MMMD 3: Jordan Reed plays through severe AC injury
The Redskins TE returned from a grade 3 acromial clavicular joint sprain to accumulate 10 catches and two touchdowns. After going down hard on his left shoulder, Reed was seen with a sling on. However, with some treatment and medication, he returned for a big second half.
The bad news is that multiple ligaments around the end of the collarbone are torn causing significant pain, presence of an obvious deformity with a visible bump and he will miss significant practice time. The good news is Reed is unlikely to miss games, although he will have to play through pain despite the help of medication. The next game is the hardest as swelling sets in post-game. Ironically once the swelling subsides, a more severe grade 3 injury looks worse but is less painful than a less severe grade 2 sprain as the end of the clavicle is riding so high it no longer rubs against the acromion to cause pain.
MMMD 4: Both Justin Houston and Von Miller dominate after ACL
The Sunday Night Game featured two great pass rushers recovered from ACL surgery. Von Miller had a 2014 ACL surgery and Justin Houston is only 10 months out from reconstruction. Miller had 10 tackles (9 solo) with three sacks and four tackles for loss. Houston matched those numbers with 10 tackles (10 solo) with three sacks and five tackles for loss. Miller is the NFL season sack leader and Houston might be challenging for the lead if surgery on his November knee injury wasn’t delayed until February.
MMMD 5: Harvard player health study
The NFLPA has funded a Harvard study on NFL player health. The report was released last week including the top 10 recommendations.
The best recommendation is for the NFL and NFLPA to stop using health issues as bargaining chips in the CBA negotiations. The most obvious are that all involved should follow a code of ethics and continue to collect/study injury data. The least game-changing is the suggestion that players be supported in their right to a second opinion as that is already the case and second opinions are very routine.
The most controversial recommendation is the use of “player’s medical staff” not hired or reporting to the team. I see the potential ethical concerns but in reality they are not there. Just like this study has potential bias because it was funded by the NFLPA, doesn’t mean it is biased. If Dr. James Andrews can serve as a Redskins team physician and yet be considered ethical and above reproach, so can other team doctors. Besides a system of independent doctors would be very cumbersome and result in many delays. For example, I don’t see how Derek Carr or Jordan Reed return to play with their injuries this week under such a system. Of course you can make the argument they shouldn’t have, but I think both Reed and Carr would object to that.
MMMD 6: Injury rundown
LeSean McCoy played well as expected despite having surgery to relocate his thumb six days ago and rushed for 103 yards with 2 touchdowns and two catches for 31 yards. https://twitter.com/ProFootballDoc/status/802987411143725056
Justin Houston, by video, suffered a mild left AC sprain when he caused the safety, but returned quickly to the game.
Odell Beckham Jr. had a thumb injury that did not seem to slow him down much.
Luke Willson was said to have a mild knee sprain, which was not the same side as earlier this year.
18 months ago, some feared Jason Pierre-Paul’s career was over due to the fireworks injury. Instead, on Sunday he had 3 sacks and fumble return over 40 yards for a touchdown, a first in the NFL in over four decades.
By video, Jordan Richards, Patriots safety, had a mild MCL. Luckily his knee was flexed and he avoided more severe injury and returned to play.
The mechanism for Danny Trevathan’s knee injury is likely to result in a right ACL tear.
Martellus Bennett seemed to re-aggravated right high ankle sprain that has bothered him since Week 5 but continued to play.
Derek Wolfe returned in three weeks with a brace and avoided elbow surgery for a fractured coronoid process.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
LeSean McCoy played well despite his thumb. He performed better than Sammy Watkins who was also active. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski played as expected. Jordan Reed’s injury was more than just a mild AC and was announced as Grade 3 sprain. Jamison Crowder was OK with low ankle sprain and continued to play.
Josh Forrest was confirmed to tear a ligament in his knee. Robert Woods does have a significant MCL and missed the game. Andrew Luck was not cleared for the Thursday game. Marshall Newhouse did have a MCL sprain. Halapoulivaati Vaitai does have a MCL sprain. Demetri Goodson unfortunately is confirmed with a multi-ligament injury with ACL tear. Derek Wolfe did avoid surgery and returned in just under a month with an elbow brace. Blake Martinez missed with a confirmed MCL strain. Kelvin Benjamin returned to the game and caught a touchdown.
This slightly improves the 130-6 (95.6%) record to 145-6 (96.0%).
Week 11 of the NFL season was once again full of disappointing fantasy performances for owners all over the country. With only two weeks left until playoffs start in most fantasy leagues, dud performances are starting to really take a toll on playoff chances. Here are 3 of the most disappointing fantasy players from this past week.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has actually been a fairly consistent fantasy option for people who opted to draft a quarterback in the later rounds. Before Sunday, Taylor had only failed to eclipse 15 standard fantasy points just one time. Unfortunately for his owners, Taylor was almost non-existent from a fantasy perspective against the Cincinnati Bengals. He managed just 166 yards through the air with no touchdowns and an interception. He also only managed 39 yards on the ground. Despite a gritty 16-12 win for the Bills, Taylor left his owners, myself included, out in the cold.
The Bills schedule is filled with exploitable defenses for the rest of the season, so Taylor should be able to turn it around sooner rather than later. The possible return of injured star receiver Sammy Watkins in the next couple of weeks would certainly bolster Taylor’s fantasy upside.
Arguably the biggest Week 11 disappointment, Roethlisberger entered Sunday with the juiciest fantasy match-up he could have, the winless Cleveland Browns. Despite ranking near last in every major defensive category, the Browns held Roethlisberger to just 167 passing yards and no touchdowns. In Big Ben’s defense, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stole the show with over 200 total yards from scrimmage, but being held under 200 yards passing by the hapless Browns is more than a bit embarrassing.
Roethlisberger will have another juicy match-up this week against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving. His owners will hope for the Big Ben who put up 408 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys instead of the unenthusiastic play he showcased against the worst team in the league.
Oakland Raiders veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree exploded onto the fantasy scene this season as the Robin to Amari Cooper’s Batman. Thus far, he has amassed 601 yards receiving to go along with 6 touchdowns. Unfortunately for his owners, none of this production came to fruition this week against the Houston Texans. Crabtree only managed 5 yards on 3 receptions, far below his projections. He did manage to draw 2 pass interference penalties that moved Oakland way down the field, but flags don’t count towards fantasy points.
He will look to turn it around next week against the Carolina Panthers, a team that has been struggling to stop receivers all season.
Few doubt how tough you have to be to play in the NFL. This week has many examples of how players react and play through injury.
LeSean McCoy got up and casually walked to the Bills sideline as if almost nothing happened. He missed the second half with a dislocated thumb, which could not be reduced and now needs surgery. Yet, he is likely to play next week. The crazy part is this actually makes sense as by video, he dislocated his small (IP) joint without fracture. Once reduced with surgery today (as the flexor tendon blocks reduction). The thumb should be stable and relatively pain free.
No one even knew Giovani Bernard was injured but he reportedly tore his ACL on his final catch. Since the Bengals were down by four with under a minute to go and no timeouts, he hopped up to avoid a 10 second runoff then went right back to line up for the next play and even attempted to throw a block before the play was called dead. With the stoppage, Bernard then subbed himself out. Now he will need major surgery and will have to race to return for Week 1 of 2017.
A.J. Green’s season is likely over with a significant hamstring tear, yet his body language indicated a routine play with a minor issue. The injury appears to be high up and proximal hamstring tears take longer to recover.
Safety Eric Reid acted like nothing happened when by video, he tore his distal biceps tendon. He almost continued to play until stopped by a delayed timeout. Typically, this injury ends one’s season and requires surgery.
Terrell Suggs is delaying surgery and playing with just such a distal biceps rupture. Sunday he had a sure sack, but due to weakness to flexion/supination on his injured left arm, Dak Prescott stepped through the tackle.
Even long snappers got in the tough guy act. Clark Harris limped badly with a foot/ankle injury and was about to be driven off. He hopped off the injury cart to play, even though he could no longer even jog to cover punts.
In a bad injury week, there were plenty of examples of how the NFL is a real man’s game.
MMMD 1: Emotional Luke Kuechly
The former defensive player of the year was not showing weakness when he appeared to reveal vulnerability. Certainly he was red-faced and sweating from the game; however, Kuechly’s body was heaving to try and catch his breath, not blubbering in tears.
By video, he took a blow to the chest/sternum and was gasping for air from having the wind knocked out of him. He also hit his head and it is a known medical fact that a concussion can cause mood alterations. Combine the fear of not being able to breathe and the loss of emotional control from head injury and you get Kuechly’s reaction to injury.
MMMD 2: Seahawks RB carousel
Seattle leads the NFC West but will start its third running back in three weeks. Christine Michael was released after a mild hamstring issue. Now C. J. Prosise is injured.
By video, the worry was a scapula fracture for Prosise who did not return in the second half. Typically, a scapula body fracture does not need surgery but is very painful and leads to a 4-6 week recovery. A report surfaced that Prosise will not return until the playoffs.
Fortunately for the Seahawks, Thomas Rawls is finally healthy after an early season fibula fracture. This truly has been “next man up” after Marshawn Lynch retired.
MMMD 3 Accuracy of team reports
Two weeks ago, I documented the differences in teams’ use of the “questionable” designation. “Questionable” also seems to be the tag whenever a player initially exits for injury, but is it accurate?
Demetri Goodson suffered a horrific multi-ligament knee injury. (Video here but warning: graphic) The Packers officially classified him initially as questionable to return to the game. In reality, what is questionable is whether Goodson can return to a productive career as a cornerback. Best wishes to him.
MMMD 4: Who is ready to return?
Three quarters of teams have yet to use the single “designated for return” spot to bring a player off injured reserve. With six weeks left in the regular season, watch for more teams to start bringing players back.
Ameer Abdullah is seeking a second opinion and may be the Lions player to return off IR.
Sammy Watkins is slated to have a CT scan to assess fifth metatarsal bone healing and might be able to come off IR to help with Robert Woods’ absence.
Everyone has forgotten about J.J. Watt after his second back surgery. I know the club wants to be cautious but he is eligible to come off IR after today. I expect Watt to be medically healthy now and lobbying to help his team to the playoffs. The Texans lead the AFC South and if they beat the Raiders tonight, they would be in position for a possible playoff bye.
Branden Albert missed this week after surgery on a dislocated wrist and could be back next week.
Rob Gronkowski was not allowed to fly to California this week with a pneumothorax, but I fully expect him to travel and play against the Jets next week.
Mo Claiborne having torn “some bone off the pelvis” sounds ominous but it simply is a groin avulsion, which usually heals without surgery. A 6-8 week timeline from injury puts him back at Week 14-16. Hope his follow up MRI confirms this expected healing.
Look for lots of late season roster moves.
MMMD 5: Harvard health study
A comprehensive report with medical recommendations for the NFL and NFLPA was released this week. I promised to analyze the top ten recommendations but there were just too many injury issues this week to find the space in this column.
I will agree with one finding. Stop using player health as a bargaining chip in the collective bargaining agreement. My full thoughts are to follow in the coming weeks.
MMMD 6: Injury rundown
Zach Miller has a broken left foot and needs surgery.
By video, Robert Woods has a MCL sprain and is on crutches. He is likely will miss several weeks.
Cody Kessler is out with his second concussion of this season. Don’t be surprised if an extended absence is coming.
Fortunately, Leonard Floyd seems to have escaped significant neck injury. He took a head down hit and was sent off on a spine board.
Seattle FS Earl Thomas and CB DeShawn Shead both have hamstring injuries.
Dee Ford has a hamstring issue as well. Justin Houston has returned from February ACL surgery to help the Chiefs linebackers.
Ryan Matthews is reported to have a MCL sprain and Darren Sproles has a rib injury.
Laremy Tunsil left with a shoulder injury and did not return for the second half.
Rams LB Josh Forrest by video has a major knee ligament tear, which is likely the ACL.
Matthew Slater was knocked out with a left foot injury and seen post-game in a walking boot.
By video, Halapoulivaati Vaitai suffered a MCL sprain. Hopefully he can return in a week or two with a brace.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
Even though Branden Albert finished last week’s game, he did have wrist surgery and missing this week but has a chance for next week. Tom Brady had no issues despite a scare. Rob Gronkowski was not allowed to travel with his pneumothorax. Jordan Howard avoided Achilles tear or other significant injury to play well. Kyle Long does have a high ankle injury requiring surgery. Kelvin Benjamin overcame mild AC sprain and returned in the same game.
Cody Kessler does have a concussion. The Leonard Floyd news is encouraging. Jake Ryan and T.J. Lang missed this week after being rolled up on last week. C.J. Prosise has a presumed scapula fracture. Eric Reid does have a left distal biceps tear. Nick Perry’s mild ankle sprain is OK and he returned to play.
This improves last week’s 117-6 (95.1%) scorecard to 130-6 (95.6%) through Week 11.
As the college football playoff teams sort themselves out, and having advanced past the halfway point of the NFL schedule what better time than now to start focusing our attention onto the 2017 NFL draft.
While the draft is not until April it is never too early to start scouting prospects who could turn out to be future NFL stars.
This week we preview the top-five defensive edge rushers who look to be available come the Spring of 2017.
1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Garrett tops my list of edge rushers as the Texas A&M junior possesses the height, length, and speed to present a consistent pass rush threat. While Garrett’s numbers are down in 2016, as he has been dealing with a lower leg injury for the better part of the season (missing two games and limited in many other), he can win off the edge with a quick first step and speed to turn the corner with a burst, and acceleration to close in quickly on the quarterback.
He has demonstrated that he can convert speed into power, and bull rush an offensive lineman back into the quarterback.
Garrett is a versatile defender who can be used as both a hand in the dirt defensive end or an outside linebacker asked to rush from a two-point stance while also dropping back into coverage.
Appearing to finally be shaking off the effects of his leg injuries Garrett put on a one-man show in the Aggies victory over UTSA this past weekend, as he registered 4 1/2 sacks to go along with eight tackles, a pass defended, and a forced fumble.
2. Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Unlike Myles Garrett and some of the other top rushers in the country Allen does not win his battles up front with shear athleticism or speed. Instead he uses sound technique, instincts and his strength to dominate at the line of scrimmage. He is a thicker-bodied defensive end who can hold his ground at the point-of-attack. He has strong hands and when he extends his arms and plants them into the offensive lineman’s chest he can knock them back, and get them retreating.
Allen displays natural instincts for a lineman as he can quickly locate the ball post snap. He is a versatile defender as he can play both outside as a defensive end or shift inside at tackle. In fact, as a pass rusher Allen is more effective inside as a defensive tackle as his quickness and strength allow him to eat up blockers (drawing double-teams) or split a center and guard combo block to knife through to the quarterback.
Jonathan Allen is a defensive force who has produced in a power five conference against some terrific athletes. His versatility, instincts, and overall competitiveness will make him a coach’s delight. In the NFL Allen, should project better as an interior defensive tackle in a four-man front, while also capable of physically playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Derek Barnett has been one of the Volunteers more disruptive defenders the moment he stepped foot onto the Tennessee campus. In his first season Barnett set a school record for the most tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10) by a true freshman.
Barnett’s strengths as a pass rusher center around his first step quickness, and the all-out hustle and determination in which he plays the game. As a hand in the dirt defensive end Barnett is one of the first players off at the snap of the ball quickly getting into the offensive lineman, using his active hands to keep them from getting a grasp on him. He displays the ability to bend around the corner, and get below the tackles pad level in route to the quarterback. He is competitive at the point-of-attack and does a good job of quickly locating the ball.
Similarly, to Jonathan Allen, Barnett is also very effective sliding inside and matching up against interior offensive lineman. Barnett used his quickness to attack a gap and overwhelm guards, able to sneak through, and helping collapse the pocket. As a tackle, he did a better job of converting speed to power and would usher offensive lineman straight back into the quarterback.
Barnett is a physical and efficient player who can affect the game in multiple ways with his scheme, and positional versatility.
4. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
As a former high school track athlete McKinley’s speed, and athleticism is one of the first traits you notice when scouting the Bruins senior edge rusher. What is also noticeable is the all-out hustle and effort the 6’2” 265-pound defender exhibits down in and down out.
McKinley possesses an active body with good overall thickness, and long arms. He shows good power off the snap, and uses his hands to fend off the arms of offensive lineman. He gains leverage on the tackles outside shoulder and will use a rip under move to clear by him and into the backfield. He also has the quickness to cross the lineman’s face, when he over sets, and beat him to the inside as well.
He is quick to locate the ball, and will flatten down the line of scrimmage in pursuit of the ball carrier from the back-side.
McKinley headed into this weekend’s action leading the PAC-12 conference in tackles for loss with 18, to go along with his 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.
McKinley projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, appearing to have the look, and feel of developing into a natural pass rusher.
5. Tim Williams, Alabama
While there may be some questions and concern about Williams character off the field there is no denying the talent on it when you see Williams help Alabama dominate opponents up front.
The senior outside linebacker, and former four-star prospect out of Louisiana, has a tremendous get-off at the line of scrimmage, and does a good job of using his hands to free himself from the blocker keeping his pad level low to get the outside leverage as he turns the corner. He can combat offensive lineman hands by ripping down or swiping them off his body.
He uses a hesitation head and shoulder fake move to get inside leverage on a backpedaling lineman to beat him to his inside shoulder. Williams can quickly cross a blockers face, split the gap, and penetrate the offensive backfield.
Williams athleticism and quickness allow him to quickly change directions and chase down fleeing quarterbacks outside the pocket.
Williams currently leads the Crimson Tide with eight sacks, and his 14 tackles for loss are second to only teammate Ryan Andersons (14.5) total.
With Williams speed, athleticism, and production (having produced against some of college football’s better athletes in the SEC conference) Williams has the potential to develop into a “superstar” at the next level.
Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56