“Don’t worry, it’s still early”
Those are the words of denial, and they’re often the most annoying words that have ever been part of a sentence related to fantasy football. There is no “early” when the playoffs start in Week 15, making the regular season only 14 games long. Some leagues even begin their post season in Week 14.
No, you don’t need to wear water wings every Sunday and dive into a kiddie pool at the first sign of trouble. That would be weird, unnecessary, and it’ll probably piss off your mother. She likes to keep the basement clean.
But on the other end of that extreme, poor performances early in the season or production that falls far below what was expected can’t simply be disregarded because of the calender. Which brings us to Matthew Stafford.
The Lions are 1-3, which has created its own unique brand of panic in Detroit, although fans there are quite familiar with such pain and will easily adapt to any losing environment. But what of Stafford? He was drafted as one of the elite, top tier quarterbacks (ADP of about 10th overall) following a season when he passed for over 5,000 yards. His passing yards this year are holding up, although he’s not on pace to duplicate last year’s upper echelon play (current pace is 4,728 yards). But his touchdowns are down significantly at the quarter pole, as is his passer rating.
Should you be worried? Sigmund Bloom doesn’t think so. I talked to Bloom, a senior writer at Football Guys and a host for The Audible, their excellent and thorough podcast, and I asked him about Stafford after touching on Ryan Mathews, Brandon Bolden and the Patriots’ backfield, and Ryan Tannehill’s keeper outlook.
1. We’re into bye weeks, and those in deep leagues may be forced to reach and fill holes. Who’s your favorite add right now? And who among the widely available players will have the best production going forward?
Brian Hartline is running sharp routes, plucking the ball out of the air, and most importantly, he and Ryan Tannehill are on the same page when Tannehill extends the play. I expect him to remain the No. 1 wide receiver for a surprisingly good rookie quarterback and retain WR3 value at worst all season.
2. Where does Ryan Tannehill’s value stand after his impressive performance this past Sunday? By the end of the season, is he an automatic keeper for his current keeper league owners?
Tannehill should be considered an upside backup fantasy quarterback to cover bye weeks or injuries. He was better against the Arizona defense than Tom Brady or Michael Vick, and it wasn’t because they had an off day. He hung in against pressure and made some downfield throws from sub-optimal platforms that few quarterbacks in the league could make. Whether to keep him depends on your league’s rules, but I would say he’s on track to be a speculative low-end QB1 in drafts next year.
3. What’s the best course of action for Ryan Mathews owners right now? His value has taken at least a slight hit after Jackie Battle was the Chargers’ Week 4 starter. Is selling now at the right price panicking too easily? And what is the right price?
Hold. Clearly they are playing head games with their most valuable and talented running back. New Orleans has given up Jamaal Charles’ massive bounce back game and Mathews has them this week. I would only sell for low RB1 value – a top 10-12 RB or a WR1/elite TE-QB.
4. What about the Patriots’ backfield? Should Steven Ridley owners be worried about a growing platoon following the emergence of Brandon Bolden?
Ridley looked terrific and his owners should not be worried. Clearly, when the Pats see a deficiency in the run defense of their opponent, Bolden will get a lot of work, but Ridley is still the primary back. He should be started as a flex or even an RB2 every week.
5. Through four games last year Matthew Stafford had 11 touchdown passes, and this year he’s stuck at three. His passer rating is also down significantly, and he’s behind the likes of Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick in fantasy points in most leagues. Are we seeing a regression?
I don’t think so. Stafford is just taking what the defenses are giving him, which isn’t Calvin Johnson deep. Titus Young has also been a non-factor in his second year. The Lions are moving towards a more balanced offense, but when Stafford has had to open up the passing game, he has looked good. He was terrible to open the season against the Rams, but finished that game strong. The 49ers are one of the toughest matchups in the league, and if you combine Stafford and Shaun Hill’s numbers from the Tennessee game, you can see the potential for the passing game. Detroit’s secondary is a major issue, so there will be plenty of high-scoring games to get Stafford’s fantasy stats back where they need to be.