Caplan's Week 8 Insider Fantasy Notebook


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Caplan's Week 8 Insider Fantasy Notebook

Off the Injury Report For Week 8

Note: The following players are off the injury report (not listed with an injury at all this week).

Also, teams do not remove players during the week from the injury report anymore (with rare exception). When they’re listed with an injury but no injury designation on the day of their last practice (Friday for a Sunday game for example), that means they’re considered probable to play.

After an adjustment in the injury reporting rules from years ago, if a team wants to remove a player from the injury report, they do it to start the week.

Tom Brady/QB/Buccaneers (right thumb): He gave some fantasy GMs angst when his throwing thumb showed up on the injury report on a short week for their game against the Eagles. He played the last two games on the injury report with it, but is off it in Week 8.

Dalvin Cook/RB/Vikings (ankle): When Cook suffered his mid-ankle injury in Week 2 against the host Cardinals, he took an awkward fall on his ankle, which caused him to miss some time (two games) with what would turn out to be a lingering issue. He was listed each week with the injury (weeks 3-6) until this week. So, their Week 7 bye obviously has done him well.

Melvin Gordon/RB/Broncos (ribs): The veteran runner was listed with a hip injury the past two weeks, but is off the injury report entirely for the first time since Week 3.

A.J. Brown/WR/Titans (illness): As a Titans source said to me earlier this week about Brown: “You have no idea what he has been though.” I do know most of it, however: off-season surgery on both knees, which caused him to miss time earlier this season. A lingering hamstring issue, possible food poisoning leading up to the Chiefs game and other minor issues.

For the first time all season, Brown is not listed on the injury report with an injury (he was listed with missing time this week due to rest).

Darnell Mooney/WR/Bears (groin): He finally is off the injury report with this injury for the first time since Week 2.

What’s impressive with him is that he has not missed a day of practice since he suffered the injury over 5 weeks ago. The team had given him reduced reps every day in order to get him to game day, which we’re seeing a lot around the NFL with soft tissue injuries.

Darius Slayton/WR/Giants (hamstring): The 3rd-year pro was listed on the injury report four straight weeks and missed two games in a row.However, he finally is off the injury report with his injury for the first time since Week 3.

What to do With Struggling Players?

This subject has been on my mind as well as fantasy GMs for at least a few weeks, so it’s time to address each situation. We’ll also address even more player issues in the next column.

Running Back

Antonio Gibson/WFT: Much like Jonathan Taylor for most of the first half of last year, Gibson has come up short of expectation.

But there are some very legitimate reasons why his production is not as high as it could and should be. We were expecting veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to be starting a bunch of games, but unfortunately, he got hurt in the first game and may not play until December if he does at all again this season. Fitzpatrick has always been willing to check the ball down whereas Taylor Heinicke is looking to make the big play and often passes up chances to check it down to Gibson when he’s in the game.

Other issues: Gibson is playing with a shin fracture, which keeps him at well less than 100%. Let’s give him credit for playing through this injury, but he’s not at his best these days, but we do still see a burst from him occasionally on carries.

Another huge factor is the fact that their defense has been really bad. We were expecting them to have leads in the 2nd half of games, but that’s not happening because their defense can’t keep the team in it. Gibson, despite his injury, still is not sharing carries, which is great, but he can’t pile up carries unless the team can get a lead and that’s not happening.

The one negative that he controls: 4 fumbles (lost 2). And one of them would have probably been a TD. Gibson is still worth starting, but you’ll have to have realistic expectations for the rest of the way. Too much going on around him that’s negative he has no control over and some of those issues might not improve much.

Sony Michel/LAR: At the time of the trade from the Patriots, we certainly expected Michel to have a prominent role based on the fact that the Rams gave up two draft picks to acquire him.

What is also surprising is that the team, even with a big lead, won’t give Michel an extended look. And considering Darrell Henderson’s injury history and size, it’s hard to believe that Michel won’t get more work as the season progresses. However, until that happens, I’m only using Michel as a bye week or injury replacement. Logically, his role should grow going forward, but until then, he’s on my bench.

Wide Receivers

Robby Anderson/Panthers: His situation might be the most puzzling of any player this season.

When I spent two days with the team in training camp, I could tell they were on the verge of signing him to a contract extension, so it wasn’t as though the team wasn’t high on him and he was coming off a big season last year. This time around, Anderson’s numbers have regressed significantly in targets per game (8.5-2020, 7-2021), catch rate % (69.9-2020, 36.7-2021). QB Sam Darnold’s accuracy issues certainly have been a mitigating factor, but it still doesn’t completely answer the 7th-year pro’s paltry production through 7 games. Until he puts up consistently good numbers, I certainly won’t be using him and I couldn’t blame anyone for cutting him.

Allen Robinson/Bears: As is the case with Mooney, Robinson’s production has been curtailed by QB and OL issues. And it doesn’t help that he hasn’t had much practice time with rookie Justin Fields.

I traded Robinson, one of my favorite players, a few weeks ago as I just don’t see much light at the end of the tunnel here. The Bears offensive line isn’t likely to get much better (they have injury and COVID-19 issues currently as well) as it’s not very talented. Hopefully the talent issue is solved next year but until then, it’s hard to see Robinson turning his season around based on all of the issues that are surrounding him.

Stefon Diggs/Bills: His situation isn’t hard to figure out. The Bills added veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders to play opposite Diggs and 3rd-year TE Dawson Knox finally had become a factor (before he suffered his broken hand). So, it’s not a surprise that Diggs is down in pass targets per game (10.275-2020, 9.9-2021) and yardage per game (96-2020, 77.2-2021).

Calvin Ridley/Falcons: His reduction in production certainly is surprising considering how well he played last year. The fourth-year pro had 8 100+ yard games and scored in 7 out of the 15 games he played last year. And he only had one game where he had less than 5 receptions and he got hurt in that game. So, there was no reason to think he wouldn’t have another outstanding year.

It should be noted that Ridley missed a game this season due to a personal issue and they also have had their bye. Other limiting factors? The new offense under HC Arthur Smith doesn’t rely largely on one pass catcher, rookie TE Kyle Pitts has become a big factor of late, and RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson’s inclusion in the passing game. Who saw Patterson’s high production coming like we’ve seen so far?

Even with these points, Ridley is still capable of putting up bigger numbers going forward. And one positive point: He’s actually up in pass targets per game (9.5-2020, 10.4-2021) while the catch rate % is down a little over last year. Hopefully that will turn around the rest of the way.

Darnell Mooney/Bears: Once again, the 2nd-year pass catcher is dealing with significant OL and QB issues that are limiting his production. The Bears thought there were at least 30 times last year that he should have gotten the football last year, but didn’t due to various issues (QB inaccuracy or OL protection).

If you’re in a re-draft league, you can use him occasionally as your #3 WR, but his best value is for future years in a keeper or dynasty league. And once Justin Fields and Mooney get a full off-season together, the two will be able to form much better timing and chemistry. While we’re looking at a high-level talent here with Mooney, his issues with production are not going to go away until their GM addresses the OL protection issue for the QB.

Elijah Moore/Jets: While the rookie missed time in training camp due to injury, he was very good on the field when available and he also put together an impressive off-season. What impressed their coaches is his ability to play inside and outside. We know some teams thought Moore would be best playing inside (he played a majority of snaps inside in college), but the Jets thought he could do both.

What has happened with him is he's playing with a rookie QB who clearly is not ready to play high level football and that’s costing Moore and the rest of their pass targets production. And when he’s playing outside, he isn’t winning consistently yet. That will come as he gets stronger physically. And let’s not forget he’s competing for slot playing time with Jamison Crowder and Braxton Barrios. The good thing for dynasty and keeper league owners is that Crowder and Barrios are in the final year of their contracts.

Bryan Edwards/Raiders: His rookie year was marred by injury and he also came into their off-season program coming off surgery, so he really had no realistic chance at production. However, this time around Edwards put together an impressive offseason and training camp, so the coaches felt he was ready to take off. Save a nice play here and there, the 2nd-year pass catcher hasn’t quite put up the numbers that they or we were expecting through seven games. He hasn’t had over 4 receptions in any game and just scored his first TD last week (he did have one called back on a great route against the host Steelers earlier in the season).

Just from checking into the situation, Edwards doesn’t have QB Derek Carr’s trust quite yet as Carr has with TE Darren Waller or WR Hunter Renfrow. That will come—it’s just a matter of when. Until then, I’ve got Edwards at the end of my bench in re-draft leagues, but I still want him on my roster in keeper or dynasty leagues. He’s way too talented to give up on.