Philadelphia Eagles

Fantasy football: Be cautious with this week's top waiver pickups

usa-kerwynn-williams-ravens-defense.jpg
USA Today Images

Fantasy football: Be cautious with this week's top waiver pickups

The person who has the top waiver priority in your fantasy football league will likely be using it this week on Kerwynn Williams.

Let them.

Williams is the hot name on the waiver wire after the long-term injury to Cardinals running back David Johnson. Johnson is expected to miss 3 to 4 months, opening up tons of carries in Arizona's backfield.

But there is literally no comparison between Johnson and Williams. Johnson is an elite running back with vision, patience, speed, amazing hands and a knack for converting at the goal line. It's not like Williams is going to come in and be this 150-total-yards-per-game player. He might not even get the bulk of carries.

Keep in mind that Andre Ellington is still in that Cardinals backfield, and he actually outsnapped Williams in Week 1. The Cards have also brought back veteran RB Chris Johnson, who has experience in that offense.

In terms of running backs, I'd go for Chris Thompson or Shane Vereen well before I'd go for a Cardinals back, especially in PPR leagues. Thompson and Vereen are both available in 83 percent of Yahoo leagues. 

Thompson had four catches for 52 yards and a TD in the opener and has a consistent role in Washington's offense.

Vereen didn't have a carry for the Giants but caught 9 passes for 52 yards. In a Giants offense with a skittish Eli Manning, there could be plenty of similar games in his future.

Here's a quick overview of the popular waiver wire players this week and whether you should go all-in on one of them.

Ravens D/ST
To me, the top pickup of the week is not a skill player, it's the Ravens' defense. Somehow, Baltimore's defense is available in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. 

After pitching a shutout of the Bengals in Week 1, the Ravens get the Browns at home in Week 2. 

Home-field advantage might not mean a ton in today's NFL, but it has meant a lot for the Ravens' defense in recent years. Last season, Baltimore allowed an average of 14.8 points at home. (That includes the 26 points the Eagles hung on them in Week 15.)

The last time the Ravens hosted the Browns, they won 28-7, forced three turnovers and had four sacks. That translates to right around 15 fantasy points.

But it's not just the Ravens' Week 2 matchup that makes them, in my mind, the most impactful pickup this week. In Week 3, they face the turnover-prone Jaguars, who just lost their top wide receiver, Allen Robinson, to an ACL tear. 

Looking ahead, there might not be a single better defense to have in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 15, semifinal week, the Ravens play the Browns again. In Week 16, they get the Colts, who at that point might have shut Andrew Luck down for the season given how much of a trainwreck they could be by midseason.

Look, if you have massive holes on your roster, maybe a skill player makes more sense for you this week. But if your choices are picking up Cooper Kupp or Williams just to keep them on the bench, why not pick up a starter? The Ravens' defense is a starter in fantasyland.

WR Cooper Kupp (Rams)
There's a lot to like about Kupp, especially in PPR leagues. He caught 4 of 5 targets for 76 yards and a TD in his NFL debut after a preseason full of hype.

But be cautious with guys like this. If you have a Pierre Garcon, a Golden Tate, a Randall Cobb, even a Cole Beasley ... are you really going to confidently start Kupp ahead of them most weeks? If the answer is no, then he's not worth $30 out of your $100 free-agent purse. 

Kupp is definitely a player worth picking up in leagues that start three wide receivers in addition to a flex. But if you're in a 2-WR league, it's just hard to imagine there being too many weeks where he's a clearly better option than what you have on the bench or what is readily available in free agency.

RB Tarik Cohen (Bears)
Cohen turned heads in Week 1 with 113 total yards, eight receptions and a receiving TD. His exciting game will make him an exciting pickup for some owners this week.

Just keep in mind that despite his impressive debut, Cohen received just 42 percent of the Bears' snaps. Jordan Howard was on the field for 57 percent. Howard has not been supplanted.

The more important point, though, is that the Bears' next six games are against good to very good teams — at Bucs, vs. Steelers, at Packers, vs. Vikings, at Ravens, vs. Panthers. They figure to face larger deficits in those games than they did in the Week 1 nailbiter with Atlanta, and unless Cohen becomes a Mark Ingram-like checkdown machine, his presence might not be as important the next month and a half.

Cohen isn't going to be targeted 12 times in the passing game every week. He's obviously worth a pickup if you have Howard or even if you have an extra bench spot, but don't automatically throw him into the lineup this week.

RB Buck Allen (Ravens)
I'd prioritize Allen over both Williams and Cohen. Danny Woodhead is expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks with his hamstring injury, and Terrance West is barely ever on the field on third downs, meaning Allen will have a consistent role in an offense that utilizes short passes. Allen also carried the ball 21 times in Week 1.

Allen was an intriguing running back two years ago when Justin Forsett went down for Baltimore, and he is again just that with Woodhead hurt and Kenneth Dixon not currently in the picture.

WR Nelson Agholor (Eagles)
Same points with Agholor as with Kupp. My big thing with fantasy pickups is: Will you ever confidently start this player? Remember Kevin Ogletree several years ago after his explosive Week 1?

To me, Agholor is not even worth wasting your spot in the waiver order. Not unless he does this two or three weeks in a row.

WR Kenny Golladay (Lions)
This is a wide receiver worth using an early claim on. Golladay was a preseason darling who turned in two TDs in Week 1 and appears to already have a rapport with Matthew Stafford. 

Golladay was the clear No. 3 wide receiver for Detroit in terms of snaps, behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. But at the very least, he's shown he can be an impact player even if he's third in the pecking order. He could be this year's Jamison Crowder.

Under the radar options
Here are some guys that you might not even need to use a waiver claim on. Just wait for waivers to pass and you could probably have one of them for free, without losing free-agent bucks or your spot in the waiver order:

• Jets WR Jermaine Kearse: 9 targets, 7 catches, 59 yards in his first game with a Jets team that badly needs someone to throw the ball to.

• Seahawks WR Paul Richardson: Clearly ahead of Tyler Lockett in Week 1, Richardson caught 4 passes for 59 yards and played 41 of 49 offensive snaps, just two fewer than Doug Baldwin.

Fantasy football: Tight end replacements, pass-catching RBs, sleeper WRs

ap-zach-miller-shane-vereen.jpg
USA Today Images

Fantasy football: Tight end replacements, pass-catching RBs, sleeper WRs

I'm assuming you need a tight end.

Injuries to Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed have turned a thin position into a fantasy wasteland two weeks into the season. Olsen is out at least eight weeks, Eifert appears to be out this week and has been brutal the last two, and Gronk and Reed will likely be game-time decisions Sunday.

The somewhat good news if you're in the market for a tight end, though, is that there should be several quality options available on waivers.

Here's a look at the top tight ends (and more importantly, top TE matchups) of Week 3, as well as suggestions at other positions:

Bears TE Zach Miller (vs. Steelers)
The Steelers have allowed just 27 points through two games thanks to a pair of favorable matchups against the hapless Browns and a Case Keenum-led Vikings team in Week 2.

Still, through two weeks they've allowed 10 catches and 107 yards to tight ends. If you average that out to 5-for-50, you're looking at a double-digit fantasy performance in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, 50 yards would still be more than Eifert brought you in two weeks.

I like Miller for five or six catches this Sunday. He's been targeted 15 times by Mike Glennon through two games. Only Jason Witten and Zach Ertz have seen more targets.

Miller isn't going to win you a week or go for 25 points but he's a steady short-term plug-and-play this week. If it's a PPR league, he'd be my No. 1 target if you're looking for safety over a boom-bust performance.

Ravens TE Ben Watson (vs. Jaguars in London)
The only reason I can't put Watson ahead of Miller is because the Ravens' tight end picture is a bit more crowded.

Whereas Miller has run 35 more pass routes than the Bears' second-string tight end, the pie in Baltimore has been split more evenly.

Watson has run 33 pass routes while Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams have combined to run 34, according to Pro Football Focus.

Watson is by far the most accomplished receiver of those three and he was a prime target of Joe Flacco's this past Sunday, catching all eight targets for 91 yards. 

Watson also has a great matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed 151 yards (fourth-most) and a TD to tight ends so far.

Watson has more touchdown potential this Sunday than Miller, so if you're in a standard or even half-PPR league, I'd give Watson the slight edge on Miller. In PPR, it's just hard to pass up Miller's 8-to-10-point floor.

Other TEs:
Jack Doyle is probably owned in your league, but if not, he's a better season-long option than both Miller and Watson. He caught 8 of 8 targets for 79 yards in Week 2 from Jacoby Brissett, who starts again this Sunday vs. Cleveland.

• Folks will be intrigued by Evan Engram's 4-49-TD line on Monday Night Football but I'd avoid starting him this week against the Eagles, who are usually very good against opposing tight ends. Travis Kelce was an exception last week but he's one of the top three tight ends in the NFL.

• Keep an eye on the Jordan Reed situation. If he sits, Vernon Davis is a decent option. Last season, Davis had 13 catches for 176 yards and 3 TDs in the first three games Reed missed, having a quiet game in only the last one on Christmas Eve.

• It would be bold to start Antonio Gates against the Chiefs' stingy defense, but Gates always has top-five touchdown likelihood at his position because of his rapport with Philip Rivers. The problem is he also has more 1-catch likelihood than most tight ends.

Running backs
Chris Thompson is available in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues. Whether or not Rob Kelley plays Sunday, Thompson is worth grabbing. If it's a PPR league, he has no business sitting on the waiver wire. He won't scoop up between-the-tackles carries if Kelley misses the game but he's always a factor in the passing game.

• I also like Shane Vereen (22 percent owned) this week against the Eagles. The Giants have a porous offensive line and the Eagles' strength is their pass rush, which should result in plenty of quick passes from Eli Manning.

Wide receivers
• I'd advise picking up Allen Hurns but not starting him Sunday against the Ravens unless you absolutely need to. The Jaguars are always going to be playing garbage time minutes and that's where Hurns shines. He had six receptions for 82 yards and a TD in Week 2 with almost all of that coming in the fourth quarter of a lopsided loss. Hurns is available in 73 percent of leagues.

• I trumpeted Jermaine Kearse in this space last week as a cheap waiver option nobody will use a claim on, and he picked up two TDs Sunday. The Jets, like the Jags, will always be playing from behind. Josh McCown-to-Jermaine Kearse is one of those average QB-average WR pairings that can produce points out of sheer necessity and volume.

• The Packers' Geronimo Allison is a sleeper option this week, if and only if Green Bay is down a receiver or two. Jordy Nelson' prognosis is 50-50 for Sunday, whereas Randall Cobb is expected to play. If both miss, Allison is an intriguing option who could get six-plus targets from a top QB. If Nelson misses, Allison is worth starting only if your next-best option is like Cole Beasley.

Defenses
• The Dolphins are the best defense to stream in Week 3 because the Jets are the Jets.

• The Bucs' defense (26 percent owned) is worth starting in Minnesota if Sam Bradford misses another game.

Eagles Film Review: Exploring the good and bad of run game vs. Chiefs

Eagles Film Review: Exploring the good and bad of run game vs. Chiefs

LeGarrette Blount didn't get a single carry and the Eagles had just 13 designed runs to 56 called passes in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. 

So much for balance. 

After the game, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles needed to fix their running game and repeated himself on Monday. 

"We've got to focus on the run game and we've got to get the run game fixed," he said. 

But as CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank pointed out in his column that same day, there wasn't really anything wrong with the run game other than the fact that the Eagles didn't run the ball (see story)

Darren Sproles had a good game, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. And while two of Wendell Smallwood's runs went for negative yards, he did have a nice eight-yarder in the second half. 

Is there still work to be done in the run game? Absolutely. 

But when asked about the team's rushing attack on Tuesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich took a much different stance than Pederson. 

"There was some good things in the run game," Reich said. "We had a few nice runs. Darren's Darren. I mean, Darren made some plays and the offensive line did a good job at times. So, yeah, there were some good flashes."

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two days, you're probably already sick of the word "balance." Should Pederson have run the ball more? Should Blount have gotten at least a few carries? Will Pederson ever actually commit to the run? You're probably sick of it. 

So we're not going to keep rehashing it. Instead, we'll look at a few run plays from Sunday — good and bad — to get a sense of where the run game is ... you know, when the Eagles actually do run the ball. 

If you wanted some proof that the Eagles at least put some thought into their run game heading into Kansas City, it came pretty early. Check out how the Eagles were lined up on their second offensive play from scrimmage. 

You'll notice that Jason Peters and Lane Johnson are both lined up to the left side of the line of scrimmage. Here was the line from right to left: Zach Ertz, Brandon Brooks, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Johnson, Peters. Carson Wentz is in the shotgun, with Sproles to his right. 

"It was just a little change-up that you throw in there," Reich said. "Typically, you have a couple play packages off there. It was something we saw that we thought we could specifically use to attack their defensive front and their scheme."

Here you'll see each of the offensive linemen's assignments as Sproles is ready to take the handoff and run behind the powerful left side. While the difference in this formation was at left tackle, Kelce is the key. He'll need to get in front on the linebacker. 

The hole is starting to open up and Sproles sees it. Still, if Kelce can't hold his block (circled), it won't matter. 

Not only does Kelce hold his block, but he finishes it too. He ends up driving his man completely out of the play and throws him to the ground. Sproles goes off for a 12-yard gain on 1st-and-10. It was the biggest gain of a designed run on the day. 

Give credit to Pederson for running this next one. Just three plays after that first run, the Eagles are faced with a 2nd-and-13 and Pederson dials up a run to Sproles that picks up six yards and puts them in a manageable third down (that they'll convert). 

Nothing fancy. Peters does a good job in front of holding down his man for just long enough for Sproles to get to the corner and pick up a nice gain. Also, give Kelce credit for getting out and blocking safety Daniel Sorensen. We all seem to notice when Kelce gets blown up at the line of scrimmage, but getting out front on these types of blocks is what he does best. 

The Eagles' next drive is where they start to find some trouble in the run game. Two of their three runs on their second drive of the game went for negative yards and Pederson called just seven run plays after this drive. Perhaps the failure on this sequence drove him away from the ground game for the rest of the afternoon. 

This is a rare time the Eagles actually run the ball from under center. It doesn't work. 

At the handoff point, this play seems doomed. The left A gap is clogged by veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson but it's supposed to be a counter play. Lane Johnson (circled) is left blocking no one, while Brent Celek ends up with two guys. 

Celek takes out the linebacker, but that leaves Allen Bailey all alone with Smallwood, who doesn't have enough time or space to get around him. Meanwhile, Johnson is still blocking air, which very well could have been a miscommunication or a missed assignment. Either way, something didn't go right on this one. 

A few plays later, the Eagles are facing a 2nd-and-15. Like they did earlier in the game, the Eagles are going to use the run to try and set up a more manageable third down. This time, it doesn't work. 

It's a somewhat similar play to the one that picked up six on 2nd-and-long in the first quarter, but this time the Eagles use the bigger side of the field instead of going short field to the right. 

The problem here is that Peters has trouble holding his block on Pro Bowler Justin Houston, who is an underrated run-stuffer because of his pass-rush ability. If Peters is able to keep Houston outside, Seumalo is nailing his assignment and Sproles has a huge hole inside.  

Sproles realizes that Peters has been beaten but it's too late. He tries to bounce it outside but is dropped for a three-yard loss. Peters looked pretty frustrated after this play. 

Instead of setting up a manageable third down, the Eagles end up with a 3rd-and-18. They can't convert. 

After that second-quarter series when the Eagles had two negative plays, they didn't run the ball much, but they didn't completely abandon it either. This play came with 5:41 left in the third. 

Seumalo pulls on the play and does a nice job to get just enough of his man to create a hole (circled). And Trey Burton is fast to the hole, acting almost like a lead blocker. 

From there, Smallwood shows his burst to gain eight yards. Sproles carried the ball on the next play for a gain of three to pick up a first down. It was the only time all game the Eagles ran the ball back-to-back times.

So, no. The Eagles' run game wasn't great on Sunday against the Chiefs. There are still a lot of things to fix. 

But it wasn't that bad either. So while Pederson kept talking about fixing the run game, Reich had it right; there is plenty good about the run game right now. The Eagles just have to stick with it. Even though, if we're being honest, they probably won't.