Tomorrow’s Newspaper: Dexter McCluster and Week 4 Waiver Wire Prescience

by Ray Marzarella, September 25, 2016

It was all going so well.

We were witnessing tomorrow’s newspaper being written, and Josh McCown was well on his way to becoming a hot Week 3 waiver wire commodity.  Disaster struck, and now he’ll be out for the foreseeable future with a broken collarbone.  But let’s say, for a second, that he made it through the clash against the Ravens unscathed.  There’s a chance you already had him rostered if you play in a deeper league, and/or one that allows you to start multiple QBs.  There may even be the tiniest of chances that you read last week’s piece and stashed him at the end of your bench, just in case.  Regardless, you would’ve already won the race to acquire him off waivers in advance of Week 3.  You would’ve had a starting QB on a bad team aided by volume and pre-hand-injury Corey Coleman.  You would’ve put yourself ahead of the competition.

Most of the players in these pieces are not going to hit, and which ones you pick up are going to be dependent on your league settings and roster construction.  But if you can afford to stash the right player at the right time, which is before they have a chance to have a blow-up game, it will put you far ahead of your opponents.  And at this point in the season, with approximately 384,989 players set to be sidelined by injury for an extended period of time, these sorts of advantages will be game-changing.

I would call last week a moderately successful one in terms of picking out players who could be useful bench stashes, with the potential to become more.  Josh McCown (11.10-percent MFL ownership) powered his way through injury to put up 16.4 fantasy points.  If you already had him on your roster, he’s worth holding onto if he can return before the end of the fantasy season.

Lance Dunbar (8.94-percent) only played nine snaps, but he did touch the ball on five of them.  But he was more of a long-term stash anyway, as he’s still working his way back from a gruesome knee injury suffered last year.  One that nobody thought he’s be healthy enough to play through at this time.  So he’s still worth monitoring, especially if Ezekiel Elliot can’t correct his fumbling issues.

Eddie Royal (25.61-percent) recorded 9.2 fantasy points, 15.2 if you were rewarded for his 65-yard punt return score.  Either way, he’s been more productive and efficient than Kevin White, despite having a lower Snap Share and fewer targets.  He should still be stashed where possible.  And while a Philadelphia TE put up 15.9 fantasy points, it wasn’t Brent Celek (6.04-percent).  Like injured starter Zach Ertz, Trey Burton (8.29-percent) plays the more fantasy-viable role of move TE in the Eagles offense.  Celek did see an end-zone target and had two catches wiped out by holds, but Burton looks to be the higher upside fantasy stash while Ertz is out.  Don’t be surprised if Celek has a two-score game this week though, as his blocking prowess will see him on the field in the high-leverage fantasy point-scoring situations (like his end-zone target).

All listed players are owned in less than 50-percent of MFL redraft leagues.

Brian Hoyer, QB, Chicago Bears (6.68-percent owned)

This week’s waiver wire doesn’t offer much in the realm of sexy QB upside.  Sam Bradford (48.11-percent) had an efficient Vikings debut, and the combination of Adrian Peterson‘s injury and the ascendance of Stefon Diggs will make him a viable weekly starter moving forward.  But realistically, starters like Bradford and Carson Wentz (48.13-percent) are owned in all but the most shallow of leagues.  Had Corey Coleman not broken his hand in practice this week, I would’vc been telling you to stash Cody Kessler (5.89-percentsince he’s likely to be starting games for the Browns into November.  A Kirk Cousins replica, Kessler will likely be re-visited once Coleman returns from his injury.  In the meantime, QB-needy owners looking for a stopgap option for the next few weeks should consider adding Brian Hoyer.

 Brian Hoyer 2015 Efficiency Metrics

Brian Hoyer 2015 Efficiency Metrics

Brian Hoyer displayed passable efficiency in 11 starts with the Houston Texans in 2015.  In most weeks, he was both efficient and productive in the face of whatever volume he received.  This was especially so before he suffered concussions in both Week 10 and Week 14.  For as long as Jay Cutler remains sidelined with his thumb injury, Hoyer will have more weekly utility than most fantasy gamers realize.  The Chicago defense was ravaged by the injury bug in Week 2, which will ensure the team will have to play from behind a lot going forward.  The combination of bad defense and high projected passing volume is the reason we recommended stashing Josh McCown last week.  On top of that, Hoyer will have weapons like Alshon Jeffery, efficient veteran Eddie Royal and Late Round TE Roulette candidate Zach Miller.  For the ballsy, he’s a dart-throw streaming option this week against Dallas.

Dexter McCluster, RB, San Diego Chargers (16.23-percent owned)

[DexterMcCluster]-Runninb Back-San Diego Chargers

Dexter McCluster Advanced Metrics Profile

We hear a lot of player-coach narratives when it comes to fantasy football analysis.  Most of them can be written off as noise.  But I do think it makes sense in the context of the recently signed Dexter McCluster having played under Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt while they were both in Tennessee.  While Melvin Gordon will see the biggest uptick in usage following the Danny Woodhead injury (rest in peace while still being very much alive, Danny), McCluster’s experience playing under Whisenhunt will ensure that he begins to see action sooner than some may expect.

 Dexter McCluster 2015 Advanced Efficiency Metrics

Dexter McCluster 2015 Advanced Efficiency Metrics

Dexter McCluster is another player who displayed good efficiency last season, albeit for a different team.  Given the unfortunate rash of injuries in San Diego, he needed to be signed as insurance.  Melvin Gordon fits the mold of an effective three-down workhorse, but McCluster’s 98th-percentile College Target Share will ensure that he at least contributes in the passing game.  He won’t replace all of Danny Woodhead‘s lost production, but he’ll still have usable fantasy weeks having never seen fewer than 36 targets in a season.  Rookie Kenneth Farrow (5.47-percent owned) is also worth a look, as he has a chance to be the direct backup to Gordon in the run game.  Farrow is the long-term upside play, but McCluster is the guy you want to stash for more potentially immediate production.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings (3.69-percent owned)

Given the success Stefon Diggs has had with Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford throwing him the ball this season, it’s fair to wonder what could’ve been for Charles Johnson had Teddy Bridgewater not gone down in the preseason.  Johnson, the NFL’s most snakebitten receiver, has performed poorly to begin the year.  And in Week 2, Adam Thielen recorded a higher Snap Share and more targets than Johnson.  With Jarius Wright being a healthy scratch for the season’s first two weeks, it’s also fair to wonder whether Thielen has jumped him on the depth chart for good.  There’s also a chance that Thielen’s development has played a part in keeping first-round pick Laquon Treadwell off the field.

[AdamThielen]- Wide Receiver-Minnesota Vikings

Adam Thielen Advanced Metrics Profile

Before Adrian Peterson‘s injury, it wouldn’t have made sense to stash the player who has been Minnesota’s number two wide receiver to this point.  Now that the nature of the offensive gameplan has become more ambiguous, there’s more appeal to stashing a player like Adam Thielen.  A below-average athlete with average-to-below-average workout metrics, part of what makes Thielen an intriguing stash is his College Dominator Rating of 45.9-percent (90th-percentile).  He’s also playing with a QB in Sam Bradford who displayed tremendous efficiency in his Vikings debut, despite only being on the team for two weeks to that point.  If Bradford can keep up the efficiency, and if the Vikings ramp up their passing volume, Thielen becomes a great plug-and-play bye week dart throw.

Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts (29.93-percent owned)

In the 2014 season, the stellar play of Andrew Luck helped two of his TEs finish in the top 12 in Fantasy Points per Game.  Coby Fleener finished with the higher Snap Share, but Dwayne Allen finished with a top-four Production Premium and the same number of TDs (8) despite having just over half as many targets, catches and receiving yards.  If Luck can continue to stay healthy, there’s a chance we could see the same scenario unfold in 2016 with Allen and Jack Doyle.  Fittingly enough, Doyle was also on the team in 2014 and recorded two TDs of his own.

 Dwayne Allen 2016 Advanced Efficiency Metrics

Dwayne Allen 2016 Advanced Efficiency Metrics

 Jack Doyle 2016 Advanced Efficiency Metrics

Jack Doyle 2016 Advanced Efficiency Metrics

Even before Donte Moncrief fractured his scapula, both Jack Doyle and Dwayne Allen were in the top 25 at the TE position in Snap Share.  That number is set to rise with Moncrief expected to be out 4-6 weeks, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return after the team’s Week 10 bye.  Both Doyle and Allen have displayed tremendous efficiency in the face of the Colts leading the NFL in pass plays per game (47).  Doyle’s 13th-ranked Hog Rate (targets per snap ratio) of 10.6-percent is promising because it shows us that the team is utilizing him when he’s on the field.  Sure both of his TDs in Week 1 came after Allen was knocked out of the game, after scoring a TD of his own.  But he’s proven to be a big part of this offense in the season’s early going, seeing his Snap Share and Target Share increase from Week 1.  It also helps that he’s tethered to a QB like Andrew Luck in a pass-first offense.  Owners who need help navigating what’s been an absolute mess of a TE position to this point in the fantasy season should stash Doyle.  Though it won’t be easy to know which weeks to start him, the chances of him turning in a 2014-Allen-esque fantasy finish are actually pretty good.