Choo Choo: All Aboard the JuJu Train

Here are some of Fantasy Expert Ricky Sanders’ DFS-relevant observations from Week 7 of the 2017 NFL season:

Matt Ryan, Falcons – The Falcons offense has depreciated since last season. In 2016, the team was firing on all cylinders, but Matt Ryan was held to 233 passing yards and one passing touchdown (TD) on Sunday Night Football against the worst defense in football. Seriously, the Patriots have allowed the most yards per game (440.7), passing yards per game (324.8) and the third most points per game (26.5) thus far. This performance marked the fifth time in six games that Ryan threw exactly one TD. To put it differently, Ryan has only produced (thrown) multiple TDs twice in a game once this year. Considering the team still possesses one of the top five receivers in the game (Julio Jones), there is no excuse for this ineffectiveness. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), all three players on the left side of the team’s offensive line have graded inside the top 30 at their position, so the struggles are squarely on Ryan. He is no longer automatically worthy of consideration in DFS especially because the team relies so heavily on their two-headed rushing attack. Moving forward, Ryan is nothing more than matchup play, and probably will continue to be too expensive to roster in cash games.

Derrick Henry, Titans – All week long, beat writers seemed to suggest DeMarco Murray was dealing with a substantial hamstring injury. Hell, on Friday, titansonline.com reported Murray was set for a game-time call and quoted the Titans’ running back (RB) as saying that his injury was “very frustrating.” Still, even playing through this “annoying” injury, Murray out-touched backup Derrick Henry 21-15 including both more carries (18-13) and more receptions (3-2). In fact, he out-snapped him 43-30 as well. Unless Murray is ruled out, he is the lead dog in a committee backfield until further notice with Henry just serving as a change-of-pace back. Those who rostered Henry this week envisioned a scenario where Murray would be slowed down and therefore utilized less than usual. However, this is the NFL, and players constantly play through injuries. Whenever Murray is active, Henry showed he is nothing more than a guy who could possess some value in mop up duty if the team is winning or losing by a large margin towards the end of the game. To be fair, this matchup against the Browns was amongst the most difficult as they had allowed the fewest yards per carry heading into Week 7 (tied with the Broncos). With the Titans having a bye next week, Henry is officially off the fantasy radar because Murray will have time to get healthy. In Week 6, Henry rushed for a long TD, and miracle runs such as those or the occasional goal line carry are his only path to relevance on normal weeks. If Murray were to ever go down, though, Henry would emerge as a borderline RB1. Until that point, fade him and do not think twice.

Latavius Murray, Vikings – So apparently this is not Jerick McKinnon’s backfield? After dominating the workload over the course of the last two weeks, McKinnon took a back seat to Latavius Murray on Sunday (at least in terms of touches). McKinnon played four more snaps (35) than Murray (31) but Murray carried the ball 18 times for 113 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and a TD (compared to McKinnon’s 14 carries for 47 yards). Although McKinnon was the only member of the backfield to be targeted, this likely was the team’s plan all along following the Dalvin Cook injury. McKinnon had been given multiple opportunities previously in his career and has not impressed. In two weeks as the starter in 2017, he has looked awfully good, but the strengths are his speed and pass-catching ability. When it comes to pounding the football, well, Murray is the better fit. The two complement each other well, so now that Murray has shown he is healthy, this is a committee in the truest sense. Both are nothing more than FLEX options and should only be considered in the correct matchup. Next week, when the team faces the best rushing defense in football (Browns), neither of them are worthy of rostering.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers – Martavis Bryant seriously wants out of Pittsburgh. Earlier in the week, his girlfriend went on Instagram and eluded to the fact he wanted out but both he and the team denied the gesture was even remotely consequential. However, following a game where Bryant touched the ball just twice, he commented on instagram, “Juju is no where near better than me fool all they need to do is give me what I want and ya’ll can have juju and who ever else.” A source later confirmed Bryant wants out after JuJu Smith-Schuster once again outproduced him: two receptions (RECs) on three targets for 39 yards and a TD. Inevitably, the team is going to be forced to cut bait with Bryant in the very near future one way or another which means Smith-Schuster is emerging as a legitimate fantasy WR3. Depending on matchup, Smith-Schuster’s upside will stretch into WR2 territory because the Steelers have attempted the 10th most passes per game. Looking ahead, the Steelers will play the Lions, Colts, Titans, Packers and Bengals in their next five games. Two weeks after that stretch, the team will face the lowly Patriots as well. In other words, the schedule could not be more favorable so do not sleep on Smith-Schuster any longer.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers – Prior to Week 7, Cameron Brate was clearly the team’s top receiving tight end (TE) and he had been targeted the fourth most of any player on the team, behind only Mike Evans (48), DeSean Jackson (35) and Adam Humphries (32). Nevertheless, Jameis Winston connected with O.J. Howard on all six of his targets this week for a whopping 98 yards and two scores. Sure, he was wide open on both plays due to play design, and Brate still caught 6-9 targets for 59 yards, but it is mildly concerning he was overshadowed by the first-round rookie. When Winston is healthy, the offense can sustain multiple pass-catchers, especially if the tight ends (TEs) are reasonably priced, but it cannot sustain a WR1, WR2 and two TE1s. Something has got to give in coming weeks and Howard played a season-high 69-percent of the snaps in Week 7. Brate is not dead by any means but a great TE matchup could potentially lead to Howard going off in future weeks rather than Brate. Downgrade him from a mid-tier TE1 to a low-end TE1 and approach him with caution in the near future. He still received a pair of red zone looks this week so the potential for a TD looms but his value unquestionably took a bit of hit in this contest.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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