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Not In Kansas Anymore... Players Struggling in New Spots 

If you’ve ever been the new kid in town, in school, or on a team, you know that it can be tough. You’re put on the spot whether you like it or not, and everybody is looking to see what you can do. Sometimes you shine and make a great first impression. That’s been the case for guys like Mark Ingram, LeSean McCoy, John Brown, and Darren Waller.

However, for some people, the pressure of being new can be too much, and they never quite fit in with their new surroundings. There are a few players who have started slowly in their new locations and have both fans and fantasy owners beginning to grumbling. Are they worth the hype? Do we even need this guy here?

Before you break out the pitchforks and run the new guys out of town, I’m here to help you break down who is deserving of more time and who you can assemble to the mob to chase away.

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Invite Him Onto Your Team

Le'Veon Bell (RB, NYJ)

People who drafted Le’Veon thinking that he’d go back to being the top back in fantasy are going to be disappointed. We should have never expected him to replicate numbers that he put up with an elite Steelers unit. However, being currently ranked 10th in half-point PPR leagues, the same as Phillip Lindsay, has created a buying opportunity. With Saquon Barkley hurt, Leonard Fournette looking slow, Chris Carson fumbling everything, Aaron Jones sharing carries, a Chargers backfield timeshare looming, and Drew Brees’ injury leaving the Saints offense a massive questions mark, there are very few sure things at the running back position.

In a short time, Bell will become one of those. He currently only has two rushes inside the 20-yard line and leads the league in runs stuffed at the line of scrimmage with 16. In fact, he has gained 86.5% of his yards after contact. The Jets offensive line isn’t good, but with Sam Darnold and Chris Herndon on their way back, the offense should experience more success in the near future and put Bell in more advantageous positions once defenses stop keying on him. With the way the first few weeks have fallen out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bell finish the year as a top-five running back.

Odell Beckham Jr (WR, CLE)

The Browns offense has been bad. There are no two ways around that. They’ve accumulated the 9th fewest yards on offense. Their receivers have the third-fewest TD receptions, with three, and the third-fewest red zone opportunities in general. But they’ve also faced a near-elite Rams secondary and a much-improved Titans secondary in two of their three games. Even in those tough contests, Baker isn’t shying away from Odell, as he’s the ninth-most targeted WR in the NFL despite only being the 17th ranked receiver in half-point PPR. It just so happens that, according to Next Gen Stats, only 63% of his targets have been catchable so far. You’re holding onto Odell because the Browns offense will begin to click, and when it does, he’ll be right at the center because he can still do things like this.

Jamison Crowder (WR, NYJ)

Yay, more Jets. Part of this narrative is the same as with Bell: Darnold and Herndon returning will make the entire Jets offense better. That should be welcome news to Crowder, who is currently the 52nd ranked wide receiver in half-point PPR league. However, he’s also the 11th most targeted WR in the NFL and had 17 targets in his lone game with Sam Darnold under center. Yes, Herndon returning will take away some of the opportunities over the middle, but Adam Gase’s offense loves to target slot wide receivers, and Crowder is still one of the better ones in the game. If he was dropped, especially in full-PPR leagues, the time is now to scoop him up.



Give Him Another Chance

Jordan Howard (RB, PHI)

Everybody is ready to hand the Philadelphia Eagles’ backfield over to Miles Sanders except, apparently, Doug Pederson. The Eagles have started the season 1-2 with losses by four and three points. It’s been little mistakes that have cost the team games, like Miles Sanders’ two fumbles. Considering Sanders had fumble issues coming out of college, coughing up the ball five times in his lone season as a starter, the early fumbles are a bit of a concern. Enough so that Jordan Howard has seen his snap count rise. He’s also seen the same number of red zone opportunities as Sanders in two of the three games.

Neither back is running exceptionally well right now, but Howard has fewer ball control issues and has a positive rush percentage of 90%, while Sanders only has positive results on 70.6% of his carries. If the Eagles want to clean up the small mistakes that are costing them games, they may keep giving the ball to Howard in crucial situations until they’re sure they can count on Sanders.

Adam Humphries (WR, TEN)

I know, nobody wants to trust Marcus Mariota, but hear me out. The Titans spent a lot of money to bring Humphries in because they knew Mariota needed a safety blanket over the middle of the field. With no ability to get the ball to his outside receivers, the thought was that Mariota would feel comfortable targeting Humphries over the middle. It didn’t happen early on, but in Week 3, Humphries saw nine targets, hauling in six catches for 93 yards.

With games coming up against the Falcons, Chargers, Bucs, Panthers, and Chiefs, it would be wise to hold onto Humphries, especially in PPR leagues, just to see if this Week 3 uptick in usage is a sign of things to come.

Antonio Brown (WR, FA)

I don’t want to talk about this any more than you do. We all know the details. We also know that Brown is still a talented football player. You should wait another week or two for the dust to settle before you chase him off your team. If he latches on with somebody else (it’s the NFL, so it’s certainly possible) you’d hate to have just given him away. If you can’t roster him because of his antics then just wait a week or two for a bit of news that suggests he’s coming back and try to trade him.

Mark Walton (RB, MIA)

Mark Walton is in his first year with the Dolphins after spending last year with the Bengals. In his career, he has 18 carries for 50 yards. I know you’re just salivating at the opportunity to have him on your roster. Walton is also a 22-year-old back who showed impressive ability in his Sophomore and Junior year at Miami before injuring his ankle and sitting out the rest of the season.

If the Dolphins are able to find a trade partner for Kenyan Drake, the only running back stopping Walton from becoming the Dolphins primary running back would be Kalen Ballage. The same Kalen Ballage who avoided a screen pass and has looked generally terrible for the Dolphins. In deeper leagues, Walton is not a bad bench stash. After all, opportunity is king in fantasy.



Get the Pitchforks Out

Jared Cook (TE, NO)

Jared Cook has always been more promise over substance. We waited for years for him to make good on his above-average athleticism, but we kept being disappointed. Until he exploded last year with Oakland, catching 68 passes for 896 yards and six TDs. Many people expected more of the same in New Orleans, but that was never going to happen. For one, there are too many options in New Orleans. As Darren Waller’s success has made clear in Oakland, the tight end is a feature part of Jon Gruden’s offense. Cook also dropped 8% of his passes last year. He succeeded because he saw 101 targets. Michael Thomas saw 147 targets for the Saints last year, and the next highest was Tre’Quan Smith with 44.

Cook was never going to see over 100 targets; he’s only had 12 through three games this season. That’s the same as Jason Witten, James O’Shaughnessy, and Noah Fant. What’s more, he only had two targets with Teddy Bridgewater under center in an offense that will no longer push the ball down the field. I’d much rather have Will Dissly, Chris Herndon, Trey Burton, or Vernon Davis.

Latavius Murray (RB, NO)

Latavius Murray’s value was tied to the role he was going to have in a dynamic offense. Not only is the offense no longer as dynamic without Brees, but Murray has only seen a 28% snap count on the season. That ranks behind Mike Davis, Dare Ogunbowale, and Jalen Richard. With the Saints offense now lacking teeth, he isn’t even afforded the ability to be successful on his carries. He has a 69% positive run percentage and has gained only 12 yards after contact for .9 yards after contact per rush. That means there aren’t holes being opened for him, and without Drew Brees to take attention away from the defenses, that likely isn’t going to change.

Duke Johnson (RB, HOU)

I’m shocked that the Texans gave up draft capital to acquire Duke Johnson just to play him behind Carlos Hyde. However, that’s been the case, and Hyde has looked good. Meanwhile, Johnson’s role has all but dried up. He only has 17 carries through three games, but, perhaps more importantly, has also only been targeted nine times in Houston’s crowded receiving core. With only two red-zone targets and one red zone rush, he’s also not getting high-value opportunities, which means he doesn’t bring much upside to the table. Add that to the fact that the Texans worked out CJ Anderson on Tuesday, which suggests they aren’t happy with their running back room.

I wouldn’t necessarily cut Duke yet in 12-team leagues or larger since the Texans offense is so good, but I’m looking to sell his upside on that offense to take a shot on an upside play like Rashad Penny, Ronald Jones, Rex Burkhead, or even Kenyan Drake if he’s going to be dealt.

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