The worst in-season week of sports landed on this weekend for Iowa State fans: the dreaded bye week (followed closely by Cy-Hawk week, which occurs a week later).
Sure, players need to rest and recover on bye weeks, and coaching staffs — especially Iowa State’s — need a break to improve the game plan and tweak other parts of the three phases of the game. Regardless, it’s still not as fun to have Ames quiet on a fall Saturday. On the bright side, there won’t be a break in the action until after homecoming Nov. 2.
With no game this week, I don’t feel like diving into any Cy-Hawk debates this week (you all have that covered on Twitter). Let's dive into some fantasy football.
The sports desk at the Daily participated in a monstrous 16-team NFL draft this past week. Typically I’m a 10-to-12-team league kind of guy, but a 16-teamer opened my eyes on fantasy football. While the top five or so rounds play a key role in building a team, often the late rounders and waiver wire players decide a season.
Assuming everyone’s drafted for their league, I’ll list a player at each position that could provide value as some deep sleepers — under the radar players that may thrive given the opportunity or may never wake up the entire year — for when you need to drop a player due to bye, injury or lack of production and add someone off the waiver wire.
Quarterback: Josh Allen
Josh Allen enters his second season with the Bills after a 5-7 record in 2018 in games he played in. Allen’s pretty attainable, ranking No. 21 in ESPN’s fantasy rankings, and he’s rostered by about 20 percent of ESPN teams.
In his 12 games played last season, Allen struggled in the first six appearances, tossing two touchdowns, five interceptions and only hitting 200-plus passing yards once. After weeks 1-6, Allen took a breather and came back in Week 12. In his final six games, Allen tallied an average of 207 yards per game and totaled eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
The passing improved a bit, but his damage on the ground grew his fantasy value. Allen averaged 79 yards on the ground in the final six games, while scoring five times and surpassing 95 rushing yards in four of the final six games. With another year under his belt, take a flyer on Allen as a backup, and at the very least throw him in when the Bills play Miami.
Running Backs: Ryquell Armstead
Who’s Ryquell Armstead? Frankly, it doesn’t really matter too much. Fantasy football running backs are less about talent and more about the opportunity when it comes to digging through the waiver wire.
Armstead is a rookie out of Temple, and the Jaguars penciled him in as a back-up behind Leonard Fournette. Fournette is primed for a bounce-back year, but the former LSU Tiger missed time in both his NFL seasons.
Fournette’s played in 21 of 32 regular season games in his career, but he only played in eight last year due to a lingering injury and a one-game suspension.
Armstead’s unproven, but he’s worth a roster spot in deeper leagues because of the potential opportunity.
Wide Receiver: Willie Snead IV
Imagine getting the No. 1 wide out for a playoff team off the waiver wire. That’s what we’ve got with Snead IV. Three percent of ESPN teams carved out a roster spot for Snead IV, despite the Ravens listing him as the starting WR1.
A few variables led to this: Snead IV is solid but not elite, Lamar Jackson struggled to pass in his rookie year and the Ravens love to run and pass to tight ends.
Despite Jackson’s struggles through the air, common sense would say that a rookie tossed into a starting role midway into a season will improve in the following season. Plus, he gained big-game experience during the playoffs. This should help Snead IV.
The AFC North (Baltimore’s division) is set up to be more competitive this year, at least on paper. The Bengals are still garbage, but Pittsburgh is still a solid playoff contender and the Browns are the most-hyped team in the NFL. The added competitiveness could open up the playbook and make Baltimore more aggressive on offense, specifically through the air.
Once again, Snead IV should be exposed to plenty of opportunities this year, making him a viable sleeper.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert
Staying in the AFC North, I present the biggest low risk, high reward player in Tyler Eifert. Eifert is entering his eighth season as a member of the team I called garbage: the Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite being one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Bengals will still need to find someone to gain yards outside of Joe Mixon, and with AJ Green constantly banged up, could Eifert fill that void?
Well, speaking of injuries, something needs to be addressed with Eifert. He’s rarely healthy and has never played a full season. He’s hit 15 and 13 games played in years one and three, but he’s also had three seasons with four or fewer games played. Fortunately, he’s available in most leagues, and tight ends outside of the top three are extremely random and inconsistent in fantasy context.
While he’s hurt more than he’s healthy, he’s dominant when he sees the field. In 2015 (the 13 game season) he tied for fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 13, and Rob Gronkowski was the only other tight end near him.
The upside potential is worth the shot on the off chance of a relatively healthy season.
Defense/Special Teams: Kansas City
The Chiefs got a bad wrap on defense with some ugly scores (think of the Monday night game with the Rams), but overall the defense produced turnovers and sacks. In a pinch, Kansas City’s a solid option.
Kicker: Chris Boswell
The Pittsburgh kicker lost some games for the Steelers last year and nearly lost his job in the process. Pittsburgh still has a potent offense, but the black and gold lost touchdown reception leader Antonio Brown in the offseason.
Without Brown, Pittsburgh should still move the ball, but it may struggle to finish drives with touchdowns, providing opportunities for Boswell. If Boswell reverts back to the 90-plus percent kicker he’s been in the past instead of the 65 percent kicker he was last season, he could tack on some valuable points in a close matchup.