Bears

Fantasy Football: 11 targets after a nutty NFL trade deadline

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USA TODAY

Fantasy Football: 11 targets after a nutty NFL trade deadline

Finally: An NFL trade deadline with some action!

Before the 2017 deadline, the league made several impactful moves after years of mostly-boring inaction. 

Everybody loves a good trade and the league did not disappoint, with guys like Jay Ajayi, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kelvin Benjamin on the move while the Seattle Seahawks bolstered their offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott was suspended (again). 

Here are the fantasy implications of a nutty week in the NFL:

Jay Ajayi, RB, PHI

While it's impossible to predict exactly how Ajayi will be utilized in Doug Pederson's notoriously-fickle backfield, this trade is a clear win for Ajayi's fantasy owners. Even if he doesn't get 25 touches a game like he did in Miami, Ajayi is running behind a much better offensive line on the best team in football that figures to be running to close out leads late in games as opposed to passing to try to eliminate deficits (like the Dolphins). Ajayi should be able to have much more of an impact in Philadelphia even if he sees a noticeable decline in snaps and touches. (Tony Andracki)

Kenyan Drake/Damien Williams, RBs, MIA

With Ajayi out, the Dolphins have announced they will roll with the guys they have going forward. Those guys are Drake and Williams, though you can forgive any football fan if they didn't know that given the two have combined for just 33 touches through seven games. Neither guy is worthy of a "must-add" and there are serious question marks about each guy moving forward: They don't have a proven track record, the Dolphins offense is a complete mess and the offensive line is a huge reason for the struggles. Williams figures to be the passing down back, but Drake is only 23 and in his second season, so he has higher upside and is the most likely of the two to break out and be a legit fantasy contributor down the stretch. (TA)

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF

Let's just get this out of the way first: unless your league allows you to play a quarterback in the flex spot, Garoppolo needs to remain on the waiver wire for the time being. Garoppolo is expected to be eased into action with his new club and should be up to speed to start against the Giants in Week 10. However, with a lack of options in the passing game and not being the type of quarterback who will gather points with his legs, Garoppolo will have a hard time posting high fantasy totals in San Francisco. The only thing to look forward to about this move, from a fantasy perspective, is that the 49ers may have found a quarterback who can help Pierre Garcon find the end zone for the first time in 2017. (Scott Krinch)

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, BUF

Benjamin has been one of the most frustrating fantasy players for years now and his insertion into a new offense will almost assuredly come with a learning curve. That offense also features an inconsistent passing game that has yet to promote consistent WR fantasy value given their propensity to spread the ball around and play ground control — Tyrod Taylor ranks 29th in the NFL with only 192 pass yards per game. This move does nothing to help Benjamin's value and really only hurts the value of fringe fantasy players like Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones. (TA)

Jamison Crowder, WR, WAS

The Redskins were rumored to be interested in acquiring a receiver before the NFL deadline but no deal was made. That's fine for Crowder fantasy owners or anybody else searching for a receiver (he's still available in nearly half of ESPN leagues). Crowder was a popular breakout candidate heading into 2017 and after a slew of injuries sapped his early-season potential, he tallied 123 yards on 9 catches and 13 targets in Week 8. Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have both been big-time busts, leaving the door wide open for Crowder to emerge as the clear No. 1 threat in that passing game, especially with Jordan Reed once again flashing his complete inability to stay on the field. (TA)

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT

The guy with the best name since Jim Bob Cooter is still somehow owned in less than 30 percent of leagues. He's on a Bye this week, but after exploding for 7-193-1 in Week 8, the NFL's youngest player is officially on the fantasy map. Not saying he's a must-start from here, but he absolutely needs to be owned in every format and moving forward could provide huge dividends for both your fake team and the Steelers. (TA)

Marlon Mack, RB, IND

Mack was another popular sleeper entering 2017 and despite a Week 1 touchdown was a fantasy non-factor until Week 5. In the four games since, his PPR point totals: 16, 1, 10, 14. Frank Gore is like a million years old and Mack is young, fresh, spry and showing he can be a productive NFL back. Look for more Mack as the season goes on, especially if the Colts continue to fall out of it even more and wind up looking toward 2018 and beyond. Plus, the dude is owned in only 30 percent of leagues, so go grab him on waivers or look to acquire him in a trade if you can pull it off. (TA)

Alfred Morris/Darren McFadden/Rod Smith, RBs, DAL

Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension is back on after a United States District Judge dissolved his temporary restraining order. So what does that mean going forward for the Cowboys running back situation? Your guess is as good as mine. And we probably still haven't seen the last of Elliott trying to fight the suspension. If Elliott does remain sidelined, the most likely benefactor will be Alfred Morris with Darren McFadden nipping at his heels. Both players are must-adds on the waiver wire this week. Through seven games, Morris has served as Elliott's backup, while McFadden has been inactive for every Cowboys game this season. The upside for both players running behind that offensive line is relatively high, but it's a fluid situation right now and it could vary week-to-week with even Rod Smith being a player who owners should keep an eye on in deep leagues. (SK)

Jack Doyle, TE, IND

Doyle has been a target machine this season, accumulating 55 through seven games. Doyle had his best game of the season in Sunday's loss to the Bengals as he hauled in 12 receptions on 14 targets for a season-high 121 yards and his first score of 2017. Doyle is now fantasy's seventh-highest scoring tight end and should see his numbers continue to climb on a team that will be playing from behind the majority of Sundays for the remainder of the season. (SK)

Robby Anderson, WR, NYJ

There haven't made been many positives from a fantasy football outlook when it comes to the Jets offense, but one emerging player who needs to be on your radar is Anderson. The second-year wide receiver has seen a minimum of five targets in each of his last six games. Anderson has reached in the end zone in consecutive weeks and has become a favorite target of quarterback Josh McCown. (SK)

Paul Richardson, WR, SEA

Who would've predicted that Richardson would be the Seahawks' No. 1 fantasy wide receiver through seven games? Definitely not this guy. Over the last two games, Richardson has eight receptions for 166 yards and three touchdowns. With the Seahawks showing zeo interest in running the football, Richardson is a legitimate flex option this week and the rest of the season. (SK)

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.