NFL Real or Not Real: Week 7

Welcome to the second edition of the “Real or Not Real” article for the 2016 NFL season. In this piece, Ricky Sanders will examine whether the hype and/or recent production surrounding certain players warrants deeming them as “for real” or remaining skeptical and considering them “not for real.”

Here are Ricky’s thoughts surrounding players who opened some eyeballs with their Week 6 performances one way or another:

Case Keenum, Rams – Is it possible Case Keenum could actually be a respectable NFL quarterback (QB)? At zero-percent ownership in FantasyDraft GPPs on Sunday, Keenum managed a career-best 33.54 fantasy points on the heels of 321 passing yards and three TDs. Oh and he completed a whopping 84.4-percent of his 32 passes (27 completions). While it is very easy to just write-off a QB who has failed to throw a TD in three of his six games this year, it is also worth noting he has produced a yards per attempt (YPA) average well beyond his previous career-high (7.0 YPA in 2013). At 7.7 this year, Keenum is virtually tied with the likes of Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees and Eli Manning in the category. Furthermore, only eight QBs have completed more passes for 20-plus yards than Keenum. His career average of 58.7-percent completion suggests his accuracy could be on the decline but it is also possible this situation is just more comfortable to him. Although he certainly has not morphed into the QB1 conversation or anything close, Keenum has now proved thrice this season he is a viable tournament option at a basement price. As long as the expectations are he possesses upside but could flop on a given week, then he is being properly valued moving forward. This is an upgrade from perception of him earlier in the year as a guy never worth considering. Still, it does not mean he has emerged as a weekly contributor or anything of the sort. Verdict: Not For Real (unless using as a GPP punt in certain matchups)

Jay Ajayi, Dolphins – Woah. Heading into Week 6, the Steelers had only allowed 77.0 rushing yards per game which ranked fifth best behind only the Packers, Jets, Eagles and Ravens. Additionally, Arian Foster was deemed active and he was generally expected to take over the bulk of the workload as he had previously when healthy. Neither of those trends came to fruition as Ajayi simply torched the Steelers to the tune of 204 rushing yards on 25 carries (8.2 yards per carry) and two rushing TDs. His longest run was 62 yards so it is not like a majority of the damage was done on a single carry. Ajayi consistently gashed this defense all game long although they may have been overrated as evident by their 4.1 yards per carry (YPC) allowed. Prior to the breakout, Ajayi ranked third on the Dolphins in terms of YPC (3.8) behind Damien Williams (6.0) and Kenyan Drake (4.5). As if that were not confusing enough, none of the team’s offensive linemen had graded inside the top 35 at their position overall. Obviously Ajayi earned a lion’s share of the work in the immediate future with this performance but there are very few factors suggesting he can/should sustain production as an upper-echelon fantasy back. While his stock certainly improved in this matchup, it is not time to overreact by declaring him the greatest thing since sliced bread. That designation, of course, is reserved for David Johnson. Verdict: Not For Real (but stock improved)

Kenny Britt, Rams – Alright so it was already determined earlier in the article that Keenum has improved but still is no great shakes but how about Kenny Britt? For those who have not been following Britt closely, the seven receptions (RECs) for 136 yards and two TDs all jump off the page and scream outlier. However, Britt had quietly been targeted at least six times in four of his previous five games and had caught at least four passes in each game this season. While he had failed to find the end zone, his 8.9 yards per target ranked 17th best in the NFL (tied with teammate Brian Quick). Although Quick, Tavon Austin and the other pass-catching options on the team seem to have their roles fluctuate on a weekly basis, Britt has remained the one stable producer. At 6’3”, 225 lbs, his lack of usage in the red zone to this point (only one total red zone target) was more surprising than the two red zone targets he converted into TDs on Sunday. Of course the Rams’ passing offense is far from elite but Coach Jeff Fisher has always loved Britt and he clearly is becoming a factor every week. Despite their size and role differences, Britt’s numbers are not very different from the likes of Cole Beasley to this point. Both are relied upon every week and should be considered as solid cash game options moving forward. There is some mojo going on here between Britt and Keenum that simply cannot be written off. Verdict: For Real

Torrey Smith, 49ers – Coach Chip Kelly decided to finally make the switch at QB this week from Blaine Gabbert to Colin Kaepernick and Torrey Smith immediately benefitted. Smith had scored his only TD this season in Week 2 with Gabbert under center and he promptly found the end zone once again after the QB transition this week. Interestingly, Smith had been targeted seven combined times over the course of his past three games with Gabbert and Kaepernick targeted him seven times in Week 6 alone. The three RECs and one TD tied season-highs while the 76 yards set a season-best for Smith as did his 25.3 average yards per catch. Different QBs lock onto different receivers and Gabbert seemed to favor Jeremy Kerley. If this past week were any indication, Kaepernick took a liking to the deep threat Smith instead which seems to coincide with his skill set. Kaepernick is not incredibly accurate, is not afraid to use his legs and has a strong arm. Therefore, Smith is an enticing option who should be able to get open when Kaepernick scrambles to buy time. Smith’s boom-or-bust nature makes him hard to trust in fantasy but the QB change seems to suggest he has passed Kerley as the upside option in the receiving core. Considering Kerley caught a season-low two passes on Sunday, Smith could just simply be catapulting him as the only receiver worth rostering period moving forward. Once upon a time, Kaepernick locked onto Vernon Davis as his only fantasy relevant target and Smith appears to be taking on that role in the early going. Get ahead of the trend before the masses catch on. Verdict: For Real

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Texans – Ryan Griffin had been battling through a concussion all week heading into Week 6 and his grasp on the top pass-catching TE role in the offense had already been slipping. Over the course of the past two weeks (Weeks 4-5), C.J. Fiedorowicz had out-snapped Griffin 89-52 which led to eight RECs, 109 yards and a TD for Fiedorowicz compared to just five RECs, 62 yards for Griffin. Basically, Fiedorowicz had slowly been catapulting Griffin on the depth chart prior to the six REC, 85 yard performance on Sunday Night Football capped off by a TD. Fiedorowicz ranks 13th in fantasy points at the position during the span of the last four weeks and sixth in fantasy points over the last two weeks…and he was still sitting at minimum price last week. Remember, Fiedorowicz was selected in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft behind only Eric Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro and Troy Niklas at his position. Some scouts suggested he possessed a Gronkowski-esque skill set after he finished first-team All-Big Ten as a senior. While he will never be that caliber of a player, he is a gifted receiver who has been drastically under-utilized because of the porous offense he plays on. When healthy, Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins will continue to be the focuses of the passing game but Fiedorowicz factors in as the Jason Witten/Heath Miller move-the-chains top option. Clearly he has been getting it done lately and is still underpriced in DFS but the masses still will overlook him because of the offense he plays on. If in need of a cheap TE, you could certainly do worse. Verdict: For Real (as a bargain TE option)