Football with the Fantasy Freak: Week 10

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Football with the Fantasy Freak: Week 10

FANTASY FRIDAY
Every Friday, Fantasy Football Draft Guides Scott Gramling (a.k.a. The Fantasy Freak) will help you make the tough decisions for your fantasy teamthe sneaky sleepers that could make or break your matchup, as well as those players you may want to consider leaving on your fantasy bench. He also delves into a hot topic with our Question of the Week. Follow Scott on Twitter @nflfantasyfreak, and watch him every Friday on UNO's Sports Tonight at 6:30 pm. To submit a question to be considered for appearing on the air, do so through Twitter @CSNNE or through our Facebook page at www.facebook.comcsnne.

Week 10 Sleeper of the Week: Raiders RB Marcel Reece
Both Darren McFadden and his backup, Mike Goodson, suffered high ankle sprains in Sundays loss to the Buccaneers, and theyre expected to miss this Sundays game against the Ravens. And while its 195-pound Taiwan Jones thats expected to draw the start, its Reece whos in a position to put up the better fantasy numbers because a) his 240-pound frame will likely receive any goal-line opportunities Oakland may get; and b) hes far more likely to be a factor in the passing game. Reece caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers on Sunday, which put him on pace for about 50 catches and 550 receiving yards this season. Im not sure hell catch another eight passes for 95 yards against a Baltimore defense thats better than Tampa Bays, but if youre in a bind because of bye weeks andor injuries, Reece is a guy to consider rolling the dice with this week.

Week 10 Sleeper No. 2: Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders is expected to start with Antonio Brown unlikely to play after suffering a high ankle sprain in the first quarter against the Giants, a game in which Sanders ended up playing 56-of-70 snaps.  He scored a touchdown and actually had three straight games of at least 40 receiving yards prior to the Giants game. Hes a guy Ben Roethlisberger trusts and he has a chance to put up some solid numbers on Monday night against the lowly Chiefs.

Week 10 Sleeper No. 3: Bengals QB Andy Dalton
If you have Andy Dalton on your roster, hes a guy you probably sit more than you start, as hes not someone who at this point can be considered a top-10 or -12 guy given all the talent across the league at the quarterback position. This week, however, could be a good spot to give Dalton a whirl, as he faces a Giants defense that has given up the 4th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. I could see the New York secondary having its hands full with A.J. Green, which could result in a big fantasy day for Dalton.

Week 10 Bust No. 1: Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer
Dwyer had two straight games of more than 100 rushing yards prior to missing this past Sundays game against the Giants with a quadriceps injury. While it looks as if Dwyer will be back for Monday nights game against the Chiefs, it appears as if Isaac Redman will get the bulk of the carries as an encore to his 147-yard effort against the Giants. Redman also has a leg up on Dwyer in the passing game, having racked up more than 150 receiving yards this season to Dwyers 25.

Week 10 Bust No. 2: Giants TE Martellus Bennett
Its time to move on from Bennett, who doesnt look like the same player who racked up 15 catches, 185 yards and 3 TDs over the first three games of this season. I know a lot of NFL players are banged up at this point in the season, but Bennett seems to still be hobbled by the knee injury he suffered against the Browns in Week 5. He has just one game of more than 4 catches or 40 yards since Week 3, and he hasnt scored since Week 3.

Week 10 Bust No. 3: Raiders TE Brandon Myers
Myers was a popular waiver-wire pick-up this week, and understandably so after he had two TDs among his eight catches against the Bucs, which put him on pace for what would be perhaps the quietest 78-catch season by a tight end in NFL history. Myers had entered Sunday without a touchdown in 49 career games, so its tough to expect a repeat performance, especially against a Ravens defense that has allowed only two opposing tight ends to go over 60 receiving yards all season, and only one to score a touchdown.

Question of the Week:
Given his current slump, should Eli Manning no longer be considered an every-week fantasy starter?
Manning owners are obviously frustrated by the fact that Eli has failed to reach 200 passing yards in three of his last four games, but Im chalking that up more to the quality of defenses hes gone up against in recent weeks than any kind of drop-off in terms of the overall productivity of Manning and the Giants passing attack. Those three aforementioned games came against San Franciscos No. 2-ranked pass defense, the Cowboys No. 4-ranked pass defense and Pittsburghs top-ranked pass defense. The one time Eli has reached 200 passing yards in his past four games was against Washington, when he threw for 337 yards. Eli wont face a top-10 passing defense for the rest of the season, so I expect his numbers to pick up and for him to end up with even more than the 4,300 passing yards hes currently on pace for, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 TD passes.

Injury Update:
BUFFALO WR Steve Johnson (thigh) has been practicing and expects to start . . . NEW ENGLAND TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle) has been limited in practice, but expects to play. RB Brandon Bolden (knee) will not play Sunday . . . N.Y. GIANTS WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) is probable for Sunday . . . CINCINNATI RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness) returned to practice on Thursday and will start . . . SAN DIEGO WRs Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal (hamstrings) should play . . . CAROLINA WR Brandon LaFell (concussion) will return to action on Sunday . . . TENNESSEE QB Jake Locker (shoulder) remains out, and Matt Hasselbeck will start again. WR Kendall Wright (elbow) expects to play . . . MIAMI WR Brian Hartline (hamstring) has been practicing this week and will start . . . OAKLAND RBs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson (high ankle sprains) are both doubtful for Sunday . . . NEW ORLEANS RB Darren Sproles (hand surgery) is doubtful to return for Sundays game . . . DETROIT WR Titus Young (knee) did not practice Thursday and is questionable for Sunday . . . MINNESOTA WR Percy Harvin (ankle) is doubtful for Sunday, and could be replaced by rookie Jarius Wright making his NFL debut . . . SEATTLE RB Marshawn Lynch (wrist, back) has missed practice time and is questionable . . . DALLAS RB DeMarco Murray practiced on Thursday, but is a longshot to play this week . . . ST. LOUIS WR Danny Amendola (clavicle) has a great chance of playing Sunday . . . HOUSTON RB Ben Tate (hamstring) is doubtful . . . CHICAGO WR Alshon Jeffery (hand) remains out . . . PITTSBURGH RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) is out, but RB Jonathan Dwyer (quad) is expected to return.

UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

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UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

CHICAGO — Sure, Dustin Pedroia could have gotten an MRI in Chicago. But the Red Sox don’t want any doubt.

With an injured left wrist, Pedroia is heading back to Boston for an 8:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday with Red Sox medical staff, setting up a hold-your-breath morning as the Sox wait to learn if Pedroia’s going to land on the disabled list. No roster move was made immediately after the Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4.

MORE RED SOX-WHITE SOX

 

For now, the Red Sox say Pedroia has a wrist sprain. X-Rays taken in Chicago were negative but the wrist was swollen.

Pedroia was hurt in the top of the first inning Monday on a weird play, when he was trying to leg out an infield hit and wound up tumbling over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who slid into the bag feet first. 

Pedroia was hurt bracing himself as he went over Abreu.

“He feels he knows those guys, they know him well,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of the decision to send Pedroia back to Boston. “We felt it would be more comfortable for him to do that. He wanted to do that, too. He knows those guys well. We could have gotten an MRI here and had people read it, but he just knows the people there so well. We figured he wanted to do that, so we said, 'Sure, we'll fly you there and get the MRI done there.”

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

“He's been dealing with the situation from the winter time, but he's played well,” Dombrowski said. “He's played almost every day. He's had to deal with a lot of things, which is very unfortunate, but he battles through it.”

On the play he was hurt, Pedroia hit a chopper to the right side, where Abreu fielded it and hesitated before moving to the bag — likely determining whether he was going to try to flip it to the pitcher. He kept it himself and went in feet first, putting him essentially on the bag as Pedroia arrived. Moving at full speed, Pedroia tumbled over Abreu, leading Pedroia to brace himself with his wrist.

“A real freakish play,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll hopefully have some mid-morning information.”

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.

Pedroia’s power has been down all year, with just a pair of home runs, but he still entered Monday hitting .294.

 

Patriots UDFA Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

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Patriots UDFA Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

FOXBORO -- When a new player arrives to the Patriots, there's a familiar refrain that's recited from behind the podium at Gillette Stadium: "Football is important to him."

Whether the subject is a rookie or an established veteran, those five words can serve as Bill Belichick's stamp of approval. It means the player cares. It means the player is willing to put in time.

Belichick hasn't gone on the record on any of the members of this year's class of undrafted free agents just yet, but linebacker Brooks Ellis seems to fall into that category of players to whom football is important.

If it wasn't, he would probably be putting all of his energy into getting accepted into medical school right now.  

Ellis was a two-year captain at Arkansas and one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." He maintained a 3.82 grade point average as a pre-professional exercise science major with a minor in biology, he was the first two-time Academic All-American in program history, and he was the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the year for 2016.

All that is to say, Ellis had options upon graduation.

Football won out. He agreed to a deal with the Patriots soon after the draft, and he's spent the better part of the last month trying to learn defensive terminology and special-teams techniques. 

But eventually Ellis hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later this summer he'll submit his applications to medical schools in order to kick-start that process for whenever it's time to pursue his next plan full-throttle.

"I'm putting my all into this right now," Ellis said, wearing Patriots gear while standing on the Gillette Stadium turf last week. "But when I get some spare time, I'm finishing applications, and then when I get back in July I'm sending those in.

"If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

If all goes well for Ellis this spring and summer, it could be a while before he's taking the Hippocratic Oath. The Patriots have a long history of giving worthy undrafted players a shot at the 53-man roster, and Ellis plays one of the few positions on New England's loaded roster that might have room for a newcomer or two.

On paper, he certainly looks like their type.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder was his team's leading tackler for two seasons. He played all three linebacker positions in Arkansas' defense -- strong-side, middle and weak-side -- and he started 31 consecutive games to finish his career. Ellis also has extensive special teams experience, and he recorded one of the quickest three-cone drills among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

That he learned under Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema can't hurt his chances, either.

Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa under former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick has dipped into Bielema's programs at Wisconsin and Arkansas several times over the course of the last few seasons. Running back James White, defensive end Trey Flowers and former tight end AJ Derby all played for Bielema, and Ellis joins fellow Arkansas rookies Deatrich Wise (fourth-round pick) and Cody Hollister (undrafted) on this year's squad.  

"He came in, started about halfway through his true freshman year -- we weren't a really good football team, we were 3-9 -- threw him in the middle of it, didn't bat an eye, and he got better every game," Bielema said of Ellis on Quick Slants the Podcast. "Sophomore year, [he] really began to mature, develop. He's another guy that the potential -- because we never redshirted him -- to grow in this year is going to be huge . . .

"He's just truly very, very intelligent, compassionate. And the value that he brings is he could be an unbelievable role player. I'm not saying he's going to be a four-time All-Pro or anything like that, but he'll be reliable, dependable, in every phase of the game."

Robb Smith, Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2014-16, believes Ellis landed in the perfect spot. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, where he coached Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, former Patriots corner Logan Ryan, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny and safeties coach Steve Belichick.

"He's one of those guys that's not only going to know his job, but what the other 10 guys around him are supposed to do," Smith said of Ellis. "He'll be able to be a leader from that standpoint in terms of helping guys with the system and the scheme. He's very good instinctively . . ."

"This guy's going to be replacing my knee someday. I'm serious. He's going to be an orthopedic surgeon that's outstanding. I know that's what his goals are. But hopefully he gets to play a lot of football between now and then."

There's one more Patriots link connecting Ellis to New England. His agent, Neil Cornrich, has counted Belichick as a client and also represents Bielema, Ferentz, Flowers, Derby, undrafted Patriots rookies Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels (both of whom played under Ferentz at Iowa) and Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. 

It may come as no surprise then that when Ellis signed with the Patriots, no one knew. He didn't announce it on Twitter, as is the norm for undrafted players when they come to an agreement with a team. And the news wasn't leaked. Instead, he waited for the team to announce it, which his new employers probably appreciated.

Ellis, who according to the Boston Globe received the fifth-most guaranteed money of the 19 undrafted rookies the Patriots signed, said he received some simplie advice from Cornrich before making his way to New England.

"He just said that you'll fit in well there," Ellis said. "You're the type of guy they like, and you're the type of guy that succeeds in that organization. Don't do anything special. Just go out there and work like you do every day, and it'll turn out for the best."

Even if it doesn't, Ellis will have medical school. But he acknowledges there's some unpredictability with that path, just as there is being an undrafted player in the NFL. He still has to be accepted. His application, including personal statements, interviews and MCAT results -- "It was horrible, I don't want to take that ever again," Ellis said -- still has to be deemed up-to-snuff.  

Whenever Ellis starts, it will be the beginning of almost a decade of training between schooling and residency. It will be a challenge, he knows, and it's one that he looks forward to. But he's hoping it can wait because football is important to him. 

"It just makes you work harder," he said of his uncertain future. "It makes you really focus on right now, and make sure that you're doing all you can in this area because even the next area might not be there.

"That's what I've done. I'm just working as hard as I can on this, and if that doesn't work out, then I've got the next thing, and I'm going to work as hard as I can in that area."