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Five Things to Know: It's Time to Target Nicks

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Chip Kelly, James Harrison and David Bowie.

1. Both Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones Should be Owned

As a standout receiver in an offense that will be without Darren McFadden (31 catches) and Mike Goodson (14 catches) the next couple weeks due to high-ankle sprains, it's understandable why Oakland fullback Marcel Reece is generally considered the Oakland running back to target on waivers this week, especially in PPR leagues. But Taiwan Jones is more than just a consolation prize for those who don't get Reece.

Jones' lack of a role to this point was due to Oakland's lack of trust regarding his ball security and pass blocking, but with McFadden and Goodson out, the Raiders have basically no choice but to give Jones work as a ballcarrier, at the very least. Although Reece's 26 catches for 272 yards on the year are impressive, he has very little background as a runner, as he was a wide receiver in college and has just 48 carries in 38 career games. And if ball security is a problem with Jones, then the same is true with Reece, who has two fumbles on 27 touches this year.

The Raiders called 156 run plays for McFadden and Goodson through eight games, about 19.5 per game. That number will almost surely drop with Reece and Jones as the only available runners, but it should still easily stay at 15 or more. As the only actual running back between the two, Jones is a good bet to snag 10 carries per game while McFadden and Goodson are out, and he's a good bet to add a few receptions each time, too.

2. Buy Hakeem Nicks

There probably isn't a better buy-low target in the NFL than Hakeem Nicks. He is undoubtedly among the league's biggest busts to this point, but there's a reason why he headed into this season as a consensus low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 and, bad numbers aside, those reasons still exist.

Injuries predictably had something to do with it - Nicks' lack of durability is unfortunately well documented - but beyond his knee and foot issues that kept him out of three games and limited him in others, it's not as if Nicks' situation ever gave reason to anticipate just 27 catches for 390 yards and a touchdown through six games. He's still an elite talent in an offense that has one of the league's best quarterbacks.

Eli Manning won't keep throwing for less than 200 yards in three of four games as he has the last month, and when that trend breaks, Nicks' numbers are likely to surge as well. This week's game against Cincinnati is a likely time for that to start, as the Bengals have allowed 7.9 yards per pass this year while giving up 12 touchdowns and forcing just five interceptions. There are a number of other shootout-friendly matchups coming up for Nicks, too, with Green Bay, Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore all inviting high scores.

3. Lance Dunbar is Worth Adding in Many Leagues

Between his team's bad offensive line, worse playcalling and his own questionable talent level, it's unlikely Dallas running back Lance Dunbar will turn into anything more than a flex option. But with DeMarco Murray's foot injury lingering and Felix Jones' own lack of durability, Dunbar is worth a gamble on a bench spot.

Murray is already doubtful for this week's game against Philadelphia, and it seems safe to say at this point that his injury is more severe or recovering more slowly than he or Dallas' doctors anticipated. Combine that with the likely fact that Dallas will find itself out of playoff contention soon, and it's not difficult to imagine Murray playing out a scenario like the one Darren McFadden did last year (though there has been no mention of Lisfranc damage with Murray).

Even if Murray makes a return in any noteworthy capacity this year, Dallas will be stuck with Jones and Dunbar as its top two runners for at least the short term. Given Jones' extensive record of fragility, Dunbar is pretty much a co-starter as a result. Indeed, Dunbar had eight carries against Atlanta on Sunday while Jones had nine.

He showed poor vision in his first extensive NFL action against the Falcons, totaling just 26 yards on his eight carries, but Dunbar is still worth a speculative add in plenty of scenarios just in case his nerves settle down and he adjusts to the speed of the NFL, because he's a big-play threat with a three-down skill set, and he's a Fragile Felix injury away from a potential feature back role.

4. T.Y. Hilton is for Real

Although the presence of Donnie Avery may prove to be a hassle in the meantime, at least owners of T.Y. Hilton in dynasty formats can feel good about the odds of the rookie turning into at least a WR3 option down the road.

A lack of size (5-foot-9, 183) and occasional durability troubles figure to limit his upside, but Hilton is the rare small receiver who both excels after the catch on short routes and possesses the ball skills to make big plays on long-range pass routes. He doesn't have the strength or coordination of Steve Smith, but he's otherwise a bit similar, possessing the superb speed and quickness necessary to score no matter whether he gets the ball near or far from the line of scrimmage.

His playing situation looks favorable, too. Andrew Luck will obviously be one of the league's elite quarterbacks in the near future, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has shown every intention of capitalizing on Luck's passing skills - Luck is on pace for more than 4,800 yards passing, while Hilton is producing at an 800-yard pace despite largely serving as the team's third receiver behind Avery and Reggie Wayne.

Experience is the only thing keeping Avery ahead of or equal to Hilton, however, and with each week Hilton does a little more to help himself in that race - a race that should end with Hilton as the winner by at least mid-December.

5. Joe Flacco Should Bounce Back against Oakland

His numbers have been rather dreadful the last month and a half, but Joe Flacco is a good bet to post useful fantasy numbers against Oakland at home this week.

The most obvious reason is Flacco has been much better at home this year than on the road. Flacco has just three touchdowns compared to four interceptions on the road this year, but in his four home games he has 1,271 yards (9.1 YPA), seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The Raiders defense should be cooperative, too - Oakland has allowed 14 touchdowns compared to five interceptions this year.

Not only should Flacco produce with efficiency against the Raiders, but he should benefit further from aggressive playcalling. The Raiders are aggressive through the air themselves, so the Ravens won't be able to relax on offense. In the last four weeks Carson Palmer has attempted 168 passes, resulting in 1,274 yards and eight touchdowns. In addition, the Ravens defense has allowed some generous yardage totals to competent quarterbacks this year, allowing Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub to throw for 1,223 yards in four games. Palmer should have success through the air this week, and the Ravens will look to Flacco for an answer.