As a fantasy football owner, you are tasked with an impossible mission — predicting the future. You can study a world of information, from coaching systems and tendencies to player statistics and metrics created by some of the most cerebral of analysts, but when the time comes to set your lineup, you are still just guessing as to which player will do better than your other options. Prognostication is not science.
Though you still may be playing a guessing game, your wealth of knowledge and years of empirical evidence provided by decades of football games certainly can steer you in the right direction. And as history has shown, a change in starting quarterback has a massive impact on a team’s performance. For fantasy purposes, it is your job to exploit those changes.
After three years and zero regular-season snaps, Brandon Allen will make his NFL regular-season debut as the starting quarterback of the Broncos. Starter Joe Flacco is injured and the team’s heir-apparent, Drew Lock, is on injured reserve with a thumb problem. Originally drafted by the Jaguars in 2016, Allen spent most of his career on the bench with the Rams. He was claimed off waivers by the Broncos in September, and nine weeks later will be leading them up and down the field against the Browns. He is not your target for this week, though.
Relying on a journeyman back-up at this point of the fantasy season is dangerous. Nevertheless, the trickle-down effect on the rest of the team is where you should be looking if you need help filling roster holes during the bye weeks.
Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay are likely to see a heavy workload this week. Freeman has seen a gradual increase in snaps and carries this season and the Browns allow the fourth-most rushing yards per game this season, including an average of 174.7 over their past three games. The fact that they rank 24th against running back pass-plays keeps Lindsay in the mix as check-downs will be popular with Allen.
When the defense starts to play heavier to the run, Allen is going to need to take it to the air. Though most expect him to turn to No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton, you have to think about who Allen has practiced with the most and with which receivers he is most comfortable. DaeSean Hamilton is where you start, as he was further down the depth chart before Emmanuel Sanders was traded and Tim Patrick landed on IR. He has experience working with Allen at practice. Fred Brown and now No. 1 tight end Noah Fant are where you go to next.
Allen may take shots downfield to Sutton, but his success is based in a supportive ground game and timing on quick routes. Utilizing players with whom he has an established rapport is what he needs to do and as a prognosticating fantasy owner, you should see it coming before anyone else.
Howard Bender is VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitters @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays at 4 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice and NFL player rankings.