The Claims Report (10/22/14)

RB Anthony Dixon

RB Anthony Dixon

The Claims Report is a Wednesday feature that will analyze weekly waiver additions.

Beach Bums claimed RB Bryce Brown ($73); I Need a Manziel, Not a Boykin claimed RB Anthony Dixon ($57)

In a matter of minutes on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills lost both of their featured running backs, Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, thrusting both Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown into fantasy relevance. So it comes as little surprise that both players were snatched up this week for hefty FAAB totals.

But now that both players are rostered, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how this situation plays out. Yesterday, Spiller was placed on injured reserve with designation to return. If he were able to come back, it would be Week 16, so he’s essentially done for the fantasy season. Jackson’s injury is a bit more ambiguous. The groin injury he suffered last week is expected to take anywhere from two to four weeks to heal, with most expecting the longer time table to hold true. With the Bills set to face the New York Jets this week before having their bye, a two week timetable would essentially give Dixon and Brown just this one week — against a stout run defense — to make a mark.

The bigger question is, in the absence of Jackson and Spiller, who will actually tote the rock for the Bills? To date, Dixon has suited up as the team’s third running back and Brown, who was dealt for in the off-season, has been a healthy scratch each week. The reasoning is simple: Dixon is a contributor on special teams and a good one at that, supposedly. But as soon as the Bills’ two backs went down, speculation began that the talented Brown — who posted a monster two week rushing line of 43/347/4 for Philadelphia in 2012 — would not only be active, but featured. But as much as I’d like that to be true (I like Brown), I’m not so sure.

The Bills reportedly love Dixon not just for his contributions on special teams, but seem to think he can carry some of the load running the ball. Jackson was injured before Spiller on Sunday and it was Dixon who assumed lead-back duties, not Spiller. Of course, that leads me to this: the Bills’ recent history of personnel decisions and player usage has been baffling, further muddying the way Dixon and Brown might be deployed. This is the same team that reunited wide receiver Mike Williams with his college head coach, Doug Marrone, only to under-utilize him and eventually leave him deactivated by midseason.

This is a team that was notorious for having two complementary talents (Jackson and Spiller) in their backfield, yet using them as if they were the same person. Jackson is a tremendous runner between the tackles. He shows great vision and is a boon in pass protection. But the Bills religiously tried making Spiller that same type of player, running him up behind center instead of capitalizing on his breakaway speed and elusiveness with sweeps, counters, pitches, or stretch plays that would put him in position to attack defenses off tackle. It wasn’t that the Bills weren’t using Spiller. They were. Regularly. They were just using him in unimaginative ways that made no effort to showcase his strengths. And so I’m concerned for Brown, who is a big bodied back with speed and elusiveness to burn, that the coaching staff will again prefer to utilize their players in a take-the-air-out-of-the-ball approach that calls for endless runs up the gut.

This situation reminds me of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon in Minnesota. I could see Dixon gobbling up carries and vulturing a few goal line touchdowns just like Asiata did despite being a mediocre runner who lacks game-breaking ability. But if Jackson’s injury drags out, it seems realistic that Brown, the more talented player, would win out, just as McKinnon seems to have done for the Vikings. And of course, there’s always the chance that Spiller will bolt in free agency (please, please, please) and Jackson’s age will begin to show by 2015, putting Brown in a position to be a starting running back next year. That doesn’t seem like a possibility for Dixon.

I Need a Manziel, Not a Boykin claimed WR Doug Baldwin ($16)

In the Seahawks’ first game without Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin exploded for seven catches, 123 yards, and a score. He’s always been a good, reliable receiver capable of big games, but falling behind to the St. Louis Rams early really helped his cause this week. That won’t likely happen to Seattle often. But on this team, he’s effectively the sixth receiver in line, so it’s worth the gamble to see if he can continue to thrive in the Hawks’ new Percy-less environment.

Beach Bums claimed TE Owen Daniels ($11)

In the absence of Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels has been Mr. Reliable for the Ravens offense. He’s averaged 6.625 points over his last four contests, which is hardly exciting, but represents a solid weekly floor. He’s also been targeted in the red zone a few times over that stretch, meaning that on pretty much any given week he’s a short yardage conversion away from double digit points. He probably could’ve been picked up for less than $11, but that’s sort of negligible.

Unicorns & Glitter!!! claimed RB Jonas Gray ($7)

Stevan Ridley gets hurt one week, so naturally everyone assumes the Patriots will expand the role of Brandon Bolden, who had been active and stealing snaps here and there, in the offense. Nope. Bill Belichick instead promotes Jonas Gray from the practice squad and feeds him three carries and a catch. Bolden didn’t touch the ball. It stands to reason that Shane Vereen, the incumbent runner in New England right now, is injury prone enough that anyone with a pulse behind him becomes valuable. The problem is that on a week to week basis, the Patriots deploy their running backs unpredictably. Gray could get 20 carries one week and two the next. He could get all the red zone work and then fumble on his first touch the following week and disappear for three weeks. Patriots running backs are frustrating to own.

Unicorns & Glitter!!! claimed TE Gavin Escobar ($7)

Someone on Twitter tweeted something about how Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar look like they’re playing in a father/son game. Get it? Because Witten is old and slow (like a dad) and Escobar is spry, quick, and scoring touchdowns.

Beach Bums claimed K Cody Parkey ($3)

This guy still sounds like the birth name of a superhero.

Beach Bums claimed TM Cleveland Browns ($3)

It seems like the Browns defense has a solid match-up every week and only ever churn out six or seven points.

Greased Up Deaf Guy claimed RB Stepfan Taylor

With Andre Ellington a weekly starter, it makes perfect sense to lock up Stepfan Taylor as well, especially a week after he picked up two touchdowns. It’s unlikely that Taylor will have that kind of game again unless Ellington gets injured, but handcuffing is smart either way.

Greased Up Deaf Guy claimed TM Denver Broncos

A defense!

Reggie Wayne Comeback Trayne claimed TM Indianapolis Colts

Another defense!

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