AAF Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 5
It was a week of upsets in the AAF as the last two winless teams in the league both came away with their first “W” of the season. The Atlanta Legends and Memphis Express both pulled off the feat while also giving us a few new players worth watching in fantasy football going forward.
The waiver wire articles for AAF are a bit unique compared to the NFL counterpart you may be used to reading. With a large portion of fantasy enthusiasts focused primarily on DFS for the AAF, this article will cover the full spectrum of fantasy formats with both season-long and DFS advice given. In case you’re just now getting into the AAF, the place to play DFS each and every week is over at Fanball.com. Stats and fantasy points for this article are sourced from Fanball and NoExtraPoints.com. Let’s get to this week’s players!
Aaron Murray (ATL)
Matt Simms was conveniently removed from action early in Week 4 with a hurt finger, which is quite possibly the best thing that has happened to the Atlanta Legends all season. This made way for QB Aaron Murray to take over under center, a move that should have been made weeks ago. Murray is the SEC’s all-time passing leader with a career 13,166 yards and 121 TDs in his four seasons as a Georgia Bulldog according to College Sports Reference.
The Arizona Hotshots had no answer for Murray as he broke off chunk plays at will both through the air and on the ground. Murray completed 20-of-33 attempts (60.6%) for 254 yards while also leading the Legends with 54 rushing yards on seven carries. The only thing missing from Murray was a TD. He still finished as the QB2 in fantasy for Week 4 despite no TDs with 15.6 fantasy points, just behind Zach Mettenberger.
Murray’s rise last week coincidentally came on the heels of the Legends bringing in new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese for Week 4. Zampese is fresh off a successful season as the Cleveland Browns QB coach last year where he helped guide Baker Mayfield to a stellar rookie year. This new-look Legends offense is going to force us to change our perception of what we have come to know from the team in this young AAF season.
Murray is a must-add in season-long leagues, if available, who offers overall QB1 upside and a safe floor thanks to his rushing ability. In DFS, Murray will probably be a highly-owned value play priced as the QB4 on Fanball at $5,900 going up against fellow Week 4 upset champions, the Memphis Express, who have given up the most fantasy points to QBs this season.
Terrell Newby (SLC)
Newby may look like a confusing pick at first glance of a box score but think of this as a handcuff situation to monitor. Branden Oliver looked like a full-fledged bell-cow for the Stallions in Week 4 right up until the point that he came out with a strained groin. Even coach Dennis Erickson called Oliver the “lead back” in the post-game press conference. Like hamstring injuries, groin injuries can be tough to shake for running backs with a high potential for aggravation early in recovery.
Newby only saw four touches last week but managed 32 yards from scrimmage with an even distribution of work on the ground and as a receiver. He also chipped in with a converted two-point attempt. Newby fills the Branden Oliver mold perfect with a dual-threat skill set and identical size at 5’9″ and 205 lbs. It’s worth mentioning that Joel Bouagnon looked to quickly assume virtually an every-down role once Oliver left the game, but that should probably change closer to an even timeshare with a full week of practice.
As mentioned above, Newby is a solid handcuff for Oliver owners at the moment in season-long leagues who will be a solid Flex play were Oliver to officially miss Week 5. Newby will also become a value play in DFS near the minimum at $3,300 on Fanball against an SD Fleet team that will be limping into Week 5.
Brandon Ross (BIR)
It was a roller coaster performance for Brandon Ross in his first week of action with the Birmingham Iron. Ross put together some nice runs throughout the game, showing the burst needed to break around the edges, something we haven’t seen from plodding Trent Richardson this season who has basically only taken whatever his offensive line will give him. Ross surprisingly led the Iron in rushing in Week 4 with nine carries for 64 yards (7.1 YPA) while Richardson managed only 15 yards on eight carries (1.9 YPA). Ross ended his game on a bad note, however, losing a costly fumble that helped seal the first loss of the season for the Iron.
Ross is going to have a hard time unseating Richardson as the lead back here. T-Rich has essentially been the entire scoring offense for the Iron while his seven rushing TDs are more than twice as many as the next best RBs. Richardson also continues to be a focal point of the short passing game as a go-to target for regressing QB Luis Perez. Still, there is room for at least a change of pace role for Ross going forward which could be valuable on an offense with a QB who is allergic to throwing TDs.
RB Carousels: Atlanta and Orlando RB Committees
The Atlanta Legends have now joined the Orlando Apollos in what are the most puzzling, yet productive RB committees in the league. Here’s what we know so far from these backfields and maybe some clarity on what we should do going forward.
The Apollos backfield is slightly less confusing, but still far from clear. D’Ernest Johnson leads the team with 202 rushing yards on 34 attempts this season while also leading the team’s RBs with five catches for 55 yards and a receiving TD while averaging 12.2 fantasy PPG. Johnson, however, lost work on the ground last week to De’Veon Smith who led the team with 12 rushes, and to make things more confusing, Akeem Hunt jumped back in the mix to tie Johnson with eight carries last week while also securing a rushing TD.
Pro Football Focus has Johnson as the highest graded RB among these three with a grade of 67.7 as the RB9. Smith is right behind him with a grade of 62.8 as the RB12 averaging 8.7 fantasy PPG while Akeem Hunt comes up last in the group with a 53.6 grade as the RB17 and 6.5 PPG. Johnson should remain the favorite here for season-long leagues and DFS as he offers the safest floor.
For the Legends, this gets a bit more tricky. This offense is going to look completely different with a new offensive coordinator and QB taking over. Tarean Folston looks like the back to own right now as he had an impressively large role in the passing game last week. Folston led the Legends catching five-of-seven targets for 66 yards while also carrying the ball five times for an additional 21 yards. Folston was listed as the RB1 on the Legends depth chart heading into Week 4, though he lost carries to Brandon Radcliff (12), Denard Robinson (9), and Aaron Murray (7).
Radcliff was probably the most explosive runner on the ground as he gave us highlight plays like this:
— Atlanta Legends (@AafLegends) March 4, 2019
Denard Robinson was the only Legends player to find the end zone last week as he came to life with 43 rushing yards at 4.8 YPA despite coming into the game with only 10 rushing yards to his name on the season. There really is no clear answer unfortunately for this one until we get at least one more game to analyze this new-look offense. All three RBs are worth grabbing in season-long leagues while Folston ($4,200) and Robinson ($3,700) are the better value plays in DFS this week. Folston is probably the top play thanks to his high receiving usage in Fanball’s PPR-friendly scoring format. This backfield will likely get more confusing when Akrum Wadley returns after missing last week’s game with a leg injury.
Alton “Pig” Howard (MEM)
In the first full week of the Zach Mettenberger era for the Memphis Express, Alton “Pig” Howard led the team with five targets, hauling in three catches for 39 yards. Howard has quietly seen 20 targets so far this season and flashed some big-play ability in Week 4 as he created 32 yards after the catch.
We are starting to see a more clear and potentially trustworthy group of wide receivers emerge from Memphis now that they have finally gotten competent QB play. Howard looks like he should be a fixture in three-wide sets based on his usage and pure athletic ability. This will be a battle to watch going forward as Howard will compete with Devin Lucien and Dontez Byrd for snaps and routes in this WR corps that currently looks to be led by Reece Horn.
Devin Lucien (MEM)
As mentioned above, Devin Lucien looks to be sliding into a regular role on this revamped Memphis Express offense. Lucien made waves in Week 3 catching Mettenberger’s first big TD for 30 yards against the Orlando Apollos. He followed that performance up this week tied with Howard for the team lead with five targets in Week 4, catching three of those for only 19 yards. The splash plays can’t happen every week, but what’s important here is that the opportunity is clearly there and Lucien is carving out a solid role on an offense on the rise.
Dontez Ford (SD)
Ford was a player I was high on all season up until last week when I finally decided to drop him down my fantasy rankings. So, naturally, he decided to have his best game of the regular season, totaling three catches for 71 yards and a TD. Ford finished Week 4 with 16.1 fantasy points as the overall WR3.
Nelson Spruce had been the WR to own in SD the last few weeks, so it was nice to see Philip Nelson finally show some love toward Dontez Ford. Nelson, of course, was hurt in the game and has been reported to be out for four-to-six weeks with Mike Bercovici now announced as the starting QB for the Fleet heading into Week 5. This could be good news for Ford as he showed a good rapport with Berco in the preseason. Ford went ham with 11 catches for 114 yards and one TD in the preseason, most of which was earned with Bercovici under center. Ford is worth grabbing if anyone dropped him in your season-long league, though he may be a player to avoid in DFS this week as people will likely be chasing fantasy points with him, and we have no idea what this Fleet passing game will look like without Nelson.
Brian Tyms (SLC)
Tyms jumped into action with the Stallions last week and seems to have fallen into an immediate role as a featured part of three-wide sets for SLC. After seeing the field for a significant amount of snaps last week, Tyms followed that up by catching four-of-five targets for 32 yards in Week 4. The targets were tied with Kenny Bell for the team lead while the receiving yards were second behind Adonis Jennings.
Tyms, a former Patriot, was picked up and released by the Apollos to begin the season before landing on the SLC roster. This team looks to be shying away a bit from their heavy tight end usage that we saw earlier in the season with Tyms, Bell, and De’Mornay Pierson-El all looking to hold fantasy relevance going forward. Tyms is a sleeper DFS play this week at only $3,700 and a Flexworthy add in season-long leagues.
Rannell Hall (ORL)
Hall has been getting solid work on this high-powered Apollos offense and has now finished as the overall WR5 in fantasy football in back-to-back weeks. Hall followed up his solid 4/68/1 performance in Week 3 by posting similar numbers in Week 4 with four catches for 57 yards. He finished above Charles Johnson in fantasy scoring last week and has beaten out Jalin Marshall in each of the last two games.
Consistency has been hard to come by at any position in this league, which makes Hall’s numbers a welcome sight for season-long leagues and DFS. Hall looks like a safe play across the board as he is still flying under the radar a bit despite ranking as the WR8 on the season with an average of 8.8 fantasy PPG.
Week 4 actually gave us some tight end performances worth writing about. Yay…I guess? The tight end position is still a solid fade in DFS, but these guys will have some value in season-long leagues that require a starter at the position.
Wes Saxton Jr. (BIR)
Saxton Jr. has carved out a role as a Birmingham Iron tight end that we can finally trust (RIP Connor Davis). Not only was Saxton Jr. a top tight end play in each of the last two weeks, but he actually led the Iron in receiving in Week 4 totaling three catches for 54 yards. He looked to have immediate chemistry with Luis Perez as a friendly, big-bodied target that even Perez couldn’t miss. Maybe Saxton Jr. finally helps Perez break his curse of no passing TDs this week? Either way, consistent usage makes Saxton a top-three play at a complete disaster of a position in season-long leagues.
Marcus Baugh/Ben Johnson (SD)
Both Marcus Baugh and Ben Johnson saw heavy usage in the passing game this week as San Diego leaned on their tight ends for production. This isn’t something we have really seen from the Fleet this season as it’s primarily been the Gavin Escobar show all season at TE for the team. Alex Ross looked to specifically be targeting Baugh and even found him for a fairly impressive TD early before the wheels completely fell off later in the game. Baugh is probably the most intriguing of the two here as he has totaled seven catches for 69 yards on the season. Baugh is worth a bench stash as a backup TE at the moment in season-long leagues who could have a more predominant role if Escobar ever misses time.