In this weekly column, I explore some young players who haven’t made much of an impact to date. Some players may be available on your waiver wire, some may be available via a cheap or moderate trade. Acquiring these players could decide how well your dynasty or keeper team does for the next few years.
Armon Binns, WR CIN
Binns is a big physical receiver at 6 ‘3″ 209 lbs. who has decent speed and may have become the number two receiver for the Bengals. The Bengals know they have a true number one wide receiver in AJ Green, but outside of that it is up for grabs. Andrew Hawkins has performed well with limited opportunities (last two games with 50+ yard scores). However, Binns does some things that Hawkins cannot – he catches the ball in between defenders using his size and physicality. His vision helps him break down defenses even though he didn’t play a snap his first year in the league. Ball placement is very important to him as he cannot contort himself like Green or Hawkins to get to the ball in the air.
He needs to build up to top speed as he does not have initial quickness off the line. Once the ball is in his hands, he does a good job of making defenders miss like he did on his 41 yard touchdown catch against the Redskins. By catching the ball at its highest point, he shields the defenders from the ball and uses his size and strength to fight off defenders. Binns does a good job run blocking so he could see more time on the field than the other Bengals wide receiver option not named Green.
He may still be on waiver wires in leagues with short benches, but chances are he is sitting on someone else’s team as their WR5-WR7. The Bengals are having major issues stopping opposing passing games (look at Brandon Weeden’s 300+ yardage week two game), so they will be throwing a lot to catch up. Defenses will focus on Green first and if Cincinnati decides to pass out of run formations, chances are Binns will be seeing one on one coverage down the field. I like his chances in that situation so grab him if he is lying around on your waiver wire or make a small trade to acquire him.
Mikel Leshoure, RB DET
Last year before he suffered a season ending Achilles injury, Leshoure was looking like the “thunder” to Jahvid Best’s “lightning”. After a year of recovery for Leshoure and a never-ending headache for Best owners, the Lions running back situation is hopefully getting clearer.
The young Lion was impressive in his debut against the Titans this past week after coming off his two game suspension. When he hit the line of scrimmage, he powered through, demonstrated good balance and kept a tight grip on the ball. In college, he showed off great speed with tremendous acceleration and good downfield vision.
Watching him in his first game back, the power was still there, but the speed and quickness were not quite yet. He did show a bit of lateral ability, but was more effective running north and south. I liked the way he put his foot in the ground and pushed through the pile punishing defenders. It was concerning there were a few plays in which he got pulled down by his ankles and feet. Unfortunately, these same issues plagued him at times in college. He needs to pick up his feet when he runs through the line of scrimmage to be more effective. His vision should develop in time. With all that being said, he ran effectively on his 26 carries that resulted in 100 yards with a rushing touchdown.
If he wants to play all three downs, I think it is incumbent for him to work on his pass blocking – he seems to try to do too much and not focus on the defender in front of him. Leshoure did well catching the ball and made the most of his four receptions for 34 yards. He looked good on the edge and made a few defenders miss. Keep in mind, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew (among others) will make sure he is never the focus of the defense on passing downs.
Some of you may think Leshoure doesn’t belong on this list as he was a former second round pick who was drafted high in many rookie drafts last year. Please remember this was pre-injury. In those leagues that drafted after he was hurt, Leshoure could have been a steal. I drafted him in the eighth round of a rookie draft last year and got my reward this past week. He should be solid RB2 for your dynasty team, but may come with a lower price tag as he isn’t the shiny new rookie and has drug baggage to boot. I would target him in a trade this week with an owner that may need help at wide receiver or tight end. Make sure you play up the Achilles injury and remind owners it took Andre Brown a few years to recover from the same injury.
Bilal Powell, RB NYJ
Powell was a pre-draft 2011 darling, who after a critical fumble near the end zone in the only series he played, was not heard from again for the rest of the year. Now this dynamo is back on the collective dynasty radar after many owners gave up on him.
When you look back at his college tape, it is clear he is a strong, powerful runner. Powell showed the necessary speed, acceleration and good decision-making skills to be a starter in the league. He runs behind his pads like he is 225+ pounds instead his svelte 208. So far this season he looks like he is ready for the NFL as he is showing good balance and making quick decisions with the ball. Shonn Greene has looked hesitant and reserve Joe McKnight is not much more than a returner or now a cornerback in his coaches’ eyes.
In his 25 touches this year, Powell has amassed 128 yards. After exploding past the first line of defense, he powers through for additional yardage. He looks even better when he catches the ball because he can make defenders miss in space. During pass blocking, he shows great effort and is effective keeping the opposing team from sacking Mark Sanchez.
Much like Binns’ situation, Powell is probably sitting on someone’s roster as their RB5-RB7. I do not have much faith in Greene’s ability to stay effective. Rumors link Powell to become a member of the dreaded running back by committee. If last week’s game against the Dolphins is any indication, I would expect him to pass Greene before Halloween or maybe sooner. Buy him now cheaply if you can.