As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into a starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
Most of the “Next Man Up” features we’ve run this season have been a direct result of injuries. But sometimes a simple change to the depth chart can make all the difference in the world, as is the case with the Cardinals’ WR corps.
Michael Floyd has been one of the most disappointing receivers in the league this season. Despite hauling in three touchdowns (second on the team behind only Larry Fitzgerald with five), Floyd’s been miserable — catching just 19-of-44 targets (43%) for 257 yards.
Sunday against Carolina was the second time in eight games this season Floyd recorded zeros across the stat sheet, including targets. More importantly, Floyd played just 29 snaps, which means he was operating as the fourth WR.
Ahead of Floyd was Fitzgerald (56 snaps), John Brown (38 snaps) and our Next Man Up, J.J. Nelson, who led all Arizona receivers in Week 8 with 65 snaps. That high usage just a week after logging 80 snaps against the Seahawks (with Brown sidelined), essentially confirmed his role, but we let Bruce Arians do it himself on Monday when he told the media Nelson is indeed a starting WR for Arizona.
Next Man Up: J.J. Nelson
The snaps obviously tell us that his coach trusts him, but what about Carson Palmer? Well, Nelson’s rapidly becoming one of his favorite targets. Getting the opportunity in Week 7, Nelson hauled in just 3-of-7 targets for 84 yards, but earned Palmer’s trust. In Week 8, Nelson saw a team-leading 12 targets, catching eight for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
After being targeted just seven times in the first six weeks of the season, Jaron Brown’s ACL injury may be what propelled Nelson into this chance to play his way into the rotation. But now it’s clear that Nelson has jumped Floyd on the depth chart simply by outplaying him — he’s got just 43 less yards than Floyd on nearly half the targets.
To go even a step further, Nelson has a chance to pass John Brown and become Palmer’s No. 2 WR. As I mentioned, Brown didn’t play in Week 7, so this past game is all we have to go on with the two receivers playing together.
It was Nelson getting nearly twice as many snaps and three times as many targets (Brown caught all four of his targets for 49 yards and a touchdown in his own right). Maybe Brown will take back his WR2 status as he finds his health, but monitoring the snaps/targets for these two going forward will be telling.
The second-year speedster out of UAB also isn’t completely new to NFL success either. When called upon as a rookie during a four-game span, Nelson caught 11-of-18 targets for 299 yards and two touchdowns, including a 142-yard game with a touchdown on just four snags.
The Cardinals are David Johnson’s offense these days (on top of his 700+ rushing yards and eight touchdowns he’s actually the team’s second-leading receiver with 407 yards), but behind Fitz, there’s a pretty attractive WR role up for grabs. J.J. Nelson appears to be skyrocketing his way up the depth charts to secure it.
For questions or comments hit me up on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.