Hail Mary Starts of the Week

By Ari Gilberg

Hail Mary (Football): A very long, typically unsuccessful pass made in a desperate attempt to score late in the game. “They beat the 49ers on a Hail Mary pass in the final seconds”

  • Any attempt with a small chance of success. “A Hail Mary plan”

Sometimes you’re just not dealt a good hand. Not all of us are born with pocket aces – in fact, most of us are handed something along the lines of 7-2 off suit. For those with limited-to-no knowledge of poker, 7-2 off suit is considered the worst starting hand. They’re the two lowest cards you could be given without having a chance at a straight, and since they’re off suit you also have a very low chance at a flush – low, but not impossible (insert “Dumb and Dumber” quote, ”So you’re saying there’s a chance?” here).

Now, are the odds stacked against you if you’re starting hand is 7-2 off suit? Yes. But, if you play your cards right (pun intended), you can still win big. Sometimes you just have to go all-in with that last-ditch Hail Mary attempt and lay your cards out on the table (pun intended, last one I promise) and hope for the best.

So, what does this have to do with fantasy football? Well, most people by now are in one of three positions in their league: comfortably at the top with a 7-2 or better record and almost assured to make the playoffs, sitting in the middle at around 5-4 and on the playoff bubble, or all the way down at the bottom with a 3-6 or 2-7 record and in need of a (wait for it) Hail Mary to save their season.

This article applies to the latter group. In an effort to give these guys a little bit of hope, here are six Hail Mary players (1 QB, 2 RB, 2WR, and 1 TE) you could potentially plug-and-play this week. Each player is owned in less than 35 percent of ESPN leagues.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins – 25.4 percent owned:

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While Cousins hasn’t exactly been the poster child for consistency (his last five scoring outputs are 31.7, 8.9, 7.9, 30.2, and 10.7) he has several variables working in his favor this week, and is due for a bounce-back performance.

For one, he’s now had another week of practice with deep-threat DeSean Jackson, who played in just his first full game last week after suffering a hamstring injury in the season opener. Second, and more importantly, he has the luxury of going up against the porous New Orleans Saints defense. Here’s how quarterbacks have fared against Saints the past three weeks:

  • Andrew Luck – 333 passing yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, 24 points scored
  • Eli Manning – 350 passing yards, six touchdowns, zero interceptions, 38 points scored
  • Marcus Mariota – 371 passing yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, 33.3 points scored.

I’ll just let these numbers speak for themselves.


James White, RB, New England Patriots – 30.8 percent owned:

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White has scored a total of 6.7 points this season, he was a healthy scratch last week, and one must always remember the cardinal rule of never trusting a Patriots running back. So why is he one of the most hotly added running backs and is on this list?

White is a pass-catching running back. Dion Lewis is a pass catching running back. Lewis, who had 85 touches for 622 total yards and four touchdowns, is now out for the year with a torn ACL. LaGarrette Blount, who is now the starter, is viewed primarily as a first and second down power running back and has totaled just three receptions this season.

Not surprisingly, it’s been reported White is the Patriots running back who is “the top candidate” to see his role expand. Even if White doesn’t receive many carries, he’ll still be a solid fantasy contributor – especially in PPR leagues – as a result of targets in the passing game.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins – 4.7 percent owned:

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Ajayi, who was on the short-term IR after breaking a rib during the preseason, made his season debut last week against the Buffalo Bills and certainly impressed, rushing five times for 41 yards. While Lamar Miller has cemented his place as a RB1, Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell has become so committed to the running game, – Miami has averaged nearly 26 rushing attempts per game since Campbell took over for the fired Joe Philbin in Week 5 – there’s certainly enough touches to go around.

Campbell himself admitted Ajayi has earned more carries after his debut performance. With the Dolphins releasing Jonas Gray, and signing him to the practice squad, Ajayi has secured himself as the latter half of a 1-2 punch with Miller.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans – 17.3 percent owned:

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It looks like all Green-Beckham needed was a coaching change to help get him going. After seeing just 14 targets over the first seven games under former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Green-Beckham saw a career-high 10 targets in Mike Mularkey’s first game as head coach, and translated that into five catches for 77 yards.

While the 77 yards may not jump out at you, it’s a solid improvement for the second rounder, and could possibly mark the turning point for Green-Beckham who began the year buried on the depth chart. His sheer size, 6’5” and 237 lbs, alone makes Green-Beckham a solid red zone threat. If he’s in fact earned the trust of the new coaching staff, Green-Beckham could become the surprise star of the second-half of the regular season.

Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers – 9.9 percent owned:

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Another talented rookie who’s failed to make any sort of impact until this past week, Funchess is in a similar situation to Green-Beckham. After the Panthers lost Kelvin Benjamin for the year in the preseason, Funchess seemed poised to become one of this year’s rookie stars.

However, he failed to seize the opportunity – averaging less than 13 yards receiving and just over one point-per-game. Funchess finally broke out this past week though, catching three balls for 71 yards receiving and a touchdown, to finish with 13.1 points. At 6’4” and 225 pounds, Funchess is by far the most physically gifted receiver on the team, and thus could seemingly have another breakout performance any given week.

Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions – 33.2 percent owned:

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Coaching changes seemed to have worked for everyone else across the NFL, so maybe new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will finally get the talented Ebron more involved in the Lions’ offense.

While we’ve seen flashes of Ebron’s potential so far this season, with double-digit points scored in Weeks 1, 2, and 7, we’re still waiting for him to have that one breakout 100+ yards receiving performance. Well, no time like the present, as Ebron faces a Packers defense this Sunday that’s given up 19, 10.5, and 13.2 points the past three weeks. If Ebron was ever going to have his coming out party, it’d be this week.

*Facts and figures taken from ESPN and ESPN Fantasy Football. All fantasy football statistics are based on ESPN Fantasy Football’s default scoring. Initial “Hail Mary” definition taken from Oxford Dictionaries.


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