So I interviewed Kevin Durant on Wednesday.
That's not some "gotcha" trick, where I spoke to some person whose legal name is Kevin Durant. No, I'm talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star NBA player Kevin Durant.
And I'm not trying to be cute and say I asked him a question on Twitter or something. No, we had Kevin Durant on the Fantasy Focus podcast and spoke to him for about 12 minutes. It was pretty cool and I hope you'll listen to it. Honestly, you don't even have to listen to it. I won't know. Just download it. All we care about are the clicks.
Welcome to the most name-droppy column of all time. I apologize in advance for both the name-dropping and using made-up words like name-droppy.
Thanks to the power and popularity of ESPN (and, frankly, fantasy football) I've been lucky enough to interview many famous athletes, movie stars and celebrities through the years, almost always on the podcast. The podcast itself is goofy, and as someone who has been interviewed himself a decent amount, I know how tedious it is to answer the same questions over and over. So I always try to come up with at least some different questions.
And whether it's talking to Kevin James about how much the children's show "Caillou" sucks, giving dating advice to listeners with Vanilla Ice, hearing Hugh Jackman's tips on avoiding creepers at parties or asking Daniel Radcliffe who his fantasy Voldemort is, I feel we've been successful in doing fun and different interviews that fit in tonally with the spirit of the podcast. Regardless, our interviews have been successful enough that the powers that be suggested we do a "celebrity league" for the Fantasy Focus podcast.
It's only the least original idea ever.
There have been a zillion versions of this, I felt, over the years from all sorts of places doing fantasy analysis. And the issues are almost always the same.
1. It's a thrown-together league: There's no history, no stakes, no one really cares about the league, including most of the celebrities playing in it.
2. It's always the same people: Before fantasy was mainstream or cool, I was always on the lookout for any mentions of fantasy. And when you heard something about a celeb playing, you got excited. "Whoa! Meat Loaf plays fantasy?" As a result, I am always very aware of famous people who play and there's, for lack of a better word, a "circuit" of celebs and personalities that always play in these leagues.
So there's a sameness there. And that's not meant to disrespect to any of the people in those leagues -- just the opposite, in fact. I love that they are celebrities and are out there, promoting fantasy football, playing in leagues, being positive about the game we all love. In fact, we have often found that we will have someone on our show and reveal that they play fantasy football and then, what do you know, the word is out and they show up a few months later on someone else's show talking about their fantasy team.
But whether it was someone who "started" on our podcast or not, it's no longer special or unique to our podcast. Whether we have succeeded or not, we've tried hard to be original with the show.
3. ESPN wanted big names and different names from the ones that are on ESPN regularly. Which, sure, is great in theory, but that's another issue with "celebrity leagues." The bigger the name, the more likely it is that that person isn't actually playing. I bring this up only because it came up on the radio, but in the summer I was on ESPN Radio with Ben Lyons and Michelle Beadle. Both are great, both play fantasy (Ben's a long-time player and the only guy I've met more obsessed with "Beverly Hills, 90210" than I am), and we were discussing a different celebrity league (not on ESPN) that Beadle was playing in. (See? There's a million of 'em).
She described who was in the league and mentioned Kate Upton. I just laughed. "Stop it. Kate Upton does not play fantasy football," I said. And Beadle said, "Well, Kate Upton's brother."
That's the last thing I wanted: a league full of the brothers, assistants and publicists of famous people. No thanks.
(And no disrespect to that specific league -- I'm not trying to start anything, and I have no issue with the people running that league. I'm even friends with many people playing in or running that league. And they do have some legit people playing in that league, including Beadle, who is one of my favorite people on the planet. It's just a perfect example, and Beadle said it publicly, so it's a good way to illustrate what I am talking about.)
With all these challenges, I was dead set against it.
But ESPN liked the idea a lot, thought the celeb interviews on the show would be fun and would help publicize the show as we had a new co-host this year in Field Yates, and, most importantly, they reminded me I didn't have a choice.
OK, so we were doing it. I said I loved the idea of big names, but only if they actually played fantasy football. They had to be legit, because if they couldn't talk fantasy, the interviews would come off phony and defeat the whole purpose. And if we're doing this, we should have names from a bunch of industries, not just a league of all actors.
So we got to work, and between ESPN, superagent Matt Rice from UTA and some very gracious friends of mine who called famous people they knew ... we actually did it. A celebrity league with legit people who were actual fantasy football players, didn't appear very often on ESPN and were very famous names.
In alphabetical order, here's who is in the league (could I get more name-droppy here? Like I said, this is all due to ESPN):
1. Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman -- A husband-and-wife team, Max is a movie producer ("Pitch Perfect," "Pitch Perfect 2") and Elizabeth, of course, directed and was one of the stars of "Pitch Perfect 2."
2. Ike Barinholtz -- He's hilarious. He's on "The Mindy Project," he was on "The League," and he's probably best known as Seth Rogen's best friend in "Neighbors."
3. Kevin Durant -- NBA All-Star with the Oklahoma City Thunder
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- NASCAR superstar
5. Michael J. Fox and Sam Fox -- Michael, of course, is an actor, author and advocate. Back to the Future Day is Oct. 21! Sam is Michael's son.
6. Evan Longoria and Jaime Edmondson -- MLB All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays and his fiancée, a model, reality star and former SiriusXM host
7. Phil Lord and Chris Miller -- The writers and directors of "The Lego Movie," directors of "22 Jump Street" and executive producers of "Last Man on Earth." And, oh yeah, they're currently working on the new Han Solo movie.
8. Jim Parsons -- Star of "The Big Bang Theory"
And then there's me and and Field Yates. I love this group for many reasons. I love it because it represents a great cross-section of who plays fantasy: men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and sons.
The whole reason I bring this up (other than to promote the celeb league and the podcast, and to give me an open on deadline) is that I love the whole idea of it. Us Weekly always does this feature, "Stars -- They're just like us!" and it's pictures of famous people doing everyday things, like, "Here's Tom Cruise, watching his kid play soccer!" (Of course, Tom is wearing a $5,000 suit in the picture, but whatever.)
And I kept thinking about that as we were talking to KD on the podcast, as Kevin was complaining about his players getting hurt and having to sit through trash-talk texts from his father, who was giving him crap on Sunday for losing to his dad. I love that image: Here's world-famous KD, multimillionaire, people at his beck and call, sitting in front of a TV, throwing his hands in the air when Devonta Freeman's touchdown was overturned last week. Hilarious.
It's the thing I love most about our game. Big or small, rich or poor, man or woman, when it comes to fake football on Sunday, we are all the same. At the mercy of the gods.
As always, Love/Hate is NOT a standard start/sit column, but rather players I like more or less than their normal expected production. For specific "start this guy or that guy" questions, please consult my flex rankings. Thanks to Jacob Nitzberg and Robert Nelson of ESPN Stats & Information for their help this week. And away we go!
Quarterbacks I love in Week 6
Matt Ryan, Falcons: Remember last week when I loved Matt Ryan? You do? Damn, was hoping you'd forgotten. Well, despite last week's miss, I'm back again. Proof that not all two first names please the crowd, Rob Ryan's defense has struggled this season against quarterbacks, as the Saints have allowed the third-most fantasy points to the position. And if you take out Brandon Weeden's start against them, the Saints have given up more than 22 points a game to QBs this season, which would be the most in the NFL. Ryan averaged 385 passing yards per game against the Saints last season and threw four TD passes total in those two games. I expect continued success this week, with or without Julio Jones.
Eli Manning, Giants: There are only two teams to give up at least 250 passing yards and at least one passing touchdown in every game this season and one of them is the Eagles. Keep in mind the Eagles have faced Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick and 20-plus minutes of Brandon Weeden this season. Philly actually has a good run defense, so the Giants will have to move the ball through the air, and move the ball they shall. It's worth noting that in Manning's past eight games against the Eagles, he has averaged 274 pass yards and thrown 15 total TD passes.
Sam Bradford, Eagles: OK, one guess who the other team to allow at least 250 passing yards and at least one passing touchdown in every game this season? Yeah, the Giants are bottom five in sacks this season, and when not under pressure, Bradford is completing 70 percent of his passes. He's finally starting to look like the guy we saw in the preseason, and he's an easy top-10 play for me against a team that gives up more passing yards per game than any team in the NFL.
So you're saying there's a chance: I forgot I had changed the name of "If you're desperate" to this a while ago. I like this title better. Either way, these are guys for deeper leagues and teams with bye-week or injury issues.
Jay Cutler has put up 17 fantasy points in each of the past two weeks without his top wide receivers and he should (Maybe? Hopefully? Please?) get Alshon Jeffery and/or Eddie Royal back this week. You couldn't ask for a better matchup against a Lions defense that is one of three teams to allow at least 15 fantasy points to QBs in every game this season. ... At home, off the bye and facing the Chiefs' 27th-ranked pass defense, I like Teddy Bridgewater's chances of a nice game here. ... Off his best game of the season, back home (where the 49ers have played better) and facing a Ravens defense that just made Josh McCown look like Joe Montana, Colin Kaepernick is a top-15 play this week.
The price is right: As always, any player I list in "Love" generally is a good play in daily, but specifically, here are some additional players I like this week, specific to their price on DraftKings.com.
Tom Brady is the most expensive quarterback on DraftKings this week ($8,100), but given that the Colts have given up 15 or more points to every QB they've faced this season, Brady has nine touchdowns and an average of 266 yards passing in the past four regular-season games against Indy and, who are we kidding, the extra motivation makes Brady a safe cash-game play who will earn his keep. Plus, after every time he scores you can smirk at the TV and say, "Deflate this, Colts!" ... Man, was I wrong about Andy Dalton last week. Five weeks in and no doubt dude is legit, but his price hasn't caught up with him on DraftKings, where's he just $5,700 and facing the Bills (24th against the pass). ... Carson Palmer seems obvious to me, but the fourth-highest-scoring QB in fantasy is just ninth in price ($6,600) and faces an overmatched Steelers secondary (20th versus the pass).
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 6
Cam Newton, Panthers: He's struggled in three career games against the Seahawks: 145.7 passing yards a game, he's never eclipsed 200, has just one passing touchdown and no rushing touchdowns, and the Seahawks defense is better at home than on the road. Cam is outside my top 10 this week.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: He's got a suspect offensive line and the Panthers have had two weeks to prepare for this game ... and get Luke Kuechly back. Allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs (admittedly, they haven't really played anyone, but still), the Panthers should limit Wilson's throwing here (Seattle's offensive line has the lowest pass-blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus) and with just one touchdown pass in four of five games this year, I see a low-scoring game in which the Seahawks feed Marshawn Lynch in his expected return. Outside my top 10.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars: Last week's four-touchdown hero has been much better than expected this season, but already banged up, so this is not a matchup that is favorable to him. The Texans' defense ain't the Texans' defense this season, y'all, but they blitz on 51 percent of dropbacks this season, the second-highest rate in the league. Since the start of last season, Bortles is just 30th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage against the blitz and his seven interceptions against the blitz are tied for the third-most over that span.
Josh McCown, Browns: I'm more of a believer than not, but it's worth noting that none of the teams McCown has played since returning to the starter's role rank in the top 12 in pass defense. This week the Browns face the Broncos, who have given up just three touchdown passes all season. And while it's always possible Gary Barnidge catches another between his legs again, I have McCown outside my top 15 this week.
Running backs I love in Week 6
Eddie Lacy, Packers: I get it. He hasn't been what you hoped for. On the other hand, ask a Jamaal Charles or Marshawn Lynch owner how they're feeling these days. I'm trying to buy low on Lacy, not bail.
His numbers through five games last season: 266 rushing yards and 4.56 yards per touch
Through five games this season: 257 rushing yards and 4.57 yards per touch.
Last season, Lacy finished as the sixth-best RB in fantasy. He had scored three touchdowns by this point last season and has only one so far in 2015, but touchdowns are fluky and on the Packers, you know they're coming. He's played some tough run defenses thus far (Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City), but things will get easier, starting with a Chargers team that is allowing an NFL-worst 5.1 yards per carry this season.
Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount, Patriots: The "Gronk You" tour rolls into Indianapolis, and if there's one constant, it's that New England enjoys running on the Colts. If you take the "Jonas Gray game" from last season and the past two playoff meetings (in the 2013 and 2014 seasons), New England has averaged 219 yards rushing per game and has 13 rushing touchdowns in the three games versus the Colts. In those two playoff games, Blount averaged 157 rushing yards per game and had seven rushing touchdowns. If you think the Patriots don't want to run up the score here, you are wrong.
Duke Johnson Jr., Browns: Named after Nat and Brandon's bookie on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (as far as you know), he's a big part of Cleveland's passing game, running 65 routes in the past two weeks (for comparison, LeVeon Bell has run 51 routes in his past two games). Johnson has more catches the past three weeks than Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr., and he is second among running backs in targets (24) and receptions (21) and third in receiving yards (172) in that time frame. He has at least six receptions in each of the past three games, and the Broncos have given up the most receptions to RBs during the past three weeks.
C.J. Anderson, Broncos: It's the Browns. As of this writing, Ronnie Hillman is banged up with a hamstring injury. Cleveland has allowed at least 154 rushing yards in four of its five games this season and has allowed the second-most yards per rush in the league. I have Anderson as a flex play this week, but if you can't do it, I totally get it. He's been awful. But listen, C.J., if not now, when? If not you, who? If not lunch, how about dinner? I might be hungry. Hungry for some scoring, that is!
So you're saying there's a chance: Detroit is looking for answers, anywhere, and Theo Riddick's 30 receptions this season are six more than any other running back in the NFL. Riddick is fourth in receiving yards and tied for second in receiving touchdowns among running backs, so he should be a usable flex play against the Bears in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues. ... Complete and total gut call here, because there are no stats to back this up, but I think the Dolphins respond to their new head coach and Lamar Miller has a strong day against the Titans' 23rd-ranked run defense. ... We keep waiting for Melvin Gordon to break out, and it was encouraging to see him catch passes last week. At some point he has to score a touchdown, right? Packers give up the third-most rushing yards per carry. ... The Giants are tough against the run, so I could see Darren Sproles being usable in deeper PPR leagues this week.
The price is right: For those playing on DraftKings, some running backs I like (beyond the guys mentioned above) include, at the high end, Devonta Freeman (my No. 1 player but just fifth in pricing at $7,000) against the Saints. New Orleans is one of two teams to allow at least 100 yards rushing in every game this season. I could do negative Saints defense stats all day. ... No player has a higher percentage of his team's yards from scrimmage this season than Matt Forte ($7,100), giving him a fairly high floor against the Lions' reeling run defense. ... Mark Ingram ($6,000) is second on the Saints in receptions this season and has the most carries inside an opponent's 5-yard line since the start of last season. Meanwhile, the Falcons have given up the most receptions and receiving yards to runners this season and allowed six rushing touchdowns in the past three games. ... Chris Johnson ($4,600) and Carlos Hyde ($4,600) are two mid-priced options I like quite a bit this week; both are inside my top 15 at the position. ... I always say I like every guy on this list, but Riddick, at $3,300, shouldn't have much trouble earning value at all.
Running backs I hate in Week 6
DeMarco Murray, Eagles: In six career games against the Giants, Murray has scored one rushing touchdown. The Giants allow the fewest yards per rush, and the second-fewest of both rush yards per game and rush yards before contact per carry (1.79). You're hoping for volume and passing-game usage here from Murray, and with Ryan Mathews running well (and I've already said this sets up nicely for Sproles), I'm not convinced he's gets it. I have Murray as a low-end RB2 this week.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: He's been bad, and the Seahawks are great at home. They haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 11 last season, and given the way the Panthers' offense runs, I don't see that changing on Sunday. Seattle gives up fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, so Stewart is outside my top 25.
Jeremy Hill, Bengals: Maybe by putting him on the hate list, I'll reverse-jinx him into being good. Nothing else seems to be working these days. I do think better days are ahead, just not on Sunday against a Bills team that is tied for the fifth-fewest rushing touchdowns allowed and is third against the run.
Charcandrick West, Chiefs: If you take away Hillman's 72-yard run against them in Week 4, the Vikings have given up just three yards a carry to running backs. We just don't know how much usage West will get or, frankly, how good he might be in extended use. I'd like to see him play a full game before I automatically insert him into my lineup. I have him just outside my top 20.
Wide receivers I love in Week 6
Brandon Marshall, Jets: You have to like how tough Washington's defense is playing, but Marshall is averaging more than 10 targets per game. At home, off the bye, the volume and his size (he's 6-foot-4 and none of the Washington corners he'll face are taller than 6-0) will prevail for a top-12 day.
Keenan Allen, Chargers: Another guy getting double-digit targets every week, this will not be a defensive battle in Green Bay.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins: Only Antonio Brown has as many eight-reception games in his past nine (dating back to last season). If you are of the mind that things regress to the mean (and I am), you'll note that Landry, yes, Jarvis Landry, leads the NFL in red zone targets this season. And of the 18 players with at least seven red zone targets, Landry is the only one without a red zone touchdown. I say that changes Sunday.
So you're saying there's a chance: No defense has allowed opposing QBs to complete a higher percentage of passes and to throw for more touchdowns this season than the Baltimore Ravens, and traveling west again, I don't see that changing. The Ravens have allowed five different receivers to total at least 94 yards and a score against them in the past four games, and those all occurred in three games, since Michael Vick didn't pose a threat as a passer in Week 4. ... I'm generally not a Mike Wallace fan, but off a bye and facing a Chiefs team giving up the most receiving yards and touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season, I can get on board. Teddy Bridgewater is 20-of-24 when targeting Wallace this season. ... Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of Mr. Rob Ryan's defense? I have? Good. Tough week last week but I'm back on Leonard Hankerson, especially with Julio Jones at less than 100 percent.
The price is right: In addition to the guys listed above, I'm on board with Willie Snead regardless -- his 230 receiving yards in the past two weeks are the fourth most in the NFL during that span -- but at just $3,300, he's a great bargain with a high floor in what should be a high-scoring game. ... With both Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle hurting, Dwayne Harris should continue to get looks (14 targets the past two weeks) and has nice upside against Philly's 26th-ranked pass defense. He's just $3,100. ... Since Week 2, Allen Robinson has four receiving touchdowns, which ranks second in the NFL during that span. He's just $5,900. ... Assuming Luck plays (no sure thing as of this writing), I like Donte Moncrief ($5,000) to rebound from last week with a big effort in a game I expect the Colts to have to throw a lot.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 6
Travis Benjamin, Browns: Sometimes two first names aren't enough. Another matchup-based one here, as the Broncos have allowed only one receiving touchdown to an opposing wide receiver this season, tied with the Seahawks for the fewest in the NFL.
Sammy Watkins, Bills: If Tyrod Taylor doesn't start, it's good to know that Watkins had 31 yards or fewer in three of the four games he played with EJ Manuel last season. Watkins is outside my top 35. The Bengals are top 10 in scoring defense.
I know. Weak week on the hates. Can't force them.
Tight ends I love in Week 6
Greg Olsen, Panthers: Just in case you were thinking of getting cute because it's Seattle. You've got to start Olsen, as tight end is one place you can actually attack the Seahawks, as they've allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. The middle of the field isn't great for them (comparatively). You saw what Tyler Eifert did last week, right? Olsen already has five red zone catches this season after having just 10 last season.
Jordan Cameron, Dolphins: Second on the team in targets, his new head coach is the former tight ends coach and tight ends are averaging 15.5 yards per catch this season against Tennessee.
So you're saying there's a chance: In short, I like the passing game and am not crazy about the running game for both teams on Monday Night Football, so given that the Giants have allowed the most receptions and second-most receiving yards per game to opposing TEs, Zach Ertz is potentially in play this week. ... With Julio Jones and Leonard Hankerson banged up, I could see Matt Ryan leaning on Jacob Tamme again against a Saints team that has allowed the most receiving yards, the fourth-most receptions and tied for the second-most touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.
The price is right: In addition to the above names, here are some guys I like. From the top-shelf department, Rob Gronkowski has been too quiet for too long (for him). He's just $7,600, which is expensive but not when you consider other players who are tops at their position. ... Marcus Mariota is among the league leaders in targeting his tight end and the Dolphins got worked by both Jordan Reed and Charles Clay. Delanie Walker at $3,600 is pretty interesting. ... If you want to just punt the position, Darren Fells is just $2,500. He scored last week and now gets a Steelers team that gives up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends and is on a short week.
Tight ends I hate in Week 6
Jimmy Graham, Seahawks: You probably don't have a choice but to start him, but I'm avoiding him in daily and certainly lowering expectations in season-long play. Russell Wilson refuses to look his way (did he say he hated Ciara songs?) and the Panthers have allowed just 10 fantasy points to TEs all season, fewest in the league. Now in fairness, the Panthers haven't played anyone with a decent tight end, so it's somewhat misleading, but still. Graham has had five or fewer targets in a game three times already this season. Excluding his rookie season, the most such games he's ever had in a season is four.
Gary Barnidge, Browns: I know, I know. He was in the hate section last week and I burned you. But hey, you wouldn't have owned him in the first place if I hadn't pumped him up three weeks ago, so it cuts both ways, Johnny Whine. I like Barnidge overall and think he's more real than not, but against Denver (and without a crazy catch), he's just outside my top 10 this week.
Defenses I love in Week 6
Carolina Panthers: Just as I wrote in the Russell Wilson write-up, the offensive line issues of the Seattle Seahawks are no joke. Off a bye, with Luke Kuechly back and facing a Seahawks team that allows the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, I'm rolling the Panthers out there.
New York Jets: The Jets have allowed the fewest points per game this season (13.8), and Washington has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, including three of five games in double digits. The Jets are at home, coming off a bye (in case you missed it, I like teams that have two weeks to prepare, especially when they are at home) and they have 13 takeaways, tied for the second most in the NFL.
So you're saying there's a chance: For the past four weeks a defense has scored double-digit points against the Bears and that includes the Chiefs and Raiders, so despite all their struggles, the Lions could be OK in a home matchup this week. ... In two games at home this season, the 49ers' defense dominated the Vikings and more than held their own against the Packers. Now with the struggling and banged-up Ravens coming to town, I like them as a streamer.
The price is right: In addition to the teams above (I mean, it doesn't get cheaper than the 49ers at $2,100), Denver is one of the few defenses worth paying for. At $3,700, the Broncos are not cheap, but against Cleveland, they should be worth it. ... The Bengals are just $3,000 and most likely will be facing EJ Manuel.
Defenses I hate in Week 6
Buffalo Bills: Even after facing Seattle, the Bengals' offense has just six giveaways this season, and has allowed a total of 14 fantasy points to opposing defenses all season, and that includes the Seahawks' touchdown last week. Again, I expect EJ Manuel to start here and turn the ball over, putting the Bengals in favorable field position.
Atlanta Falcons: They are playing at a very high level, but I expect a lot of scoring in this game, limiting the upside of the Falcons.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is a paid spokesman for DraftKings.com and the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You also might have heard: He has written a book.