This Matchups column covers the Alliance of American Football’s two Saturday games from a fantasy perspective. Although season-long AAF leagues are difficult to find, the website Fanball is hosting DFS contests for Saturday’s games only and Sunday’s games only, as well as a main slate that covers all four of this weekend’s games. The AAF regular season spans ten weeks. We’ve got nine left.
Shoot me a note on Twitter @EvanSilva if you’d like a Sunday writeup and/or writeups like this in the future. If you’re already a Rotoworld reader, you’re going to recognize a lot of these players’ names.
2PM ET Game
Salt Lake Stallions @ Birmingham Iron
Team Totals: Iron 25.5, Stallions 18
Stallions Passing Game
As Week 1 starter Josh Woodrum (hamstring) seems to be on the doubtful side of his questionable tag after exiting Salt Lake’s opener early, coach Dennis Erickson’s Stallions are expected to turn to Matt Linehan – son of ex-Cowboys OC Scott – after Linehan went 7-of-13 passing for 56 yards (4.3 YPA), one touchdown, and an interception off the bench in last week’s 38-22 loss to Arizona. Linehan was a mediocre college starter at the University of Idaho, where he completed 61.2% of his career throws at 7.3 yards per attempt with a 62:43 TD-to-INT ratio and showed minimal rushing skills. If Linehan struggles against Birmingham’s elite defense, it would not be surprising to see Arkansas alum Austin Allen, who had a 2018 cup of coffee with the Tampa Bay Bucs before being waived near final cuts.
Albeit against Memphis’ embarrassing, Christian Hackenberg-quarterbacked passing “attack,” the Iron’s defense met lofty Week 1 expectations in its 26-0 shutout win. A seven-year NFL coordinator and 15-year secondary coach in his own right, Iron coach Tim Lewis built one of the AAF’s top defensive staffs, including DC Rick Minter – a two-time Notre Dame defensive boss and the Eagles’ 2013-2015 linebackers coach – ex-Bills, Vikings, Jets, and Chargers DC Ted Cottrell to instruct linebackers, and Bill Parcells disciple “Sugar Bear” Ray Hamilton to oversee the defensive line. Birmingham’s defense is also chock full of former NFL players, notably two-sack edge rusher Jonathan Massaquoi (Titans, Falcons, Chiefs), active space-eater DT Jeremy Faulk (Jets, Browns), and CB Jamar Summers (Steelers), who stole the Week 1 show with three pass breakups, one pick, and a forced fumble. Summers finished second in the nation in interceptions (8) as a sophomore at UConn, but was forced to switch positions, fell out of favor with the Huskies’ coaching staff later in his career, and went undrafted last April. This sets up as a difficult draw regardless of whether the Stallions trot out Woodrum, Linehan, or Allen.
Stallions Week 1 target distribution: Anthony Denham 7; De’Mornay Pierson-El 5; Dres Anderson and Adonis Jennings 4; Nick Truesdell, Kenny Bell, Branden Oliver, and Jordan Leslie 3; Matt Asiata and Tanner Balderree 1. … Salt Lake’s quarterback situation is an obvious concern for its pass catchers’ box-score outlooks. … While Stallions wideouts were Week 1 no-shows, TEs Denham (5/59/0) and Truesdell (3/23/1) carried the passing game. A veteran of four NFL teams, Denham (54% snaps) led all AAF tight ends in Week 1 targets and is more pass catcher than blocker at 6-foot-5, 235 with 4.77 speed. Truesdell (60% snaps) earned cups of coffee with the Colts and Vikings after tearing up the Arena League, where he scored 23 TDs in 2015. At the 2017 veteran’s combine, Truesdell was clocked between 4.47 and 4.6-flat at 6-foot-6, 252, earning nine contract offers from NFL clubs. … Nebraska product Bell led Stallions wideouts in Week 1 snaps (83%) but went catch-less on three targets, a reminder of Salt Lake’s quarterback deficiency. Bell (thigh) was limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable. Leslie (hamstring) also practiced limited and is questionable. … Anderson (hamstring) has been ruled out, leaving Pierson-El and Jennings as Salt Lake’s only surefire healthy wide receivers.
Stallions Running Game
Quarterback woes may force Erickson to lean on his three-pronged rushing attack, paced in Week 1 by ex-Packers RB Joel Bouagnon (16 carries, 46% snaps). Bouagnon managed 2.4 yards per rush, wasn’t targeted in the passing game, and got pulled at the goal line, however. Week 2 opponent Birmingham held Memphis backs to a lousy 24/94/0 (3.92 YPC) rushing line and just 12 yards on five targets last week. … Ex-Chargers RB Branden Oliver was Salt Lake’s most-efficient Week 1 rusher (8/40/0), led the backfield in routes run (9) and targets (3), and converted a two-point conversion, although he was a change-of-pace back on 38% of the snaps. Still, Oliver offers sleeper PPR appeal in a game where Salt Lake projects to play from behind, which would hurt Bouagnon and help Oliver. For game-stacking purposes, it would make sense to combo Oliver with two or three Iron players in hopes Birmingham puts up a big score and forces Salt Lake into pass-heavy comeback mode. … Career plodder Matt Asiata brought his loathsome goal-line vulturing to the AAF’s debut weekend, carrying four times for four yards but falling into a short TD and controlling scoring-position snaps over Bouagnon and Oliver.
Iron Passing Game
Texas A&M-Commerce alum Luis Perez won the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division 2’s most valuable player in 2017, then spent 2018 training camp with the Rams and the first week of last season on the Rams’ practice squad. Selected fifth overall in the AAF’s quarterback-only draft, Perez joined Arizona’s John Wolford and Orlando’s Garrett Gilbert as the startup league’s three most-impressive Week 1 passers, going 19-of-33 for 252 yards (7.6 YPA) with six scrambles and a two-point conversion against Memphis. As Birmingham settled for four field goals – three from 31 yards or closer – and scored both of its touchdowns on the ground – Perez is a Week 2 positive-TD-regression candidate. The Iron were also one of just three AAF teams to run 70 offensive plays or more. Week 2 opponent Salt Lake got creamed for 38 points by Arizona on Opening Day, with Wolford accounting for four of the Hotshots’ five end-zone trips. Perez looks like a legitimate candidate to lead all AAF quarterbacks in Week 2 fantasy scoring.
Perez’s Week 1 target distribution: Quinton Patton 9; LaDarius Perkins 8; Amba Etta-Tawo 5; Tobias Palmer and Trent Richardson 3; Braedon Bowman 2; DeVozea Felton, Connor Davis, and Quan Bray 1. … Although Patton dropped multiple passes against the Express, he commanded a DeAndre Hopkins-level target share (27%) and logged 4/107/0 receiving on 67% of the snaps, tops in the Iron’s wideout corps. Patton is a legitimate NFL talent, stringing together back-to-back 30-plus-catch seasons with the 49ers in 2015 and 2016. … As Bowman (knee) was placed on I.R. and Etta-Tawo (knee) has been ruled out, target opportunity is open for Palmer, Felton, and Bray. Palmer finished second to Patton in Week 1 playing time among Iron wideouts (63%). Small (5’10/178) but fast (4.39), Palmer endured stints with six NFL teams before spending the last two seasons trying to make it in the CFL. While Perez-to-Patton deserves to be among Week 2’s top DFS stacks, Perez-to-Palmer and even Perez-to-Patton-and-Palmer offer more contrarian appeal and ample upside. … Felton teased with two Week 1 touches for 35 yards, drawing one target with a rushing attempt but working as Birmingham’s No. 5 receiver. Felton should rise to No. 4 sans Etta-Tawo. … Ex-Colts WR Bray was fourth in line for Week 1 snaps in the Iron’s receiver corps, missing his lone target. Bray should move up to No. 3 and is fairly enticing priced at the DFS minimum.
Iron Running Game
Playing at home, favored by a touchdown-plus, and facing a Salt Lake offense that may miss its starting quarterback, the Iron look well positioned for run-friendly game script. Unfortunately, bellcow Trent Richardson (hamstring) is questionable after leading all AAF backs in Week 1 touches (24), snaps (69%), and touchdowns (2), albeit while gaining only 61 yards with a lost fumble. Richardson’s absence would set up onetime Packers, Steelers, and Colts RB LaDarius Perkins for featured work after Perkins led all AAF backs in Week 1 targets (8) and catches (6), logging 11 touches as the only Iron backfield member to see action besides T-Rich. Especially if Richardson doesn’t go, Perez-Patton-Perkins team stacks carry high DFS ceilings in a smash spot for the Iron. … As Perkins is a speedy (4.46) if small (5’7/195) scatback type, it’s fair to wonder if Birmingham might get Brandon Ross or Ty Isaac involved should Richardson sit. Isaac was a college backup at USC and Michigan. Ross (5’10/201) had short stints with the Packers and Vikings after going undrafted out of Maryland, and is the preferred DFS sleeper if T-Rich can’t play.
8PM ET Game
Arizona Hotshots @ Memphis Express
Team Totals: Hotshots 29.5, Express 16.5
Hotshots Passing Game
The Hotshots visit Memphis as the AAF’s consensus top team and Week 2’s heaviest favorite (-13) led by early league MVP front-runner John Wolford, who lit up Salt Lake for 9.5 yards per attempt, four TDs, eight rushes for 23 yards, and a pair of two-point conversions to pace all Week 1 passers in DFS points. Despite averaging 8.5 YPA with a 29:6 TD-to-INT ratio as a Wake Forest senior, Wolford was bypassed in last year’s NFL draft due to substandard size (5-foot-11 ½, 205) and a non-traditional throwing motion. Wolford is a legitimately standout athlete, though; he ran 4.77 with a freaky 6.78 three-cone time at the Demon Deacons’ 2018 Pro Day and rushed for 56.9 yards per start with ten more TDs in his final college year. The Hotshots peeled off 70 offensive snaps in Week 1, playing at the fastest pace of all AAF teams in their 38-22 win over a Stallions team that tired as the game wore on. As Memphis’ defense showed pass-funnel characteristics in its Opening Day loss to Birmingham, Wolford looks like the highest-floor DFS quarterback on the Week 2 slate. The Express held Iron running backs to 28/71/2 (2.54 YPC) rushing but were fileted for 7.6 YPA by Luis Perez despite five drops by would-be Birmingham pass catchers.
Wolford’s Week 1 target distribution: Rashad Ross 7; Richard Mullaney and Josh Huff 5; Gerald Christian 4; Jhurell Pressley and Marquis Bundy 2; Thomas Duarte, Freddie Martino, and Connor Hamlett 1. … Ex-Redskins preseason star Ross did his best Week 1 Santana Moss impression (5/103/2), showing vertical chemistry with Wolford and dusting Salt Lake’s secondary with his 4.36 speed. Ross is small (5’11/179) and didn’t play a full complement of snaps, but he likely earned more going forward. Memphis’ defense showed big-play vulnerability against Birmingham last week, yielding seven completions of 14-plus yards including 39- and 42-yard gains to Quinton Patton. Wolford-to-Ross sets up as Week 2’s top QB-to-WR DFS stack. … Mullaney is the possession complement to Ross’ higher-variance lid popper, catching all five targets for 57 yards versus the Stallions. Plus sized (6’2/204) but slow (4.76), Mullaney figures to eventually emerge as one of Wolford’s go-to red-zone threats. Mullaney didn’t score a Week 1 TD but did find the end zone on a two-point conversion. Wolford-to-Mullaney is an intriguing lower-owned DFS pairing. … Former Eagles WR Huff managed one catch for three yards on five targets. Despite the inefficiency, opportunity is on Huff’s side as the No. 3 receiver in a high-octane passing attack. … Ex-Brown Hamlett (61%) and ex-Dolphin Duarte paced Arizona tight ends in Week 1 snaps (57%) but got outproduced by Christian (4/44/1), who was the NFL’s Mr. Irrelevant as the final selection in the 2015 draft. Christian isn’t particularly big (6’3/255) or fast (4.87) but was a reliable target for Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville.
Hotshots Running Game
Very few AAF teams committed to true workhorse backs in Week 1. Jhurell Pressley was an exception, parlaying 19 touches into 94 yards, one touchdown, and a two-point conversion against the Stallions. Showing versatility, Pressley hit pay dirt from 30 yards out on a wheel route after aligning in the slot. A dynamic athlete with 4.40 speed at 5-foot-10, 206, Pressley went undrafted out of New Mexico in 2016 despite averaging 6.92 career yards per carry, although he did earn stints with five big-league teams and has a realistic shot to return to NFL radars. With a high-volume projection on a team favored by nearly two TDs, Pressley is arguably Week 2’s top DFS running back play. Wolford-Ross-Pressley and Wolford-Mullaney-Pressley offer DFS team-stack appeal. … Texas Tech product Justin Stockton shined off the Week 1 bench (7/46/0) but did the bulk of his damage in garbage time and didn’t see a target. … Larry Rose was the Hotshots’ actual No. 2 back, executing a two-point try but managing 16 yards on six carries. He was absent from the passing game.
More so than backfield competition, Pressley’s main Week 2 box-score concern is his matchup against a Mike Singletary-coached Memphis team that held Birmingham backs to 2.54 yards per carry in Week 1 and is built stoutly up front with ex-NFL front-seven defenders DL Anthony Johnson (Dolphins, Jets, Colts, Patriots, Redskins), DT Julius Warmsley (Texans, Seahawks, Dolphins, Titans), mammoth 350-pound DT Montori Hughes (Colts, Giants, Chiefs, Redskins), and athletic freak DE/LB Davis Tull (Saints, Falcons, Rams). Rangy former Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates was the star of Memphis’ Week 1 show, however, logging a team-high ten tackles -- one for a loss – and two forced fumbles to limit Trent Richardson and LaDarius Perkins’ efficiency.
Express Passing Game
Christian Hackenberg was such a Week 1 disaster that, after he completed 3-of-11 passes in the first half, Memphis resorted to Wildcat formations and nauseating fullback dives for the duration of the game. Hackenberg was eventually pulled for Brandon Silvers, who promptly threw a pick. Singletary announced Hackenberg will start Week 2, but it’s hard to imagine him lasting four quarters. In Week 1, Memphis ran just 55 offensive plays, second fewest in the league. Sadly, onetime Titans starter Zach Mettenberger is the Express’ third-string quarterback after failing to beat out Hack and Silvers.
Express Week 1 target distribution: Alton “Pig” Howard 6; Rajion Neal 5; Reece Horn and Fabian Guerra 4; Kayaune Ross 3; Adrien Robinson 2; Brandon Barnes and Dontez Byrd 1. … Coming off a shutout loss amid quarterback uncertainty at best and utter ineffectiveness at worst, Memphis’ passing game makes for wholly uncomfortable DFS investments. … Diminutive slot receiver Howard (5’7/184) ran a sluggish 4.60 forty coming out of Tennessee but offers enough short-area quickness and runs enough high-percentage routes to somewhat suit Hackenberg’s frenetic game, helping to explain Howard’s Week 1 team highs in targets and receiving (4/33/0). Howard’s box-score upside remains very fair to question. … Horn led Memphis’ wideout corps in Week 1 snaps (91%), and Ross was second (78%) against the Iron.
Express Running Game
Albeit easier said than done, Memphis’ best shot at staying competitive against the AAF’s highest-rated team is likely to lean on its defense and running game. The Hotshots stymied Salt Lake backs for 28/83/1 (2.96 YPC) rushing in Week 1, however, and the Express embraced an annoying four-way RBBC against the Iron. Ex-Ram Zac Stacy operated as Memphis’ rushing leader (12/58/0) yet drew zero targets and barely out-snapped ex-Ravens RB Terrence Magee, who managed 18 yards on five carries and was also a passing-game ghost. Rajion Neal (three carries, five targets) is the Express’ receiving specialist. FB Anthony Manzo-Lewis (4/14/0) further clouds Memphis’ backfield projections.