Welcome to Week 14 of Lessons Learned! In this article, we break down ten important takeaways from the prior week in fantasy football, and what they could mean for your lineups moving forward.
If you learned anything from Week 14 that you think we should know, send us a comment or shoot me a tweet @FantasySensei! Without further ado, let’s dive into the fantasy classroom.
1. Robert Foster is a Viable Desperation Play
If your reaction to that headline was, “Who is Robert Foster?” I don’t blame you. For your edification, he’s an undrafted rookie receiver for the Buffalo Bills, who ran a 4.41 at the NFL combine but managed a whopping 2 catches for 30 receiving yards over the first 9 weeks of the season.
The last four games, however, have been quite a different story. Foster has put his speed to use catching passes from strong-armed QB Josh Allen and has averaged 82.5 yards per game over that span. He’s incredibly risky, but 7 catches for 104 yards last week against the Jets was extremely encouraging and the Bills draw a soft matchup with the struggling Lions next week. If you’re an underdog playoff dark horse who needs a dart throw in your FLEX, Foster is worth considering.
2. Cam Newton is Hurting
We’ve heard increasingly frequent reports on the issue of Cam Newton’s throwing shoulder, and it’s become more and more evident on the tape. Last week against the Browns, Newton struggled to complete 62 percent of his passes, and finished with zero TDs, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 70.0, to follow up an awful 4-pick performance the week prior.
Newton cannot throw the ball downfield with accuracy right now and is rushing at a reduced rate as well, severely limiting both his upside and his floor. While an upcoming matchup with the Saints seems like a potential get-right game, Newton needs to get right physically before he can get right fantasy-ly … fantasily. Whatever. With the wealth of streamable QBs, Newton is worth a sit until we see him at full health.
3. Kenneth Dixon Just Won’t Go Away
Every once in a while, Kenneth Dixon pops up like one of those moles that you whack … aka Whack-a-Mole … and makes himself a fantasy consideration. He did it again last week with 59 rushing yards, 21 receiving yards, and a goal-line vulture TD against the Chiefs that put Gus Edwards owners on tilt.
The thing is, Dixon actually looked good in the game and was very efficient with his touches (albeit against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL). The good news is, he gets another one of the worst in the league next week when he faces Tampa Bay. He’s probably not startable outside of full PPR leagues, but in a tight situation, he could quite easily come up with 3-4 catches, 50+ total yards, and another red zone score.
4. The Jags Were a Tiny Bump in the Road for Andrew Luck
You know those little light reflector bumps along the lanes of the highway? That’s what the atrocious Jaguars game was for Andrew Luck two weeks ago. Everyone has a dud every once in a while, but Luck has had just about the fewest of any QB this season, and he bounced back in a big way against the also-strong Houston defense.
Luck threw for 399 yards and 2 TDs to end the Texans’ 9-game winning streak, including 199 to T.Y. Hilton alone. He is still one of the most reliable fantasy QBs outside of Patrick Mahomes, and I’ll go right back to him in another tough matchup against the Dallas Cowboys next week. Don’t get cute with Luck.
5. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski Aren’t Retired Yet
What? Really? These guys are still playing? Yes, they are, and they wanted me to tell you that they’re still among the best at their positions. After a long skid of mediocre fantasy performances, Brady and Gronk showed up big in the (embarrassing) loss to the Dolphins — unless you count game-ending missed tackles.
Brady threw for 358 yards with 3 touchdowns and Gronk chipped in 107 of those yards and 1 of the TDs on 8-of-8 receiving. While neither has fully regained a spot in the top 3 just yet, both are excellent plays next week in Pittsburgh. Brady and Gronk have both owned the Steelers over the years, and I expect the Patriots to make a statement in this game. Fire up both players with confidence.
6. Adam Gase Still Hates Kenyan Drake
Despite what the box score may tell you, Coach B-Hole still refuses to feature Kenyan Drake. All 55 of Drake’s “receiving yards” and his touchdown came on the game-winning, multi-lateral miracle/debacle that I’m sure you’ve all seen. Other than that play, he had 6 carries for 24 yards. And that’s it.
Meanwhile, Frank Gore gobbled up 12 carries and marched for 92 rushing yards, proving yet again that he is a cyborg or a native of the planet Krypton that crashed to earth and decided to play football. Unfortunately for Drake and his fantasy owners, that means we can continue to wallow in single-digit touches for the electric RB, and unreliable fantasy production through the playoffs.
7. Saquon Barkley is Worth the No. 2 Overall Pick Next Year
It did not take long for Saquon Barkley to confirm what many were projecting for him coming out of college: this kid is the best all-around running back in the NFL. Barkley absolutely smoked the Redskins on Sunday, to the tune of 197 total yards on 14 carries and 4 receptions. He also added a touchdown for good measure.
SImply put, Barkley is running as well as or better than every RB in football, and he’s doing it on a worse team and behind a worse line than Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, et al. Especially in PPR leagues, where he is 3rd to only Patrick Mahomes and Todd Gurley in points scored, Barkley is a lock for the No. 2 pick in fantasy drafts next year, behind Gurley. If you own him in a keeper or dynasty league, treat him like pure gold. And if you don’t, consider spending the farm to get him.
8. George Kittle is a Top 3 Tight End Next Year
Continuing with the theme of looking ahead (especially important for those of you eliminated from playoff contention), George Kittle is establishing himself as a strong contender for the tight end super tier. He went bonkers on Sunday, with 7 receptions for 210 yards and a touchdown (just missing the tight end record for yards set by Shannon Sharpe), moving him into 3rd in PPR scoring behind only Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
Despite the confidence, I expressed in Gronk above, I don’t think he’ll be in the super elite tier with Kelce and Ertz next season. Kittle on the other hand, especially with the prospects of a better QB in Jimmy Garoppolo returning next season, is well worth a look alongside Eric Ebron for the top of the next tier or better. Don’t be surprised if we’re talking about the young 49er in the same conversation as Kelce and Ertz for the next several years.
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster is Eyeing AB’s Throne
It feels heretical to say, and probably still is, but JuJu Smith-Schuster is getting awfully close to leapfrogging Antonio Brown in redraft fantasy value. As it is, he has basically locked in a higher value in dynasty, owing to the fact that he’s literally eight years younger. But a 12-target, 8-catch, 130-yard, 2-touchdown performance on Sunday was yet another block on the Jenga tower that is Antonio Brown’s reign as Pittsburgh’s best fantasy wideout.
JuJu and Brown are basically taking turns in terms of target share and fantasy production on a weekly basis, but Smith-Schuster now has the lead in PPR fantasy points since Week 8 and is the better start slightly more often these days. Don’t freak out on AB or anything, but you may want to adjust your valuation of these guys moving forward.
10. There is Hope for Dalvin Cook
It’s tough to say which was better for Cook’s fantasy value over the next few weeks: a strong performance on Monday night, to the tune of 19.3 PPR points, or the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo shortly after the game.
The Vikings have run on a baffling 33 percent of plays this year and only managed 21.1 rush attempts per game, both second-to-last in the entire league. Their offensive line is bad, yes, but that just means that forcing the pass leads to a frequently pressured Kirk Cousins, which leads to incredibly frequent turnovers. If things break right, Mike Zimmer could guide this team towards a more balanced approach, raising the carry count for Cook and offering high-end RB2 upside down the playoff stretch,