Hey, look at that, it’s 10 Lessons Learned in Week 10! How symmetrical. I mean, we knew this day would come. But now it’s here … “so take that for whatever you think you want it to be” (quote credit to Jason Moore).
Anyway, with Week 10 in the books, we’re now a step closer to fantasy playoffs and have some key takeaways to consider as we enter the homestretch. So let’s jump into the fantasy classroom and find ourselves a few league-winning lessons!
1. Robert Woods Is Too Hot To Ignore
If you read this week’s Hot Fire Fantasy Football Questions, you heard a couple takes on the Rams’ leading receiver courtesy of Kyle Borgognoni and myself. Woods is garnering a lot of fantasy attention after hauling in 171 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions versus the Texans. These are the facts: the Rams and quarterback Jared Goff are legitimate offensive forces and Robert Woods is solidified as the number one receiving target. Woods currently sits 15th among WRs in PPR scoring and is catching fire at the right time. The only roadblock to continued WR2 production is the upcoming schedule, which includes the Vikings, Saints, and Seahawks, but Sammy Watkins will usually draw the more elite CB in these matchups, leaving Woods room to excel. At the end of the season, I have him finishing right where he is, squarely in stud territory.
2. Melvin Gordon Suffers Ekeler Deja Vu
Watch the highlights from the Chargers versus Jaguars and you might think the production crew accidentally plays the same Austin Ekeler touchdown twice. In reality, the rookie RB just happened to take two swing passes from just outside the red zone along the right sideline and into the end zone. Ekeler’s deja vu TDs were the cherry on top of a 119-yard day on 15 touches. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon pooped his big boy pants with a mere 42 total yards on 21 touches. Many will warn you against overreacting to Gordon’s struggle, but I’ve long been an anti-Gordon truther and will give it to straight. He is not an effective running back. Ekeler is not likely to take the job, but he could severely eat into Gordon’s heavy workload and receiving work, which were the assets keeping him in the RB1 conversation.
3. Shepard Is Sterling For Fantasy
Second-year WR Sterling Shepard was a borderline fantasy starter both as a rookie and early this season. Then the entire New York Giants receiving corps fell to injury (including Shepard for a time). Now that Shepard is back up to speed, he is the clear alpha in this passing attack, with only Evan Engram challenging his target share. Shepard racked up 11 catches for 142 yards on 13 targets against the 49ers. He was apparently Eli Manning‘s first, second, and third read in garbage time, which is a valuable role to have in this offense considering the losing state of the team. Shepard has great talent on top of rare opportunity and has a good chance to chase DeAndre Hopkins as target-leader rest of season. He’s a PPR stud with high-end WR2 aspirations at the least.
4. The Crow Is Finally Leaving the Nest
I’ll admit, Isaiah Crowell has been a disappointment for much of the fantasy season, giving our editor Kyle Borgognoni plenty of reason to gloat over our fantasy courtroom showdown back in August. And yet, there is hope. Crowell has now posted consecutive games of 15-plus fantasy points after rushing for 90 yards and a TD on 16 carries against the Lions on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to resurrect the “Crow is a stud RB1” argument. He’s not involved enough in the passing game and plays on too poor an offense. But with back-to-back stud performances, he is certainly worth a second glance as a volume-dependent RB2. The Browns have a mixed bag when it comes to schedule rest of season, but we know Crowell will get double-digit carries and is finally turning that opportunity into fantasy goodness.
5. Dontrelle Inman Brings Life to Bears’ Air Attack
Coming into Week 10, the best performance by a Chicago quarterback was probably Mike Glennon‘s 301 yards, one TD and two INTs in Week 2 — not the highest of bars. In Week 10, Dontrelle Inman’s first game with the team after coming over in a trade with the Chargers, Mitch Trubisky threw for 297 and one TD, no picks, in the snow. Inman’s six catches for 88 yards were directly integral, as was having an actual, NFL-caliber receiver on the field. Inman has been fantasy relevant before (58-810-4 with the Chargers last season) and, like Shepard above, has ample opportunity as the only viable WR on the team. He’s definitely worth an add in PPR leagues and may just make Trubisky streamable in the right matchup.
6. The Cowboys Really, Really, Really Need Tyron Smith
Many who glanced at the Cowboys’ 27-7 loss to the Falcons might think Ezekiel Elliott‘s absence was responsible. It was not. This loss resulted almost entirely from the ineptitude on display at left tackle. Chaz Green got the start with All-Pro Tyron Smith out (“Ah, my groin!”) and played so poorly that he allowed six sacks to a single Falcon (Adrian Clayborn) and was benched late in the game. Dak Prescott struggled mightily under the constant pressure, and Alfred Morris was forced to run away from the left side at an absurd rate. The good news here is that either Tyron Smith will come back soon (questionable for this week) or the Cowboys should do something to shore up that left side. That means better days are ahead for Dak and Morris, who I think is being underrated following this unusual game.
7. Golden Tate Is Straight Ballin’
This is a lesson we probably should have learned a while back, as Tate has long been an underrated talent as a slot receiver. Now, after his fourth straight game of at least 86 receiving yards, it’s pretty hard to overlook. Tate snagged six catches for 97 yards against the Browns, including a brilliant 40-yard score to seal the game in the fourth quarter. While Marvin Jones fell flat, discouraging owners everywhere, Tate chugged his way right into the WR6 spot in PPR scoring. Tate is quick and explosive, sees an excellent target share, and plays for a dynamic passing attack led by a red-hot quarterback. It’s pretty safe to rank Tate right on the border of WR1 and WR2 moving forward, and in PPR it’s closer to the former.
8. Rex Burkhead Could Maybe Be the Guy … Perhaps
Sigh. Back in Week 6, following the rise of Dion Lewis, I promised that the final lesson on the Patriots backfield was that it was impossible and should be avoided. I try to be a man of my word, but Rex Burkhead has other plans. Burkhead has seen a consistent increase in snap counts since returning from injury, to the detriment of James White and complete disappearance of Mike Gillislee. He was especially productive on Sunday night, racking up 63 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches (and blocking a punt to boot). It comes down to this: Belichik loves grit, effort, versatility, and unpredictability. Burkhead is the absolute epitome of all those traits. The Patriots are most flexible when he’s on the field, which is good for them and for his fantasy value. In this offense, and with his efficiency, even 10-15 touches is enough to make Burkhead a must-own fantasy commodity.
9. Barring Injury(ies), Broncos RBs Are Busted
If the Patriots’ backfield is a complicated puzzle with a potential prize at the end, the Broncos’ is a jumbled pile of LEGOs and MegaBloks that will never quite come together. C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, and Jamaal Charles split the carries this week 10, 8, and 8, posting 54, 38, and 24 yards, respectively. Since Week 2, they have a combined two touchdowns (none for Anderson). Unless two of them get hurt, there really isn’t much fantasy value to be had, especially considering the general ineffectiveness of the offense. Hold on if you’ve got a deep bench, but if you need to make a move to win now, I’d consider all three droppable.
10. The Benjamin Role In CAR Holds Value Without Him
Oddly, Devin Funchess has been more valuable in Kelvin Benjamin‘s role than Benjamin ever was himself. Following the latter’s trade to Buffalo, Funchess has posted two strong performances, culminating in a five-catch, 92-yard, two-TD gem on Monday night against the Dolphins. Believe it or not, Funchess is now the 12th highest-scoring WR in PPR scoring on the season (in one more game than most). One important note should be made: Greg Olsen is expected to return in Week 12 against the Jets. Since Benjamin/Funchess have essentially been glorified tight ends, and considering Olsen’s rapport with quarterback Cam Newton, it’s possible we see a big dip in Funchess’ production once Olsen is reintegrated. If you have a late trade deadline, see what the big WR is going for and don’t be afraid to deal him for more reliable talent.