Fantasy Football: 10 Lessons Learned in Week 12
What a week to be a wide receiver! After a fantasy season that has felt like an overall disappointment at the position (Adam Thielen exempt), Week 12 featured seven WRs with over 100 yards and at least one touchdown: Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Keenan Allen, Robby Anderson, Marvin Jones, Jamison Crowder, and Jermaine Kearse. For some perspective on just how good the week was, four of those guys’ games make the current top 12 PPR performances from the position on the entire season. Only one other week has more than one performance in that company (Week 3, Stefon Diggs and Larry Fitzgerald).
Elsewhere in the league, the early season superstars at running back continue to underperform (I’m looking at you Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette), while Alvin Kamara added to a blossoming resume for Offensive Rookie of the Year. And, of course, the carousel of quarterback misery continued, with the Broncos switching back to their original starter and the 49ers finally giving way to Jimmy Garropolo (possibly a small redemption from this mess).
So what can we glean from all this as we finally reach the fantasy playoffs? Let’s hop into the fantasy classroom and find 10 lessons we learned in Week 12.
1. Case Keenum Is A Legitimate Quarterback
A true bright spot in the quagmire of ugly QB depth charts around the league, Case Keenum is quickly proving more than capable as an NFL and fantasy signal-caller. Keenum threw for 282 passing yards and two TDs and added seven rushes for 20 yards and another score on Thanksgiving versus the Lions. That was good for the third best fantasy total of the week and marked his fourth straight output of at least 17 fantasy points in standard leagues. Like Jared Goff, Keenum has blown away basement-level expectations set in his miserable stint under Jeff Fisher — and his elite weaponry, including Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph, certainly doesn’t hurt. With some juicy matchups on the horizon (Atlanta, Green Bay), Keenum may be a QB1 rest of season and certainly carries championship-winning streamer potential.
2. Sudden Pressure Has Shaken Dak Prescott
Sadly, we must now add budding superstar Dak Prescott to the list of flailing NFL quarterbacks. After the two-week stint without LT Tyron Smith or Ezekiel Elliott, in which Prescott experienced the unfamiliar misery of trying to carry a team behind a leaky offensive line, the young QB appears scattered, jumpy, and lost. Even with Smith back in the lineup on Thanksgiving, Dak looked nervous in the pocket, scrambled unnecessarily, and made unstable and ill-advised throws. His current three-week stat line includes five interceptions, zero passing TDs, and an average of 167 passing yards. Until Elliott returns or Dak somehow escapes this funk, he is nigh unstartable outside of deep or 2QB leagues.
3. Washington Has Finally Found Its WR1
After half a season of iffy fantasy production from the Redskins receivers, Jamison Crowder has finally emerged as the go-to guy for Kirk Cousins. While Terrelle Pryor flirts with non-existence and Josh Doctson hovers between two to four catches per week, Crowder exploded on Thanksgiving to the tune of seven catches for 141 yards and his first touchdown of 2017. That makes four straight for Crowder with at least four catches and 72 receiving yards, and he’s averaging 19 PPR fantasy points over that stretch. Now the clear lead pass-catcher, Crowder will be an integral part of any attempt by the 5-6 Redskins to claw into a wild card position. Start him up as a lower-tier WR2 from here on out.
4. Minus Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp Will Step Up
Just when we had discovered a new fantasy WR to rely upon, Robert Woods suffered a shoulder injury, was out on Sunday, and figures to miss a couple more weeks. Never fear, Cooper Kupp is here. The rookie receiver, who had already earned Jared Goff’s trust early in the year — fourth in red zone targets (17) and seventh in red zone receptions (8) among WRs — stepped up big time in Woods‘ absence. Kupp hauled in eight of a team-high eleven targets en route to 116 yards and made some impressively difficult catches throughout the game. For as long as Woods is out, and potentially if he’s less than 100% on his return, Cooper Kupp is worth starting in every fantasy format.
5. LeGarrette Blount Is Most “Reliable” Philly RB
With only one game over 100 rushing yards and three total touchdowns on the season, it’s tough to recommend LeGarrette Blount as a trusty fantasy asset. That said, he is the most reliable name in the Eagles backfield. Blount totaled 97 yards on 15 carries against the Bears on Sunday, logging his second best game of the year while Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement split another nine carries for 53 yards. Blount is the most consistent bet for double-digit attempts, and behind this O-line, that carries non-PPR value. Plus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philly shift more and more of the workload off of Carson Wentz’s precious right arm and onto Blount’s powerful legs as they coast to the NFL playoffs.
6. Andy Reid‘s “Kareem Hunt Extravaganza” Is Over
Over the first five weeks of the season, Kareem Hunt handled 97 carries and posted 690 rushing yards, along with six total touchdowns. In the six games since, he has only seen 87 carries, managed a meager 281 yards, and reached pay dirt exactly zero times by land and zero times through the air. Against the porous Buffalo run defense on Sunday, Hunt had the worst game of his career, totaling 26 total yards on 12 touches. Andy Reid is a tricksy, creative offensive wizard, but apparently, the league has gathered enough tape to put a stop to the magic. Once a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Hunt’s decline has him bordering on benchable in shallower fantasy leagues and likely sinking a number of playoff contenders down the stretch.
7. Joe Mixon Is Finally Not A Draft Bust
Sadly, this is less true for fantasy than for the Cincinnati Bengals, as many teams who spent an early draft pick on Mixon have likely missed playoffs already. But Cincy fans have to be happy after seeing Mixon explode for 114 yards and a TD on 23 carries plus 51 yards on three receptions against the Browns. A couple big rushes and a 36-yard catch-and-run demonstrated what we expected from Mixon coming into the NFL: dynamic, play-making ability in both facets of the game. Marvin Lewis is finally getting the ball into Mixon’s hands and Mixon is finally giving him good reason to do so. If he stays hot, Mixon could end up being the complete antithesis of Kareem Hunt and rewarding patient fantasy owners in the final weeks.
8. Robby Anderson Has Leveled Up
Back in Week 8, we highlighted Robby Anderson’s transformation from sleeper to startable fantasy receiver. This week, the second-year breakout leveled up for real. On the back of a 146-yard, two-touchdown performance, Anderson has stepped into the realm of must-play fantasy stars. He is what Martavis Bryant was supposed to be, logging big play after big play and scoring six touchdowns in his last five games. With the surprising fantasy output of Josh McCown and the Jets’ consistently high-scoring affairs, Anderson’s ceiling is one of the highest in the league. And even with Jermaine Kearse logging an impressive game on Sunday, Anderson remains far and away the best weapon on this offense, meaning his opportunities will not disappear anytime soon.
9. The Titans Have Yet To Learn Their Lesson
Hopefully, Mike Mularkey reads this article and takes note of this crucial Week 12 lesson: Derrick Henry is better than DeMarco Murray. Mr. Old Busted Murray logged 12 carries in Sunday’s matchup against the hapless Colts and managed nine total yards, barely saving his fantasy day with a goal-line TD. Meanwhile, Heisman-winner Derrick Henry was handed a slightly better 13 carries and took them for 79 yards. Henry is averaging 4.6 yards per carry to Murray’s 3.5 on the season and Murray seems incapable of staying fully healthy with a regular workload. Here’s hoping the Titans pass the torch, make Henry their lead back from the start (not just in clock-killing garbage time), and relegate Murray to third-down work.
10. This Is Why You Start Julio Jones
You knew he’d make it in here somewhere. Julio was otherworldly on Sunday, racking up 253 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 12 receptions. His 50.8 PPR fantasy points were the most by any player at any position this season, including QBs in six-point-per-passing-TD leagues. You can read more about how Julio’s game stacks up against recent greats in Kyle Borgognini’s recent article. Suffice it to say, you would be hard-pressed to lose any fantasy matchup where Julio graced your roster this week and this is just what he does. Wins weeks. By himself. He’ll have another couple disappointing starts this season, but don’t be surprised if Julio single-handedly wins someone the fantasy championship in Week 16 against the Saints.