Fantasy Football: 10 Lessons Learned in Week 7
What a wacky week. Three teams failed to score a single point (Cardinals, Colts, Broncos), the Chicago Bears D/ST finished in the top five highest scorers in fantasy, and Amari Cooper more than doubled his fantasy production from the first six weeks combined. We lost another couple starting quarterbacks (Carson Palmer and Jay Cutler), but possibly watching the blossoming of the next Brady-Manning in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott (see below). And of course, JuJu Smith-Schuster padded his lead in the Best TD Celebrations race with this hilarious hide-and-seek-number.
And of course, with half of the fantasy regular season in the books, it’s crunch time in the playoff hunt. This is the hour when league-winning waiver adds and history-altering fantasy trades will be made. So it’s more important than ever that we learn what we can from last week’s wild action. With that in mind, let’s hit the fantasy classroom for 10 lessons learned in Week 7.
1. Aaron Jones Has Earned The Role in Green Bay
A couple weeks back, after injuries ravaged the Green Bay backfield, we learned the important lesson that Aaron Jones had earned a role in the Packers offense. After Week 7, that lesson needs to be updated. Barring a drastic setback, it looks like Aaron Jones is the lead guy in this backfield. With Ty Montgomery seemingly recovered from his rib injury, Jones out-touched TyMont 20-to-5 and out-snapped him 44-to-7 on Sunday. Jones produced 138 total yards and a rushing touchdown while seeing five targets through the air, while Montgomery totaled 15 yards and saw only two targets. Essentially, Jones has seized the entirety of the workload and is performing better with his touches than Montgomery has all year. Montgomery is borderline droppable and on a team that will need to lean on the run (hint, Brett Hundley is bad), Jones is squarely in the RB2 conversation.
2. The Patriots Are Back on Track and The Falcons Are Miles Off Course
The Sunday night football game taught us quite a lot (besides the awesomeness of the behind-the-quarterback camera angle implemented by NBC due to heavy fog). First, the Patriots defense is quickly shaping up into a typical Belichick bend-but-don’t-break unit and likely won’t be as juicy a matchup as it was earlier in the year (I did warn of this in Week 4). Second, the Falcons offense is seriously feeling the loss of Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. Granted, those last two probably fed off each other, making both less drastic than they seemed. But quite simply, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, even Julio Jones (despite his monstrous TD grab) and others are all underperforming in what looks like a confused, poorly executed offense. Atlanta will look to get back on track against the Jets next week, but with matchups against the Panthers, Seahawks, and Vikings looking shortly thereafter, this is a squad to sell on name value if you still can.
3. Tyrod Taylor Has a Legitimate Shot at QB1 Production Rest of Season
Coming out of his Week 6 bye, Taylor capitalized on the first of a long stretch of delicious matchups Sunday against the Buccaneers. He posted 268 yards and a TD through the air and adding 53 yards rushing on six attempts. Taylor’s legs — possibly the most valuable legs of any QB in fantasy — are key here, as they provide both a high floor and the potential for an inflated ceiling. Meanwhile, Taylor flashed a great connection with WR addition Deonte Thompson (four catches for 107 yards), got Jordan Matthews back from a hand injury, and should get Charles Clay back shortly. His matchups to close the season are Raiders, Jets, Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Patriots twice, and Dolphins twice. To summarize, Taylor is the No. 1 stream candidate and can even be acquired as a reliable QB1 for the remainder of the year.
4. Matt Moore + Kenny Stills Forever
Here’s a fun fact for you: in the four games Matt Moore played to close the 2016 season, Kenny Stills had 225 yards and scored in every single game. In less than one half together on Sunday (after Cutler exited with cracked ribs), Moore hit Stills four times on seven targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns. These two clearly have a special connection and there’s a good chance the job is Moore‘s for the remainder of the season. If and when DeVante Parker gets back to full health, Stills’ value will likely take a hit, but for now, he’s suddenly in low-end WR2 territory. Even with Parker back, Stills could siphon targets and TDs from the currently over-performing Jarvis Landry considering Moore’s inclination to throw him the ball. Pick him up if he’s available and consider acquiring him as a sneaky piece in a trade if not — he’s one of those potential league-winners if the cards fall right.
5. The 2016 QB Draft Class Is Stepping Up Big
Is this a bit premature? Maybe. But Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, and even Jared Goff have all taken big steps forward in 2017 and are making their cases as the heirs to the aging QB kings of the last decade. Prescott was phenomenal Sunday (234 yards and three TDs passing, 26 yards and another TD on the ground), Wentz was even better on Monday (268 and four scores, plus 63 yards rushing), and Goff led his team to a shutout of the Cardinals and a 5-2 record. For fantasy, the rise of Prescott and Wentz is the real lesson here, as both are cemented as top-10 QBs and could be easily considered as top-five caliber guys (they’re currently first and fourth on a per game basis). If their owners haven’t caught on yet (unlikely), buy them while you can. If you own them already, well done.
6. The Vikings Backfield Is Murkier Than We Thought
Again referring back to lessons learned in weeks past, we came into Week 7 having crowned Jerick McKinnon the better back and the guy to own in Minnesota. Well, Latavius Murray had something to say about that, as he galloped for 113 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against the Ravens, including two 31-plus-yard runs (a rarity for Murray). Meanwhile, McKinnon saw less work (14 carries) and was less effective (47 yards), but did see three targets to Murray’s zero. McKinnon is still probably the better all-around player, but Murray is the better choice for working the clock and bruising the defense. That makes this a game-script-dependent timeshare, where both guys should be owned but neither is a great bet for RB1 numbers.
7. Mariota and The Titans Passing Attack Need Corey Davis
Against a dismal (and injured) Cleveland secondary, Marcus Mariota‘s 21-for-34 for 203 and no TDs was a serious disappointment. Only Delanie Walker topped three catches and 45 yards receiving yards and he was banged up in the game with something between a sprained ankle and a bone bruise. Rishard Matthews is not a No. 1 guy and Eric Decker (who had zero catches on two targets) is a free agent bust. That funnels Tennessee’s hopes into No. 5 overall draft pick Corey Davis, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the preseason. Davis practiced last week and the Titans are on bye in Week 8, so expectations (and hopes) are high that Davis will return in Week 9 against the Ravens. The matchups are tough for a couple weeks before easing up in the fantasy playoffs, making Davis and Mariota good buy-low targets right now.
8. JuJu Smith-Schuster is An Excellent Stash Candidate
The rookie has been somewhat boom-bust, logging no more than 58 yards but scoring three times in the last six games (and, again, his TD celebrations are just spectacular). But this is more about the intangibles surrounding Martavis Bryant. Besides being a disappointment for fantasy purposes, Bryant is now in some hot water over his highly immature off-the-field antics expressing displeasure with his role in Pittsburgh. While head coach Mike Tomlin has stated Bryant is not on the trade block, it’s possible he could be suspended or benched until he straightens up. In such a scenario, Smith-Schuster could capitalize on an increased target volume, especially if the Steelers want to ease the massive offensive load currently carried by Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. He’s something of a speculative add but could pay off big depending on how the story proceeds.
9. Marlon Mack Needs More Touches
In Sunday’s matchup with the Jaguars, Marlon Mack got five carries and four receptions and turned his looks into 66 total yards. Meanwhile, Frank Gore churned nine carries into only 34 yards, continuing his lackluster play at 34 years of age. On the season, Mack is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 10.6 yards per reception, while Gore plods along at 3.4 and 10.0 respectively. Struggling on offense without Andrew Luck, the Colts have little to no reason to continue riding their ancient veteran when they have a dynamic young talent chomping at the bit. The good news from Sunday is that Mack saw a 48% snap share to Gore’s 33%, so the opportunities may be coming for Mack. He’s another potential league-winner, especially if Gore continues to slow and Mack is given closer to a 15-touch workload.
10. The Cardinals Offense is Kaput
Sadly, Carson Palmer suffered a broken left arm in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, likely ending his season and possibly his career. In his place, Drew Stanton (who has filled in for AZ before with little success) was 5-for-14 for 64 yards. No Cardinals receiver reached four catches or 40 yards in the game. It’s a horrible blow for Cardinals nation, who already lost David Johnson earlier in the year. It’s an equally horrible blow for the Arizona pass-catchers in fantasy, including Larry Fitgerald and all the guys whose first names start with “J.” We saw the effect that Brett Hundley had on the Green Bay receivers this week, and while the gap from Rodgers to Hundley is obviously greater than the one from Palmer to Stanton, we should learn our lesson in advance here. All these guys are going to take a major hit in the rest of season rankings and only Fitzgerald should be considered a must-own as a WR3 to WR4.