Ten Things We Learned in Week 15 (Fantasy Football)
Week 15 came with plenty of points, plenty of big games, and plenty of heartbreak. I’m glad that the semifinals included a lot of high scoring games because nothing is worse than a boring final four. Darren Waller continued to amaze, Tony Pollard saved a lot of teams, and there were plenty of studs that came up short. If you made the championship game, congrats. Time to take home the hardware and capture the elusive #FootClanTitle. Here are a few things we learned this week that weren’t as obvious as the box score showed:
Aaron Jones Quietly Surpassed Expectations this Season
A lot of people, including myself, had hesitations about Jones going into this season because of his absurd touchdown rate last year. The odds of him finding the end zone as often as he did in 2019 were very low. I wrote a piece about Jones in the offseason stating that I liked his chances to finish as a top ten back, but not enough to snag him at his initial ADP. By the first week of the season, he had fallen far enough in most drafts to make his upside very appealing, so I started picking him up in my drafts, albeit than I would have liked. Fast forward fifteen weeks and Jones is sitting inside the top five at his position and delivered a phenomenal return for the second year in a row. His touchdown regression hit as we expected, but his usage and efficiency balanced it out well enough to provide high-end RB1 numbers all year. He’s been a bit under the radar in terms of fantasy discussion, but I’m sure he will get plenty of love this offseason depending on which backfield he’s a part of.
Josh Allen is an MVP Candidate – Now, and in the Future
Josh Allen was a polarizing draft prospect, and he has single-handedly divided the fantasy industry since his first snap in Buffalo. His accuracy issues in year one lead to a lot of discussion about his true fantasy and long term NFL upside. People either drafted Allen everywhere as early as they could or completely avoided him at his ADP. It really felt like there was no in-between. Allen has silenced a lot of the critics in his first three seasons, and this year his accuracy and efficiency through the air have taken a huge leap forward. His 2020 campaign in particular is worthy of MVP discussion, and he should be an obvious fantasy favorite going into 2021.
The Panthers Buried a LOT of fantasy Teams
Mike Davis, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel….. they simply didn’t show up at the worst possible time. If you had Davis, you’ve been living on borrowed time for a while now, but this week he fell well short of his weekly RB1 expectations. DJ Moore had another big game and has continued to confuse fantasy managers everywhere, but if you started him you’re sitting pretty heading into week sixteen. The Panthers offense is going to be a hot button topic this offseason since there are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed, and the hungriest guy, Christian McCaffrey, has been out for most of the year. I’m excited to draft Robby Anderson late once again next year when everyone freaks out about DJ Moore for the second year in a row, and CMC should be in the conversation for the top overall pick for the third straight season.
Jonathan Taylor is a Great Example of Patience
Rookie running backs have become much more prevalent in fantasy football over the past few seasons, but this year was as crazy as any that I could remember. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins, and Jonathan Taylor were all VERY highly-touted fantasy prospects, and the early part of the season proved to be the source of frustration for most of them. Taylor received a heavy workload immediately after Marlon Mack went down, so he became the conductor of the hype train. I had plenty of great things to say about Taylor but the middle part of the season was ugly at best, as Taylor wasn’t producing and was losing his chances to do so. The past three or four weeks have flipped the narrative completely once again, as Taylor is leading a lot of teams to fantasy championship games. We should take this as a friendly reminder that patience is a virtue, and college running backs often take more time than we think to acclimate to the hyperspeed of the NFL.
Calvin Ridley Should be a Second Round Draft Pick in 2021
Ridley was one of the most obvious mid-round receiver picks in years, but he should be drafted even higher in 2021. Julio Jones is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best receivers of all time, but he appears to be on the tail-end of his career right now. He can barely stay healthy, he’s on the wrong side of 31, and his team is far from a Superbowl contender. Ridley should see just as many targets in 2021 and will have another year of development under his belt. He has a serious chance to be a top-five receiver in the league sooner rather than later, and his fantasy ceiling might be even higher than what we saw this year.
Ryan Tannehill Was a Fantasy Superstar
I may be biased since Ryan Tannehill was someone I was screaming at people to draft all preseason and someone to pick up every week, but my goodness does he deserve some more recognition. He was the bonafide QB7 going into this week, and he should vault into the top five after a monster performance against the Lions. He has now played 22 games in a Titans uniform, and he’s the QB6 during that stretch. That means he’s played enough games to secure top ten QB status over the course of a season and then some. His last two weeks have kept teams in the playoffs in their fantasy teams, so he’s delivered when it counts. Tannehill might be disrespected all over again in 2021, and I look forward to the free points if he does.
Seattle’s Offense isn’t Fantasy Friendly Right Now
Russ, DK, Lockett, Chris Carson, and everyone else on the Hawks offense have been really struggling as of late, and likely caused a lot of you to miss out on chances to take home trophies. This is now back to back seasons that Russ Wilson has really fallen off later in the year, and it’s a bizarre phenomenon that I’m not sure how to explain. Metcalf will finish the year with dynamite statistics, but Lockett and Russ really fell off in terms of carrying their fantasy managers week to week. I may be avoiding Lockett in 2021 since he’s been a frustrating guy to have on your roster, but I have a good feeling Russ will end up in a reasonable draft spot all over again.
Tony Pollard is Genuinely Good
I joke a lot about the Zeke contract on Twitter, but this week was the perfect showcase as to why. Tony Pollard is not just a quality backup or a gadget player, he’s a genuinely talented running back who could start on most of the teams in the NFL. One-game sample size is obviously nothing to take too seriously, but Pollard has been productive and impressive for a long time now, he just hasn’t had enough opportunities to do so. He backs up the 60 million dollar man who has the whole franchise behind him, so chances are he may not even stick around in Dallas once his rookie contract is up. Pollard is the rare player that I really want to see on another team because this wasn’t a fluke in my opinion. The dude can ball.
Jalen Hurts, Confirmed Fantasy Upside
I wrote in my article last week that I didn’t see anything spectacular from Hurts, but his rushing ability and ball control tendencies presented an intriguing upside case. That upside was realized immediately, as he exchanged haymakers with Kyler Murray on his way to 400 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Hurts is a great option for QB needy teams in championship week, and should be a hot commodity in a lot of dynasty leagues here soon. The future in Philly isn’t solidified after only one game, but you have to imagine Carson Wentz will be passively checking LinkedIn for employment opportunities this week.
Baker Mayfield Lives
Mayfield has had a rollercoaster of a year, but I can confidently say that the final quarter of the season was some of the best football he has played since he came into the league. His accuracy and poise have returned, and he’s been much less jumpy as of late. His future will depend a lot on how well the Browns can pass protect, but it’s safe to say he’s earned at least another year of work behind center for the playoff-bound Browns. If you have him in dynasty, you’re likely happy with what you’re seeing, but the OBJ experiment will still be tough to predict in year three. In the words of Michael Scott, “I’m ready to get hurt again”.