The Fantasy Footballers’ Rankings Audit & Podcast Highlights for Week 15
Welcome in, #FootClan! It’s playoff time!
We’re hot on the heels of a Thursday Night Football barnburner, unexpectedly headlined by two former Ducks, Justin Herbert and Marcus Mariota. We saw the electrifying Austin Ekeler break the hearts of fantasy managers worldwide when he had a TD vultured by Kalen Ballage. We also witnessed Josh Jacobs‘ vindication from his enemies, while Keenan Allen created new ones. By the way, condolences if your opponent started “The Wallerus,” Darren Waller.
With another TNF on the books, we’re eager to move on to an exciting new slate of games in Week 15 of the National Football League!
As a reminder, this article is a weekly installment where I’ll review the Fantasy Footballers’ player rankings and highlight a few specific players per position that deserve extra attention. I’ll also recap important moments from the past week’s Fantasy Footballers’ podcast episodes with links to each episode provided. So be on the lookout every week for this series!
Also, please keep in mind that the Footballers’ rankings are constantly being updated whenever any breaking news is released. So always refer to their rankings page or click on a specific player below to see their latest rankings!
With that said… let’s go!
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (@ WAS)
|Russell Wilson (as of 12/18/2020)|
Is Russell Wilson back? The QB phenom set the football world ablaze with his scorching start, but has slumped ever since a tough shellacking from Aaron Donald and the Rams in Week 10. How bad has it been? From Weeks 1-9, Wilson was the overall QB3 on the season — a stat made more impressive considering he already had his bye during this stretch. But from Weeks 10-13? QB18. Yikes.
But in Week 14, Wilson and his Seahawks bounced back in style with a brutal walloping of the winless Jets. Wilson threw FOUR TDs in just three quarters of game-time before being pulled. Can he keep cooking (sorry) against Washington’s world-class defense? The same defense that just brutalized the 49ers and ended the Steelers’ unbeaten streak? Mike and Jason are optimistic, though Andy is a bit more cautious. Meanwhile, editor-in-chief Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) is fading Wilson in the top-12 this week, while our writer Ryan Weisse (@TheFantasyFive) actually recommends the WFT DST.
While Wilson will certainly have his back to the wall from constant pressure by Chase Young and co., there’s no one who can cook with pressure (sorry again) as well as Mr. Unlimited.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 18, 2020
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ ATL)
|Tom Brady (as of 12/18/2020)|
Tom Brady‘s fantasy production, like most chairs befitting a man of his age, has been rocky. Though he’s currently the QB8 on the season but has been wildly inconsistent week-to-week. He’s has been incredibly matchup dependent, having his best games against weaker defenses and vice-versa. Next up for Brady is the league’s MOST favorable matchup for opposing QBs — the Atlanta Falcons. With RB Ronald Jones II expected out (finger, COVID-19), Brady will have even more reason to chuck it against a vulnerable secondary. He’ll also enjoy a full receiving arsenal to rack up the points with. Funny enough, the ‘Ballers all have Brady ranked high this week, yet the lowest ranking currently belongs to Jason, who’s made Brady his Start of the Week (writeup by @thekaceykasem). All signs point to green for “The Plant Man.”
Running Back Rankings
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (vs NYJ)
|Cam Akers (as of 12/18/2020)|
The Fantasy Football community rejoiced after rookie Cam Akers finally saw bellcow usage in back-to-back weeks. He passed the century mark with an astonishing 171 rushing yards against the Patriots. His rapidly increasing snap percentage is only matched by his surging touches and fantasy production. The crew is locked in, unanimously ranking the rookie sensation as their No. 8 RB. He’s also Mike’s Start of the Week with a soaring stock in Dynasty leagues (written by @FF_MarvinE).
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 11, 2020
But can you really trust head coach Sean McVay? He’s frustratingly proven to favor the “hot-hand,” demonstrated by an explosive season opener from “lead” back Malcolm Brown until Darrell Henderson seemingly took the reins before randomly losing it. It’s just speculation, but it’s possible that McVay leaned on Akers after Henderson sustained a knee injury during Week 13’s contest in Arizona.
Assuming Akers continues to see 20-30 opportunities for ROS, will he be able to continue producing against the Jets’ underrated defense? Since Week 7, they’ve allowed the sixth LEAST fantasy points to opposing team’s RBs. The Rams won’t even need to run it when they can just toss it against the Jets’ porous secondary. In fact, even draft-bust TE Tyler Higbee has room to eat, which is why he’s Andy’s surprise Start of the Week.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m starting Akers wherever I’m lucky enough to have him. Just temper expectations as McVay can change things in an instant.
Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals (vs PHI)
|Kenyan Drake (as of 12/18/2020)|
Don’t look now, but Cardinals rusher Kenyan Drake is slowly becoming the RB1 most fantasy GMs thought he’d be during draft day. He’s had a rough start, finishing in the top-12 only once prior to his bye with much worse results otherwise. From Weeks 1-10, he was the overall RB23 in half PPR. But from Weeks 11-14, he’s the RB5.
Drake’s resurrection could be attributed to QB Kyler Murray‘s shoulder injury sustained in Week 11 against the Seahawks. Murray was averaging 1.1 rushing TDs per game leading up to the fated divisional battle. Since then, he’s yet to register a rushing score.
It’s clear that his shoulder is still bothering him, or at least it’s preventing him from running it in himself, leaving opportunities for his RBs instead. Drake was averaging just 0.5 TDs per game before Murray’s Week 11 injury, and has since averaged 1.3. He’ll look to continue his TD streak against a tough yet beatable Eagles defensive front. It helps that fellow RB Chase Edmonds is a true game-time decision due to an ankle injury and may be limited if he even plays. Expect Drake’s ranking to shoot towards fringe RB1 numbers if Edmonds is rules out.
Wide Receiver Rankings
Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (vs NYJ)
|Robert Woods (as of 12/18/2020)|
As the Fantasy Football mantra goes, opportunity is king. In that case, Rams WR Robert Woods is making a serious claim for the crown. The eighth-year vet is averaging 12.5 opportunities (targets + carries) per game in the last four weeks. Though he didn’t produce last week against the Patriots formidable defense, he has the perfect get-right spot this week against the Jets non-existent secondary.
Both Woods AND Cooper Kupp should have borderline WR1 performances, though their upside is capped by a potential landslide victory. The odds are so ridiculously one-sided that Vegas has the Rams winning by 17 points. There’s a real threat that all the starters are benched by the third quarter. But they still have to get to that point first, and that’s through the air through Woods and Kupp. Start both studs confidently, and pray that Aaron Donald doesn’t singlehandedly win the game and keep the offense off the field.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ CIN)
|Diontae Johnson (as of 12/18/2020)|
It’s never fun playing someone who could be benched at any given moment because he keeps dropping passes, something he’s unfortunately leading the league in. Such is the case for Steelers standout Diontae Johnson, who’s benefited from being QB Ben Roethlisberger‘s favorite target. In fact, Johnson’s 113 targets makes him the 11th most targeted player in the league thus far.
Things came to a head last week in Buffalo when Johnson was benched after adding to his drop total, although it was only for a quarter and he managed to catch all three of his post-benching targets. Coach Mike Tomlin seemed pleased with the punishment and Johnson’s reaction to it, so Johnson should continue seeing a healthy number of targets as the lead receiver. But one or two more drops and his night ends early — as will your fantasy team if you started him.
Making matters worse is that he’ll likely face shadow coverage from underrated CB William Jackson III, who presents the toughest challenge for the Steelers’ talented WR room. All this makes Johnson a shaky start during the fantasy semifinals. But again, the opportunity will be there. And Johnson has already dominated against the Bengals, catching six of 11 targets for 116 yards and a TD in their last encounter in Week 10. In my opinion, he will prove all doubters wrong on primetime by obliterating the Bengals in a highlight-reel performance. I’m personally starting him over the likes of Amari Cooper, Robby Anderson, and T.Y. Hilton, who the gang all have ranked higher than Johnson. Start him if you’re also feeling bold, but don’t overlook the genuine risks involved.
Tight End Rankings
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints (vs KC)
|Jared Cook (as of 12/18/2020)|
No other TE in Week 15 has a more polarizing ranking than Saints TE Jared Cook. While Andy and Mike have him out of their top-12, Jason boasts a TE6 ranking. He doubled down by making “Cyook” his Start of the Week. I’m siding with the “Big Shimmy” on this one, as the stars and planets have aligned for Cook to explode against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Not only does Cook have a favorable matchup against the Chief’s 24th rank defense against TEs, but he’ll also get his ol’ buddy Drew Brees back. Despite breaking 55+ ribs (and counting), Brees is set to return and will immediately boost the fantasy outlook for all offensive weapons (congratulations Alvin Kamara managers). But Cook should also see his target quality and volume improve, especially with lead WR Michael Thomas ruled out. Cook is a viable TE1 candidate in Week 15 and just might be what your team needs heading into the fantasy championships.
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 14, 2020
Biggest Takeaways from the Week 15 Podcasts
Monday (Week 14 Studs & Stinkers + Soul-Crushing Tilt)
Our beloved Footballers jumpstart this episode by sharing their favorite Monday Punday submissions at 06:30. Next is a fantasy-focused recap of all last week’s games on the Weekly Rewind at 08:20. The ‘Ballers then discuss all their Fantasy Studmuffins at 11:35, before commiserating on the Stinkers of the Week at 27:00.
Tuesday (Week 15 Waivers + Mike Dumps Andy, Full Stream Ahead)
The gang kicks off Tuesday’s show with a Monday Night Football Recap of the wildly amazing firefight between the surging Cleveland Browns and the red-hot Baltimore Ravens at 04:55, including a highbrow discussion on the Lamar Jackson “cramp-gate.”
Keeping it highbrow per usual on The Fantasy Footballers Podcast… 💩🚽
— Fantasy Footballers (@TheFFBallers) December 15, 2020
Next up is the News & Notes at 09:00. We then come to the meat & taters of the episode: the Week 15 Waivers at 19:10. We wrap up the episode with their choices for DST Streamers (Buffalo, Cleveland, Seattle) at 36:00 and QB Streamers (Jalen Hurts, Philip Rivers, Jared Goff) at 38:15. The show concludes with a Mailbag segment at 42:55.
Wednesday (Week 15 Buy or Sell + Playoff Strategy, Almost Football Time)
Our fearless crew begins this episode with the Buy or Sell segment at 04:00, debating hot-topic players like Kyler Murray, D’Andre Swift, and Kareem Hunt. They move onto the News & Notes at 11:40, before moving onto the Thursday Night Football Preview between the Chargers and Raiders at 19:20. We finish the episode with a substantial Mailbag segment at 29:30, including a fun peek ahead into 2021:
Week 15 prep on today's show of course, but also a peek ahead to 2021!
Who is the 1.01 pick for 2021 drafts? #fantasyfootball
— Fantasy Footballers (@TheFFBallers) December 16, 2020
Thursday (Starts of the Week + Week 15 Breakdown, Keenan Tilt Time)
We hit the ground running with the Taking It Up To 100 segment at 05:50, where the guys plant their flags on Jeff Wilson Jr., Chris Godwin, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. That’s followed by the News & Notes at 09:15, then a thorough discussion on the upcoming Week 15 slate in the Fantasy Forecast at 14:35. We then get to the juiciest part of the episode at 54:10 — the ‘Ballers Starts of the Week! And don’t forget the Big Shimmy’s Iron-Clad Locked and Loaded 100% Guaranteed Boom-Boom Kicker of the Week at 01:05:30!
Friday (Week 15 Matchups + Big Baker, Mushroom Stew)
The ‘Ballers kickstart this podcast with a TNF Recap between the Raiders and Chargers, before moving onto the #FootClan Friday segment at 08:55. That’s followed by the News & Notes at 11:10. The gang next details the Fantasy Forecast for the remaining Week 15 matchups at 19:50. This jam-packed episode culminates at 57:25 with their can’t-miss segment, Prop It Like It’s Hot!
Have a great weekend #FootClan and let’s crush all our matchups! If you haven’t done so yet, make sure you check out the awesome Week 15 DFS Podcast by Kyle Borgognoni (@kyle_borg) and Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT). And as always, remember to tune in Sunday for Mike’s live stream where he provides last-minute updates to help you make those crucial roster decisions!