What We Learned in Week 14 (Fantasy Football)
The fantasy quarterfinals, what else is there to say? If you win, you stay alive. If you lose, it’s basketball season. Just like last week, these will be primarily tailored to the last two weeks of most fantasy seasons, so let’s get to it:
The Titans are Repeating Their 2019 Finish
Remember the stretch run last year where Ryan Tannehill was a top-five quarterback, Derrick Henry was dominating the world, and AJ Brown was in the discussion for the Dynasty WR1?
It’s happening again. Tannehill is a lock for top-10 production on a weekly basis, and Derrick Henry likely sent a LOT of managers to the semifinals with his massive performance. The Titans are built on toughness, controlling the clock, and efficiency in the passing game. They are checking all three of those boxes right now, and they should continue to do so for the rest of the fantasy playoffs. If you have one of these three guys, you’re starting them with confidence going forward.
Zeke Looks Washed
If you read this article on a weekly basis, first of all – Thank You. Second of all, you should know by the context of a lot of my opinions that I’m not a fan of paying running backs big money. Not because they don’t deserve it, but because it’s almost never worth it for the franchise. It’s a very frustrating paradox in the NFL today because those guys earn every dollar they get, but they also handcuff their teams more often than not. Zeke is one of the most talented backs in the NFL, but his usage in the last three seasons has been substantial and his performances are starting to reflect that. Tony Pollard is just as efficient when he gets into the game, and he’s a LOT less expensive for the Cowboys to roster. I wrote towards the end of last year that it was time to consider trading away Zeke in dynasty leagues, and if you took that advice you’re likely happy. I’m avoiding him in all formats going forward, and he appears to be on the same path as every other aging back that came before him. Workhorse usage accelerates decline, and that’s an undefeated sentiment.
Kyler Murray is Not a Must-Start
Please read that headline again. I want to make sure that I make it clear I am not advocating for benching Murray outright. He was an early-season MVP candidate and has been a fantasy MVP candidate for most of the season. He’s a very reliable fantasy quarterback, but he’s not the same quarterback he was a few weeks back. There are rumors he’s working through a shoulder injury which would make sense, but without a strong presence through the air, his running ability is easier to contain defensively. Murray still has a very high floor and could go off at any moment, but he’s not an absolute must start if you have a more appealing top ten option on your bench with a better matchup.
Cam Akers Deserves Lineup Consideration, but Be Careful
Last week I wrote that you couldn’t trust Sean McVay when it came to running backs, and even though Cam Akers exploded this week – I stand by that statement. McVay gave us zero indication that Akers would magically become a workhorse, and the Patriots were a huge part of his performance. The red and blue sea was parting in the middle of the field play after play, and Akers hit the wide-open holes with ease. He’s a very talented player, but McVay has done this same exact thing with Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown at different points in their tenure with the Rams. One week they’re the obvious lead back, and the next week they’re riding the pine. McVay overworked Todd Gurley and it came back to haunt him, and I think he’d be wise to learn from that lesson. After last week’s outing, you’re going to be playing Akers in Week 15, but if you’re a juggernaut team I would hesitate to suggest benching consistent studs for Akers after just one workhorse week.
David Montgomery is Flex-able
Monty was a polarizing pick in the preseason, and his ceiling is very confusing at times. He doesn’t get a ton of passing game work, and his volume is far from elite. Despite those issues, he’s been performing well in the past few weeks. He broke away for a career-long touchdown this week as the Bears cruised to a huge victory over Houston, and he looked impressive throughout the contest. If you’re still alive in the fantasy playoffs and you have Monty on your roster, he may not be an obvious start for you in single flex leagues. He deserves flex consideration going forward, and I’d be firing him up in any matchup that requires a solid floor at the running back position next week.
Mike Gesicki is a Primary Dynasty Target
Gesicki is a bit of a post-hype sleeper right now, and I’m excited about it. He was a top target for the late-TE crowd in the preseason, but his performances early on lead to him being dropped in quite a few leagues. In the past two weeks, he’s built a connection with the new Dolphins franchise QB, and it isn’t being discussed as often as it should be. With the season winding down pretty soon here, I think we will have a great opportunity to snag Mike Gesicki for a lower cost than he should warrant. His route running skill set is starting to catch up to his athletic ability, and his connection with his talented rookie quarterback should only get better and better in the years to come.
CEH Apparently Stands for “Can’t Escape the Hype”
Remember the safe, warm embrace of Week One? Everything was wonderful, everyone was excited, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire was potentially a top-three fantasy running back. Fast forward thirteen weeks, and it’s a much different conversation. CEH has been letting his fantasy managers down for a big portion of the year, but these past two weeks have been ugly. He produced a goose egg in week thirteen, and this week he had a low-end RB2 performance in a game that had a lot of points scored and included Kansas City having a lead for most of it. If you have two running backs better than him on your team I’d be surprised, but he’s not someone that lives in the must-start territory if you do. Someone like Antonio Gibson should warrant consideration over him in Week Fifteen if he’s healthy.
Jalen Hurts is Talented, but Doesn’t Appear to Raise the Ceiling in Philadelphia
I really want Jalen Hurts to do well in the NFL, and I really hope Carson Wentz can figure things out. Sadly, both of these things are unlikely to happen while they play together, so it’s best to just evaluate their impact on the Eagles’ offense. Wentz has been inconsistent, inaccurate, jumpy, and flat out bad most of this season. As a result of his play, the Eagles have struggled to have an identity on offense and have struggled mightily to put up a lot of points. With Hurts in the lineup, they appear to be in a similar spot but for different reasons. Hurts ran a lot of RPO’s and bootlegs, but his overall performance was just…. boring. He doesn’t push the ball down the field well enough to hang around a shootout, and he doesn’t run well enough to have a huge impact on the game through play action in the way Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray do. I think both quarterbacks have the ability to be starters in this league, but I’m not sure either of them is the obvious fit for the Eagles right now. The Saints are a tough matchup for any quarterback so I’d love to see a few more games with Hurts behind center to really form an opinion, but from what I saw this week I don’t think he’s the savior for the Eagles. I also don’t think he should be anywhere near your fantasy lineups.
Washington D/ST Should be Stashed for Championship Week
The Washington Football team has one of, if not the best defensive fronts in the entire league. This week they capitalized on their stout pass rush for two touchdowns and a dominant fantasy performance for the Washington D/ST. Next week they have a matchup with a Russell Wilson-led Seahawks offense, so obviously they should remain on your bench regardless of this week’s total. The reason you should stash them this week is that they have a matchup with the Panthers in Week 16, which is championship day for most leagues. Even if Carolina is more impressive offensively than San Francisco, they’re still susceptible to sacks and big plays on a weekly basis. The Washington front is truly elite, and they should be a top streaming option that you’ll want to snag early.
Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins Reset the Narrative
I’ll be the first to admit I fell victim to the classic “don’t trust receivers changing teams” narrative this year. It’s likely just a sour taste from all of my OBJ shares that are not working out, but I digress. Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins have absolutely balled out this year and have propelled people to their semifinal, and possibly championship games. I avoided both of them like the plague, and I have been paying for it all season. I don’t think the initial hesitation was inherently wrong, I just think both of them fell too far in the other direction. Diggs dropped to the sixth and seventh-round consistently, and he’s going to finish as a top-seven receiver. Great players are great players, and if they have a decent quarterback, we need to take it seriously. Baker Mayfield regressed right when OBJ came to town, so that was a perfect storm of ugliness all at once. Both Josh Allen and Kyler Murray performed well this season, and their top dogs ate steak as a result. I will miss out on league titles in some places because I faded these two, and it’s important we learn this lesson for next year.