What We Learned in Week 8 (Fantasy Football)
This week was confusing once again, and I’m almost done pointing that out because it’s redundant. This season is confusing. This season is occasionally frustrating. BUT…. I’d still take this season over no season, and I’m just happy we even got to have one. Week Eight produced a lot of vultures and one particularly bizarre 8 touchdown performance by the Colts and Lions that were produced exclusively by players that no one was likely to be starting. JK Dobbins reminded us that he’s a baller’, Pat Mahomes reminded us that positional advantages still exist, and Diontae Johnson once again shattered hearts around the globe. The show must go on though, and this is certainly no time to give up. Let’s take a look at what lessons we learned from a week Eight migraine:
Dalvin Cook Matters
Those who have participated in the always level-headed ‘running backs don’t matter’ argument know what I mean by this. Dalvin Cook is a special player, who runs in an offense built just for him. Alexander Mattison is a very talented backup, but it was obvious from the Vikings’ last two games that Cook is a different beast. He’s explosive, has great vision, and is capable of a workhorse role whenever he’s able to suit up. He’s one of the best fantasy draft picks in back to back seasons, and it’s a blast to watch him play. His health has held up fairly well with the exception of one missed week this season, so let’s hope that continues. We deserve plenty of Dalvin Cook highlights in our lives.
This Rookie RB Class is Underwhelming so Far
Both Clyde-Edwards Helaire and Jonathan Taylor were dynasty darlings this offseason, and the hype train was full steam ahead during redraft leagues. CEH ended up creeping into the top ten in almost every draft, and Taylor was going in the third round in some places by the start of Week 1. Even JK Dobbins had a lot of hype behind him for the first few weeks of the season, but all three of them cooled off significantly. Edwards-Helaire gets a very healthy workload each week, but his passing game upside has been capped by Le’Veon Bell since he joined the team. Taylor is a bit of a mystery because he’s actually not running very well, and his usage in the passing game is minimal. This week Nyheim Hines got to show off his full skill set, and Jordan Wilkins saw the bulk of the carries in the second half. Dobbins’ has been buried until this week, and even his big game doesn’t give me confidence John Harbaugh will change his ways. The cruel reality of this rookie class is that it’s disappointing so far and the situation the NFL is in makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly why. Rookies with no preseason experience are not a data set I’ve ever encountered, so it’s hard to know what’s driving the lack of performance. Time will tell, and dynasty managers should still hang on to these guys at all costs.
Mark Andrews is Quietly a Bust
Remember after Week one when some people were crowning Mark Andrews the TE1 of 2020? I do. I don’t mean to rub that in anyone’s face at all, but Andrews has never been a target monster and anyone in Baltimore is tough to trust every single week. Maintaining the top spot at any position requires serious volume. The nature of their offense is built upon big plays that set up their explosive running attack, but that means sometimes they’re going to flop. It seems like the 2020 Ravens are flopping almost every week. Andrews, Lamar Jackson, Marquise Brown, Mark Ingram, JK Dobbins, and anyone else you may have drafted is likely ruining your team week in and week out. An additional obstacle is that the TE position is a terrible entity on its own, so there’s not much you can do about it if you roster him. You have to hold, but there’s a real argument to be made for starting another quality option going forward if you have one. For example, Dallas Goedert (I hope).
Josh Jacobs Has Very Little Upside
Jacobs was the RB14 going into this week, so I’m not saying he’s a bust by any means. He’s a fairly reliable, volume-dependent back end RB1, but his upside is minimal. Derrick Henry and Jacobs are very similar players from a fantasy standpoint, but the Raiders offense is built a bit differently so Jacobs doesn’t have the same type of upside every week. His two big games were 2 and 3 touchdown performances, and the other three weeks he didn’t crack double-digit fantasy points. This week he had a whopping 31 carries, but still only produced 12.8 points in half-PPR. He’s a touchdown-dependent player with no real passing game role, and it appears that things are going to stay that way.
The Weekly “Chalk” feels…. Chalkier than Normal
It feels like this year has been more consistent at the very top than ever before, and the middle-round picks are much more confusing to rely upon. Adams is an absolute beast and is a rare league winner at the wide receiver position, and the other guys felt almost boring to pick, but have delivered every week. There are obvious disappointments from a season-long standpoint (looking at you, Zeke), but at this point in the year, it’s pretty clear who you can trust to have huge games at the top of their positional tiers.
Corey Davis is…. Kinda Consistent?
After one of the best performances of his career this week, Davis is averaging 13.8 fantasy points per game, which is good enough for the WR16 on the year. The craziest part about his under-the-radar performance has been his consistency. He’s had double-digit points in every game but one, and that one game he missed he still had 9.4 points. Davis has been the butt of a lot of jokes throughout his career, but he’s ballin’ right now. AJ Brown is going to have the big blow-up games, but Corey Davis is a reliable PPR asset going forward, which likely surprises even his biggest ‘truthers’.
But… Week to Week Predictability Overall is at an All-Time Low
Is it just me, or does it feel like lineup decisions have been absolutely brutal this year compared to normal? If so, it’s likely a product of a few things. The absence of preseason isn’t just tough for fantasy analysts, it’s insanely tough for actual coaches (and they get paid way more)! A head coach loves to get a look at many different guys in full speed situations, but without a preseason they’re forced into deciding on ‘the guy’ at a position early, and without much confidence. The second major factor is the obvious one, there have been a lot of injuries this season. 2020 is not exactly a great year in general, so it’s sort of on-brand that we would see a start player head to the IR almost every week. I hope Calvin Ridley turns out to be healthy, but things didn’t look good there for this week. The third major factor is the constant switching of game times and unpredictability with Covid-19 test results and quarantining measures. This is for player safety so it’s a necessity, but it obviously doesn’t help the week-to-week predictability. Do NOT give up though. Keep grinding away, and keep relying on the phenomenal Footballers rankings when you’re in a bind.
Pittsburgh’s Defense is Suffocating
I’m just going to give some full-blown “don’t do this” advice here. Don’t start any quarterbacks not named Patrick Mahomes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are a powerhouse of a defense that stifled the Ravens attack for the most part, and even in a tough matchup their D/ST still posted a top-three performance. Normally I recommend streaming defenses in leagues that use them, but if you took the Steelers a round early, it’s probably working out really well for you. There’s something to be said for peace of mind at an onesie position, so I’m not totally against it like some people are. This defense should be treated as a must avoid going forward, regardless of position.
Play the Two Healthiest Niners Running Backs
Whether it’s McKinnon, Coleman, Hasty, or the reincarnation of Frank Gore, you play the two top backs in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The key caveat is playing the guys who are actually healthy. Going back to the Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman days, this is something you should blindly commit to in his scheme. Even though neither main back blew up this week, the fact that the Niners were on their heels all game and both players ended up being start-worthy tells you it’s pretty much a guarantee that if you have one of them, they’re worth it. The top two backs may not be clear until literally an hour before kickoff like today, but even in a situation like Coleman’s – the injury risk was high regardless of if he was active. I can understand the upside argument for sure, but Hasty should have been a clear start, even if McKinnon’s role was in doubt. The real question was Coleman or McKinnon, and it turned out to be McKinnon. Unless you have more than one of them, don’t overthink it. Start the guy that appears to be the guy.
The Cowboys Skill Players Are a Mess
America’s team came into this season as one of the top targets for fantasy managers for obvious reasons. Cooper, Lamb, Prescott, Zeke, Jarwin, and Gallup? Phew! What an embarrassment of riches. Sadly, Dak suffered an injury that knocked him out for the year, and it has been ugly since. Andy Dalton barely made it through two games before suffering a scary injury himself, and third-string quarterback Ben DiNucci hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire. If you roster any Cowboys, particularly Zeke and Cooper – it’s probably the primary reason your team has lost steam in the past few weeks. At the end of the day you can’t bench Zeke, but Amari Cooper‘s name value is not worth the weekly flop if things don’t improve. If DiNucci is behind center, you should strongly consider sitting Cooper until he proves that’s a bad idea.