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Fantasy Football: LeSean McCoy, Julius Thomas provide boost following injuries
1:14 | Fantasy
Fantasy Football: LeSean McCoy, Julius Thomas provide boost following injuries
Tuesday October 20th, 2015

One team in the NFL has a top-12 quarterback, a top-five running back and two top-15 receivers, all by points per game, and it’s not the Patriots. It’s not the Packers. It’s not on the Broncos or the Colts or the Falcons. It is the New York Jets, who still aren’t getting enough attention on offense. This is unofficially turning into Jets week in the fantasy pages here at SI.com. We took a deep dive into why Chris Ivory will remain a top-five fantasy running back this season, and now one of their receivers is among our risers heading into Week 7, just weeks after his counterpart earned the same distinction. All this comes in time for their battle with the Patriots for mid-season supremacy in the AFC East. It should be a fun week.

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Risers

Eric Decker, WR, Jets

I feel like Decker’s game logs this season aren’t getting enough attention. Let’s put an end to that.

Week 1: two catches, 37 yards, one touchdown
Week 2: eight catches, 97 yards, one touchdown
Week 4: four catches, 46 yards, one touchdown (coming off knee injury)
Week 6: four catches, 59 yards, one touchdown

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Decker probably isn’t going to score in every game he plays for the rest of the season. Probably. It warrants mentioning, however, that the Jets offense has been very good through five games, and could realistically be among the best in the league. Between Decker, Chris Ivory and Brandon Marshall, the Jets have legitimate, big-time weapons all over the offense. That’s going to help all three of them continue to be fantasy stars. Decker is clearly behind Marshall, in terms of overall ability and importance in the offense, but it would be a shock if he weren’t a mid-tier WR2 all year. He has a top-15 ceiling the rest of the way.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots

The Patriots typically don’t turn to Blount in significant fashion before building a big lead. A lot of his success is game-flow dependent, and you’ll read that in these pages as much as you will anywhere else. How many running backs, however, are you confident in starting every single week? That list ends earlier than you think.

Blount isn’t going to star every game, but he has a guaranteed role in a dominant, efficient offense. That’s something you’ll want to bet on more often than not. His role is also independent of Dion Lewis’s success, meaning both could realistically finish the season as top-20 backs. It’s not like either needs to be a true workhorse to post starter-worthy fantasy numbers. Blount is seventh among running backs in fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues and, despite playing just four games, is 19th overall at the position. Lewis, meanwhile, is 11th in points per game. The only backs who have scored more points per game than Blount are Devonta Freeman, Chris Ivory, Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Doug Martin and Matt Forte. That’s good company in which Blount can remain all season.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos

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Hillman and Anderson have been mired in a 50/50 timeshare for the better part of the season, with neither back really distinguishing himself with his play. Hillman has narrowly outcarried Anderson recently, but it was in Week 6 that he really jumped ahead. While the nominal starter plodded along again for 41 yards on 13 carries, Hillman gave the Denver running game some life, picking up 111 yards on 20 totes. Hillman also outsnapped Anderson for the first time all season, getting 45 compared with Anderson’s 39. Both backs are struggling behind an offensive line that ranks in the bottom half of the league in run blocking, and that may not get better anytime soon. Still, if there’s one back you want in Denver, Hillman is it.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Browns

You likely already know that Benjamin, the No. 1 receiver in Cleveland’s offense, got off to a hot start this season, which placed him on everyone's fantasy radars. You probably know, as well, that it has been a few weeks since he has visited the end zone. What you might not realize is that Benjamin has yet to put up a dud this year. Even though he hasn’t scored since Week 3, Benjamin has had at least one touchdown or 79 yards in all six of his games this year. In the last three weeks, he has caught 21 passes for 279 yards. Benjamin is 11th at the position in points per game, immediately in front of Odell Beckham, Eric Decker and A.J. Green. He’s unlikely to stay there all year, but he has enough ability and opportunity to remain a WR2 for the remainder of the season.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

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There’s one reason “wait on a quarterback” has become an axiom in the fantasy football world—because it works season after season. If you take a look at the top-10 quarterbacks in fantasy points per game, you’ll find seven—yes, seven—who were outside the top 10 in average draft position. Bortles, who ranks seventh in points per game, can stay in the top 10 for the rest of the year.

The Jaguars feature a passing attack that is still under the radar, but is starting to show it’s true stripes. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are both in the top 15 in points per game among wide receivers, and Julius Thomas brought a new element to the offense in his return from a hand injury, and Bortles, who has clearly grown as a quarterback in his second year, is taking advantage. This is a legitimately good passing game, and the defense’s struggles will only play into Bortles’s hands from a fantasy perspective. He can be trusted as a QB1 more often than not.

Sliders

Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers

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It’s pretty clear that Lacy isn’t 100% healthy. Even if James Starks were outplaying him and Mike McCarthy wanted to ride the hot hand, Lacy wouldn’t get just four touches in a plus matchup where the Packers led most of the way if something wasn’t wrong. The Packers’ Week 7 bye, therefore, comes at a perfect time. He could very well get back out there in Week 8 in his familiar role as the Packers starter and an RB1 in fantasy leagues. Having said all that, the Packers are clearly comfortable with Starks as their lead back, and will almost certainly use both backs in a rotation. That’s not what you bargained for when you grabbed Lacy in the first half of the first round of your draft. It’s hard to see him posting RB1 numbers the rest of the way.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

Rodgers is still Rodgers, the Packers are 6–0 and among the Super Bowl favorites, and the offense is still getting the job done through the air. Still, it’s clear that the ceiling for this year’s offense isn’t nearly what it was for previous versions, and that is entirely because Jordy Nelson is on the shelf. Nelson is supposed to be the big-play receiver, and there’s no one to fill his shoes, as we’ve seen for the last six weeks. Without those 60- and 70-yard pass plays, Rodgers just doesn’t have the sort of fantasy explosiveness we are used to seeing.

Combine that with the fact that Green Bay’s defense is very good and doesn’t force Rodgers to lead the offense to 30-plus point games every week, and you get a nasty cocktail from a fantasy perspective. He’s going to be a top-five quarterback, but he’ll just as likely fall short of providing a significant return on investment from his draft-day price.

Joseph Randle, RB, Cowboys

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Christine Michael is taking the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense in practice this week and is expected to start against the Giants on Sunday. That alone is worth pushing Randle down your rest-of-season rankings. The fact that he brought this on himself gives the fantasy community even more reason to do so, because there’s a chance that Michael will get a long leash from the coaching staff. The brain trust in Dallas has told Randle repeatedly that he needs to do a better job of protecting the ball, and asked him to quit his habit of reaching the ball out dangerously at the goal line. He seemingly ignored that two weeks ago, when he made just such a risky play against the Saints. Randle has run for more than 4.1 yards per carry in just one game this season, and is at 3.9 ypc for the season despite the Cowboys still ranking second in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. Randle may be a glorified backup beginning this week

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles

The Eagles were supposed to set the league on fire with their offense this season, and Matthews was thought to be the team’s premier breakout player. He has had exactly two games with double-digit fantasy points, and those came in the first two weeks of the season. Since then, he has 20 catches for 202 yards and zero touchdowns, good for an average of 5.05 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. He has had 59 yards or fewer in all of those games, and has just three catches for at least 20 yards. Alshon Jeffery, who went just a few spots before him by ADP even though he had a solid track record, has five such catches while playing just two games. The entire Philadelphia offense has been a disappointment, and Matthews hasn’t helped matters at all. On top of that, the team has been much more effective running the ball in its three wins. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles turn more frequently to DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins

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Garcon has salvaged his fantasy value with three touchdowns this season, but he has been among the most ineffective receivers who are regularly in the WR2/3 discussion. His season-high for yards is 74, and that came way back in Week 1. Even though DeSean Jackson has missed essentially the entire year, Garcon has just 32 catches for 295 yards, an average of six grabs for fewer than 50 yards per game. Kirk Cousins certainly hasn’t made Garcon’s life easy, but he just has no explosion on the outside. Garcon has two catches for more than 20 yards. Those two receptions were for 22 yards and 21 yards. He does get a lot of attention from Cousins in the red zone, but he’s no more than a depth receiver from this point forward. 

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