Fantasy Week 13 Lessons: Jordan Howard is destined for playoff greatness
- Though Chicago and New England are heading in opposite directions in reality, it is the Bears running back (and not the Patriots' murky RB corps) that can lead you to a fantasy Super Bowl.
Week 13 is in the books, and that means the fantasy regular season is behind us. Congratulations to all the regular season champions out there, and good luck to everyone moving on to the playoffs. We’d like to hope that we played a small part in your success, but, no matter what, we appreciate your readership all season.
Now that the postseason has arrived, fantasy owners aren’t going to be making many moves on the waiver wire. You’ll still want to monitor it, especially if you have a player who suffers an injury, but, for the most part, fantasy owners will charge ahead in the playoffs with the players already on their roster. With that, we will bid farewell to the Droppables for the 2016 season. For the remainder of the year, we’ll turn our attention back to Sunday takeaways, lessons that can help you win two or three more games, depending on your standing and league format, so you can hoist your league’s championship trophy during the final week of December.
Maybe Colin Kaepernick isn’t the answer to your quarterback woes
Kaepernick was a popular play for Week 13 after posting one of the best quarterback fantasy games of the season a week ago against the Dolphins, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns while running for 113 yards. The theory went that Kaepernick’s rushing production gave him a strong floor, and that the Bears defense wouldn’t put up much of a fight. As we pointed out more than once, that conveniently ignored the facts that the game had an over/under of 43.5 points and the Bears were small favorites playing at home. The Kaepernick backers probably wish they paid both of those factors more attention.
With snow falling on Soldier Field for the entirety of the Bears’ 26–6 win, Kaepernick looked like the quarterback who was incapable of beating out Blaine Gabbert for a starting gig this summer. He completed one of his five pass attempts for four yards and ran the ball six times for 20 yards before ending where he started the season, on the sideline watching Gabbert run the show. Kaepernick didn’t complete a pass until halfway through the second quarter, and made the injury-riddled Bears defense look as good as the unit from the glory days of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. It also showcased why fantasy owners can’t trust Kaepernick in the playoffs.
Kaepernick put together a strong fantasy run as a starter heading into Sunday, scoring at least 18.1 standard-league points in five of his first six starts. His rushing production made him reliable, and he typically wasn’t a total zero, at least from a fantasy perspective, as a passer. Still, Kaepernick has obvious limitations that are liable to show up at any time, as they did on Sunday. Given the depth of the quarterback position, there’s no reason to trust someone who’s a threat to post a total dud every time he takes the field.
The 49ers host the Jets next week, then visit the Falcons and Rams to end the fantasy playoffs. There’s not one matchup of the three that is particularly intimidating, but that doesn’t matter when Kaepernick simply isn’t very good. He should not be on your radar if you’re on your way to the postseason.
Nothing can stop Jordan Howard from fantasy playoff greatness
We know that someone is going to turn into a hero for his fantasy owners over the next three weeks. If Sunday was any indication, Howard has a great chance to be that player. In fact, outside of a two-game stint in mid-October, Howard has been a hero for his owners since taking over as the Chicago starter in Week 4.
Howard had the best fantasy game of his rookie year on Sunday, running for 117 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. It was one of the few games in which he didn’t make an impact as a receiver, but his owners likely didn’t care after he put up nearly 30 points in standard-scoring leagues. Howard has now started and finished eight games this season. He has double-digit fantasy points in all of those but one, and he scored 9.9 standard-league points in the one in which he came up short. All told, he has averaged 15.29 points per game in those eight contests. If he had that average all season, he’d be the No. 7 fantasy back in the league, trailing David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Le’Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy.
It may be a lost season in Chicago, but there’s no doubt that the team has found itself a running back of the future. Howard is going to be an elite weapon in the 2016 fantasy playoffs. Chicago visits Detroit in Week 14, and will be at home for the semifinals and fantasy championship, hosting Green Bay and Washington. The Lions can be a tough draw for running backs, but Howard burned them for 111 rushing yards and 21 receiving yards in the first start of his career. The Packers and Redskins, meanwhile, don’t strike fear in the hearts of running backs.
Howard has turned into a fantasy star in his rookie season. The Bears struck gold in the fifth round, and Howard’s fantasy owners did the same by targeting him late or grabbing him off the waiver wire. After turning a huge profit for his owners in the fantasy regular season, he’s set to help many of them climb to the top of their leagues over the next three weeks.
Travis Kelce streaking at the perfect time
For the better part of the last three years, the fantasy community has wondered what Kelce would be able to do in a true featured role in an offense. He was a top-10 tight end in his first two years in the league, but the Chiefs’ conservative offense, born of Andy Reid’s scheme and Alex Smith’s limitations, didn’t take full advantage of Kelce’s gifts. There seemed to be little hope for change this season.
Through six games this season, the Chiefs were again holding Kelce back. He had 27 catches for 276 yards and two touchdowns across the team’s first six games, finishing a week with fewer than 35 yards four times. At that point of the year, Kelce was on pace for the worst season of his career.
Kelce topped 100 yards for the first time in the Chiefs seventh game, hauling in seven balls for 101 yards and a score in a win over the Colts. The following week, Jeremy Maclin injured his groin, and we haven’t seen him since. Kelce was held in Week 9 and 10, but has turned a corner over his last three games. With the Chiefs finally unleashing everything that Kelce can be, he looks to be one of this year’s most dangerous tight ends in the playoffs
Kelce has put up three straight 100-yard games. In Week 13’s 29–28 win over the Falcons, Kelce set a career high with 140 yards while catching all eight of his targets. Kelce has at least seven receptions in every game during his 100-yard streak and has totaled 349 yards in the three games. To put that in perspective, he had 466 yards in his first nine games this season. After being on a career-worst pace through six games, Kelce is now tracking for 86.7 catches, 1,086.7 yards and 3.9 touchdowns. The reception and yardage totals would be the best marks of Kelce’s three-year career.
The Chiefs will spend the entire fantasy playoffs at home, welcoming, in order, the Raiders, Titans and Broncos to Kansas City. Each of those games will have playoff implications in real life. The playoff fate for both the Chiefs and Kelce’s fantasy owners may be intertwined. As long as the team continues to favor him, both groups of stakeholders will be happy over the next three weeks.
Dion Lewis and James White can’t get out of one another’s way
The Patriots didn’t have, and didn’t need, their A-game against the Rams on Sunday. A standard dose of LeGarrette Blount and enough plays emanating from Tom Brady’s right arm, as well as a great performance by the defense, led the Patriots to an easy 26–10 win. From a fantasy perspective, Blount’s continued excellence and Malcolm Mitchell’s emergence will grab headlines. Don’t overlook what’s happening with Lewis and White, however, who are not likely to be fantasy relevant for the rest of this season.
Snap counts were not available during this writing, but Lewis and White played a similar number of snaps. The both had five targets and four receptions, with White outgaining Lewis through the air, 18 yards to 11. Lewis carried the ball five times for 27 yards, while White did so three times for 17 yards. Neither player did much with limited touches, but that isn’t the greatest concern. The mere presence of a second player with a comparable skill set is completely torpedoing both player’s fantasy value.
Lewis made his season debut in Week 11. Through his first two games this season, he played 44 of the Patriots 149 snaps. In those two games, White played 50 snaps. Lewis had 18 touches to White’s 10 during those games, and he widened that gap slightly on Sunday. Still, Lewis has yet to put together a meaningful fantasy performance, and after catching four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown in Lewis’s first game back, White has 57 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches over the last two weeks. They’re essentially splitting a role that is just barely large enough for one player to turn into fantasy goodness. It simply isn’t large enough for two players to share and be worthy fantasy starters. Unless one gets injured, neither will show up for their owners in the fantasy playoffs.
Devontae Booker has been exposed
When C.J. Anderson went on IR and Booker took over as Denver’s starter, there was reason to believe he could be a league winner. After all, his role in the offense was already growing, and he was coming off his best game of the season, an 83-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Texans. Nothing has gone as planned for any fantasy owner who emptied his or her FAAB budget to secure Booker’s services.
Booker has started five games for the Broncos, running for a total of 266 yards on 95 carries, which translates to 2.8 yards per carry, and making minimal impact as a receiver. Booker has not rushed for more than 79 yards or 3.3 yards per carry in any game this season. He has topped 70 yards twice, but needed 24 carries in both of those games to do so. After running for 35 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos 20-10 win over the Jaguars Sunday, Booker still has just one game with double-digit fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues as Denver’s starter.
Some players aren’t meant for large roles. We see this in baseball all the time, when the effective platoon outfielder sees his triple slash line plummet once he’s thrust into a regular starting role. The same effect has felled Booker over the last five weeks. When he was a change-of-pace back off Anderson, the different look he showed defenses helped him find success. Now that teams are game-planning specifically for him, though, he’s having a tougher time making things happen for his fantasy owners.
The good news for Booker and his owners is that his volume doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. He has had at least 19 touches in four of his five starts, including 24 or more in three of those games. Kapri Bibbs did get five carries on Sunday, but he’s not likely to eat into Booker’s workload in a meaningful way. If the Broncos continue to win games, Booker is going to get plenty of action. The point remains, though, that Booker is not the RB1 so many believed he could be with a starting gig. With a fantasy playoff schedule that includes matchups against the Titans, Patriots and Chiefs, Booker is no more than a volume-based low-end RB2.