Plus, Taylor Gabriel, Trevor Siemian, and all kinds of fantasy football stuff heading into Week 13
These things I believe.*
Tyreek Hill: If you missed the Sunday night game because you were watching the Grey Cup, you missed Hill high-fiving someone, then scoring a touchdown, then scoring another touchdown, then scoring another touchdown. And that was... about it. Over the course of the night, Hill caught nine passes for 52 yards. It was all very good. The return of Jeremy Maclin, perhaps in Week 14, spells trouble; Hill has been targeted 28 times during Maclin’s three-game absence, but he also played only 59 of 87 snaps on Sunday night (and about two-thirds of the snaps over the three games Maclin missed). Still, the Chiefs have scored five offensive touchdowns in a four-week span, and even if he’s the third option behind Maclin and Travis Kelce, the Chiefs will likely continue creating touches for Hill because it’s one of the few things working. He’s risky, but I think he still has value as a FLEX play over the rest of 2016.
Marquess Wilson: I like Wilson. Part of that is ’membering his Washington State days, but he’s a big, fluid receiver with some natural playmaking ability. It’s no surprise that he has emerged as Matt Barkley’s preferred target, as the Bears are trotting out a bunch of guys with hands like feet (please, I beg of you, no more Cameron Meredith). Wilson played only 47 of 80 snaps on Sunday, and that figures to increase going forward. Obviously, he carries some risk (if he was really, really good, he would have gotten onto the field sooner). But the reward is there as the best talent in a bad group, with a quarterback who trusts him, and a team that figures to be playing from behind often.
Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and Vernon Davis: Reed is reportedly having trouble reaching up due to a shoulder injury suffered on Thanksgiving, so unless he’s able to successfully petition the league to carry a big net on a stick a la a dog catcher in Hanna-Barbera cartoon (my take: allowing him to do so would set a dangerous precedent), his status for Sunday will be in doubt. Davis gets an obvious boost; he had eight catches on 10 targets for 129 yards and a TD in two games that Reed missed earlier this season, and is a fringe TE1 if Reed sits. But Crowder might be the bigger beneficiary. If Reed sits, it means more three-receiver than two-tight end sets for Washington. Crowder was targeted 13 times and finished with 10 catches for 160 yards and a TD during Reed’s two-game absence in October.
Brandon Coleman: He’s a wide receiver with tight-end size and an offensive lineman’s movement skills. He’s scored back-to-back weeks, but there’s no way you can play him in fantasy leagues.
Shane Vereen, Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins: Just a few weeks ago, the Giants’ backfield rotation was simply crappy. Then, it became slightly better than crappy as Paul Perkins gained a bigger role and they started to do some slightly more creative things up front. Now, it is on the verge of becoming slightly better than crappy and also overcrowded. The Giants are expecting Vereen back in some capacity Week 14, and he’ll presumably reclaim his role on passing downs (with Perkins sprinkled in a little bit). Jennings probably retains a 55/45 split with Perkins on running downs, as well as goal line carries. So, in short, you’ll get no help from Giants running backs in the fantasy postseason.
Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead: Hill, as I deduced in the crime lab last week, saw a boost in receptions, and it’s clear he’ll be a PPR starter going forward (he was already locked into standard league lineups). He also seemed to tweak an ankle or leg part of some sort on Sunday, which is why Burkhead worked in a little more than he probably would have. It’s a reminder that Burkhead, not a good runner but a decent receiver, is clearly the next man up if something happens to Hill. And a reminder that “Rex” means “King” in Latin, while “Burk” means “a municipality in the district of Ansbach in Bavaria in Germany.”
Taylor Gabriel: Or Taylor Gabe, for short. His two long screen pass TDs were Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson stuff (before Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson sold out and started doing car commercials). However, the Falcons are still using Gabriel as more of a gadget guy. He’s yet to receive more than five targets in a game, and only played 35 of 70 snaps on Sunday. They might carve out a bigger role for him going forward (if Kyle Shanahan is taking suggestions, maybe at the expense of the plodding Mohamed Sanu), but at this point Gabriel doesn’t have the workload to warrant a FLEX start, and I don’t see that changing in 2016.
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Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon and Denard Robinson: If you’ve been looking for a way to get more Jaguars into your life, then I have good news for you: Robinson is relevant in fantasy football leagues again. Ivory left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, and my guess is he’s week-to-week. Yeldon, who is battling an ankle injury, was active on Sunday after missing an entire week of practice, and he’s still touch-and-go for now. Robinson saw the bulk of the work after Ivory’s injury, and was kinda O.K. in Buffalo. Of course, with Denver this week and Minnesota next, you are in a sad place if you’re plugging Robinson into your lineup.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry: The Titans are throwing around the idea of working Henry in more often as a goal-line back. And, really, they are going to need to work him in more often overall. Murray has already racked up 278 touches (on pace for 371), and that’s not gonna be good for anybody come December. You’re not going to bench Murray. But Henry, who has fresh legs after only 79 touches this year, suddenly has FLEX appeal in standard leagues (and remains a top-notch handcuff if he’s sitting on the waiver wire).
Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West: Alright, it finally happened. Dixon played 31 snaps to West’s 23 in Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati, and considering how much better he is as a runner, and how much more versatile he is in the passing game, I can’t imagine that trend being reversed. Dixon is startable in PPR leagues (they used him on a couple of screen designs on Sunday) and deeper standard leagues, while West is now a shaky standard league play, but still useable.
Trevor Siemian: Stunning to see his final line in what was an ugly Sunday night game (368 yards, 3 TDs). But the Broncos keep struggling to find their running game, and like a young Troy Nunes (Syracuse blog shoutout!), Siemian is an absolute magician late in the down. Of course, that’s not something you can bank on regularly (dude had TD passes of 35 and 76 yards, and the other one was on a 10-second scramble that went from sideline to sideline). But if you need a Hail Mary at quarterback, you can start Siemian and not feel embarrassed.
Sammy Watkins: Alright. Yeah, go for it. Watkins played 25 of Buffalo’s 55 snaps on Sunday and had no setbacks. He also caught all three of his targets for 80 yards. He should have a near full workload on Sunday. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington: Abdullah’s foot has been upgraded from “injured” to “healthy” (sorry to get bogged down in medical jargon). But this backfield, as it has for months, belongs to Riddick. That won’t change going forward, because the Lions are doing too many things well. So Abdullah, who I would guess will be ready by Week 14, will take a part-time role that will cut into Washington’s already small workload.
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Aaron Rodgers: At the risk of unnecessarily clutching pearls, I’m not sure Rodgers is completely out of the woods with that mystery injury suffered Monday night. Magic tent aside, he was moving better by the end of the night. But he was limited by a calf (an injury to the lower part of his leg, not a baby cow) late in the 2014 season, after which he was a bit up and down.
Lamar Miller: He’s expected to go on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury in the loss to the Chargers. So Miller owners can start him, and then enjoy your chapped ass when the Texans get their one goal-to-go situation and run play-action three straight times.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa: This offseason brought us the will they/won’t they drama of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets, a Ross and Rachel for the new generation. The ending was so obvious, yet the process was drawn out and so manufactured and went on and on and on until you just wished Schwimmer was dead. And now we have the reprise. There was at least an alternative to Fitzpatrick before Geno Smith was hurt. But at this point, there is not. Bryce Petty was, predictably, ill-prepared and overwhelmed in his only NFL start. Maybe he will be ready one day, but he’s not right now, and starting him only risks stunting his development. So is Fitzpatrick going to be the starter for the foreseeable future? Yes, he is. And that’s good news for Marshall and Enunwa. Marshall has a chance to finish strong against an inviting schedule down the stretch. Enunwa continues to be a rotational player, but it’s clear Fitzpatrick trusts him enough to throw him open. He’s acceptable as a FLEX play in incoming matchups with the Colts and 49ers.
Malcolm Mitchell: I love him like a football player I enjoy watching, but I dunno… He played 34 of 73 snaps on Sunday. If Rob Gronkowski (back) or Martellus Bennett (ankle) misses time, there could be more snaps for Mitchell. But if the two tight ends are healthy, there’s just no room for him.
Emmanuel Sanders: Like a Rubik’s cube, Sanders in 2016 has been literally impossible to figure out unless you smash it into pieces with a hammer and then glue it back together. But here’s how I’m viewing him going forward: His floor is actually fairly high, as Sanders has been targeted at least eight times in 10 of 11 games this season. And the Broncos seem to be getting to a point where they’re just going to try for big play after big play rather than try to sustain drives, trusting that their defense can carry them through a streak of three-and-outs. So while seven for 162 is a bit much, Sanders does have blowup potential on a weekly basis.
Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs: You get the feeling that, if they had the technology and could reconcile the ethics, the Broncos would harvest the body parts of their two young backs and use them to repair C.J. Anderson’s knee. But Booker will continue to serve as a lead back in an ineffective rushing attack, his workload being his best asset. Bibbs has carved out a slightly bigger role by default, but has done little since a long TD back in Week 9.
Ladarius Green: Mike Tomlin said Green is ready for more snaps (considering he played 12 then eight then 14, not sure he had anywhere to go but up). The Steelers have made it a point to get him going up the seam a few times already. He has a little more value in standard leagues as a big-play guy and red-zone threat. If you were going to roll the dice on him as a boom-or-bust low-end TE1, now is as good a time as any.
James White and Dion Lewis: A weekly check in for anyone who stashed Lewis and wants to be depressed around the holidays: White played 26 snaps to Lewis’s 23 on Sunday (with LeGarrette Blount taking 27). So, once again, both guys are PPR FLEX scratch-off tickets.
Brandin Cooks: Thirty-nine drop backs, and Cooks was targeted zero times on Sunday. It’s a mystery reminiscent of my favorite Encyclopedia Brown book: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Time He Was So Pissed Off Because a Guy on His Fantasy Football Team Didn’t Score Any Points. If you’re a Cooks owner, go break expensive things and swear vengeance on Sean Payton. But what actually happened? It was something of a reminder that the Saints are a system built on attacking the seams, and that is not Cooks’ game (he hasn’t had double digit targets in a game this season). They’ll typically manufacture touches for him most weeks, but it really wasn’t necessary against a Rams secondary that allowed a touchdown to 87% of the Gulf Coast population over 60 minutes. I would expect the Saints to make a point of getting Cooks involved this week against Detroit (especially with Cooks pissing and moaning after his team just hung 49 points). I wouldn’t hesitate to start him.
Matt Barkley and Daniel Brown: I just thought it was neat that this was a TD connection on Sunday. And if you started both of them, it should trigger a provision in your league’s bylaws that automatically awards you the season championship.
A.J. Derby: He’s not going to help this year, but he’s interesting going forward in a Gary Kubiak offense that desperately wants to get the ball to the tight end but doesn’t have one to throw to. The Broncos seem to have taken a shine to him. Keep that in mind next August.
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