- Should fantasy football owners put theirchampionship hopes in Josh Allen’s hands?
It’s rare for the waiver wire to produce a slam-dunk starter during the fantasy playoffs, and that remains the case this season. However, there is one player at football’s most critical position who has gone overlooked for most of the year, but is turning it on at just the right time. That’s where we begin our look at the Week 15 waiver wire.
Michael Beller: John, the entire fantasy football world is buzzing about a quarterback selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft who is getting the job done more, for the time being, with his legs than with his arm—Josh Allen.
Over his last three games, Allen has been mediocre, if not bad, as a passer, completing exactly half of his pass attempts for 597 yards, 6.78 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been electric as a runner, though, racking up 335 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He ran for 101 yards and a score in the Bills’ 27–23 loss to the Jets in Week 14, becoming the first quarterback with consecutive 100-yard rushing games since the late stages of the Truman Administration. The last time a quarterback rushed for 100 yards in two straight games was in 1951, when Tobin Rote did it for the Packers.
Buffalo’s next two games, the final two weeks of the typical fantasy football playoffs, are against Detroit and New England. My question to you, John, is this: Can Allen be trusted as a starting quarterback in fantasy's semifinal and championship weeks? Can he be a big part of title-winning teams?
John Paulsen: Allen is unquestionably on an incredible streak of running the ball, though I’m worried about his ability to keep it up against a Lions defense that has allowed the fewest rushing yards to quarterbacks—64 total—through 14 weeks. This includes games against mobile quarterbacks like Mitch Trubisky (18 yards allowed), Russell Wilson (15), Aaron Rodgers (10), Cam Newton (two) and Dak Prescott (two). In his seven full games, Allen has generated a woeful 7.5 fantasy points per game as a passer and an impressive 10.6 points as a runner, so if the Lions are able to contain his ability to get going on the ground, he could have a frustrating afternoon.
The one thing working in his favor is that the Lions have been leaky in their pass defense, allowing the third-most fantasy points per pass attempt, and heading into Week 14, Detroit was No. 18 in adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (aFPA). On the filp side, the Lions have been pretty decent against the position over the last three weeks, allowing an average of 226 passing yards and one touchdown per game to Chase Daniel, Jared Goff and Josh Rosen.
As for Week 16, I’d be reluctant to deploy Allen in a road game against the Patriots. Not because New England is particularly good against the position—they’re 17th in both fantasy points allowed per pass attempt and quarterback aFPA—but because Bill Belichick and Co. are good at forcing the opponent to play away from its strength, and right now the Bills’ strength is Allen running the ball. Again, I think I’ll have him ranked as a low-end QB2 in Week 16.
Beller: I agree, I’d have trouble putting my fantasy fate in his hands. Still, what he has done cannot be overlooked. It might be 2019, however, before we take him completely seriously as a potential fantasy championship winning quarterback.
With that, let’s get to the rest of our look at the wire heading into Week 15. As always, all players have ownership rates of 40% or less on at least two of Yahoo, ESPN and CBS.
Elijah McGuire, Jets
McGuire was clearly the best back in the Jets’ backfield in the team’s 27–23 win over the Bills on Sunday, racking up 17 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three of four targets for 23 yards, ranking second on the team in all three of those stats to Robby Anderson. Isaiah Crowell was questionable for most of the week, and left the game early, opening the door for McGuire. Crowell ran the ball well in Week 13 against the Titans, he has had fewer than 50 yards in seven of his last eight games. In other words, the Jets would be wise to see exactly what they have in McGuire, a second-year back out of Louisiana. Should McGuire be in line for 15 opportunities (carries plus targets) per game the rest of the season, he’d stick on the low-end RB2 and flex radars in most leagues.
Chris Ivory, Bills
LeSean McCoy left the Bills’ 27–23 loss to the Jets on Sunday with a hamstring injury in the first half and did not return to the game. Ivory took over the reins of the backfield in his absence, carrying the ball 12 times for 42 yards. Well, the better way to say it is that Ivory shared the reins of the backfield with Josh Allen, who had another big day on the ground, picking up 101 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Should McCoy miss any time, Ivory would take over as the starting running back for the Bills. They host the Lions in Week 15, and Ivory would likely rate as a low-end flex play in most leagues should he get the start.
Kenneth Dixon, Ravens
Dixon played a surprisingly large role in the Ravens’ 27–24 loss to the Chiefs, and if his performance in that role means anything, he’s going to be a key part of the team’s offense for the rest of the season. He ran for 59 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and caught his lone target for 21 yards, totaling 14 fantasy points in standard leagues, and 15 in PPR formats. He still took a backseat to Gus Edwards, who got 16 carries and played eight more snaps, but Dixon was on the field for about one-third of the Ravens’ plays, a snap rate that cannot be ignored. The Ravens have an excellent matchup with the Buccaneers at home next week, placing Dixon on the flex radar in deeper leagues.
Frank Gore, Dolphins
Gore rushed for 92 yards on 12 carries in the Dolphins’ stunning 34–33 win over the Patriots, his second 90-yard performance in the team’s last four games. The entire fantasy community should understand at this point of the season that Gore is Miami’s primary runner, and he has racked up 708 yards on 151 carries in that role. He doesn’t offer much as a receiver, and he’s yet to score a rushing touchdown, so his upside is limited, but he does have a decent floor, especially with the Dolphins finding a measure of consistency and competence with Ryan Tannehill under center. Gore’s not a fantasy starter in ideal conditions, but for owners who could be without James Conner, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Kerryon Johnson or LeSean McCoy this week, Gore could prove a worthy play. The Dolphins visit the Vikings in Week 15.
Damien Williams, Chiefs
Williams has slightly more value than your typical handcuff right now because Spencer Ware is dealing with a shoulder injury, and the Chiefs are on a short week, hosting the Chargers in a huge AFC West showdown on Thursday. Having said that, Ware returned to the Chiefs’ 27-24 win over the Ravens after suffering the injury and looked just fine, totaling 129 yards on 20 touches. Should he miss this game, though, Williams would step in as the starter. He vulture a couple of touchdowns in the win over Baltimore, finishing with 30 yards from scrimmage on 12 touches.
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
Penny is worth adding in advance of the Seahawks’ Monday night game with the Vikings if you can make that move. He has shown more than enough flashes to get the fantasy community excited this year, but workload remains a concern. Chris Carson was in command of Seattle’s backfield last week, running the ball 13 times for 69 yards, and catching three of four targets for 39 yards. Penny, meanwhile, got seven carries, totaling 65 yards and a touchdown. Carson did suffer a finger injury in the game, but the team took him off the injury report late in the week. If you claim Penny, which I do endorse in deeper leagues, you have to keep your expectations in check. Carson has been great this year, running for 704 yards and four touchdowns on 157 carries, and hauling in 13 passes for 127 yards. Penny isn’t going to unseat him at any point over the next few weeks. He can, however, mix in enough and make the most of those opportunities to show up for fantasy owners in deeper leagues.
The necessary handcuffs: Malcom Brown, Rams; John Kelly, Rams; Giovani Bernard, Bengals; Chase Edmonds, Cardinals; Jamaal Williams, Packers; Carlos Hyde, Jaguars; Stevan Ridley, Steelers
You should have done this by now, but if the handcuff to your superstar back is still available in your league, grab him now. There’s a good chance that James Conner owners who didn’t previously handcuff Jaylen Samuels just went home in the first round of the playoffs. You do not want to suffer the same fate.
Curtis Samuel, Panthers
Samuel had another useful fantasy day in the Panthers’ 26–20 loss to the Browns, catching four of eight targets for 80 yards. He led the team in receiving yards and was tied for second in targets behind tight end Ian Thomas. Samuel first played more than half of Carolina’s snaps in Week 12. That week, he totaled 42 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on three touches. Last week, playing nearly 90% of the snaps, he caught six of 11 targets for 88 yards, and then followed it up with Sunday’s four-catch, 80-yard effort. With Devin Funchess putting up a goose egg on Sunday and the Panthers’ season falling apart week by week, we should see plenty of Samuel for the rest of the fantasy playoffs.
Kenny Stills, Dolphins
Stills had one of his best games of the season on Sunday, hauling in eight of nine targets for 135 yards and a touchdown in the Dolphins’ shocking 34–33 win over the Patriots. In Ryan Tannehill’s eight starts this season, Stills has 27 receptions on 43 targets for 419 yards and five touchdowns. In Stills’s other four games, he has five catches on nine targets for 85 yards and one score. He’s a much more viable play when Tannehill is under center, and is a worthy pickup heading into Week 15, even if you’re only adding him for depth purposes.
Dede Westbrook, Jaguars
Westbrook made the absolute most of Jacksonville’s ample garbage time last Thursday, catching seven of 10 targets for 88 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 30–9 loss to the Titans. Trusting anyone on Jacksonville’s offense not named Leonard Fournette—and, for a brief time, T.J. Yeldon—has been a fool’s errand this season, but Westbrook has been the most productive member of the passing game, catching 53 passes for 641 yards and five touchdowns on the year. Believe it or not, he’s averaging about the same number of points per game in half-PPR leagues as Allen Robinson, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin. There’s value in a player like that, even if his offense makes his production unpredictable.
DaeSean Hamilton, Broncos
Hamilton took on a huge role in Denver’s offense in the team’s first game without Emmanuel Sanders, playing all but two of its 74 snaps and catching seven of nine targets for 47 yards and a touchdown. He may have seen some additional volume with Courland Sutton spending some time on the sidelines because of a leg issue, but you can’t simply wave away what he did with his opportunity. Denver’s 20–14 loss to San Francisco in Week 14 may prove crushing to its playoff hopes, but it’s almost certain that the team is going to completely turn the page at wide receiver in the offseason, starting anew next year with Hamilton, Sutton and Tim Patrick. As such, all three should have plenty of opportunities the rest of the year.
Tim Patrick, Broncos
Patrick didn’t find the end zone in the loss to the 49ers, but he did play 64 snaps, reel in seven receptions, and lead the team with 85 receiving yards and 10 targets. Like Hamilton, Patrick had been non-existent in the offense before Sanders’ injury, but he’s going to get a shot to show the team what he can do the rest of the year. The offense cannot support all three of Sutton, Hamilton and Patrick as fantasy starters the rest of the season, but they all have enough potential payoff to make rostering them worth your while.
Robby Anderson, Jets
It’s been a disappointing season for Anderson, who has 31 grabs for 492 yards and four touchdowns on the year. His recent workload has been encouraging, though, and has him back on the fantasy radar, albeit only in deeper leagues. Anderson has 36 targets in his last five games, catching 17 of them for 212 yards and one score, which he registered in the Jets’ 27–23 win over the Bills in Week 14. Those per-game numbers clearly don’t jump off the page, which is why Anderson is really only a consideration in deeper leagues, but the volume alone makes him worth a look in those formats.
Zay Jones, Bills
Jones is essentially a mirror-image to Anderson, with slightly more production in the recent term. His fantasy value is mostly tied up in volume, as he has had at least eight targets in five of his last eight games, and at least nine looks in three of his last four. He didn’t do much with them on Sunday, but he did put up an 8-93-1 (catches-yards-touchdowns) line against the Jets in Week 10, and a 4-67-2 line against the Dolphins in Week 13.
Randall Cobb, Packers
Cobb caught five of six passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ 34–20 win over the Falcons in Week 14. Just as importantly, he was second on the team in receptions, receiving yards and targets, and, among receivers, second in snap rate. In other words, he looks like Green Bay’s No. 2 receiver for the rest of the season. That should have him on the radar in all fantasy formats, even if he can’t quite get into starting lineups in every league.
Chris Conley, Chiefs
Sammy Watkins is done for at least the regular season because of a foot injury, and Tyreek Hill could be in trouble for the quick turnaround in Week 15 after suffering a heel injury in the Chiefs’ 27–24 win over the Ravens on Sunday. If Hill is out, it’s entirely possible that Conley will be the de facto No. 1 receiver for Patrick Mahomes. Of course, that could make him just the third option in the offense behind Travis Kelce and Spencer Ware, and there’s no guarantee that he out-targets the newly signed Kelvin Benjamin, either. Still, the mere possibility that he tops the depth chart makes him worth grabbing this week. The same goes for Benjamin, who is widely available no matter where you play your fantasy football.
John Ross, Bengals
Ross found the end zone in the Bengals’ 26–21 loss to the Chargers in Week 14, his fourth score in five games since A.J. Green got injured. Of course, he has just 11 catches for 121 yards in that same timeframe, never topping three receptions or 40 yards in a game, making him entirely touchdown-dependent. That dependency means he’s only an option in deeper leagues.
Ian Thomas, Panthers
Unlike most of the players we’ve talked about in this space for the balance of the season—C.J. Uzomah, Chris Herndon, Jeff Heuerman and the like—Thomas looks like he could be a real difference-maker, not just a longshot, volume-based bet to score a touchdown. He got 11 targets in the Panthers’ 26–20 loss to the Browns in Week 14, catching nine of them for 77 yards. Last week, after Greg Olsen suffered what proved to be a season-ending foot injury, Thomas pulled down five receptions for 46 yards. The rookie out of Indiana is taking on a larger role in Carolina’s offense, and with the Panthers coming apart at the seams, they would be wise to see if their youngsters, like Thomas, can be a part of the team’s future.