Fri Dec 13 10:55am ET
By MIKE BARNER
Watson setup for big production
As far as injuries go, it was about as bad as it gets last week. Several prominent players across the league went down, which will have major ramifications across the DFS landscape. As we try to capitalize on players who are in line for expanded roles, here are some options to target for Week 15, as well as a few to avoid based on underwhelming matchups.
Top-tier option: Deshaun Watson, HOU at TEN ($6,400): The Texans weren’t one of the teams hammered by injuries, but they still had a rough week since they lost to the Broncos by 14 points. Watson wasn’t great through the air, throwing for 292 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The good news is that he helped make up for that by rushing six times for 44 yards and two touchdowns. This has the potential to be a shootout with the way the Titans have improved offensively, which makes Watson a very appealing option.
Cheap target: Ryan Tannehill, TEN vs. HOU ($6,200): Tannehill isn’t overly cheap, but it’s difficult to resist him based on this matchup. The Texans are coming off of a game in which rookie Drew Lock threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns in just his second career start. Overall, they have allowed the sixth-most passing yards per game in the league. That could mean a hefty stat line is in store for Tannehill, who has already recorded at least two touchdowns four straight games.
Player to avoid: Matt Ryan, ATL at SF ($6,300): The Falcons are among the teams licking their wounds after they lost wide receiver Calvin Ridley (abdomen) for the season last week. As if that wasn’t bad enough for Ryan, now he has to play on the road against a 49ers team that has allowed the fewest passing yards per game in the league. With both Watson and Tannehill in the same price range and facing far better matchups, there is no reason to take a chance on Ryan.
Top-tier option: Chris Carson, SEA at CAR ($7,200): It’s no secret that the Seahawks love to run the ball. Carson has been busy with 246 carries through 13 games, but he was recently starting to share more work out of the backfield with Rashaad Penny. That won’t be an issue anymore after Penny suffered a torn ACL last week. Carson is now staring at a heavy workload against a Panthers team that has allowed a whopping 24 rushing touchdowns. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Cheap target: Patrick Laird, MIA at NYG ($4,700): The running back position has been a wasteland for the Dolphins. They traded away Kenyan Drake, released Mark Walton and then lost Kalen Ballage to an Achilles injury. Ballage was awful even when he was healthy, but the Dolphins stubbornly continued to give him carries. With him out of the picture, Laird turned 15 carries and five targets into 86 total yards against the Jets last week. The Giants defense has been downright awful, setting up Laird to potentially provide value at such a cheap price.
Player to avoid: Tevin Coleman, SF vs. ATL ($6,500): Coleman has seen a decrease in carries across each of the last three games, bottoming out at just three rushing attempts last week against the Saints. With Raheem Mostert breaking out and Matt Breida also now healthy, Coleman should continue to receive limited carries moving forward. There’s no reason to pay this much to get him into your lineup.
Top-tier option: DeAndre Hopkins, HOU at TEN ($8,300): If I’m high on Watson, I of course like the upside that his No. 1 wide receiver brings to the table. There has been no slowing down Hopkins, who caught seven passes for 120 yards and a touchdown last week against the Broncos. He’s already surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season and is only seven catches away from back-to-back seasons of at least 100 receptions. A Watson and Hopkins stack sure is pricey, but it could provide huge returns.
Cheap target: Breshad Perriman, TB at DET ($4,000): Another one of the big injuries last week was suffered by Mike Evans (hamstring), who could miss the rest of the season. That leaves Chris Godwin as the undisputed No. 1 wide receiver for the Bucs this week with Perriman potentially the No. 2 option. He’s strung together a couple of strong performances with 157 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. It should also benefit him that the Lions have allowed the third-most passing yards per game.
Player to avoid: Tyler Boyd, CIN vs. NE ($6,100): Boyd had another respectable outing against the Browns last week, catching five passes for 75 yards. With so little weapons around him, he will continue to be Andy Dalton’s primary pass-catching option. However, this a bad matchup against a Patriots defense that has allowed nine passing touchdowns all season. In this price range, you could go with Courtland Sutton ($6,200), A.J. Brown ($6,000) or Darius Slayton ($5,500), each of which at least has similar upside and a much more favorable matchup than Boyd does. As a result, he’s a hard pass for me.
Top-tier option: Zach Ertz, PHI at WAS ($5,900): The Eagles don’t have much left at wide receiver. Already down DeSean Jackson (abdomen), Alshon Jeffery (foot) now joins him on IR. To further complicate matters, Nelson Agholor is battling a knee injury. Ertz is already one of Carson Wentz’s favorite targets, but his workload could be off the charts in this contest. Further skewing things in his favor, the Redskins have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.
Cheap target: Tyler Higbee, LAR at DAL ($4,700): The key here will be the status of Gerald Everett, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury. He still hasn’t returned to practice, so it’s not looking great for him to return against the struggling Cowboys. Higbee has been as good as it gets in his place, catching 14 of 19 targets for 223 yards and a touchdown across the last two weeks. At this price, he could be a significant steal if you want to fade Ertz.
Player to avoid: Jason Witten, DAL vs. LAR ($4,400): The Rams have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, which immediately puts Witten behind the eight ball. He already has extremely limited upside having recorded no more than 58 receiving yards in a game this season. If Everett is out again, paying the extra $300 for Higbee seems like a no-brainer over Witten.
Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.
Five Hot Starts: Week 3
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday but is in line to make his season debut in Week 3 against the Cardinals. Golladay suffered a strained hamstring in practice on Sept. 9 and has missed the first two games of the season. Normally a pretty solid WR1 option for fantasy lineups, the Lions No. 1 wideout will carry a bit more risk with him if he makes his 2020 debut this weekend. Plus, Golladay will likely be covered by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, which won't be an easy task by any means. You're probably starting Golladay if he's active, but it might be wise to temper expectations a bit. If he's back, it'll be bad news for Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) missed his second straight practice on Thursday. It's not a good sign for the 23-year-old after he missed the Week 2 game. Brown will need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at suiting up this Sunday against the Vikings. Have a backup plan in place if you own him. Corey Davis will be worth flex consideration if Brown misses another game, Adam Humphries would have some sleeper potential in DFS and deeper leagues, and tight end Jonnu Smith would have real TE1 appeal after going for four catches, 84 yards and two touchdowns without Brown in the lineup last weekend.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was a popular pick to have a breakout game against the Dolphins in Week 3, but it didn't happen, as he finished with just 33 receiving yards. Shenault did record five receptions, but with his usage mainly coming in the short-yardage passing, Shenault didn't have the chance to do much with the opportunities he received. Moving forward, Shenault is a low-ceiling fantasy option until we actually see him used in a way that offers a chance for him to produce more than just a handful of yards.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Thompson continued to see his role expand on Thursday night, catching five passes for 35 yards and adding three rushing yards on two carries. Thompson isn't the same receiving threat that he was in Washington, but he's becoming a larger part of things for the Jaguars. That doesn't mean you need to rush out and put him in your fantasy lineups moving forward, but it's worth keeping an eye on what Thompson does in Week 4 against the Bengals.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole caught four passes for 43 yards in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. It was Cole's first game this year without a touchdown. Thursday showed us what Cole's floor this year likely looks like: a handful of catches with an average of around 10 yards per reception. You'll take that in deeper leagues, but he's likely just a tad too inconsistent to be a weekly start in 12-team leagues, especially when you consider this was a matchup that felt ripe for the taking for the Jaguars passing game and they responded with their worst offensive output of the season.
With D.J. Chark Jr. (chest/back) out, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley was a popular pick to see an expanded role on Thursday night. And he did, as he led the team in targets with eight. The problem? Drops and some poor positioning led to Conley catching just three of those passes for 34 yards. This was his chance to impress and show he deserved a larger role, and it just didn't happen. Conley's on the fringes of rosterability in season-long leagues at this point, with his value fully dependent on Chark missing more time.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson was the only consistent source of production in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. The undrafted rookie ran the ball 11 times, finishing with 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also led the team in receptions, catching six of them for 83 yards. Robinson might be the only player who can be a weekly starter on this offense right now and should be considered a fantasy RB2 going forward. Even when the Jaguars offense looks like a train wreck, Robinson manages to get his numbers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars weren't supposed to be blown out by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, but they were, as the Dolphins took the 31-13 victory. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II struggled all night, going 30-for-42 for 275 yards with no touchdowns while throwing an interception and narrowly avoiding throwing a second. He also added 22 yards on the ground. Minshew was a huge disappointment to fantasy managers, and now we have reason to doubt the mustached passer, who we thought was on his way to being a consistent fantasy QB2.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has his most formidable challenge of the 2020 season thus far against the Chiefs on Monday night. The third-year signal-caller has played relatively well against Kansas City throughout his career (two games), throwing for 414 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 22 carries for 113 yards and an additional score. While his previous performances against the squad doesn't guarantee a similar output, it is reasonable to assume that fantasy managers may see the same type of production once again. In case there was any doubt, keep him starting in all formats.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample caught seven of his nine targets for 45 yards against the Browns in Week 2. Although it's unlikely that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow will throw 61 passes against the Eagles as he did against Cleveland, the sophomore will likely be in line for an uptick in production after Cincy lost C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. While Sample probably can't be depended on for consistent production moving ahead, he is a suitable dart throw for those in need of a tight end in Week 3 and the remainder of the year.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has racked up 11 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown throughout his first two games of the year. With A.J. Green back in the mix after missing some time due to injury, concerns emerged as to whether or not Boyd would be able to produce a third-straight 1,000-yard season. Nonetheless, as the 25-year-old builds a familiar rapport with rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow, the door could open for an uptick in fantasy production moving head. While Green, John Ross III, and Tee Higgins will also be looking for Burrow's attention, Boyd may emerge as the undisputed No. 1 wideout for the team from a production standpoint. As far as his Week 3 outlook against the Eagles, fantasy managers should keep him starting, regardless of format.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley continues to get work as the No. 2 running back. Kelley received 52% of the snaps out of the backfield and 23 carries compared to the 16 that starter Austin Ekeler got. Kelley has now recorded 124 rushing yards on 35 attempts and has scored one touchdown in two games. He has also chipped in with a pair of catches for 49 yards. The Chargers have a favorable matchup against a Panthers Defense that has given up the sixth most points per game this season. Kelley is a solid option at the flex position for managers in Week 3.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen will look to build off of a strong Week 2 outing in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers. Allen was a beneficiary of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert drawing the last minute start over Tyrod Taylor (chest) this past Sunday. Allen capitalized by hauling in seven of his 10 targets for 96 yards. The Panthers Defense is 10th in the league in allowing the fewest receiving yards per game, but that same defense has allowed 32.5 points per game this year and that would increase the odds of Allen getting a chance for his first touchdown. Allen should be considered a low-end WR2 in Week 3.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry has been off to a hot start in 2020, but will have a tough challenge against the Panthers in Week 3. Henry has been one of the better options at a tough position and most importantly has looked healthy in two games. The Panthers have been successful in shutting down the tight end position thus far and have held Darren Waller, Jason Witten, O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski to just eight catches and 58 yards over the first two weeks. Henry should still be considered a TE1, but this will be his toughest test so far this season.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green hasn't had the most spectacular 2020 campaign but will attempt to get on track against Philadelphia in Week 3. Despite being targeted 22 times by rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow throughout the first two games of the year, the veteran has hauled in only eight of them for an unimpressive 80 yards. After having not played for nearly two years due to injury, the 32-year-old may have needed a game or two to get rid of any residual rust. While many are likely apprehensive about starting him against the Eagles due to his underwhelming play thus far, he has done enough throughout his career to earn another start or two before fantasy managers decide whether or not to pull the plug. For now, keep him starting.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler will look to continue his strong season with a matchup against the Panthers in Week 3. Ekeler has been sharing work with rookie Joshua Kelley and received 56% of the snaps in Week 2. Kelley also got a big chunk at 52% last Sunday. The backfield has worked out well so far for fantasy managers and Ekeler should be considered a low-end RB1 against a defense that is allowing 127.5 yards per game and 32.5 points. Ekeler has rushed for 177 yards on the season with five receptions for 58 yards.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon will look to get things going against Philadelphia on Sunday. The 24-year-old has been a colossal disappointment through the first two games of the year, racking up an underwhelming 115 yards off of 35 attempts for a miserable 3.3 YPC. He has also hauled in just five catches for 42 yards. The former Sooner isn't a stranger to slow starts, especially since he didn't score on the ground until Week 11 of the 2019 campaign. Although Mixon hasn't done much to earn the trust of fantasy managers, there aren't many options with an upside as high as his. Keep him starting in all formats against the Eagles in Week 3.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will look to keep things on track in Week 3 against the Eagles. The rookie has had an impressive inaugural season, throwing for 509 yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception throughout his first two games. He has also racked up 65 yards and an additional score on 15 attempts on the ground. The 23-year-old has displayed maturity and game-management skills well beyond his years. Although he may have a few rough performances over the team's next 14 games, fantasy managers, especially in deep, Superflex leagues, shouldn't hesitate to roll with Burrow against Philadelphia on Sunday as the upside is certainly there.
The Cleveland Browns Defense is a solid fantasy option for their Week 3 matchup against the Washington Football Team. Washington's offense has not been very potent through two weeks, scoring 42 total points and while allowing seven sacks and committing two turnovers. Cleveland is installed as a seven-point home favorite in a game that could be rather low-scoring. Fire up the Browns defense as a top-10 fantasy option for Week 3.
Jacksonville Jaguars LB Leon Jacobs (knee) suffered a knee injury during the Week 3 game and has been ruled out.