Lineup Prep: Championship Round

Wed Jan 15 9:38am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Smith is a top red-zone target



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Well, the games last week weren’t nearly as exciting as the previous week. They weren’t nearly as close. Hopefully, the two games are better this weekend. It sure seems setup for a great week of football with some great matchups. As last week showed, it doesn’t always play out that way, but we can hope, right? 

Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . . 

I wasn’t sure how the 49ers would react in their first big playoff game in several seasons, but they sure showed up in a big way. The stage did not seem too big for the young team, dominating the Vikings. I think this really bodes well for another victory this weekend, especially since they are at home. San Francisco continues to impress me on a weekly basis, playing great football on both sides of the ball. This team is a very complete team.

I am starting work on our Draft Guide for the 2020 season and already ran into at least one eye opening stat. So Matthew Stafford was on pace for about 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions before suffering his back injury. That is a monster season. Remember, he was an elite quarterback just a few seasons back, so don’t forget about him come draft day next year. I know his back injury is a concern going forward, but if he gets a clean bill of healthy, Stafford could be a good get for fantasy teams. I’m sure many will overlook him because of the injury and not finishing out the season. 

Derrick Henry is on some kind of run right now. He is absolutely carrying the offense. The opposition knows he is getting the ball, but still can’t stop him. His fantasy stock is going way up with this late season surge. You still would like to see him catch the ball more but as long as he keeps piling up the rushing yards and touchdowns, his fantasy value is solid. And with the Titans likely parting ways with Dion Lewis this offseason, maybe Henry gets a few more chances to catch the ball in 2020. That could give his fantasy value another boost. 

I think LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is going to be a heck of a pro. He just looks the part of a top NFL quarterback. I love his accuracy, especially on the deep ball. Plus, he is a great athlete that can make plays with his legs. He also has that swagger you want in a franchise quarterback. I really think his future is bright and the Bengals are going to get a real good one with their first overall pick. Burrow had quite the showing all year and especially in the National Championship game. 

The Packers don’t do it often, but I really think they need to make a splash this offseason to finally get a legit No. 2 option in the passing game opposite Davante Adams. The youngsters have not panned out, and Jimmy Graham is past his prime at tight end. They need to really get a legit option outside of Adams. This offense could really take a step forward with a dependable option outside of Adams. Let’s hope they get it done this offseason. 

My two favorite coaching hires from a fantasy perspective are Matt Rhule in Carolina and Mike Mike McCarthy in Dallas. I know McCarthy had his issues with Aaron Rodgers, but you can’t ignore the production that offense had for years with McCarthy at the helm. I think his hire is a positive for all the Cowboys offensive players going forward. And Rhule should be a good fit in Carolina and keep the Christian McCaffrey train going. He will find ways to get his playmakers involved in Carolina and re-energize that team. There was a reason so many teams were after Rhule to hire him as their head coach. I think he is the real deal. 

As always, don’t forget to check out my weekly rankings here: Championship Round Rankings

HOT PLAYS

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. Kelce wasn’t even 100 percent healthy last week, but that didn’t slow him one bit. He had a monster game, catching 10 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns. He has double-digit receptions two of four games and two 100-yard games during that stretch. Kelce continues to be the top target in the passing game for the Chiefs and should get a ton of targets this weekend. The Titans really struggled to stop the tight end during the regular season, allowing the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends. 

Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers. Mostert took a backseat to Tevin Coleman last week, seeing Coleman produce big numbers with a heavy workload. Mostert still had 12 carries for 58 yards, though, so he wasn’t awful. He even averaged the same yards per carry as Coleman. The issue was Coleman had about twice the work. Mostert still seems the safest back to use in San Francisco. He has been so consistent down the stretch, having touchdowns six straight games before last week. We think he get a heavy workload this week against the Packers, a team that allowed the eight most fantasy points to running backs during the regular season. 

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans. Henry is on some sort of hot streak. He has absolutely carried the Titans offense recently. He has 30-plus carries three straight games and 180-plus rushing yards all three of those games. He has been a monster for the Titans, seeming to get stronger late in the year. It should be more of the same for Henry this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs during the fantasy season. 

COLD PLAYS  

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. The 49ers won last week but did so offensively because of a strong ground attack. Garoppolo didn’t even throw for 150 yards in the game. The 49ers have been more run heavy down the stretch, though, giving Garoppolo fewer than 30 pass attempts three straight games. The game plan likely will be the same this week against the Packers. Green Bay allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season. 

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers. Sanders got off to a great start with the 49ers once he joined the team, but has been pretty quiet most weeks. He has fewer than 30 yards there of four games. He was targeted just two times last week. Sanders is a hard player to trust for the 49ers right now. He also hast just three touchdowns compared to six for Kendrick Bourne, who is below him on the depth chart. The Packers also allow the eighth fewest fantasy points to receivers. 

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. Rodgers had a good game last week, going 16-of-27 for 243 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He still didn’t have that huge game you have come to expect from him. Rodgers has been really mediocre most of the year. He has fewer than 17 fantasy points six of nine games. He goes on the road this week against the 49ers, a team that was first overall against the pass during the regular season. 

SLEEPERS  

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans. Tannehill has done very little in the playoffs with the Titans running often. But that game plan could change this weekend if the Chiefs get up on the Titans. Tannehill should get more chances to air it out. Remember, he had multiple touchdowns every start this season. He had 20-plus fantasy points eight of 10 starts. Tannehill is capable of the big game with the way he is playing. It would not be a surprise if he has one of those big games this week against the Chiefs. 

Kendrick Bourne, WR, 49ers. Bourne had three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown last week. He has six touchdowns this season and been a top red-zone target for the 49ers. Bourne is clearly a touchdown dependent player, failing to top 50 yards in any game this year. He gets some catches, though, having three or more receptions six times. He is worth a look for fantasy teams this week because of his ability to find the end zone. It could happen again against the Packers.  

Jonnu Smith, TE, Titans. Smith had just two catches last week but one of those was an acrobatic touchdown reception, showing his big-time athletic ability. Smith has touchdowns three of six games. He also has 60 or more yards two of those games. Smith can be a little boom or bust, but certainly seems setup for a good game in this one. Kansas City has struggled to stop tight ends this year, allowing the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends. 

High/Low Scoring Games

Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.

High Scoring Games: Titans/Chiefs.

Low Scoring Games: None.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
Kenyan Drake Apr 8 7:30pm ET

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said that the team would like to have three running backs sharing the load in 2020. "D.J. was banged up last year," Kingsbury said. "We think he has a good skill set. But that's an area that we'd like to have three. You saw we got to (using) a third (running back in 2019). We'd like to have three that we feel like we could roll through and not lose much." Kenyan Drake, who signed his transition tender, will see the majority of touches, but Chase Edmonds and D.J. Foster will also get some work. Drake was one of the best running backs in the league after his trade over from the Dolphins, and he'll be a coveted RB1 in fantasy circles with Arizona's offense looking more explosive with the addition of receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Edmonds will merely be a handcuff for those that take Drake early in drafts.

From RotoBaller

Damien Williams Apr 8 7:20pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to an undisclosed one-year deal with running back DeAndre Washington on Wednesday, according to a source. Washington was drafted in the fifth round by the Raiders back in 2016 and has rushed the ball 282 times for 1,122 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns in his four years in the NFL. He's also added 88 catches on 110 targets for 613 yards and another score in 55 career games (five starts). The 27-year-old had 108 rushing attempts for 387 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games last year (three starts). He'll provide depth for the Chiefs backfield behind Damien Williams while also competing for touches with Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams. He finds himself in an even more crowded backfield, meaning that it's unlikely Washington will yield any fantasy help.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Apr 8 4:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) is "fully healthy" and has been working out in Atlanta. It's good news after Green missed the entire 2019 season. He's scheduled to make around $18 million in 2020 on the franchise tag, but we may not get to see him until later this summer due to restrictions amid the coronavirus. Green will turn 32 in July and has played in just nine games in the last two seasons due to injuries. But he was a Pro Bowler each of his first seven seasons in the league from 2011 to 2017, surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark six times. He'll likely have rookie quarterback Joe Burrow throwing him passes in 2020, which could make fantasy owners even more hesitant to draft Green as even a WR2.

From RotoBaller

Justin Jackson Apr 8 2:50pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers remain "very high on" running back Justin Jackson. Melvin Gordon is now playing for the Broncos, so there will be more opportunity for Jackson behind Austin Ekeler moving forward. Jackson, a seventh-round pick by the Bolts in 2018, has rushed 79 times for 406 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in his 20 games (one start) in two seasons for the Chargers. The soon-to-be 25-year-old also has 24 catches for 157 yards in his two years in the league. Ekeler should take over workhorse duties in this backfield with Gordon gone, but Jackson will have a role as a change-of-pace back and could be a great value pick late in fantasy drafts this fall.

From RotoBaller

Casey Hayward Apr 8 2:50pm ET

There's a chance that the Los Angeles Chargers look to trade cornerback Desmond King. King is seemingly a man without a position now that the Bolts signed Chris Harris Jr. to defend the slot in the middle of the field in 2020. Casey Hayward and Michael Davis can work on the outside, so it remains to be seen what the team will do with King if they hold onto him. The 25-year-old fifth-round pick in 2017 was a first-team All-Pro in 2018 when he had a career-high three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). King had 51 tackles (40 solo) and two passes defensed without an interception in 15 games (eight starts) in 2019. He could be part of a draft-day trade if the Chargers indeed move him.

From RotoBaller

Nyheim Hines Apr 8 12:50pm ET

Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines is expected to get "plenty more action" in the offense this season, in the opinion of The Athletic's Zak Keefer. And that could translate into much more fantasy success with new quarterback Philip Rivers under center, a veteran signal-caller who isn't afraid to dump the ball off to his pass-catching backs. Hines, 23, ran the ball just 52 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns behind Marlon Mack in 2019, adding 44 receptions for 320 yards. Both his rushing and receiving marks were down from his rookie season in 2018 when he was playing with Andrew Luck. With an offense that should attack more under Rivers, Hines could be a nice PPR sleeper late in drafts.

From RotoBaller

Drew Sample Apr 8 12:50pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals have high expectations for tight end Drew Sample to take a "significant jump" in his second year with the team, especially with Tyler Eifert no longer in town. Sample caught just five passes on six targets for 30 yards in nine games (two starts) in his rookie season and he was drafted as mostly a blocking tight end. C.J. Uzomah will be the team's primary pass-catcher at the position, but Sample will inevitably see more snaps on offense and should see his offensive numbers take a sizeable rise over his rookie season. The soon-to-be 24-year-old former second-round pick could become interesting in dynasty/keeper leagues with the Bengals expected to take LSU QB Joe Burrow with the first overall pick later this month.

From RotoBaller

Austin Ekeler Apr 8 10:53am ET

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler had an 85.2 percent catch percentage last season, which was the best rate of anyone with 45 receptions.

Fantasy Spin: Ekeler had just one drop and 92 grabs for 993 yards. He rushed 132 times for 557 yards (4.2 yards per carry) as well, and with Melvin Gordon gone, he should remain one of the top five backs in PPR.

From TheHuddle

Derek Carr Apr 7 11:43pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr has seen his teammates drop 216 passes over the course of his six-year career - the most drops a quarterback has witnessed over that span.

From TheHuddle

Michael Gallup Apr 7 11:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup was charged with 11 drops in 2019 - the second-highest total in the league.

From TheHuddle

Latavius Murray Apr 7 11:13pm ET

New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray averaged 2.7 yards before contact per rushing attempt in 2019 - tied for the sixth-best average among qualified rushers last season.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle Apr 7 10:03pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle was charged with only two drops on 107 targets in 2019. He was one of only five players in the league with at least 100 targets - regardless of position - to finish with a drop rate below two percent.

From TheHuddle

Darren Waller Apr 7 10:03pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders TE Darren Waller was credited with eight broken tackles on his 90 catches in 2019 - tied with George Kittle for the second-highest total among tight ends.

From TheHuddle

Von Miller Apr 7 5:13pm ET

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller has forced 640 quarterback pressures over the past decade, which are 40 more than any other player within that time.

From TheHuddle

Cody Latimer Apr 7 4:53pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent WR Cody Latimer (Giants) officially signed an undisclosed contract with the Washington Redskins Tuesday, April 7.

Fantasy Spin: Latimer set career-highs with 24 receptions and 300 yards with the New York Giants in 2019. He has a viable path to a notable role within the Washington offense and could become a streaming option by mid-season.

From TheHuddle

P.J. Williams Apr 7 4:53pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DB P.J. Williams (Saints) officially signed an undisclosed contract with the New Orleans Saints Tuesday, April 7.

From TheHuddle

Blake Bell Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Bell officially signed Tuesday, April 7. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Damarious Randall Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DB Damarious Randall (Browns) officially signed with the Las Vegas Tuesday, April 7. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Reggie Ragland Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent LB Reggie Ragland (Chiefs) officially signed with the Detroit Lions Tuesday, April 7. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Bears) officially signed with the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday, April 7. Official terms of the deal were not disclosed.

From TheHuddle