Wed Jan 20 8:58am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Fournette is trending up for Bucs
The games last weekend weren’t too riveting. Let’s hope that changes this weekend. The matchups are great on paper for this weekend. I think you can make a case for all four teams to advance. It should be a great weekend of football. Here is to hoping it plays out that way.
Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
It is interesting to see Rams head coach Sean McVay noncommittal on Jared Goff going forward. There are new reports out there now that says the two have a fractured relationship. Goff signed a huge deal to be the franchise quarterback just a few years back, but his play this past season was a concern. He really struggled at times, holding back a Rams offense that was setup to post some big numbers. His inconsistent play could give the Rams a reason to bring in some competition for Goff this offseason. This will be a situation to keep an eye on.
You hate to see Drew Brees likely finish his career with a dismal showing, but that shouldn’t take away from his tremendous career. Brees was a fantasy star for several seasons, posting huge numbers in the Saints explosive offense. He was one of the best to ever play the position. The Saints have a lot to address this season with Brees likely to retire and the team way over the salary cap. This could be a really different looking team in 2021.
And speaking of the Saints. What the heck happened to Michael Thomas? I think he might be the toughest fantasy player to rank next season. He has all sorts of question marks after this past season. He had one of the best seasons of all time just two years back, though, so it is hard to write him off at age 27. He doesn’t have a long injury history and been great throughout his career. Personally, I’m not giving up on him after this year, but a lot will depend on who the Saints will have at quarterback next year or if Thomas lands on a new team, which is possible. He’ll be a player to watch this offseason.
Watching Travis Kelce is a real treat. That guy runs the best routes for a tight end. He is so tough to cover. He gets open even with top cover corners shadowing him. Kelce is so, so good. And he plays with such passion, which is fun to watch. Kelce might be having the best season ever for a tight end. Enjoy it.
Cam Akers is really trending up in my view. He carried the load down the stretch and was a huge factor in the Rams offense. He should be the workhorse back for the team going forward. He showed he can handle the load and produce at a high level. It took some time for Akers to get going but once he got it going, he really produced. It was an impressive finish to his rookie year. Akers has a chance to be a high-level fantasy back from day one next year. He is a player to watch.
News and Notes: Quarterback Philip Rivers announced he is retiring from the NFL on Wednesday. He retires after 17 seasons in the NFL . . . .The Ravens released running back Mark Ingram on Tuesday. Ingram was a healthy scratch down the stretch this season, so this move isn’t a surprise. It does pave the way for J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to lead the backfield next season, though. . . . . .Saints receiver Michael Thomas is likely to have multiple surgeries on the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his high ankle this offseason. This likely explains his down season, trying to play through major injury this season. . . . .Titans receiver A.J. Brown said he had surgery on both of his knees on Tuesday. He also said he would have been out for the season after Week 2, but instead battled through his injuries and played at a high level.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Bucs. Fournette continues to start for the Bucs even with Ronald Jones healthy last week. Fournette had 107 total yards and a touchdown in the game. He has 17-plus carries two straight games and at least 14 carries three of five. He has 15-plus fantasy points four of five games. He should get a workout again this week against a Packers defense that has struggled against the run this year. Green Bay allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs in the regular season.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Hill had another 100-yard game last week, catching eight passes for 110 yards on 10 targets. He scored double-digit fantasy points all but a game this year. His consistency has been off the charts in the Chiefs pass-first offense. Expect more of the same against the Bills this week. Buffalo played well defensively last week but allowed some big games through the air during the regular season. The Bills allowed six 300-yards passers this season.
Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen didn’t have his usual huge game last week but still played well, leading his team to a victory against a good Ravens pass defense. He has an easier test this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City allowed the 12th most fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season. Allen has 35-plus fantasy points three of five games. Look for him to keep his hot ways this week in what should be a high-scoring game.
Tom Brady, QB, Bucs. Brady has really been playing his best football of late. He has multiple touchdowns his last six games and just one interception during that stretch. He did fail to throw for 200 yards last week, though, against a good Saints secondary. He has a similar matchup this week against the Packers. Green Bay allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season and ranked seventh overall against the pass. Brady has the toughest road of the four quarterbacks playing this week.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills. Davis played on a gimpy leg last week and it showed in his play. He failed to catch a pass on four targets. He should be available to play this week but is going to be less than 100 percent for the game. This is a concern, especially after his poor showing last week. He’ll be a hard player for fantasy teams to trust. Plus, the Chiefs allow the second fewest fantasy points to receivers.
Devin Singletary, RB, Bills. Singletary has 10 carries for 46 yards in two playoff games. He has fewer than double-digit fantasy points five of six games. He has double-digit carries just one of six games. He is a hard player for fantasy teams to have any faith in right now, getting few chances in the Bills pass-heavy offense. Expect more of the same this week against the Chiefs. Singletary might have a hard time cracking 10 touches once again.
Cole Beasley, WR, Bills. Beasley didn’t catch a pass last week on just two targets. That was against a really good Ravens secondary, though. Beasley should be a lot more involved in the passing game this week, especially with Gabriel Davis hurting. Remember, Beasley had at least five receptions four of five games before last week. His workload should be a lot higher last week. Don’t be scared to play Beasley despite his catch total last week.
Robert Tonyan, TE, Packers. Tonyan continues to be a big part of the Packers offense. He didn’t score a touchdown last week but had four receptions for 60 yards. He also has touchdowns six of eight games, being a huge part of the red-zone offense for the Packers. His reception and yardage totals are a bonus. He gets a Bucs team this week that allowed the 10th most fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season.
Allen Lazard, WR, Packers. Lazard tied a season high with eight targets last week. He had four catches for 96 years and a score. He has double-digit fantasy points two of four games. The Bucs have a really good secondary but should focus their coverage on slowing Devante Adams. This means Lazard could get more favorable looks, having a chance to make some big plays. It would not surprise to see Lazard have another good showing in this one.
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: Chiefs/Bills, Bucs/Packers.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Former Pro Bowl offensive guard Trai Turner agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. It comes on the same day that the team released long-time guard David DeCastro (ankle), who is considering retirement. Turner was released by the Los Angeles Chargers after playing in only nine games due to injury last year. The 28-year-old made five straight Pro Bowls with the Carolina Panthers from 2015 to 2019, so the Steelers will be hoping that he can find his pre-injury form. Pittsburgh's offensive line desperately needs some help after really struggling in 2020. The unit is a huge question mark heading into 2021, which is scary for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the team's ground game.
Los Angeles Rams rookie tight end Jacob Harris, a fourth-rounder out of Central Florida, received significant repetitions throughout voluntary and minicamp practices because Tyler Higbee was sidelined for the offseason program. "Jacob Harris is a guy who has definitely stood out," head coach Sean McVay said. "Just his overall speed, athleticism, you kind of feel him on the field." The 6-foot-5, 211-pounder must be evaluated outside of 7-on-7 drills, but the former receiver in college has shown improvement since joining the team. Harris will compete with second-year pro Bryce Hopkins and Johnny Mundt for playing time in 2021 behind Higbee. He is athletic and big and can create mismatches, but he'll likely take time to develop, therefore Harris is unlikely to have any fantasy value in 2021. But he's one to watch.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is excited about the multiple ways he can use rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore, who was selected in the second round of this year's NFL draft. "He's very good in the open field, making the first guy miss," Kingsbury said. "He has a knack at some of those plays, so, yeah, he's going to be a guy that's going to be fun to try to draw stuff up for, and see how many times we can get it to him." It's easy for Moore to get lost in the shuffle on a team that includes DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Christian Kirk, but the rookie could have some sort of role, even if it's as a gadget player, in 2021. On a team that uses four-wide sets often, the 21-year-old from Purdue could make some noise. However, he's still a much more attractive dynasty/keeper piece.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden missed some of minicamp with a tweaked hamstring, but the fourth-rounder runs a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at 5-foot-8, 173 pounds and looked very explosive during offseason practices. Darden drew comparisons to Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown from head coach Bruce Arians. "He's super quick and fast," Arians said. "He's a little thicker than I thought he was going to be when I watched him. He catches punts very easily and catches the football extremely easily. He can be very explosive." Darden will compete with Jaydon Mickens for the punt and kick return jobs. The fact that quarterback Tom Brady had a say in the team drafting Darden says a lot. The North Texas product has blazing speed, but he's in perhaps the deepest wide receiver room in the NFL, which means you can ignore him in single-year fantasy leagues.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that tight end Ian Thomas had "a tremendous offseason" after disappointing in 2020 (20-145-1). "He looks explosive. He looks athletic," Rhule added. "If you're talking about a guy that's really had a good offseason, I would say it would be Ian Thomas. He's more comfortable with what he's doing." Thomas was a breakout candidate heading into last season, but the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on him, as he "lost a few family members through COVID." Being back on the field with in-person coaching has benefitted him this offseason. While never much of a speedster, Thomas said he feels faster this spring after slimming up. The departure of wideout Curtis Samuel should open up some targets in the middle of the field, but Thomas will also have to contend with Dan Arnold and rookie Tommy Tremble. Thomas could fare better with quarterback Sam Darnold throwing him passes, but he'll have to show us more to be worth rostering in single-year leagues.
Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison could be creating a spot for himself in the offense this year. The third-year back from Pittsburgh impressed the coaching staff during spring workouts, although lead back Mike Davis was not in attendance and players weren't going full speed. Ollison has just 23 career carries for 53 yards and four touchdowns, but in new head coach Arthur Smith's scheme, he could have a much bigger role than he did in Dirk Koetter's offense. Davis could very easily break down since he's never entered a season as a team's lead back before, so Ollison, not Cordarrelle Patterson, is the next best bet to benefit. The 24-year-old will need to prove more, though, to warrant fantasy consideration beyond the deepest formats.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Juwann Winfree, a former sixth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2019, caught plenty of passes in organized team activities and minicamp this spring and looks to be making a strong run at a spot on the active roster. Winfree has played in just five career NFL games, though, and the Packers top four wide receivers are set -- Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and rookie Amari Rodgers. The 24-year-old also likely stood out this spring with all of Green Bay's starting wideouts skipping voluntary workouts. Nevertheless, Winfree is worth keeping an eye on in training camp to see if he can keep his positive momentum from offseason practices.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Marquise Goodwin only signed a one-year deal worth $350,000 in guaranteed money this offseason, but he still has elite speed. Goodwin took the top off the Bears defense on multiple occasions during offseason practices for what would have been long touchdown catches. Along with second-year receiver Darnell Mooney, Goodwin might give Chicago another legitimate deep threat for quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, both of whom have shown nice touch on long passes in organized team activities and minicamp. The 30-year-old speedster nearly recorded 1,000 yards in 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers, but he had just 186 receiving yards on 12 catches in nine games due to injuries in 2019 and opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. If he can stay healthy, Goodwin has a chance to be the team's No. 3 if they trade Anthony Miller, but for now he's just one to keep an eye on heading into training camp.
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Andre Dillard (biceps) says he has a fire in him like never before after he missed all of last season with a biceps injury. The former first-rounder scrapped his social media to eliminate all distractions and hit the weight room hard. Dillard is stronger and more confident and has drawn praise from offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland for his on-field work this offseason. He is set to compete with former rugby player Jordan Mailata for the starting left tackle job during training camp in July. The losses of Dillard and Brandon Brooks on Philly's offensive line last year was the beginning of the end for former quarterback Carson Wentz. If Dillard wins the job and plays at a high level, it'll be great news for Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Tyron Johnson is a 4.3-second 40-yard dash speedster that made the most of his 20 receptions for 398 yards last season. T-Billy impressed the coaches with his speed during offseason practices and is a qualified third receiver for the Bolts behind Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. The 25-year-old from Oklahoma State averaged a healthy 19.9 yards per catch in 2020 and an average depth of target of 20.3 yards. If Johnson wins the competition for the No. 3 job in LA over Jalen Guyton, the burner will be an enticing fantasy flier because his skill set meshes nicely with quarterback Justin Herbert's big arm down the field. You definitely need to keep tabs on Johnson's progress in training camp this summer.
Detroit Lions PK Randy Bullock and PK Matthew Wright will likely be competing for the starting kicking job into the preseason, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who was forced to start at quarterback in an emergency situation in the 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints last year, has stood out in offseason workouts, according to head coach Vic Fangio. However, the former Wake Forest quarterback/wide receiver still faces long odds in a crowded depth chart at receiver. "He's super-aggressive to the ball. You feel like you can throw him a ball one-on-one and he's going to go get it," quarterback Drew Lock said. The 24-year-old threw two interceptions on his nine pass attempts and is unlikely to be relevant as a wide receiver in fantasy in 2021 despite his improvements at receiver this year. Hinton is currently buried behind Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler, Tyrie Cleveland and rookies Branden Mack and Seth Williams on the depth chart.
Tennessee Titans quarterback DeShone Kizer has looked good in organized team activities and minicamp this offseason, especially on midrange routes across the middle. Kizer worked only with quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara last year as the team's "quarantine QB," and his quick decision-making in offseason practices is evidence that he has a strong understanding of the playbook. Like starter Ryan Tannehill, the fifth-year veteran can make most of the necessary throws and can also make plays on the move. Kizer looks ready to compete with Logan Woodside for the backup job in training camp next month. The 25-year-old last played in 2018 with the Green Bay Packers, but he should be at least serviceable if he's forced into action in 2021 because of a Tannehill injury.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. has arguably been the team's best offensive player throughout organized team activities and minicamp this offseason. It's an important development due to the addition of Marvin Jones and presence of D.J. Chark. Rookie running back Travis Etienne has also been getting repetitions at receiver. The Jags are using Shenault as a receiver instead of trying to use him in the backfield, and his development as a pass-catcher has been a highlight of the spring. The 22-year-old wasn't overly impressive in his rookie season, but he was also working with quarterbacks Gardner Minshew II, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon. With first overall pick Trevor Lawrence now under center and Shenault likely to move to the slot, expect an improvement in Year 2.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz didn't have a great relationship with his teammates while with the Philadelphia Eagles, but according to those inside the Colts organization, the transition this offseason has been a smooth one. "He comes in and asks about my family, my sister and things like that," running back Nyheim Hines said. "As a new guy, it's pretty cool. It shows that he's caring and trying to take care of us." Wentz has also turned a lot of heads with his play on the field in offseason practices. The 28-year-old signal-caller has performed as a top-five fantasy QB in head coach Frank Reich's offense before, but can he do it in Indy now? With a solid offensive line in front of him, Wentz is a QB2 target with QB1 upside in his new home.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins seems poised for a big season after leading the team in receiving in his rookie campaign. Coaches and teammates have noticed Higgins' physical development this offseason, but he has flown under the radar due to the addition of wideout Ja'Marr Chase in the first round this year. The 22-year-old second-year pass-catcher has a bright future, but his fantasy ceiling took a hit with the addition of Chase, who will command a large target share right away. Higgins is an excellent target as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 after catching 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns in 2020, and that was without quarterback Joe Burrow for a full season.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins was a standout during the first few days of last year's training camp, but a shoulder injury kept him out all season. Now healthy, Hodgins stood out again during organized team activities and minicamp and shed his red non-contact jersey. He has an uphill battle in a crowded receiver room in Buffalo, but he has received praise from head coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen. The 22-year-old was taken with the 207th overall selection in the 2020 draft out of Oregon State after he caught 176 passes for 2,322 yards and 20 touchdowns in three collegiate seasons. He's off the fantasy radar for now, but keep an eye on him later this summer in training camp.
New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley, who opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 and played in just two games due to injuries in 2019, could have a bounce-back year in 2021. Mosley looked slimmer and quicker during offseason practices, which should help him transition to the team's 4-3 defensive scheme. He was one of the league's best off-ball linebackers before his injuries in his first year with the Jets, but he'll need to prove that the rust is shaken off this summer in training camp. The Jets defense should take a huge step forward if Mosley returns to his pre-injury form, and savvy fantasy managers in IDP leagues will take advantage of his low cost.
The Chicago Bears are expected to give rookie quarterback Justin Fields a lot of work in preseason games this fall. The Bears plan is to start with veteran Andy Dalton under center to begin the season, but Fields is expected to take over at some point when he's ready. The 11th overall pick is fitting in just fine and said he's completely on board with the team's plan. "My job is, strictly, get better and be the best quarterback I can be, and hope my team wins. That's what I'm going to do whether it's starting, whether it's sitting, I'm going to do whatever is going to help us win," Fields said. His dual-threat ability makes him an excellent dynasty/keeper target this year, but only time will tell if he can make some noise in single-year setups in 2021.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins was the team's best receiver at minicamp, but he's coming off the worst season of his seven-year career. "I'm not going to lie to you; it is fun," quarterback Lamar Jackson said of Watkins. "A big receiver, nice target, fast guy. Sammy is going to make our job a lot easier." The Ravens don't throw the ball much as a run-first offense, but they upgraded their receiving corps with Watkins and rookies Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the draft. Watkins is going undrafted in most leagues because of his poor performance in 2020, but if he gains chemistry with Jackson as one of his top targets, he could be a fantastic late-round value in deeper leagues at his current ADP of 214.