This week we discuss the following:
- Jameis Winston
- Rookie WRs getting a shot
- Javorius Allen and Doug Baldwin heating up?
- Week 14 Sleepers
Where among fantasy QBs do you rank Jameis Winston this week against the Saints?
Stephen Holloway: Winston ranks as QB14 on the season and has thrown only 377 passes, completing 59%. Only two quarterbacks ranked ahead of him have thrown fewer passes, Wilson (352) and Newton (374). In yards per attempt, he is tied with Drew Brees at eighth overall among regular starting quarterbacks. Almost every quarterback all season long has been very productive against the Saints and Winston also has excellent receiving options and should only be held up if his team runs away from the Saints, which is not likely considering the Saints offense has been improving lately. I expect Winston to be at minimum top ten quarterback this weekend and would not be surprised at top five production.
Matt Waldman: Winston is a better NFL quarterback right now than he is a fantasy quarterback. Atlanta has good cornerbacks that can hold its own with the best in the game. Its rush defense was No.1 before Adrian Peterson got a hold of it two weeks ago and then No.10 before Doug Martin and the Bucs proved two things about the Falcons unit: (1) They have been much worse against the run than their stats display and (2) The Bucs have no problem with pounding the ball against 8-man fronts of units that they think they can dominate.
Against Atlanta's worse-than-advertised unit, Winston posted 227 yards and a touchdown and another score on the ground. Winston offers a similar floor against the Saints. The difference is the upside. Atlanta's offense is a little worse than its defense and the Saints don't have that problem—their offense is much better than their defense. There's a good shot for his to be a shootout so I see top-5 upside with Winston, but I think the chances of him achieving that ceiling isn't as strong as we'd like.
I think a safe bet is putting Winston in the lower half of your top-12.
Daniel Simpkins: For me, he's only behind Newton, Brady, and Wilson this week. As we've seen, any QB starting against the Saints seems to post a good-to-great stat line. I'm starting him with confidence in the many leagues in which I own him.
Andy Hicks: Like the other guys have said, he is a good option to have this week against New Orleans. I'd comfortably have him in the QB5-QB8 range, and unless I had one of the top-tier options this week, I would be very comfortable starting him against the shambolic Saints.
Dave Larkin: Although the Saints defense has been historically bad this season, their offense remains more than viable as we saw last week against the undefeated Panthers. On the road, this offense tends to stall a bit, but they should put up enough points to force Jameis Winston and the Bucs into something of a shootout. Winston has really impressed me with his toughness, poise and decision making in recent weeks; he is blossoming into a very fine quarterback right before our eyes. There is no reason why he shouldn't be able to post low-end QB1 numbers this week, with his upside lying in the top five.
Chris Feery: I view Winston as a Top five quarterback for this week's matchup with the Saints and concur with Dave: Winston's development over the past few weeks has been quite impressive. We all know the struggles of the Saints defense and the upside opportunity that it presents for opposing signal callers. Winston should be able to take full advantage of that opportunity. As others have mentioned, we could be looking at a shootout down in Tampa with plenty of points to go around. Look for Winston to take another leap forward in his development this week and do his part to help the points-fest come to fruition.
Stephen Holloway: DeVante Parker is my selection as he has caught seven passes on 15 targets for 143 yards (20.5 yards per reception) and two touchdowns in the past two games, after having only eight targets on the season to that point. Much was expected of him in the pre-season, but he has been unable to get on the field. The Dolphins offensive play has been sub-par all season and Ryan Tannehill has regressed some from last season, so it is really surprising that Parker has had this amount of success following practically no time on the field.
Matt Waldman: Green-Beckham and Parker aren't much different in what they have to offer this year and the reason both teams picked these receivers is that neither quarterback is strong at hitting the deep ball with pinpoint accuracy. Miami and Tennessee knew it would be best if they could have a receiver capable of making a bad throw look good. Case in point are the touchdowns both players had last week.
The talent is close enough and both quarterbacks are going through adjustments—Marcus Mariota finishing his rookie year and Ryan Tannehill adjusting to a new coach and now a new offensive coordinator in a scheme that, I've been told by a source with knowledge of players who worked in Miami, had fuzzy communication with route depths and was way too complex for the field.
I'll still give the edge to Miami and Parker because of the schedule and the fact that despite the challenges of the scheme, Tannehill was described as a robot in both a good and bad sense. He has amazing skill at retaining complexities, but going off script has been hard for him. Even so, Parker can turn a bad throw into a great play and the likes of the Giants, Chargers, and Colts as opponents beats the Titans' schedule of the Jets, Patriots, and Texans although the schedule is close, too.
Daniel Simpkins: The Titans homer in me wants to pick Green-Beckham, but I'm going to instead take Parker here. Watching Parker high-point that football against Lardarius Webb was breathtaking. To see him make a play like that after spending much of the year recovering from a foot injury was even more impressive to me. There's certainly more for Parker to learn, especially when it comes to running routes, but he's off to a promising start.
Andy Hicks: I have to go with DeVante Parker here. He is showing the skills that caused him to be selected with the 14th overall pick and anything else he does this year is a bonus. If he stays healthy, Jarvis Landry and Parker will make for a great tandem and should improve the performance of Ryan Tannehill going forward, if the new coaching staff is halfway sensible.
Dorial Green-Beckham probably needs a bit more polish. He also will really need to see how the Titans reshape their team next year. I see him as having a much lower floor than Parker and possibly a lower upside as well.
Dave Larkin: Matt brings up an excellent point about the schedules of both these players down the stretch. The Titans' final few games looks daunting, while Miami's is reasonable. The Dolphins have shown a willingness to get Parker the ball in the past two weeks with 15 targets; that trend should continue with the new offensive coordinator in place. I have more faith in the Dolphins getting their offense on track than I do in Tennessee, where Marcus Mariota, despite showing great progression, still has a lot to learn about giving his guys chances to make plays.
Chris Feery: I have to give the nod to Parker and also expect him to be the bigger factor down the stretch. The Dolphins are clearly looking to accelerate Parker's development and role in the offense as evidenced by his 15 targets over the past two weeks. Green-Beckham should continue to hover around the 5-6 target per game range as he has over the past three weeks. Both players offer the upside of breaking a big play at a moment's notice, just have to give Parker the slight edge due to opportunity and upcoming schedule.
Gems or Fool's Gold? Javorius Allen and Doug Baldwin have turned in some terrific fantasy performances lately, but I'm having trouble bringing myself to trust them going forward. Am I being too slow to adjust to the new reality?
Stephen Holloway: I trust Javorius Allen as he has replaced Justin Forsett since he was injured and placed on IR after Week 8. His number of rushing carries has not been high (averaging 17 per game), but he has been used early and often by Matt Schaub in the passing game. Allen has 184 yards on 21 receptions in the past three games. He has been consistent for three weeks and should continue that for the remainder of the season. Doug Baldwin chances of sustained success are less, based on opportunity. He has really capitalized over the past three weeks, but he has only 21 targets over that period. Granted, he caught 17 for 299 yards and five TDs, but seems to have a lower floor than Allen. He had only three TDs all season before the last two weeks and had only three TDs all last season.
Matt Waldman: I trust Doug Baldwin. The issue in Seattle has been the offensive line struggles. Now that the unit is gelling so is the passing game. Baldwin isn't an amazing player, but he's underrated at winning the ball in tight coverage and he has rapport with Russell Wilson. Seattle faces Baltimore, Cleveland, and Saint Louis. I prefer that to Javorius Allen's itinerary of Seattle, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh. What Allen has done is exactly what you should expect from him long-term: A solid reserve capable of performing with starter production short-term against easier match-ups when called upon. I trust him, but I trust Baldwin more if I had to choose one as a flex-play.
Daniel Simpkins: Allen is a good play going forward based on the volume he's getting in both the passing and rushing game for the injury-riddled Ravens. I anticipate Baldwin will cool down when it comes to touchdown scoring, but I am not expecting things to change in terms of being Wilson's primary target going forward.
Andy Hicks: Doug Baldwin has been on a fantastic run, especially on the touchdown front. Russell Wilson has done a great job of finding him when he is open in recent weeks and you generally need to jump on players when they are hot unless you have better options. He is playing himself into a much higher draft slot for the 2016 fantasy season and that will be a mistake. For the rest of this year....let it ride.
Javorius Allen is a starting running back in the NFL in December. He has tremendous value. As a receiver out of the backfield he has been outstanding with 21 catches on 24 targets in the last three weeks. Both of his touchdowns have come as a receiver. The sight of Kansas City and Seattle in the next two weeks should ease up on the expectations though, The Ravens have been competitive in every game this season despite the string of bad luck on the injury front. Allen is a bottom end RB2 for the rest of the year for mine.
Dave Larkin: Javorius Allen isn't the most talented player, but he is all the Ravens have to work with at running back right now. The recent body of work is encouraging for Allen's owners, especially his involvement in the short passing game. Matt Schaub has a propensity to rely on the check down, so I see no reason why we can't trust Allen as a nice RB2 in the final few weeks. Baldwin, meanwhile, has earned his place in the circle of trust on a juggernaut Seahawks offense that is just warming up. The keys have been handed over to Russell Wilson, who is expertly exploiting match-ups to get the ball to Baldwin and others. Every week won't look like the past two weeks, but Baldwin is a lottery ticket I'm willing to buy.
Chris Feery: I'm sold on Doug Baldwin. As Dave mentioned, the keys have clearly been handed over to Wilson and it's working as the duo of Wilson and Baldwin has been on fire. We can expect a cooldown of course, but Baldwin should remain the top option in the Seahawks passing attack and provide some solid production over the stretch run. I trust Allen as well and think he makes for a fine RB2 for the rest of the way. Looking at the past two games specifically, a back that can produce that kind of output for an offense that features Matt Schaub behind center gets a big check mark in the plus column.
While it often makes sense to carry just one kicker and one defense at a time for most of the season, at this point it is advisable to look one or more weeks ahead for good matchups and possibly carry more than one player at those spots if it's warranted.
Doing so means letting go of some offensive players—which is made easier by the fact that so few weeks are left. In redraft leagues, if you're not going to start someone in the next few weeks, you're not going to start him at all, and you can let go of him without remorse.
Daniel Simpkins: Both Rivers and Ryan are droppable. Rivers continues to swirl down the drain due to team injuries and lack of protection from his offensive line. Ryan hasn't played well and is in a system that is struggling to establish a complementary target to Julio Jones. The depth at quarterback this year has been unreal, and even in the deepest leagues, there are still better options out there, such as Jameis Winston, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, and others.
Matt Waldman: I'll drop Ryan, but keep Rivers. The Falcons can't or aren't throwing deep and defenses are selling out against the run. The only weapon consistently capable of getting open against man coverage on routes over 15 yards is Julio Jones. It allows defenses to compress the field.
Rivers is still capable of big games against lesser opponents despite a wounded offensive unit. Even so, I'll take the receiving corps and tight ends in San Diego over Atlanta. Kansas City and Oakland have played well this year, but the Chiefs passing defense is a weakness and the Raider corners might be one of its greatest weaknesses.
Andy Hicks: For the year, Rivers currently is a QB1, while Ryan is a QBBC guy. As stated though you can be ruthless when making your playoff rosters.
As always we need to look at their respective schedules, despite how both are struggling.
If you have either you need to analyze the schedules for both of them, plus also look at who else is on your roster and also look at what is on the waiver wire.
Rivers has Kansas City away, Miami at home and then Oakland away. Not great, but not that bad either.
Ryan has Carolina away, Jacksonville away and the Carolina at home. Ryan has a good matchup in week 15, but not so good ones against the Panthers.
How do these schedules mesh up with what else you can play? If you can do better, then drop Rivers or Ryan. If the other options are worse, then I guess you can't drop them.
Dave Larkin: Of the two, I would be more inclined to hold on to Rivers, but that is hardly a vote of confidence in him or the Chargers offense. He is a supremely talented passer with absolutely nothing to work with at the moment. The offensive line is in shambles and the receiving corps leave a lot to be desired. The issues are the same for Matt Ryan, except of the two quarterbacks in question he is playing worse football right now—and I can't see that suddenly turning around. For Ryan, it has been decision making that has plagued him; I feel like Rivers' issues stem from a lack of help rather than bad choices in the pocket. Neither is a great option, but I would hold Rivers over Ryan if pushed.
Stephen Holloway: Agree with the majority here that both Rivers and Ryan are droppable. In the past six games, Ryan has thrown only nine TDs and has nine interceptions and even his passing yardage has tailed off. I am not fond of players calling out their coaches in most cases, but it seems Julio Jones has a point about the Falcons red zone play calling. Atlanta has two games against Carolina over the next three weeks, so no need for Ryan to be starting for fantasy owners during the playoffs.
San Diego and Rivers have lost seven of their last eight games, including two of their last three where they managed only three points. Over those games, in the last four weeks, Rivers has had only one fantasy productive day passing for 300 yards and four TDs against Jacksonville in their single win since Week 4. In the other three games, he has averaged 220 yards with 0.33 TDs and 0.66 interceptions. He may have a good game, but didn't have one in the first match-up with Kansas City and like someone said earlier, picking that game would be difficult.
Chris Feery: I think Andy said it well: if you can do better, both are droppable. If I'm choosing between the two of them, I would keep Rivers and look to drop Ryan. Rivers has the more favorable schedule down the stretch, while Ryan has the privilege of facing off with the Panthers twice. As others have mentioned, the struggles for Rivers can be pinpointed down to the rash of injuries suffered by the Chargers. For Ryan, that's simply not the case as he seems to be making poor decisions. Combine that with a team that is playing poorly as a whole and the aforementioned tough stretch of games ahead and we have ourselves a droppable quarterback.
Daniel Simpkins: Both LaFell and Austin are also droppable. The Rams offense has cratered playing "Fisherball." The firing of Frank Cignetti isn't going to do anything for the underlying problem.
As for LaFell, when I watch him, I see the creeping inconsistency that made him maddening to own when he was with the Panthers. Even this late in the season, there are still other receiving options on the waiver wire that will be more likely to help your team, such as DeVante Parker, Tyler Lockett, or Dorial Green-Beckham.
Matt Waldman: You can drop both LaFell and Austin. They'll probably post a good game between now and the championship week for fantasy leagues, but counting on it to happen is too risky. If I had to choose between the two, I'd pick Austin because of his big-play ability and opportunities both as a runner and receiver. LaFell has the better quarterback, superior coaching staff, and greater likelihood of at least some reasonable point total on a bad day, but if you're going to compete in the playoffs you want to go out swinging.
Andy Hicks: Like Matt and Daniel I'd be pretty comfortable dropping both of these guys unless I was in a very deep league or started four or five receivers. If I couldn't find better options on the waiver wire I'd be pretty disappointed. As Matt said, either could go off on any given Sunday, but if I'm starting these guys in the playoffs, I'm either stacked elsewhere or need help desperately. Either way I'd take a shot at some younger guys getting targets on offenses likely to be throwing it a lot for the next three weeks.
Dave Larkin: Like Daniel said, I think there are more enticing options at wide receiver on the waiver wire at this point of the season that offer much more upside than this pair. LaFell has the talent around him—especially if Gronkowski returns sooner rather than later—to post respectable numbers and thrive in the right game scripts, but I wonder how much Tom Brady really trusts him. We've seen Brady essentially eliminate certain players from his progressions in the past if he lacks the faith in them that a quarterback needs to pull the trigger; that could easily happen with LaFell. Tavon Austin has fallen victim to the malaise infecting the Rams offense. He is a talented player stranded in a poor situation and should be avoided for the playoff run.
Stephen Holloway: I agree with others that even though Tavon Austin is leading the Rams with only 38 catches and four TDs, he is droppable. I want to say that LaFell still has an opportunity at production, but he has been largely ineffective to this point. In the last three weeks, La Fell has had 26 targets and caught 12 passes, but only managed 129 yards for a paltry 10.7 ypc and no TDs. His opportunities are likely to decrease going forward with Gronkowski eventually returning so I agree that LaFell is also droppable.
Chris Feery: I'm with the majority that feels that both receivers are droppable. LaFell has not done much with the opportunities presented to him and will likely see a decrease in targets once Gronkowski returns. Austin may be the top option in the Rams passing attack, but that does not exactly inspire a ton of confidence. The team is spiraling downward and there does not have any upcoming games that you can point to as a potential turning point. As others have mentioned, I would dig into the waiver wire for a better option for the playoffs.
At tight end, is Kyle Rudolph now droppable?
Daniel Simpkins: I don't think owners should part with Rudolph just yet. Bridgewater has been looking his way in the match-ups where he's had time to pass. The Seahawks were a tough draw and Arizona will be, too. After that, the Vikings face the Bears and Giants in favorable passing match-ups that fall during most fantasy championship weeks.
Matt Waldman: Rudolph doesn't appeal to me. The opponents, the injuries, and the weakness of the offense make it too prohibitive a risk.
Andy Hicks: Kyle Rudolph isn't a reliable option at this stage of the Vikings season, but as Daniel said the Giants and Bears are likely to help the problem out. If you can afford to keep him through the tough Cardinals matchup, then he should reward your patience when it matters most.
Dave Larkin: The guys bring up a good point about Rudolph's final two games being against the Bears and Giants, who have been generous as far as giving up points to tight ends. Even so, I find his week-to-week production hard to set my watch by. Tight end is the most top-heavy position in fantasy football; only a handful of players—Gronkowski, Olsen, Eifert, Walker, Kelce—are truly worth trusting every week. Rudolph is certainly worth a flier based on the match-ups in question, but he is the very definition of boom-or-bust.
Stephen Holloway: I would not drop Rudolph. He has 39 catches for 354 yards and four TDs on the season and the majority of his production has come in four games, including two of the last three. He is probably not a good starter this week against Arizona, but he has the Giants in week 16 and they are ranked second on fantasy points allowed by tight ends.
Chris Feery: I think you can hang on to Rudolph. Although the Vikings passing game does not strike fear into the hearts of opponents, he remains one of the team's top targets and has some favorable matchups ahead. As opponents continue to focus on mitigating the damage caused by Adrian Peterson, Rudolph could actually see a few extra targets as part of the Vikings adjustments.
Pick one player you wouldn't consider an every-week starter (12 team league, 1/2/3/1/1/1), but you'd feel pretty good about putting him in your starting lineup this week.
Matt Waldman: Spencer Ware. Yeah, surprise, I know. Last week, he split time with Charcandrick West, but earned the red zone opportunity leading to a 10-yard score. He slayed the Chargers' weak run defense and I think there are two good reasons why he sees more carries: A) the Chiefs seemed to be more balance with Ware in the lineup prior to Wests' return B) There's a strong likelihood that the Chargers get blown out and Ware earns the mop-up duty.
Stephen Holloway: Jameis Winston has yet to throw for over 300 yards in a game and is averaging only 1.5 touchdowns per game. He is currently ranked as QB14 in ppr scoring though, helped out by his having rushed for five touchdowns on the season. This week he has the fantasy coveted home match-up against the Saints. It is an easy call for him to produce as a top quarterback this week, perhaps as high as QB5. The New Orleans Saints are next to last in the NFL, giving up an average of 301 yards per game and are at the bottom of the NFL allowing 2.9 passing touchdowns per game.
Daniel Simpkins: Shaun Draughn. I don't own Draughn in many spots, but in those leagues that I do, I'm comfortable starting him. He's playing against the Browns, who haven't been particularly good at defending against the run lately. Hyde has been ruled out for this week's contest, so Draughn will once again have the majority of rushing touches to himself. I also expect him to catch three or four passes to further pad his numbers.
Stephen Holloway: Giovani Bernard is currently ranked as RB17, but has seen his opportunities fall as the season progresses and the weather turns bad. Over the last two games, he has averaged only 7.5 carries for 21 yards and 1.5 receptions for 30 yards and has not scored a touchdown. This week the Bengals face the Steelers, who rank as the third best defense in the NFL for points allowed by running backs. This selection doesn't seem to make sense, but consider that three games ago against the Arizona Cardinals (rank eighth best in that same category) was Bernard's most productive game of the season, running six times for 18 yards and catching eight passes for 128 yards. If the Steelers high octane offense is clicking and who doesn't expect it will, the Bengals could be forced to play catch-up and rely more on the passing offense.
Dave Larkin: Some good calls from the guys. I'm on the same wavelength with Daniel as far as Shaun Draughn. I've had to pick him up in a couple of leagues and he has been serviceable. There are bound to be some leagues where he has gone under the radar and can be inserted into your line-up quietly. The match-up against Cleveland looks like a good one, too.
As for another player who could surprise this week, how about Brandon LaFell? Granted, he had a poor outing last week, but I can see he and Tom Brady working together in practice to iron out some of the issues. Houston benched rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson after he gave up several big plays to Buffalo, but he could be back in the starting line-up and up against LaFell in certain formations. The veteran should be able to have decent success and could post 10-15 points in PPR formats.
Stephen Holloway: Austin Seferian-Jenkins was eased back in last week against the Falcons, following his absence since the second game of the season. Much was expected of him in pre-season and he had an outstanding game in Week 1 with five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. As discussed with his quarterback, Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay faces the New Orleans Saints who have tied for giving up six catches by tight end per game and are tops with 85 yards per game. Even though he only had three catches for 31 yards in his return game, he looks like a great choice to provide top ten production this week.
Andy Hicks: I have to agree with Steve on Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Saints can't cover anyone and he has had his one game back to get his feet wet again. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans likely to cause headaches along with Doug Martin, Jameis Winston may take the easy road in Seferian-Jenkins and that means lots of catches with the odds of a touchdown high.
Chris Feery: I agree on the calls for Draughn and Seferian-Jenkins. Both players are in great spots this week and offer some nice upside. To add another name to the mix, how about Brian Hartline? He has received 23 targets over the past two games and turned that into 8/74/0 and 8/83/0 respectively. A potential implosion from Johnny Manziel against an improving 49ers team is a check mark in the negative column, but Hartline should receive enough opportunities to deliver a productive day.
Stephen Holloway: Allen Hurns has performed very well this season, but with injuries the past few weeks including foot, thigh, groin and a concussion in week 12, he missed last week's game. Meanwhile Allen Robinson has had 15 receptions for 209 yards and four touchdowns over the past two weeks. Many will forget about Hurns, the obvious second fiddle who might still be recovering from a host of injuries. The rest over the past week or so might have given Hurns fresh legs and he is a fierce competitor. Blake Bortles has had a great season, averaging 273 passing yards and over two touchdowns per game. This week's game is against the Colts, who rank as fourth defense in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Hurns should excel this weekend and may be overlooked.
That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.