Taylor Gabriel, WR, CHI - Gabriel was breaking out as the Tyreek Hill in Matt Nagy’s Bears offense until last week, when Bill Belichick showed the diminutive receiver a ton of respect by playing more deep coverage, which opened up the middle of the field for Trey Burton. Gabriel getting that kind of treatment should show you where he is in the NFL speed wide receiver rankings, and what he can do going forward to build on his success. He still isn’t being taken seriously in a lot of fantasy circles but that will change soon.
Leonard Fournette, RB, JAX, Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN - It took a while but Cook and Fournette’s teams finally figured out that they needed to let their starting running backs get their hamstrings back to 100% before playing them again. Redraft teams that spent a first or second on one of these two backs might be in dire straits right now and ready to deal them for anyone who can help while they are on the pine. 6-1 and 7-0 teams should be circling the Fournette and Cook teams like vultures in trade talks right now.
David Johnson, RB, ARI - I believe in Byron Leftwich to return sanity to the approach to using one of the best offensive players in the league. The Cardinals also have some not-so-scary defenses like Kansas City, Oakland, Atlanta, Green Bay and Detroit left on the schedule to give him more opportunities to remind us just how good he is. Try to get in on Johnson in redraft before his teams see how he’ll be used under Leftwich.
Russell Wilson, QB, Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA - Just one more reminder that the Seahawks have a lot of second half matchups (Chargers, Rams, Panthers, Packers, Vikings, Chiefs) that could force this offense out of its shell, and we know what Wilson and Baldwin’s recent track record is for having big second halves.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Jimmy Graham, TE, GB - Rodgers was still not 100% when he outscored Patrick Mahomes II in Weeks 5 and 6 on his way to putting up the most fantasy points of any quarterback in that two-week span. His defense isn’t keeping games low scoring, and that trend won’t change with the Rams and Patriots up in the next two weeks. We’re about to see what an unencumbered Rodgers can do this week. Graham has been showing more downfield speed and ability than he did in Seattle, averaging over 16 yards a reception on 11 catches over those two games. The bye week certainly won’t hurt his sharpness playing his reconstructed knee. We haven’t see Rodgers and Graham riff in the red zone yet, and when that happens, Graham could flirt with #1 overall tight end numbers.
John Brown, WR, BAL - Brown had a huge Week 7 against the Saints, and he appears to be over the injury issues that slowed him down over the last two years. He gets the weak Panthers and Steelers secondaries the next two weeks, and a dream run of Oakland, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay Weeks 12-15. He’s about to catch fire.
James Conner, RB, PIT - Conner teams might be trying to get out of their shares of him at a high point with the expectation that Le'Veon Bell will come back and relegate him to a fantasy irrelevant role, but that would be unwise. Conner has clicked with this line and team mentality and Bell is outside of the circle of trust. There’s a non-zero chance that he doesn’t return to the team with an expectation that the Steelers won’t tag him again after the relationship went sour, they could keep him on the exempt list and extend Conner’s run as the uncontested starter, and Bell could require some ramp up time for conditioning or suffer a soft tissue injury after a long layoff a la Josh Gordon.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, NO - Smith might be impossible to pry from his team in dynasty, but in redraft, he might be taken lightly. Yes, he’s likely the #3 target behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara and Ted Ginn Jr only turned this role into inconsistent value last year, but Smith might get more out of it than Ginn did, and teams are certainly going to put him last on the list of coverage priorities. The Saints have matchups with the Rams, Bengals, Eagles, Falcons, Bucs, Panthers, and Steelers in the second half of the year, which all have shootout potential.
Tyrell Williams, WR, LAC - Williams has done well converting his limited targets into huge stat lines the last two weeks, but it can only last so long as a 2A in an offense that consistently features the running back duo as receivers. Williams will be a free agent next year to encourage interest in dynasty leagues, but he is likely to end up on a team with a lesser quarterback than Philip Rivers. He’s a good piece to dangle to rebuilding teams if you are trying to make a title push.
Nick Chubb, RB, CLE - Chubb getting the starting job is exciting and he did better against a stout Tampa run defense as a runner than any one else has this year, but the Browns second half schedule includes a lot of games where they may have abandon the run game scripts - Kansas City, Atlanta, two games against the Bengals, and the tough Carolina and Houston run defense are all on the second half schedule. His lack of receptions lowers his floor. Don’t deal him in dynasty leagues, but don’t feel like he’s an essential hold in redraft leagues either unless your running back depth chart is very thin.
Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU - Watson hasn’t had to do as much as a passer to lead the Texans to victories the last two weeks, and just in time to keep an injured rib and lung from getting worse after taking more hits than any other quarterback through five weeks. Lamar Miller is getting going along with the running game, D’Onta Foreman is due back soon, and the Texans defense is coming on to give them a different blueprint to win games than asking Watson to do everything. Quarterback is a tough position to get trade value out of, but someone trying to buy low on Watson on the promise of a return to 2017 numbers could give a quarterback who is likely to deliver better numbers than Watson if this blueprint holds in a bunch of winnable second half games against the likes of Washington, Cleveland, Tennessee, Indianapolis and the Jets.
Amari Cooper, WR, DAL - Cooper might have more usable weeks with Dallas, with a likely higher floor as a clear #1, but a lower floor on a conservative offensive team. Wide receivers that change teams in season have a mixed track record with the adjustment to a new quarterback and offense, and Cooper wasn’t exactly excelling this year. Try to deal him in dynasty and redraft on the promise on a return to form not seen since early 2016.