The question for Week 13 is “How much David Johnson is too much David Johnson?”
His team is a slight home favorite taking on a defense whose biggest weakness is against running backs. They’ve permitted the sixth most FanDuel points to the position, allow over 100 yards per game on the ground, and enter the week with the worst ranked rushing defense per FootballOutsiders. Johnson should see a lot of targets as well given the Cardinals’ inability to protect their quarterback, which only pushes his ceiling even higher—an impressive thought considering he has scored fewer than 21 points only three times this season. He is the third most expensive player on the board, but that won’t be enough to scare the crowd away.
Speaking of crowds, the chalk crashed and burned last week and took a lot of nice-looking lineups with them. Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Taylor Gabriel, Marquess Wilson, and Dontrelle Inman were all top-10 wide receivers. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick, Trevor Siemian, Ryan Tannehill, and Matt Barkley all chipped in top-seven quarterback performances. Week 12 was a firm reminder that it’s best diversify and even throw out a number of contrarian lineups that look nothing short of awful.
But for me, that diversity doesn’t include Johnson. I might have him in 100 percent of my lineups. That’s dangerous considering that at some point, you would think, he’s going to turn in a dud. I’m betting against that happing in Week 13. Now we just have to figure out who the second running back should be.
Colin Kaepernick - $7,800
Kaepernick’s late-season tear reached new heights in Week 12 after he shredded the Dolphins for nearly 300 passing yards and 113 rushing yards, plus three passing touchdowns. It was the most fantasy points of any quarterback last week, and the most he has ever scored over the course of his entire career. He’s now our seventh highest scoring quarterback since he took over as the starter in Week 6. Which isn’t all that surprising considering he has 373 rushing yards over that stretch. As always, his ability to run the football gives a us cheat code at the position, and makes up for his deficiencies as a passer.
Enter the Chicago Bears, who, on their home field, have yielded only 13.9 FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks. Most of that can be attributed to facing the likes of Carson Wentz, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Blake Bortles. Marcus Mariota tagged them for 21.64 points last week—the most of any passer yet this year. Perhaps that’s where we should hang our analysis. Mariota rushed four times for 46 yards, while completing over 65 percent of his passes for an efficient 226 yards and two scores. If we were guaranteed that stat line, I’d lock Kaepernick into every single lineup and move on with my day.
But there are couple of things we should consider. The first of which is his price. He’s more expensive than Russell Wilson by $100. Granted that price difference is negligible, and Wilson completely bombed last week, but the optics make me think twice: Wilson at home or Kaepernick on the road? Hmmm. Continuing with that thought process, Roethlisberger is only $500 more. That’s a bit steeper and requires a change somewhere else in your lineup, but in return you’re getting one the best passers in the NFL. And not only that, one of the best fantasy passers in recent history. The matchup maybe doesn’t look so great. The Giants have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to passers on the season—mostly because they’ve faced a gaggle of crap passers like Josh McCown, Jay Cutler, Wentz, Case Keenum and so on. It should be noted that McCown dropped 322 yards on them last week, Wentz slapped them with 364 yards, Joe Flacco managed 307 yards, and even Keenum nearly closed in on a 300-yard game. But none of these quarterbacks know how to score touchdowns. All that to say is that Roethlisberger is a great play, especially at home.
Pardon my digression. We’re here to talk about Kaepernick. Since the 49ers’ bye week, he’s plugged point totals of 23.22 (QB9), 23.9 (QB7), 19.44 (QB10), and 34.14 (QB1). How do you say no to that? I guess you could look at the Bears’ 18th ranked 18 FanDuel points per game, but as mentioned, the quality of competition mostly explains that. You could look at the over/under point total of 43.5—the fourth lowest of the week. And maybe the weather—it’s going to be rainy and quite windy. But then again, you’re not using him for his passing prowess.
But even with all of that information, I’m still going to cautiously lower my exposure. He will, after all, be one of the highest owned quarterbacks this weekend. And as mentioned, the likes of Wilson and Roethlisberger are also good value in that price range. Plus, if the game does turn sloppy because of weather, rushing will turn sloppy as well. These two teams are the worst in the league. Keep that in mind before auto-drafting Kaepernick.
Matt Barkley - $6,000
Surely you saw this one coming. The fade that is. Not his performance last week, which we, in the industry, like to call “an outlier”. Barkley found success against a Titans’ squad who are devoid any pass rush or even so much as a secondary. The 49ers are worse, of course, so you can make that argument if you want. But I’m going to defer right back to the same analysis I gave above: this game has one of the lowest over/under totals, there could rain and there will definitely be wind, and Barkley’s floor is not protected by his escapability (that’s not actually a word). He’s basically a poor man’s Brandon Weeden but with less experience. If anything, this will be a Jordan Howard game. In fact, if you do chomp down on the Kaepernick bait, best stack him with Howard (he says after warning about the low point total). Pricing is soft enough that you don’t need flush your lineup with a $6,000 crap passer. I doubt he’ll have much ownership, but I do believe some will be tempted. Don’t give into that temptation.
Devonta Freeman - $7,400
The Falcons didn’t clear a lot of lanes for Freeman last week but he still managed to slam his way into 77 total yards and a pair of touchdowns, finishing as our seventh highest scoring running back. Tevin Coleman also found the end zone but only handled 10 touches. The biggest cause for concern is the amount of playing time each back is receiving. Freeman logged 39 snaps to Coleman’s 32. It seems Coleman is regaining his health along with the trust of his coaches. The matchup is tough for both backs. The Chiefs haven’t allowed a rushing score since Week 4 and their front seven is just now getting healthy. If anything, this game sets up a little better for Coleman, as Matt Ryan will likely be forced into short underneath throws and dump-offs in the face of menacing pass rush. Freeman is capable of filling that role as well but it’s seems the Falcons prefer Coleman in those situations.
One way or the other, I’m little concerned that this game will be lower scoring than the Vegas-projected point total of 49 (second highest on the board). That might be a foolish concern considering how many points the Chiefs shared with the Broncos last Sunday night. But I’ll side with Falcons’ wide receivers, and maybe even tight ends, before their running backs.
Devontae Booker - $6,400
Cris Collinsworth mentioned on the Sunday night broadcast that the Broncos intended to give Kapri Bibbs more work. But Booker handled the backfield for most of the night, out-snapping Bibbs 49-31, and out-touching him 25-9. Those touches yielded 101 total yards, which is encouraging since Booker hasn’t looked all the great. He has yet score more than 15.2 FanDuel points, and has totals of 10.6, 9.8 and 3.5 in his last three. Maybe a date with Jaguars will turn things around. Jacksonville was most recently smashed by LeSean McCoy for 134 total yards and two touchdowns, and enter Week 13 ranked 14th in FanDuel points allowed to the position. So it’s a decent matchup if nothing else.
But I’m not buying the Broncos’ offense and I’m certainly not buying Booker’s chances of swinging a tournament. His quarterback isn’t consistent enough to scare defenses, and frankly, I miss C.J. Anderson who is much better runner in this writer’s opinion. Maybe Collinsworth was onto something and the Broncos will spread the ball between their two backs while they attempt to recover from a tough loss. I also wonder how well their defense will play after logging an entire game plus an entire overtime period, only to lose on a field goal that somehow banged its way off the goal post and in for the win. I like his price, to be sure, but Booker isn’t appealing as a GPP play, even if his ownership is low.
Larry Fitzgerald - $7,000
There are rumors circulating that Josh Norman will shadow Fitzgerald, even in the slot. That’s a battle that favors Fitzgerald more often than not. But I’m having hard time trusting the Cardinals’ offense. Carson Palmer hasn’t been playing that well and suddenly seems to have feelings for his old buddy Jermaine Gresham, who has now seen 12 targets over their last two games (10 last week). The bigger issue might be protection. Palmer has been under constant pressure and has been sacked on 6.7 percent of pass plays—the eighth highest rate in the league. Washington just happens to sack quarterbacks 6.7 percent of the time—eighth highest rate in the league. That’s going to make things tricky for a passing attack that’s struggled down the stretch. Perhaps expecting shorter, underneath throws works perfectly for Fitzgerald. But Johnson is the clear benefit of those dump-offs, and as mentioned, Gresham has somehow worked his way into being a top option for Palmer.
Even if Norman wasn’t a factor, only five teams have allowed fewer FanDuel points to wide receivers than Washington. Here are their game logs since Week 6:
|Marvin Jones Jr||7||4||94||0||11.4||7700|
Quick receivers have had some success with the likes of Diggs (164 yards), Green (121 yards), and Jones (94 yards) all getting behind this secondary. But they held Bryant to 72 yards, Nelson to 28 yards and Cobb to 84 yards. Perhaps this is a defense we should avoid, and perhaps this is a game that won’t see a lot of points. It’s also concerning that Fitzgerald hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 5. With respect, I’ll be fading him completely this week.
Michael Thomas - $6,900
Since Week 6 the Lions have allowed the eighth fewest FanDuel points to wide receivers. Context, as always, is key. They’ve faced the Vikings twice, the Rams, the Jaguars and Washington over that stretch. Traveling south to meet Drew Brees and Co. sets up an entirely different situation. Thomas has been a solid source of fantasy production this season. He comes into Week 13 with the 11th most points at his position. He leads the Saints in touchdowns, targets, receptions and receiving yards, not to mention snap counts. It’s clear he’s one of the most important players for Brees and there’s no doubt he could have a huge game against the Lions.
But what concerns me is A) will he be shadowed by Darius Slay? And B) will this be the game Brandin Cooks goes nuts while we’re all on Thomas? Maybe none of this will matter as this game should be a shootout. I still think the Lions’ defense is much better at this point than they have been all season. Brees loves to spread the ball around especially if they struggle to run. It’s a risk suggesting Thomas as a fade given is stellar rookie performance, so definitely get him in a few rosters. Just be aware that Cooks is going to rebound in a big way after not having a catch in a great matchup last week, and Coby Fleener has the best matchup of all Saints’ players that don’t throw the ball.
Taylor Gabriel - $5,700
It’s called a flash in the pan. And it’s what happens when an undersized player with all the speed in the world breaks off a few long scores and adds a special teams’ touchdown to inflate his point totals. He’s touched the ball on offense only 18 times over his last three games yet somehow has 254 yards and three touchdowns to show for it. That level of efficiency cannot be sustained over the long run. We’ll see how much the Falcons attempt to get the ball in his hands against that formidable pass-rush. If the Falcons use him as a quick-screen type player and suck that pass-rush into the backfield, it’s a perfect fit and Gabriel might continue his streak. But I doubt that happens. Ryan most certainly won’t have enough time in the pocket to launch deep balls. If anything, we should fit Julio Jones in every lineup while his price is down slightly, and put our faith in one of the best receivers in the game rather than an undersized gadget player.
Greg Olsen - $6,200
The tight end position is a disaster this week, so fade recommendations are few and far between. Plugging Olsen as the only guy on this list is especially dangerous, given he’s the top target for Cam Newton. But since their bye week, Olsen has turned in point totals of 1.6, 13.7, 6.4, 5.3, and 6.5. Perhaps this is one of those “he’s due” type games. But the Panthers’ offense is totally untrustworthy. Send them on the road to Seattle and I’m even less interested. By the way, for all the talk about Olsen’s usage, since the Panthers’ Week 7 bye he has fewer targets than both Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr, and just eight more than Devin Funchess. That might explain his $800 drop in salary, which is now the lowest it has been all season. But even with the discount, he’s still an expensive tight end and I’m not interested.
I’m not sure how many folks are going to pay up for the Broncos ($5,000) after they turned in just five points despite playing at home against a mediocre offense. If you were considering their services, keep in mind that this team played a long Sunday night game and rank 16th in points per game since Week 8. I get why you’d want to target the Jaguars’ offense. A couple weeks ago, the Lions racked up 19 points against them, the Texans 12 points and the Chiefs 11 points. So that process works. I’m just not so sure the Broncos defense is playing well enough to justify the price. Then again, they should be quite angry at their tough loss on Sunday night so maybe that’s worth considering.
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