This week's Footballguys Roundtable covers potential replacements for Antonio Brown and Devante Adams, making sense of the Packers ground game, and the short- and long-term futures of several prominent players.
Time to work.
Week 16 Wide Receiver Triage
Matt Waldman: Antonio Brown, Keenan Allen, Devante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Jeremy Maclin, and Marquise Lee all suffered injuries that — with the potential exception of Allen — will keep them out of Week 16.
Here's a list of receivers I've seen available as free agents. While it can go unsaid that none of these players will deliver the potential upside of many of these injured options, pick at least three that you like as potential replacements who can help your squads in championship matchups:
Feel free to include receivers I haven't mentioned.
Three players I like here are Keelan Cole
, Roger Lewis
, and Chris Moore
Cole is on a hot streak, so don't expect him to match his recent production. In his last three games, he's converted 15 targets into 13 receptions for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns. He's actually the second-highest-scoring fantasy WR in the league over that period behind only Tyreek Hill
Expect him to cool off considerably as his efficiency stats come back to earth, but what should remain elevated are his targets. He led the Jaguars with 9 targets last week, and Marqise Lee
is expected to miss at least Week 16, and possibly Week 17 as well. (Allen Hurns
could also be limited.)
As capable as Cole has played recently, expect the Jaguars to keep looking in his direction. He is the cream of the waiver-wire crop at wide receiver this week, in my opinion.Roger Lewis
will also continue to get volume, but in this case, it will be by default rather than because of recent stellar performance. The Giants lost Odell Beckham Jr
. and Brandon Marshall
early in the season, and they've been struggling to find production in the passing game ever since.
is the team's best wide receiver remaining when he's healthy, but he has been unreliable. Tavarres King
is a mediocre talent who is currently in the concussion protocol.
That leaves Roger Lewis
as a primary cog in the passing offense, and indeed he has led the team with 21 targets over the last two games (edging out tight end Evan Engram
by one). Any player getting volume has the chance to score fantasy points, and Lewis is among the highest-volume WRs likely to be on anyone's waiver wire.Chris Moore
isn't on the list, but I'll write him in as a high-upside candidate. I don't know how many people have noticed, but quarterback Joe Flacco
has actually played some good football over the past few games.
With Jeremy Maclin
likely out this week, some might expect Mike Campanaro
or Breshad Perriman
to get the biggest uptick in targets, but I'm putting my money on Chris Moore
. Since the Ravens' Week 10 bye, Moore has gotten as many or more targets than either Campanaro or Perriman in every single game.
And he's flashed terrific playing speed and open-field run skills as a kick returner. If he can get the ball in his hands on offense, he can make good things happen, and I expect him to get the opportunity this week in Maclin's absence.
Waldman: I think Moore is a solid choice for a player not on this list — and a better choice than Perriman, who still hasn't shown enough development with the smaller facets of wide receiver player that make pros consistent producers. The coaching staff has also been public about trying to bolster is confidence, which is not a great sign.
I don’t really feel good about throwing any of these guys into my lineup, but there will be some championship teams who lost Antonio Brown
this week that will need a band-aid and have few choices.
is the most interesting of the names here. Not only has he been on fire the past few weeks, I think his quarterback is the second most trustworthy option of all those listed.
I trust Roethlisberger more than Bortles to have a good fantasy day, but the majority of Roethlisberger’s targets will probably go to Bell, Smith-Schuster, and Martavis Bryant
. That said, Eli Rogers
has a decent chance to get a few targets and possibly even score, as he did this past week.
has been prone to disappearing from the game plan at certain times during the season, but in the last two games, he has seen more balls coming his way. When I watched the game last week, I saw Trubisky target him in the end zone a couple of times against the Lions. The passing matchup against the Browns is favorable, so it could pay off.
Paul Richardson Jr
wasn’t of much help last week, but I still think he can deliver for fantasy owners if Wilson doesn’t have an abysmal game again. The fact Wilson and company are in a do-or-die situation against the Cowboys gives me a little bit of courage to play Richardson, who can make your fantasy day if he can haul in one of those deep targets he gets several times a game.
Of this list, Keelan Cole
is the "Hottest Hand" after last week's "boom" performance, and the Jaguars are still jockeying for playoff seeding so there is something at stake for this team to keep their starting lineup on the field for all four quarters on Sunday. If he's still on the waiver wire, go grab him.Damiere Byrd
caught two TDs last week as well, and on a Panther's roster where the fight for the NFC South crown is still very much in contention, he's another rising star on a playoff-bound team that will likely keep their best players on the field for all four quarters on game day. Byrd has seen nine targets in the last two games so he's getting quite a bit of chance to make plays on an (admittedly) run-oriented team. I like Byrd as well and actually picked him up on my playoff-bound redraft team - he's another guy to go grab if available. Tavarres King
had a big game last week but is in the concussion protocols as of Monday, December 18 so the better option on the Giants' roster may actually be Roger Lewis
in Week 16 — he's seen a whopping 21 targets in the last two games and looks primed to go off if King is sidelined due to his injury in Week 16. I'll be less interested in Lewis if King is able to clear the protocols, though - this is a developing situation to keep an eye on.
I’ll start with a receiver that isn’t listed: Damiere Byrd
. Since returning from injury in Week 13, Byrd has somewhat quietly stepped into a major role in the Carolina Panthers offense. His percentage of snaps played has increased each week: 44 percent in Week 13; 60 percent in Week 14 and 73 percent in Week 15.
He has emerged as the clear No. 2 wide receiver for the Panthers, playing 28 snaps more than the No. 3 wide receiver (Russell Shepard
) last week. Byrd is stepping into the Ted Ginn Jr
role in the Carolina offense (which has had real fantasy value when the Panthers offense is humming like it is currently) and has the perfect skill set for the task (Byrd ran a blazing 4.28-second forty-yard dash coming out of South Carolina).
While Byrd has seen only 9 targets over the past two weeks, he has been productive with 8 receptions for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Week 16 matchup for Byrd couldn’t be any better against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed the most points in the league to opposing wide receivers this season.
Only Roger Lewis
and Sterling Shepard
remain from the opening day roster and early speculation is that Patrick Peterson
will shadow Shepard in the Week 16 matchup. Lewis has already been seeing a big workload (10+ targets each of the last two weeks) and has a good chance to again see double-digit targets in Week 16.
is a great target for desperate teams. The biggest thing to look for at wide receiver is an opportunity in the form of targets. Wright has seen a whopping 24 targets over the last two weeks. He has been relatively efficient too, catching 17 of those 24 targets for 189 yards.
His matchup against Cleveland in Week 16 is very good as well. Cleveland’s serviceable slot cornerback, Brian Boddy-Calhoun, has missed the last two weeks with a knee injury and is questionable again this week.
Cleveland plays a scheme heavy on run blitzes, which has contributed to their No. 1 ranking in run defense DVOA. Their weakness has been against the pass (28th in pass defense DVOA) and especially short (29th in DVOA) and over the middle (29th in DVOA), the area of the field where Wright does most of his damage.
The Bears have loosened the reins on Mitchell Trubisky
in recent weeks (as evidenced by his 46 pass attempts in Week 15) and have a great opportunity to try to develop their young franchise passer in an ideal Week 16 matchup, which could again lead to a bunch of targets for Wright.
There is not a lot of juice on this list for title game owners needing a starter. Keelan Cole
is my No.1 of the group with his big-play ability and role within the Jacksonville offense to have occasional 100-yard upside or a long touchdown.
is the high floor of the group as Mitch Trubisky has shown well on short and intermediate throws between the numbers in contested windows. Wright is a sturdy interior receiver and his target floor may be the highest of the group.
Finally, I will mention Tyler Lockett
as Seattle has struggled on the ground and Russell Wilson
's backyard style of finding big gains through extending plays brings Lockett and all Seattle receivers into the bucket of big game potential with only a few receptions.
Waldman: I think Lewis, King, and Cole are the safest options on this list. The combination of the Giants defense creating garbage-time opportunities for the passing game to stay in continual catch-up mode makes Lewis and King appealing options.
Both players have the quickness to get deep and they're solid route runners. Neither are A+ athletes at the position, but Lewis is above average at tracking the ball on vertical routes. If you can get Cole, he's the best of the three because Blake Bortles is playing smart football and despite not having the name recognition, Cole, Dede Westbrook, and Jaydon Mickens are all fast receivers with skills after the catch.
Westbrook is often commanding the opponent's top cornerback because of his skill against tight coverage, which is allowing the Jaguars to match Cole against linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field. Although Marqise Lee is out, Mickens might be the faster player. Jacksonville used Cole and Mickens on routes where they crisscrossed under zone coverage and it earned one, if not both, wide-open targets.
I actually like Mickens more than Westbrook this week. It's a risk because of the lack of name factor, only one game of data, and Westbrook is a skilled option. However, Mickens is a reliable pass catcher that I've scouted two years ago and the Jaguars are doing an excellent job of using him. Opponents will be more concerned with Cole and Westbrook, which will once again create opportunities for Mickens.
Wright is also gelling with Trubisky and the matchup is worth consideration. Hindery's reference to the data that illustrates Cleveland's soft spots on defense is a good supporting argument.
Even so, I would much prefer a player who has an equally high target and red zone potential that also includes upside in the vertical game. If you're trying to replace any of the receivers I mentioned above, getting a safe 8-12 points may only be good enough to sustain you if you're missing the likes of Sanders, Maclin, and Lee.
If you're missing Brown, Adams, or Allen, an output of 8-12 points will likely make your impending loss look closer than it really was. In this case, I'd go for the upside of players who are earning vertical routes and red zone opportunities with an experienced quarterback and a supporting cast that helps them earn strong mismatches.
Those players are Cole, Mickens, King, Lewis, and Benjamin. I also like Maurile's thoughts on Moore.
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Packers Ground game
Waldman: The Packers had a productive ground game with Jamaal Williams running from I-formation and single back sets when Brett Hundley subbed for Aaron Rodgers. However, Green Bay abandoned these sets after the first drive of the Panthers game.
Impatient to let Rodgers turn it loose, the Packers never established the run and relied on Rodgers and spread sets to set up easy runs through underprepared nickel alignments for Aaron Jones. While those two carries were highlight-worthy, it did nothing to show a commitment to the ground game. Rodgers threw three touchdowns in the game but also threw three interceptions — two of them coming on difficult plays where he tried to do too much.
With Atlanta's Monday night victory eliminating Green Bay from playoff contention, let's discuss the conditions where we might or might not trust the Packers ground game against the Vikings in Week 16.
- If Rodgers isn't shut down for the season, do you trust any Packers runner next week? Could it be Jones from shotgun like last week or will Green Bay realize it had a good thing with Williams from traditional sets and operate with a more balanced look?
- If Rodgers is shut down and Hundley returns, can we count on Williams to earn the bulk of the carries again? If so, are the Packers up to the task against a Vikings defense that has allowed four rushing touchdowns during the past five weeks, but only 70-plus yards to a runner during the same span?
Whether or not we can count on Williams to handle the bulk of the carries is one of those questions that requires a "your guess is good as mine" type of answer. Figuring it out requires getting in the heads of a coaching staff that has never been in the situation they currently face (i.e., playing out the schedule without Aaron Rodgers
after being eliminated from playoff contention). Figuring it out requires deciphering the running back usage whims of Mike McCarthy.
In other words, figuring it out requires playing armchair psychologist to a certain extent.
One piece of relevant evidence I can think of is that McCarthy went run-heavy when Rodgers got injured. Therefore, I think the touches for one (or both) of these backs will be there. If that occurs and all the unknowns I mentioned above fall into place, the trench matchup at home against Minnesota isn't all that bad, at least statistically and tends to favor Williams' usage profile.
According to Football Outsiders, the Packers' run blockers rank 6th
in Adjusted Line Yards (ALY), 12th in ALY on runs up the middle, and 4th in Stuffed Rate (i.e., the frequency of runs stopped at or behind the line). In contrast, the Vikings' front seven ranks 14th
in ALY, 22nd in ALY up the middle, and 28th in Stuffed Rate.
Also in Williams' favor is that, even despite the Packers going pass-heavy last week, he still out-snapped Jones to the tune of a 60-40 split.
Based on all of this, my best guess is to lean on Williams over Jones, as well as over any of the non-Packers running backs listed.
Hindery: Williams is almost guaranteed to see decent volume, with 12+ carries and 4+ targets, which gives him a decent floor. He has played 40+ snaps in every game since Jones got injured and the Packers will likely continue to try to run and throw short to the running backs to protect Hundley from having to do too much.
However, it is hard to get excited about his upside given the matchups. No team has given up fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than the Vikings.
Aside from a big game by Jonathan Stewart
and the red-hot Panthers offense, there is very little in Minnesota’s game logs to give Williams’ fantasy owners hope. In Week 11, Minnesota gave up an early touchdown to Todd Gurley
and then slammed the door. He managed just 37 rushing yards in the game (most coming on the opening drive).
Week 12, the Vikings held the Lions running backs to just 40 rushing yards. Week 13, Minnesota held Atlanta’s backs out of the end zone and to under 100 combined rushing yards. Last week, the Vikings absolutely dominated against Giovani Bernard
before allowing a garbage-time touchdown that made it 34-7 after a Teddy Bridgewater
Due to the expected workload, Williams is the safest of the listed options for Week 16. However, Wayne Gallman
has more upside and is a preferred option over Williams in the PPR format.
Over the last two weeks, Gallman has 13 receptions for 80 yards (on 16 targets) and has been the clear lead back for the New York Giants. The Giants are running out of players to throw the ball to and Gallman is almost guaranteed to again see a heavy workload in the passing game by default.
His matchup against Arizona is much more attractive than Williams’ against the Vikings. The Cardinals are have allowed 80 receptions to its opponents' running backs in 14 games and have given up big receiving games to running backs in recent weeks to Kapri Bibbs
(4-47-1) and Todd Gurley
More than the state of Green Bay, I would be concerned about the uptick in Aaron Jones
' role in recent weeks, who had the starting role before getting injured himself earlier in the season. I would rather have Mike Davis
as the high-floor play instead of the options on the list due to his lack of competition for snaps.
Waldman: I expect the Seahawks to rebound from the pounding they took from the Rams. This is a competitive squad and while it unraveled last weekend, it's an unusual occurrence that I wouldn't expect to be a trend. Remember, this team took Atlanta to the wire and beat Philadelphia despite its offensive line woes and injuries to its secondary.
The Cowboys are not a strong team even with Ezekiel Elliott
's return. Dallas has given up at least 50 yards receiving to running backs in 5 games and at least 85 combined yards from scrimmage to a running back in 10 contests this year.
While I'm a fan of Williams' game and believe he's the best fit for this week's matchup, Davis has the better matchup, the greater upside for a big play, and when he's playing to his talent — like he is now — he's in many respects a superior talent to Williams, Jones, and even other established starters. He simply lacks the surrounding talent of a consistent offensive line.
Williams is a rookie, so the Packers will likely let him work on Sunday despite being eliminated from the playoffs. However, the Vikings are still chasing their final seeding in the post-season tournament, so I expect them to come into this game hot and heavy. I'm avoiding all Packers in my traditional and DFS lineups this week due to the disparity between the Packers' remaining offense (with Davante Adams
likely out, too, the passing game is also suspect) vs. the Vikings' stout defense.
I don't trust either Gallman or Vereen, so for me the coin flip if I needed a waiver wire back would be between Davis or Gillislee, who both look like they have a role/opportunity upcoming in Week 16. Honestly, though, none of these four excite me here at season's close.
I don’t think I can trust any Packers running back in my championship game. I love Williams as a talent, but the Vikings defense is stout, and I’m not sure the Packers will get the ground game going against that unit. I have confidence that the coaching staff in Green Bay will abandon the run if it’s not initially successful, just as they did last week and just as they have a history of doing at various points throughout the last three years. As much as it pains me to say it, I think I would also start Mike Davis
over Jamaal Williams
. The game script and opposing defense should give owners a better chance of statistical success in that contest.
Tremblay: Whether it's Rodgers or Hundley under center, I'd prefer Williams to Jones as my fantasy running back this week. Even with the Packers operating from the shotgun so often last week, Williams got almost twice as many snaps and fully twice as many touches as Jones.
Although Jones was more electrifying with his touches, making the case for a larger share of the workload going forward, making fantasy decisions based on what you think a team should do rather than on its actual observed habits is a setup for frustration and disappointment.
Since Williams took over the lead role in Week 10, Jones hasn't sniffed double-digit touches in any game. I'd eliminate him from consideration as a fantasy starter this week.
Out of Gallman, Vereen, Davis, and Gillislee, the only back I'd consider over Williams is Davis — but even there, if you hesitate on Williams because of Jones, you should hesitate at least as much on Davis because of McKissic. I view both Williams and Davis as serviceable flex options in Week 16, but given the choice, I'd go with Williams.
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Waldman: Martin was deactivated for violating unspecified team rules. Even prior to his deactivation, it appeared Tampa Bay was ready to give Peyton Barber the starter's role.
When the FOX broadcast crew asked Dirk Koetter if Barber earned the starting job before Week 15's game, Koetter didn't give the unequivocal response that Martin was the Buccaneers' starter, end of story. Instead, he said that he didn't feel it was fair for a player to lose his job due to injury. That weekend, Martin lost a fumble late in the half and he didn't see the field for the rest of the game.
GM Jason Licht told the media this summer that 2017 was Martin's last chance in Tampa. Against the Patriots, Martin looked like the Pro Bowl back he's been when he returned from suspension. However, he's been inconsistent at best, ever since.
Does Martin hold any short-term or long-term fantasy appeal for you in 2018 and beyond? What conditions make him appealing, if at all?
Simpkins: Martin holds no short-term appeal for me and very little long-term appeal in dynasty leagues. As Matt did such a good job documenting, we’re seeing the Buccaneers give up on Martin, who has disappointed this regime over and over, both on and off the field.
I think there’s little chance we see Martin return for Tampa Bay next year. Martin turns 29 in January, and unless he finds the perfect landing spot, I doubt he’ll ever return to low-end RB1 status.
Tremblay: Martin has no short-term value. It's not clear whether he'll be active this week. If he is, it's not clear that he'll start. And even if he does, it's not clear that he won't be benched after a quarter or two. Just about every fantasy league has running backs on the waiver wire with more short-term fantasy appeal than Martin.
In dynasty leagues, Martin is worth rostering based on his productive 2012 and 2015 Pro-Bowl seasons. But "worth rostering in a dynasty league" is a pretty low bar, and I'm not optimistic that Martin will provide much fantasy value next year or beyond.
In two of his five NFL seasons, he was a high-volume workhorse; the other three were marred by significant injuries. Running backs typically have shorter windows of productivity than do players at other positions. To me, the worn tread on Martin's tires along with the accumulated dings to his body suggest that his window has probably closed.
Wimer: Father Time has caught Martin — he's going to be a veteran backup somewhere next year (if he is in the league at all) with only marginal fantasy value if he gets an opportunity to step up into the starting lineup (for example, as Alfred Morris did for a short time while Ezekiel Elliott was on suspension). Martin will be waiver-wire fodder at best in most fantasy leagues next year — I'll be cutting him from my dynasty squads next spring.
Waldman: If the Patriots didn't have its backfield answers, Martin would be a fantastic candidate to be the team's featured back for the next 2-3 years. Physically, I don't think he's remotely finished.
His biggest on-field issue has been trying too hard to make the big cutback or bounce rather than taking what's there. This is a common flaw with many quality backs who try to do too much — especially when they feel they have something to prove.
Martin looked like the same guy who authored two seasons of top-5 fantasy production when he faced the Patriots on Monday night earlier this year. After that, his decision-making grew more erratic.
I will agree with Mark that the perception of him being an old back as well as a "trouble" in some form could diminish his market value. However, we've seen teams that know enough about the player and decide he's worth the risk and it pays off. The Patriots did this with Corey Dillon some years ago. Martin is that kind of talent when his game is right.
Even so, it's more likely that he'll be a reserve capable of emerging as a starter on a new team because the Buccaneers are showing signs of moving on and there are a lot of young backs entering the league in recent years who will earn opportunities that Martin may not warrant. Still, it only takes one team to like Martin for that entire scenario to change dramatically.
Parsons: I am a fan of reclamation project former producers with a pedigree in dynasty when they are cheap enough. Doug Martin fits the criteria and I expect his market value to be in the Round 3 rookie pick range this offseason (dynasty leagues) and a perfect throw-in player for a bigger deal as Martin has no dead cap remaining on his contract and a change of scenery is needed to a late-career rise.
Hindery: Peyton Barber is the back to own over the next two weeks and it is very hard to get excited about Martin’s dynasty prospects going forward. Martin turns 29-years old in January and isn’t likely to find any team interested in handing him a starting job when he inevitably gets cut this offseason.
He has off-field baggage and hasn’t been consistently productive the past two years. We have also seen a tremendous infusion of young talent at the running back position with the loaded 2017 draft class and the 2018 draft has another deep group of talented runners. There is little incentive for teams to offer third and fourth chances to aging veterans like Martin when there are so many talented young players available and with lower price tags in the draft.
Tuccitto: I would have more faith in a scenery change-based turnaround for Martin if he had shown more consistency to this point in his career. This isn't just a 29-year old, boom-bust running back we're talking about. It's a 29-year old, boom-bust running back who has missed nearly a third of possible games due to injury and suspension.
If you look at the recent history of backs who switched teams at Martin's age, the results aren't pretty. What's more, the prettiest were previously receiving specialists (e.g., Matt Forte, Darren Sproles, etc.) or steady-as-she-goes multi-year workhorses (e.g., Frank Gore, Thomas Jones, Edgerrin James) — of which Martin is neither. Indeed, it's hard to find an example over the past decade of a running back with Martin's profile pulling off what dynasty owners would be hoping for next season and beyond.
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Waldman: Pick three players from this list and share your observations about their play this year, what you expect next year, and how fantasy owners should value them.
You may add one player not listed if you'd like.
Hindery: Jimmy Garoppolo
is going to be a franchise quarterback and looks like a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered offense. His accuracy and quick release look like potentially elite traits. While it is perhaps cliche to talk about the “IT factor,” he seems to have that as well.
His teammates have bought in and he is putting up big numbers despite lacking the surrounding talent. Expect the 49ers to use the franchise tag on Garoppolo if they aren’t able to work out a long-term extension.
San Francisco has the cap space and draft capital to quickly build a powerhouse offense around Garoppolo in the coming years. He is a prime dynasty asset, especially in 2-Quarterback and Superflex leagues.
One of the prime beneficiaries of Garoppolo’s emergence could end up being Pierre Garcon
. Garcon was on pace for 80+ receptions and 1,000+ receiving yards in Shanahan’s offense despite the poor quarterback play of Brian Hoyer
and C.J. Beathard
before going down with an injury in Week 8.
Assuming Garoppolo is at the helm next year, Garcon could be a major PPR producer as the primary outside weapon in the passing game. While there is some risk of competition for the lead role from a younger wide receiver brought in either in free agency or the first round of the draft, Garcon looked like he had enough left in the tank to be a key component in the passing game for the next year or two. DeShone Kizer
has enticing raw traits and shows flashes of brilliance with the occasional “wow” throw. However, as with Jay Cutler
, he leaves you questioning whether the whole will ever add up to the sum of the parts.
There are far too many critical mistakes (including an INT rate of nearly 10% on his pass attempts in the red zone) being made to build a winning team around Kizer at this point. While you never entirely write off a young quarterback after one season, Cleveland almost has to look to bring in a starting quarterback this offseason with one of their top-10 picks or in free agency.
The attempted trade for A.J. McCarron at the deadline makes it clear that Hue Jackson doesn’t view Kizer as the answer. If you can still get anything of value for Kizer, he is worth trading him before the bottom falls out of his dynasty value.
I'm more bullish on the Kizer-Gordon connection than the fantasy community at large seems to be. DeShone Kizer
has been statistically awful as a passer this season, but that's not unusual for a rookie quarterback.
wasn't so great last season, for instance. And while it's true that Kizer has been overly careless with turnovers, especially in the red zone, it's defensible to take extreme risks on a winless team trying desperately to make something happen. Moreover, it's hard to ignore how little Kizer has had to work with for most of the season.
He's got Gordon and Coleman back now, but for a chunk of the season, his top receivers were Kenny Britt
, Ricardo Lewis, and Rashard Higgins
— and, actually, Britt was sidelined for a portion of that period as well. I'm giving Kizer a Mulligan on the 2017 season and look forward to seeing how things play out next year.Josh Gordon
, meanwhile, has looked impressive to me given the circumstances. He'd been out of the league for almost three years. Without the benefit of training camp or preseason, he's adjusting on the fly to a new offense and a new quarterback. And while Kizer has thrown a number of uncatchable balls Gordon's way, Gordon has gotten separation against some good cornerbacks.
He still has the size, speed, and athleticism to be a dominant receiver in this league. Give him an offseason to work with Kizer, and surround the two of them with better offensive talent in general, and I think we could see a solid fantasy season from this duo in 2018 (although of course, it's far from a sure thing).
To read more specific thoughts on Garoppolo's play this year, go to his player page. I've written his game performance recaps each week
. In short, he's consistently shown the kind of pocket presence, anticipatory throwing, and accuracy across the middle that the 49ers have lacked at quarterback for years.
Barring some catastrophe between now and then, I anticipate Garoppolo to be a Top-12 fantasy quarterback next year with an upside of QB4. What will help immensely is if San Francisco improves their interior pass protection this offseason and the last-place schedule they'll be playing turns out to be as soft as it currently looks on paper
For a 26-year old running back that had over 470 touches just last year, Johnson doesn't have as much wear-and-tear as you'd think. What's more, his season-ending injury was to his wrist, not his legs, so having this season off may have actually been a blessing in disguise that extends his peak-performance window further into the future.
The only thing that slightly concerns me — because I'm not a doctor — is whether or not Johnson's injury will affect his ability to catch the ball. And if Arizona coaches observe that to be so, do they drastically reduce his usage as a receiver? If all is fine in that regard, he'll reclaim his spot as the No. 1 running back in my rankings.
Because his injury was to his lower body, I have more concerns that Robinson returns to his WR15 status prior to this season than I do that Johnson returns to RB1. That said, it appears that Robinson tore only his ACL rather than multiple knee ligaments, and he's still only 24 years old; both of which point to a higher likelihood of success.
The emergence of Jacksonville's other young wide receivers probably means a lower market share of targets than in years past, but defenses not being able to focus on stopping one receiver probably means an uptick in his efficiency with that market share. All in all, I think he's in that WR13-WR24 range with WR6 upside.
I have been highly encouraged by Jimmy Garoppolo
's tape thus far with San Francisco. With Kyle Shanahan guiding him and a likely weapons upgrade in the offseason, Garoppolo is one of the few strong uptick candidates at quarterback for next season.
Considering the price, I love Kevin White
. He fits the beaten-down stock subset of former top picks as a fantasy afterthought. White has not proven he can play or not considering he has been in five regular-season games to-date. Chicago's aggressiveness to the position this offseason will be telling their thoughts on White as he and Cameron Meredith
were slated as starters in 2017 but missed the season. Mitch Trubisky has shown promise on tape, but surrounding him with help on the outside is paramount starting next season as the wide receiver group was held together with packing tape this year.
will be one of my favorite wide receiver value plays in 2018 unless the 49ers bring in a substantial upgrade to be the No.1 option this offseason. Garcon should thrive with Jimmy Garoppolo
and his dynasty value as an injured older veteran took a hit heading into the offseason, outside the top-60 receivers in ADP (average draft position).
Wimer: I view Kizer and Gordon as linked — with (yet another) new GM in town the team is moving forward under John Dorsey, so we'll see how he approaches "holdover" talent like Kizer and Gordon. Last week,
Dorsey took a shot at former GM Sashi Brown's assembled roster saying, "And you know what? I'll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn't get real players."
He partially walked that back on December 20 saying, "Are there some good young football players on this team? You bet there are. And you know what, we're going to get some more football players, and we're going to get some Ws, too."
Personally, I hope that Kizer and Gordon get a chance to develop chemistry in next spring's OTAs and summer training camp, but the Browns are ever unpredictable under owner Jimmy Haslam so we'll see if the current talent is retained or shoved aside by the new regime. This is a developing situation to watch carefully before investing in any current Browns' players — although a change in location for Gordon could be a great thing if he landed with an elite organization (Jordy Nelson looked his age this year... just think of Aaron Rodgers to Gordon 2018! As the Beach Boys put it "Wouldn't It Be Nice?").
An upcoming situation that will be contentious is Le'Veon Bell's upcoming contract talks with the Steelers. Right now, I think it is anyone's guess as to whether Bell is a Steeler next season, and if he winds up moving on, we'll have to carefully evaluate the new landing spot.
He's a special talent, but he'll be really expensive and teams with a lot of room under the cap tend to be those who are rebuilding rather than playoff-ready. Also, the end of Ben Roethlisberger's NFL career is approaching and if the Steelers lose him before 2018 that would radically impact the Steelers' offense. Let me put it this way — I do not intend to trade for Bell in any of my dynasty leagues this offseason. There are a lot of variables in play for him.
Simpkins: I have not been very high on Garoppolo in the past, but given how well he’s performed coming from the Erhardt-Perkins system into the West Coast Offense that Shanahan runs in San Francisco, color me a little bit impressed. He clearly learned some good things from being behind Brady and if he’s given the right structure, he can certainly be a viable fantasy option for us going forward. I see his ceiling as being similar to Kirk Cousins’ good years in Washington.
Robinson’s future is uncertain, as he’s heading to free agency after suffering a season-ending knee injury. However, he’s still very young and we’ve already seen the immense talent he possesses. He’s someone I’m buying low in dynasty leagues in which I don’t already own him. I think you will be very glad you did come 2018.
I was very high on White as a talent coming out of West Virginia, but after three season-ending injuries in a row, I can’t really endorse hanging on to White. He needed development coming out of college and he’s not gotten a chance with all the time he’s been off the field. You won’t typically get anything of value for him in a dynasty league right now. You might hang on to him and try to shop him if there is some buzz that builds around him in the offseason.
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