As part of our weekly countdown of the significant stats and notable numbers leaping out of the fantasy ledgers, we’ll lead off by featuring five up-and-coming wide receivers who have put up some impressive fantasy figures in recent weeks, continuing with their performances Sunday.
70 – Receiving yards on a team-high eight catches Sunday for Chargers wideout Tyrell Williams, who also had a touchdown grab for the third straight game in the Bolts’ 21-13 win at Houston. With injuries to Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Williams has emerged as Philip Rivers’ go-to pass-catcher, and he is leading the team in targets (85), receptions (51) and receiving yards (790) while matching ageless tight end Antonio Gates for the team TD-catch lead with five. Add it all up, and Williams emerged from Sunday’s action tied for 13th among all fantasy wide receivers with 109 points. Breaking things down on a weekly basis, Williams has garnered at least six targets in nine of 11 games, had five or more receptions in seven of the 11 contests and has topped 60 receiving yards in eight of 11 outings. As aforementioned, he’s now reeled in a scoring pass in three straight games – putting him squarely in the WR2 mix – but a word of caution here as he did leave Sunday’s contest in the fourth quarter with a right-shoulder injury and didn’t return, so Williams’ status this week will need to be monitored.
69 – Career-high targets so far this season for Jaguars’ WR Marqise Lee, including six in Sunday’s 28-21 loss to the Bills. Lee, a 2014 second-round pick, has been a disappointment, playing in only 23 games his first two injury-addled seasons while falling behind Class of 2014 WR mates Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. But the 6-foot, 200-pound former USC standout finally appears to be making up for lost time with six or more targets and four-plus receptions in nine of 11 contests so far this season while playing all 11 games. His 46 receptions and 581 receiving yards rank second on the team behind Robinson, with his yardage total only 10 off the pace despite 37 fewer targets and seven fewer receptions. Given that the Jags are, without fail, in catch-up mode on a weekly basis, the suddenly consistent Lee has WR3 upside down the stretch.
7 – TD receptions over the last eight games for Titans WR Rishard Matthews, whose latest was a diving 29-yard scoring grab in the first quarter Sunday in Chicago. Matthews, a largely unheralded free-agent signing this offseason, leads Tennessee in all receiving categories apart from receptions as he’s sitting one behind TE Delanie Walker. Matthews has really amped his production since Week 5, catching 36 of 53 targets for 489 yards and the seven scores, and his corresponding 90.9 fantasy-point total during that stretch puts him behind only Mike Evans (110.0 points), Odell Beckham Jr. (107.2) and Antonio Brown (99.8) among wide receivers. Not too shabby for a largely unheralded free-agent acquisition. Just know, though, that the Titans have an untimely – at least for fantasy purposes – bye this coming weekend followed by a tough matchup against the Broncos’ secondary, but Matthews already has established himself as a WR2 as one of the primary weapons for Marcus Mariota in Year 2.
3 – Touchdowns in a scintillating Sunday-night performance for Chiefs rookie wideout Tyreek Hill, who became the first rookie to score via a return, a reception and a rush since Hall-of-Famer Gale Sayers turned the hat trick in 1965. Including three returns, the lightning-fast Hill totaled 13 all-purpose touches in K.C.’s 30-27 OT win in Denver and turned them into 169 yards and the three scores – nearly matching his TD total (4) from his first 10 games. The rookie fifth-round pick from West Alabama has particularly upped his production over the last five games, reeling in 31-of-39 targets for 303 yards and three TDs while adding 51 yards and a TD on six rushes during that span. His five TD grabs are pacing K.C., and while he now has as many targets (56) on the season as injury-added fellow WR Jeremy Maclin, Hill has 15 more receptions, 52 more receiving yards and three more scoring grabs than his veteran counterpart. On an offense seemingly struggling annually for consistent playmakers, Hill has stood out and Andy Reid and Co. will continue to utilize ways to get his speed involved, even when Maclin does return from his now four-game absence.
2 – Scoring receptions Sunday – 35- and 25-yard catch-and-sprint screen passes – for Falcons wideout Taylor Gabriel in a 38-19 win over the visiting Cardinals. With Julio Jones continually drawing the focus of opposing defenses – he was limited to four catches for 35 yards on seven targets Sunday – Matt Ryan continues to make use of his other options, and the 5-8, 167-pound Gabriel has certainly moved up near the top of that Plan B list. Over Atlanta’s last four games, Gabriel has caught 13-of-18 targets for 271 yards and four scores and now has 21 receptions for 378 yards and four TDs on 28 targets this season. For those without a calculator handy, that’s a robust 18 yards per catch, and his four TDs are four times as many as he had in his first two seasons in Cleveland where he was lost in the shuffle of misery and ineffectiveness. Definitely add Gabriel to your WR3/4 radar if he isn’t there already.
And, finally, we have a defensive unit and quarterback from two of the league’s hottest teams. They’ve had differing fantasy fortunes of late but could now be headed in opposite directions given their upcoming schedules, which includes, ready or not, the fantasy playoffs.
19 – Fantasy points (Huddle Performance scoring) Sunday for the Giants’ defense in a 27-13 shellacking of the winless Browns. The New York D bagged a season-high seven sacks and had three fumble recoveries – one of which was scooped up and ran back 43 yards for a fourth-quarter game-sealing TD by DE Jason Pierre-Paul. It was the latest outing in an impressive five-game run for the Giants’ defense, which has totaled 43 fantasy points with 19 sacks, eight interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two scores over that span as a key element in the team’s current six-game win streak overall. Still a word of warning here as the Giants’ defensive run of success has come against the Rams, Eagles, Bengals, Bears and Browns. N.Y.’s closing stretch against the Steelers, Cowboys, Lions, Eagles and Redskins doesn’t figure be as accommodating so weigh your stretch-run team-defense options carefully if you’ve strictly been riding the Giants’ defense of late.
5 – Touchdown passes over the last five games for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Believe it or not, that’s been it for Stafford, who has been a much better real-life QB than a fantasy one of late in leading the Lions to fourth fourth-quarter comeback victories in that five-game span. In nearly the opposite of last season, Stafford started fast this season with 14 TD tosses in his first six games, including four outings with three-or-more aerial scores. But despite the Lions’ success of late, Stafford only has added five TD passes since and hasn’t topped 278 passing yards – with an average of 247 – over those ensuing five contests. Overall, Stafford currently ranks 13th among fantasy QBs, but his closing five-game stretch has definite top-10 fantasy QB potential as the Lions finish up against the likes of the Saints, Bears, Giants, Cowboys and Packers. Of those five opponents, only the Giants (currently No. 2 coming out of their just-discussed weak-schedule stretch) currently rank among the 12 best defenses in terms of fwest fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.