The spectacular rookie season of Saquon Barkley continues to dazzle, and this graphic helps illustrate just how impressive he has been at creating yardage for himself in Week 14. Washington stacked the box and still couldn’t contain him.
A hat tip to Travis Kelce and a glimpse into the reality of how well he has played in recent years:
Since the Dallas Cowboys acquired WR Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, Dak Prescott has transformed into a visibly better quarterback in a number of ways. One of the most important elements of changes is his willingness to go down the field. Over the past six starts with Cooper, Prescott’s yards-per-attempt average has climbed from 6.9 in the first seven starts to 8.1 in the last six. Cooper has introduced a legitimate downfield weapon to an offense that sorely needed one and a quarterback who looked afraid to take a chance. Cooper easily has to be considered the most rewarding turnaround within the season, and it has made Prescott a viable fantasy starter with two 30-plus-point fantasy days in the last three weeks and four games of more than 24 in the six games together. He had three such efforts in the first seven contests. Prescott finished out the fantasy season with a neutral but exploitable matchup at Indianapolis and then a home contest against the woeful Tampa Bay secondary.
After scoring on one of his 17 carries in the Week 11 breakout party, Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards has gone 60 straight totes without a visit to the end zone. The rookie’s effort has been there, especially playing through injury, and he has remained productive in an efficiency sense (4.5 YPC). Without scoring a touchdown, though, Edwards has been practically useless in fantasy. He hasn’t caught a pass in this stretch, and now Kenneth Dixon is emerging as a more relevant fantasy play. This backfield and system produces for fantasy, but when it gets split two and three ways, plus loses chances to Lamar Jackson, it’s time to look for more reliable options in most situations. None of these backs will present a better blend of upside and returns to justify being more than a weak flex consideration, and Edwards is unplayable despite seeing the majority of the handles.
Derrick Henry‘s Week 14 performance was out of this world, and the worst part is few fantasy owners were able to enjoy it. He ripped off a franchise-best 238 yards and found the end zone four times, highlighted by a 99-yard TD run that would have had Marshawn Lynch talking to the media. That is the most yardage and touchdowns on the fewest attempts (17) in the Super Bowl era. The fluke here is Jacksonville had played well vs. running backs leading up to this contest, giving up only one rushing touchdown since Week 6 and none in the previous five outings. Given the chain of events — Leonard Fournette failing to score on the goal line and the next play going the distance for Henry — a two-play stretch seemingly broke the will of the Jags. Henry easily may have coaxed fantasy owners into trusting him. Be judicious and realize the rarity of his big day when debating his utility over the next two weeks. The New York Giants are the 12th-easiest team for scoring ease, and Washington is 20th. Henry remains a gamble even as a flex.
Entering Monday Night Football, Washington Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson ranks as the No. 8 fantasy passer of the week. He played basically a half of football in Week 14, replacing Mark Sanchez after a pair of picks. The remarkable part of Johnson’s performance is just how long it had been since he played meaningful football in the NFL — six years, 363 days, to be exact — between passes. Only Doug Flutie spanned a longer stretch without throwing a pass. Expected to be Washington’s fourth starting quarterback of the year, and third in as many games, Johnson heads to Jacksonville for what has been a daunting matchup for quarterbacks over much of 2018. There’s really no conceivable scenario in which fantasy gamers should be inclined to play him, unless it’s as a contrarian gamble in DFS.
In the Week 14 The Huddle Up! Podcast, I pegged Buffalo Bills wide receiver Robert Foster as a sleeper for the week. He didn’t disappoint. I don’t bring this up to toot my own horn but rather explain what brought me to such a conclusion. The matchup was perfect for his style of play — a long-ball receiver with the ability to take the lid off of a defense. Entering the game, New York had permitted receivers to average 11.3 receptions as a team in the five weeks leading up, which ranked only 19th. The yardage, however, was good for the ninth-best average (184.5), while a TD every 15 grabs also was only 19th.
The metric that stood out to me was the efficiency of points generated by receivers vs. the Jets. On average, the position managed to create 2.16 PPR points a play, which ranked eighth highest. This sort of differentiation is especially important since the number was strong for PPR against a team that wasn’t easily exploited with volume plays. A look at Carolina shows the norm: A bunch of catches tends to allow a bunch of points per play in PPR. Duh. Low-volume, high-return matchups tend to play into the favor of someone like Foster. Interestingly, though, he needed seven receptions to top 100 yards. His average remained healthy, but it wasn’t his monstrous figure from the prior eight catches (32 yards per grab). In Week 15, Detroit makes him a strong play once again with 14.7 yards per reception and the seventh-most points per play allowed (entering Week 14).
I’m intrigued by the Next Gen Stats’ tracking of average separation created by a pass-catcher in relation to fantasy results. It tends to be a mixed bag. A few names stood out from Week 14 and could result in players with fantasy utility over the remaining two weeks. The first is Denver Broncos wideout Tim Patrick. He ranked fifth in average separation (4.2 yards) and landed seven of his 10 targets for 85 yards — rock-solid numbers for a PPR flex. Rookie DaeSean Hamilton was able to secure seven of nine looks and a TD but mustered only 47 yards. Hamilton ranked 12th in average separation (3.7). Both receivers should be viewed as interchangeable for most situations, but there is a distinction in the matchups ahead: Cleveland has given up receptions and yardage but has been decent at limiting WR touchdowns of late, whereas the Raiders have yielded low-volume figures while handing out touchdowns like Tic Tacs.
The other player piquing my curiosity is Dallas tight end Blake Jarwin. We know this offense utilizes the position, and now that Amari Cooper is opening defenses like a can of tuna, Dak Prescott has the ability to work the underneath without it being a crowded mess. Jarwin landed all seven of his targets for 56 yards. Not overly impressive, and perhaps ends up being the best he offers in 2018, but I have a feeling we see more of him the rest of the way. Just like Philly in Week 14, the upcoming Colts and Buccaneers matchups offer teams that give up useful volume and yardage but stiffen around the stripe vs. the position.