As we hit the point where more and more fantasy football teams seeing their seasons come to an end, the big question on the minds of many is how are the fantasy players going to shake out in 2021?
In two of my leagues, I ended up with Aaron Rodgers – in one as my No. 2 quarterback because he was still there and I couldn’t say no. Guys spent on Daniel Jones instead of Rodgers. Where does Rodgers’ stock go in comparison to young bucks like Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert?
What about the 2020 injured guys – Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Dak Prescott, Joe Burrow, Odell Beckham, George Kittle, Michael Thomas, Zach Ertz and Kenny Golladay? Do their stocks take a hit and make them value picks?
How about the young, emerging stars? Where does DK Metcalf rank among wide receivers? Or Justin Jefferson, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs? Do they knock the established guys off their pedestal?
For those us still in the fantasy football playoffs, the focus is on the here and now. As more of us head to the sidelines as championships are won and lost, you need to take stock and pay attention to the roles that players have with their respective teams down the stretch this season – good, bad or otherwise – because that could speak volumes about the plans that are in store for 2021.
If you’re out of your fantasy league title chase, you won’t be playing – but you can still pay attention.
Here is the Week 15 Fantasy Market Report
Fantasy Football Risers
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
As recently as Thanksgiving, fantasy owners were dumping Hilton from their rosters left and right…and rightly so. In the first 10 games the Colts played (Hilton missed one), he had more than four receptions just once, only one game with more than 53 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Yet, suddenly he and Philip Rivers have found a rapport.
In the last three games, Hilton has caught 17 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns – making him one of the most productive fantasy receivers in the game. With Hilton and Rivers on the same page, he may not just find himself on a lot more playoff rosters, he may find himself in more fantasy lineups.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins
Gesicki was one of the players that was on a lot “Upside Lists” this summer prior to fantasy football drafts/auctions. At the end of his second season in 2019, he came on strong late — catching five touchdowns in his final six games and putting himself on the fantasy map. For much of this season, he was more disappointing than lineup-worthy.
From the start of October, he went on a seven-game stretch with no touchdowns and only one game with more than 43 receiving yard.
But, like last year, when the weather starting turning colder, he got hotter. In his last four games, he has caught 16 passes for 188 yards and four touchdowns. Is history repeating itself? It sure looks that way and he and Tua Tagovailoa have found their groove.
Cam Akers, RB, Rams
A month ago we had him on the bust list for obvious reasons. He wasn’t getting opportunities. He led the Rams in carries in Week 1 and then got hurt in Week 2, missing the next two games and falling down the depth chart. Until two weeks ago, he never had more than 10 carries in any game and watched Darrell Henderson and Malcom Brown take turns as the lead dog. However, the Rams finally decided last week to see what they had in their draft investment and Akers has paid dividends.
In the last two games, he has rushed 50 times for 243 yards and a touchdown, Henderson and Brown have combined to carry the ball eight times. Rarely do you see such a pronounced changing of the guard, but it looks like green Akers for the rest of the season and, with that many touches, he is forcing himself into must-play territory.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
He drops too many passes, but Ben Roethlisberger is creating another fantasy star. One key, but often overlooked stat, is targets. In the 12 games he has played, he has been targeted 10 or more times in eight of them, including five of the last six. To put that in perspective, all other Steelers receivers – wide receivers, tight ends and running backs – have combined to have eight games with 10 or more targets. It hasn’t translated into elite consistency because the Steelers have basically abandoned the run to throw 40 or more short passes each game. But, as the old saying goes, you can’t score fantasy points unless you’re on the field and, when you’re being thrown to at a higher rate than anyone else, your odds of being a fantasy factor climb with it.
If Big Ben loves him, that will show and it’s clear he loves Johnson. Roethlisberger has made stars out of many receivers during his long career and he seems hell-bent on making Johnson the next one.
Dan Arnold, TE, Cardinals
He’s a R.E.M. Deep Sleeper candidate, but he and Kyler Murray have a thing going. He has just 22 receptions in 13 games, but, over the last four games, he has pulled in four touchdowns – three in the Red Zone and one as a 59-yard score. He is of value only for the desperate with a tight end injury, but three TDs in his last two games are signs that, when Murray is looking for a touchdown, he’s keeping an eye on Arnold from the snap.
Fantasy Football Fallers
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Newton apologists have cited his 11 rushing touchdowns (four of which came in the first two weeks). Newton has started all but one game and has thrown just five touchdown passes. Russell Wilson has done that twice in one game, not a cumulative total in 12. It’s clear that Tom Brady masked a lot of the imperfections in an offense filled with role players and few developed stars. Newton can’t do that and it has become painfully obvious that the 2020 Patriots are trying to play old-time Nebraska football and run 50 times to win games. That’s not a formula for success in the current NFL and the Patriots starting QB in 2021 likely isn’t on the roster at the moment.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
His production died when Dak Prescott’s leg was turned in a gruesome direction. In the five games he played with Prescott, he had 89 or more rushing yards in three games and scored five touchdowns. In eight games without Prescott, he has rushed for 51 or fewer yards in five of them and his only touchdown came as a receiver. I was in a playoff game last weekend where the owner had the choice of Elliott against the Bengals or David Montgomery. He went with Montgomery. It was the right call.
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
The best thing that may have happened to Thomas is that Taysom Hill locks in on him more than Drew Brees, who, while he and Thomas set records last year, when he got injured in Week 1 and missed six games after that, Brees found other players to throw two. In the two games, they played together, Thomas caught just seven passes for 78 yards. In four games with Hill, he has caught 30 passes for 343 yards. The problem? He was the first pick taken/highest paid for among wide receivers in almost every draft/auction. His next touchdown will be his first touchdown. In PPR leagues, he’s putting up strong numbers, but, throw in a touchdown or two, fantasy owners would be getting what they’ve expected every week.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
He won the Matthew Stafford Award last season. His team wallowed and its defense sucked out loud, but that led to throw the ball 40 times a game and piling up garbage time fantasy points against prevent defenses. He has 11 games with 300 or more passing yards and nine with two or more TD passes. The Falcons blew, but they got a lot of play from fantasy owners. Through 13 games, he has one or no touchdowns in eight games and has just three games with 300 yards passing – including none in the last five. He was rostered to be a weekly fantasy starter in most leagues or, at worst, part of a time share where he should play more. Now, he’s little more than a forced play.
Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
In the post Travis Kelce/George Kittle/Darren Waller world of tight ends, you look for consistency and points where you get them in tight end-mandatory leagues. Henry was near the top of that Tier 2 category, in Ertz/Goedert Country where there appears to still be meat on the bone as a weekly play. In his first two games, he caught 11 passes for 156 yards. Over his last 11 games, he has 50 or fewer receiving yards in nine of them and has just three touchdowns – two in games in which he had 30 or fewer receiving yards. With a season on the line for many fantasy owners, he’s a play that doesn’t deliver nearly often enough.