The best fantasy football gamble of Week 15

The best fantasy football gamble of Week 15

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The best fantasy football gamble of Week 15

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Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start or bench. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.

The best fantasy football gamble for Week 15

Tracking my predictions: 6-8-0
Win: Player produces ≥ 75% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >75% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected, leaves with an injury, or lands on COVID-19 list after publishing

Pretty much my biggest fear last week in recommending Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard came to fruition in that Cam Newton would do just enough to rob the rookie of reaching the necessary touch threshold to have a chance to live up to my projection. Hubbard scored the forecasted TD, but he didn’t even see a target and ran only 10 times. It’s frustrating, but that was the gamble … not the matchup or Hubbard’s talent itself.

So, after a three-week stretch of wrangling my way back toward respectability, two games below .500 is the current record for my picks on the year. This week, making things even more complicated is the explosion of positive COVID-19 tests across the league.

It introduces yet another factor to consider as more than a cursory concern, because until about 10 days ago, we managed to get through the vast majority of the season with a disproportionately small number of positive cases that impacted fantasy decisions.

While this new increase in cases makes any pick that much more perilous, it also can but spun to our advantage by finding players who typically don’t play that much or have taken a back seat to an upcoming star, which is exactly what I find in this week’s recommendation:

WR DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has played care-free football since the specter of Deshaun Watson being acquired passed with the trade deadline. Miami returns from its bye week to face the Jets for a second time over the last four games. In the Week 11 trip north, Miami’s second-year quarterback threw 33 times for 273 yards, two TDs and a pick — his third-best fantasy day of the year.

COVID-19 has ravaged the Dolphins’ backfield in the past 10 days, as the top four running backs have been put into the protocol. (12/17 update: RBs Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed cleared the COVID protocols and should be available this week.) The Dolphins, as it currently stands, are down their best playmaker after Jaylen Waddle was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.

Miami’s top wideout likely being absent (short window to clear the protocol by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET) means there will be roughly a third of Tua’s usual completions to go around. While a substantial distribution will go to tight end Mike Gesicki and even WR Albert Wilson, it’s Parker who stands the best chance to not only generate stats close to what we saw from Waddle but also find the end zone.

In Week 11, Waddle produced eight catches on nine targets, and Gesicki landed five of six looks. Five targets went to the backfield, four to Wilson, six to backup tight ends, and four to the two guys who saw increased time trying to replace Parker.

It’s not too common in the NFL a game plan is the same from one meeting to the next in divisional battles during the same season, but the Jets are more easily exploitable on the ground, and that cannot be overlooked. The Miami backfield rushed 27 times in that game for a lackluster 3.9 yards per tote and no scores.

The Jets actually have done a fairly good job at limiting fantasy receivers, partly due to the ground success found against this worst-ranked unit, but also because teams rarely trail the New York and need to pass in excess, thus deflating the aerial numbers. If Miami cannot sustain a ground game, throwing more than the usual 30-35 times Tua is asked to chuck it will have to come into play.

Parker, returning from injury, caught all five targets in Week 13 for 62 yards, giving him three straight appearances with 11.2-plus PPR points to his credit. It’s borderline gluttonous to expect him to see the 12-14 targets Waddle has at times, but Parker was targeted 11 times (8-85-1) in Week 8 at Buffalo, so it’s not entirely outlandish to think a dozen balls will go his way.

That said, more work means more defensive attention from a group that has allowed only two 100-yard receivers and nine WR scores in 2021. Parker will need to up his game to find the end zone, yet he remains a playable option either way in PPR scoring.

My projection: 7 receptions, 89 yards, 1 TD (21.9 PPR points)

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