No person has a extra stacked lineup of fantasy analysts and NFL crew reporters than ESPN. It is the uncommon backfield by committee that’s truly an excellent factor for fantasy managers. Each Tuesday, we’ll ask our NFL Nation reporters a collection of burning questions to assist inform your waiver-wire pickups and roster selections.
Receivers Jarvis Landry, Deebo Samuel and DeVante Parker all set season highs for receiving yardage on Sunday. However they did it from the bench in a number of leagues. Landry and Samuel have been began in lower than 25% of ESPN fantasy leagues, whereas Parker was began in 62%.
In the meantime, Minnesota Vikings rookie receiver Justin Jefferson has now had three standout performances in a row after a boom-or-bust begin to the season. However he was began in solely 69% of ESPN leagues in Week 12 and can nonetheless include slight query when fellow WR Adam Thielen returns from the COVID-reserve record.
The query with all of them is: Are you able to belief them in your beginning lineups as soon as the fantasy playoffs start? As all the time, our crew reporters are right here to assist.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
The primary-round decide positive appears like a must-start at this level. He caught seven passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns Sunday for his third straight outing of no less than 17.6 fantasy factors in ESPN PPR leagues. And he now has 4 video games with 20-plus factors this yr.
Nonetheless, Thielen was additionally wanting like a must-start earlier than he went on the COVID-reserve record (he led the NFL with 11 TD catches via Week 11). And the run-heavy Vikings rank twenty ninth within the league with simply 29.1 move makes an attempt per recreation.
Nonetheless, Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin insisted, “I feel it is very attainable for 2 receivers to supply in Minnesota’s offense as soon as Thielen returns.”
“I do not assume it is any shock that Jefferson’s large numbers towards the Panthers got here on a day the place Dalvin Cook struggled to supply his regular quantity on the bottom,” Cronin stated. “Minnesota is a run-first crew, however that is not all the time going to work. And at this level of the season, the Vikings can be clever to rely extra on Jefferson and Thielen to attempt to protect Cook dinner for a playoff push.
“However how can each Jefferson and Thielen every have large outings on the identical day? For one, Minnesota has gotten comfy working deep crossing routes with each of them to attempt to get a security to chew on one receiver’s route whereas the opposite is often left with a one-on-one matchup. That is nothing new for this offense, because the Vikings used the identical technique with Thielen when Stefon Diggs was round.”
If compelled to decide on certainly one of them getting into Week 13, Cronin stated she would go together with Jefferson, who accounts for 33% of the Vikings’ receiving yards.
“He is proven he can deal with the workload of a No. 1, and I do not see any purpose for his spike in targets to say no anytime quickly,” Cronin stated.
It took the five-time Professional Bowler 11 video games to lastly catch his first TD and notch his first 100-yard recreation of the season (8-143-1). However Cleveland Browns reporter Jake Trotter gave him a powerful endorsement going ahead.
“Landry had been comparatively quiet in three video games following the season-ending harm to Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr. However that additionally got here in three straight miserable-weather video games,” stated Trotter, who identified that solely Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald had been focused greater than Landry with out scoring a landing this season heading into the weekend. “Sunday in sunny Jacksonville, he confirmed what he can nonetheless do.”
“Even enjoying in a run-first offense, Landry goes to proceed to get the majority of targets from Baker Mayfield going ahead. And he shall be a receiver price beginning as you, just like the Browns, try and make their push to the playoffs.”
Stephania Bell and Subject Yates categorical how impressed they have been by Deebo Samuel in Week 12, and each anticipate Samuel to seek out comparable success within the 49ers’ offense.
The 49ers’ second-year receiver returned from a hamstring harm in dynamic style Sunday, catching 11 passes for 133 yards. However he comes with the total gamut of questions due to his harm historical past and the fixed transferring elements in San Francisco’s offense. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk had began to ascertain himself because the Niners’ go-to receiver earlier than lacking Week 12 on the COVID-reserve record.
“Here is the factor. It is so laborious to foretell how the Niners are going to function when absolutely wholesome on offense as a result of — look forward to it — they’ve by no means been absolutely wholesome on offense this season,” 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner stated. “And when Aiyuk returns, they nonetheless will not be, as a result of they are going to be lacking tight finish George Kittle and QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
“It is necessary to notice that, as a result of I feel if the circumstances have been totally different at quarterback, each Aiyuk and Samuel can be guys you can belief to start out. … They need to and can, ultimately, complement one another effectively. However with Nick Mullens at quarterback, I discover it laborious to present each of them an enormous thumbs up each week, as a result of he is simply not constant sufficient to get the ball to each of them frequently.”
Wagoner stated he thinks Samuel might be the extra dependable fantasy possibility when wholesome, as a result of “he is so good at so many issues, which permits the Niners to get the ball in his palms in so many alternative methods.” He stated Aiyuk is comparable, however he is extra of a refined receiver, which implies he may “should rely extra on the man delivering the ball to supply.”
Parker has clearly established himself because the Dolphins’ No. 1 receiver, particularly since Preston Williams has battled accidents. However Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe additionally thinks Parker’s fantasy worth could be tied to the beginning QB. Each of Parker’s 100-yard video games this season have include veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick beneath heart — together with Sunday’s eight catches for 119 yards. However rookie Tua Tagovailoa is anticipated to get the job again when wholesome.
“Parker has carried out higher with Fitzpatrick as a result of the veteran has proven extra of a willingness to throw him these 50-50 balls,” Wolfe stated. “As we noticed Sunday, Parker could be a fantasy WR1 when given the probabilities. However Tagovailoa admittedly is making an attempt to get extra comfy with throwing to receivers, like Parker, who do not get a lot separation. So, if Fitzpatrick is beginning, Parker is ‘set it and neglect it’ for me. If it is Tagovailoa, I would be slightly extra hesitant to start out him at this level.”
Now for the remainder of our weekly tour across the league:
Elliott lastly had his first 100-yard dashing recreation in Week 11. Then, he adopted up together with his largest dud of all the yr on Thanksgiving Day (10 carries for 32 yards, one catch for seven yards, his fifth misplaced fumble of the season).
Subject Yates thinks it is going to be powerful sledding for the remainder of the season for Ezekiel Elliott and the banged up Cowboys.
“I am unsure you may belief Elliott in fantasy lineups down the stretch, and I say that principally due to the offensive line,” Cowboys reporter Todd Archer stated. “Zack Martin is out ‘a number of weeks’ with a calf harm, and Cam Erving can also be out a number of weeks. Elliott’s season has been a serious disappointment on quite a few fronts, together with his incapability to guard the ball. However the line inconsistencies have been a serious a part of it, as effectively.
“Three of their final 5 video games are towards groups with run defenses ranked within the backside half of the league. Two are within the prime 10. However how assured would you be within the skill to run the ball behind a line of Brandon Knight, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Connor McGovern and Terence Steele?”
One other week, one other main receiver for the Jaguars. This time, it was rookie fifth-round draft decide Collin Johnson, who caught 4 passes for 96 yards and a TD — basically doubling his totals to 11-165-2 on the season. However once I requested Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco if the crew is simply messing with fantasy managers at this level, he wasn’t so fast to dismiss Johnson’s breakout. Particularly if veteran backup Mike Glennon will get extra begins at QB.
“Johnson is an intriguing man and could be price a pickup in deep leagues if Glennon continues because the starter,” stated DiRocco, who identified that coach Doug Marrone hasn’t named a QB but for this week. “Johnson stated these two labored collectively on the scout crew this season and developed a fairly good chemistry. DJ Chark [ribs] and Chris Conley [hip] are banged up, and their availability is unclear. Johnson will get extra reps if both is down, and he shall be focused extra if Glennon is within the lineup.”
Stephania Bell voices her considerations over Josh Jacobs’ ankle harm and Subject Yates asserts that Devontae Booker ought to be a prime waiver-wire add this week.
Excellent news for Jacobs’ fantasy buyers: Coach Jon Gruden informed reporters Monday that Jacobs was “assured he is going to have the ability to play” this week on the New York Jets after he suffered a sprained ankle Sunday at Atlanta. Sadly, Jacobs did not produce a lot whereas enjoying damage this previous week (seven carries for 27 yards and three catches for 17 yards).
“Hopefully, our man Josh Jacobs is able to roll,” Gruden stated, although he acknowledged that, “I do not assume he was one hundred pc yesterday. I feel he tried to struggle via it.”
That included a hip subject that popped up on the Raiders’ harm report late final week, based on Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez.
Backup RB Devontae Booker might be a sensible waiver-wire pickup due to the uncertainty — and due to Booker’s rising position in current weeks. However Gutierrez stated Gruden additionally intimated the Raiders might get backups Jalen Richard (sickness) and Theo Riddick (COVID-reserve) again within the lineup this week.
Akers hasn’t precisely gotten the identical form of breakthrough alternative as different rookie RBs in current weeks. However that is as shut as we have seen in Los Angeles’ three-headed timeshare.
Akers ran for a career-high 84 yards on 9 carries Sunday and scored his first dashing TD after catching his first TD move per week earlier. He nonetheless ranked third in snaps behind Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, however it was a better break up of 25-20-17.
“Akers’ current utilization within the purple zone proves that the second-round decide from Florida State is incomes belief from Rams coach Sean McVay in crucial conditions,” Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry stated. “And after Akers broke off a 61-yard run late within the recreation, it would not be stunning to see McVay proceed to extend his touches to maximise his potential late in his rookie season.”
Talking of backfields which might be laborious to decipher, Wolfe stated there’s “a lot unknown” in Miami, the place each Gaskin (knee) and Ahmed (shoulder) might return to the lineup quickly.
“My early expectation is for it to be Gaskin returning to the beginning lineup and getting the primary chew of the running-back-by-committee load, with Ahmed and DeAndre Washington sharing the opposite bites,” Wolfe stated. “However I do assume they’ll have extra belief in Ahmed/Washington than they did with veteran backups Jordan Howard and Matt Breida early in season — which feels bizarre to say. That may imply extra of break up, quite than Gaskin simply being the no-doubt man.”
Subject Yates and Stephania Bell agree that Alvin Kamara is being underutilized within the Saints’ offense with Taysom Hill at QB.
As ESPN’s Saints reporter, I would not fear a couple of timeshare creating in New Orleans’ backfield (Latavius Murray‘s first 100-yard dashing recreation of the season got here as a direct results of the Saints’ swap to a run-heavy recreation plan after they discovered Denver would haven’t any quarterbacks obtainable). I additionally do not assume Kamara’s lingering foot harm is a serious subject.
Nonetheless, there’s reliable purpose to fret about Kamara’s quantity within the passing recreation whereas Drew Brees stays sidelined. Kamara has only one catch for minus-2 yards in two video games with Taysom Hill at QB — partly as a result of Hill has tried a complete of 39 passes in these two video games and partly as a result of Hill seems to throw downfield greater than Brees. Hill can also be extra prone to vulture TD runs away from Kamara (Hill has 4 of them over the previous two weeks). So whereas Kamara continues to be a must-start in each league format, he may not be price the identical elite value in every day leagues till Brees comes again.