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This week, our panel discusses the injury fallout of key fantasy contributors, Lamar Jackson's stretch-run value, and preparing for the fantasy playoffs.
Matt Waldman: Reader Chris Rismiller wants to know, which of these emerging receiver has the potential to ball-out during the fantasy playoffs?
1. D.J. Moore
2. Josh Reynolds
3. Adam Humphries
4. Curtis Samuel
5. Tre'Quan Smith
6. John Ross
Name your top three on this list and predict their baseline, ceiling, and floor as a fantasy WR1, WR2, WR3, Flex, Reserve, etc..
Mark Schofield: First off, congratulations! If you're reading this right now odds are that you're either already in the playoffs in your league, or you're still in contention. So, kudos to you good sir or madam on a job well done. Now, let's earn some hardware, shall we?
Looking at this there are a number of options for players looking for a final boost at this point in the season at a WR and/or Flex spot. Let's start with Humphries. With tight end O.J. Howard going on injured reserve, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will need a receiver to work the middle of the field and up the seams, and that is where a receiver with Humphries' skill-set comes into play. Despite their overall struggles, the Buccaneers are still a productive offense, and quarterback Jameis Winston has played well of late. Plus looking at matchups, he'll face the Panthers and Saints over the next two weeks, two teams that have given up some big games to WRs this year. The Panthers are giving up over 26 ppg to wide receivers this year, while the Saints are giving up over 30 (standard scoring). You could look at Humphries being a solid WR3 option, with a ceiling of a WR2 and a floor as a Flex.
With Smith, obviously, we are waiting on the foot injury. But if he can return to the lineup he has the potential to be a WR1 option down the stretch. The Saints are scoring points in bunches and Smith has two pretty favorable matchups in front of him. The Cowboys might pose a tough test, as Byron Jones is one of the better cornerbacks in the game this season. Jones has not "traveled" this season against a team's best WR, so there might be times when Smith is matched up against Jones, but when he is not, Drew Brees will likely look his way. Then he takes on a Buccaneers defense which, until last week, has been turning opposing passers into Patrick Mahomes II and opposing WRs into Michael Thomas. Provided he's healthy he has some WR1 upside over the next two weeks, with a WR2 baseline and a WR3 floor.
Josh Reynolds, perhaps unsurprisingly, had his best game of the season two Monday nights ago, catching six passes on eight targets for 80 yards and a touchdown. Whether that is simply a byproduct of playing in the biggest shootout of a season or is a harbinger of things to come, remains to be seen. But I'm putting myself firmly in the camp that it is the latter. The one reservation I have is that Reynolds faces two decent defenses in the next few weeks, in the Lions and the Bears. But if you can hold onto him for a few weeks, and have a meaningful matchup in Week 15, he'll get a banged-up Eagles' defense to go up against. He's probably a WR3-type these next few weeks but will get a boost going against Philly.
Sean Settle: Of all the receivers on this list, Reynolds has the best chance to take off for your team in the fantasy playoffs. He is in the most explosive offense on the list and has emerged since the injury to Cooper Kupp. His last 2 games have a combined 9 catches for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns. There are a lot of weapons in that offense and the competition puts Reynolds as a WR2 going forward for me. He has all the tools to succeed and is in an offense that is going to need to keep scoring in bunches because the defense cannot figure it out.
The numbers are not quite as flashy for Humphries as they are for Reynolds, but he plays for a team that throws the ball a lot and is constantly coming from behind in games. He has benefitted the most from the return of Jameis Winston and is a borderline WR3/Flex play heading into the playoffs. He has a touchdown in back to back games and has seen an increase in playing time in recent weeks.
It is hard to predict the Carolina offense from week to week. Sometimes it all goes through Cam and then other weeks they lean on McCaffrey. It seems like Newton is finally figuring out the weapon he has in Samuel and he also has touchdowns in back to back games. Samuel is also utilized in the running game and has a touchdown on the ground this season as well as a dangerous return man. He has flex play upside with his ability to take it to the house any time he touches the ball but plays in a volatile offense that will feature a different guy each week.
Wimer: I concur with Sean that the receiver to own from this list is Josh Reynolds. Jared Goff has been sensational this year (second only to Patrick Mahomes II in upside potential from week to week) and the top receivers on this team have gotten plenty of target shares week in and week out. When Cooper Kupp has been out (Weeks Seven, Eight, and 11) Reynolds saw one, five and then eight targets as he's become a regular member of the receiving corps. I think the Rams will continue to score points in bunches and Reynolds is going to get enough chances that WR2 production is a reasonable baseline, with WR1 upside and Flex floor expected on a weekly basis.
D.J. Moore is my second pick of this list he is emerging here in the second half of the season and the Panthers need production from the WR position to swing a wildcard playoff spot. He'll be more streaky (WR 1 upside but reserve/no production some weeks) but from what we've seen so far I think Moore is taking over as the top wide receiver in Carolina (Devin Funchess is banged up and has never been a world beater for the Panthers). I would take Moore over Samuel but I can also see reasons to roster Samuel as Sean detailed above. One thing is for sure - there is more upside at wide receiver in Carolina now that these two young receivers have some seasoning at the NFL level.
Adam Humphries is a lunch pail type guy but he will be in a lot of shootouts due to the putrid Buccaneers' defense, and he is seeing a consistent diet of mid-single-digit targets (8, 10, 8, 3, 5, and 6 targets during the last six games played) regardless of which Tampa quarterback is slinging the football. He's a steady WR3 type guy who can pop up to WR2 level production on days when he hauls in TDs. But Humphries, unlike Moore or Samuel, does not have the potential to perform at WR1 levels unless Mike Evans gets hurt. Thus Humphries is #3 on my list out of the six mentioned.
Justin Howe: Moore is already a weekly WR2. He’s likely supplanted Devin Funchess as Cam Newton’s top downfield threat, and with his versatility comes with a lot of potential for efficiency. Making plays on all levels of the field, he’s secured 79% of his rookie targets – worlds better than Funchess or Kelvin Benjamin ever managed. His production may not be super-consistent, but he’s likely done with two-target weeks, and the week-to-week ceiling is enormous. At worst, he’s a fantasy WR3 going forward.
Smith has already proven himself as well – he’s an ultra-fast, physical specimen who never should’ve fallen into Round 3. The worry here is volume: the Saints keep dominating games, and Drew Brees has topped 30 attempts just once over the past 7 weeks. With Michael Thomas in the lead role, there will be weeks of 2-4 targets for Smith, leaving owners praying for touchdowns. I view him as a WR3 at the moment, with weekly WR1 upside that’s not especially dependable. He’ll have his share of fantasy-reserve performances.
Reynolds is exceptionally boom-or-bust and doesn’t threaten to start for most functional fantasy teams on a typical week. Still, he’s a playmaker in the truest sense, with 4 touchdowns over his first 24 NFL receptions. That’s nothing new: at Texas A&M, he found the end zone 30 times among his 164 catches, a dazzling 18.3 percent touchdown rate that’s in the range of Calvin Johnson's past performances. In the Rams’ high-octane offense, he’s always a threat to earn WR2 production, though he’s best utilized as an upside flex.
Andrew Garda: As Mark and Sean mentioned, Josh Reynolds is your top guy here and for all the reasons they've provided. Kupp being out helps, but the Rams have done a nice job of making more than one player at the position fantasy relevant each week. They've done a great job of spreading the ball around and with an offense putting up the yardage they have, all those receivers are viable.
I concur that his upside and floor are WR1-W2, which is great as you head into the fantasy playoffs.
I really like DJ Moore. He's been a better receiver for Cam Newton than Devin Funchess, and even before Funchess missed last week, he had as many targets as the veteran in the preceding two weeks.
Outside of Christian McCaffrey, Moore is pulling the most targets in the offense and the last two weeks he has caught 16 out of 18 targets for 248 yards and a touchdown. He has a real chance for some solid production over the next four games — yes the Browns and the Saints feature decent defenses, but the Saints do get into shootouts and the Browns have allowed teams to put up points as well. I think he's a solid WR2 most weeks.
I like Humphries as well and echo the sentiment that he should fill the role OJ Howard had with the latter out due to injury. Jameis Winston seems to like him and is playing well, and Humphries scored the last two weeks as well. The TDs increase his value a lot, but they can go away — so I'm more likely to put him as a WR3/WR2 but he could produce pretty well.
Danny Tuccitto: D.J. Moore is clearly the best choice among this group. His 1.87 True Yards per Route Run (YPRR) is the highest of the six. His market share of targets (14 percent) is also the highest. His market share of air yards (17 percent) is third-highest. He plays around 90 percent of snaps. Carolina's wide receivers have the eighth-easiest normalized strength of schedule in Weeks 14-16.
I'm not seeing any holes here. And because he's been the No. 14 WR since he replaced Torrey Smith in Week 8, I'll say his floor is WR3, his baseline is WR2, and his ceiling is WR1.
Tre'Quan Smith is my next choice. His 1.75 True YPRR is second behind Moore. His market share of air yards (19 percent) is also second-highest. His market share of targets (12 percent) ranks fourth among the group, and he only plays around 70 percent of snaps, but Saints wide receivers have the sixth-easiest normalized strength of schedule in Weeks 14-16.
These stats, coupled with Smith ranking No. 28 since he took over for Ted Ginn Jr in Week 5, leads me to believe his floor is Flex, his baseline is WR3, and his ceiling is WR2.
Finally, I'll go with Josh Reynolds. Although he ranks last among the group in both market share stats, as well as second-to-last in True YPRR (1.46), he has a locked-in 95 percent snap share in one of the best offenses in the league. Cooper Kupp was previously a WR2 in this role, but Reynolds is no Kupp. Therefore, I think his ceiling is WR3, his baseline is Flex, and his floor is bench depth.
Waldman: Moore is at the top of my list. He's emerging at the best receiver on the Panthers. Although Devin Funchess has more skill on 50-50 targets, he's only recently become a competent route runner in the middle of the field, and his ball tracking has never been consistently strong.
Moore offers greater skill after the catch, better separation in the middle of the field, and he's a threat from the backfield. There are more ways that fantasy players can potentially when with Moore in their lineups than Funchess when considering that Moore's volume has also increased over the course of the season.
As Mark mentioned Humphries has two good matchups next week and the loss of Howard and DeSean Jackson's thumb injury narrows the field of wide receiver candidates who can usurp targets from Humphries, who has earned the trust of both Buccaneers quarterbacks.
Reynolds may not offer the rapport that Kupp and Goff had in the middle of the field — especially in the red zone. However, to steal Danny's phrase and alter it: Kupp is no Reynolds in the perimeter game or on 50-50 routes in the red zone.
Neither are Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Gerald Everett, or Tyler Higbee. Goff has shown some love to Reynolds with targets that Reynolds can high-point. And while "he's no Kupp," Reynolds has also converted red zone targets that are similar to what Kupp offers, so he may still be a productive red zone player in the middle of the field even if he's not Kupp.
Waldman: Injuries are taking a toll as we head into the stretch run. Marvin Jones Jr, Andy Dalton, Jeff Heuerman, and Jack Doyle have been placed on injured reserve and Melvin Gordon III, DeSean Jackson, Marlon Mack, and Evan Engram could miss multiple games.
While I could list guys like Tamarrick Hemingway, Je'Ron Hamm, and Erik Swoope who are intriguing from the perspective of extreme long shots, let's focus on players who fantasy managers in the average league might consider.
1. Bruce Ellington
2. Theo Riddick
3. Mo Alie-Cox (was out in Week 12 with a calf injury after fully practicing on Wednesday)
4. Austin Ekeler
5. Justin Jackson
8. Jeff Driskell
7. Nyheim Hines
8. Jordan Wilkins
9. Rhett Ellison
Pick your top four options based on their value this week AND for the fantasy playoffs.
Wimer: Austin Ekeler and Nyheim Hines are the top two here — both are dual-purpose players who can run the ball and have good hands as receivers. Ekeler has 39 targets for 32-354-3 and Hines has 51 targets for 40-248-2 as receivers thus far. Both guys have players ahead of them on the depth chart facing injury situations that could open multiple-week windows of opportunity for greater use.
Although we have a limited body of work from Rhett Ellison as a Giant, he has been very productive when he's had the opportunity — averaging 9.8 yards per catch in 2017 and 11.2 this year. He's a proven commodity as a seven-year NFL veteran, so I like his potential (especially in tight end-required leagues). You could do far worse at tight end this year.
The Lions' offense has been less-than-impressive this season. Last week was a disaster for fantasy teams starting Matthew Stafford, but Theo Riddick is a back similar in his skill set to Ekeler and Hines. If the Lions' offense were looking better he'd be higher on my list but as things are Riddick is a possible addition for me, assuming you've missed out on Ekeler and Hines, but are still running back needy.
Tuccitto: Ekeler was already a borderline Flex. Starting just makes him even more valuable. Alie-Cox because the Colts tight end is one of the most valuable positions in the league right now. Ellington played 82 percent of snaps last week. Jones' role in the Lions' offense has high volume and high upside. Hines distanced himself from Jordan Wilkins as the Colts' No. 1 running back when Mack was out earlier this season.
Garda: Ekeler is without a doubt the top option here, and while yes, you assume he's long gone (and should be), I ran into one guy at the gym Wednesday who saw him on the waiver wire and grabbed him in between sets, so you never know.
Ekeler shouldn't be on the streets in fantasy leagues as it is, given how much he seemed to get used by the Chargers and how effective he was in short spurts receiving the ball. He'll be a solid start this week, and I think we will see him keep a decent role even when Gordon returns, especially if the Chargers are locked into a playoff spot and they want to rest the veteran back.
Staying in the backfield, I like Riddick for his receiving numbers. It's enough work that I feel good about him going forward even if/when Kerryon Johnson returns, given the shortage of weapons now at wide receiver.
Speaking of Lions receivers, Bruce Ellington seems like a good add both this weekend and going forward given Marvin Jones Jr JR going to injured reserve. He's got more value as a PPR option as he has seen 16 targets for 12 catches over the last 2 weeks. He only produced 80 yards, but he's clearly seeing a lot of targets.
The question is whether he will start earning longer gains and more yards. I think that will come but I also think it will never be a huge amount on a consistent basis. IN a PPR league though, he's going to have more value regardless of yards.
Howe: Ekeler is the certified stud of this list. The layman knocks him for his size, assuming he’s little more than a check-down guy out of the backfield and hit-the-edge runner. But he was a workhorse at tiny Western State, registering 200+ touches (and 1,200+ scrimmage yards) in each of his 4 years there. He’s not Jerome Bettis, but he can handle a decent workload – and do it with efficiency, too.
Wilkins and Hines have both proven throughout their shared rookie year that they’re worthy of a role in Andrew Luck’s offense. Wilkins will start, at least on early downs, here in Week 13, and he just keeps breaking off long runs. Boasting a 5.6 yards-per-carry average, it’s hard not to love the upside as a starter.
He’s awfully wishy-washy in terms of volume, though, so I don’t adore him as a Week 13 option, even with Marlon Mack on the shelf. I’d like to see a week of Wilkins as the clear featured runner before I look at him as anything more than a flex. Still, I’m holding out hope. Mack has been dinged throughout his short NFL career and seems like a fairly slow healer. Wilkins could easily wind up as the two-down dominator in one of football’s hottest offenses down the stretch.
As for Hines, there’s not a great upside for efficiency – the pint-sized speedster has been held below 5.0 yards per touch, never a great mark. But he’s also flashed plenty of volume opportunity, even though his rookie pains. He won’t replace Doyle’s production – Luck has a deep and abiding love for his tight ends. But week-to-week, he’s an ever-present threat for big volume (when game flow allows) and big plays.
Ellington has long been a real-life favorite of mine. The former point guard is speedy, dynamic, and versatile, and when healthy he’s always provided a spark to offenses. Kenny Golladay is the lead dog, but Matthew Stafford desperately needs an electric underneath presence to replace Golden Tate. It’s a huge reason he’s absorbing so many sacks and failing to produce in clutch situations. Ellington faces a tough slot matchup this week in Nickell Robey-Coleman but plays the kind of sanitized, low-risk game that can produce PPR gold even without much efficiency. A line of 7 catches for 60 yards can absolutely help injury-riddled PPR rosters with nothing else on the table.
Waldman: Jackson and Ekeler make my list because I think the Chargers will use a greater split than it appears. Whereas Ekeler earned a nice chunk of snaps and touches with Gordon in the lineup, don't expect Ekeler to earn all of Gordon's volume. Jackson is a talented runner and receiver and the Chargers will probably fear over-using Ekeler.
If Mack is out, I'll go with Hines and Wilkins as well. Although Hines earned more looks earlier in the year, that advantage hasn't consistently carried over to the second half of the season. Even when it has, it has coincided with the Colts having a Mack in the lineup and Hines' used was as a change of pace scat back. Wilkins is the better player between the tackles and if Mack is out, Wilkins will earn more touches on run downs than Hines.
I'd like to mention Alie-Cox here but calf injuries are difficult issues so I'm not convinced he'll be a viable option for another week or two, at best.
Settle: There is a good chance that Ekeler was already picked up in your league with the Chargers willingness to use him even with a healthy Gordon. He has severed enough of a role catching the ball out of the backfield to make him worthwhile in PPR leagues.
Now that Gordon is going to be out for 2-4 weeks, it will be the Ekeler show. He did not perform well the week he was the lead back, but the Chargers have great matchups down the stretch.
Consider Ekeler a strong RB2 option the weeks he is going to start and then an elite Flex option with Gordon back in the picture during the fantasy playoffs. He will still get his carries and catches no matter who he pairs within the backfield and should be rostered in any format.
Thanksgiving was the LeGarrette Blount show, but Riddick fits their offensive scheme better. He catches the ball out of the backfield and fits the up-tempo offense that the Lions like to run.
This is also a Lions team that will be playing from behind quite often and will not see a lot of traditional running packages. Riddick is the best option out of the backfield for the Lions right now and has two great matchups against the Cardinals and Bills coming up during the fantasy playoffs. The Week 16 matchup against the Vikings should be avoided, but he is a good flew play outside of that.
The injury bug has been hitting the NFL hard this season and with Mack possibly out, Hines is a good bet this week to see those carries. However, he's not a great option for fantasy playoffs.
If you are a team fighting for one of the last spots, Hines is a sneaky flex play to help you score points and get in. Andrew Luck has taken over and is throwing the ball more than ever, but they will run the ball. Hines is a good play for week 13 but monitor the status of Mack going forward and into the fantasy playoffs.
The Colts and Andrew Luck have shown a love for their tight ends like no other team in the NFL. Eric Ebron is the guy to own, but Alie-Cox has an upside as well. With Jack Doyle down for the count, there will be more balls to go around for everyone.
Eric Swoope emerged in the offense when Doyle was out, and Alie-Cox is a better player in the passing game. He will be highly touchdown dependent but if you need a break from Jimmy Graham or one of the other underperforming tight ends, look at Alie-Cox down the stretch.
Schofield: At first blush, this might seem like a risky group to be banking on over the next few weeks. But upon further review, there are some quality options here. The four names I'll point to are Alie-Cox, Hines, Ellington, and Ekeler.
For Alie-Cox, it is a function of the Indianapolis Colts' new offensive identity under Frank Reich. Reich has done a fantastic job at using 12 and 13 offensive personnel in the passing game. In these multiple TE packages, the Colts have been extremely effective at scheming their tight ends open, and the numbers bear that out. On pass plays out of 12 personnel this year Andrew Luck has completed 28 of 33 passes for a QB rating of 123.6.
When throwing out of 13 personnel, Luck has a 144.8 and averages 14 air yards per attempt. Those are pretty decent numbers. Due to the scheme, Alie-Cox remains a great option, even with the injury issue.
His teammate Hines is an option because of who he faces in two weeks: Houston. Hines' best game this season came against the Texans, as he caught 9 passes on 11 targets for 63 yards and a pair of touchdowns back in Week 4. He'll get a chance to duplicate that soon.
Ellington is an option in the Lions passing game due to sheer necessity. With Golden Tate now in the City of Brotherly Love and Marvin Jones Jr lost for the season, the Lions are down to stapling together a passing game.
Ellington has been a beneficiary to the injuries, as he has seen 16 targets over the past two games. He'll get a favorable matchup this week against a Rams' defense that has given up points in bunches. The matchups get a bit tougher the following two weeks, with trips to Arizona (whose secondary has been pretty decent this season) and Buffalo, but he'll see plenty of opportunities I think.
With Ekeler, the schedule (particularly after this week) really turns in his favor. With Melvin Gordon III facing another knee injury, Ekeler should get the bulk of chances while the Chargers bring Gordon along.
After a stiff test against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their run defense, he'll get chances against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals are giving up an average of 26.6 ppg to running backs this season (standard scoring), which is second-most in the league.
The Chiefs are giving up an average of 26.0 ppg to RBs (standard scoring) which is third-most in the league. That's a pretty favorable schedule.
Ravens' QB Situation
Waldman: We're hearing this week that the Ravens may use significant doses of both quarterbacks when Joe Flacco is healthy. Is this a bluff? If it's not a bluff, can one or both quarterbacks have fantasy value? And, if you were the coach, which quarterback would you start?.
Schofield: I believe this is a bluff. The Ravens' offense has taken on a new element with Lamar Jackson in the starting lineup, and he along with Gus Edwards gives the Ravens' offense more effectiveness and athleticism, while still stressing defenses sideline-to-sideline.
In terms of fantasy production, however, if John Harbaugh makes the right decision and rolls with Jackson, there is QB1 potential there. Two weeks ago, Jackson was QB13 overall in PPR formats. Last week, he was QB12 in PPR formats.
Now he'll get some pretty favorable matchups over the next two weeks, first against a battered Falcons' defense, and then against a Chiefs' defense that has given up 20.7 ppg to opposing QBs this year (standard scoring), fourth-most in the league.
If I were in Harbaugh's shoes, Jackson would have been starting sometime in September, so...
Settle: The Ravens have no idea what they want to do at quarterback. They seem to know that they made a mistake with Joe Flacco and that massive contract, but they do not seem willing to cut ties and go all in on Jackson. The Ravens may have two wins with Jackson under center, but they have been less than stellar, and he is running at an unsustainable pace. When Michael Vick tells you to proceed with caution, you may want to look at how much you are running the ball as a quarterback.
Flacco is still the better option this season and would be my starter. I firmly believe the Ravens are going to use both guys, but not as much as everyone would think. Jackson was usually given a handful of snaps while Flacco was healthy. Look for that number to be somewhere closer to 10-15 a game down the stretch. This is not enough to warrant starting Jackson but will add a new wrinkle to that offense. Joe Flacco is the only quarterback of fantasy relevance when healthy in Baltimore. Jackson will not see enough snaps to make a fantasy difference..
Wimer: Joe Flacco will be the starter when healthy, he's being paid too much to sit on the bench. We'll see Jackson mixed in as a gadget player and he may get some 4th-quarter work in the instances of big Baltimore leads (not expecting too many of those type of games out of the Ravens, though). The future is bright for Jackson but it isn't here, yet.
If I were the coach I'd start Flacco because he can throw a catch-able deep pass and has years of experience "reading" NFL defenses. Jackson is depending on his legs more than his arms right now because of the difficulty of learning how to attack sophisticated NFL defensive schemes.
Additionally, Baltimore is still in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the playoffs - Jackson would be totally out of his depth in the playoffs when every player is bringing their "A" game to the single-elimination tournament. If the Ravens want to make a deep run into the playoffs they need Flacco under center.
Howe: I don’t think modern football coaches, especially in the NFL, see this is a viable strategy. The loss of cohesion and chemistry from shifting one guy to another from series to series is massive. Not to mention, the two are polar opposites – how does an offense keep any sense of identity while juggling these two guys?
Frankly, I’d start Flacco. Jackson is exceptionally raw as a passer – more so than almost any rookie I’ve seen in years – and will ultimately cost the Ravens at some point. Flacco hasn’t set the world ablaze himself, but if coupled with the efficient ground game of Gus Edwards, he could manage things well for the playoff-seeking Ravens.
Garda: Yeah, it's gotta be a bluff. Like Mark, I would have pulled the switch much earlier and leave Jackson in going forward. Using both seems like a nightmare, and I want no part of it.
That said, if Jackson is in, this offense is better and I feel like he is a solid QB2 with upside each week.
Tuccitto: I'm not Zoltar or Carnac the Magnificent, so I have no insight into whether or not this is a bluff. Assuming it isn't one, then both quarterbacks don't have fantasy value because of something I do have insight into...math.
Whether you look at the full season or the last five games, Ravens quarterbacks average about 18 points per game. So if Flacco and Jackson split 50/50, that's 9.0 points each. Split 60/40? That's 10.8 and 7.2. These are Derek Anderson (ca. 2018) levels of fantasy production.
As to what I would do if I were John Harbaugh, I'd stick with Lamar Jackson as my starter for the rest of the season. The run game, which Harbaugh and company prefers, has been firing on all cylinders the past two games with Jackson at the helm.
As a borderline playoff team at 6-5, I'd rather go boom or go bust from here out, not muddle through to a 9-7 record and first-round playoff loss. Therefore, give me the higher-variance quarterback, which is Jackson.
Waldman: A Jackson-Flacco carousel is a bluff. The option game that the Ravens have implemented with Jackson and Edwards is forcing outside linebackers, safeties, and defensive ends to play the edges with a great deal of discipline or else give up huge chunks to Jackson.
This Jackson-Edwards synergy also forces defenses to guess wrong with its reaction to pre-snap looks that hint at a potential roll-out, sprint, or bootleg. The Raiders guessed wrong repeatedly and wound up giving up big plays on the ground or giving Jackson a lot of time to find his receiver.
Based on what I've studied of Jackson this year and last, I'm much more in the same camp with Mark (a former college starter at quarterback who knows a thing or 100 about the position). Jackson is not a remedial passer. He's not purely a runner. And if you watched last week, Jackson completed two deep balls in this game that matches what he did well at Louisville as a deep passer.
Because he's a great runner, using the option creates opportunities that a scheme with Flacco does not. Jackson isn't massively different stuff than Baker Mayfield with the exception that Mayfield has been given more empty sets and Jackson runs more zone read.
Waldman: Regardless of his fantasy production, who do you believe is an overrated football player based on the media hype he earns?
Tuccitto: This is going to sound like sacrilege to his fanbase, but since quarterbacks get the most hype in general, I'll say that Carson Wentz is overhyped. His Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt ranks 11th, but his True ANY/A ranks 24th.
Pro Football Focus grades him as the 13th-best quarterback this season. I know those rankings don't sound all that bad, but people talk about him like he's near the top of the second tier of quarterbacks. Nope, he's more just slightly above average.
Waldman: I don't follow PFF's grades so I can't speak to them. However, I agree with you about Wentz even I disagree about the degree that he's overhyped. If he ran Jared Goff's system exactly as it's used in Los Angeles, we'd see Wentz struggle a bit more.
His inaccuracies as a thrower still exist; they're hidden more often in a scheme that doesn't ask him to perform a lot of three-, five-, and seven-step drops. The hop, set, and throw of the pistol mitigates the accuracy issues that come with his bad footwork spacing when he finishes these drops or has to hitch in the pocket.
The quick rhythm of the Eagles pistol offense also limits the number of snaps where Wentz has to hitch or climb in rhythm and deliver to his third or fourth option from a deeper drop. When he's had to do this in the past, his footwork fails him and he's not throwing from a stance that supports accuracy.
When a defense disrupts the quick rhythm of the Eagles' passing game, it forces Wentz to scramble and it's one of his better skills. These are situations where he can win deep because he doesn't have to throw pin-point accurate targets when his receivers are behind the defense and waiting on the ball.
The Eagles' system is maximizing Wentz's talents and minimizing his weaknesses. He's a solid NFL starter who can create big plays as a scrambler but ranking him relative to other quarterbacks based on film study, he's not in the tier just below the elite.
Howe: I'll take this opportunity to point out that Jimmy Garoppollo has never shown to be a particularly good quarterback. I remember hating his college tape - he drew raves for his accuracy, but looked wholly ordinary, if not outright bad, when pressured. He reminded me of a small-school Sam Bradford, in need of a nice, clean pocket and a tailor-made playbook in order to succeed.
Then, he arrives on the NFL scene and gets the Patriots Mystique treatment. The nasty secret, though, is that the Patriots develop relatively little skill-position talent themselves. (And that Tom Brady is a quarterback, not a professor.)
And, of course, that Garoppollo just doesn't look like a special quarterback at all. He spent preseason after preseason checking down and dumping off, with almost no downfield element to his game.
Now, he's a franchise cornerstone, and I just don't see the appeal. He could carve out a Tim Rattay role, I guess, playing it mega-safe as a bridge quarterback in a bland system. But I just don't see anything to suggest he'll ever turn into a franchise guy.
Waldman: I had similar concerns about Garoppolo under pressure. While there's still more to see before we can completely decide on his handling of pressure since he's arrived in the NFL, I've seen enough encouraging signs that I'm suspending judgment until this time next year.
Wimer: I know he's out for the season with an Achille's injury now, but I think all the hype Dez Bryant generated during 2018 was ridiculous when compared to his clear decline in production during previous seasons. The Cowboys did the right thing letting him go.e
Settle: The name that I get tired of hearing about every week from the media is Aaron Rogers. He has the ability to do special things on the field and has a past history of doing the impossible.
However, Rogers ranks 12th in fantasy scoring in standard Yahoo! leagues this year. He is a quarterback ranked outside of the top 10 and garners as much media coverage as the top overall quarterback.
He has failed to meet his projections seven times this season and he just has not been the guy to lead your team. You could get similar production from Baker Mayfield right now and not have spent nearly as much capital. Rogers has been a great player, but he is not doing those special things right now that warrants all the coverage.
The weather is about to turn in Green Bay and we are going to see even less production. Let’s end the Rogers and Packers to the playoffs hype train right now and save everyone a lot of time.
Garda: First of all, RIP to Sean's inbox and Twitter mentions. Good luck, friend.
Waldman: Yeah, I think Sean failed to see that I wasn't talking about fantasy football and his argument focused solely on fantasy production, not actual football.
Garda: Aside from that, the choices here are all fascinating. Personally — and maybe it's a factor of where I am (New Jersey) but I am about at my wits end in regards to Eli Manning.
Giants fans at least are largely myopic when it comes to Manning, who gave them (or helped them to) a pair of Super Bowls, and in return has been shielded from criticism heading into this season.
Now he's gone from "most honored" to "most reviled" but as his career clearly winds down, now we have to hear about his Hall of Fame potential and his first ballot potential.
Manning is an — being kind here — average regular season quarterback and has been for years. Post-season, or at least in two postseasons, he's tremendous. But if you're caping for Manning based on regular season numbers, which many do, you'd better be ready to move Philip Rivers in there as well.
Waldman: Maybe Manning love is a northeastern thing although the endorsements he does are national. Of course, the roots of the advertising industry is Madison Avenue so there's another instance where the Northeast foists what it thinks on the rest of the country.
Schofield: Wold on. Give me a minute or two to try and figure out what players are gonna name-search the tweets...
Schofield: We can build off the previous question and say, Flacco. Let's be honest, Flacco is one misplayed deep ball from being almost irrelevant.
Manning had two miraculous runs for Super Bowl wins. He's also been a decent, but rarely great, regular season QB. Both things can be true, and it's exhausting to hear that lack of nuance.