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Welcome to Week 11 of the 2020 Footballguys' Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate the Saints quarterback situation, hot and cold running backs and wide receivers, and 2021 Dynasty and Devy prospects.
Saints Quarterback Situation
Matt Waldman: Well, most of last week's panel was bullish on Drew Brees. Considering how quickly that ended, let's discuss our fantasy expectations for New Orleans while Brees is out indefinitely with a collapsed lung, rib, and shoulder injuries.
- How are you valuing Jameis Winston as a fantasy commodity? How will he differ from Brees?
- Does Taysom Hill earn an increase or decrease in value while Brees is out?
- Does this help or hurt the value of specific Saints on the offense?
Weigh-in on the Saints' remaining stable of passers.
Jason Wood: Seeing a prolonged run from Jameis Winston will be fascinating if nothing else. Teddy Bridgewater completely reinvigorated his career in four starts last year and earned a multi-year contract as the new starter for division-rival Carolina. Can Winston parlay a solid showing into his own starting role in 2021? It's possible, but it'll come down to whether Winston can prove he's fixed his flaws.
The reason teams were confident in Bridgewater is because he fixed what ailed him in Minnesota. As a Viking, he was unwilling (or unable?) to take shots downfield, but in New Orleans, he did so effectively for three of four games. In Winston's case, he'll have to prove he can be smarter with the football and avoid a mind-boggling 30 interception pace as he set in his final season in Tampa Bay.
Do I have confidence in Winston? No, I don't. Because Bruce Arians is an excellent offensive mind with a proven system, and Winston didn't change under his watch. But am I ruling it out? No.
Either way, Winston is a lesser thrower than Brees. The Saints offense will be less effective, full stop. Whether it's 10% less effective or 25% or 40% is anyone's guess.
Taysom Hill is a 30-year old with 10 CAREER completions. Can we stop trying to make him a thing?
Waldman: Talk to Sean Payton. Although I think he says what he says to troll the media for laughs.
Wood: Hopefully, Winston will throw enough to keep the Saints' offensive weapons afloat. The big question is Alvin Kamara, as Winston didn't show a propensity for dump-offs to the running backs in Tampa Bay. But he also didn't have an elite open-field weapon like Kamara.
I suspect Kamara will remain integral to the script regardless of Winston's tendencies. Michael Thomas is the X-factor. Many drafted him in the first round and have waited patiently while he nursed injuries, a one-game suspension, and a return as a decoy in the last two weeks. Will Winston latch onto Thomas in the way he did Mike Evans? It seems likely, but it's also hard to feel great given Winston's lesser accuracy versus Brees' pinpoint control.
Andrew Garda: I believe that we will see a lot of Taysom Hill, although, given the rebirth of Teddy Bridgewater, Winston may still provide some spark. I’m not all that worried that Sean Payton hasn’t announced who the starter is, as I don’t believe there is any doubt it’s Winston, but again, I think Hill will be a thorn in fantasy GMs sides as the season wraps up.
I am a little worried about Michael Thomas given his lack of production since coming back, and hopefully, he will quickly ingratiate himself to Winston, but I actually think we may see more of Alvin Kamara – he’s too much of a weapon for Winston to ignore.
So I am hoping Thomas bounces back, and I think Kamara will continue to produce whether in the passing game or run game.
Dan Hindery: I am valuing Jameis Winston as a high-end QB2 for fantasy, which is how Brees was performing. I think Winston will put up pretty similar fantasy numbers to Brees but will not have the 6-to-1 TD/INT ratio of Brees.
Taysom Hill’s value increases because Winston probably will not have a long leash. If he throws a bad interception or two, I do not think Sean Payton would hesitate to go with Hill as the full-time quarterback. Even if Winston locks down the starting role, we could still see Hill used even more often in short-yardage and red-zone situations.
With how rough the tight end position has been of late, Hill is especially intriguing where league management providers like ESPN still list him as a tight end. Even in a part-time role, Hill can put up TE1 numbers.
The loss of Brees is a slight negative across the board for the Saints offense. It would be an overstatement to say I am worried about Alvin Kamara, but I do expect that he is going to see a decrease in targets with Winston and be the most negatively impacted player. Kamara should remain a high-end RB1 but I do not think we see many 8-plus-catch games moving forward (he has had 8-plus catches in over half of his games).
Jeff Pasquino: I'm kind of with Dan on the assessment of Jamies going forwards, but I actually like his upside a little more given that the Saints play Atlanta twice over the next three weeks. The Falcons have given up 300-yard passing games in five of the last six contests, and 14 passing touchdowns (2.5 per game). Given Winston's love of going deep and shooting for the end zone, I think he can put up QB1 numbers against Atlanta both this week and in Week 13.
Taysom Hill will steal some snaps, but I think Sean Payton has a pretty good handle of how to use him sparingly in certain situations and play calls. I think Hill's value ticks up more as a receiver though because Winston loves tight ends. That means that I like not only Hill but Jared Cook to see more targets and production, especially down near the goal line.
I also agree with Dan that Alvin Kamara's value may dip some, as Winston will target Cook and Hill more on shorter passes and then go for a home run now and then to Emmanuel Sanders or my dark horse, speedster Deonte Harris. Michael Thomas (as long as he is healthy) will still get plenty of work but his catch radius will be tested due to Winston's reduced accuracy (both in general and far less than Brees' outstanding ball placement). Overall, I like New Orleans' passing game to fare well over the next three weeks because of the favorable schedule (Atlanta twice and Denver) even though Winston is a step or two lower than Brees.
Chad Parsons: I am one of the bigger Jameis Winston fans out there. However, the presence of Taysom Hill, specifically in the red zone is concerning for Winston's upside. Will there be more vertical shots for the New Orleans offense with Winston instead of Drew Brees? Probably.
However, I see Hill mixing in heavily (and more than when Brees was the starter). And consider through nine games Hill has 14 red zone opportunities (passes, rushes, targets), essentially 20 percent compared to Brees' 80 percent. I project Hill's 'share' of the red zone to increase with Winston as the starter, creeping into the 30 percent or higher range and even more robust inside the 10-yard-line.
Winston will need to score from distance to be a quality high-upside starter for fantasy terms. Michael Thomas is the key passing game fixture and he was a non-factor through two games since his return, independent of which quarterback was in the game. I do see Thomas getting back to lineup-viable down the stretch whether Winston or Brees is starting each week.
Waldman: Winston is an absolute wild card for me because his talents differ more from Brees than Bridgewater last year. Will Payton leverage Winston's strengths for this offense or ask him to literally be the Brees caretaker?
If Payton allows Winston to fire away, we'll see a lot more big plays, but will likely be a double-edged sword that leads to big plays for opposing defenses. Drew Brees is among the best red-zone quarterbacks of the past 20-30 years. Winston struggled as a red-zone quarterback in Tampa despite having superior weapons in this area of the field than the Saints do right now.
I think we see bigger yardage weekends from Winston but the touchdown and interceptions totals could be volatile. Speaking of volatile, Winston's game could be a lethal accelerate to Jared Cook's sparks of mental errors that lead to big plays and big mistakes. I'm expecting both but more mistakes than success.
With Cook as the most volatile, Kamara is the safest bet in this offense. Emmanuel Sanders has the highest upside. Mike Thomas is the most likely to punch out Winston due to multiple miscommunications over the middle.
Waldman: These players have been hotter or cooler for the past four weeks compared to the season-long performance.
- DAndre Swift: No.6 PPR (No.13 season-long)
- Wayne Gallman No.3 PPR (No.37 season-long)
- Antonio Gibson No.7 PPR (No.12 season-long)
Parsons: I see Wayne Gallman cooling off more than the others. DAndre Swift has a stranglehold on the Lions backfield and the Alex Smith boost for Washington is a boon for Gibson and J.D. McKissic. Devonta Freeman should be returning in the coming weeks as another glaring point in favor of the other two backs with no notable upcoming addition to the depth chart.
Ezekiel Elliot is one of my strong buys in dynasty for contenders or non-contenders alike. Andy Dalton is an upgrade—even if skeptical of him in general—over their pair of fill-in options in his absence. Also, Dallas' defense has shown more signs of respectability of late than the historically awful performances early in the year. Elliott is one of the pinnacle backs of the last 5-10 years and many are casting him aside at 25-years-old, largely ignoring his rare historical profile as a prospect and NFL production.
Wood: We're well into the meat of the season and, with it, forward-looking strength of schedule (SoS) is quite helpful. Using projected SoS based on last year is a fool's errand, and we should basically ignore SoS for the first six to eight weeks of the season. But now we have a large enough baseline to extrapolate into future weeks.
From that vantage, Detroit has the third most favorable schedule for running back production over the rest of the season, and is just barely behind the No. 1 (New Orleans) and No. 2 (Las Vegas) teams. Swift has a great schedule and has worked his way into a larger role. He's safe barring injury.
Antonio Gibson has a good schedule, too. It's the eighth-easiest for the remainder of the year. That leaves Wayne Gallman and the Giants, who face a difficult finish. They rank 22nd in the remaining SoS. Add to that how touchdown-dependent Gallman has been over the last four weeks, and it's alarming. Gallman's five touchdowns account for nearly 50% of his month-long 63.3 fantasy points. He's the obvious regression candidate.
As to the cool trio, all three have rough schedules remaining. Dallas has the easiest schedule but still ranks in the bottom quartile. On the other hand, all three of these backs are talented enough to overperform baseline defensive matchups.
Ezekiel Elliott at RB46 seems like a given for positive regression, but is he going to outperform Edwards-Helaire or Conner? It's possible, but it will require the Cowboys' offensive line gelling and Andy Dalton returning to stabilize the passing game. When you're trying to buy low, I think your attention needs to be on the best offensive engine.
More bites at the apple mean more fantasy success. So give me James Conner, who has a Super Bowl contending team with balance and a strong defense. Conner's game scripts are going to be phenomenal most weeks.
Pasquino: I believe that Adam and Jason got the correct back that will cool off, which is Gallman. The touchdown streak cannot and will not last forever, and his schedule for the next five weeks looks very difficult after the Bengals in Week 12 (at Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland, at Baltimore). Couple that with the lackluster play overall for New York this season and a probable return to action for Devonta Freeman, and Gallman is a perfect sell-high candidate.
James Conner is the most likely back to heat up. Conner has played well this year since taking back the starter role after being banged up early in the season.
There is some recency bias is against him thanks to two unfavorable games against a tough Ravens team in Week 8 and the Steelers having to play catch-up against Dallas in Week 9. Week 10 against the Bengals was also a bit odd as the Steelers got so far ahead in the blowout that Conner was essentially rested for the last 25 minutes of the game (only five touches, and none in the final 12-plus minutes).
As Jason said, owning the starting tailback for a Super Bowl-caliber team with a strong offense and defense is a good recipe for fantasy success the rest of the way, as there will be favorable game scripts more often than not for the remainder of the season.
Garda: Yeah I don’t love Gibson, both for the messy offense and his lack of yardage the last two games. His value feels touchdown dependent, and that scares me. I just don’t see him being that potent for much longer and if he can’t find the end zone, well, what does he do right now?
I’ll be honest—I don’t like any of these guys all that much who have been cold. I think Elliott’s situation makes it hard for him and I continue to be concerned about that hamstring, Edwards-Helaire is someone who is going to continue to have LeVeon Bell stealing work and Conner has some bad matchups ahead.
I guess if I have to pick one, I go with Conner, as he has nobody really in his way but himself, the passing offense should clear the defense out of the box and while the Ravens and Bills are bad matchups, the Washington and Jacksonville are good ones.
Waldman: These players have been hotter or cooler for the past four weeks compared to the season-long performance.
Hot WRs (Past four weeks vs. the entire season)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster No.5 PPR (No.20 season-long)
- Curtis Samuel No.8 PPR (No.71 season-long).
- Marvin Jones No.9 PPR (No.35 season-long)
- Jakobi Meyers No.11 PPR (No.36 season-long)'
- Diontae Johnson No.10 PPR (No.34 season-long)
Samuel will likely slow down with Teddy Bridgewater not only banged up but likely to see Christian McCaffrey return soon. Minnesota, Green Bay, and Washington look to be tougher pass matchups the rest of the way, and all of the Panthers will take a small hit due to the late (Week 13) bye.
The Rams rely on the passing game and Woods is one of the two key receivers (Cooper Kupp) to keep the ball moving. The schedule is semi-favorable with San Francisco and the Jets still to go, but the bigger boost is Woods being healthy and one of the top two targets for Jared Goff. Recent games against Seattle and the Bears certainly did not help his numbers, but Woods should rebound nicely the rest of the season.
Fuller just has to stay healthy, and so far he has. With David Johnson on the Reserve/Injured list with a concussion, the Texans have to throw even more.
Fuller and Brandin Cooks are the main two targets, and Fuller stretches the field and finds the end zone with higher than average regularity as long as he stays off the injury report. The schedule does not help though (two Colts matchups plus the Bears), but Fuller only needs 1-2 big plays to be a fantasy WR3 or better each week. Fuller had scored in six straight games prior to Week 10, so the upside is clearly there.
Hindery: I expect both Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster to cool off a bit moving forward. The Steelers have fallen behind by 10+ points in two of their last three games and been forced to play catch up, which has led to overly pass-heavy game plans.
Both Johnson and Smith-Schuster should have occasional big games the rest of the way and are solid WR2 options. However, there are a lot of mouths to feed in this Pittsburgh offense, which is naturally going to lead to some streakiness and disappointing weeks from the key contributors based upon who the opposing defense schemes to take away on any given Sunday.
Will Fuller will heat back up. Since Week 3, he has scored in every game except one. That lone game without a touchdown came in last week’s matchup against the Browns that was played in extremely windy conditions that made it virtually impossible to throw it deep. I rank Fuller as a Top 10 fantasy wide receiver the rest of the way.
CeeDee Lamb should also get back on track starting this week. Andy Dalton is nothing special but is competent enough to get the Cowboys passing offense back on track when he returns to the lineup. Down to their third and fourth string options at quarterback over the last month, it is no surprise the Cowboys' passing offense was a disaster. Lamb may not return to the solid fantasy WR2 he was with Dak Prescott but should at least be a solid flex option down the stretch.
Garda: I think Curtis Samuel, who was the only kind of hot anyway, will cool off especially if Teddy Bridgewater misses time. But as it is, two touchdowns don’t excite me, and his only real big day was the 105 yards against Kansas City. I think he’s in trouble.
As for the two Pittsburgh receivers, someone is going to fade – there is only so much to go around. I’m sticking with the proven commodity and pick Diontae Johnson as the fade.
Neither one has been super consistent this year, but Johnson to me has less experience, and so Ben Roethlisberger will look to Smith-Schuster when the game is on the line.
I expect Will Fuller to bounce back over the coming weeks, and he’s not that far removed from a 100-yard game – plus we know his quarterback will use him vertically and the Texans need that strike option. Fuller will be fine.
Mike Evans is another guy I like for a bounce back. He had 11 targets against Carolina, and 24 over the last three weeks vs 13 the previous three. I like that trend a lot.
Wood: The Steelers receivers are fascinating because the team has a top-five schedule down the stretch; the matchups are great nearly every week. But they also have rookie Chase Claypool to contend with, and it's hard to support three fantasy-worthy receivers particularly when the team also has a solid ground game and an effective defense. I feel better about Diontae Johnson than Smith-Schuster, as he's younger, has a clearer future with the franchise, and has been the best player at the position when he's been healthy.
Of the three remaining receivers in the Hot category, I'm fading Curtis Samuel. Too much of his value is tied up in a few big rushing plays, and from a pure talent perspective, I don't think he's better than Robby Anderson or D.J. Moore.
That leaves either Jakobi Meyers or Marvin Jones, and I would opt for Marvin Jones as the most likely to fade. Matthew Stafford is banged up. Kenny Golladay should be back later in the season. And Jones is highly touchdown-dependent. Meyers has slid into the Julian Edelman role and is the only Patriots pass-catcher with a secure target floor.
I like everyone on this list with the possible exception of CeeDee Lamb, simply because I don't know if Dallas' injuries and win-loss record doom the team to wait for Dak Prescott to return in 2021. Among this list, Robert Woods (second-easiest remaining schedule) and Will Fuller (fourth-easiest) are my choices. Both are the No. 1 options on their teams but have competent No. 2s who command defensive attention. Both teams have healthy quarterbacks with proven chemistry.
2021 Dynasty and Devy Prospects
Matt Waldman: Many of you on this week's panel watch, if not seriously study, the college game. Answer these two questions:
- One draft-eligible player (Sr. Jr., or r-Soph) you value for dynasty rookie drafts.
- One non-eligible player (frosh, soph) you value for Devy drafts.
Give our readers the goods.
Hindery: I want to talk about two running backs who have moved way up my list since the start of the season. Travis Etienne and Najee Harris are the two known commodities at the top of the board for 2021 but the more interesting story for me is which other running backs emerge between now and next spring as early-round NFL selections and first-round rookie draft targets.
North Carolina’s Javonte Williams is one guy who I believe will end up in that mix before it is all said and done. He has been extremely productive this season, averaging 2.4 touchdowns and over 140-total yards per game, and has looked good doing it. He is built like Kareem Hunt and has a similar knack for running through arm tackles and getting into the end zone. He has power, nimble feet, and soft hands. Williams doesn’t have great long speed but enough to get the job done. If he lands in the right situation, he could be a very productive fantasy back.
Auburn true freshman Tank Bigsby is the young back who has most impressed me so far this season. He is still pretty raw but if he puts it all together, he can be special. He reminds me of a bit of a young D’Andre Swift with his open-field moves and pass-catching ability but runs angrier and shows more power than Swift. His early-season performance against Arkansas was an eye-opener.
Parsons: For 2020-eligible prospects, I am bullish on Zamir White, Georgia running back. Injuries have been his theme since his five-star recruiting status with the moniker 'Zeus' and landing at a pipeline running back hub in Georgia.
White is finally stringing together some healthy in 2020 as the lead back and he is/was a high-variance Devy prospect. His ceiling is the top running back in the class (2021 as a redshirt sophomore or if he bumps to 2022) as an uber-talent needing healthy and production to round out his talent-laden profile. I can see White as one of the first backs off the board and, even if, on Day 3, he is one of the target talent backs within a class value-wise.
To mention a fun watch from the freshman running back class, Deuce Vaughn is an intriguing player. The starter running back for Kansas State is in the sub-sized genre at a rare 5'5" and around 170 pounds. However, Vaughn has the physical and joystick traits for a back of his size to conjure moments of Darren Sproles.
Vaughn already has a 95 percent receiving score in my prospect model and is breaking out as a runner in 2020 as well. Vaughn's frame and weight will likely be a question mark over the next 3-4 years but he already strikes me as one of the underrated backs in college football and a potential Danny Woodhead-Darren Sproles type if optimized in the NFL.
Pasquino: This question is tougher for me as I have retired from Dynasty leagues for several years now, but I still like to track the rookies for obvious reasons in season-long fantasy.
Sorry for ducking the question as I cannot give you collegiate players to target per se, but here's an attempt to teach the reader how to fish instead.
Waldman: No problem, fire away. I'll add an answer to this as well.
Pasquino: Since I don't get a lot of time to watch the college game, I rely on a few things when it comes to picking out younger talent. One general that served me well over the years was this:
- Favor a player who is the number one offensive player on a team, especially a team that is NOT considered an elite franchise
That one rule has served me well over many years, and has led me to focus on smaller and medium program school players that excelled—and when I say excel, I mean to put up school record-type numbers.
This led me to players like Brian Westbrook back in the day and more recently Stefon Diggs at Maryland. The logic is pretty simple: Pick players that keep defensive coordinators up at night, yet still, perform well.
It is one thing to be a star at a top program like Alabama with elite talent at most—if not all—positions on the field. It is quite another to be the focus of the other team's defensive "we must stop this guy" game plan and still perform well.
The contrarian rule is also in play: Be leery of players who do well in elite programs, because they may play as if they are always surrounded by a better supporting cast. I call this the "Reggie Bush rule".
Bush was a very good player, but he had traits in his game that limited him against good teams, such as always trying to run outside in the NFL rather than to just take what the opposing team gave him, especially in his first few years.
That is a classic example of expecting to be faster than everyone else, which was likely true until he got the NFL and everyone was an elite athlete.
Wood: There are dozens of collegiate players who excite me, but since you asked for one, I'll go with the chalk: Ja'Marr Chase. Barring a workout-related injury or unforeseen off-the-field complication, Chase will be the No.1 pick in many (if not most) dynasty rookie drafts next year.
Chase is as close to a can't-miss receiver prospect as we've seen in a long time. He's got size, speed, runs a full route tree with ease, is sharp in and out of his breaks, and dominated at the highest level of competition—the SEC. He averaged more than 20 yards per reception and scored 20 touchdowns in LSU's record-breaking national championship season, and opted out of this year to prepare for the NFL draft.
In Devy leagues, how can you not love D.J. Uiagalelei? Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is the most sought-after prospect since Andrew Luck, and Uiagalelei is the heir apparent. The 6'4", 249-pounder out of California was the consensus No. 1 high school offensive prospect when he committed to Clemson (Brian Bresee, also a Clemson freshman— was the other player in the hunt for top high school honors). We didn't expect to see Uiagalelei much this year until Lawrence was diagnosed with Covid-19, which forced the freshman into the lineup.
In two starts, Uiagalelei lit up Boston College and Notre Dame to the tune of 883 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 68.3% completion rate, and no interceptions. He's also run for 59 yards and another 4 touchdowns. It's clear he'll keep Clemson at the pinnacle of the college standings and, assuming the best is yet to come, will be vying for the 1st overall pick in the 2023 draft.
Garda: Woodrow, much like in Staff League drafts, stole my guy with Ja'Marr Chase so I will leave the big analysis to him and just say he’s the type of guy who could be a game-changer immediately, even at a position which sometimes lags as it enters the pro game and like Jason, I love his size and speed.
One non-eligible player (frosh, soph) you value for Devy drafts.
Waldman: One of my favorite prospects for Devy leagues is Purdue wide receiver David Bell. There's a lot of excitement about his teammate Rondale Moore, but I think Bell is the safer player and arguably the better all-around receiver. A true sophomore, Bell has an excellent presence over the middle and wins the ball with a combination of strong technique, physicality, and coordination.
I play in a Devy league with some of the biggest sharks in that realm. When I selected Bell this summer for my Devy draft, you would have thought I robbed them of their kids' Christmas presents on Christmas morning.
I like Andrew's mention of Breece Hall. I haven't studied him in-depth yet, so I didn't want to mention him, but I am looking forward to seeing more than a casual viewing of his work, which impressed me.