Welcome to Week 9 of the 2020 Footballguys' Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate the stretch-run value of several old faces in new places, rules that fantasy leagues should incorporate, players who are better in fantasy than reality, the best backup running backs, players with a shot to start short-term and whether they have long-term value, and finally, rookies who started strong but are candidates to hit the wall.
Old Faces-New Places
Matt Waldman: Use the player pool below to answer the questions listed after them.
A) Which player's production is the most surprising?
B) Which player is most likely to fade down the stretch?
C) Which player is most likely to gain or sustain production down the stretch?
Tell us about your choices
Jeff Pasquino: I'm honestly only surprised that Todd Gurley hasn't fallen apart at the seams yet - so he answers both A and B for me. I was a big proponent of Robby Anderson in the preseason, and Gronk has really rounded out the lineup in Tampa Bay. Neither surprised me this year, although they may have surprised others.
As for C, I like David Johnson to get back into form and help a Texans team that should not be 1-6 get back to respectability. Houston has not got him going well enough and they have fallen behind a lot this season, but even there Johnson has just 16 catches on the year. The Texans need to ride a player that they traded DeAndre Hopkins for and use him. Hopefully, Houston used the bye week to correct a lot of errors in play calling and will get him going the rest of the year.
Jason Wood: Jimmy Graham is easily the most surprising. I'm basing that on my own pre-season rankings and projections. While Robby Anderson is exceeding even the most optimistic rankings, a lot of us understood the narrative of Anderson reuniting with Matt Rhule and being the Panthers' key downfield threat.
Gurley is having exactly the season we expected. He's touchdown-dependent, but is still patient and strong enough to score anytime the Falcons are down near the goal-line. David Johnson hasn't been that good, but he's been good enough and we know from his time in Arizona that health is the only factor keeping Johnson from steady RB2+ value.
Finally, Rob Gronkowski stands at TE10 halfway through the season, but it's a terrible year for the position and Gronk is basically a boom-or-bust option like most tight ends. That leaves Graham. He's bounced around so much it seemed unlikely he would be the Bears go-to red-zone threat, particularly with the team having so many other tight ends on the roster. But, he's healthy and has shown enough fight in tight coverage to stymie promising rookie Cole Kmet's emergence.
With the addition of Antonio Brown, the Buccaneers don't need Gronkowski to catch a lot of passes. They do—however—need him to keep Tom Brady upright and open holes for the running game. As Tampa's playoff push intensifies, so too will Gronkowski's willingness to do the dirty work to secure a high seed. So his play won't fade, but his fantasy value likely will.
What has Anderson done to think he'll tail off? Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore have battled inconsistency, but Anderson has been a big part of the game script nearly every week. And when Christian McCaffrey returns, it'll mean longer drives and more scoring opportunities.
Daniel Simpkins: Jimmy Graham is my choice. He objectively looked like a shell of himself last season and I laughed at the Bears for picking him up and paying him good money in the process. However, he has managed to stay healthier, has a larger role in the offense, and make the most of his red-zone visits.
I also think Jimmy Graham is the most likely to fade. Maybe not this week against the Titans who allow passing touchdowns to anything that has a body and can catch, but I could see a dip against a tough upcoming divisional schedule.
This one was the toughest of the bunch to answer, but I’ll go with Todd Gurley. I called my shot before week one, predicting he would finish the season as a top-five back in PPR. So far, he sits at #7, so I am pretty happy about how that bold prediction turned out so far. The only thing that can hold him back is that blasted knee.
Maurile Tremblay: I'd say Robby Anderson's production is the most surprising. He flashed his big-play ability with the Jets, but it often seemed like he benefited from the lack of competition for targets in New York. Coming to the Panthers, I expected him to rank third in the WR pecking order behind D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.
He has instead led the team in targets by a decent margin (though Moore has been more efficient). It's not completely shocking that Anderson has become such a key part of the Panthers' passing offense—he showed that potential with the Jets—but it's not something I assigned a high probability to before the season started.
Todd Gurley is most likely to fade down the stretch. I'm not making a strong prediction here—predicting that a solid starter's production will plummet within the next half-season is a crazy attempt at market-timing. But among the choices listed, I have the least faith in Gurley.
Part of that is just the memory of 2018 when Gurley's knee significantly slowed him down the stretch of the regular season and throughout the playoffs. The knee is always a risk to flare up again.
I also lack trust in the Falcons to maintain a positive game-script for Gurley each week. Finally, Gurley's running style has subjected him to a lot of physical punishment over the course of his career, and I worry more with him than I do with the others on the list that it will catch up with him.
Rob Gronkowski is my bet to sustain his production down the stretch. He had been used primarily as a blocker when O.J. Howard was on the field. But since Howard's injury, Gronkowski has been given a larger role as a receiver, and he's a target that has Tom Brady's trust.
He's especially a threat near the goal line, and the Buccaneers' offense appears poised to increase its weekly point totals over the second half of the season. I consider Gronkowski to be a solid fantasy TE1 from here on out.
Andrew Garda: I legitimately thought Rob Gronkowski was done. My bad. He’s back on the same page as Tom Brady and those three touchdowns in three games isn’t a fluke. I think he’s going to have a fantastic rest of the season.
There’s not much for Todd Gurley to fade away from, but I think Brian Hill is about to take his job or at the very least, significant production. Hill looked better than Gurley last week and games against the Saints, Raiders, and Bucs worry me.
Robby Anderson is suffering—in a good way—from Adam Gase syndrome where you are SO HAPPY TO BE GONE that you have a great year. Teddy Bridgewater likes him, the Panthers throw the ball, and lately, Anderson has been a little below average, meaning in my mind he has a lot of space to improve and get back to where he was early.
Will Grant: Judging by how Todd Gurley was a 3rd or 4th round draft pick this year in most fantasy leagues, it seems that most people didn't expect him to be the #7 fantasy back at the halfway point of the season. His frequent injuries and frustrating underperformance in his final season with the Rams have many people (including me) expecting him to be 'just another back' in Atlanta. Suffice to say he's proven all of us wrong and rewarded anyone who drafted him this season with big value so far.
Rob Gronkowski has three touchdowns in three games, but that's more for the injuries around him than his great fantasy consistency. Gronkowski hasn't played a full 16 season since 2011 and he didn't even play last year. While he's a great short term option, I don't see him sustaining this for the rest of the season, especially when the 'big guns' like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are back to 100%.
Robby Anderson has found a nice home in Carolina and his consistent performance to date should continue the rest of the way. When Christian McCaffery returns to the lineup, the passing game could take a hit, but the Panthers probably won't rush CMC back to 30 touches a game either. Of this bunch, the most consistent performer I see is Anderson.
Andy Hicks: The answer has to be Robby Anderson. He is a fantasy WR1 at the halfway point of the season despite only one touchdown. He is on pace for over 100 catches and almost 1400 yards. Anyone who predicted that heading into the year would have been considered delusional. Anderson was looked at as perhaps the fourth option behind Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel. It’s amazing how good players can look once they aren’t coached by Adam Gase.
It seems obvious to say, Jimmy Graham. He is almost strictly touchdown-dependent now and looked, not necessarily disinterested, but off his game against the Saints with crucial drops and poor routes. At age 34 and the stage of his career where he is bouncing around the league, if he doesn’t catch a ball in the endzone he isn’t worth much to your fantasy side.
I like Rob Gronkowski as the answer to this question. Touchdowns in three straight games, a reliable share of targets, and the presence of other receivers to give him room. Now he won’t be a monster every game, but he will be a starting tight end for the rest of the season.
Roundtable Grab Bag
Waldman: I don't know about your homes but at mine, we used to have a post-Halloween Grab Bag of goodies that the kids didn't want that would be shared with the rest of the family. Since we're kind of a family, I'm going to create a grab bag of questions. Choose one to answer.
- Two-parter: Who is a quarterback that is clearly better in fantasy than he is in reality? My go-to answer has been and remains Carson Wentz, but I'd like to know yours and whomever it is, is it more dangerous to have what you may consider a sub-par player as a counted-on starter?
- Of the running backs in the NFL who have never been a season-long starter, who is the best backup in the league right now? Rookies aren't eligible for the question.
- Name a team where D.K. Metcalf would be as good as he is now and a team where he'd be significantly worse and explain why.
- What's a rule that you believe every fantasy league should have but few that you know of, do?
Pasquino: Every year, fantasy leagues get down to the playoff push and there seems to be a team that is the hard-luck loser who just seems to play a rough schedule, where maybe their opponents just happen to have their best weeks against them. A team might go 5-8 but have a Top 3-4 scoring team and miss the playoffs. While many leagues prefer head-to-head matchups, rewarding the final playoff spot to the highest point-scoring team regardless of record should be the norm, not the exception.
Wood: What a fun conversation. To answer the question, we have to start with an initial pool of options. Excluding rookies and anyone with at least one season of 10-plus starts, I'm left with the following candidates: Chase Edmonds (ARI), Brian Hil (ATL), Mike Davis (CAR), Ryan Nall (CHI), Giovani Bernard (CIN), Tony Pollard (DAL), Jamaal Williams (GB), Nyheim Hines (IND), Malcolm Brown (LAR), Jalen Richard (LV), Alexander Mattison (MIN), Wayne Gallman (NYG), Boston Scott (PHI), Benny Snell (PIT), Jerick McKinnon (SF), and Jeremy McNichols (TEN).
We'll soon see if Chase Edmonds has the stuff to be a feature back, as the Cardinals come off the bye and Kenyan Drake misses time. With Drake being on a one-year deal, Edmonds may be playing for a multi-year role as the Cardinals No. 1. Meanwhile, we've seen Mike Davis, Jamaal Williams, Giovani Bernard, and Boston Scott put up big numbers this year in place of the No. 1s.
None of them have a shot at sustained value with Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon, and Miles Sanders due back in the next few games. But we've seen enough to know they can put up big numbers in a feature role. Of the four, I lean toward Bernard on pure talent, but he's also the oldest and not someone I would build around.
Bernard has the highest yards-per-rush average, highest yards-per-reception average, and highest touchdown-per touch average of the quartet. That's despite having a larger sample size including a lot of bad supporting casts, multiple head coaches, and a litany of different play-callers. So give me Edmonds or, if he's not eligible, give me Bernard.
Garda: Maybe this is mean, and I will be accused of being a homer, but Josh Allen is my answer. It honestly depends on your league scoring, but he’s top five in a bunch of my leagues, but he is by no means close to that as an NFL quarterback. Not to say he’s bad. I actually think he has come along pretty well. But he’s not as good as his fantasy production.
I don’t know that it’s more dangerous to have a sub-par player than a consistent NFL starter. Allen, for example, brings yards and scores on the ground while also throwing OK. There’s a danger that he can make awful decisions and cost you, but I think his upside outweighs it and it outweighs a decent fantasy/consistent NFL quarterback with little upside.
I have Allen in a few leagues and am happy with his production and the risk.
Adam Harstad: I’ve been going on and on (and on and on and on and on and on) about this for years, but conditional lineup requests are hands down my favorite fantasy football rule of all time. Basically, you declare a starter and a backup. If the starter is inactive, you automatically get the backup. Full details here.
I can set my lineups on a Wednesday and then go out of town for a long weekend. I can go out for brunch with the family on Sunday morning without having to rush back home or chain myself to the phone when inactives are announced.
I play in a league with several Canadians. They celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day in Canada, which means the Thanksgiving games fall on a regular workday. Conditional lineups make sure my Canadian friends aren’t at a competitive disadvantage that week.
I hear from fantasy players in Denmark, Australia, and all over the world who are fast asleep when the early games kick off and therefore miss out on any surprise inactives.
Conditional lineup requests allow you to schedule fantasy football around your life rather than scheduling your life around fantasy football. Favorite rule ever.
Tremblay: I endorse Adam's proposal of allowing conditional lineups. I'll add a few more suggestions.
1. Get rid of kickers and add another flex position. Kickers are largely random, which is fine to the extent that randomness adds excitement -- but kickers are also boring. Your fantasy experience will be improved if you don't have to worry about streaming kickers each week as part of your waiver-wire chores.
2. Speaking of flex positions, make one of them a Superflex (allowing QB as an option in addition to RB/WR/TE). Without a Superflex position, the first several rounds of a draft are typically dominated by running backs and wide receivers. Depending on the scoring system, the first four rounds will likely include more tight ends than quarterbacks. Adding a Superflex position makes quarterbacks a stronger consideration so that there is more parity among the fantasy positions in the early rounds. For those of you who are ambivalent about my first suggestion, make the Superflex position a Superduperflex instead — one that can be filled by a kicker as well. This reduces the premium on mediocre quarterbacks who can't reliably outscore the top kickers.
3. Add depth to your leagues more generally. Make the starting lineups bigger. Make the benches bigger. Give people enough roster space to carry speculative players who don't need to contribute immediately. It's okay if the waiver wire is a bit thinner. Emphasizing roster construction and roster management over waiver-wire activity makes the game more strategic and more fun, in my opinion.
I also highly recommend getting into a dynasty league if you haven't tried it yet. I'm not suggesting that all leagues should be dynasties—not at all—but I am suggesting that you try out both redraft and dynasty formats to get a taste of both.
Simpkins: Let’s pretend the Cowboys never drafted CeeDee Lamb, the line didn’t get decimated by injury, and Dak Prescott wasn’t lost for the season. I see D.K. as a perfect fit with this sort of offense. He would have been a nice compliment to the things Amari Cooper can do.
As far as a terrible fit, put D.K. Metcalf on the Jets and I think he would fail. This team held back Robbie Anderson and we’re seeing that now that Anderson is in an actually imaginative attack. I loved Denzel Mims, but I never took one share of him in dynasty when I found out his landing spot was the Jets. Until New York gets new ownership, a new coach, and a new direction, all fantasy assets that land on that team get a hard pass from me.
Grant: Wentz is a good choice. I say that only because I've watched my friend Jason endure Wentz breaking his heart repeatedly. His five rushing touchdowns this season, but 12 interceptions are easy indicators of good fantasy value but frustrating real gameplay.
I'll probably be shot for saying it, but I feel like another good candidate for this is Kyler Murray. His 437 yards rushing and 7 rushing touchdowns make him one of the top fantasy quarterbacks this season, but his 66.8 completion percentage and pedestrian 7.3 yards per attempt are near the bottom of the league for starters. His rushing yards also come at a price: He has just 1,800 yards passing this season. The Cardinals are 5-2, but their 2 losses were to the Lions and Panthers (combined 6-9 record this season), and they struggled against the Seahawks and 49ers.
Some of Murray's best games have come against the Cowboys, Jets, and Washington - three teams that don't exactly scare anyone. With games coming up against the Seahawks, Patriots, Bills, and Rams coming up, it will be interesting to see if Murray can continue his top 3 fantasy performance.
That being said, if he's your fantasy starter, I think you have to ride or die with him. Even when he's not great, he's still posting decent fantasy numbers. He's always a threat to score and has a rushing touchdown in all but one game this season.
If defenses ever shut him down, it could be a fantasy liability - but no more than any other fantasy quarterback. Look at Lamar Jackson, he was one of the top fantasy quarterbacks taken this season and he's having a very average year because defenses have been able to hold him in check. It sort of comes with the territory of having a quarterback with high rushing totals, you accept that there will be some bad games.
Waldman: Pick TWO players from this list and tell about the projected short-term/long-term value for them this year.
Simpkins: Wilkins’ value is very high (top-15 option weekly) in the short-term while Jonathan Taylor deals with a nagging ankle injury. The Ravens matchup isn’t a choice one, but two matchups with the Titans and one with the Packers in the next four weeks are about as good as you can ask for.
Chris Carson sounds like he is close to returning, and it’s unknown how close Carlos Hyde and Travis Homer are to being back. That likely means that Dallas was a one-week play that luckily paid off, not a player to spend for on the waiver wire.
Grant: Jordan Wilkins is the hot waiver wire pickup this week, but he'll be a questionable 'start him immediately' pick given the fact that the Colts are playing Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens are ranked 5th in total rushing yards allowed with just 702 yards and tied for 3rd with just five rushing TDs allowed so far this season.
But in their next six games, they face the Packers (4.7 YPC, 10 rushing TDs allowed), Raiders (4.6 YPC, 12 rushing TDs allowed), and two games each against the Titans (4.7 YPC, 19th in total rushing yards allowed) and Texans (5.2 YPC, 31st in total rushing yards allowed). The key is going to be how much of the offense he can steal from Jonathan Taylor, who is banged up.
While Wilkins has a strong chance to be the feature back against the Ravens, this feels like an RBBC at best for the longer term. If you were lucky enough to nab him off waivers, keep an eye on things, and don't be afraid to drop him if it looks like Taylor returns to his feature role.
Jake Luton feels like a longer-term play for the rest of the season. He's starting this week against the Texans who are ranked 28th in passing TDs allowed with 17, and he should have a good game. Given that Jacksonville is 1-6 with little chance of making the playoffs, expect the Jaguars to stick with Luton for a while— maybe even the rest of the season.
He was a sixth-round flyer this year so giving him extended exposure will give them plenty of time to evaluate him. The Jaguars give up a ton of points (14th in the AFC behind the Jets and Browns), and Luton should be seeing a lot of garbage time stats this season. He's not much more than a bye week fill-in but could be a starter in Superflex / 2 QB leagues.
Hicks: Jordan Wilkins will be a hot waiver wire pickup and with justified reason. Backs who record 20 carries a game don’t tend to be available. There is good and bad news when considering Wilkins.
The bad is that he will be up against Baltimore this week. Additionally, we don’t know how bad Jonathan Taylor hurt his ankle.
Wilkins himself has had injury issues in the past, but if you can add him, do so. He has a very productive stat line when given an opportunity and runs the ball well. Wilkins is ready to take his opportunity, but if Taylor returns quickly it will be a short-lived opportunity.
DeeJay Dallas is the fourth man available for the Seahawks after Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde missed the game against the 49ers, while Travis Homer didn’t last long before succumbing to his knee injury. Dallas, like the team bearing his name, didn’t look very good, made crucial mistakes that could have cost his team, and exposed Russell Wilson to a few unnecessary hits.
Seattle does not want the rookie in again if they can avoid it. Carson, Hyde, and Homer don’t appear to have long-term injuries, but when and if each can come back will determine how much we see of Dallas in the next few weeks.
Dallas got a spot start in Week 8 only because Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were out with injuries and Travis Homer was severely limited by a bruised knee. Dallas did well for any fantasy owners who started him, scoring two touchdowns, but his performance was otherwise unimpressive. He'll remain between Carson, Hyde, and probably Homer when those backs are healthy. All three could return this week, with at least Carson and Homer seeming probable. Dallas can be dropped in redraft leagues..Pope was having his best game as a Charger this past week before getting his bell rung by Broncos safety Kareem Jackson, but I expect both Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley to generally play ahead of Pope in the short term, and you can add Austin Ekeler to that list in the longer term. Pope will be a limited role player over the next few weeks, not worth a fantasy start. When Ekeler takes the field again, Pope will likely be inactive on game days, as he was each week before Ekeler's injury. Leave him on your league's waiver wire.
Wood: Not many people had the desperation to start DeeJay Dallas, but as someone forced into the decision in several leagues, I was elated by the performance. However, we have to be objective and know he's no better than fourth on the depth chart when everyone is healthy.
It took multiple game-time decisions to go the right way to find relevancy. Given the onslaught of injuries and Covid-related machinations this season, I don't think Dallas can or should be on most redraft rosters beyond this week.
The Gardner Minshew Experiment was fun, I guess? I never really understood the appeal, on or off the field. But we sure do love rooting for longshots. His replacement—Jake Luton—may be an even bigger longshot, as a sixth-rounder out of Oregon State. Luton was such a longshot that he didn't warrant a profile or grade from Matt Waldman in his outstanding Rookie Scouting Portfolio.
When scouts cite your best trait as "height" it's hard to be excited about the on-field product. I think the Jaguars have crossed the chasm and are now squarely into the tank for Trevor race. The team lacks star power and the few stars on the roster are publicly disgruntled. It's a difficult situation for any quarterback, much less one whose college film showed poor decision-making under pressure and questionable footwork.
Garda: Seattle’s backfield is always a hot mess both due to injury and a penchant for the “hot-hand” method, albeit often because of injury. Dallas hasn’t shown a ton yet but can catch the ball and he scored from short-yardage against San Francisco.
Short-term, I’m rolling with him because he's the live body and even if the other backs return, he has a chance to carve out a decent role. Long-term, I am always nervous betting on Seattle's backs, as there is so much ebb and flow to who gets chances.
Chris Carson is in the last year of a contract, Carlos Hyde is on a one year deal, and Travis Homer isn’t a great back — we’ll see how good Dallas is but he has a chance to be a long term answer in Seattle especially on a cheap deal.
Short-term, Hall’s value depends on Kenny Golladay, and when he returns. There was a huge difference when Golladay left and as long as he;’s out, I think Hall can take advantage of his opportunities against some shaky defenses.
If Golladay comes back, though I think Hall takes a hit again. Long-term, Golladay is in the last year of a contract and while Hall is too, he’s cheaper and can carve out a niche with the Lions.
Pasquino: This almost feels more like a dynasty question, but given all the injuries this year, I guess not. The best players to target are those who might see more action than just one week (Week 9), so that pushes me towards both Troymaine Pope and Jordan Wilkins. Dallas had some goal-line work but he is fourth on the healthy version of the Seattle backfield depth chart, so he is a scratch.
Marvin Hall only played significant time due to Kenny Golladay's injury last Sunday, so he also misses the mark for me. Jake Luton may get a start for the Jaguars, but they are still Jacksonville - and the wide receivers are banged up there as well. He is in third place for me on this list and while he might earn the starting job the rest of the way, he is unlikely to be a fantasy consideration except for 2QB leagues.
That leaves Jordan Wilkins and Troymaine Pope. Wilkins has contributed to the Colts in the past, and splitting time with Nyheim Hines is a situation that we have seen before. If Jonathan Taylor misses significant time, Wilkins is worth a possible flex spot, but his lack of touchdowns (only four in his career despite 186 touches) is a big concern—which is why Indianapolis added Taylor in the first place.
The best option on this list is Pope, who is a bit of a journeyman at age 26 but is finally getting a real shot. While he was just activated off of the practice squad, he did see significant playing time in Week 8 and converted over half of his 16 touches into plays of five yards or more, including four first downs and a score. He is worth a waiver wire pickup as running backs that are producing that kind of stat line and getting that amount of work this time of year are always valuable.
Matt Waldman: Every year, there are young players who start strong while opponents don't have enough tape on them to form a gameplan that makes these fast-starters a priority. Round weeks 4-8, we begin to see opponents limit these players.
Some make the adjustments to return to prominence as if it were a minor bump in the road.
Others are relegated to match-play status against teams that lack the personnel or game-plan capabilities to expose those flaws.
And others struggle enough that it will take an offseason of work for them to rebound.
Pick three players from the list of Wall-Smacker candidates below and tell our readers which one is most likely to make the quick adjustment, which will be relegated to a match-up play, and which will hit the wall and need the offseason to regroup.
- Justin Jefferson
- Chase Claypool
- CeeDee Lamb
- James Robinson
- D'Andre Swift
- Justin Herbert
- Joe Burrow
- Brandon Aiyuk
- Jonathan Taylor
Where do you stand?
Tremblay: Justin Herbert has started six games for the Chargers, and although five of them resulted in losses, Herbert has played well in each. And he's done it under difficult circumstances. Six games isn't a huge sample, but six games of consistently good play under difficult conditions is enough to think he'll be able to keep it up.
His offensive line has been banged up and missing starters. His most trusted outlet receiver, Austin Ekeler, has missed three games. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen have both missed some time. Opposing defenses have blitzed and used deceptive post-snap rotations to try to confuse him. He's handled it all quite well.
No quarterback other than Patrick Mahomes II can go a full season without a bad game here and there, but Herbert has been in the next tier down in his consistency so far. I wouldn't predict that he'll hit a rookie wall. On the contrary, he may start to get more comfortable.
As NFL players, I love what I've seen from both CeeDee Lamb and Chase Claypool so far. They are both physically dominant, they both have good hands and big-play ability, and Lamb is already a solid route-runner. As fantasy players, I expect both to be inconsistent the rest of the way for similar reasons.
Both share the field with two other outstanding wide receivers (Lamb with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and Claypool with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson). Part of their production so far has come from the single coverage they've drawn as defenses have focused on their teammates. As opposing defenses have more film on the way that the Cowboys and Steelers are using their personnel, they will adjust and take away some of the plays that Lamb and Claypool have been exploiting thus far.
Their talent will carry them to big games here and there, but their production will vary quite a bit from week to week. I don't think either will hit a wall per se, but both will leave their fantasy owners frustrated every other week, or maybe every third week.
Grant: I've seen enough of Justin Herbert to think he's the real deal. After being thrown to the wolves with little or no notice, Herbert has 15 passing touchdowns in just 6 games and has the Chargers playing a lot better than many expected this year.
He's going to make some rookie mistakes, and he has a few tough opponents coming up in New England and the Bills, but he won't play KC again this fantasy season and there are a few 'must start' games in there too like the Jets and the Dolphins. The one concern with him is he might be facing the Broncos in the fantasy Super Bowl (Week 16), but he didn't flame out this week against them and the week 16 game will be at home. Going forward, I think Herbert has a reasonable chance to do well the rest of the way.
D'Andre Swift got off to a slow start, and will probably be a situational starter the rest of the way given the fact that the Lions are not a great team, but could have an outside shot at the playoffs if the NFL expands to a 16-game playoff bracket. Swift has made the most of his extremely limited touches, but as the season wears on, if the Lions don't chain a few wins together, they may just hand over the rushing duties to Swift and see what he can do.
Games to consider using Swift are against opponents like Washington, Houston, and Carolina. Maybe even Chicago depending on how each team is trending at that point in the season.
It's more about his team than him specifically, but CeeDee Lamb is going to hard to start the rest of the season. The Cowboys are AWFUL this year, and any playoff hopes died when Dak Prescott was carted off the field.
So expect them to be playing from behind, and Lamb to be on the field a lot. By the end of the year, he's going to be gassed, bruised, and completely frustrated along with most of the Cowboy fans. I would say that Lamb is a situational starter now and could have little fantasy value if the current trend of Cowboy play continues.
Simpkins: Lamb needs the offseason to regroup, but not because of a lack of talent. It’s a lack of surrounding talent that’s going to hold him back. It looks like the Cowboys may not go back to Andy Dalton this week as we all thought, signaling that they may take their time bringing him back and evaluate their backups in the meantime.
The offensive line isn’t allowing whichever subpar signal-caller they roll out there adequate time to throw to anyone. So much for the three thousand-yard receivers, we thought might come out of this offense at the beginning of the season.
Robinson has always really been a matchup play to me-- I don’t see him as a special talent that we just all somehow missed on. Just play him against defenses that are liberal against the run. The Titans in Week 14 are the best fantasy playoffs matchup he’ll encounter.
I don’t doubt the talent. Taylor just needs to get healthy. And when he is healthy, I have no reservations that he’ll get back on track and be a strong producer for whoever deploys him in the fantasy playoffs.
Garda: I think Claypool’s value depends on how long Diontae Johnson is out and if Johnson can recover his mojo – and I’m not sure about that. JuJu Smith-Schuster has finally regained his role in the offense, and when/if Johnson returns, it’s going to be between Claypool and Johnson who gets cut down. If Claypool can build a bit more on games like Cleveland and Baltimore, he should end up the beneficiary behind Smith-Schuster.
Hicks: The last two games have shown us what first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk is capable of. After struggling with injury and the opportunity to start the year, Aiyuk has produced WR1 performances against the Patriots and Seahawks. With the exciting Deebo Samuel likely to miss a few weeks and George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo much more, Aiyuk should be the primary focus and his explosive skill set should see him touch the ball both running and receiving.
The ability of CeeDee Lamb is that of an elite wide receiver, but behind a deteriorating offensive line and shaken backup quarterbacks, he is just not going to get the best opportunity to shine. Before Dak Prescott went down, Lamb was on track for a 1000 yard season. Now it will be hard work and any future good performance will rely on a weak pass rush and Dallas having a rare decent game.
As much as I like Chase Claypool he is surviving on raw athleticism and unpolished skill. He doesn’t have the knowledge yet to overcome strong defensive schemes. As he learns and develops he will be much more prepared to be the dominant receiver he can be. If he is given a leash, he can still produce but will be harder to rely on until his head is ready to match what his body can do.
Wood: This isn't what you're asking but I think CeeDee Lamb is the most worrisome of this group because of the quarterback situation. Ben DiNucci will start his second game this week, and even when Andy Dalton returns, the Cowboys offensive line issues have all but neutered what was one of the best passing attacks in the league with Dak Prescott under center.
As to your question, Jonathan Taylor may need the offseason to regroup. He was getting enough touches to have fantasy relevance, but outside of his first big game, he's been disappointing. He's looked nothing like the explosive, three-down back we expected coming out of Wisconsin. And his inconsistency is more troubling when you see Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Wilkins doing more with fewer touches. Neither Hines nor Wilkins is talented enough to outplay Taylor if things are going right.
Justin Herbert is my choice to bounce back quickly if there's any hiccup. The rookie has answered every question. He's reading the entire field, making decisive throws, and showing uncanny pocket awareness. I can't think of a reason he's going to be exposed barring a season-ending loss to Keenan Allen or further offensive line setbacks.
As to middling, matchup play, that honor goes to Chase Claypool. Claypool's four-touchdown performance put us all on tilt, and many started calling him the Steelers new No. 1. Yet, he's been a bust since Diontae Johnson has made the more convincing claim for the throne in 2021 and beyond. While Claypool likely projects as the team's No. 2 next year (after JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves), he needs to figure out a way to handle the coverages he's seen after his false breakout.