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Sunday Morning Updates in Red
The toughest aspect of Week 15 is going to be adjusting to the latest COVID-related absences as quickly and intelligently as possible. Every absence has sets off a chain reaction of reevaluating other aspects of each game. For example, with Jaylen Waddle now out, it takes some of the shine off Tua Tagovailoa in a plus matchup against the Jets. However, it does help DeVante Parker, who moves to the clear WR1 role, and Mike Gesicki, who should see extra targets.
In addition to the illness-related curveballs, we again have some running back situations that are very much up in the air. We need to be closely monitoring news from San Francisco, Arizona, Denver, and Los Angeles over the next few days. As such, look for a big update again on Sunday with final recommendations on top running back plays. As of Friday morning, there are still plenty of injury situations up in the air.
Friday practice reports are KEY, here’s who I’m tracking today:— Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler) December 17, 2021
â—½ï¸ Javonte Williams
â—½ï¸ Elijah Mitchell
â—½ï¸ Leonard Fournette
â—½ï¸ Damien Harris
â—½ï¸ James Conner
â—½ï¸ D’Andre Swift
â—½ï¸ Marquise Brown
â—½ï¸ Terry McLaurin
â—½ï¸ Jalen Hurts
â—½ï¸ Lamar Jackson
Congrats to those with Travis Kelce
The toughest decisions this week surround how much we should adjust the rushing upside of the injured dual-threat quarterbacks. Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts are each banged up. Not only is the availability of a couple of those guys in question, we have to wonder how their injuries will impact their mobility. Of the top dual-threat options, Kyler Murray is the only one who looks fully healthy, making him the top play at the position.
Sunday Update: We do not have to make the call on what to do with Hurts and Jackson is trending towards doubtful. We also lost Matthew Stafford and Rusell Wilson on the main slate. We are left with Allen and Murray as the clear top two options, which is going to push a whole lot of ownership their direction. This effect may be magnified further due to the fact there are very few pay-up options at other positions that are going to get people excited. Thus, there is a bit more incentive than usual to take some risks at the quarterback position. Players like Trevor Lawrence, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Joe Burrow are not going to be in many lineups making them an easy path to lineup uniqueness.
Top QB Plays
Trevor Lawrence ($6,500), Jacksonville vs. Houston
Let’s start off at quarterback with a player projected for very low ownership at a bargain price and with a fun narrative angle. How bad do you think all those “loser” assistant coaches want to go out and get a win this week? How about the players? It did not take much reading between the lines of comments from Jaguars veterans to come to the conclusion they lost respect for Urban Meyer. This is going to be a motivated Jaguars team. However, the Lawrence play is more than just narrative. The salary savings angle is big in a week where there are some fantastic pay-up options and the timing worked out where we also get an ideal matchup for the Jaguars offense to get right.
#Texans COVID list continues to grow:— TXN (@JRLTU) December 16, 2021
Houston is a middling defensive unit even at full strength and is in bad shape heading into Week 15. A COVID outbreak has hit the defense and is likely to sideline starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell, defensive captain Christian Kirksey, top pass rusher Kamu Grugier-Hill, and a few backups. There is obvious potential for further absences, as well. As noted above, it is going to be a difficult fantasy week and we are going to be tracking absences closely. In doing so, remember to focus not just on the direct and secondary impacts of the skill position cases but also the overall impact on teams and units. A motivated Jaguars offense with a fresh game plan against a patchwork Texans defense is intriguing enough to take some shots on in large-field tournaments.
Kyler Murray ($8,800), Arizona at Detroit
Murray should be the chalk option at quarterback this week given how good he has looked since returning from injury and the easy matchup against the Lions. Paradoxically, the absence of DeAndre Hopkins may end up helping Murray. Hopkins has not looked like himself for well over a month but there was still some innate pressure to feed him targets when he was on the field. The Cardinals are also banged up at running back with James Conner missing practices with an ankle injury, which could lead to a more pass-heavy game plan.
Other QBs to consider:
Aaron Rodgers ($7,600), Green Bay at Baltimore
The Packers offense has been on fire lately, putting up more than 30 points in each of the past there games. Rodgers has led that charge, throwing for 300-plus yards and multiple touchdowns in each fo those games. Twice in the past three weeks, he has thrown for at least 340 yards and 4 touchdowns. Against a Baltimore secondary that has been decimated by injuries, this sets up as another spot where Rodgers could put up huge numbers.
On first look, it is a rough week at running back. Some value may open up between Friday morning and kickoff on Sunday but the view 48 hours away from lock is not pretty. There are only two consistently productive, workhorse backs on the slate (Najee Harris and Joe Mixon) and both have very difficult matchups. Overall, it looks like a week where we want to pay down at the position. Plus, both the value options and higher-end options look stronger at wide receiver so this is also the rare week where we do not want to consider a running back in the flex spot.
The defining characteristic of this slate is the lack of strong pay-up options at running back. The third-most expensive back (James Conner) is injured and back in a timeshare with the return of Chase Edmonds. The fourth-most expensive back (Eli Mitchell) is out with injury. The two players tied for fifth-most expensive share the same backfield and limit each other’s upside (Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon). You can proceed down the list poking holes in the case for just about any of these backs, which means it is a week where maybe we do not need 25-plus points from both of our running backs to compete for first. The safest plays are Najee Harris, Joe Mixon, and James Robinson due to the fact we can feel secure in their snaps and touch projections. If you want to take some risks, Myles Gaskin, Javonte Williams, and Michael Carter stand out as having a realistic path to 20-plus touches.
Top RB Plays
James Robinson ($6,300), Jacksonville vs. Houston
One of the more puzzling aspects of the end of Urban Meyer’s reign in Jacksonville was the usage of Robinson. Given the lack of surrounding talent, this offense should have been running through Robinson to the tune of 20-plus touches every single week. Getting Robinson more involved is the easiest of the many problems for interim head coach Darrell Bevell to solve. Everything seems to be setting up Robinson for a strong game. Backup Carlos Hyde is out. The Texans are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs (24.9 per game) and are going to be missing multiple starters, including top linebacker Christian Kirksey.
San Francisco RB
Until the Sunday update, we will leave this as a placeholder. My current read on the situation is that Eli Mitchell is unlikely to play but that remains very much up in the air. If he is fully cleared, Mitchell is a great play at $7,800 with the 49ers huge home favorites against a bad Falcons defense. If Mitchell is out, then Jeff Wilson ($5,800) becomes an elite option. While Wilson was a major disappointment last week against Cincinnati (13 carries for 56 yards), a better matchup and game script against Atlanta would make it worth taking a second shot here. Unlike last week, we probably see much more reasonable ownership numbers on Wilson.
Myles Gaskin ($6,600), Miami vs. NY Jets
This is yet another situation where we need to wait for news in the lead up to the game. While we know Gaskin will be available, he was just activated on Friday and missed practice time this week. If we get some indications Gaskin will immediately return to the lead role, he makes for a nice play given the lack of options on this slate. In the Week 11 matchup between these two teams, Gaskin had 26 touches and racked up 96 yards and a touchdown. Against a Jets defense that is giving up 31.6 FanDuel points per game (by far most in the NFL) to opposing backs, the spot does not get any better.
Brian Flores says both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed have plenty reps in the offense this season but they’ll evaluate how they look before deciding if one of them gets most of reps or other guys who have practiced more this week (i.e. Duke Johnson Jr).— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) December 17, 2021
Other RBs to consider:
Michael Carter ($5,900), NY Jets at Miami
Carter is a risky play but we can live with that in tournaments given his upside and low salary. Carter was cleared to return this week and has practiced in full but will still have to compete with Tevin Coleman for touches. Regardless, Carter is the top healthy talent on this Jets offense and should immediately return to a featured role. The Dolphins defense has been much better against the run in recent weeks but Carter was averaging 7.0 YPC against them in Week 11 before getting injured.
It is a very strong week at the top of the wide receiver pool. We are going to want to save some cap space at other positions, especially running back, to fit in a pair of top wide receivers. Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams lead the way while Diontae Johnson may provide the most bang for the buck of the top players. There is also plenty of WR3 value to help free up the needed cap space for our stud receivers.
The loss of Cooper Kupp changes the dynamic of this slate in a major way. He may have been one of the most popular wide receiver plays of the entire season if the Rams game had remained on for today. Much of that Kupp ownership is going to shift towards Davante Adams, who goes from slightly contrarian to overwhelming chalk. With Eli Mitchell out, Deebo Samuel gets a small bump. He is again likely to see some high-value opportunities as a runner. There is less reason to drop down to Gabriel Davis now with Kupp out but he, DeVante Parker, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk remain the obvious cap-saving options on the slate.
Top WR Options
Gabriel Davis ($4,900), Buffalo vs. Carolina
Davis is the top bargain play on the slate at any position. With Emmanuel Sanders out, Davis steps into a much larger role. Prior to last week, he had been playing roughly 35% of the offensive snaps on average. In the four game stretch from Week 10 to Week 13, he played just under 40% of the snaps and averaged 3.5 targets per game. In Week 14, his snaps jumped to 83% and he saw eight targets. On a per snap basis, his marketshare did not change much, he simply was on the field more. In what should be a nearly every-down role in Week 15, Davis projects for seven-plus targets. For a player with a career average of 9.7 yards per target and touchdown rate of 11% of targets, we know he can do a lot of damage with seven or eight targets.
Think it was smart for the Bills to hedge their bets on Gabe Davis early but it's time to start getting him more involved. The guy can burn and brings a dimension they need. Might end up being big down the stretch.— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) December 15, 2021
Here's his #ReceptionPerception profile:https://t.co/oPk87UnTaa
Cooper Kupp ($9,000), LA Rams vs. Seattle
We can keep this one pretty short. Kupp has 113 catches for 1,489 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He has seen 10-plus targets in all but one game (a blowout where he still managed a 7-115-1 line). The matchup is elite against a Seattle defense that is stingy against outside wide receivers but very generous over the middle. If you can fit Kupp’s salary, you should play him. With some of the solid value options at other positions, it makes sense to really push to make sure you can fit Kupp in. With Odell Beckham out, the Rams have no choice but to continue feeing Kupp 10-to-15 targets.
Diontae Johnson ($7,200), Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee
In the last 22 full games Johnson and Ben Roethlisberger both played, Johnson had 10-plus targets 20 times. Whenever a player is a virtual lock for double-digit targets, he is someone you should be looking to build your fantasy team around. Over the last five weeks, Johnson is averaging 12.2 targets per game. He is seeing historically elite volume and yet his FanDuel salary has barely budged. Johnson is underpriced by at least $1,000 and the Steelers-Titans matchup has sneaky shootout potential given we have seen some a few very high scoring Steelers games over the past month.
Other WRs to Consider:
Davante Adams ($8,900), Green Bay at Baltimore
While Adams will always be popular, he may come in slightly lower-owned than normal this week given that Kupp is virtually the same price. With Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters both out for the season, this Baltimore defense is one that can be exploited. After a mid-season lull in productions, Adams has returned to dominant form over his last three games. He is averaging 8.3 catches for 113.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game since Week 11.
DK Metcalf ($6,800), Seattle at LA Rams
With Tyler Lockett potentially out due to COVID protocols, Metcalf should see extra targets in a potential shootout against the Rams. The sub-$7K price is attractive for tournaments.
DeVante Parker ($5,800), Miami vs. NY Jets
With Jaylen Waddle out, Parker steps into the clear lead role in this Dolphins passing offense in a plus matchup against the Jets. Parker is arguably the top sub-$6K option on the entire slate.
Rondale Moore ($5,500), Arizona at Detroit
With Murray being a top play, the question will then be who to pair him up with. You can make a case for any of Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, and Zach Ertz. However, Moore is someone who should see the biggest jump in playing time. In a game where the Cardinals should be able to control things, short passes to Moore as an extension of the run game could be plentiful.
For the third straight week, it feels like we should make George Kittle a priority. Even if it means major sacrifices at other positions to fit in his $7,800 salary. His upside is unmatched and he has been hitting his ceiling with regularity of late. If you cannot fit Kittle in, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Pat Freiermuth, and Kyle Pitts each standout as strong values in the $6K-and-under range.
This is another position where the loss of Kupp changes the ownership projections in a tangible way. Kittle is going to be even more popular than first expected given we no longer have to worry about carving out cap space for the top wide receiver. We also lose Dallas Goedert, who was going to be a popular option. Popularity should not necessarily scare you off of Kittle, however. With Elijah Mitchell out again, Deebo Samuel is going to see more carries and less targets. Kittle should again be the focus of the 49ers passing offense.
Top TE Options
George Kittle ($7,800), San Francisco vs. Atlanta
Kittle is fully healthy and has been dominating. Over the past two weeks, he has 22 catches for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns. In his lone matchup against the Falcons, Kittle had 13 catches for 134 yards on 17 targets. While his usage has been inconsistent this season, the recent dominant performances combined with the 49ers using Deebo Samuel in a truly hybrid RB-WR role, should force Jimmy Garoppolo to keep peppering Kittle with targets.
Dallas Goedert ($6,000), Philadelphia vs. Washington
Goedert has not been getting heavy target volume, which makes this a riskier play than it might seem on paper. Even in the five games Goedert has played over 90% the snaps, he averaged only just 5.6 targets per game. That being said, Goedert has averaged over 10 yards per target in 7-of-12 games this season. He can make good on this salary even with relatively little opportunity. We saw this last week when he caught all six of his targets for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Other TEs to consider:
Zach Ertz ($5,300), Arizona at Detroit
With DeAndre Hopkins out, Ertz becomes the top red zone receiving option for the cardinals. Since coming over to Arizona, Ertz has averaged 4-45-0.4. While those are not eye-popping numbers, 9.0 FanDuel points per game is very solid production at the tight end position in this price range.
Miami ($5,000) vs. NY Jets
The Dolphins have been the best defense in the NFL over the past month-plus. Miami has held four of their past five opponents to 10 points or less. Over that five game stretch, the Dolphins also had 19 sacks and generated 12 turnovers. Against Zach Wilson and a banged-up Jets offense, this is a great spot.
Jacksonville ($3,600) vs. Houston
The price is right for a home favorite against a shaky quarterback. Houston quarterback Davis Mills has been better lately but has been turnover prone in general and takes too many sacks. He has been sacked multiple times in eight straight appearances.