10 Things We Learned: Week 10 (Fantasy Football)
If you’ve been playing this game long enough you probably already knew this, but Week 10 was proof that fantasy football is sometimes impossible to predict. C.J. Beathard, Case Keenum, and DeShone Kizer were all top-five QBs in standard leagues this week, Austin Ekeler was a top-five RB, and Chester Rogers was a top-five WR.
Aside from Ekeler (more on him later), none of these guys make great waiver wire additions. But let this week serve as a reminder that player rankings and projections are just best guesses, no matter how smart the guy or gal is that’s doing the guessing. It’s why they play the games!
Here are nine other things we learned in Week 10.
Jared Goff is pushing for every-week QB1 status
The Rams’ offense has been a well-oiled machine all season, but it was Todd Gurley — not Goff — who was doing most of the heavy lifting early on. Goff threw for multiple touchdowns in just two of his first seven games, but lately, the 2016 #1 overall pick is showing that Sean McVay’s offense can be lethal through the air as well.
Goff has thrown for at least 300 yards and three scores in back-to-back games, which is impressive even though the matchups (Giants, Houston) were very friendly. It remains to be seen how much LA airs it out against stronger pass defenses, but Goff has established himself as a clear QB1 in favorable matchups at the very least.
It’s time to start taking Robert Woods seriously
Goff’s emergence has also resulted in a coming out party for Woods, who has 241 yards and four touchdowns over the last two games. Before the Rams’ Week 8 bye, Woods was considered a boring WR3-type for PPR leagues, capable of giving you five catches for 50-60 yards each week but little else. Suddenly, he’s looking like the go-to receiving option in the league’s highest-scoring offense and third-best passing game.
Now a little bit of cold water. Despite their lofty pass yardage totals, the Rams have been a low-volume passing attack that has managed to hit on a lot of big plays. They also spread the ball around quite a bit — Sunday marked the first time that Woods has received 10 targets in a game this year. And, as I explained earlier, the matchups won’t always be as friendly as they have been the last couple weeks.
So maybe we shouldn’t go overboard on Woods (or Goff). But we’re still talking about a must-start option right now. View Woods as a locked-in WR3 and consider it a huge bonus if he gives you WR2 value the rest of the season.
The Giants are awful, but Sterling Shepard isn’t
In a key battle for draft pick positioning, the Giants showed the 49ers who’s worse, getting lambasted 31-21 by San Francisco. But the Giants’ ineptitude does not mean they are devoid of fantasy assets. Fantasy owners who patiently waited out Shepard’s sprained ankle were richly rewarded this week, as he hauled in 11 of his 13 targets for 142 yards.
Unless New York benches Eli Manning, which is reportedly not going to happen, the team’s struggles set Shepard up for a big stretch run. With Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall on the shelf, he is the team’s unquestioned #1 WR, and one of the best bets in the league for double-digit targets each week.
The Giants’ defense is terrible, and each of their upcoming opponents (KC, WAS, OAK, DAL, PHI) should be able to jump out to early leads. That will force the G-Men to play the second half in hurry-up mode and should set up Shepard for lots of garbage time production, much like the Jaguars’ receivers of years’ past.
Austin Ekeler is earning more opportunities
For most of the season, Ekeler has been a good stash as a high-upside handcuff, and lottery ticket should an injury befall Melvin Gordon. But on Sunday, the Chargers’ backfield looked like a committee for the first time all year, as Ekeler exploded for 119 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. The snap count remained heavily in Gordon’s favor, but Gordon only out-touched Ekeler 21-15, and Ekeler was playing meaningful minutes late in the fourth quarter until he lost a costly fumble.
After the game, Anthony Lynn did not sound like a coach who was about to punish his rookie RB for fumbling. Lynn said he decided to play Ekeler in crunch time because he was “hitting holes a little quicker” than Gordon, adding, “I’m sure he’s beating himself up over [the fumble], but he made some great plays today, too.
He was one of the reasons we were in the game. He’s just going to have to learn from it and keep going.”
Gordon has been too productive for too long to lose his starting job in one game, but Ekeler should no longer be considered merely a handcuff. Look for Ekeler to see enough work going forward to become a flex consideration, while Gordon should still be viewed as an RB1 until proven otherwise.
The Cowboys miss Tyron Smith more than Ezekiel Elliott
With Elliott finally serving his suspension, all eyes were on the Cowboys’ backfield. But the much bigger issue for Dallas was that Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn’s eyes were on Dak Prescott, and All-Pro LT Tyron Smith wasn’t around to keep his QB standing upright.
Clayborn and the rest of the Falcons’ front seven were in the Cowboys’ backfield all game, quickly turning Sunday’s contest into a lopsided affair. As a result, we didn’t learn all that much about the Cowboys’ running game, although at least in this game, Alfred Morris was operating as the clear lead-back, with Rod Smith playing on passing downs and Darren McFadden a complete non-factor. If that backfield distribution holds going forward, Morris should be able to accrue RB2 value — but only once Tyron Smith returns to keep the offense afloat.
Jamaal Williams is next man up in Green Bay
It’s been a tough year for injuries in Green Bay, and that continued on Sunday as both Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery went down. Jones reportedly suffered a sprained MCL, which could cost him a few weeks, and Montgomery reaggravated the rib injury that already cost him some time earlier in the year.
In their place, Jamaal Williams stepped in and rushed 20 times for 67 yards. The rushing efficiency was hardly ideal, but the workload is enough to get your attention. Williams, who the Packers drafted before Jones in the spring, had not received more than four carries in a game before Sunday, so it’s too early to judge his talent fully.
The range of outcomes for Williams is extreme, based not only on his abilities but also on the performance of QB Brett Hundley and the injury timetables for Jones and Montgomery. But the bottom line is that 20-touch RBs with significant upside don’t grow on trees, so Williams is a high priority waiver addition unless it becomes evident that Jones or Montgomery is expected back next week.
Tevin Coleman is a capable workhorse when called upon
Devonta Freeman departed the Falcons’ Week 10 game very early on with a concussion, and he is unlikely to play in Week 11. In his place, Tevin Coleman received the largest workload of his three-year career, piling up 88 yards and a touchdown on 21 touches. Coleman was already putting up RB2 value before Freeman’s injury, so he shouldn’t be on any waiver wires in competitive leagues, but he now has a shot at RB1 value for however long Freeman is out.
Terron Ward also saw nine carries in Freeman’s absence, and Ward may be given a chance to play Coleman’s role in the offense while Coleman takes on Freeman’s responsibilities. Ward likely isn’t an equal talent to Coleman, though, so don’t expect him to do nearly as much as Coleman did with limited opportunities. He won’t be an appealing flex option in Seattle next week.
Leonard Fournette has become a fantasy headache
Fournette was a fantasy force through the season’s first six weeks but has now given his owners nothing over the last month. First, there was the non-contact ankle injury he suffered in Week 6, which initially looked like it might be much worse but did force him to sit out Week 7.
Then, after the team’s Week 8 bye, Fournette was shockingly inactive in Week 9 for violating team rules. In Week 10, he was bottled up by a Chargers team that is last in the league in defending the run.
If you own Fournette, you have little choice but to wait it out and hope he returns to form. As long as he is fully recovered from the ankle injury, his chances of performing like an RB1 going forward are still reasonably good. But four of his next five matchups are tough, so his owners will need to keep their short-term expectations in check and hope they can survive long enough to get to see him face off with the porous 49ers D in the fantasy championship week, Week 16
The Patriots’ RB committee is down to three, and they all have value
Mike Gillislee was inactive for the Sunday night game in Denver, and as long as that continues to be the case, there is a path to fantasy value for Dion Lewis, James White, AND Rex Burkhead. All three RBs scored a TD out of the backfield, and Lewis and Burkhead showed they are also assets on special teams — Lewis with a kick return TD and Burkhead with a blocked punt.
While Lewis’ kick returning prowess may occasionally provide a boost in leagues that reward return TDs, the bigger takeaway is that the Patriots’ offense is potent enough to support three fantasy RBs. Lewis has continued to establish himself as the team’s primary rushing option, including at the goal line, which gives him solid RB3 value with RB2 upside.
White’s pass-catching role has remained stable all year, providing RB3/flex value, particularly in PPR formats. Now, even Burkhead has worked his way into flex consideration as a sort of hybrid of Lewis and White. It’s possible Gillislee will be back in the picture when Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels come up with more run-heavy game plans, but whenever he is inactive, the other three can all be appealing fantasy options.