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Fantasy Football Overvalued/Undervalued: Week 15

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Dec 14, 2018

Now I see why I’ve avoided optimism all my life. I’m apparently terrible at it.

Although wrong in the case of Cameron Brate, who realized the touchdown aspect of his perennial touchdown-or-bust designation, Jared Goff, James White, and Tyler Lockett all validated my Week 14 skepticism by manifesting their worst-case-scenario floors. All four players I highlighted as liking better than the standard (non-PPR) ECR, however, fell significantly shy of expectations:

There you have it. Dreams are dumb and everyone will always let you down. Don’t trust anybody this week with a championship berth on the line. They will all come up short.

I’m being told that’s not a viable path to living life or analyzing fantasy football, so I, unfortunately, must keep identifying players I rank higher than the ECR as of Thursday evening. All of these Week 15 picks are especially capable of disappointing due to the matchup, a poor supporting cast, or his own shortcomings. Yet I’ll begrudgingly give hope one last chance.

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Undervalued: Matt Ryan (ATL vs. ARI) – ECR: QB14; My Rank: QB9
It seems like many experts are forgetting just how good Matt Ryan was while overstating his recent swoon. The Falcons have failed to clear 20 points during their five-game losing streak, and yet their leader is the QB10 during that subpar stretch. Only Patrick Mahomes bested Ryan’s 24.8 points per game through Week 9. The 2016 NFL MVP endured one horrid dud against the Ravens, who rank first in opposing completion percentage and yards per pass attempt. He has exceeded 250 passing yards in every other contest while throwing at least one touchdown in every game since Week 1. He’s fourth in pass attempts (502), third in passing yards (4,076), and fifth in quarterback rating (108.3). The Cardinals have ceded the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game (14.5) to quarterbacks, but matchup concerns are the reason he’s ninth instead of hovering near the top five. Although teams tend to run at all turns against Arizona, the Falcons-who have thrown on 65.1 percent of their plays-might take a different approach with the NFL-worst rushing offense toiling. It’s also a nice bonus that this game takes place inside the Georgia Dome, where Ryan has regaled a 120.9 passer rating with a 74.4 completion percentage and 9.2 yards per pass attempt. Anyone who sits him for Kirk Cousins, as recommended by the ECR, is playing with fire.

Overvalued: Deshaun Watson (HOU at NYJ) – ECR: QB7; My Rank: QB12
Just as I’ve consistently ranked Ryan higher than the consensus for most of the season, Deshaun Watson often falls lower in my pecking order. This season’s QB10 usually seems to get listed higher based on upside. He has flashed that ceiling with four performances of 25-plus points, but there are another four games where he failed to reach 11. Perhaps I simply play it too safe by avoiding a wide range of outcomes for Ryan’s higher volume. Yet I’d also rather bank on Russell Wilson‘s superb efficiency against a 49ers defense who allowed four of their 28 passing touchdowns to them in Week 13. A red-hot Dak Prescott, the QB3 since Dallas acquired Amari Cooper, also presents a higher floor with a considerable ceiling against the Colts. Sixteenth in passing defense and fantasy points yielded to quarterbacks, the Jets aren’t a dream matchup. If anything, they represent a golden opportunity for Lamar Miller to see 20 or more carries as a touchdown favorite. There’s also the risk of an aggressive defense infiltrating Houston’s anemic offensive line on Saturday, so Watson is far from a top-10 lock.

Running Back

Undervalued: Doug Martin (OAK at CIN) – ECR: RB28; My Rank: RB24
Wait, so everyone isn’t excited about starting Doug Martin? Such lethargy is perfectly valid, but he’s a solid flex option for a contender not blessed with significant depth. He has averaged 15.1 touches over the last seven games-drawing at least 10 carries each time-in place of Marshawn Lynch. Over the last three games, Jon Gruden has fed him 15 times inside the 20 and 10 times inside the 10. Martin, as a result, has found pay dirt each game. Oakland should travel to the end zone against the Bengals, who rank last in yards ( 421.9) and points (30.5) allowed per game. Since they’re also last against the run, Martin could do more heavy lifting than usual in between the 20s. He might not crack 100 for the first time since Nov. 22, 2015, but he could at least crack 75 rushing yards.

Overvalued: Dalvin Cook (MIN vs. MIA) – ECR: RB10; My Rank: RB14
Isaiah Crowell and Jordan Howard are among the 35 running backs who have collected more non-PPR points per game than Dalvin Cook‘s 8.4. Yet a juicy matchup against the Dolphins, who tie the Cardinals for the third-worst rushing defense, has the consensus envisioning a huge game. After all, home favorites against weak opponents tend to feast. Yet there’s still no guarantee for a heavy workload, as Cook has averaged just 10.9 carries per game. Last Monday’s 13 represented his highest clip since Week 1. Catching 13 of 17 targets over the past two games undoubtedly helps his stock, but it’s a bigger boost for his PPR appeal since the pass-catching volume produced just 50 extra yards. While almost every manager should still start Cook without a second thought, this discrepancy could mean the difference between trusting and fading him as a DFS cash play.

Wide Receiver

Undervalued: Larry Fitzgerald (ARI at ATL) – ECR: WR32; My Rank: WR27
The quality of wide receivers drops off precipitously in the 20s. Nobody should feel fully confident in anyone beyond the top 25, so there’s an inherent risk to all WR3 types. While Larry Fitzgerald is not quite money in the bank, a strong matchup and anticipated volume make him steadier than the likes of Calvin Ridley. Only four teams have allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Falcons (26.3), who have surrendered 19 touchdowns to the position. Even the Cardinals could do something against them, and the future Hall of Famer is easily Josh Rosen‘s top wideout with Christian Kirk out for the season. In Week 14’s game without the rookie, Fitzgerald drew a team-high nine targets on Rosen’s 41 passes. He gets another team susceptible to slot action. They helped Randall Cobb rise from the fantasy grave to score his first touchdown since Week 1. There’s danger in trusting such a futile offense, but Fitzgerald is a reasonable floor bet who would draw red-zone traffic if the Cardinals ever make it there.

Overvalued: Courtland Sutton (DEN vs. CLE) – ECR: WR27; My Rank: WR35
The highly scientific Law of Every Other Game says Courtland Sutton will have a strong Week 15. His erratic game log has swerved from 58 yards to 28, 78, 57, 78, 14, 85, and 14. Basic math foreshadows another 78 yards against Cleveland, right? Such basic patterns, of course, hold no correlation. They only reveal his unreliability on a weekly basis. The full-fledged breakout never happened as expected after the Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas. It also didn’t materialize in their first game since Emmanuel Sanders suffered a torn Achilles. While the rookie caught two of six targets for 14 yards, Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton each reeled in seven receptions on 10 and nine targets, respectively. They also both logged more snaps than the supposed de facto top wideout.

Player WK14 Snaps Targets Receptions Rec. YDs TD
DaeSean Hamilton 72 9 7 47 1
Tim Patrick 64 10 7 85 0
Courtland Sutton 51 6 2 14 0

Having registered a microscopic 30 catches all season with a game-high of four, Sutton has done little to earn anyone’s trust as a strong WR3. He may have fallen even further down the rankings if not for the Browns ruling out cornerback Denzel Ward with a concussion.

Tight End

Undervalued: Ian Thomas (CAR vs. NO) – ECR: TE14; My Rank: TE11
I don’t feel the least bit confident in actually playing Ian Thomas. Last week, I highlighted the Saints’ success against tight ends as a reason to shy away from Brate. This is not an about-face just because the end-zone resident happened to score two touchdowns on his only catches. They have still ceded just 34.8 yards and 5.2 fantasy points per game to the position. Yet Thomas has caught 14 of 16 targets for 123 yards over the last two tilts as Greg Olsen‘s replacement. Brate has 14 catches and 119 yards in the last six games. There are also several variables in this fringe TE1 range that could push Thomas outside of the top 12 by Sunday. Austin Hooper (lower leg) is uncertain to play. After amounting a season-high 77 yards last week, Evan Engram (my TE12) could climb a spot or two if Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) misses another game. Vernon Davis won’t linger far behind if Jordan Reed (toe) sits as expected. This is far from a buoyant endorsement of Thomas, but the volume makes him a reasonable dice roll if the alternative is starting Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, or this guy…

Overvalued: Trey Burton (CHI vs. GB) – ECR: TE12; My Rank: TE17
Really, everyone? Are we still doing this? Remember Thomas’ volume in two contests before reading Trey Burton‘s cumulative stats in the last seven tilts: 25 targets, 16 catches, 145 yards, one touchdown. His zero-yard clunker occurred with Chase Daniel under center, but Mitchell Trubisky steered the ship during Week 11’s nine-yard catastrophe and last Sunday’s 22-yard slumber. The experts keep trotting him out as a low-level starter even though he hasn’t come close to returning such value since scoring six non-PPR points as Week 10’s TE12. The Packers, who limited him to a 15-yard catch to commence the season, have allowed a touchdown to just one tight end (Ed Dickson) this season. They held George Kittle, who’s averaging 84.8 yards per game, to 30 yards in Week 6. Trubisky averaged 3.7 yards per attempt in his ugly return from a shoulder injury, so Chicago’s passing offense shouldn’t inspire much confidence. Just like last week, this will likely only go wrong if one of Burton’s few catches (or only one) takes place inside the end zone.

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Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.

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