Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 15
Cheers to those of you who are still with us, as we’ve quickly found ourselves in the home stretch of the fantasy football season. A special shoutout to those of you that survived the big-name duds from Week 14 and rode the Amari Coopers and George Kittles to a win. Week 15 will stand as the semifinals for most of you, so let’s grab those championship berths and take one more step towards glory!
Catering to all formats is impossible, but I’ll do my best to provide context as I go. The ECR given is for standard leagues since that’s what we are scored on. Please note that I’m using Tuesday night’s ECR and updates will surely roll in from Wednesday morning on, as well as injury news. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on against the consensus within a start/sit range from 10- to 14-teamers, or so. Let’s dive in.
Matt Ryan (vs. ARI): Mariano Rank: 8, ECR: 15
I’m still bitter that Ryan got a garbage-time TD to take him from bust to boom in Week 14, but he now returns home for a date as 8.5-point favorites against the Cardinals. Their implied team total is about 27 points and while Ito Smith looked better (and Tevin Coleman continues to struggle), the Falcons are still best through the air.
Julio Jones is matchup-proof and Patrick Peterson doesn’t scare me. After logging a heartbreaking zero red-zone looks between Weeks 2-9, Jones has seen eight RZ opportunities in Weeks 10-14. Reminiscent of the Hey Arnold episode where the basketball coach preaches giving the ball to his son, Tucker, I trust Atlanta now realizes they should just feed Julio.
Carson Wentz (at LAR): MR: 11, ECR: 13
Wentz and the Eagles had their hearts broken in an overtime loss to the Cowboys in Week 14, but the good news is that Philly’s offense seems to have stabilized after taking on Golden Tate. Wentz has thrown five TDs in the past two games and while the Rams scored only six points in Week 14, a rebound is surely in order against Philadelphia’s decimated secondary. I don’t buy Josh Adams winning against an Aaron Donald-led front, so I expect Wentz to air it out and make some mistakes along the way to a volume-fueled performance as they try to fly with LAR. It doesn’t hurt that Alshon Jeffery came back to life with a 6-50-1 line either.
Cam Newton (vs. NO): MR: 12, ECR: 9
For all the fun that Baker Mayfield’s deep shots provided in Week 14, Newton’s arm looked like a college freshman’s in comparison. He struggled to hit medium-range out routes and was once again lifted for backup Taylor Heinicke when a Hail Mary situation arose. With five interceptions to his name over the last two weeks, Newton is a fringe QB1 for me heading into an MNF showdown with the Saints.
The possibility always exists for Christian McCaffrey to YAC Newton into the top-10, but his shoulder injury dampens both his air and ground potential. After carrying the ball at least seven times in seven of Carolina’s first eight games, he’s done so only once in their last five with zero TDs over that span.
Russell Wilson (at SF): MR: 13, ECR: 10
Wilson is coming off of an atrocious Monday night showing against the Vikings at home, but his 72 yards on 10-of-20 passing and 61 rush yards were enough to seal a 21-7 victory. It was nice to see him scramble, but this is our worst nightmare with run-heavy Seattle come to life. It’s worth noting that he didn’t have Doug Baldwin, but he’s still completed just 21 passes in his last two games and notched above 250 pass yards in 2-of-13 games. The road date against San Francisco is a top-10 matchup, but there’s little reason to think he’s featured when Chris Carson and the defense have provided a roadmap to victory.
Damien Williams (vs. LAC): MR: 29, ECR: 42
I’m of the opinion that Spencer Ware will be limited at best on Thursday thanks to his injuries, but I’d bump up Williams even higher were Ware inactive. Williams saw four red-zone opportunities to Ware’s one as he turned 12 touches into 30 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore. His matchup gets easier in Week 14, as the Chargers just yielded 138 yards and a TD to Joe Mixon and seven total TDs to RBs in their last four games. Mix in a high-powered Chiefs offense at home and I’m here for it.
Ito Smith (vs. ARI): MR: 31, ECR: 39
I know I railed against ATL’s run game earlier and neither Smith nor Tevin Coleman have registered a red-zone opportunity in either of Atlanta’s last two contests, but Smith still carries potential. Coleman has put up yardage totals of 23, 11 and 41 lately (75 total), while Ito Smith put up 74 yards in Week 14 alone. In cases where both RB parties are streaky, I’ll side with the hot hand against a Cardinals squad that just gave up a 12-54-1 line to Zach Zenner. The run game should also benefit late from the Falcons being favored by over a touchdown.
Dion Lewis (at NYG): MR: 35, ECR: 29
No one’s sitting Derrick Henry against the Giants in a juicy Week 15 matchup, but what about his counterpart? Behind Henry’s monster stats lies a 60-40 snap share that still favored Lewis in Week 14, though Dion hasn’t totaled more than 68 yards or scored in a game since Week 9. The Giants run defense is barebones since dealing Damon Harrison, but Lewis’ standard-league appeal remains low.
Adrian Peterson (at JAX): MR: 36, ECR: 31
I didn’t think this would be necessary, but Peterson is somehow still ranked in flex territory here. Not only has Peterson’s snap share fallen to 36% and 31% in the last two weeks with Chris Thompson (64%, 40%) back, but he and Washington have to face Jacksonville with a fourth-string quarterback at the helm. AP is TD-dependent on a team that is somehow seven-point underdogs despite a game total of 36. Vegas paints this as a 21-14 snoozefest and I’ll bet the under hits.
Mike Williams (at KC): MR: 33, ECR: 38
The Chargers have struggled to shine at Arrowhead Stadium in recent years, but a date with the Chiefs secondary should be just what the doctor ordered for those of us begging for Williams to get more work. Melvin Gordon might play and Keenan Allen remains the star wideout, but Williams’ six targets in Week 14 doubled the three looks of Tyrell Williams and Antonio Gates got just two. I expect Williams’ playmaking abilities will be needed in kind and 10 targets are possible.
DaeSean Hamilton (vs. CLE): MR: 46, ECR: 58
I really wish DaeSean had the same amount of syllables as Alexander because I am ready for Hamilton references to hit the fantasy football industry. Anyway, Hamilton led Denver WRs with a 97% snap share while Courtland Sutton dealt with an in-game injury as he notched nine targets, which trailed only Tim Patrick’s 10. Hamilton’s 7-47-1 line isn’t flashy, but he’s clearly involved and Sutton should draw Denzel Ward (if Ward clears concussion protocol) in Week 15. Phillip Lindsay remains Denver’s best weapon, but Hamilton will have a flex-worthy role.
Kenny Golladay (at BUF): MR: 36, ECR: 25
Alright, I respect Golladay’s talents, but this Detroit offense is a mess. I had some hopes for him to ride No. 1 WR volume to relevance in Week 14, but he saw just four looks for five yards. One of the few things that could make this worse is putting Buffalo’s stud DB Tre White across from him and putting Detroit on the road, which is what’s about to occur. Kenny G is in danger of slipping beyond my top-40 and I think I’d prefer Dede Westbrook, a fellow No. 1 WR stuck on a subpar offense, to Golladay.
Adam Humphries (at BAL): MR: 40, ECR: 34
Humphries caught four-of-eight targets for 42 yards in Tampa’s Week 14 loss to the Saints, but his dud was out-dudded by Chris Godwin’s one-catch game. Warnings about Humphries’ value being inflated due to TDs were floating around last week and came to roost, and now a road date with the Ravens may drive the point home. Vegas is pegging Tampa Bay for roughly 20 points as eight-point underdogs and while I think Hump will make value in PPR formats, I worry about his prospects in standard.
Vernon Davis (at JAX): MR: 12, ECR: 20
People are flocking to Ian Thomas, who has his intrigue but faces a New Orleans defense whose season-high mark of TE receptions against is five (Austin Hooper in Week 12 for 31 yards), but I think Davis is the real pivot. Yes, Josh Johnson is a shaky QB and Jacksonville will overpower him, but Davis is far more than a No. 20 TE with Jordan Reed hurt. Even without huge yardage totals, the Jags are still one of nine teams with seven TDs allowed to TEs.
Anthony Firkser (at NYG): MR: 19, ECR: 36
With Jonnu Smith joining Delanie Walker on the shelf, Firkser hit a 40% snap rate in Week 14. Luke Stocker plays more, but he’s tallied two targets in Tennessee’s last three games and is just a blocker while Firkser has seen at least three targets in each of their last four games, even with Smith active. He’s caught every one of his 16 targets in 2018 and the Giants gave up at least 78 yards to opposing TEs in three of their last four contests.
Kyle Rudolph (vs. MIA): MR: 17, ECR: 13
Rudolph averages five targets per game but has gone a whopping 10 straight contests without a touchdown and turned in a season-low seven yards in Week 14. He’s only exceeded 40 yards once in his last eight games as well, which goes in with my sad feelings towards Kirk Cousins. I expect the defense to do the heavy lifting here against a Dolphins team coming down after an emotional victory over the Patriots.
Evan Engram (vs. TEN): MR: 20, ECR: 16
The Titans give up the fewest fantasy points to opposing TEs in 2018, due in large part to being the only defense yet to surrender a TD to TEs. Engram has tallied 189 yards in his last three games that weren’t marred by injury and while he enjoys more of the focus when Odell Beckham Jr. is out, OBJ’s bruised quad doesn’t sound like a big deal. Engram’s athleticism doesn’t seem like enough to overcome low volume (38 targets in eight games) and a horrid matchup.