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Fantasy Football Studs & Duds: Week 14

Dec 10, 2018

Here’s a look at the studs and duds of Week 14. We’ll look at one stud and one dud from each of the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions. The purpose of this exercise is not simply to identify the best and worst at each position but to find players who had over- or underwhelming performances that warrant discussion.

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Stud: Tom Brady (NE)
27/43; 359 Yards; Three Touchdowns

If not for that final play, one of the bigger stories in the NFL this week would be how good Tom Brady looked. It was his most impressive performance of the season, and it was on the road in a place that’s been a house of horrors for this team (it still is). His throws were on the money, and he was more the victim of bad drops and forced throwaways than he was inaccurate. As good as he was, this team still struggles to throw the ball in the red zone, which was showcased at the end of the first half and capped off with a rare boneheaded mistake by Brady, who took a sack that cost his team some much-needed points. Next week’s match against the Steelers is primed for a similar outing for Brady, who will need to put points on the board to keep up with a desperate Pittsburgh offense.

Dud: Matthew Stafford (DET)
15/23; 1o1 Yards

When Calvin Johnson departed from the Lions unceremoniously, there was some glass-half-full thinking by fans and analysts who thought maybe Megatron’s departure could help Stafford develop into a more complete player by virtue of being free to spread the ball around. This almost seemed to pan out, until suddenly it didn’t, and now Stafford’s new contract looks like one of the worst in the league. He was essentially playing with only one weapon in Kenny Golladay, but an NFL quarterback should be able to do better than 101 yards with just about any ensemble of pass catchers. And even earlier in the season when he had Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Golden Tate, he was still hovering around the threshold of mediocrity. As things stand Stafford is just not a good quarterback, but look for the Lions to make some personnel changes in the offseason to try and accommodate for him, hopefully turning things around.

Running Back

Stud: Saquon Barkley (NYG)
14 Carries  for 170 Yards and One Touchdown; Four Receptions for 27 Yards

Is Saquon Barkley the safest draft pick in fantasy next year? Todd Gurley is great, but he’s unquestionably the product of his team’s offense to some extent. Melvin Gordon is awesome, but he’s been injury-prone this year and has lost touches to Austin Ekeler. Barkley gets it done on a terrible offense and his team barely lets his backup in the game unless they’re up big, which happened for the first time in this game. And it’s cliche, but Barkley is literally a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands thanks solely to his sheer athleticism and impressive set of moves. He’s also the beneficiary of Odell Beckham Jr., who’s presence makes it extremely difficult for defenses to stack the box and play the run no matter how bad the quarterback is. If the Giants do add a competent QB in the draft? Look out.

Dud: Jaylen Samuels (PIT)
11 Carries for 28 Yards; Seven Receptions for 64 Yards

What was nice about James Conner, and Le’Veon Bell before him, is that the Steelers featured them on nearly every snap. Where the rest of the league has moved on to the popular RBBC (running back by committee), Pittsburgh has spat in the face of progress and looked good doing it. But those guys were talented enough to warrant constant inclusion, whereas the next string does not have that pleasure. Samuels was expected to be the next man up, and he was except for that one time where Stevan Ridley vultured a touchdown. Unfortunately, fantasy football in its current state is at a point where an RB who’s at risk of having his touchdowns vultured is forever condemned to mediocrity. The prevalence of pass interference calls makes it especially important to have a player who can be counted on to punch the ball in when a receiver draws a flag in the end zone. He made up for some of his deficiencies in the passing games, but Conner owners who survived this week would be wise to seek a replacement outside of the Steelers should he miss more time.

Wide Receiver

Stud: Julio Jones (ATL)
Eight Receptions for 106 Yards; Two Touchdowns

Julio Jones always tears it up versus the Packers. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but there are a handful of these strange player-team relationships in the league that go down like clockwork every single time a meeting takes place (see: Rob Gronkowski against the Steelers, which is happening again next week by the way). In terms of the macro perspective: Julio Jones is on pace for one of his best seasons ever. And it may have taken a little while, but he got the touchdown drought off of his conscious as well. He’s even been almost completely healthy, which hasn’t been the case often for Jones. For the Falcons this has been a terrible season, but for Julio this year has gone a long way toward reestablishing him as one of the league’s most respected pass catchers.

Dud: Antonio Brown (PIT)
Five Receptions for 35 Yards

The only player who’s been able to consistently outperform Julio Jones statistically is Antonio Brown, but those days might be coming to an end. He’s 30 years old now believe it or not, and that number is often a death sentence for skill position players in this league. Brown went on a touchdown-scoring tear in the middle of the season, but JuJu Smith-Schuster has begun to emerge once again as the team’s top receiver. If his quickness begins to wane even a little bit, Brown will be in a tough spot, unable to depend on the size or strength of many of his contemporaries. He’ll still be owned in 100% of leagues next year, but his status as a first-round pick could be in jeopardy. As far as this season is concerned, it will be interesting to see whether the Patriots view him or Smith-Schuster as the top threat to eliminate. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore certainly matches up better with the latter player from a physical standpoint, which could mean a big outing for Brown.

Tight End

Stud: George Kittle (SF)
Seven Receptions for 210 Yards; One Touchdown

We all know George Kittle is really good. The numbers prove it. The lack of surrounding talent makes it even more impressive. But what’s easy to miss if you don’t actually watch him play is just how fast this guy is. Tight ends get lost in coverage all the time, leading to long touchdown plays — see O.J. Howard last year, or Austin Hooper three years ago. But that’s not what’s happening here. No, Kittle is outrunning every player on the opposing defense with regularity. It’s not a position that anyone associates with speed, but maybe we ought to with how much success this dude is having. And since the 49ers still have so many holes to fill on defense, there’s a good chance that next year Kittle is in line for just as much work if the front office decides to focus on building that side of the ball.

Dud: Chris Herndon (NYJ)
One Reception for 14 Yards

Herndon was a thing for a hot minute, which was extremely valuable at the time when fantasy teams were scrambling to add any help at all at the position. As a reminder, Herndon had a touchdown in three straight games and also accrued at least 50 yards in four out of six games. But in the past four weeks, he’s achieved that many yards just once, and he hasn’t scored in the past five games. Tight end is really top-heavy this year, and if you don’t have one of those top guys then you’re playing at a disadvantage.

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Shane McCormack is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Shane, check out his archive and follow him @ShaneMcCormack_.