Fantasy Football Studs & Duds: Week 15
Here’s a look at the studs and duds of Week 15. 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. Note that even though this series is intended for analyzing the present and near future, the state of fantasy right now is one that features more players who are out of it than ones who are still contending, so we’ll be looking forward into next year as well when appropriate.
Stud: Matt Ryan (ATL)
22/36; 231 Yards; Two Touchdowns; One Rushing TD
There isn’t much to say about Ryan that hasn’t already been said, but since he is — at the time of writing — the only quarterback who’s done anything remotely exceptional so far this week, we have no choice but to select him for the honors. The Falcons have had their struggles on offense under Steve Sarkisian, and just when it looked like the unit was about to make a second-year leap akin to the one they had with Kyle Shanahan, they regressed and the season quickly became a lost cause. Once 2018 is in the rearview mirror Ryan’s numbers are going to look impressive, but this team still has a lot to figure out on that side of the ball. The offensive line, where they invested a lot of capital, has either been regressing or injury prone, which in turn has made the run game nearly nonexistent against competent teams. Ryan should be a top quarterback off of draft boards next year based on historical consistency and his great array of weapons, and he’ll probably be available for people who decide to wait on the position. Next week, however, the team is visiting Carolina, facing off against a Panthers group that always handles the Falcons in that building and who will almost certainly have more to play for.
Dud: Josh Rosen (ARI)
13/22; 132 Yards; Two INTs
Nobody in the 2018 rookie QB class has numbers that pop off of the page — not even Baker Mayfield who has a sizable portion of the game’s analysts under his spell just a few months into his career. But of these players, specifically those selected in the first round, it’s Josh Rosen who has shown the fewest flashes. At least Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have been able to get away with mediocre passing by using their legs, but Rosen doesn’t have that upside. He doesn’t get much help from his cast, but then again neither does Allen or Darnold, with the former having athleticism and the latter poise greatly surpassing anything Rosen has shown. Arizona has a ton of work to do in this upcoming draft, and if it doesn’t heavily feature offensive linemen and a receiver or two then Rosen’s ceiling will be limited for some time.
Stud: Dalvin Cook (MIN)
19 Carries for 136 Yards and Two Touchdowns; One Reception for 27 Yards
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired earlier in the week, and his replacement is off to a hot start, putting up as many points in this week’s game as the team has accumulated in their past three outings. Anyone with eyes could see that Dalvin Cook needed the ball more just based on his efficiency as of late, and we saw the results of this simple strategy pay off here. His first two seasons have been plagued by injury, and last year’s sample size was so small that nobody could really say either way whether he would be an elite fantasy asset. With a number of healthy games under his belt now, though, you’d be hard pressed to find someone not impressed by Cook’s explosiveness as a runner. If you’re still in your league(s) as a Cook owner then congratulations. Fire him up against the lowly Lions and enjoy a satisfying championship week performance. For next year, Latavius Murray restructured his contract in a way that makes him a free agent next season, and as long as the Vikings don’t make any major moves to replace him Cook is looking like a very high draft pick.
Dud: Saquon Barkley (NYG)
14 Carries for 31 Yards; Four Receptions for 25 Yards
Just last week in this very series I opined about the prospects of Barkley as a fool-proof fantasy player with an impenetrably high floor. Say what you will about the flow of this game, but Barkley had more than enough opportunities to deliver once more, and he just didn’t. Fourteen carries is plenty for a running back in the modern NFL, and he was also targeted 10 times in addition to that. The fantasy playoffs are always a crapshoot, but this year, in particular, feels bad just looking at how many players who had previously been carrying their respective teams have either been hurt or laid an egg. Just add Barkley to this list and look no further because that’s just the way these things go sometimes.
Stud: Robert Foster (BUF)
Four Receptions for 108 Yards and One Touchdown
Releasing Kelvin Benjamin was one of the smarter moves made by the Bills all year. It was clear that the effort was not present, and his stats in no way justified a roster spot for the salary he was collecting on the fifth-year option. Since making this move, undrafted free agent rookie Robert Foster has put up back-to-back 100-yard games, and the one he had this week included a touchdown. Foster’s success has actually been ongoing for longer than that. Since being promoted from the practice squad in early November, Foster has recorded at least 90 receiving yards in four out of five games. That’s worth noting regardless of what team you’re on, but to do so on the Bills is even more special. He’s not a player worth consideration for this season, but if the Bills can take any sort of step forward next year then Foster will be a flier worth looking into.
Dud: Amari Cooper (DAL)
Four Receptions for 32 Yards
Cooper has revived his career in Dallas. That’s what the narrative has been, and it’s pretty much accurate. He was going to fade away had he been stuck on the Raiders, and the Cowboys actually make a point to throw him the ball. But from a fantasy perspective, Amari Cooper hasn’t changed at all. His biggest games are still when he’s on your bench, and his stinkers pop up as soon as you develop the faith to start him. Trying to manage Amari Cooper as a fantasy player is the most grueling responsibility currently available in the game, bar none. And that’s why anyone looking to draft him next year should look around and realize how gun shy all of his previous owners are. Joking about how a guy is only going to go off if you bench him is usually just lame small talk, but when Cooper is involved it’s actually true.
Stud: Evan Engram (NYG)
Eight Receptions for 75 Yards
When the full assortment of Giants pass-catchers are healthy, Evan Engram is practically worthless. But when there’s a void to be filled he always steps up to fill it, and that’s not something that every player can do. How many teams have lost players and simply had to deal with that hole being left open? More than half of them probably. Just looking at tight ends makes this painfully obvious. Nobody has been able to replace Jack Doyle, O.J. Howard, or Delanie Walker — the other options on those teams are practically the same statistically as they were before those players were sidelined. What this means for Engram is that he’s actually kind of a handcuff for Odell Beckham Jr. going forward in addition to being a boring tight end play when everyone on the Giants is healthy. And this is his floor we’re talking about. If the Giants can improve at all on offense next year then Engram can certainly coexist with his teammates even without injury.
Dud: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
Two Receptions for 21 Yards
New England just wrapped up one of their worst seasons on the road ever in the Brady-Belichick era, going a painfully mediocre 3-5 away from Foxboro. They don’t have to deal with any more road games this year, but that shouldn’t be too much of a comfort for any Gronk owners who have made it this far in spite of the capital they wasted on him. He isn’t getting the targets required to instill any sort of assurance that he can be the old Gronk. And these past two games see him match up with Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams, both of whom have had much success defending Gronkowski, even going back to last year when he was still good. It’s not like you probably have any other options, so if you are stuck with him then just take this as a lesson to not invest heavily in a 29-year-old with a major history of injuries ever again.