Fantasy Football Target Analysis: Week 15
The 2018 fantasy football season came and went at a pace unmatched except by the touchdown-scoring prowess by some of the league’s high-octane passing attacks. After countless hours of research, recaps, and analysis, we’ve achieved the goal we all set back in August. We’ve reached the championship.
Now is not the time to change our habits or prep work. All season we’ve used the previous week’s targets analysis to give us an edge on potential waiver claims and upcoming favorable situations, so let’s stick with what has been working since way back in September.
For the final time, here are the NFL passing targets from Week 15 and what it means for our championship lineups. Good luck in bringing home the trophy.
No Thursday night game this week but there are two games on Saturday, December 22nd.
Washington at Tennessee 4:30 pm and Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers 8:20 pm.
As per usual, the only credible options for Arizona’s stagnant offense were Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. Fitzgerald’s seven catches and 82 yards were his top marks since Week 8, while Johnson surpassed triple-digit total yards for the first time since Week 11 and ended a four-game scoreless skid.
Trent Sherfield played 65 out of 69 snaps (94%) and scored his first NFL touchdown. That score came in garbage time and was from Mike Glennon, who relieved Josh Rosen with the Cardinals trailing by five touchdowns. Sherfield offers more than Chad Williams but is well off the fantasy radar.
Ricky Seals-Jones has caught three passes in back-to-back games but has been held to 22 or fewer receiving yards in six out of Arizona’s past eight contests. Seals-Jones also has a single touchdown this season, which came way back in Week 3.
The Falcons had rather tame offensive numbers in a performance that netted 40 points and a blowout of a hapless Arizona squad. Julio Jones scored another touchdown but only caught six passes while blanketed by Patrick Peterson. Jones’ 82 receiving yards against the Cardinals were 26 under his season average. With a Week 16 date against Carolina’s bottom-five secondary, Jones will be a good bet to finish as the slate’s top wideout.
Calvin Ridley has been scuffling. He’s been held under 50 receiving yards and out of the end zone in six out of the past seven games. Perhaps he’ll rebound in Week 16 against Carolina’s anemic secondary. Ridley caught 4-of-5 targets for 64 yards and a touchdown versus the Panthers back in Week 2.
Week 15 was a terrible time for Austin Hooper to get shut out, but readers of this series knew to downgrade Atlanta’s tight end against a Cardinals’ defense that had been stingy against the position all season. Carolina, however, has ceded the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, so Hooper is in a prime bounce-back spot in championship week.
John Brown’s numbers since Lamar Jackson took over as the starter starting in Week 11: 17 targets, five catches, 71 yards, and one touchdown. Brown is well off the fantasy radar this Saturday in Los Angeles against the Chargers’ improved secondary.
Willie Snead has been a much more dependable source of targets and catches but his usage has remained virtually unchanged from when Joe Flacco was under center. Snead has five-plus receptions and finished between 50 and 60 receiving yards in nine of the Ravens’ 14 games.
Marty Mornhinweg has been using all four of the club’s tight ends quite liberally. Mark Andrews, Maxx Willimas, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst have all played at least 25% of Baltimore’s snaps in the past three games but no player has topped three receptions or 47 yards.
Robert Foster has topped 90 yards in four out of Buffalo’s past five games, including three 100-yard outings. Despite missing Buffalo’s Week 11 bye, Foster has been a top-30 fantasy wideout over the past five weeks, averaging over 13 PPR points per week.
Isaiah McKenzie has also developed into a solid PPR option, despite the Bills’ struggles to mount a consistent passing attack. McKenzie’s usage has been similar to that of Willie Snead. McKenzie has recorded between four and six catches and 46-53 yards in each of Buffalo’s past three games, without a touchdown.
McKenzie and Foster accounted for 161 out of Josh Allen’s 204 passing yards, roughly 79% of the Bills’ passing yards against Detroit. In Week 14, the duo produced 151 out of Allen’s 206 yards, 73%.
The Panthers have now lost six straight games and Cam Newton doesn’t look right. Newton has been dealing with a shoulder injury and has progressively gotten worse since throwing for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 13. Even with an excellent matchup on deck with Atlanta, it’s hard to trust Newton and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the club shut him down for the remainder of the season.
Newton’s struggles led the poorest outings for D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel since Week 3. Both youngsters have an outstanding matchup versus the Falcons, so it will be hard to sit them, even with the quarterback woes.
Christian McCaffrey was the only running back to touch the ball for Carolina against the Saints. McCaffrey also led the club in all receiving categories and even threw the Panthers’ only touchdown. He’s an every-week, top-5 fantasy option who would not miss a beat, even if Newton was shelved.
While Trey Burton ended his slide with his sixth touchdown reception of the season, he remains a risky source for weekly production. Burton hasn’t topped four receptions or 40 receiving yards since Week 7 and has exceeded 50 yards only three times all season.
Allen Robinson has led the Bears in targets in the past two games. He’ll be on the WR3 radar in Week 16 against a San Francisco secondary that has allowed an NFL-high 22 touchdown receptions to opposing wide receivers.
Jeff Driskel has progressively gotten worse each week as Cincinnati’s starter, culminating in a disastrous 3.9 yards per attempt average Week 15 against the Raiders. Oakland entered that game having allowed the most passing touchdowns in the NFL but Driskel only completed 42.4% of his passes for 130 yards and a single TD.
Even with Driskel’s struggles, Tyler Boyd was playing quite well before suffering a sprained MCL against Oakland. John Ross has been playing the most snaps and will likely take over as the WR1 but Ross has been a boom-or-bust weekly option who will be hard to trust in lineups, even versus Cleveland.
While the passing attack is fading, Joe Mixon is thriving. Mixon followed up his strong Week 14 showing with a season-best 27 carries and 129 yards against the Raiders. Mixon also scored a pair of touchdowns and will be a top-10 fantasy option in Week 16 versus the Browns.
After a pair of solid fantasy outings, Jarvis Landry reverted back to his mid-season slump. Landry only caught three of his eight looks for 37 yards. Landry only has one 100-yard outing since Week 3 but he has been targeted much more downfield, which would explain the drop in efficiency. After averaging 7.5 yards per grab from Weeks 6-10, Landry has jumped up to 14.6 with Freddie Kitchens as the play-caller.
Antonio Callaway got back on track after his Week 14 goose egg. Callaway has produced a touchdown and/or 50 receiving yards in three of four. He’ll be on the WR5/flex radar against Cincinnati’s anemic secondary.
The continued heavy-usage of Ezekiel Elliott in the passing game was about the only positive to pull out of the Cowboys’ shutout loss in Indianapolis. Elliott led Dallas with seven grabs on eight targets and now ranks inside the top-5 of all NFL running backs this season with a career-best 72 receptions.
Amari Cooper was effectively neutralized by the Colts’ underrated secondary. Cooper’s 32 receiving yards in Week 15 were his fewest since joining the Cowboys and it was also the first time since Week 11 that Cooper did not lead the club in targets. A Week 16 home date with Tampa Bay’s haggard secondary should result in a quick turnaround for Cooper and Dak Prescott.
Blake Jarwin led Dallas’ tight end group in snaps again and has received seven targets in the past two Cowboys’ games. He’s caught 11 of those 14 passes for 101 yards and is on the streaming radar in Week 16 against the Buccaneers’ bottom-10 secondary.
DaeSean Hamilton’s 12 targets were a career-best and ranked third in the NFL for Week 15. Since taking over for Emmanuel Sanders as Denver’s slot receiver, Hamilton has caught 14-of-21 targets in two games.
Hamilton and Tim Patrick have both out-targeted number one receiver Courtland Sutton in the past two games. Other than catching a career-high five balls against the Browns, Sutton’s usage hasn’t changed at all since taking over as the club’s top wideout.
The Broncos have the luxury of playing in the final regular-season game of the 2018 fantasy season. As a bonus, Denver is traveling to Oakland to take on a Raiders pass defense that has allowed an NFL-worst 31 touchdown passes this season. All three of the club’s wideouts can be considered as potential flex plays, as well as TE Matt LaCosse, who can be considered a low-ceiling streaming option.
With Bruce Ellington out with a hamstring injury, Andy Jones and T.J. Jones both saw an increase in snaps but made little real impact on the game. Granted, it came in a tough spot in Buffalo, but the duo combined to catch three out of five targets for 14 yards. Andy Jones did contribute a touchdown but won’t be a reliable fantasy option against the Vikings.
Kenny Golladay was the only member of Detroit’s passing attack to have any significant impact. Golladay caught 7-of-8 targets for a season-high 146 yards. WR4 Brandon Powell was the only other wideout to even hit double-digit yards in Buffalo.
Zach Zenner led Detroit’s backfield in snaps, carries, and targets while also punching in a touchdown for the second straight game. Detroit has nothing to play for so there’s little reason for the club to rush Kerryon Johnson back. Zenner is widely available on the waiver wire and will be on the RB3 radar in Week 16 at home versus Minnesota.
Green Bay Packers
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Davante Adams has now led Green Bay in targets in each of the past 11 games. Adams is third in the league with an even 100 receptions and second in targets (151) and touchdown grabs (12). Facing a New York Jets’ secondary that has ceded the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers in Week 16, Adams is looking at another top-five finish just when his owners need it the most.
Since returning from a three-game absence, Randall Cobb has played plenty of snaps but not made much of a fantasy impact. Other than a touchdown grab against the Falcon in Week 14, Cobb has been well under 10 PPR points in each of those three games.
Jamaal Williams should be the top waiver wire add in every league. Aaron Jones suffered a knee injury versus the Bears and Williams reclaimed the club’s feature back role. Williams should be a good bet for 15 carries and five to seven targets as the Packers wind down the fantasy season in New York against the Jets.
DeAndre Hopkins filled up the highlight reel once again against the Jets, hauling in 10-of-11 targets for 170 yards and two more touchdowns. Nuk was hobbled late by an ankle injury but it’s not expected to be much of a factor moving forward. The 10-4 Texans will look to wrap up the AFC South this week in Philadelphia and Hopkins will be a locked-in top-three wideout against an Eagles’ secondary that has allowed the second most fantasy points to wide receivers so far in 2018.
The eight targets and six receptions that Demaryius Thomas accumulated against the Jets both were his highest totals since joining the Texans. Thomas has been quiet, but fairly consistent with Houston, finishing between 32 and 61 yards in five of six games. No longer much of a downfield threat, Thomas is only averaging 10.4 yards per catch over the past month.
T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers, Dontrelle Inman, and Zach Pascal all played at least half of Indy’s snaps in Week 15 but only Hilton made any kind of fantasy impact. The Cowboys have excelled against the pass and shut down the Colts’ secondary receivers, who combined to catch just four passes for 38 yards in 139 snaps.
Eric Ebron also tanked, catching just one of his three targets for eight yards. It was Ebron’s second dud game in a month. His recent target share and touchdown upside assure Ebron will remain a solid option in championship week but the Giants have only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this season.
Marlon Mack had his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season but hasn’t been playing much of a role in the passing game. Mack hauled in his only target against the Cowboys and hasn’t recorded more than two grabs in any game this season. Meanwhile, Nyheim Hines ranks 10th in the NFL with 55 grabs.
Cody Kessler’s Week 15 passing line looks like numbers from a competent quarterback’s first drive. It’s hard to believe that Kessler only completed nine passes for 57 yards and an interception in four quarters of “action.” In four starts, Kessler is averaging fewer than 150 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. No member of the Jags’ passing offense should be anywhere near a fantasy lineup in Week 16.
Jacksonville’s running backs didn’t fare much better. Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon combined to rush for 52 yards on 14 totes and caught 4-of-7 targets for 23 more. Fournette gets a solid matchup in Week 16 against a Dolphins’ defense that’s allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs, but he’s a lesser RB2 due to Jacksonville’s recent struggles.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chargers’ surging defense did an excellent job on Patrick Mahomes, who was held to a season-low 243 yards in the Chargers’ 29-28 win. Mahomes did throw two more touchdown passes and complete over 70% of his 34 attempts but no Kansas City pass-catcher topped 75 yards for the first time all season.
Tyreek Hill’s ugly drop of what would have been a 43-yard touchdown bomb helped limit his output to fewer than 50 yards for only the second time all season. Unfortunately, both of those outings have come in the past three weeks, when Hill’s fantasy owners needed a strong showing the most. Hill and the Chiefs will look to ramp up the production in Week 16 but have a tough trip to Seattle.
Damien Williams didn’t make a big impact as a runner but more than supplemented his output by catching all six of his targets for 74 yards. While Williams only rushed 10 times, he did punch in a pair of touchdowns and paid off huge as Week 15’s top waiver add. If Spencer Ware returns, Andy Reid will likely utilize a committee backfield against the Seahawks.
Los Angeles Chargers
No player killed more playoff lineups than Keenan Allen who exited Week 15 early with a hip pointer injury that will likely keep him out for the rest of the regular season. Tyrell Williams was the main benefactor of the loss of Allen, commanding a season-high dozen targets and six receptions. While Williams has been a boom-or-bust weekly play, he’s in for a huge increase in targets while Allen is sidelined.
While Tyrell Williams should move into the team’s number one wideout role, Mike Williams is the best bet to lead the team in touchdowns. Williams scored three times against Kansas City, including a pair of TD grabs from Philip Rivers. Williams’s seven receptions were a season-high and he’s now up to 10 touchdowns on the season. He’ll be in the WR3 conversation against Seattle.
Melvin Gordon (knee) returned to practice and should be back to face the Seahawks. Gordon has scored nine of his 13 touchdowns this season on the road, including at least one in every game.
Los Angeles Rams
After starting the season 8-0, the Rams have dropped three of their past six games. Jared Goff, in particular, has been in a slump. Goff has only thrown one touchdown against seven interceptions in LA’s past three games, which included a win in Detroit and back-to-back losses to the Bears and Eagles. Los Angeles shouldn’t have any trouble handling lowly Arizona in Week 16 but Goff’s recent slide makes him hard to trust while facing a Cardinals’ defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Josh Reynolds led the Rams in targets for the first time this season and nearly scored a touchdown. While the 12 targets looked solid, Reynolds only caught five passes and averaged under six yards per target. Despite the struggles, Reynolds remains a solid WR4/flex option due to his usage. He played 75 of the club’s 75 snaps against Philadelphia.
Ryan Tannehill was awful against the Vikings but Miami’s offensive line played a big part in the club’s woeful showing. Tannehill completed less than half of his throws for 108 yards but took nine sacks and the Dolphins ended up with a mere 37 total passing yards. Tannehill is well off the fantasy radar in Week 16 against Jacksonville, even in 2QB leagues.
Danny Amendola was the only Miami wide receiver to catch more than one reception. Amendola led the club with three grabs while Kenny Stills and Brice Butler teamed up to record two grabs for 29 yards. DeVante Parker got all of one look in the entire game and was shut out.
Adam Thielen was held to a season-low two catches and two targets. After opening the season with double-digit targets in Minnesota’s first seven games, Thielen has only hit that mark twice since Week 8. Thielen had produced no fewer than 12.7 PPR points in the Vikings’ first 13 games before last week’s 3.9-point disaster.
Stefon Diggs got off to a quick start, scoring the first of three first-quarter Viking’s touchdowns before Diggs and the rest of Minnesota’s passing attack took the foot off the gas. Diggs’ four catches and 49 yards were his lowest output since Week 7.
The ground game was a whole different matter. Miami had no success slowing down Dalvin Cook or Latavius Murray. In all, the Vikings ran the ball 40 times for 220 yards in the first game with new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
New England Patriots
Chris Hogan’s 68 yards accounted for more yards than he’d produced in the past five games combined. Prior to Week 15, Hogan had played less than half of the Patriot’s snaps for three straight weeks. Despite the decent showing last week, Hogan can’t be trusted in lineups against Buffalo’s solid secondary.
Once again, Julian Edelman performed well, corraling 7-of-11 targets for a team-high 90 yards. Edelman has led the receiving corps in targets each of New England’s past eight games but has never scored a touchdown or topped 65 receiving yards at home versus the Bills.
Josh Gordon was completely shut down by Joe Haden and the Steelers. Gordon’s two targets and single catch were his poorest marks since joining the Patriots. Next up, Gordon could be shadowed by Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White, a shutdown corner who has had an up-and-down season.
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans struggled to mount much offense in Carolina but should rebound in championship week. The Saints tend to play a lot better at home and the opening over/under of 53.5 points for the Saints/Steelers duel was the highest of the Week 16 slate.
Ted Ginn (knee) could return from the IR at any time. If Ginn is activated prior to the Saints’ Week 16 home game versus the Steelers, he could be a decent fantasy add. Ginn tends to play a lot better in New Orleans and would add a much-needed boost to a Saints’ receiving corps that has mostly struggled behind Michael Thomas.
New York Giants
Odell Beckham’s absence didn’t work to the benefit of any of New York’s pass-catchers. Although Sterling Shepard received nine looks, he only managed to account for 37 yards on two receptions. Week 15 was Shepard’s seventh straight game with fewer than 40 receiving yards.
It was also the poorest outing of the season for Saquan Barkley, who only managed 56 yards of offense on 18 touches. That ended a streak of six games in a row with triple-digit yards from scrimmage for the standout rookie and came at the worst possible time for fantasy owners who had grown accustomed to Barkley’s weekly excellence. The Giants travel to Indianapolis to face a surging Colts team in Week 16 but Barkley will remain a top-five play.
This was the first time all season that TE Evan Engram led the Giants in targets and catches. Engram’s previous high in targets (9) came back in Week 8 versus Washington. Week 15 was the first time that Engram topped double-digit targets in a game in exactly a year.
New York Jets
Now that he’s finally healthy, Robby Anderson has easily been New York’s number one wideout since Sam Darnold returned to the lineup in Week 14. Anderson had a season-best seven grabs against Houston and his 96 yards were the second most of the season. In Week 16, the Jets host a Green Bay squad that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2018, which makes Anderson a solid WR3 in championship lineups.
Since becoming the team’s feature back, Elijah McGuire’s usage has been eerily similar. In Week 14, McGuire played 74% of the Jets’ snaps and produced 83 yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. Last week versus Houston, McGuire played 75% of the snaps, got 21 touches and generated 71 yards and a score. That kind of workload will put McGuire in the RB2 conversation versus the Packers in Week 16.
Jordy Nelson’s recent resurgence carried over into Week 15 as he once again led Oakland in targets (8), receptions (6), and yards (88). Week 16 offers a tough matchup for Nelson as the Raiders play Denver’s solid secondary in the final Monday night contest of the season.
After fading for a month, Jalen Richard rebounded with a solid five grabs that went for a season-high 67 yards. Richard did, however, lose another fumble–his second in three weeks. Richard’s previous turnover resulted in a one-catch effort the following week. Richard has been a solid PPR option this season but his recent usage and trends make him a little riskier than we’d like to see.
Since making his debut in Week 11, seventh-round rookie Marcell Ateman has played 70% of Oakland’s snaps and averaged 5.6 targets per week, with multiple receptions in every game.
The main positive takeaway from Philadelphia’s quarterback switch to Nick Foles was a huge outing for Alshon Jeffery, who caught all eight of his targets for a season-high 160 yards. Golden Tate also caught all of his targets but finished with 117 fewer yards.
Known for his history of huge performances in the fantasy playoffs, Zach Ertz had a dud performance against the Rams’ defense. Ertz only caught three out of seven targets for 22 yards, his second-lowest total of the season. Fortunately, a Week 16 home date with a Houston defense that has struggled to defend the position affords Ertz one more opportunity to come up with another fantasy title-winning outing.
Doug Pederson quickly abandoned that plan of making Josh Adams more of a featured back. The Eagles utilized a full, three-man rotation against the Rams, as Wendell Smallwood (20), Darren Sproles (20), and Adams (24) pretty much split snaps evenly.
Ben Roethlisberger’s 235 passing yards were his fewest of the season, which led to depressed numbers for most of Pittsburgh’s pass catchers. Other than James Washington, who had the best game of his young career, the Steelers’ wideouts were held in check by New England.
Antonio Brown wasn’t immune to Pittsburgh’s struggles. Although Brown did tie a career-high with his league-leading 13th TD grab of the season, Brown was held under 50 receiving yards in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 5-6 of the 2015 NFL season.
Fifth-round rookie RB Jaylen Samuels was tremendous, rushing 17 times for 142 yards in relief of James Conner. Conner is expected to return to the starting lineup in Week 16 but Samuels may have played himself into more of a time-share situation. The Steelers’ backfield has a tough matchup this week, traveling to New Orleans to face a Saints’ defense that has ceded the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs.
San Francisco 49ers
Disregarding running backs, George Kittle and Dante Pettis have finished first and second in targets in each of San Francisco’s past five games, all of which were starts by Nick Mullens.
Matt Breida returned after sitting out Week 14 and played 73% of San Francisco’s snaps, while Jeff Wilson was reduced to a mere seven touches. Wilson also lost a fumble and had an egregious drop but before we cut bait on the Week 14 waiver wire hero, watch the status of Breida’s troublesome ankle, which he may have re-injured late in San Francisco’s win.
Mike Davis took advantage of Rashaad Penny’s absence to jump up to 33 snaps. Davis also caught 7-of-8 targets for a team-high 55 yards. Davis and starting running back Chris Carson combined to catch 13 out of Russel Wilson’s 23 completions.
After sitting out Week 14, Doug Baldwin returned to the lineup and schooled San Francisco’s inexperienced secondary. Baldwin scored a pair of first-half touchdowns and now has four scores in Seattle’s past four games after going scoreless in the season’s first seven games.
David Moore continues to be a non-factor. In Seattle’s past three games, Moore has caught only one out of eight targets for nine yards. The playing time remains there but Moore is simply not getting targets and can safely be dropped in redraft leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Only two wide receivers caught a single pass against Baltimore’s elite secondary. Mike Evans alone accounted for 77% of Jameis Winston’s 157 yards. Adam Humphries was limited to innocuous underneath routes and Chris Godwin went catch-less in 41 snaps. Things won’t get much easier in Week 16 as the Bucs travel to Dallas to take on a Cowboys’ secondary that has actually allowed fewer fantasy points to wideout than the Ravens.
Peyton Barber got 21 touches and produced 89 yards of offense and scored Tampa’s only touchdown against the Ravens. Ronald Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers combined for zero yards.
Marcus Mariota threw for only 88 yards with an anemic 4.4 yards per attempt average in a game that the Titans won. In an era of high-octane passing attacks, the Titans have decided that maybe last year’s “exotic smashmouth” gameplan wasn’t such a bad idea. Tennessee ran the ball 45 times for 215 yards in New York.
That old-school approach has hampered Corey Davis and the rest of Tennessee’s receiving corps. Davis has been held to five total receptions and averaged just 27 yards in the past two games. Washington’s ailing secondary offers some hope of a rebound in Week 16 but the way the Titans are running the ball makes Davis a risky WR3/4.
Gotta take the L on Derrick Henry. He’s looked dominant over the past two games and it lo0ks like Matt LaFluer finally figured out how to use the third-year running back. After an amazing Week 14 showing, Henry ran the ball 33 times for 170 yards and two more touchdowns.
Regardless of who is under center, there’s just not a lot of appeal with Washington’s passing game at this point in the season. Down to Josh Johnson, their fourth quarterback, the Redskins passed for only 136 yards. While the Titans have a bottom-10 secondary, no Washington pass-catcher comes with much upside.
Despite their struggles, Jamison Crowder has been decent, catching four balls and/or scoring in all three of his games since returning to the lineup. The Titans have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to wideouts in 2018, so Crowder should be a good bet for 4-6 targets but has a limited ceiling.
Washington’s QB woes have led to stacked boxes for Adrian Peterson, who has rushed 29 times for just 67 yards (2.3 YPC) over the team’s past two games. In Week 16, Washington faces a Tennessee defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, which makes Peterson virtually unusable in what could be the final game of his fantasy career.