Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 14 (2019)
Fantasy football can be a cruel mistress. The first week of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues also happened to easily be the biggest week of the season for injuries.
Josh Jacobs burned fantasy managers who waited on his status (hope you picked up DeAndre Washington as insurance). DeVante Parker and Mark Andrews barely dented the box score before departing. Derrius Guice and Rashaad Penny, talented sophomore backs who seemed to finally be emerging after slow starts to their NFL careers, both went down with leg injuries just as it seemed they might become late-season difference-makers. Some players, like Mike Evans and Jared Cook, managed to at least put up some fantasy points before they exited, but that just means that their loss could be felt more strongly next week.
Still, there’s no point in wallowing in self-pity. If any of these injuries cost you a playoff victory — or you had some other kind of bad beat — I’d recommended briefly getting your therapeutic complaining in and then moving on with your life. We know what we’re signing up for when we play this crazy game. It’s not always going to be logical, predictable, or fair — in fact, it rarely will be. Maybe next year your playoff opponent will be the one getting the short end of the stick.
There’s even less reason to fixate on injuries if you managed to survive and advance. I own Guice and Penny in my oldest home league, one with deep rosters where I had giddy visions of them both emerging as league winners. Thankfully I had a first-round bye, so I’ll live to fight another day. I’m disappointed that they won’t be fulfilling their fantasy potential (at least this year), but my focus is going to be on getting my depleted roster across the finish line. On to Cincinnati. Two weeks to go.
Week 14 wasn’t all doom and gloom, either — there are plenty of surprises and breakouts to discuss. Last week, I led the surprise section of this column with 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, and Mostert could easily be considered the top surprise this week, too. He piled up 109 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the most fantasy-friendly game of the year, and he looks set to lead Kyle Shanahan’s always-productive backfield for the crucial final weeks of the fantasy season.
But let’s change things up and talk about five surprise performers that didn’t come up last week, beginning with the opposing quarterback in the San Francisco-New Orleans game, an all-time great who shined bright against one of the league’s best defenses.
Top 5 Surprises
Drew Brees (QB – NO)
Maybe it’s cheating to call Brees a surprise. He is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game — in both fantasy and reality — and we all know he can be particularly lethal at home in the Superdome. But it’s hard to know what other word to use to describe his 349-yard, six-touchdown performance against a 49ers defense that had allowed just one 250+ yard passing day and zero games with 3+ touchdowns to opposing QBs this year. It was Brees’ best fantasy performance since he roasted the Giants for 505 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, and if you saw that coming, I’d like to get some advice from you on lotto tickets.
Drew Lock (QB – DEN)
I guess it was a good week for QBs named Drew. While Brees’ performance was shocking given the circumstances, Lock’s was arguably even more surprising. As a second-round draft pick making his second career start, Lock couldn’t be expected to do much more statistically than he did last week, when he competently guided the Broncos to victory over the Chargers by throwing for 134 yards and two scores. But Denver took Lock’s training wheels off for a road contest against Houston, and he responded with 309 yards and three more touchdowns. Fellow rookie Noah Fant was the main beneficiary before departing with a foot injury, while Courtland Sutton — who’s thrived all year amidst poor QB play — somehow had a quiet day. It would take a brave soul to start Lock in Kansas City in the fantasy semifinals next week, but it’s suddenly a viable option in Superflex leagues. At the very least, Lock’s performance should have fantasy owners feeling a little more confident about using Denver pass catchers going forward.
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
Mixon’s season hit a low point during a two-game stretch in late October when he carried the ball 18 times against Baltimore and Jacksonville for a grand total of 12 yards. It certainly looked at that point like it was going to be a lost season for Mixon, who could no longer be trusted as an RB2. But he’s picked himself up off the floor since then, producing a string of competent-if-unspectacular performances that led up to a vintage Mixon performance in Week 15, when he turned 26 touches into a season-best 186 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland. With Andy Dalton back at QB, Mixon is trending up at the perfect time for fantasy owners. He’s got a tough matchup with the Patriots next week, but he could carry a lot of fantasy teams to championships against Miami in Week 16.
DeAndre Washington (RB – OAK)
I was skeptical that either Washington or Jalen Richard would come close to replicating what Josh Jacobs can do, but for at least one week, Washington got the job done for Jacobs owners who turned to him. Washington clearly isn’t in Jacobs’ class from a talent perspective, as was made clear by his 3.8 yards per carry average against Tennessee, but any running back getting 20 touches is going to be interesting in fantasy. Washington’s first-quarter touchdown scamper was critical to his box score success, but the most encouraging part of his performance was the fact that he caught six balls for 43 yards. In the past, Richard has been the more active passing game option when Oakland has deployed a Washington-Richard committee. The tea leaves seem to suggest that the Raiders will shut Jacobs down, in which case Washington could provide viable RB2 numbers in friendly upcoming matchups against the Jaguars and Chargers, particularly if he remains involved as a pass-catcher.
A.J. Brown (WR – TEN)
Brown has been a fantasy enigma this year, producing his fair share of big games but also plenty of duds — and rarely anything in between. Of the 13 games he’s played in, Brown now has five games with over 80 yards and six games with fewer than 30. But the big games are becoming harder and harder to ignore, especially considering that his two best ones have come over the last three weeks. Brown’s talent has never been in doubt, and the Titans’ offense is humming right now under Ryan Tannehill. It’s still a low-volume passing attack — Brown’s season-high in targets is just eight — but with friendly home draws against Houston and New Orleans over the next two weeks, Brown is an intriguing risk/reward option. We may need to wait until next year for the true breakout, but he’s at least pushed himself into the WR2/3 conversation for the rest of the fantasy playoffs.
Top 5 Disappointments
Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
This one is basically the dictionary definition of a fantasy disappointment. The Saints and 49ers combined to score 94 points in the shootout to end all shootouts, and yet consensus top-three fantasy pick Kamara managed a measly 43 yards on 17 touches. He also lost a fumble. Kamara’s touch totals are not noticeably down from last season, but his efficiency as both a rusher and receiving is lagging, and he’s found the end zone just twice all year. Perhaps his ankle is still bothering him, or maybe the Saints’ offense has simply evolved to be less reliant on his skillset. Whatever the case may be, Kamara has to make any list of season-long disappointments for 2019. He hasn’t completely killed fantasy owners, and he remains an obvious must-start due to his theoretical upside and the fact you can mark him down for 15-20 weekly touches in one of the league’s best offenses. But at this point, Kamara is closer to being a high-end RB2 than he is to being a high-end RB1.
DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
It was just too good to be true, wasn’t it? After four years of mediocrity, Parker was finally delivering on his talent in 2019. He entered Week 14 playing the best football of his career, averaging 128 yards per game (on 10+ weekly targets) over the last three weeks. It’s no great surprise, then, that the fantasy industry ranked Parker as a WR1 for his mouth-watering matchup with the Jets. Maybe he would have delivered on that ranking if he hadn’t suffered a second-quarter concussion, but instead, he failed to eclipse 55 yards for just the third time all season, and likely sent a lot of his fantasy owners packing in the process. The good news is that if you managed to survive this letdown, Parker could still be a huge difference-maker against the Giants (Week 15) and Bengals (Week 16) if he can quickly clear the concussion protocol.
Derrius Guice (RB – WAS)
I’ve felt like one of the biggest Guice boosters in the entire fantasy industry over the last several weeks, and while it made me look like a genius in Weeks 11 and 13, it made me look like a fool in Weeks 12 and 14. So it goes! I was drawn to Guice because of his talent, his favorable schedule, and the notion that Washington would increasingly rely on him over the season’s final weeks. He certainly displayed the talent (and took advantage of the matchups) by rushing 15 times for 171 yards over the last two games — that’s 11.4 yard per carry! But we’ll never know how big a difference-maker he could have been down the stretch, and were instead left with just 42 yards in what will likely go down as his final game of the 2019 season. Guice is set for an MRI on his ailing knee, and given his past knee issues, it’s very hard to see Washington rushing him back in a lost season.
Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA)
If you own Penny in a keeper or dynasty league, you’ve been patiently waiting for almost two years for him to get an extended chance behind the Seahawks’ bell-cow, Chris Carson. If you own Penny in a redraft league, you were eagerly anticipating that he could be a true game-changer, whether you’ve been stashing him all year or recently picked him up off the waiver wire. But after topping 100 scrimmage yards in each of the last two weeks, Penny injured his leg on his first catch of the game on Sunday night, finishing with just 16 yards. It didn’t look good, and the Seahawks are already calling it a “significant” injury. Maybe Penny can carry his late-season momentum over to 2020 in those keeper and dynasty leagues, but it no longer looks like he’ll get the chance to help carry fantasy owners to a title in 2019.
Mark Andrews (TE – BAL)
In an especially brutal year for the tight end position, Andrews has been one of the few consistent performers. He hasn’t been quite as good as it looked like he might be after he went over 100 yards in Weeks 1 and 2, but he entered Week 14 on pace for over 900 yards and nine touchdowns. Unfortunately, he had his worst game of the season on Sunday, thanks to a leg contusion he suffered early in the game. The injury is not believed to be serious, but it was surely enough to knock a lot of teams out of the fantasy playoffs, and may also keep Andrews out for Week 15 since the Ravens play on Thursday night. Andrews owners who are still alive need to have Hayden Hurst (3-73-1) on speed dial.
Austin Ekeler became just the third player since 2010 to have 100+ rushing yards and 100+ receiving yards in the same game. Christian McCaffrey and Todd Gurley were the others — not bad company. I named Ekeler as one of my most undervalued players of the week, so I’m feeling pretty good about that one. #humblebrag
Jameis Winston is second in the league in TD passes — and first in picks. Touchdowns are generally more important than interceptions in fantasy football, so Jameis is the gift that keeps on giving for fantasy owners (and opposing defenses). It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up without Mike Evans. Jameis also broke his thumb in this week’s game, but it sounds like he’ll try to play through it.
Cooper Kupp played just 32 percent of the snaps in Week 14. Kupp’s fantasy owners will be satisfied because he found the end zone, but this is concerning nonetheless. You probably have to start him in Week 15, but may not feel great about it.
It had been a relatively quiet year for injuries — until now. There will never be a week of NFL football where there aren’t injuries to discuss, but this is the first week of the 2019 season where it seemed like guys were dropping like flies. It’s unfortunate timing given that it was the first week of the fantasy playoffs in most leagues, but we should be glad there haven’t been more weeks like this.
It’s all about surviving and advancing at this time of year. Fantasy football is always full of surprises, good and bad, and all you can really ask for is to make the playoffs and give yourself a chance. Then anything can — and will — happen. If you managed to dodge the injury bullets this week and make it to the next round, congratulations.