Fantasy Football Overvalued/Undervalued: Championship Week
It’s fantasy football Championship Week, and that trophy is sitting there under the tree waiting for you to open it. All you need to do is win. One. More. Week.
But maybe I shouldn’t assume that everyone who’s reading this is playing for a fantasy title. There is always DFS, after all. Whatever the case may be, I hope Week 15 went better for you than it did for this poor guy.
The 2020 fantasy season has been a wild ride, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that we even got here. Many people were justifiably worried that the season would get canceled due to the pandemic, and there were a few moments along the way where that almost felt inevitable. You can certainly question how the NFL handled the Covid outbreaks that various teams experienced, but the bottom line is that we got to enjoy an entire season of fantasy football, and for that, we should be thankful.
One odd twist has been how few game-changing waiver pickups there has been this year. Maybe it’s because fantasy managers are smarter and more informed than ever, ensuring that every backup running back is rostered in competitive leagues. Maybe it’s because there have been fewer season-ending injuries (not so sure about that), or more plausibly, that the players who did go down did not have backups who could come close to replicating their value. Or to quote the great Peter Venkman, “For whatever reasons, Ray. Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma.”
At any rate, that relative predictability we were seeing at the running back position is suddenly out the window just as fantasy championships are being decided. More than a third of the league now have RB situations that are in flux. The Tony Pollard lottery ticket finally paid off last week, but it’s anybody’s guess how the Cowboys backfield will shake out with Ezekiel Elliott expected to return. Meanwhile, fantasy retreads like David Johnson, Leonard Fournette, Darrell Henderson, and Sony Michel have somehow become viable again, while relative unknowns like Salvon Ahmed, Benny Snell, Jeff Wilson Jr., J.D. McKissic — or perhaps even Ito Smith and Devine Ozigbo — could play a role in deciding fantasy titles.
Ok Andrew, but what about last week’s picks, you ask? Well, they were pretty good — and would have been even better if Irv Smith hadn’t dropped a touchdown and Devin Singletary hadn’t had a last-minute 51-yard touchdown run in garbage time. Smh. My best calls were fading Russell Wilson and Chase Claypool before the crowd will inevitably join me this week, but I was also right to expect big fantasy performances from Leonard Fournette and DJ Moore after each was inactive in Week 14 (for very different reasons). Kirk Cousins’ streak of 3-TD home games came to an end, but he still finished almost as high in the rankings as I had him. Other than Irv and Singletary, my only “miss” was Jordan Reed, who only had 18 yards but met his TE13 ECR ranking by finding the end zone.
As always, my overvalued and undervalued picks for Week 16 are against FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings for 0.5 PPR formats. I try to answer every single lineup question I get on Twitter, so if you’ve got a pressing one, ask away @andrew_seifter. And if you’re anywhere near as big a fantasy sports fanatic as I am, you’ll likely be moving directly into other fantasy leagues. We are going to have a ton of great fantasy basketball and fantasy baseball content coming to MFSN’s The Hub this winter, starting with our weekly NBA waiver wire show premiering LIVE this Christmas Eve.
Overvalued: Jared Goff (LAR)
My Rank: QB21
Goff’s Week 16 opponent, the Seahawks, have the worst defense in the league statistically, but that doesn’t mean they are anywhere close to the worst defense in the league right now. Seattle was regularly torched through the air through the season’s first eight weeks, but the Seahawks have allowed a total of six passing touchdowns over their last six games and are allowing only 187 passing yards per game over their last four. As a result, they’ve given up the fewest points in the league over the last six weeks. Goff has popped off for some big games here and there, but he is merely the QB20 in fantasy points per game (min. 8 games) and has finished as the QB18 or worse in nine of his 14 starts this season, including seven of the last nine. This is likely to be a low-scoring divisional slugfest, rendering Goff as nothing more than a back-end QB2.
Undervalued: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
My Rank: QB15
Sometimes you have to swim against the tide to beat the ECR, and that’s certainly what I’m attempting to do in the case of Big Ben, who has been nothing short of awful over the last couple of weeks. If Roethlisberger failed miserably against the Bengals, how can we expect him to succeed against the Colts, right?
Well, it might surprise you to learn that the Bengals have been playing some good pass defense lately, while the Colts have given up the most pass yards in the league over the last month. The Colts remain one of the best run defenses in the league, and the Steelers are still one of the league’s worst rushing offenses. So unless one decent game has convinced you that Benny Snell is a much better player than he’s shown through his first 210 career rushing attempts, Pittsburgh is going to need to once again rely on its passing attack. Roethlisberger is the QB17 for the season (min. 8 games) and still has plenty of talented pass-catchers to work with, so it’s hardly unreasonable to believe he can replicate that kind of fantasy production against an Indy pass defense that has been struggling of late.
Overvalued: David Johnson (HOU)
My Rank: RB21
Johnson’s top-11 expert consensus ranking is at the upper end of what he’s done so far this season. There’ve been four weeks where he finished between RB10 and RB13 (including last week), but he’s been the RB22 or worse in his other six starts. DJ was ineffective as a runner in Week 15, as has been the case all year, but he made up for it by catching a whopping 11 balls for 106 yards. Johnson hasn’t been that heavily utilized as a receiver since his Cardinals days, and it’s a poor bet to happen again if one of Duke Johnson or C.J. Prosise is able to return this week. Even if both remain inactive, Dontrell Hilliard could easily steal away Johnson’s pass-catching role. The Bengals represent a favorable matchup, but it still feels like a bridge too far to rank Johnson as an RB1 at this stage of his career.
Undervalued: Leonard Fournette (TB)
My Rank: RB10
Picking Fournette worked quite well for me last week, and it looks like I’m quite higher than the consensus on him once again. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his rushing ability in a challenging matchup with the Falcons, but he hit pay dirt twice and was given the kind of bell-cow usage that fantasy managers can bank on. Fournette played 66 percent of the snaps in that contest — a figure right in line with the playing time Ronald Jones was getting as the team’s lead back. He also was given five handoffs inside the red zone, evidence that the multi-touchdown performance was no fluke. This week, Fournette gets the ultimate dream matchup with a Lions defense that gives up the single-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. With Jones expected to miss at least one more game, the stars are aligning for Fournette to be a bonafide league winner.
Overvalued: Robby Anderson (CAR)
My Rank: WR37
Anderson surpassed 1,000 receiving yards last week, an impressive feat no doubt. But as the WR26 for the season, he is easily the least valuable fantasy receiver to do it, and the reason is that he’s only scored two touchdowns. Anderson has just 13 red zone targets in 2020, and both of his touchdowns came on passes of over 40 yards. That lack of bankable touchdown upside makes it essential that he rack up catches and yardage, something he hasn’t done as consistently as the season has progressed. Anderson had at least 99 yards in four of his first five games but has not topped 94 yards in any game since. He also had eight or more catches in three of his first five games, but he’s caught 8+ passes in just two of nine games since. Given that his numbers have been trending downward and he is facing a tough Washington defense that allows the second-fewest fantasy points to WRs, I wouldn’t expect Anderson to recapture his early-season form this week.
Undervalued: Marquise Brown (BAL)
My Rank: WR24
Ok, are we really doing this? We’re really doing this. I was as down as anybody on Hollywood earlier in the year, and even would have been fine with dropping him from your fantasy squad. But Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense have come alive over the last month, and Brown has been a big piece of the puzzle, producing at least 98 yards or a touchdown in four straight games. This week, Brown faces off with a Giants defense that hasn’t allowed a lot of passing scores (20) but is a below-average defense in terms of passing yards allowed (244.6 per game). New York will have James Bradberry back, but Brown has been particularly effective against zone coverage and the Giants play a lot of zone. Hollywood always has a wide range of possible outcomes, but the risk is worth the potential reward when he’s running hot like this.
Overvalued: Evan Engram (NYG)
My Rank: TE17
Ok, I’ll just say it: Engram is the most overrated tight end in fantasy football. Actually, given that he was just selected to the Pro Bowl, it’s safe to say he’s the most overrated tight end in football, period.
Engram’s 95 targets this season are the third-most at the position, trailing only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. And what does he have to show for all those looks? He has 6.9 fantasy points per game, tied with Jimmy Graham and Hayden Hurst for 16th-most at the position (min. 8 games). He has one touchdown, one game with over 65 receiving yards, and zero games with over six catches. This week he goes up against a Ravens defense that has only allowed one TE to top 55 yards (Kelce, of course). Target volume alone is not reason enough to continue mindlessly starting Engram when fantasy championships are on the line.
Undervalued: Austin Hooper (CLE)
My Rank: TE12
Have I convinced you not to start Engram? Well, in that case: Austin Hooper, he’s the man for you! I was high on Hooper’s prospects in November when he first returned from a two-game absence, but a couple of weeks of wild Cleveland weather and a neck injury delayed Hooper’s fantasy viability until now. While his numbers to date don’t jump off the page, Baker Mayfield has been playing at an elite level over the last three weeks and there remains a viable opening for Hooper in a Browns offense missing alpha receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Adding to Hooper’s appeal is a Week 16 matchup with the Jets, who struggle to defend the pass in general and tight ends in particular. The Jets give up far and away the most fantasy points in the league to tight ends, so Hooper is a strong bet to at least match last week’s 5-41-1 line.
Thanks for coming along with me for the ride during this most unusual fantasy season, and I hope you enjoy this most unusual holiday season as much as possible. Now go out there and win that championship!
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