The Primer: Week 15 Edition (2021 Fantasy Football)
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
Dak Prescott: Prescott has been uncharacteristically off his game the last two weeks. He threw two TD passes and three interceptions in wins over the Saints and the Football Team, averaging 224.5 passing yards and just 5.7 yards per pass attempt in those two contests. On several occasions last Sunday against Washington, Dak missed on the sort of passes he normally completes with ease. Prescott doesn’t have an easy matchup this week against a Giants pass defense that ranks 10th in DVOA and is allowing 6.8 yards per pass attempt. When he last faced the Giants in Week 5, Prescott threw for 302 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Dak is a mid-range QB1 in season-long leagues, but he’s a fade in DraftKings contests at $6,500.
Mike Glennon: Starting in place of Daniel Jones the last two weeks, Glennon has thrown two TD passes and two interceptions, averaging 189 passing yards. His only other appearance this season was against the Cowboys in Week 5, when he made a relief appearance in place of Jones and threw for 196 yards with one TD and two interceptions. Glennon simply isn’t a viable fantasy option against Dallas this week.
Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott claims the brace he wore during the Cowboys’ Week 14 win over Washington helped stabilize his knee and made him feel better, but he was still limping at times, and we’re still not seeing much of the usual Zeke burst. He had 12-45-0 rushing and 1-15-0 receiving last week, and he’s been held to 51 or fewer rushing yards in seven straight games. Elliott is a mid-range RB2 this week against a Giants defense that he shredded for 110 rushing yards and a touchdown back in Week 5 when he was still looking like the Zeke of old.
Tony Pollard: A plantar fascia injury sidelined Pollard in Week 14, and he still wasn’t practicing as of Wednesday. A healthy Pollard has value in his super-sub role, but an injured Pollard is a much risker proposition for fantasy. Even if he plays this week, he’ll only be a high-end RB4.
Saquon Barkley: With 16-64-0 rushing and 3-31-1 receiving against the Chargers last Sunday, Barkley was the RB11 in fantasy scoring for the week. The 19 touches were the most he’s had in a game since Week 3, and the 17 fantasy points he produced in half-point PPR scoring were the most he’s had since Week 4. His 64 rushing yards were a season-high. The last time he faced the Cowboys, Barkley sustained the ankle injury that wound up keeping him sidelined for more than a month. We still haven’t gotten a full game’s worth of vintage Saquon Barkley this season, but it feels like we’re getting closer. Barkley is the RB15 this week.
CeeDee Lamb: Over the last two weeks, Lamb has gotten the sort of volume his investors have craved: 23 targets and 14 receptions. But that volume produced only 150 yards and no touchdowns. Lamb even carried the ball three times for 48 yards in those two games, giving him more yards per carry than per catch over that stretch. Lamb is a phenomenal young receiver, and it’s encouraging to see him get those types of target counts when Cowboys WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are both playing, too. Lamb is a low-end WR1 this week against the Giants.
Amari Cooper: Cooper caught a 7-yard TD pass from Dak Prescott in the first quarter of the Cowboys’ 27-20 win over Washington last week, giving Cooper his first touchdown since Halloween. But Cooper has been held to 51 or fewer yards in his last four games, and he’s averaged only 4.5 targets a game over that span. Cooper is a mid-range WR2 this week and a fade at $6,400 in DraftKings contests.
Michael Gallup: Gallup had a season-high 106 receiving yards against the Raiders on Thanksgiving, but CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper were both out for that game. With Lamb and Cooper back in action in Weeks 13 and 14, Gallup had 10-96-1 on 18 targets in those two games. Gallup has seen nine targets in each of the last two weeks, which is encouraging. He checks in at WR29 this week.
Sterling Shepard: Kadarius Toney landed on the COVID-19 list this week, and though he may still have a chance to come off it before Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, Shepard still figures to be the most valuable fantasy asset among the Giants’ receivers. That’s not saying much with Mike Glennon at quarterback for the Giants and a tough matchup with the Cowboys on the docket. Shepard had 2-27-0 on four targets last week in his first game back from a quad injury that had kept him out of action since Week 9. He’s just a high-end WR5.
Kenny Golladay: Golladay saw a team-high eight targets from backup QB Mike Glennon last week but finished with just 2-15-0. Golladay is still looking for his first touchdown of the season and hasn’t topped 50 receiving yards in a game since Week 4. He lands at WR59 in this week’s rankings.
Dalton Schultz: Schultz has been enjoying a fine season, with 53-584-4 in 13 games. But in many of those games, the Cowboys were without one or more of their top three receivers. CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup have all played in the Cowboys’ last two games, and Schultz has had just 6-47-0 on eight targets over that span. He’s the TE9 in this week’s rankings, and he’s not a particularly good deal at $4,900 on DraftKings.
Evan Engram: Engram is averaging a career-low 31.1 receiving yards per game and a career-low 9.5 yards per catch this season. That might be tolerable if he was scoring touchdowns, but he’s found the end zone twice in 11 games. Engram doesn’t even make TE2 range this week.
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Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions
Kyler Murray: Watching Murray play this past week was a bit of a rollercoaster. He had tremendous moments where his natural athleticism and talent was on full display, but there were other times where he looked disorganized and unsure of what exactly to do. Regardless, Murray still was a viable fantasy asset (despite the fact he had zero touchdowns) due to his rushing ability. Since coming back from his injury, Murray has now averaged 60 rushing yards per game and that’s providing an incredible floor for fantasy managers. With his rushing ability to fall back on, plus the potential we know he has in this offense, he should continue to remain locked into starting lineups in the fantasy playoffs. Against the Lions’ defense, Murray should be viewed as a top-3 play.
Jared Goff: Goff’s making the most out of his situation here in Detroit, but he simply doesn’t have the playmakers around him for us to feel confident streaming him in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Goff’s a fine option for 2QB leagues as a low-upside play, but we shouldn’t be looking his way in 1QB formats.
James Conner: It is absolutely ridiculous what Conner has done this season. Despite being essentially unwanted during draft season, Conner has gone on to reward fantasy managers that did end up selecting him in a massive way and he’s in the running for the Fantasy MVP conversation. While his efficiency this season hasn’t been anything to write home about – he’s only averaging 3.7 YPA on 179 carries – he’s found the end zone an astonishing 14 times this year. Through 14 weeks, he’s now the RB6 on the entire season and is helping carry fantasy rosters to the playoffs. Now that he’s gotten fantasy managers to the big dance, he’s in a prime spot to go nuclear yet again in Week 15 against the Detroit Lions. Even though Chase Edmonds should return to the lineup this week, which caps the receiving upside for Conner, he should be able to find the end zone once or twice in this game against the defense that’s allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Conner can be viewed as a low-end RB1 in the first round of the playoffs.
Chase Edmonds: Edmonds was close to returning on Monday night in Week 14, but he wasn’t cleared in time to make it back. All indications are that Edmonds should be set to return in Week 15 and he’s going to need to be immediately plugged right back into starting lineups. While Edmonds doesn’t possess much upside with finding the end zone as a runner due to his role in this offense, the matchup is too enticing to move him outside of the top-24 RBs on the week. With the Lions allowing .6 receiving touchdowns per game to opposing RBs, which is the highest mark in the NFL, Edmonds has plenty of upside and can be viewed as a low-end RB2.
Jamaal Williams: D’Andre Swift has been ruled out for another game with a shoulder injury. Williams is still on the COVID-19 list after missing the Lions’ Week 14 loss to the Broncos. If Williams comes off the COVID list this week, he figures to get the bulk of Detroit’s RB touches this weekend, giving him mid-range RB3 value.
Craig Reynolds: The former undrafted free agent from Kutztown University made a splash in his NFL debut last week, with 11-83-0 rushing and 2-16-0 receiving against the Broncos. D’Andre Swift is likely to be out again this week with a shoulder injury, and it’s not clear whether Jamaal Williams will come off the COVID-19 list in time to face the Cardinals on Sunday. If Williams remains out, Reynolds would be a low-end RB3 this week and an unlikely starter for some fantasy playoff teams.
Christian Kirk: Kirk wasn’t overly efficient with his target share from Monday night, but he made up for it with some big-time plays. Kirk has an ADOT of 22.5 yards in Week 14 and he turned that into 28.7 Yards Per Reception on his three catches. Kirk’s been one of the most sure-handed receivers in the entire league this season and he’s been a valuable fantasy asset for the majority of the year. In Week 15 against the Lions, Kirk can be viewed as a mid-range WR3 with upside.
A.J. Green: Green’s fantasy finishes over the course of this season have been a complete rollercoaster. He’s had some big-time performances but then has followed them up with some disappearing acts. Week 14 was a big-time performance from Green though and he turned it into a top-24 finish at the WR position in fantasy. Against the Rams, Green saw 10 targets and reeled in 7 of them for 102 yards. Looking ahead to Week 15, Green should be on the FLEX radar due to the matchup against Detroit, but there’s the possibility that the majority of the work goes to the RBs in this one. We can’t completely buy into what Green did this past week, but the upside is certainly there for him to be considered a boom-or-bust FLEX play in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
Amon-Ra St. Brown: St. Brown now has seen 24 targets over the past two weeks and he has 31 Half PPR points over that time frame to show for it. In a game in Week 15 against the Cardinals, Detroit might have to throw the ball 50+ times and St. Brown’s going to be at the center of all that volume. As a FLEX play in Full PPR formats especially, St. Brown’s a solid plug-and-play option.
Josh Reynolds: Since joining the Lions, Reynolds has now posted receiving yard totals of 70, 69, and 52. While he’s doing it on very low volume, he is presenting enough upside to be considered as a FLEX play in deeper formats. In a game where we could see Detroit air the ball out a ton to catch up, Reynolds has sneaky upside.
Zach Ertz: Ertz was able to soak up targets this past week against LA, but it didn’t turn into top-tier production. Ertz was only able to reel in five of his seven targets for 42 yards, which led to a TE17 finish on the week in Half PPR scoring. It is worth noting though that Ertz was inches away from coming down with a touchdown reception, which would have completely changed his outlook moving forward. Looking at this matchup against Detroit, Ertz belongs back in starting lineups as a low-end TE1 due to his potential to reel in a score. We know Arizona is going to put up points on the board, but it is a question regarding where exactly those touchdowns end up. They could all go to the RBs, but the potential dictates that Ertz is a fine option to plug back into your starting lineup this week if you’ve got him.
T.J. Hockenson: Hockenson was forced to miss Week 14 with a hand injury and the news regarding his outlook for Week 15 is optimistic at the moment. If Hockenson is well enough to play this week, he belongs back in your starting lineup as a borderline top-5 option. However, fantasy managers should be prepared with a backup option in case things don’t progress the way that we hope. Update: Hockenson underwent surgery on Thursday morning and is now out for the year.
New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
Zach Wilson: The Jets have to be concerned at this point about what they’re seeing from Wilson on the football field. Against the Saints this past week, Wilson completed just 45% of his passes for an abysmal 4.8 Yards Per Attempt. While he didn’t have all his playmakers at his disposal, it’s not encouraging to see Wilson struggle this much. He’s off the redraft radar for this season now – in every format – and even Wilson’s Dynasty managers have to be getting concerned.
Tua Tagovailoa: In Tua’s last five games, he hasn’t finished worse than the QB18 on the week. He’s completing a ridiculously high percentage of his passes and he now gets to take on a Jets defense that is struggling to contain anyone. If you’re looking for a solid streaming play this week that you know isn’t going to crush your lineup, Tua should be one of your top options. He can be viewed as a high-end QB2 for Week 15 with upside.
Michael Carter: Carter is expected to return to the lineup this week for the Jets off of IR and he should be instantly back in the redraft conversation. Before his injury, the Jets offense was struggling mightily and yet Carter was producing top-tier fantasy numbers. The Dolphins are a tougher matchup for opposing RBs, but with Carter’s high floor due to his involvement in the receiving game, he can be viewed as a low-end RB2 with upside.
Myles Gaskin: At the time of writing, it’s unclear who is going to be able to play this week for Miami at RB. This is a situation where we will need to see who is able to be cleared off of the COVID list and who is not. We’ll update as more information becomes available.
Jamison Crowder: Crowder was able to see six targets in his first game acting as the de facto WR1 for the Jets, but it only led to three targets and 19 receiving yards. With Wilson struggling as much as he is to move the ball through the air, Crowder can’t be trusted in starting lineups.
Braxton Berrios: Oddly enough, Berrios was the most productive WR for the Jets this past week and it led to just six receptions for 52 yards. The Jets offense is cratering at this point of the season with Wilson at the helm and we can’t trust any of the receiving options in our starting lineups against the Dolphins.
Jaylen Waddle: Waddle has been placed on the COVID-19 list — a depressing development for Waddle investors, who’ve watched the rookie develop into a reliable WR2. Hopefully he’ll be cleared for Week 16.
DeVante Parker: Parker hasn’t exactly been a player that we can rely on this season due to his inability to stay in the lineup, but when he is active and healthy, he’s providing an extremely high floor for fantasy managers. Parker has an elevated fantasy profile this week now that Jaylen Waddle has landed on the COVID-19 list. Parker gets a matchup with the Jets, who simply do not have the CB talent to keep up with a receiver of Parker’s caliber. Consider Parker a midrange WR2 this week.
Mike Gesicki: Trying to predict what Gesicki’s production is going to be any given week is a bit of a chore. He easily has the potential to finish inside the top-5 any week, but there’s an equal chance that he ends up outside the top-24 at the position. With that being said, fantasy managers should feel confident this week playing Gesicki up against the New York Jets. The Jets are allowing the 7th most fantasy points to opposing TEs this season and we should see the Dolphins lean more on their passing game with so many of their RBs being listed as questionable.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos
Joe Burrow: There were major question marks surrounding Burrow last week and how his dislocated pinky finger would affect his production. It didn’t seem to bother Burrow at all as he completed 73% of his passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns. He ended the week as the QB8 in fantasy football and came through for fantasy managers that rolled the dice on his health. With the playmakers that Burrow has around him, he simply needs to keep the offense afloat and get the ball out and the fantasy production will simply flow in. He has a tougher matchup this week against the Denver Broncos defense that is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs, but that shouldn’t scare us off of starting Burrow as a low-end QB1 yet again.
Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater has been a serviceable NFL starting QB so far this season and he’s had his moments of being a relevant streaming option in plus matchups. However, he is doing very little to create opportunities for big plays for this offense and he ranks towards the bottom of the league in PFF’s Big Time Throws statistic with just 13 on the year. Even with all the dynamic playmakers that he has at his disposal, Bridgewater has not been able to be a viable fantasy asset in tougher matchups and he now gets to take on a Bengals defense that is ranked 12th in Football Outsiders’ Total DVOA metric. Bridgewater is nothing more than a low-end QB2 this week.
Joe Mixon: Before Week 14 against San Francisco, you had to go back all the way to Week 3 to find the last time that Mixon didn’t find the end zone in a game. After being the forgotten man in fantasy drafts this past off-season, Mixon had been competing neck-and-neck with Jonathan Taylor for the league lead in touchdowns at the RB position and helping carry fantasy managers to the playoffs. Unfortunately, Mixon’s production has taken a bit of a nose dive here in recent weeks. He’s seen 37 carries over the past two games, but he only has 112 rushing yards to show for it and one touchdown. He’s been struggling to break away for long runs and his offensive line isn’t doing much to create running lanes for him. We’re certainly not benching Mixon or plummeting him down our rankings, but we do have to recognize that it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses here recently. The Broncos are allowing 88.5 rushing yards per game, so there’s an opportunity for Mixon to get back on track this week. He can be viewed as a mid-range/low-end RB1.
Melvin Gordon: Gordon returned to the lineup last week and reminded everyone that he’s not about to completely fade away and let Javonte Williams completely take over this backfield. In a plus matchup against Detroit, Gordon carried the ball 24 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns and he was able to finish the week as a top-5 RB. This week, Gordon has a much tougher matchup against the Bengals defense that’s allowing just 15.6 fantasy points per game to the position. He can be viewed as a low-end RB2 due to the fact that he’s still splitting carries with Williams in this backfield.
Javonte Williams: Fantasy managers that were hoping for Williams to completely take over this Broncos backfield were disappointed to see Gordon finish with 50% of the RB snaps to Williams’ 49% in Week 14. Even with Gordon leaving for a little bit with a hand injury, he was still able to see more opportunity than Williams in this backfield, but that didn’t make much of a difference for fantasy football. Williams averaged 4.9 Yards Per Attempt and was able to find the end zone twice, which led to an RB8 finish on the week in Half PPR formats. Both RBs were incredibly productive and that’s unlikely to lead to a shift in offensive philosophy for Denver moving forward. The Broncos won’t have as much room to run this week against the Bengals’ defense, but we know they’re going to still rely heavily on their ground game and Williams should see plenty of work. He can be viewed as a mid-range/low-end RB2 that will need to find the end zone to crack the top-12 for the third week in a row.
Ja’Marr Chase: It had been a few down weeks for Chase from a fantasy perspective before Week 14. He had gone five straight games without cracking the top-24 WRs, but the upside was still there due to his involvement deep downfield and in the red zone. That all came back around this past week against the 49ers and Chase absolutely smashed. He was able to reel in five of his eight targets for 77 yards and two touchdowns, which resulted in an overall WR4 finish on the week. Fantasy managers breathed a huge sigh of relief and those who had been patient and continued to plug him into their starting lineups were certainly rewarded. Looking ahead to Week 15, the Bengals get to take on the Denver Broncos defense that’s allowing just 19.4 fantasy points per game to opposing WRs. They have a very talented secondary, but they are unlikely going to be able to keep up with Chase and this Bengals passing attack. He can be started as a mid-range/low-end WR1 yet again.
Tee Higgins: Higgins had a down performance in Week 11 that left a bad taste in a lot of fantasy managers’ mouths. He went for just 2-15-0 against the Raiders and finished outside the top-80 WRs on the week. However, since that point Higgins has been a dominant fantasy asset and is racking up points like nobody’s business. Over the last three games, Higgins has 58 Half PPR fantasy points and is the overall WR2 over that time frame just behind Cooper Kupp. Burrow has been trusting him to come down with some tough catches recently and he’s certainly delivering. Looking ahead to Week 15, Higgins has a tough individual matchup against Patrick Surtain this week, but there’s absolutely no reason why we should significantly downgrade Higgins in our rankings in this one. With his guaranteed volume, plus ability to make contested catches, Higgins belongs in starting lineups as a high-end/mid-range WR2.
Tyler Boyd: Boyd remains a very talented WR, but he has unfortunately been moved to the back of the line with Higgins and Chase both in town now. Since Week 4, Boyd has just two games with more than 10 Half PPR points and his target share has been all over the place. He has the best individual matchup on the field this week for Cincinnati against Kyle Fuller out of the slot, but the target volume is simply not guaranteed. Boyd remains a low-upside FLEX option that gets a slight bump in Full PPR formats.
Jerry Jeudy: We are now through seven games played this season for Jeudy and he has yet to finish inside the top-20 WRs any week, he has yet to score a touchdown, and he has yet to reel in more than six receptions in any contest. Despite being consistently open with his route-running ability, the QB play and crowded offense here in Denver is preventing Jeudy from making much of an impact for fantasy football. In a matchup last week where he should’ve been able to be incredibly productive, Jeudy ended the game with just five receptions for 47 yards and a WR51 finish on the week to show for it. Denver should have to throw the ball a bit more here this week to stay in it with Cincinnati, but it’s not a guarantee that that is going to lead to a significant opportunity for Jeudy. In the first round of your fantasy playoffs, you need to be confident in the players you roll out there. We can’t be confident in Jeudy producing anything more than low-end WR3 numbers at this point.
Courtland Sutton: Can we find a player who has been more disappointing to roster in fantasy football this year than Sutton? Okay, Allen Robinson‘s a solid answer. You got me. However, Sutton has to be hot on his tail. The talented WR has played in 13 games so far this year, which was a major question coming into the year, and he has three top-12 performances at the position for fantasy. However, every single other game that Sutton has played in this season has resulted in a fantasy finish outside the top-30. Specifically, over the last three weeks, Sutton has finished as the WR80, the WR71, and the WR91. He is absolutely off the redraft radar at this point and there’s no way he can be considered for your starting lineup in the fantasy playoffs.
Tim Patrick: There was a point in time this year where Patrick was doing valuable things for fantasy football, but that time has long since passed. He can be dropped to your waiver wire at this point.
C.J. Uzomah: Uzomah saw six targets last week and was able to reel in four of them for 56 yards, which is fantastic for any fantasy managers that took the shot on playing him. However, Uzomah had just 38 yards receiving over his previous three games combined and that should make us very nervous about chasing this type of performance from the veteran TE. He’s had big moments earlier on this season only to fade back into oblivion later on, so we shouldn’t view Uzomah as anything more than a mid-range/low-end TE2.
Noah Fant: Fant was efficient with his limited opportunity this past week against Detroit. He reeled in all four of his targets for 51 yards and he finished as the TE15 on the week in Half PPR scoring. Unfortunately, Fant has seen just four targets each of his past three games, which is not nearly enough volume for us to feel confident and comfortable playing him in our starting lineups. He’s going to need to continue to be hyper-efficient with the limited workload to even reach mid-range TE2 status. If you have a better option available, it might be worth considering playing them over Fant this week against Cincinnati.