While many of us expect to make the fantasy playoffs more often
than not, it doesn't mean we aren't happy or relieved to get there.
And for any owner who has been there more than a time or two, this
time of year can be as stressful for those of us in high-stakes
leagues as it can be enjoyable.
With that said, I felt it would be helpful to take a wide-eyed
view of what has happened up to this point. Perhaps as much is
anything, owners want to know what they can count on from players
in the fantasy postseason. To that end, what you see below should
give you a pretty fair idea of where each relevant player has
been and, maybe more importantly, where he could be headed.
I'd like to say I used some foolproof set of criteria in order
to trim the field down to 228 players, but in the end, I decided
to go with a simple qualification: Was he relevant in fantasy
at some point during the season or is he about to be? I especially
applied this to receiver and tight end as time started getting
away from me.
In the four charts below, I replaced each player's fantasy score
for the week and with his positional ranking. (Ties were included
to give each player the most benefit of doubt possible. In other
words, there may be a three-way tie for 57th place in Week 6 at
receiver.) In all, I did this for 228 players. If this kind of
thing seems as though it might require a lot of time, you'd be
right. But I wouldn't do it if I didn't think if wasn't helpful.
To further benefit you, I calculated how many times each player
finished inside the top 12 at their position (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1),
between 13 and 24 (QB2, RB2, WR2, TE2), 25 and 36 (RB3, WR3) and
37+ (at running back and receiver only). At quarterback and tight
end, I stopped at 25+ due to the starting lineup requirements
in most leagues. "Empty" boxes are games missed due
to byes/injuries or because a player did not receive a target/attempt
in that week.
Ben Roethlisberger, Smith, Brady, Wilson,
Rivers and Carson Wentz have the most QB1 finishes through
PPR, 6 points for all TDs, 1 Pt for 25 yds passing
* Andy Dalton has been his usual self,
turning in QB1 performances five times and QB2 efforts or worse
seven times. Then again, he's been a QB1 in three straight weeks
heading into Week 14 and thrown for multiple touchdowns in six
of his last seven games. His only abysmal games came in the first
two weeks of the season before the firing of former OC Ken Zampese
and in Week 9 against the Jaguars, who have made almost every
quarterback look bad.
* Ben Roethlisberger and "consistency" are not words
used together very often, but somehow Big Ben has been a QB1 in
each of his last six games - albeit on the back end of that three
times. That's quite the step up from his previous four outings,
during which he finished 20th or worse each time. Either way,
in what has been a less than impressive year for Roethlisberger,
he has been a QB1 two out of every three weeks and managed to
stay healthy all season long.
* Case Keenum showed flashes of being a capable quarterback -
mostly for a short stint early in his career for Houston - so
what he has done this season shouldn't be as surprising as some
believe it is. He has turned in five straight QB1 efforts, but
owners should not confuse that with the notion he has ascended
into QB1 territory. While he deserves a ton of credit for the
strides he has taken this season, his supporting cast is about
as good as it gets in the NFC. If you're riding with a struggling
quarterback such as Dak Prescott, then I would not hesitate to
start Keenum. I'm just not sure how much I would trust him this
week in Carolina or against the Cincinnati Bengals next week.
For what it is worth, I certainly don't view as a player who has
"turned the corner" and still view him as a backup quarterback
in the league who would get exposed on a less-talented offense.
* Even the most elite of quarterbacks is going to have a QB2
or worse week every so often (See: Tom Brady, Week 13). However,
it's hard to beat what Carson Wentz is done to this point of the
season, finishing 16th or better in all but one game and as a
QB1 eight times. Somewhat amazingly, two of his three QB2 finishes
have come in the last three games, although much of that can be
attributed to game flow, lack of volume and matchup.
* Somewhat amazingly, Drew Brees has been a QB1 five times in
2017. He obviously isn't delivering the elite numbers we have
become accustomed to due to the success of Mark Ingram and Alvin
Kamara. Still, it's hard to call any quarterback with a 17:5 touchdown-to-interception
ratio and a 71.6 completion percentage a disappointment. He's
QB12 at the moment and seems like a good bet to overtake players
such as Prescott, Josh McCown and Jared Goff in total fantasy
points over the final four contests.
* In case owners need a reminder of how good Deshaun Watson was
(especially in comparison to Tom Savage), Savage has yet to place
higher than 15th in any week and has been 25th or lower four times.
Watson was 26th in Week 1 - when he took over for Savage at halftime
- and finished no lower than 15th after that. He ended his rookie
season with four top-three performances.
* Green Bay has a dilemma on their hands. Does HC Mike McCarthy
buy into the "hot hand" or does he go with what makes
the most sense? Although most of us know by now scoring touchdowns
is more about opportunity than it is about possessing a "scoring
talent," McCarthy and fantasy owners alike are going to have
a hard time getting Jones' 20-yard overtime TD run last week out
of their minds. ESPN's Rob Demovsky said before last week's game
job is Jones' when he returns. Does the fact that Williams
topped four yards per carry (min. three attempts) for the first
time in his career change that? Jones was a top-four back in two
of his four heavy-workload games before getting hurt. Then again,
Williams has been a top-10 back in each of the last two contests.
If McCarthy decides he is in favor of efficiency, anyone with
the foresight to pick up Jones off waivers (the first or second
time) might have landed him/herself a potential league-winner.
*There's not much I can say about Kamara that hasn't already
been said. He's been the overall RB1 in fantasy three of the last
five weeks and finished inside the top 10 in each of his last
seven outings. Touchdown regression is coming, but it is pretty
clear this is a train owners need to ride as long as possible.
* The Panthers have lived up to their end of the bargain and
then some when it comes to using Christian McCaffrey in the passing
game. The fact he is third on the team in rushing attempts (82)
and has carried the ball more than eight times only once since
Week 1 is laughable. With that said, McCaffrey is posted three
RB1 and five RB2 efforts over his last eight games despite being
used in a pre-2017 Danny Woodhead-like fashion.
* The problem with running-back-by-committee in NFL offenses
is when the coach/play-caller stubbornly sticks with it despite
statistical evidence to suggest maybe that day isn't the day to
do so. Consider Devonta Freeman, who has averaged at least six
yards per carry three times during his six-game scoreless streak.
Further consider he is catching an average of two passes in 2017
after posting 3.5 receptions per game last season. After two RB1
and two RB2 performances before the team's Week 5 bye, Freeman
has only two RB2-worthy efforts since. That needs to change if
the Falcons have any desire to make another Super Bowl run. It
wasn't long ago Atlanta was using Freeman a lot like the Saints
are currently using Kamara. A number of owners point to how good
Tevin Coleman was in Freeman's absence, but he averaged only 3.8
yards per carry in the two-plus games he had the backfield mostly
to himself. The only thing Coleman did "well" was find
the end zone four times.
* Instead of coming out the Bears' Week 9 like a man possessed,
Jordan Howard has been the RB48 or worse in three of his last
four games. It's not as if Tarik Cohen has been much better or
more active. Lack of volume is one main reason why, as Howard
has topped out at 15 carries since the bye after going over that
mark six times in the first eight weeks. He gashed the one run
defense he should have (Detroit) but hasn't sniffed four yards
per carry in any of the other three contests. Cincinnati should
be able to contain him this week, but it is clear his situation
is not what it was in September and October.
* Throw out his RB46 finish in Week 5 against Seattle and it's
no wonder why Todd Gurley reigns supreme at the running back position
this season. He was no worse than the RB6 in his first four weeks
and has been posted top-12 numbers nine times to go along with
two efforts in the 13-24 range. It's not going to be easy for
him to finish strong with Philadelphia, Seattle and Tennessee
remaining on the schedule, but he is such a central part of the
Rams' offense - with at least 20 touches in all but two games
thus far - that he'll be a RB2 for owners even if he doesn't find
the end zone more than once the rest of the way.
* With so many good receivers and the position so volatile to begin
with given the lack of opportunities relative to the running back
position, even a player like Antonio Brown will find himself outside
WR3 range from time to time. With that said, it's only happened
twice and he has more than made up for it with eight finishes inside
the top 12. In my roughly 20 years of playing fantasy football,
I'm not sure I can recall more of a "sure thing" at the
* Don't look now, but Dede Westbrook is tied with Davante Adams,
Jamison Crowder and Adam Thielen for 14th in targets (25) since
he was activated three weeks ago. With the Jaguars' running game
not nearly clicking like it was early in the season, the need
for the receivers to step up has increased and they have mostly
obliged. Marqise Lee has taken something of a back seat over that
time due to back-to-back weeks of facing Jason McCourty and Patrick Peterson, but Westbrook still had nine targets last week even
though Lee got back on track. The rookie's first touchdown figures
to be coming soon and it goes without saying if he shows well
against Seattle in Week 14, he's a high-upside WR3 at worst in
Weeks 15 and 16 against Houston and San Francisco, respectively.
* Devin Funchess has been on some kind of run in four games since
the Kelvin Benjamin trade, finishing no worse than WR23 and netting
three top-16 results. In addition to the targets left behind by
KB, there's no question Funchess has benefited (fantasy-wise)
from the absence of Greg Olsen as well and the season-ending injury
of Curtis Samuel. Funchess figures to have his hands full in Week
14 with Xavier Rhodes, but Green Bay and Tampa Bay do not figure
to provide the same resistance in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively.
* No receiver continues to make a bigger mockery of PPR scoring
than Jarvis Landry, who has topped 10 yards per catch only three
times and is averaging only 8.7 YPC this season. With that said,
he's on pace for a second 100-catch season in three years and
has already set a career high with six receiving touchdowns. Although
he had one top-10 finish over his first four games, Landry's season
didn't really start taking off until DeVante Parker got hurt in
Week 5. From that point on, the LSU product hasn't finished outside
the top 36 in any week. While he probably won't be the reason
why owners win their league, perhaps no receiver in the league
possesses his floor or level of consistency.
* If you know someone who has aged about 10 years over the last
two seasons, ask them if they experienced the thrill-ride that
is Marvin Jones. Last season, Detroit determined he wasn't a WR1-caliber
player after about a month of trying to force the issue and he
quickly fell off the fantasy map. This year, the Lions opened
the season using him like a complementary receiver and the opposite
has happened. Since Week 4, Jones has placed worse than 26th only
once and has four top-10 finishes. After burning Xavier Rhodes
a couple times on Thanksgiving, it's worth wondering if a lot
of us were a year too early on him.
* Robby Anderson is writing a similar story, with the main difference
being his emergence taking place at the end of last year instead
of the beginning. Anderson was probably riding fantasy benches
well into October this year before going on his recent scoring
spree. After posting WR2 numbers only once through his first six
outings, he hasn't dipped below 21st since.
* Receiver performance obviously depends a great deal on the
play of their quarterback, so reading too much into home/road
splits can be a fool's errand when it comes to evaluating the
position. However, when it comes to Tyreek Hill, we can no longer
just pretend like they don’t matter. In 13 career games
at home, he has totaled 41 receptions for 364 yards and three
touchdowns. In 15 career road contests, he has 80 catches for
1,110 yards and nine touchdowns. All four of his blow-up games
this season - you guessed it - have come away from Arrowhead Stadium.
His best PPR game at home in his brief career was 16.8 points
in Week 14 last season versus the Raiders. All four of his aforementioned
games this season have topped that number.
* Stefon Diggs has drawn comparisons to Antonio Brown in previous
years and I don’t think they are unrealistic. For those
who may not remember, Brown didn't become "AB" until
Year 4. Diggs' problem has been staying healthy through his first
three seasons. We saw a glimpse of his AB-like talent in the first
three weeks and his owners were rewarded with two top-two finishes.
He landed on the injury report the following week and has seemingly
taken a back seat to the running game, Adam Thielen and, on occasion,
Kyle Rudolph. Since those first three weeks, Diggs has only played
at a WR2 level twice and a WR4 or worse every other time. While
his redraft owners are unlikely to reap the benefits of his talent
again this year, he is a player owners should target again next
season. When things finally fall into place for him, he is going
to be a whole lot of fun to own in fantasy leagues.
* There's no telling how much different the narrative of Austin Seferian-Jenkins' season would be if weren't for the two (or up
to four, depending on who you ask) touchdowns he's had taken away
from him. Four touchdowns - and not including any of the yards he
lost due to overturns or penalties - would have him sitting in 11th
place in total PPR points - right behind Jason Witten - despite
the fact he missed the first two games of the season. Making matters
even more maddening for his owners, his targets have become very
hard to predict and he is averaging 7.5 YPC despite being more of
a downfield target. His last two fantasy efforts make him very hard
to trust in the fantasy playoffs this week, but a matchup against
the Broncos this week may be just the one to use him. Prior to his
downturn over the last two weeks, ASJ finished no worse than 14th
in five of his previous six outings, which is obviously pretty solid
consistency at the tight end position.
* Owners don't need my encouragement to start Jimmy Graham, but
allow me to take a moment to point out he has performed at a TE1
level in 10 straight games. Even considering the lower standards
we have for tight ends, that streak is amazing.
* Talking about the lower standards that exist at tight end,
Ricky Seals-Jones caught two passes for 44 yards last week and
was the TE20. In the previous two weeks in much better matchups
for his position, he was the TE1 and TE5. The most relevant comparison
I can make regarding the advantage Seals-Jones could offer the
final three weeks of the fantasy season is Marques Colston in
his rookie season. Mind you, I'm not comparing the two in terms
of playing style or talent, but rather the fact some leagues allowed
Colston to be used as a tight end. Seals-Jones is in a similar
spot, albeit a bigger player with a less talented quarterback.
With that said, if Arizona continues to use him in the same way
it has to this point, he has the talent and schedule to join the
legions of players who came out of nowhere late in the season
to help countless owners win their leagues.
* It's fair to wonder if Zach Ertz's high level of usage over
the first three months of the season is starting to catch up to
him. Not including his Week 13 concussion, which could happen
to any player at any time, he hasn't quite looked the same since
suffering the hamstring injury the Eagles were hoping they could
get past by resting him a week before the team's Week 10 bye.
Nevertheless, he could (and should) finish out strong if he can
return next week - assuming he sits out this week - against the
Giants and Raiders over the final two weeks of the fantasy season.
This also gives me a chance to plug Trey Burton, who is arguably
the best backup tight end in football and probably would be a
top-15 fantasy option at worst if Ertz ever missed significant
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.