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Usage Notes: Week 15

By Kevin Scott | 12/22/20 |

In this final installment of my weekly usage notes, I will focus on insights that might help you with who to start in championship week or what players might be good dynasty adds as we move into the offseason.

If you’ve made it this far and are still alive, congratulations. I am wearing my 13 finals as a badge of honor, since this was the most difficult fantasy season ever. If you fell just short, just know that next year will be a lot simpler to navigate, so study up this offseason and come back ready to win!

Austin Ekeler

Running Back

  • Austin Ekeler played on 62% of snaps while three other backs factored in. Kalen Ballage played on 32%, Gabe Nabers played on 17%, and Joshua Kelley played on 8%. I mention that just so you are aware that Ekeler is still not playing his typical number of snaps. Nevertheless, 62% is enough for him to produce, especially when he’s so involved in the passing game. He only received 17 touches (4 targets), so hopefully that number ticks up in Week 16.

  • Josh Jacobs played on 68% of snaps and received 29 touches. He was not very effective, primarily due to absolutely putrid blocking by the Raiders front. If he is active I’d play him in Week 16 against the Dolphins, even though they are a good defensive unit. He is a great back with a ton of opportunities, which is the most you can hope for.

  • Devin Singletary had a long rushing TD at the end of the game in Week 15, but he and Zack Moss both remain bad starts on a weekly basis. The Bills are not committing to running the ball, and these players continue to evenly split snaps. Find another option if possible.

  • After Jamaal Williams got banged up in Week 15, Aaron Jones saw 90% of the snaps. That was what fantasy owners have been pleading for over the past couple seasons, and Jones turned the extra snaps into 20 rushes for 145 yards and a score, plus 3 receptions for 13 yards. It is unknown whether Williams will be ready for Week 16 against the Titans, but either way Jones should have a very nice day.

  • With Ronald Jones on the Covid list, Leonard Fournette produced 14-49-2 on the ground. He was mildly effective but did not look as dynamic as Jones. I would look for Jones to retake the bulk of the carries this week, in a dream matchup against the Lions. If he remains out, Fournette is a good play as well.

  • Todd Gurley, as I said last week, is done. He played on only 25% of snaps and got 1 carry. He needs to be on your bench or on the wire.

  • James Robinson had a tough Week 15 against the Ravens, rushing for only 35 yards on 16 carries. He again saved his fantasy day with a score, going 3-18-1 through the air. It sounds like he will be out for the rest of the season with a high-ankle sprain, but dynasty owners need to be very happy with this find. He looks likely to be a steady, high-upside back for several years to come.

  • J.K. Dobbins played on 53% of snaps and received 15 touches, going for 81 total yards and a score. He will never produce what he could if he were on a team that used him as a workhorse, but he has still been productive and effective the past couple weeks. He faces a decent Giants front in Week 16, but if you need a back he has some upside.

  • In what should have been a perfect set up for Raheem Mostert, he again injured his ankle and only played 30% of snaps, going for 68 yards on 14 carries. That left Jeff Wilson as the primary back, and he went 16-60-1. I would avoid Wilson against the Cardinals in Week 16, unless you are desperate. He is simply not a very good player.

  • We may have seen a changing of the guard in the Dallas backfield on Sunday. Elliott was inactive, giving Tony Pollard a shot at lead duties. He went for 69 yards and two scores on only 12 carries, and also caught 6 of 9 targets for 63 yards! If I ran the Cowboys, I’d try to trade Elliott and give this backfield to Pollard, as he fits much more closely with the offense Kellen Moore wants to run. I doubt that happens, but I recommend getting Pollard on your rosters this offseason just in case.

  • David Johnson had his best game of the season on Sunday. He played on 80% of snaps and produced 133 yards of offense. However, it’s important to notice that he produced 106 of yards through the air, on 11 receptions! So while it was nice that he was involved, he still only produced 8-27 on the ground. I think the inability of the Texans to run the ball has to do with coaching, a bad offensive line, and a lack of playmakers on the outside to keep the defense back. If those things improve, Johnson could be much better next season.

  • Jonathan Taylor played on 70% of snaps and has clearly taken over the mantle of lead back for the Colts. He rushed 16 times for 83 yards and a score, and also caught 4 of 5 targets for 12 yards. He gets a tough matchup in Week 16 against the Steelers, but is still a fine play with a Steelers defense that is banged up.

  • David Montgomery continued his workhorse role in Week 15, rushing 32 times for 146 yards and two scores. He has looked great recently, albeit against defenses that are bottom half. He gets the Jaguars in Week 16, so keep him in those lineups!

  • D’Andre Swift played on 65% of snaps and looked to be back to his dynamic self. He finished with 15-67-2 on the ground and 4-15 through the air. He gets a tough Bucs defense in Week 16, but you probably have to start him – particularly if Matthew Stafford suits up again.

  • Darrynton Evans was finally back in action on Sunday as the No. 2 back. He played on 13 snaps and got 8 carries and 2 receptions (57 yards and a score). He is a guy the Titans have wanted to get involved as a change-of-pace option, so I’d consider picking him up in dynasty leagues in case he flashes in the playoffs.

  • With Antonio Gibson still out, J.D. McKissic took over top back duties for Washington, playing on 98% of snaps. He was effective on the ground and through the air (13-51, 9-56-1). Watch the reports carefully to see if Gibson plays. If not, McKissic makes an intriguing start against the Panthers. He might still be a good play even if Gibson is in, since he might be limited.

  • Miles Sanders played on 83% of snaps on Sunday. He ran for 64 yards on 17 carries and caught 1 pass for 26 yards. It wasn’t a great day, but at least he’s out there and involved. He is a must-start in Week 16 against the Cowboys.

  • Chase Edmonds played more snaps than Kenyan Drake on Sunday (36 to 34), and out-produced him as well (66 total yards to 43). I don’t know if we are seeing a changing of the guard at the top of the depth chart, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Edmonds has looked more dynamic all season. Keep this in mind for both your championship decisions and for dynasty.

  • Cam Akers was again the primary back for the Rams, playing on 61% of snaps and getting all but 2 of the running back carries. Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson got 4 touches combined, so it certainly appears that Akers has a lock on this backfield however his ankle injury will cause him to miss Week 16. He is a nice dynasty asset moving forward, even though Sean McVay is a head coach who consistently jerks fantasy owners around with his decisions.

  • The Saints dared the Chiefs to run the ball all day, and begrudgingly they did. Mahomes still threw it 47 times, but with two deep safeties for the whole game he had to throw it short. When the Chiefs did run, they were effective. Edwards-Helaire ran 14 times for 79 yards, and Le’Veon Bell ran 15 times for 62 yards and a score. Since CEH was injured, we should see a lot of Bell in Week 16. However, be aware that the Falcons are easy to throw against, so Bell may only get 10-15 touches.

  • Benny Snell had one of the best games of the season for the Pittsburgh backfield, albeit in a losing effort to the lowly Bengals. He finished with 18-84-1 on the ground, and 3-23 through the air. He also played on 78% of snaps. If Conner is again out for Week 16, Snell could provide double-digit points, even if a tough matchup against the Colts.

  • A week after getting benched due to a fumble, Giovani Bernard led the backfield in Week 15. He went 25-83-1 and also caught a touchdown pass. He has a dream matchup in Week 16 against the Texans, so if Mixon is still out, he is a solid start.

Wide Receiver

  • Cole Beasley played on 62% of snaps but has remained a favorite target of Josh Allen all season. On Saturday he received 10 targets and went 8-112. I will have a very hard time benching him for the fantasy finals, even though other players on my rosters might be bigger names. In PPR leagues he has been money almost every week.

  • Panthers wide receiver snaps: Robby Anderson 90%, Curtis Samuel 84%, and D.J. Moore 81%. Panthers wide receiver targets: Anderson 5, Samuel 9, and Moore 8. Moore actually put up the best numbers, with 6 catches for 131 yards. This receiving corps is really difficult to figure out. I will start Moore due to his explosiveness, but the others are hard to start for the finals, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding Christian McCaffrey’s return.

  • Allen Lazard jumped Marquez Valdes-Scantling in Week 15, playing on 8 more snaps and receiving 5 more targets. He finished with 5-56. It was clear early in the season that the Packers wanted Lazard to be the No. 2 wide receiver on the team, and it looks like he has finally taken that role back after his injury recovery. He is a worthy flex play against the Titans in Week 16.

  • Although Chris Godwin played on 88% of snaps and Antonio Brown only played on 47%, Brown received 7 targets to Godwin’s 5. This is very disconcerting for Godwin owners, and emphasizes that Tom Brady simply likes throwing to Brown. Until Brady retires or Godwin leaves town, this might be a frustrating situation for dynasty owners. You likely have to trust Godwin in your finals, but you can’t feel great about the situation right now.

  • With Julio Jones out, Calvin Ridley received 14 targets and went 10-163-1 on Sunday. He is a good start in Week 16 against the Chiefs, as the Falcons should be throwing it a lot.

  • D.J. Chark seemed to re-take the mantle of Jacksonville’s top receiver on Sunday, leading the group in snaps and yards (4-53 on 5 targets). Still, in an offense with so little upside, he should be avoided in championship week. However, for dynasty his prospects rose on Sunday with the Jets victory, as it looks likely that the Jaguars will land Trevor Lawrence.

  • Marquise Brown has finally started putting up numbers many expected of him this season. He caught 6 of 7 targets on Sunday, for 98 yards. He is still very difficult to trust on a weekly basis due to the Lamar Jackson’s low passing volume, but his value is trending up.

  • Brandon Aiyuk dynasty owners are feeling very pleased. He played on 95% of snaps and received 13 targets, going 9-73-1. He looks like the real deal, and I recommend holding on to him long term if possible.

  • CeeDee Lamb continues to show he is the most talented receiver on the Cowboys roster. He played on only 57% of snaps (fewer than Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper) but led the group in receptions and yards (5-85). He will become a top receiver in this league and is a great buy candidate this offseason.

  • Sort of out of nowhere, Zach Pascal led the Colts’ receivers in snaps, playing on 87%. Michael Pittman Jr. played on 83% and T.Y. Hilton played on 65%. Pascal received 6 targets and caught 5 for 79 yards, with two touchdowns. This was an outlier and I would still not consider starting Pascal. In fact, I’d avoid the whole group in Week 16 against the Steelers.

  • Jakobi Meyers played on virtually every snap and was again Newton’s primary target. He received 10 targets and went 7-111. With how bad this Patriots offense has looked, I would avoid starting him in the championship, but if you’re desperate he should get volume against the Bills.

  • Inexplicably, Adam Thielen received only 3 targets on Sunday, despite playing on 94% of snaps. He caught 2 for 11 yards, but did score. Either way it looks like Justin Jefferson (11 targets, 8-104) has taken over as the No.1 receiver in Minnesota, so I wouldn’t start Thielen in Week 16 against a very good Saints defense unless I had no other good options.

  • Marvin Jones more than doubled the targets of any other player on Sunday (12) and went for 112 yards on 10 receptions, with a score. He has been up and down, but certainly he produced for owners in this important week. He gets the Bucs in Week 16, so look elsewhere if possible.

  • I’m not sure what’s going on with the Seahawks passing offense, but they have struggled of late. Both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have cooled off considerably along with Russell Wilson, so it has become hard to trust them in these important matchups. They get the Rams in Week 16, one of the best defenses in the league. On the positive side, they are both playing around 90% of snaps and the team certainly wants to get them the ball.

  • Terry McLaurin finally saw double-digit targets in Week 15 (12), and caught 7 for 77 yards. He likely would have produced more if Smith had been able to play, and he gets a dream matchup in Week 16 against the Panthers. Start him with confidence.

  • With Michael Thomas out, Emmanuel Sanders is the No. 1 receiver for the Saints. He played on 71% of snaps and got 5 targets, catching 4 for 76 yards. He gets the Vikings in Week 16, making him an excellent start in the fantasy finals.

  • Rashard Higgins continues to be very involved for the Browns, and is playing well. He led all receivers with 73% of snaps, and finished 4-76 on 5 targets. He also gets to play the Jets in Week 16, so if you’re in need of wide receiver help, he is an option.

  • Diontae Johnson received another huge target share in Week 15, getting 13 targets and finishing with 8-59-1. The offense couldn’t get anything going, but Johnson was the long bright spot. Since he has gotten double-digit targets in a majority of his games, he is always a good start.

Tight Ends

  • Darren Waller produced with both Carr and Mariota, and is a must-start every week. He has become a top-3 dynasty tight end.

  • Noah Fant finally showed up in an important fantasy week, rewarding owners who stood with him after he was sick in Week 14 and gave them a 0. He received 11 targets, more than twice that of any other Bronco, and caught 8 for 68 yards and a score. He might be a good play against the Chargers in Week 16, but you never know with Lock under center.

  • Hayden Hurst remained a confounding player to own. You simply never know if he will get you 0 points or score a touchdown. He scored in Week 15, but I cannot recommend playing him in any week due to his volatility.

  • Mark Andrews caught all 5 targets for 66 yards and a score on Sunday, on only 52% of snaps. The low snap count was likely mainly due to the Ravens being so far ahead of the Jaguars. He remains a good weekly option, although those who drafted Andrews early may not still be alive.

  • If you are a regular reader of this column, you know I’ve been touting Logan Thomas all season. He plays on every snap, and again he hit that rare 100% mark on Sunday. He is not only on the field but has developed as one of their primary weapons, and caught 13 of 15 targets on Sunday, for 101 yards. He needs to be started every week, in all formats.

  • I’ve given up on Chris Herndon being a fantasy asset, but for those longsuffering believers, he did play on 66% of snaps and got 4 targets, catching 3 for 48 yards. Perhaps with an upgrade at every other position around him he could become a dynasty asset.

  • Austin Hooper has had a nice surge near the end of the season. He finished with 6 targets and caught 5 for 41 yards and a score. He is not going to be as involved in the passing game as he was in Atlanta, but he is at least bringing value and a decent floor. He gets the Jets in Week 16, who have been very poor against tight ends.

Kevin Scott is a fantasy pro who is the co-host for The Lowdown Fantasy Football Podcast. He plays in over 40 leagues annually and has made over $100,000 playing fantasy football. You can follow him @kevinscottff.