A.J. Green and Bilal Powell Can Offer Fantasy Holiday Cheer
Honestly, I’m uncertain about how I feel about you this holiday season. After all, you tricked supposedly nice Fantasy owners into drafting Todd Gurley, only to turn the tables on them in a “Hulk Hogan turns heel” manner, which pushed well beyond the borders of naughty. Not to single out Gurley, as he just happened to be the biggest lump of Fantasy coal that included DeAndre Hopkins, Dez Bryant, the health of Rob Gronkowski and the entire Jaguars offense.
On the other hand, I can’t hate on you too much. After all, those of us playing in the championship game in our respective leagues (or in the semifinals for you “We Go All the Way to Week 17” acolytes) who immediately saw the good in Tyrell Williams, Jordan Howard, Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan and the late gifts of Taylor Gabriel, Zach Ertz and Tyreek Hill, appreciate the pixie dust you tossed upon those players. Should we awaken Tuesday morning atop our league, chances are strong that our draft day transgressions will be forgiven. In the meantime, here’s hoping you can spare a few minutes and grant our wishes for a high volume of quality touches and targets this Week 16.
Invest in Green Stocks
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is cleared to return for Saturday night’s clash at the Texans, and while Cincy has little to play for (other than perhaps Marvin Lewis’ job), the return of Green is a Christmas miracle for owners who managed to get this far without having their top wideout for a month.
Yes, the Texans are the fourth-stingiest defense when it comes to Fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers, but Green owners shouldn’t give a damn. Prior to his injury, Green had at least eight targets in each game he completed, a number that included six contests of double-digit looks from Andy Dalton. He has averaged 7.1 receptions in three previous games against the Texans, yet has not scored a touchdown. My bet is that Green finds the end zone at NRG Stadium while resuming his role as one of the more elite receivers in Fantasy Football.
[caption id="attachment_117572" align="alignright" width="375"] Look who's back! Yes, A.J. Green returns in time to be a Championship Week difference-maker. Photo Credit/Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire[/caption]
Can Bilal Be My Fantasy Powell?
Remember how we just discussed the joy and glee we get from high volume players? Those who played Bilal Powell last Saturday can preach the choir on that subject, as Powell had 27 total touches (16 carries and a perfect 11 for 11 on targets) for 162 yards from scrimmage. In the two games Powell’s started in place of injured Matt Forte (remember at the start of the season how I warned about relying on Forte this season? Shame if you didn’t listen), Powell has amassed 61 total touches (45 carries, 16 receptions) for 341 yards and two touchdowns. He comes into this Saturday’s tilt against the Patriots as no worse than an RB2.
I think Powell is a must-start in PPR formats despite the fact the Pats rank sixth in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. The Jets’ offense is a mess, yet it has offered a certain level of intrigue with Powell and rookie wide receiver Robby Anderson injecting some promise into the offense. Powell, who leads the NFL with 5.7 yards per carry, fared well in his limited touches during the Jets’ first meeting with the Patriots, averaging a solid 4.5 yards on his eight carries. I think Powell’s versatility leads him to his third straight game of over 100 yards from scrimmage, and I’d raise you one better that he scores a touchdown.
We Need to Talk About Dez....
The jury remains closeted, yet when it comes to the case of whether Dez Bryant is still a reliable WR1, the verdict -- however it arrives -- shouldn’t be a surprise. Bryant has just one touchdown in his last four games and has been targeted more than ten times just twice since returning to the Cowboys’ lineup on October 30. Bryant has had three games of six or fewer targets in that span while also scoring single-digit Fantasy points in three of his last four outings. More unnerving is his declining catch rate, as his current 51.1 percent mark is slightly better than last season’s career-low mark of 43.1 percent.
Granted, his injuries, the success of the Cowboys’ run game and adapting to rookie QB Dak Prescott have contributed to numbers that look more like a solid WR2. While he has only nine catches in three previous games against the Lions, who visit the Cowboys on Monday night, five of them have resulted in touchdowns. He may offer some risk in PPR formats, but touchdown-dependent formats strengthen his case. In 2017, though, I think Bryant is going to fly under the radar, as owners will be frustrated with his numbers from the past two seasons. No longer a Top-25 pick, Bryant could constitute a potential steal if he falls to the mid-to-late third round.
Oodles and Oodles of Numbers
*Stay away, and I mean far away, from Steelers WR Eli Rogers on Christmas afternoon. Rogers has flashed potential when healthy, yet Ben Roethlisberger all but ignores Rogers at Heinz Field. Of his 38 catches this season, only six have come at home, where he has a mediocre 54.5 percent catch rate. While some may merit him an interesting sleeper in deeper leagues, your best bet is to simply let him continue snoozing.
*Need proof of how vital a good running back is to a successful Fantasy team? Entering this week’s games, Ezekiel Elliott (110.8 yards per game) and Le’Veon Bell (104.2 yards per game) are the only backs averaging more than 90 rushing yards per contest. After Bell, the numbers take a steep decline until DeMarco Murray and his 87.4 yards per game come into play. Those three, along with LeSean McCoy (86.8), Jordan Howard (81.5) and David Johnson (81.3) are the only backs above the 80-yard barrier. All six are obvious must-starts this week, yet looking ahead to 2017, one could make a strong case they will all be off the board before the 15th overall pick.
*Speaking of backs, leave Adrian Peterson on your bench. If you’re even considering Peterson for even a flex position against the Packers, you need an intervention. Then again, Peterson may eventually save you from yourself, as he is considering sitting out the remainder of the season. Wise move for a man averaging 1.9 yards per carry. Peterson’s days as a Fantasy maven are over, a little food for thought if you’re considering him as a draft target once Peterson finds a new team after he and the Vikings part ways next spring.
Gimme a Sleeper!I like Patriots rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell, whose numbers were suppressed the previous two weeks with matchups against the Ravens and Broncos, two of the Top 10 most stingy defenses when it comes to points allowed to opposing wideouts. Mitchell gets a Jets defense that was scorched by Dolphins QB Matt Moore last week, and with the Pats seeking to lock up home field advantage for the AFC playoffs, expect Mitchell to be targeted frequently.
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