Trends are developing and in Fantasy Football there is always something noteworthy happening. I am excited about some Rams in Los Angeles and a Giant in New York, while I am not so high on a flash in the pan that charged ahead in Los Angeles and a temporary tease rarity in Cincinnati.
Austin Ekeler, RB Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler is a nice little scat back who had a very nice little game in Week 10 with five receptions for 77 receiving yards, 10 rushing attempts for 42 yards, and most importantly, two touchdowns. Ekeler was added in many leagues, which is not a surprise. Considering the lack of quality on the wire this late in the season it is justified, but he is owned in 46 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled” here. It was only his third double-digit Fantasy scoring week of the season and far and away his best. Roster him, but don’t start him until a trend emerges justifying a Flex start.
Sterling Shepard, WR New York Giants
Shepard had 11 receptions on 13 targets and 144 yards in Week 10 and it wasn’t a fluke. He has scored double-digit points in five of his seven starts and 25-plus in two of them, including two games with 130 receiving yards or more. I wrote prior to his injury, and after Odell Beckham’s, that Shepard was a buy low opportunity because the passing offense was going to flow through him. That has come to fruition in his two starts since returning, as he’s been targeted nine and 13 times in games since. In Week 11, Shepard faces a Kansas City Chiefs defense that is the worst in Fantasy against wide receivers (41.5 Fantasy points per game) including a league-leading 15 receiving touchdowns allowed. At a $12,900 price tag on FantasyDraft.com the DFS sites have noticed. At a price point that ranks sixth among wide receivers, he isn’t a bargain, but it’s reasonable considering all the data we have. You can feel comfortable spending up for him and in yearly leagues, he is a must-start low-end WR1 or high-end WR2.
Chester Rogers, WR Indianapolis Colts
Six targets, six receptions, 104 receiving yards and a touchdown made Week 10 a career performance for Rogers. “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled” here. Rogers hasn’t been relevant in a single game except for this one. With the waiver wire as fruitless as it is this late into the season, he is worth claiming but isn’t a consideration for starting in even the deepest of leagues. Bench him and wait to see when the sample size suggests a start.
Brandon LaFell, WR Cincinnati Bengals
LaFell has been an intriguing talent who never translated to on-field production going all the way back to his days in both Carolina and New England despite Cam Newton and Tom Brady at quarterback in those offenses. Week 10 was far and away his best as a Bengal and only his second double-digit Fantasy performance. “Don’t be Fantasy Fooled.” LaFell isn’t worth a claim, never mind a Flex consideration.
Marquise Goodwin, WR San Francisco 49ers
Goodwin is a respectable mid-level, big-play wide receiver. I cashed in DFS last week because of his 83-yard touchdown reception but almost didn’t because of only two targets and one catch. He has 60 receiving yards or more in five games and two straight since Pierre Garcon went on IR, but he has only one game with at least five receptions and this past week’s touchdown was his first. With Garcon out for the season there are touches to be had, and yet, Goodwin has only three receptions in the two games since Garcon’s injury. This suggests that the 49ers may target him deep downfield slightly more often without targeting him significantly more regularly. He should be owned and in deeper leagues, he is an intriguing Flex option, but there isn’t a lot of reason to be bullish on him based on the season-long trends.
Los Angeles Rams Offense
They have scored 27 points or more in eight of their nine games, 33 points or more in six of nine and three games with forty-plus. Todd Gurley leads Fantasy in scoring doing it both in the running and passing games, Robert Woods has become a breakout player while Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins are viable Flex plays. Jared Goff is tenth in quarterback scoring for the season and fourth over the last four weeks and he has done it in only three games. Most Fantasy owners aren’t bullish on the Rams wideouts or Jared Goff despite their breakout campaigns, but they are all must-starts, even in a mediocre matchup against an above-average pass defense like the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11. Woods is still a value at $10,900 on FantasyDraft.com, while Watkins and Kupp are better bargains with more uncertainty. You want shares of this offensive roster somehow, so work your budget and choose which option based on the funds available.
Robert Woods, WR Los Angeles Rams
I mentioned Woods above, but he deserves his own breakdown because he has delivered double-digit Fantasy points in five straight weeks and six of his last seven without a touchdown prior to Weeks 9 and 10 when he scored two in each game. Woods has had at least 50 receiving yards in seven games and at least five receptions in at least six. Now probably isn’t the time to be hyping Woods, coming off back-to-back two-touchdown games with a tough matchup against an above average Minnesota Vikings pass defense, but in DFS he is cheaper than Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, DeVante Parker and Alshon Jeffery, while being only slightly more expensive than Marvin Jones Jr, Marqise Lee and Davante Adams. His recent performance, as well as his 2017 on the whole, deserves more Fantasy respect than he has received.
Jimmy Graham, TE Seattle Seahawks
Graham has returned to being the red zone monster that he was in his best days in New Orleans with the Saints. He has six touchdowns in his last five games without more than 60 receiving yards in any of those outings. He isn’t the kind of overwhelming Rob Gronkowski kind of force that he was in New Orleans, but touchdowns win championships, and with the lack of a power running back it’s clear that Graham is the first and second target in the money zone.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Pittsburgh Steelers
I cautioned against going all in on Smith-Schuster a few weeks back (despite his fantastic name), but he has scored a touchdown in three straight games and he has 290 yards receiving and 12 receptions in his last two. Martavis Bryant is back, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown aren’t going anywhere, and the AFC North is one of the tougher divisions against the wide receiver. My instinct is to proceed cautiously but the trends suggest you should be buying in. That being said, he has tied for the team lead with Antonio Brown in targets in two straight games.
Marqise Lee, WR Jacksonville Jaguars
I tried to carry Blake Bortles’ water in the pre-season Draft Kit but I have to do a mea culpa – he is terrible. That being said, being the top target of a terrible passer is still being a top target in an offense that has to throw the ball at least occasionally. Lee has a touchdown in back-to-back games, a team leading 23 targets in those games, and at least 55 receiving yards in six of his eight games this season. He faces a Cleveland Browns defense that has performed much better than owners may realize, allowing the ninth fewest Fantasy points to wide receivers at a $10,600 price tag on FantasyDraft.com. That is in the same neighborhood as better plays like Robert Woods and Marvin Jones Jr. Lee is a viable top target in a game that should have a lot of red zone opportunities. It looks to me more like a Leonard Fournette game, but you never know how a team will attack in the red zone and Lee is their best in the passing game.