RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 15

Updated: December 20th 2020

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RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 14

Updated: December 13th 2020

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RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 13

Updated: December 6th 2020

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One Big Thing – NFC – Week 12

Updated: December 5th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

NFC EAST

 Washington

Antonio Gibson looks to be the 2020 answer to why third-round rookie picks can get propped up in terms of value because when you find a guy like Gibson and are paying him less than $1 million over four years it is a sweet feeling. Both he and James Robinson have been the two contenders for the best rookie running back heading into this offseason. This, a year after neither was being talked about as a top 20 pick coming out of the draft. Gibson’s transition to the position is what has made his early success even greater as he was playing a different position for much of his collegiate career and in theory, is still learning how to play running back. He has probably warranted enough production to prevent the team from investing any real capital in the position next offseason so his workload could continue to rise. I am sure my value model chart will show that he is one of the best contracts in RSO heading into 2021.

 Dallas

Do not resign All-Pro running backs to massive second contracts seems to be gaining more and more steam as recent examples of Todd Gurley and now potentially Ezekiel Elliot has shown. The fifth-year running back continues to disappoint both fantasy and Cowboys’ fans as despite still controlling the majority of snaps Elliot has not been able to put up the extraordinary numbers he had been doing in his first four seasons. Along with this Tony Pollard is seemingly doing more with fewer touches which is never a good sign that it is just a factor of the offense not having its star quarterback. The option to trade Elliot could be a talking point this offseason as a post-June trade would only cost the Cowboys $1.2 million in cap space. Knowing Jerry Jones though, it is unlikely he would take that kind of hit to his ego for being that wrong about a player he has stood by through so many off-field situations.

 NY Giants

Wayne Gallman may have won the award for mid-season pickup of the year as he has averaged 16.3 fantasy points since week 7 while scoring a touchdown in each of the last five (5) games. Daniel Jones’ injury will hamper the offense’s productivity so hopefully, Gallman can maintain the success he has had over the last month. The fourth-year runner has started more games this season than he had in his previous three (3) seasons combined thanks to the Saquon Barkley injury and it comes just in time for a new contract. It will be interesting to see if he stays with the Giants to resume what would be backup duties or if he tries to springboard this second-half performance into an opportunity with a more open backfield as a free agent.

 Philadelphia

Fellow RSO writer and draft expert Bob Cowper and I had an open discussion on Twitter as to whether the news that Jalen Hurts was going to be involved more in the offense heading into week 12 was coming from the coaching staff or from management, which is usually never a good sign when the two are not on the same page. The longer this rift continues the more egregious the drafting of Jalen Hurts seems. If you cannot start him over Carson Wentz because you cannot have a backup quarterback account for 17 percent of the cap but you also cannot trade or cut Wentz because it would result in a cap savings of -$24.5 million then why not try and make the best of a bad situation with Wentz and draft to support him instead of drafting his unusable replacement? The reason is that they have tried to but have whiffed so hard at receiver in back-to-back drafts that it is brought up weekly in the football community. None more obvious than watching D.K. Metcalf last week against the Eagles post 10 receptions for 177 yards while the receiver the Eagles took one spot ahead of him, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, has had 12 receptions total over his first two seasons.

NFC NORTH

 Detroit

Coming off the franchise’s first shutout in a decade the Lions needed to have a better performance if the coaching staff and players were likely to make it to 2021. They did not do that instead having three (3) turnovers in an eight (8) play span and allowing 41 points to a three-win team.  As a defensive-minded coach, letting Matt Patricia go this past week seemed like an inevitability. The team seemingly regressed since he took over as head coach after having two winning seasons in Jim Caldwell’s final years. It stands to guess whether the team will move on from long-time quarterback Matthew Stafford and look to fully tear down with a rebuild. If that is the case then who knows whether Kenny Golladay is in their plans for the future as the young wide receiver would likely be priced in the $12-$15 million range as a free agent this offseason. There could be a whole new look to the Lions in the 2021 season.

 Minnesota

We have to give it to Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense as having two fumbles returned for touchdowns on consecutive plays would have caused a lot of teams to fold like a poor soufflé but they hung around and scored 18 fourth-quarter points to steal a late victory. Justin Jefferson continues to impress and he stepped up big with Adam Thielen sidelined for COVID protocol. The rookie had his second multi-touchdown game and his fourth game with over 20 PPR points. The Vikings have done enough this season that likely the core of this offense will be running it back in 2021 which should help with the continuity of developing a young superstar like Jefferson seems to be. Look for Jefferson in the top 10 conversation for dynasty wide receivers when the 2021 mock drafts start opening up.

 Chicago

Awful, just an awful showing by the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. It looked like they might be able to hang with the Packers as their second play of scrimmage was a surprising 57-yard run up the middle by David Montgomery which led to a field goal. But two turnovers the next two drives led to the Bears being down 27-3 mid-way through the second quarter and then it was all garbage time points the second half. Allen Robinson continues to be victimized by poor quarterback play and has been the only consistent option for fantasy on the Bears offense. For your sake Allen, please go sign with a contender or at least a competent quarterback so you can spread your wings before it is too late.

 Green Bay

Please just accept the fact that Jamaal Williams is not bad as a 1B in the Green Bay offense and you will find a lot of your Aaron Jones frustration will subside. Williams has now held onto a significant role in the offense under two different coaching regimes so clearly, he has the skills to warrant the touches and snaps he receives. Aaron Rodgers has also talked about how great he is in the locker room so those asking for #FreeAaronJones might get their wish when he leaves in free agency this offseason instead of Williams. Williams’ contract value would surely be less than that of Jones to resign and the team spent significant capital in A.J. Dillion already so why would they spend a significant amount on a position which I have already talked about with the Cowboys that often does not lend itself to benefiting from signing large second contracts. It could be Dillon eating into Jamaal Williams’ workload in 2021. What a twist that would be.

NFC SOUTH

 Carolina

IDP leagues were probably a buzz with Jeremy Chinn scoring defensive touchdowns on back-to-back plays in the third quarter last week. I do not usually talk about defensive players that much since IDP leagues are in the minority of the fantasy community but Chinn’s performance this season has been outstanding as the number two scoring safety and overall 12th highest scoring defensive player. Not bad for a rookie. Going back to the offense the Panthers have the rare week 13 bye so hopefully, one more full week of rest will give Christian McCaffrey the green light for the fantasy playoffs. Mike Davis has trailed off as of late and the team could use McCaffrey’s jack of all trades skillset to finish this season on a positive one for Matt Rhule’s first year as Head Coach.

 Atlanta

For once the Falcons offense did not have to carry the team as the defense forced five (5) turnovers and was the week 12 DST1 for those who still play with team defenses. On the offensive side, Brian Hill and Ito Smith split time with Todd Gurley out with the latter scoring a touchdown during the start of the fourth quarter. The Falcons return to play New Orleans for the second time in three weeks and hopefully, they saw enough of what Taysom Hill was the first time to have a better performance than the nine points they put in week 11. If both Julio Jones and Todd Gurley can return that would also help.

 New Orleans

Whether it is game planning or just trying to avoid putting mistakes on Taysom Hill the Saints should not feel confident with Hill as their future despite having two wins in Drew Brees’ absence. In his two starts, Hill has failed to score a single passing touchdown and has only completed 27 passes. Yes, his four (4) rushing touchdowns have kept his fantasy performances to a respectable level but against a team that did not have a starting quarterback, one would expect more as a passer if he was truly their solution. His weak passing performances have hampered what was otherwise a weekly RB1 season from Alvin Kamara who has only one (1) reception the last two games and 16 PPR points combined. Please come back, Drew. We won’t make fun of you not passing the ball deep anymore.

 Tampa Bay

This was the second game in a month that the Buccaneers got down big early and immediately seemed to abandon the run. The offensive game plan does not seem to be gelling with what Byron Leftwich and Bruce Arians want to do and how Tom Brady sees the field. It does not help that neither of Ronald Jones or Leonard Fournette appears to fit with Tom Brady’s usual check-down running back style. Both have had repeated drops on dump-down passes causing more long conversion attempts than need be. KeShawn Vaughn drafters are probably wondering how bad he has to be if he cannot be activated for games to at least be the pass-catching option. This is a problem unlikely to be solved mid-season and once again the focus will be on if the Bucs bring in a running back with receiving upside then they could shoot up the draft or auction boards.

NFC WEST

 Arizona

Kyler Murray’s shoulder injury definitely played a factor in his poor performance last Sunday but Bill Belichick just seems to have a way of owning young quarterbacks in their first appearance against the future Hall of Fame coach. Murray has only carried the ball five (5) times in each of the last two games since getting injured and the runs he does have are more breakdown, scramble drills than designed runs. He is still a good passer but he is not Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers so for Murray to keep up for the highest scoring quarterback title he needs to have his running game at full strength. If Larry Fitzgerald misses a second game for COVID protocols and DeAndre Hopkins is locked up with Jalen Ramsey this week, it could be another subpar performance from Murray.

 San Francisco

Deebo Samuel returned from his second stint of injuries to finally put his first WR1 week on the board with a career-high 11 receptions. After being this offseason’s darling for his rookie season performance Samuel has not been much help to fantasy owners in 2020, playing in only five (5) games thus far. The injuries to the rest of the team have also hurt to give support around him but Samuel showed that, when healthy, he can be a yards after the catch machine and a huge PPR stat compiler. His value likely has not waned in his fantasy owner’s eyes but Samuel could be a re-breakout candidate in 2021 once the returning cast on offense is at full strength.

 LA Rams

Statistically, this was the game that many of those who drafted Cam Akers thought would happen when they drafted the running back at the end of the first round. The rookie had 84 yards rushing and scored his first career rushing touchdown to “lead” the backfield in week 12. I say lead but Akers still played only the third-most snaps of the three running backs and 61 of his rushing yards came on a single play leaving 23 yards on his other eight (8) carries. Without an offseason to learn the offense and gain confidence with the coaching staff it made sense that Sean McVay would lean on veteran experience to start the year. But after three months of weekly practices and real game experience, it has to be worrisome that Akers has not been able to take over the backfield yet. Maybe he finds a role in 2021 but heading into the offseason I would be seeing if I could flip him for a second-round pick before the bottom potential falls right out.

 Seattle

D.K. Metcalf wanted to show the Eagles they made a mistake not take him in the 2019 draft and he delivered on Monday night. The sophomore receiver accounted for 77 percent of the Seahawks receiving yards and 45 percent of the team’s receptions while dominating Darius Slay in man-to-man coverage. While the kitchen has cooled for Russell Wilson it remained on fire for D.K. Metcalf who has been the most consistent fantasy receiver in 2020. With only two games scoring less than 13 PPR points, Metcalf is currently the WR3. Tyler Lockett has been no slouch either as the current WR7 but 57 percent of his production has come in just three (3) games so it has been more of a roller coaster ride for his fantasy owners. Games against both New York teams and Washington in the coming weeks will likely only help keep both receivers in the top 10.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

One Big Thing – AFC – Week 12

Updated: December 5th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

AFC EAST

 New England

How an NFL team wins a game where they pass for less than 90 yards and have two interceptions in the modern NFL still confuses me days after the fact. Cam Newton has shown small samples of what he was during his time with Carolina but it has not been enough to likely keep him in New England for a second season. The Patriots’ offensive game plan has always been centered on timing routes with precision accuracy and Newton has not shown much improvement in his accuracy, missing open receivers on both short and deep routes. There was a chance that Newton could springboard this opportunity with New England into a long-term contract with a new team but he likely will need to be a backup who competes for a starting job if he wants to stay much longer in the NFL. With the NFL salary cap likely to be squeezed this offseason if Newton is still on a contract from past years, he is a likely starting point for off-season cut candidates in RSO.

 Miami

DeAndre Washington was a trade deadline addition for the Dolphins that flew under the radar due to rookie Salvon Ahmed coming off two strong performances. With Ahmed missing week 12 and Myles Gaskin still out Washington led the Miami backfield in touches and snaps against the Jets. If the Dolphins are trading for players they must have seen a need at the position and therefore Washington could have a role down the stretch. Not enough to put him on the fantasy radar but enough to be worried about Gaskin’s role when he returns. Depending on who the quarterback is could also influence how much the pass-run ratio works in their favor.

 NY Jets

Five (5) more games till Trevor Lawrence is all that Jets’ fans can be thinking at this point. After almost accidentally winning on Monday night three weeks ago, the Jets have turned back into the pumpkin that they were the first eight weeks of the season. Frank Gore dominated the snaps (60 percent) and backfield touches (21 of 25) with La’mical Perine out so if the Jets were more likely to be in scoring situations he would be a great pickup as an RB3. Unfortunately, he does not contribute enough without scoring a touchdown each week to be useful for all but the most desperate of leagues. Five more games Gang Green, five more games.

 Buffalo

The Bills got their win on Sunday but it did not look easy as the offense frequently tried to let the Chargers back in the game during the fourth quarter with two fumbles and an interception. Stefon Diggs also had his worst performance since week 7’s dud against the Jets. The Bills do not have much of a cushion between them and the Dolphins in the standings so if they want a home playoff game they can ill afford to play down to the level of their opponent in games as they have against the Chargers last week and the Jets in week 7. Leaning on the combination of Zach Moss and Devin Singletary down the stretch may not be a bad idea.

AFC NORTH

 Cincinnati

The score can be deceiving as despite having a respectable 17 points the Bengals scored a kick return touchdown on special teams and their field goal came off a fumble that started the drive at their 45 yards line. In total, the offense only had 155 yards and turned the ball over three (3) times. Tee Higgins’ touchdown late saved what would have otherwise been a terrible fantasy performance for all Bengals’ players and it would be risky to start any player over the final four games of the fantasy season. This really shows how one good quarterback can elevate a bad team to at least a mediocre one. This team is back to where it was ending last season without Joe Burrow.

 Cleveland

Jarvis Landry came off the milk carton with over 140 yards receiving and a touchdown after playing three miserable games in bad weather. For what it was worth Baker Mayfield did well enough to be considered at least a game manager with two (2) touchdowns, no turnovers, and 250 passing yards. Most will still point to the wide-open touchdown that he missed Jarvis Landry on in the red zone and there is no excuse for what that was. The Browns do not have to be spectacular to win games because of their defence and running game but they do need to avoid turnovers and long stretches during games with inefficient quarterback play. Giving the ball around the goal line to Nick Chubb seemed to work too so they should continue to do that.

 Baltimore

Hard to pull any conclusions from that game as much of the offensive group was unavailable to play due to COVID protocols and this was more like a week 4 pre-season game than a do or die week 12 divisional game. Marquise Brown finally did something with third-string quarterback Trace McSorley in the game late, breaking past a sleeping defender to score a long 70-yard touchdown. It was a little disappointing that Dez Bryant was not more involved because of the situation the Ravens were in but with how little the passing game was able to accomplish outside of the one big play maybe he can fit in better over the next four games with Lamar Jackson back…. hopefully.

 Pittsburgh

The Steelers had to run 51 pass plays in a game that they won and the opponent did not score their second touchdown until the final minutes of the game. It shows the lack of running game that the Steelers have had this season and poses a real problem for them once they start playing better opponents in the playoffs. The Chiefs used to have the same problem with being unable to put teams away without an efficient rushing game to keep good opponent’s offenses off the field. It is not necessarily a problem for fantasy as more passing equals more points but for overall team success, the Steelers have to spend the next five games figuring out how to run the ball better.

AFC SOUTH

 Houston

Will Fuller likely played his final game in a Texans uniform after being suspended after Thanksgiving’s game for PEDs but it was a great way to go out. As a team already committed to $192 million and expectation that the NFL salary cap could be, at best, flat to this year the Texans likely do not have the space to bring Fuller back even if they wanted to. There were rumors that they have interest but I am not buying it. In his place, Brandin Cooks stands alone atop the depth chart of reliable options for DeShaun Watson. Keke Coutee will step in to play most of his snaps from the slot position and his fantasy value goes from roster fringe to WR3/4. The Texans do not have any other receivers who have played a snap this season so it will be interesting if guys like Steven Mitchell or Isaiah Coulter are used much as third options or Romeo Crennel and the staff just use more two tight end sets.

 Jacksonville

Collin Johnson took advantage of injuries above him on the depth chart in week 12 to post his first career 100-yard game while playing on 80 percent of the snaps. Chris Conley and D.J. Chark’s injuries are not expected to be long-term and one or both could be back after just one game. Still, the 6’6” rookie made an impression and with much of the wide receiver core being free agents in the offseason there could be a large number of snaps and targets opening up heading into 2021. The final month of the season will act as an audition for Johnson and other receivers to see how much capital the current (or potentially new) coaching staff uses during the upcoming draft.

 Tennessee

Scoring 45 points in a game while only having 13 pass completions often lends to the running game having a big day and at halftime, it sure looked like Derrick Henry was on his way to setting records. The King had 140 rushing yards and three (3) touchdowns before the Titans took their foot off the gas with a comfortable 38-14 lead in the third quarter. I could write superlatives each week about how great Henry is but then this would become the Derrick Henry column and I try to give the spotlight to other players once in a while. But if you score three (3) touchdowns in a half I will keep going back to that well.

  Indianapolis

Jonathan Taylor was a late-week scratch as a high-contact COVID concern so Nyheim Hines got a majority of the snaps (65 percent) for the third time this season, finishing with both the most carries (10) and catches (8) for the Colts. With the Colts seemingly comfortable with all three of the running backs they have and spending the draft capital on Taylor this past offseason, it is highly unlikely the team will target adding another running back in 2021 which is good news for Hines’ future value. He is more likely to be a 1B than a true backup in Frank Reich’s offensive game plan at worst so his fantasy value should continue to hold. Hines is a strong zero-RB auction option next season for those who like to keep their running back contracts shorter and cheaper.

AFC WEST

 LA Chargers

Austin Ekeler returned from his week 4 injury and dominated the touches for the Chargers in week 12 with 14 carries and 11 (!) receptions. It is unfortunate that he missed so much of this season as based on what we have seen from his four (4) full games he likely would have finished as an RB1 on the season. Anthony Lynn likely will not be returning as the Head Coach though after how egregious some of the decision-making was, not only at the end of this game but throughout the season. If a new staff does come in it will be worth monitoring how they feel about Ekeler as a Christian McCaffrey do it all-type of running back or if they want to bring in better options to spread the workload around.

 Las Vegas

What was that? The whole Raiders team collapsed against an up and down Falcons team in a 43-6 thumping but the spotlight focused right in on Derek Carr’s play. I gave all the praise to Carr last week for being a consistent but under-the-radar quarterback in fantasy and he returns the compliment by having four (4) turnovers and negative fantasy points in week 12. Josh Jacobs also got nicked up and is likely to sit out week 13 so my suggestion of adding Devontae Booker in the Street FA Report two weeks ago should pay off for some lucky readers. Luckily for the Raiders, they have the Jets upcoming so hopefully, they can try and regain some of the confidence they had.

 Denver

It was a tough weekend for the Broncos who had to try and play a game after the whole position group was put on lockdown late Saturday. We knew that it was not going to be a good choice to start the skill positions because of this but I think even the biggest critics of the situation did not think there would only be one (1) completed pass the whole game. The team did not have a real shot at the playoffs anyway so in the grand scheme it may help them with securing draft position but it was still a tough situation to be in. We can just scratch all records of that game from the players’ weekly averages and move on to week 13.

Kansas City

The early set of games saw the opportunity for Derrick Henry to maybe have a record-setting day on the ground and after the first quarter people started to have a real conversation about Flipper Anderson’s receiving yards record for Tyreek Hill in the late afternoon window. The Bucs kept putting Hill in man-to-man coverage to start the game and he repeatedly burned them for seven (7) receptions, 203 yards and two (2) touchdowns before the first quarter was finished. They eventually put all the coverage Hill’s way in the second half but after he scored his third touchdown of the first half during the second quarter the damage was already done. As long as the Chiefs keep doing what they do and they do not outsmart themselves as they sometimes are prone to do we likely will see our first repeat Super Bowl Champions since the 2003-04 Patriots.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

RSO Staff Picks 2020: Week 12

Updated: November 29th 2020

Stephen’s Picks

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