Why aren't you at elf practice? Just fixing these doll's teeth.
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Matt Waldman's RSP:
- The Island of Misfit RBs.
- Utilization Report. Two rookie WRs heating up.
- Game Preview. A sneaky slot machine vs. Kansas City.
- Regression Session. Can Davante Adams rebound?
- The quadfecta.
- It's 12/21. Take it away, Dwain McFarland...
Every year at the end of the fantasy season, we see an unexpected RB find their way into championship lineups. Much like the movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. our unlikely heroes have been ignored or cast aside by society.
Yeah, yeah, I know; you haven't ignored any RBs because their nose is too bright or because they wanted to be a dentist. However, you probably have cast aside names like Justin Jackson and Rashaad Penny in the past due to a lack of volume or depth chart challenges.
This doesn't mean you are a discriminatory person, only a logical one, so don't worry — you aren't on the naughty list — at least, we don't think you are.
Anyway, the real point is that these misfits — like the film teaches us — do sometimes turn into the heroes we need to win fantasy championships. Over the last three seasons, we have had numerous examples over the final three games of the fantasy season (one week before the final week of the NFL season).
All of these RBs were either underperforming, playing in committees, or pure backups before the final three weeks, which brings us to the most actionable point of this fun journey — there is an RB who could be the perfect gift for our fantasy squads.
🎁 RB – Zack Moss
Jonathan Taylor’s season is over, landing on IR after suffering a high-ankle sprain on the Colts’ first drive in Week 15. After Taylor's departure, Moss decidedly controlled the backfield with 24 rushing attempts.
Moss taking the short-yardage (SDD) snaps wasn’t a surprise as the bigger-bodied option, but he also led the way in long down and distance situations with over 60% of the work. Deon Jackson had been a passing-down option at times this season, which makes that development notable. Moss ceded snaps to Jackson in the two-minute offense (33% vs. 67%), but his utilization mirrored what we have seen from Taylor.
Since Jeff Saturday took over as head coach, the Colts have shown a willingness to run the ball more than the NFL average in all game scripts.
- Trailing by four-plus points: 40% (+6)
- Within three points: 45% (+4)
- Leading by four-plus points: 50% (+1)
The Colts get three great rushing matchups to finish the season against the Chargers, Giants, and Texans. We only have one data point, but time is short and at RB, volume is king, making Moss a must-roster in most fantasy leagues.
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I have been reading the RSP since 2012, and it is my go-to source for film-based player evaluations. The thing I love most about the RSP is how Matt goes to great lengths to help his readers understand the why and the how behind his grading process – which is the most rigorous and well-documented in the industry. After reading his work, not only do I walk away with actionable player advice, but I also leave with a better understanding of the game. - Dwain
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Volume is king in fantasy football and sports betting, and this report will help you understand which players are due more or less according to their roles. Each week, Dwain dives deep into the data, so you don't have to.
📈 RB – Jerick McKinnon
McKinnon has back-to-back No. 1 RB performances, and his role in the passing game is as strong as ever, with 55% and 68% route participation marks.
The journeyman RB has hit a 20%-plus target share in three games this season, and two of them have come in the last two contests. McKinnon registered 16 targets, 14 receptions, 183 yards, and 3 TDs through the air in Weeks 14 and 15.
Isiah Pacheco remains the primary ball carrier, but the veteran RB is locked into the Chiefs’ passing plans. An afterthought only two weeks ago, McKinnon carved out a Tony Pollard-type role in short order. Like Pollard, he might not hit every week – his other two outings with a 50% route participation netted 9.2 and 10.4 fantasy points – but the ceiling is undeniable.
McKinnon is a must-start upside RB2 the rest of the way.
📈 RB – J.K. Dobbins
Dobbins has 120 and 125 rushing yards in his first two games back from IR. However, the Ravens’ backfield remains a three-way committee, with Gus Edwards spelling Dobbins on 27% of rushing attempts and Justice Hill handling most of the passing-down duties.
Fortunately, the Ravens remain a run-first operation, which boosts the touch floor in a committee. Baltimore leans into the run game in trailing (+2), close (+3) and leading (+5) game scripts more than the NFL average and ranks No. 7 in non-overtime rushing attempts.
After toting the ball 15 and 13 times the last two weeks, Baltimore gets the Falcons in Week 16 in a matchup where the game script could provide Dobbins a chance to register season-highs in rushing attempts.
Dobbins is a borderline RB2 moving forward.
📈 WR – Jahan Dotson
Dotson has shown signs of life over the last two games with WR18 and WR9 finishes, thanks to a 20% target share and 30% air yard share. Washington is scheming optimal looks for their 2022 first-round selection, with 38% and 60% of his targets coming from play-action passes.
Dotson has as many endzone targets as Terry McLaurin (22%) for the season, despite missing multiple games. The rookie isn’t dominating looks (13% TPRR), making his long-term profile questionable. However, his recent trends are positive, and the high-leverage nature of his targets provides upside.
The Commanders face the 49ers this weekend, which will be a sub-optimal spot for the rookie. However, he gets the Browns in Week 17.
Dotson moves into upside WR4 territory.
📈 WR – Drake London
London has taken over the Falcons’ passing attack with 50% and 44% target shares, which has led to WR20 and WR26 finishes.
Since Kyle Pitts’ injury in Week 11, London has a 30% TPRR and a 2.00 YPRR.
The top WR from the 2022 NFL draft has a 27% TPRR on the season – ranking first among rookies with at least 250 routes – but no one knows because the Falcons are the fourth-most run-heavy team.
Atlanta’s run-at-all-costs offense and shaky QB play are barriers to a high-end eruption for London down the stretch. However, we have seen this style of offense support solid WR play when there is only one talented mouth to feed, and that is precisely the scenario in this instance.
London is a low-end WR3 with upside in season-long and a buy-low in dynasty formats.
📈 TE – George Kittle
Historically, Kittle has seen an uptick in targets in games without Deebo Samuel, and that held true in Week 15. Kittle delivered the No. 1 TE performance with four receptions for 93 yards and two TDs on five targets.
The veteran TE still has weekly bust potential in a run-first offense where Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk will get looks, but this is a reminder that his upside is superior to almost every other TE.
Kittle is a high-end boom-bust TE1 as long as Samuel is out.
WR – Amari Cooper
Cooper has finishes of WR53, WR61, and WR43 since Deshaun Watson took over at QB. Over the last two games, he only has 11 total targets.
Watson was atrocious in the first game, with a 57% adjusted completion percentage, but he has improved over the last two games with marks of 81% and 76%. Unfortunately, the yards per attempt haven’t followed (6.0, 6.6 and 5.8).
Cooper remains the No. 1 option in Cleveland, but it is uncertain if Watson can shake off the rust in time to make him the high-end player we saw with Jacoby Brissett under center.
The veteran WR drops to low-end WR2 status.
🤥 Three players with huge best-ball advance rates. Just like we all planned.
💪 The power rankings are in. The Eagles rank where!?!?
🧪️ Gardner Minshew could start in Week 16. Chemistry is important.
🤦♂️ These aren't records you want to own. It is a quadfecta.
🚑 Running QBs are injury prone. Strike that, NFL players are injury prone.
👑 Saying he owns the Texans is an understatement. Kings stay kings.
🦁 From a light growl to a full ROAR. His time is now.
Each week we'll feature a premiere matchup on the slate and break it down from all angles. Today, Fantasy Life contributor Chris Allen tackles the Seahawks/Chiefs Week 16 tilt...
🔎 Seahawks +9.5 @ Chiefs - 48.5 Total
The situation couldn’t be worse for Seattle. After their loss to San Francisco, they’re in must-win territory to keep their playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have decided to play with their food and pull out narrow wins with late-game theatrics. Kansas City’s dominance in December isn’t anything new, but it doesn’t mean the Seahawks don’t have a chance.
I realize that they’re 9.5-point road dogs, so I’m not calling for the upset. But the offense can find ways to move the ball without Tyler Lockett.
Marquise Goodwin will slide into the WR2 position with 62.5% of his routes from the slot over the last four games. And with Kansas City having the 13th-highest blitz rate, Seattle, like teams before them, would be right to look to their (now full-time) interior option.
Jerry Jeudy caught one of his three scores from the slot two weeks ago, and Tyler Boyd had 60 yards on five targets in Week 13. Keenan Allen, with a hobbled Mike Williams, had an 8-94-0 stat line in his first game back from injury. Goodwin vaults into the WR3/flex conversation in his new role. Noah Fant, who has doubled Will Dissly’s target share since the bye at 9.6%, falls into the sea of streaming options (22% rostered on Yahoo!). But my eye is on another pass-catching option for Geno Smith.
Kenneth Walker III’s 5.4% collegiate target share was the subject of much debate over the offseason. He’s not Alvin Kamara, but the rookie has earned 23 targets since taking over in Week 6. An eight-target outing against Tampa buoys his total, but he’s matched the ancillary receivers in route participation over his last four games.
Last week, Walker returned to handle all of Seattle's third-down and short-distance carries. Travis Homer took one two-minute touch and worked in as a receiver. But so did Walker, which set up Seattle’s only score. Kansas City has had issues accounting for receiving backs between Marlon Mack’s long score and Samaje Perine's (7-49-0).
Walker already had fringe top-12 potential with his 76.2% share of the RB touches. A workload expansion into the passing game gives him top-12 upside against a defense that’s allowed RB1 performances to the competent rushers they’ve faced (Perine – RB3, Austin Ekeler – RB11, and Derrick Henry – RB6).
For Kansas City, maybe “Isiah Pacheco week” needed to start at Arrowhead. I get it. Houston’s run defense was bottom 10 in rushing DVOA, and Dallas’ success the week before all fueled the fire for Pacheco to go nuclear. But the conditions are similar for the Chiefs’ ground game on Saturday.
Seattle is 30th in rushing success rate allowed since their bye. In Week 14, the Panthers’ longest run by an RB was 16 yards, and they still dropped 180 on the Seahawks. Over the last four weeks, only the Giants have given up more explosive runs than Seattle (19). But Pacheco stalls in the RB2 ranks with McKinnon's usage on the rise.
In PPR leagues, both are viable, with McKinnon’s outlandish 16 targets over the last two weeks. The passing volume gives him a safe floor, and the red-zone work lifts his ceiling. I’m not expecting another no-look toss for a score, but either RB has value in season-long leagues with a potential championship on the line.
Our only other concern should be which of Patrick Mahomes’s receivers are worthy of starting in fantasy. But, sometimes, the simplest answer is the best one. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the only WR ahead of Travis Kelce in targets since Smith-Schuster returned to the starting lineup in Week 13.
He leads the team in red-zone targets and has just one fewer chain-moving reception than Kelce. With Mahomes on his path to another MVP, Smith-Schuster’s role becomes pivotal when fantasy managers need it the most.
When it comes to regression, it pays to be ahead of the curve. Each week on Regression Session, Jonathan will give you actionable insights on trends that are unlikely to continue so you can act before your leaguemates.
📈 Positive Regression - Davante Adams
After an unbelievably hot stretch in Weeks 9-13, Davante Adams has cooled off at exactly the wrong time for fantasy managers.
In his past two games, Adams has posted just 99 total receiving yards and failed to score.
While the production hasn’t been there, Adams has still had a 28% target share in those games and we have no reason to think his usage will suffer, even with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow returning to the lineup.
We have seen plenty of evidence that Adams and Derek Carr have strong chemistry, and the Raiders need to win to stay in the playoff picture. They have a juicy Week 16 matchup against a Steelers defense that ranks 29th against opposing WRs in half-PPR scoring. The Raiders also have the ninth-highest implied team total on the week. This suggests they should be able to move the ball and put up points in this one, likely to the benefit of their star WR.
All signs point to a rebound for Adams in the near future and there is a good chance it can be this week, Pittsburgh weather permitting.
📉 Negative Regression - Jerry Jeudy
It’s no coincidence that two of Jerry Jeudy’s three highest target games have come in the last two weeks with Courtland Sutton out injured. In those games, Jeudy benefitted from being the clear top WR and playing outside on 80+% of snaps, the only two times he has done that this season. As a result, he saw 17 targets in those games which he turned into 15/149/3.
This may cause fantasy managers who have seen Jeudy rack up points on their bench to consider starting him in Week 16. Unless you’re desperate at the position, I wouldn’t be too excited to play him this week. Not only is his usage facing negative regression with Sutton potentially available this week, but his efficiency is also.
Per PFF, Jeudy has significantly outperformed his expected receiving yards (149 vs 110 expected) and TDs (3 vs 1.3 expected) over the past two games.
HC Nathaniel Hackett has already said Russell Wilson will be under center again this week. Wilson should, in theory, be an upgrade on Brett Rypien but that really hasn’t been the case this season unless you buy his Week 14 performance against Kansas City (I’m not).
Combine that with the fact that the Broncos face off against a Rams defense that has quietly allowed just 366 passing yards and 1 passing TD over their past two games and it could be tough sledding for Jeudy on Christmas day.