Reporters give advice on Russell Wilson, AJ DIllon and more
Quarterback play has been all over the place in the NFL season, surely driving fantasy football managers to consider throwing their phones against the wall with the accuracy of Patrick Mah … err … the accuracy of Russell Wils … err … the accuracy of Matthew Staf … err … you get the picture.
Surely managers of Patrick Mahomes hope he has relocated his mojo after a three-week stretch prior to last Sunday in which he posted a total of 32.18 points. You read that correctly. He promptly topped those three games in one outing against the Raiders, though, racking up 36.24 points with 406 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford managers will be eagerly awaiting similar bouncebacks. The Seahawks QB had one of his worst days as a pro on Sunday, going 20-of-40 for 161 yards with two interceptions for 5.64 fantasy points in a loss at Green Bay. Stafford also had a fantasy clunker, posting just 9.82 points with two interceptions in a loss at San Francisco.
Naturally, ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe, who is responsible for our 32 questions, had a question about Wilson. He probably would have about Stafford, too, but the Rams are on a bye this week, along with the Broncos. So don’t look for them below.
But do look for questions about the run games in Kansas City, Miami and the NFC North. Let’s go.
What’s going on with Emmanuel Sanders lately?
The Bills were always going to spread the ball around. That’s what makes the many players on Buffalo’s offense tough fantasy options. Sanders played his fewest snaps of the season last week vs. the Jets (60.3%) thanks to the type of plays the Bills were running and the success of receiver Gabriel Davis. Overall, Sanders is still being targeted by quarterback Josh Allen and will remain part of this offense, but as coordinator Brian Daboll tinkers to find the most success, there will continue to be up-and-down days. Davis’ speed and recent success might lead him to having a bigger role. — Alaina Getzenberg
Myles Gaskin seems to be “the guy,” but his production is spotty. Will they remain committed to him?
Simply put — there’s no other option but to keep feeding Gaskin. Salvon Ahmed is the only other healthy running back who could realistically see touches out of Miami’s backfield, but he hasn’t been as effective as Gaskin this season. Until Malcolm Brown is activated from injured reserve, continue to play Gaskin — knowing that he’ll give you an added bonus in PPR leagues. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Mike Clay deems Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin a must start against a struggling Jets run defense in Week 11.
True or false: The Patriots have a backfield with two good players … neither of whom is going to be reliable in fantasy moving forward.
True. The way the Patriots employed Damien Harris (25 snaps) and Rhamondre Stevenson (22) in Thursday night’s win over the Falcons now indicates the staff plans to go series by series with them. That was what it was Thursday for the first time – one series for Harris, then Stevenson, then Harris, then Stevenson. It is always possible they could ride a hot hand as the season progresses, but that’s not the way it looks right now. — Mike Reiss
Which WR do you think is the best option in this offense moving forward?
Rookie Elijah Moore gets a slight edge over Corey Davis. Moore’s role has expanded in recent weeks; he has 17 receptions and four touchdowns (three receiving, one rushing) in the past four games. The only concern with Moore is that he didn’t have much production with Zach Wilson, who likely returns to the lineup next week, but that probably was a byproduct of early-season growing pains. — Rich Cimini
A solid night from Rashod Bateman: Do you think he can produce at this level consistently for the rest of the year?
It definitely looks that way, especially with the instant chemistry between Bateman and Lamar Jackson. Bateman is seemingly catching everything in his grasp and turning short passes into first downs. The schedule is favorable as well. Three of the Ravens’ next four games are against defenses that are among the six worst in yards allowed to wide receivers. — Jamison Hensley
Mike Clay outlines why he’s high on Rashod Bateman and Marquise Brown against the Bears in Week 11.
Tee Higgins’ yardage was on the uptick before the bye: Do you think he’s the clear-cut WR2 and a weekly fantasy flex option?
Right now, he certainly appears to be the WR2 on the roster. As rookie Ja’Marr Chase continues to warrant more defensive attention, that should leave Higgins in many favorable one-on-one matchups. Higgins hasn’t capitalized on every opportunity so far, but he’s slowly finding his rhythm with QB Joe Burrow and should warrant a high enough target share to be considered a flex option in PPR leagues. — Ben Baby
Does Nick Chubb have job security, or is this a backfield committee when he returns?
Chubb is the guy when he returns on Sunday. Kareem Hunt will resume his backup role once he’s back from the calf injury, getting spot carries and catches in the passing game. And D’Ernest Johnson has probably earned an opportunity to get a series or two moving forward. But without question, Chubb will remain Cleveland’s lead back. — Jake Trotter
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Anything to the Ray-Ray McCloud volume on Sunday, or just a situational happening?
At this point, McCloud’s usage is an aberration, not the start of a pattern. Right place, right time. He has good chemistry with Mason Rudolph, and he benefited from the injury to Chase Claypool further reducing the available Steelers wide receivers. The Steelers would like to see him be a bigger factor in the receiving game, but it’s still unlikely the game against the Lions becomes McCloud’s new norm. — Brooke Pryor
If there’s one player not named Brandin Cooks who fantasy managers should have on their radar from this team, who is it?
Nico Collins. Although he had only three catches for 25 yards in Week 9, the rookie receiver is Houston’s best receiving threat behind Cooks. Collins is averaging 12.7 yards per reception this season and with increased attention on Cooks, Collins could have some impact catches, especially on Sunday against a Tennessee defense that is allowing an average of 267.9 passing yards per game, which ranks 27th in the NFL. — Sarah Barshop
Do you think the Colts are willing to give Jonathan Taylor this sort of volume moving forward?
The Colts will give Taylor as much of a workload as he can handle, which appears to be endless. As it was pointed out on the first episode of “Hard Knocks” on Nov. 17, Taylor never tires out. The Week 10 game against Jacksonville was the first time this season that Taylor had more than 20 carries to go along with six receptions. Coach Frank Reich said earlier this season that Taylor has reached the point where he has earned at least 20 carries a game. — Mike Wells
Is Dan Arnold the most reliable pass-catcher in this offense?
Absolutely. Arnold has 17 catches on 24 targets over the past three games and he leads the team in targets (40), catches (27), receiving yards (315) and yards after catch (151) since he joined the Jaguars before their Week 4 game at Cincinnati. The Jaguars’ wide receivers are unable to get consistent separation and drop too many passes (nine by WRs alone, including four by Jamal Agnew), and it wouldn’t be surprising if Arnold ends up as the Jaguars’ leading receiver at season’s end. — Michael DiRocco
Field Yates and Matthew Berry examine the fantasy success of Elijah Moore, Dan Arnold, and Rashod Bateman.
Is D’Onta Foreman worth a speculative add, or is this backfield going to be muddied as long as Derrick Henry is sidelined?
It would be wise to avoid all Titans running backs. Their roles are still being worked out with no one emerging as the feature back after two games. Foreman has shown that he can be an option catching the ball out of the backfield in addition to running the ball, but his production is still not worth adding him. — Turron Davenport
101 receiving yards for Darrel Williams: What does the backfield usage look like in KC when Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns?
Not much different than it did before Edwards-Helaire left the lineup, most likely. Williams will rotate in, as he did before, and play a lot on third downs, as before. Jerick McKinnon will get a few snaps. But expect Edwards-Helaire to be the featured back, perhaps after a ramp-up period of a game or two because he missed a considerable amount of time. — Adam Teicher
Stephania Bell breaks down Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s potential return from injury and Mike Clay debates if fantasy managers should play the RB if he does indeed return.
Bryan Edwards made some big plays on Sunday night: Is he worth a fantasy roster spot the rest of the way? What do you think of his outlook beyond 2021?
Edwards might be the epitome of a Boom-Bust guy … from a pure Fantasy standpoint. So depending on how much of a risk-taker Fantasy managers are, there it is. Yes he had a nice game in a blowout loss to the Chiefs. But he was invisible with zero catches on four targets in a close loss the week before at the Giants. Looking forward, he’s a solid WR2 for Fantasy purposes, though Hunter Renfrow might be the most creative receiver Derek Carr has ever played with, the quarterback said this week, and he’s not WR1, either. Buyer beware, indeed. — Paul Gutierrez
The top WR in this offense the rest of the way is …
Keenan Allen by far. He’s the most reliable, has the best hands, and he has already caught 65 passes for 698 yards, often in tough coverage. Justin Herbert trusts him. — Shelley Smith
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How did you think Michael Gallup looked in his return, and which Cowboys receiver scores the most points the rest of the way?
He didn’t look like a guy who missed seven games with a calf strain. He finished with three catches for 42 yards although one drop that could have been a huge play slightly altered what could have been a big day. The impact that Gallup has, however, affects CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys move their receivers around but they can get Lamb favorable matchups in the slot or outside and he had two touchdowns and 94 yards while sitting out a good portion of the second half with an arm injury. If I had to say who scores the most points the rest of the way, go with Lamb, but Gallup and Amari Cooper — who’s out the next two games — will have their big days too. — Todd Archer
How many touches a week do you think we can realistically rely on from Saquon Barkley?
This is a tricky question with both Barkley (ankle) and Devontae Booker (hip) dealing with injuries. Assuming both play — which seems likely — 15 touches seems reasonable for Barkley. It’s hard to project much more. Coach Joe Judge is on record saying Booker has earned playing time and, realistically, how much are the Giants going to run the ball against Tampa Bay’s second-ranked run defense? The combination should keep Barkley’s involvement down from his pre-injury role, at least for this week. — Jordan Raanan
DeVonta Smith went seven games without a score, but he has had no problem the past two weeks. Are we seeing sustainable growth or just a nice run for a player who will be inconsistent?
Three touchdowns over two weeks won’t necessarily be the norm, but the growth in Smith’s game is real. So is the improved play of quarterback Jalen Hurts over the past three games. Now that Smith is comfortable, and the chemistry with Hurts is sound, I expect Smith to be a steady force the rest of the way. — Tim McManus
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss the upside and consistency of DeVonta Smith.
We’d been targeting this defense for weeks and then it limited the Bucs. Was Week 10 a sign of things to come or a one-time, high-end performance?
I don’t think it was a one-week thing as the defense has slowly been playing better — it has allowed an average of 283.3 yards in the past three games vs. Green Bay, Denver and Tampa Bay. The secondary has improved, thanks in part to using a heavy dose of three-safety sets with Landon Collins playing all over — in the box, in the middle and wherever he’s needed. And in the next two weeks they face offenses, Carolina and Seattle, that rank in the bottom third in both yards and points. There are still holes, however, that cause concern: They won’t have end Chase Young for the rest of the season or Montez Sweat for another three to five weeks. Their linebackers remain inconsistent. But as a group the defense is playing better. — John Keim
David Montgomery was a league winner late last season: Do you think the best is yet to come this season from Chicago’s lead back?
That depends on the Bears. Montgomery is a proven running back who often lacks the necessary touches to be a great fantasy player. When Chicago commits to Montgomery, the third-year rusher can easily break 100 yards and score touchdowns. But the Bears sometimes drift away from Montgomery throughout the course of a game. In theory, Montgomery — now a couple of weeks back from a knee injury — could be primed for a big game versus Baltimore. However, with the Bears, you just never truly know. — Jeff Dickerson
Matthew Berry explains why he’s so high on Bears running back David Montgomery against the Ravens.
Do you think this run-heavy approach is what Detroit wants to do in close games, or was D’Andre Swift’s heavy workload matchup-driven?
It was a mixture of both. The Lions knew that the weather conditions in Pittsburgh wouldn’t be ideal, in 39-degree weather with heavy showers, and quarterback Jared Goff was playing with an oblique injury so they had to rely on the run-heavy approach over passing. Moving forward, the receivers still haven’t proved themselves enough to close games, so I feel like the best approach in those late situations is to rely on Swift and the ground game. It makes total sense. — Eric Woodyard
Give us an NFL comparison for AJ Dillon and an outline of what you think his usage will look like while Aaron Jones is out.
Dillon is not Derrick Henry, but he plays like Henry. At 6-0 and nearly 250 pounds, he’s a power back in the most traditional sense. But he also showed his receiver skills with that 50-yarder last week. He’s RB1 until Jones comes back, and he should get 75-80% of the snaps. — Rob Demovsky
Tyler Conklin seems to be trending upward in terms of usage. He has a 35-353-3 stat line through nine games. Would you go over or under in each of those categories (catches, yards, touchdowns) for the remaining eight games?
I would take the over, but barely considering that’s right around the stat line I would expect for Conklin over the final eight games. The Vikings face the Packers twice and the Rams in December, two teams that haven’t been great in covering tight ends, so those should be games where the Vikings look to their TE1 often. Conklin is becoming a sure-thing for Kirk Cousins in the red zone with eight targets and five catches inside the 20-yard line to go along with three touchdowns, so that’s likely the area where his production will be most prevalent the next eight games. — Courtney Cronin
Is it time to stop chasing the upside we thought Kyle Pitts would have and time to start evaluating if he’s a fantasy starter on a week-to-week basis?
It’s a tricky question. The dearth of clear options at tight end league-wide still makes Pitts an attractive option, but the thought of making him an instant plug-and-play is likely not realistic until Atlanta has Cordarrelle Patterson back. Maybe even not then, either. He’s still getting good volume — five or more targets every week since Week 3 — but the production hasn’t been there on a week-over-week basis. That should be expected since it happens to all rookie tight ends and his season numbers are still good (43 catches, 635 yards), but he hasn’t gotten into the end zone in the United States yet. So be a little wary, but don’t give up on him entirely. — Michael Rothstein
If this offense shifts to Cam Newton, do you think DJ Moore can figure out things or will his recent struggles continue?
Definitely. Newton’s presence already has had an impact on Robby Anderson, who scored a touchdown last week. Moore was one of Newton’s favorite targets outside of Christian McCaffrey his first time around, and after a full week of practice should develop into that again. — David Newton
Mark Ingram II was featured with Alvin Kamara out. When Kamara returns, what do you expect the touch distribution to look like?
I still expect Kamara to be the clear No. 1 and Ingram to be the clear No. 2, though Kamara again won’t play this weekend. So I wouldn’t worry about this turning into a timeshare based on performance. But it’s possible the Saints could back off Kamara’s workload a little more in the wake of his minor knee injury to make sure he stays fresh for the full season — especially in the short term. — Mike Triplett
Field Yates explains that if Alvin Kamara plays, he should be a starter in fantasy, and if not, Mark Ingram II should get the nod.
Only three targets for Mike Evans with Antonio Brown out. Should we be concerned about his volume moving forward, even in a pass-heavy offense?
It is concerning, but this is why whoever is in that third-receiver spot has to win. Evans showed last week that he’s still capable of scoring without Brown — hauling in a gorgeous 40-yard touchdown pass — and the Giants’ secondary is rather weak. — Jenna Laine
It has been ugly recently, but do you think this offense will be clicking once it gets a week off in Week 12? If so, is Christian Kirk a fantasy difference-maker down the stretch?
I don’t think it has as much to do with the time off as it does with who is — or isn’t — on the field. The Cardinals’ offensive issues are a direct correlation to not having quarterback Kyler Murray or wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Will time off help the Cards rest and get refreshed? Sure. But will getting those two back help more? Yes. — Josh Weinfuss
Ten carries for Jeff Wilson Jr. in his season debut in a blowout. How many carries do you think we can count on him taking off of Elijah Mitchell’s plate in the coming weeks?
Wilson is clearly the No. 2 back, which, of course, means he’s always a play away from becoming the starter. Those 10 carries against the Rams came as part of a plan to try to get to 40-plus rushing attempts in that game. It’s not realistic to think they’ll be at 40-plus every week, though, and Mitchell is still the man. But Wilson’s experience and third-down ability undoubtedly mean he’s going to be a prominent part of the mix every week. Mitchell has also had a tendency to get banged up, which hasn’t slowed him much but is something else to monitor given that Wilson is the next man up if Mitchell misses time. — Nick Wagoner
Matthew Berry provides contingency plans for fantasy managers who have Elijah Mitchell on their roster.
Rusty return or something more in the underwhelming Week 10 performance from Russell Wilson (and specifically the inefficiencies to Tyler Lockett)?
Wilson was adamant that his surgically repaired finger felt fine against the Packers and that he simply made the wrong decisions on his two interceptions. But that doesn’t explain his 20-of-40 finish and some uncharacteristically errant throws that he missed, aside from the two picks. Wilson had never missed an NFL game in nine-plus seasons before his finger injury sidelined him for a month, so rust very well could have been a factor along with the cold weather in Green Bay. Neither should be as much of an issue Sunday against the Cardinals in Seattle, though he is facing another tough defense. — Brady Henderson