We’ve been on a little bit of a heater making calls on who to shock the world with and who to fade despite the hype. This is where we find value, start them, find traps, and stay away from them. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.
In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).
We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.
Week 12 Review
My Week 12 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.
In Week 11, I couldn’t find the value at quarterback and was forced into assigning myself an F for my picks at the position. Things couldn’t have gone more differently in Week 12. My love of the week was a man I used my Fantrax Bold Prediction of the Week on. From Mac Jones, I was looking for an active passing game against a defense that would likely prepare for the run-heavy Patriots. I was looking for an efficient game in the air and I got exactly that.
Mac Jones Week 12, my prediction:
👀 21/30 passing (70%), 300 yards, 3 TD
Mac Jones Week 12, the performance:
🔥 23/32 passing (71.9%), 310 yards, 2 TD
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 30, 2021
Although Mac couldn’t quite produce the 3-touchdown explosive ceiling I was holding out hope for, managers who started him could really not have asked for more. On a snowy day in Foxborough, Jones wasn’t perfect in decision-making and missed a couple of throws but he still got the fantasy production we needed. He threw for 310 yards, a new career-high, and cashed in two touchdowns to Kendrick Bourne to finish as the QB6 of Week 12 and by far the best streamer you could have picked up for a spot start in your fantasy lineup.
Meanwhile, on the Patriots theme, I used my hate of the week at quarterback on Cam Newton, who put the NFL world on notice with his immediate fantasy relevance upon his return to the league. After finishing as the QB4 of Week 11, I was afraid of the matchup against the Dolphins defense, who pressure the quarterback well and don’t give up touchdowns to mobile quarterbacks. Indeed, Newton was the laughing stock of the position and an utter disappointment for his fantasy managers. He finished the game just 5/21 on passing for 92 passing yards, no passing touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. While he did sprinkle in 5 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, he was otherwise fantasy-irrelevant before he was benched in favor of P.J. Walker. Newton finished as the QB29 of Week 12 and reminded us of his vulnerability to throw the football. Even his “highlights” weren’t necessarily the cleanest as he completed a deep pass to D.J. Moore that probably could have been a touchdown if he didn’t severely underthrow the football. In deep leagues, you shouldn’t give up on Newton as a fantasy option; it was a tough matchup against a smart and hot Miami defense.
For Week 12 though, the quarterback picks were simply a showcase.
Running Back (B-)
I found the running back position tricky to deal with. A position that has often depended on narrative, coaching staffs’ unadvertised whims, and game scripts, I chased a revenge narrative when I picked Melvin Gordon as my love of the week at the position. I was hoping for some key red zone touches to finish off drives for a Broncos offense that I thought could pop off. I was partially right—the Broncos did produce some offense and make appearances in the red zone and Gordon did get 4 carries in the red zone.
Unfortunately, despite facing a weak rushing defense, the issue for his fantasy production was that he couldn’t cash in any touchdowns on those touches. The Broncos produced three offensive touchdowns—a reception from tight end Eric Saubert and rushes from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and rookie running back Javonte Williams. It is noteworthy that Gordon dealt with an injury suffered on his first touch of the game that kept him out of practice on Wednesday. He still finished the game and split work to a normal extent with Williams but without a touchdown, he finished as the PPR RB25 of Week 12.
On the other hand, I picked Tevin Coleman as my running back hate of the week. This is simply awkward—I mentioned why I wouldn’t trust Coleman in the Jets backfield as I thought Ty Johnson was the clear lead talent in that committee.
|16 carries, 67 yards, 0 TD
|2 catches (3 targets), 3 yards, 0 TD
|6 carries, 42 yards, 0 TD
|0 catches (1 target), 0 yards, 0 TD
|9 carries, 38 yards, 1 TD
|0 catches (1 target), 0 yards, 0 TD
Table. New York Jets running back splits, Week 12 vs. Houston Texans
Instead, Coleman received the most work in his backfield and the only two touchdowns of the game for the Jets were rushes from quarterback Zach Wilson and third-string running back… Austin Walter… okay? Still, avoiding Coleman was probably a good idea. It’s unclear if any of the three members of the Jets backfield are start-worthy in Michael Carter’s absence. Indeed, despite Coleman being a workhorse on the ground, he was outside the top 30 in PPR scoring in Week 12.
Wide Receiver (F)
I was hoping for some Week 12 fireworks from the Bills offense—check that off the list as Buffalo looked like themselves on offense, scoring early and often and marching down offensive possessions with few hitches in their step. The issue is that my love of the week at wide receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, was far from the center of attention. Instead, tight end Dawson Knox and superstar wide receiver Stefon Diggs stole the show in the air. Knox, in fact, scored two touchdowns and Sanders only managed 3 receptions on 3 targets for 28 yards and a disappointment if you jumped the gun on him and started him on Thanksgiving Thursday.
My grade for this position is solely based on Sanders’ performance as my wide receiver hate of the week, CeeDee Lamb, did not even play and will void on the grade report. I was concerned about the news that the Cowboys were thinking of letting Lamb back on the field against the Raiders despite dealing with concussion issues. I figured that if he were to start, he would primarily be a decoy and for a team with playoff aspirations, they should simply play it safe—all of which would then lead to fantasy irrelevance. Dallas took my advice and rested Lamb on short rest and instead returned in Week 13 of Thursday Night Football against the Saints.
Tight End (A+)
Failing at calling a big game from Sanders wasn’t my only Thanksgiving boom take. The 22-year-old Cole Kmet was my love of the week at the position. With Andy Dalton starting at quarterback for the Bears, the Lions having to worry about getting worked by a David Montgomery-led backfield, and Allen Robinson II out of the picture, I was looking for Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet to lead the charge; in fact, I started them both in the same league! I can’t remember the last time I felt good about starting a Bears stack.
Despite some first-half Jimmy Graham vulturing, my #FantasyFootball TE ❤️ of Week 12 got it done!
Cole Kmet today:
💪 11 tgts (career high)
😤 8 rec (career high)
🔥 65 rec yds
💰 Cashed his rec yds over (38.5) by HT
His 14.5 PPR points would make him the TE6 of Week 11. pic.twitter.com/c5UUzADD1k
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 25, 2021
Indeed, despite veteran tight end Jimmy Graham stealing the spotlight in the first half of the game, Kmet was an opportunity hog and ended up with 8 receptions on 11 targets for 65 yards, all season-highs. Despite not scoring a touchdown, he was the PPR TE7 of Week 12. Can’t get much better than that if you’re depending on waiver wire streamers at the wild tight end position.
For my hate of the week at tight end, I went with Tyler Conklin—I pointed out the two things that made me scared about starting him: the level of involvement Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen could easily have against the 49ers and the fact that Conklin’s fantasy relevance has been primarily based in finding the end zone. I predicted that Conklin would not score a touchdown and therefore would be a poor fantasy start. Indeed, in a high-scoring game where Dalvin Cook was injured late, Jefferson and Thielen combined for 9 receptions on 16 targets for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns (both via Thielen). Conklin was held to just 2 receptions on 3 targets (both tied for season-lows) for 25 yards.
In deep leagues, despite back-to-back bust weeks, Conklin isn’t a complete lost case in redraft formats as he still drew a couple of red zone targets and has some more favorable matchups coming up. I made the right call for Week 12 though.
Week 13 Loves & Hates
Back-to-back weeks with mostly excellence on this column. We’re back on track and ready to win some more matchups by making the right calls on some players that stand out at each position. Here are the picks for Week 13 of 2021 fantasy football.
Love: Taylor Heinicke (WSH)
If you’re streaming at quarterback, this isn’t the first time I’ve recommended Taylor Heinicke for you and I hope it won’t be the last. Heinicke has earned his role as a starting quarterback and he is producing offense without relying on his dual ability to scramble and rack up rushing yards. I’m essentially going to cite Meng on this one via his quarterback streamer recommendations for Week 13. We’re both comfortable with Heinicke for Week 13 for the same reasons.
The Raiders rank #25 in the NFL this season in pass DVOA and #26 in the NFL this season in fantasy points per game given up to quarterbacks. Like Meng mentions, they have particularly displayed their vulnerabilities when facing quarterbacks who can make a run for it like Heinicke. In what could be a high-scoring game as the sportsbooks currently suggest, Heinicke has the ability to put up big fantasy numbers and he could be sitting around in free agency in your league right now waiting for someone to pick him up and start him.
Hate: Joe Burrow (CIN)
Remember when many NFL draft analysts were anticipating that the Cincinnati Bengals might go for quarterback protection by taking offensive lineman Penei Sewell? Instead, they went the LSU route and took a generational talent at wide receiver by drafting Ja’Marr Chase. Surely they don’t regret the decision as Chase is a huge reason the Bengals are one of the more feared offenses in the conference. However, Cincinnati’s offensive line issues cannot be completely ignored as they currently rank #29 in the NFL this season in pass block win rate as a team. Their opponent, the Chargers? That’s time to feast for them as they rank #11 in the NFL in pass rush win rate as a defense.
Additionally, the Chargers’ biggest weakness just happens to be stopping the run—they rank #32 (dead-last in case you didn’t realize that) in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense and the fourth-most fantasy points in the NFL to running backs. There’s something Cincinnati might be able to take advantage of with Joe Mixon leading the backfield. Burrow’s floor is clearly scary and makes him one of the scariest starts in fantasy football at quarterback in Week 13, regardless of how well he has been playing recently.
Love: Sony Michel (LAR)
When Sony Michel was drafted in the first round ahead of Pro Bowl players like fellow running back Nick Chubb, this was not the career path he had imagined. After some ineffective, injury-riddled seasons on the Patriots, he has moved to a backup role on the Los Angeles Rams. In many leagues, Michel isn’t even owned right now and even if he is, only a small minority of fantasy managers have even considered starting him recently, for good reason. The RB1 on the team, Darrell Henderson Jr., has been productive, especially in the red zone, and Michel’s snap share has been scarce.
There are multiple situations in which Michel could play himself into some fantasy relevance in Week 13, however. First off, Henderson suffered a quadricep injury in Week 12 that kept him completely out of practice on Thursday. If he cannot suit up, Michel would immediately be the lead back of the high-ceiling Rams offense facing a Jaguars defense that ranks #30 in the NFL in DVOA as a defense; in that case, Michel must be considered as at least an RB2-tier play.
However, even if Henderson does suit up, his snaps could be limited, opening doors for Michel. Additionally, against a much inferior team, the Rams need to get things right away and pick up a commanding win. If this game enters blowout territory, in comes Michel for mop-out duties and possibly some red zone appearances, making him an intriguing FLEX play in Week 13—not bad for someone who is primarily viewed as a handcuff-only.
Hate: Devin Singletary (BUF)
We’ve talked about the Bills backfield a ton recently. With the upside that Zack Moss displayed early on in the season, many thought he would take over as the best complement to Josh Allen in the rushing attack for Buffalo. Instead, a few weeks and a concussion later, head coach Sean McDermott admitted that a recent look at the newly-acquired Matt Breida has caused him to shift gears in that committee. It’s one of the reasons I mentioned recently that Breida must be owned given the explosive offense he is in.
Matt Breida is rostered in 1.8% of #FantasyFootball ESPN leagues. I don't get it.
Devin Singletary has had ball security issues, Zack Moss is banged up, and now this. Plus this elite-looking athletic profile on @rotounderworld.
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 24, 2021
That’s just one of the reasons Devin Singletary just cannot feel like a safe start in Week 13. The Patriots are inconsistent defending the run; they’ve given up their fair share of big plays on the ground, including surrendering over 250 rushing yards in Week 12 against the Titans. However, they still rank #3 in the NFL as a defense in run stop win rate and #10 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense. The best chance of fighting through that and breaking off some defenders is Breida or even some designed rushes from Allen, not Singeltary. The best chance at some easy opportunity floor if you must start a Bills running back is from Breida, not Singletary, who has had ball security issues.
Regardless of the game script or who the Bills actually turn to in the red zone on Monday Night Football, leaving your fantasy matchup in the hands of Devin Singletary to be that guy makes no sense. Pass up on him and turn to better-upside options if you are scrambling for an RB2; e.g., Sony Michel if available.
Love: Kenny Golladay (NYG)
Just hours before the Giants hosted the Eagles in Week 12, we got some internal rumors that Kenny Golladay’s talents were going to be utilized more in the end zone. Whether or not that would turn into immediate pass-catching looks in the red zone were unclear—until the game actually took place.
Kim Jones just reported that the #Giants are intent on getting Kenny Golladay his first touchdown. Joe Judge talked to him about his role on the team prior to firing Jason Garrett.
— Cody Manning (@CodyTalksNFL) November 28, 2021
Golladay was targeted in the red zone three times. While he could not convert any of those opportunities into receptions, the uptick in urgency to get him into the endzone was clear as he had only one red zone target on the season prior to Week 12. The Giants are clearly looking to get their big free agent acquisition, one of the best contested pass-catchers of the current NFL, more involved. That should continue in Week 13 against a Dolphins defense that has given up the second-most receptions and receiving yards and the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Giants offense, with so many playmakers banged up on offense, I’m using my Fantrax Bold Prediction of the Week on Golladay and making the call that in Week 13, he will score his first touchdown of the season to go along with 6 receptions (tied for a season-high) and 90 yards.
Hate: Tyler Lockett (SEA)
Russell Wilson was the fantasy football QB10 through the first four weeks of the season. However, since his return from injury, Wilson hasn’t been the same and the Seahawks offense is reeling. With Chris Carson out of the backfield and red zone appearances have been something of a premium for a talented group of pass-catchers. It can’t get much worse for Seattle and they’re now seeking help via an Adrian Peterson to the squad. Regardless, they could get better through the air in Week 13 against a 49ers defense that ranks middle-of-the-pack in pass DVOA and fantasy points allowed to wide receivers as a defense. That still shouldn’t be enough for Tyler Lockett to be a safe start though.
Perhaps one of the most puzzling aspects of Seattle’s offensive play recently has been the lack of involvement for their top wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who has been completely fantasy-irrelevant since Wilson has returned from injury. Expect Pete Carroll and company to force the ball into Metcalf’s hands, especially since the young wideout has been doing his job and getting open.
Most receiving TDs vs single coverage:
Ja’Marr Chase – 7
D.K. Metcalf – 7
Mike Evans – 7
Adam Thielen – 7 pic.twitter.com/vgHEbNnbtg
— PFF (@PFF) December 1, 2021
Wilson needs to turn it around right away but until we see a full game of solid play from him, Lockett isn’t worth risking against a matchup like the 49ers that know how to run clock on offense and minimize Lockett’s ability to stay on the field and make big plays.
Love: James O’Shaughnessy (JAX)
In Week 1 this season against the Texans, James O’Shaughnessy was targeted 8 times, took 80% of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps, and hauled in 6 receptions for 48 yards. In Week 2, he went down to the injured reserve and couldn’t return to NFL action until Week 12. In his first game back, he immediately drew 81% of the offensive snap share and caught 3 of 5 targets for 29 yards after new acquisition Dan Arnold got hurt. Clearly, Trevor Lawrence likes to target his tight ends. First, it was O’Shaughnessy being involved in the offense in Week 1. Then, it was Arnold having an immediate impact and being one of the biggest storylines of the season at the tight end position for fantasy football. Now, Jacksonville’s offensive weapons are running back James Robinson, veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones, wideout Laviska Shenault whose breakout hasn’t happened yet, veterans Tavon Austin and Laquon Treadwell who simply haven’t earned fantasy trust yet, and… the man himself, James O’Shaughnessy.
In Week 13, wide receivers Jones and Shenault will likely be held in check by skillful cornerbacks Darious Williams and Jalen Ramsey while the Rams have ranked below-average as a fantasy defense against tight ends this season. O’Shaughnessy has the ceiling to be the top target for Lawrence this week and if you’re streaming at tight end or simply need a replacement, he should be in consideration as a possible league-winner in 2021.
Hate: Jack Doyle (IND)
In Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams, Jack Doyle was targeted a season-high 8 times and caught 5 passes for 64 yards. In Week 12 against the Buccaneers, he was targeted 7 times and caught a season-high 6 passes for a season-high 81 yards, including a touchdown. Those two games were both nail-biters for the Indianapolis Colts and the only two fantasy-relevant games of the season for Doyle. That’s why it makes no sense that Doyle is projected to be a startable tight end in fantasy football in Week 13.
First off, the opportunities have been far from consistent; as previously suggested, when the Colts are playing from ahead, it makes sense that they would much rather put the ball in the hands of their MVP-contending running back Jonathan Taylor instead. Second, Doyle isn’t even the healthiest tight end on his team right now as he was limited on practice on Thursday. Finally, if there’s one thing that the Texans do decently, it’s contain the passing game. This season, Houston ranks #6 in the NFL in pass DVOA but #25 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense. Expect the Colts to establish the run game early and often and turn to healthier, more trustworthy options in the red zone. Doyle has proven anything this season that should hint “start that man in fantasy football” in Week 13.
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