2020 Fantasy Football: Week 15 Loves & Hates
It’s officially playoff time across all leagues and down to the final opportunities to cash out on weekly lineups in the regular season. You know what that means—lineups to be set, matchups to feast off of, and sleepers/busts to pick out so that you could have the edge in your fantasy football league. Welcome to the Week 15 edition of loves & hates at every skill position! As usual, we will review last week’s picks and the take-home messages from watching them on the field. Then, we’ll give you our picks for the upcoming week of action.
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Week 14 Review
My Week 14 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.
Our love pick, Justin Herbert, has been a frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year all season long but since Week 12, he has been far from perfect for his fantasy owners. In Week 14, we called for a big bounceback against the lackluster Falcons defense but instead, he threw for 243 yards, 1 interception, and 2 touchdowns. While those numbers were decent enough for some owners to justify the start, he was outside the top 15 QBs in Week 15 and was not a value play in dailies. Herbert has two more easy matchups to finish out the fantasy season (Raiders in Week 15, Broncos in Week 16). Notably, Austin Ekeler, who hasn’t scored a touchdown in his 3 games since coming back from injury, was limited in practice but will play on Thursday Night Football.
Our hate pick, Jared Goff, might have walked away from Week 14’s Thursday Night Football with an easy victory but it certainly wasn’t due to a massive passing game from him. Coming into the game with a shady track record against the Patriots, Sean McVay indeed deferred to his backfield and Cam Akers ran right through the teeth of the low-energy New England run defense. Goff scored two touchdowns, one as a sneak and one as a pass to Cooper Kupp. He threw a season-low 25 pass attempts for a season-low 137 yards and threw a contested interception. Goff finished outside of the top 20 QBs of Week 14 and was a lesson in coaching battles and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent for fantasy production.
Running Back (F)
In the absence of Antonio Gibson, the Washington Football Team had to split their backfield usage between Peyton Barber and our love pick of Week 14, J.D. McKissic. While we outlined the upside with McKissic’s versatility as a runner and receiver, he was nearly irrelevant in the passing game and split volume fairly evenly with Barber, although McKissic was clearly the more efficient player. Here is how the backfield of Washington performed in Week 14.
|J.D. McKissic||65%||11 carries, 68 yards||2 catches (4 targets), 18 yards|
|Peyton Barber||48%||12 carries, 37 yards||2 catches (3 targets), 1 yard|
* personal season-highs in bold
Both backs disappointed fantasy owners who started them—a tough look for that backfield if Gibson is forced to miss another week, especially with quarterback Alex Smith’s injury still posing some question marks.
Meanwhile, our hate pick of Miles Sanders was part of one of the biggest fantasy football storylines of Week 14. Under the new quarterback of the Eagles, Sanders finished with 14 carries for 115 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 4 receptions for 21 yards to finish as the PPR RB3 of Week 14. While a chunk of Sanders’ fantasy production came from one 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, he still found a way to produce in the red zone, although his 8.2 yards per carry would only be 2.5 without the explosive play. Still, Sanders was a fantasy stud for the first time since Week 5, which was also when he last found the end zone. He has an intriguing matchup against the Cardinals in Week 15 and an extremely high-upside matchup against the Cowboys in Week 16.
Wide Receiver (A-)
In the absence of D.J. Moore, our love pick of the week at wide receiver was a man who is now on the cusp of 1,000 receiving yards. In a well-contested matchup against the Denver Broncos, Anderson inevitably drew the lion’s share of attention from Teddy Bridgewater. He caught 8 passes on 12 targets for 84 yards and did not score a touchdown. As we mentioned, he was a safe start due to his volume but his inability to find the end zone regularly poses a low floor going forward against the Green Bay Packers and the Washington Football team. The Panthers remain a flexible storyline in fantasy football in 2020, especially with the uncertainty surrounding a possible return for Christian McCaffrey.
Meanwhile, our hate pick, DeVante Parker, didn’t get a completely fair shot at excellence in the Week 14 thriller vs. the Kansas City Chiefs as he exited the game in the first half due to a hamstring injury. However, in his time on the field, he drew 2 targets and did not make a reception. It’s unfair to judge his performance in this case but there is still very little evidence that Tua Tagovailoa will continue to find DeVante Parker when he is healthy. The Dolphins will be in a limbo of weapons headed into their Week 15 matchup against the Patriots, with tight end Mike Gesicki likely to miss time on top of all the other offensive injury concerns.
Tight End (A-)
Our love pick, Mark Andrews, has been one of the most touchdown-dependent players in fantasy football but we called for an appearance in the end zone against the Cleveland Browns. Instead, Andrews caught 5 of 6 targets for 78 yards and did not score. He was still the PPR TE7 of the week, a fairly serviceable performance given the uncertainty at the tight end position outside of Travis Kelce. Andrews continues to be Lamar Jackson’s most talented pass-catcher, but the lack of passing touchdown potential is always an issue with the backfield situation in Baltimore and rushing talent of Jackson.
For our hate pick at tight end, you were warned about the dangers of hoping for big upside from the return of former Pro-Bowler Zach Ertz in a Philadelphia offense that has heavily featured tight end targets. With a change at quarterback, the Eagles still utilized tight ends but not to the extent that Carson Wentz did when he got into the habit of spamming Dallas Goedert. However, even within his position group, Ertz surrendered any fantasy relevance to Goedert, who remains to be the tight end of choice in Philadelphia as of now. Ertz finished as the PPR TE43 of Week 14. Here is how the tight ends of the Eagles fared.
|Dallas Goedert||85%||4 catches (6 targets), 43 yards|
|Zach Ertz||72%||2 catches (3 targets), 8 yards|
* personal season-highs in bold
Week 15 Loves & Hates
Week 15 Quarterbacks
Love: Kyler Murray (ARI)
Worried about Kyler Murray‘s shoulder still despite the 244 passing yard performance in Week 14? Justifiable. Worried about the Philadelphia Eagles defense that has been above average against fantasy quarterbacks this year? Justifiable. The one thing the Eagles haven’t done a good job at on defense? Stopping the legs of mobile quarterbacks. In Week 6, it was Lamar Jackson (108 yards on 9 attempts). In Weeks 7 and 10, it was Daniel Jones (combined 156 yards on 13 attempts, including the infamous “trip”). As long as Kyler is in stable enough throwing shape, the upside is as high as a top 3 QB of the week; you have to start him in all leagues.
Most rushing first downs/TDs by QBs:
1. Cam Newton – 47
2. Kyler Murray – 46
3. Lamar Jackson – 35
4. Josh Allen – 34 pic.twitter.com/ZiPTQ2EKqT
— PFF (@PFF) December 16, 2020
Hate: Baker Mayfield (CLE)
A lot of haters were silenced on Monday Night Football when Baker Mayfield was unleashed for a season-high 47 pass attempts and one of his best total fantasy performances of the season. He passed for a season-high 343 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. He made a big mistake when he threw an interception on his own side of the field but he showed signs of brilliance against a good defense.
However, in Week 15 against a New York Giants team that might have to go back to Colt McCoy at quarterback, anticipate head coach Kevin Stefanski going back to his signature style: pounding it with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt against a bottom 10 run defense in the NFL. The Giants are fourth in the league this season in quarterback pressures as a defense and through 14 weeks, Baker Mayfield has a QB rating of just 37.9 when under pressure — that is third-worst among quarterbacks with at least 10 games plays this season.
Don’t fall prey to the solid performances in Weeks 13 and 14 from Mayfield; trust in that backfield instead.
Week 15 Running Backs
Love: James Robinson (JAX)
The rookie James Robinson might be battling a knee injury this week but if he plays, the ceiling is sky-high for the Jaguars breakout running back. In 7 games this season with Gardner Minshew as the starting quarterback, Robinson averaged 19.1 PPR fantasy points. Against the Baltimore Ravens, who have been below average against fantasy running backs, Robinson should see plenty of opportunity, so don’t let his reduced volume (56% snap share, 12 carries) distract you from the fact that he has been efficient as a runner and involved as a pass-catcher.
James Robinson among rookie RBs:
🔹 1,035 rush yards (1st)
🔹 729 yards after contact (1st)
🔹 30 rushes of 10+ yards (1st)
🔹 31 missed tackles forced (T-1st)
Rookie RB1 🥇 💪 pic.twitter.com/ZzdiA2TJV0
— PFF (@PFF) December 16, 2020
Hate: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC)
Speaking of rookie running backs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire came into the season with a lot of hype surrounding his fantasy upside in the best offense in the NFL. Instead, he has been inconsistent with efficiency and touchdown-dependent to be fantasy-relevant. In 2020, the rookie has averaged just 12.6 PPR fantasy points in games where he doesn’t score a touchdown. In what could be a close game against a stingy New Orleans Saints run defense, expect most of the production to come from former MVP Patrick Mahomes, who threw a season-worst game in Week 14 with 3 interceptions. If you’re looking for a high upside play, it is safe to bench Edwards-Helaire in all formats.
Week 15 Wide Receivers
Love: A.J. Brown (TEN)
While the focus of the Titans’ offensive game plan should be to feed “King Henry” against a soft run defense, I’d be shocked if Ryan Tannehill doesn’t take a few shots against a Detroit Lions defense that is the worst in the NFL this season in explosive pass play rate allowed (10%). The definition of explosive? A.J. Brown.
Furthermore, in 2020, Ryan Tannehill has a 115.0 QB rating at home with a 19/2 TD/INT ratio, all numbers noticeably better than when he is on the road. While the Lions aren’t expected to have a great shot at winning the game if Chase Daniel is their quarterback, they also have the ability to keep the game competitive for a while with the talent they still have on offense and if that’s the case, Tannehill should be passing the ball for the majority of the game, meaning Brown could be a sneaky WR1 play in dailies and has to be started in your playoff matchups.
Highest passer rating when targeted:
1. Tyreek Hill – 139.5
2. Davante Adams – 138.2
3. Corey Davis – 135.4
4. A.J. Brown – 133.5 pic.twitter.com/aitKxH8FCv
— PFF (@PFF) December 10, 2020
Hate: Brandin Cooks (HOU)
When I did my Houston Texans preview post-suspension of Will Fuller V, I warned you about the dangers of trusting Brandin Cooks as the leading receiver for Deshaun Watson. Against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, he was, as I guessed, out-performed by Keke Coutee but Cooks still caught 5 of his 5 targets for 85 yards. Against that same matchup in Week 15, coming off a neck injury that keeps him limited in practice as of now, the ceiling is yet again highly uninspiring and owners should consider Cooks as a trap feature of the Texans offense and trust Coutee over him in starting lineups. Avoid Cooks in all formats even if he plays.
Week 15 Tight Ends
Love: Evan Engram (NYG)
The Cleveland Browns defense continues to be a tight end target for fantasy owners as they are a bottom 3 defense against fantasy tight ends and have given up 9 touchdowns to tight ends (fewer than only the Jets and Jaguars). It also happens to be a week that they have to face a talented pass-catcher at the position that gets a lot of attention from his offensive scheme. In 2020, only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller have drawn more targets as tight ends than Evan Engram. And if you’re worried about a possible switch back to Colt McCoy at quarterback, you shouldn’t be. In McCoy’s one start this season in Week 13, Engram was targeted 8 times. High floor in PPR formats, high upside in all formats.
Hate: Jimmy Graham/Cole Kmet (CHI)
If you’re on the Cole Kmet hype train, I understand. After drawing 8 targets through the first 9 weeks of the season, Kmet has caught 11 of his 20 targets in his last 4 games and scored a touchdown. The issue? He’s still working with Jimmy Graham on the team and even though the young Kmet is now outdoing the veteran Graham on volume, the two-headed monster being utilized together with Trubisky under center is no laughing matter for fantasy owners.
Against a poor fantasy tight end defense in the Minnesota Vikings, the Week 15 Bears outlook at tight end poses more question marks than you need for a playoff matchup. Instead of trying to guess how much volume each tight end will get and hoping the one you pick finds the end zone, stay away from both because it’s a tug-of-war for fantasy value and the individual ceilings will screw you over. For contextual reference, here is how the Chicago tight ends fared in Week 14 against the Houston Texans, another bad defense against fantasy tight ends.
|Jimmy Graham||48%||4 catches (4 targets), 23 yards, 1 TD|
|Cole Kmet||86%||4 catches (7 targets), 41 yards|
* personal season-highs in bold
The end is in sight and if you are in the playoffs, this is what we have worked for; go set those lineups and let’s get to the finish line!
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