Fantasy football is less about the journey than the result.
Sorry, pigskin purists, but that’s true. It doesn’t really matter how a player arrives at a top fantasy point total, only that he gets there. For many it’s called “garbage time.” For fantasy managers, it might just as easily be called “winning time.”
Take, for instance, Saints reporter Mike Triplett’s answer to this week’s question about the team he covers. To paraphrase, he believes quarterback Taysom Hill is a worthy starter in fantasy. But managers of Hill might not want to watch the sausage being made. Just check for the end result, because Hill might be aggravating along the way.
Take last week’s Saints victory over the New York Jets. Entering the fourth quarter, Hill was lingering in single-digit fantasy points. He then rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns and ended the week fourth among QBs in fantasy points.
With an eye on either the fantasy playoffs or fantasy football in 2022, ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe has 32 questions for our 32 NFL reporters. Bye weeks finally have gone bye-bye.
Does Gabriel Davis have enough of a role in this offense to be on the flex radar moving forward?
Davis should in the next couple of games with receiver Emmanuel Sanders be expected to miss at least the game against the Panthers with a knee injury. With a touchdown in each of the past two games, Davis has proved time and again why he deserves to see the field more often. He was targeted a season-high eight times last week against the Buccaneers when Sanders went out. Coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen also heaped praise on Davis this week. He should be in serious consideration for needy teams at the flex position. — Alaina Getzenberg
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss the recent offensive production from Gabriel Davis and whether he’s a good waiver pickup for fantasy managers.
Did you see enough in his Week 13 return to think DeVante Parker is worth flex consideration?
Parker was targeted on only five of Tua Tagovailoa‘s 41 passes in Week 13, but he caught all of them for 62 yards — in PPR that’s 11.2 points, which I think most of us would take in our flex spot. Three Dolphins receivers hit double-digit fantasy points the last time Miami played the Jets, and with their run game in flux, the Dolphins might be forced to throw the ball even more than they already do (seventh in attempts per game). You can do a lot worse than Parker, who hasn’t scored fewer than 8.2 points in any game he has been healthy for. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
If there’s one pass-catcher to roster on this team, who is it?
Kendrick Bourne gets the nod … barely. It’s because of his big-play upside — the 14.8 average yards per catch and five TDs. The challenge, as fantasy managers learned the hard way in Week 13, is that his involvement in the game plan has sharp volatility on a week-to-week basis (just 15 snaps vs. the Bills). Bourne is the No. 3 WR, and some weeks, the Patriots don’t play the No. 3 all that much. — Mike Reiss
Who leads this team in targets from this point forward?
Jamison Crowder, by default. Starting outside wide receivers Corey Davis and Elijah Moore are injured, although Moore is expected to return for the final two games. Third-down back Ty Johnson, coming off a three-drop game, could see some targets, but QB Zach Wilson is not known for relying on his backs. Crowder has 12 targets over the past two games. — Rich Cimini
Yes, especially with the uncertainty at quarterback because of Jackson’s injured right ankle. Jackson has a longer connection with Marquise Brown, and Tyler Huntley has had an instant rapport with Rashod Bateman. But both quarterbacks love throwing the ball to Andrews. Since Week 10, Andrews has caught more passes than any other tight end (33), and his receiving yards (366) and touchdown catches (three) rank second behind George Kittle. — Jamison Hensley
Are you encouraged by Ja’Marr Chase‘s big fourth quarter, or still a little nervous about the stability of his production given the underwhelming first 45 minutes of Week 14 (in addition to his previous slow stretch)?
Still pretty nervous, especially given this week’s matchup against Denver. One of those touchdowns came on a scramble play, which isn’t necessarily a reliable source of fantasy points. With defenses still keying on Chase, expect WR Tee Higgins to get the best target share. Higgins, who has three straight games of 100-plus receiving yards, is in the best form of his career. — Ben Baby
Is that level of involvement for Donovan Peoples-Jones (7 targets) something you expect to sustain?
DPJ is essentially Cleveland’s No. 2 wideout behind Jarvis Landry. But with Landry potentially out for Monday’s game after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Peoples-Jones could be the go-to option at wide receiver. But, will the Browns still be able to move the ball with a depleted depth chart, after so many positive COVID results this week? — Jake Trotter
Are you buying the Ben Roethlisberger statistical resurgence over the past month?
The more the Steelers allow Roethlisberger to run the no-huddle offense, the better Roethlisberger’s numbers look. His quarterback rating averages out to 97 in the past four games, but it’s 109.6 in the past two. When the quarterback gets back to his instinctual gunslinger roots, good things happen. His mobility might be gone, but he has proved recently that his arm can still get the ball downfield, and his average yards per attempt is up to 7.6 and 7.7 in the past two games. Per Next Gen Stats, Roethlisberger completed 4 of 5 deep pass attempts for 134 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings — his most deep completions in a game since 2016 — and he averaged 9 air yards per attempt in the second half. All of that to say, I buy this surge, as long as the Steelers keep letting him do what he does best. — Brooke Pryor
What is your long-term outlook for Nico Collins (10 targets last week vs. Seattle)?
A lot of this depends on who the Texans’ quarterback will be in 2022, and it’s hard to say what the roster rebuild in the wide receiver room will look like this offseason. But for the remainder of the season with Davis Mills at quarterback, Collins should be heavily involved in the passing game. The Texans don’t have a very deep wide receiver room behind Brandin Cooks, so the rookie will have a chance to make an impact late in the season. — Sarah Barshop
The Colts had a season-high four sacks in Week 13: Should we consider this defense a potential fantasy option in the right spots (they get Vegas in Week 17 and Jacksonville in Week 18)?
I wouldn’t look at them as a potential option from the sack department because they’re just middle of the pack in that area in the league with 29 on the season. It’s forcing turnovers where the defense truly stands out. The Colts have forced a league-high 29 turnovers — 15 interceptions/14 fumbles — this season. Their goal is to force 40 this season, which means they need to average nearly three a game over their final four games. — Mike Wells
James Robinson doesn’t have a 20-yard run since mid-October: Should we stop even considering him for starting lineups?
To be honest, I would consider avoiding ALL Jaguars offensive players, period. The Jaguars are averaging just 9.1 points and are minus-9 in turnover ratio in their past seven games. QB Trevor Lawrence has thrown just one TD pass since November began, and the Jaguars haven’t scored more than 23 points in any game this season. If you had to pick one, though, it would be Robinson. There’s some hope that interim head coach Darrell Bevell will emphasize the run over the last four weeks, but he was calling plays all season and avoided giving Robinson much of a workload. — Michael DiRocco
D’Onta Foreman led this backfield in carries against the Jaguars: Is he ‘the guy’ for the rest of the season?
The Titans’ running back situation is a crapshoot. There’s no telling who will lead the team in carries from week to week. Foreman certainly seems to fit the physical style of play that Tennessee wants. But they also like Dontrell Hilliard‘s ability to break a long run and Jeremy McNichols is a tough runner as well. — Turron Davenport
Ah, if only we all could see into the mind of Broncos’ running backs coach Curtis Modkins, who is the one who handles the gameday rotation of the backs. But this offense is better at everything, including throwing the ball down the field and protecting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, when the threat of Williams and Gordon handling the ball is of concern to the defense. They’re better when Bridgewater is under center and better when they use play action more. They seem to be accepting that on a playcalling level, but the jury is still out. They’ve looked convinced before, only to lapse into weeks when Williams and Gordon didn’t handle the ball. But in the end, the two make this offense go. They are safe starts until proved otherwise. — Jeff Legwold
Is it time to stop considering Clyde Edwards-Helaire a viable fantasy option due to a lack of volume?
It’s way past that time. Edwards-Helaire, who had 11 touches in the win over the Chargers, isn’t going to be a high-volume back for the Chiefs every week, if at all. Darrel Williams is going to get his work. Between the two of them getting snaps and Andy Reid’s fondness for the passing game, Edwards-Helaire — who has only 18 catches this season — is rarely going to be an offensive focus. — Adam Teicher
Renfrow. Jacobs is more of a luxury in the passing game while Renfrow had become Derek Carr’s primary target/security blanket with Waller out. Look, Renfrow’s targets and production has skyrocketed since Waller went down in the first half on Thanksgiving. Renfrow has been targeted 9, 10 and 14 times, respectively, in his past three games, and he is on pace for a franchise-record 113 catches. But if/when Waller returns, he’ll eat into that output. — Paul Gutierrez
Has Jalen Guyton done enough to carve out a consistent role moving forward?
Guyton has touchdowns in his past three games, but he’s not getting a high volume of targets, and those are his only touchdowns of the season. He’s a risky fantasy play based on that volume, though he has caught all nine targets thrown his way the past three weeks. Guyton, who went undrafted in the 2021 class, does have eight more targets for the season than rookie Joshua Palmer (37 to 29). — Shelley Smith
Are we chasing a ghost when we start Ezekiel Elliott?
You’re chasing a ghost on anybody currently associated with the Cowboys’ offense. He maybe didn’t have a positive “fantasy” game, but he had a “positive” game for the team winning the game. The knee injury is restricting him, and he is wearing a brace now. He had 110 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown in the first meeting vs. the Giants, a week after he initially suffered the knee injury. The Cowboys have done their best to manage him through the season, but if you haven’t noticed, the entire running game has dipped. Tony Pollard hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the run game outside of a gadget call vs. Kansas City and a 58-yard run vs. New Orleans. — Todd Archer
Field Yates and Daniel Dopp discuss what to expect from the Cowboys’ backfield with Ezekiel Elliott struggling and Tony Pollard injured.
Should fantasy managers bench Saquon Barkley until they see it as opposed to assuming that a vintage performance is inevitable?
Benching? That might be extreme. Barkley is still an RB2 for fantasy, if only because he has had at least 17 touches each of the past three weeks. Barkley is still at least playable as long as you’re not expecting one of those vintage monster games. His rushing total has climbed every week he has been back — from 25 to 40 to 55 to 64. — Jordan Raanan
The most valuable pass-catcher in this offense moving forward is …
From a fantasy perspective, Dallas Goedert, given the plethora of receiver options across the league and the lack of options at tight end. DeVonta Smith leads the team in most statistical categories and will continue to see the bulk of the targets moving forward, but Goedert is coming off a monster game against the Jets (6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs), proving once again that this offense is at its best when he is featured. It’s to be determined, however, if he’ll continue to post those numbers when Jalen Hurts replaces Gardner Minshew in the lineup. — Tim McManus
Was the drop in volume for Antonio Gibson last week due to game script, or something we need to be concerned about moving forward when evaluating his upside?
That was more about the game situation, falling behind 24-0. If Washington has any shot whatsoever to beat Philadelphia or stay in playoff contention, it’ll be because of Gibson. He was the catalyst during the four-game streak and, with so many top starters sidelined, they need someone who can help control the clock and shorten the game. That’s Gibson. The big caveat is his ball security; he needs to protect the ball better, and it hurt Washington last week. Even with that, they might take him out a series or two, but he’s the only back who can carry them. — John Keim
Big plays aplenty in Week 14: Do you think Jakeem Grant or Damiere Byrd is worked in more moving forward as a result?
Allen Robinson has been awful this season and looked checked out in his return from injury against Green Bay. Marquise Goodwin is still hurt, and Darnell Mooney hasn’t looked good since the Detroit game. Grant ripped off a 46-yard catch-and-run touchdown (and showed off his skills on a 97-yard punt return TD) while Byrd displayed his open-field speed over the middle on a 54-yard TD. Grant is a gadget player who can affect the game in a lot of ways. Byrd can fly and make big plays. Both should be used a lot more on offense during Chicago’s final four games. — Jeff Dickerson
Let’s talk 2022: Do you think they build this offense around D’Andre Swift enough to make him a top-10 RB?
Yes. Swift has proven that he’s the team’s most dynamic offensive weapon, at one point posting back-to-back games of 130-plus rushing yards this season. In just his second season, he amassed nearly 1,000 total yards and six touchdowns, so there’s no question that the talent is there. However, my only concern is if he’ll be durable enough to last a full season. Swift was limited from the start of training camp with a groin injury and is now sidelined with a shoulder sprain that he suffered in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Chicago. Even with those injuries, I would build the offense around Swift for the future. — Eric Woodyard
With Randall Cobb now on injured reserve, who is the WR2 in this offense?
In terms of targets, it’s Allen Lazard, who will play in the slot and on the perimeter. In terms of explosive plays, it’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who’s going to get a deep shot from Aaron Rodgers at least once a game. — Rob Demovsky
It should be both. Osborn has a knack for coming through with big plays in crunch time. Against the Bengals, he caught a third-and-long ball that led to a touchdown. In Arizona he had back-to-back catches that set up the Vikings for a potential game-winning field goal. He caught a walk-off TD in overtime at Carolina, scored the go-ahead TD in Detroit and helped the Vikings keep distance from Pittsburgh with a 62-yard touchdown that ultimately saved the game for Minnesota. Osborn has been targeted 16 times with Thielen sidelined the last two games and has provided quarterback Kirk Cousins the trust needed to know he’ll come through when it matters most. — Courtney Cronin
Field Yates details K.J. Osborn’s recent success and why fantasy managers should consider picking him up.
No. Patterson still tied a season-high with 16 carries, and while he had only two catches and five targets, that has been in line with his receiving involvement the last month-and-a-half. The Falcons are being smart with Patterson, including taking him off kick return since his hurt his ankle in November, so any dip in his touches would be more management to make sure he remains fresh, not anything to do with Davis. But if you’re in a pinch at running back — Davis might be worth adding to the roster for the playoff run. — Michael Rothstein
The QB play is iffy at best: Would you be comfortable counting on DJ Moore as a weekly fantasy starter?
Yes, but with an asterisk this week. Moore is dealing with a hamstring injury, so how effective he’ll play remains to be seen. But despite the poor quarterback play, Moore has been targeted 20 times the past two games and hasn’t had a game this season in which he has been targeted fewer than seven times. So the ball is going to keep coming to him. It’s just a matter of how much he can do with the injury. Robby Anderson could be the better option this week. — David Newton
Taysom Hill‘s fantasy value is almost exclusively in his legs: Can that be sustained?
Sometimes it might be better for Taysom Hill’s fantasy managers to wait and look at the final box score instead of walking the tight rope from start to finish, since it’s not always going to be pretty. But he sure does seem like a safe bet to finish every game with somewhere around 10 carries and two touchdowns by either ground or air — with the upside for more. His running ability gives him a surprising combination of high floor and high ceiling for fantasy purposes. — Mike Triplett
Field Yates wouldn’t be surprised if Taysom Hill has a good day in fantasy going up against a tough Tampa Bay defense.
The Bucs are showing no signs of slowing down with Antonio Brown out. Do you think his role when/if he returns will be enough to warrant fantasy consideration?
The Bucs remain undecided on Brown’s future with the organization, so if you have options elsewhere, use them. We should have an answer pretty soon though since Brown would be set to return from suspension next week. — Jenna Laine
Edmonds can’t get back soon enough for the Cardinals, especially with Conner dealing with an ankle injury. Arizona needs Conner for the long haul, so reducing his touches could end up saving him in the long run. Whenever Edmonds gets back and in form, expect them to split the touches at, maybe, a 60-40 split with Conner taking the majority. — Josh Weinfuss
You can only pick one?! Through four games with the Rams, Beckham has steadily grown in the offense and had arguably his best performance against the Cardinals when he caught 6 passes for 77 yards and extended his touchdown reception streak to three games. Jefferson has shown gradual improvement this season, but since losing Robert Woods to an ACL tear, the second-year pro has turned his game up another level and has proven he can be a trusted target on intermediate and deep passes. To choose only one is difficult, but let’s go with Beckham, who should continue seeing sharp growth in the offense as he continues to learn it, given his natural talent and play-making ability. — Lindsey Thiry
Field Yates and Daniel Dopp discuss where they would rank Van Jefferson this week if Odell Beckham Jr. misses the game on Sunday.
Are Deebo Samuel‘s days (this season) as a “traditional” receiver gone? And if so, how does his health impact the value of the lead RB in this offense on a week-to-week basis?
These are good questions that seem to be inherently tied together, actually. I don’t think Samuel’s days as a “traditional” receiver are over, but I do think you’re going to continue to see him used how he has been recently until the Niners get healthy at running back and/or defenses prove they can slow him down consistently when he lines up in the backfield. Neither of those things has happened yet and with George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk playing well as primary pass catchers, using Samuel in this way allows him to continue getting touches without worrying about defenses sending extra defenders to cover him. As for Samuel’s health, he seemed to get through last week’s win just fine, so the bigger focus when it comes to his usage in the backfield is probably more on the running back group. — Nick Wagoner
Did Rashaad Penny just win himself the lead role in this offense for the remainder of the season?
Assuming Penny doesn’t land on the COVID-19 list like fellow running back Alex Collins just did, he’ll be that guy for this week, at least. But Pete Carroll didn’t exactly commit to Penny being the starter for the remainder of the season when he said they’re going to “give him a shot again to come right on back and see if we can keep going.” Obviously, if Penny stays healthy and keeps producing like he did against Houston, it’s his job. But his extensive injury history means it’ll depend largely on his ever-fluid health. Carroll said the Seahawks will continue to rotate backs. If Collins isn’t cleared by Sunday, Adrian Peterson is one option to serve as the No. 2 choice on early downs behind Penny. — Brady Henderson