Another week down, and it was a doozy. We are really getting towards the end of the season now, and many leagues will even be having their trade deadlines already, so it’s more important than ever to be one step ahead on any emerging trends. Let’s see if we can find any!
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
- Josh Downs ran just 13 routes in his first game back from a knee injury, so his mediocre production is more than understandable. I’m still concerned about his ability to be more than a deep PPR league flex as a slot-only option in this offense, but he should at least be that once he returns to a full workload.
- I made some money betting on Mike Gesicki’s expanded role this week, but I’m no longer optimistic that he can reach fantasy relevance. Even with DeVante Parker out again (and Kendrick Bourne of course out for the season), he regressed down to a 59% route participation rate. That’s still more than his season average, but not the 87% from last week that had me excited.
- On the other end of the route participation spectrum, JuJu Smith-Schuster ran a perfect 34 routes on 34 dropbacks by Patriots QBs … and only caught one pass for nine yards. With Parker likely back next week, he’s not worth considering in anything but super deep leagues.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
- Keaton Mitchell took his first carry for a 39-yard touchdown. His next touch was a 32-yard reception. He touched the ball just three more times: A drop on what should have been a touchdown (admittedly a tough catch for an RB), a seven-yard loss, and a two-yard gain. He also played just 11 snaps. Mitchell obviously has electric playmaking ability, but his role is still far from fantasy-relevant.
- It didn’t show up on the scoreboard, but third-round rookie Cedric Tillman technically served as the Browns’ WR2, playing one more snap and running two more routes than Elijah Moore. His 91% route participation rate was by far his highest mark of the season. Tillman still has just eight yards in his career, so he’s not worth adding in Redraft just yet … but that number is bound to rise soon.
- Odell Beckham Jr. scored a long touchdown, but Rashod Bateman is the Ravens receiver I have more hope will beat the washed allegations down the stretch. I don’t normally make takes based on the eye test, but he does truly seem to be moving better than he was early in the season. That combined with his season-high 77% route participation (nearly double Odell’s 40%) is a glimmer of hope for the 23-year-old once considered a rising star.
Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals
- Tyler Boyd finished as the Half-PPR WR12 in a week of huge performances despite dropping an easy touchdown. With the way Joe Burrow is playing, Boyd is a borderline must-start as long as Tee Higgins is out.
- I’ve been wrong pretty much every time I’ve doubted this Texans passing offense this season (that is a C.J. Stroud fact), so I might as well make myself look dumb one more time: I’m not sold on Noah Brown. Sure, he followed up his 24.3-point outing in Week 9 by catching seven of eight targets for 172 yards. But with Robert Woods back this week and Nico Collins likely back next week, this is a very crowded receiver room. Even Stroud can’t support two WRs (Dell and Collins) and a TE (Dalton Schultz) and still feed two part-time WRs (Woods and Brown) … right?
- I have to mention Tanner Hudson, as any tight end seeing seven targets, especially targets from Joe Burrow, is worth discussion. But Hudson saw those seven targets on just 17 routes (36% participation); he’s not fantasy-relevant. Neither is Irv Smith Jr., by the way, who hasn’t had 50 receiving yards in a game since 2020 and ran even fewer routes than Hudson.
San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
- I want to recommend selling high on someone from the 49ers. The combination of results and volume — 19.1 points on four targets for George Kittle, 13.0 on three targets for Brandon Aiyuk, and 13.9 on four targets and three carries for Deebo Samuel — just screams unsustainable. But I can’t decide who in particular would be the best candidate. Aiyuk is just so talented and has seen fairly consistent volume. Kittle is just so talented and has a nearly unmatched ceiling at the TE position. Samuel is just so talented and has a safer floor due to his dual-threat usage and schemed touches. Down weeks are inevitable with this many mouths to feed, but it may just be best to ride the rollercoaster.
- The tide of sentiment (at least on my Twitter feed) is turning on Trevor Lawrence, who has zero weeks of 20+ fantasy points and ranks 24th in points per game. On the bright side, he has had just two games with above-average matchups, and in those two games he scored 16.5 and 18.0 points … but he only has two more good matchups the rest of the way. It’s beyond past time to look for other options in 1-QB leagues.
- On the other end of the spectrum, Brock Purdy has a dream schedule going forward, with only one below-average matchup (admittedly, Baltimore in the fantasy semifinals is a rough spot). With all his supporting pieces back healthy, he’s easily a QB1 the rest of the way.
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
- Michael Thomas exited this game early with an injury that is reportedly “fairly significant.” In his absence, speedster Rashid Shaheed saw a career-high nine targets … but he wasn’t the biggest beneficiary. Sixth-round rookie A.T. Perry tied with Chris Olave for the team lead with 42 routes, catching two of four targets for 38 yards and a touchdown. I would still add Shaheed, who was already pushing for fantasy relevance thanks to his big-play ability, before Perry, but Perry is a must-add in Dynasty and could make an intriguing dart throw if MT is out when the Saints return from their bye in Week 12.
- I’m torn whether to take the L or double down on my Joshua Dobbs pessimism from last week. Everything I said then still more or less applies, and he’s seen just two designed runs in each game with the Vikings after averaging over four with the Cardinals; we can’t expect him to scramble for a highlight-reel TD every week. But I simply can’t call a guy coming off three straight outings of at least 22 points and about to add Justin Jefferson anything less than a QB1. The Passtronaut is headed to the moon.
- For the season, Derek Carr has a healthy 8.7-yard average depth of target, tied for sixth among QBs (11th if you lower your qualification threshold). On his 25 attempts against the Vikings, Jameis Winston’s ADOT was 5. Unfortunately from a fantasy perspective, Saints Head Coach Dennis Allen firmly reasserted that Carr is the Saints’ starter when healthy, and Carr is reportedly healthy enough to potentially return in Week 12 after the Saints’ bye. But if Winston ever gets a start, whether in Week 12 or later, he is a fringe QB1, while Chris Olave (who had 89% of his fantasy production with Winston despite Winston and Carr playing the same amount of snaps) and the rest of the Saints WRs get a huge boost.
Green Bay Packers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- Since his return to a full-time role in Week 5, Christian Watson ranks 15th among WRs in air yards, despite the Packers having had their bye in that span. That’s great. But he ranks 71st in fantasy points … not great On the season, his 48% catchable target rate is third-wost at the position. I’m certainly not saying it’s a bad sign that he led Packer WRs in targets and air yards this week … but it’s also not shocking that he was fourth in fantasy points. Where normally I’d recommend buying low on a player with his usage to fantasy point ratio, I’m staying away.
- Jaylen Warren was officially announced as the Steelers’ starter for the first time this week, but he and Najee Harris seem stuck in the worst kind of 50/50 committee, with Warren seeing more passing work (4.22 targets per game to Harris’ 2.56) but Harris dominating the goal line (seven attempts to one within the 10-yard line). Luckily, the team’s rushing efficiency as a whole is trending up, so they can both be viable plays.
- I have been a member of the “Aaron Jones is an elite rusher and AJ Dillon is just bad” camp for years, but I’m starting to lose faith. Jones still holds an edge in basic yards per carry, but Dillon ranks higher in PFF rush grade (slightly) and rush yards over expectation per carry (by a decent margin). Between injuries and age, it’s possible Jones has simply lost a step. On the bright side, he has at least five targets in each of the last four games and six in both of the last two. In PPR formats, he’s still a must-start.
Tennessee Titans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- I mentioned after his electric debut that the most exciting thing about Will Levis was his six designed rushing attempts, which would in theory keep his fantasy floor high. Since then, the rookie has recorded zero such attempts and put up back-to-back games of single-digit fantasy points. A league-leading 11.4 ADOT means he will likely have a few more big outings, but without the rushing value I had hoped for he’s not worth the risk in 1-QB leagues.
- He had a huge day, but Mike Evans could have been even better, as he was first underthrown by Baker Mayfield on what should have been a huge score (it was still a 43-yard gain), then dropped an easy touchdown two plays later. The Buccaneers have some tough matchups for the rest of the season, but Evans ranks eighth in the league in air yards and fifth in end zone targets — he’s a locked-in WR1, especially in Standard leagues.
- He’s still the Half-PPR RB10 on the season, but rostering Derrick Henry this year has not been an easy ride, and his 54% snap share and 69.4 yards per game are both by far his lowest of the last five years. Believers will point to his two playoff matchups against the Texans, but this isn’t the same Texans team of past years: With C.J. Stroud cooking and forcing the opposition to pass to keep up, they haven’t allowed 100 yards on the ground in any of the last five weeks. If you can sell someone on that theoretically juicy playoff schedule, now might be the time to move on from the King.
Atlanta Falcons @ Arizona Cardinals
- It’s hard to overstate how good Trey McBride’s usage has been since Zach Ertz headed to IR. He has averaged 9.33 targets, a 33% target share, 74 air yards, and 82.7 yards per game, despite one of those three games being a Clayton Tune disasterclass. Even including games with Ertz, the sophomore ranks behind just Travis Kelce in PFF receiving grade and yards per route run. He is the real deal and a must-start every week.
- Bijan Robinson posted season highs in rush attempts (22) and route participation (58%) this week, finishing with over 100 scrimmage yards and a TD. He also saw 10 snaps to Tyler Allgeier’s five in the red zone and the Falcons’ only goal-line carry, a huge reversal from season trends. Robinson still has a nearly unparalleled ceiling, and after this week, it’s looking more likely we’ll see it down the stretch … although Arthur Smith’s job is reportedly safe, so who knows?
- Marquise Brown underwhelmed in Kyler Murray’s return (who looked great and is a QB1 the rest of the season, by the way), catching just three passes for 34 yards, although he was just overthrown on what should have been a TD. I made the full case for Brown as a trade target two weeks ago, but here’s the abbreviated version of why he could be a league-winner: great historical production as Kyler’s WR1, great volume so far this season, and a great schedule starting in Week 13.
Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Chargers
- Prior to this week, David Montgomery had eight goal-line carries to Jahmyr Gibbs’ one (which came in a week Montgomery was out due to injury). This week, the two essentially alternated drives on the field, which resulted in Gibbs seeing three goal-line carries (plus one goal-line target) to Montgomery’s two. With this usage split and Detroit’s offensive line running over everyone in their path, both backs can be borderline RB1s for the rest of the season.
- With Mike Williams and Josh Palmer on IR, Quentin Johnston still struggling (although he had a better outing this week), and even Keenan Allen banged up, Jalen Guyton is officially on the fantasy radar. Guyton ran as many routes as Johnston this week (85% participation rate), so his 12.1-fantasy-point performance isn’t just a fluke.
- In Week 8, Jameson Williams had just a 34% route participation rate. Coming out of the bye this week, he posted a season-high 55% mark. That’s not near enough to make him a fantasy starter yet, but it’s at least trending in the right direction.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
- Brandin Cooks exploded for nine receptions, 173 yards, and a touchdown … but this was his first week with more than four targets since Week 3. Even with Dak Prescott on fire and a juicy schedule coming up, he’s not more than a deep-league flex play.
- Last week, I mentioned that only Darius Slayton among Giants WRs was running a full complement of routes. This week, even Slayton fell to just a 76% participation rate. Especially with Tommy DeVito under center, there’s not a single Giants pass-catcher worth rostering.
- I’ve been holding out hope that Tony Pollard, even with his obviously reduced explosiveness, would be able to find solid production thanks to his elite volume. But he might be losing even that. It is true that much of backup Rico Dowdle’s work came in garbage time … but it’s also true that Dowdle was involved as early as the first drive and has been much more efficient than Pollard all season. With terrible efficiency and an apparent allergy to the end zone, Pollard can’t afford to lose any work at all, and it seems like he is going to. With that said, you can’t exactly sell him at this point, and I wouldn’t bench him against the Panthers … so I guess just roll him out there and hope for the best.
Washington Commanders @ Seattle Seahawks
- The return of Curtis Samuel corresponded with the return of Jahan Dotson to fantasy irrelevance, as the sophomore went from back-to-back solid outings to dropping a straight-up goose egg. Dotson can be safely returned to the wavier wire in most leagues, while Samuel, who was the WR32 through seven weeks before his injury, is back on the deep-league radar.
- Zach Charbonnet has played more snaps than Kenneth Walker in each of the last three games. Walker is still dominating volume on the ground (19 to six in this one), but Charbonnet looks better both statistically and in the eye test. The rookie is somehow still available in plenty of leagues, but he is an absolute must-add in all formats in case he takes the 1A role.
- Antonio Gibson has at least five targets in each of the last three games. This isn’t just a fluke, as Eric Bieniemy is clearly making a concerted effort to have Sam Howell get the ball out faster: Howell has a 2.67-second average time to throw since Week 7 (a bottom-ten number on the season), down from his previous average of 2.92 (a top-ten figure). Gibson has still yet to see more than five rush attempts in any game, so he is purely a PPR play, but there are certainly some leagues where I’d be happy to have anyone guaranteed five targets as my RB2.