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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores Week 14: Justin Fields Of Dreams

Ted breaks down the most important under-the-radar fantasy football stats and trends from Week 14.

Welcome back to Beyond the Box Scores! Every single fantasy football league should officially be in playoff season. That means we need to pay more attention than ever to trends across the league — being a week late to adjust to a change could mean you don’t see another week. Let’s get right into a full slate of games from Week 14!

Note: All fantasy scores and rankings will be for Half-PPR formats. Data courtesy of PFR, Next Gen Stats, FantasyLife, and PFF (among other places). 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
  • It’s official: Kyle Pitts is back in a full-time role. After nine straight weeks below a 90% route participation rate (six of which were below 70%), he has run routes on 90% and 91% of Desmond Ridder’s dropbacks in the last two weeks. This week, it even turned into fantasy production, as a 36-yard TD helped him to a TE6 finish. Next week against Carolina is a tough matchup but, assuming his usage stays high in that one, he can be started in Weeks 16 and 17.
  • Hopefully, Mike Evans’ A.J. Terrell-induced dud (one catch for eight yards on six targets) didn’t cost you a shot at the fantasy playoffs. Unfortunately, Evans has a couple more tough matchups to come with the Packers next week and the Saints in Week 17, both teams that rank in the bottom 10 against WRs in fantasy and specifically in yards allowed to WR1s. With that said, I don’t recommend benching Evans even in those tough matchups. Second among WRs in both air yards and end zone targets, his usage is simply too good.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, I don’t necessarily recommend rushing to lock Drake London into your lineups following his 10-catch, 172-yard explosion on Sunday. His matchup next week against the Panthers (the fifth-worst matchup for WRs) is as bad as this one with the Buccaneers (the fifth-best matchup for WRs) was good. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a must-start in most leagues, but in shallow leagues you might be able to do better than a guy with just two top-24 finishes all season in a tough matchup.

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Los Angeles Rams @ Baltimore Ravens
  • It is worth noting that the vast majority of Isaiah Likely’s fantasy production this week came on a 54-yard blown coverage touchdown. But he was still second on the team in route participation rate at 91% and third with seven targets. In two games without Mark Andrews, he has posted an 87% route participation rate and a 16% target share. The target share is 7% lower than Andrews’ massive 23%, but would still land him in a four-way tie for 11th at the position on the season. That’s exactly where Likely should rank, as a fringe TE1.
  • After Week 11, I pointed out that Matthew Stafford ranked dead last in completion percentage compared to expected. Since then, all he’s done is post 22+ fantasy points in three straight weeks, including games against two of the toughest defenses in the league (while, for it’s worth, improving on his CPOE). In a matchup with the second-easiest matchup for the position in the Commanders, he’s an elite option in Week 15.
  • Keaton Mitchell saw nine carries to Gus Edwards’ six … but both were outsnapped by Justice Hill, who played 42% of snaps despite this game being close throughout. Why? Well, Hill blocked on 12 of his 30 snaps, while Mitchell, who has a putrid 35.9 PFF pass-blocking grade for the season, gave up two pressures and a sack on his seven pass-blocking snaps. Mitchell is clearly the most explosive member of this committee, but he’s only a risky flex play with goal-line and passing-down work (the two most important pieces of usage for fantasy) dominated by Edwards and Hill respectively.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
  • Since his return from injury, Justin Fields has at least eight designed carries and four scramble attempts in every game. The kind of floor that usage provides makes him a must-start in most leagues, even in a tough matchup with the Browns next week.
  • David Montogmery’s total of 10 carries is his lowest of the season in a game he didn’t exit early for injury. The Lions are clearly more willing to phase him out for Jahmyr Gibbs in negative game scripts than they were early in the year. He should bounce back against the league’s worst defense against RBs next week, but I’d start looking for Week 17 contingency plans now if you roster him, as things could get out of hand quickly for the Lions away at Dallas.
  • D’Onta Foreman, at one point a healthy scratch for four weeks straight, is clearly the Bears’ top running back, even with Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson both healthy. He led the trio with a 55% snap percentage, 11 carries, and three targets. I wouldn’t start him against the Browns’ defense next week, but he’s certainly in play for Week 16 against the Cardinals, who allow the second-most points to the position. Herbert and Johnson are both droppable.
Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals
  • It’s fun for some Best Ball rosters that Chase Brown was the RB7 this week, but don’t get carried away. His role has greatly improved over the last two weeks, but a high of 30% in both snap share and rush share isn’t going to cut it. He’s a handcuff, nothing more.
  • On the other end of the production/usage spectrum, I think we have to do whatever the opposite of chasing points is with Zack Moss. He has disappointed each of the past two weeks with Jonathan Taylor out, but you just can’t ignore his 89% snap share, 84% rush share, and 13% target share on the league’s fastest-paced team. He should be started everywhere in a softer matchup with the Steelers next week.
  • With back-to-back outings of over 23 points, is Jake Browning a legitimate fantasy QB1 candidate? I don’t think so. An unsustainable amount of his production is coming from big plays (including multiple RB screens taken for huge gains in this one) and QB-sneak touchdowns. Especially with his matchups turning for the worse, don’t chase the points in 1-QB leagues.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cleveland Browns
  • If you are truly desperate for a QB and sad to hear that Browning might not be the answer, consider the other new starter playing for an AFC North team from Ohio that wears orange. Joe Flacco’s production hasn’t been as impressive as Browning’s, but it seems more sustainable: back-to-back weeks of 44+ attempts is a great sign for fantasy success. Just as importantly, his next two matchups (at home against the Bears and away to the Texans) are positive, although you absolutely can’t start him in Week 17 against the Jets.
  • Back-to-back weeks with a touchdown for a rookie WR is exciting, but Parker Washington isn’t worth considering at this point. He saw just two targets this week in a game where Trevor Lawrence attempted 50 passes. Zay Jones, on the other hand, who racked up 14 targets, is on the fantasy radar, especially in a great Week 16 matchup with the Buccaneers.
  • On the one hand, a lot of David Njoku’s huge day came thanks to a blown coverage for his first TD. On the other hand, he now has six or more targets in eight straight games and has above-average matchups for each of the next three weeks. He is certainly in the starting conversation for the fantasy playoffs, although he isn’t a must-start if you have another solid option.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
  • I hate to say this as a long-time Juwan Johnson truther, but no Saints tight end who actually plays tight end (aka not counting Taysom Hill) is going to be fantasy-relevant this year. Johnson ran just one more route than Foster Moreau for a 48% participation rate, and both were outscored by 37-year-old Jimmy Graham, who turned back the clock for a highlight-worthy catch and then a touchdown reception.
  • Jonathan Mingo followed up his 10-target breakout game (if you can call 9.9 fantasy points a breakout) with another nine targets and a whopping 159 air yards. However, just three of his nine targets were catchable, and he only caught two of those for just 22 yards. I stand by what I said last week: Leave the rookie on waivers and stay far away from this offense as a whole.
  • Most running backs would be happy to see four targets. For Alvin Kamara, that was his lowest total since Week 5. Even with Jamaal Williams seeing a solid amount of carries, receiving volume makes Kamara a must-start in all PPR formats.
Houston Texans @ New York Jets
  • If Nico Collins joins Tank Dell in missing the rest of the season, Robert Woods and Noah Brown are both firmly in the flex conversation (assuming C.J. Stroud returns from concussion protocol). Yes, the Texans’ offense seemed to implode following Collins’ exit, but that can be blamed on the weather and the Jets’ elite defense. If he clears protocol, Stroud should dice up the Titans in Weeks 15 and 17, and Brown and Woods will be the beneficiaries.
  • This was a legitimately solid performance from Zach Wilson and the Jets’ offense. However, I don’t think we can take much from it, even heading into two good matchups with the Dolphins and Commanders. You’re likely already starting Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson. Zach himself has zero top-12 outings in 11 starts, so he is still not a 1-QB fantasy option. Allen Lazard didn’t see a single target, and no other skill position player eclipsed a 56% snap share — nowhere near enough to be relevant on what is still arguably the league’s worst offense.
  • Last week, Dameon Pierce had 15 carries to Devin Singletary’s eight. This week, Singletary had 13 to Pierce’s four. Given that Singletary has consistently led Pierce in terms of receiving work since the latter’s return from injury, he is definitely the preferred fantasy option, especially in games where the Texans are likely to play from behind. Still, a lack of reliable volume makes him a flex play, nothing more. It is also worth noting that the Texans’ Week 15 matchup with the Titans isn’t as bad of an RB matchup as it seems, as Jeffery Simmons and Kyle Peko are both likely to be out with injuries, so Pierce and Singletary may both be able to produce.
Minnesota Vikings @ Las Vegas Raiders
  • Davante Adams is clearly not having fun, and it’s not fun to watch the Raiders with him on your fantasy roster. But with at least seven targets in each of the last seven games, you probably don’t have a better option on your bench, especially next week, as he faces the Chargers, who have the third-worst defense against WRs. There’s also a chance the Raiders switch back to Jimmy Garoppolo, with whom Adams averaged slightly better numbers across the board.
  • After Alexander Mattison went out with an ankle injury, Ty Chandler played 83% of the Vikings’ snaps. He saw eight of 11 carries and three targets (a 12% target share). Even in an offense that looked truly terrible, that kind of usage should lead to fantasy production — I said the same thing about Ezekiel Elliott last week, and look how that turned out. Chandler’s post-injury usage wasn’t quite as elite as Elliott’s, but he should still manage at least flex numbers as long as Mattison is out.
  • Speaking of running back injuries, Josh Jacobs exited this game late in the fourth quarter, and it didn’t look good. In his absence, Ameer Abdullah and Zamir White should split work, with White seeing the majority of carries and Abdullah playing on receiving downs. On another bad offense and this time with no clear favorite for a large workload, neither of these two is more than a desperation flex play.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
  • Both of Seattle’s young running backs suited up after dealing with injuries throughout the week. Their usage was surprising, though, with Zach Charbonnet seeing one more carry (nine to eight) and Kenneth Walker dominating in route participation (53% to 26%) and targets (five to one) — that’s a reversal of their usual roles. With another tough matchup next week against the Eagles, both are flex options at best, with an edge to Walker, who was still the lead back the last time both were fully healthy.
  • Since each of the 49ers’ big five offensive players are must-starts each week, I’ve mostly been using my weekly bullet point on San Francisco to suggest stashing Elijah Mitchell. With Mitchell now dealing with a knee injury, Jordan Mason (who even scored a touchdown in this one) is the next man up and a solid stashing option.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba has actually led the Seahawks in targets in each of the last two weeks. His ADOT has also improved from insanely low (4.57 in Weeks 1-10) to just low (7.88 over the last five weeks). Even though he hasn’t broken 10 Half-PPR points since Week 8, he’s a flex option in a great matchup with the Eagles’ secondary next week.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
  • It’s likely far too little, far too late for anyone who spent an early pick on Patrick Mahomes, but don’t feel obligated to start him just because he’s the best player in the world. His Week 15 opponent, the Patriots, are the fifth-toughest fantasy matchup for QBs, and there may be options on waivers in shallow leagues that are worth starting over the reigning MVP.
  • Dawson Knox was likely eased back in his return from injury, playing just 47% of the Bills’ offensive snaps. However, we can already see who the big loser is from his return: Khalil Shakir, not Dalton Kincaid. Despite briefly exiting with a shoulder injury, Kincaid posted a very healthy 88% route participation rate, his third-highest of the season. But Shakir, who averaged a 74% route participation rate while Knox was absent, saw that number drop to just 65%. A 9% drop may not sound like much, but it takes Shakir from a deep flex option to essentially irrelevant  — he averaged less than one target per game when Knox was healthy and saw just one this week.
  • It nearly cost me a chance at the Staff League title, but I don’t really regret going with Clyde Edwards-Helaire over Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon finished with more fantasy points thanks to a rushing touchdown, but CEH saw more snaps (30 to 28), an equal number of targets (four each), and far more carries (11 to four). On the other hand, McKinnon did dominate the most valuable snaps (all 12 third-down snaps and four of five within the 10). Both are fringe flex options as long as Isiah Pacheco remains out, with a preference toward CEH in Standard formats and McKinnon in PPR.
Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers
  • In a week where we were all worried about competition in the Chargers’ backfield, Austin Ekeler recorded his highest snap share of the season at 72%. He did see a much lower share of rushing attempts than usual, but still got the goal-line TD and racked up seven targets (including five on 24 attempts from Easton Stick after Justin Herbert exited with an injury). Decreased rushing volume does hurt his value, but he’s still a must-start in any PPR format against the Raiders next week.
  • You can literally make a compilation of Jerry Jeudy’s missed opportunities from this game. On the one hand, I’d certainly rather he get those chances than not, but he simply seems incapable of producing. You can give him one last chance against the Lions (the eighth-best matchup overall for WRs and fifth-best for WR2s), but if he busts again, he isn’t worth holding any further.
  • Gerald Everett posted a 71% route participation rate and 21% target share this week, both easily the highest marks of any Chargers tight end this season. However, it still only translated to a TE20 finish, as he caught just five of eight targets for 39 yards. I certainly wouldn’t start him in either of the next two weeks, but he might be worth another dart throw when the Chargers rematch with the Broncos’ abysmal tight end defense in Week 17, especially if his new usage keeps up in the meantime.