As most leagues closed in on the fantasy football playoffs, Week 13 of NFL action went a bit haywire. Other than the usual high scores from David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, a lot of the usual top performers fell flat. Sure, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were all OK, but Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick probably dashed playoff hopes for some fantasy owners.
Brees threw for over 300 yards but added three interceptions and zero touchdowns while Kaepernick completed just one pass for four yards before getting benched.
The biggest games by quarterbacks were recorded by Derek Carr, Carson Palmer and Matt Stafford. Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton offered surprising performances from the position as well.
Flacco threw for over 300 yards for just the third time this season while throwing four touchdowns for the first time this year.
Dalton threw for more than 300 yards and at least two touchdowns for the first time since Week 6. It was quite an impressive performance from a quarterback missing a key running back, Gio Bernard, and his top receiver, A.J. Green.
Johnson, Bell and Melvin Gordon all continued to produce like usual. Devonta Freeman, Spencer Ware and Latavius Murray recorded big games. LeSean McCoy, Jordan Howard and Thomas Rawls rounded out a good week for running backs.
Howard had his biggest game since Week 8, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 117 yards. McCoy had his second straight 100-yard rushing game after not having one since Week 6. He had a great game despite Mike Gillislee taking away two short-yardage touchdowns.
Thomas Rawls finally broke out for owners who have waited on him all season. He may have a tough Week 16 matchup, but not before having two good matchups in the next two weeks.
The biggest rushing disappointments were Lamar Miller, Todd Gurley and Jonathan Stewart.
Other than Jordy Nelson, Odell Beckham and Julio Jones, the top wide receivers in Week 13 were most likely riding the pine for owners. Tyler Lockett, Ted Ginn, Albert Wilson and Brandon LaFell would all have been strange starts heading into the week.
Golden Tate seemed to benefit the most from the Lions’ matchup with the Saints. He caught eight passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
The good news kind of ends there in what was supposed to be the most productive matchup of the week for fantasy scoring.
If you started a Saints skill player not named Coby Fleener, you were disappointed this week. Brees, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower all had games to forget.
Rather than talk about the worst performances this week by starting wideouts (Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Evans), I’d rather talk about the return of the high-scoring tight end.
Ladarius Green, a preseason sleeper who finally woke up, caught six passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce had his third straight 100-yard game while Dennis Pitta scored twice on his way to 90 yards receiving.
Cameron Brate, Jimmy Graham, Zach Ertz and Fleener all had big days as well. One disappointment was Martellus Bennett, who is taking over for an injured Rob Gronkowski. He had just two catches for four yards.
To add to a bizarre week, Stephen Gostowski and Matt Prater scored more points than a lot of receivers and running backs this week. Gostkowski connected on four 40-plus-yard field goals while Prater made five field goals, including a 52-yarder.
On the defensive front the Broncos had a great game, as did the Ravens. Denver logged a touchdown, two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery. The Ravens had three picks and two sacks while allowing just six points.
Waiver wire suggestions:
Alex Smith, Chiefs (He has two good matchups before Week 16.)
Adrian Peterson, Vikings (Just in case.)
Mike Gillislee, Bills (Vulture opportunities, plus a favorable schedule.)
Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers (Three straight games with a touchdown.)
With NFL training camps in full swing, I decided to take another stab at a mock draft to help prepare for the upcoming fantasy football season. This time I entered a standard league, 12-team draft on ESPN’s website. Last time out, I drafted in a 10-team standard league on NFL.com. Here’s a look at the team I selected this time around.
Round (overall pick) Player, Pos., Team
1st (4) Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
2nd (21) Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets
3rd (28) Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
4th (45) Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
5th (52) Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
6th (69) Drew Brees, QB, Saints
7th (76) Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles
8th (93) Ladarius Green, TE, Steelers
9th (100) Willie Snead, WR, Saints
10th (117) Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons
11th (124) Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers
12th (141) Texans defense
13th (148) Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
14th (165) Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings
15th (172) Matt Prater, K, Lions
16th (189) Jordan Cameron, TE, Dolphins
With 12 teams in this mock league I decided to make sure I went with running backs in two of my first three picks. Interesting to note is that before I selected Adrian Peterson with the fourth pick, three receivers were already off the board (Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr., in that order). Also of note, the next three running backs selected were Todd Gurley (5th), Ezekiel Elliott (6th) and David Johnson (8th). Dez Bryant went 7th overall, which is a bit high in my estimation, since he went ahead of DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Jamaal Charles.
It was a little surprising that the suspended Le’Veon Bell, who’s set to miss the first four games of the season, managed to sneak into the first round at no. 12 overall. That seems a little high for a player that will miss a quarter of the season. I’d look for him early in the second round of a 12-team league. He can put you over the top, but not if you’re using your first pick on him.
My WR1 is Brandon Marshall, and I see no reason he’d drop off, especially now that he has Ryan Fitzpatrick back behind the center. Fitzpatrick knows how to get the ball to his big receivers and Marshall going at 21 overall went right about where he probably should. I selected Jeremy Maclin as my WR2 and if he’s targeted 124 times, like he was last season, he could prove to be a solid pick at 45th overall.
I was able to grab an aging Drew Brees with the 69th overall pick, so I have to hope he stays healthy and that his young receivers come along. Derek Carr, who I picked in the 13th round, is my backup and we’ll see if he makes a big jump with weapons like Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray. Murray, who I selected in the 3rd round is expected to be a do-everything back for the Raiders if he doesn’t let rookie DeAndre Washington take away touches.
That leaves me with Jeremy Hill and Jordan Matthews as my flex options. I feel good about both, hoping Hill has a bounce-back season, though he did score 11 rushing touchdowns last year. Matthews has scored eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons and looks to go over 1,000 yards for the first time. If he’s around in the seventh, you’d be lucky.
Ladarius Green, the tight end who I selected at 93 overall, should excite some owners as he joins a prolific Steelers offense.
Other notes from this mock draft:
Seven wide receivers were selected in the first round, including Allen Robinson.
Jamaal Charles was taken in the second round, he should go higher.
Jordy Nelson went 14th overall and I’d be nervous about that if I made that selection early in the second. I’m in the minority.
Lamar Miller, who the Texans will let loose on the field, went 16th. Wouldn’t be surprised if he goes higher in most drafts.
There are options at RB in the third round, with Eddie Lacy, Matt Forte, Murray and Carlos Hyde all going in that round.
T.Y. Hilton, who went 39th overall, might be undervalued if Andrew Luck returns to previous form.
The Cardinals defense was the first to go at 89, followed by the Broncos at 95 and the Seahawks at 113.
In our last edition we talked about how Osweiler would possibly fare as the new first-string quarterback of the Denver Broncos. We didn’t expect another team out there to give him $72 million over four years for just seven pro starts and 11 career touchdown passes. He’s gotten himself into a pretty good position with the Houston Texans. Here’s a look at how we think he and other high profile free agents will fare with their new teams this upcoming season. Who do you think will have the biggest impact with a new team? Let us know in the poll at the bottom.
Brock Osweiler, QB and Lamar Miller, RB, Texans—Osweiler should be very happy right about now. Though he had already benefited from working with two good wide receivers in Denver, DeAndre Hopkins is about to leap into the top tier of receivers in the league, if he hasn’t already. Hopkins is the kind of player that will catch anything in his vicinity. He’s a great red zone target and already has over 3,500 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns in his three-year career. His and Osweiler’s play will be helped by the presence of Miller in the backfield. Where the Dolphins refused to give Miller the touches he deserved, the Texans will be more than willing to give their newly acquired running back the rock. He’s only carried the ball 200 times in a season once in his career. We’d bet he does that twice in his career before this season is done.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Browns—With Johnny Football out of town it looks like the Browns are betting on yet another quarterback from the state of Texas. Even before Johnny Manziel, out of Kerrville, scrambled his way onto the scene, Colt McCoy of Tuscola had a good amount of starts with Cleveland. Now, the Browns are taking their chances with the mobile, although somewhat frail, quarterback out of Copperas Cove. Health is the number one concern if you plan on taking a shot with Griffin, but he could end up paying dividends if you get him for cheap and he finds his way back to his rookie form. How the Browns offensive line will be a big factor in how well he performs.
Matt Forte, RB, Jets—Possibly the most underrated prize in free agency, much like he’s the most underrated player at his position, Forte may end up being the beneficiary of a strong passing game with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall playing on the outside in New York. If Ryan Fitzpatrick re-signs with the Jets, we’re looking at a pretty potent offense with all facets very likely performing well. If a new quarterback is added to the mix then it may take a while for all cylinders to get clicking. Make no mistake, though, Forte will be a getting a lot of touches. In the same Chan Gailey offense, Chris Ivory rushed for over 1,000 yards and had 30 receptions.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars—Speaking of Ivory, he’s now with the Jaguars and will most likely share some time with second-year running back T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon’s 740 yards in his rookie season means he’ll stay in the mix, but it’s not a good situation for either running back. If forced to pick one to likely have more success, we’d go with Yeldon in terms of best overall on the season. If we’re talking Week 1 starter, we might have to go with Ivory.
Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys—At first glance this looks like he could be a nice power back to run behind a good Cowboys offensive line. He only had two 100-yard rushing games last season, one to start the year and one to end it. We do think he’ll end up being the better of the two backs in Dallas, but if Darren McFadden stays healthy like he did this past season, then neither back will be a top-20 running back. One factor in his potential success is if the Cowboys can afford to go with a run-first game plan like they did two seasons ago when DeMarco Murray racked up a ton of yards. If Morris can somehow take over as the go-to back and the Cowboys protect Tony Romo by running more, then Morris could find some real value. That’s a lot of ifs, however.
Marvin Jones, WR, Lions—With Alshon Jeffery remaining in Chicago, the wide receiver free agent market ended up being pretty dull this season. Marvin Jones does look to have some upside as he joins Detroit, however. Calvin Johnson has called it a career so the Lions needed to add someone to help out Golden Tate on the other side of the field. Jones just finished his fourth year in the league after missing all of 2014. He had a career-high in yardage with 816 yards to go along with four touchdowns. He had 10 TD receptions in his second season. Look to him as a dark horse late-round possibility to help in the flex spot.
Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans—He had 662 yards receiving to go with four touchdowns last year with the Dolphins and he could very well end up a top target for Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright are healthy competition for the fifth-year receiver. Don’t be surprised if he ends up taking the Lion’s share of targets. With DeMarco Murray in the backfield, things should open up downfield as defenses key on the run.
Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers—Benjamin’s fourth season was far and away his best in the league. He had 68 receptions for 966 yards and five scores with bad Browns quarterback play. With Philip Rivers at the helm in San Diego, Benjamin could prove to be a nice flex player if he can make it onto the field. There are a good amount of wideouts in San Diego.
Ladarius Green, TE, Steelers—He played behind Antonio Gates and posted career highs last season with San Diego. With Heath Miller out of the picture due to retirement, Green could turn into a solid breakout tight end with the Steelers potent offense. He’ll have Ben Roethlisberger throwing passes while Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown take up a lot of defensive attention. He couldn’t have ended up in a better spot.
Coby Fleener, TE, Saints—No longer stuck in an offense that utilizes a lot of two tight end sets, Fleener can really shine with an offense led by Drew Brees. With Ben Watson out of town, Fleener can very likely reproduce Watson’s numbers from last season. Watson had 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns. Fleener will no longer have to fight for targets with Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis.
Ben Watson, TE, Ravens—Watson’s outlook isn’t as nice as Fleener’s. He’s a Raven now and with Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore in town, there won’t be enough targets to go around.
Jared Cook, TE, Packers—Cook will need fight with Richard Rodgers for touches, but we think he has more talent than Rodgers. And with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback Cook could be late steal at the position.
Notables still up for grabs
Running backs: Reggie Bush, LeGarrette Blount, Ronnie Hillman, Arian Foster, Joique Bell, Pierre Thomas, Stevan Ridley; Wide receivers: Kamar Aiken, Roddy White, Percy Harvin, Anquan Boldin, Andre Caldwell, Andre Johnson, James Jones