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These are the players who stood out for fantasy-relevant reasons — the good reasons, the bad reasons, and the in-between.
This column will be posted every Monday afternoon.
Players about whom we’re feeling more optimistic based on recent play or news.
David Montgomery (Chi) — Montgomery continues to look like a much better player when Mitchell Trubisky is at quarterback for the Bears. Mitch lines up under center — rather than in the shotgun — more than Nick Foles, which allows Montgomery to build up some much-needed speed as a downhill runner. He’s posted consecutive games with 25+ FP with Trubisky under center after posting 17/72/2 rushing and 4/39 receiving against the Lions in Week 13. Montgomery is now averaging 5.8 YPC (55/321/2 rushing) in his four full games with Trubisky playing under center compared to 3.7 YPC (102/326/1) in the seven games in which Foles has appeared. Montgomery has a chance to stick as a low-end RB1 against a friendly fantasy schedule (Hou, @Min, @Jax), but he would certainly be in better shape to succeed if Trubisky remains Chicago’s starter. (TB)
Jonathan Taylor (Ind) — Taylor played like the clear top back throughout Week 13 against the Texans, but it took HC Frank Reich until the fourth quarter to let his emerging second-round take over in their victory over the Texans. Taylor had just three carries for 21 yards through the first 52 minutes against one of the league’s worst run defenses before Reich finally let him take control of the game with 13/91 rushing — Taylor finished with 16/137/1 scrimmage on 48% of the snaps. Nyheim Hines managed just 9/32 scrimmage on 33% of the snaps while the Colts continue to waste snaps and touches on Jordan Wilkins, who finished with 7/18 scrimmage on a 19% snap share. The Colts offensive coaching staff are the only ones that can hold Taylor back from being a high-end RB2 in the fantasy playoffs against a friendly schedule the next two weeks (@LV, Hou) before a matchup with the Steelers in Week 16. (TB)
Dalvin Cook (MIN) — There was some talk that Cook was “beat up” from OC Gary Kubiak, but he sure didn’t show it this past week. With Alexander Mattison (appendicitis) out, the Vikings loaded Cook’s plate with 38 touches in their overtime win against the Jaguars. Any talk of resting Cook went out the door with Mattison out. Even though he got stuffed twice near the goal-line and lost another opportunity to a bad hand-off, Cook still posted 23.9 PPR points without a touchdown. That’s not too shabby. Cook’s matchups during the fantasy playoffs are definitely tougher than what he’s faced recently — the Vikings get the Buccaneers, Bears, and Saints in Week 14-16 — but they are right in the thick of the Wild Card hunt and have no other option but to feed Cook. Especially if Mattison misses another game or two. (GB)
Myles Gaskin (Mia) — One of the best stories of the 2020 fantasy season is back! After missing four games with a knee sprain, Myles Gaskin returned against the Bengals and got a true workhorse workload with Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, and DeAndre Washington all out. Gaskin turned his 21 carries into 90 yards and added 51 yards on two chunk gains as a receiver. He also got a little unlucky near the goal-line, failing to convert on all six of his carries inside of the 10-yard line. The Dolphins offense just isn’t as nearly as efficient or explosive with Tua Tagovailoa under center, but this type of usage will keep Gaskin on the high-end RB2 radar throughout the fantasy playoffs. (Graham Barfield)
Marvin Jones — Kenny Golladay is seemingly getting no closer to a return off of the hip injury he initially suffered in Week 8. He failed to practice last week, which means he could be staring at his sixth consecutive absence this week with the Lions in no rush to get him back on the field with nothing to play for. Jones’ fantasy owners wouldn’t mind another absence (or three) after he posted 8/116/1 receiving on 12 targets against the Bears in Week 13. Marvin is now averaging 5.3/65.5/.8 receiving on 8.5 targets per game in the last six weeks since Golladay initially suffered his hip injury. Jones averaged just 2.8/37.0/0 receiving and 4.0 targets per game in four games with Golladay in the lineup in Weeks 3-7. Jones is a WR2 option for as long as Golladay is out of the lineup in the fantasy playoffs (GB, @Ten, TB). (TB)
Jamison Crowder (NYJ) — Crowder has been the clear #3 option in this passing attack when Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman are both on the field with him. The Jets slot WR had just 6/73/1 receiving on 10 targets in three full games with both Perriman and Mims on the field together. That changed in Week 13 against the Raiders as he busted out for 5/47/2 receiving on seven targets with both of his scores coming from inside the 10-yard line. Crowder is back on the fantasy radar as a WR3/4, and he’s going to be playing in plenty of negative game scripts with matchups as the Jets could be double-digit underdogs in the rest of their fantasy playoff games (@Sea, @LAR, Cle). (TB)
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen (MIN) — Even though the Vikings are a team built on the run, they have finally stopped forcing Kirk Cousins into a game-manager role and are letting him chuck it to his two talented wideouts. Justin Jefferson is a bonafide star at this point and he turned in yet another masterful game this past week with 9/121/1 against the Jaguars. The route that Jefferson scored his TD on was a thing of beauty. Since being made a full-time starter in Week 3, Jefferson is averaging a ridiculous 96.9 yards per game. While Jefferson literally looks like a Stefon Diggs clone, Adam Thielen continues to produce and score touchdowns at will. Thielen continued his scoring streak against Jacksonville this past week, tallying 8/75/1 and further cementing himself as one of the NFL’s top red-zone weapons. Thielen now has 12 TDs on the year and trails only Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill (13) for the league lead. Both Thielen and Jefferson are WR1’s heading into the fantasy playoffs. (GB)
Jarvis Landry (Cle) — Well, it only took 12 weeks, but Jarvis Landry is finally the WR2 you drafted him to be. After posting his best game of the year last week against the hapless Jaguars (8/143/1), Landry turned in another solid performance (8/62/1) as Baker Mayfield shredded the Titans for 334 yards and 4 TDs. Landry is firmly cemented as Mayfield’s go-to target and easily leads the team in target share (28%) since they lost Odell Beckham for the season. Landry will be tough to play next week when the Browns face the Ravens, but his schedule in Week 15-16 is amazing (vs. Giants and Jets). (GB)
Corey Davis (TEN) — Is Davis having the quietest fourth year breakout from a WR ever? It sure feels that way. After demolishing the Browns for 11/182/1, Davis has now cleared 60 yards or scored a touchdown in seven of his 8 games this year. And since returning from injury in Week 7, Davis is putting up 5.4 receptions and 85 yards per game. It’s unlikely you drafted Davis at all in your leagues, but if you picked up him off of the wire, you’ve been treated with a legitimately high-ceiling WR3. And more good news: The Titans schedule during the playoffs is a cakewalk (vs. Jaguars, Lions, and Packers). (GB)
Darren Waller (LV) — Waller snapped out of a small funk in grand fashion by exploding for 13/200/2 receiving for 45 FP against the Jets in Week 13. Waller had a combined 197 receiving yards in Weeks 7-12 as he finished with 37 or fewer yards in four of his last five games. Derek Carr’s wide receivers are clearly better this season compared to 2019, but Nelson Agholor and Henry Ruggs have been far from consistent options. With the Raiders struggling to run the rock recently, Carr could really lean into the TE1 in the final three weeks of the fantasy playoffs (Ind, LAC, Mia) with the Raiders pushing for the postseason. (TB)
T.J. Hockenson — Kenny Golladay is seemingly getting no closer to a return off of the hip injury he initially suffered in Week 8. He failed to practice last week, which means he could be staring at his sixth consecutive absence this week with the Lions in no rush to get him back on the field with nothing to play for. Hockenson’s fantasy owners wouldn’t mind another absence (or three) after he posted 7/84 receiving on nine targets against the Bears in Week 13. Hockenson is now averaging 5.0/59.7/.2 receiving on 7.7 targets per game in the last six weeks since Golladay initially suffered his hip injury. Hockenson averaged just 3.3/34.5/.8 receiving and 5.5 targets per game in four games with Golladay in the lineup in Weeks 3-7. Hockenson is a top-five TE option for as long as Golladay is out of the lineup in the fantasy playoffs (GB, @Ten, TB). (TB)
Robert Tonyan (GB) — Tonyan has filled the role of “Aaron Rodgers receiver who always seems to be impossibly open for a touchdown” admirably this season. After posting 4/39/1 receiving on 5 targets against the Eagles in Week 13, Tonyan has now scored in three straight games (he was wide-ass open on a blown coverage for a 25-yard score against Philly), has seen exactly 5 targets in three straight games, and could become more important to the Packers’ attack if fellow TE Jace Sternberger has to miss any time with the concussion he suffered against the Eagles. Tonyan isn’t dominating out there, but consistency is good enough to plug him into your lineup every week with Rodgers playing MVP-level ball. (Joe Dolan)
Mike Gesicki (Mia) — It has been an up-and-down year for Gesicki, but he’s quietly come on as of late with 40 yards or a touchdown in now five-straight games. This past week, Gesicki had one of his best outings of the season, ripping the Bengals for 9/88/1. Tua Tagovailoa funneled a team-high 11 targets Gesicki’s way in his return and Tua’s style of play lends itself more towards Gesicki. Whereas Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield and outside of the numbers to DeVante Parker, Tua is far more conservative. We’ll be ranking Gesicki on the low-end TE1 range throughout the fantasy playoffs. (GB)
Players about whom we’re feeling less optimistic based on recent play or news.
Kyler Murray (Ari) — Murray hasn’t been the same fantasy option in the last three weeks since he injured his throwing shoulder against the Seahawks in Week 11. Murray has also faced three of the NFL’s best coaching staffs in the Seahawks, the Patriots, and the Rams in his last three games so the league might also be coming up with ways to contain him in the pocket. Kyler has run just five times in each of his last three games for a combined 61 rushing yards after he ran 10+ times for 60+ yards in each of his four previous games. Murray’s aDOT has also sat under seven yards in each of his last three games, which includes his 6.2 aDOT against the Rams in Week 13, which has dropped his season average down to 7.8 yards. No matter what the cause(s) are for Kyler’s downturn in play, he could have a tough time turning his game around in the fantasy playoffs against a tough closing schedule (@NYG, Phi, SF). Kyler is still one of the better fantasy QBs, but he’s no longer the lock to be a top-five option each week that he once was earlier this season. (TB)
Russell Wilson (Sea) — Wilson played poorly by his standards in a loss to the Giants in Week 13, going 27/43 for 263 yards with a TD, a pick (off Chris Carson’s hands, to be fair to Russ), a fumble lost, and 7/45 rushing. It’s a troubling continuation of a month-long trend that has seen Wilson account for a total of 4 TDs in his last four games combined, and 7 TDs to 9 turnovers over his last five games, dating back to Week 9’s loss to the Bills. Over that span, he is QB14 in FPG at 19.2, which is less than Joe Flacco averaged in his last two starts (19.3). So Wilson is still putting up decent enough numbers to keep starting him, but at the current trend, he will have yet another season in which he fails to garner a single MVP vote. Maybe WR Tyler Lockett being banged up is having a serious negative effect, but Russ has played much better football than this. Career history suggests he’s bound to rebound, but this slump is coming at the worst possible time for both the Seahawks and for fantasy football. The good news? A game with the Jets looms. If that isn’t a slumpbreaker, nothing will be. (JD)
Carson Wentz (Phi) — We’ve dragged Wentz enough in this space the last few weeks, but his benching in Week 13 is both a long time coming and something that feels like the organization failed to avoid based on its roster moves the last couple years. Whatever the case, Jalen Hurts almost certainly gives the Eagles a better chance to move the football, though a game against the Saints in Week 14 will be a rude welcoming for Hurts if indeed Doug Pederson decides to give Wentz the mental break he so clearly needs. Pederson told reporters on Monday that he hasn’t yet made a decision on his QB, but it feels like he’d have said so if he was sticking with Wentz. Even if Wentz plays in Week 14, he’ll be looking over his shoulder and will be unusable for fantasy. (JD)
Miles Sanders (Phi) — The discourse around the Eagles’ QB woes is dominating the national conversation, but fantasy players are acutely aware of something else — why the hell don’t they use Sanders more? Against Green Bay in Week 13, Sanders carried 10 times for 31 yards and didn’t catch a pass (he slipped on his only target). He played a season-low 56% of the offensive snaps (for a game in which he didn’t leave early). Meanwhile, the Eagles rotated in Boston Scott and Jordan Howard. The entire offense is broken and maybe Jalen Hurts gives them a spark if indeed he starts in Week 14, but you’d think the Eagles would try to get their explosive young RB into more of a rhythm. (JD)
Todd Gurley (Atl) — Gurley missed Week 12 with a knee injury and returned in Week 13 to put together his worst game of the year. He carried the ball 8 times for 16 yards and added 1 catch for 4 yards (it was, at least, his most receiving yards in a game since Week 7). He played a season-low 33% of the offensive snaps, while both Brian Hill and Ito Smith were more effective. Gurley has averaged over 3.0 YPC in a game just once in the last six games, and he’s missed a game in that stretch as well. Gurley’s only utility is falling into the end zone from a yard or two out. Is that enough to justify putting him in your lineup? (JD)
Darrell Henderson (LAR) — Cam Akers has vaulted to the top of the Rams’ rushing game pecking order ahead of Henderson and Malcolm Brown since Los Angeles’ Week 9 bye. Akers dominated the work (22/94/2 scrimmage) and the snaps (63% share) against the Cardinals in Week 13, which was certainly aided by Henderson leaving for a stretch of time with a knee injury. Henderson is still in the mix as he did come back to total 5/74/1 scrimmage, but we’ll see how his knee is feeling this week once the adrenaline wears off as the Rams have a quick turnaround to play on Thursday Night Football against the Patriots. HC Sean McVay is likely to still feature his three backs going forward, but Henderson isn’t a player to trust down the stretch (NE, NYJ, @Sea) with his role shrinking despite his 15.4 FP last week. (TB)
Christian Kirk (Ari) — Kirk’s production has completely dried up over the four weeks after he rode touchdown momentum to three straight games with 20+ FP in Weeks 6-9. He hit rock bottom against the Rams last week with just a two-yard catch on three targets, which gives him just 12/98/0 receiving on 21 targets in Weeks 10-13. Kirk clearly goes as Kyler Murray goes, and his quarterback hasn’t been the same player since he suffered a throwing shoulder injury early against the Seahawks in Week 11. Murray’s aDOT has rested under seven yards in each of his last three games, which includes his 6.2 aDOT against the Rams in Week 13, which has dropped his season average down to 7.8 yards. With Murray struggling, Kirk is back to being more of a bust on the boom-or-bust scale, and his fantasy playoff schedule (@NYG, Phi, SF) doesn’t offer up obvious bounce-back spots. (TB)
Jerry Jeudy (Den) — Like, at this point, you know when you can just bench a guy and ignore him the rest of the season. Jeudy is there, with just three weeks left in the fantasy campaign and having caught just 1 pass for 5 yards the last two weeks combined (although just one of those games was played with an NFL QB). Jeudy has shown proficiency as a route runner, but his hands have been suspect and QB Drew Lock often misses him when he does get open. There’s promise here, but it’s probably going to need to wait until 2021 for anything to come to fruition. (JD)
DeVante Parker (Mia) — One thing is for sure: Parker needs Ryan Fitzpatrick back under center. This is by no means a shot at Tua Tagovailoa in his young career, but the elder Fitzmagic is just a better quarterback than Tua is right now. And it’s showing up with DeVante Parker. It was nice to see Tua try to hit Parker on a few end-zone fades this past week but it still doesn’t take away from Parker’s horrific splits without his guy Fitz. This season, Parker is averaging 5.7 receptions and 74.7 yards per game with Fitzmagic under center versus just 3.7 receptions and 38.2 yards per game with Tua. Yikes. With two tougher matchups coming up next against the Chiefs and Patriots in Week 14-15, Parker is going to be a touchdown-or-bust WR3. (GB)
D.J. Chark (Jax) — This has been a season to forget for Chark so far. After breaking out for a monster 73/1,008/8 in 15 games in 2019, Chark has dealt with multiple injuries and multiple quarterbacks all year long. After missing Week 12 with a ribs injury, Chark came back this week and posted just 2/41 on 7 targets against the Vikings. Granted, this was Chark’s first ever start with Mike Glennon under center and the two probably haven’t had nearly enough time to gel. In theory, Glennon’s presence bodes well for Chark because he’s been so willing to air it out and push the ball downfield. But, this week marked the sixth time Chark has been held under 50 yards and his eighth game of the year where he’s failed to finish as a top-25 wide receiver in weekly scoring. The Jags’ are battling the Jets for the rights to the No. 1 overall pick and are going to stick with Glennon next week when they face the Titans. After that, Chark has two tougher matchups on tap against the Ravens and Bears secondaries in Week 15-16. (GB)
None of note.
Players whom we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade, but their situations demand monitoring based on recent play, injuries, or news.
Drew Brees and Taysom Hill (NO) — Brees is eligible to come off of IR for the Saints’ Week 14 game against the Eagles, though that’s no guarantee he will — remember, he has 11 fractured ribs. Meanwhile, Hill has played two very strong games in relief for him, and one poor performance in which he didn’t need to do anything notable against a Broncos team that literally didn’t have a QB. In terms of fantasy performance from the QB alone, Brees was QB14 in his eight full games, while Hill has been QB6. So Hill, with his legs, has been the better option. Meanwhile, WR Michael Thomas has had his three best games of the year with Hill at QB. On the flip side, RB Alvin Kamara’s receiving production has gone in the tank. The Saints can probably win the game next week against the broken Eagles with either man at QB, so we’ll have to keep an eye on Brees’ status this week given the fantasy implications across the board. (JD)
Justin Herbert (LAC) — The Chargers were thoroughly embarrassed against the Patriots as HC Anthony Lynn was out-coached in every department in their 45-0 loss. Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense had no answers for Bill Belichick’s different looks, their defense couldn’t get off the field, and their special teams were an absolute disaster. Herbert had his worst game yet as a pro, hitting season-lows in completions (49%), passer rating (43.7), and YPA (3.9). Luckily, the Chargers next two games are much easier and will offer up bounceback potential against the Falcons and Raiders. (GB)
D’Andre Swift (Det) — Adrian Peterson sounded the alarm last week when he told the media that Swift didn’t have “the same energy level” last week after the rookie suffered a concussion prior to Week 11. Swift, who passed through concussion protocol, ended up sitting out last week with an illness designation and that’s hopefully all he was dealing with last week. It’s been a frustrating season for Swift and his fantasy owners after it looked like the Lions had finally let the cat out of the bag against the Football Team in Week 10. He posted career-highs in carries (16), catches (5), and scrimmage yards (149) against a tough Washington front seven, but he hasn’t taken the field since then. If Swift is able to return this week, he’s unlikely to step right back into the bell-cow role he occupied in Week 10 because of his three-week absence. AD is likely to be a thorn in his side down the stretch (GB, @Ten, TB) especially at the goal line, but Swift’s role should be bigger than what he saw earlier this season to warrant RB2 consideration. (TB)
Josh Jacobs (LV) — We heard last week that Jacobs’ Week 12 ankle injury “looked worse than it is.” His ailment was either worse than it actually was or the Raiders decided to give him the week off going against the lowly Jets as he has been dealing with a number of nicks and bruises. Either way, the Raiders clearly could use him on the field after Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard, and Theo Riddick combined for just 23/67 rushing (2.9 YPC) and 3/10 receiving against the Jets in Week 13. Jacobs averaged just 3.4 YPC in Weeks 11-12 against the Chiefs and the Falcons so the week off could be what the doctor ordered. He’s going to need to be close to 100% in the final three weeks of the season against a tougher slate of games than most (Ind, LAC, Mia). Jacobs will be a borderline RB1 option if he can get back on the field this week. (TB)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) — Edwards-Helaire was “active” on Sunday night against the Broncos but didn’t play a snap as he recovers from a stomach virus — it was clear he was active only on an emergency basis. Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams both did OK in CEH’s stead, but nothing that would suggest he’s going to lose his role when he comes back. This team just doesn’t run the ball a lot, though, so he’s barely an RB2. (JD)
Brandin Cooks (Hou) — The Texans are down to Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen in three-WR sets next to Cooks so, needless to say, Deshaun Watson could really use Cooks in the lineup going forward. It appears he avoided his sixth documented concussion in Houston’s Week 13 loss to the Colts, but we’ll want to monitor his status this week just in case he has any late symptoms. Cooks took a big hit and appeared to lose consciousness for a moment with Kenny Moore wrestling the ball away from him for an interception. Cooks passed through concussion protocol and returned to the field to finish with 5/65 receiving on eight targets in his first game without Will Fuller (suspension). Cooks will be an upside WR2 if he can stay on the field in the final three weeks (@Chi, @Ind, Cin) as he’s the clear #1 option for one of the best QBs in the league. (TB)
DJ Moore (Car) — Moore, who suffered an ankle injury in Week 12 before the Panthers’ bye, might not be able to play in Week 14 for another reason — he will be on the COVID-19 list. There’s no word yet on whether or not he tested positive or was merely a close contact, but we wouldn’t plan on having him in fantasy matchups this week. (JD)
New York Giants WRs (NYG) — Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton combined for 6/66 receiving on 11 targets against the Seahawks in Week 13 with Colt McCoy at QB, with 4 of those receptions going Tate’s way. While things would look up for this whole group if Daniel Jones (hamstring) can play in Week 14, it’s also worth noting that Slayton — who has been dealing with foot and shoulder injuries — has caught 1 or fewer passes in three of his last four games, and 2 or fewer passes in five of his last seven games no matter the QB.
A.J. Brown (TEN) — This was a tough week to have Brown in fantasy. On a day where Ryan Tannehill threw for 389 yards, Brown flopped for just 4/87 receiving. He rolled his ankle in the first half and was never quite right after returning, as he fumbled twice and looked a bit gimpy on that ankle. Brown’s second fumble was truly heart-breaking. He lost the ball as he was reaching the goal line on a quick slant from Tannehill that ended up resulting in a recovery TD for MyCole Pruitt. Brown also had a bad drop on a deep shot in the second half. Hopefully, Brown’s performance this past week didn’t ruin your playoff hopes because his schedule over the next three weeks is golden: vs. Jaguars, Lions, and Packers. (GB)
Evan Engram (NYG) — With Colt McCoy at QB, Engram had a poor game against the Seahawks in Week 13, catching 4 of 8 targets for 32 yards, with an interception going directly off his hands early in the contest. Engram has struggled with drops all year, including some apocalyptically bad ones (like one that cost the Giants a game against Philly), but he’s seen 8 or more targets in five of his last six games. It would help matters for Engram if Daniel Jones (hamstring) can play in Week 14, since this passing game was terribly limited with McCoy in there despite the win. There’s clearly something to work with here, but Engram’s own mistakes prevented this year from being a full-blown breakout. (JD)