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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.
Aaron Rodgers (GB) — Rodgers has been in the news constantly for, it seems, like over a calendar year at this point, for one reason or another. This week, it’s because he played out of his mind against the Vikings in a losing effort. Rodgers went 23/33 for 385 yards and 4 TD, and apparently did so while playing through a painful toe injury. That’s something we have to monitor, though if he can play like this through that injury, we’re OK just accepting that Rodgers is dinged up. It’s something that Rodgers thinks he’ll have to play through the rest of the season, though the team’s Week 13 bye will come at the right time. For now, Rodgers is going to have to rehab to get ready for Week 12, and he’ll have to play in that game against the Rams without star G Elgton Jenkins (ACL). Hopefully, Rodgers gets LT David Bakhtiari (ACL recovery) back soon to help with the loss of Jenkins. (Joe Dolan)
Aaron Rodgers on his toe:— Justis Mosqueda (NFL Owner) (@JuMosq) November 21, 2021
"I've had turf toe. It's a little worse than turf toe. I'm just going to have to get through the bye...Probably the same schedule next week. Was in a lot of pain. Went into halftime early to get it checked out."
Justin Herbert (LAC) — Herbert did whatever he wanted against a beleaguered Steelers’ defense on his way to a QB1 finish (34.3 FP) in Week 11. He completed 30/41 passes for 382 yards (9.3 YPA) and three TDs, and his yardage total was the second-best of his career behind only his 398 yards against the Browns in Week 5. Herbert also took advantage of Pittsburgh’s man coverage that left him unaccounted for, running for a career-high 90 rushing yards. It was just the second time he’s run for 30+ yards in a game to start his career, and he could rise to the top tier of fantasy QBs down the stretch if he continues to exploit defenses with his legs moving forward. Herbert has been a little too hit-or-miss for fantasy so far with five performances of 17 or fewer points, but he’s shown an elite ceiling with four performances of 30+ FP. (Tom Brolley)
Jonathan Taylor (Ind) — We’ve been saying that Taylor has a path to be the RB1 since Derrick Henry went down for the year with a foot injury, and the second-year RB cemented his status as the back to beat down the stretch with his 53.4 FP outburst against one of the league’s premier defenses in Week 11. Taylor and the Colts’ offensive line dominated the Bills, piling up 32/185/4 rushing and 3/19/1 receiving in Indy’s 41-15 victory as seven-point road underdogs. Taylor has now posted 19+ FP in eight straight games thanks to 14 TDs in that span, and he’s totaled 110+ scrimmage yards in each of those contests. JT is averaging 24.1 FPG, which is just .1 FPG off of Henry’s pace in just eight games, and Christian McCaffrey (20.7) and Austin Ekeler (22.2 FPG) are the only RBs with realistic chances to run him down for the top spot with seven weeks remaining. (TB)
Antonio Gibson (Was) — Washington came out of their Week 9 bye determined to feed Gibson, and they’ve done just that with two good gamescripts to do it in. Gibson posted season-highs in carries (24) and FP (21.8) against the Buccaneers in Week 10, and he backed it up with another 19 carries for 95 yards in victory over the Panthers. He failed to score a touchdown and he didn’t catch a pass for the first time this season, but it was still positive that OC Scott Turner force-fed him the rock even after he was benched for the entire second quarter for losing his third fumble of the season. Gibson averaged 5.0 YPC for the first time since he suffered his stress fracture in his shin around Week 3, and he sits sixth in the league with 11 carries inside the five-yard line. This is going to go down as a lost season for Gibson, but he’s showing signs he could at least salvage some of it in the final two months against an easier schedule, which will produce more conducive gamescripts for Gibson to get work in. (TB)
Joe Mixon (Cin) — Mixon’s upside this season has been tied to his usage as a receiver, but he didn’t need any targets this week! The Raiders have struggled to stop the run all year and basically couldn’t get the Bengals offense off the field because Mixon ran it so well. Coming out of their bye, Cincy loaded Mixon up with 30 carries and he turned that into 123 yards and two more TDs. Mixon has now scored at least once in seven-straight games and has 10 total TDs in this span. Even though his usage in the passing game has been sporadic all year, this is the type of season we’ve long envisioned for Mixon. After putting up 20+ FP in four of his last 5 outings, Mixon is now the RB8 in FPG in both PPR and Half PPR scoring. (Graham Barfield)
Miles Sanders (Phi) — This is a tentative upgrade, because while Sanders returned to the fold for Philly in Week 11 and led them in rushing in an absolutely dominant offensive performance against the Saints’ top run defense, his career-long problems with ball security popped up. He fumbled once inside his own red zone, setting up the Saints’ only touchdown before garbage time, and a generous whistle for stopped forward progress prevented another fumble on his own doorstep. But overall, he managed 16/94 rushing, while pacing the Eagles’ backs in snaps. Moreover, Jordan Howard — who has been outstanding for Philly — suffered a knee injury, which could give the Eagles no choice but to keep feeding Miles and hope he hangs onto the ball. The Eagles are second to only the Browns in both team rushing and rushing yards per game, after being as low as 15th in that category as recently as Week 8. Their offensive line is dominant, Jalen Hurts is taking care of the football, and if Sanders can hang onto the ball, he could win leagues. (JD)
- Jordan Howard has a knee sprain. He's most likely out this week, with a likely chance to play next week.— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) November 22, 2021
- Davion Taylor has a knee sprain, most likely going on IR.
- Shaun Bradley has a shoulder sprain. Should be good to play.
PHI RB snaps yesterday in return of Miles Sanders:— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) November 22, 2021
Miles Sanders 36
Boston Scott 29
Jordan Howard 13 (hurt knee)
Kenny Gainwell 0 (inactive)
Miles Sanders says he won’t make any excuses for the ball security issues. Says he appreciated how Nick Sirianni continued to show faith in him #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) November 21, 2021
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) — Yeah, so much for the Chiefs resting CEH (MCL) through the bye. And so much for CEH being extremely limited in his first game since Week 5. Edwards-Helaire played just 47% of the snaps against the Cowboys in Week 11, posting 12/63/1 rushing and 2/13 receiving. Edwards-Helaire actually played fewer snaps than Darrel Williams but out-touched him 14 to 6, and Edwards-Helaire’s 5.25 YPC in a game was the first time a Chief lead runner topped 5.0 YPC since CEH himself exited the lineup. He now averages 4.8 YPC on the year to Williams’ 3.6, and while it doesn’t appear Williams’ passing-down role is going anywhere, Edwards-Helaire is the better runner of the two. (JD)
Justin Jefferson (Min) — Hey, we have no complaints about Adam Thielen, who was one of our premier WR targets this off-season and is currently the WR8 overall. But over the last two weeks, following comments from OC Klint Kubiak that the Vikings need to get more targets to Jefferson, the second-year star has posted 17/312/2 on 21 targets, ranking as the overall WR1. He dominated the Packers with 8/169/2 in a huge Week 11 win, and he could have had another touchdown if he didn’t celebrate too early and get taken down from behind. Jefferson’s 169 yards in Week 11 were his most of the season, topping his previous season high of 143 yards… set in Week 10. Jefferson is getting red hot as we enter fantasy crunch time. You can’t ask for much more than that. (JD)
D.J. Moore (Car) — Moore’s days as a WR1 have long since passed when he posted 15+ FP in each of the first four weeks, but he at least has a chance to hang around as a WR2 with Cam Newton bringing some stability to the quarterback position for the rest of the season. Moore had fallen below 10 FP in four of his last six games and below 14 FP in every game in Weeks 5-10, but he rebounded in his first full game with Cam, posting 5/50/1 receiving on seven targets (26% share) for 16 FP against Washington. Even in a one-score loss, the Panthers attempted fewer than 30 passes for just the second time all season, which is a bit scary moving forward. Moore is going to have to be efficient come through for fantasy since there will be fewer targets to go around in this passing attack, but at least 78% of Cam’s passes went to either Moore, Christian McCaffrey, or Robby Anderson in Week 11. (TB)
Chase Claypool (Pit) — Claypool returned to the lineup sooner than expected off of his toe injury suffered in Week 9, and he put together his best effort since JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder, IR) permanently left the lineup in Week 5. He finished with 5/93 receiving on an eight-week high nine targets (20% share) and he had a 91% snap share against the Chargers. His day could’ve been much better too, but Big Ben underthrew him on a walk-in 42-yard touchdown before he overthrew him three plays later on a goal-line fade. Claypool has found the end zone just once after scoring 11 times as a rookie, but his usage in Week 11 was promising and it could be a sign of better things to come in the final seven weeks of the season. (TB)
Brandon Aiyuk (SF) — After the first six or seven weeks, Aiyuk’s season looked lost. He was playing a normal, full-time role – but just not seeing any targets. The lightbulb has definitely come on as of late, though. Aiyuk admitted a few weeks ago that he was in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse because he was struggling in practice and that he has since turned a corner. Now the production is following. After catching just 9 balls for 96 yards in his first six games, Aiyuk has totaled 20/245/2 over his last four after having one of his best outings of the year against the Jaguars. The trust factor in Aiyuk is clearly back – he’s seen 7 or more targets in three of his last 4 games and has the same number of total targets (19) in his last three games as George Kittle. With Aiyuk back balling again, the 49ers have a pretty formidable three-headed monster between legitimate fantasy MVP Deebo Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk. It’s certainly been a rocky road, but Aiyuk has returned to good graces and could end the season on a tear with an extremely light schedule (vs. Vikings, Seahawks, Bengals, Falcons, Titans, Texans in Weeks 12-17). (GB)
Elijah Moore (NYJ) — There is no putting the genie back in the bottle for the Jets at this point. Even though he has clearly been the Jets best and most explosive receiver, this coaching staff refused to make Elijah Moore a full-time player in recent weeks. In fact, over his last three games, Moore was on the field just 50% of the snaps despite getting open at will and making plays with the ball in his hands. Well, the Jets finally saw the light this week as he absolutely shredded the Dolphins for 8/141/1 on a team-high 11 targets. Moore was involved on 85% of the team’s passing plays, which tied his season-high from back in Week 1. Joe Flacco obviously doesn’t have much left in the tank, but he can somewhat process the field and get the ball out accurately and on-time – which is something Zach Wilson struggled mightily with. Moore’s best play against the Dolphins was a 62-yarder where Moore beat the corner on a post from a stacked formation and out ran everyone to the house. It’ll be very interesting to see if Moore can continue his strong production if/when Wilson is reinserted as the starter, but for now, this upgrade is very well deserved. He could have a massive second-half of the season. (GB)
Zach Ertz (Ari) — Even with Kyler Murray (ankle) sidelined for a third-straight game, Ertz popped for his best game of the season – tagging the Seahawks for 8/88/2. After a rough 2020, Ertz looks rejuvenated out in the desert and is getting open with ease. With their bye coming up next and Murray likely to get back under center in Week 13, Ertz will be an integral part of the Cardinals playoff push. (GB)
Players about whom we’re feeling less optimistic based on recent play or news.
Dak Prescott (Dal) — Since the Cowboys’ Week 7 bye, Prescott has missed one game, played one stellar game, and played two stinkers. He was constantly under siege in Week 11’s loss to the Chiefs, with a brand-new left side of his offensive line — LT Tyron Smith (ankle) was out, and LG Connor Williams was benched for Connor McGovern. Prescott also had to play without top WR Amari Cooper (COVID), and he played the second half without CeeDee Lamb (concussion). The result was a horrible 28/43 passing line for 215 yards and 2 INT, and Lamb got hurt on one of the interceptions — Prescott threw the ball both too low and too short, and when making an adjustment, Lamb banged his head off the turf. The Cowboys have a short turnaround to play on Thanksgiving. Cooper is confirmed out (he’s unvaccinated) and it seems like a stretch for Lamb to play. So while this downgrade is very real, the hope is it’s only temporary. (JD)
Russell Wilson (Sea) — After missing five weeks with a badly broken finger, Wilson’s poor performance in his return against the Packers was somewhat excusable. Maybe he just needed an extra week to get back into the groove? Nope. Seattle came out flat and stayed flat at home against a Cardinals team missing Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Offensively, Seattle’s performance was absolutely putrid. Outside of a 48-yard gain to Tyler Lockett on an extended play late in the first-half, the Sehawks had no explosive element in their offense this past week as Wilson completed just 14-of-26 passes for 207 yards and 0 TDs. Seattle simply couldn’t sustain any offense against Arizona and ended up running just 49 total plays while possessing the ball for a pitiful 19:38 of game-clock. The good news is that Seattle gets a Washington defense that has struggled all year next up, but Wilson is extremely difficult to trust. (GB)
Zack Moss (Buf) — The contrast between the performances of Indy’s second-year RB, Jonathan Taylor, and Buffalo’s second-year RB, Moss, couldn’t have been more stark in Week 11. Taylor put on a performance for the ages with 204/5 scrimmage against the Bills, while Moss managed just 3/5 scrimmage against the Colts while losing snaps to Devin Singletary and Matt Breida. Moss saw just a 29% snap share and he’s now posted just 29/81/1 rushing (2.8 YPC) over his last five games behind a struggling Bills’ O-line. Breida finished with a 32% snap share and he’s looked the best out of these RBs over the last two weeks with 12/117/2 scrimmage, while Singletary saw a 38% share with a respectable 6/43 scrimmage against the Colts. This backfield is devolving into an ugly three-man backfield going forward, one that you’ll want to avoid unless this offensive line/rushing attack makes progress in the near future. (TB)
Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb (Dal) — The hope and expectation is this is just a temporary downgrade, but it’s looking like a longshot for the Cowboys’ top two receivers to play in Week 12. In fact, it’s a guarantee that Cooper — who tested positive for COVID-19 and is unvaccinated — will not be able to play, because the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving Day and Cooper cannot clear the protocols in that time. Meanwhile, Lamb (concussion) was injured on an awful throw by Dak Prescott, on which Lamb had to adjust and banged his head off the turf. With the quick turnaround, it’s looking likely that Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, and Noah Brown (the latter two of whom struggled with drops) will be the Cowboys’ top WR options against the Raiders on Turkey Day. (JD)
From @GMFB: #Bears QB Justin Fields had negative X-Rays and the belief is he suffered bruised ribs with more tests coming. Meanwhile, the #Cowboys are likely without their two top WRs on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/w6Ijhb4QUn— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 22, 2021
Tee Higgins (Cin) — Higgins has been a smoke & mirrors player for fantasy all year long and he bottomed out this past week for just 2/15 receiving on 3 targets against the Raiders. Granted, Joe Burrow only needed to throw it 29 times in the Bengals winning effort because Joe Mixon was running so well, but Higgins has now been held under 15 FP in six-straight games since returning from injury in Week 5. In fact, since Week 5, Higgins has played a distant second fiddle to Ja’Marr Chase as Chase has out-targeted Higgins 54 to 45 in that span. At this point, Higgins is nothing more than a low-ceiling WR3. (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.
Lamar Jackson (Bal) — Jackson had one of the more shocking absences of the season as he never could get over a mid-week non-COVID, non-flu illness to play in Week 11. It’s a bit of a disturbing larger trend for Jackson who has now missed six practices and a game for three different illnesses this season. Lamar is the QB2 with 24.8 FPG when he’s been on the field this season thanks to seven performances with 19+ FP in nine tries this season. Jackson should be back in the lineup this week against the Browns, but we can’t take anything for granted since he seemingly should’ve been ready for Week 11. We hate to roster multiple fantasy quarterbacks when we have an elite option like Lamar, but it might be wise to have a solid backup plan just in case he has more absences in the future. (TB)
Ezekiel Elliott (Dal) — Zeke has played through injury this year, but it’s possible he’s going to be limited on Thanksgiving Day with a nasty-looking ankle injury he suffered against the Chiefs in Week 11. While Zeke played through the injury and posted 9/32 rushing and 6/36 receiving, he looked a lot less explosive than Tony Pollard (7/50 rushing, 2/20 receiving). Combined with a knee injury he’s been fighting through, Zeke is averaging just 3.7 YPC over his last five games, so it’s evident that the injuries are taking their toll. Zeke’s now gone under 70 yards rushing in five straight games (he did it just once in his first five), and he’s gone under a 70% snap share in the last three. He’s also scored just twice over that five game span… both in the same game. He’s getting hard to back as an RB1. (JD)
Ezekiel Elliott took a shot to his right ankle on this play pic.twitter.com/D5drLdZim6— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 21, 2021
AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones (GB) — The Packers have one more game before their Week 13 bye, and the conventional wisdom is that the Packers will hold Jones (minor MCL sprain) out through it. In theory, it’s possible the Packers could play Jones in Week 12 against the Rams, but barring more updates, we’re going to assume Dillon will be the guy. In Week 11’s loss to the Vikings, Dillon played 75% of the Packers’ offensive snaps, managing 11/53 rushing and 6/44 receiving on 6 targets. It was a career-high snap share for Dillon, and a season-high snap share for any Packers RB. Jones had just one such game over 75% snaps dating back through last season, so Dillon was in rarified air as a true bell cow in this backfield. It appears likely to be short-lived, but if Jones does indeed miss next week, Dillon is a must-start. (JD)
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram (NO) — Given that Kamara practiced on Wednesday in an attempt to return from an MCL sprain and didn’t practice on Thursday and Friday, it’s probably fair to be skeptical of Kamara’s chances to play on Thanksgiving against a pissed-off Bills team. The short week likely makes it harder for the Saints to make a switch to Taysom Hill at QB, though that could well be in Sean Payton’s mind, and if Hill takes over for Trevor Siemian, that does likely mean fewer checkdowns for Kamara when he does return. In the meantime, Ingram is the (pre-MNF) RB7 overall without Kamara, so if Kamara can’t go on Thanksgiving, Ingram should be right back in lineups. (JD)
Cordarrelle Patterson (Atl) — Patterson injured his ankle in Week 10 and he nearly played on Thursday Night Football against the Patriots even with a quick turnaround to get ready. The Falcons ultimately decided to rest him after putting him through the pregame paces, but it appears he should have a good chance to play against the Jaguars in Week 12. The Falcons’ offense has been mostly anemic without Calvin Ridley in the lineup over the last four weeks, and they were downright apocalyptic with Patterson also out of the mix in Week 11. The Falcons averaged just 3.2 yards per play against the Patriots and they were shutout for the first time in six seasons. Patterson posted 14+ FP in seven straight games before picking up his ankle injury in Week 10, and he should go back to being an RB1 option if he’s close to full health. (TB)
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) — The Patriots’ backfield is looking like it will be more of a full-blown, three-man committee down the home stretch than it has been through the first 10 weeks of the season. Harris served as the 1A next to the 1B Rhamondre Stevenson as they alternated series against the Falcons, and Brandon Bolden stole just enough work in the passing game to be a thorn in the side for the top two backs. Harris finished with 10/56 rushing and 1/9 receiving on a 39% snap share, while Stevenson posted 12/69 rushing and 1/6 receiving on a 34% snap share — Bolden added 3/16 scrimmage on a 27% share. New England’s backfield is certainly subject to change with Bill Belichick in charge, but the rookie Stevenson has earned a significant role next to the effective Harris moving forward. The Patriots will continue to roll with their current backfield setup until one of these backs makes a mistake or two, so these backs should be deployed as low-end RB2s and you’ll be hoping for touchdowns for them to come through for fantasy. (TB)
Elijah Mitchell (SF) — Mitchell missed the 49ers road tilt against the Jags’ with a broken finger that required surgery on Tuesday last week. San Francisco left the door open for Mitchell to suit up, but wisely erred on the side of caution and sat him out. With Mitchell out, Jeff Wilson got the spot-start and turned his 19 carries into just 50 yards of offense. Wilson’s day should have been much better, though, because Jimmy Garoppolo completely airmailed him on a wide open, layup TD early in the game. Still, it’s a good sign (for Mitchell) that Wilson has struggled his way to 2.69 YPC on 29 total carries over the last two weeks coming off of knee surgery. When Mitchell is back – which could be as early as this week – I expect him to get back to his usual role. (GB)
Michael Carter (NYJ) — Unfortunately, Carter is set to miss some time with a high ankle sprain that he suffered in the Jets loss against the Dolphins. Carter was on the precipice of a nice little breakout rookie season and was on pace for another great game as he had 65 scrimmage yards on 10 touches before he went down. After Carter left the game, Ty Johnson led the way in snaps (15) over Tevin Coleman (11). While Coleman is just an early-down grinder at this point of his career, Johnson will now take over the majority of the passing down work – giving him a nice floor in PPR leagues. (GB)
Jets’ rookie RB Michael Carter suffered a low-grade high ankle sprain that is expected to sideline him 2-3 weeks, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 22, 2021
Marquise Brown (Bal) — Hollywood couldn’t get healthy enough to play in Week 11 even with a 10-day break between games — the Ravens played on TNF in Week 10. He at least practiced in a limited fashion last Friday with his thigh injury, which is a positive indication he could be ready to suit up in Week 12 against the Browns. Hollywood has quietly been the WR7 with 17.8 FPG through the first 11 weeks of the season, and he’s averaging 9.1 targets and 5.8 catches per game to go along with his career-high 13.8 YPR through nine games. (TB)
A.J. Brown (Ten) — Brown’s season has been filled with injuries and, unfortunately, he picked up two more in the Titans surprising loss to the Texans on Sunday. Brown left early in the first quarter with a hand injury, then returned to the game, and subsequently left again after taking a big hit along the sidelines in the third quarter with a chest injury. He didn’t return after that, but Brown did get some good news on Monday morning as his X-rays were negative. We’ll see what he can do in practice later this week. The Titans have a huge game against the Patriots next. (GB)
None of note.