• Justin Dodds

Fantasy Football Heat Check - Week 7

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Over the course of an NFL season, many players go on hot or cold streaks for any number of reasons. Injuries may push them to the top of the depth chart, being the target of a few big plays may inflate their numbers, or they might get a few good matchups in a row which makes them seem as though they are playing better than they are. It is important to recognize these trends and decide to either buy into them or look the other way. Are they fake, or for real? This will be the main focus of my new article series titled, “Fantasy Football Heat Check”, where I will evaluate some player trends, good or bad, and predict the future of their fantasy football production. Will a player continue to dominate, continue to be irrelevant, or turn it all around?

Let’s get into it.

Heating Up 🔥

WR: Tee Higgins, CIN

Higgins has been the emerging star the Bengals hoped for when they drafted him in the second round of last year's draft. Since seeing virtually no usage in Week 1, Higgins ranks 13th in total yards, and 6th in total air yards among wide receivers from Weeks 2-6. These rankings are better than guys like Thielen, McLaurin, Moore, Kupp, Parker, and even Tyreek Hill.

What’s made this more impressive is the competition he has faced while performing this way (BAL, IND, JAX, PHI). Tee Higgins is essentially taking over the role we thought was reserved for AJ Green back in the off-season. Higgins will see two soft matchups back to back in the Browns and the Titans, who rank as the 4th and 8th best matchups for wide receivers. In the recent 5 games, Higgins ranks as the WR23 in half-PPR scoring, and I think it’s reasonable to expect this kind of production going forward, however, these next two games have boom potential written all over them for Higgins.

RB: David Montgomery, CHI

Since Tarik Cohen went down to an ACL tear in Week 3, David Montgomery has seemingly absorbed Cohen’s role and ran with it. What was telling for me is that around this time, Devonta Freeman was still looking for a job, and the Bears chose to stick with Montgomery as a workhorse, rather than bring someone in to lighten the load. This proved the coaching staff has confidence in Montgomery and was further proved in the following weeks when Montgomery’s snap counts went from about 50% between Weeks 1-3 to about 85% from Weeks 4-6. One of the knocks on Montgomery’s fantasy value was his lack of involvement in the passing game, which has also since been improved, averaging nearly 5 targets per game (9th among RBs) in that same timeframe. Montgomery has a tough next two games (23rd (LAR), and 20th (NO) best for RBs), but after his Week 11 bye, Montgomery has four of his next five games against bottom five defenses against Running Backs. This makes Montgomery a debatable weekly RB1 after his bye week. See if you can buy-low on Montgomery after his Week 8 matchup, if not right now.

QB: Matt Ryan, ATL

If you read my buy-low/sell-high article last week, I’m sure you saw this victory lap coming. Ryan’s 31 fantasy points last week was his best outing thus far confirming my thoughts on Ryan, and the Falcons in general. After the firing of long-time coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons, and Matt Ryan, seemed like a completely different team.

Yes, they played the Vikings defense, comparable to a CFL defense, but that sort of competition isn’t over just yet. Matt Ryan will now see an average or better matchup in six of his next nine matchups, with two of those six being bottom five defenses versus Quarterbacks (NO and LAC). On top of the easy matchups, Ryan and the Falcons are all playing for their jobs as rumors have been swirling that the team is considering a rebuild, and likely excluding Matt Ryan from their future plans. Knowing this should give Ryan some unnecessary extra motivation to compete at a high level against subpar competition. Ryan should be a QB1 in all of his six easy matchups, and potentially even in the difficult ones.

TE: Rob Gronkowski, TB

After whining like a child on Twitter without any shame, my requests for more Gronk usage have seemingly been answered.

Since being targeted just four times in Weeks 1 and 2 combined, Gronk has seen 24 targets from Weeks 3-6 (6 target average) combined, good for the 6th highest total among TEs in that timeframe. Gronk’s snap count has been over 80% in each of his last 4 games (didn’t have that in either Week 1 or 2), and whether or not that is because of OJ Howard getting injured, the fact remains that Gronk’s targets and snap counts are among the best for tight ends. The kind of usage Gronk is getting is similar to what I believe most people suspected he would get when Tampa signed him this past off-season, which drove most to believe that Gronk would be a TE1 in fantasy this season. I think this trend will continue and Gronk will be in the TE1 conversation going forward.

RB: Jonathan Taylor, IND

Through the first five games of his rookie campaign, Jonathan Taylor currently sits as the RB15. While this rank is certainly an improvement on what people paid for him in drafts (usually around RB20-24 in drafts), I have reason to believe Taylor’s ranking may only be just starting to rise. After the Colts’ bye this week, Taylor will have eight of his next ten matchups against bottom 12 defenses against Running Backs. Yes, you read that correctly, eight of his next ten. Taylor continues to have opportunities stolen from him by Jordan Wilkins, who is a less talented back in comparison to Taylor. I believe come later in the year when teams are fighting for playoff spots, including Indianapolis, teams will put the ball in their best players' hands to carry them to the playoffs. Whether the team realizes it or not, Taylor will be their best asset come November, and I think this will push Taylor into RB10 or better territory. Down the stretch, Taylor will be a weekly RB1 with all of the juicy matchups he will face.

Cooling Down ❄️

WR: Julian Edelman, NE

Don’t get me wrong, I think Edelman is a very good NFL wide receiver, but his fantasy production has declined and will continue to decline in the coming weeks. Since starting the year off with 32.40 fantasy points (half-PPR) over his first two games, Edelman has since scored 11.52 fantasy points in his last three games combined.

Edelman has been on and off the injury report with some sort of lingering knee issue that may or may not be a significant contributor to his drop-off in fantasy production, but there isn’t really any light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately. Edelman will get an average or worse matchup in eight of his next ten games from Weeks 7-16. This does not bode well for Edelman, who is already suffering the consequences of an offensive philosophy change in New England. Gone are the days of nearly 150 targets and 90 receptions. The only bright spot is the fact that these matchups aren’t good for Edelman, or the Patriots as an NFL team. This might mean that the Patriots could be in a losing scenario in many of their upcoming games, which would benefit the floor of Edelman given that the Patriots would have to pass a lot more in order to try to win. Edelman should stay around the WR3/WR4 range for the rest of the season.

WR: Jarvis Landry, CLE

Landry almost feels odd to put in this category as this is pretty much what we expected from him to start the season. Many had Landry ranked around the WR35 in drafts, and he is currently ranked the WR43 in half-PPR. Landry is suffering similar consequences to Edelman, in that there has been a change in offensive philosophy to focus a lot more on the run game than the passing game, and for good reason. Quarterback play in Cleveland has been subpar at best so far this season, so that along with the fact that Stefanski’s offensive system is now in place in Cleveland completely justifies Landry’s ranking. Landry was dealing with some injuries in the late off-season and is apparently now dealing with a broken rib. Landry should remain relevant as a fantasy WR3/WR4 with a decent floor, but a very small ceiling.

RB: James Robinson, JAX

Drafted as the ECR RB71 in fantasy football drafts, Robinson has probably been the biggest overperformer so far this season. Currently the RB8 in half-PPR, Robinson has played well but things could turn around for the worse in the coming weeks.

Robinson is a potential sell-high candidate for me after Week 10 as he’ll get the Texans (32nd vs RB) and the Packers (31st vs RB) in Weeks 9 and 10. From Weeks 11-16 Robinson will get the Steelers (3rd vs RB), Browns (14th vs RB), Vikings (16th vs RB), Titans (22nd vs RB), Ravens (4th vs RB), and Bears (10th vs RB). Due to his opportunity count (targets plus carries), Robinson should still be a decent RB2 play in those games, but he will not be performing as his current ranking might suggest. If you can get someone to give up solid RB1 value for Robinson after Week 9 or 10, I would strongly consider that offer, especially if you’re making a push for a playoff spot.

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