The crazy Week 10 slate of NFL games featured many studs compiling very disappointing numbers and a large-number of second-tier fantasy stars or little-known guys racking up huge stats. Oh, the insanity. In his newest edition of “Traps & Trends,” FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson analyzes the rest-of-the-season fantasy prospects of two struggling running backs, two shifting backfields and a slot wideout that disappeared unexpected this past Sunday.
We’re just 10 weeks into the regular season and four weeks away from the start of the playoffs in most fantasy leagues, but…
1. Is one of the NFL’s most talented every-down tailbacks in danger of losing his starting job or his workhorse status at the very least?
The Dude: David Johnson
The Damage: A supposedly healthy Johnson (that’s sarcasm) picked right up where he left off against the New York Giants back in Week 7 (that’s more sarcasm). You remember the Giants game? Johnson took the first carry, rushed for two yards, and, not feeling right, pulled himself out of the game and didn’t touch the ball for the rest of the afternoon. After sitting out Week 8 and Week 9 to let a tender ankle heal up, Johnson, with Chase Edmonds (hamstring) sidelined, drew the start versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – and he disappointed again. Johnson carried five times for two yards and caught one pass for eight yards on one target. Will DJ31 get his act together and help lead your team to the fantasy playoffs?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
I should point out that heading into Week 10 action, the Buccaneers defense had allowed the fewest rushing yards and the fewest fantasy points to running backs. Kenyan Drake, out-touching Johnson by a count of 16 to six in the Tampa Bay game, toted the rock 10 times for 35 yards and six receptions for six yards on seven targets, but he wasn’t effective in this matchup either. I’m not a doctor, but Johnson still doesn’t look right physically when he runs. I strongly suspect his ankle is not fully healed. Edmonds could return for Week 11, but I’m wondering if the Arizona Cardinals will hold him out through the team’s Week 12 bye. With Johnson’s health and role uncertain going forward, he’s a very risky start for Week 11 versus the San Francisco 49ers. Will he turn things around? I honestly don’t know, but I’m leaning toward “no.”
2. How does one of the NFL’s most talented every-down tailbacks manufacture just one rushing yards on 13 carries in a game?
The Dude: Saquon Barkley
The Damage: David Johnson was hardly the only tailback to disappoint during the very weird Week 10 action. Barkley, after averaging a rock-solid 25 touches and 106 combo yards per contest and scoring two times in the three games played (Week 7 through Week 9) following an ankle injury layoff, dropped an unexpected stink bomb outing on fantasy managers this past Sunday. Facing a New York Jets defense that had given up the fifth-fewest rushing yards but also the fifth-most rushing touchdowns and the fifth-most receptions to enemy tailbacks, Barkley managed just one rushing yard on 13 carries and five catches for 30 yards on five targets. Is there reason to worry about Barkley during the closing weeks of the regular season?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
I don’t expect his production to stay in decline, and Barkley should rebound after the New York Giants’ Week 11 bye. In the Jets game, he didn’t find much running room because the G-Men were missing three starters on their offensive line. The Giants also got into a shootout with Gang Green, abandoning the run after halftime. Barkley hasn’t topped 65 rushing yards in the last four weeks. Why? The second-year pro has finally admitted that the ankle injury that forced him to miss Week 4 through Week 6 wasn’t fully healed when he returned. Just five targets against the Jets was disappointing, but I wouldn’t read too much into that right now. A hopefully healthier Barkley is a rebound candidate when returns in Week 12.
3. How does one of the NFL’s elite slot wideouts fail to log a single reception on four targets?
The Damage: Heading into Week 10 action, Kupp was leading the Los Angeles Rams in receiving across the board, averaging 10.1 targets and 6.4 catches per contest as Goff’s favorite target. That’s what makes Kupp’s totally unexpected dud outing versus the Pittsburgh Steelers an unwelcomed surprise for fantasy managers. As you probably know, he compiled zero receptions on four targets, which was a total shock. As noted, Kupp is Goff’s favorite, and the Steelers have historically struggled against slot wideouts. Looking at the rest of the regular season, is it correct to assume that Kupp’s fantasy floor is lower than ever before?
The Diagnosis: TREND
While it’s not all Kupp’s fault, he’s now more prone to a dud outing than he was in 2018. Getting back to the Pittsburgh game, the Steelers frequently double-teamed Kupp. With Brandin Cooks (concussion) sidelined and Todd Gurley not playing like his dynamic self, Pittsburgh was free to put two guys on Kupp almost regularly and not get burned by somebody else. Once again, Goff’s home/away splits were exposed. He clearly plays much better at home and struggles against defenses with ferocious pass rushes like the Steelers or the San Francisco 49ers. Kupp should remain a must-start, and he’s a rebound candidate. However, things aren’t so simple with Goff. I recommend treating him as a matchup play for the rest of 2019, even if/when Cooks returns. This 2019 version of the Rams offense is just a shell of the version that we saw from 2018.