Is Taysom Hill a reliable fantasy option going forward? Is there a long overdue passing of the torch in the Baltimore backfield? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson answers those questions and gives us the latest injury report in his Week 11 edition of “Traps and Trends.”
THE SKINNY ON WEEK 11
With Drew Brees (ribs, lung) parked on Injured Reserve for at least two more weeks and possibly retiring to the television booth after this season, New Orleans fans and the fantasy universe were treated to what life after Brees could look like with Taysom Hill under center. With Hill “slinging the rock” during a solid starting debut, Michael Thomas finally returned to his elite-form with nine grabs for 104 yards on 13 targets. Hill, however, ignored the NFL’s best pass-catching back, Alvin Kamara, who was targeted just once.
On the subject of players with elite-form, Patrick Mahomes made comebacks look ridiculously easy, engineering a game-winning drive capped off with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce in the closing seconds to upend Las Vegas, 35-31. Derrick Henry gashed an elite Baltimore defense with 28 carries for 133 yards and one touchdown. Ninety-six of Henry yards came in the second half and overtime.
Nick Chubb gashed Philadelphia with 20 carries for 114 yards. Chubb has rushed for 100-plus yards in two straight games since he returned from a knee injury. By the way, the Philadelphia/Cleveland game was played in rainy and windy weather. It’s the third consecutive weekend that Cleveland has battled weather issues. Does Mother Nature hate Cleveland? According to a guy named Drew Carey, “Cleveland Rocks.” Andy Dalton doesn’t fall under the description of elite player, but he returned to the starting lineup and helped Dallas snap a four-game losing streak. He fired a 2-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz with 1:37 remaining to upend Minnesota, 31-28.
THE WEEK 11 INJURY REPORT
The preliminary list is arguably the shortest ones of the season, but there are a couple of high-profile names on it. As usual, keep in mind that some teams withhold injury information until Monday, so a few more names could be added:
QB Joe Burrow (knee, torn ACL)
QB Tua Tagovailoa (leg/foot)
RB Rex Burkhead (knee)
WR Julio Jones (hamstring, returned to game briefly)
WR Randall Cobb (foot)
WR Kenny Stills (leg)
TE Jonnu Smith (ankle)
We’re just 11 weeks into the 2020 NFL fantasy football season, but …
1. Can a guy who has operated as a Wildcat maestro and gadget player for the first three-and-a-half seasons of his NFL career step in and quarterback an offense for a playoff hopeful team?
The Dude: Taysom Hill
The Damage: Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill? After hearing conflicting reports all week about who would replace Drew Brees (ribs, lung, Injured Reserve) in the starting lineup, fantasy managers woke up Sunday morning to the reality that Hill, an athletic and talented fourth-year pro who had attempted 18 career passes in the NFL, would get the start over Winston, a sixth-year pro who threw for an insane 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns against 30 interceptions in 2019.
Passing his first test as a starter, Hill’s performance during New Orleans’ Week 11 home victory over Atlanta was solid overall. Asked to drop back and read coverages like Brees does, Hill connected on 18-of-23 throws for 233 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions (he did have a few notable misfires), but he probably should have been picked once or twice and was sacked three times. As expected, Hill impressed as a runner, logging eight of his 10 carries in the second half to finish with 51 yards and two touchdowns (he fumbled at the end of a 24-yard scamper) while leading New Orleans to 24 points against an Atlanta defense that has coughed up the most quarterback fantasy points. Can fantasy managers expect steady Top 15 fantasy quarterback stats from Hill as long as he’s needed under center?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
I’m a little skeptical. No, I’m not trying to devalue Hill’s performance in the game. The dual-threat triggerman exceeded my expectations as a passer even though he targeted pass-catching tailback extraordinaire Alvin Kamara just once. Hill stretched the field with his arm way better than Brees has in recent seasons and injected some life into the New Orleans offense as a runner.
However, everything was perfect for Hill in the game. He played at home with a fully healthy supporting cast in a very favorable matchup. New Orleans plays its next three outings on the road – at Denver, at Atlanta, at Philadelphia. The Denver and Philadelphia matchups are more challenging. Hill’s rushing floor gives him Top 20 upside for sure, but he’s largely inexperienced as a passer and could struggle slinging the rock in tougher matchups. If your fantasy team is quarterback needy, yes, he’s definitely worth a pickup, but keep your expectations in check.
2. Is there a rookie tailback staging a takeover of the Baltimore backfield?
The Dude: J.K. Dobbins
The Damage: Battling Pittsburgh back in Week 8, Dobbins toted the rock 15 times for 113 scoreless yards (7.5 yards per carry) and caught one pass for 8 yards on two targets, which Dobbins considered his best overall performance of the season. However, his effort against Tennessee this past Sunday was arguably just as good. Dobbins carried 15 times for 70 yards and scored his first touchdown since Week 1, and reeled in both his targets for 15 yards. Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram took a deep back seat to Dobbins in the game. Edwards logged three carries for 6 yards and wasn’t targeted, while Ingram, finally recovered from a lingering ankle injury, carried twice for 2 yards and wasn’t targeted. Is Dobbins emerging as the designated lead dog in the Baltimore backfield?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Out-touching Edwards and Ingram by a count of 17-3-2 in the game doesn’t mean that Dobbins’ name is cemented in stone as Baltimore’s No. 1 runner, but the team clearly wants him to stake his claim to the job. Even though Baltimore’s rushing attack was ranked first heading into the Week 11 action (mainly because of Lamar Jackson), it has been nowhere near as potent or consistent as it was in 2019. It apparently took some time for the Baltimore offensive coaches to realize that its cumbersome running back rotation. Baltimore spent a second-round pick to land Dobbins. Edwards is only 25, but Ingram, trudging through an injury-troubled 2020 campaign, turns 31 in late December. You can read between the lines as well as I can.