Looking for a quarterback to pickup for your playoff run? Is there hope for the disappointing Greg Olsen? Does Tom Brady have a new favorite receiver? Is there a new top dog at wideout in the Windy City? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson answers those questions and sifts through the fantasy aftermath of Week 12 in his latest version of the “Traps & Trends.”
1.HAS THAT DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACK IN SAN FRANCISCO RESURRECTED HIS CAREER?
The Dude: Colin Kaepernick
The Damage: In case you haven’t been paying attention to Kaepernick, you’ve been missing a lot. During the last three weeks, Kaepernick actually has performed like a reasonably solid NFL quarterback and has performed like a very good fantasy quarterback. Back in Week 9 versus the New Orleans Saints, he threw for 398 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 23 yards on five carries. In Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals, Kaepernick passed for just 210 yards and one score, but he also tacked on 55 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown on 10 carries. In Week 11 versus a New England Patriot defense that can make any quarterback look mediocre, Kaepernick passed for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and carried four times for 32 yards. This past Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, Kaepernick passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns, and toted the rock 10 times for 113 yards. In case you’re wondering, no, this wasn’t junk-time production. Kaepernick was holding his own, producing some nice statistics when it mattered. Is Kaepernick a safe starting option going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes. I don’t see anything fluky with his numbers from the last three weeks. Everybody suspected that Kaepernick would be a great fit in San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly’s college-style spread option offense. Many of you had understandably had written Kaepernick off because of his 2016 struggles and benching, and because Blaine Gabbert had opened the season as the 49ers’ starting triggerman. Kaepernick, in you’ve forgotten, had to recover from offseason shoulder/thumb/knee surgeries, so he fell behind during the preseason. Now Kaepernick is healthy and apparently has picked up Kelly’s offense. We don’t know if Kaepernick is auditioning for a job with the 49ers in 2017 or auditioning for a gig with another team next season. However, he’s obviously playing well right now, and we all know Kaepernick’s fantasy production gets a nice boost from his rushing statistics. The sixth-year pro would make a nice addition to your team.
2. THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS RACKED UP 49 POINTS AND FIVE TOUCHDOWN PASSES, BUT ONE SAINTS WIDEOUT UNEXPECTEDLY TOOK THE DAY OFF.
The Dude: Brandin Cooks
The Damage: Since Week 6, big-play specialist Cooks has averaged 5.5 catches, 80.2 receiving yards and 7.2 targets per game, and scored in four of six outings. That’s what makes his goose egg the biggest shocker of Week 12. As a team, New Orleans attempted 37 passes, but Cooks wasn’t even targeted. Is it time to send him to the end of your bench?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
Don’t bench him. I know Cooks’ stunning no-show probably harpooned your team’s chances of winning this week and likely dealt your playoff hopes a punch a huge blow. He disappeared in a sweet matchup just when you needed him the most. What happened? I honestly don’t know. As I’m writing this article Sunday evening, Cooks hadn’t shown up on any injury reports. He also played 49 of 74 snaps, which is close to the third-year pro’s usual workload. I’m going to chalk Cooks’ stink-bomb outing up to a good old fashioned fantasy fluke and urge you to start him next week against the Detroit Lions’ below-average secondary. I figure the Saints will grow annoyed after spending the week listening to why-didn’t-Cooks-catch-any-passes questions and do everything possible to get him back in the groove.
3. HEY! DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE THE CAROLINA PANTHERS’ MUST-START FANTASY STUD TIGHT END?
The Dude: Greg Olsen
The Damage: Even though the sputtering Carolina Panthers offense finally showed some long overdue fight during a Week 12 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Olsen turned in yet another disappointing outing. He caught just four passes for 45 yards on five targets. The sure-handed tenth-year pro also dropped a two-point conversion pass and let a critical throw from Cam Newton slip through his fingers during a failed scoring drive in the closing minutes of the game. Since the Panthers’ Week 7 bye, Olsen has scored only once while averaging just 3.8 catches, 36 receiving yards and five targets per contest. Is this level of production what we should expect from Olsen for the rest of 2016?
The Diagnosis: TREND
While there are a few favorable matchups left on Carolina’s schedule, I think we’ll see this level of per-game production from Olsen more times than not for the rest of the season. Olsen’s drop-filled game against the Raiders aside, opposing defenses have been focusing on him more frequently. Before Carolina’s bye, Newton targeted him an average of 10 times per contest, and now Olsen’s targets have essentially been cut in half. Newton, unfortunately, also has been targeting Ted Ginn more frequently, which didn’t happen during the first half of the season. I don’t expect that to change. Olsen’s upcoming matchups against the Seattle Seahawks (Week 13) and the San Diego Chargers (Week 14) are challenging. However, he also will draw very favorable matchups against Washington (Week 15) and the Atlanta Falcons (Week 16).
4. HEY! AREN’T YOU THAT WASHINGTON TAILBACK WHO TORCHED THE GREEN BAY PACKERS FOR 137 RUSHING YARDS AND THREE TOUCHDOWNS BACK IN WEEK 11? WHERE WERE YOU ON THANKSGIVING?
The Dude: Robert Kelley
The Damage: If you own Kelley, you probably couldn’t bring yourself to bench him for his Thanksgiving clash with a Dallas Cowboys defense that has been very solid against the run at home. Your decision was understandable. Kelley had gashed the Green Bay Packers defense one week prior, and he had hit pay dirt in two of his last three contests. Who wants to sit a hot running back? Kelley’s damage versus the Cowboys was predictably disappointing: 14 carries for 37 yards and two grabs for five yards. Should we expect similar hiccups in Kelley’s weekly numbers going forward?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes. Our worst fears about Kelley were realized in the Dallas game. As mentioned, the Cowboys played the run tough. Washington also fell behind and had to start throwing a ton, and Kelley, as you suspected, won’t be heavily involved as a receiver and will lose snaps to third-down specialist Chris Thompson. You’ll have to pick and choose your matchups for Kelley, and his rest-of-the-season schedule doesn’t look so scary. Washington will face a struggling Arizona Cardinals defense (Week 13), but the Philadelphia Eagles defense (Week 14) is solid at home. The Carolina Panthers (Week 15) and the Chicago Bears (Week 16) have looked softer against the run lately, too.
5. IS THERE STILL A FANTASY RB1 IN THE DENVER BRONCOS OFFENSE?
The Dude: Devontae Booker
The Damage: Even though the rookie runner continues to operate in a workhorse role since C.J. Anderson (knee) went down in Week 7, Booker has been largely disappointing. In his last four matchups (the San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders, the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs), Booker averaged 21.5 targets but just 75.8 combo yards per contest with just one touchdown scored. He also averaged under 4.0 yards per carry, and three of Booker’s last four opponents ranked 19th or worse against the run. Is this level of production what we can expect from him for the rest of 2016?
The Diagnosis: TREND
It looks like this is about as good as it gets from Booker. Don’t worry about Bibbs stealing touches. He’s not very good. If you’re thinking, “hey, the Denver Broncos’ offensive line has been struggling and hasn’t been opening holes for Booker consistently, I totally agree with you. However, Booker still should have done some damage in a collection of four previous plus matchups.” Downgrade him to fantasy RB3 status if you haven’t done so already.