Can two rookie signal callers help lead your fantasy team to a championship? Can a turnover-prone veteran signal-caller emerge as a fantasy asset in what could be his last chance with his current team? Is a new lead wideout emerging in Cleveland? FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson has recovered enough from this Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner coma to tackle those questions in his newest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
We’re just 12 weeks into the regular season, but…
1. Can a certain rookie quarterback who didn’t start until Week 4 and refused a post-game congratulatory man hug from his former coach, Hue Jackson, this past Sunday help lead your fantasy team to a championship?
The Dude: Baker Mayfield
The Damage: During the Cleveland Browns’ 35-20 shellacking of the Cincinnati Bengals – the game was more of a Cleveland blowout than the final score suggests – the red-hot Mayfield tossed a career-high four touchdown passes and rolled up 258 yards by connecting on 19 of his 26 throws. Two weeks ago (the Browns had a Week 11 bye), Mayfield threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns to help his team down the drooping Atlanta Falcons. Since Week 7, the Oklahoma product has passed for at least two touchdowns in each start and amassed at least 215 passing yards in four of his last five outings. Is Mayfield worth a waiver-wire pick up? Can he help your fantasy team make a championship run?
The Diagnosis: TREND
The answers to those questions are “yes” and “yes.” He looks like a very serviceable fantasy QB2. Mayfield’s passing numbers from the last two weeks are clear proof that he’s improving. The rookie lacks a true go-to receiver (Jarvis Landry is coming off his fourth straight scoreless outing), but Mayfield is learning to spread the wealth. The rookie connected with eight different receivers in the Bengals game.
Mayfield’s schedule, however, has some potential pitfalls. In Week 13, he faces a Houston Texans defense (the Texans played Monday night) that hasn’t allowed a quarterback to throw for more than 241 yards or more than one touchdown in five straight games. Mayfield’s Week 14 home matchup against a Carolina Panthers defense that has been gashed by the pass all season. A road matchup in Week 15 pits Mayfield against a Denver Broncos defense that has been mediocre overall defending the pass followed by a home rematch with Cincinnati in Week 16. If you acquire Mayfield, keep in mind that cold and windy December weather in Cleveland, Ohio can provide an unwelcomed challenge to any NFL quarterback.
2. Can a certain rookie quarterback who started in Week 1 but missed four contests due to a throwing elbow injury (Week 7 through Week 10) and didn’t get in the middle of the Leonard Fournette/Shaq Lawson fight this past Sunday help power your fantasy team to a championship?
The Dude: Josh Allen
The Damage: Lost in all the hoopla about the Fournette/Lawson fisticuffs that took place in the late third quarter of the Buffalo Bills’ 24-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was a rock-solid performance by Allen, who made his return after missing five weeks due to a throwing elbow injury. Going just eight-of-19, Allen threw for 160 yards and one touchdown, but the rookie jacked up his fantasy scoring thanks to compiling 99 rushing yard and one touchdown on 13 carries. This isn’t the first time that Allen relied on a huge rushing performance to generate top-10 fantasy quarterback scoring. Allen’s production in the Jaguars game was almost as good as his season-best outing against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. He gashed the Vikings for 196 passing yards and one scoring strike, and 39 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Does Allen’s performance elevate him into the fantasy QB2 streaming mix?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes, it does – particularly in deeper leagues. I don’t see a ton of upside with Allen, however, because his passing skills remain a work in progress, even though he connected with Robert Foster on a 75-yard scoring bomb in the Jaguars game. Allen, hindered by lack of quality wideouts and tight ends around him, has thrown for more than 200 yards in only one of seven games played and has tossed at least one touchdown pass in just three of those outings. Allen’s fantasy scoring will remain driven by rushing production. On the season, he has averaged eight carries and 42 rushing yards per game with four touchdowns scored in his five complete games played. Allen’s Week 13 road matchup against the Miami Dolphins doesn’t look very appealing, but he faces intriguing home matchups at a likely cold and snowy New Era Field versus a New York Jets defense (Week 14) that the Bills crushed for 41 points in Week 10 and a Detroit Lions squad (Week 15) that has been cratering for a while.
3. A certain NFC South quarterback who has been in and out of the starting lineup didn’t turn the ball over during his team’s 27-9 home victory over the San Francisco 49ers, but can you trust him as a fantasy option for the rest of the regular season?
The Dude: Jameis Winston
The Damage: In the San Francisco game, he completed 29-of-38 throws for 312 yards and two touchdowns with…drum roll, please…zero interceptions and zero lost fumbles. It was Winston’s first game of the season with no turnovers and his third game with 300-plus passing yards and his second with multiple scoring strikes. Winston also poured in 24 rushing yards on seven carries. Has Winston finally turned the corner and re-established himself as a safe fantasy option?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
While Winston’s performance against the 49ers was very encouraging, one turnover-free performance in six games played (four starts) doesn’t mean that his mistake-prone play has disappeared completely. Keep in mind that San Francisco’s defense has intercepted two passes all season and was ranked 20th in sacks heading into the Week 12 games. Winston remains a volatile fantasy option and a risk for an in-game benching, but the triggerman also has fantasy QB1 upside. He draws a very favorable home matchup in Week 13 against a leaky Carolina Panthers defense that gave up 339 passing yards and two scoring strikes to Russell Wilson. However, Winston’s schedule looks really tough during the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, he draws a home matchup with a vastly improved New Orleans Saints defense. That’s followed by a very tough road matchup versus the elite Baltimore Ravens defense in Week 15 and a visit to Dallas to battle a very capable Cowboys defense. Can Winston keep up his efficient and turnover-free play in challenging matchups? We’ll see.