Is it time to throw in the towel with one elite fantasy tailback? Are two new fantasy starters emerging in the San Francisco offense just in time for the fantasy playoffs? Is there a legit fantasy option in the…wait for it…the Buffalo Bills receiver corps? FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson tackles those questions in his pre-fantasy playoff edition of “Traps & Trends.”
1. If you own this elite every-down tailback, you’re probably not a happy camper right now after what happened at Lambeau Field this past Sunday. Is it time to give up on DJ31?
The Dude: David Johnson
It has clearly been a frustrating season for any fantasy manager who spent a first-round selection on this multi-skilled ball carrier. Johnson has underachieved mainly because he’s trapped in a very talent depleted offensive unit. The frustration hit a new low during the Arizona Cardinals’ road victory over the Green Bay Packers. Johnson surprisingly struggled against a 23rd-ranked Packers run defense that was keying on him, amassing just 69 scoreless rushing yards on 20 carries and a very disappointing one reception for three yards on two targets. Here’s the worst part: his backup, Chase Edmonds, vultured two rushing touchdowns inside the 10-yard line that could have easily gone to Johnson. How’s that for infuriating? Edmonds finished with a 5-53-2 rushing line and a 2-13-0 receiving line on two targets. Is the Cardinals backfield going timeshare? Is it time to bench Johnson?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
I know it has been a long and frustrating season for you Johnson owners, but don’t overreact and kick him to the curb. Green Bay’s defense was keying heavily on him but was playing Edmonds more straight up, which is probably why he was the more effective runner. DJ31 has been out-scored by another Cardinals tailback only twice in 34 career starts, which is why I don’t think you should bench Johnson and I don’t think this backfield is trending toward a committee. While I don’t know why Johnson’s usage as a receiver was next to zero in the Packers game, I do know that Johnson missed a blitz pickup in the red zone that got Josh Rosen sacked. Perhaps the Cardinals were sending him a message by using Edmonds in scoring position.
I expect Johnson to rebound in a home as the primary ball carrier and goal-line guy in a Week 14 matchup against a Detroit Lions defense that has been softer against the run at home. Johnson’s Week 15 road matchup versus the Atlanta Falcons is a plus one, but a Week 16 matchup against a Los Angeles Rams team that can quickly turn the game script negative for Johnson is a tricky one.
2. Who will operate as the San Francisco 49ers’ No. 1 tailback this week? Matt Breida, right? No, it’s going to be Alfred Morris. No, wait a minute, who was that other tailback dominating the touches against the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday?
The Dude: Jeffery Wilson
The Damage: The undrafted rookie out of North Texas saw his first action during the San Francisco 49ers’ 27-9 road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago. Wilson carried seven times for 33 yards and caught one pass for eight yards on one target. In the Seattle game this past Sunday, Matt Breida drew the start, despite aggravating an existing ankle injury in pre-game warm-ups. After Breida struggled (he finished with just five carries for six yards and three catches for 51 yards on three targets), Wilson replaced him as the lead runner for a good chunk of the game. He led San Francisco with 15 carries for 61 yards and a surprising eight receptions for 73 yards on nine targets. Breida, forced back into action when Wilson had to leave the game briefly, re-aggravated his bad ankle again. Are we seeing yet another shift in the 49ers backfield yet again?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
We could see a switch to Wilson operating as the 49ers’ lead runner – depending on the health of Breida. He has played through numerous injuries this season, but at last check his status for Week 14 and beyond was unknown. It wouldn’t surprise me if San Francisco finally parked in the banged-up Breida on the injury shelf and let Wilson “make the donuts” as the starter for a while. If Breida is out, Wilson is a solid waiver-wire pickup. His next two home matchups against the Denver Broncos (Week 14) and the Seattle Seahawks (Week 15) are both favorable.
3. This time last season, Marquise Goodwin emerged as the go-to wideout for the San Francisco 49ers. Is another wideout stepping up to replace him?
The Dude: Dante Pettis
The Damage: After sitting out three games due to a knee injury (Week 5 through Week 7) and playing very sparingly in three contests before the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 11 bye (he amassed just four catches for 12 yards on seven targets from Week 8 through Week 10), the rookie second-rounder his impressed two weeks in a row. Even though San Francisco lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-9, Pettis burned the Bucs for four receptions, 77 receiving yards and one touchdown on seven targets. This past Sunday, Pettis was one of his team’s few bright spots during a blowout loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. Pettis erupted for 129 receiving yards and two scoring grabs on five receptions (seven targets). Flashing nice run-after-the-catch ability, the second of Pettis’ two touchdowns came on a 75-yard catch and run. Is Pettis for real and is he worth a waiver-wire pickup?
The Diagnosis: TREND
While Pettis looks like he’s on the rise and definitely worth a free-agency add, the rookie comes with two potential pitfalls. First, in case you didn’t know, Marquise Goodin (personal) has been sidelined since Week 12 and Pierre Garcon (knee) has been parked on the injury shelf since Week 10. It looks like Goodwin and Garcon will remain out for a while longer. Even though Pettis obviously would face more competition for targets if either or both players returned, he’d still be worth a pickup. Pettis’ success has come with Nick Mullens under center. If the team was forced/decided to switch back to C.J. Beathard, there’s no way of knowing if he and Pettis have any chemistry since they’ve haven’t played a regular-season contest together. If Beathard returns, all bets are off. On the positive side, the 49ers’ next three games are home contests. Their matchups versus the Denver Broncos (Week 14) and the Seahawks again (Week 15) aren’t scary. A clash with the Chicago Bears (Week 16) will be challenging, but it’s not a stay-away matchup.