Is one of the most productive fantasy quarterbacks in NFL history trending downward? Which rookie passer has made the quick jump from streaming to must-start fantasy QB1? Okay, you probably have that one figured out. Try these two: Which banged-up passer should you strongly consider benching? Which wideout that’s likely available on your waiver wire should get another chance? FantasySharks.com senior writer tackles these questions and more in his newest edition of “Traps & Trends.”
1. Is one of the most productive quarterbacks in the history of fantasy football trending downward and becoming a more volatile low-end fantasy QB1 now?
The Dude: Drew Brees
The Damage: Since Brees starting donning a New Orleans Saints uniform and operating in head coach Sean Payton’s high-octane passing attack in 2006, the Saints triggerman was an automatic fantasy start and usually good for at least 300 yards and a couple of scoring strikes per game. So far this season, however, Brees’ passing numbers have been softer than usual. With seven starts in the books, he’s averaging 278.7 passing yards (Brees has posted weekly yardage totals ranging from 186 to 356 per outing) and 1.6 touchdown passes per outing. Brees also has notched just two 300-yard games and has tossed multiple touchdowns in just four of seven outings. Get this: Brees is currently on pace to throw for just 4,459 yards, which would be his lowest total since 2009, and his projected 25 touchdown passes would be his lowest total ever in the Big Easy. Should we continue to expect volatile weekly production from Brees?
The Diagnosis: TREND
While he’s still a reasonably safe fantasy QB1, Brees’ production will be less reliable than usual. The days of expecting weekly 300-plus yards and two or three touchdown tosses per game at the minimum are probably over. The Saints have rediscovered their ground game, and – this is the big one – the New Orleans defense is vastly improved. In some games, the team has been content to rely on Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to pace the offense, and the team hasn’t found itself in many shootouts thanks to improved defense.
2. Who is afraid of the Seattle Seahawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom? This rookie passer sure isn’t. By the way, I’d still like to know why he wasn’t starting in Week 1.
The Dude: Deshaun Watson
The Damage: The Houston Texans came out on the losing side of their epic Week 8 clash with the Seattle Seahawks, but Watson, who was parked on quite a few fantasy benches because of understandable fears about a very challenging road matchup in Seattle, dazzled the fantasy universe with an absolutely spectacular performance. Relying heavily on his dynamic receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, the rookie passer lit up the Seahawks with 402 passing yards and four touchdowns against three interceptions (one was a pick-six). Watson also amassed 67 rushing yards on eight carries. By the way, Watson also became the first player in NFL history to rack up at least 400 passing yards, 55 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in a game. Just six starts into his NFL career, has Watson joined the ranks of the must-start fantasy QB1s?
The Diagnosis: TREND
I don’t recommend starting construction on the Deshaun Watson wing at the NFL Hall of Fame just yet, but the rookie clearly has vaulted from the ranks of streaming options to the ranks of the matchup-proof fantasy passers. The only possible hiccups on his schedule are upcoming matchups versus the Baltimore Ravens (Week 12), the Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 15) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 16). That trio of teams ranks among the NFL’s best against the pass, but I wouldn’t hesitate to start Watson against them.
3. Can you trust this banged-up quarterback in starting lineups?
The Dude: Jameis Winston
The Damage: As you may remember, Winston suffered a sprained AC joint and a bruised muscle in his right (throwing) shoulder versus the Arizona Cardinals back in Week 6. However, Winston started the following week and shredded a solid Buffalo Bills defense for 384 yards and three touchdowns. Even though the injury was still bothering him, most fantasy owners didn’t hesitate to lock the Tampa Bay Buccaneers triggerman into their starting lineups versus the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday. However, Winston’s play was absolutely brutal. Frequently missing wildly on throws and pressing (my polite way of saying he made some bad decisions), he connected on 21 of 38 passes for 210 yards with no touchdowns against two interceptions and one lost fumble. Can you trust the clearly less than 100 percent Winston as a starter going forward?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
According to Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter, Winston, “kind of re-injured” his bum throwing shoulder in the Bills game, which he, Winston and the rest of the team clearly downplayed. At this point in the season, some of you are turning your attention to playoff runs, and losing a game by a few points because your quarterback isn’t healthy obviously isn’t going to help. Downgrade Winston to a volatile fantasy QB2. Bench him, and make Winston earn his way back into your starting lineup.
4. Will the Jay-Train jump back on the rails sometime this season?
The Dude: Jay Ajayi
The Damage: He entered Week 8 fresh off a disappointing home outing against a forgiving New York Jets defense, averaging 73.66 rushing yards per game (3.5 yards per carry) with no touchdowns scored and just two 100-yard efforts on the season stat sheet. Some had thought the switch at quarterback from Jay Cutler (ribs) to a supposedly more capable Matt Moore would help open things up for Ajayi against a Baltimore Ravens defense that was rated as one of the NFL’s worst versus the run. However, Moore struggled way more than expected, allowing the Ravens to stack the box repeatedly. Ajayi finished with 23 yards on 13 carries and four receptions for 18 yards. Will he continue to produce sub-fantasy RB1 numbers for the rest of the season?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Do you hear that deafening silence? The people who had blamed Ajayi’s struggles on the less-than-stellar Cutler’s play are very quiet right now. While an occasional solid outing and maybe a score or two are likely during the second half, a huge rebound from Ajayi is unlikely. Downgrade him to low-end fantasy RB2 if you haven’t already.
Surprisingly poor blocking from the Miami Dolphins offensive line has been a huge factor in Ajayi’s very disappointing showing to date and can’t be fixed until the offseason. Yes, I’m referring to personnel upgrades. His lack of involvement in the passing game – the third-year runner is averaging two receptions per game – also will continue to result in a low fantasy floor for Ajayi. By the way, he’s not completely blameless. Ajayi, according to head coach Adam Gase, constantly has been trying to “hit home runs all the time” by trying to bust long runs to the outside instead of following his blockers. Ajayi has two upcoming plus matchups against the Oakland Raiders (Week 9) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 11) before his schedule becomes very difficult.