Shawn Siegele combs the RotoViz apps and breaks down 15 of the most fantasy-relevant developments from Week 7. Why 15? That’s the jersey number of ultimate quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
For the second straight week, prime time audiences were treated to Mahomes’ genius as he threw for 358 yards and four scores in a 45-10 rout of the Bengals. Owners of Travis Kelce (5-95) and Sammy Watkins (4-74) will lament the lack of touchdowns for their key investments, but the Chiefs continued to look unstoppable. After a brutal early-season slate that saw Kansas City play many of the league’s best teams and often on the road, they enter a softer part of the schedule and should settle into blowout mode. The defense even took its turn in this one.
On to the 15.
1. Afterthought no more, Kareem Hunt is on the verge of stardom. When Hunt scored two Week 3 TDs, we asked if it was a good time to buy or sell. He’d only caught a single pass at that point and was sitting on five total receiving yards. Over the last month he’s added 14 catches, more than 200 yards receiving, and threatened to join the Todd Gurley/Le’Veon Bell tier.
Although the TDs are the headlining events, receptions create the fantasy juggernaut. Hunt was a whirling dervish against the Bengals, refusing to go down if the defenders didn’t wrap or if met by a single arm tackle, especially if that tackler was Dre Kirkpatrick. While he averaged more than 5.5 yards per carry, the real damage was done as a receiver, where he scored two of his three TDs, both of the highlight variety.
2. David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott both illustrated the dangers of a lack of creativity on offense. Johnson’s ceiling will be limited by the rebuild in Arizona, but Byron Leftwich should breathe fresh air into a stale attack. Expanding his presence in the passing game should do for him what it’s done for Hunt, albeit without as many red zone trips. By contrast, Elliott has outperformed my expectations this season, but defenses may be catching on. A week after their demolition of what now appears to be a swiftly collapsing Jacksonville squad, the Cowboys floundered against Washington. Elliott rushed for only 33 yards on 15 carries and caught just two of six targets. He already has 25 catches on the season, but he’s more of a dump-off receiver, making him more difficult to incorporate to dynamic effect than a Johnson, Alvin Kamara, or Christian McCaffrey.
3. Alex Smith just wins football games, and he does it in the least exciting way possible. Smith finished 14 for 25 for 178 yards. Without Paul Richardson, Chris Thompson, and Jamison Crowder, he had the league’s worst receiving options at his disposal, and he spread the ball out – in the same way that some folks make a PB&J where it’s really just bread with a hint of condiments – to Jordan Reed (2-43), Kapri Bibbs (4-43-1), and Josh Doctson (3-42). But Smith rarely makes the big mistake, and he moved to 4-2, keeping him above .500, where he’s finished every season in the last seven. His interception rate rests at a minuscule 1.0 percent, the same level that led the league in 2017. He’s been under 2.0 percent every year since his trade to Kansas City. To put that in context, Drew Brees – who will likely finish his career justifiably seen as the best passer of all time – has been above 2.0 percent on 12 different occasions in his career.
4. The Saints are playing with fire in reality by sabotaging Alvin Kamara in fantasy. The Saints stole a road victory against an elite Baltimore defense when Justin Tucker missed the first extra point of his career. And that means they probably won’t take the right message from the game. New Orleans began the game with a 20-play drive that gained only 64 yards but wasted over 10 minutes and didn’t produce points. Of those 20 plays, a shocking eight were runs for two yards or less. Because of those running plays, the Saints faced a whopping five third downs and four fourth downs on a single drive. The Saints understood the percentages – and the elite nature of their offense – in deciding to go for it on fourth, but they still made this drive extremely difficult on themselves. Nowhere does this become more obvious than in Kamara’s numbers since the return of Mark Ingram.
Kamara averaged almost nine receptions per game over the first month and just 2.5 since. Part of that can be attributed to the quick blowout against Washington in Week 5, but his two receptions in this game – offset by 17 carries – count as a big concern. Ingram’s rushing line of 12-32 really highlights how much damage he can do to this offense simply by being eligible.
5. Ingram’s presence also damages Michael Thomas, but he’s hard to stop. I’m playing against Thomas this week in my most important Main Event, so I was cheering the poor tactics of the opening drive and breathing easier after a first half with a single catch on two targets. Unfortunately, he came back with six receptions and the go-ahead score after the break. Part of this is the Baltimore defense, of course, but this type of production is still a far cry from the first month.
In the same way that the early-season explosion from Thomas and Kamara was unsustainable, we’ll probably look back at these two games and see them as a weird blip that occurred just as much due to Baltimore’s defense and fluky game scripts, but Ingram’s return has not been seamless. Any continuation of this approach will make it especially difficult for their secondary players, including RotoViz favorite Tre’Quan Smith.
6. Mitchell Trubisky took a winding road to his 35 fantasy points on Sunday. Outside of perhaps Cam Newton, it’s not often a quarterback scores 30-plus points without completing more than three passes to any wide receiver. Kevin White led the way with a 2-64 line after coming down with a Hail Mary on the final play, a snap that unfortunately ended with the former top-10 pick wrestled down at the 1. Trubisky needed that play to complete more than half of his 50 attempts, and he received little help from Allen Robinson. Already looking like a shell of his former self before this week’s groin injury, he caught only one of four targets and found himself on the sidelines as the Bears tried to rally late. With the Patriots locking down his receivers, Trubisky took to the ground and led the team in rushing with a 6-81-1 line. Faster and more athletic than his frame would suggest, he ranged far and wide on his 8-yard TD run, at one point backpedaling to the 30 before reversing field and following his blockers into the end zone.
7. Tarik Cohen isn’t Alvin Kamara, but he might end up being Christian McCaffrey. The Bears would have pulled the upset if Trubisky had been slightly more accurate on Sunday, or if his receivers offered a little more help, but the offense is finally learning how to deploy its best weapons. Trubisky thrived on 23 passes thrown in the direction of Cohen (12) and Trey Burton (11). After trying to emphasize Jordan Howard early in the year, the Bears suddenly remembered their offseason intent to feature the supercharged Cohen.
Cohen now climbs to RB12 with 16.4 PPG, and he leads the RB position in receiving yards since his Week 4 breakout with 280.1 Last week I accepted an offer of Cohen for a late 2019 first, and I expect that price to rise as the season progresses.
8. Nick Chubb Week was all we could have asked for, and now we’re asking for more. As Hasan Rahim, many of our message board contributors, and Zero RB fans everywhere – not to mention fans of good football in general – can tell you, Week 7 was Nick Chubb Week and the start of something beautiful in Cleveland. After Carlos Hyde’s mid-week departure, the runway was cleared for 2018’s No. 35 overall pick. He floundered early but picked it up in the second half.
Continuing to exhibit that shocking acceleration in such a big frame,2 he looked like a young Adrian Peterson in his first start. After plunging in from the 1 early in the fourth quarter, he was sadly stopped at one-foot-line on the next possession before a QB sneak from Baker Mayfield failed on fourth down. Owners can hope they’ll give it to their impending star in similar situations later in the season.
9. It’s one week against an atrocious Buccaneers defense, but this may be the offense we can expect in Cleveland. First the disappointment: Duke Johnson owners have to be disappointed that he earned only a single carry after Hyde’s departure. He did catch four passes, enough to maintain that flicker of hope but not enough to be fantasy viable. On a more positive note, the Bucs’ abysmal pass defense finally helped Jarvis Landry to the game his enthusiasts expected.3 Landry entered the game sixth in both targets (66) and expected points (107) but had underperformed by an almost impossible 30 points, culminating in last week’s debacle.4 He rebounded against the Bucs for 10-97-1, including a fantastic 16-yard score of the catch-and-extend variety that was reminiscent of his LSU days and offered yet another example of why the possession label is unfair.5 Landry’s 15 targets more than doubled any other Browns receiver, but David Njoku continued to emerge with a 4-52-1 line that included an impressive score in the back corner of the end zone.
10. Ronald Jones makes a brief but encouraging appearance. Carrying six times for 13 yards won’t quiet the doubters, including those among his own coaches, but he played in big moments against the Browns. He was the decoy on a key third-quarter fourth down and slashed in for a 2-yard score later in the drive. He also turned his lone target into a 15-yard reception and appears close to winning the receiving back role, at least on early downs.6 If Peyton Barber’s injury turns into anything serious, the door would swing wide open in Tampa.
11. The only people who can stop Kerryon Johnson are the Lions coaches. Johnson opened this one with a 24-yard run, but that was mere prelude to his 71-yard sprint two drives later. Of course, that drive ended in a field goal after an 8-yard catch by Marvin Jones and two LeGarrette Blount carries that couldn’t net the requisite two yards to keep the drive going.7 If anything, it was a disappointment that Johnson turned his 179 total yards into only 19.9 points. With Theo Riddick on the shelf, owners hoped for more than two receptions. But the larger trends are all positive. Although Johnson is slightly smaller and considerably faster, the stylistic comparisons to Le’Veon Bell look more accurate by the week.
12. True stars are finally elevating Detroit’s offense. Although not in the same firmament as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, the Lions signal-caller has carried secondary players like Golden Tate and Marvin Jones for years.8 Now the Lions are starting to surround Matthew Stafford with front line weapons in Johnson and Kenny Golladay, and it shows. After two desultory losses to begin Matt Patricia’s tenure, the Lions have taken three of four, with impressive wins over New England, Green Bay, and Miami. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Stafford continues to spread the TDs. Johnson only has a single score to go with 533 scrimmage yards, while Golladay’s score was nullified by penalty. Michael Roberts became the beneficiary in this one. With only a single catch entering the game, the 2017 fourth-round pick blew up for 3-48-2. Roberts finished his college career with 16 TDs for the same Toledo team that boasted Kareem Hunt, five more than the Chiefs star scored that season.
Roberts’ performance leaves us with these amusing results if we have no target minimum.
13. Brock Osweiler may have found a home … and established himself as a quality NFL backup. Given his previous NFL performance, Brock Osweiler’s two-game stint as Dolphins starter has been remarkable. Sure, Osweiler wasn’t that bad when he temporarily relieved Peyton Manning on the Broncos’ 2015 Super Bowl team, but this is a guy who averaged 3.7 AYA on targets to DeAndre Hopkins.
Again, it’s only two games, but what he’s done with Miami is striking by comparison.
After burgeoning playmaker Albert Wilson was lost early in this one, he kept the offense more or less upright and found Danny Amendola for 6 catches, 84 yards, and a score. Most would struggle when given Amendola as their top threat, but he found Mike Gesicki for 44 yards, and lofted a perfectly placed pass to Kenny Stills for a 5-yard score.9
14. Kenyan Drake has clawed his way back to relevancy. The low-end RB1 tier may be next. Osweiler and Amendola impressed in the losing effort, but the Dolphins’ biggest splash play came on a 54-yard scamper from Drake. After 2017’s breakout, Drake opened the season as the nominal starter and earned double-digit carries in each of the first two weeks. He wasn’t obviously bad in those contests, but he lost the starting job to Frank Gore and carried only eight times over the next two weeks combined. Over that stretch he was awful, gaining only six rushing yards and finding a spot deep on every fantasy bench, if not the waiver wire. But then a funny thing happened on the way to fading from relevance.
Drake never carried even 100 times in any of his four years at Alabama, and he’s probably not a 15-carry a game guy in the NFL either, but he doesn’t have to be. Although his production came in the running game his week,10 the Dolphins need his speed and receiving ability on an offense bereft of playmakers.11
15. Of relevance, perhaps:
- Adam Thielen went for 9-110-1 in a ho hum affair. TV producers don’t even have to reset the weekly crawl for Thielen.
- I’d like to see more touches for Wendell Smallwood, fewer touches for Corey Clement, and the complete absence of Josh Adams unless the Eagles are killing the clock late. By giving 21 carries to their trio of replacement-level runners, the Eagles cost themselves what should have been a fairly straightforward win – basically the Saints game but with the luck in reverse.
- Todd Gurley continues on a feverish pace. These are the top fantasy performances through Week 7 since 2000. It’s a little crazy to think of the fast start Devonta Freeman was off to in 2015 and just how dynamic that Chiefs offense was under Dick Vermeil.
- Most of his competitors have an extra game in that span due to his Week 5 bye. (back)
- His one step get-up-to-speed ability led to multiple TDs of over 40 yards against Oakland. (back)
- Or, more accurately at this juncture, prayed for. (back)
- The only receiver anywhere close was Antonio Callaway at -27 reFPOE. (back)
- If there was any downside, Landry’s second effort robbed Chubb owners of another goal line carry. (back)
- Peyton Barber was catchless on two targets. (back)
- But this one went so well for Detroit that it wasn’t even a good day to criticize Blount. He managed 50 yards on 10 carries and did punch in a red zone attempt later in the game. (back)
- After Megatron did the same for him early in Stafford’s career. (back)
- Stills may have only gained five yards on the day, but he showed plenty of class in checking on and delivering the football to a female security guard who was injured on the play. It was especially impressive since Stills was clearly shaken up as well. (back)
- He somehow managed only 15 yards on 8 targets, so, not entirely a clean game. (back)
- Drake climbed to RB16 with this performance and although his PPG numbers don’t separate from the 15 players immediately below him, he offers both a high ceiling and a low floor from here. (back)