Fantasy football in 2020 requires patience, flexibility, and a whole lot of woooooosaaaah. The most dedicated and passionate managers get that … since they continue to find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While there are times your roster may allow for snoozing on sleepers, it’s always beneficial to keep tabs on emerging trends and players. This weekly column is for those who understand the satisfaction of digging deep.
All of the listed players are rostered in under 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily game. They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks … but that’s what makes them so intriguing.
For the most part, my process was fire in Week 14. Mike Glennon got benched on the same Sunday Mitch Trubisky went ham, but that’s the Bears fan jinx. Speaking of which, Jimmy Graham got the TD but my guy Cole Kmet got the looks. After drawing seven targets last Sunday he’s on the streaming radar again in Week 15, especially since he’ll be facing a Vikings squad that’s likely to be without Eric Kendricks. My other TE pick, Dawson Knox, got big-time opportunities but couldn’t deliver and frustratingly whiffed on a would-be score. Meanwhile, Tim Patrick continued to stay clutch, recording his sixth TD of the season. J.D. McKissic also remained trustworthy, closing out the week as fantasy’s RB24.
Let’s focus on the future and see what fantasy damage we can do in Week 15!
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (29% rostered - $27)
After leading the Eagles to their first win since Week 8, the rookie QB is hardly flying under the radar. Providing an overdue spark to Philly’s offense, Hurts utilized the electric mobility that helped him set records and gain notoriety in college, rushing for over 100 yards in Week 14. While he only passed for 167 yards and 1 TD, his performance was relatively mistake-free, as he avoided a single interception or sack.
Heading into the second start of his professional career, Hurts will travel to Arizona to take on a Cardinals defense that’s allowed the sixth-most rushing yards to opposing QBs (Russell Wilson managed 126 total rushing yards over his two outings against Arizona). Hurts’ team’s secondary has also been decimated by injuries, as Darius Slay (concussion), Avonte Maddox (knee), and Rodney McLeod (ACL) are all expected to miss time. That should mean more opportunities for Hurts and Co to keep pace with the assumed damage that Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins inflict. (I am choosing to refrain from a “hurts” pun right now, lest you think I wasn’t aware of the opportunity.) Consider the 22-year-old a low-end starter (QB12-14) in Week 15.
Jeff Wilson, RB, San Francisco 49ers (44% rostered - $18)
“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” Not even fantasy is safe from a Groundhog Day ref. We did this with Wilson back in Week 3 when Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman were banged up. In that effort, Wilson posted top-10 FF numbers, finding the end zone twice. While he’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries of his own, Wilson has earned consistent opportunities over the last three weeks, averaging 11 touches and nearly 48 scrimmage yards per contest since Week 12.
He could very well lead the Niners backfield in Week 15, as Mostert is (you guessed it) dealing with an injury. Mostert’s status is unclear for Sunday, but the fact that he needed an MRI on his ankle doesn’t inspire confidence. Facing a Dallas run defense that’s allowing 5.1 YPC and given up the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs over the last four weeks, Wilson (who has additionally recorded three red-zone rushing opportunities in back-to-back contests) offers managers RB2 appeal heading into the weekend.
Lynn Bowden, WR/RB, Miami Dolphins (27% rostered - $12)
Ya gotta love that dual-eligibility. Despite being drafted in the third round by the Raiders as a running back, the rookie is being utilized by the Dolphins as a wide receiver. After numerous injuries and COVID-related issues thinned out much of the Fins offense in Week 14, Bowden emerged as the team’s leading pass-catcher (7-82-0). Deployed primarily from the slot, the shifty hybrid player excels in space, utilizing the speed and twitch necessary to fluster would-be tacklers.
DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant are both dealing with hamstring injuries, but will probably play on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite weapon, Mike Gesicki, is likely to sit with a shoulder issue. The uber-athletic tight end has taken nearly 71 percent of his snaps from the slot, which means Bowden could earn serious substitutional reps in Gesicki’s stead. Given the versatility he provides and the chess match that’s likely to ensue between Coach Flo and Bill Belichick, Bowden’s increased playing time could translate into top-30 RB FF numbers.
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (14% rostered - $16)
Julio Jones has been hampered by a bad hammy all season. He wasn’t able to practice on Wednesday and according to Raheem Morris remains “week to week.” Given the Falcons 4-9 record, it seems wild to rush the star wideout back. With Olamide Zaccheaus (toe) additionally on IR and Hayden Hurst doing a whole lot of nothing (2-16-0 over his last two games), Gage should see an increased role again in Week 15.
Drafted five rounds after Calvin Ridley in 2018, Gage has emerged as a reliable slot option for Matt Ryan, posting a true catch rate of nearly 85 percent in 2019 (and 80 percent thus far into 2020). Last Sunday the third-year player finished second in team targets, converting 5 of 7 for 82 yards. His touchdown pass to Ridley was, of course, the fantasy goodness managers dream about ... and can’t be expected in consecutive efforts. Drawing at least seven looks in three of his last four contests, however, Gage’s value in PPR friendly formats is of the WR3/flex variety.
Irv Smith, TE, Minnesota Vikings (12% rostered - $13)
After missing time with a groin injury Smith returned to the Vikings lineup in Week 14. With Kyle Rudolph (foot) sidelined the sophomore TE converted all four of his looks for a team-high 63 receiving yards. He additionally hauled in Kirk Cousins’ lone TD throw, recording his third score of the season (and over his last three games). With Rudolph looking unlikely to suit up this Sunday, Smith figures to be featured once again. He’ll face a Bears defense that’s allowed the third-most points to opposing tight ends and gifted Rudolph with a top-12 fantasy finish back in Week 10. #DreamAndStream
Bonus: Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams (48% rostered - $16)
Higbee has recorded a higher route percentage (53.6%) and drawn one more red-zone target (4) than Gerald Everett (46.4%, 3). So, I’ll give him the edge in a soft matchup versus a Jets squad that has allowed the most fantasy points to the position.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF