We’ve told you this before, and we’ll tell it to you again here: the best projection systems are accurate on the best players about 35-45% of the time, depending on various factors like slate size, injuries, weather, and proximity to unsanitary gas station food sources. When people say that “fantasy football is just luck,” well, they’re wrong. Fantasy football is about educated guesses, really. Just like there was no real reason that GameStop and Doge Coin should have been making people millionaires earlier this year, they nonetheless did make people rich. People are able to make educated guesses about the trends of chaos and say, “The risk of this commodity meets my expectation for value, so I’ll take the risk.” That’s basically what fantasy sports are all about: what player will you draft at what position, and how much value will they bring your team? And as much as we analysts like to say that we are certain about stuff, the truth is that the more uncertain and skeptical the analyst is, the more likely they are to be reliable over the long term. Analysts tell themselves all sorts of narratives in all sorts of ways to prepare for each week of fantasy sports: Rudy Gamble uses snap count data, I tend to consider how likely a player is to end up in a favorable game script, and Donkey Teeth considers how a player looks without their shirt on. And in a week like this — Week 15 of 2021 fantasy football for the SEO record — we find ourselves in a world of massive underdog narratives that make no analytical sense to predict at the beginning of the season. Craig Reynolds — a guy who went undrafted and for three years was unable to crack even the practice squad of teams that didn’t have running backs — put up 112 yards rushing as the Lions triumphed over the Cardinals and gained their second win of the year (not season…year). Aight, this paragraph is getting long. You get the point: the impossible was possible tonight. Tonight. (Now you’re singing it in your head, I bet) Let’s check out the rest of the players that you probably didn’t start unless you were in a 50,000 person DFS contest.
Duke Johnson: My dearest Duke — one of my biggest hopes of the 2020 season before he got Bill O’Brien’d and injured for the first time in his career — finally caught on with a “team” (if you can call the Dolphins that) and put up over 100 yards rushing and 2 TDs. Here’s the deal: Duke Johnson was much better as a scatback throughout his career, basically matching the more famous Tarik Cohen and James White over the past few years. But as 2020 would do to millions, the year took the scatbacks and gave them some injuries and setbacks, and surprisingly, Duke Johnson was the first one to make it back to the field. This week, Johnson returned to action with the Dolphins — who already had a fine RB group led by Miles Gaskin (who was recently returned from the Covid IL) — and the Dolphins handed the game over to Johnson for 22 carries. This is to say: so many teams are in the fantasy playoffs working with unassuming players, and you know what? If Duke Johnson is going to get some sort of tryout at the end of the year at the cost of Myles Gaskin, then by all means add him. Just remember that for every Craig Reynolds and Duke Johnson, there are D’Ernest Johnson and Alexander Mattison, who are just completely absent from the game when their lead back brothers are healthy.
Braxton Berrios / Jameson Crowder: When every analyst told us to add Jameson Crowder last week, Braxton Berrios garnered 10 targets. This week as everybody pivoted to Berrios — who did manage to run for a TD — Crowder got 8 targets. [Grey’s voice] VARIANCE. The Jets are very much in a “one player gets all the fantasy points” kind of system (remember Michael Carter under Mike White?), so be brave if you’re starting either of these guys next week.
Gabriel Davis: Davis had been a sleeper target for many analysts since 2020, but the problem is that there were more senior receivers competing against him. First there was John Brown, and then there was Emmanuel Sanders. And, by and large, Emmanuel Sanders was the better pick this year — Sanders has returned WR3/FLEX value, which is about expected. However, with Sanders missing time with a knee injury, Gabriel Davis stepped in during some big games and has put up 3 top 20ish WR games in a row, garnering 85 yards and 2 TDs this week. Davis has an extremely team-friendly contract for the next two years so he’d be a nice stash for dynasty leagues. He’d be poised for free agency at the age of 25, which could land him a big contract if he shows his worth under the Josh Allen-led system — and Allen’s already shown that he’s willing to put up big games with Davis. He’s still available in almost all leagues and is worth an add.
D’Onta Foreman: Speaking of ending contracts, in 2022, Foreman will be 26 and looking for a new contract. In Derrick Henry‘s absence, Foreman has quietly put up two top 10 RB games for the Titans, although he’s pretty boom or bust. Foreman will likely finish out the regular season as the Titans’ main RB while Henry sounds like he could be ready for the playoffs, meaning Foreman could be an extremely cheap dynasty acquisition target.
James Robinson: Well, 18 rushes, 75 yards, and a TD is definitely a successful return after the Urban Meyer debacle ended. Although the Jags were likely ruined for 2021 and beyond by Meyer’s “kick first, defend kicks later while hanging out with a naked bong man” style of coaching, Darrell Bevell will likely want to show off the lesser-known Jags players to see what the team has to work with in 2022. In my weekly primer, I half-jokingly said that Jags’ owner Shad Khan would ask Bevell to try out Laquon Treadwell and Laviska Shenault…and then Treadwell takes 9 targets and Shenault gets 7. Bevell’s job is to show off some Jags’ talent so that free agents won’t be horrified to join the team in 2022, but after the Leonard Fournette/Gardner Minshew/James Robinson/Yannick Ngakoue/Marvin Jones fiascos, I don’t know how any free agent looks at Jacksonville and says, “Yeah, I want to go to there.”
Pat Freiermuth: Everybody’s favorite feel-good story of a 2021 TE suffered a concussion was removed from the game. Friermuth is rostered in 70% of leagues, so maybe give David Njoku a chance to finish out the season…assuming he makes it through the Covid gauntlet.
Tyler Huntley: The understudy to Lamar Jackson struggled out of the gate against the Packers but led a 4th quarter comeback largely on his legs and tight end Mark Andrews. Although the Packers DEF basically opened all kinds of running lanes for Huntley to take advantage of, the game came down to a blown 2-point conversion when the young Huntley mistimed a throw to…you guessed it…Mark Andrews. Andrews was in double coverage with basically every Packer defender on their way towards him, so perhaps Huntley has some maturation to do before we can call him a good real-world QB. For fantasy, 4TDs overall and about 300 all-purpose yards is just the desert we all need after our holiday feasts.
Teddy Bridgewater: Taken to the hospital as a precaution for head injury. In his stead, Drew Lock came out and rocked a 50% completion rate against the Bengals, which likely means that we’ll see another 40+ rush game next week for the Broncos.
Jeff Wilson: The 49ers are gonna 49er. After letting Deebo Samuel cosplay as RB1 — and Samuel did manage a rushing TD this week — Wilson finally broke out for 110 yards and a TD. If you were starting Wilson, you probably knew he had a total of 139 yards on the season. Remember when Rashaad Penny topped his previous 2 season rushing total in 1 game? I know, last week was a long time ago. Now it’s Wilson’s turn…and Craig Reynolds and Duke Johnson and…
All right — if you’ve been following the news, you know that there are still 4 games to come between Monday and Tuesday. The Joey Wright will be recapping those games on Wednesday. With the wild week, we’ll do our best to keep up rankings and other updates, but please be patient if your favorite articles aren’t appearing because…well…the week is running into Tuesday. Have an awesome week and feel free to ask your questions of me in this post’s comments.