Happy Championship Week, Fam! THIS is the last week of genius tinkering (in redraft, at least). Of course, the most dedicated and passionate managers find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While some weeks 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.
COVID, again, made Week 16 crazy … but three of my picks still panned out. Tyler Huntley (COVID list) never made it to the field, Tyler Johnson disappeared and Tim Boyle sank Josh Reynolds’ (7-target) upside. However, Justin Jackson (RB2) balled out in place of Austin Ekeler (remember, you heard it here first), Brevin Jordan converted all four of his looks for 56 yards (TE13) and Evan Engram found the end zone (TE8).
On to Week 17!
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers (19% rostered, $20)
Full disclosure: I scooped Trey Lance off of waivers in a 14-team SuperFlex league in which I’m playing for the ‘Ship. There’s a chance Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) suits up, but if he doesn’t … Lance could be a league-winner.
The irony is lost on no one (especially not Dalton Del Don).
Lance has only made five appearances in 2021. He hasn’t seen the field since recording just five snaps in Week 11 at Jacksonville. Per Kyle Shanahan, however, the third overall pick has shown considerable improvement as of late. The team’s HC said that while Lance has been working with the scout team, “last month was his best.”
Lance has, obviously, struggled as a passer (51.7% completion in his only career start). But, for fantasy purposes, his upside isn’t in his arm — it’s in his legs (14 rushing TDs in 2019).
The North Dakota product has an opportunity to show off his wheels in Week 17 versus the Texans. Houston has given up the second-most rushing yards (2,119), is allowing a YPC of 4.7 to opposing rushers and has also gifted opposing QBs with the most rushing scores (5) on the season.
Surrounded by difference makers in the passing game and blessed with sick athleticism, Lance could be a top-12 play on Sunday.
Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs ($21)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was knocked out of Week 16 with a collarbone injury. Even though the x-rays on his shoulder came back negative on Monday, CEH is still expected to miss this Sunday’s game at Cincinnati. That opens the door (again) for Darrel Williams.
Williams averaged 13 fantasy points per game when Edwards-Helaire was out from Weeks 6 through 10. The backup RB was a top-20 play three of those five games and top-10 producer twice. Even with CEH on the field, Williams has stayed inside the top-10 in receiving yards (403), routes-run (238) and yards per reception (9.8). He’s additionally managed five red-zone touches over his last three games. Williams should be heavily featured in what figures to be a high-scoring game at Cincinnati (O/U 50). FF: 90 total yards and 1 TD
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3% rostered, $16)
This isn’t a RoJo take, I promise. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is simply the Bucs’ No. 2, behind Ronald Jones and with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) as well as Giovani Bernard (hip, knee) on injured reserve.
Vaughn’s hands are still problematic but in Week 16 he carried the rock seven times for 70 yards and a score. The Vandy product has also recorded 40 snaps without Fournette available. That’s a snap share of nearly 35 percent. That kind of involvement in tandem with a positive game script (-13.5) figures to buoy Vaughn’s fantasy stock again this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets have been the most generous team to opposing RBs, allowing an average of over 33 fantasy points per week to the position. Vaughn can be flexed this Sunday and is inside the top-40 players at the position.
Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers (37% rostered, $13)
If you made it this far, you probably either didn’t draft or dropped Robby Anderson long ago. Honestly, I would trust DeVante Parker and K.J. Osborn (as well as 45 other WRs) ahead of Anderson.
But there is some boom left in this early season bust.
The speedster has been on a bit of a tear since the Panthers Week 13 bye. He’s averaged 10 targets per game over the last three weeks and has posted fantasy relevant numbers in two of his three outings. Anderson will try (again) to rekindle some of the magic he and Sam Darnold once had this Sunday at New Orleans. The Saints have allowed the fifth-most receiving yards (2,583) to opposing wideouts.
John Bates, TE, Washington Football Team (0% rostered, $10)
John Bates has logged a snap share above 68 percent since Logan Thomas tore his ACL in Week 13. Many assumed Ricky Seals-Jones would replace Thomas in the starting lineup, but Bates has not only recorded more snaps but he’s also run more routes. Bates has run 55 routes (18.3/wk) to RSJ’s 46 (15.3/wk) over the last three weeks. He also out-targeted Seals-Jones in Week 16, converting two of three balls for 45 yards and his first career TD.
The rookie out of Boise State may not have ideal size, but he’s an above-average athlete with natural hands. Those mitts figure to work on Sunday when the Football Team hosts their division rival Eagles. Philly has been ultra-generous to tight ends, allowing the most fantasy points and 12 TDs (including one to Evan Engram last week!) to the position.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF