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. In Week 10, Alex Smith continued to lock in on J.D. McKissic, who posted top-15 fantasy numbers. KJ Hamler, additionally, led the Broncos receiving corps in looks with 10 targets. And Duke Johnson posted a David Johnson-esque line, finishing as a low-end RB3. Meanwhile, Jake Luton (who continued to show off his arm strength and push the ball downfield despite windy conditions) and Austin Hooper (in another *eye roll* wind game) were far from fantasy contenders.
Let’s focus on the future and see what fantasy damage we can do in Week 11!
Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints (27% rostered — $30) vs. ATL
Drop the crab legs and pick up the crawfish, it’s time for Jameis to become Louisiana Famous. In Week 11, Winston will take on an old foe, but he’ll be in a new uniform this time. In the seven times Winston has faced Atlanta, he has passed for under 280 yards just once and has never put forth a single TD effort. In fact, since 2016, Winston has averaged 299 passing yards and 3 scores versus the Falcons.
Life as a Saint — and playing in the stead of Drew Brees (ribs, lung) — is certainly different. But we know Jameis by now. We know the good (33 TDs), the bad (30 INTs), and the ugly (or whatever this is). We also know that the Falcons are a money matchup, as they allow the most fantasy points to opposing QBs. With the highest projected point total for Sunday’s games (52.5), Winston is a top-12 QB option.
Kalen Ballage, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (49% rostered - $16) vs. NYJ
2020 strikes again! With Justin Jackson (knee) on IR and Austin Ekeler still working his way back (but he’ close) from a hamstring injury, the Chargers have employed a kitchen-sink approach to the backfield. Over the past two weeks, however, Kalen Ballage has emerged as the primary ball carrier. Not only has the former Dolphin managed at least 15 totes in back-to-back games, but he’s also been featured in the passing game, recording 7 grabs over his last two efforts.
It’s particularly telling that Troymaine Pope (concussion) was active in Week 10 and Ballage remained the RB1, illustrating the likelihood that he continues to carry the load into Week 11. He’ll be in another revenge spot on Sunday when he takes on the Jets, a defense that’s allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game. FF: 101 total yards and 1 TD
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Miami Dolphins (55% rostered - $17) @ DEN
Imagine spending the bulk of your college career running behind a guy who you will eventually leapfrog in the pros. That is Ahmed’s existence right now. After spelling Myles Gaskin at Washington, the UDFA rookie now appears to be the Dolphins RB1. With Gaskin (knee) on IR, Matt Breida (hamstring) sidelined, and Jordan Howard a surprise scratch (who has since been waived), Ahmed had himself a breakout last Sunday. After being promoted to the active roster ahead of Week 5 and making his professional debut in Week 9 (a game in which he led Miami’s backfield in snaps), the former Huskie touched the ball 22 times for 90 yards and a score in Week 10.
Ahmed may not have long speed, but he does have burst ... and he can catch. He also figures to have volume on his side even if Matt Breida (who hasn’t topped nine carries all season) is back. Facing a solid Broncos run defense, the matchup won’t be easy, but Denver hasn’t been impenetrable versus the run. After all, they were gashed by the Raiders’ ground game last weekend. Ahmed has just enough upside to thrive inside the top-25 players at the position. FF: 84 total yards and 1 TD
Jalen Reagor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (25% rostered - $19) @ CLE
Reagor knows a little something about carrying a squad. After all, the former Horned Frog struggled with inconsistent QB play throughout his college career (via Eric Edholm and per PFF, only 30.4 percent of Reagor’s targets in 2019 were considered “on target”). While his impact in the pros hasn’t happened as immediately as many had hoped/predicted, there’s no denying his athleticism has given the Eagles WR corps a boost.
Since returning from an early season thumb injury, Reagor has flashed, drawing 13 targets over two contests and finding the end zone in Week 8. Those glimpses, which showcase his versatility and big-play ability, should be enough to do some damage against a Browns squad that’s allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to the position and has given up 18 receiving scores on the season. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the windy conditions appear to have blown out of Cleveland (for now).
Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (18% rostered - $11) @ MIN
Blergh. This week’s streams don’t exactly have me Grinch-grinning. The usual lower end starters — Logan Thomas vs CIN and Austin Hooper vs PHI — are, once again, viable. But I’m confident my readership is already aware of those players, their exploitable matchups, and respective limitations. Schultz, on another hand, is an option that has been understandably forgotten about. Not only has the Cowboys' offensive attack vanished, but the team was also on bye last week.
In the two contests ahead of Week 10, Schultz was either first or second in team targets, drawing 15 total looks. While Andy Dalton didn’t prioritize the TE to the same extent as Ben Dinucci or Garrett Gilbert, we’ve also only seen Dalton on the field for one full game. In that effort (Week 6), when facing a Cardinals defense that — despite being historically soft against the position — is allowing the ninth fewest fantasy points to the position, Schultz converted 4 of 5 looks for 35 yards. The stat line isn’t impressive, but a clearer picture of Schultz’s value is painted when noting the difficulty of the matchup as well as the fact that he ran 42 routes (for reference, Travis Kelce has only gone over that number twice all season).
The quality of Schultz’s targets has been garbage (TQR of 4.2, TE31). But he’s still top-six in total looks and top-five in deep looks. Volume is the name of the game, especially when you’re throwing darts at tight ends. Dallas isn’t going to get right in 2020, but they’ve at least had a few days to get healthy-ish. Facing a Vikings defense that’s faltered versus similarly involved TEs (Mo Alie-Cox, Jonnu Smith, Hayden Hurst, T.J. Hockenson) and is giving up close to 280 receiving yards per contest, the opportunities for Schultz figure to be abundant.
The question remains, however … can he convert? He’s my TE15 heading into the weekend.
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