Here are some of Fantasy Expert Ricky Sanders’ DFS-relevant observations from Week 14 of the 2016 NFL season:
Drew Brees, Saints – Last week’s flop against the Lions at home was unfortunate but seemed to be just a blip on the radar…at least until he whiffed again this week on the road against the Buccaneers. On the one hand, Drew Brees was playing without his top receiver (Michael Thomas) and the Buccaneers do rank ninth in pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. On the other hand, this guy is supposed to be an All-World QB and he now has failed to throw a TD in back-to-back weeks. In fact, he has thrown six interceptions (INTs) in those two games alone so something seems to be up with him. Had Thomas been healthy, it may have been a different story, but Brees nevertheless has not cracked a 64 QB rating in two weeks. It should be noted Brees is 37 years old so a talent regression is inevitably on the horizon even if this recent stretch is just a fluke. Next week, the team will face a Cardinals team that ranks third in DVOA against the pass so Brees is virtually unplayable. Once a guy who was an every week lock-and-load candidate regardless of opponent, Brees has been reduced to a matchup play at the very best at this point.
Le’Veon Bell/Jeremy Hill – If last week’s three TD performance by Jordan Howard was not enough to convince you using RBs in the snow is worthwhile, Le’Veon Bell and Jeremy Hill both put on a show in borderline blizzards once again this week (as did LeSean McCoy). Depending on how substantial the snow storm is, passing games can certainly be affected as it is difficult to grip onto the ball. However, the running game usually becomes more of a focus for the offense and the offense has the advantage of knowing where they are supposed to run on a given play. Meanwhile, the defense does not so they are forced to react and try and cut on a potentially slippery surface which obviously is not an easy task. On countless occasions today, a linebacker tried to tackle Bell initially and he continued to slide forward solely because of the surface. There now is a large enough sample size from this year alone to teach owners fading backs solely due to bad weather, specifically snow, is not a smart idea.
Taylor Gabriel, Falcons – When Julio Jones was deemed inactive, the lack of his presence overall felt like a downgrade to Taylor Gabriel’s situation. Over the past month and a half or so, Gabriel has provided an excellent complement to Jones. Without the superstar WR, more attention would likely be paid to Gabriel and he would not be able to run free as he normally would in a positive matchup like this one, right? Wrong. The team was missing Mohamed Sanu as well and Gabriel still managed a vintage long TD (64-yarder) as he normally does. Instead of valuing Gabriel as simply a role player in an offense where Jones’ presence makes his job easy, Gabriel proved that he is a true weapon regardless of the supporting cast. Gabriel’s speed is absolutely for real and not just a product of playing next to one of the game’s best. Moving forward, Gabriel should be considered more of a T.Y. Hilton prototype than a John Brown short term hero. While he may not be at Hilton’s level yet, he is clearly a special player.
Robby Anderson, Jets – After favoring Robby Anderson as his top target in the preseason, Bryce Petty has carried over his affinity for the rookie WR into Week 14 as well. Anderson was targeted 12 times last week, 11 of which were throws by Petty, and followed last week’s performance up with 11 more targets and 99 receiving yards this week. Long, long ago Brandon Marshall was supposedly the head honcho in this receiving core but his 1,500 yard, 14 TD season seems like ancient history now. Sometimes young QBs just develop a rapport with a guy and just develop a trust for them. Through two games, this is proving to be one of those situations. Hell, no other receiver eclipsed 35 yards in Week 14 and one of the passes Anderson caught netted his offense 40 yards. While it feels strange to say this, Anderson is clearly the number one target in the Jets passing offense and should be valued as such. He had been minimum price the last few weeks but that price tag jumped to $8,400 this upcoming week. For a guy who could see 10-plus targets once again, the cost is still reasonable.
Zach Ertz, Eagles – Every single year, Zach Ertz seems to struggle early on and then turn it on later in the season…this year has proved to be no different. After reaching double-digit fantasy points just once in his first five games this year, Ertz has now produced 11-plus fantasy points in five of his last six games including back-to-back 22-plus fantasy point outings. On Sunday, Ertz was targeted a team-high 13 times and caught 10 of those passes for 112 yards. Without scoring (and Tyler Eifert scored twice), Ertz still managed to finish as TE1 for the week. This marked the second consecutive week Ertz finished in the top five at the position and also the second straight week he led the team in targets (15 last week). 28 targets in two weeks is a monster number and the second most on the team during that stretch is 19 by Trey Burton (the team’s other TE). Carson Wentz has taken a liking to his TEs and is using them as security blankets and, in tune, starting to develop as a player after temporarily hitting a rookie wall. Wentz is looking better by the week and it is no coincidence that this uptick has begun after he started targeting the big bodies in the middle of the field.