In our Week 14 fantasy football start ’em and sit ’em, we let the data give you perspectives on select players that vary from the expert consensus.
We’re officially in the home stretch of our fantasy football season.
For a lot of you, Week 14 is the final week of the fantasy football regular season, meaning a lot of critical matchups to help determine who gets a bye, who sneaks into a playoff spot or, even, who cements their place at the bottom of the league. It also makes this a good time to assess which players and teams were critical to our rosters in helping us (hopefully) get to the top of the standings.
With a full-fledged, real-life football MVP debate currently raging on, let’s examine this year’s season from a slightly different angle. Without further ado, here are our fantasy football superlatives.
Fantasy Most Valuable Player: Miami Dolphins RB Raheem Mostert
Runner-up: Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen
Unlike the race for NFL MVP, the fantasy MVP this year is a no-brainer. According to Fantasy Pros, Mostert’s average draft position (ADP) was 130th. He was, on average, being selected as the 41st running back in fantasy drafts. Well, safe to say he’s exceeded expectations. He enters Week 14 as RB2, with only two games scoring fewer than 10 PPR points. Draft value is huge in fantasy football. He is the undisputed most valuable fantasy player.
Allen comes in second because even though he cost significantly more than Mostert (Allen’s ADP was 41 – the 19th wide receiver off the board), he is fifth among all players in fantasy points, including quarterbacks. If you got that production from the first overall pick in the draft, you’d be stoked. Instead, you got Allen in the third or fourth round.
Fantasy Offensive Player of the Year: Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill
Runner-up: San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey
Just like in the NFL, this award allows us to also highlight the best offensive player, maybe not the most valuable. It was a clear two-horse race, but Hill gets the nod because he has more points than any other player, highlighted by only having three games this season with fewer than 25 PPR points.
Neither Hill nor McCaffrey are the most valuable player, because they both cost first-round picks.
Fantasy Defensive Player of the Year: Dallas Cowboys CB DaRon Bland
Runner-up: Pittsburgh Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
We highlighted Bland the day before Thanksgiving, and he responded the very next day by securing his fifth Pick-6 of the season, setting a new NFL record. He has recorded over 20% of the Cowboys’ fantasy defensive points this season, an astounding number for a defensive back.
Watt gets the nod as the runner-up, almost single-handedly making the Steelers a worthy play each week. Watt has recorded 14 sacks, four takeaways and a touchdown, accounting for more than 25% of his team’s fantasy points.
Fantasy Coach of the Year: 2012-13 Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan
Runner-up: Anyone but Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith
Over a decade ago, in 2012, Robert Griffin III entered the NFL by storm, immediately winning Rookie of the Year and being named to the Pro Bowl. He led his team to 10 wins and a playoff berth, the only time the franchise has won 10 or more games since 2005.
His offensive coordinator that year was Kyle Shanahan. Under Shanahan, the QB coach was Matt LaFleur, and the tight ends coach was Sean McVay. Mike McDaniel was an offensive assistant, and even though he wasn’t an offensive coach until he moved with Shanahan to the 49ers, Bobby Slowik was a defensive assistant on that Washington coaching staff.
Nowadays, they are, respectively, the head coaches for the 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins and offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans.
Four of the top 11 fantasy quarterbacks play for one of these coaches. Matthew Stafford is QB18.
Four of the top five running backs by PPR points per game play for one of these coaches.
Of the 44 wide receivers averaging at least 11 PPR points per game, 12 – more than 27% of them – play in one of these five offenses.
That Shanahan coaching tree, based around an outside zone running scheme, has produced huge fantasy numbers. Arthur Smith’s system, meanwhile, doesn’t have a single player averaging even 15 PPR points. As the Falcons prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, your roster would be better off without a single Falcon on it.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud
Runner-up: Los Angeles Rams WR Puka Nacua
There are only two viable options, both for this column and for the media members who will be tasked with voting for the non-fantasy NFL Rookie of the Year. For us, the edge goes to Stroud because he’s turned a fantasy-irrelevant offense into one of the more profitable ones, which included another exciting rookie, Tank Dell, before his season-ending injury last week.
De’Von Achane gets an honorable mention here, having never scored fewer than 21.5 PPR points per game in any of his four full games.
Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year: Carolina Panthers WR Adam Thielen
Runner-up: Jacksonville Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley
Thielen finished last season as the WR30. He entered this year with an ADP of 134, being drafted as the WR50. Well, with five weeks to go, he’s already outscored his season-long total from last season, which is even more impressive when you remember that he played in 16 of the Minnesota Vikings’ 17 games last season. He enters Week 14 as the WR14.
Ridley gets a token nod. He was suspended all of last season and has returned this year to put up solid WR2 numbers.
Fantasy Offensive Team of the Year: Detroit Lions
Runner-up: San Francisco 49ers
There were five Lions worthy of being in your lineups this season – Jared Goff, David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Sam LaPorta. All five have either met or exceeded expectations.
We chose the 49ers over the Dolphins for the second spot because Jaylen Waddle has been disappointing for his fantasy managers (more on him later!). Led by Brock Purdy (QB7 on the year), the 49ers have the RB1, TE4 and two receivers in the top 16 in fantasy points per game.
Fantasy Defensive Team of the Year: Washington Commanders
Runner-up: Carolina Panthers
We hate defense in fantasy football! So, thank you to the Commanders, the only team in the NFL allowing worse than 30 points per game. The Commanders have only held four quarterbacks all season under 275 passing yards and have allowed 30 passing touchdowns since Week 2.
First Team All-Pro Fantasy Team:
(With an actual defense this time, and the two toughest calls highlighted)
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen gets the tiebreaker here over Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts by virtue of having outscored Hurts 6-5 in the 11 weeks that both teams have played.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara slots in as the RB2 on our first team over Mostert, as we decided to slightly value Kamara’s elite production since returning in Week 5 over Mostert’s overall season. Kamara is averaging 3.0 PPR points more than Mostert this season.
The wide receivers are self-explanatory, and St. Brown gets the coveted flex spot over A.J. Brown due to a lower ADP and a consistency that has seen him score under 15 PPR points only twice all season, compared to four such games for Brown.
The toughest decision on the team, we decided to reward Hockenson for carrying the load in Justin Jefferson’s absence over Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce. It also helps his case that he wasn’t catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. Hockenson is the first teamer.
Hopkins gets the nod over Brandon Aubrey (Cowboys) because he kicks for a Cleveland Browns offense that struggled for most of the season. The Ravens get the nod as the defense over the Cowboys having displayed remarkable consistency, scoring fewer than six fantasy points only once all season. Dallas has done that five times, twice scoring negative points, including last week’s shootout against Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Yays: Week 14 Fantasy Plays Projected Higher Than Expert Consensus
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Thursday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Jake Browning, QB (CIN) vs. IND (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 11, Projected Points: 17.56)
No Joe Burrow? No problem! The Cincinnati Bengals went into Jacksonville last week and beat the Jaguars behind an outstanding performance from Browning (and Ja’Marr Chase).
Browning threw for 354 passing yards and completed 86.5% of his passes, both of which led all quarterbacks comfortably in Week 13. Luckily for Browning’s fantasy managers, his matchup this week is considerably easier.
The Indianapolis Colts are 27th in points per game allowed and 26th in yards per game allowed, and in their last five games against teams not named the New England Patriots or Carolina Panthers, have allowed an average of 32.4 points per game. Don’t be fooled by the Colts not allowing massive weekly point totals to QBs. That probably has more to do with them not playing many particularly good QBs lately. Browning is a borderline QB1 this week.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB (NE) vs. PIT (ECR: 25, Our Rank: 8, PP: 18.36)
This game is trending towards having the lowest over/under point total for any game in over 15 years. If nothing else, that should tell you how bleak this matchup looks. If you choose to just avoid every player in this game, that would make sense.
Our model, however, projects that Zeke is more than worthy of your strong consideration. Rhamondre Stevenson is out this week after suffering an ankle injury last week. He left the 6-0 thriller (horror?) against Justin Herbert and the Chargers late in the second quarter, and after he left, Zeke touched the ball 21 times.
Which helps explain why our model is projecting Zeke to tote the rock an astounding 26.6 times (22.3 carries, 4.3 receptions). This is his backfield, and in a low-scoring game against another team that likes to run the ball with their backfield of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, Zeke’s overwhelming projected volume is more than enough to make up for his lower likelihood of scoring a touchdown. Zeke is a top-10 play this week.
Jaylen Waddle, WR (MIA) vs. TEN (ECR: 15, Our Rank: 6, PP: 17.73)
Especially opposite Hill, this has been a massively disappointing season so far for Waddle and his fantasy managers and yet, he’s on track for 83 receptions and 1,081 receiving yards. It’s just the touchdowns that have been hard to come by for Waddle, with Hill and the running game commanding most of the valuable touches.
But there’s a real chance things turn around for Waddle, beginning this week against the Tennessee Titans. Over the last five games, the Titans have allowed five different wide receivers to accumulate at least 90 receiving yards and score a touchdown, and critically, two of them happened last week when both Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce had huge games for the Colts.
This Titans defense is porous against the pass and proved last week that there’s plenty of opportunities for two receivers on the same team to thrive. Waddle is a top-10 play for the model this week.
Nico Collins, WR (HOU) vs. NYJ (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 9, PP: 17.21)
After an 11-target outing in Week 11, Collins was a Yay for our model in Week 12. He rewarded the model’s optimism with seven receptions, 104 receiving yards and a touchdown. He finished as WR5. He followed it up with one of the best games of his career against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos. Nine receptions, 191 receiving yards and a touchdown later, he finished Week 13 as WR3.
The only players averaging more receiving yards per game than Collins are the five we mentioned as being worthy of a spot on our All-Pro fantasy team. Those five players ECR’s this week are first (Hill), second (Lamb), third (St. Brown), fourth (Allen) and fifth (Brown). Somehow, Collins is all the way down at 19th.
Collins has been outstanding all year and with Tank Dell sidelined for the season, he is undoubtedly the top weapon for Stroud in the passing game. Our model views him as a top-10 option this week, despite facing a strong New York Jets defense. Until the industry re-calibrates its thinking, he will remain one of the more underrated elite wide receiver options.
The Nays: Week 14 Fantasy Plays Projected Lower Than Expert Consensus
Jordan Love, QB (GB) vs. NYG (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 18, PP: 14.15)
There might not be a quarterback who has improved their standing in the league more than Love over the last month. He is making on time, simple throws, and wow-throws off his backfoot to receivers draped in coverage.
Over the last five weeks, Love is QB7 on a points-per-game basis, and he seemingly has a favorable matchup against a poor New York Giants defense. But a deeper look tells us that might not be the case. Despite ranking 29th in yards allowed per play, the Giants are ninth in passer rating allowed and fifth in opponent third-down conversion percentage.
Where the Giants really struggle is in the run game, as no team has allowed more rushes of 10+ yards. We mentioned in our intro how great this system has been for running backs, but the Packers’ running game hasn’t quite found its rhythm yet this season. This is the game for them to shine and Love to take a back seat. He’s a lower-end QB2 this week.
David Montgomery, RB (DET) vs. CHI (ECR: 16, Our Rank: 27, PP: 10.96)
There are a lot of things the Bears haven’t done well this season, but of all the things that can fall into that bucket, defending the run is not one of them. Chicago is tied for first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, second in yards allowed per carry and are one of only four teams to have allowed fewer than seven rushing touchdowns this season.
Another thing Justin Fields and the Bears are good at? Possessing the ball. They are fourth in average time of possession, and in no game was that more apparent than two weeks ago when these two teams met up and Chicago ended with more than 40 minutes of possession. Of course, the Bears still lost, but the game flow held Montgomery to only 12 carries, well below his season average of 18 carries per game.
All told, Montgomery is a touchdown-dependent RB2 this week. There are very few backs who rely solely on touchdowns that fantasy managers should be comfortable playing, and Montgomery is one of them. But between the stingy Bears defense and the emergence of Gibbs, it makes playing him a risky proposition.
Brandin Cooks, WR (DAL) vs. PHI (ECR: 27, Our Rank: 38, PP: 10.57)
Cooks has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games, and the industry has responded by making Cooks a solid flex option this week against an Eagles pass defense that has struggled this season.
But while the baselines that go into our touchdown projections represent a significant part of our rankings, they aren’t the most critical factor. That will always be volume. Cooks, despite his recent surge, has exactly one game this season with more than four catches. He’s only had more than four targets in three of the 11 games he’s played. And he’s only surpassed 50 receiving yards in a game twice.
As the clear third option in his teams’ passing attack, behind Lamb and tight end Jake Ferguson, Cooks isn’t projected to receive nearly enough volume to justify his ECR inside the top 30. For our model, he is a flex play at best.
Calvin Ridley, WR (JAC) vs. CLE (ECR: 30, Our Rank: 49, PP: 8.77)
Seemingly no Trevor Lawrence. An extremely tough Cleveland Browns defense getting back its stalwart cornerback, Denzel Ward. On the road.
Those are three significant factors explaining why Ridley is best left on your benches this week. But here’s one more: On two critical late-game possessions last week, backup quarterback C.J. Beathard threw the ball 10 times. Six of those 10 passes went in the direction of a tight end or running back, and Ridley’s only target ended up as a four-yard loss.
You can do better than starting Ridley this week.
To all who celebrate, Happy Hanukkah!
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