Fantasy risers and fallers from Week 8 of the season
This is our weekly look at the fantasy football stock market, identifying some players who are moving up, and some whose performance has them going the other way. The fantasy season is officially halfway in the books. So much has changed since this summer’s drafts and more changes lie ahead.
Be sure to stay dialed into the action and to identify trends before your opponents. Here’s a look at some players on the rise, some sliding down and a couple to keep on the radar.
Most fantasy owners wouldn’t be surprised if they were told there is a 38-year-old quarterback among the top three fantasy producers at the position over the last four weeks. The surprise is that it’s not Tom Brady or Drew Brees – it’s McCown, posting some gaudy numbers for the Jets.
McCown has completed 97-of-137 attempts for 1,014 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions during that span. He has passed for multiple scores in four straight games and five of his last seven contests overall. However, he’s only gone over 250 yards passing twice all year with both of those efforts occurring over the past three weeks.
It should be noted that his last four outings were against some weaker passing defenses. McCown has shown stretches of success in previous years too only to have trouble staying healthy. He’s played in eight games already this year and the veteran has only managed to reach that number once since 2007. Continue to view him as a solid QB2 and a great bye-week filler as long as he stays healthy.
Gordon is continuing to provide a spark of the Chargers both running the football and catching passes out of the backfield despite playing at less than 100 percent.
He played through an injured foot in Week 8 against the Patriots and still finished with 132 yards on 14 carries, including an 87-yard TD scamper. Gordon added a catch for seven yards. It was a nice bounce-back performance after a Week 7 dud versus Denver when he was held to 38 yards on 18 carries and went without a catch.
The third-year running back has managed to find the end zone in six of his eight games this season and has tallied 130 or more total yards in three of his last four contests. Of the 12 running backs to play 60 percent or more of their team’s snaps this season, only Kareem Hunt (0.61) has managed more PPR points per opportunity than Gordon (0.52).
With Martavis Bryant inactive for Sunday’s game at Detroit, Smith-Schuster continued to state his case to become a bigger part of Pittsburgh’s passing attack moving forward. The rookie pulled in seven of his 10 targets for 193 yards and a touchdown in the win.
The Lions focused their efforts on stopping Antonio Brown and that allowed Smith-Schuster to feast in his one-on-one coverage. Darius Slay covered Brown on 77 percent of his routes and held the Pro Bowler to just one catch for nine yards on four targets in the process. Meanwhile, Smith-Schuster garnered 33.3 percent of the target share. Don’t expect double-digit targets weekly, but an increased role seems to be a given.
He would get a big boost in value if the Steelers were to move on from Bryant, but even if they don’t the first-year wideout continues to show what he’s capable of. He’s a fringe WR3/WR4 with some serious upside and a must-own in all formats.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
The Saints have rolled off five straight wins mostly by running the football and playing great defense. The result has led to some modest numbers for Brees. In Week 8’s victory at home over the Bears he failed to get to 300 yards or throw a TD. The last time that happened at the Superdome was Week 4 of 2009.
Sunday also marked the second time this season in which Brees had fewer than 30 pass attempts. That only happened twice in 2015 and 2016 combined. The Saints have passed on 56.54 percent (20th) of their plays this season. They ran the fifth-most passing plays in 2016 (63.44 percent).
Brees for his part has still been efficient as he has completed 71 percent of his passes. However, his aDOT is sitting at career-low 6.9 yards. The veteran still is a safe and steady QB1 option, but it appears that his explosive performances are becoming harder to come by.
Freeman has gone three straight weeks without finding the end zone after scoring in his first four contests. He has failed to reach double-digit fantasy points in standard formats in each of those games as the yardage totals haven’t been great either.
The decline in rushing attempts is the real issue. After toting the ball 58 times over a three-game span in Weeks 2-4, Freeman only had 33 carries in the three games since. Tevin Coleman out-touched Freeman for the first time all season in Week 8’s win over the Jets.
Atlanta’s offense as a whole is struggling under first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, especially the passing game. The ripple effect has impacted the entire offense. Freeman’s fading fantasy value also lies in the fact he hasn’t been as involved in the team’s passing attack. After finishing fifth in the league last season among running backs with 54 receptions, Freeman only has 15 catches (30th) at the midway point of this season.
Carolina’s offense failed to capitalize on its great Week 8 matchup with the Bucs and Funchess was among the players that disappointed fantasy owners. Funchess has been disappointing more weeks than he has not so far this year and for most of his career. He has only finished as a PPR top 30 WR twice in eight games this season after only accomplishing that feat once in 14 games a year ago.
He did see three of the five deep-ball targets from Cam Newton against Tampa Bay, but only had 20 percent of the target share. Funchess ranks 15th overall among wide receivers with 56 targets on the season, but has posted just a 59 percent catch rate and underwhelming 10.8 YPR and 6.4 YPT.
Newton’s inconsistencies carry over to the receiver’s production. Funchess appears to be overvalued a bit right now after stringing together a couple nice back-to-back weeks earlier in the month. He’s worth shopping around to see what you can get for him. The Panther wide receiver is hard to trust right now as more than anything a bye-week filler.
On the radar
Burkhead was tops among all Patriots’ running backs with 15.8 fantasy points in Week 8 as he carried the ball four times for 15 yards to go along with seven catches on seven targets for 68 yards. The production was nice, but the problem is this backfield remains a mystery.
Dion Lewis led the team with 17 touches, with Burkhead and Mike Gillislee getting 11 each. Meanwhile, James White had seven touches of his own, including five catches for 85 yards on six targets. Burkhead is a nice player, but his role is still too much of an unknown on a weekly basis to view him as a viable option for your lineup.
After coming into the 2016 as one of fantasy football’s most-hyped players, Lockett has fallen off the fantasy radar a bit as he battled through injuries. He pulled in six of his eight targets for 121 yards in the win over the Texans.
It was by far his best performance of the year. He finished with fewer than 30 yards receiving in each of the previous two weeks and in four of his six contests entering Sunday. Lockett remains a boom-or-bust option, but is nice to see him starting to get more looks. He’s had 15 targets over the past two weeks and if that trend continues there will be more big games ahead.