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Mon Dec 7th 2020

2020 Week Thirteen Review

Suprise Knockout Players

We made it! We completed the fantasy regular-season, assuming the Monday and Tuesday night games get played. Week thirteen is brutal if your team is on the playoff bubble and like a walk in the park if your playoff seeding is already secure. My teams were a mix of both this week.

I was already eliminated from the playoffs in one league, secured playoff spots in five leagues, and was on the bubble in two leagues. Week thirteen was stressful for those bubble teams. I lost one on Sunday and have the other hanging in the balance on Monday and Tuesday night.

Win or lose; it's a joy to watch football all weekend and cheer on all of my teams. After following all of the games this week, here are my thoughts on what we learned after week thirteen and its impact on our dynasty teams.

Week Thirteen Observations

Surprise Knockouts

  • One of my bubble teams started the day with a 60% chance to win, but those odds radically shifted against me after Baker Mayfield threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. Two weeks ago, I wrote about how dynasty managers could not trust the Browns' passing game since they ran the ball so much, and Mayfield isn't fantasy-efficient like Russell Wilson, or Aaron Rodgers can be with few passing yards and attempts. So when I saw Mayfield was starting as my opponent's quarterback, I didn't fear, but his highest-scoring performance of the year in week thirteen knocked me out of the playoffs. Mayfield and the Browns passing game are still unreliable, but they were a painful surprise knockout this week. Thankfully, I benefited from a similar surprise player in Kirk Cousins. Though he had been performing well in the last few weeks, I'm sure my opponent who saw him in my line-up did not feel particularly threatened by Cousins. He felt pretty happy about playing against my quarterback until two minutes left in the third quarter when Cousins got hot and threw for three touchdowns and the bulk of his 304 yards over the next 15 minutes of play. He racked up all of his points in one quarter of gameplay and carried my team into the playoffs and a possible first-round bye depending on what happens in the games on Monday and Tuesday. Whereas Mayfield and the Browns passing game cannot be relied upon in fantasy line-ups, I think Cousins can going forward. In the last four games, the Vikings have attempted 30 to 45 passes. They are becoming more balanced and using their two great wide receivers, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, who can be safely started in fantasy line-ups every week. I think my Cousins led team can compete in the playoffs next week, while my league-mate's Mayfield led team won't advance back next week.

Better Late Than Never

  • Don't look now, but David Montgomery is becoming a very reliable and productive running back as he nears the end of his second season. The Bears have one of the easiest schedules against running backs in the fantasy playoffs, too, giving their managers hope to ride his back in the playoffs. He's had his best two games of the season in back-to-back weeks and has looked great doing it. His first touchdown run on Sunday looked like a Nick Chubb run with balance and burst to break tackles and get around the corner to score. Since his mediocre rookie year, the argument for starting Montgomery has been because of the volume he could receive. After watching him the last two weeks, I think the argument should be that he's talented. Montgomery was a distant third in my rookie running back rankings in 2019 behind Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders, but I am willing to change my opinion about him if he continues to look like he has the last two weeks. Like Montgomery, another player has started living up to his draft capital. Cam Akers has taken the lead role in Los Angeles the previous two weeks and had his first 20-carry game on Sunday. Like Montgomery, Akers was my third-ranked running back in the 2020 class, a class with far more depth than Montgomery's 2019 class. Unlike other analysts, I had Akers ranked ahead of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and D'Andre Swift and just behind Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins. All five of these rookie running backs have shown spurts of greatness this season. Akers is just the last to do so. It's a good class that is taking longer than usual to become fantasy superstars, but when healthy, they are all now pretty safe RB-2s in fantasy line-ups.

Earning Roles

  • It's late in the season, but two wide receivers make a case for more playing time and roles on their teams in 2021. Collin Johnson was the leading receiver for the Jaguars for the second week in a row and scored a touchdown for the second week in a row. Unlike last week, Jacksonville's veteran wide receivers, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley were active. Even so, Johnson outplayed them both. Chris Conley and Keelan Cole are free agents after this year. D.J. Chark has one more year on his rookie contract. Jacksonville's rookies, Collin Johnson and Laviska Shenault, the only two with touchdowns on Sunday, could both start in three-receiver sets next year, with Johnson starting on the wide side of the field opposite Chark with Shenault in the slot. Best of all, Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields could be their quarterback. Like Johnson, Keke Coutee has made the most of his increased playing time the last two weeks. Coutee was Houston's leading receiver on Sunday, his first week as a starter since Will Fuller was suspended by the NFL for PED violations. Last year was supposed to be the breakout year for Coutee, but he was off most dynasty rosters by the end of the season. Houston's offseason trade for Brandin Cooks and the free-agent signing of Randall Cobb kept Coutee buried on the depth chart even after Houston traded DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. Fuller's suspension and Cobb's injury have given Coutee a few weeks to prove that he can become a starter in three wide receiver sets. Houston signed Cobb and Cooks to multi-year contracts, but Will Fuller is a free agent after this season and rumored to be on the trading block before the trade deadline. If Coutee plays as he did on Sunday, Houston could let Fuller go and spend their money elsewhere this offseason. I like Johnson and Coutee's chances of earning starting roles by how they finish this season.

Dueling Top Prospects

  • In a season that has proven how watered down tight ends have become in fantasy football, there is hope on the horizon in two giant men who played against each other on Sunday. T.J. Hockenson was the first tight end taken in the 2019 draft and was my highest ranked tight end in rookie drafts. I had him as my #7 rookie overall that year. The 6' 5" 248-pound giant is playing up to his size in recent weeks and has moved up to #5 in my tight end dynasty rankings. He's on pace for 815 yards and seven touchdowns this season and should only get better in the years to come. Hockenson's opponent on Sunday was also the first tight end drafted in his 2020 class, Cole Kmet. Chicago drafted Kmet in the second round last year. He was not nearly as strong of a prospect as Hockenson, but he was the second tight end on my rookie rankings last year, ranked #31 overall. Like Hockenson, he's a huge man - 6' 5" 258 pounds - and he played like it Sunday. Kmet has passed Jimmy Graham in the depth chart in recent weeks and is running more routes. He has a season-high seven targets on Sunday and scored his second touchdown of the season. Kmet has steadily moved up my dynasty rankings and now sits as the #21 ranked tight end, but that could change by quite a bit if he continues to play as he did on Sunday, and I suspect he will. These prototypical-sized tight ends could become the next generation of superstar tight ends, and God knows we need them.  

Spiraling Number One and Two Picks

  • It's tough to watch quarterbacks who were once thought to be top 5-10 dynasty prospects fall away into the night, even in what should be the prime of their career. The Eagles' 2016 second pick of the draft, Carson Wentz, was benched on Sunday for a player they drafted in the second round four years later, Jalen Hurts. I don't believe this will be a permanent move, but it's not out of the question. At the very least, the Eagles could see what they have in Hurts in this season when they're out of the playoff race. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Wentz is signed through the 2024 season, so it would cost them quite a bit to make a permanent change at quarterback, and no team would trade for Wentz given his contract. The odds are that Wentz will be the starter in Philadelphia next year, but he's played himself out of dynasty line-ups. He's undoubtedly not droppable in superflex leagues, but he is in one-quarterback leagues. Similarly, Jameis Winston's fate was sealed on Sunday when Taysom Hill finally proved he could win a game for the Saints with his arm in addition to his legs. He was not spectacular, but he did enough. I've been holding onto Winston shares on several of my teams, believing he would be the Saints starter in 2021, but now that's not likely. This 2015 first pick of the draft has become a dropable player in superflex and one-quarterback leagues.

Week Thirteen Injuries

Frank Gore

  • Gore was concussed very early in the game on Sunday, giving way to Ty Johnson and Josh Adams to combine for 178 yards and a touchdown. Believe it or not, I started Gore in two deep leagues this week because the matchup was so good. The process was right, but the result was not favorable because of this injury. Johnson out-touched Adams, so he's the player in line to benefit if Gore cannot clear the concussion protocol before Sunday, but the matchup in weeks to come will not be as desirable as it was last week against Oakland.

Brandon Allen

  • Brandon Allen was concussed late in the game, giving way to Ryan Finley at quarterback. I am not sure if Finley makes the team any worse than Allen did, but there are reasons the coaches names Allen the starter ahead of Finley when Burrow got injured. He'll bring the whole offense down with him, but they can't fall much further than they already had with Allen. Bengals players should not be in starting line-ups for the rest of the year.

Week Thirteen Waiver Wire

As a reminder, I play in 27 to 30-man roster leagues (true dynasty leagues), so the players I list here are for deep leagues only. If you play in shallower leagues, there are certainly better players than these to pick up off the waiver wire. That said, for those of you in true dynasty leagues, here is who I would be looking to pick up this week. I list them in the order that I would prioritize them.

Ryan Finley

  • As I wrote above, I don't believe any Bengals player should start on line-ups from now on. The only exception will be in superflex leagues if a manager has several injured quarterbacks on their roster. I would only seek to add Finley if that was the case.

KeeSean Johnson

  • Johnson is getting a little more playing time in recent weeks and could surpass Andy Isabella as the future WR-3 in Arizona. I really liked Johnson's college tape and was one of my most targeted players in 2019 rookie drafts. However, his landing spot in Arizona left him buried on the depth chart behind guys with much higher draft capital. Arizona trading for DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald not retiring kept him buried on the depth chart this year too. I will not try to pick him up in every league, but in leagues where I have depth and older wide receivers that never get into my starting line-up (a Danny Amendola type), I'd be willing to add Johnson and drop the older wide receiver. He's the best dynasty addition this week by far.

Ty Johnson

  • Johnson has had a couple of good games in his career, just like he did on Sunday, but he's not been able to remain on an NFL roster for more than parts of a season. He could have a few decent games to end this year, so I'll consider picking him up in deep leagues where a starting running back is all I need as the last player in my starting line-up. That said, I don't think I'm that desperate in any league.

Chad Hanson

  • Hanson was a late-round sleeper in 2017 rookie drafts, but he never did much in New York after the Jets drafted him in the 4th round. Honestly, I did not know he was on the Texan's roster until I saw him catching passes from DeShaun Watson on Sunday. He'll have chances to play, given Houston's wide receiver depth problems, but I'd only pick him up this week in the most desperate of situations. I won't make any claims for him this week, but I wanted to mention him here at least.

Week Thirteen Trades

We've hit the trade deadline in most of my leagues, but a few trades were made by managers in my leagues this week. This week they happened to be simple player for player trades.

Austin Ekeler <-----> Ronald Jones

  • This trade took place in my 10-team standard league. I really like the Ekeler side of this trade, no matter the construct of each team. The team that acquired Ekeler is in the playoff hunt, while the team that acquired Jones is not. It's standard league, so Ekeler's PPR upside is not a factor. Still, I currently have Ekeler ranked as my #13 running back compared to Jones' ranking of 21. The team that traded for Jones must sincerely believe he will get a second contract in Tampa Bay and hold off Leonard Fournette and Ke'Shawn Vaughn. This year he's done so, but I'm not sure he will get a second contract. Whereas the Chargers paid Ekeler last year, giving him a deal through 2023.

Sterling Shepard <-----> Mike Gesicki

  • This trade took place in my 12-team, half PPR, tight end premium, all flex league. Sadly, for the new Shepard manager, this trade took place last Sunday morning, the day Daniel Jones was injured. Both teams are likely playoff-bound, so they were just picking the pretty evenly ranked player they liked best. It's a fair trade. Gesicki does not get enough volume to make me like him more than Shepard's safer floor even in this tight end premium league, so I like the Shepard side of this trade. I traded a 2021 3rd round pick for Shepard a few weeks ago, eager for his safe floor during my playoff run. Unfortunately, while Colt McCoy is starting for the Giants, Shepard will remain on my bench. Even so, from a dynasty perspective, I like Shepard more than Gesicki.

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