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Mon Nov 30th 2020

2020 Week Twelve Review

Brutal Line-up Decisions

Thanksgiving week is one of the best NFL-watching weeks of the season with three games (usually) on Thursday, but this week turned into a disaster with COVID wrecking teams and forcing dynasty managers to make tough line-up decisions. Like most dynasty managers, I had a terrible time making line-up decisions this week, and my teams suffered for it.

I had a lousy week, personally. My teams will likely finish 3-5 this week, but Monday and Tuesday night games could make my record better or worse. Like I say every week, 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 twelve and its impact on our dynasty teams.

Week Twelve Observations

Line-up Setting Fiascos

  • Setting line-ups on Thanksgiving week is ordinarily tricky for managers who have players on the injury report. Mangers have to choose between starting a player on Thursday only to see their injured player get healthy and out-perform the guy who started on Thanksgiving or hope for a player's return only to see them get ruled out later in the week. It's hard enough in a typical year, but this COVID year made this week the worst week in history for line-up decisions. This week was a cascade of COVID developments beginning with the Pittsburg vs. Baltimore game being moved back to Sunday and then back to Tuesday, as more and more players were added to the COVID list, including Lamar Jackson and James Conner. Late Saturday night, we learned that all Denver quarterbacks were ruled out, radically affecting all of the players in that game. Add to that the fact that many starting players were questionable leading into Sunday or ruled out after the Thanksgiving games, and dynasty managers were left with a bevy of regrets and frustrations. Dynasty managers had to make a host of decisions on Sunday morning with late-breaking news that they'd preferred to know Thursday morning, let alone Sunday morning. For example, I had to make line-up decisions on Adam Thielen, who was essentially ruled out on Friday morning, on Raheem Mostert, who was not activated until Sunday morning, on Austin Ekeler, who was activated on Saturday night, but it was unclear whether Kalen Ballage was healthy or not, on Nyheim Hines who became the starter after Jonathan Taylor was added to the COVID list, on James Conner who was added to the COVID list on Saturday morning, and Salvon Ahmed who was ruled out on Friday morning. I changed my starting line-ups more times this week than any week I ever in my dynasty career. 

Quarterback Duds

  • This Sunday, I witnessed some of the worst quarterback play I have ever seen. Denver was forced to play a quarterback who had not played a snap since his sophomore year in college, Kendall Hinton. Everyone expected him to get destroyed by the Saints' defense, and he did, completing just one pass. That was to be expected, but other quarterbacks expected to carry their teams played nearly just as bad of games statistically. Opposite Hinton, Taysom Hill threw for a total of 78 yards in a game the Saints dominated. Cam Newton threw for a total of 84 yards and threw two interceptions against Arizona. Facing Newton, Kyler Murray had just 170 yards and an interception. Sam Darnold finished his game against the Dolphins with a quarterback rating of 51 after completing only 59% of his passes and throwing two interceptions, which was worse than Cincinnati's third-string quarterback, Brandon Allen, who at least finished his first start of the career with a passer rating of 67.6 and was the only one of these quarterbacks to throw a touchdown pass. When quarterbacks struggle, they take down all of the fantasy players on their teams. That's what happened on Sunday. In this era of the NFL, teams should be able to produce more passing yards than they did on Sunday. These six quarterbacks combined for 678 yards passing on Sunday, while Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes combined for 827 yards in their game Sunday afternoon.

Quarterback Studs

  • While some quarterbacks were duds this week, others carried their teams and made their pass catchers fantasy studs too. However, these same quarterbacks have been killing their running backs' fantasy value by vulturing touches and touchdowns. Patrick Mahomes passed the ball 50 times on Sunday while handing the ball off just 20 times. The previous week the ratio was 46 passes to 27 rushes, and the game before that was 45 passes to 11 rushes. To make matters worse for Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Kansas City running backs, Andy Reid has dialed up trick pass plays in the red zone multiple times this year, including one Travis Kelce to Patrick Mahomes pass yesterday. Mahomes has 30 touchdown passes this season, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are currently the top two players in the league in receiving yardage. The Cheif's offense is on fire, but it's not helping Edwards-Helaire's fantasy value. Aaron Rodgers is having a similar effect on his running backs. Devante Adams leads the league in receiving yards per game and would far ahead of Hill and Kelce in total yards if he did not miss a few games to injury, and Robert Tonyan has the same number of touchdown catches as Kelce (7). While Green Bay is a bit more balanced in their run to pass ratio, Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes (33). When Green Bay gets near the goal-line, it Rodgers who scores. Since returning from his injury in week nine, Aaron Jones has only scored one touchdown, which is the same number as Jamaal Williams, who scored on Sunday. Mahomes and Rodgers are the best two quarterbacks in the league right now, and they are smart and greedy enough to let everyone know it. This news is excellent for their top wide receivers and tight ends, but not for their running backs.

The Ekeler Effect

  • Austin Ekeler returned from his seven-week injury and looked like his same explosive self. Like myself, fantasy managers were concerned that they might manage his workload during his first game back, but they sure didn't. He had 14 carries and 11 receptions on 16 targets for a total of 129 yards and just fell short of getting two touchdowns. This news is welcomed for fantasy managers who have been waiting for Ekeler's return just before the fantasy playoffs. However, Ekeler's return is possibly going to affect Justin Herbert's other top pass catchers negatively. In the three previous games when Kalen Ballage was the Chargers starting running back, he averaged six targets per game. In Ekeler's first game back as the starter, he received sixteen targets. Ekeler is going to receive more targets than any other Charger running back did while he was injured. He's just too good of a weapon in the passing game not to see increased targets. If he gets more targets, someone is going to get fewer. Herbert targeted Hunter Henry and Keenan Allen 10 times each on Sunday, which is plenty to sustain their fantasy value, but it not likely that Allen has 19 targets like he did the week before Ekeler's return. Mike Williams could be the odd man out, finding himself used only as a deep target while Allen, Henry, and Ekeler get 70% of the team's passes. I'm content with the shares I have of Allen and believe he will help my teams in the playoffs, but I am less hopeful for a week-winning performance going forward.

Muddy Backfield Back-ups

  • Even on a week with no teams on bye, fantasy managers were forced to start back-ups in unclear backfields, and no matter which running back they chose to put in their starting line-ups, they were disappointed. Todd Gurley was ruled out on Friday, making Brian Hill a considerable flex-player. I started him in two leagues but was surprised to see that he was out-touched and out-performed by Ito Smith even though Hill played 11 more plays than Smith. D'Andre Swift was ruled out just before game time on Thursday, leaving Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson managers wondering if they would be safe flex-plays. Peterson figured to get red-zone looks while Johnson seemed to be featured more in the passing game in a game where the Lions would most likely be playing from behind. Managers who started Peterson ended the day happy since he scored two red-zone touchdowns while only accumulating 55 total yards on his 15 touches. Johnson, however, had a better day overall with 98 yards from scrimmage and four receptions. Miami ruled out Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin, making Matt Breida the supposed lead back against the Jets, a game which they should easily win. However, Deandre Washington led the team in touches with 15 compared to Breida's 10. Neither player did much with their touches, so they both disappointed owners who took the risk starting them. The muddy backfields were no help to anyone in this crucial week when dynasty teams are fighting for the playoffs. Only the Adrian Peterson manager was rewarded for their gutsy play. Unfortunately, I decided to start Marvin Hall over Peterson in that Thanksgiving game and lost my game by two points as a result. I am likely to lose tonight during the Monday night game in the leagues where I started Brian Hill over Breida. Like many dynasty managers, I guessed wrong on these fringe flex-plays, and I missed securing playoff bye-weeks in two of those leagues as a result. 

Week Twelve Injuries

Daniel Jones

  • Jones injured his hamstring late in the game on Sunday. Early reports state that it's a pretty severe injury that will cost Jones a few weeks. Colt McCoy came in and held the Giants lead to get the win, but the Giants schedule gets considerably more challenging over the next week weeks. McCoy is an experienced back-up but lacks the arm strength and athleticism to do some of the things Jones can do with his arm and legs. McCoy will cause a downgrade among every Giants offensive player while Jones is out. For example, I traded for Sterling Shepard in a league two weeks ago because of my confidence in his PPR floor. Now I am unlikely to start Shepard next week. This drop-off is not nearly as bad as the downgrade of Bengals pass catchers last week when they moved from Joe Burrow to Brandon Allen, but it's a drop-off nonetheless.

Josh Jacobs

  • Jacobs injured his ankle in what looked like a very painful twist-up. So far, there have not been reports on the severity, but he is getting an MRI today. Devontae Booker should get the starting running back role if Jacobs misses time, making him a considerable flex-play. He's not nearly as talented as Jacobs, but he's experienced enough to make a few plays for a short stretch of time. A few weeks ago, I had Booker on my waiver wire column as one of the few handcuffs that I saw unrostered in a few of my leagues, but since then, he's had a few nice plays while spelling Jacobs, so he's not available any longer in my leagues.

D. J. Moore

  • D.J. Moore went down with an apparent ankle injury after being overthrown in the end-zone. If Moore misses any time, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel have the most to gain, as the passing tree would narrow quite a bit. Carolina has a bye week this week, so they won't have to report on Moore's injury status, and he will have two weeks to recover. Apart from news of a serious injury, the three Carolina wide receivers maintain their dynasty value.

Phillip Lindsay

  • Lindsay injured his knee on a strange tackle that contorted his body. He was quickly ruled out for the game, which is an indication that the injury may last awhile. Melvin Gordon performed better earlier this season while Lindsay was injured, and he stands the most to gain again. We never root for injuries, but this could be good news for Gordon managers who need Gordon to become a dependable RB-2 in their line-ups. Lindsay's injuries give credence to the reason the Broncos added Gordon in free agency last offseason. They don't believe Lindsay can be an every-down running back without getting injured. This injury is another reason for Lindsay's dynasty value to decline.

Week Twelve 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.

Colt McCoy

  • I would only aim to pick up McCoy in superflex leagues where every starting quarterback should be rostered. As I wrote above, I don't believe McCoy can move the offense as Daniel Jones can, but a starting quarterback with experience is always worth starting in superflex leagues if he's the only second starting quarterback on a roster.

Collin Johnson

  • Johnson was the most targeted Jacksonville wide receiver on Sunday, catching four of eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. D.J. Chark and Chris Conley did not play, which is the only reason Johnson received so many opportunities, but Jacksonville cannot ignore what he did. Thus far, Johnson has primarily been used as a red-zone weapon given his size. Now they have more reason to give him playing time to see what he can do. As a Longhorn, I watched Johnson throughout his college career, and there was a time when he was thought to be a top wide receiver prospect. He has the size, athleticism, and hands to start in the NFL. Managers dropped him in several of my leagues as this year progressed, but I'll try to add him this week as my first priority.

Bisi Johnson

  • Johnson was the clear replacement for Adam Thielen, who was placed on the COVID list. Justin Jefferson led the team in targets (13) and touchdowns (2), but Johnson led the team in yards (74) and caught a perfect 7 of 7 targets. Thielen is likely to come back next week, so Johnson will not get an opportunity like he did this week again, but from a dynasty perspective, he could become the Thielen replacement in a few years or the Jefferson back-up if he were to get injured. In his second year, he has remained on the team, holding off other receivers who Minnesota has brought in to compete for back-up roles. I'll try to pick him up in some leagues this week, but not all.

Ito Smith

  • Like I wrote above, Smith out-touched and out-performed Brian Hill, even though he had fewer snaps. More importantly, he was involved more in the passing game. I don't think Atlanta has their future long-term starter on their team currently. They only have bit-players right now and need to draft a future starter, so I will not make many efforts to get Smith this week, but I did want to mention him here. I'd only consider it if I dropped Brian Hill to get him, but I am still convinced that Hill is a better player. He just wasn't this Sunday.

Week Twelve Trades

Trades are hard to grade in a vacuum since scoring systems are different in each league, and every team has a diverse roster construction. That's why I write about trades made in my leagues and give context for why the dynasty owners made the trades. I grade the trade, but in the context of what each team was attempting to accomplish with the trade.

That said, here are my thoughts on trades that were made in my leagues this week. I hope these trades give you an idea of how other active owners value these players and future picks.

Tyler Lockett <-----> 2021 1st round pick

  • This trade took place in my 10-team half PPR league. The owner who bought Lockett has a 5-6 record just outside of the 6th place playoff team and has a far better roster. The team that traded Lockett is 4-7 and looks to be locked in as the 3rd worst team in the league. Lockett has been incredibly inconsistent and is getting surpassed by D.K. Metcalf, so this manager was willing to part with Lockett for a first-round pick, giving him possibly two top-half picks next year. The team that traded Lockett lacks a starting RB-2, so I imagine he is trying to increase his chances of landing a future Rb-2 if not RB-1. The manager who acquired Lockett in the trade has a solid roster that realistically could challenge teams with better records in the playoffs (including me). This trade could help him compete in the playoffs but is a safe future play given his competitive roster. I see what both teams aimed to accomplish in this trade but like the Lockett side of this trade overall. Lockett is young enough and is safer than a middle first-round draft pick, which so often bust, but the team that sold Lockett does have two first-round picks now, so it increases his odds of hitting on a stud running back, especially if the new Lockett manager does not make the playoffs.  

Cam Akers <-----> 2021 2nd and 3rd round picks

  • This trade took place in my ten-team standard league. This rare trade was between the first and second place teams (brothers). They must have discussed how they currently valued Akers; a top-6 draft pick this the previous rookie draft. The one manager who drafted Akers in the first round last year decided he was worth a second and third-round pick next year, likely after seeing the distribution between running backs in L.A. this year. I agree with his speculation on Akers but would have preferred to get a first round pick in 2021 for a 2021 second and third round pick. I am not a fan of Akers after seeing how he has performed this year, but I still would have held out for a first-round pick next year since he was drafted in the first round last year and has shown some promise. 

Eric Ebron <-----> Parris Campbell

  • This trade took place in my 10-team half PPR league. The team that traded for Campbell has the worst record in the league and made a last-minute trade before the trade deadline to get an upside player. The team that traded for Ebron is in the playoffs but is starting Dalton Schultz at his tight end position. He thought that adding Ebron could help him advance in the playoffs if he could hit his stride. Both teams got what they wanted and needed in this trade, and it's pretty fair to me at the trade deadline. Campbell is still very unproven, so I can see why a manager would give up on him, but I can also see what a struggling team would give up an older asset to see what becomes of Campbell. I suspect that, in this league, Ebron will not put the competing owner over the top. Therefore, I like the bet on Campbell in this trade, especially since younger wide receivers have surpassed the older Colts receivers.

Carson Wentz <-----> 2021 3rd round pick

  • This trade took place in my ten team, one quarterback, standard league. This trade shows how much Wentz's value has dropped this year, after playing quite terribly. Even in a one-quarterback league, I think Wentz should have gone for more. His contract commits him to Philadelphia for several years to come. Philadelphia is committed to Wentz as their future quarterback, even if they drafted Jalen Hurts. I understand being annoyed at the lack of production from Wentz this year, but I could not understand trading him for a third-round draft pick in a one-quarterback league. I would have insisted on far more than a third-round pick, which rarely amounts to anything valuable for dynasty managers.

Robert Tonyan <-----> 2021 3rd and 5th round picks

  • This trade took place in my 12-team, half PPR league. The team that traded for Tonyan has Noah Fant as a starting tight end, so they wanted to add depth at the tight end position, especially after Fant's injury-plagued season. He has three first-round and three second-round picks already, so he willingly gave away his third and fifth-round picks. Given his 2021 picks, this seems like a fair bet on Tonyan, who has established himself as the starting tight end in Green Bay and a favorite of Aaron Rodgers, which matters more than other quarterbacks. I like the Tonyan side of this trade, given the team constructs.

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