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Happy second round of the playoffs, Fam! There are just 2 more weeks (in redraft, assuming you’ve made it to the playoffs) of genius tinkering. Of course, the most dedicated and passionate managers find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While some weeks your roster may allow for snoozing on sleepers, it’s always beneficial to keep tabs on emerging trends and players. This weekly column is for those who understand the satisfaction of digging deep.
All of the listed players are rostered in under 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily game. They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks … but that’s what makes them so intriguing.
COVID made Week 15 crazy … but, for the most part, my picks panned out. While Donovan Peoples-Jones and Allen Lazard disappointed, Justin Fields (QB10), D’Onta Foreman (RB9) and James O'Shaughnessy (TE14) all hit.
On to Week 16!
Tyler Huntley, QB, Baltimore Ravens (5% rostered, $31)
There are conflicting reports about the severity of Lamar Jackson’s ankle injury, whether it’s a bone bruise or a sprain. Regardless, the issue kept Jackson out of practice and off the field last week. He remains “day-to-day” with the malady at the time of this writing. Were he to miss Sunday’s division matchup at Cincy, Tyler Huntley would make his third start of the season.
The second-year player has flashed in Jackson’s stead, passing for over 200 yards and rushing for at least 40 in each of this year’s three appearances. He unleashed some of his own “invisible juice” last Sunday versus the Packers, running for 73 yards and two scores on 13 carries and closing out Week 15 as fantasy’s No. 1 QB.
He’ll be a top-14 play against the Bengals. Cincinnati boasts the No. 11 defense, per Football Outsiders Total DVOA. However, Who Dey recently gave up QB1 fantasy numbers to Justin Herbert in Week 13 (QB4) and Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 14 (QB12).
NOTE: With Jared Goff on the COVID list and Cam Newton potentially splitting snaps with Sam Darnold, Justin Fields (26% rostered, $23) is a solid pivot in the case that Jackson plays.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (7% rostered, $12)
Austin Ekeler has COVID. He talked about it in this week’s episode of Ekeler’s Edge, admitting that it was unlikely he’d be well enough to play on Sunday at Houston. When I asked him who would back him up, he said, “Justin Jackson,” without hesitation.
Jackson is a special player (96th percentile agility) — when he’s healthy, which he often isn’t. Right now, however, the Northwestern product is 100 percent. After 10 days of rest and coming off of a 99-total-yard effort (6.6 YPC) versus Kansas City, Jackson should roll over a Texans squad that’s allowed the most rushing yards (2,030) in 2021. Even with Joshua Kelley rotating in, Jackson is a solid bet to rip off some long runs and record top-20 FF numbers against Houston’s No. 27 ranked run defense (DVOA).
Josh Reynolds, WR, Detroit Lions (10% rostered, $16)
Amon-Ra St. Brown has been receiving most of the buzz in Motor City … but don’t sleep on Josh Reynolds. Reunited with Jared Goff in Week 11, the former Aggie has drawn at least five targets over his last four games. Reynolds has also demonstrated his jump skills as a Lion, recording a contested-catch rate of nearly 67 percent (WR5) while scoring twice since Week 12.
His work as a red-zone target figures to be further highlighted, not only with T.J. Hockenson out for the remainder of the year but in a plus matchup at Atlanta as well. The Falcons have allowed the second-most receiving TDs (27) on the season. Assuming A.J. Terrell devotes a large portion of his energy to covering the aforementioned St. Brown, Reynolds should be in line for a third trip to the end zone. FF: 5-70-1
Tyler Johnson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1% rostered, $14)
Understandably, Ronald Jones ($18) has been the Bucs’ backup du jour while Antonio Brown’s return continues to spark conversation. Tyler Johnson’s potential, however, has been lost in all of the chatter.
Johnson is a physical player who excelled in the red area of the field while at Minnesota, posting 13 scores over 13 games in 2019. The second-year wideout recorded a season-high number of snaps (69) in the Bucs’ Week 15 loss to the Saints. Johnson also drew a season-high seven looks after Chris Godwin and Mike Evans exited last Sunday’s contest early.
AB — who managed a 21.8% slot snap share from Weeks 1 through 6 — figures to take on Godwin’s role in the offense while Johnson has a chance to work outside in place of Evans. Leaning into the Angry Tom Brady narrative and noting the matchup (Carolina has allowed 15 TDs to opposing WRs, including three to the Bills last week), there figure to be ample scoring opportunities.
You’re definitely chasing TDs with Johnson, but I think it’s likely he snags you one.
Brevin Jordan, TE, Houston Texans (1% rostered, $10)
This isn’t Brevin Jordan’s first appearance in this column. The rookie tight end started to emerge over the final third of the season after leapfrogging Jordan Akins and Anthony Auclair on the team’s depth chart. His pass-catching role steadily grew from Weeks 11 through 14, as the rookie averaged 4.25 targets and 15.5 routes-run while additionally finding the end zone twice over that span.
Assuming he’s back from the hand injury that limited him in Week 15, Jordan could be a fantasy delight this Sunday versus the Chargers. Los Angeles has given up the second-most fantasy points — and 11 scores — to the tight end position. Plus, with Brandin Cooks on the COVID list, Jordan’s target volume figures to see a boost. He’s a top-20 dart throw in the second round of the playoffs.
Bonus TE: Evan Engram, New York Giants (31% rostered, $15)
I know Chris Myarick stole Evan Engram’s TD versus Philly three weeks ago, but that just means EE is due! The player is absolutely hard to trust — even more so given the talent under center — but between COVID and injuries, the position is even more chaotic than usual. The Eagles are the best matchup for opposing TEs and Engram is top-10 in routes-run while averaging over five targets per game.
I’m getting Christmas Miracle vibes.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF