News & Analysis

Fantasy 5: Austin Ekeler on the rise?

Nov 12, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates with wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) after his touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

 (The Fantasy 5 is a quick-hit wrap-up of some of the biggest news topics of the day for fantasy football players, giving you advice you need to set your lineup or pick your DFS roster.)

We’re back at it again for this week’s Fantasy 5, focusing on the key things you need to know entering Week 11. Whether you’re researching information for your season-long leagues or trying to narrow down your DFS player pool, there’s generally something for everyone featured here. Here’s a look at the some of the more interesting pieces of fantasy news to know heading into the weekend games.

1. Is Austin Ekeler’s workload a concern for Melvin Gordon owners?

Last week against the Jaguars, Ekeler played on 33.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, rushing 10 times for 42 yards and catching 5-of-5 targets for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Given how poorly Gordon played that week (16 rushes for 27 yards with a 5-15-0 receiving stat line), people have been (fairly) questioning Gordon’s role moving forward. I think we’ll learn a lot about each player’s respective roles in this game against the Bills. Buffalo has been absolutely dreadful against the run over the past two weeks, allowing 475 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to opposing running backs. Gordon has been a back that relies on volume for his fantasy points for much of his career, and it isn’t difficult to envision him seeing a ton of volume this week with the Chargers as 6-point home favorites. Gordon could either win you a GPP with a 100-yard outing and multiple scores, or fall flat with a 25-67-0 stat line. He’s a tremendous DFS tournament option given this wide range of outcomes. Ekeler is probably best served as a fringe flex play in 12-team or deeper leagues. He could possibly take over garbage time snaps if this game gets out of hand early with Nathan Peterman drawing his first NFL start on the road. This is going to be a game I’m monitoring closely in Week 11 to see whether or not Ekeler’s spike in snaps (he played a career-high last week) was a blip on the radar or something here to stay for the remainder of the season.

2. Damon Harrison injury pivotal to Giants slowing Kareem Hunt

After getting carted off the field in last week’s game, Harrison (ankle) did not participate in practice on Wednesday this week and was limited both Thursday and Friday. If he were to miss this week’s game, it’d be time to double-down on Hunt exposure. Harrison has been one of our best-graded run defenders for a while now, and his absence from this defense would be catastrophic. His last two seasons have provided the highest run-stop percentage figures we’ve ever recorded for an interior defenseman over the past decade. He’s been the league’s highest-graded run defender in each of the past four seasons. New York has already ruled out linebacker B.J. Goodson and Kelvin Sheppard is listed as “doubtful” with a groin injury. The Giants are being run on 45.7 percent of the time (fifth-most) and have allowed the third-most red-zone trips to opposing offenses (3.6 per game). With Harrison sidelined, Hunt could run wild against this injury-laden Giants defense.

3. Contrarian spotlight: Baltimore passing attack

I’m going to use this segment to highlight what I believe to be an under-talked about DFS strategy this week, in targeting this Ravens passing attack. Excluding Baltimore’s 40-0 drubbing of the Dolphins on TNF, Joe Flacco has 52, 39, and 41 dropbacks in his last three games — all losses. This game opened as a pick ‘em, so it really wouldn’t be that surprising to find the Ravens needing to pass in this one if they were to fall behind. That’s where the contrarian fantasy goodness comes in. Jeremy Maclin draws a huge advantage (according to our WR/CB Matchup Chart) in the slot against Damarious Randall. Randall is currently our No. 110-graded cornerback out of 116 qualifying and is allowing 1.64 yards per route covered (bottom-13 rank). Maclin looks to have a significant advantage here and looks healthy after posting an 8-98-0 stat line on nine targets. Mike Wallace is also poised for potentially a big game. He runs 89 percent of his routes on the outside, which means he’ll see plenty of coverage from Davon House and Kevin King. These two rank 95th and 96th, respectively, among all corners this year and Wallace presents a big mismatch with the Packers allowing the seventh-most pass plays of 20-plus yards. These players are likely best served for tournament performances, but they both come at low salaries and should draw low ownership given the Ravens’ recent performances.

4. Eagles getting healthy

The 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles look to be getting healthy at the right time to make a deep playoff push this year. TE Zach Ertz missed Week 9’s game with a hamstring injury, but after the team’s Week 10 bye, he was a full participant in practice all this week. Even with missing Week 9, Ertz leads all tight ends in touchdowns and has our second-highest receiving grade among all tight ends. Philadelphia will also be getting back CB Ronald Darby from his two-month absence. Darby dislocated his ankle in Week 1 against Washington, but was also a full participant in practice this week. The Eagles have been roasted on the outside by opposing wide receivers, with Jalen Mills seeing the most targets against among all cornerbacks this season. Darby will be a welcome addition back to a defense that is allowing the seventh-most passing yards per game.

5. PFF Grade of the Week: Travis Kelce

This week’s PFF grade I wanted to analyze was that of Kelce, given his tremendous matchup against the Giants this week. Kelce is our overall top-graded tight end and our No. 1 graded receiving tight end. Among all tight ends, Kelce currently ranks fourth in targets (68), second in receptions (51), first in receiving yards (629), and tied for third in touchdowns (5). He has been a top-12 fantasy tight end in 7-of-9 games so far this year. Kelce has a dream matchup against the Giants this week, the most fantasy-friendly defense for opposing tight ends. They have allowed a touchdown to opposing tight ends in every week so far this season and should provide little resistance to one of the game’s most dominant players at his position.

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