News & Analysis

Week 15 fantasy football rankings overview

Seahawks' D.K. Metcalf (14) carries the ball against the Eagles Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 in Philadelphia. Jl Eagles 113020 23

In this week’s preview of the Week 15 NFL slate, I'm highlighting key insights for every road team from Sunday to Monday that I didn't break down in PFF’s huge NFL Week 15 Preview

Analysis of Saturday’s game can be found in my Saturday-only DFS article. You’ll find everything on Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers there. 

For now, I'll identify sleepers, busts, DFS picks and waiver-wire options with consideration for injuries and other fantasy-relevant news and notes. It’s a behind the curtains look into my Week 15 fantasy rankings.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

DFS doesn’t have to be hard, people. We were all over Brandon Aiyuk at 5.4K last week and we will be all over him again at $6.3K on DraftKings this week. Since Week 8 ,he trails only Tyreek Hill in expected fantasy points (22.5) per game, and we saw him command a whopping 16 targets in Week 14 without Deebo Samuel.

Samuel isn’t coming back anytime soon, so the 49ers’ passing offense will continue to go through their star rookie. Dallas ranks 29th in touchdown percentage (9.2%) and 23rd in yards per target (8.6) allowed to WRs in their last four games. 

Tight end Jordan Reed has become an afterthought in the 49ers’ offense and failed to increase his production with Samuel sidelined in Week 14. He continues to work in a timeshare with Ross Dwelley, so he’s off the streaming radar this week against Dallas. They have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to TEs over the past four weeks.

The 49ers running backs should be started in lineups across all formats and look to be great leverage plays at their current sub-3% projected ownership

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Chris Carson has finished as a top-18 running back for three consecutive weeks since returning from his injury — I have him ranked as a mid-range RB2. I continue to expect him to split work with Carlos Hyde to some extent, which limits his ceiling. And the matchup is going to be tough versus the Football Team.

WFT has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points and the fewest rushing yards over the past four weeks to running backs (3.0 yards per attempt). I agree with PFF’s Nathan Janke who wrote that, “Carson has a high floor since he should see double-digit carries, but the ceiling isn’t very high.”

The Football Team has been much more vulnerable against wide receivers — fifth-most fantasy points to WRs the past four weeks — so that gives me even more confidence starting Tyler Lockett in Week 15. 

D.K. Metcalf is at an inflated price ($8,600) on DraftKings, but it’s impossible to fade him with the usage he has been getting. He leads the NFL in team air yards share (51%) and ranks ninth in team end-zone target share (45%) over the last month.

Metcalf is also projected to match up mano y mano with Kendall Fuller, who has regressed negatively since the start of the season. From Weeks 1-9, Fuller allowed zero touchdowns in coverage. He has allowed a league-leading five touchdowns in coverage from Weeks 10-14. 

Fire up the Rusell Wilson stacks this week, even with pressure imminent. No quarterback has thrown more TDs under pressure (11) than Russ this season. 

CHICAGO BEARS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Allen Robinson has a 30% target share and is averaging 2.25 yards per route run with Mitchell Trubisky under center. With Nick Foles at QB, the Bears’ No. 1 wide receiver has a 24% target share and averages 1.91 yards per route run. Needless to say, Mitch has saved Robinson’s fantasy value, and I’d argue the Bears’ wide receiver’s DraftKings salary at $7.4K is still too cheap.

He ranks second in the NFL in end-zone targets since Trubisky took over and is seeing the same air yards share (37%) that elite WRs like Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill are also absorbing. 

A-Rob is cheaper than all those guys and arguably has the most favorable matchup of the bunch versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15. The Vikings rank 30th in deep-ball rate faced (25%), 25th in explosive pass play percentage allowed (25%) and 25th in yards per target allowed (9.4) to wide receivers since Week 11. 

Nov 29, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) rushes with the football during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Haters will say that David Montgomery’s production in the last few weeks has been because he’s played super-soft matchups. And while there is some semblance of truth there, it’s not like the Vikings are anything to fear in Week 15, so expect high-end RB2 production from Monty for a fourth-straight week.

But he is probably a solid fade in DFS because his price is way up and his recent production ranks second-most above expectation, meaning some regression is likely on the horizon. 

Minnesota also ranks No. 1 in the league in the lowest explosive run percentage allowed to zone runs this season, and it’s been the zone concepts the past three weeks that have boosted Montgomery’s rushing production. 

I wrote about tight end Cole Kmet in my waiver wire column and start/sit this week, so it’s no surprise I love him at 3K on DraftKings this week — easy plug-and-play option for any TE-needy team across the board. He’s a cash-game lock for me in DFS as a punt tight end.  

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

Fantasy managers who have come this far have probably done so without relying on any Patriots players. Cam Newton’s passing is too inconsistent to make him a reliable starting option across any format, and that makes it impossible to start any of his WRs.

Cam finished as the QB6 when these teams first met back in Week 1 because of two rushing touchdowns, so it’s not out of the range of outcomes that he could produce. But it’s just too fringy for me to bank on, even though the Patriots have the fourth-highest advantage in the trenches this week.

This game is hands-off for me in DFS outside the DSTs and the one-off play of Lynn Bowden Jr., who I listed as a “start” this week. 

The Patriots ($3,000) are cheaper of the two, and the Bill Belichick versus rookie QB narrative precedes itself. Over the past decade, rookie passers have combined for 14 touchdown passes compared to 20 interceptions against the Patriots.

Then consider that the Dolphins' offense has taken the fifth-most sacks over the past four weeks. The Pats' DST is shaping up to be solid in Week 15.  

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

I’m lower than the consensus on James Robinson this week because there’s a good chance he could fall victim to the game script for a second-straight week. He saw his lowest carry total (12) since Week 6 last week because the Jags were getting blown out — and he's been on the injury report with a knee issue for two weeks now. 

Robinson still has to be in starting lineups because we could see him more involved in the passing game. His target share (12% versus 9%) has been higher this year with Gardner Minshew under center. 

The Baltimore defense has also seemed to lose its identity upfront, ranking sixth-worst against RBs in fantasy over the past four weeks. 

PFF’s DFS optimizer loves Lamar Jackson and the Ravens this week, so savvy DFS players will look for bring-back options for a game stack. I’m not opposed to just running an entire Ravens onslaught, but don’t overlook the Jags’ wideouts as bring-back options. Both popped in my high-value opportunities ahead of Week 15 piece

The Ravens have allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks. 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

Ronald Jones II is out, so the Buccaneers’ backfield will likely turn to Leonard Fournettee on early downs and LeSean McCoy on passing downs with the potential for rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn to mix in. 

Vaughn is worth stashing just in case he sees a decent workload because the Bucs get Detroit in Week 16. But for this week Fournette is my highest-ranked Buccaneers running back. 

Fournette has obviously been disappointing, but he's projected to see 10-12 touches on a high-powered offense, so it’s not impossible to see him hitting ROI on his $4.5K price tag on DraftKings.

Fournette has scored double-digit fantasy points in every game he has seen at least 10 carries. He would likely be the primary goal-line back for Tampa, which makes his touchdown equity pretty high. 

He has also seen at least three targets in every game he has played since Week 7, furthering bolstering his fantasy value. 

The matchup isn’t ideal — Atlanta has allowed the second-fewest rushing yards to RBs this season — but they have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game over the past two weeks and 4.5 yards per attempt to RBs.

Oct 25, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 45-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I listed Tom Brady as a “start” this week, so naturally I am higher on his pass-catchers. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are running side-by-side as the 1.A/1.B, with Antonio Brown clearly behind as the No. 3 based on snaps and routes run. 

No player this week has a more favorable WR/CB matchup this week than Godwin.

DETROIT LIONS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

It’s truly looking like a 50/50 proposition whether or not Matthew Stafford plays this week, and it makes all the difference in the world. If he's out, T.J.Hockenson’s ranking would take a hit, and I would ultimately be forced to slightly lower Marvin Jones Jr. as well. 

But what I will say about Chase Daniel is that his play doesn’t nuke Jones’ value all the way. I put in extensive research when I thought Daniel would get a start back in Week 9 when Stafford was placed on the Reserve/Covid list and came across some interesting findings:

When Daniel was in Chicago in 2019, he was able to keep Bears top WR Allen Robinson II fantasy relevant. In two games, Robinson saw a 26% target share and averaged 21.7 fantasy points per game.

The journeyman quarterback also showed an affinity for throwing to running backs, targeting the position at a 33.5% clip. That bodes well for De’Andre Swift, who has primarily operated as the team’s pass-catching back. Stafford is throwing to running backs much less frequently (18.0%) this season.

I don’t think Jones nor Swift become out-right “sits” based on Daniel starting, unless fantasy managers feel great about alternatives. The Titans’ defense has allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs over the past two weeks, and Jones is seeing an absurd amount of high-value opportunities as of late. 

I don’t necessarily think those targets go away without Stafford. Daniel has attempted just one pass of 20-plus yards this season, and it went to Jones. 

I also don’t hate from a game theory perspective buying into the backup QB/backup WR corollary between Daniel and rookie Quintez Cephus. The inexperienced wideout is priced at just $3.4K and is one week removed from a 14.3 fantasy-point performance. 

Hopefully, none of this matters and Stafford plays so we can get a shootout in Tennessee. His presence would not only raise the fantasy values of the Lions’ players but of the Titans’ players as well — I would imagine this game would be much more competitive. 

HOUSTON TEXANS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Keke Coutee has played the Colts four times in his career and has posted three 100-yard games. He’s emerged as a go-to option for quarterback Deshaun Watson, and I think he’s a much better play alongside a healthy Brandin Cooks. Last week without Cooks, he commanded only three targets. 

The Texans’ leader in targets over the past two weeks has been Chad Hansen (14), who also put up 100 yards through the air when he played the Colts in Week 13.

I doubt that the Texans will be able to run the ball effectively with David Johnson, Duke Johnson Jr. or whoever else they deploy in the backfield. Avoid this backfield at all costs, as the Texans have the second-most difficult OL/DL matchup when the team elects to run this week. 

Ideally, I think Coutee becomes the primary DFS play assuming Cooks returns — based on the matchup, projected ownership and price. No team has been worse versus slot WRs over the past four weeks (12.4 yards per target), and his projected ownership is 5%. His $5,300 price tag is hardly tough to build around. 

Also, don’t be concerned about Watson unless Cooks doesn’t play. I say that because over the past two weeks he is running more than any other QB. He leads the NFL in scrambles (11) — 38 rushing yards per game — which is supporting his fantasy value. 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

I listed both Jalen Hurts and Dallas Goedert as “starts” this week because these are the only two Eagles players that fantasy managers might be fringy about starting in Week 15. Hurts will almost certainly be my cash-game QB at just $5,900, and Goedert would be the pairing I’d choose to play in tournaments.

Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) carries the ball against the Saints Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 in Philadelphia.
Jl Eagles 121320 02

The only other Eagles player in starting lineups should be Miles Sanders, but I am lower on him than the consensus. I'm not backing down on my take that “mobile quarterbacks limit RBs upside,”  and let’s not forget the Eagles enjoyed the perfect game script to the run ball with Sanders in Week 14.

When Arizona has allowed fantasy points to RBs, it’s been because of touchdowns. They have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns to RBs over the past four weeks. 

But just ask any fantasy managers who own either Kenyan Drake or Damien Harris. Running back touchdown equity is never guaranteed with a mobile QB when the team closes in on paydirt. 

NEW YORK JETS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS

The worst offense in the league versus best defense in the league. Denzel Mims is the only Jets player I would even consider, and it would strictly be as part of a bring-back in a Rams stack in DFS. 

His price has fallen to 3.5K after he was inactive last week, and he still leads the team in air yards share (36%). I also may or may not have bought a Mims jersey, so I’d sure like him to play well. 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a volume-based RB2 because his usage is trending up, though the matchup is brutal. Per Ian Hartitz’s NFL backfield breakdown, CEH played a season-high 75% of the snaps in Week 14. 

But even after last week's week's slip versus the Eagles, New Orleans still has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs. 

The Chiefs offense still goes through Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, but I’d argue Kelce provides the best value this week on DraftKings. He’s cheaper despite the fact that he leads the league in receiving yards, and the New Orleans matchup could provide a multi-touchdown game for the league’s best tight end.

The Saints are tied with the Bengals and Raiders for the most end-zone targets allowed to TEs this season. 

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ NEW YORK GIANTS

Kareem Hunt has re-entered fantasy managers' good graces because of his recent uptick in the passing game. He has 10 targets over the past two weeks, and that bodes well versus the New York Giants, who have allowed the second-most receptions to RBs this season. 

Nov 15, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) breaks a tackle from Houston Texans linebacker Tyrell Adams (50) during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Big Blue has also allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to the RB position over the past two weeks. Fire up Hunt in the fantasy playoffs.

Jarvis Landry ranks eighth in expected fantasy points per game (19.1) and is tied for fourth in the league reception (22) over the past three weeks. He’s entered the conversation as a safe WR3 that fantasy managers can trust in Week 15.

Rashard Higgins also stands out as a solid play in deeper formats with Giants top cornerback James Bradberry placed on the Reserve/Covid list. The Browns wide receiver ranked third last week in total air yards and leads the team in share of team air yards (30%) over the past four weeks. 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

Fantasy managers should do what they can to avoid having to rely on Chase Claypool Monday night to lead their teams to a fantasy championship. He has been operating as the team’s No. 4 wide receiver over the past two weeks based on snaps and routes run. 

This also isn’t a fluke — Mike Tomlin came out and explicitly stated that he doesn’t want Claypool to hit a rookie wall, so that’s why they are limiting his snaps. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that his reduction in playing time has coincided with Pittsburgh losing two games in a row.

We can’t assume rational coaching, so it doesn’t make sense to start a part-time receiver who thrives off deep passing plays. 

Ben Roethlisberger ranks fourth in the NFL in passing attempts of 20 yards or more, but his adjusted completion percentage (32.8%) ranks 32nd out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks. 

That’s down with guys like Sam Darnold, Mike Glennon, Drew Lock and Jake Luton. If we aren’t starting vertical wide receivers playing with those QBs, then why would we be starting Claypool?

Don’t be afraid to sit a rookie who hasn’t finished inside the top 35 at wide receiver over the past three weeks. 

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