Monitoring players' injury status is crucial to fantasy football — from draft preparation to in-season roster moves, sit/start decisions and DFS plays. In this week's injury report cheat sheet, I'll comb through the official injury reports for each game and offer updates and analysis for not just fantasy-relevant players, but for all players whose availability could influence another player’s fantasy rankings.
Just last week, we saw Calvin Ridley continue his streak of dominance without Julio Jones in the lineup, with his fourth 100-yard game of the season. And with Jones already ruled out, don’t be surprised to see that streak extended to five.
Injuries matter, folks.
DREW BREES, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ($5,900)
Brees' salary does not reflect the upside he has with Alvin Kamara in what projects to be an offensive showdown. It's not ideal that he'll be without Michael Thomas due to an ankle injury, but Brees has had several big games without him this season.
Brees is set up to post low-end QB1 numbers, as Kansas City has allowed 10 passing touchdowns over the last four weeks, second only to the New York Jets.
Just be wary with him in traditional leagues — the risk of re-injury seems high with broken ribs.
LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS ($7,500)
The Jaguars have no cornerbacks left. Sidney Jones is out with an Achilles injury and Tre Herndon was placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. I won’t go into detail about how bad the backup CBs are here, but it should be an uber efficient passing day for Lamar Jackson regardless of who he has at wide receiver.
Over the past three weeks, the Jags have allowed the league’s fourth-highest passer rating (123.8).
I don’t love any of the Baltimore WRs because the passing volume is going to be fringy at best, but my favorite would be Devin Duvernay at just $3,200. Duvernay will move to the outside with Willie Snead in the slot.
The rookie wide receiver has 4.39 speed, so he’s the most likely to run the deep routes Marquise Brown would usually see.
DESHAUN WATSON, HOUSTON TEXANS ($6,800)
Without Brandin Cooks last week, Deshaun Watson threw for a season-low 7.3 yards per attempt and scored fewer than 17 fantasy points for the first time since Week 2 (excluding the weather game in Cleveland).
For me to feel comfortable playing Watson, I would need Cooks to be active. If Cooks is out, Watson would likely fall outside my top 12 QBs — I'd favor guys like Jalen Hurts, Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Jared Goff over him.
Watson has not finished inside the top 13 QBs in either of his last two games.
PHILIP RIVERS, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS ($5,900)
In the Week 12 injury report cheat sheet, I talked at length about how much better the Colts offense operates with a healthy Anthony Castanzo at left tackle. He missed Week 13 and was banged-up heading into Week 14, which coincided with Rivers’ two worst fantasy finishes since Week 10.
Costanzo is fully off the injury report this week, so the Colts’ offense should be firing all on all cylinders on Sunday. They have the third-highest implied team total on the main slate.
GABRIEL DAVIS, BUFFALO BILLS ($4,000)
John Brown has been ruled out for another week, so it will be the rookie Gabriel Davis getting his fourth consecutive start on Saturday. Over his past three starts, he has averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game (23rd) and leads the team in end-zone targets (four). He also ranks third in the NFL in aDOT (16.9).
The Bills rookie should be set for another productive outing against an extremely banged up Broncos secondary that just placed two more cornerbacks on IR this week. They will be trotting out a trio of backups in Michael Ojemudia, De'Vante Bausby and Will Parks.
Per PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart, Davis should see most of Ojemudia, who has allowed a 131.5 passer rating in coverage over the past three weeks. He has also allowed the most receptions of 20-plus yards (six) among Broncos corners this season.
D.J. MOORE, CAROLINA PANTHERS ($5,200)
Curtis Samuel is dealing with a hamstring injury, so there’s a chance he’s a no-go for Saturday night. We have a one-game sample of the 2020 Panthers offense without Samuel this season, where Moore commanded a season-high 11 targets. Samuel’s absence would also thrust Pharoh Cooper into three-WR sets in the slot.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON, MINNESOTA VIKINGS ($7,300)
ADAM THIELEN, MINNESOTA VIKINGS ($7,100)
Bears CBs Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine were listed as DNPs on the injury report through Thursday. If neither can go, they'd be forced to start two 5-foor-10 180-pound cornerbacks in Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley. These two have combined to play 45 coverage snaps this season.
The Chicago pass defense was already reeling — having allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks — so this is shaping up to be a smash spot for Minnesota pass-catchers.
TERRY MCLAURIN, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM ($6,600)
The addition of pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap has revolutionized the Seahawks’ defense — since his arrival in Week 9, Seattle has not allowed a WR to catch a touchdown.
Dunlap was out last week, but the New York Jets hardly present any threat with their wide receivers. Still, McLaurin could have a huge game given that his QB will have extra time to throw if Dunlap misses a second-straight week.
McLaurin should also see a production boost with Dwanye Haskins, per his splits with his former Ohio State teammate.
- McLaurin with Alex Smith: 22% target share, 1.59 yards per route run, 85.2 QBR, 15.1 fantasy points per game.
- McLaurin with Haskins: 26% target share, 2.30 yards per route run, 107.5 QBR, 17.8 fantasy points per game.
DEANDRE HOPKINS, ARIZONA CARDINALS ($7,900)
The Eagles’ secondary has been decimated with injuries. Starting cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay have both missed practice this week. Maddox has already been ruled out, and the Eagles’ highest-graded safety (77.3) Rodney McLeod was placed on IR.
MARVIN JONES JR., DETROIT LIONS ($5,700)
Chase Daniel starting at quarterback doesn’t nuke Marvin Jones’ value all the way. I put in extensive research when I thought Daniel would get a start back in Week 9 when Matthew 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.
Jones isn't an outright DFS fade with Daniel. 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 lately.
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.
RUSSELL GAGE, ATLANTA FALCONS ($4,700)
The Buccaneers’ highest-graded cornerback, Jamel Dean, will be making his way back to the lineup this week, and his presence will surely give a boost to what has been a leaky secondary the past two weeks.
Tampa Bay boasted a top-10 coverage grade (66.7) and top-five overall defensive grade (72.7) through Week 12. In their last two games, they have had graded as a bottom-10 coverage team (56.1) and overall defense (58.1).
Gage has also seen seven, eight and 12 targets in his last three games played without a healthy Julio Jones. If salary can’t be found to pay up for Calvin Ridley ($8,200), Gage can be a great pay-down option.
In my Week 15 rankings overview, I wrote up Gage as a deep play because I loved his WR/CB matchup versus Sean-Murphy Bunting. The Bucs cornerback moves back to the slot when Dean is active and plays on the perimeter.
LYNN BOWDEN JR., MIAMI DOLPHINS ($3,700)
Lynn Bowden Jr. is projected to be the starting slot receiver for Miami in Week 15, and it’s not hard to imagine him seeing anywhere between eight and 10 targets based on all the injuries the Dolphins have at their offensive skill positions.
Mike Gesicki, Jakeem Grant and DeVante Parker are all questionable for Sunday.
Bowden has seen 13 targets over the past two weeks, and the slot is exactly where targets are most plentiful when facing New England. The Patriots have faced the third-most slot targets to WRs over the past four weeks. New England slot cornerback Jonathan Jones has been targeted on 22% of his coverage snaps this season, the highest in the league.
To put Bowden’s legitimacy as a starting option in perspective, I would rather start him in my RB slot than DeAndre Washington, despite the latter being the “starting” running back for the Dolphins.
Washington has been “15 touches and a cloud of dust” in his two featured games this season, so I’d rather shoot for the upside with the RB/WR rookie hybrid.
Washington also may have more competition in the backfield with Salvon Ahmed potentially making his return.
D.J. CHARK JR., JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS ($5,000)
D.J. Chark Jr. has buried DFS players in back-to-back weeks, making it extremely unlikely that he garners any type of high ownership in Week 15. But the air yards, deep targets and end-zone targets have been there for Chark, so I am willing to go back around one more time against a Ravens pass defense that hasn’t been great over the past month.
Their top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, is going to be out. The defense has struggled even with him, allowing the third-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks.
EMMANUEL SANDERS, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ($4,200)
TRE’QUAN SMITH, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ($3,200)
Sanders was the leading New Orleans wide receiver during the four games played without Thomas to start the year. He led the team in air yards, commanded a 21% target share and averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game.
The veteran wide receiver also saw encouraging usage near the end zone last week, so he feels like a solid value at $4.2K in what should be a high-scoring game.
Tre’Quan Smith has seen 12 targets over the past two weeks, and his two best games this season corresponded with Thomas being out of the lineup. He’s only $3.2K, so he doesn’t need to do much to return value and can open up a lot of salary to pay up elsewhere.
In his six games without Thomas, Smith averaged 9.4 expected fantasy points per game, which is essentially three times his DraftKings salary. That’s exactly the move DFS players are looking for in cash games.
DENZEL MIMS, NEW YORK JETS ($3,500)
BRAXTON BERRIOS, NEW YORK JETS ($3,000)
Jamison Crowder is questionable with the same calf injury as last week — even if he plays, he'll probably be limited. I wrote up Mims as my favorite Jets option in my Week 15 rankings overview piece, but we can’t overlook Berrios at the stone minimum $3K salary.
RASHARD HIGGINS, CLEVELAND BROWNS ($4,400)
DONOVAN PEOPLES-JONES, CLEVELAND BROWNS ($3,400)
Rashard Higgins stands out as a solid play in deeper formats with Giants top cornerback James Bradberry moved to 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.
The Giants' other starting cornerback, Darnay Holmes, is also questionable, so that could further open up the floodgates for the Browns’ passing attack. Donovan Peoples-Jones tied Higgins for third in air yards (167) among all players in Week 14.
ALVIN KAMARA, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS ($7,400)
Any Alvin Kamara fantasy manager is ecstatic to hear the news about Brees getting the start this week. Taysom Hill lowered Kamara’s fantasy production to a meager 14.2 fantasy points per game over the past four weeks.
With Brees at the helm from Weeks 1-10, Kamara averaged 27.4 fantasy points per game. During that stretch, he was always priced above $8K. So take the discount and play him on DraftKings this week.
Kansas City has allowed the third-most receiving yards to RBs over the past four weeks.
With Thomas out, Kamara is almost assured to see double-digit targets. Without Thomas from Weeks 2-8, Kamara commanded a 28% target share and 10 targets per game.
RAHEEM MOSTERT, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ($5,800)
JEFF WILSON JR., SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ($5,100)
It’s been three weeks of Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. manning the 49ers backfield. Neither has put up a top-24 performance over this time frame, but that’s because both running backs have been underperforming expectations.
The touches have been there for both to be productive fantasy assets. With a Dallas Cowboys matchup on deck, I think both can churn out top-24 outings.
Dallas has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks, and the team will surely fall victim to Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone run scheme. Mostert leads the NFL in yards per attempt (5.6) from outside zone — Wilson ranks 16th (4.5) — and Dallas has sputtered to a PFF run-defense grade of 33.4 on those run concepts, 29th league-wide. Only the Patriots, Raiders and Lions have been worse. The 49ers rushed for 197 yards and four touchdowns against New England in Week 7,
Mostert's projected ownership (2.7%) is low because of his injury, but we have seen time after time banged-up running backs enter games and break slates. Mostert could easily be that guy for Week 15.
But if he is ruled out, I’d feel confident rolling out Wilson. I’d limit my exposure in GPPs, though, if his ownership gets up to 20% because Kyle Shanahan is no stranger to “shaking up the backfield.”
D'ANDRE SWIFT, DETROIT LIONS ($6,400)
Chase Daniel has historically had an affinity for throwing to running backs, targeting the position at a 33.5% clip in his last four starts. 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.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, DALLAS COWBOYS ($6,100)
Zeke is banged up and I am not hopeful he turns it around this week against the 49ers, who have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Elliot is “a little further away this week than he was last week,” per the Dallas Morning News' Michael Gehlken.
He's expected to play, but you shouldn't be afraid to bench him.
LEONARD FOURNETTE, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS ($4,500)
The Falcons could be without a key contributor on their defensive line this week with rookie defensive linemen Marlon Davidson questionable to suit up. He leads the team’s interior defenders in run-stop percentage (8.8%), so his absence gives a small boost to the Bucs ground game.
KENYAN DRAKE, ARIZONA CARDINALS ($5,500)
Chase Edmonds has been missing practice all week, so Drake could be in line for another heavy workload in Week 15. He’s already seen 20-plus carries in two of his last three games. I’d project him to see another 20 touches if Edmonds can’t go with some more looks coming in the passing game.
When Drake missed a game earlier in the season, Edmonds commanded 28 touches and an insane 96% snap share. Edmonds’ absence would make Drake the best value on the main slate at running back.
The matchup is also decent — Philly has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points and eighth-most rushing yards to RBs over the past four weeks (4.5 yards per attempt).
Drake has also been his most productive running from man run concepts (6.2 yards per attempt), and the Eagles have faced the third-most rushing attempts from man-schemed runs.
KAREEM HUNT, CLEVELAND BROWNS ($5,100)
The potential loss of PFF’s highest-graded guard, Wyatt Teller, can't be overlooked this week. The Browns own PFF’s highest team run-blocking grade (86.1) with him on the field. Without him, that run-blocking grade falls to 29th (56.1).
Don’t expect another 20-plus fantasy performance from Hunt or anything special from him as a rusher. New York has allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards to RBs over the past four weeks (3.5 yards per attempt).
DAVID JOHNSON, HOUSTON TEXANS ($5,100)
There wasn’t much to like at first about the Texans running back by committee versus a DeForest Buckner-led Colts run defense. But things can change quickly. Buckner is questionable and Duke Johnson Jr. is looking iffy.
David Johnson has floundered in plus-matchups all season with heavy workloads, so I am not going crazy for him in DFS, but he’s probably a safe RB2 option in redraft formats. DJ has just one top-10 RB finish in PPR scoring this season.
The potential loss of Buckner probably bodes well more for Deshaun Watson. Buckner is PFF’s fourth-highest graded pass-rusher on the interior and terrorized Watson when these teams first played with nine pressures, three sacks and five hurries.
JAYLEN SAMUELS, PITTSBURGH STEELERS ($4,000)
Samuels led the Steelers’ backfield in snaps on Sunday and offers the most upside of any Pittsburgh RB should James Conner be ruled out Monday night. He has dual-threat ability as a receiver/rusher. Benny Snell Jr. played just five snaps last week.
MARK ANDREWS, BALTIMORE RAVENS ($5,500)
In two games last season without Marquise Brown active, Mark Andrews commanded a 32% target share. He should see anywhere between eight to 10 targets against Jacksonville and has a great chance to find the end zone.
The Jags have allowed the second-most touchdowns to TEs this season.
IRV SMITH JR., MINNESOTA VIKINGS ($3,600)
He hauled in all four of his targets for 63 and a score versus the Buccaneers last week, and the matchup in Week 15 is even better. Chicago has struggled against tight ends, allowing the fourth-most points to the position over the last four weeks
GEORGE KITTLE, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ($5,300)
Even if Kittle does play, I’d be hesitant to play him in DFS. He would likely be on a pitch count similar to what we saw a few weeks back with Jordan Reed.
EVAN ENGRAM, NEW YORK GIANTS ($4,100)
If Colt McCoy starts, I fully expect Evan Engram to be his favorite target. Engram leads the team in targets (11) with McCoy under center. He should be able to post low-end TE1 numbers regardless of the QB because the Browns have been a punching bag against the position all season.
Cleveland has allowed the second-most fantasy points to TEs this season.
The Giants’ tight end did pop up on the injury report on Friday. If he can’t go, expect targets to flow toward Sterling Shepard. He is second in targets from McCoy this season.
DEFENSE /SPECIAL TEAMS
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM ($2,600)
Washington already looks like the premier pay-down option at DST based on Seattle allowing the fourth-highest pressure rate over the past five weeks.
But to put icing on the cake, Seattle is likely to be without RT Brandon Shell, who is their second-highest graded pass-blocker on the OL. Wilson was sacked five times in Week 13 by the New York Giants with Shell out.
ARIZONA CARDINALS ($2,900)
Right tackle Jack Driscoll is out for the season, which means the Eagles will have their 13th different OL in 14 games, per Dave Zangaro. That means Matt Pryor will get the start — he is the lowest-graded OL (52.7) who has played for the Eagles this season.
Arizona is coming off an eight-sack performance, so I feel good about them scoring fantasy points versus a porous o-line this week.
ATLANTA FALCONS ($2,400)
The Bucs have placed starting LT Donovan Smith on the Covid-19 list. He’s out for Sunday against the Falcons. Smith is Tampa’s highest-graded pass-blocking tackle (76.7), so his absence could lead to Tom Brady seeing more pressure than he’d like.