Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Week 15 key wide receiver questions and tight end analysis

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (11) catches the ball while Philadelphia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (23) defends in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

• Pittman in for a big game: Colts WR Michael Pittman is in a great position to boom against the Vikings' league-worst secondary against outside wide receivers.

• Wilson making his mark: Jets WR Garrett Wilson has been awesome without Zach Wilson under center and now faces the league's third-lowest-graded secondary.

• Next men up: Both 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk and TE George Kittle have historically put up enhanced numbers without Deebo Samuel (ankle) available.

Estimated reading time: 47 minutes

Week 15 is here! It’s truly a great day to be great.

What follows is a fantasy football-themed breakdown of each and every wide receiver and tight end group. The following seven categories will be analyzed for all 32 teams playing this week:

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Rankings: Where the wide receiver falls in my fantasy ranks. Updated ranks can be found throughout the week on PFF.com as well as the new PFF app.
  • WR Usage: Every team’s top-three wide receivers in terms of last week’s route rate alongside their season-long marks in targets per route run and yards per route run.
  • Week 15 Matchup: Opponent’s rank in PPR points allowed to opposing wide receivers as well as their team PFF coverage grade. Higher numbers are better for wide receivers; “32” illustrates the worst defense in a given category, and “1” is the best.
  • Shadow Matchups: Denotes whether or not any wide receivers are expected to be “shadowed” by a specific cornerback.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Where the tight end falls in my fantasy ranks. Updated ranks can be found throughout the week on PFF.com as well as the new PFF app.
    • TE Usage: Every team’s top-two tight ends in terms of last week’s route rate alongside their season-long marks in targets per route run and yards per route run.
  • Key question: One key question for every team that is on my mind.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: DeAndre Hopkins (WR9), Marquise Brown (WR27), A.J. Green (WR90)
  • WR Usage: Marquise Brown (94% routes, 0.22 targets per route run, 1.6 yards per route run), DeAndre Hopkins (88%, 0.27, 2.36), A.J. Green (69%, 0.12, 0.43)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: DEN: 2 in PPR per game to WR, 1 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Trey McBride (TE22)
  • TE Usage: Trey McBride (60% routes, 0.09 targets per route run, 0.4 yards per route run), Stephen Anderson (13%, 0.13, 0.24)
Key question: How far should expectations be dropped for this passing game with Kyler Murray (ACL) out for the season?

Long-term ceiling and rushing ability be damned: Colt McCoy hasn’t exactly been a major downgrade from Murray when it comes to throwing the football:

  • PFF passing grade: Murray (63.4); McCoy (74.2)
  • Yards per attempt: Murray (6.1); McCoy (6.3)
  • Passer rating: Murray (87.2); McCoy (81.7)
  • Adjusted completion rate: Murray (77%); McCoy (76.8%)

Yes, McCoy only has one passing touchdown in three extended appearances this season. Also yes, his latter two games have come against the 49ers and Patriots, not exactly the easiest matchups in the world.

This week’s primary problem unfortunately ties back to McCoy’s bad luck in opponent: The Broncos are PFF’s single highest-graded defense in terms of pure coverage grade. Last week Patrick Mahomes helped the Chiefs become the first team to rack up over 300 passing yards against this group all season — at a minimum, boom expectations for everybody involved should be lowered.

DeAndre Hopkins has seven consecutive top-24 PPR finishes since returning from suspension, with 14, 12 and 11 targets in his three games with McCoy under center. Fire him up as the solid WR1 he’s been this season. Marquise Brown is more of an upside WR3 who should continue to see plenty of low-aDOT opportunities, considering he’s taken over the primary slot role with Rondale Moore (groin, IR) done for the season.

Ultimately, the Cardinals are implied to score just 16.75 points — the second-lowest mark in Week 15. Hopkins and James Conner have the sort of matchup-proof volume to not overly worry about week-to-week start/sit decisions, but otherwise, I’ll be answering the heavy majority of close questions involving a Cardinals player with “the other guy.”


ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Drake London (WR33), Olamide Zaccheaus (WR80)
  • WR Usage: Olamide Zaccheaus (88% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.87 yards per route run), Drake London (88%, 0.26, 1.72), Damiere Byrd (48%, 0.16, 2.21)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: NO: 19 in PPR per game to WR, 19 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: MyCole Pruitt (TE40)
  • TE Usage: Anthony Firkser (48% routes, 0.12 targets per route run, 1.39 yards per route run), MyCole Pruitt (20%, 0.31, 1.81)
Key question: What does the newfound presence of Desmond Ridder under center mean for this passing game?

Things can’t get much worse considering the Falcons boast the league’s single lowest catchable target rate (71.5%) this season. However, even a boost in general efficiency might not make all that big of a difference for the pass-catchers involved unless the Falcons decide to actually throw the football even a somewhat reasonable amount. The league’s most run-heavy offense has averaged the third-most EPA per run play in the league; Cordarrelle Patterson and company are good at what they do. Still, this has led to Drake London and Kyle Pitts (knee, IR) before him simply not getting enough consistent volume to warrant must-start fantasy consideration.

London might not have the same counting stats as some of his rookie first-round peers at the position, but he's shown off an awfully lethal skill set in the rare moments where he was given a chance to make a play.

Ultimately, London has more than seven targets in just two games all season. Here’s to hoping that London’s 12 targets in Week 13 are a sign of things to come, even if the 2022 NFL Draft’s No. 8 overall pick is just the WR40 in expected PPR points per game and isn’t anything more than a low-floor WR3 in fantasy land until an improvement in both volume and quality of play under center is reached.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Demarcus Robinson (WR54), Devin Duvernay (WR58), DeSean Jackson (WR72)
  • WR Usage: Demarcus Robinson (74% routes, 0.2 targets per route run, 1.43 yards per route run), Devin Duvernay (61%, 0.13, 1.15), DeSean Jackson (35%, 0.25, 3.35)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: CLE: 17 in PPR per game to WR, 22 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Mark Andrews (TE2)
  • TE Usage: Mark Andrews (96% routes, 0.25 targets per route run, 1.86 yards per route run), Isaiah Likely (48%, 0.18, 1.28)
Key question: What has happened to Mark Andrews?

Injuries haven’t helped. Andrews missed Week 9 due to a combination of knee and shoulder injuries and struggled to get going ever since. Overall, Andrews hasn’t gained even 65 yards in a game or scored a touchdown since Week 6.

Of course, Andrews went absolutely bonkers during the first month and a half of the season, helping him still stand as the PPR TE2 overall despite the cold stretch. Still, Andrews has been a shell of his former self from an efficiency standpoint:

Year PFF Receiving Grade YPRR YPR YAC/REC WR RTG
2018 78.0 2.01 16.24 5.82 129.9
2019 90.2 2.89 13.31 4.53 115.1
2020 81.9 2.00 12.09 3.19 112.0
2021 91.0 2.18 12.72 4.18 95.0
2022 76.7 1.86 11.57 3.55 90.5

Quarterback injuries, as well as a lack of consistently healthy/viable options at wide receiver to help take attention away, haven’t helped, although Andrews managed to deal with both factors just fine down the stretch in 2021.

Ultimately, Andrews continues to have far too good of a track record and volume ceiling to even consider moving to the fantasy bench, albeit ceiling expectations certainly deserve to be quelled if Tyler Huntley (concussion) and Lamar Jackson (concussion) are both sidelined against the Browns. Nobody else in this passing game is a recommended start otherwise.


BUFFALO BILLS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Stefon Diggs (WR4), Gabe Davis (WR30), Isaiah McKenzie (WR49)
  • WR Usage: Gabriel Davis (94% routes, 0.15 targets per route run, 1.45 yards per route run), Stefon Diggs (91%, 0.27, 2.61), Isaiah McKenzie (73%, 0.17, 1.19)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: MIA: 21 in PPR per game to WR, 25 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis vs. Xavien Howard and Keion Crossen.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Dawson Knox (TE10)
  • TE Usage: Dawson Knox (94% routes, 0.13 targets per route run, 0.95 yards per route run), Quintin Morris (15%, 0.07, 0.58)
Key question: Are these shadow matchups overly concerning for either receiver?

Howard has shadowed Diggs on four occasions since 2020:

  • Week 17, 2020: 7-76-0 (8 targets – Diggs also only played 48% of the game’s snaps)
  • Week 2, 2021: 4-60-1 (8)
  • Week 8, 2021: 5-40-1 (7)
  • Week 3, 2022: 7-74-0 (11)

Nothing ridiculously overwhelming, but obviously this matchup also hasn’t caused too much trouble for one of the game’s very best wide receivers. Howard also hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt in shadow coverage this season, badly losing to the likes of Tee Higgins (7-124-1), Justin Jefferson (6-107-0) and most recently Mike Williams (6-116-1) throughout the year.

Nik Needham (Achilles, IR) drew the assignment against Davis (3-37-0) back in Week 3 and certainly held his own. The change in matchup is rather great news for Davis considering 1.) Needham (PFF’s 67th-highest-graded corner) generally played far better than Crossen (118th) this season, and 2.) Needham (6-foot-1, 196-pounds) matched up far better physically with the monstrous Davis than Crossen (5-foot-10, 194-pounds) probably will.

Diggs obviously always deserves WR1 treatment even if there’s a fire, but credit to Howard for keeping him under 80 receiving yards in each of their four career matchups. Perhaps this helps Davis really boom this time around; he’s only found the end zone once in his past four games and has just one game over 100 yards this season. Ultimately, these are Josh Allen’s top-two receivers we’re talking about here: Both have the potential to boom in any given matchup.


CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: DJ Moore (WR37), Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR75), Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR85)
  • WR Usage: D.J. Moore (100% routes, 0.21 targets per route run, 1.52 yards per route run), Terrace Marshall Jr. (86%, 0.16, 1.55), Shi Smith (38%, 0.11, 0.72)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: PIT: 28 in PPR per game to WR, 18 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Ian Thomas (TE32)
  • TE Usage: Ian Thomas (41% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.25 yards per route run), Tommy Tremble (38%, 0.12, 0.54)
Key question: Is everybody in this passing game a stay-away in fantasy land despite the winnable matchup?

Pretty much. D.J. Moore’s talent is never in question; he literally just went for 103 yards and a touchdown back in Week 12 with plenty of that production coming right in the grill of stud Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II. Still, Moore has now finished with 30 or fewer scoreless yards in four of his last five games, and he’s now considered day-to-day with a sprained knee.

This is simply an offense that doesn’t even pretend to trust Sam Darnold. Overall, the Panthers have posted a 37.7% pass-play rate in two games with Darnold under center – nearly 10% under the Falcons’ season-long mark of 47.4%, which is the lowest single-season mark since Rex Ryan’s 2009 New York Jets.

Moore is a boom-or-bust WR4 who has done far more of the latter this season and doesn’t figure to have the same sort of volume to survive the ups and (mostly) downs of the Darnold experience in this incredibly run-heavy offense, winnable matchup be damned.


CHICAGO BEARS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Chase Claypool (WR45), Equanimeous St. Brown (WR65), Dante Pettis (WR87)
  • WR Usage: Chase Claypool (79% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.09 yards per route run), Dante Pettis (76%, 0.11, 0.92), Equanimeous St. Brown (66%, 0.13, 1.1) 
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: PHI: 7 in PPR per game to WR, 3 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Cole Kmet (TE11)
  • TE Usage: Cole Kmet (93% routes, 0.15 targets per route run, 1.28 yards per route run), Ryan Griffin (21%, 0.19, 0.77)
Key question: Is Cole Kmet pretty much the only fantasy-viable pass-catcher in Chicago?

Yup, especially considering head coach Matt Eberflus “wouldn’t say he’s there yet” when discussing Chase Claypool’s understanding of the playbook. Obviously, Justin FIelds has been incredibly impressive since October; just realize he’s only surpassed even 190 passing yards in a game on two occasions all season inside of the NFL’s second-most run-heavy offense in non-garbage time situations.

Even Kmet is hardly a safe fantasy option. Credit to the third-year tight end for posting three top-five PPR finishes in his last five games, but those are literally his only performances that registered as a top-12 option at the position. Treat the season-long TE11 as a touchdown-dependent TE1 for this tough matchup against the Eagles’ eighth-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing tight ends.


CINCINNATI BENGALS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Ja'Marr Chase (WR5), Trent Taylor (WR82), Trenton Irwin (WR83)
  • WR Usage: Ja'Marr Chase (97% routes, 0.24 targets per route run, 2.17 yards per route run), Trenton Irwin (95%, 0.1, 1.17), Trent Taylor (89%, 0.13, 0.78)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: TB: 12 in PPR per game to WR, 11 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Mitchell Wilcox (TE35)
  • TE Usage: Mitchell Wilcox (66% routes, 0.07 targets per route run, 0.53 yards per route run), Devin Asiasi (18%, 0.09, 0)
Key question: Can Tee Higgins (hamstring) be trusted at all this week?

Not without at least one full practice. The Bengals didn’t list Higgins on their final injury report in Week 14, but he reportedly only played one snap last Sunday due to a “coach’s decision.” The hamstring injury was cited as the reason for the decision. Head coach Zac Taylor followed up this week saying that they lost Higgins in warmups before adding that they had some goal line packages for Higgins if it was necessary.

It’s unclear if Taylor simply hates fantasy football or takes special pleasure in attempting to hide the severity of injuries to his opponent. Alas, the Bengals head ball coach continues to simply call Higgins “day to day”, making him awfully difficult to trust as his usual upside WR2 self if “healthy” enough to suit up against the Buccaneers. This is especially true considering Higgins only played 10 snaps back in Week 5 against the Ravens with an ankle issue after practicing in a limited fashion all week — clearly the Bengals are comfortable making their stud third-year wide receiver active without the intention of, you know, actually playing him.

Higgins will be a low-end WR3 behind guys like Zay Jones and D.J. Chark if active but unable to get in a full practice this week. We’ll need confirmation from Taylor and at least one full practice to fire him up as a top-20 option. Check out the Friday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for an updated breakdown of the situation and further analysis of every fantasy-relevant injury.


CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Amari Cooper (WR24), Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR29), David Bell (WR97)
  • WR Usage: Donovan Peoples-Jones (100% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.67 yards per route run), Amari Cooper (90%, 0.24, 1.96), David Bell (78%, 0.11, 0.76)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: BAL: 26 in PPR per game to WR, 14 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: David Njoku (TE6)
  • TE Usage: David Njoku (90% routes, 0.21 targets per route run, 1.8 yards per route run), Harrison Bryant (12%, 0.16, 0.89)
Key question: Can anybody involved in this passing game be overly trusted, considering the offense has scored just 16 points in two games with Deshaun Watson under center?

Yes, mostly because Watson did play quite a bit better in Week 14. Of course, it’s not like there was much room to go but up after Watson’s dismal performance against the Texans. Still, the Browns’ franchise quarterback managed to put far more good on the tape against the Bengals, easily improving his numbers in yards per attempt (6.6 vs. 6), passer rating (79.1 vs. 53.4) and especially adjusted completion rate (83.3% vs. 57.1%).

The latter mark especially helps paint how much better Watson was in Week 14. Adjusted completion rate helps account for drops, and the Browns didn’t exactly do Watson a ton of favors in that department last week. Overall, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones officially dropped a four-yard fade on fourth down that should have cut the Bengals’ lead to one score with 5:29 remaining in the game just one play after Amari Cooper managed to get two hands on the ball in the back of the end zone. The latter incompletion wasn’t officially ruled a drop, but Cooper’s case of the butterfingers on 4th and 4 with just 3:46 remaining in the game did.

Throw in a failed fourth-and-one conversion from Jacoby Brissett that featured an overthrow to an open DPJ on what probably should have been a touchdown, and it’s clear the Browns’ 10-point performance in Week 14 was far more impressive *offensively* than their defense-aided 27-14 win over the Texans in Week 13.

Up next is a Ravens secondary that hasn’t exactly done a great job limiting opposing downfield passing attacks this season:

Ravens defenses on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield

  • EPA per pass play: +1.3 (No. 32)
  • Yards per attempt: 19.9 (No. 32)
  • Explosive pass-play rate: 58.1% (No. 32)
  • Passer rating: 108.4 (No. 26)

Cooper has 16 targets in his first eight quarters with Watson; better days on the box score should be ahead for the season-long PPR WR13. DPJ somehow left plenty of meat on the bone during his big Week 14 with the aforementioned dropped touchdown and week-high 132 unrealized air yards; fire up the Browns’ field-stretching No. 2 receiver as a boom-or-bust WR3 with serious potential to do the former against this leaky Ravens secondary.

TE David Njoku has ripped off top-eight finishes in five of his last seven games not impacted by injury; fire him up as a legit top-six option at the position against a Ravens defense that has already allowed six receiving touchdowns to the position this season – tied for the fifth-highest mark in the league.


DALLAS COWBOYS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: CeeDee Lamb (WR7), Michael Gallup (WR43), Noah Brown (WR77)
  • WR Usage: CeeDee Lamb (100% routes, 0.27 targets per route run, 2.32 yards per route run), Noah Brown (81%, 0.15, 1.44), Michael Gallup (81%, 0.19, 1.23)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: JAX: 20 in PPR per game to WR, 29 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Dalton Schultz (TE4)
  • TE Usage: Dalton Schultz (88% routes, 0.22 targets per route run, 1.57 yards per route run), Sean McKeon (5%, 0.13, 0.73)
Key question: How good has this Cowboys offense been since Dak Prescott returned?

Pretty, pretty, pretty good. The Cowboys have gone 6-1 since Prescott returned in Week 7, looking every bit like one of the league’s better offenses along the way:

  • Points per game: 35.7 (No. 1)
  • EPA per play: +0.135 (No. 3)
  • Yards per play: 6.1 (No. 5)
  • Touchdown drive rate: 39.7 (No. 1)

The scary part is that Prescott has achieved all this while posting the worst PFF passing grade (66.8) of his career. His marks in yards per attempt (7.4) and adjusted completion rate (74.3%) also aren’t too far off his career-low numbers. Of course, the absence of Amari Cooper and the banged-up offensive line haven’t made things as easy for Prescott as they sometimes were in past seasons; just realize this Cowboys offense might even have another level to ascend to – which is a scary thought for NFL defenses.

Don’t be surprised if Prescott flirts with some bigger counting numbers than usual against the Jaguars’ 26th-ranked defense in fantasy points per game allowed to the position. Fire up CeeDee Lamb as the WR1 that he’s been all season, Michael Gallup, while Dalton Schultz is also deserving of high-end treatment considering his consistent success with Prescott under center. Michael Gallup is more of a boom-or-bust WR4 due to life as the usual No. 3 pass-game option inside of the league’s third-most run-heavy offense in non-garbage time situations.


DENVER BRONCOS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Jerry Jeudy (WR26), Kendall Hinton (WR59) 
  • WR Usage: Kendall Hinton (87% routes, 0.11 targets per route run, 1.18 yards per route run), Jerry Jeudy (83%, 0.22, 1.9), Brandon Johnson (72%, 0.08, 0.12)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: ARZ: 14 in PPR per game to WR, 20 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Greg Dulcich (TE15)
  • TE Usage: Greg Dulcich (74% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.42 yards per route run), Eric Saubert (21%, 0.13, 0.84)
Key question: Is Jerry Jeudy suddenly a must-start fantasy option after his three-touchdown performance in Week 14?

It was certainly a nice reminder of what Jeudy can be capable of when everything is clicking. Still, Jeudy had just six touchdowns in his previous 36 career games and will likely be without Russell Wilson (concussion) unless Russ gets his hands back on some of that miracle water.

The good news: Jeudy’s nine targets last week were good for his second-highest total in a game this season. It’s not a coincidence that this occurred with Courtland Sutton (hamstring) and KJ Hamler (hamstring) both sidelined; Jeudy will warrant upside WR3 treatment as long as he remains the offense’s only real viable wide receiver.

A matchup against the Cardinals’ league-worst scoring defense certainly isn’t anything to fear; I would start Jeudy ahead of guys with slightly more target competition in similarly volatile passing games like Marquise Brown, Mike Evans and Diontae Johnson.


DETROIT LIONS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR8), DJ Chark Jr. (WR34), Jameson Williams (WR53), Josh Reynolds (WR68)
  • WR Usage: D.J. Chark Jr. (90% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.39 yards per route run), Amon-Ra St. Brown (90%, 0.3, 2.57), Josh Reynolds (68%, 0.17, 1.41)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: NYJ: 3 in PPR per game to WR, 2 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Brock Wright (TE34)
  • TE Usage: Shane Zylstra (37% routes, 0.07 targets per route run, 0.34 yards per route run), Brock Wright (34%, 0.12, 1.12)
Key question: Is D.J. Chark suddenly a recommended start with this Lions offense absolutely humming?

To an extent. This passing game can be fairly lethal when everyone is healthy; the problem with overly trusting Chark, Josh Reynolds or Jameson Williams is the reality that the rookie figures to see his role continue to grow in the same manner that Chark and Reynolds’ did when they returned from injury.

One could do worse than having five-plus targets from a wide receiver inside of the league’s fifth-ranked scoring offense, but it’d make sense if the route participation of Chark and Reynolds figures to suffer in order to squeeze in Williams, potentially leading to a muddled enough situation behind our one true Sun God Amon-Ra St. Brown to prevent anyone involved from establishing too much consistency down the stretch.

Adding to the predicament is a far tougher matchup against Sauce Gardner and company. The Jets have been a top-three defense all season in terms of explosive pass-play rate (11.6%), yards per attempt (6.5) and passer rating (79.6) allowed to wide receivers lined up outside; Chark isn’t someone who needs to be jammed into starting lineups, but clearly he’s capable of booming occasionally after his impressive PPR WR23 and WR8 finishes over the past two weeks.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Christian Watson (WR15), Allen Lazard (WR38), Randall Cobb (WR70)
  • WR Usage: Allen Lazard (97% routes, 0.2 targets per route run, 1.7 yards per route run), Christian Watson (94%, 0.23, 2.3), Randall Cobb (41%, 0.21, 1.94)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: LAR: 25 in PPR per game to WR, 17 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Robert Tonyan (TE17)
  • TE Usage: Robert Tonyan (56% routes, 0.19 targets per route run, 1.31 yards per route run), Marcedes Lewis (22%, 0.05, 0.24)
Key question: How the hell does Christian Watson keep getting away with this?

I have no idea, but it’s been a fun time. Overall, the speedy second-round rookie has eight touchdowns on his last 17 touches, helping produce PPR WR3, WR8, WR10 and WR8 finishes in his last four games.

On the one hand, Watson is clearly overachieving a bit; he only received eight, six, six and seven targets in Weeks 10 to 13. On the other, Watson has been the only real source of boom inside this passing game all season long; it’d sure make sense if the Packers find a way to increase his usage. Small sample size be damned: Watson’s average of 2.3 yards per route run ranks 12th among 114 wide receivers with at least 150 routes run this season. The rookie is balling.

Rams CB Jalen Ramsey has only gone out of his way to shadow long-time rivals DeAndre Hopkins, D.K. Metcalf and Davante Adams this season. With all due respect to rookie WR Christian Watson and Allen Lazard: It seems unlikely Ramsey is deployed against anyone specific on Monday night, and even then Watson wouldn’t be a recommended sit against one of just two cornerbacks to already have allowed seven touchdowns in their direct coverage this season.

Fire up Watson as the top-15 option that he’s been ever since his three-touchdown breakout performance against the Cowboys. Allen Lazard is more of a low-ceiling WR4 who will drop a few more spots if Romeo Doubs (ankle) is healthy enough to return by Monday night.


HOUSTON TEXANS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Chris Moore (WR42), Phillip Dorsett II (WR81), Amari Rodgers (WR88)
  • WR Usage: Phillip Dorsett (93% routes, 0.14 targets per route run, 0.95 yards per route run), Chris Moore (93%, 0.17, 1.48), Amari Rodgers (69%, 0.14, 1.26)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: KC: 29 in PPR per game to WR, 7 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Jordan Akins (TE31)
  • TE Usage: Jordan Akins (72% routes, 0.16 targets per route run, 1.64 yards per route run), Teagan Quitoriano (45%, 0.09, 0.28)
Key question: What did the target tree look like last week with both Brandin Cooks (calf) and Nico Collins (foot) sidelined?

Chris Moore absolutely dominated usage with a team-high 11 targets. Amari Rodgers (4) was a distant second. Moore could flirt with more (ha!) high-end volume if both starting receivers remain sidelined and are joined by bell-cow RB Dameon Pierce (ankle), although this doesn’t mean fantasy managers should go out of their way to play anyone involved from the league’s 30th-ranked scoring offense.

Ultimately, Moore’s PPR WR5 finish in Week 14 marked the team’s first top-12 finish at the position all season; be careful overly point chasing here despite the winnable enough matchup against the league’s fourth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position. Moore is fine to start ahead of auxiliary options with less certain volume like Michael Gallup, Jahan Dotson and Parris Campbell, although I still prefer No. 2 options in better passing games like Adam Thielen and Mack Hollins.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Michael Pittman Jr. (WR23), Parris Campbell (WR46), Alec Pierce (WR52)
  • WR Usage: Michael Pittman Jr. (100% routes, 0.21 targets per route run, 1.53 yards per route run), Parris Campbell (80%, 0.13, 1.05), Alec Pierce (75%, 0.17, 1.42)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: MIN: 31 in PPR per game to WR, 23 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Kylen Granson (TE27)
  • TE Usage: Kylen Granson (55% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.22 yards per route run), Jelani Woods (28%, 0.17, 1.51)
Key question: How has Michael Pittman been playing since interim head coach Jeff Saturday took over?

Pretty great aside from losing his shadow matchup against Trevon Diggs in Week 13:

  • Week 10: 7 receptions-53 yards-0 TD (9 targets), PPR WR32
  • Week 11: 6-75-0 (7), WR23
  • Week 12: 7-61-1 (11), WR14
  • Week 13: 2-16-0 (4), WR75

I’m drinking the kool-aid this week thanks in large part to Pittman’s tasty matchup against the Vikings’ 31st-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers. Patrick Peterson has struggled to slow down elite pass-catchers all year long, surrendering league-worst marks in yards per attempt (11.2), explosive pass-play rate (31.8%) and passer rating allowed (120.8) to wide receivers aligned on the outside.

If this isn’t the spot to start Pittman with confidence then I don’t know what is. The elite combination of volume and matchup involved has Pittman safely inside my top-24 options at the position ahead of superior season-long performers like Amari Cooper and Christian Kirk, but hey, we’re just focusing on Week 15 after all.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Christian Kirk (WR25), Zay Jones (WR32), Marvin Jones Jr. (WR76)
  • WR Usage: Christian Kirk (100% routes, 0.2 targets per route run, 1.82 yards per route run), Zay Jones (93%, 0.22, 1.5), Marvin Jones Jr. (60%, 0.16, 1.12)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: DAL: 15 in PPR per game to WR, 5 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Evan Engram (TE7)
  • TE Usage: Evan Engram (84% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.35 yards per route run), Chris Manhertz (14%, 0.12, 0.65)
Key question: Are both Christian Kirk and Zay Jones recommended starts this week despite the tough matchup?

To an extent. Interestingly, Jones (WR16 in expected PPR points) has had a more fantasy-friendly workload than Kirk (WR20) this season, but Kirk (WR14 in real PPR points per game) has consistently made far more out of his opportunities than Jones (WR35).

Ultimately, you could do worse than starting anyone overly involved in this passing game the way Trevor Lawrence is grooving these days. Lawrence has been on an absolute tear in recent weeks, accounting for 10 total touchdowns since his last interception while making life difficult for defenses of all shapes and sizes. Only Joe Burrow has a higher PFF pass grade than the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick over the last six weeks of action; Lawrence has routinely overcome life as the position’s co-leader in most dropped passes this season.

It’s always possible that Micah Parsons and the Cowboys’ league-best pass rush in pressure rate ruin the day for everyone involved, but then again Dak Prescott and the offense have been scoring enough points to potentially force the Jaguars into a fantasy-friendly shootout if they hope to keep things competitive. Both Kirk and Jones are recommended WR3 starts in full-PPR formats, while Evan Engram (hilariously the overall PPR TE4 after last week’s explosion) is also a more than viable option even in a tough matchup against the league’s third-best defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR21), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR50), Justin Watson (WR100)
  • WR Usage: JuJu Smith-Schuster (86% routes, 0.19 targets per route run, 1.88 yards per route run), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (75%, 0.13, 1.36), Justin Watson (70%, 0.11, 1.02) 
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: HOU: 4 in PPR per game to WR, 31 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Travis Kelce (TE1)
  • TE Usage: Travis Kelce (82% routes, 0.25 targets per route run, 2.22 yards per route run), Noah Gray (45%, 0.13, 1.09)
Key question: Should you continue to trust JuJu Smith-Schuster despite some up-and-down performances over the last month?

Abso-lutely. From last week:

“His route rate got back to an elite level in Week 13 despite the disappointing 3-35-0 receiving line. The performance was more a result of Patrick Mahomes posting season-low marks in pass attempts (27) and passing yards (233); don’t expect the Chiefs’ top-ranked scoring offense to be held in check to the same extent down the stretch.

Smith-Schuster has been the only pass-catcher other than Travis Kelce to establish any sort of consistent high-end fantasy production; expect better days ahead for the same man that peeled off PPR WR7, WR4 and WR8 finishes in three games prior to being concussed back in Week 10.”

Rinse and repeat: JuJu is the only true full-time wide receiver inside the league’s second-ranked scoring offense and continues to warrant rock-solid WR2 treatment. Credit to the Texans for allowing the fourth-fewest PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers this season, but their status as PFF’s second-worst group in terms of team coverage grade demonstrates the reality that they are more so horrendous against the run and incapable of staying competitive in games than overly good against the pass.


LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Davante Adams (WR3), Mack Hollins (WR41)
  • WR Usage: Davante Adams (100% routes, 0.28 targets per route run, 2.69 yards per route run), Mack Hollins (96%, 0.16, 1.28), Keelan Cole (67%, 0.08, 0.4)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: NE: 8 in PPR per game to WR, 13 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Foster Moreau (TE18)
  • TE Usage: Foster Moreau (96% routes, 0.14 targets per route run, 1.14 yards per route run)
Key question: How has the Derek CarrDavante Adams connection been doing this season?

On the one hand, Carr has posted rather mediocre numbers in terms of yards per attempt (7.2, 17th), adjusted completion rate (72.2%, 29th) and PFF passing grade (68.3, 21st) among 40 qualified quarterbacks.

On the other, Adams hasn’t missed a beat with his new employer, working as one of just four receivers who have already surpassed 1,200 yards. There is a fun four-man race going on to crown 2022’s most-productive receiver:

  • Justin Jefferson: 99-1,500-6 through 14 weeks. 17-game pace: 129-1,961-8
  • Tyreek Hill: 100-1,460-6. 17-game pace: 131-1,909-8
  • Stefon Diggs: 94-1,239-10. 17-game pace: 122-1,620-13
  • Adams: 82-1,247-12. 17-game pace: 107-1,630-16

Carr has a 114.0 passer rating when targeting Adams but isn’t in the triple digits when throwing to any of his other wide receivers. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is famously the only coach in NFL history to try and take away the opposing offense’s No. 1 option, although that strategy didn’t exactly work against guys like Justin Jefferson (9-139-1), Garrett Wilson (6-115-0), Tyreek Hill (8-94-0), Stefon Diggs (7-92-1) and most recently DeAndre Hopkins (7-79-0).


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Keenan Allen (WR18), Mike Williams (WR20), Joshua Palmer (WR36)
  • WR Usage: Keenan Allen (91% routes, 0.22 targets per route run, 1.95 yards per route run), Josh Palmer (80%, 0.16, 1.31), Mike Williams (73%, 0.19, 1.84)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: TEN: 32 in PPR per game to WR, 16 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: Mike Williams vs. Kristian Fulton.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Gerald Everett (TE9)
  • TE Usage: Gerald Everett (66% routes, 0.19 targets per route run, 1.35 yards per route run), Tre' McKitty (23%, 0.07, 0.35)
Key question: Should both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams be started in fantasy leagues of most shapes and sizes against the Titans’ league-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position? I mean, this is probably the league’s biggest pass funnel defense against a Chargers offense that already has a higher pass-play rate than any other offense in the league. Williams has a pretty nice size advantage over Fulton in his projected shadow matchup, and Allen has 28 total targets in his last two games. Hell, even Gerald Everett and Josh Palmer continue to be fine enough plays despite the potential for them not to see quite as much volume when everyone else is healthy. So yeah, probably a good idea to start any Chargers players you might have ahead of this potential boom spot?

Yes.


LOS ANGELES RAMS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Tutu Atwell (WR55), Ben Skowronek (WR61), Van Jefferson (WR68)
  • WR Usage: Van Jefferson (100% routes, 0.14 targets per route run, 0.95 yards per route run), Bennett Skowronek (90%, 0.14, 0.94), Tutu Atwell (63%, 0.27, 3.04)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: GB: 9 in PPR per game to WR, 9 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Tyler Higbee (TE16)
  • TE Usage: Tyler Higbee (73% routes, 0.22 targets per route run, 1.27 yards per route run), Brycen Hopkins (7%, 0.11, 0.56)
Key question: Is Tutu Atwell quietly putting up some solid efficiency numbers?

Yes. This year’s version of Deonte Harty, Atwell figures to give fantasy analysts all sorts of pauses while conducting offseason studies due to his rather elite per-route numbers on a limited – but growing – sample size:

  • PFF receiving grade: 87.5 (No. 7 among 144 wide receivers with at least 75 routes run this season)
  • Yards per route run: 3.04 (No. 2)
  • Yards per reception: 21.6 (No. 5)
  • Targets per route run: 26.9% (No. 6)

Maybe just maybe Baker Mayfield can provide some sense of stability to this ever-erratic passing game. Atwell (9 targets) and Bennett Skowronek were the only players to earn more than four targets during Mayfield’s thrilling comeback win debut against the Raiders; Atwell in particular is a boom-or-bust WR5 option who has the sort of one-hitter-quitter speed to be an excellent FLEX dart throw for desperate fantasy managers.


MIAMI DOLPHINS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Tyreek Hill (WR2), Jaylen Waddle (WR10), Trent Sherfield (WR79)
  • WR Usage: Jaylen Waddle (85% routes, 0.23 targets per route run, 2.46 yards per route run), Tyreek Hill (76%, 0.33, 3.54), Trent Sherfield (64%, 0.13, 1.16)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: BUF: 22 in PPR per game to WR, 12 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Mike Gesicki (TE28)
  • TE Usage: Mike Gesicki (52% routes, 0.13 targets per route run, 0.94 yards per route run), Durham Smythe (30%, 0.09, 0.63)
Key question: Has Tua Tagovailoa been figured out?

Probably not. Even back-to-back relatively porous performances weren’t enough to push Tua off the top of the leaderboard as PFF’s top-graded passer (86.6), while his marks in yards per attempt (8.7, No. 1) and passer rating (108.2, No. 2) also help demonstrate the reality that 2022 has been far more good than bad for Tuanon believers.

Still, Sunday night’s inaccurate performance against a banged-up Chargers defense was certainly a bit alarming, as Tua posted personal season-low marks in yards per attempt (5.2) and PFF passing grade (45.0). Most concerning was his 45.8% adjusted completion rate — the first time any NFL quarterback has posted a mark under 50% among 378 instances of a player having at least 25 dropbacks in a game this season.

Further complicating matters is the Dolphins’ Week 15 matchup in Buffalo. Vegas seems concerned considering the Dolphins’ 17.5-point implied total is tied for the third-lowest mark of the week, although potential porous weather could also be playing a role in that.

Ultimately, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are two of just seven players with 1,000 receiving yards this season; fire up the PPR WR2 and WR11 as the fantasy studs that they have been all season long, even if there have been a few more bumps in the road than usual over the past two weeks.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Justin Jefferson (WR1), Adam Thielen (WR39), K.J. Osborn (WR67)
  • WR Usage: Justin Jefferson (96% routes, 0.26 targets per route run, 2.85 yards per route run), Adam Thielen (91%, 0.17, 1.25), K.J. Osborn (80%, 0.12, 0.69)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: IND: 1 in PPR per game to WR, 10 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: Justin Jefferson vs. Stephon Gilmore.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: T.J. Hockenson (TE5)
  • TE Usage: T.J. Hockenson (89% routes, 0.2 targets per route run, 1.63 yards per route run), Johnny Mundt (9%, 0.15, 0.94)
Key question: How has Gilmore performed in his shadow matchups this season?

Jefferson is fresh off an electric 11-223-0 performance that would have been even bigger with better reffing. Up next is arguably the biggest start-studded shadow matchup of the week against Gilmore, who is PFF’s 10th-highest-graded cornerback in coverage this season.

Gilmore has only been truly bested one time this season, but even then he’s yet to allow any of his shadow “victims” to find their way to the end zone:

It’d make sense if Gilmore makes life slightly more difficult than Jefferson than normal, but the Vikings’ stud third-year receiver earned upside WR1 treatment regardless of the matchup a long time ago. The Vikings should also be able to free up Jefferson from the matchup whenever they want in the slot, where Gilmore has only lined up on seven total snaps all season.

Still, the Colts’ top-ranked defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers isn’t ideal for Adam Thielen, who has impressed with two top-12 PPR finishes over the past three weeks, yet has shown off his floor with three finishes outside the positions’ top-40 receivers in his other games over the past five weeks. He’s not someone fantasy managers should go out of their way to start, especially with the Vikings (4.5-point favorites) potentially having a positive-enough game script not to have to keep their foot on the gas for 60 full minutes.

T.J. Hockenson stands as the overall PPR TE3 this season and has secured a top-12 finish all but one game since joining the Vikings in Week 9; continue to fire him up with all the confidence in the world against a Colts defense that ranks among the league’s bottom-10 units in yards per attempt, explosive pass-play rate and passer rating allowed to tight ends this season.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Nelson Agholor (WR56), Kendrick Bourne (WR78), Tyquan Thornton (WR82)
  • WR Usage: Nelson Agholor (100% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.53 yards per route run), Tyquan Thornton (97%, 0.13, 0.71), Kendrick Bourne (73%, 0.14, 1.23)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: LV: 18 in PPR per game to WR, 27 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Hunter Henry (TE13)
  • TE Usage: Hunter Henry (62% routes, 0.13 targets per route run, 1.27 yards per route run), Jonnu Smith (32%, 0.22, 1.46)
Key question: Who is left to catch the football here should DeVante Parker (concussion), Jakobi Meyers (concussion) and Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) all be sidelined?

Sheesh. The problem with getting too excited about anybody involved is the reality that Nelson Agholor leads the way in total targets over the past two weeks … with 11. Mac Jones still has just one game with multiple passing touchdowns and has cleared the 255-yard threshold just twice all season; it doesn’t seem especially realistic to expect improved performance without arguably his top-three pass-game weapons.

Overall, the Patriots are one of just nine teams without even eight instances of producing a top-24 PPR wide receiver – and Meyers plus Parker are responsible for four of those finishes. The other offenses: Jets, Panthers, Texans, Falcons, Ravens, Steelers, Bears and Titans. Not exactly the sort of passing “attacks” that fantasy managers should be looking to overly invest, sadly regardless of the volume and matchup involved.

Head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t been afraid to completely abandon the passing game in the past when unable to overly trust the parties involved; a similar strategy could come to fruition if three of the offense’s top-five targets on the season are all sidelined. Agholor is the best dart throw of the group, but even then he’s not anything more than a boom-or-bust WR5 in a similar mold as Rams WR TuTu Atwell.


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Chris Olave (WR19), Jarvis Landry (WR62), Rashid Shaheed (WR93)
  • WR Usage: Chris Olave (79% routes, 0.26 targets per route run, 2.45 yards per route run), Rashid Shaheed (73%, 0.15, 2.37), Jarvis Landry (70%, 0.19, 1.41)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: ATL: 27 in PPR per game to WR, 28 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Taysom Hill (TE21)
  • TE Usage: Adam Trautman (55% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.56 yards per route run), Taysom Hill (39%, 0.11, 0.71)
Key question: Does this profile as a boom game for Chris Olave?

Oh yes. The Falcons haven’t exactly been what the kids might call a good secondary this season, ranking among the league’s bottom-six defenses in both PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers as well as team coverage grade.

Falcons CB A.J. Terrell did shadow Michael Thomas when these teams faced off all the way back in Week 1, although he hasn’t tracked a specific receiver since returning from injury in Week 11. This has included warranted matchups against Terry McLaurin and Diontae Johnson

Olave wouldn’t be downgraded even if we were 100% sure the matchup was coming: Terrell has allowed an NFL-high seven receiving touchdowns into his direct coverage this season. Good luck slowing down arguably the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year, who has emerged as one of the most efficient first-year performers at the position of the last eight years. The following leaderboard denotes the most yards per route run among rookie wide receivers with at least 50 targets since 2015:

  1. A.J. Brown (2.67)
  2. Justin Jefferson (2.66)
  3. Ja'Marr Chase (2.51)
  4. Chris Olave (2.45)
  5. Tyreek Hill (2.28)

Fire up the overall PPR WR21 as the upside WR2 that he’s been all season.


NEW YORK GIANTS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Darius Slayton (WR40), Richie James Jr. (WR63), Isaiah Hodgins (WR69)
  • WR Usage: Richie James Jr. (95% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.45 yards per route run), Isaiah Hodgins (88%, 0.17, 1.47), Darius Slayton (77%, 0.18, 2.08)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: WSH: 16 in PPR per game to WR, 6 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Daniel Bellinger (TE23)
  • TE Usage: Daniel Bellinger (60% routes, 0.15 targets per route run, 1.13 yards per route run), Nick Vannett (40%, 0.09, 0.47)
Key question: Has Darius Slayton quietly been pretty damn solid this season?

Yes. The fourth-year veteran has gained at least 55 receiving yards in seven of his last nine games, finishing as a top-36 PPR receiver on six separate occasions during the stretch. Slayton’s season-long efficiency numbers back up the notion that he’s had a pretty good year inside of this injury-riddled passing game:

  • PFF receiving grade: 74.1 (No. 28 among 63 wide receivers with at least 50 targets this season)
  • Yards per route run: 2.08 (No. 14)
  • Yards per reception: 17.4 (No. 3)

The only thing holding back Slayton from more consistent WR3 treatment is the reality that there isn’t much overall meat on the bone in this low-volume passing game. Daniel Jones has cleared 230 passing yards in a game just once this season. He’s thrown 12 total touchdowns in 13 weeks of action.

Tentatively fire up Slayton as a borderline WR3 against the Commanders; he could see even more volume than usual if Richie James (concussion) fails to clear the protocol by Sunday night.


NEW YORK JETS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Garrett Wilson (WR13), Elijah Moore (WR48), Braxton Berrios (WR102)
  • WR Usage: Garrett Wilson (100% routes, 0.22 targets per route run, 2 yards per route run), Elijah Moore (92%, 0.13, 0.96), Denzel Mims (69%, 0.14, 1.13)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: DET: 30 in PPR per game to WR, 30 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Tyler Conklin (TE14)
  • TE Usage: Tyler Conklin (71% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.1 yards per route run), C.J. Uzomah (24%, 0.1, 0.78)
Key question: Just how productive has Garrett Wilson been without Zach Wilson under center this season?

Pretty awesome. Credit to both Wilsons for helping Garrett post 6-115-0 and 8-92-0 receiving lines against the Patriots and Bills back in Weeks 8 and 9, but the stud rookie wide receiver failed to reach even 50 yards in his other five games with Zach under center.

The Jets’ No. 10 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft has largely not missed in his six games with either Mike White or Joe Flacco under center despite not even having a full-time role in the offense until October:

  • Week 1: 4 receptions-52 yards-0 TD (8 targets), PPR WR51
  • Week 2: 8-102-2 (14), WR6
  • Week 3: 6-60-0 (11), WR43
  • Week 12: 5-95-2 (8), WR4
  • Week 13: 8-162-0 (15), WR9
  • Week 14: 6-78-0 (7), WR26

Note that the latter three performances were the only three games that White started during the sample.

The Lions’ 30th-ranked defense in both PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers as well as team PFF coverage grade is fresh off getting absolutely flamed by Justin Jefferson (11-223-0); don’t be surprised if Wilson provides a damn good encore this Sunday.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: A.J. Brown (WR6), DeVonta Smith (WR22), Quez Watkins (WR73)
  • WR Usage: A.J. Brown (100% routes, 0.23 targets per route run, 2.43 yards per route run), DeVonta Smith (97%, 0.21, 1.78), Quez Watkins (64%, 0.11, 1.02)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: CHI: 10 in PPR per game to WR, 26 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Jack Stoll (TE26)
  • TE Usage: Jack Stoll (56% routes, 0.08 targets per route run, 0.69 yards per route run), Grant Calcaterra (42%, 0.13, 1.47)
Key question: How much has life changed for DeVonta Smith with and without Dallas Goedert (shoulder, IR)?

A fair bit. Nobody has ever doubted the talent of the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, but there’s only so much pass-game volume to go around inside of one of just seven offenses to throw the ball on under 55% of their snaps in non-garbage time situations. The absence of Goedert has at least partially helped Smith rack up at least eight targets in each of his last four games – a mark that he only hit four times in Weeks 1 to 10 combined with the Eagles’ stud tight end also involved.

The extra volume has helped Smith post PPR WR20, WR57, WR12 and WR16 performances over the past month of action. He’ll continue to warrant upside WR2 treatment as long as Goedert is sidelined, but that time might be coming to an end after the Eagles designated him to return from IR on Tuesday. Reports indicate the expectation is for Goedert to return to the active roster Sunday, and if not then almost certainly on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys.

Smith won’t drop too far down the ranks once Goedert returns; even a slightly reduced target share can still go a long way with a talented pass-catcher inside the league’s top-ranked scoring offense. Ultimately, this pristine offensive environment should win out in the majority of close start/sit questions throughout the fantasy playoffs; it’s probably a good thing if your fantasy squad has anybody involved from the league’s single-best offense in terms of combined supporting cast PFF grades.


PITTSBURGH STEELERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Diontae Johnson (WR31), George Pickens (WR35), Steven Sims Jr. (WR86)
  • WR Usage: Diontae Johnson (94% routes, 0.22 targets per route run, 1.28 yards per route run), George Pickens (91%, 0.14, 1.27), Steven Sims (49%, 0.19, 0.62)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: CAR: 24 in PPR per game to WR, 24 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: Diontae Johnson vs. Jaycee Horn.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Pat Freiermuth (TE8)
  • TE Usage: Pat Freiermuth (57% routes, 0.24 targets per route run, 1.86 yards per route run), Zach Gentry (31%, 0.14, 0.72)
Key question: Can fantasy managers finally get back to trusting Diontae Johnson after his season-best performance in Week 14?

Not really. Week 14’s PPR WR25 finish still leaves Johnson with *zero* top-24 finishes this season after regularly ripping off those sorts of performances in 2019 (4), 2020 (7) and 2021 (12) alike. George Pickens has managed to finish inside the position’s top-24 options on four separate occasions this year but also has seven games with a finish outside of the week’s top-50 wide receivers.

Overall, Week 15 marked just the second time all season that Johnson finished with more than even 65 receiving yards. Nobody has more targets than Johnson (113) without a touchdown through 14 weeks of action.

Johnson already has enough question marks due to this situation under center; a shadow date with PFF’s sixth-highest-graded cornerback in pure coverage is hardly the sort of get-right spot that he needs. Johnson wasn’t exactly someone that fantasy managers were likely dying to start in the playoffs anyway, but he deserves to be downgraded in this tough draw.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Brandon Aiyuk (WR16), Jauan Jennings (WR84), Danny Gray (WR92)
  • WR Usage: Brandon Aiyuk (88% routes, 0.2 targets per route run, 1.8 yards per route run), Jauan Jennings (54%, 0.2, 1.47), Deebo Samuel (50%, 0.24, 1.74)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: SEA: 6 in PPR per game to WR, 21 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: George Kittle (TE3)
  • TE Usage: George Kittle (88% routes, 0.16 targets per route run, 1.48 yards per route run), Tyler Kroft (8%, 0.11, 0.66)
Key question: Should Brandon Aiyuk be expected to boom without Deebo Samuel (ankle) in action for the next few weeks?

History tells us yes. Aiyuk has essentially played in seven games without Deebo Samuel over the past three seasons after becoming a full-time player in the offense shortly into his rookie year:

  • Week 8, 2020: 8 receptions-91 yards-1 TD (10 targets)
  • Week 10, 2020: 7-75-1 (14)
  • Week 14, 2020: 10-119-0 (16)
  • Week 15, 2020: 9-73-1 (13)
  • Week 16, 2020: 1-15-0 (2)
  • Week 13, 2021: 3-55-0 (6)
  • Week 8, 2022: 6-81-1 (6)

Of course, George Kittle was also banged up for some of those affairs, and Christian McCaffrey was still employed by the Panthers except for the latter performance. Kittle also deserves credit for posting 3-39-1, 9-181-2, 7-68-0 and 4-92-0 performances in his last four games with Deebo sidelined.

Ultimately, the 49ers remain capable of putting up big-time performances seemingly regardless of who is under center thanks in large part to their myriad of play-makers all over the field. Losing Deebo certainly leaves the group as a worse version of itself as a whole, but the extra volume available is enough to boost each of Aiyuk, Kittle and CMC during Samuel’s absence.

Credit to the Seahawks for being rather stingy against opposing wide receivers this season, but Aiyuk has managed to score and/or gain 60-plus yards in all but one of his eight games with even six targets this season. The talented third-year receiver deserves to be treated as a top-20 option at the position against a potentially overrated Seattle pass defense based on some of the quarterbacks they have had the privilege of facing in recent weeks (most recently Sam Darnold and John Wolford). All due respect to Seahawks CB Tariq Woolen, but he can easily be avoided considering he’s spent 90% of his snaps as the defense’s right cornerback this season and isn’t expected to follow one particular receiver this Sunday against the 49ers.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: DK Metcalf (WR12), Tyler Lockett (WR17), Marquise Goodwin (WR64)
  • WR Usage: Tyler Lockett (98% routes, 0.21 targets per route run, 2.04 yards per route run), D.K. Metcalf (95%, 0.26, 2.04), Marquise Goodwin (79%, 0.13, 1.57)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: SF: 23 in PPR per game to WR, 4 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Noah Fant (TE24)
  • TE Usage: Noah Fant (40% routes, 0.18 targets per route run, 1.48 yards per route run), Will Dissly (26%, 0.16, 1.42)
Key question: Both D.K. Metcalf (WR16 in PPR points per game) and Tyler Lockett (WR12) have worked as consistent top-20 options throughout 2022, spearheading the NFL’s sixth-ranked scoring offense. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have allowed the third-most points per game in the league. The 49ers are favored by 3.5 points on Thursday night, meaning it’s possible Geno Smith and company might have to throw the ball even more than usual if they wind up trailing. Oh yeah, bell-cow RB Kenneth Walker (ankle) is also banged up and doesn’t look to be set up too well against the 49ers’ feisty front seven. Metcalf and Lockett are both top-20 options at the position because that’s largely what they have functioned as all season long, although especially deep rosters might be able to rationalize another upside WR2 option if their matchup is just a bit better. Is that fair?

Absolutely.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Chris Godwin (WR11), Mike Evans (WR28), Julio Jones (WR51)
  • WR Usage: Chris Godwin (91% routes, 0.24 targets per route run, 1.61 yards per route run), Mike Evans (88%, 0.19, 1.63), Julio Jones (70%, 0.18, 1.3)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: CIN: 5 in PPR per game to WR, 8 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Cameron Brate (TE29)
  • TE Usage: Cade Otton (55% routes, 0.14 targets per route run, 0.95 yards per route run), Cameron Brate (39%, 0.16, 0.77)
Key question: How sheeshy was Week 14 for Tom Brady?

Pretty sheeshy. There were not one, not two, but three different examples of TB12 missing an open enough receiver to believe that the Buccaneers should have scored six points on the play. Overall, each of Mike Evans (9 yards out), Scotty Miller (44) and Julio Jones (69) did their job in creating more than enough separation to receive a catchable pass, and yet here we are sheeshing thanks to a trio of underthrows.

Brady’s arm hasn’t resembled 2015 Peyton Manning this season; the quarterback has actually been more prominent in this column due to overthrows in recent weeks. Still, Sunday’s performance showed a lack of pin-point accuracy when the Buccaneers certainly needed it to compete with the prodigy Brock Purdy.

Evans has now gone nine long games since scoring a touchdown. His previous career-long scoreless streak was just six contests, while the long-time stud No. 1 receiver never went more than two games without catching a touchdown from Brady in 2020 or 2021 (including playoffs). Alas, Evans and Brady weren’t rewarded with six points upon connecting for a blown-coverage-induced 66-yard touchdown due to a holding penalty on OT Donovan Smith. Note that Smith was also responsible for nullifying a five-yard touchdown to Chris Godwin last week.

Sadly, Chris Godwin is the only must-start option inside the Buccaneers’ 28th-ranked scoring offense. The target-hot slot receiver has caught at least five passes in 10 consecutive games since returning from injury; the streak would feature six-plus receptions had he not dropped a touchdown that hilariously wound up being caught by Russell Gage last week. Evans isn’t someone fantasy managers need to start against a Bengals defense that has allowed fewer PPR points per game to opposing wide receiver rooms than everybody except the Texans, Jets, Broncos and Colts.


TENNESSEE TITANS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (WR57), Robert Woods (WR60), Racey McMath (WR104)
  • WR Usage: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (96% routes, 0.12 targets per route run, 1.17 yards per route run), Robert Woods (87%, 0.18, 1.19), Chris Conley (52%, 0.09, 0.63)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: LAC: 13 in PPR per game to WR, 15 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: None.
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Chig Okonkwo (TE12)
  • TE Usage: Austin Hooper (59% routes, 0.17 targets per route run, 1.46 yards per route run), Chigoziem Okonkwo (52%, 0.25, 2.58)
Key question: Is TE Chigoziem Okonkwo actually a recommended start this week?

The matchup against a potentially Derwin James-less Chargers defense certianly helps. Even with James, the group has allowed the 10th-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends this season.

Week-to-week volume hasn’t been consistent, but the rookie fourth-round pick has managed to gain at least 30 receiving yards in six consecutive games despite having just a single catch during three of those performances. Luckily, these good performances have led to more consistent opportunities, as Okonkwo is fresh off setting back-to-back season-highs in targets 

Essentially the Titans’ replacement for Jonnu Smith, Okonkwo has been among the league’s most-efficient tight ends with his limited opportunities this season:

  • PFF receiving grade: 79.5 (No. 5 among 37 tight ends with at least 25 targets)
  • Yards per route run: 2.75 (No. 1)
  • Yards per reception: 18.3 (No. 1)
  • Targets per route run: 25% (No. 3)

The 6-foot-2, 243-pound talent boasts a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and seems capable of causing problems for just about any secondary, although expecting sustained volume down the stretch is probably wishful thinking – as is the case with anyone involved in the league’s fourth-most run-heavy offense in non-garbage time situations. Still, the potential continued absence of WR Treylon Burks (concussion) doesn’t exactly leave the Titans with a ton of places to go with the ball in the passing game.

Okonkwo is someone who I would start over TE2 darts like Tyler Conklin, Greg Dulcich and Robert Tonyan, although we’ve seen higher highs from guys like Pat Freiermuth, Gerald Everett and Coel Kmet.


WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

  • Week 15 WR Fantasy Ranking: Terry McLaurin (WR14), Jahan Dotson (WR44), Curtis Samuel (WR47)
  • WR Usage: Terry McLaurin (94% routes, 0.2 targets per route run, 2.02 yards per route run), Jahan Dotson (89%, 0.12, 0.9), Curtis Samuel (81%, 0.18, 1.34)
  • Week 15 WR Matchup: NYG: 11 in PPR per game to WR, 32 in PFF coverage grade 
  • WR/CB Shadow Matchups: Terry McLaurin vs. Adoree’ Jackson (knee).
  • Week 15 TE Fantasy Rankings: Logan Thomas (TE19)
  • TE Usage: Logan Thomas (60% routes, 0.14 targets per route run, 0.82 yards per route run), John Bates (13%, 0.18, 0.99)
Key question: Should fantasy managers fire up McLaurin as the upside WR2 that he’s been virtually all season?

Yup. Expect McLaurin to be shadowed by Fabian Moreau if Jackson isn’t healthy enough to suit up. McLaurin won that matchup in style (8-105-1) in quite literally his last game before the Commanders’ Week 14 bye. That would certainly be preferred considering Jackson (PFF’s 21st-highest-graded cornerback in coverage) has been superior to Moreau (78th) this season, but c’mon people: This is Terry McLaurin we’re talking about here.

Jackson also hasn’t dominated in one-on-one coverage this season:

Seemingly the only thing capable of slowing down McLaurin throughout his young career has been a lack of ability under center. Perhaps that rears its ugly head again in the form of Taylor Heinicke, but even then it’s never reasonable to count out an explosion from one of the game’s single-best receivers in Scary Terry.


 

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