From a fantasy lens, dozens and dozens of players being sidelined is already greatly impacting the depth of your league and roster. Starting stars is as justifiable as ever, but I am still here to take a flamethrower to your optimism on a weekly basis, highlighting a handful of upcoming fantasy busts for the forthcoming slate of games. Let me be clear - I like fun, I prefer to focus on positives and, most of all, do not hate any of these players. I simply believe they will perform below their normal output.
Eagles RB Miles Sanders vs Saints (-7)
Total: o/u 44 | 88% Started
The Running Back position is an absolute nightmare entering the fantasy playoffs. I started 8-0 in a league full of great players with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Miles Sanders consistently occupying two RB spots. Since? A 5-game losing streak and zero trust in that position. It is one of the most abrupt cliffs I have encountered while playing fantasy football, and if you have dependable options at the position entering weeks 14-17, you have an instant advantage.
The trajectory of Sanders’ season is on a steep decline from a usage and opportunity standpoint. In weeks 10-12, Sanders was on the field for 64% of the team’s offensive snaps and handled nearly 17 opportunities (carries + targets) in that three game stretch. In Week 13? 10 carries and one target for a measly 31 total yards. We know the Eagles Offense is broken and the offensive line is beyond fixing, but a wealth of drops has likely contributed to Boston Scott eating into Sanders’ passing down work. Most of all, Sanders is not seeing high value touches. We love carries and targets inside the 20-yard line. We love them even more inside the 10. On the season (!) Sanders has eight carries inside the 10-yard line and just one over his last four games.
Perhaps Jalen Hurts’ introduction as the starter creates more opportunities in the running game for Sanders, similar to Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake with defenses forcing the QB to hand the ball off in “read” situations. But even volume likely won’t be enough to create a stable floor against the Saints’ No. 2 ranked rush defense according to DVOA.
Prediction: 13 carries for 44 yards, 2 catches for 11 yards
Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake at Giants (+2.5)
Total: o/u 45 | 73% Started
The best thing we can say about Kenyan Drake’s 2020 is that the Cardinals have never lost faith in him. Drake has not been efficient or explosive, and currently grades out as PFF’s No. 50 RB for the 2020 season. Yet somehow, Drake is one of the most trusted players in the league inside the red zone and 10-yard line, seeing 42 red zone carries this season and 27 inside the 10-yard line (including seven opportunities against the Patriots two weeks ago), leading to seven touchdowns. Taking that one step further, the Cardinals have claimed 11 carries inside the 5-yard line over the last three games - Drake handled nine of them.
Why? We know the Cardinals and Kyler Murray claim the QB’s shoulder is not an issue. From the outside looking in, it sure seems to be a factor in Murray’s collapsing rushing production. That is compounded by defenses forcing Murray to handoff in the red zone, as we’ve repeatedly seen defenders having zero shot of bringing down Murray in 1-on-1 situations. Again, Drake is the beneficiary.
So why is he on this list? High value opportunities still win, but Drake’s average of 16.5 fantasy points over the last three weeks are rooted in touchdowns. The Giants Defense is really rounding into form at just the right time, and their strength is a wall of a defensive line. If they are able to keep the Cardinals out of the situations where they typically rely on Drake, then the RB’s impact likely will be minimal. Over the last four games, the Giants have allowed an average of 73 rushing yards to opposing backfields - including keeping Chris Carson to 65 yards and Antonio Gibson to 20 yards. Opposing backs do have success in the passing game against the Giants, and while Drake has been more involved in this area than before (10 receptions in four games) it still is not a significant part of his game.
Prediction: 14 carries for 40 yards, 3 catches for 20 yards
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Lions WR Marvin Jones vs Packers (-7.5)
Total: o/u 55 | 55% Started
On the field, the Lions continue to battle each week and were able to pull off a phenomenal comeback win last weekend, a victory that is even more impressive considering the number of players the team lost/sent to injured reserve over the last few weeks. One who remains out, and seems unlikely to return this season before hitting free agency this summer, is lead WR Kenny Golladay. The passing offense seemed broken earlier this season without Golladay in the lineup, but in the last six weeks Marvin Jones has emerged as a go-to force and must-start in fantasy lineups, turning 51 targets into 32 catches for 393 yards and five scores. Otherwise known as 16.9 fantasy points per game.
Those point totals are even more impressive when considering Jones has topped 52 receiving yards in just 2-of-6 games. The Lions are 9th in the NFL in Pass Percentage (62.3%) and likely will be forced to throw as 7.5 point underdogs. And while the Packers’ pass defense is considered league average according to defensive DVOA (18th), Jaire Alexander is certainly not “average.” With Jones as the clear top pass catching option on the outside, I expect Alexander to take on the responsibility for the individual matchup and ultimately win.
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Prediction: 8 targets, 4 catches for 47 yards
Washington RB Peyton Barber at 49ers (-3)
Total: o/u 43.5
Even if Washington broadcasts optimism about Antonio Gibson’s toe injury through national channels, expect Gibson to miss this week and likely more. While Gibson can create on his own, Peyton Barber must fall into the endzone in order to be fantasy relevant. In one of the wilder fantasy performances of the season, Barber handled 10 carries inside of the 20-yard line in Week 1, scoring twice. A whopping 38% of Barber’s fantasy output this season stemmed from that one game. Barber simply will not hit FLEX value unless he finds the endzone.
Prediction: 11 carries for 24 yards