Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Chiefs (25.5 team total, -3 point spread) @ DEN
Patrick Mahomes is on pace for 5,610 passing yards, which is over 100 yards more than the NFL record set by Peyton Manning in 2013 (5,477). Mahomes has predictably regressed in the passing touchdown department this season, but he’s still on pace for 37.3 scores. That would be good for 24th all-time. He’s still having a historical season and now has his hyper-efficient WR1 back in action. Mahomes threw for over 300 yards in both games against Denver last year, so Mahomes is a top-3 fantasy QB this week as long as his ankle seems alright. … The Chiefs' backfield is a mess, but it’s an important mess given the offensive scoring. Last week, LeSean McCoy out-touched Damien Williams, 10-2, and out-snapped him, 27-21. In Week 5, those roles were basically reversed. Odd. For this matchup, I’m projecting an even snap distribution with Shady the favorite for rushing production (8-12 carries) and with Williams the favorite for receiving production (2-5 receptions). The range of outcomes is wide but I want pieces of this offense. McCoy and Williams are boom-or-bust RB2/3s. If forced to pick between the two, I'd roll with Shady.
As shown above, Tyreek Hill returned to elite WR1-level receiving usage in Week 6 despite running a route on only 50% of Chiefs' dropbacks. That’s fantastic news for Hill’s season-long outlook -- he’s a WR1 rest of season -- but there are reasons to temper expectations for Week 7. The short turnaround is bad timing for a player playing through a serious injury, especially when elite CB Chris Harris is lining up across the line of scrimmage. In the heatmap below, you can see how the Broncos have limited Mahomes downfield, and I anticipate Denver coach Vic Fangio selling out to stop Hill and the deep ball. For these reasons, Hill is more of a boom-or-bust WR1/2 than a locked-in WR1. Of course, Hill can pop for a long touchdown any snap. … Sammy Watkins has been ruled out, so Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and Mecole Hardman will be battling for leftover targets. Last week with Watkins out, all three of these receivers saw four targets but Robinson was a near full-time route runner while Pringle and Hardman were on the field for just over half of the dropbacks. Robinson is my favorite dart throw given his air yards, but even he is a zero-floor WR4. … Travis Kelce continues to run cold near the end zone with the second-most inside-the-10 targets (6) and zero touchdowns to show for them. With Chris Harris on Tyreek and with the Broncos’ history of keeping completions within 20 yards against Mahomes (see below), Kelce could be in for his long-anticipated big game. Kelce averaged 20.4 PPR points against Denver in the two games in 2018. Kelce is the TE1 overall this week.
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Broncos (22.5, +3) vs. KC
Joe Flacco has zero or one touchdowns in 5-of-6 games this season, and the Broncos could be incentivized to run the ball against the Chiefs. Not only would that shorten the game, but the Chiefs have also been a major run funnel (see chart above). Flacco is a low-end QB2. … Phillip Lindsay has at least 15 carries in three of the last four games, and he should make that four of five if the Broncos follow the blueprint the Colts and Texans laid out the past two weeks against Kansas City who is missing stud DL Chris Jones once again. Lindsay is a volume-based RB2, who also catches 2-5 passes per game. … Royce Freeman is also seeing enough volume to be considered in the flex if you’re in bye-week trouble. Freeman has averaged 11.0 carries and 3.5 receptions, totals that could be surpassed given the projected game plan this week.
Courtland Sutton has emerged as the Broncos’ No. 1 receiver. He’s seeing WR2/3 usage (see above chart) and is averaging 9.1 yards per target through 22 career games. Sutton’s outlook this week and for the rest of the season is also on the up and up with Emmanuel Sanders regressing and showing signs of age/injury history. Sutton is a fringe top-20 receiver this week. … Sanders’ usage in Weeks 5 and 6 was non-existent partially due to injury. The good news was Sanders’ full participation in practice Tuesday, but it’s fair to wonder if the last two weeks were signs that his injury history is catching up to him. As we’ve previously seen with Larry Fitzgerald, it’s hard to stay consistent after hot starts as a 32-plus-year-old. Sanders is a risky WR3/4 in an average home matchup. … Noah Fant’s TE2 usage isn’t anything to get excited about, but he’s not the worst dart throw in single-game DFS tournaments given his athleticism, the Chiefs’ bottom 20th percentile defense against fantasy tight ends, and the Chiefs' higher-than-average susceptibility to allowing receptions to the short-middle part of the field (see below). If Sanders’ effectiveness is truly drained, Fant will be a part of the plan to add some explosion. Hopefully we can start seeing 5-7 weekly targets for the 2019 first-rounder. I’m a huge believer in Fant’s potential.
The rest of the Fantasy Football Forecast will be posted on Friday. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @HaydenWinks.