The Hot Sheet looks at which top prospects are excelling and which ones are struggling on a week-to-week basis. The consensus top-flight players may not always appear on this list because we are trying to help you find the next group of breakout players before your league mates do.
The value of the players mentioned on the Hot List is rising, thanks to their performance on the field. On the other hand, Cold List players are struggling, and losing dynasty value as a result.
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1) Doug Baldwin, WR SEA
No player in the NFL is playing as well as Seahawks’ wide receiver Doug Baldwin, with the possible exception of his own quarterback Russell Wilson. Baldwin hit another hat trick of touchdowns in Week 14, his second time accomplishing this feat in a three-week span. Oh, and he caught two more touchdowns in the prior week, making it eight scores in three games. That is a very good season-long total for most players. The interesting and surprising thing about Baldwin when it comes to his dynasty value is it seems to be unchanged. This burst in scoring and production hasn’t really caused dynasty players to value him any differently.
2) Denard Robinson, RB JAX
With starter T.J. Yeldon hobbled with a knee injury and the Jaguars in the midst of blowing out division rival Indianapolis, Denard Robinson carried the load for Jacksonville last week. Robinson, who proved to be the team’s best back last season, has played sparingly behind the rookie, but again stepped up when called upon. Robinson rushed for 75 yards and a score on just 14 carries and he is expected to start in place of Yeldon this weekend, making him a quality short-term option for playoff teams. Yeldon is still the future at the position for the Jags, but Robinson serves as a quality NFL backup and a player that dynasty owners, especially Yeldon owners, should consider stashing.
3) Kirk Cousins, QB WAS
There was a lot of surprise and doubt surrounding Kirk Cousins when the Redskins announced he would be their starter as they essentially banished Robert Griffin III before the season began. Cousins though, has been very solid. He’s currently the QB18 in fantasy scoring and has had five top-12 scoring weeks. Cousins has also outscored many players ranked and valued at a much higher level, such as Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan and Teddy Bridgewater. Cousins has also played well enough to likely earn a contract extension from the Redskins. That deal will reportedly be done during the offseason, keeping Cousins in the nation’s capitol. Cousins is not a player I’d trust on a weekly basis as my fantasy starter, but he is greatly underrated and can be a very inexpensive QB2.
4) Tyler Lockett, WR SEA
I’ve already mentioned the hot streak Baldwin and Wilson have been on for the Seahawks, but they are not alone. Rookie receiver Tyler Lockett is right there along with them and taking advantage of Wilson’s improved play, of late. Lockett has back to back games with at least six receptions for 90 yards and also has two scores over that span. Lockett also has more receiving yardage in the past four games than he had in his first nine games this year. I would not be surprised at all if Lockett establishes himself as the Seahawks’ top receiver in 2016.
5) Eddie Lacy, RB GB
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Packers’ running back Eddie Lacy. After opening the season struggling greatly to run the ball and then dealing with an injury which opened the door for James Starks to earn playing time, Lacy finally seemed like he was back on track a few weeks ago. He’d put together back to back 100 yard games for the first time this season. Then came Week 13 when Lacy was punished for a reported curfew violation. He barely played at all, but was back in form last week as he again broke the 100-yard threshold. Ignoring the week Lacy was caught staying out late, he is the RB4 in the past three games. It seems that many dynasty owners are frustrated with Lacy, and rightfully so, but he is playing well in the latter portion of the season and should be able to carry that forward for the remainder of the season.
6) Zach Ertz, TE PHI
It has been a disastrous season for Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz. Entering the team’s Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Lions, Ertz’s season high was just 68 yards and he had yet to find the end zone. In the two games since, Ertz seems to be finally getting things together. He scored his first touchdown of the season two weeks ago and nearly broke 100 receiving yards last week against the Bills. The entire Eagles’ offense has struggled and disappointed this season, so there is hope for improvement in the future. Ertz’s poor play this year could provide a buy-low opportunity this off-season.
7) Tim Hightower, RB NO
With the surprise of Mark Ingram’s season-ending shoulder injury, the Saints turned to Tim Hightower to shoulder the load at running back and he performed admirably. Even with their free agent signee C.J. Spiller fully healthy, Hightower carried the ball 28 times for 85 yards and a score. As crazy as it sounds, players like him could be the key to a championship. I don’t see Hightower as a long-term value, but would definitely use him in the season’s final couple of games. Expect a healthy Ingram back in 2016, though Spiller may be searching for a new team, yet again.
8) Zach Miller, TE CHI
The Bears placed tight end Martellus Bennett on the injured reserve list last week, which not only ended his season, but could signal the end to his time in Chicago. In his place, the Bears will start Zach Miller, formerly of the Jaguars. Miller caught five balls for 85 yards and a score in Week 14 and has been a solid option for Chicago even before Bennett suffered his injury. Miller now has five touchdowns in the past six weeks and could be the starter going into 2016. Miller is available on many waiver wires despite the fantasy starter-level numbers over the past month.
9) Jordan Reed, TE WAS
In that same game, Redskins’ tight end Jordan Reed put on a show, catching nine balls for 120 yards and a touchdown. Reed has been Kirk Cousins’ top weapon since returning from an injury which kept him out two games. Reed has six scores in his past seven games and the only thing keeping him from being a consensus top-three tight end is that lengthy injury history, with concussions being the prime concern. Nevertheless, Reed is an elite option on a weekly basis. His dynasty value is on the rise and if he can stay healthy, he could blow by the disappointing Travis Kelce in tight end ranks.
I usually try to limit these lists to younger, less established players, but the Jets’ duo of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are just playing too well to ignore. Both players are among the top-13 in fantasy scoring among all wideouts this season, but they’ve been even better since the Jets’ Week Five bye. Since Week Six, which covers nine games, Marshall is the WR2 and Decker comes in as the WR7. Both have been consistently targeted in the red zone and both are delivering. With the running game clicking as well, the Jets’ offense is playing some of the best ball in the league. Even with the high level of play, these two could be reasonably acquired this offseason, when many dynasty players are overly concerned about a player’s age.
1) Dez Bryant, WR DAL
We knew things would be bad for the Cowboys’ offense once quarterback Tony Romo suffered a season-ending injury, but no one knew it would be this bad. Counting the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game, which was when Romo’s season was ended, Bryant has scored just over 15 fantasy points in the three-game span. In recent years, some of the top receivers in the game have shown they are “quarterback-proof.” Players like DeAndre Hopkins and Josh Gordon have dominated with subpar quarterbacks, but Bryant is failing to do the same. Of course, that doesn’t tell the entire story and Bryant is still a highly valued dynasty asset, but he is not one I would use going forward this season.
2) Devonta Freeman, RB ATL
The Falcons’ breakout star, Devonta Freeman, has set a high bar for himself. After easily moving to the top of all running back scorers, Freeman suffered an injury, which cost him nearly two full weeks. Since his return, Freeman has a total of 165 yards and no touchdowns. In fact, he hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since Week Six. Perhaps Freeman is simply slowing down after an unbelievable season thus far. Freeman can still be considered a top-five running back entering the offseason.
3) Thomas Rawls, RB SEA
Unfortunately, rookie running back Thomas Rawls makes this list due to injury. Rawls got off to a hot start in Week 14, but suffered an ankle injury that would ultimately end his season. Diagnosed with a broken ankle, Rawls is done for the year. Now, dynasty owners, and the Seahawks, will be left with incomplete information as decisions need to be made this offseason. Rawls could enter the 2016 season as the starter at running back, or the Seahawks could bring back veteran Marshawn Lynch for one more shot. This situation and Lynch’s future will have a major impact on Rawls and how he is valued in dynasty leagues.
4) Andy Dalton, QB CIN
Another Week 14 injury came in Cincinnati where the Bengals lost starting quarterback Andy Dalton. The good news is it appears Dalton will be able to return to the field by the playoffs, but this stings for the Bengals’ race for the top seed, as well as dynasty teams pushing for a league title. Dalton, once just a solid fantasy backup, was in the middle of possibly the best season of his career before the broken thumb. Many dynasty owners might not be convinced he can be a high end fantasy option, even though he’d been just that this season.
5) Travis Kelce, TE KC
I mentioned the disappointing play of Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce. The good news is Kelce is the TE7 on the season, but he has not lived up to that rank since the Chiefs’ bye week. In Kelce’s first eight games, he had five double-digit performances, thanks in part to three touchdowns. In the past five games, Kelce has eclipsed 10 fantasy points just once and has only one touchdown. Kelce is still firmly entrenched as the dynasty TE3, according to most rankers, but as I said earlier, Jordan Reed is sneaking up and threatening to overtake him.
Others considered: DeMarco Murray, Jordan Matthews, Torrey Smith, Tavon Austin, Antonio Andrews, Giovani Bernard, Phillip Dorsett, Charcandrick West, Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, Alfred Morris, Matt Ryan, Emmanuel Sanders