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) Jeremy Langford, RB CHI
When Bears’ starting running back Matt Forte suffered a knee injury in Week Eight, fantasy owners panicked, and rightfully so. Forte has been a mainstay on the list of top 12 running backs for years and the Bears had seemingly limited options playing behind him in unproven youngsters Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford. It was Langford who took over after Forte’s injury, but Carey who got the start in Week Nine against the Chargers. That didn’t last long as Langford dominated the touches and put his name on the dynasty map. Langford totaled over 140 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown, causing some to prematurely write off the veteran Forte. The severity of Forte’s injury is still not clear, but he is expected to return soon. Regardless, Langford is a suddenly hot name on the dynasty landscape and is quickly gaining value.
2) Allen Hurns, WR JAX
Sophomore wide receiver Allen Hurns continues to be outscored by his fellow Jaguar receiver Allen Robinson, but shouldn’t be overshadowed. Hurns is here to stay, currently the WR15 after he set a new career high with 122 receiving yards last week. The Jaguars’ offense has proven to be strong enough to support two top 15 receivers and Blake Bortles has been the beneficiary of his talented pass catchers. With rookie running back T.J. Yeldon also showing improvement, this is an exciting young offense. Hurns is still greatly underrated, often ranked outside of the top 40 among dynasty receivers and can be acquired at a much cheaper cost than others producing similar numbers.
3) Marcus Mariota, QB TEN
Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota had missed the previous two games with an injury and played poorly in the two games before that, but in Week Nine, he was back and rocked the Saints’ porous pass defense, throwing for over 370 yards and four touchdowns. The yardage represented a season high for Mariota and he became one of five quarterbacks to throw for at least four scores twice this season. I expect Mariota to continue to have up and down performances, which is common for a rookie, but he has shown he can dominate in plus matchups, which is good news since he faces some generous defenses down the stretch. With the struggles of some formerly highly ranked quarterbacks, Mariota can already be considered a top ten dynasty quarterback.
4) Tyler Eifert, TE CIN
In Week Nine, Tyler Eifert continued his dominant season by setting a new career high with three touchdowns against in state rival Cleveland. Eifert currently ranks as the TE3 behind Rob Gronkowski and fellow breakout player Gary Barnidge. Entering the season, Eifert was a trendy pick as a player who could turn the corner and become a reliable weekly starter. Instead, he’s become a star and currently ranks, for many, as the TE2 in dynasty, behind only Gronkowski, having passed Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce. With the Bengals’ offense clicking and Eifert and his quarterback, Andy Dalton enjoying career years, there is little reason to expect this to slow down.
5) James Starks, RB GB
Veteran James Starks has always been considered a quality backup running back… an important fantasy handcuff. Now, he has a new title, starting running back for the Green Bay Packers. With Eddie Lacy dealing with a groin injury, and struggling to gain yardage, Starks entered the game and broke off big play after big play, totaling over 120 yards. Starks was especially effective in the passing game as the Packers played catch up against the Carolina Panthers. Earlier this week, Starks was officially named the new starting back, overtaking Lacy. Considering he is already 29 years old, Starks does not get a huge boost in dynasty value, but could be an integral part of championship teams this season. He also serves as a good reminder to fantasy owners, especially dynasty players, the importance of backing up top running backs.
6) LeGarrette Blount, RB NE
Unfortunately, Week Nine produced a few more serious injuries to star players, including a torn ACL for breakout pass-catching back Dion Lewis. With Lewis done for the season, that should only cement the role of power back LeGarrette Blount, who set a new season high with 129 yards in the team’s Week Nine win over the Redskins. While Blount’s touches increased following the Lewis injury, I actually expect his touches to return closer to his typical range of 13-18 going forward with Brandon Bolden or James White taking over Lewis’ role. Blount will continue to see his share of carries though, including increased red zone looks, as Lewis was routinely getting opportunities close to the goal line.
7) Darren McFadden, RB DAL
This season is full of surprise contributors at the running back position. First, we had the early-season breakouts of Devonta Freeman and Dion Lewis, then the former backups like Starks and Matt Jones overtaking starters and finally “retread” runners returning to prominence. This includes Chris Johnson and Cowboys’ back Darren McFadden. With the release of former starter Joseph Randle, McFadden claimed the starting job by default, but has thrived, especially in the passing game. In the past three weeks since earning the starting role, McFadden has averaged over 28 touches per game and that volume is crucial for contending dynasty teams down in the playoff hunt. I am not confident that McFadden will be able to maintain the starting role in 2016, but he offers excellent value over the remainder of this season.
8) Jay Ajayi, RB MIA
This time last year, former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi was considered one of the top dynasty prospects as he dominated his competition and racked up video game numbers along the way. During the pre-draft process though, word of a knee injury popped up and Ajayi’s value plummeted, causing him to fall to the fifth round, where Miami selected him. In Week Nine, Ajayi finally made his NFL debut and it was a solid showing. He totaled 41 yards on just five carries and already has the coaching staff looking to give him more touches. Starter Lamar Miller has been impressive himself, especially since the firing of Joe Philbin and takeover of Dan Campbell, but don’t be surprised to see a healthy Ajayi begin to eat into Miller’s touches even more.
9) Sammy Watkins, WR BUF
It’s been a difficult year for wide receiver Sammy Watkins, as changes on the Bills’ coaching staff and his own injuries have hurt his short-term value. Watkins made a statement on the field in Week Nine, after making a lot of statements off the field leading up to the game, showing his frustration with his season. Watkins caught eight passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. Those solid numbers become even more impressive when recalling that quarterback Tyrod Taylor only threw for 181 yards on the day. That’s right, Watkins accounted for 93% of the team’s receiving yardage. It will take more than just one big game to recover the lost dynasty value for Watkins, but he still has very high upside and first round pedigree. If Watkins’ erratic play continues, he’ll make an excellent buy-low option this offseason.
10) Rueben Randle, WR NYG
One of the most underrated players of the season is Giants' wide receiver Rueben Randle, who has displayed a solid floor, seeing at least five targets in every game since Week Three. With Victor Cruz seemingly nowhere near returning and defenses focusing on star Odell Beckham, Randle is seeing single coverage and little competition for targets as the team’s second option in the passing game.
1) Eddie Lacy, RB GB
The struggles of Eddie Lacy have been discussed in great detail. In short, he’s not getting the job done and can no longer be counted on as a fantasy option. At least not until he proves he can turn things around. For now, he’s only the RB50 on the season and is currently nursing a groin injury. As previously mentioned, he’s also been bypassed on the depth chart by James Starks. At just 25 years old, it’s difficult to believe Lacy’s best days are behind him, making him an excellent buy-low target during this rough stretch.
2) Ronnie Hillman, RB DEN
The season has already been full of ups and downs for Broncos’ running back Ronnie Hillman. After entering the season as the clear backup to C.J. Anderson, Hillman earned the starting role and the majority of the touches, putting up some impressive games against Minnesota and Green Bay, among others. Then, last week we were reminded of how fickle NFL coaches can be as Hillman carried the ball just seven times for one lone yard against the Colts in what looked like a nice matchup. Anderson may be back in the driver’s seat, but this is a situation I want to avoid, if possible.
3) Tevin Coleman, RB ATL
The byproduct of the surprise season of second year running back Devonta Freeman is the decrease in playing time for rookie Tevin Coleman. Freeman earned the starting job following an injury to Coleman and hasn’t looked back. Even with the amazing numbers Freeman is putting up, I am surprised we are not seeing a little more of Coleman, who carried the ball just once in Week Nine. Many young backs are often stuck behind clear-cut starters, but there is often a light at the end of the tunnel as the starters might be nearing the end of their respective careers. That is obviously not the case in Atlanta where Freeman is just getting started. Coleman may need another injury, this time to Freeman, to be relevant at all.
4) Dwayne Allen, TE IND
It wasn’t long ago that fantasy owners were looking to load up on as many pieces of the Colts’ offense as possible. After all, playing alongside Andrew Luck was sure to inflate fantasy stats and make all pass catchers relevant. That has not been the case this year though, as many of the Colts, Luck included, have struggled. One of the prime disappointments has been tight end Dwayne Allen, who has dealt with injuries, but even when healthy, can’t get things rolling. He’s basically been a non-factor in the Colts’ offense and for fantasy players, with a season high of 23 receiving yards back in Week Six. His only touchdown came in Week One and he’s routinely outplayed by fellow tight end Coby Fleener. With the contracts of both Allen and Fleener expiring at the conclusion of the season, it will be interesting to see which, if either, the Colts retain.
5) Jordan Cameron, TE MIA
Another tight end that hasn’t made the impact that most expected is Dolphins’ starter Jordan Cameron, who is not even in the TE2 range for the season, currently ranking as the TE25 in PPR leagues. The Dolphins added multiple pass catchers this off-season, including Cameron, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and rookie DeVante Parker. Adding this group to Jarvis Landry and breakout receiver Rishard Matthews and the depth chart is suddenly very crowded. One of the players who has been most affected is Cameron, who is just fifth on the team in receiving yardage. I thought the promotion of former tight ends coach Dan Campbell to the role of head coach could help Cameron’s production, but he’s been even less of a factor, catching just nine balls in the four games under Campbell as head man.