Hello, and welcome again to Risers and Fallers! As fun as this time of year is with the holidays in full swing, college, and NFL playoffs approaching, it’s also the time we realize how close we are to finishing the season. That part isn’t so fun. But the push for the playoffs and clinching bye weeks just got a whole lot easier. Look below for players who are rising above the rest, and be sure to make the smart plays in this critical week of the season. Let’s get to it!
Baker Mayfield – QB (CLE)
Since Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired as head coach and offensive coordinator, Mayfield is the QB 13. Of the QBs who played only three games in that span, only Andrew Luck is ahead of Baker, by 2.9 points. Mayfield’s thrown for 771 yards, nine TDs, and a single interception. The Browns are also 2-1 since then, with a loss to only Kansas City. Baker has thrived alongside fellow rookie Nick Chubb, who himself is the RB 7 since the coaching changes. Baker Mania took off when he saw playing time against the Jets, but we waited a while for him to pay off.
Between weeks 3 and 9 Baker was the QB 20, had thrown just eight TDs to six INTs and had a completion percentage of just 58.2%. Things have changed elsewhere too; Jarvis Landry’s targets/gm have been cut in half since the firings, but the Browns have steadily improved. Mayfield has a loveable playoff schedule, finishing in week 16 against the Bengals at First Energy Stadium. They come in dead last at points allowed to the position, and I’d expect Baker and Chubb to both have a great fantasy playoff run.
Austin Ekeler – RB (LAC)
With Melvin Gordan suffering an MCL sprain which likely sidelines him at least two weeks, Ekeler is primed for an RB1 ceiling. Of running backs who’ve played on 25% of snaps or more, Ekeler is the RB 8 in PPR formats in points/touch, tied with Alvin Kamara. In other words, when he touches the ball, good things happen. Overall, he’s the RB21, one spot above Nick Chubb, and will only improve. With Gordan in, Ekeler hovers around 35% of the snaps. He’s turned that workload into 12 FPPG. He’s hyper-efficient, has mid-to-high RB1 potential, and has some great matchups ahead. Before Gordan’s expected return date the Chargers will face the Bengals and Chiefs early in the playoffs, both bottom 3 against the position.
16% of Philip Rivers passes are thrown behind the line of scrimmage, on swing passes and the like. This is also the area where the bulk of Ekelers targets have been. Combining that with workhorse expectancy, and a favorable schedule, Ekeler is a border-line must-start until Gordan returns. He’s owned in 54% of ESPN leagues, so get him if you can. If you’ve been rostering him, he just paid off.
Keenan Allen – WR (LAC)
When you’re as talented as Keenan Allen and have a QB like Philip Rivers, it’s hard to stay down. We’re seeing this happen for the second year in a row as Allen has emerged into an elite fantasy asset once more. He scored in week 1, then went 7 games without finding the end zone, with a bye week to boot. Since week 9 he’s scored in three of four games, eclipsed 6 receptions each game, and averaged 85.5 yards/gm. He’s the WR 5 since then, scoring 20.8 FPPG and is the WR 13 on the season.
What he’s doing is eerily similar to his output in 2017; He scored in week 1, then went silent until week 11 when he scored twice and caught 12 balls for 159 yards. His targets have gone down from 2017 at 9.1/gm to 7.9 /gm, and that’s a key reason for his reduced yardage output. However, we know what Rivers and Allen are capable of, and Rivers historically has above average performances in December. Until week 16, the Chargers face average pass defenses, and I expect Allen to feast during this time.
Dak Prescott – QB (DAL)
I’m not sure if it makes me an “Amari Cooper truther,” but I’m glad I listed him as a riser when he was traded to Dallas. Prescott was in need of a number one receiver, and he’s finally got one. Since then, Prescott is the QB 8, scoring 20.4 FPPG. He’s posted a 5:1 TD: INT ratio since the trade deadline, and has a higher adjusted completion percentage also. Cooper has led the team in targets in all but one of his four games in Dallas, and I’d imagine Cowboys fans are thrilled to see this.
Prescott has more points per dropback than QBs like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan since the trade deadline. They have one of the best running backs in the league, and Dak is no longer limited to forcing most of his targets to the position. Prescott and the Cowboys have arguably the best fantasy schedule through the end of the playoffs. They face the Saints, Eagles, Colts, and Bucs. None of them are in the top half of defenses against fantasy QBs, and 3 of them are in the bottom third. Dak is owned in less than half of leagues, so if you’re looking to replace Trubisky, Bortles, or need a stash or streamer, this is your quarterback.
Tevin Coleman – RB (ATL)
If you were to ask any fantasy player, expert, writer – anybody, they all would have said Tevin Coleman is a locked and loaded RB2, with weekly RB1 potential. Obviously, the injuries on both sides of the ball for Atlanta have played a role, but Coleman has disappointed regardless. The Falcons play from behind, relying on Matt and Julio, and have a decimated offensive line. Still, Coleman is averaging just 4.1 Y/C, and that’s slightly misleading. Before week 7 he averaged 3.6 Y/C, then the Falcons played a string of below-average defenses. Since week 7 Coleman is averaging 4.8 Y/C. Now they enter a stretch of tough matchups including the 2nd and 8th best defenses against the position beginning this week with Baltimore.
Coleman is on pace to rush just 21 more times than he did as a backup in 2017. Now a starter, the volume, and run blocking aren’t allowing him to be successful. His fantasy production also hasn’t reflected what we hoped for as he became a starter. In 2017 he ended as the RB 22, scoring 11.18 FPPG, and .92 points per touch. Currently the RB 17, he’s scoring 13.49 FPPG, and .98 points per touch. Yes, those numbers are up, but only slightly. And that middle stretch of weaker defenses is gone. Our expectations for Coleman and the drastic difference in production between levels of competition makes me list him a faller. I don’t expect a lot from Coleman in the coming week unless the Falcons go run heavy in an attempt to protect Ryan.
Isaiah Crowell – RB (NYJ)
Currently the RB 25 in PPR, Crowell has slowly but surely threatened your fantasy team. his 11.3 FPPG is boosted from a couple weeks early in the season when he scored 22, 19, and 31 points in weeks 1, 3, and 5. But since week 6 he’s eclipsed 10 points just once, against Buffalo in week 10 when he went 7-19-1 and scored 11.7 points. In reality, he’s not been a bad running back. His 4.9 Y/C is 16th of RBs who’ve played at least 25% of their team’s snaps. He’s rushed for 6 TDs on just 120 attempts and has 141 receiving yards to add. But for fantasy purposes, he teased us with his boom/bust tendencies. If you stuck with him past week 6 and started him frequently, he’s only hurt you.
The Jets are in the bottom half of rush attempts/game, and rank 27th in scoring margin. They’ll be playing from behind most often, and Crowell can’t be trusted to produce especially heading into the fantasy playoffs. The Jets play Tennessee this week, with their 7th best defense against fantasy RBs.
Thanks again for reading Risers and Fallers. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @FF_BAMills, and let me know what you think. See you next week for the start of the fantasy playoffs!