Wed Jan 26 10:40am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Samuel should get plenty of work
Wow, wow, wow. That is about all you can say about last week’s game. That might have been the greatest playoff weekend ever. Needless to say, this week has a lot to live up to. Hopefully, we can at least near those games. We’ll see. Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
Josh Allen is so special. He had a game for the ages last week and lost. He had nine touchdowns without a turnover in the Bills two playoff games, showing he can come up big in the big game. Allen is a special, special player. At this point, I’m raking him first overall in my quarterback rankings for 2022. One thing that gets overlooked with Allen is his ability to make plays with his legs, rushing for 763 yard this season. This guy is as consistent it gets at the quarterback spot and is going to be a superstar for lots of years to come.
One player that is going to be intriguing next year is Gabriel Davis. He had one of the best games ever for a receiver in the playoffs, catching eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. His stock is rising in a hurry, especially with Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley possibly gone next year. Davis should start opposite Stefon Diggs in the Bills explosive passing game. I’m not sure he is going to be a consistent play but expect plenty of big games. Plus, he is a great red-zone target because of his size and strength.
I think Tom Brady returns for one more season. He had a fantastic year once again and showed few signs of slowing down - if any. The Bucs were depleted at receiver by season’s end, so I think they reload there and give Brady one more shot to win it all. A healthy Chris Godwin and a new No. 3 to replace Antonio Brown would give Brady a big-time boost.
How do the Bucs let Cooper Kupp get behind him in the waning seconds of a tie game? I could not believe that one. I know Kupp is one of the best, so you can’t ignore that. But if I’m the Bucs, I do everything in my power to keep him in front of me to prevent a big play. I could not believe the end to that game. As for Kupp, he has 100-yard games six of his last eight games. He had one of the all-time great seasons for a receiver, so it was kind of a fitting end to this game for him.
And speaking of crazy finishes. You could second guess a lot with the end to that Bills/Chiefs, seeing a ton of points scored in a short time to send that game to overtime. The big one for me is seeing the Bills kick the ball into the end zone after they gook the lead with just 13 seconds left. I make the Chiefs run it back to run some time off the clock. I think they did them a favor by kicking it deep, giving Patrick Mahomes more time to do his thing. That was my big beef with how that played out. But even with that said, it was sure exciting to watch. Wow. That was probably the best football game I ever watched.
I had a hard time picking the games last week and am feeling the same way this week. These aren’t easy decisions. I have a hard time picking against the Chiefs right now, though. I never thought they would make three straight Super Bowls, but just can’t see the Bengals going on the road and winning that one. The Chiefs are playing their best football at the right time. And over in the NFC, I am going with the 49ers. They beat the Rams twice during the regular season and think they will make it a third time. San Francisco just seems a team of destiny. Their defense is playing great and I expect the offense, mainly the running game, to play much better this week. The Rams impressed last week, but I still don’t have total faith in Matthew Stafford. Maybe he showed me last week, but I don’t think the Rams run the ball well this week and Stafford will be forced to carry the offense against a very good 49ers defense.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. Kelce is red hot right now, having touchdowns five straight games. He also has 100-yard games two of those weeks. Kelce has 23-plus fantasy points two straight and three of five. He is setup to find the end zone again this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati struggles to stop the tight end, allowing the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season.
Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers. Samuel just keeps getting it done on a weekly basis. He has touchdowns three of four games. He has 20-plus fantasy points nine times this season. His rushing numbers make him a force at the receiver spot, producing as a dual threat for all his fantasy owners. Samuel had huge success in two games against the Rams this season. Samuel had 300 total yards and three touchdowns, catching nine passes. He should be heavily involved in the 49ers game plan.
Cam Akers, RB, Rams. Akers is back and looks to be the clear lead back for the Rams. He ran the ball 24 times last week and has 41 carries in the Rams two playoff games. Unfortunately, the Rams running game isn’t opening many holes for him right now. Akers has 41 carries for just 103 yards in those two games. And things won’t get much easier for him this week against the 49ers. The 49ers held the Rams to 116-rushing yards in two games this year. Ie might be more of the same for Akers.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers. Mitchell had a breakout season, emerging as the lead back for the 49ers and having much success in that role. His lack of work in the passing game holds him back little, though, especially in games against a team that does well in holding down the run. He faces one of those teams this week, the Rams. Los Angeles held Mitchell to fewer than double-digit fantasy points in each of their games this year. Mitchell got 20-plus carries in each game but couldn’t crack double-digit points despite the work. He might be tough sledding for him again this week.
Byron Pringle, WR, Chiefs. Pringle has really emerged as a consistent threat in the Chiefs passing game. He has five receptions three straight games. And he has at least five catches four of five games. He also has three touchdowns in two playoff games this year. Patrick Mahomes has more trust in him and is looking his way a lot more often. He could be a good play again this week in a game that could be very high scoring once again.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals. Boyd can disappear at times in this offense with two top weapons to compete with for targets this year. But he has still produced some big games this year. He is more than capable. He has touchdowns four of five games. He also has three games with 20-plus fantasy points. The Chiefs allowed Cole Beasley to have six receptions for 60 yards last week. Beasley plays a similar position to Boyd, so that bodes well for Boyd to have some success in this matchup.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Bengals/Chiefs, 49ers/Rams.
Low Scoring Games: None.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
The Houston Texans have been sued for allegedly enabling former quarterback Deshaun Watson's behavior during massage-therapy sessions. The lawsuit accuses the team of being aware of Watson's alleged behavior during massage sessions and that "individuals within the Texans organization knew or should have known of Watson's conduct." The lawsuit also states the team provided Watson with resources to conduct his therapy sessions, including "rooms set up for him at the Houstonian Hotel, massage tables provided to him for private massage sessions, and a NDA provided to him from the head of Texans' security." Watson is facing potential discipline from the NFL, and his hearing before disciplinary officer Sue Robinson is set to begin Tuesday. Hopefully, we'll get more clarity soon on a potential 2022 suspension for Watson.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson confirmed that he added 12 to 15 pounds of muscle mass this offseason. He said he usually played at between 205 and 208 pounds, but he's now at 220 pounds. "I just wanted to do it. See how I look, see how I feel," Jackson said. "And I feel good." The 25-year-old has been training hard in the offseason, and the ball was leaving his hand in a different way with more zip on his passes when he reported to mandatory minicamp. Jackson also worked with 3DQB throwing mechanics coach/trainer Adam Dedeaux this offseason. He finished last year on a disappointing note when he missed the final four games of the year due to an ankle injury, but Jackson is motivated to rebound and he has the talent to finish as a high-end QB1.
Miami Dolphins defensive back Eric Rowe has the ability to play both safety and cornerback, but he will likely play a depth role this year with Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones ascending as the starting safeties early last season. If the Dolphins chose to trade Rowe, they would save $4.55 million and incur just $525,000 in dead money. If Rowe remains with Miami, they'll be paying him $5.075 million. The 29-year-old finished with 71 tackles (43 solo), four passes defensed and three forced fumbles in 17 games (four starts) last year in his third season with the Dolphins. Rowe was originally a second-round pick in 2015 by the Philadelphia Eagles out of Utah.
Buffalo Bills speedy wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie appears to have an early lead in the battle to take over Cole Beasley's slot receiver role in 2022, but veteran Jamison Crowder looked solid during offseason workouts in his first year with the team. Crowder dealt with injuries in his final year with the New York Jets, but he might have found a good fit with the Bills. The competition between McKenzie and Crowder for playing time in the slot will be one to watch in training camp. The 29-year-old played in only 12 games in 2021 and finished with 51 catches for 447 yards and two touchdowns, but he managed 833 yards and six touchdowns as recently as 2019 with the Jets, and Crowder could be a sleeper in the slot if he wins the competition and gains quarterback Josh Allen's trust.
New England Patriots wide receiver Tre Nixon spent all of last season on the practice squad, but the seventh-round pick in 2021 has a close bond with second-year quarterback Mac Jones, and he's made an early case this offseason as a player to watch when training camp begins at the end of July. Nixon drove to the stadium every day last year with Jones as they took their COVID-19 tests together before entering the facility. The Patriots already have DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and second-round rookie Tyquan Thornton, but none of them are established receivers in the NFL, so Nixon could make some noise in the pecking order if he plays well during training camp.
Baltimore Ravens fourth-round rookie tight end Isaiah Likely has impressed this offseason with his ability to get open and his large catch radius. "Watch out for this guy," safety Tony Jefferson said. "He's going to be really good." Likely caught several touchdown passes during red-zone drills as the star of the final day of mandatory minicamp. Quarterback Lamar Jackson said "the sky's the limit" for Likely. The 22-year-old from Coastal Carolina was extremely productive in college, and he finished 2021 with 59 catches for 912 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he's a little small and slow at his position by NFL standards. Mark Andrews is the clear No. 1 pass-catching tight end for Baltimore, but Likely is one to keep an eye on as he competes with Josh Oliver and fellow rookie Charlie Kolar this summer.
Cleveland Browns former second-round safety Grant Delpit has battled injuries, including an Achilles tear in his rookie season in 2020, but he's now a projected starter entering training camp after surging this offseason. Delpit intercepted quarterback Deshaun Watson on several occasions in team drills. The combination of Delpit and John Johnson III could make the Browns safeties a major strength in 2022. Delpit missed all of his rookie season and finished with 66 tackles (43 solo), three tackles for loss, one interception, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and one sack in 15 games (seven starts) last year. If the 23-year-old can stay healthy, he could be a force for the Browns.
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end Connor Heyward, the younger brother of Steelers pass-rusher Cameron Heyward, impressed in offseason workouts and showed chemistry with first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett during minicamp. The sixth-round selection is expected to be a hybrid tight end/fullback in an offense that values versatility in its skill players. The 23-year-old has mostly been working with the tight ends and receivers, so he's unlikely to be competing for the fullback spot with Derek Watt in training camp. It remains to be seen if Heyward will actually become a threat as a pass-catching tight end in Pittsburgh, but he's one to watch moving forward because of his versatility.
Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills pointed to second-year wide receiver Nico Collins as a player who stood out this spring. Mills said Collins has a "good grasp of this offense" and "his talent is off the charts." Mills also said that the team needs to "find ways to get (Collins) the ball" this year. The 23-year-old wideout has looked stronger this offseason after hauling in 33 of his 60 targets for 446 yards and one touchdown in 14 games in his rookie campaign. Collins appears to have also improved his chemistry with Mills, which is extremely important. Along with veteran Brandin Cooks, who is the Texans' unquestioned No. 1 receiver, Collins is poised to improve in his sophomore season in 2022.
Denver Broncos cornerback Michael Ojemudia has drawn a ton of praise during organized team activities and minicamp this offseason. He was thrown into the starting lineup as a rookie due to injuries on the roster in 2020, but he played sparingly last year after suffering a severe hamstring injury in the preseason. But when the Broncos took a cautious approach to Ronald Darby's shoulder injury during OTAs, Ojemudia quickly grabbed the attention of the new defensive staff and worked with the starters. The 24-year-old was played in practices like the No. 4 corner behind Patrick Surtain II, Darby and K'Waun Williams. Ojemudia played in just two games last year, but he had 62 tackles (55 solo), six passes defensed and four forced fumbles in 16 games as a rookie.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill is healthy for perhaps the first time since he tore the ACL in his left knee as a rookie in 2019, and he was impressive during offseason workouts. With Tyrann Mathieu now gone, the Chiefs will ask Thornhill to take on a bigger role in their secondary. "I'm committed to doing that," Thornhill said. Those are big shoes to fill, but the 26-year-old from Virginia is up to the task after producing a career-high 64 tackles (43 solo), one interception, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 17 games (12 starts) in his third season with KC in 2021. Thornhill has 163 total tackles (118) in his three NFL seasons, and he could easily force his way onto the IDP radar in a bigger role this year.
The New York Jets expect defensive end Carl Lawson (Achilles) to be ready for Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens after he suffered an Achilles injury during last year's training camp that caused him to miss all of 2021 in his first season with the team. Early in training camp this summer, the Jets might opt to err on the side of caution and keep Lawson off the field to give him more time to rehab. The 26-year-old signed a three-year, $45 million deal before getting injured last year. The former fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 out of Auburn had 5.5 sacks, a career-high 36 tackles (18 solo), four tackles for loss, 32 QB hits and two forced fumbles in 16 games in his last season with the Bengals in 2020. A healthy Lawson would be great news for the Jets defensive line.
New York Giants rookie defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux (hip), who was the fifth overall pick in this year's draft, said he'll be ready for training camp at the end of July after sustaining a minor hip injury in spring practice. "I'm fully healthy, I'm doing fine," Thibodeaux said. "I'm back training and I'll be ready to go for training camp." In his three seasons at Oregon, Thibodeaux has 126 tackles (84 solo), 19 sacks, seven passes defensed and three forced fumbles. His presence should help improve a Giants pass rush that had just 34 sacks last year, which was tied for 22nd in the league. Injuries could be an issue for the 21-year-old, who battled ailments in his final two seasons in college.
Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin is signing a three-year contract extension on Tuesday that is worth up to $71 million in new money that puts him amongst the league's top-five highest-paid receivers, according to sources. The Commanders said all along that McLaurin wasn't a trade candidate after he held out of offseason workouts, including minicamp, and the 26-year-old will stick around for at least three more seasons in D.C. The former third-rounder has produced back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in Washington with sub-par quarterback play, and he's scored 16 times in his three NFL seasons. McLaurin will have Carson Wentz throwing him passes in 2022, and he'll be a solid WR2 target going into his fourth season.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield isn't completely ruling out the possibility of a reconciliation with the team in the event that the NFL suspends Deshaun Watson for the entire 2022 season, but the disgruntled QB also said the Browns would have to be the ones to start the process. "I think for that to happen there would have to be some reaching out," Mayfield said. "But we're ready to move on, I think -- on both sides." If Watson is suspended the Browns are expected to roll with Jacoby Brissett. Cleveland has discussed trading Mayfield with the Carolina Panthers, but a deal won't happen unless the Browns agree to eat more of Mayfield's almost $19 million guaranteed salary. Mayfield is also rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, but he should be ready for the start of the 2022 season for the Browns or whichever team pulls the trigger and trades for him.
Dynasty | Steelers receiver Chase Claypool needs to rebound after a poor second season Dynasty Analysis: Following an impressive rookie season, Claypool struggled with consistency in 2021, seeing his touchdown total drop from nine in 2020 to only two in 2021. Fellow receiver Diontae Johnson is clearly the WR1 in the offense but Juju Smitch-Schuster has moved on and will be on the receiving end of passes from Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. For Claypool, who "needs to expand his route tree and get away from the bad habit of falling when he's tracking a deep ball," the future is now and the lights are on with the expectation that he'll begin the season as the team's WR2. Chase Claypool, DLF's WR34, is clearly a high-risk, high-reward WR3 option in dynasty may also be negatively impacted by quarterback play in the near-term.
Dynasty | Giants receivers, including sophomore Kadarius Toney, could benefit from an improved offense providing more freedom, movement and an expectation of big plays. Dynasty Analysis: New head coach Brian Daboll has brought an entirely new style to the offense and will feature "moving parts all day long" said receiver Sterling Shepard. Coming from Buffalo, which finished near the top of the league in yardage and points, Daboll has overhauled the offense to provide more freedom and give receivers "a lot of leeway to win" in the words of second-year player Kadarius Toney. If there's more movement, freedom and space available in the passing game, this would seem to benefit the dynamic Toney who figures to be a prominent fixture in three-receiver sets. There aren't many more difficult projections than the Giants in 2022 but if Daboll is able to transfer his offensive success from Buffalo to New York, Kadarius Toney, DLF's WR53, could be an intriguing dynasty sleeper.
Dynasty | Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett worked with the third-team offense exclusively Dynasty Analysis: This comes as no surprise and all expectations have been that Pickett wouldn't be rushed under-center with both Mason Rudolph and newcomer Mitchell Trubisky as more experienced options. Trubisky is fully expected to be the starter though things could get more interesting as we near mid-season if the team has fallen from playoff contention. Pickett, 2022's 20th-overall selection and first quarterback off the board, has been dogged by questions about his hand size which may have contributed to 38 collegiate fumbles. He's listed as DLF's QB23 and rookie QB1 while coming off the board sometimes as late as the third round of dynasty rookie drafts.
New York Jets DE Carl Lawson (Achilles) is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, according to ESPN.