Wed Jan 15 9:38am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Smith is a top red-zone target
Well, the games last week weren’t nearly as exciting as the previous week. They weren’t nearly as close. Hopefully, the two games are better this weekend. It sure seems setup for a great week of football with some great matchups. As last week showed, it doesn’t always play out that way, but we can hope, right?
Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
I wasn’t sure how the 49ers would react in their first big playoff game in several seasons, but they sure showed up in a big way. The stage did not seem too big for the young team, dominating the Vikings. I think this really bodes well for another victory this weekend, especially since they are at home. San Francisco continues to impress me on a weekly basis, playing great football on both sides of the ball. This team is a very complete team.
I am starting work on our Draft Guide for the 2020 season and already ran into at least one eye opening stat. So Matthew Stafford was on pace for about 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions before suffering his back injury. That is a monster season. Remember, he was an elite quarterback just a few seasons back, so don’t forget about him come draft day next year. I know his back injury is a concern going forward, but if he gets a clean bill of healthy, Stafford could be a good get for fantasy teams. I’m sure many will overlook him because of the injury and not finishing out the season.
Derrick Henry is on some kind of run right now. He is absolutely carrying the offense. The opposition knows he is getting the ball, but still can’t stop him. His fantasy stock is going way up with this late season surge. You still would like to see him catch the ball more but as long as he keeps piling up the rushing yards and touchdowns, his fantasy value is solid. And with the Titans likely parting ways with Dion Lewis this offseason, maybe Henry gets a few more chances to catch the ball in 2020. That could give his fantasy value another boost.
I think LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is going to be a heck of a pro. He just looks the part of a top NFL quarterback. I love his accuracy, especially on the deep ball. Plus, he is a great athlete that can make plays with his legs. He also has that swagger you want in a franchise quarterback. I really think his future is bright and the Bengals are going to get a real good one with their first overall pick. Burrow had quite the showing all year and especially in the National Championship game.
The Packers don’t do it often, but I really think they need to make a splash this offseason to finally get a legit No. 2 option in the passing game opposite Davante Adams. The youngsters have not panned out, and Jimmy Graham is past his prime at tight end. They need to really get a legit option outside of Adams. This offense could really take a step forward with a dependable option outside of Adams. Let’s hope they get it done this offseason.
My two favorite coaching hires from a fantasy perspective are Matt Rhule in Carolina and Mike Mike McCarthy in Dallas. I know McCarthy had his issues with Aaron Rodgers, but you can’t ignore the production that offense had for years with McCarthy at the helm. I think his hire is a positive for all the Cowboys offensive players going forward. And Rhule should be a good fit in Carolina and keep the Christian McCaffrey train going. He will find ways to get his playmakers involved in Carolina and re-energize that team. There was a reason so many teams were after Rhule to hire him as their head coach. I think he is the real deal.
As always, don’t forget to check out my weekly rankings here: Championship Round Rankings.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. Kelce wasn’t even 100 percent healthy last week, but that didn’t slow him one bit. He had a monster game, catching 10 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns. He has double-digit receptions two of four games and two 100-yard games during that stretch. Kelce continues to be the top target in the passing game for the Chiefs and should get a ton of targets this weekend. The Titans really struggled to stop the tight end during the regular season, allowing the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends.
Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers. Mostert took a backseat to Tevin Coleman last week, seeing Coleman produce big numbers with a heavy workload. Mostert still had 12 carries for 58 yards, though, so he wasn’t awful. He even averaged the same yards per carry as Coleman. The issue was Coleman had about twice the work. Mostert still seems the safest back to use in San Francisco. He has been so consistent down the stretch, having touchdowns six straight games before last week. We think he get a heavy workload this week against the Packers, a team that allowed the eight most fantasy points to running backs during the regular season.
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans. Henry is on some sort of hot streak. He has absolutely carried the Titans offense recently. He has 30-plus carries three straight games and 180-plus rushing yards all three of those games. He has been a monster for the Titans, seeming to get stronger late in the year. It should be more of the same for Henry this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs during the fantasy season.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. The 49ers won last week but did so offensively because of a strong ground attack. Garoppolo didn’t even throw for 150 yards in the game. The 49ers have been more run heavy down the stretch, though, giving Garoppolo fewer than 30 pass attempts three straight games. The game plan likely will be the same this week against the Packers. Green Bay allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers. Sanders got off to a great start with the 49ers once he joined the team, but has been pretty quiet most weeks. He has fewer than 30 yards there of four games. He was targeted just two times last week. Sanders is a hard player to trust for the 49ers right now. He also hast just three touchdowns compared to six for Kendrick Bourne, who is below him on the depth chart. The Packers also allow the eighth fewest fantasy points to receivers.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. Rodgers had a good game last week, going 16-of-27 for 243 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He still didn’t have that huge game you have come to expect from him. Rodgers has been really mediocre most of the year. He has fewer than 17 fantasy points six of nine games. He goes on the road this week against the 49ers, a team that was first overall against the pass during the regular season.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans. Tannehill has done very little in the playoffs with the Titans running often. But that game plan could change this weekend if the Chiefs get up on the Titans. Tannehill should get more chances to air it out. Remember, he had multiple touchdowns every start this season. He had 20-plus fantasy points eight of 10 starts. Tannehill is capable of the big game with the way he is playing. It would not be a surprise if he has one of those big games this week against the Chiefs.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, 49ers. Bourne had three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown last week. He has six touchdowns this season and been a top red-zone target for the 49ers. Bourne is clearly a touchdown dependent player, failing to top 50 yards in any game this year. He gets some catches, though, having three or more receptions six times. He is worth a look for fantasy teams this week because of his ability to find the end zone. It could happen again against the Packers.
Jonnu Smith, TE, Titans. Smith had just two catches last week but one of those was an acrobatic touchdown reception, showing his big-time athletic ability. Smith has touchdowns three of six games. He also has 60 or more yards two of those games. Smith can be a little boom or bust, but certainly seems setup for a good game in this one. Kansas City has struggled to stop tight ends this year, allowing the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends.
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: Titans/Chiefs.
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 Buffalo Bills have talked with free-agent cornerback Josh Norman, according to general manager Brandon Beane, but nothing is imminent. Norman was recently released from the Redskins and has ties to both Beane and head coach Sean McDermott from their time together with the Panthers. Norman was drafted with Beane in the Carolina front office, and he was an All-Pro with McDermott as his defensive coordinator, so a match makes sense on paper. But the former fifth-round pick in 2012 is a shell of his former Pro Bowl self and was benched late in the year in Washington in 2019. Norman played in just 12 games and recorded 40 tackles (33 solo), one sack, one forced fumble and one interception.
While the San Francisco 49ers think wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is too valuable to straight up cut, they are open to trading him, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Goodwin has two years left on his current deal and is scheduled to make $3.95 million in base salary in 2020 while counting $4.906 million against the salary cap. The 29-year-old played in just nine games in 2019 because of injury and had 12 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown. If he returns, he'd be competing with Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor for a role behind Deebo Samuel in the passing attack. The 29-year-old has game-changing speed but has never played a full season in his seven years in the NFL and hasn't scored more than four TDs in a single season. He could benefit from a change of scenery but will have to rehab his fantasy value and stay healthy.
The Dallas Cowboys and Todd France, the agent for quarterback Dak Prescott, had discussions on Wednesday regarding a long-term contract extension for the first time since September of last year. The meeting didn't last long, but the Cowboys are hoping to get a long-term deal done before needing to use the franchise tag on Prescott. If Dallas can get Prescott locked up soon, they could save the franchise or transition tag for impending free-agent wide receiver Amari Cooper. Prescott put up great numbers under center in 2019 despite the Cowboys underwhelming as a whole and finishing outside of the playoff picture. One way or another he's staying put, making him a high-end QB1 entering the 2020 season for fantasy owners.
Washington Redskins impending free-agent quarterback Case Keenum is on the Cleveland Browns' radar, according to a league source. Cleveland is looking to bring in a veteran backup to Baker Mayfield that can help him grow and develop after a disappointing 2019 campaign. Drew Stanton missed all of last season with a knee injury and will be a free agent himself next month. Keenum, 32, worked with head coach Kevin Stefanski with the Vikings in 2017 when he led the team to an 11-3 record. He's thrown for 14,368 yards, 75 touchdowns and 47 interceptions for a career passer rating of 85.3, but he'd just be holding the clipboard for Mayfield in Cleveland.
Denver Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb (knee) will not take part in organized team activities this spring, but he will be ready for training camp. Chubb, the fifth overall pick in 2018, is recovering from a torn ACL that cost him 12 games in his sophomore season. The 23-year-old wasted no time doing damage in his rookie season with 60 total tackles and 12 sacks, so he should return to being a force across from Von Miller in 2020 if he avoids the injury bug. Denver's D will likely go undrafted in standard-sized formats this year, but they could easily wind up being owned in the majority of leagues by the end of the year in head coach Vic Fangio's second season.
The Cleveland Browns are expected to pursue Chicago Bears impending free-agent quarterback Chase Daniel when free agency begins. The Browns need a strong veteran backup behind Baker Mayfield next season. Cleveland's backup last year was Drew Stanton, but he's set to be a free agent next month as well. Behind him was Garrett Gilbert. Daniel played in parts of eight games for the Bears in the last two seasons, throwing six touchdowns and four interceptions. He'd only be in the mix as a low-end QB2 if he were to sign with the Browns and Mayfield were to get hurt in 2020 and miss some time.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said the team would like to keep impending free-agent wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb. Cooper is the bigger priority as the team's No. 1 receiver, but things are complicated this offseason, as the Cowboys' biggest priority is getting franchise quarterback Dak Prescott signed to a long-term extension. Cooper battled through nagging injuries in 2019 but managed to play a full season and caught 79 passes for a career-high 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. Cobb would be more of a luxury to keep around after he had 55 receptions for 828 yards and three scores in his first year in Dallas. Cooper finished as a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2019 and would be firmly in the WR1 conversation if he remains in Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is expected to return to the team in 2020. Lee played in a full season for the first time of his career and saw considerable playing time in the second half of the season with Leighton Vander Esch (neck) injured, recording 86 tackles (55 solo), one sack and one interception. Lee will be more of a backup with the Cowboys if Vander Esch is fully healthy next season, but he'd provide valuable veteran depth in the middle of the field if he comes back. The 33-year-old will only had IDP appeal in deep leagues if LVE misses more time with injury.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa received overwhelmingly positive reports on his dislocated hip from teams who examined him following two days of medical testing, according to sources. The MRIs were clean, his fractured hip is healed and there is no loss in blood flow. One source said Tagovailoa "looked great." It's great news for Tua's draft stock heading into April's draft. There might still be some concerns about his long-term health and ability to stay healthy at the next level given his size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds). Regardless, he'll be an early selection in the first round, possibly as high as No. 5 to the Dolphins. Or a team could trade up at No. 4 with the Giants to take him. Depending on where he lands, Tagovailoa will mostly be a dynasty asset in his first year in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who put on some weight last year to bulk up, plans to be slimmer and faster this year with an emphasis on being in better shape. The extra weight that Mayfield carried with him last year caused him to lose some overall quickness. Cleveland had sky-high expectations going into last season, and both the team and Mayfield failed to live up to them. The second-year quarterback completed only 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 16 games. He'll be learning a new offense this spring and summer, but Mayfield has plenty of weapons around him to bounce back. Fantasy owners won't be so bold on him and will likely take him as more of a QB2 with upside.
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who was vice president of player personnel in 2017 when the team drafted tight end David Njoku in the first round, envisions a role for Njoku moving forward despite his down season in 2019. Berry implied that the team will pick up the fifth-year options on both Njoku and defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of 2017. Njoku, 23, played 16 games each in his first two seasons and had a career year in 2018 with 56 catches, 639 yards and four touchdowns. He was held to just five catches for 41 yards and a score in four games in 2019 due to injury and headbutting with former head coach Freddie Kitchens. You can get Njoku on the cheap as a TE2 with upside in 2020 drafts.
San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley (leg) is expected to return for the final year of his contract in 2020 after there was speculation that he would retire from the game after a Super Bowl run in 2019. The 13-year veteran missed nine games last season due to a broken leg, but he was solid as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's blind-side protector when he was on the field. Staley allowed just seven QB pressures in 240 pass-blocking snaps last year for a pressure rate of 2.9 percent, which trailed just Ronnie Stanley and Taylor Lewan among left tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. Staley's return would be great news for Jimmy G.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he wants wide receiver Dante Pettis to go on an offseason "mission" after taking a huge step back in his second season in 2019. After catching 27 passes for 467 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games in his rookie season, Pettis had just 11 grabs for 109 yards and two scores in 11 games in 2019 and was in Shanahan's dog house for the majority of the season for multiple reasons. But with Emmanuel Sanders a free agent and the Niners looking for someone to step up behind Deebo Samuel, Pettis could get another chance this spring and summer to prove he belongs. Still, it'll take a lot of convincing for fantasy owners to invest in Pettis off the waiver wire to begin the year.
Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead said that there is "no timeline" on a long-term contract extension for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams acquired Ramsey from the Jaguars in the middle of last season for two first-round picks. The 25-year-old played in just 12 total games last year (nine with the Rams), and he had 33 tackles (31 solo), one forced fumble and an interception in his time in Los Angeles. The former fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft has made three straight Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro back in 2017 when Jacksonville made an AFC Championship appearance. Ramsey will be expensive, but he'd be a huge asset for the Rams secondary for years to come if he sticks around.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thinks highly of tight end Jacob Hollister and the team wants to bring him back as a restricted free agent. Will Dissly is coming off a torn Achilles last year and has two major lower-body injuries in the last two seasons, but the Seahawks also recently signed veteran Greg Olsen at the position. There's no guarantee that either of Olsen or Dissly will stay healthy for a full season, though, so perhaps Seattle wants to keep Hollister around for depth. The 26-year-old had a career-high 41 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games in 2019. He might have some low-end TE1 fantasy appeal if he were to land with another team as their starter.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and general manager David Caldwell said that the team will let quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles compete for the starting job in 2020. Joshua Dobbs will also be a part of the competition, which will begin as soon as organized team activities kick off this spring. Marrone suggested that the Jaguars won't select their starter until the preseason. Caldwell may have a soft spot for Minshew, but the Jags also signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal ($45 million in guarantees) in March of last year. Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1 and was benched upon his return. Minshew, a rookie in 2019, showed flashes but was mostly a game manager in this run-first offense. Whoever is under center to start next season will be a middling QB2 option.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that he expects running back Rashaad Penny (knee) to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Penny needed reconstructive knee surgery after injuring himself in early December against the Rams. If he were to start the season on the PUP, Penny would have to sit out the first six games. The former first-round pick started riding a stationary bike on Feb. 12, but he has a long ways to go in his rehab. With the oft-injured C.J. Prosise hitting free agency, Travis Homer could be the direct backup to Chris Carson to open the 2020 season if Penny isn't ready to go.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said that he will hand play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly in 2020. O'Brien had been calling the offensive plays in Houston since he took over from former offensive coordinator George Godsey in 2016. Kelly will be in his second season as the OC and has worked with O'Brien since he was a graduate assistant at Penn State. The Texans finished 13th in the NFL in 2019 in yards per game (362). Kelly will also work closely with quarterback Deshaun Watson, and this news could actually raise the ceiling of Houston's entire offense next year. "Deshaun and [Kelly] have a great relationship," O'Brien said. "... Deshaun has great trust in Timmy and the work that Timmy puts in, what Tim brings to the meeting room and on the field. Tim is an excellent coach."
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that running back Chris Carson (hip) is making progress but can't do much yet in his rehab. However, the Seahawks expect Carson to be ready for the 2020 season. The 25-year-old missed just one game in 2019 and handled 278 carries for 1,230 yards and seven rushing touchdowns for Seattle in his third year in the league. It was Carson's second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, and he also added a career-high 37 receptions for 266 yards and two scores through the air. He has yet to play in a full season but has missed just three games in the last two seasons. With Rashaad Penny (knee) doubtful to be ready for Week 1, Carson should handle the bulk of the load heading into the regular season and will be a strong RB1 in this run-first offense if he's fully healthy.
Impending free-agent LB Joe Schobert (Browns) is expected to meet with Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry at the NFL Combine, but Berry acknowledged the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot that Schobert has 'earned the right to test the market if he deems that appropriate.'