Zay Jones, Jerick McKinnon shine

Week 15 of the fantasy football season certainly did not lack for drama. It featured the greatest comeback in NFL history on Saturday, as well as some big-time performances at this crucial juncture of the fantasy calendar on Sunday from the likes of Jerick McKinnon and Zay Jones. As usual, Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft have plenty of takeaways from this eventful weekend.


If two weeks represent a trend, his Weeks 14 and 15 in fantasy terms are huge, as he eclipsed 30 points in PPR scoring each week. McKinnon has been heavily involved in the Chiefs’ passing game since Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s injury, and he caught all eight of his targets for a career-best 34.2 points after catching 7 of 9 the week before. While quarterback Patrick Mahomes had been spreading things around in the season’s early weeks — well, at least as far as secondary throws behind clear preferred target Travis Kelce — it appears that he narrowed his scope to largely Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and McKinnon in the past two. Those three accounted for 57 of the team’s 81 total targets. McKinnon has gotten a huge benefit accordingly in any PPR-oriented fantasy league, and that’s great news with a matchup against the Seahawks up next. They have allowed the most PPR fantasy points to target the position this season (1.79), making McKinnon a realistic RB2 option. — Cockcroft

Jones dropped a career-high 34.9 PPR points on the Dallas defense in Week 15, catching 6 of 8 targets for 109 yards and scoring three touchdowns. And, look, Jones has been playing high-level football for weeks now, as he has scored 21 or more PPR points in three of his past four games. He can win one-on-one. We’re all seeing that, right? And in Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson’s system, Jones can benefit from schemed concepts, too, creating coverage voids for quarterback Trevor Lawrence to target. Yes, Jones gets a pretty tough matchup in Week 16 versus the Jets’ defense, but given the recent production here, plus the quarterback play with Lawrence in this offense, I still see Jones in that WR2/flex range against New York. — Bowen

KJ Osborn’s career day enjoyed by few

Among the many highlights of the Vikings’ historic 39-36, come-from-behind overtime victory over the Colts on Saturday was Osborn’s career-best performance. The third-year receiver scored 31.7 PPR fantasy points on 16 targets, both of which were personal bests, as were his 70 offensive snaps played and 52 routes runs. Of course, Osborn benefited from a game script that couldn’t have more perfectly fallen into his hands, but his arrow had nevertheless been creeping upward in recent weeks after an 11-target Week 10 and a Week 14 that saw him find the end zone and score 14.8 points. The Vikings’ defense is luring the team’s offense into passing-friendly scripts, which might vault Osborn — a preseason lower-tier sleeper who disappointed early and didn’t improve his stock much even after Irv Smith Jr.’s injury — into 12- and 14-team fantasy league relevance for the final three weeks. — Cockcroft

Jonathan Taylor injured after one touch: Whom to pick up as insurance?

One of the toughest blows in fantasy this weekend was seeing Taylor injure his ankle on the third play of the game on his only touch, a 13-yard reception. If your fantasy team was lucky enough to advance despite losing Taylor, I’d go with Zack Moss as a potential waiver pickup. He out-touched Deon Jackson 24 to 14 to pace the Colts’ backfield, finishing with 81 yards rushing. Moss is a physical runner with the quickness to find daylight in traffic, and he fits here as a deeper-league flex option for the Week 16 matchup versus the Chargers’ sub-par run defense. — Bowen

How do we approach the fantasy semifinals with Hopkins and Brown given the really murky quarterback situation in Arizona? Backup Colt McCoy left Sunday’s game in Denver with a concussion, which makes his availability for next week’s matchup versus Tampa Bay uncertain. If McCoy can’t go, then the Cards are down to their No. 3, Trace McSorley. And there are limitations in the pass game with McSorley, who went 7-of-15 passing (with two interceptions) in relief of McCoy. Looking at Brown, his floor is extremely low here, a boom-or-bust WR3 in deeper leagues. You need big throws, busted coverages or catch-and-run balls where he can get loose to create those explosive plays. I have concerns with Hopkins, too, despite his high-level route running and contested-catch ability. Does he see the necessary volume? And can McSorley deliver the ball with rhythm when Hopkins creates separation? The way I see it, I would downgrade both of the Cardinals’ wide receivers next week and look for stronger options in my lineup. — Bowen

After rushing for 125 yards in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland — his second straight game of more than 120 yards on the ground — you can keep Ravens RB Dobbins in that flex spot for the Week 16 matchup versus the Falcons. Dobbins was decisive with the ball against the Browns. He got downhill and attacked open grass. That’s the short-area speed, with the lateral juice to beat second-level defenders. Trust what you see here. Dobbins is playing quick, and he is producing enough to stick in your lineup for the second round of the fantasy playoffs. — Bowen

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Tristan H. Cockcroft applauds the recent fantasy production of Eagles WR DeVonta Smith.

Though rostered in only 1.6% of ESPN leagues in Week 15, Brown’s performance was fantasy-relevant from a couple of angles. First, he continued what has been an uptick in usage. His eight targets were his most since Week 1 (nine), and he scored a personal-best 22.9 PPR fantasy points, which might have put him squarely on our radar for the championship weeks in deeper formats. Second, and perhaps more frustrating, it was Brown’s flub on a Prescott pass in overtime that cost his Cowboys the game, as the pass bounced off Brown’s arm and into the hands of the Jaguars’ Rayshawn Jenkins for a 51-yard interception return touchdown. That’s particularly frustrating to Prescott’s fantasy managers, who made the playoffs in 30.7% of ESPN leagues, as the play is charged as an interception for Prescott, who finished with 20.24 fantasy points. Whether that play might cost Brown some in terms of future looks is yet to be determined, but the Cowboys next face the stingy Eagles. There’s no way I could recommend Brown for that game, and Prescott could be in for a tough day as well. — Cockcroft

Agree with you here, Tristan. The Eagles boast the league’s best secondary, in my opinion. And the Philly pass rush is pretty good, too. That will keep Brown off the fantasy radar in Week 16, with Dak a fringe QB1, at best, in my rankings. — Bowen

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Eric Karabell reacts to Alvin Kamara’s fantasy game vs. the Falcons.

Other remarks:

  • Bills QB Josh Allen‘s 35.86 fantasy points represented the eighth time in his career that he has delivered at least 35, tying him with Cam Newton and Russell Wilson for the most in NFL history by a quarterback. By the way, that was Allen’s 75th career game played, compared to 170 for Wilson and 148 for Newton. — Cockcroft

  • Kirk Cousins‘ 32.40 fantasy points were the fourth most in any of his 134 career NFL starts, and you assuredly know by now that the Vikings’ aforementioned 39-36 comeback was the largest by any team in NFL history. The team had been down 33-0 at halftime. Cousins, incidentally, also overcame a 24-point deficit against the Buccaneers in Week 7 of the 2015 season. — Cockcroft

  • Najee Harris‘ usage has been most perplexing this season, but it was good to see him garner 24 touches. It’s only the fifth time he has managed 20-plus this season, but three of those have come since the Steelers’ Week 9 bye. Harris has only eight receptions in six games in that time, however, which is a head-scratcher. On the bright side, matchups against the Raiders (Week 16) and Browns (Week 18) suit him nicely, giving him RB2 status for sure in those games. — Cockcroft

  • Though it wasn’t always pretty, Eagles QB Jalen Hurts delivered 34.70 fantasy points for his managers in Week 15. That is the third most in a game since at least 1950 by any quarterback who didn’t throw a touchdown pass, trailing only Bobby Douglass’ 38.72 in Week 8 of 1973 and Billy Kilmer’s 35.50 in Week 5 of 1961. Hurts’ three rushing touchdowns gave him 13 for the season, putting him one behind Cam Newton’s record of 14, set in 2011. — Cockcroft

  • Completely overshadowed in the Patriots’ stunning, walk-off loss (on a Raiders defensive touchdown, mind you) was the strong performance by Rhamondre Stevenson, who was a tough call for fantasy managers if they didn’t have another option after the 1 pm ET kickoffs. Those who boldly stood by him despite his ankle injury were rewarded with 24.8 PPR points on 21 touches (19 of them rushing attempts), including a 34-yard run on which he was clocked by Next Gen Stats with a speed of 19.1 mph, his fourth-fastest run all season. That’s as compelling evidence as any that Stevenson is near or at full strength, and with his three-down status and raw skills, he’s a top-10-capable back the rest of the way. — Cockcroft

  • Game script — as well as the tough matchup — had a lot to do with Joe Mixon‘s poor fantasy performance, but Mixon’s 10.4 PPR points were nevertheless disappointing considering his receiving chops, as well as the fact that the Bengals roared back to put things back into a run-friendly, fourth-quarter script. Mixon’s 61% offensive snap rate was troubling, after his 59% last week in his first game back from a concussion, and it’s important to note that he has the Patriots, Bills and Ravens remaining on his schedule, as all three are firmly below- average matchups. I can’t say I’m confident he’ll make my top 10 in the running back rankings in Week 16. That’s not to call him a “sit,” but I’m a tad more worried about my championship prospects today if he’s my leading (or No. 2) back. — Cockcroft

  • The 6.8 PPR points In front of Adams scored in the Week 15 win over the Patriots were the fewest Adams has posted since Week 8. But when you go against a Bill Belichick defense, New England is going to scheme to limit (or take away) the opposing No. 1 wide receiver. Adams did see a team-high nine targets in this one, but he finished with only four receptions for 28 yards. Now, if you roster Adams, and still made it through to the fantasy playoffs, he’ll be back as a top-five WR in my rankings for the Week 16 game against the Steelers. — Bowen

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