Fantasy Football's Top Options for the Final 3 Weeks
Most places like to put out rankings once a week, focusing on only this upcoming week's matchup. We do that too, of course, and if I say so myself, our Week 15 Projections are some of the best in the business. At the very least, recommending starting Knowshon Moreno over Dwayne Bowe, Miles Austin, or Beanie Wells in my flex spot surely helped me this past week.
But it's the fantasy playoffs playoffs, and unlike most NFL teams, we have the luxury of being able to look ahead. One page that I haven't talked about much so far this season is our Remaining Projections page, which takes a look at who will be the most productive players for the rest of the season.
Well, I'm going to put it off no longer. If you're looking ahead to the finals of your fantasy playoffs, we have the key to victory or defeat. Here is who we see as the top guys at each position for the rest of the season.
The Top Ten
1. Tom Brady: 68.81 Fantasy Points (FP)
2. Aaron Rodgers: 62.12 FP
3. Matt Ryan: 60.18 FP
4. Peyton Manning: 59.75 FP
5. Cam Newton: 59.59 FP
6. Drew Brees: 57.57 FP
7. Tony Romo: 54.23 FP
8. Eli Manning: 53.47 FP
9. Matt Schaub: 49.58 FP
10. Robert Griffin III: 49.15 FP
The Top: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
This one should really come as no surprise; Tom Brady's been far and away our Most Valuable Player so far this season. He gained the Patriots over 21 points over expectation last week alone, and he's put up at least 25 fantasy points in three of his past four games. San Francisco this week may be tough, but Jacksonville and Miami's secondaries left on the schedule should be a piece of cake.
The High Flier: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo's been somewhat of a disappointment this fantasy season. He's been consistent for sure; he hasn't put up any single-digit fantasy games since Week 3. But for most of the season, that's been at the expense of a low upside, as he only has three 20+ FP performances on the season. Lucky for Romo owners, three of those four have been in the last three weeks. Of his three remaining games, only Pittsburgh is a somewhat tough draw, and he's still our No. 9 QB this week. He follows that up with New Orleans' No. 28 opponent-adjusted defense and a Washington team he just hung a season-high 27 FP against on Thanksgiving.
The Disappointment: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Many a fantasy owner reached his or her playoffs by riding RGIII. And many of them are now noticing, especially after the last two weeks, just how unstable that bandwagon can be. After two straight four passing TD games, Griffin has only put up a combined two passing touchdowns (and none rushing) over his past two weeks. A surprisingly strong Cleveland secondary faces him while still rehabbing that injured knee, and although the Eagles and Cowboys matchups are a bit better, Griffin owners may not have to worry about anything at that point.
The Top Ten
1. Arian Foster: 57.66 Fantasy Points (FP)
2. Adrian Peterson: 54.37 FP
3. Ray Rice: 51.36 FP
4. Doug Martin: 50.78 FP
5. Marshawn Lynch: 48.44 FP
6. Alfred Morris: 45.03 FP
7. Trent Richardson: 44.91 FP
8. Chris Johnson: 41.13 FP
9. C.J. Spiller: 40.47 FP
10. Ahmad Bradshaw: 40.00 FP
The Top: Arian Foster, Houston Texans
It hasn't been about the efficiency for Foster this season; his -0.06 NEP per rush is only slightly above average for NFL starting backs. But he's been getting the fantasy points through sheer quantity of rushes. His 298 rushing attempts through 13 games outpaces any other back by 33 attempts (Adrian Peterson's 265 is second), and although his 1,148 rushing yards only ranks sixth, those increased opportunities have afforded him a league-leading 14 rushing touchdowns. Those opportunities aren't going away any time soon, and it's why his projected 3.06 rushing TDs far outpaces any other running back the rest of the way.
The High Flier: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the main surprises of fantasy season, Martin has cooled off somewhat, only topping 70 rushing yards in two of his previous five games. But his average rushing total since Week 8 is just too good; his projected 294.30 rushing yards means we think he'll almost average 100 per game, not an unreasonable expectation. His scoring potential also has us giddy - his projected 2.42 rushing TDs the rest of the way is the second highest in our projections behind Foster. New Orleans and St. Louis provide him two solid matchups before finishing against Atlanta (in what could be for a Tampa playoff birth).
The Disappointment: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
The eighth-highest scoring RB so far this year in standard ESPN leagues, Jamaal Charles comes in only 15th in our projections the rest of the way. While that's still start-worthy, we don't expect Charles to be winning many leagues this year. Both the Colts and the Raiders should be easy matchups, but with Dwayne Bowe out, who else is the defense going to key in on? Dexter McCluster? Our projections see Charles as only the No. 10 RB this week with 71.86 rushing yards despite playing numberFire's dead-last opponent-adjusted defense, and it only goes downhill from there.
The Top Ten
1. Calvin Johnson: 46.66 Fantasy Points (FP)
2. Wes Welker: 42.98 FP
3. Victor Cruz: 40.79 FP
4. Roddy White: 39.30 FP
5. Andre Johnson: 38.36 FP
6. Brandon Marshall: 37.23 FP
7. A.J. Green: 37.10 FP
8. Reggie Wayne: 36.45 FP
9. Marques Colston: 36.43 FP
10. Demaryius Thomas: 35.20 FP
The Top: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
If Megatron wasn't on the top of this list, I was going to need to have a little chat with our stats guys. Because over the past, oh, 1.75 seasons, Calvin Johnson has been simply untouchable. After his most recent double-digit fantasy point outing - his sixth straight - Johnson now sits in second for total WR fantasy points (behind Brandon Marshall), second in targets (behind Reggie Wayne), and first in receiving yards by over 300. His five touchdowns are the only thing keeping him from all-time fantasy glory, but our projections are even high on him there: his projected 1.99 TDs is fourth among receivers the rest of the way.
The High Flier: Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Wes Welker has put up four single-digit fantasy performances in his past six games. That's the bad news. But in those particular six games, Welker has not been targeted less than nine times a game and has 68 total looks over that stretch. That's the very, very good news. Welker's going to keep getting passes thrown his way, and that will result in touchdowns eventually coming as well, as has happened in two of the past three weeks. And just like Brady, that Jacksonville and Miami stretch to end the season looks especially juicy for many leagues' fantasy finals.
The Disappointment: Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although sitting as our No. 12 wideout isn't a bad accomplishment in the least, it has to be somewhat disappointing for Jackson owners who have used him all season as that big play, fantasy matchup-changing threat. But therein lies the rub: he's simply not that reliable. His 49.6 percent catch rate keeps him as the only receiver in numberFire's top 20 to have caught less than 55 percent of his QB's targets, and that has manifested as a slight downgrade in trust as Mike Williams had more targets in Week 13 and Tiquan Underwood had more targets in Week 12.
The Top Ten
1. Aaron Hernandez: 31.53 Fantasy Points (FP)
2. Jimmy Graham: 26.17 FP
3. Jason Witten: 24.98 FP
4. Tony Gonzalez: 24.09 FP
5. Antonio Gates: 21.75 FP
6. Heath Miller: 21.42 FP
7. Owen Daniels: 20.95 FP
8. Jermaine Gresham: 19.80 FP
9. Martellus Bennett: 19.58 FP
10. Greg Olsen: 19.27 FP
The Top: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots
So much for the Year of the Tight End: only a single guy is projected to have more than nine FP per game the rest of the way. How good does that Gronkowski or Graham second-round pick feel now? But that one guy who is up there is pretty reliable, and Mr. Hernandez has seen his targets steadily increase since coming back from injury. After only three looks in his first game back, Hernandez has put up double-digit looks in each of his past two games, even leading the team with 11 this past Monday against Houston. With the Patriots' easy schedule we've talked about tenfold, more looks, perhaps of the endzone variety, will surely be coming his way.
The High Flier: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Maybe he's not the same Antonio Gates who put up two of the three best seasons since 2000 for a tight end in terms of Net Expected Points. But that doesn't mean he can't be a solid fantasy contributor, especially when his schedule has me salivating on sight. The best defense he's facing is the No. 12 Carolina defense - and, oh by the way, he is numberFire's No. 8 tight end against them this week. Gates follows that up with games against the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, both easy defenses for the San Diego passing attack to exploit.
The Disappointment: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
I hope you weren't expecting too much from Vernon Davis these past couple of games, or else you're currently sitting really disappointed after one measly fantasy point in three weeks. Well, sorry to tell you, but that's not likely to change any time soon. Not only is Colin Kaepernick seemingly blind to his tight end, but the matchups aren't conducive to high point outings, either. New England has been below-average, but not terrible, against the pass, but then San Francisco ends the season against two of the league's best secondaries in Seattle and Arizona.