Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 16
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart managers learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward.
Buy Jaguars Wide Receivers in 2021
With the number one pick in the 2021 draft now secured by the Jacksonville Jaguars (LOL Jets), we can count down the days until we get to see Trevor Lawrence sling it to the likes of D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, and Laviska Shenault.
It's hard to overstate how much of an upgrade it could be to go from the Mike Glennon and Gardner Minshew experience to Lawrence. Imagine you have been eating sirloin steak at Sizzler your whole life and I suddenly introduce you to some Japanese Wagyu beef. Lawrence has the opportunity to grill up that level of production for his wide receiver corps next year.
There are certainly things that Trevor Lawrence still needs to improve on as he enters the NFL.
However, this is the talent that has him as the consensus QB1 heading into the 2021 NFL Draft cycle. Beautiful throw. pic.twitter.com/aYIYUCyDJS
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) December 28, 2020
But even with mediocre-at-best quarterback play this year, we have seen flashes of the Jaguar wideouts' potential.
Both Chark and Cole have an average depth of target (aDOT) north of 10 yards this season, and both are now in the top 15 among all pass-catchers in red zone target percentage. Stud rookie Shenault overcame below-average quarterback play rank in the top 10 in targets per game in his last three contests. Shenault enters the last week of the season with a Pro Football Focus grade of 70.5, which is better than Diontae Johnson, Marvin Jones, and Marquise Brown to name a few.
Even with the emergence of James Robinson as an undrafted gem, the Jaguars -- partially by game script and partially by design -- will end 2020 running the highest percentage of pass plays in the league (66% through Week 16). In the last three games, that number has been north of 70%.
There are so many holes in this Jaguars team that not even a generational quarterback will make them elite immediately. Doug Marrone has an aggressive mentality when it comes to play-calling, so dynasty and keeper leaguers can look forward to Lawrence and his efficient throws (172.7 passing efficiency rate) replacing the carousel of incompetence the Jaguars had in 2020.
The Michael Gallup Resurrection
Speaking of wide receiver corps to target in 2021, Andy Dalton provided us a glimpse this week of what is possible with the talented Dallas Cowboys trio of pass-catchers. Despite throwing only 30 times on Sunday, Dalton was able to deliver a total of 307 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb in a game where the Cowboys won by more than 20 points.
Both Cooper and Lamb have shown consistent flashes this season, but it hasn't been until recently that Gallup claimed his place back among the upper tier of receivers in the NFL. In fact, Gallup was among the worst fantasy producers in the league through the first 75% of the season.
|Michael Gallup||Touchdowns||Receiving Yards/Game||Fantasy Points/Game|
The Cowboys have been creeping up the leaderboard of teams who run the most passing plays, landing at 11th after Week 16. The struggles that have plagued Ezekiel Elliott this year, combined with Dak Prescott's early-season dominance, give fantasy managers hope that the Cowboys will continue to focus on a pass-centric offensive scheme in 2021.
If there is any indication of that trend developing next draft season, don't let Gallup fall too far as fantasy managers tend to focus on a full-season stat line. In the past four weeks, Gallup ranks in the top 25 wide receivers for targets, receiving yards, and air yards per game. His late-season emergence may go overlooked, and that could make him a valuable sleeper pick next summer.
A.J. Dillon Passes Aces His Audition for Lead Back
If the Green Bay Packers choose not to re-sign either Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams (both unrestricted free agents in 2021), they might be just fine in the rushing department after selecting A.J. Dillon in the second round of this year's draft.
Dillon took the reins with Williams inactive and the Packers half-resting Aaron Jones for the playoffs and torched the Tennessee Titans for 124 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. While the 21 rush attempts were by far a season high (he had 24 total coming into Week 16), Dillon has been one of the most efficient and elusive backs in the league despite his small sample size.
Top 10 RBs in @PFF Elusive Rating (min. 40 carries):
1. A.J. Dillon
2. Nick Chubb
3. Tony Pollard
4. Mike Davis
5. David Montgomery
6. Samaje Perine
7. Kareem Hunt
8. Aaron Jones
9. Dalvin Cook
10. Devin Singletary
— Jared Smola (@SmolaDS) December 28, 2020
Both Jones and Williams will likely be approaching the Packers brass with lofty salary demands in the offseason, but if Green Bay chooses to spend up to plug some holes in other parts of their team -- like fixing the run defense -- Dillon would immediately jump into top-15 territory for running backs as part of an Aaron Rodgers-led offense.
In the short-term, Dillon looks like a priority waiver claim for Week 17 if you have any fantasy championships to play for. Expect Jones and Williams to play infrequently, if at all, for the Packers, who have an 82% chance of ending up with the top seed in the NFC. Dillon is probably long gone in any kind of keeper league format, but it's worth checking to see if you can roster him before the coming offseason.