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Chiefs Backfield Takes Another Turn
At the beginning of the fantasy season, managers all over the country were drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a low-end RB2/high-end flex play. Rookie Isiah Pacheco eventually began to eat into Edwards-Helaire’s touches and once Edwards-Helaire landed on injured reserve, Pacheco turned into a reliable play for a few weeks. Well, we’ve now shifted our attention to veteran Jerick McKinnon in the Kansas City backfield after the long-time Viking sliced up Houston to the tune of 122 total yards, eight catches and two touchdowns last week. In fairness, everybody slices up the Texans but with Edwards-Helaire still on IR and Pacheco potentially in the doghouse after fumbling last week, there’s an opportunity for McKinnon owners in their fantasy semifinals this week. McKinnon’s snap share has gone up every week dating back to Week 12 and he played 62% of KC’s offensive snaps in Houston. Let’s also consider a couple things about the situation both McKinnon and Pacheco are in. Kansas City is a pass-heavy offense and McKinnon has always been the passing down's option there. Offenses like this will occasionally enter patterns in which they just ignore the run, particularly when your quarterback is as good as Patrick Mahomes is, and when your QB is a threat to run like Mahomes. This could certainly cut into the snap count of an early-down rusher like Pacheco. Lastly, McKinnon is a seasoned veteran while Pacheco is a rookie that was drafted in the seventh round. Who do you think the coaching staff is going to trust more down the stretch? We mentioned Pacheco’s fumble and for rookies the leash can be shorter when those kinds of mistakes are made, particularly late in the season for a Chiefs team fighting for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. McKinnon should be used in all fantasy formats this week and Pacheco can be benched.
Atlanta Rookies Establishing a Rapport?
Yes, the Atlanta Falcons are somehow still alive in the NFC South at 5-9. But we all know the Falcons have at least one eye, and probably both, on their future after transitioning to Desmond Ridder in their first game following their late bye week. It’s an important final month of the regular season for the rookie out of Cincinnati as the Falcons will have to decide what to do at quarterback in the offseason. Can Ridder show enough in this brief audition to enter 2023 as the unquestioned starter or will the Falcons be aggressive on the quarterback market in the spring? Atlanta’s probably going to look to add a quarterback in some capacity in the offseason but the question will be to what degree. Who can blame the Falcons for having visions of Ridder connecting with 2022 first-rounder Drake London on a regular basis for years to come when they selected both in the first three rounds this past April? London has seen an exorbitant 46.1% target share for the Falcons in the last two games and that’s with two different starting quarterbacks. Ridder threw for just 97 yards last week and London had 70 receiving yards. London was one of the early-season surprises in fantasy football with three solid games to start the year before going dormant for most of the middle third of the season. London scored a pair of touchdowns in November and has a total of 165 receiving yards so far in December. He’s a good desperation flex play for those in deeper leagues and those in keeper leagues who might be considering the rookie out of USC should monitor his production with Ridder for these last three games and Atlanta’s QB situation into the offseason to see if London warrants a keeper slot for 2023.
We don’t often highlight quarterbacks in this article given that the primary purpose of what we like to do here is touching on increases or decreases in roles and usage rates of fantasy-relevant players and quarterbacks aren’t going to see those kinds of fluctuations. They’re either going to play essentially all the offensive snaps for their team or get injured or benched in which case you’re looking elsewhere. There have been several QB injuries this season, but the backup on the NFL roster isn’t usually an automatic fantasy option. Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew appears to be the exception. The Eagles have shown for a while now their penchant for valuing backup QB and the most obvious example of that recently is their Super Bowl title five years ago with Nick Foles taking over for an injured Carson Wentz. Jalen Hurts has not practiced yet this week with a shoulder injury and color me surprised if Hurts suits up against Dallas on Saturday. Minshew will have all the weapons Hurts has had this season and it appears as if tight end Dallas Goedert is going to be activated off injured reserve for Philly prior to kickoff. The Eagles only need to win one more game to lock up the top seed in the NFC and considering the Hurts injury isn’t going to hamper his playoff ability, the safety net Philadelphia has in the NFC allows for plenty of precautions. Heck, even if the Eagles lost this week, it’s likely Minshew could beat one of New Orleans or the Giants at home and if Philly so chooses, it could rest Hurts until the playoffs. Minshew started one game last year and went 20/25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-18 for the Eagles over the Jets. That’s a fantasy relevant stat line and the Cowboys defense has been a bit leaky lately. Trevor Lawrence threw for 318 yards and four scores against Dallas last week and even Houston’s QB tandem of Jeff Driskel and Davis Mills combined for over 200 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago. Minshew probably lands somewhere in between those two passing outputs, and if he cloned his performance from 2021 against the Jets, we wouldn’t be that surprised. He’s absolutely playable in Week 16 for fantasy owners in two-quarterback or superflex leagues or those that punted on QB in one-quarterback leagues. If you use him and advance to the championship in your league, he’s worth holding on to as well as he’d certainly be playable against New Orleans in Week 17.
A WR Picking Up Steam in Duval
Zay Jones has been someone the fantasy community has highlighted for a while now as a necessary add for those in deeper leagues looking for receiver help. Consider this the last call for those that still need WR help and are still alive this season. If six catches for 109 yards and three touchdowns last week against Dallas doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. Jones has now put up double-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games. There’s a good chance Christian Kirk is blanketed by Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner in Thursday night’s Jaguars vs. Jets game, so Jones could be in line for another big game.
By Greg Frank
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