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Jaylen Samuels is next man up in Steelers’ backfield, offers multi-position eligibility
James Conner limped away from Sunday night’s loss to the Chargers, suffering what the team initially called a “lower leg contusion.” Everyone else assumed it was a high-ankle sprain. Watch the play for yourself. Early reports were encouraging, but that changed on Tuesday when Conner was ruled out.
Here’s hoping the issue doesn’t linger, because Conner’s story is remarkable and his season has been outstanding. But with Conner sidelined for at least this week, rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley are next in line on the backfield depth chart. Samuels scored a game-tying fourth quarter touchdown on Sunday, winning a sprint to the pylon…
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 3, 2018
He’s the priority add for Conner owners who hadn’t already engaged in responsible handcuffery. In fact, Samuels is the highest priority add for everyone, regardless of your positional needs. Pittsburgh travels to Oakland next week, which means an outrageously friendly matchup in a must-win fantasy week. The Raiders have allowed 5.0 YPC on the season and a league-worst 1,566 rushing yards to opposing backs. You don’t need an expert to tell you Oakland’s defense is a gift.
We should note that Samuels’ fantasy appeal is enhanced in a massive way by his rare position eligibility. He officially participated in the pre-draft combine as a tight end, flashing 4.54 speed and crushing the agility drills (6.93 three-cone). He’s obviously smaller than the standard-issue NFL tight end (6-foot, 225), but he did a little bit of everything at the collegiate level, functioning as a position-less weapon. Samuels finished his four-year career at NC State with more receptions (201) than rush attempts (182). Simply put, he’s a talented offensive football player. He carries RB-TE eligibility in our game, so the possibility exists that fantasy managers will be able to slot a high-volume running back at a talent-scarce spot, delivering an obscene (but not unprecedented) positional advantage. Go get him.
Schedule, next three weeks: at Oak, NE, at NO
FAAB bid: All of it, especially if you’re a Conner owner. Whatever you got. These are the playoffs, people. Win or go home.
Last call on Justin Jackson
Jackson was a spotlight player in last week’s pickups column, so this isn’t exactly a fresh lead. But he remains un-rostered in 77 percent of Yahoo leagues as of this writing, so most of you can still make the add. Jackson scored a go-ahead highlight touchdown on Sunday, juking Terrell Edmunds to the ground in the process. Austin Ekeler got the start for the Chargers, gaining 43 yards on 18 total touches, but he was decisively out-produced by Jackson (9 touches, 82 yards, TD). Melvin Gordon (knee) seems likely to sit for at least one more game, making Jackson a player to target ahead of next week’s matchup with user-friendly Cincinnati. The Bengals defense has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing backs so far this season. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for a ridiculous 205 rushing yards against Cincy on Sunday.
Schedule, next three weeks: Cin, at KC, Bal
FAAB bid: All-in.
Rashaad Penny makes a house call
Promises were made by Seattle coaches about an increase in Penny’s usage, and the team didn’t disappoint. Penny carried seven times for 65 yards in Sunday’s win over San Francisco, with a 20-yard touchdown run included. Chris Carson remains the featured runner for Seattle — he finished with 16 touches and 108 scrimmage yards against the Niners — but Penny is now the clear understudy. The rookie first-rounder is averaging 5.1 YPC and seems to have carved out a rotational role. It’s worth noting that Carson suffered a dislocated finger in Sunday’s win, but the issue isn’t likely to impact his playing time.
Schedule, next three weeks: Min, at SF, KC
FAAB bid: $16 ($100 budget)
Jeff Wilson Jr. dominates backfield touches for Niners
Welp, can’t say we saw this one coming. Matt Breida aggravated his never-ending ankle issue in pregame warmups on Sunday, which led to Wilson receiving 23 touches (15 carries, eight catches). He converted that sizable workload into 134 scrimmage yards, landing him on the fantasy radar for Week 14. (He also lost a red-zone fumble, so it’s not as if he had a flawless day.) Wilson is an undrafted rookie from North Texas who rushed for 1215 yards and 16 scores on 188 carries (6.5 YPC) last year as a senior. He’s not unusually explosive by NFL standards, nor is he a burner (4.57), but he was a TD machine at the college level.
Alfred Morris has been inactive in back-to-back weeks for the Niners and Raheem Mostert is on IR, so Wilson is the clear No. 2 behind Breida. He has a home matchup on deck against Denver, a defense that allows 4.7 YPC.
Schedule, next three weeks: Den, Sea, Chi
FAAB bid: $10
Curtis Samuel sees huge spike in targets
Samuel had never received more than seven targets in any pro game entering Sunday’s action, and he was coming off a two-catch performance. He emerged as a key receiver in the loss at Tampa, however, drawing a team-high 11 targets, catching six for 88 yards. He added his usual one rush attempt for eight yards. Samuel is a blur, a player with quick feet and terrific playmaking ability. If he’s going to settle in as a 6-8 target receiver, he’ll get interesting. Please note that Devin Funchess played 32 snaps in Week 13, so it’s not as if Samuel’s workload was entirely related to injuries. Carolina will close the fantasy season facing defenses that all rank among the most generous to opposing receivers (Cleveland, New Orleans, Atlanta).
Schedule, next three weeks: at Cle, NO, Atl
FAAB bid: $10
Courtland Sutton finally returns to the end-zone
Sutton was supposed to be the big fantasy winner in Denver following the Demaryius Thomas trade, but the early results were, well … meh. The rookie entered Week 13 having not reached the end-zone since October 18. Sutton delivered season-high numbers across the board in the Broncos’ win at Cincinnati, catching four passes on seven targets for 85 yards and scoring on a 30-yard jump ball…
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) December 2, 2018
At 6-foot-3, he’s a rough matchup for most corners. Denver’s upcoming schedule is a layup line, so Sutton will definitely remain in the WR3 conversation in the closing weeks.
Schedule, next three weeks: at SF, Cle, at Oak
FAAB bid: $12
Bills defense gets a visit from the Jets
Buffalo’s defense has been entirely respectable this season, in case you hadn’t noticed. The Bills currently rank second in the NFL in total yards allowed (294.2 YPG) and first against the pass (187.2). The team is also middle-of-the-pack in takeaways (18) and sacks (31), and they’ve demonstrated they can feast in a favorable matchup. The last time Buffalo faced the Jets, the D scored double-digit fantasy points. This week’s home matchup looks favorable, no matter which QB is at the controls for New York.
Schedule, next three weeks: NYJ, Det, at NE
FAAB bid: $2
Also recommended: QB Josh Allen, RB Chase Edmonds, RB Ty Montgomery, WR Dante Pettis, WR Zay Jones, WR Antonio Callaway, WR Bruce Ellington, TE Chris Herndon, TE Ian Thomas