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Week 14 care/don't care: Elite WR Stefon Diggs is one of the best fantasy football values of 2020

Matt Harmon
·15 min read
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5 Things I care about

Elite WR Stefon Diggs lifts the Bills

Shocked to read the word “elite” next to Stefon Diggs’ name? Guess you haven’t been watching the 2020 NFL season. You’re late, but thanks for catching up.

Any way you want to slice it, Diggs has played like an elite NFL wideout, a transcendent talent that alters the course of an offense. By any production measure, he’s been that guy. I’d love one serious film-watcher to point out a part of playing receiver that Diggs doesn’t do at a high-level.

Don’t waste too much time looking. It doesn’t exist.

While the Steelers offense never quite got out of the mud, Buffalo kicked it into four-wheel drive the second they started revolving the attack around Diggs. It makes sense for a fully developed quarterback to lock in on his top wideout who is, quite literally, always open. Even against a defense that’s been one of the best all year, nothing could stop Diggs’ domination. It’s been that way all year.

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Diggs secured the NFL lead in catches on Sunday, hitting triple digits for the second time in his career. As the broadcast pointed out, he’s been ultra-consistent. He’s cleared 80 yards and/or scored a touchdown in 11 of 13 games this year. You can make an argument that given his steady play, his week-winning ceiling, and the fact he was insanely taken outside of the top-25 receivers in almost every fantasy draft that Diggs was the best value of 2020.

The Bills probably feel the same way about their No. 1 wide receiver. The Vikings are probably plenty happy with their own emerging star in Justin Jefferson and the extra picks they got back for Diggs. Yet, the Bills would without a doubt make this trade again every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Diggs has been that much of a difference-maker for them. That’s the definition of an elite player.

Jalen Hurts brings life to the Eagles

No offense in the NFL needed life more than the Philadelphia Eagles. We’ve pretty much done enough dissecting of the Carson Wentz-led Eagles offense but if you had any questions that he was a part of the problem, you shouldn’t after watching Week 14.

It’s not as if Hurts was perfect as a passer or the wide receivers suddenly came to life. The offensive line didn’t out of nowhere become a fortress.

However, Hurts moved the offense and it didn’t look like an impossibly difficult task for him — which has been the staple of the Eagles in 2020. On several of his long first down scrambles, Hurts quickly decided to dart out of the pocket when a pass rusher bore down on him. My first thought on those plays was, “Wentz is taking a sack there 10 times out of 10.” A quarterback with Hurts’ skill set is just much more conducive to play in chaos.

Perhaps it was a coincidence but Hurts starting also lifted the running game. Miles Sanders had been almost completely absent with just 18 touches the last two weeks. Against the Saints No. 2 ranked run defense by DVOA, Sanders was the electric presence so many hoped he’d be. He stung New Orleans for an 82-yard touchdown run and found the end zone again in the fourth quarter.

This was such an impressive performance that I’m at least willing to say Miles Sanders is back to “set it and forget it” territory after foolishly dialing expectations way back coming into Week 14 on every platform.

Time will tell if Hurts will have the same elevating effect on the receivers. Either way, it’s clear he makes Philadelphia a much better team and about one-million times more watchable.

Derrick Henry

I don’t really have a ton to add here. I just appreciate the hell out of Derrick Henry.

The Titans star back currently leads the NFL with 1,532 rushing yards. He has a 180-yard lead over Dalvin Cook, who’s in second place. If Henry takes down the title, he’ll be the rare player to win the rushing title in back-to-back years. More importantly, Henry and the electric Titans offense are surging to an AFC South division title and a playoff run.

Perhaps this is gratuitous but I’ll personally never get over how some people looked at this hulking, 6-foot-3, 240-pound machine of a running back and thought “just a plodder in the NFL.” I’ll never get past the complete lack of imagination, the utter refusal to recognize something special.

Back in August fantasy drafts, many were willing to consider Derrick Henry as the clear fifth option at running back and perhaps even outside of the Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, and Alvin Kamara first tier.

As we head toward the final three weeks of the regular season, there is zero doubt who rules above them all: King Henry.

Jonathan Taylor thrives again

It took months to finally come to fruition, but all the promise Jonathan Taylor carried in the early goings of the 2020 season is finally a reality. Week 14 saw him enjoy his third-straight excellent game.

If you’ve been let down by Taylor to this point of the season, it’s time to just let it go. Forget about it entirely.

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The matchups (Green Bay, Houston, Las Vegas) have been extremely favorable, but be that as it may, Taylor has absolutely dominated the competition, especially in the last two weeks. He stung the Raiders for 150 yards on the ground and a pair of scores.

It goes beyond the matchups for Taylor, though. Earlier in the year, this was an offensive line playing well below expectations. In the last few weeks, they’ve started blowing guys off the ball again. As for Taylor himself, he’s been much more decisive and hitting holes with authority. He feels like the foundation piece of the offense and someone you need to cease asking start/sit questions about.

Cardinals offense gets by

Arizona didn’t feel like a powerhouse and the opposing offense couldn’t possess the ball to save their lives but still, after nearly a month of struggling, this 26-7 win over New York was a welcomed sight.

The Cardinals got back to two areas that have been the strength of their attack when the offense is clicking. They ran the ball well and Kyler Murray hooked up with DeAndre Hopkins over and over again.

Between the backs and Kyler Murray, the Cardinals racked up 159 yards on the ground. While it wasn’t a massive rushing day for Murray by any means, it was a reminder that the running game has been the best part of this offense the last two years. It isn’t always pretty or efficient but we need to start talking about Kenyan Drake’s late-season surge (again). After tacking on 80 yards and a score to his 2020 total on Sunday, he’s now rushed for 100 yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games. Drake has scored five touchdowns in his last four contests.

The Murray-to-Hopkins connection finally turning in another big line might have been even more crucial. In my metrics column this week, we looked into this mildly alarming trend. I cannot overstate how wild it is to see a receiver in the NFL run 85 percent of his routes from one position:

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DeAndre Hopkins ran 31 routes against the Giants. Here’s how the distribution worked out.

  • Left WR - 23 routes (9 targets, 7 catches, 71 yards)

  • Right WR - 2 routes (1 target, 1 catch, 41 yards)

  • Slot - 6 routes (1 target, 1 catch, 24 yards)

Hopkins was still mostly concentrated on the left side. However, it was encouraging to see him create two huge plays from other spots. Perhaps it’s a sign that Kingsbury knows he needs to shake things up a bit more.

Either way, Arizona getting past a Giants defense that was rising up the ranks of late was a great sign for a team that needs every win possible to sneak into the postseason. You’d like them to get some more factors involved beyond Hopkins and the ground game, but building on your foundation is still key.

5 Things I don’t care about

Steelers offense is a massive problem

Mike Tomlin came into this game with a threat locked and loaded. It was essentially ready-made for guys who were dropping passes. So when Diontae Johnson let a third-down pass slip through his fingers (his second drop of the first quarter) you knew what was coming.

Johnson disappeared from the rest of the first half action. Tomlin must have felt his point was made by the third quarter because Johnson was back to his regular role in the second half. He still tied for the team lead in targets with seven.

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The problem for Pittsburgh? Removing a guy who has dropped too many passes didn’t move the needle one bit.

Other receivers caught touchdowns after Johnson’s first-half exit but ... big deal. We know the Steelers have wide receiver depth. The bigger issue is that this passing game remained as painfully, if not more limited, than ever. Ben Roethlisberger still averaged a measly 5.1 yards per attempt and threw two absolutely brutal interceptions. The first was returned for a touchdown, the second one floated on a hopeless deep pass.

This team is in trouble. There’s no way around it. With the defense starting to show some cracks after mounting injuries, the situation only becomes direr. Worse yet, tonight showed there are no quick fixes.

Punish a guy in Johnson who has dropped too many passes all you’d like. We get why a coach feels the need to set a standard. But it doesn’t matter. The issues here are deep and systemic. That’s the real story.

Drew Lock’s big game

I feel a little bit bad about this one. It was cool to see Drew Lock sling footballs down the field on Sunday. In last week’s care/don’t care recap, I was bemoaning Lock’s presence behind center holding back some of the young skill-position talents in Denver. So, being reacquainted with the fun version of Lock in Week 14 was a welcome sight.

All he needed was the young, undermanned Panthers defense.

Some of that young talent went to work on Sunday. Jerry Jeudy and especially K.J. Hamler took turns cooking the simply overmatched Rasul Douglas for Carolina. The underrated Tim Patrick also got in on the action with a red-zone score.

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Credit to Lock because he hit those throws when he too often has failed to do it in 2020. His receivers certainly made life easy for him.

The only reason we’re slapping it with the “don’t care” label is that Denver should need to see much, much more than an excellent game against Carolina before they consider rolling with Lock as the unquestioned starter in 2021. Honestly, as excellent as this game was, I bet they feel the same way no matter what.

The Chiefs backfield

It was a little surprising how many start/sit questions featuring Clyde Edwards-Helaire came through the wire this week.

Sure, you’d theoretically want to attack Miami’s defense on the ground rather than trying to throw on them. There’s no question that’s the weaker of the two phases. And of course, Edwards-Helaire was a much-hyped first-round draft pick in fantasy this year. Hopefully, you’re not still hanging onto August draft spots when making decisions this late into the season.

At this point, we just have to say the Chiefs aren’t a very good — and certainly not a predictable — rushing attack. It doesn’t matter much because they have Patrick Mahomes. Seriously, on a day when he threw three picks and took a massive 30-yard sack, they still held a lead for the majority of the game. It’s rare for life to be that easy when you’re making mistakes. It’s rare to be that good.

Le’Veon Bell recorded 21 yards on just two carries against Miami. His high-water mark of 40 yards as a Chiefs back came last week when Edwards-Helaire was sick. The rookie hasn’t cleared 70 yards or 15 carries in any game since Bell made his Week 7 debut. If you’re playing either in fantasy, you’re purely grasping at straws.

For the Chiefs, it’s probably not a huge problem but it’s a concern. If you want to be the best team in the league and run back your Super Bowl win, you need to win on the margins. Kansas City’s utter lack of ability to power through in short-yardage situations has been problematic this year.

Buccaneers’ optimism

The Bucs escaped Week 14 with a much-needed win but let’s hold off on saying this looks like a rejuvenated team coming off the bye. Their win was more thanks to Dan Bailey completely forgetting how to place kicks through the uprights and the Vikings generally find ways to trip over themselves on offense.

For Tampa Bay, we leave Week 14 with many of the same questions with which we entered it.

The passing game remains a series of unrealized potential. Tom Brady had his series of misfires, with Chris Godwin being the main man on the wrong end of them this week. Brady missed Godwin on a deep dig in the first half and misplaced a pass on a perfectly executed crossing route late on. Godwin caught it but lost out on YAC potential. So many losses on the margins have been a big part of the Bucs offense this year.

The biggest play of the day for the passing game came on a perfectly placed deep throw to Scotty Miller for a 48-yard touchdown. But even that just brings more questions about why the team even bothered bringing in Antonio Brown to disrupt the passing game when they were getting solid reps from Miller. It just solved a problem they didn’t have, as my colleague Scott Pianowski says.

Week 14 didn’t move the needle on the Buccaneers at all for me. If you wanted to start one of their guys in fantasy this week, you’ll probably have the same thoughts about them going into Week 15 which, luckily, will feature a date with the Falcons.

Seeing more of Dwayne Haskins

You can freely admit that Dwayne Haskins hasn’t been given a fair shake at the NFL level and still not want to see him under center for this Washington team. Frankly, I’m not sure how you can argue the former point, at least. As for the latter, perhaps I’m just selfish.

It felt like the Washington offense had started to develop a solid identity under Alex Smith. It was never going to be exciting but Smith is about as good as it gets when it comes to keeping the ship afloat. Coming into Week 13, it felt like a pretty well-constructed ship. Antonio Gibson was cooking as a feature back, Terry McLaurin was producing every week and Logan Thomas had emerged as a key big-play piece.

A couple of weeks later and it’s all gone to hell. Gibson is out with a serious injury, McLaurin has gone under 50 yards the last two weeks and Smith left his Week 14 matchup with the 49ers sporting a leg injury. But maybe we don’t need to panic.

Reportedly, Smith’s situation isn’t serious. It’s a calf injury and the X-Rays were negative, per Chris Mortensen. That’s a relief given Smith’s history. Washington backers can also let out a sigh. The Football Team has a path to win the NFC East, thanks to their ferocious defense. If they are to pull that off, they’ll just need an offense that can keep the train on the tracks. It’s ultra-clear that Smith needs to be the driver of that vehicle.

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