Week In Confounding Fantasy Football: Week 17

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·9 min read
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  • Kristian Wilkerson
    Kristian Wilkerson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Ja'Marr Chase
    Ja'Marr Chase
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Ronald Jones II
    Ronald Jones II
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|



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You love to read it when you somehow had the foresight to start or avoid these players, you hate to read it when it's time to figure out how that could have happened: It's The Week In Confounding Fantasy Football! Ja'Marr Chase exploded the slate with one of the biggest games in fantasy playoff history, while D'Andre Swift and Ronald Jones disappointed and the Pats pass game created excess value for ... Kristian Wilkerson?

Ja'Marr Chase torches Chiefs secondary in slate-breaking performance

How did this happen? The thing about Ja'Marr Chase is that he's incredibly good at football and that was obvious in college and -- outside of a few idiotic weeks wasted on a drop narrative -- has been obvious from Day 1 in the NFL. The only thing that's worried me about the Bengals all season from a fantasy perspective is that Zac Taylor has slow-played this hand as much as possible. Well, down 14-0 to the Chiefs, the Bengals simply unleashed it all over those poor Chiefs cornerbacks.

Chase has made elusive moves in the open field. He has trumped defensive backs in tight coverage. He has a top quarterback throwing to him. Simply put, this is a combination of traits, skills, and situation that rarely comes together as perfectly as this has in year one. I hate to invoke the "Moss" comparison, and Chase is obviously not as dominant as Moss was in his rookie season. But that team turned throwing deep into a major, whereas the Bengals have spent a lot of the season only minoring in Burrow and Chase's LSU tape.

ChaseRouteChart
ChaseRouteChart

266 yards and three touchdowns later, Chase pushed Tee Higgins on to the back pages.

Who can we blame for this? We can't really blame anybody for this. It's easy to say that someone should have stopped the Bengals from drafting Chase at No. 4, but the three teams that passed on him all needed quarterbacks. It's easy to say that the Chiefs could have stopped Chase but nobody has really stopped Chase. Teams have been able to change the game plan enough to not get hurt by him too badly, but that's about it.

What's our takeaway? Chase is easily in the first-round mix for 2022. He may be the No. 1 overall dynasty wideout on the board at this point when you look at an uncertain future for Davante Adams in Green Bay and an uncertain quarterback future for Justin Jefferson in Minnesota. Cooper Kupp and Tyreek Hill may be up there in re-draft. Oh, and I guess you might consider starting him in Week 18 against the Browns as well, if you're in a season-long league that is still playing.

D'Andre Swift craters against the Seahawks

How did this happen? Lions coach Dan Campbell promised "full steam ahead" on Swift's workload, but Swift's workload was more a sputtering caboose on Sunday as he received just four of 22 running back carries for the Lions and only three targets. This is an interesting place to jump to conclusions from:

Did Swift simply not get carries because he hasn't been healthy and should be worked back slowly? I think that's a portion of the puzzle here. It's Week 17, the Lions are going nowhere, it makes some sense to be cautious. The health of their young players should be paramount to the Lions right now. At the same time, it's not like they buried Amon-Ra St. Brown in bubble wrap:

StBrownRoutes
StBrownRoutes

Frankly, it wasn't that wild that Swift didn't get that many carries. Sure, he'd usually get more than four, but Swift has one game with more than 14 rushes all season. He was being carried in fantasy value by his obscene target share -- and that's the area where a St. Brown breakout might hurt more than you'd expect in the long term, because the Lions actually have someone to run routes in the slot and over the middle of the field, in the exact places Swift does.

This is a precarious situation going forward for Detroit's offense, which could potentially have a new quarterback next season. Swift's sudden disappearance is jarring. He finished with just 39 total yards, denting many a fantasy lineup that was relying on him.

Who can we blame for this? Campbell, who did us an extra favor by not answering a single question about Swift in his postgame presser. Thanks, coach! (Well, thanks media for not asking the question either -- it turns out that when you allow 51 points, your tough-as-nails head coach has a lot to answer for.) It's never easy when first-year head coaches start throwing around statements like Campbell did about Swift, because fantasy experts and beat writers are asked to make a snap judgement on a guy who we don't have a ton of history with. By and large, the industry decided to trust Campbell's saccharine words about Swift. It turned out to be a big mistake.

What's our takeaway? How hot of a take do you want this to be? Because I can give it to you softly, or I can tell you how I really feel: Swift very well may be a good sell-high candidate in dynasty leagues this offseason. He very well may be overvalued even in redraft based on last year's stats. It depends on how deep into this the intelligentsia wants to go. You may want to try to deal him now before everyone realizes what's happening here. Because it certainly seems like with St. Brown and a healthy T.J. Hockenson in 2022, Swift might not be a major target for this offense again.

And if you're playing in Week 18? How could you trust Campbell after this drumbeat this week? It's going to be rough.

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Kristian Wilkerson comes out of nowhere to put two touchdowns on the Jaguars

How did this happen? If you've been reading this column all year, we haven't exactly been shy about hiding our grudging respect for the Jacksonville run defense. It hasn't been otherworldly or anything, but considering how often teams run it on them, they've been good about forcing first downs. So it wasn't entirely unexpected that the Patriots would put up some passing yards in this game. In my WR/CB matchups column ($), I actually recommended starting Jakobi Meyers this week. But what I didn't expect at that point was that a) the Patriots would deactivate long-term dud N'Keal Harry, and that b) Kristian Wilkerson, fresh off the practice squad, would ball out:

Neither of Wilkerson's touchdowns were, shall we say, well-guarded by the Jaguars. But given the circumstances, it's impressive that the Patriots found a practice-squad player to come get two scores. It's also impressive that Wilkerson led the team with eight targets, even if he only caught four of them for 42 yards. The Patriots were able to run on the Jags just fine as well, as happy Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris managers know, but the passing game was more effective and Mac Jones got his groove back heading into the playoffs.

Who can we blame for this? Oh we very much blame the Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm going to miss streaming wideouts against them. You've only got one more week to do it! Please play Michael Pittman against the Jaguars if you can, okay? ...Yes you'll be starting Jonathan Taylor as well if you can, I know.

What's our takeaway? N'Keal Harry probably isn't going to work out in New England. Wilkerson has a chance to be something and could be an interesting Week 18 starter against the Dolphins for those of you still playing in season long. The Patriots do love to crush bad opponents -- this is their fourth game scoring at least 36 points -- and when you can pick out those spots in advance, it leads to some fun fantasy football stat lines for even their minor bit players.

Ronald Jones disappoints in smash spot against the Jets

How did this happen? While Antonio Brown was busy distracting everybody from the real issues here, we had one of the easiest spots for success in the NFL laid out for a Tampa squad that just sat on Carolina last week: The Jets have allowed at least 96 rushing yards in all but one game this season. They have allowed at least 132 rushing yards in seven of their 10 games since their Week 6 bye. And so it all seemed to circle back to Ronald Jones having a big game as the main back in Tampa's post-Leonard Fournette offense. But he didn't have that big game, and the Jets stormed out to a big lead because they could run the ball better than Tampa did. Then Jones came out with an ankle injury that wasn't very memorable for some reason -- probably because one of his teammates quit in the middle of the game and hogged the spotlight, if I had to guess.

JonesCarries
JonesCarries

Jones didn't run poorly. His raw stats looked bad because the Jets run defense played pretty well and were able to spill Tampa's offensive linemen and get some TFLs. New York's front seven ticked off Tampa's offensive line so badly that they found not one, but two different third-quarter drives ended via unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. And, well, that helped create a hole for the Bucs and made running largely unprofitable.

Who can we blame for this? The Jets were more game up front than they have been most of the season, in particular I'd shout out Folorunso Fatukasi, who made a couple of big stuffs. Tampa also helped by not really committing to Jones as much as people wanted them to. Even before Jones went out, he only had an eight-two carry lead on Ke'Shawn Vaughn at halftime. Le'Veon Bell had some third-down snaps and targets as well. It wasn't a total surprise that the Bucs split the workload, and that Jones' injury left the snap counts leaning more towards the other two backs. It was a surprise that the Bucs were never able to impose their will on that Jets front seven.

What's our takeaway? Poor RoJo. I think this may be the end of the line for him in Tampa. Fournette will take over in the playoffs, with Vaughn and Bell likely playing for playoff backup status in Week 18. Either way, Fournette and Jones are both free agents after the year. You'd expect Fournette to get a bigger deal after how he played this year -- is Tampa going to be the team that pays him? There's a lot left to talk about in the long-term. The short-term points to Fournette in the playoffs.