Each week during the NFL season, I will offer up a variety of top-five lists because, well, who doesn’t love a top five list?  With that universal love of lists in mind, I look at those players that could be especially naughty or nice for fantasy owners the final month of the season.

 

 

5 Non-Obvious Players Poised to Deliver a December to Remember in Fantasy

Philip Rivers, LAC, QB – Rivers is starting to percolate, ranking second in passing yards (920) and third in TD passes (7) over the past three weeks. In addition, with the third-easiest rest-of-season schedule at the QB position – each team he faces in the next four games ranks among the 13 most generous defenses against opposing QBs – Rivers’ current should remain strong. Owners of WR Keenan Allen and TE Hunter Henry should also reap the benefits of the Chargers’ friendly stretch run passing game schedule.

Derrick Henry, TEN, RB – Henry has been the Titans’ milk man, the back the team turns to to run out the clock late with a lead in hand – Henry has 293 yards on 41 fourth quarter rushes (7.2 YPC) with his team ahead. That bodes well for Henry’s December, when he’ll face Houston, Arizona, San Francisco and the L.A. Rams, in order, between Weeks 13-16. Those first three teams all have losing records and have struggled to put up points, especially Houston with Tom Savage under center. Those contests should be ripe for Henry. And a Championship Week matchup against a Rams’ defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to the RB position is not a bad way for Henry owners to go out either.

Dion Lewis, NE, RB – Lewis has been top 15 at the RB position in fantasy PPG since Week 4 (min. six games), averaging a stellar 5.3 YPC in that span. And he’s being rewarded in the touch department for his success, having handled the rock at least 14 times in five straight games. That kind of workload should net out nicely in fantasy over the next month as Lewis will face the easiest schedule at the RB position, two games against Buffalo, a team allowing the third-most fantasy points to RBs, another run-in with a Miami team that he just hung 112 rush yards against in Week 12 and a Week 15 showdown with a Steelers’ defense allowing a healthy 4.2 YPC to the RB position. Backfield mate Rex Burkhead should also benefit greatly from the remaining slate.

Jamison Crowder, WAS, WR – Just the 32nd-most owned WR heading into Week 13,  Crowder has delivered WR1-level production since Week 8, averaging  10.5 targets and 103 yards in those four games. With Chris Thompson out, for the season and Jordan Reed unable sustain his health for more than a week or two at a time, Crowder has positioned himself as QB Kirk Cousins’ go-to guy for a stretch run that rates as the 12th-easiest remaining WR slate in fantasy.

Jack Doyle, IND, TE – While the Colts’ remaining fantasy schedule is a nightmare for the team’s wideouts, it ranks as one of the top 10 easiest at the TE position. Three of Doyle’s next four opponents rank among the 14 most generous to the TE position. Doyle, who leads all tight ends in targets since Week 6 (54 in six games), should continue to hoard QB Jacoby Brissett’s attention as his wideouts struggle to find daylight against the suffocating corners of Jacksonville, Baltimore and Denver (who will have Aqib Talib back in time for the Week 15 matchup with the Colts).

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5 Name-Brand Players that could be handing out Lumps of Coal this Holiday Season

Matthew Stafford, DET, QB – Stafford’s December slate is fourth-toughest at the QB position for fantasy purposes, with especially brutal road tilts at Baltimore (Week 13) and at Cincinnati (Week 16). The Ravens have allowed opposing QBs an average of 211.4 passing yards and just a 3:9 TD-to-INT ratio in five home games. The Bengals have been nearly as inhospitable to QBs, allowing an average of 182.6 passing yards and just a 4:3 TD-to-INT ratio in five home games.

Carlos Hyde, SF, RB – Hyde ranks just 23rd among RBs in fantasy PPG since Week 7 (min. four games). Now he’ll face the fourth-toughest December schedule at the RB position, including Houston and Tennessee, two of six stingiest defenses versus fantasy RBs. Hyde will also face a Jacksonville defense that has improved markedly since trading for Buffalo defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, as the Jaguars have allowed just 2.8 YPC to RBs since Dareus joined the lineup in Week 9. Hyde’s expanded role in the passing game gives him a better chance to avoid being a complete bust over the final month of the season, especially in PPR leagues. However in standard leagues, his remaining schedule combined with the fact that he’s found the end zone in just two of 11 games, doesn’t inspire confidence that he can deliver top 20 RB production the rest of the way.

Stefon Diggs, MIN, WR – Diggs has been a true roller coaster ride for his fantasy owners, delivering five games of 66 yards or less without a TD, and four of those games came on the road, where Diggs will be playing in three of his next four contests. Diggs’ remaining slate rates as the ninth-toughest for WRs in fantasy. It’s shaping up to be another rough final month for Diggs, who has averaged just 33 yards in eight career December contests, no more than half as many as his average in any other month.

T.Y. Hilton, IND, WR – Hilton’s been a coal factory this season, delivering outside the top 40 fantasy WRs in eight of 11 games. Now he’s looking at a murderer’s row of December matchups, with Jacksonville, Denver and Baltimore coming up in the next four weeks – those three teams rank among the four stingiest to the WR position in fantasy. Hilton, 99 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, is cut-worthy in standard leagues of 12 teams or less.

Greg Olsen, CAR, TE – Out since Week 2 with a broken foot, Olsen was added back en masse by the fantasy community ahead of his Week 12 return against the Jets, which resulted in just one catch for 10 yards before he exited early with what was deemed an aggravation of his injured foot. While the setback is considered to be minor, Olsen’s schedule difficulty ahead should be considered major. In his next four games, he’ll meet three teams (MIN, GB, TB) that rank among the five stingiest in fantasy to the TE position, with those teams combining to allow just two touchdowns to the position since Week 7 (total of 16 games). Olsen’s one decent matchup (against a Saints defense that’s middle of the pack in points allowed to TEs), comes in Week 13, a game in which Olsen is likely to be questionable because of the foot setback.    

5 Consistency Kings at the WR Position

Antonio Brown, PIT – This one is obvious. Brown’s elite year-in, year-out statistical output is the reason he’s been the top WR on average off the fantasy draft board the past few seasons. Brown has at least 90 yards in half of his games played from 2015 to the present (21 times in 42 games), and he’s delivered 12-plus points in PPR leagues in 32 of those 42 games.

DeAndre Hopkins, HOU – Unlike Hilton (above), who has finished outside the top 40 fantasy WRs eight times this season, ‘Nuk has been a top 40 wideout in every game this season, only once finishing outside the top 30 (his 7/76/0 line in Week 3 was good for No. 38 at the WR position).  Better yet, he’s been top 20 in eight of his 11 games, including top 12 (WR1) in seven games.

Jarvis Landry, MIA – Landry, a PPR monster, is one of two receivers to have at least five catches in all 11 games this season (Adam Thielen is the other). Landry is also tied with Antonio Brown for the most games (32) with 12-plus fantasy points (PPR scoring) at the WR position since ’15. He doesn’t have nearly the ceiling of a lot of other WRs (he drops to 15th at WR in 20-point PPR efforts since ’15), but he can be counted on for serviceability most weeks.

Mike Evans, TB – While Evans hasn’t delivered to his draft cost this season, he has returned a respectable 11-plus fantasy points (PPR scoring) in eight of 10 games this season. He also ranks behind only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones in games with 60-plus yards since ’15. He also has produced 12-plus fantasy points (standard scoring) in 19 of 40 games in that span, fourth-best at the position.

Michael Crabtree, OAK – Only Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones have more games with 7.0 fantasy points at WR since ’15 than Crabtree (28 of 41 total games in that span).  His season averages in Oakland further highlight his consistency, this time from a season to season standpoint – 9.1 fantasy PPG in ’15; 9.3 in ’16; 9.6 in ’17.

 

 

5 Consistency Kings at the RB Position

Todd Gurley, LAR – Gurley is the Hopkins of fantasy running backs. Like ‘Nuk, Gurley sandwiched a modest ’16 campaign between two monster seasons in ’15 and ’17. Really, both players’ 2016 campaigns weren’t so bad when you consider the brutal team environment in which they were operating at the time. In fact, in that ’15-’17 span, Gurley has delivered 33 games of seven-plus fantasy points, most among running backs. He also has 23 efforts of 12-plus points, also the most at RB, which represent 57.5% of his 40 career regular-season games.

Le’Veon Bell, PIT – Bell may not be the most consistent in terms of games played – injuries and suspensions have caused him to miss 17 games over his first four seasons, but he’s about as bankable as it gets in fantasy when he’s in action. Of Bell’s 58 career regular-season games, he’s finished with less than 7.0 fantasy points just four times.

Melvin Gordon, LAC – Touchdowns are jackpots in fantasy, and Gordon has hit 7-7-7 with regularity since ’16, scoring a TD in 15 of 24 games, and he’s returned at least 88 Yards from Scrimmage in five of the nine games in which he didn’t score.

Lamar Miller, HOU – Continuing the RB as a WR comparisons, Miller is the Crabtree of RB consistency kings, without the highest upside, but a very steady floor, as his fantasy points per game marks since ’14 have been almost identical (12.0 in ’14; 11.7 in ’15; 11.6 in ’16; 11.7 in ’17). This season, Miller has nine game with at least 8.0 fantasy points, one behind leaders at the position Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. And he’s the only RB to have at least 6.0 fantasy points in all 11 games of ’17.

Tevin Coleman, ATL – Coleman has delivered 10-plus fantasy points (standard scoring) in 14 or his past 24 games going back to the start of the ’16 season. That’s especially impressive considering that it equates to one more double-digit effort than platoon leader Devonta Freeman,  despite 127 fewer touches than Freeman in that span.

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