Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Writer
Well, last week was nuts. Who would have thought that Marquez Valdes-Scantling would be the Packers WR that you wanted to start? Oh, and the Hail Murray, but that seems pedestrian compared to the MVS thing. If you read last week's Heat Check, you probably made some good moves and some bad, and based on Willie Snead finishing as WR7 in a Ravens loss to the previously inept Patriots there are probably many fantasy managers that did not make the right call at every spot. On a related note, I promise Drew Lock will never be mentioned again. That was bad. Hopefully, you took Teddy Bridgewater instead, who despite his injury is still on track for the borderline top 12 finish I predicted.
Anyway, on to this week's Heat Check, where I definitely look at whether MVS is for real, which nobody (including myself) wants to admit. Keep in mind the goal is to cover players that are not being talked about, so even though Jakobi Meyers has been on an absolute tear over the past three weeks he will not be talked about here. We were on that jawn last week.
Week 11 Heat Check
Cam Newton (NE): Seemingly left for dead after a five week period with two duds, an absence due to COVID-19, and a bye week, Newton has turned in three solid performances in a row. That was good enough for QB10 over that period, and things seem to have stabilized for the Patriots QB. The bad news? Newton's floor is heavily boosted by his rushing usage, particularly in the red zone. Over the past three weeks, Newton has used his team-leading share of red zone rushing attempts to score on at least one attempt per game, which is an automatic six points. If a team can take away that floor, Newton is usually not a good enough passer to get the job done. The good news? I do not see a team coming up where I am positive he will not score at least one rushing TD. Heat Check: It is probably too late to snag Newton, but other than Week 14 against the Rams he is a must-start unless you have a top-five QB. The guaranteed six points are too good to pass up.
Matthew Stafford (DET): Finally! The Matthew Stafford I spoke of back in August is here! Seriously though, it is good to see Stafford relevant again. Especially last week when Stafford finished QB6 in a theoretically tough matchup against Washington despite Kenny Golladay being out of the lineup again. Unfortunately from an analyst standpoint, there does not seem to be a single metric to explain why Stafford played well against Washington and Indianapolis and poorly against Minnesota. Not even the game script. Heat Check: This one is weirdly simple and tough to explain all at once. Stafford adds nothing with his legs, so it is all about the passing touchdowns... which are almost impossible to predict. Stash him on your roster and play him if you need him because he is such a threat with his arm, but do not be shocked when he inexplicably has a dud.
Gus Edwards (BAL): For all the complaining about the Baltimore backfield, Gus Edwards has quietly been an RB2 over the past three weeks (RB18 PPR). Granted, he played a full three games over that period and only managed 10.8 PPG, but when James Conner is not even a starter over the same three games, you need to take a look at any potential hot option. Edwards definitely has some positive performance indicators: he saw double-digit rushing attempts in Weeks 8 and 9, has seen a target in each of the past three games (which is a noticeable improvement), and in Week 10 he still led the Baltimore backfield in rushing attempts and targets. He also led the Ravens in red zone rushing attempts over the past two weeks. Heat Check: Edwards provides an interesting floor for those looking for a FLEX option, especially since he has maintained the lead back role even with fellow RB Mark Ingram back in the lineup. Unfortunately, being the lead back in a three-headed RBBC is not great, making Edwards mostly a speculative add or someone to target in deeper leagues.
Jordan Wilkins (IND): Another case of an RB in an RBBC that surprisingly was a starter over the past three weeks. While a lot of the numbers between Edwards and Wilkins are similar, two key factors do not work in Wilkins' favor. One, while Wilkins seems to be holding off Colts RB Jonathan Taylor for the most part, other Colts RB Nyheim Hines absolutely torched Wilkins and Taylor last Sunday. Two, the one area that Jonathan Taylor is still holding onto is red zone rushing attempts. Over the past three weeks, Taylor has seen three times as much work inside the 20 compared to Wilkins, who did not even manage to keep up with Hines in Week 10. Heat Check: Without the TD upside, Wilkins is the worst-case scenario version of Gus Edwards more often than not. Your only hope is a repeat of Week 8 where Wilkins was the hot hand and continued to be fed the ball, though even then he and Jonathan Taylor had the same number of red zone rushing attempts. Stay away.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (GB): Almost nobody benefited from MVS scoring 15.8 PPR PPG over the past three weeks, and given that the previous seven weeks he scored 7.7 PPR PPG it is not a shock why. MVS is the definition of boom/bust this season, with three games over 19 points and six games with less than 10 points. There have even been three weeks where he scored less than four points. Yikes. Even over the past three weeks, he has been receiving a similar target share to RB Aaron Jones, who missed one of those games. However, with 2.08 PPR points per target, can you risk missing out? Heat Check: Unfortunately, MVS just does not see enough targets to be viable. 10.4 PPG is FLEX at best, and you do not know when you will get an above-average performance. The return of Allen Lazard should only reduce his target share, and bad matchups over the next three weeks do not help. Playing MVS will likely lose you games.
Willie Snead IV (BAL): Right behind MVS over the past three weeks was Willie Snead IV, who based on his FantasyPros player profile most of you forgot was still in the league. With 3.48 PPR PPG over the first six weeks of the season, I cannot blame you. However, Snead has become a go-to target for Lamar Jackson over the past three games, with 2.59 PPR points per target over that period. The concern? Week 10 saw a major outlier regarding red zone targets and accounted for 40% of his total red zone targets this season. It was great that Snead turned both of those into TDs, but if you take those away you take away ~60% of his points from Week 10. Heat Check: In a deep league Snead is worth considering, especially since there seems to be a connection developing Snead and Jackson (Snead led all Ravens WRs in targets over the past three weeks). However, the 0.5 red zone targets per game make him a stay away for me in most leagues.
Jimmy Graham (CHI): Okay, so I actually had to admit defeat here. Over the past three weeks, there are really no TEs in the top 12 that should be a shock, and if they are on your roster you are starting them. Maybe you are still second-guessing Graham, but you are still probably starting him despite the donut on Monday night. Except for this week, because he is on a bye. Heat Check: You can drop Graham if you need to and you can get Logan Thomas or Dalton Schultz instead, but otherwise you need to hold onto him.
Dalton Schultz (DAL): Not in the top 12, but he was top 12 in PPR PPG from Week 8 to Week 10, so that is good enough to make the cut. Schultz has become widely available again after starting the season hot, and that is good for fantasy managers desperate at TE and looking for a dart throw. The even better news? After a down couple of weeks, Schultz was seeing an average of 7.5 targets per game in the two games before the Cowboys Week 10 bye. Heat Check: Schultz represents about the same performance and opportunity as Logan Thomas, who I recommended you pick up last week. He should be looked at for anyone still searching for a solution at TE, and provided the Cowboys QB situation stabilizes, has a favorable schedule ROS.
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