2020 NFL Playoffs Recap: Heat Check

Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Editor

I do not think I have ever had an article take this long to write.

I cannot pin the whole thing on writer's block. I think I knew what I wanted to write. We were in full swing of the #SidewaysSaturdays Dynasty Roundup livestream series and it seemed like an interesting idea to just look at how some players were trending in the playoffs. Cam Akers seemed ascendant, "Playoff Lenny" became a thing, it just seemed like something fun to write about. Until it was not.

By the time I was a week into the article, it suddenly became overwhelming. More games had passed, and players' fortunes were constantly changing. I had a list of them to write about and instead of a handful, it was starting to resemble a 53-man roster. Everyone had done something interesting after all. Or did they? Was Van Jefferson going off against the Packers meaningful? Or was it just a matter of Cooper Kupp being out? Allen Lazard looked so good against the Rams and then was just fine against Tampa. Had anything really changed?

At this point, I am sure you can see what the problem really was. I had plenty to write about, but I could not tell if any of it was valuable. So I let the article fall to the wayside as I focused on our new and improved Thursday Variety Hour(ish). Doing research on our guests to ensure the best possible interview seemed so much better than an article that was now weeks past its expiration date. This show was something that brought value after all. Then Herms and I got to talking the other day and the article came up along with the vision of what we were trying to do with The Lateral. To be honest, both had gotten away from us, or at the very least me as we dove headfirst into dynasty. The goal of The Lateral was to take a sideways look at fantasy; to provide takes and information that not everyone was creating content around.

That is really the point of this article and this long introduction. To reaffirm that mission statement. To refocus on talking about strategy and looking at the under-the-radar guys to give fantasy managers an edge in their redraft leagues. To continue providing you with the content we had been trying to provide all season while putting a cap on the 2020 season and transitioning into the 2021 season.

So with that all being said, let us get back to it.

2020 NFL Playoffs Recap: Heat Check

QB Taylor Heinicke (WFT)

I wonder if come August people are going to remember how close the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to crashing right out of the gate in the playoffs. Granted, part of that was due to the stellar Washington Football Team defense largely holding their own against the future champs, but no small part of it was Heinicke holding his own against Tampa's excellent defense in his first playoff start. Yes, some numbers were less than encouraging, such as the 59.09% completion percentage or the 1:1 TD:INT ratio. What was encouraging though, was 46 rushing yards and a rushing TD to go along with 306 passing yards.

Even more encouraging? Washington gave the soon to be 28 years old QB a two-year deal based on his performance in that game. Which is a big deal considering he is the only QB that Washington has committed for next year. Heat Check: Between the new contract and the current lack of competition, Heinicke needs to be on the radar going into 2020. He should be a solid post-draft pickup for those looking for a backup QB provided he keeps the starting job.

WR Gabriel Davis (BUF)

We have talked about Gabe Davis before more than once here at The Lateral, so it was awesome to watch the Bills rookie WR go off in the Wild Card Round against the Indianapolis Colts. He still is struggling to break through that four targets per game ceiling, but when the final line is 4-4-85-0, you get excited about his prospects. Unfortunately, that excitement came crashing down to Earth when Davis went 0-7 over the next two playoff rounds. Heat Check: Davis' downturn coincided with fellow WR John Brown returning to the lineup, and over the final two games of the Bills playoff run Brown went 10-15-86-0. The good news? Cutting Brown would save the Bills nearly $8 million against the cap in 2021. Meaning that Davis will have a huge opportunity to gain a significant amount of market share in a high-powered offense.

WR Rashard Higgins (CLE)

With Odell Beckham Jr. on the sideline, Higgins climbed up the Browns depth chart and finished the season as the third most targeted player on the roster. In a particularly nice stretch from Week 13 to Week 15, he saw an average of eight targets per game. He continued this upward trend in the playoffs, seeing seven targets per game and producing 13.8 PPR fantasy points in the Brown's Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Heat Check: Higgins looked like the WR2 in Cleveland once Beckham Jr. went out with an ACL tear. The Browns looked much better as a team with WR Jarvis Landry and Higgins as the main WR targets than Beckham Jr. and Landry, but at the moment it still seems likely that Beckham Jr. returns. What has yet to be determined is where UFA Higgins will play in 2021, but the opportunity for him to be fantasy-relevant should exist as long as he is not the WR3 behind Beckham Jr. and Landry once August rolls around.

WR Van Jefferson (LAR)

Jefferson had a fairly quiet rookie season, only seeing the field for over 50% of the offensive snaps in Week 17 against Arizona. So it was not a surprise when he saw literally zero offensive snaps in the Rams Wild Card matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. What was a surprise though, was Jefferson then going off in the absence of Cooper Kupp in the Rams Divisional Round loss to the Green Bay Packers. Not only did he catch a near-perfect six of seven targets, but he also scored the Rams lone receiving TD of the game. Heat Check: Van Jefferson will still likely be behind WRs Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in the depth chart, but with the departure of WR Josh Reynolds, Jefferson is going to move on up in an offense that supported three WRs in fantasy at times with former QB Jared Goff under center. With new QB Matthew Stafford, Jefferson's prospects look even better for 2021.

TE Jack Doyle (IND)

Yes, I can hear your exasperated sigh all the way over here through my dial-up modem. But hear me out before you close that tab. In the Wild Card loss against the Buffalo Bills, Doyle led a very active TE room with nine targets, seven receptions, 70 yards, and a TD. That is a massive 20 PPR fantasy points, but it could have been even more; TEs Mo Alie-Cox and Trey Burton combined for an additional seven receptions on seven targets for 66 yards. Heat Check: Many people will want to avoid Doyle in 2021, but he absolutely balled out against the Bills, and new QB Carson Wentz loves throwing to the TE about as much as his predecessor Philip Rivers did. Good thing Doyle is currently the only Colts TE that caught a pass in the playoffs on the Colts roster going into 2021. There is a chance they bring in someone else (reuniting former Eagles TE Zach Ertz with his old QB is a real possibility), but at the moment Doyle looks to provide serious late-round value given the opportunity.

Follow The Lateral on Twitter (@TheLateralFF)