It has arrived a week later than usual, but the 2021 fantasy football playoffs are beginning for leagues across the country this week, and the reality of the matter is that only one team in each league is going to win it all and the rest will be resigned to wait until next year.
If you have played fantasy football for any period of time, you are familiar with the concept of the “bad beat” – a particularly gruesome end to a season. It can be a huge game against you on a Monday night or the classic bad beat of Brian Westbrook breaking loose for a touchdown only to slide to a stop at the 5-yard line so his team could kill the clock.
Here’s hoping your season doesn’t end until you’re hoisting a league championship trophy, but for those who lose along the way, hopefully you won’t be stricken by the bad beat that you remember for years to come.
Here is the Week 15 Fantasy Football Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
WR Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
Renfrow has been a popular selection in PPR leagues because of his consistent production – he only has two games this season with fewer than five receptions. But, since Darren Waller got injured on Thanksgiving Day, Renfrow has taken his game to a new level – the kind of production that would make Wes Welker or Percy Harvin blush. Over the last three games, he has been targeted 33 times, catching 30 passes for 353 yards and one touchdown. Derek Carr has locked in on him and transformed him from being a fantasy receiver you have on your roster to a player who has become a must-start in almost any format.
TE Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
Most people likely don’t know that Knox leads all tight ends in scoring with eight touchdowns, including three in his last three games – when fantasy owners needed him most. For owners who don’t have guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Darren Waller as a lineup rubber stamp every week (when healthy), the goal is to find somebody who consistently catches four passes or more passes and can be counted on to give you a handful of touchdowns. Knox has been exactly that – leading the Bills will eight TDs despite missing two-and-a-half games due to injury.
WR Jalen Guyton, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have plenty of weapons, but Guyton has come on in the last two weeks as a deep-ball threat the Chargers haven’t consistently had this season. He came to the Chargers in the same draft class as Justin Herbert, and their rapport has been on display the last couple of weeks. After catching just 14 passes in the first 11 games of the season, over his last two games, Guyton has caught seven passes for 177 yards, including touchdowns of 44 and 59 yards. While more of a player to consider as a cheap option for daily fantasy play, he and Herbert have made a connection that looks to potentially have some big-play staying power.
WR K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings
Osborn has been up and down with the Vikings this season as the No. 3 guy. He started extremely strong in his first two games (12 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown), but was hit-and-miss after that. He has made some big plays, including an overtime TD at Carolina and a touchdown Minnesota badly needed late in the Steelers game. With Adam Thielen injured, over the last two games, Osborn has caught seven passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns, showing he can do more than simply fill in for their starting wide receiver.
QB Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
Hill is still available on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues, but the Saints seem committed to him in the short-term as their QB and long-term as a Swiss Army knife type player fresh off signing an eight-figure-a-year contract extension. He can produce points in a lot of ways. In his two starts he has thrown for 439 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 22 times for 174 yards and two more TDs. When you look at his point production in each of the last two games, it’s better than a lot of quarterbacks viewed as “must-start” guys, and he has forced his way into the conversation for being a fantasy starter as the playoffs begin.
Fantasy Football Fallers
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
There are some players that fantasy owners feel obligated to live and die with in the playoffs because they dread the potential of benching him in the game he blows up. Elliott has become one of those guys. In the first five games of the season, Elliott looked his normal self, posting three games with 95 or more rushing yards and scoring six touchdowns. However, in the eight games since, he has scored just three touchdowns and, over the last seven, has weekly rushing totals of 50, 51, 41, 32, 25, 45 and 45. He hasn’t averaged four yards a carry in any of the last five. Given the investment fantasy owners made in Zeke, it’s hard to imagine them just walking away from him, but he’s on the worst five-game stretch of his career, and he’s hurting a lot of owners’ chances of winning a title with his lack of production.
QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
In the era of the dual threat quarterback, Mayfield brings next to nothing as a runner, so his value to a fantasy owner is strictly as a passer, and therein lies the problem. Mayfield has hit the 250 passing yard mark just twice this season (none in the last seven games) and, over his last four games, he has been limited to 190 or fewer passing yards in three of them. Compounding the problem is that he has thrown just 13 touchdown passes in 12 games – two TDs in four games, one in five games, and none in three games. Are those the kind of numbers you want to let your season ride on?
WR DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
Last year I was kicking myself all season in my most important league (bloodsport for 20 years) by having the option of drafting Cooper Kupp or Metcalf and made the wrong call and took Kupp. Fortunately, I wasn’t posed with that conundrum this season because, if I had Metcalf, I would be experiencing the same pain I did with Kupp last year. It seemed like situation normal for Metcalf the first half of the season – topping 95 yards in three games and scoring eight touchdowns. However, in his last five games, he has all but disappeared. At a time when Tyler Locket has put up three games with more than 95 yards, Metcalf has disappeared, catching just 17 passes for 216 yards and no touchdowns. If three catches for 44 yards and no scores – his average over the last five games – is what you’re looking for, stick with him. Otherwise, difficult decisions may need to be considered.
QB Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Tannehill’s only saving grace is that he has six rushing touchdowns – almost all from the 1- or 2-yard line. As a passer, his numbers have been dismal, despite having a wealth of talent around him most of the season and the onus to win moving from Derrick Henry’s shoulders to his. In 13 games, he has thrown more than one touchdown just twice, over his last five games he has thrown for 191 yards or less three times and has just four TD passes. He’s never been a must-start player, but is nearing the point of being a must-bench after throwing for 191 yards and no TDs in a home win over Jacksonville.
RB Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There was a time when Jones was the starter and Leonard Fournette was the backup/change-of-pace guy. Those days are long since over. Fournette has almost three times as many carries as Jones, has 62 receptions and scored 10 touchdowns. In 13 games, Jones has 63 carries for just 274 yards, has caught only five passes and scored just three touchdowns. As Forunette thrives down the home stretch as a legitimate three-down back, Jones has been left on the Island of Misfit Toys, averaging less than five carries a game and being dropped from fantasy rosters looking to add depth at other positions from the waiver wire.