This fade column has been a rejuvenation machine in recent weeks, and we’ll put it to the test this Sunday, trotting out some Canton-bound players who are fantasy conundrums.
Tennessee is the hottest team in the AFC, currently the No. 1 seed in conference. Mike Vrabel is going to get plenty of Coach of the Year consideration. But for fantasy purposes, maybe you should forget the Titans — or at least, two specific Titans — as you commit to your Week 10 plans.
WR Julio Jones, vs. Saints
It’s a common theme in this fantasy space where we talk about how we’re chasing numbers, not names. We try not to get hung up on brands and legacy plays. We just want the stats.
Perhaps that’s how we can explain Julio Jones’s current fantasy rank. He’s sitting at WR72 for the season, and yet still slides into the Top 30 on most receiver boards.
Jones still doesn’t have a touchdown on the season. He remains a decent target on a per-opportunity basis, but the Titans do not pepper him with looks. He’s seen just 17 looks in his last four games, and his high for the year is a modest eight. A.J. Brown is clearly the alpha in this passing game.
Jones probably has a Hall of Fame ticket punched already, but up against a nasty Saints defense — and with recent form working against him — I can’t include him in my Top 40. Don’t get hung up on Q-rating with your WR3 selection.
RB Adrian Peterson, vs. Saints
It’s difficult to put any running back on the fade sheet, given how barren the position is. Any player who has projectable volume entering the weekend is going to have some fantasy worth. It’s always the most challenging position.
That established, Peterson had a tepid return to NFL play. He managed just 2.1 YPC on his 10 rushing attempts against the Rams. D’Onta Foreman looked more powerful — heck, he is 11 years younger than Peterson — and of course, Jeremy McNichols was the preference in the passing game. Peterson’s role forward is probably the shaky head of a three-man committee, and he might be the least explosive player in this mix.
The Saints currently have the No. 3 defense in DVOA — stats that especially matter to me this deep into the season — and the unit is No. 1 against the run. Maybe Peterson will have more touchdown deodorant this week, but I expect a modest amount of opportunity, and a low level of play success. Even in the midst of bye-week season, I can’t endorse Peterson as a proactive starter.
WR Adam Thielen, at Chargers
Speaking of touchdown deodorant, that’s Thielen’s song over the last couple of years. He managed 14 touchdown catches last year despite an ordinary 925 receiving yards, and he’s on a similar pace this year — seven spikes, 477 receiving yards. His YPC has hit a personal low, and his yards per target is a mediocre 7.2.
We can’t put all the blame on Thielen, though. Kirk Cousins is averaging 7.1 YPA — a 1.2-yard drop from last year — and hasn’t topped 190 yards in back-to-back weeks. Maybe it’s time for Minnesota to accept what Cousins probably is; just good enough to lose with. He’s still two games under .500 for his career, and while QB wins are far from a perfect stat, they do have some descriptive value.
We know how the Chargers like to play defense — they concede you the run (dead last in rush-defense DVOA) and they contest you downfield (ninth in pass-defense DVOA). My Minnesota pass projections have to start with a modest Cousins total, and I’ll probably step on the under when Thielen’s yardage prop is announced.
TE T.J. Hockenson, at Steelers
A common fantasy theme is you can love a player but dislike his situation. That’s the story with Hockenson. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2, and the Steelers figure to have the personnel — and the focus — to eliminate Hockenson on Sunday. Most seasonal managers will have to keep Hockenson dialed up — his volume has been robust and the tight end position is the thinnest in fantasy — but I won’t give Hockenson a second look for DFS purposes, and I might fade him in other markets.
Jared Goff’s play has notably collapsed; his indexed QB rating and YPA are at five-year lows for him, and the only two stats he’s grading well in are the “conservative to a fault” stats — interception rate, and completion rate. Perhaps the Lions would have a victory or two if Goff would play with his hair on fire a little more often.