Although I’ve added a Fade Column to my weekly schedule for the 2021 Fantasy Football Season, I know this piece might not be popular with all fantasy managers. After all, it’s no fun to read tempered predictions (or bad news) tied to your favorite players.
That established, the goal of any fantasy season is to make as many good decisions as possible, hoping that the accumulation of good decisions will get you where you need to go. I am not saying everyone listed in this article needs to be automatically benched on your roster — your team depth and context will determine how you play that. Perhaps you’ll use this column more for a DFS slant, or as a springboard to player props.
Like anything else, I advise you to consider any reasonable argument you come across but ultimately make your own measured decision.
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks vs. Jaguars
I’m relieved we don’t have to watch Seattle play an island game this week. The Seahawks had three in a row starting in Week 5, and obviously, things skidded off the road when Russell Wilson got hurt. The Pittsburgh and New Orleans games were borderline unwatchable. Geno Smith hasn’t offered much as an emergency starter.
To be fair, the Steelers and Saints have plus defenses. Clearly, the Jaguars do not — they’re sitting dead last in defensive DVOA and pass defense DVOA.
A tasty matchup is lovely, but that doesn’t mean Seattle will do much with it. Smith and Lockett have yet to show any chemistry. Lockett was targeted seven times at Pittsburgh — those plays netted a paltry 35 yards. It was even worse last week — three looks, two catches, 12 yards. Lockett hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2.
Fantasy football is about numbers, not names. Lockett is just a name right now, pining for his regular starter. The industry consensus rank still considers Lockett a fantasy starter, but I’m parking him outside the top 40 until a prove-it game or Wilson’s return.
Chase Claypool, Steelers at Browns
I understand long-term optimism for Claypool. He’s a second-year player who had plenty of splash games as a rookie, and the JuJu Smith-Schuster injury opens up more targets in the Pittsburgh passing game. We also should note that Cleveland’s pass defense is much weaker than its rush defense.
But Claypool’s also tied to a lesser quarterback, the aging Ben Roethlisberger. Although Pittsburgh’s had plus receiver talent for the length of Big Ben’s career, the team has struggled to make consistent downfield connections in recent seasons. Roethlisberger has a scant 6.3 YPA since the beginning of 2019, a shockingly-low number.
The total for this game is 42 — a very low number in today’s pinball NFL. Both teams will get off the bus looking to win through their running game and defense. In the case of Cleveland, its looking to hide an injured Baker Mayfield or backup Case Keenum. And we know all about the erosion of Roethlisberger’s skills.
Often our fantasy takes come down to “Love the player, but don’t like the situation.” This is one of those spots. The market slots Claypool inside the top 30; I’m a tier lower.
Melvin Gordon, Broncos vs. Football Team
The Denver backfield has been close to a 50-50 split all year. It probably won’t last much longer.
Rookie Javonte Williams is starting to find his sea legs. He’s averaged 6.1 yards per rush in October, and he’s also caught 18 passes in his last five games. Gordon did have a receiving touchdown last week at Cleveland, but that was his only highlight of the day. Eight Gordon rushes went nowhere — 18 yards.
It’s not uncommon for rookie running backs to hit a spike in the second half of their freshman seasons; think of what Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift did in the latter part of last year. In a sense, I’m shoehorning my “buy Williams” take into this Gordon fade. But I also want you to be mindful, short-term and long-term, of the risk Gordon brings. He’s a 28-year-old running back — that’s the danger zone at the NFL’s biggest attrition position — and it’s likely the Broncos running game will soon be routed through the freshest legs on the roster.
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots at LA Chargers
The Patriots should feel good about discovering Meyers, a useful player who wasn’t drafted after three solid seasons at North Carolina State. But he’s miscast as the team’s nominal No. 1 receiver. New England’s offense has little downfield component as rookie Mac Jones gets his feet wet, and Meyers’s stat page reflects that — he’s averaging 9.5 yards per catch and 6.6 yards per target. Dink and dunk, dink and dunk.
And this is obviously the wrong place to look for touchdown equity — Meyers is still stuck on zero touchdowns through 126 NFL completions. Not even last week’s glorious 54-13 romp over the Jets could help Meyers break the seal there. He did catch a two-point conversion two weeks back if that matters to you. Baby steps.
The market still has Meyers slotted as a plausible WR3 or flex play. I need to see some juice — be it downfield connectors or end-zone work — before I slide Meyers into the proactive bucket. The Chargers draw is also unfavorable — LAC looks to eliminate everyone’s passing game while inviting the opponent to run all it wants. New England’s offense will probably be a land march Sunday, so long as the game stays within range. Shoot for a higher upside with your final starting wideout.