With the end of the 2017 Fantasy Football Season depressingly close, it’s time to go bold. From here on out, The Wolf will look into his crystal ball to log five bold predictions for each week, adding a season-long spin when appropriate.
1) Jay Ajayi feasts in his first “real” game as an Eagle, which sets up a monstrous late season stretch run
We’ve been very adamant that Ajayi’s trade to Philadelphia was an incredible boon to his fantasy value. The offensive line and overall scoring output are so vastly improved with the Eagles that the hit in volume is far outweighed, and this was on full display in his first game. Ajayi saw an actual opening for the first time in 2017 (not even an exaggeration), and he ripped it for a 46 yard TD. Impressive, considering it was his first week with the team and coming against one of the league’s top run defenses.
Still, this will be the week he truly explodes.
Ajayi’s offensive coordinator Frank Reich has indicated featured back work could be an option, stating:
“He’s able to handle everything that we give him at this point… As the week went on, the package of plays we gave him grew. By the end of the week, he was adapting so well and learning so well, we were adding to his number of plays, because he could handle it.
“When I look at our game plan for this week, I look at it and there’s probably not a play on there that I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting his number on. As far as Jay learning and knowing what to do. That speaks a lot of him and what he’s able to do as a player.”
Even just 15+ touches will be enough for an explosion, and Reich’s comments suggest this could be his floor. Dallas’ overall defense is pathetic, meaning scoring chances should be plentiful for this explosive Eagles attack. Expect a rested, motivated, and now featured Ajayi to explode in Week 11, sparking a heroic late season run for fantasy owners.
2) Bruce Ellington (5% owned) is the “Hail Mary” WR play of the week
Just on the eye ball test, one hugely exploitable matchup has been clear in 2017: No.2 WRs against the Cardinals. Shutdown CB Patrick Peterson has been his dominant shadow self, but the secondary behind him is abysmal. As such, secondary receiving options have bombarded Arizona week after week.
Fortunately, our CJay has a big brain in that beautiful bald head, and uncovered the stats to back this up:
“Ellington has run 67-percent of his routes from the slot and the Cardinals have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers. Even better, Ellington can be had for the DraftKings minimum of 3k”
Not only the matchup is right here, but also the expected volume. With Will Fuller out and Ellington fresh off a 4 catch, 41 yard, TD day, head coach Bill O’Brien and QB coach Sean Ryan have been emphatic on increasing the former 49ers role:
O’Brien: “Bruce is running good routes. Bruce needs to get the ball more. Bruce Ellington, he’s doing some really good things out there,” said O’Brien.
Ryan: “I think Bruce brings certainly his athleticism in the way of his change of direction allows him to run certain routes that are pretty clean in terms of a good, quick read of separation from defenders because able to stick his foot in the ground and separate…That makes him pretty quarterback friendly. He’s got the ability like you saw the other day to run after the catch. That’s a quarterback’s good friend right there.”
With opportunity and matchup firmly in his corner, Ellington is the Hail Mary injection of the week for owners craving an explosion.
3) Sterling Shepard is a shoo-in Top 5 WR this week, and rides a cake schedule to low-end WR1 value for the rest of season.
Though his recent “Questionable” status at the hands of an illness has me a little more skeptical, Shepard should still feast if he suits up.
The Chiefs have been routinely bombed this season, but none more than out of the slot where Shepard has run 87% of his routes. Consequently, Shepard will go to work against hapless Steven Nelson, who just sounds like he’s ready to be put on a spit and roasted over an open fire. This is PFF’s top-graded matchup, if you believe in that stuff.
Even if you don’t, Shepard’s 13 target, 11 catch, 142 yard performance last week should be all you need to see. He’s clearly being force fed the ball, catching everything in site, and should be open all Sunday. Those ingredients make for a dominant recipe (as long as his sniffles don’t hinder him).
4) Rex Burkhead continues cementing his status as the Patriots RB to own with another 12+ FP day. He emerges as a true stretch run hero for fantasy football owners.
Anyone listening to Episode 49 of our Fantasy Fullback Dive knows this: I LOVE me some Rex Burkhead. I repeatedly gushed over his versatility, especially in light of Mike Gillislee‘s healthy scratch. Bill Belichick craves being unpredictable, and Burkhead’s sneaky power, soft hands, and butter-smooth route running make every play difficult to project. Consequently, his usage has spiked in recent weeks, and Burkhead has topped 12 FPs (half PPR) in three of his last four contests.
Week 11 will not only go down as Burkhead’s latest double-digit endeavor. Additionally, Bald n Bold will springboard to the top of this rotation, especially near the stripe. Expect 2 TDs this week and oodles of scoring every week after, making Burkhead one of 2017’s Stretch Run Heroes.
5) Scrap all this “limited role” talk. Dede Westbrook maximizes his touches with some huge long chunk plays and a score versus the Browns, and begins cementing his status as a stretch run hero
Westbrook himself is tossing out some Bold Claims, predicting a 200 yard debut. Though my optimism isn’t quite this sky high, the possibility actually exists. That’s just how explosive Westbrook is.
The Oklahoma product was arguably college football’s top WR last season, but fell in the draft due to some character and durability question marks. In the preseason, Westbrook showed his skills can translate on this level, leading the league in receiving yardage (288) while notching 2 TDs. He consistently ripped off big plays, whether dusting corners on deep routes or dominating after the catch with ankle-breaking jukes on short routes. Simply put, the talent is tantalizing.
Early rumblings are Westbrook will debut with a limited role, but I’m not buying it. He’s too explosive, and the Jaguars are too needy at WR. The bigger obstacles are a surprisingly tough Browns D and awful projected weather, but oftentimes this benefits speed demons as they gain traction while others stumble around them. The Browns got destroyed deep by TY Hilton, and Wesbrook could find very similar success in Week 11. Regardless, he’s among my favorite stashes right now and a genuine candidate to be 2017’s “OBJ”.