Welcome back to Risers and Fallers, Week 15 Edition. The Sunday slate of NFL action provided some massive swings in the fantasy football marketplace. Some great fantasy teams were eliminated in the playoffs because desperate teams lucked into spot starts, such as the Raiders defense or Ty Chandler. Such is life in the fantasy football playoffs. Let’s look at the Risers and Fallers from Week 15 of NFL action, starting with the best running back from the 2023 rookie class.
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB — Detroit Lions
Is Jahmyr Gibbs the best running back from the 2023 rookie class? Lately, his play has reflected it. On Saturday, he put up 100 rushing yards on only 11 carries. He also added rushing and receiving touchdowns to his stat line. Since Week 7, Gibbs has finished as an RB2 or higher.
Jahmyr Gibbs 2 TDs 😍😍😍
Is Jahmyr Gibbs a league winner???#OnePride
— PlayerProfiler (@rotounderworld) December 17, 2023
Bijan Robinson has had a fine season in Atlanta, but Gibbs is attached to a much more efficient offense. Gibbs has a higher Breakaway Run Rate than Robinson, and has averaged more Yards Created Per Touch. I understand Gibbs is the beneficiary of a top-tier Lions’ offense, but he deserves more praise for his performance this year.
Baker Mayfield, QB — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Back in August, the Buccaneers stated there would be an open competition between Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield. That feels like ancient history, as Mayfield has put together his best season yet. On Sunday, he continued his hot streak with 381 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Mayfield finished the game with only six incompletions and had a perfect 158.3 Passer Rating. He became the first visiting quarterback to ever finish with a perfect Passer Rating at Lambeau. It helps when Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are your starting receivers instead of a combination of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham. If offensive coordinator Dave Canales stays, we could be looking at a potent combination on offense in 2024.
Tee Higgins, WR — Cincinnati Bengals
It has been a long, depressing season for Tee Higgins. Injuries, empty stat lines — things looked most bleak when Joe Burrow was declared out for the remainder of the season. But fortunately for the Bengals and Higgins, backup quarterback Jake Browning has proven to be a competent stand-in. On Saturday, Browning connected with Higgins on a 21-yard touchdown pass with seconds left in the game, and the Bengals would later win in overtime. It was announced that Ja’Marr Chase sustained a separated shoulder and could be out for an extended absence.
David Tepper going to throw $40M a year at Tee Higgins this offseason after this game https://t.co/m7ZN0zT0AU
— Jack Cavanagh (@javanagh87) December 16, 2023
Higgins, who is projected to be a free agent in the upcoming offseason, could make himself big money with some strong performances to close out the regular season. He also has the potential to get plenty of volume rest of season if he does not have to compete for targets with Chase.
David Njoku, TE — Cleveland Browns
The Browns have been fighting to remain in the playoff picture. While Joe Flacco has received most of the praise, allow me to explain why David Njoku has elevated the offense. Against the Bears, Njoku had a team-high 10 receptions on 14 targets, producing 104 yards and a touchdown.
Chief David Njoku since burning his face off:
10.6 fantasy points
5.4 fantasy points
10.4 fantasy points
17.7 fantasy points
12.6 fantasy points
11.8 fantasy points
12.6 fantasy points
11.9 fantasy points
3.7 fantasy points
27.1 fantasy points
26.4 fantasy points
— David J. Gautieri (@GuruFantasyWrld) December 17, 2023
Since Week 10, Njoku has finished with less than six receptions only once. The Browns have embraced a pass-heavy approach since Joe Flacco took over, and Njoku has greatly benefited from the change in philosophy. He’s inside the top-five among tight ends in total targets and first in Yards After Catch. He’s got three games left this year, and he’s aleady set career highs in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Sit back and enjoy the Njoku breakout.
Najee Harris, RB — Pittsburgh Steelers
Similar to Higgins, it’s been a year to forget for Najee Harris. His struggles continued Saturday when he turned 12 carries into 33 scoreless yards. Harris has finished with over 70 rushing yards in a week only three times all year. The best physical runners would struggle to produce behind this porous offensive line and passing game.
Add in that Jaylen Warren continues to outperform Harris in nearly every rushing category, and it paints a bad picture for Harris. After Harris lost a key fumble on Sunday, endangering the Steelers’ odds to make the playoffs. We could see Warren take complete control of this backfield at the end of the season.
Kyle Pitts, TE—Atlanta Falcons
The Arthur Smith experience is a nauseating one, rarely rewarding the common fantasy football player. Kyle Pitts has been a hot topic in the fantasy streets, and dynasty players need to take a deep look at where he stands among all tight ends. Pitts had an uneventful Sunday with only 37 yards receiving, but to be completely fair, the conditions were less than ideal in Carolina.
Week 15 Falcons
Tyler Allgeier – 15 touches
Bijan Robinson + Drake London + Kyle Pitts – 13 touches
The Panthers beat ATL 9-7
Fire Arthur Smith #DirtyBirds
— Josh Larky (@jlarkytweets) December 18, 2023
Pitts has had only one week with 60 yards receiving or more. There are weeks where Drake London or Bijan Robinson erupts, but when will it happen for Pitts? He has had only two games where he finished with five receptions or more. He’s the second target on a run-heavy offense, and even with a quarterback change in 2024, Arthur Smith will still be there.
Gabriel Davis, WR—Buffalo Bills
Everyone remembers that epic Chiefs/Bills playoff game from 2022 where Gabriel Davis erupted for four touchdowns. But it’s been hard times for Big Bill lately, and Sunday was another spectacular dud. Davis finished with zero targets and zero fantasy points. It was the fourth time that has happened over the last six games. In the four games where Davis had zero fantasy points, he had a combined five targets. To be completely fair, he had spectacular games in Weeks 8 and 12, but to completely goose-egg your way through multiple weeks in a season is an impressive feat. Gabe is now in “better in best ball” land and will remain there for some time until he can post some sort of consistency.
Sam Howell, QB — Washington Commanders
Sam Howell has been a reliable source of fantasy points this season, but will it last through the playoffs? On Sunday, Howell completed less than 50-percent of his passes against the Rams, and was pulled late in the game for Jacoby Brissett. During the post-game press conference, Ron Rivera said Howell would continue to start.
Howell has been in a slump lately, throwing six interceptions over the past four games. While I do believe Riverboat Ron will continue to start Howell, the leash is shorter. Things do not get any easier for the Commanders and Howell, as they are set up to face the Jets and 49ers over the next few weeks. Both of those teams boast pass defenses in the top-10. We’re going to learn plenty about Howell over these next two games.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Baker Mayfield, Tee Higgins, and David Njoku are the Risers this week. Najee Harris, Kyle Pitts, Gabriel Davis, and Sam Howell are the Fallers. We now have only two weeks left in the fantasy season, and plenty of dynasty teams are gearing up for dynasty time in the offseason. My advice for dynasty gamers is to wait for that Gabe Davis boom week late in the season or in the playoffs before unloading him to some poor, unsuspecting fantasy manager. He will only belong on best-ball rosters from here on out. Now go get those fantasy playoff victories!