With two weeks left in the fantasy football regular season the waiver wire pool thins out, leaving gamers throwing darts at the best available options. But there’s still time to replenish those famished fantasy lineups with upside prospects and celebrate “Turkey Day” with a second helping of fantasy points.
An undrafted rookie running back and a trio of talented receivers are intriguing free agents who can help propel fantasy football teams into the playoffs. Gus Edwards burst onto the scene in Baltimore’s new-look offense and wrested control of the backfield. Tryptophan-induced sleepers Trey Quinn and Bruce Ellington find themselves in favorable positions. Proven rookie Tre’Quan Smith offers league-winning upside based on his advanced stats and metrics profile.
Gus Edwards Does Matter
Gus Edwards is the NFL’s latest “Running Back Doesn’t Matter” poster child. While RB talent rarely moves the needle in determining the outcome of actual NFL games, running back scoring is paramount in fantasy football. Edwards gives fantasy games hope for a productive Baltimore backfield after taking over for the inefficient Alex Collins. But Edwards benefitted from Lamar Jackson’s dynamic presence and Cincinnati’s league-worst rush defense in his Week 11 breakout. In determining Edwards’ value, those two factors that can’t be ignored. He and Jackson accounted for 232 of the team’s 265 rush yards, and Edwards scored his first touchdown of the season while averaging 6.8 yards per carry (YPC). His 17 carries eclipsed his previous high this season by seven.
That his performance came against a team that gives up the third-most rush touchdowns (13) and allows opponents to average 5.0 yards per carry raises red flags. Edwards faces a tough road running behind an offensive line that ranks No. 21 in run-blocking, according to Football Outsiders. That factors into Collins’ struggles and doesn’t bode well for Edwards’ outlook. Collins has broken two long runs and averages 3.6 YPC, signs that his offensive line fails him.
But Edwards brings superior speed and strength, making him a more appealing lead back. At 6-1, 229-pounds Edwards sports a taller and leaner build than Collins. While his 40-yard dash time compares to Collins (4.57 to 4.59), Edwards’ 105.0 Speed Score and 120.2 Burst Score illustrates why Ravens coaches believe Edwards offers more explosive upside than the plodding Collins. Edwards did enough to be rewarded the feature role, but with Collins, Ty Montgomery and Javorius Allen in the mix he’s not a lock for touches. He benefits from a remaining schedule that includes matchups with the worst rush defenses in the league: Oakland, Atlanta, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
Tre’Quan Smith Level Up
Tre’Quan Smith flashed again to remind fantasy gamers why he should already be rostered. He garnered a season-high 13 targets in Week 11, volume typically reserved for Michael Thomas. It’s a huge step forward for Smith — who hadn’t seen more than six targets in a game — and signals his arrival as the Saints’ No. 2 receiver.
Even more encouraging for Smith: his 10-157-1 line propelled New Orleans’s massive blowout of Philadelphia. Smith played 71-percent of the snaps and ran a season-high 30 routes while catching his fourth TD. He offers massive upside in the Saints No. 3 ranked offense, which has scored more than 40 points in each of its past three games.
At 6-2, 210-pounds with an arm length of 33 3/8-inches (88th-percentile), Smith sports the build of a prototypical No. 1 receiver. Smith’s sub-4.50 40-yard dash and 104.8 Speed Score (82nd-percentile) demonstrates true splash play upside. His field-stretching explosiveness demands respect from opposing cornerbacks, who are currently granting Smith a 4.41 average cushion. Smith has also translated his exceptional athleticism into on-field efficiency, evidenced by a +32.1 Premium Production with an efficient 16.9 yards per reception (No. 13) and 11.2 yards per target. His 100-percent True Catch Rate and six red zone targets means Drew Brees trusts his young receiver considering the talent surrounding him.
Trey Quinn Suddenly Relevant
Trey Quinn gets his shot to prove Washington made the right choice with the last pick of the 2018 NFL draft. The rookie saw his first game action since Week 1 against Houston while getting the start. He caught all four of his targets for 49 yards playing out of the slot. Quinn played 76.5-percent of the snaps and ran 27 routes coming off of injured reserve (ankle). His usage means Mr. Irrelevant creeps toward fantasy relevance, and his past production promises return on investment.
Quinn broke Dorial Green-Beckham’s all-time national mark for high school receiving yards with 6,566 at Barbe High School in Louisiana. But the 5-11, 203-pound Quinn didn’t see much of the field in his first two seasons at SMU, catching a total of 22 passes for 276 yards and no touchdowns. That changed in a breakout final campaign that saw Quinn catch 114 passes for 1,236 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quinn’s college résumé is even more impressive in context. He earned a 34.7-percent College Dominator Rating (66th-percentile) despite playing slot/flanker and sharing a field with prototypical alpha Courtland Sutton.
While Quinn’s workout metrics align more with Dwayne Harris than Julio Jones, he boasts a 108.5 SPARQ-x Score (61st-percentile) and proved to have a ballhawk pedigree in preps and college. His return breathes new life into Washington’s pass attack, which ranks No. 25. The Redskins find themselves in dire straits for a playoff-contending team with backup Colt McCoy now under center in what appears to be the last reincarnation of Adrian Peterson.
Washington sits atop the NFC East standings despite losing quarterback Alex Smith to a broken leg in Sunday’s loss. But its most glaring weakness is the passing game. Tight end Jordan Reed’s 462 receiving yards and two TDs lead the team. Jamison Crowder’s nagging ankle injury has kept him off the field since Week 5, and former first-round draft pick Josh Doctson hasn’t lived up to the hype. He displays inefficiency across the board in ranking No. 79 with a -21.6 Premium Production, and struggles to gain target separation (0.89, No. 102). Washington needs a spark in its pedestrian passing game, and Quinn provides that spark. He’s far from a lock play, but finds himself in a position to prove he belongs in the NFL and fantasy football lineups.
Bruce Ellington Soft Landing
The Lions brought in Bruce Ellington to boost their depleted receiving corps and didn’t waste time getting him involved. He rewarded them in his first game action with the team, catching 6-of-9 targets for 52 yards. The targets tallied second on the team to Kenny Golladay’s 14, and Ellington’s 22 routes run while playing over half the snaps signals a larger target share going forward.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford-led offense has shown the ability to support three fantasy-relevant receivers this season before Golden Tate departed for Philadelphia and Marvin Jones got injured. The Lions run three wide receiver sets 61.7-percent of the time, and their pass-to-run ratio of 62.3-percent to 36.8-percent boosts the outlook of Ellington. Similar to Tate, he runs most of his routes from the slot. While he’s played the role of a possession receiver, Ellington also flashes significant speed and explosiveness. He runs a 4.45 40-yard dash time and carries a 127.2 Burst Score, which both rank in the 80th-percentile. If Jones sits again on Thanksgiving, Ellington will be in play as a WR3/flex option. Upon Jones return, Ellington still benefits from playing out of the slot and not having to face opposing defenses top corners, so he should stay in the fantasy mix.