Stars of Week 15

QB: Tyler Huntley, BAL: 28-40, 215 yards, 2 TDs (13 carries, 73 yards, 2 TDs)

RB: Duke Johnson, MIA: 22 carries, 107 yards, 2 TDs                                   

WR: Brandin Cooks, HOU: 7 catches, 102 yards, 2 TDs

TE: Travis Kelce, KC: 10 catches, 191 yards, 2 TDs

We’ve got some shocking names in this week’s honor roll, starting with Lamar Jackson’s back up in Baltimore. QB Tyler Huntley played exceptionally well against the Packers, leading the team to the doorstep of victory, with only a failed 2 point conversion separating the Ravens from the W. Huntley looked like Jackson on a good day, making accurate throws to his WRs while smartly tucking and running when needed. Huntley’s a solid QB2 for any additional weeks that Jackson misses.

Duke Johnson? Seriously? Speaking of a performance coming out of nowhere, Johnson’s emergence in Week 15 takes the cake. We’ll take a closer look at Johnson’s performance below. Hint: not good news for Myles Gaskin’s prospects.

The Houston Texans have largely been a mess this season, as expected given their roster. But despite the chaos, WR Brandin Cooks has had a fine season. Cooks scored twice and crossed the 100 yard threshold against the Jaguars, leading his team to their third win. Regardless of which QB lines up for Houston, Cooks has shown that he’s a solid WR2.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Tyler Huntley and Duke Johnson, we’ve got Travis Kelce. The league’s top tight end had the best week among his position group, falling just under 200 yards while finding the end zone twice. The Chiefs’ offense has come on in recent weeks, looking like the Super Bowl crew that we’ve come to expect.

Week 15 Takeaways – A Closer Look

Each week we take a closer look at a handful of performances and sort out what such performances mean going forward.

- Duke Johnson, RB – MIA: 22 carries, 107 yards, 2 TDs

- Myles Gaskin, RB – MIA: 10 carries, 54 yards, 0 TDs

Analysis: Week 15 of the NFL season will be remembered as an unusual one for many reasons. Three games were controversially moved back due to COVID, after no such postponements thus far in 2021. In addition, touchdowns were hard to come by, the one-win Lions blew out the 10-win Cardinals, and players off the radar stole the show… such as Duke Johnson rushing for 107 yards and two TDs against the Jets! While an RB roasting the putrid Jets D doesn’t make for a story, the fact that Duke Johnson posted the numbers, as opposed to Myles Gaskin, or even Salvon Ahmed, was startling to say the least. Both Gaskin and Ahmed were activated from the reserve / COVID-19 list a few days before the game, with logic suggesting that Gaskin would serve as the lead RB. That’s not what happened though, as Johnson outcarried Gaskin 22 to 10, and outscored Gaskin by a 2 to 0 TD margin. So what does this mean going forward for the Dolphins’ backfield? It becomes a mess for fantasy owners, as the Week 16 carry distribution will be hard to predict. Both RBs played well, so it’s feasible to expect Johnson to continue to have a sizable role, while there’s nothing to indicate that Gaskin will fall by the wayside either. Johnson’s worth an add in deep leagues if you need RB help, but temper expectations. The Dolphins face a tough Saints run D next week, and the suggestion here is to avoid both Gaskin and Johnson unless you are desperate.

- Jeff Wilson Jr, RB – SF: 21 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD

Analysis: The 49ers have had quite an interesting year at the RB spot. The team lost starter Raheem Mostert to a season ending injury in Week 1, with rookie 6th round pick Elijah Mitchell emerging out of thin air to seize the lead RB duties - leaving fellow 3rd round pick Trey Sermon in the dust on the depth chart. Mitchell has proven to be a starting caliber RB in the NFL, but he has also had his injury issues. The 49ers have been cursed with a crushing number of injuries over the last several seasons, but that’s a discussion for another time. Sermon and fellow RB JaMycal Hasty have each gotten opportunities to strut their stuff when Mitchell’s been sidelined, but neither player has performed above replacement level. Enter RB Jeff Wilson, who made his season debut in November after suffering a torn meniscus in his knee in the offseason. Wilson had posted rather pedestrian numbers as well up until this week, but he finally went off…rushing for 110 yards and a TD against the Falcons. Wilson had the lion’s share of the carries (21), while WR/RB extraordinaire Deebo Samuel had 6 carries, with just a few carries smattered among the rest of the team. Wilson looked great this week, and he should be a comfortable RB2 going forward for any additional games that Mitchell misses. Mitchell will resume lead RB duties upon his return, in which case Wilson should still see the field on third downs, but not enough to keep him from reverting back to fantasy benches. With Mitchell’s return date unclear, keep an eye on the news, and enjoy plugging Wilson into your lineup in case he gets another start or two.

- Gabriel Davis, WR – BUF: 5 catches, 85 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: The Buffalo Bills are loaded with capable pass catchers, with WRs  Stephon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders, and TE Dawson Knox each making huge contributions this season. Unfortunately Sanders suffered a knee injury in Week 14, which kept him sidelined for this past weekend as well. Not a problem, however, as the Bills turned to another weapon, burgeoning WR Gabriel Davis. The second year player from UCF led the team with 85 receiving yards and two TDs, while being targeted by QB Josh Allen 7 times. Only Beasley had more targets (8) than Davis, while Diggs also had 7. Davis has good size at 6’3” and does well as a vertical threat, matching up well with his QB’s strength as a downfield passer. Davis has now scored TDs in three straight games, supporting the notion that Davis’ growth and role in the passing game has staying power...provided that Sanders remains out. Knee injuries are tricky, which means that Sanders very possibly could miss additional games. The receiving corps gets too crowded for Davis’ fantasy value if Sanders plays, but as long as Sanders remains out, Davis should be viewed as a WR3 / flex option. Davis remains available in 81% of leagues – go get him if you need a WR. And tuck Davis’ name away as a sleeper in next year’s drafts, as at least one veteran WR will likely move on for the Bills to make room for expanded opportunities for Davis.

- Christian Kirk, WR – ARI: 9 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD

Analysis: The Arizona Cardinals received tough news this past week, learning that star WR DeAndre Hopkins will be out for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. While that’s unquestionably a huge loss for the Cardinals, as was the loss to the Lions this past weekend, the Cardinals do have other capable WRs ready to step up. Look no further than fourth year WR Christian Kirk, who caught 9 balls for 94 yards and a TD in the losing effort. QB Kyler Murray has fondness for Kirk, with Kirk leading the team in targets with 12. TE Zach Ertz followed with 11 targets, and WRs AJ Green and Antoine Wesley each had 8. With Murray back after being sidelined with injuries of his own, the Cardinals have a dynamic enough offense to support multiple pass catchers plus their robust rushing game from a fantasy perspective. Kirk and Murray have actually rekindled their chemistry over the past two games, with 12 completions and 170 receiving yards derived from 18 targets. Kirk will be Murray’s top target over these next few fantasy playoff weeks, elevating him to a high end WR3 / flex option in Hopkins’ absence. So, don’t hesitate to get Kirk into your lineups, and start him with confidence. His teammates Ertz and Green also get a bump with Hopkins out, with Ertz becoming a low end TE1 and Green a lower end flex option. 

Rapid Fire Pickups

Each week we’ll throw out potential free agent pickups from each position for deeper leagues, in each case a player 1) who has NOT been featured above, and 2) remains available in more than 50% of leagues.

QB:                  Jimmy Garappolo, SF (@ TEN)

RB:                  Ronald Jones, TB (@ CAR) *top add with Fournette likely out

RB:                  Ameer Abdullah, CAR (vs TB)

WR:                 Russell Gage, ATL (vs DET)

WR:                 Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET (@ ATL)

TE:                  Cole Kmet, CHI (@ SEA)


Bonus WR: Antonio Brown, TB*     


*Brown rostered in more than 50% of leagues, but if he’s available, he’s the top add at WR with Godwin out for the season.

Personal Note

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