The 2021 season has been one of the most frustrating in the history of fantasy football. COVID-19 had an impact last season in terms of forcing games to be shifted from one week to another and messing with lineups, but the NFL made it clear prior to the start of this season that, while there could be flexibility within a week to switch games (Tuesday Night Football was a thing again this year), if you had an outbreak, it would be on the individual organizations to play. This time around, the show must go on.
The balance of power shifted completely as outbreaks hit teams. Quarterbacks who had never started before made starts. Entire position rooms went down – it’s hard to win you start your third left tackle or fifth defensive end or cornerback.
Hopefully, by the beginning of the 2022 season, this global nightmare will finally be behind us, but a lot of fantasy owners have seen their seasons come to an abrupt end due to COVID. For those who weren’t able to dodge the loss of key players at key time, just know you weren’t alone.
Here is the Week 18 Fantasy Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
RB Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
Mitchell isn’t a surprise riser – he’s posted five 100-yard rushing games – but in his last four games has become a workhorse like no other back in the league. In those four games, he has 97 carries for 399 yards and has scored three touchdowns. If the 49ers get into the playoffs, which is a distinct possibility, if they’re able to control the ground game like they have with Mitchell, the 49ers will be a hard out in the postseason.
TE Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
There is always discussion about who will fill out the Tight End Mount Rushmore along with Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller – the accepted Big 3. Andrews has always been in consideration to be the fourth guy, but he has really stepped it up, especially in the last month. He has 99 catches for 1,276 yards and nine touchdowns, including five 100-yard games, but in the last month he may have cemented his spot. In his last four games, he has caught 35 passes for 465 yards and three touchdowns – planting his Mount Rushmore flag for next season.
WR Cyril Grayson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A guy who didn’t play college football, he only has 10 receptions, but has gained 212 yards, including a 62-yard catch and touchdown receptions of 33 and 50 yards. With Chris Godwin out due to injury and Antonio Brown gone altogether, somebody has to step up, and Grayson may well be that speed option by default. Tom Brady has a history of turning receivers into fantasy darlings, and Grayson could be the next in a long line of them.
RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler is a guy who is in fantasy lineups almost every week because he’s a poor man’s Alvin Kamara – or at least he was. He has just one 100-yard rushing game and hasn’t hit 70 receiving yards in a game, but it’s the body of work that matters here. He has scored 18 touchdowns (11 rushing, seven receiving), has a touchdown in each of his last six games and, over that six-game span, he has scored nine TDs. If you had Ekeler and didn’t win a fantasy championship, it wasn’t his fault. He gave you what you needed to be successful.
WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
Cooks has become a very poor man’s Davante Adams. Everyone knows the ball is coming his way, but he didn’t have Aaron Rodgers throwing it to him. He has 130 targets (next highest on the Texans is 53). He has 87 receptions (next highest is 30). He has 1,011 yards (next highest is 379). He has six TD receptions (next highest is three). When most would give up on him, over his last three games, he has 22 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns – stepping up for those who showed faith.
Fantasy Football Fallers
QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
His fantasy contribution as a rusher is negligible. What you get from him is passing yards and garbage-time touchdowns. That hasn’t happened this year, and it has gotten worse as time has gone by. The Falcons didn’t get in the QB run at the start of the draft and were willing to ride it out with Ryan – known for 300-yard games is losses. In his last eight games, he not only doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, Ryan has been under 200 in five of them, hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in any game, and has no touchdown passes in four contests. Those are the kind of stat lines you get from COVID replacements, not a guy who is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
He has been on this list before, but it has been because the expectations of a player of Elliott’s stature are pronounced. Unlike other running back disappointments, he has played in every game and never got benched in fantasy lineups. Scoring 12 touchdowns is great, but it has come with a price for a top-five pick. He has caught 46 passes, but they have gone for just 284 yards. He has 25 or fewer receiving yards in 13 games. What makes it an issue is that, in his last 10 games, his high for rushing yards is 52. Still in the heavy-lifting portion of his contract, this hasn’t been acceptable for some time. His stock for next year has a floor for the first time.
QB Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
Fantasy football doesn’t care if you win or lose. Guys like Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford have become fantasy gods by having a brutal defense that provides fluffed numbers late in games (the Roethlisberger Effect). Wentz has a reputation for being capable of posting solid numbers. In his first nine games, he threw two or more touchdowns in seven of them and found his way into a lot of fantasy lineups. In his last seven games, he has one or no TDs and has thrown for 180 or fewer yards in five of them. Those who bought in during the first half of the season have been forced to rethink their position. While his team has been successful, he has stunk out loud from the fantasy perspective.
WR D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
When the season started, it seemed like a lot of the same with Moore. Through his first four games, Moore caught 30 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns. That was when things were good. In 12 games, he has caught 56 passes for 672 yards and one touchdown. As bad as things have been, even those averages are above his last three games – 14 catches for 132 yards and no touchdowns. Moore was brought onto fantasy rosters with the knowledge that he was going to have issues at quarterback. But, he has had that before and thrived. This time around? Not so much.
QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lawrence came in with the can’t-miss franchise tag of a “can’t miss” prospect – the best since Andrew Luck, many postulated. In his first game, he threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns and the expectations suddenly went off the hook. In the 15 games since, he has thrown just seven touchdowns (with 14 interceptions) and has thrown for fewer than 230 yards in 11 of them. In his last 11 games, he has accounted for just four touchdowns. It’s not his fault that the Jaguars are extremely limited talent-wise, but four touchdowns in 11 games is something you expect from a marginal tight end, not the No. 1 overall pick.