10 Fantasy Football Thoughts: Taysom Hill proves Sean Payton right, for now

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) carries past Atlanta Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen (37), defensive end Steven Means (55) and defensive end Charles Harris (92) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (Butch Dill/AP)

Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t actually know how good your fantasy team is? You have spike weeks where it looks like a world beater and then the following week it looks like a roster full of high school players?

Been there, done that, got that T-shirt.

In a year where unthinkable things are happening, it’s OK to feel that way. Unless you are absolutely running away with a league, it feels as though anything could happen. Who could have predicted any of the things we have seen?

If I told you that you would be in contention and starting guys like Kalen Ballage, Salvon Ahmed, Gio Bernard and Taysom Hill would have been a good idea heading last week, you would have had me committed. Yet here we are in the 2020 fantasy season where the crazy and unpredictable stuff is commonplace.

1. An apology about Taysom Hill

I was absolutely convinced that Jameis Winston was going to start for the New Orleans Saints in Week 11, so apologies to anyone that picked him up on waivers.

I’m not the biggest Taysom Hill fan – as you’d be able to tell from my Twitter timeline – but he showed up in his first career NFL start against the Falcons with 233 passing yards, 51 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. The biggest thing for me was that he took care of the ball and didn’t turn it over.

We should reiterate that he did this against the Falcons. It was undoubtedly an impressive performance, but is there any cause for concern?

There’s always going to be some worry with a guy like Hill, who barely has any NFL experience under centre. But, on the bright side, his schedule isn’t so bad.

With the Broncos, Falcons, Eagles, Chiefs and Vikings on the docket, things are looking promising. None of those defences put all that much fear into opponents and, with Hill’s rushing ability, there’s a possibility that he’s a top-12 option until Drew Brees returns from injury.

In some leagues, Hill has tight-end eligibility. If that’s the case in your league and he isn’t already rostered, you should go out and get him right now.

It’s 2020, so it would make sense that Taysom Hill has the opportunity to be a league winner.

2. This is a James Robinson appreciation post

Sometimes you get lucky and find a diamond in the rough. With the Jaguars, the more fitting saying may be that even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut.

James Robinson is that nut.

The undrafted running back out of Illinois State has been incredible considering the circumstances in Jacksonville this year and has put himself in the conversation for offensive rookie of the year.

Watching him run this past weekend against one of the best rush defences in the NFL in the Steelers really makes you wonder how he went undrafted. It was his eighth game out of 10 in which he has surpassed the 90-scrimmage yard mark, which is impressive given how futile the Jaguars offence has been.

Robinson is just more proof that sometimes all you need is an opportunity to shine in order to help others win their fantasy football leagues.

3. Joe Burrow’s potential record-setting season comes to an end

You never like to see a player suffer a devastating injury, but you really don’t like to see it when they were on a potentially record-breaking pace like Joe Burrow was.

The first-overall pick in this year’s draft was on pace to break Andrew Luck’s rookie yards record and might have even finished as a top-12 quarterback with the schedule the Bengals finish up with. It seemed like he was really starting to mesh with his receivers and looking comfortable with life in the NFL, despite dreadful offensive line play.

From a fantasy perspective, with Burrow done for the year, don’t rush out to grab the Bengals starter – whoever that may be. I don’t care how desperate you are.

All of the Bengals offensive players will take a hit to their fantasy numbers going forward, especially Tee Higgins and A.J. Green.

The Bengals have once again turned into the Bungles, so maybe not all things are unnatural in 2020.

4. Tyreek Hill has changed the WR narrative

There was a time when smaller receivers wouldn’t be considered an alpha wide receiver. They were either slot guys or strictly deep threats that carried a boom-or-bust label.

Tyreek Hill has changed that line of thinking.

Through 11 weeks, Hill is WR1 in standard scoring and WR2 in PPR scoring, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering his similar finishes in 2018, but the consistency in which he’s finding the end zone in 2020 has helped push him to a new level.

He’s not on pace to beat his career best in yards, but his targets per game is slightly up from that career year in 2018, he should easily surpass his career high of 12 receiving touchdowns and barring injury will be a top-three wide receiver again.

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) runs into the end zone for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (David Becker/AP)

Hill’s play over the last four games has been electric. He’s amassed 48 targets, 30 receptions, 368 yards and six touchdowns. Over the last four weeks (three games played), he has the best points per game among wide receivers and the fourth-highest points per game total among all fantasy players with at least three games played.

He has paved the way for youngsters like Jalen Reagor and Henry Ruggs to be taken in the first round of this year’s draft as every team looks for its own Tyreek Hill.

5. Time to take a page out of Matt Patricia’s playbook?

I’m being just a tad bit facetious with the headline here, but since Matt Patricia figured out that he needed to get more touches for D’Andre Swift, Colts coach Frank Reich and Ravens coach John Harbaugh also seem to have figured that out with their rookie running backs.

Let’s start with J.K. Dobbins in Baltimore.

Imagine using a second-round pick on a running back, one who was very successful at Ohio State, and not giving him a substantial workload in an offence that thrives on running the ball. That’s the situation we have here.

But maybe we’ve seen a breakthrough.

Dobbins played 63 per cent of snaps on Sunday, which led the Ravens backfield by a large margin, handled 15 carries for 71 yards and added two catches for 15 yards, while no other back surpassed 20 per cent of the snap share. In the two games where Dobbins has been given 15 carries, he has averaged 6.1 yards per carry and 0.5 touchdowns, so could you imagine the fantasy implications if they just let him be the bell-cow back?

In Indianapolis, Jonathan Taylor is seemingly in a similar situation.

In six games where Taylor has 12 or more carries, he averages 4.25 yards per carry compared to 2.51 yards per carry when he gets 11 carries or less.

Like in Baltimore, maybe we might be seeing a shift. Taylor played 56 per cent of snaps for the Colts against Green Bay, 23 per cent higher than Nyheim Hines and 45 per cent higher than Jordan Wilkins.

It has been a bit of a sloppy start to Taylor’s career but, like Dobbins, maybe he thrives on getting more touches. Both Taylor and Dobbins are also both adept pass catchers and their teams would be better served to let these guys loose. And so would your fantasy teams.

6. Aaron Jones – Not Your Typical RB1

Matt LaFleur likes the idea of the Packers being a run-first team and so does anyone who is rostering Aaron Jones – except for the fact Jones has to make the most of fewer opportunities than other RB1s.

Jones sits seventh in both standard and PPR scoring despite having missed two games, which is pretty incredible despite the mess of injuries we have seen across the league.

There is something to be said about how Jones takes advantage of his playing time, as well. He does receive a very healthy number of touches (averages around 18 per game) but sees the field way less than his contemporaries who rank above him in fantasy scoring.

Here’s something I found pretty interesting when looking at Jones and those who have scored more at the running back position this season:

Dalvin Cook: 7 of 9 games with a snap share above 63 per cent
Derrick Henry: 5 of 10 games with a snap share above 63 per cent
James Robinson: 7 of 10 games with a snap share above 63 per cent
Josh Jacobs: 6 of 10 games with a snap share above 63 per cent
Ezekiel Elliott: 9 of 10 games with a snap share above 63 per cent
Aaron Jones: 1 of 8 games with a snap share above 63 per cent

If Jones is putting up the numbers he is with that kind of snap share, what would he do if he was on the field more? As we know, being on the field more should result in more opportunities. What if he were to get 20-plus touches every week?

Jones is averaging 1.1 points per touch, so who wouldn’t want an extra four to six fantasy points on their team?

7. The apple of Tom Brady’s eye

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone seeing how Tom Brady lobbied to bring in Antonio Brown, but the future Hall of Fame quarterback has looked for the former All-Pro wideout early and often in the last two games as Brown gets re-acquainted with being back on the football field.

Brown has 21 targets in his last two games and the rest of the fantasy schedule sets up for a lot of work for the passing game with matchups against the Chiefs, Vikings, Falcons and Lions. This should mean plenty of work for Brown.

This past week’s game against the Rams resulted in 13 targets and eight catches for 57 yards. While these are good PPR numbers and the floor seems to be really solid, in standard leagues you’re going to need Brown to find the end zone.

The concern might be that, through three games, Brown only has one target inside the 10 while Mike Evans has 13 targets and Rob Gronkowski has seven targets inside the 10 this season.

Brady seems to be a creature of habit and it might mean that if Brown is going to get into the end zone, it’s going to be on a deep ball or a rare target inside the 10.

Needless to say, it does look like Brown is back and has definitely shown enough to warrant a spot in your lineup.

8. Confirmed: Bill O’Brien was holding Deshaun Watson back

We all know that Bill O’Brien was slowly evolving into the offence killer in Houston and his dismissal is proving to be the best thing that happened to the Texans offence, specifically Deshaun Watson.

In the first four weeks of the season under O’Brien, Watson was QB13, which is a really low number for such a dynamic player. For reference, Watson has finished no lower than fifth in fantasy scoring in any of the two full seasons that he’s played in.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) flexes as he celebrates scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Houston. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Since O’Brien’s firing, Watson is fourth in fantasy scoring behind Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, which has to mean the former coach was, in fact, a real offence killer.

What has that meant for the pass catchers?

Brandin Cooks is WR13 in standard and WR11 in PPR scoring and Will Fuller is WR16 in standard and WR17 in PPR scoring. In short, Watson is supporting two WR2s in that timeframe.

There are some very good matchups coming up, including the Lions this week and the Bengals in Week 16, but the real tests come with the Colts twice and Bears once sandwiched in between those two games.

Does Watson have it takes to continue on this pace? With Bill O’Brien gone, I’ll take my chances.

9. Has Damien Harris cemented himself as “the guy” in New England?

The Patriots have always liked the idea of running the rock, but it’s been a while since they’ve had a guy that dominates carries and does it with success. With Sony Michel on the shelf, Damien Harris has been that guy.

Michel did average 4.5 yards per carry in his rookie year, in which he ran 209 times, but last season he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry on 247 totes. While it’s still early for Harris, he’s averaging an outstanding 5.4 yards per carry on 96 carries and 63 of those have come in the last four games.

It came as a bit of a surprise that the Patriots drafted Harris in the third round in 2019 after selecting Michel in the first round the previous year, then proceeded to basically redshirt Harris in his rookie year, but it seems to have paid off.

He’s not a horrible pass catcher but doesn’t offer much in PPR formats (although he could get a bit of a bump with Rex Burkhead out). However, he should be starting as an RB2 or Flex play going forward until there’s evidence that Sony Michel is going to eat into Harris’s workload.

10. The Weekly “Mike Tolbert Vulture Awards”

This is becoming my favourite part of this weekly article and I hope you’re enjoying the “Mike Tolbert Vulture Awards” as much as I am.

Here are your Week 10 winners:

Dan Arnold, Arizona Cardinals

The wide receiver-turned-tight end snagged one of two targets for a four-yard score for the Cardinals in their loss to the Seahawks. No tight end has been fantasy viable in Kliff Kingsbury’s offence thus far in the NFL and this year is no different. In other words, you were more likely to start Dan Aykroyd than Dan Arnold.

Keke Coutee, Houston Texans

Coutee was once a breakout candidate for the Texans after his rookie year, but that train got derailed because of drops and injuries. But Coutee found the end zone with a six-yard touchdown catch this weekend after being thrust into action thanks to injuries to Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills. It was Coutee’s first touchdown grab since Week 2 of the 2018 season.

Jason Witten, Las Vegas Raiders

It’s hard to give this award to a guy who is a future Hall of Famer, but at this point in his career we know what Witten is. He did, however, turn in the perfect line of one catch for one yard and one touchdown.

Don’t forget to check out Matt’s “Love ‘Em, Leave ‘Em” picks for the weekend games on Twitter @MattSN590 every Friday.

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