Who is still alive? Last week saw tons of fantasy football teams end their season. Whether it was in the first round of the playoffs, or a season-ending loss before the postseason began, many teams set their lineups for the last time last week. Those that survived are the smartest, the most dedicated, and sometimes just the luckiest (if they started Derrick Henry). But whatever the reason, none of them got where they are by just sitting on the players they have. They stayed vigilant, watching players that could be worth an add each week. Here are some that might help bring home a championship.
Week 15 Fantasy Football Watch List Featuring Zach Zenner
There was a time when Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner was getting some buzz as a rookie. But it was the same year that Ameer Abdullah was drafted, and he found himself in a crowded backfield that also included Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. Already facing an uphill battle as an undrafted free agent signing, Zenner has struggled to stay healthy in his career. Most recently, he broke his back during the final preseason game and was subsequently waived from injured reserve.
With Kerryon Johnson injured and Ameer Abdullah cut, Zenner is finally getting his chance. Still, even after Johnson went down, Zenner played behind LeGarrette Blount until recently. Blount looked great in his first game filling in for Johnson, racking up 88 yards and two touchdowns on Thanksgiving against the Chicago Bears. Since then, however, he has been trending downward, managing only 33 yards last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Zenner came in later in that game and gave the Lions a spark they needed to secure the victory. On just as many touches as Blount last week, Zenner gained 54 yards and scored a touchdown. The thing to watch here is the health of Johnson. If he returns, Zenner will be a nonfactor. However, there are rumblings that Johnson may end up being shut down in a lost season for Detroit. If that happens, and Zenner’s workload continues to increase this week, he could be startable for the fantasy championship.
As far as wide receivers go, Carolina Panthers wideout Curtis Samuel could be an option in the fantasy playoffs. Samuel has become more involved in the offense since Devin Funchess’s injury. Funchess has been quarterback Cam Newton’s go-to target since Kelvin Benjamin went down, but he isn’t very dynamic, getting by mostly on volume alone. Samuel is much speedier and has a higher ceiling.
Even with Funchess back in the lineup the past two weeks, Samuel’s role has actually increased. He’s seen at least seven targets in three of the past four games. He also has gone two straight games with over 80 yards. Samuel’s issue is that those were the only games where he had more than five targets all season. He has a potential to fade back into oblivion.
However, with two important divisional games coming up, and in the midst of a losing streak, it is do or die time for the Panthers. The next weeks have Carolina taking on the New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons. Both games could see fireworks as the Panthers try to keep their playoff hopes alive. Watch Samuel’s role this week, as he could be streamable for week 16.
Sticking with the Panthers, those that need help at tight end should take a look at Ian Thomas this weekend. Greg Olsen has been Newton’s favorite target for years, so there has been a huge void since he has been gone. For the past two games at least, the rookie Thomas has started to come on strong.
He started with a five-catch day week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then improved to nine catches for 77 yards last week against the Cleveland Browns. On the season, Thomas has secured 25 of 33 targets, a pretty reliable number for a rookie tight end. This means that if Newton keeps throwing to him, he will likely produce.
Admittedly, it is risky for team owners to put their faith in a first-year player with next to no production up to this point. However, fortune favors the bold, and at this point in the season, only about half of team owners in most leagues have a reliable tight end anyway. If Thomas sees enough action next week, he will be worth consideration to help bring home the championship to the brave teams that start him.
Redux: Damien Williams
The final redux of the season focuses back on Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams. Williams was featured in last week’s watch list, noting how even though he played behind Spencer Ware, Williams was the more effective of the two. This was not the case last week, but there is still good reason to keep an eye on Williams.
Williams only totaled 30 yards on 12 touches but did manage to find the end zone twice. Ware looked much better than he did against the Oakland Raiders in his first start. He totaled almost 130 yards from scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens, the top-ranked run defense in the NFL. The issue though, is that Ware is banged up. He didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday and is considered day to day.
If Ware can’t go, it would give Williams an immediate shot to take the starting job. Obviously, he would start Thursday, but a good performance could keep him readily involved even when Ware comes back. Still, the situation with him makes starting him in the championship an extremely risky play. Even Williams does well, more than likely he gets relegated back to a backup role week 16.
The only way he is startable is if Ware can’t go for the rest of the fantasy playoffs.
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