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Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement. The same goes for fantasy football, and managing rosters effectively is key to winning that championship.

Throughout the season, players get hot and see an increased role while others struggle and fight to stay relevant. Experienced fantasy players know this happens every year. In this weekly column, we’ll showcase those who have taken important steps forward and those who have taken steps back.

These are the key fantasy risers and fallers heading into Week 14 of the NFL season.

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Week 14 Risers

*I will try not to make this column entirely Chiefs. No promises though.

Alex Smith (QB, KC)

"From the ashes, we will rise." Alex Smith had been left for dead on fantasy rosters. He was probably a loss away from losing his job to Patrick Mahomes. Oh wait, the Chiefs did lose! Smith is safe though as it certainly wasn't even slightly his fault. Smith was the overall QB1 by a large margin last week, finally coming out of the shell he had crawled into for the past month and a half. Smith threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns, all of which were deep shots to his two best players, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. It is still hard to trust Smith, especially in the first week of the playoffs, but he once again proved he is not the problem on this team when he chooses not to be.

Tyreek Hill (WR, KC)

That's two straight Chiefs we're starting with. Tyreek Hill has to be here. He led all wide receivers in fantasy scoring while posing he best game of his career (6-185-2). He threw up the deuces twice from distance against the helpless Jets secondary. Even though the Chiefs lost the game, the decision to get Andy Reid away from play calling certainly paid off. Hill now has 27 targets over his past three games. He is going to finish as a WR1. Hopefully he gets you a title in the process.

Rex Burkhead (RB, NE)

Interestingly enough, Rex Burkhead actually finished third in snaps last week. The reason that's not a problem is that Burkhead has entrenched himself as the goal line back. Being the goal line back for an offense that finds itself in the red zone quite frequently is a fast track to RB2 value. That's exactly what Burkhead has discovered. He has double digit carries in three of his last four and has scored at least once in three of his last four. Burkhead has league winning potential here.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG)

I forewent the third Chief to give Evan Engram some love. Engram had been struggling the past two weeks with a whole medley of issues (drops, miscommunication, bad luck). He responded emphatically last week with his best game of the season. He fell a yard short of 100, but he caught seven out of his eight targets and a late touchdown. He did all of this with Geno Smith under center. Eli Manning will be back his week and Engram had been just fine with Manning the majority of the season. Engram needs a healthy Sterling Shepard to take away some of the coverage and he got that last week. The Cowboys are getting Sean Lee back, but they are still an exploitable defense for Engram to build upon last week's performance.


Week 14 Fallers

Matthew Stafford (QB, DET)

For four consecutive weeks, Matthew Stafford's fantasy production has decreased. He hit rock bottom this past week when he was forced to exit early with a hand/finger injury. It would be a true shame if he were forced to miss this week's cupcake matchup against the Bucs, but Stafford's play has been declining for weeks now.

Mike Evans (WR, TB)

Two catches? Two! When you are supposed to be an elite WR, you can't have games like this, let alone two of them. Evans Only caught one of six targets when the Bucs last played the Saints and now he's posted two receptions on six targets against the Packers. Evans was a consensus first round pick, but has performed like anything but. A week 14 matchup against Big Play Slay is not the remedy.

Jordan Howard (RB, CHI)

Jordan Howard's seven carry six yard effort against the Eagles is excusable as the Eagles have the league's best rushing defense. Howard's 13 carry 38 yard effort against the 49ers is not. Howard has six games with single digit fantasy points, including three of his last four. The man was a second round pick. His floor is scary low. With the Bears projected to trail much of the next two weeks, game script is not in Howard's favor as we head into the most important weeks of the year.

Zach Ertz (TE, PHI)

Two catches on four targets for 24 yards and one concussion. It was not a pretty Sunday night for Zach Ertz, who is now in serious jeopardy of missing a crucial week 14 showdown with the Rams that is immensely important for both the Eagles and fantasy owners. Ertz has now been completely useless for four of the past five weeks. Now, this is largely not his fault as he was injured, on bye, merely posted a dud, and then injured again. Nevertheless, it's not the type of elite production we've come to expect from Ertz. If Ertz can't go, just pick up Trey Burton and start him.


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