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By Week 15 of the fantasy football season, if you're still playing, there's a fair chance that you're a veritable encyclopedia of NFL statistical knowledge, at least for the current year.

With so much data available, our takes just aren't as hot as they were back in the early part of the season. To the extent that we can safely expect anything in this game we all enjoy, our expectations are grounded in as large a sample size of 2017 football as we can hope for.

Sifting through the Week 14 slate, this Week's Target Risers column will focus on some of the biggest and/or most surprising target totals, and look for actionable intel. Maybe there's still a tidbit or two hiding beneath the surface.

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Rising Target Grabbers


Davante Adams (WR, GB) - 14 Targets

With 10 catches for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Adams had, statistically, his best performance of the year. This game also solidified the fact that he has, in limited action, been a better fantasy wide receiver with Brett Hundley under center than Aaron Rodgers in 2017. As a result, I've already fielded at least a handful of questions as to whether Adams's fantasy value might go down with Rodgers back at quarterback in Week 15 and beyond. Even if the answer to that question is yes, I can't envision a scenario where Adams doesn't crack your starting lineup.

Sweating a change from Brett Hundley to Aaron Rodgers for your fantasy wide receiver is a signature example of overthinking. Week 15's opponent, Carolina, has shown vulnerability to WRs of late, surrendering over 100 yards each to the pair of Jets WRs in Week 12, as well as over 100 to Adam Thielen on this past Sunday.

Michael Crabtree (WR, OAK) - 13 Targets

Despite what could fairly be called a complete meltdown by Derek Carr and the offense as a whole, Crabtree has managed to maintain a safe floor with double digit targets in four of his last seven, and double digit fantasy points in six of his last seven games finished.* Although Crabtree did almost nothing through three quarters of a blowout loss to the Chiefs in Week 14, he racked up seven catches for 60 yards and a two-point conversion to return low-end WR2 value once more.

He also saw teammate Amari Cooper suffer a setback to his injured ankle that figures to likely shelve him for what is a nice matchup on paper at home against a Cowboys defense surrendering the fifth most points to fantasy WRs. He's obviously Carr's red zone crutch target with a combined eight 'end zone catches' (6 TDs, 2 two-pointers) in just 11 games.* Fire him up confidently as a WR2. *For the purposes of this analysis, I'm excluding the game in which he was ejected in the first quarter.*

Marquise Goodwin (WR, SF) - 12 Targets

For the second straight week, Goodwin makes the list on the strength of a performance that was buoyed by volume rather than the big play ability for which he's become known. On this occasion, Goodwin hauled in six of Jimmy Garoppolo's 12 targets for 106 yards. The big plays could be coming, but the target volume goes a long way to stabilizing his floor. Home against Tennessee's defense in Week 15, there's no reason why Goodwin shouldn't return a useful fantasy line once more, with the opportunity to break a big play and win you your week.

Nelson Agholor and Torrey Smith (WRs, PHI) - 11 Targets Each

No analysis of Eagles pass-catchers can even begin before acknowledging the elephant in the room. Nick Foles is not Carson Wentz. While this duo did manage to each rack up over 100 yards receiving against the Rams on Sunday, the drop-off in quarterback play is a wildcard that relegates Agholor to WR3 territory, and Smith to the low-end flex neighborhood, both coming with significant risk (Alshon Jeffery is also a risky WR2 but probable start). On the other hand, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that once upon a time in 2013, Nick Foles threw 27 TD passes against just two interceptions in just 13 games, numbers that he has thus far failed to come within a mile of reproducing over the rest of his career. Still, he's being handed the keys to an offense that has become an absolute juggernaut in 2017.

Foles is a speculative add even in single quarterback leagues on upside alone, but I'd hesitate to bestow much trust in him, or really any of the receivers he's attached to, in my fantasy semifinal matchup, even with a decent matchup against the GMen on tap. Your interest should be piqued, but for Week 15, I'd seek safer options. At the risk of drifting too far afield, I'd make an exception for Zach Ertz or Trey Burton, considering the current state of the tight end position. Ertz would still be a must-start, and Burton would make a fine TE1 streamer in Ertz's absence.

Stefon Diggs (WR, MIN) - 10 Targets

The rapport between quarterback Case Keenum and wide receiver Adam Thielen has become the stuff of fantasy football 2017 legend. Diggs showed such tremendous promise in the season's first three games, racking up 293 yards and four touchdowns to boast, at Week 3's end, the number one fantasy point total among WRs for the season to date. As the season has progressed, however, Adam Thielen has seized control of the lion's share of Case Keenum's trust, as Diggs has battled injuries and struggled to stay afloat for fantasy purposes playing second fiddle. To that end, it was encouraging to see him finally return to the realm of double-digit targets, for the first time since Week 3.

Even though his six catch, 64 yard Week 14 effort was nothing to write home about, the volume is encouraging enough to at least keep him in the WR2 conversation for Week 15, even in a tough matchup against Cincinnati's defense allowing the third fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs for the season. He's not a must-start option for the fantasy semi-finals, but he's still very much in play if needed.

Dede Westbrook (WR, JAX) - 8 Targets

With 33 targets in his first four NFL games, Westbrook has seen his yardage total increase in each successive contest to begin his career, this week catching five passes for 81 yards and his first NFL touchdown. With the leaky Houston Texans secondary up next, Westbrook remains a viable, high-end WR3 start with plenty of upside to combine with his bankable volume. Westbrook has posted double-digit fantasy points in each of his last three games and looks to continue his upward trend in Week 15. He's also available in 65% of Yahoo leagues.



Theo Riddick (RB, DET) - 10 Targets

With Ameer Abdullah sidelined once again, Theo Riddick took on the Lion's share (pun intended) of the running back work for Detroit, and delivered in a big way, as the overall RB7 for Week 14. He only carried the ball 10 times for 29 yards, but he secured six of ten Matthew Stafford targets for 64 yards and rushed for a pair of touchdowns. After the game, head coach Jim Caldwell failed to endorse Abdullah as his starter going forward, even should he be healthy enough to give it a go in Week 15. The opportunity is there for Riddick to take on plenty of volume once again in a home date against the Bears in Week 15, making him a high-end flex option once more and he provided us with a fresh reminder of his RB1 upside in PPR.

Wayne Gallman (RB, NYG) - 9 Targets

Gallman made the "breakouts" list in this column two weeks ago, as I hypothesized that the Giants could give the rookie runner a longer look in what has become a lost season for the New York Giants. Gallman delivered a handsome 16.9 points in PPR formats on his way to an RB15 overall performance for the week. He'll get the Carson Wentz-less Eagles at home in Week 15. Should Nick Foles succeed in sustaining the Eagles dominance of the NFC in Week 15, the game script could turn negative for New York's running game, but Gallman proved that this wouldn't sink his fantasy value by catching seven of nine targets in a Week 14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys to go with 99 yards from scrimmage. He'll be a viable, if low-end, flex play for your fantasy semifinals.

Giovani Bernard (RB, CIN) - 8 Targets

It was easy enough to predict a featured role for Bernard in a 'last man standing' scenario against the Bears in Week 14. With Joe Mixon sidelined with a concussion, Bernard rushed 11 times for 62 yards and caught six of eight targets for 68 more. If Mixon can't go again in Week 15, Bernard will again be a volume based PPR RB2 even in a tough matchup at Minnesota.

Jamaal Williams (RB, GB) - 7 Targets

For the purposes of this write-up, I need not focus solely on the number of targets Williams saw in the passing game. Over the last three weeks, since Aaron Jones's MCL injury thrust Williams into a featured role, the latter has been fantasy's overall RB2 behind only Le'Veon Bell, rushing 14 times for 49 yards, and securing all seven targets for 69 more, to go with a touchdown each on the ground and through the air in Week 14.

I don't know how the offense might change with the return of Aaron Rodgers at QB, but as I said with respect to Davante Adams, there is no reason to concern yourself with any player on the Packers offense just because Hundley is being replaced by a hall of fame quarterback. Aaron Jones has taken a clear backseat to his fellow rookie backfield mate and there's no reason to expect that this trend will change anytime soon. Jamaal Williams is a high-end RB2 and borderline must-start, even in a tough matchup at the Carolina Panthers.



Jesse James (TE, PIT) - 12 Targets

On one hand, Jesse James's big night, in which he caught 10 passes for 97 yards, came in a game in which Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 66 times for 506 yards. On the other hand, given the state of the tight end position in 2017, it's hard to shake a stick at any emergent useful stat line unless one is lucky enough to have Gronk or Kelce on one's roster. James is probably best thought of as a DFS sleeper for Week 15 as the Steelers play host to an angry Pats team coming off of a surprising loss to the Dolphins on Monday night, but he's in play as a mid-range TE2 or desperation streamer for Week 15.

Eric Ebron (TE, DET) - 11 Targets

What if I was to tell you that there was a tight end, available in 68% of Yahoo leagues, that recorded at least 6.5 fantasy points in each of his last seven games? Is that something you might be interested in? (Credit to Bob Ryan, of Entourage, not Boston Globe fame). If so, Eric Ebron has been one of the safer floor options at the position over the last two months and was a huge part of Detroit's game plan in Week 14 catching 10 of 11 Matthew Stafford Targets for 94 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Next up is a home matchup against the division rival Chicago Bears in which you can at least expect something--- anything--- from Eric Ebron. If this sounds like faint praise, I will once again draw your attention to the pitiful state of the tight end position in 2017, even at the risk of wearing out the cliche.


Potential Week 15 Breakouts

Tarik Cohen (RB, CHI)

If you're waiting for a player to break out in Week 15, it's likely you're doing so from the low-leverage vantage of the consolation bracket. To that end, the options this week are either more widely owned than the range to which I ordinarily like to restrict this list or more of a longshot than I ordinarily feel comfortable endorsing. Owned in 55% of Yahoo leagues and carrying a very up and down fantasy point heat map for the season, Tarik Cohen is a little of both. Cohen is facing a team that he burned for 15.9 fantasy points in Week 11, has double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games, and is starting to see his usage stabilize after a midseason swoon. The Bears rookie's big play ability keeps him in play as a risk-reward flex and/or DFS punt option.

Mike Davis and JD McKissic (RBs, SEA)

Facing a Rams team allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing running backs, both of the young bucks in this backfield are at least worthy of a quick look in Week 15. Mike Davis has shown well in taking command of the early down work, with 31 carries over the team's last two games for 130 yards rushing to go with 5 catches for another 36 yards receiving. If he's healthy enough to give it a go in Week 15, he's a strong flex option that is still surprisingly available in 61% of Yahoo leagues. Though his outlook would be enhanced by Davis's absence, JD McKissic is also at least worth a look as a Hail Mary flier as he has also caught at least four balls in four of his last five games, and would become a reasonable flex option if Davis can't go.

Charles Clay (TE, BUF)

The Bills have been a shell of themselves since they messed with their quarterback Tyrod Taylor, by benching him for rookie Nathan Peterman against the Saints on November 12th, dropping three of their next four games after what, for a playoff contending team, was a truly shocking decision. It seems like forever ago that we were talking about Tyrod's rapport with Charles Clay making him a no-brainer top six fantasy tight end, but injuries to both players and a short-lived pivot to Peterman have conspired to leave our positive thoughts about Clay in our distant memory. Now we find ourselves in Week 15 and finally, we have a seemingly healthy Taylor, a healthy Clay, and a stage set for Clay to reprise his role as one of the go-to receivers in the Buffalo passing game. Clay is out there in 67% of leagues and deserves a look as a TE streamer in a favorable matchup against the Miami Dolphins.


More Week 15 Lineup Prep