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Here we go. Seems like just yesterday I was writing #TrendingNow to detail players who were up or down based on preseason performances. I was ready for Week 1 and just wanted the season to hurry up. Now all of the sudden we are headed into Week 13 and the season has flown bye. We have fought through injures, inconsistent play and one of the most bizarre seasons I can remember in recent years. It’s coming to an end quickly though and teams should be preparing for 2018.

Regardless if you are heading into the playoffs with a first round bye, squeaking in with a win next week or missing the playoffs completely, it’s important to keep an eye on players during the final weeks of the season. This is the time of year where young players are getting their shot.

Some owners have trouble looking at just small sample sizes. If they don’t see something for an entire season, they can’t buy into it. Young players who have a strong finish to the season can be building towards something bigger the next season. Even if it’s just a few games to end the season, find those trends and strike. Hope they move it over to a full season the next year. Don’t miss out on a player because four or six games of good numbers aren’t enough for you to buy in.

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Zay Jones (WR, BUF)

Just because I have Zay Jones on this portion of the list doesn’t mean I still don’t have concerns. In the preseason, I listed Jones as one of my top 10 rookies to make an impact this year, and that has not happened. The good news though, he hasn’t been overshadowed by many other rookie receivers this year. Jones is in one of those grey areas I typically try to stay away from. We have no idea who will be QB for the Bills next year, but it does appear it won’t be Tyrod Taylor. The Bills could hand the ball back to Nathan Peterman regardless of how bad his first outing was or they could take a QB in the draft. Who knows, maybe they will make a play for Kirk Cousins in free agency.

Taylor hasn’t been a bad QB so it is entirely possible that Jones ends up in a worse situation than he currently is. Taylor hasn’t been a great QB either, so it is entirely possible he ends up in a better situation then he currently is (glass half full or half empty type or person?) Time will only tell on that end. As far as Jones performance on the field though, he has looked excellent the past few weeks. From Week 1 till Week 7, Jones had seven catches for 83 yards and no touchdowns. He looked like a disappointment to start, but that happens when fantasy football owners are expecting quick returns from the WR position because of Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, Michael Thomas or Sterling Shepard. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for players to find a groove and become comfortable.

Since Week 7, Jones has been much better, putting up 16 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns. The performance has been lost in how big of a dumpster fire the Bills have become. The biggest talk from the organization has been more focused on the QB position, taking away from the performances Jones has been able to string together. To add to it, Jones has had 24 targets over the last three weeks as well. These numbers could get even higher as the Bills will play the Patriots and Colts the next two weeks. It is also important to note that the Bills have been involving Jones as he has led the team in snaps five times this year. So has the slow start been because of Jones? Or can it be attributed to game plans by the coaching staff or maybe Taylor just hasn’t found him open enough time?

Right now, Jones is playing out of position. He doesn’t have the speed to play on the outside and stretch the field. He does have the acceleration to separate at the line of scrimmage and find open field quickly. Honestly, we could be looking at a poor man’s Jarvis Landry in a year or so. Hopefully the move to bring in Kelvin Benjamin was part of the plan to move Jones back to the slot, which now will not happen till next year at earliest. Keep your eye on this guy during the offseason though. If he has a pedestrian finish to the season, you could catch his current owner in the selling mood. If he explodes over the next few weeks, which I find highly unlikely, he could be more expensive or may not be moved at all. Keep your eye on the Bills updates this offseason and if you catch hint of Jones moving back to the slot, strike quick.

Kenyan Drake (RB, MIA)

First came the trade of Jay Ajayi to the Eagles. A move that shocked almost everyone in the fantasy football community and sent owners to the waivers trying to snag up Damien Williams or Kenyan Drake. Moving forward now, Drake will be the lead back in Miami. Williams suffered a dislocated shoulder last weekend and could miss two or more weeks.

This is the chance for Drake to establish himself in Miami. He has been as a backup for a season plus now but the Dolphins will have a decision to make this offseason. Do they hand the keys over to Drake, sign a free agent or grab someone out of a draft loaded with talented running backs? Adam Gase loves fast, quick, agile running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield and be dynamic. This is probably the reason Miami decided to move Ajayi after an uneventful start to the season. Ajayi doesn’t profile like this, he is the north-south, hardnosed back that should be in a more traditional power run offense.

Drake fits the profile of a back Gase wants in his offense, but he needs help. Drake has ball security issues and even though he has averaged 5.1 yard per carry on 75 career carries, he is prone to all or nothing performances. But for the next five weeks, Drake is the guy and could gain or lose a lot of fantasy value. As an owner, you could try and move right away hoping that the Dolphins decide to stick with Drake. At this point, wait it out and see how the rest of the season goes and assess the situation. His stock can go up the closer we get to the season. If the Dolphins don’t take a back and they decide to resign Jarvis Landry, Drake fits right into a pretty decent offense that should be better with Ryan Tannehill back in 2018.



Cole Beasley (WR, DAL)

Cole Beasley enjoyed a breakout season in 2016. He was a great, late round flyer or waiver wire grab that provided good WR3/Flex numbers for owners in PPR leagues. Beasley finished with 75 catches on 98 targets for 833 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 11.1 yards per reception and 52.1 yards per game. Even in an offense with Ezekiel Elliot, Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, Beasley was able to carve out a significant role. It hasn’t been the same story this year however. Beasley’s numbers have been significantly down, averaging only 7.6 yards per reception and 19.5 yards per game.

The most alarming statistic to me is Beasley’s catch rate. He only has a 59.6% catch rate this year compared to a 71.2% career average. It would be easy to say Beasley is #TrendingDown because of these numbers but there is an even more crucial element to this, and that is Ryan Switzer. Switzer has done absolutely nothing in the passing game this year, but he is making his mark as an athletic, shifty player in the return game. Switzer was an All-American at North Carolina, setting a NCAA record for punt return touchdowns. He also has the most receptions in school history and is the first Tar Heel to record 1,000 return yards. Switzer had good numbers as a receiver at North Carolina, but it is his ability in the return game that caught the attention of league general managers.

Soon though, the Cowboys are going to ask Switzer to move into the same role that Beasley has recently filled at the slot position and Beasley will be out of town. Then the question would become, who does Beasley sign with? The Cowboys could cut ties this season and opt out of his current deal or keep him through 2018 before he becomes a free agent. At that time though, he will be 30 and I don’t see a whole lot of teams lining up at the door to make him a big part of the offense. Even if he does stay in Dallas another year, they will use Switzer more as he becomes comfortable in the offense. The time to sell Beasley was last offseason, so at this point, you can send him to your waiver wire in favor of someone else. Keep an eye on Switzer though. That’s a name you will want on your team in the near future.

James White (RB, NE)

This has to be one of my saddest and least favorite #TrendingDown sections I’ve had to write. Before the season started, and when the Mike Gillislee hype was at its high point, I told owners in PPR leagues to stay away and buy James White instead. After his record breaking Super Bowl performance, I thought for sure he had finally secured the trust of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It didn’t look to good to start as Gillislee got off to a hot start, but that didn’t last long. Gillislee and Rex Burkhead had troubles holding onto the football and Dion Lewis was being worked back slowly after back to back injury plagued seasons.

White benefitted from the sporadic playing time for other backs, averaging 5.37 catches and 45 receiving yards per game until the bye week. That doesn’t look like a lot, but in deeper PPR leagues, White was a reliable flex option with decent upside. Since the bye week though, Lewis has been seeing more playing time and Burkhead has found his way out of the doghouse. White only has four receptions for 13 yards the last three weeks. Unlike the others who had reasons for seeing a reduced workload, nothing had happened which suggested a reduced load for White.

White is also seeing year lows in snap counts. Three weeks ago White only played 16% of the teams snaps, that raised to 27% in Week 11 and 24% in Week 12. This is all we really know about New England running backs. You can never predict who will have the biggest games or see the most snaps. One time you are playing Gillislee, the next White and now you are trying to decide between Burkhead and Lewis. It’s almost certain to be someone else’s turn again soon.


More 2017 Dynasty League Strategy