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Top Fantasy Football Performers: Derrick Henry, Lamar Jackson, More Week 15 Highlights

Dec 17, 2018 9:00 PM EST
Credit:

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Derrick Henry, Lamar Jackson

  • Check out the top fantasy football performers from Week 15, including Matt Ryan and Davante Adams.
  • Derrick Henry balled out for the second time in two weeks and should prove himself again with a favorable Week 16 matchup.
  • Lamar Jackson continued to demonstrate his unparalleled rushing upside in the Ravens' win over the Bucs.

Before we move on to Week 16, let’s break down some key fantasy football performances from Week 15.

Sunday featured double-digit victories for the Titans, Bengals, Falcons, Vikings and Colts plus a season-saving victory for the Steelers over the Patriots and rushing late-game losses for the Seahawks, Lions and Jaguars.

The following players were the brightest stars at their positions this week.

Fantasy Quarterback of the Day: Matt Ryan

The Falcons haven’t had the season most imagined they would, but Matt Ryan has continuously demonstrated a sky-high fantasy ceiling. Ryan (seven games) trails only Patrick Mahomes (10) in games with at least 25 DraftKings points.

Ryan hasn’t duplicated his 2016 MVP campaign, but he’s still managed to set career-best marks in completion rate (70.5%), pass yards per game (313.5) and interception rate (1.2%). The Falcons’ franchise quarterback didn’t even need to be at his best Sunday, as his 231 yards and two touchdowns through the air were bolstered by an additional 18 rushing yards and another score on the ground.

Tevin Coleman (11 carries-145 yards-1 TD) and Julio Jones (6 receptions-82 yards-1 TD) each balled out against an over-matched Cardinals defense.

Ryan (8) joins Philip Rivers (9), Tom Brady (9), Drew Brees (12) and Peyton Manning (14) atop the all-time leaderboard for most seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards.

Ryan has chipped in a career-high three rushing touchdowns in 2018, enabling him to post the second-best fantasy season of his career.

Fantasy Running Back of the Day: Derrick Henry

The Titans have morphed into the Derrick Henry show for the better part of the last two weeks:

  • Henry in Weeks 1-13: 128 carries, 474 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, 5 TDs
  • Henry in Weeks 14-15: 50 carries, 408 yards, 8.2 YPC, 6 TDs

Sunday’s performance seemed to indicate a true changing of the guard with Henry out-snapping Dion Lewis for the first time since Week 3. Overall, Lewis played a season-low 23 snaps while Henry was on the field for 49-of-67 snaps.

It’s tough to deny that Henry has proven plenty capable of thriving in the modern NFL with his unique blend of size and athleticism.

Next week’s matchup against the Redskins’ 25th-ranked defense in Football Outsiders’ rush DVOA could lead to more big plays for the Titans’ monstrous running back.

Fantasy Wide Receiver of the Day: Davante Adams

The Packers weren’t able to stop the Bears from clinching the NFC North, but Davante Adams continued to make his case as the league’s most matchup-proof receiver by catching 8-of-13 targets for 119 yards and a two-point conversion against the league’s best defense against No. 1 wide receivers entering Week 15.

Adams has caught a touchdown and/or gained at least 100 receiving yards in 28 of his 37 games (76%) with Aaron Rodgers under center over the past three seasons. He needs just two more total targets over the next two weeks to surpass Jordy Nelson as Rodgers’ most-targeted receiver in a single season.

The Packers’ undisputed No. 1 receiver is tied with Antonio Brown with a league-high 34 receiving touchdowns since 2016. Adams is the only player in the league with double-digit touchdowns during each of the past three seasons.

The Packers will travel to New York to take on the Jets in Week 16 before finishing their season at home against the Lions. It remains to be seen whether Adams and Rodgers will continue to play a full allotment of snaps with the Packers eliminated from playoff contention, but Adams has already set or tied career-high marks in receptions (100), yards (1,315) and touchdowns (12).

Fantasy Tight End of the Day: Evan Engram

The Giants’ 2017 first-round pick has disappointed for most of his second season, but Engram managed to rack up a position-high 15.5 DraftKings points in Week 15.

Still, Engram’s status as the main slate’s highest-scoring tight end is more of an indictment on the position’s poor performance on Sunday. Engram caught eight of his team-high 12 targets for 75 scoreless-yards during the Giants’ shutout loss to the Titans.

The good news was Engram also out-snapped blocking tight end Rhett Ellison 45 to 28, indicating that the Giants are looking to feature Engram more while Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) is sidelined.

Engram has a team-high 17 targets with OBJ sidelined over the past two weeks, but Sterling Shepard (15) and Saquon Barkley (15) have been just as involved. Everyone in the offense will continue to carry a scary-low floor as long as Eli Manning doesn’t have his No. 1 receiver to bail him out.

The Vikings Decided to Run the D*mn Ball

Former quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski helped lead the Vikings to a season-high 41 points (which included a pick-six) in his first game as offensive coordinator.

There are a number of fantasy-relevant takeaways from this performance”

  • Kirk Cousins threw a season-low 21 passes. This marked just his second game all season with fewer than 30 pass attempts.
  • Dalvin Cook out-snapped Latavius Murray, 42 to 27.
  • Stefon Diggs (7 targets) was easily the offense’s No. 1 receiver.
  • Kyle Rudolph (3), Tyler Conklin (3), Adam Thielen (2), Aldrick Robinson (2) and Cook (2) were the only other Vikings with more than one target.

Cook demonstrated some breathtaking ability in the open field that should be put to plenty of use in the Vikings’ chase for the playoffs.

Of course, a home matchup against the Dolphins’ 24th-ranked defense in overall DVOA was about as perfect of a get-right spot as the offense could have asked for. The good news is that next week’s trip to Detroit shouldn’t yield a significantly tougher opponent.

The Colts Are Rolling

The Colts have followed up their brutal 6-0 loss to the Jaguars in Week 13 with two impressive victories over the Texans (24-21) and Cowboys (23-0). The latter featured an impressive return to form for the ground game against the Cowboys’ fourth-ranked defense in rush DVOA.

Overall, Marlon Mack converted 27 carries into a career-high 139 yards (5.2 YPC) and a pair of touchdowns.

Their strong performance running the ball coincided with the return of starting center Ryan Kelly, who was sidelined with a knee injury from Weeks 12-14. Mack has averaged 5.04 yards per carry in seven games with Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 overall center compared to just 3.91 in three games without Kelly this season.

Sunday marked the first time all season that Andrew Luck finished without a touchdown and fewer than 200 passing yards. They dominated the streaking Cowboys behind a bruising rushing attack and suffocating defense. Both units are arguably the best of Luck’s career, and Coach of the Year candidate Frank Reich has expertly put his players in positions to succeed all season.

Captain Luck and the Colts will once again wage war inside the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium  against the Giants’ wilting defense next week.

Lamar Jackson Szn Is Here

There was some concern that the Ravens would utilize a two-quarterback system with Joe Flacco back in the lineup, but Jackson continued to work as the undisputed starting quarterback on Sunday and was on the field for every snap.

Jackson again underwhelmed as a passer by completing just 14-of-23 passes (61%) for 131 yards (5.7 Y/A) and a touchdown, but he also continued to demonstrate unparalleled rushing upside for the position.

Jackson’s 566 rushing yards trail only Cam Newton (706) and Robert Griffin III (815) among all rookie quarterbacks in NFL history. Incredibly, it took Newton and Griffin 1,035 and 982 snaps to achieve this, respectively, while Jackson has racked up his gaudy total on just 446 snaps.

Mobile quarterbacks such as Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky pick up the majority of their yards on improvised scrambles, but Jackson holds a higher floor than either with a high percentage of his yardage coming on designed runs.

Next week’s road date against the Chargers’ 16th-ranked defense in rush DVOA could be Jackson’s toughest test yet after facing the Bengals (28), Raiders (27), Falcons (31), Chiefs (32) and Buccaneers (30) over his first five starts.

The Steelers Finally Beat the Patriots Again

The Steelers beat the Patriots 14-10 on Sunday afternoon — the first time Ben Roethlisberger and Co. have defeated Bill Belichick’s evil empire since 2011.

The victory produced an unlikely hero in rookie Jaylen Samuels, who converted 19 carries into 142 yards while also catching both of his targets for an additional 30 yards.

No. 2 back Stevan Ridley has just eight total touches over the past two weeks, as Samuels has worked as the Steelers’ undisputed lead back during James Conner’s (ankle) absence. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Conner should be back for the Steelers’ Week 16 matchup against the Saints.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (4-40-0) and Antonio Brown (4-49-1) were each held fewer than 50 receiving yards for the first time since Week 4 of last season. This was surprising considering they carried a strong -0.57 correlation in DraftKings points going into Sunday (per our Pro Models), meaning that we usually see one or the other ball out instead of both or neither.

It remains to be seen whether this version of the Steelers has what it takes to return to the Super Bowl, but they’re at least moving in the right direction again after snapping their three-game losing streak.

Hurt in Battle and Returning Soldiers

There were plenty of key injuries on both sides of the ball this week. We won’t know more about Week 15 availability until later in the week, but the following skill-position players will certainly be worth monitoring:

  • Aaron Jones, RB, Packers (knee)
  • Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals (knee)
  • Frank Gore, RB, Dolphins (ankle)
  • Ito Smith, RB, Falcons (knee)
  • Marcus Murphy, RB, Bills (arm)
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