Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Remember when the Seattle Seahawks spent a first-round pick on a running back, only to sideline him in favour of a back they drafted in the seventh round the year before? I’m willing to bet Rashaad Penny does.
Penny took over for Chris Carson this Sunday after Carson lost his fourth fumble of the season — his eight total fumbles are now tied for the most among running backs since Adrian Peterson’s nine in 2008. Before the half, Carson handled five carries to Penny’s four. After the half, the Seahawks let Penny roll with it, giving him 10 carries to Carson’s 3. It seemed pretty clear that the Seahawks were fed up with Carson’s fumbling, and it may be time for them to let another back lead the backfield.
Penny was hyper-efficient with his touches, breaking off an impressive 58-yard touchdown run on which he hit 20.78 miles per hour per Next Gen Stats and eventually finishing the game with 129 rushing yards on 14 attempts. While it’s not certain what this backfield will look like going forward — head coach Pete Carroll has always been a little difficult to pin down — Penny is now in the conversation for the starting role. That’s a valuable role for fantasy football, as Carson has shown us for the first 11 weeks of the season.
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Detroit Lions
If you didn’t add Bo Scarbrough after his surprising breakout last week, make sure you consider him again this week. Scarbrough has now handled 32 carries over the past two weeks, and that’s going to be good enough for a lot of fantasy rosters.
Scarbrough racked up 98 yards on 18 carries in the Detroit Lions surprising loss to Washington, out-pacing teammates Ty Johnson (4) and J.D. McKissic (1) by a significant margin on the ground. Unfortunately, Bo doesn’t add much in the passing game and was virtually a non-factor in that role last week. While the other backs on the team each earned multiple targets, Scarbrough was targeted just once on a play where he was clearly not supposed to be a real option.
Still, 18 carries is no joke — that number tied for tenth in the league among running backs. That’s an enviable workload, and it’s probably available on your waiver wire if you need it. The Lions are clearly missing Matthew Stafford and want to duke it out on the ground until he gets back — if he comes back at all — and Bo Scarbrough is their best option for executing that plan.
Benny Snell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
In somewhat surprising news, it seems that Benny Snell Jr. has jumped Jaylen Samuels on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back depth chart. While Samuels has filled in for the injured James Conner before, it was Snell who convincingly looked like the lead running back in Week 12.
Fresh off of a knee injury that had him sidelined since Week 8, Snell handled a huge workload in his return. His 21 carries were tied for the fourth-most among running backs in Week 12, while his 98 rushing yards tied Scarbrough for sixth. He out-touched Samuels 22 to 5 over the course of the game, while Trey Edmunds took a definitive backseat with just 2 carries.
It’s not clear when James Conner will return this season, but it seems like Snell will have the majority of the running back opportunities until he does. The Steelers are unlikely to make the playoffs this season — though their quarterback change could be seen as an improvement — and have no need to rush Conner back from his nagging shoulder injury.
James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Sticking with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a moment, it would seem — fingers crossed — that James Washington has finally made it. The massively-productive college receiver and Biletnikoff award-winner had been truly disappointing to start his NFL career, but he took an impressive step in the right direction in Week 12.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster sidelined and Diontae Johnson missing most of the week’s practices heading into Sunday’s game, Washington stepped up as the team’s top wideout. He finished the game with 98 receiving yards and a touchdown, catching 3 of his team-high 7 targets in the process.
What’s worth noting is that most of Washington’s production came after the Steelers benched quarterback Mason Rudolph in favour of Devlin Hodges. The change at the quarterback position could buoy the Steelers’ receivers a little bit for fantasy, and Washington’s splash-play ability could greatly benefit without Rudolph’s penchant for throwing it as close to the line of scrimmage as possible.
YAC/Reception, 2019 WR leaders
1. Mecole Hardman – 12.2
2. Marquise Brown – 7.2
3. Cooper Kupp – 7.0
4. Deebo Samuel – 6.9
5. Golden Tate – 6.8
6. Sammy Watkins – 6.5
7. A.J. Brown – 6.5
8. Alex Erickson – 6.2
Source – @pfref
— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) November 20, 2019
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t play in Week 12, but make sure not to forget about Mecole Hardman before they return next week.
Hardman has been truly impressive for a rookie. The speedy young wideout — who has 2 of the 10 fastest plays measured this season according to Next Gen Stats — has done his best Tyreek Hill impression on the field this year, making splashy plays when given the opportunity. He hasn’t been given much playing time, but his snaps have noticeably spiked when Hill has missed. That could be the case in Week 13 as Hill recovers from the hamstring injury he suffered in Week 11, but Hardman doesn’t need Hill to miss to make an impact on the game — or for your fantasy rosters.
The Chiefs will take on the Oakland Raiders when they return this week, who rank 31st in the league in explosive pass defense according to SharpFootballStats.com. The Raiders’ secondary has been giving up splash plays all season to anyone who tries them, and you can almost guarantee Andy Reid will know to test them there coming off the bye. This is the same Raiders defence that allowed Demarcus Robinson and Travis Kelce to go for over 100 yards the last time these teams met, and Hardman has made the case for increased opportunities this time around.
N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have needed some fresh legs at the wide receiver position this season, and it looks like N’Keal Harry is going to fill that need. If your fantasy teams are hurting for wide receiver help, consider the 2019 first-round pick on your waiver wires.
Harry was a dominant college receiver, amassing 2,899 receiving yards in his three seasons with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Perhaps the most impressive part of his collegiate resume was that he established himself as his team’s top wideout in his age-18 freshman season. Early dominance at the college level has a high correlation with success at the professional level, and Harry meets that criteria with high draft capital to boot.
Harry hasn’t had a lot of time to build chemistry with Tom Brady, but Brady still looked his way in important situations in their second game together. Harry caught his first target for an impressive 10-yard score on the sideline, and the future Hall of Famer looked Harry’s way on important plays throughout the game. For fantasy purposes, three of Harry’s targets came in or near the red zone, and two were deeper targets.
Ryan Griffin, TE, New York Jets
It’s not a great week for tight ends on the waiver wire, but when is it ever, really? At least Ryan Griffin is available in a lot of leagues still. This was supposed to be Chris Herndon’s big breakout season, but we’ll have to take what we can get. In this case, it’s the breakout season of a nearly-30-year-old sixth-round pick playing for his second team.
Griffin has been quarterback Sam Darnold’s favourite target in the red zone this season and has been good for five scores and a two-point conversion in their games together this season. That’s not bad. He’s only averaging 37.9 receiving yards per game since Darnold’s return from mono back in Week 6 — because we can’t really count anything the New York Jets offence did before then — but we’ll it.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Jets have a soft schedule for tight end match-ups in the next couple weeks. Griffin probably isn’t going to pull a full Kittle and rip off any 61-yard touchdowns, but if you are in a bind for a tight end, you could do a lot worse.
For just the 4th time since the 1970 merger, the Cleveland Browns have recorded multiple games with 40 points in a season (also done in 2007, 1989 & 1978). pic.twitter.com/0odL5ZkEs9
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2019
David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
If you are in a position to stash a tight end, consider the Cleveland Browns’s own David Njoku. Njoku hit the injured reserve after a scary play earlier this season, but the team designated him for a return and the young tight end could be back as soon as this week.
The last time we saw the hyper-athletic, former first-round pick, the Browns were in total disarray. Running back Nick Chubb had to put the entire team on his back every game to scrape together any semblance of offence back then, but things have stabilized in recent weeks. Baker Mayfield has thrown seven touchdowns over the last three games while getting more out of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, and Chubb is still a force in the run game.
It has helped that the Browns have played some real soft matchups in that time, but their schedule isn’t too bad for the rest of the fantasy season — especially for tight ends. The Browns will play the Steelers and the Bengals — two soft matchups for tight ends — and a Week 15 match against the Arizona Cardinals, who give up the most points to opposing tight ends in the league (14.2).
Carolina Panthers, D/ST
If you’re looking for defence in Week 13, look no further than the Carolina Panthers — I mean, keep looking and do your due diligence, but the Panthers are a pretty safe bet this week.
The Panthers’ defence had a strong run between Weeks 3 and 6 with double-digit performances in each of those four games, but they’ve fallen off of late. Specifically, teams have taken advantage of the Panthers’ league-worst run defence. But the good news is that they’ll face off against Washington this week, who are arguably the worst offence in football.
With quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has averaged 3.9 adjusted yards per attempt this season while throwing 6 interceptions to just 2 touchdowns, Washington has been one of the least menacing offences in the league. The Panthers’ offence should be able to put points on the board in this one, which should force Haskins to throw more often than his coaches would prefer. And with his turnover rate, that’s something you should target with your fantasy defences.