Fantasy Football Believe It or Not: Alvin Kamara No. 1? Bench your Broncos and Jay Ajayi? Buying Ricky Seals-Jones?
Heath Cummings discusses Alvin Kamara's remarkable rookie season, and the continuing struggles of the Denver Broncos and Jay Ajayi.
Before we attempt to take a look at the future in Fantasy, can we rewind for just a second? Let's just go back to August. Remember how excited we were about this rookie class of running backs? Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon and Christian McCaffrey were going to take the league by storm.
They've all been outscored by Alvin Kamara.
Remember how excited we were for Mike Gillislee to get the LeGarrette Blount role? Remember Week 1 when he scored three touchdowns? Well, he's been outscored by Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead in PPR.
Things change in the NFL. Fast. Jay Ajayi has changed teams and the Broncos keep changing quarterbacks. The Cardinals made the change to Blaine Gabbert, and he brought a man named Ricky Seals-Jones with him. Reacting to these changes without overreacting can be the difference between being a playoff team and being a champion. Let's get to it.
Alvin Kamara is the Saints' best running back in Fantasy
Apparently this was too mild a take because on Twitter the most common response I received is that Kamara is the best running back in Fantasy. Period. And you know what? They've got a point.
Since Week 6 Kamara has scored 128.4 Fantasy points. That's more than any other running back. Remarkably, he's done it on just 97 touches (every other back in the top five has at least 120 touches). He's done it with incredible efficiency, averaging more than 7 yards per carry and 10 yards per reception.
At this point I'm not sure what more convincing you would need. Kamara is the best running back on his team, and right now he's the best running back in the league. He's also just 22 years old and should be the No. 1 running back in any Dynasty rankings.
Verdict: Don't believe it
You know who is second over that same time frame? Kamara's teammate, Mark Ingram. Ingram is only 4.4 Fantasy points behind Kamara, and his production looks much more sustainable. Ingram is still consistently out-touching Kamara, he's more likely to get goal-line carries and he outscored Kamara each of the past two weeks before Kamara's Week 12 explosion. I would still expect him to score more Fantasy points rest of season, but both are must-start, top-10 running backs.
Ingram has been underrated for three years, so it's fitting that the best year of his career is going to be overshadowed by a rookie on his own team. The more interesting question is where Kamara goes from here. The 7 yards per carry is not going to last, obviously. So what does his production look like once that normalizes? Kamara's hyper-efficiency highlights the fact that even over this incredible stretch, he's averaged less than 10 carries per game.
I wouldn't bet against him the way he's going right now, but eventually he'll need volume if he wants to maintain his place among the top-five Fantasy running backs.
It's time to bench all of your Broncos
Last week I wondered aloud, "is it possible to be a downgrade from Brock Osweiler"? Paxton Lynch answered that with a resounding yes. Then he got hurt. Then the Broncos went back to Trevor Siemian. The end result? Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer scored touchdowns, and any Bronco you may have actually started was a disaster.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 40 yards receiving. Devontae Booker led all running backs as we'd hoped, but with just three Fantasy points. Siemian led the team with 17 Fantasy points, which isn't very helpful when he didn't even start the game. All this against a very bad Raiders defense.
There is no reason for you to start any Broncos.
Verdict: Don't believe it
Things don't get more difficult for the Broncos. Their next three games are against the Dolphins, Jets and Colts. It doesn't really matter who starts for the Broncos at quarterback. They're all bad, but both Thomas and Sanders have been productive with bad quarterbacks before. And against a Dolphins team giving up the fourth-most Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, you might even consider streaming Siemian or Osweiler.
As for the running backs, Booker is clearly the best option right now, but he's more of a flex than a No. 2 because he's not going to be a workhorse. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles are going to limit Booker's touches to the mid-teens. But against this Dolphins defense? That could be plenty.
You can't start Jay Ajayi any longer
He almost did it again. In his first two weeks in Philadelphia, Ajayi produced good Fantasy days with just one good play. Despite having just eight touches, he scored double digits in both games and his owners were satisfied, if not nervous.
Through three quarters of Week 12 he was having a disastrous outing, but broke free on his first carry of the fourth quarter. Ajayi rumbled for 30 yards but was tackled 5 yards short of the end zone, and fumbled to boot. He would not get another touch in the game.
We warned you about this. You just can't be a consistent Fantasy back with the type of workload Ajayi is getting, and we have no reason to think it will change soon. You can start him until it does.
Verdict: Believe it
Remember when the Eagles said LeGarrette Blount's role wouldn't change? They weren't lying. Blount out-snapped and out-touched Ajayi again in Week 12 even though he fumbled as well. Blount has 37 carries since the team traded for Ajayi. Ajayi now has 20. Blount's carries have gone up each of the past three weeks. Ajayi's have gone down.
I have a theory that the Eagles are saving Ajayi for the playoffs, but the truth is Blount is playing very well, they're dominating offensively and they have no reason to change anything. Until they do, Ajayi is merely a boom-or-bust flex play.
Ricky Seals-Jones is officially a thing
I would like to apologize to all of the Ricky Seals-Jones truthers for not taking him more seriously last week. Seals-Jones followed up his Week 11 breakout with a four-catch game and another touchdown. In the past two weeks he has seven grabs for 126 yards and three touchdowns. He's also the No. 1 tight end in Fantasy points. There's no ignoring him any longer.
It's clear that Seals-Jones has built rapport with Blaine Gabbert, and I cannot imagine the Cardinals are going to go away from Gabbert after beating beating the Jaguars. Seals-Jones will be ranked as a top-15 tight end in Week 13 against the Rams.
Verdict: Believe it
Seals-Jones may not have been a high draft pick, but that doesn't mean he's without pedigree. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school as a wide receiver. He has athleticism and he has the confidence of his quarterback. You can't ask for much more. Well, you could ask for a beautiful playoff schedule. And you'd get it.
Seals-Jones faces the Titans, Giants and Washington in the Fantasy playoffs. Two of those teams are in the top-four in Fantasy points allowed to tight ends. The other is the Titans, who just surrendered 16 PPR Fantasy points to Jack Doyle.
Both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are top-24 running backs
That was quite a performance by the Patriots. Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, Dion Lewis ran for more than 100 yards, Gronk smashed, Brandin Cooks caught a touchdown and Rex Burkhead became the goal line back apparently. After a month of dealing with slogging Mike Gillislee, the Patriots have a dynamic duo at running back.
Lewis is the early downs back, and Burkhead is the pass-catching and goal line back. Gillislee is perpetually inactive and James White is out of the equation. You can now start both Lewis and Burkhead comfortably as top-24 running backs.
Verdict: Don't believe it
Oh. So you've finally figured out Bill Belichick now. You shouldn't be wasting your time on this column. Let's be clear with what happened here. Lewis got 48 percent of the team's carries. Burkhead got 40 percent. Lewis, Burkhead and White all received two targets. The alleged clarity is no more telling about the future than Gillislee's three Week 1 touchdowns or James White's 28 targets from Week 4 through Week 6. This is a week-to-week situation, and even then we'll probably guess wrong.
As of now I'm sticking with Lewis as a No. 2 running back (though lower than I had him last week). His upside is really limited if he gets one catch and no goal-line opportunities. Burkhead for me is more of a high-end flex option. I believe he'll be better in PPR, but his lack of targets in Week 12 raises my eyebrows. And don't totally forget about James White; he could have a seven-catch game just around the corner.
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