Fantasy Football Believe It or Not: Buying Baker Mayfield and James Conner concern

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It's time to view Baker Mayfield as a top-12 quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns have won two-of-three games since overhauling their coaching staff, and they've done a lot of that damage on the shoulders of their rookie quarterback. Mayfield has completed 73.8 percent of his passes the past three weeks and averaged 8.7 yards per attempt. He has nine touchdown passes and just one interception. Most importantly from our perspective, he's been a Fantasy star.

Mayfield has averaged 28.1 Fantasy points per game, which makes him the No. 6 quarterback on a per-game basis. It's time to stop holding the failures of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley against him. Baker Mayfield is a starting quarterback in Fantasy.

Verdict: Believe it.

Just understand what this means in this day and age. There are upwards of 20 quarterbacks you can feel good about starting on a weekly basis. A prime example is Dak Prescott. Prescott has actually outscored Mayfield during this incredible stretch, and he's faced a tougher slate of opponents.

Ranking quarterbacks for the next few weeks with no one on a bye is going to be a difficult process because there will be very good quarterbacks well outside the top-12. So treat Mayfield like a starter, and don't shy away from him unless the matchup is terrible. But you won't necessarily force him into the lineup if you already have another great signal-caller. 

After all, this hot streak has come against the Chiefs, Falcons and Bengals. A road game against J.J. Watt and the Texans looms in Week 13.

It's time to start worrying about James Conner.

Remember when the deadline passed for Le'Veon Bell to report and you breathed that sigh of relief? You could now feel confident Conner would give you top-10 production at the most important position in Fantasy without worrying about someone stealing his touches. It hasn't exactly worked that way.

In the past two games Conner has rushed 22 times for 78 yards. He's added another 66 yards in the passing game. He's failed to reach the end zone once. Maybe most importantly, someone has stolen Conner's touches, and it's Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have thrown 103 passes in the past two games and all but given up on the run. 

With Conner seemingly wearing down and getting less efficient and the Steelers getting pass-happy, it's time to consider benching James Conner. You certainly can't feel confident.

Verdict: Don't believe it.

I won't sugarcoat it. It's been a brutal two-week stretch. But it's also been a pair of road games at Jacksonville and Denver. The schedule gets a little better this week and a lot better in the future. Conner has still seen 15 and 17 touches the past two weeks and has 13 targets in those games. I'm not going to freak out because of a couple of inefficient games against good defenses, and I'm certainly not going to worry about two games with zero touchdowns when he has 11 on the season. Start Conner with confidence in Week 13 and moving forward.

Austin Ekeler will be a top-20 running back until Melvin Gordon returns.

We're going to talk about whether you should start Ekeler, but before we do that please take time to make sure Ekeler isn't available in your leagues. He's 83 percent owned so he won't make many waiver wire discussions, but he could absolutely be a league winner. 

The Chargers lost Gordon for a few weeks due to a sprained MCL, which is a devastating blow for Fantasy owners. Ekeler could help ease that pain, if not totally eradicate it. On Sunday he gave you a sneak peek of what you might expect, catching 10 passes, totaling 103 yards and scoring a touchdown. For the year, he's been wildly efficient, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and better than 10 yards per catch.

Ekeler isn't Melvin Gordon, but he's a talented back in a great offense. You should start him with confidence.

Verdict: Believe it.

The one bit of pushback I expect to receive is the disappointment that was Ekeler's last start when he ran 12 times for 42 yards and caught five passes for 26 yards against the Titans. He didn't score. And people were pretty upset. That was against a difficult matchup, and this week will be, too. The Chargers head across the country to face the Steelers, but the next two games are against Cincinnati and Kansas City, which should be phenomenal.

The other slight concern is Justin Jackson. He had seven carries for 57 yards after Gordon was hurt but he only had three touches in the game against Tennessee. I would expect Jackson will keep Ekeler from being a true workhorse, but at least for Week 13 the value will be in the passing game and Ekeler excels there. 

View Ekeler like a low-end No. 2 running back in Week 13 and a league-winner in the Fantasy playoffs.

Zach Ertz is the only Eagle you can trust in the passing game.

When the Eagles traded for Golden Tate, I certainly had some concerns over who would lose in the passing game. But I didn't expect it to be almost everyone. Tate himself has been miserable, with 97 receiving yards in three games and zero touchdowns. Jeffery has been slightly better, with 120 yards, but he also doesn't have a touchdown or a 50-yard game. The only receiver who has even one decent game in this stretch is Nelson Agholor, but that was three games ago and he has three targets in his past two games combined.

There are too many mouths to feed in Philadelphia, and the Eagles offense isn't firing on all cylinders. You can't start any of their receivers in Fantasy, and you'd be forgiven for dropping them.

Verdict: Believe it.

Just take a look at the target share the past three weeks. Ertz has seen 26 percent of the team's targets, and that's awesome. Tate is just below 20 percent, which is too low for Fantasy success with the types of routes he's running. Jeffery is at 16 percent, which is terrible. What's worse is there's nearly another 40 percent going to Agholor, Matthews, Dallas Goedert and the running backs.

The Eagles consolidated their carries in Week 12 and turned Josh Adams into a Fantasy stud, but you're going to have to bench their receivers until they do the same thing in the passing game.

The Patriots can all be good in Fantasy.

I had some concerns about how this offense would function with everyone healthy, and the results were mostly promising. Rob Gronkowski returned to lead the team in targets and make an awesome catch in the end zone. Julian Edelman scored too, and led the team in receiving. Josh Gordon caught all five of his targets for 70 yards and fell a touchdown short of a great day. And this all happened on a day where the running backs toted it 35 yards for 216 yards.

Sony Michel looks like a star, and the passing-game weapons will be even better when Tom Brady throws more. You should feel good about all of your Patriots.

Verdict: Don't believe it.

You should definitely feel good about Michel. He was awesome. And Gronk is a tight end, so you're going to start him even if he disappoints occasionally. But there's definitely some reason for concern for the rest of these guys. Gordon, Edelman and White all saw exactly five targets in a game where Brady threw 31 passes. None of them are going to be consistently good in Fantasy if this is the new reality.

I would expect Brady will throw more in some games (he's averaged 36 attempts per game this year), and that would be fine if you wanted to expect six or seven targets for these guys. But let's talk about what that actually looks like. 

Edelman has caught 72 percent of his targets this year (67 percent since 2013). If he averages 6.5 targets per game, you'd expect an average if 4.5 receptions per game. That's going to translate to around 50 receiving yards per game. Using the same math, White would get you to around 38 yards per game. Gordon would be around 60. 

I would expect there are going to be games where Edelman sees nine targets, and the other two suffer. It won't always be this even. But the big picture looks like a situation where these three are somewhat touchdown-dependent and not necessarily reliable starters. Gordon and White were the losers in Week 12, and we'll see what happens against the Vikings.

So who should you sit and start? And what shocking running back could win you Week 13? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy football rankings for every single position, and see which shocking RB finishes in the top 10 this week, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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