Fantasy Football Believe It or Not: D.J. Moore breaks out, Browns live up to the hype
Heath Cummings tells you all about what you should and shouldn't believe in from Week 12 of the Fantasy season as the playoffs loom.
In a lot of ways Week 12 felt more normal than past weeks, largely because it confirmed things I believed at the start of the year. Touchdown regression came early and often for players who needed it, while an offense we all loved this offseason finally awoke from its slumber and looked like an elite unit.
Of course, it can't all be good. A couple of running backs who were surprisingly useful have fallen back into roles that may leave them on the waiver wire. Most leagues start their playoffs after next week, so we don't have long to decipher these mysteries. Let's jump right in to Believe It or Not.
D.J. Moore has arrived as a top-12 Fantasy wide receiver.
For most of the past month I've been saying Moore deserved better touchdown luck, but to be honest, even I was beginning to wonder if it would happen this year. Fortunately, it happened Week 12. He caught six passes for 126 yards and broke off a pair of 50-plus yard plays including a long touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. It was the first multi-touchdown game of Moore's career, and he is now just 95 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season.
The only thing standing between Moore and the elite tier of receiver was his touchdown rate, and I still expect that has some normalizing left. he should be treated like a No. 1 receiver the rest of season, and drafted like one next year.
Verdict: Believe it.
It was a bumpy transition for Moore from Cam Newton to Kyle Allen, but he's been their clear No. 1 for two months now. In the Panthers past seven games, Moore has seen 72 targets. In that stretch he has fewer than six catches in a game just once. He now has 442 receiving yards in over his past four games, too.
Maybe the most impressive thing about all of this is that he's still just 22 years old. Many receivers are still in college at this age. He's on pace to be just the seventh receiver ever to reach 140 career catches by his age-22 season. The other six are Randy Moss, Keenan Allen, Mike Evans, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Larry Fitzgerald, and Amari Cooper. Good company.
The Cleveland Browns offense is finally what we expected.
It only took three months and the return of Kareem Hunt, but the Browns finally are who we thought they were. On Sunday they hung 41 on the Dolphins for their third consecutive win, and nearly everyone was good for Fantasy. Jarvis Landry reached the end zone twice, Baker Mayfield was a top-five quarterback, and anyone else you started was worth it.
Yes, it was the Dolphins, but they put up 21 on the Steelers a week before. I'm buying back into the Browns in Fantasy.
Verdict: Believe it.
My favorite thing about the Browns since Hunt returned is the consolidation of their touches. Odell Beckham, Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb and Landry have seen 89 targets over the past three games. The rest of the team has seen 12. Even with Hunt's involvement, Chubb has at least 22 touches in all three games.
They won't hang 40 on too many teams, but the Browns have one of the most talented offenses in the league and they're getting the ball (almost exclusively) to their most talented players. I expect they'll finish strong.
Tyler Boyd is a trustworthy No. 2 receiver rest of season.
Like Moore, I've spent a lot of time begging for touchdown regression for Boyd. His touchdown on Sunday was his second on the season despite the fact that he topped 100 targets for the season in the same game. His touchdown was also a spectacular play that should remind his coach and his quarterback that they need to keep him more involved.
Verdict: Believe it.
But not because of Week 12. Because Andy Dalton is back. This team was far more pass-heavy with Dalton under center and Boyd was averaging 10.2 targets per game. Expect him to be a top-20 option in PPR and a low end No. 2 in non-PPR. The schedule over the next few weeks is fantastic with the Jets on tap in Week 13 and the Dolphins on the schedule in Week 16.
As always, we're desperate for any running back with a pulse this time of year, but Samuels and Freeman may have seen their Fantasy appeal flatline.
Samuels' two carries on Sunday were tied for the fifth-most on the team, and his three targets weren't enough to make up for it. James Conner could be back as soon as Week 13 but even if he's not, Benny Snell is the new lead back in Pittsburgh.
Freeman had just four touches in Week 12 and hasn't had double-digit touches since Week 8. Brandon Allen doesn't throw to his running backs as much as Joe Flacco did, and Phillip Lindsay is taking over the backfield.
You can cut both of these backs.
Verdict: Believe it.
Droppable is different than must-drop, but I can absolutely see a case where I drop both. For what it's worth, I'd rather hold on to Freeman. The Broncos get the Chiefs in Week 15 and the Lions in Week 16. If something happens to Lindsay, Freeman would be a consensus top-15 back in the Fantasy playoffs.
The same can't be said for Samuels. Even if Conner doesn't return and something happened to Snell, I have no confidence Samuels would see a feature role. It could just as easily be Trey Edmunds or Kerrith Whyte.
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