Can I put in a request for a six-game Wild Card Weekend every year? That was an excellent weekend of football, with mercifully few blowouts and plenty of intriguing storylines -- and plenty for Fantasy players to keep track of, too.
After every week of the postseason this year, I'll check in Monday morning with a breakdown of the biggest winners and losers from that week's action, with an eye on 2021 value (and beyond, where applicable). This week's action had some obvious winners -- Hi, Cam Akers -- and some equally obvious losers -- Bye, Ben Roethlisberger -- and I've got five of each for you this morning. Plus, Jamey Eisenberg will be writing about each eliminated team's season recap and offseason outlook this week, and we'll have some player rankings debates and our first mock drafts on Fantasy Football Today for you, too. I'll be breaking down my teams for every mock draft this offseason, and maybe you'll hear from the rest of the FFT team on their results in the newsletter, plus I'll have a WR and TE rookie report card later in the week.
For now, here are my biggest winners and losers from the wild card round of playoff action:
Cam Akers vs. Seattle: 131 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown; two catches on two targets for 45 yards. Over his past six games, Akers has at least 21 carries in five of them, and that's kind of all you need to know here. Darrell Henderson wasn't active for Sunday's game because he is on IR with an ankle injury, but he was active for Weeks 13, 14 and 15, when he had six combined carries to Akers' 65, so I'm not sure that matters. We did our first mock draft of the offseason last week -- we'll have the results of that for you this week -- and Akers went with the last pick of the third round. That will probably be the floor for him, and while I'd like to see him used more in the passing game -- just two targets Sunday and 15 in his past six games -- I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up moving into the late second round by the time we're drafting next summer. Especially because we know Sean McVay has been willing to use his running backs in the passing game in the past. If that happens, there's huge upside here for Akers, who is the clear heir to Todd Gurley's legacy in L.A.
Mike Evans vs. Washington: Six catches on 10 targets for 119 yards -- I was really down on Evans early on in the season, and for good reason; Tom Brady just wasn't looking for him or connecting with him deep. Through his first nine games of the season, Evans had more than 100 air yards (that's how far his targets traveled down the field, in total) just twice; he has four such games over the past eight, including 183 Sunday. Evans averaged 137 per game in 2019 and has consistently relied on a high volume of downfield targets to rack up his production, so that was a key part of why he was so underwhelming early on. Brady will be 44 by Week 1 and will always love to spread the ball around, so there's some risk Evans will disappoint next season, but what we've seen in the second half of the season should alleviate some of those concerns.
Marquise Brown vs. Tennessee: Seven catches for 109 yards on nine targets -- If you read this column regularly during the season, you know I pretty stubbornly stuck by Brown even during his worst moments. However, I did eventually lose faith and encourage dropping him, so I can't exactly do a victory lap about his second-half improvement. Still, the argument was always there: He was getting No. 1 usage in Baltimore's offense with a bunch of super-valuable downfield looks, and he and Lamar Jackson just weren't connecting. They connected consistently Sunday, just as they did in the second half of the season, when Brown scored six touchdowns over his final six games of the regular season. Over the past seven games, he has 33 catches for 447 yards and six touchdowns, a 75-catch, 1,021-yard, 15-touchdown pace over 16 games. Brown probably won't ever have No. 1 Fantasy WR upside in this offense, but he should be viewed as a No. 3 WR with big weekly boom potential.
Michael Pittman vs. Buffalo: Five catches for 90 yards on 10 targets -- There was a stretch around the middle of the season where Pittman looked like the Colts No. 1 WR when he consistently led the team in snaps at WR and averaged 6.8 targets per game from Weeks 9-12. He kept playing a bunch of snaps every week, but his usage diminished over the final month of the season, so it was nice to see them use him like a No. 1 receiver Saturday, leading both teams in targets. With T.Y. Hilton set to be a free agent, Pittman will be in line for an increase in usage in 2021, and he should be viewed as a potential breakout candidate. This was a good audition.
Gabriel Davis vs. Indianapolis: Four catches for 85 yards on four targets -- With Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and John Brown all under contract for 2021, it might be tough for the Bills to find a bigger role for Davis. But they need to be creative to find ways to get the youngster more involved, especially with both Beasley and Brown on the wrong side of 30. Davis made big plays consistently in college, and he did the same as a rookie, averaging 17.1 yards per catch in the regular season. The good news is that this is a pass-first team and will likely remain so, so if Davis can leapfrog either Brown or Beasley in the hierarchy, he'll be one of my favorite sleepers at the position for 2021.
Recapping Super Wild Card weekend with a look towards 2021 values, and debating early 2021 rankings on the Fantasy Football Today podcast. Listen below and subscribe at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cleveland: 47/68, 501 yards, four touchdowns, four interceptions -- As has been the case all season, the box score looked a lot better for Roethlisberger than he actually played. That he ended up with pretty good Fantasy numbers this season was mostly a testament to the absurdly skilled receivers the Steelers have along with the second most attempts per game of his career at 40.5. Roethlisberger has said he'll return for 2021, and he'll still have Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Chase Claypool at the very least to throw to -- JuJu Smith-Schuster is a free-agent and seems likely to walk -- but will you really want to bet on the 39-year-old for your Fantasy team?
J.K. Dobbins vs. Tennessee: Nine carries for 43 yards and a touchdown; one catch for -6 yards on one target -- Dobbins looked good Sunday. Dobbins always looks good. He's a great runner. But he ran the ball just nine times Sunday, while Gus Edwards had eight carries. Dobbins has scored at least one touchdown in seven straight games but has just 86 carries in those seven games; Edwards has 69 carries in those same seven games. If the Ravens committed to giving Dobbins 15 carries per game, I have no doubt he could be a must-start running back for Fantasy in 2021. The problem is that the Ravens have had a running back get to 15 carries in just 11 of their past 34 games going back to the start of the 2019 season. Maybe Dobbins will be the exception in 2021, but he hasn't been so far. And given that the Ravens have also had just 101 targets go to running backs over the past two seasons, there just might not be a path to Dobbins getting the kind of work he needs to be a must-start Fantasy option. But he'll surely get drafted like one.
Tyler Lockett: Two catches for 43 yards on four targets -- In the end, the numbers didn't look all that bad in the regular season: 100 catches, 1,054 yards, and 10 touchdowns is a pretty awesome year. However, 15% of those catches, 19% of the yards, and 30% of the touchdowns came in Week 7 against the Cardinals, and he had more than 70 yards just once in his final 11 games -- and he needed 14 targets in Week 17 just to get to 90 yards. DK Metcalf out-targeted Lockett 96-78 over the final 11 games and was much more productive, and you have to think Lockett will be the clear No. 2 option in 2021. A bounce-back in efficiency seems like a decent bet given his track record, but I wouldn't want to draft Lockett as more than a No. 3 Fantasy WR for next season.
Corey Davis vs. Baltimore: Zero catches on two targets -- It's going to be fascinating to see what happens with Davis' free agency, as his breakout season sputtered out over the final few weeks of the season. From Week 16 through the Titans loss Sunday, Davis had just five catches for 39 yards on 15 targets, and he had four games with fewer than 40 yards in his final five overall. He was still excellent overall and will likely garner plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent, but where he lands will be key; if he returns to Tennessee, it's probably as more of a No. 4 Fantasy WR.
Zack Moss/Devin Singletary: 10 carries for 42 yards, seven catches for 49 yards on seven targets combined -- Even before the Bills turned into a pass-first team, I wasn't particularly interested in either Moss or Singletary coming into the season. They would be splitting work in an offense that doesn't throw to the running backs much, playing next to a quarterback who serves as his team's primary goal-line back. Put either of these guys as the lead back in this offense, and I could probably see them as a No. 1 back, but I won't have much interest at all in either for 2021 unless something drastic happens between now and the summer. This might be the worst backfield for Fantasy in the league.