Fantasy Football: Stefon Diggs highlights divisional round winners and losers
Jamey Eisenberg gives you the winners and losers from the divisional round, with an eye on the 2018 Fantasy Football season.
Yes, it did. Yes, he did. And it was amazing.
With 10 seconds left and New Orleans ahead 24-23 on Sunday, Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum threw a pass to Diggs near the Saints' 35-yard line. Diggs evaded New Orleans safety Marcus Williams near the sideline, and he ran away for a 61-yard game-winning touchdown.
In case you were in hiding over the weekend, this is how it happened:
For Diggs, he's a winner from the divisional round with his Fantasy value heading into the 2018 season, which is what we're talking about here. And we'll see who will join him on the winners' list from this past weekend, as well as players who might have lost some value with their postseason play.
We did this with guys from the Wild Card Weekend, which Drew Brees and Michael Thomas are still winners after they played great in the divisional round, and Matt Ryan and Mark Ingram are still in the losers' bracket. You can read why in the story from last week – this week's games didn't quite change things for them.. And to avoid repetition when nothing has changed with their Fantasy value, we don't need to mention again that guys like
Another thing we're going to avoid this week is talking about players who didn't enhance or hurt their Fantasy value. For example, Tom Brady had a dominant game against the Titans, and he will be a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2018 – that's not new. You also know, for the most part, what to expect from Julio Jones, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, who all played well this past weekend.
Brown's teammates, Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell, should return to the Steelers in 2018, which will keep their Fantasy value intact after a great showing in the loss against Jacksonville. Roethlisberger said he has no plans to retire despite hinting at that last offseason, while Bell will likely get the franchise tag from Pittsburgh or get a long-term deal. Roethlisberger should remain a low-end No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and Bell will be the No. 2 overall pick in the majority of leagues behind Todd Gurley.
One other note on the Titans: Now that Mike Mularkey is out as the head coach, we hope there's an upgraded offensive system in place next season. That would help Marcus Mariota, who had a good Fantasy performance against the Patriots in the divisional round despite not playing all that well. A new coach would likely be good news for Derrick Henry as well, and we hope Tennessee gives him the full-time running back job and moves on from DeMarco Murray.
Fournette's Fantasy production to close the regular season was good, but his on-field performance was somewhat ugly. Whether it was due to injury or poor offensive line play, he averaged fewer than 3.0 yards per carry in four of his final seven games, and he was at just 2.7 yards per carry in the wild card win against Buffalo. But he was a force against the Steelers, overcoming an ankle injury to finish out the victory for the Jaguars. We'll see how he performs against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, but Fournette should enter next season as a first-round pick in the majority of leagues. One thing to keep an eye on this offseason in Jacksonville will be upgrades along the offensive line. A couple of tweaks to that unit will make Fournette dangerous in 2018.
Lewis is doing a masterful job to earn himself a raise this offseason since he'll be a free agent, and where he ends up will ultimately determine his Fantasy value for 2018. But he's been excellent down the stretch in the regular season, and that carried over to the divisional round against the Titans. Including the playoffs, Lewis now has at least 11 Fantasy points in a standard league in seven of his past nine games, and he's done that for four games in a row. He has 20 catches in his past three games overall. We'll see if Rex Burkhead (knee) is able to return for the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, which could hurt Lewis with his touches, but the Patriots should continue to ride Lewis given his recent level of play. You can argue that Lewis, and not Brady, has been New England's best player in the second half of the season.
It looked like Ajayi was going to be a goat against the Falcons after he fumbled in the first quarter, but he bounced back and helped lead the Eagles to an upset victory. It's hard to fully judge Philadelphia's offense with Carson Wentz (torn ACL) out, but Ajayi has played well even with Nick Foles. Ajayi has either 80 total yards or a touchdown in three games without Wentz, including the playoffs, and he has seven catches over that span, which is good to see. LeGarrette Blount is a free agent and will likely be gone from Philadelphia, and we'll see what the Eagles do with Darren Sproles, who is a free agent and coming off a torn ACL at 34. Ajayi should be the clear leader of this backfield in 2018, and he should be drafted in Round 4 or 5 in the majority of leagues. With Wentz back, this offense will be explosive again, and Ajayi still has the potential to be a top-10 Fantasy running back.
The man of the hour, Diggs was having a good game before his final catch against the Saints with five receptions for 76 yards, but his 61-yard touchdown grab made him a star. He now has a touchdown in four games in a row, including the playoffs, and he's making a case to be a No. 1 Fantasy receiver in 2018. He actually finished the regular season as the No. 10 receiver in standard leagues, but that's somewhat misleading; he had seven games with at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league, but scored six points or less in six other outings, while also missing two games with an injury. We'll see who the quarterback is in Minnesota in 2018, which will likely determine just how high Diggs will be ranked coming into the year, but he's no worse than a top 15 Fantasy receiver next season. And if he has another big game or two in the playoffs then his Fantasy value could skyrocket.
Davis went his entire rookie year without a touchdown in the regular season before finding the end zone twice against the Patriots. His first touchdown was a beautiful one-handed grab against Malcolm Butler, while the second came in garbage time. We hope this is the jumping off point for Davis heading into 2018, and the new coach in Tennessee has to feature him more in the offense. Davis also has to prove he was worth being selected at No. 5 overall in last year's NFL Draft and stay healthy after missing five games with a hamstring injury. He should be considered a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver heading into 2018, and he's worth drafting with at least a sixth-round pick in the majority of leagues.
Freeman will still be a solid Fantasy running back heading into 2018, and he will likely be drafted no later than Round 3 in the majority of leagues, But he did not play well in 2017, and his finish as the No. 9 Fantasy running back in standard leagues was misleading as well. Freeman had six games with double digits in Fantasy points and five games with seven points or less, while missing two games with a concussion. The biggest difference for Freeman from this season compared to his 2016 production was his receiving totals, as he went from 54 catches for 462 yards and two touchdowns on 65 targets last year to 36 catches for 317 yards and one touchdown on 46 targets in 2017. Now, he did close the season with at least five catches in three of his last four games, including the playoffs, so hopefully that carries over to 2018. But he will not be among the top five running backs drafted next season like he was in 2017.
Cooks had a solid first season with the Patriots, and he might still end up with a Super Bowl ring if New England wins two more games. But he wasn't a consistent Fantasy option in 2017. Cooks finished the regular season reaching double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league six times, but he scored three points or fewer in six other outings. He closed the season with 4-of-6 games scoring less than three Fantasy points, including the playoffs. He should remain a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver in 2018, and he will likely be drafted in Round 3 or 4 in the majority of leagues. We just wish there was more consistent production from him, especially since he had 12 games with at least seven targets, including the playoffs. In those 12 games, he scored at least 10 Fantasy points in a standard league just five times.
Can Smith-Schuster become a reliable Fantasy starter in 2018? That will be the question Fantasy owners have to answer on Draft Day, and I consider him more of a No. 3 option following Pittsburgh's playoff loss against Jacksonville. He had plenty of great moments as a rookie in 2017, but his best production came when Brown was out with a calf injury. Brown was hurt in Week 15 against New England and missed the final two games of the regular season, and Smith-Schuster compiled 20 catches for 332 yards and two touchdowns on 23 targets over that span. If Bell returns as expected, then the Steelers will have their usual allotment of mouths to feed with Brown, Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant, including a potential new weapon in tight end Vance McDonald, who just had 10 catches for 112 yards on 16 targets against the Jaguars. Smith-Schuster was tied for fourth among targets against Jacksonville, and it's doubtful he will be consistently featured on offense in 2018 when everyone is healthy. I love his upside, and he's worth drafting by Round 7 in the majority of leagues. But don't overvalue Smith-Schuster on Draft Day next year.
Walker was the No. 5 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues in 2017, but it didn't seem like he had that good of a season. He only had three games with double digits in Fantasy points, compared to eight games with five points or less. He closed the season averaging just 4.3 Fantasy points per game in standard leagues, including the playoffs, and he didn't catch his first touchdown until Week 12. We'll see who the new coach is in Tennessee before ultimately determining the Fantasy value for Walker on Draft Day, but we should see him continue to fade in the Titans' offense, especially if Davis starts to emerge. Walker, who will be 34 next season, will still be worth drafting as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy tight end with a late-round pick in 2018, but his days as a standout Fantasy option are likely over.
Like Walker, Rudolph's 2017 campaign was somewhat misleading, since he was the No. 7 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues. However, he only had three games with double digits in Fantasy points, but he scored five points or fewer in 10 games, including the playoffs. We still don't know who will be the starting quarterback in Minnesota in 2018, and that could determine Rudolph's value, especially if Pat Shurmur leaves as expected as the offensive coordinator to be a head coach. Rudolph actually scored one more touchdown in 2017 (eight) compared to his breakout campaign in 2016 (seven), but his targets were down from 132 to 81. And he went from 83 receptions to 57 and 840 yards to 532. He's still worth drafting as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy tight end in 2018, but he's someone to settle for instead of target on Draft Day next year.
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