Week 15 was a week where there were some of the best individual fantasy performances of the year. While the RB position only had two guys that stood above the rest, the QB's and WR's made up for it with a lot of high scoring. As with having some guys who stood out because of their spectacular performance, there were also those who let their owners down. Owners of Aaron Rodgers are not happy with the statline he had. While Rodgers is having a down year for him, 10 points was his second lowest point total for the season, and came at the worst possible time for his owners. This time of year you will always see studs who didn't live up to their billing in the fantasy playoffs. That is the nature of the game we play, and goes to show that anyone who makes the playoffs has a chance of winning.
Because the 2015 season is almost over, I thought I would give you a few guys to keep an eye on in 2016 as either potential breakout candidates, or comeback players who may present value on draft day depending on a few variables.
The goal of this article is to highlight those top guys, and if you can expect some similar performances in the future from them or if it was a flash-in-the-pan. So without rambling on longer in this intro, let's take a look at those who performed well in week 15.
QB - Cam Newton 340 Passing Yards, 5 TD's, 8 Rushes for 100 Yards, 1 Fumble Lost, 41 Fantasy Points
So who would have expected Newton would beat his previous high score of the season of 35? I certainly didn't, and the fact that it came this late in the season makes it even better. I have written enough about Newton this year, so anything I say wouldn't be new. For 2016 the question becomes is he the top QB to get drafted, and if he is, does he warrant first round consideration? I am still a little hesitant to say first round, but he is making a strong case for it.
QB - Kirk Cousins 319 Passing Yards, 4 TD's, 3 Rushes for 11 Yards and 1 TD, 35 Fantasy Points
What a crazy year this has been for Cousins and Washington. So Cousins has had only three games now out of the 14 where he has thrown for multiple TD's. In those games he has thrown for 3 once, and 4 twice. Every other game is one passing TD. What has made him interesting is his ability to run in from close distances. He now has 5 rushing TD's on the year. I have found it hard to trust him most weeks, but he has been showcasing a nice floor of performances. I still don't like him as anything more than a desperate QB play in 12 team leagues, but at this point you may need him to win. For 2016 I can't see myself ranking him much higher than the top 20. There are just other QB's I would rather have, and ones who have a higher upside.
QB - Teddy Bridgewater 231 Passing yards, 4 TD's, 4 Rushes for 17 Yards and 1 TD, 32 Fantasy Points
Questions had been raised about Bridgewater this season if he would be good enough to sustain fantasy value in leagues shallower than 16 teams. Up until this game he really had made a case, and I still don't believe he has. The Bears defense got zero pass rush on him in this game, an area the Vikings offensive line usually struggles with. That is the biggest hole in his game, adjusting to blitzes and getting the ball out quick to his receivers. Before the season it was expected Bridgewater could take the next step in his game, but that just hasn't happened. For drafts in 2016 he is best left for those in 2 QB leagues, as he doesn't even show much upside. Guys like Alex Smith have a game like this every once in a while. Don't go overboard thinking that he has some sleeper potential next year, his game isn't at that level yet.
RB - David Johnson 29 Carries for 187 Yards and 3 TD's, 4 Catches for 42 Yards, 40 Fantasy Points
So I didn't see this big of a game coming from Johnson. I fully expected Carson Palmer to be the one who goes off for a career game here. David Johnson has done everything right since gaining the starting role due to injuries. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are rendered obsolete because of how well Johnson has been. He is making a strong end of season case to keep rising up my 2016 rankings. I do want to see how the RB position in Arizona shapes up in the offseason, as they certainly have zero reason to bring Chris Johnson back at this point. I wouldn't rank him in my top 10 RB's, but top 15 is looking like a good spot for him at the moment for drafts in 2016.
RB - Danny Woodhead 8 Carries for 10 Yards and 1 TD, 6 Catches for 50 Yards and 3 TD's, 30 Fantasy Points
For a guy who was the model of consistency at the RB position most years, he has been anything but that so far. This 30 point game is coming after a four game stretch of 6 total fantasy points, where two of those games were zero points. Woodhead is a flier FLEX option at this point, and I don't think you can expect him to do much the rest of the season. Sure he may have another game where he scores a TD in the next two weeks, but I tend to believe in the games that preceded this one more than this game. For next season Woodhead will be ranked where he is usually ranked, right around the top 40. He is a great pass catching back, and someone the Chargers trust in the redzone as well, the problem is the Chargers offense is on the decline. It will also be interesting to see what Melvin Gordon can do in his second NFL season. Will he turn into all of the other recent Wisconsin backs, or will he overcome the hurdle?
WR - Antonio Brown 18 Targets, 16 Receptions for 189 Yards and 2 TD's, 30 Fantasy Points
Just like with Cam Newton, I have written a lot about Brown in these articles over the entire season. He arguably the best receiver in the NFL at the moment and should be treated as such. For next year he is in a battle with Odell Beckham Jr. for the top spot. Currently I would put Beckham as my top receiver entering next season, but it is so close I will have them back to back in my overall rankings. Both guys warrant first round picks next year, and I don't think that is up for discussion.
WR - Emmanuel Sanders 16 Targets, 10 Receptions for 181 Yards and 1 TD, 1 Rush for 24 Yards, 26 Fantasy Points
Well wasn't that nice of the Broncos to include Sanders in their gameplan again. Too bad people like me thought Emmanuel Sanders was practically left for dead in the new offense and ranked him fairly low in my WR rankings. For those owners who toughed out those last two games, this is your prize for patience. As for next week against the Bengals, I think that he will put up a decent statline, but nothing spectacular, but also nothing that will kill you for playing him. I need to know the QB situation going into next year, because that dictates whether he will be in my top 20 or not.
WR - Amari Cooper 9 Targets, 6 Receptions for 120 Yards and 2 TD's, 24 Fantasy Points
So Cooper has had a bit of an up and down season, but that goes with being a rookie WR. Most receivers take a big leap in production going into their second year, and I don't know why Cooper would be any different. Derek Carr will be entering his 3rd season in the league, and has had to learn how to adjust over the last half of this season. Another year will do him good, as I have him firmly in my top 20 for 2016 at the moment. For the rest of this season, Cooper is going to fluctuate, as he has the Chargers one week, but then the tough Chiefs defense in week 17.
TE - Jordan Reed 7 Targets, 7 Receptions for 84 Yards and 2 TD's, 20 Fantasy Points
So Reed yet again finds himself as the top scoring TE. Everything that I wrote about him last week still applies here. He is a top 5 TE when healthy. Next year he is a top 5 TE as well for drafts, and in the conversation with players like Tyler Eifert, and Gary Barnidge to be ranked 3rd.
TE - Delanie Walker 5 Targets, 2 Receptions for 64 Yards and 2 TD's, 18 Fantasy Points
Delanie Walker has been a great player the last half of the season, however his games have been different than this one. Usually Walker has been the guy to get a high volume of targets, which leads to him getting an accumulation of yards. This game was a short TD, and then a long TD where he made a great play breaking some tackles on his way to the endzone. For next year Walker is in the conversation to be the 6th ranked TE, with Jimmy Graham depending on his health.
Now a look at a few breakout or comeback players for the 2016 season to keep your eye on:
QB - Jameis Winston: 15th ranked QB going into week 15
Winston has looked like the best rookie QB so far this year. Sure Mariota has had some better games than Winston has had, but Winston has been consistent for the most part, something Mariota can't say. In 2016 drafts I doubt Winston will be drafted as a starter for 12 team leagues, but I think he should be. Consider how difficult it is as a rookie QB in the NFL, rarely do you see one come out of the gates looking like a superstar. It takes time for them to develop do to the cerebral nature of the position. The lowest point total that Winston has had this season is 12, which is remarkable. That high of a floor is rare to see. Aaron Rodgers has had two games of 10 or less this season even. One of the big concerns I had with Winston entering the season was the interceptions. Back at Florida St. Winston was known to be trigger happy, forcing throws where they shouldn't be, resulting in interceptions. So far this year Winston has thrown only 12 picks, with 4 of them coming in one game. In his last 10 games, Winston has thrown only 5 interceptions. It isn't like he has been doing this against all bad defenses either, as he faced the Falcons when they were still good, the Cowboys surprisingly decent secondary, and the Rams. Over that span Winston has averaged 17.2 fantasy points a game, which extrapolated over the season to date would be good enough for 12th. That is why I think top 12 expectations are realistic for Winston, as that isn't even factoring in his upside. He will get better over the offseason, presenting the chance for him to have a Bortles like breakout this season.
WR - Mike Evans: 29th ranked WR going into week 15
So him being ranked 29th in fantasy points for the entire season within the position doesn't do this pick much justice. We know that Evans won't be ranked near here, but I still think he will be undervalued going into next year. The nagging injuries he had at the beginning of the year dragged his value down to this point. When you have a rookie QB, you can't afford to be missing time. With the offseason coming up, don't be surprised if you keep hearing that Winston and Evans are working out together, throwing pass patterns and building up that chemistry to help it translate onto the field. You won't have to take Evans as high as he went last season, as I believe he will only be barely ranked inside the top 20 on draft day. I personally see him regaining his 2014 form, and becoming a top 10 WR next year. Consider this, since the Bucs bye week, Evans has averaged 11 fantasy points a game. That would be good enough for 9th if extrapolated over the 13 games that had happened up till this week. The top 10 upside is still there, and is closer than you may think after a down year here.
WR - Donte Moncrief: 33rd Ranked WR going into week 15
Moncrief presents a similar situation to what Mike Evans has been going through. Both guys have been hampered by injuries, although in Moncrief's case, it was his QB that got hurt. Moncrief was on his way to having a great season if Luck had stayed healthy. After three weeks it was looking like Moncrief was creeping his way into the top 15 receivers. Then Luck got hurt and everything started to fall apart for him. Luck played in 7 games this year, and Moncrief scored a TD in 5 of those games. After that, Moncrief started to become a bust, with the occasional game of decent stats. The addition of Andre Johnson was originally supposed to push Moncrief aside, but that never happened. All that addition did was take away valuable targets that should have been going to Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton. Next year Johnson won't be there, and it will be a tandem of Hilton and Moncrief leading the way. I fully expect Luck to regain his 2014 form when he is fully healthy next year. Moncrief is someone you could get outside the top 25 at the position most likely, but I believe he will finish 2016 within the top 15 at least.
Those are just four of the guys I believe will be undervalued going into drafts next season. Want thoughts on a specific player? Leave a comment on who it is, and I will respond with my thoughts on that guy's performance and where he stands going forward.