I told you last week to add Aaron Rodgers coming off his broken collarbone. I hope you did it.
Now that Carson Wentz is lost for the year, quarterbacks are getting scarcer. We’re heading into the fantasy semifinals and it’s legitimate to assume that some of you are alive and still scrambling for a QB solution.
What should you do? What if you lost Wentz, who was on his way to a possible NFL MVP award in his second season? (By the way, Wentz would have been the first player in his second year to win the award since Kurt Warner in 1999, and of course, Warner was 28 that season. Dan Marino in the last traditional sophomore to win an MVP, way back in 1984.)
There’s no perfect solution. I’m not interested in Wentz’s replacement, Nick Foles, who had a lucky streak in Philly four years ago. Foles has winnable games against the Giants and Raiders the next two weeks, but he lacks elite arm talent and vision, and his in-game sense is often lacking: He can throw interceptions like nobody’s business. The Eagles will try to keep their 11-2 momentum going by emphasizing the run and trying to protect Foles, which is no recipe for a fantasy title.
And so the first couple Week 15 moves I’ll offer will focus on this crazy moment, where some good fantasy squads are focusing on replacing the once-presumptive MVP:
Must-Add: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
The early results are in, and Jimmy G has been nearly flawless as a Niner. Whereas his Week 13 win in Chicago was highlighted by possession throws and red-zone struggles, Sunday against Houston Garoppolo was aggressive down the field and should’ve had better results. Mistakes from Trent Taylor, Marquise Goodwin and especially Matt Breida took away what would’ve been long gains and perhaps even long touchdowns. I can’t give you a career verdict yet, but Garoppolo’s release is already among the quickest in the league, and he’s been accurate throwing from many body positions. Eventually, he’ll have to break some bad habits — to wit: believing that arm strength is a substitute for footwork — but of the widely available QBs, he’d be my choice for Week 15 against the Titans. (Week 16 against the Jaguars will be more of a problem.)
Maybe-Stream: Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
I had to manually override my keyboard’s “Bortles Blocker” to write his name, and I freely admit that using Bortles in any must-win fantasy matchup is the equivalent of trying to drive your car to the grocery store on two wheels. Why put yourself through that? But the Jags get the Texans next week, i.e., the defense Garoppolo just torched. It’s a winnable matchup, and Bortles has made a few throws the past two weeks against the Colts and Seahawks that had legit touch and accuracy. Of course, way back in Week 1, Bortles was 11-of-21 for 125 yards in a blowout road win in Houston, which gives you an idea of the optimal Jaguars passing-game usage. There’s precious little upside when it comes to this dude, but if quarterbacks are scarce, Bortles may lock in 15 fantasy points.
Must-Start: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Duh. I mean, I guess if you traded for Tom Brady, you have a big decision (Monday night notwithstanding). Otherwise, I’m 100 percent willing to let my season ride with A-Rod if he’s cleared to play. I understand if you have anxiety about it. But I’m rolling with the superstar, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be at peace. The better question is what we do with Jordy Nelson. Rodgers loves hitting Nelson in the end zone; Brett Hundley apparently views Nelson as an unnecessary appendage. I have a significantly harder time ditching the WR fantasy formula that’s worked for me and using Nelson Sunday; I’d rather wait and see on Jordy, and be open to the idea of using him in my Week 16 title game, home against the Vikings.
Must-Bench: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
Stew Beef is one of my favorite players, and his three-touchdown effort Sunday against the Vikings was entertaining, but it came out of left field. Stewart has double-digit carries in 12 of 13 games this season, but has finished with 50 yards or fewer in seven of his past nine. He’s still got good buildup speed, but at age 30 his lateral quickness is fading, and in Carolina’s quasi-functional offense, he mainly exists to soak up the bruising carries to which the Panthers don’t want to expose Christian McCaffrey. Stewart has had a fun and underrated career, but he’d be a lousy bet to follow up Sunday’s explosion with a big effort in Week 15, even against a so-so Packers run defense.
Must-Handcuff: James Conner, RB, Steelers
Presuming your fantasy championship is contested in Week 16, this is the final week you’ll need to worry about rostering backup running backs. But if you watched Sunday night’s Ravens-Steelers contest and saw Le’Veon Bell take a hard tackle across both knees and limp off, you know how close every NFL RB is to the trainer’s room on every play. Conner should be your No. 1 handcuff, and frankly the clever fantasy owner who doesn’t own Bell should add Conner this week just in case. Other backups I think have a chance at success in Week 16 if the leading man goes down: Malcolm Brown (Rams), Austin Ekeler (Chargers), Rod Smith (Cowboys) and Aaron Jones (Packers).
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