Henry John @HankTimeSports
The Fantasy Football season is in the books and the last week of the 2017 NFL regular season is upon us. It is the perfect time to take a look back on our season-long voyage to the Fantasy Football depths in search of lucrative treasures. Sure, we dug up some fool’s gold that undoubtedly shipwrecked some teams. But some incredible discoveries were also made well before the mainstream fantasy universe ever got a whiff of them. Here are the best of the 2017 Fantasy Football Deep Dives!
Preseason: Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets
Prior to the start of the season, there was absolutely no optimism for the New York Jets. Questions leaned more heavily towards whether the team could win a game than if they could provide a valuable Fantasy Football asset. The wide receiver preseason Deep Dives pegged Robby Anderson as a potential draft steal, thanks to the girth of targets that appeared to be available with multiple pass-catchers from a year ago out of the picture. Through Week 16, Anderson’s season totals sat at 62 receptions for 939 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also achieved three 100+ yard games to his credit. If not for Josh McCown suffering a season-ending injury in Week 14, Anderson undoubtedly would have continued his run of production through the Fantasy Playoffs. Nonetheless, he certainly took advantage of his opportunities to provide a bright spot to the Jets’ season.
Week 4: Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings
You can’t tell me there is one knowledgeable football fan or expert out there that could have seen the magical season of Case Keenum coming in advance. Following his 369 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 3, Deep Dives featured Keenum as a great add for 2-QB leagues. He only morphed himself into a weekly starter in traditional 1-QB formats from there. Keenum’s stat line through Week 16 consisted of 3,358 yards passing, a 67.3 completion percentage, 21 touchdown passes versus just 7 interceptions, two 300+ yard games, and a rushing touchdown on 160 yards for good measure. What many felt could have been a lost season for the Vikings has turned into a likely first round playoff bye thanks to Keenum’s stellar play since Week 2 in relief of Sam Bradford. With Teddy Bridgewater also in the mix, it will be interesting to see what direction Minnesota decides to go at the quarterback position next season.
Week 7: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
JuJu Smith-Schuster was perhaps the most well-timed find of the Deep Dives campaign as it came the very week in which his fantasy production began to take off. He promptly went out and caught a touchdown in his feature Week 7, and followed that up with a massive 193 yards and a TD against the Lions the following week. Working as the slot receiver in what turned out to be a consistently potent Steelers offensive attack after they got through their early-season quarrels, Smith-Schuster was really the second best receiver on the team after Antonio Brown. His line through Week 16 consisted of 49 receptions for 774 yards, 6 touchdowns, and two 100+ yard games. With all of this coming in just his rookie season, look for Smith-Schuster to be a fantasy asset for years to come.
Week 8: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
With Branden Oliver banged up throughout the early portion of the season, Deep Dives featured Austin Ekeler who had played his way into the Chargers’ RB2 role behind Melvin Gordon. While he never got the opportunity to be a touch-dominant back in a game this year, Ekeler still managed to reward fantasy owners who took a flier on him midseason. His Week 10 performance against the stout Jaguars defense was one to remember. Ekeler combined 42 rushing yards with 75 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns to be the offensive hero of the day for Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Ekeler broke his hand in Week 15, preventing him from seizing on Gordon’s potential absence with an injury of his own in Week 17. Regardless, Ekeler made his mark and will continue to hold value in future seasons, especially in PPR leagues.
Week 9: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo was featured in Deep Dives the very same week in which he was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers. It took a few games for him to finally get his shot, but he has not looked back since. Through Week 16, Garoppolo’s record as a San Fran starting QB sat at a perfect 4-0. He has packaged 1,268 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, a 69% completion percentage, and two 300+ yard games into just 4 starts and one fourth quarter drive in a fifth appearance. Perhaps the best part of Garoppolo’s immediate impact has been the rise in fantasy potential of his fellow 49ers’ teammates just because of him being the man under center. What was once a 1-10 team has become very entertaining to watch down the stretch. Expect the QB-coach duo of Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan to find much success in the Bay Area in the coming decade.
Week 10: Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Falling right in stride with the Jimmy Garoppolo feature came Marquise Goodwin a week later. At the time, the move made sense with Pierre Garcon having just gone to IR and a soft upcoming schedule. Goodwin had just 1 catch in his feature Week 10, but it went for 83 yards and a touchdown. The fifth-year pro kept soaring upward from there. His numbers through Week 16 stood at 54 receptions for 934 yards and 1 touchdown. He notched three 100+ yard games to his credit, two of which came in the Fantasy Playoffs. Because of Garoppolo’s profound success, it makes sense for the Niners to keep their receiving corps relatively stable, although offseason moves are possible. Goodwin can be tabbed with at least a solid FLEX floor heading into 2018.
Week 11: Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Sometimes, it pays to zig while the others zag. So while much of the talk centered around Dede Westbrook as the Jaguars receiver who would be the top beneficiary of Allen Hurns’ Week 10 injury, Deep Dives featured Keelan Cole who owned a mere 12% target share at the time of his appearance in the column. After sputtering in Weeks 11 and 12, Cole caught fire just in time for the Fantasy Playoffs, scoring a touchdown in every game from Weeks 13-15 and reeling in yardage totals of 49, 99, and a whopping 186 in those games respectively. Through Week 16, Cole had 38 receptions for 715 yards. With Allen Robinson also expected back from his ACL injury next season, it will be interesting to see how Cole fits into the Jags’ future plans.
Week 13: Ben Watson, TE, Baltimore Ravens
The lackluster state of the Ravens offense for the first three quarters of the season made Baltimore fantasy production wildly inconsistent, including that of Ben Watson. But Joe Flacco has actually looked more like a competent, maybe even above-average, quarterback ever since Watson was featured in Week 13. This translated into Watson touchdowns in both Weeks 13 and 15, plus another 40 yards receiving last week. For how terrible the tight end position has been across the NFL this season, Watson turned out to be one of the best options in the Fantasy Playoffs. Through Week 16, Watson had 54 catches for 481 yards and 4 touchdowns as his season’s body of work.
Thank you for reading Deep Dives: Buried Treasures! Hope you will join us again next year when we set sail on the 2018 Fantasy Football season! To stay up to date on all Fantasy Hotread content throughout the offseason, Follow @FantasyHotRead on Twitter and Like/Follow The Fantasy Hot Read on Facebook.
By: Henry John