Each week, TSN.ca Fantasy Editor Scott Cullen, NFL Editor Ben Fisher, and Isaac Owusu discuss three hot fantasy football topics.
What was your best answer to a Three and Out question all year?
Scott Cullen: 1. With a number of rookie receivers breaking out lately, which one will finish the year with the most fantasy points?
Four rookie receivers -- DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Kenbrell Thompkins and Terrance Williams -- have more than 300 yards receiving, so those are the leading contenders (Robert Woods at 274 yards could be in the mix, too) and, from that group, I like Allen the best. He has a prolific quarterback, Philip Rivers, whose game appears to have been resurrected this season and Allen is the best wide receiver option on his team, thanks to Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander suffering season-ending injuries.
Hopkins might be the most gifted of the group, but he's still behind Andre Johnson in the Texans' pecking order and the quarterback play in Houston has been shaky to say the least. Thompkins is turning into a big-play threat for Tom Brady, but is competing with Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and fellow rookie Aaron Dobson for targets. Williams has been a big-play threat for the Cowboys, particularly when Miles Austin was out of the lineup, but it remains to be seen how much he will get the ball now that Austin is healthy. For a team that already has Dez Bryant and Jason Witten commanding a lot of attention in the passing game, Williams may need another Austin injury if he's going to finish among the rookie leaders.
Ben Fisher: I nailed one early; it was all downhill from there. In predicting pre-season sleepers for big seasons I went all in on Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy. I was a fan of Lacy's work at Alabama, blamed the pre-season “fat photo” on the angle of the camera, and loved the opportunity the starting running back in Green Bay was getting this season. Lacy is a Top 10 RB that could have been had as late as the fifth-round. My good advice wasn't just restricted to the pre-season, I was high on a couple San Diego Chargers in Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen early on and gave up on Stevan Ridley before too much fantasy heartache, but grabbing Lacy early was the best I did in this column all year.
Isaac Owusu: I haven't done too many “Three and Out” questions, but last week's decision between Dennis Pitta and Jacob Tamme would undoubtedly be my best answer. Pitta didn't have the big day as a follow up to his week 14 debut, with only 2 catches for 24 yards on 4 targets especially compared to Tamme's 1 catch for 9 yards on 2 targets.The numbers clearly aren't as far apart, but the glaring number was their snap counts. Tamme was on the field for just 9 of 54 snaps while Pitta saw the field for 30 of 66 snaps. Tamme frankly just isn't a viable fantasy option at tight end at this moment and the Denver Broncos have made their accommodations with other players ahead of him. Pitta is still very much apart of the Baltimore Ravens' offence and should continue to see growth in his production as one of Joe Flacco's top two favourite targets next to Torrey Smith.
What was your worst answer to a Three and Out question all year?
Cullen: 2. What do you expect out of Steven Jackson in Atlanta this season?
For a 30-year-old running back -- a time when production generally starts to fade -- this is a really good situation for Jackson.
He's been cranking out 1,000-yard seasons in each of the last eight years for St. Louis, but has scored six touchdowns or fewer in each of the last four seasons because the Rams haven't had much of a team supporting him. In Atlanta, Jackson is the supporting cast for one of the league's best passing offences and a past-his-prime Michael Turner rushed for 11 touchdowns with the Falcons last year, so it's not unreasonable to think that Jackson could roll to 1,000 rushing yards and maybe push double digit touchdowns this year.
Fisher: There were a few doozies. I was high on Terrelle Pryor's fast start – QB1 high – while at the same time only lukewarm on Philip Rivers'. But my biggest blunders of 2013 were suggesting to owners that Knowshon Moreno was too inconsistent to spend a lot of their waiver budget on, and to drop Cam Newton, right before the Panthers turned things around and ripped off eight wins in a row. Moreno and Newton will each finish the year as Top 5 scorers at their position. The lessons learned? After struggling in his sophomore season, Newton found his form again as all great QBs do and deserves owners' patience in riding out any slumps in the future. And as for Moreno, all Denver Broncos starter must be owned for the foreseeable future.
Owusu: My worst answer had to have been regarding Michael Crabtree. When I told fantasy owners to treat him as a no more than flex option and to just expect him to play on limited snaps, I didn't expect him to be this productive. He has seen his workload increase each of the three weeks since his return. His involvement in the offence has been just what fantasy owners who took a chance on him wanted. He has seen no less than 4 targets in any of his appearances (eight in week 14 and six in week 15). It's clear that going in to this week's matchup which should be the Super Bowl for most fantasy leagues, that Crabtree can be relied on to be involved in the 49ers offence like a WR2 should.
Give me one 'sleeper' keeper to keep an eye on for next season?
Cullen: Since my one sleeper keeper would probably be Allen, and I mentioned him in the first answer, I'll look elsewhere. How about Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd, who has 196 more receiving yards than Larry Fitzgerald, but has six fewer touchdowns? Floyd has had some ups and downs in his second season, but enough ups that he's very likely to go over 1,000 yards and it's reasonable to expect strong numbers from him for the next few seasons.
Fisher: There are a few receivers I had in the running for this. Alshon Jeffery and Antonio Brown had too good of seasons overall to really be considered sleepers so my pick heading into the fantasy off-season will be Keenan Allen. I mentioned above I was high on the rookie early and he only got better from there. Allen will finish the year as a middling WR2 but he performed closer to a middling WR1 down the stretch. In first-year head coach Mike McCoy's offence, San Diego players were fantasy juggernauts. That shouldn't change for next season; the only thing that might are Allen's opportunities. Rivers knows he can trust the third-round receiver, his targets over the course of a full 16 games could see an uptick.
Owusu: Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington could be a major sleeper keeper for next season. He came into the year with modest expectations of his production but if you look at the numbers the potential is there for him to be a major fantasy factor for next year. Right now he is the only player in the league who is averaging more than 5 yards per carry and more than 10 yards per catch, that is Marshall Faulk territory! His big play ability makes him somebody to look out for, even though he hasn't been a every week starter for the Cardinals. He is very much a dual threat at running back, and eventually head coach Bruce Arians should grow tiresome of the lack of production from Rashard Mendenhall (3.1 yards per carry) and Ellington should be able to feast as a dangerous PPR fantasy option.