Saying the NFL is unpredictable is like saying the Grand Canyon is a small hole in the desert. And when you add fantasy football into the mix, let’s just say that trying to figure out what will happen when something unexpected occurs can be confusing, slightly crazy, and fascinating.
Occasionally all at once.
Just look at the preseason talk surrounding players like Gus Edwards, Taysom Hill and Sam Howell. The conversation was as different as the physiques of Edwards (6-1, 238 pounds) and Tutu Atwell (5-9, 165 pounds). Edwards was a pure backup player entering his second season after undergoing ACL surgery in 2021. Hill was classified as a gadget player with no real role and received the “Better at Best Ball” award. It was predicted that Howell would hear Jacoby Brissett’s footsteps before the leaves in the east turned brown.
All four of these players were either late darts in fantasy drafts or, more likely, waiver wire pickups. Fantasy managers who have used up a good portion of their FAB or waiver wire priority are smiling broadly. Some may have been drafted, dropped, and then acquired by various fantasy managers, which is always fun for the original artists. These are the types of finds that sometimes save a season. And in some cases they can win the league.
For several years, Edwards has been a valuable backup running back for the Ravens, amassing more than 700 rushing yards three times and serving as a major battering ram on short-yardage and goal-line opportunities. That changed with a bad move from Baltimore starter JK Dobbins, whose ruptured Achilles tendon threw a major wrench into the Ravens’ 2023 plans as they looked forward to a deep playoff run. Edwards appeared in waiver articles, albeit somewhat cautiously since the Ravens still had Justice Hill and preseason phenom Keaton Mitchell on the roster.
To say that Edwards has returned to the confidence of fantasy managers (wave of desperation?) and investment is quite an understatement.
In Weeks 2-8, Edwards rushed for 394 yards and five touchdowns, making him the RB13 during that run. Edwards then had 52 yards on five carries and two touchdown runs in Week 9. The carry total was low, but that was a byproduct of the Ravens’ dominance over the Seahawks 37-3. This was the third straight game Edwards scored, including a three-touchdown attempt in Week 8 against the Cardinals.
Before his poor rushing attempts in Week 9, Edwards had double-digit carries in each of the previous seven games. In this run-heavy offense, Gus Bus rushed 97 times in that span, 60 times more than second-place Justice Hill.
With the Ravens sitting atop the AFC North and several days past the trade deadline, Edwards is expected to remain at the helm of the team. Mitchell could provide some variety, but until he gets significant carries in crucial game situations, fantasy managers should be confident with Edwards.
Fantasy managers who see T. Hill touchdown alerts on their Yahoo apps have probably gotten used to it because Tyreek Hill is so great. But they’re actually getting more used to Taysom and not Tyreek raising those alarms, as this is the third week in a row that the “other hill” has recorded at least one touchdown.
Hill caught a touchdown from Derek Carr in the second quarter, and then threw a touchdown to fellow tight end Juwan Johnson in the fourth quarter to seal the Saints’ 24-17 victory – and countless people using New Orleans in their survivor pools breathed a sigh of relief. Hill continued to fill a penalty box by leading the Saints with 52 yards rushing, catching four balls for 13 yards and completing his only pass to Johnson.
Over the past four weeks, Hill has been used regularly, helping the Saints wherever he was needed. When Johnson was sidelined due to injury, Hill stepped up his receiving game, posting a season-high seven receptions in Week 6. Hill ran nine times for 63 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8, after so many people picked him and passed on putting him in their lineups. His squad share has recently increased from 35% to 64%.
The really crazy thing about Hill is that his big weeks of action are hard to predict. On the other hand, we’re talking about how unpredictable the NFL can be. Starting Hill week-to-week might seem like a no-brainer, but after Travis Kelce and maybe three other tight ends, fantasy managers are starting tight ends and just hoping for a touchdown. If Hill offers the ability to score in three different ways, he’s as good as any tight end option outside of the top four. He came into the week as a TE10, and who wants to bet he won’t move up?
Howell appears to have evolved from streaming quarterback option to full-fledged starter, and there have been some conversations among them The Commanders’ brain trusts the second-year player from North Carolina to be their franchise quarterback. Howell was represented in 45% of Yahoo leagues prior to his 397-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 8. It has risen to 62% and will continue to rise thereafter He passed for 325 yards and a score on Sunday at New England.
Howell entered Sunday Night Football as QB8 in Week 9 and was QB8 through Week 8. Not bad for someone who was drafted as QB27 back in August. With three 300-yard games in his last five appearances and considering how generous the Commanders’ secondary has been, there could be some shooting for Howell over the next few months.
Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, Howell has a tough matchup with the Jets in Week 16, but before and after that the Commanders face NFC West opponents the Rams and 49ers. In a year where so many quarterbacks have been injured, Howell could be one of the rising stars of the year when we write our season review articles.
Who could have predicted that?