• Andrew DiCecco

ITB Fantasy Football Corner: Grab Akers While You Can

This season presented an excessive amount of challenges to overcome for many owners to reach the fantasy playoffs. However, after months of monitoring rescheduled games, incessant roster tinkering, and savvy wheeling-and-dealing, a new season begins Sunday.


For those looking for an edge on waiver wire pickups, intriguing stashes, and shrewd flex options ahead of the quarterfinal round, I have you covered. Let’s get to it!


Trends

*For quarterback-needy teams, check to see if Philip Rivers is available in your league. The Raiders have allowed north of 19 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers. This game has the makings of a shootout.


*It’s considered a rarity if you unearth a running back from the depths of the waiver wire this late in the season, but two guys who can provide depth and stability are Cam Akers and Ty Johnson. Akers has recently emerged from a three-back timeshare in Los Angeles, logging 21 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown last week. The Rams are high on their rookie, who hung 171 rushing yards on the Patriots on Thursday night, so expect them to feature Akers down the stretch.

(Rookie RB Cam Akers has emerged for the Rams)

In that same vein, Johnson's time is finally upon us. Johnson, one of my top sleeper running backs in the 2019 NFL Draft, burst onto the scene last week for the Jets, totaling 22 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. If Frank Gore is unavailable, Johnson could be an intriguing play in deeper leagues.


*Hardly a household name, Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick needs to be on more radars. Patrick has been targeted 20 times over the past four games, reeling in 13 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Given the Broncos’ passing game's volatility, Patrick should only be in play for 12-14 team leagues.


*Unless you landed one of the few elite tight ends, odds are you have adopted the weekly streaming method. In that case, take a look at Washington’s Logan Thomas. Thomas is coming off his best game of the season (9-98-1) and has accounted for 23 targets, 19 receptions, 190 yards, and two touchdowns over the past four weeks.


Flex Plays I Like


Colts RB Jonathan Taylor vs. Raiders

Given how streaky Taylor has been thus far, it’s tough to trust the rookie in a one-game elimination. However, Taylor will face the NFL’s fourth-worst rush defense (the Las Vegas Raiders). The Wisconsin product is coming off his best game as a pro – he rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries against the Texans – and looks as though he’s found his footing late in the season. Nyheim Hines still looms, but I suspect the Colts will ride the hot-hand, dominating the time of possession and pounding it between the tackles with their blue-chip bell cow.


Chargers RB Austin Ekeler vs. Falcons

Ekeler’s receiving prowess is his bread and butter, and a juicy matchup against the Falcons should revitalize a passing game that was stuck in neutral last week. To be specific, the Falcons have surrendered the ninth-most fantasy points in the receiving game to running backs – including four touchdowns. The Falcons have been surprisingly stout against the run, which plays to Ekeler’s strengths. I expect Justin Herbert to target Ekeler early to establish a rhythm.


Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin vs. Chiefs

Gaskin was shelved for four games while nursing a knee injury but returned to his role as lead back in Week 13. While Salvon Ahmed and DeAndre Washington were sidelined, Gaskin yielded 23 touches against the Bengals. Ahmed missed practice again on Thursday with a shoulder injury, while Washington (hamstring) and Gaskin (hamstring) were limited participants. In addition to averaging 21 touches over his last six outings, Gaskin also averages 31.1 receiving yards per game, so his floor is relatively safe. The Chiefs defense has been vulnerable against the run, so monitor Gaskin’s status for Sunday. If he’s available, his usage should compel you to start him with confidence.


Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Buccaneers

Jefferson is essentially matchup proof, and this week figures to be no exception in a game in which the Vikings figure to chase points. The rookie sensation is averaging ten targets over the past four weeks, parlaying them into 27 receptions for 412 yards and four touchdowns. Sure, he’ll tangle with a talented Tampa Bay secondary, but Jefferson has proven he can consistently win his matchups.


Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Bengals

Cooper is quietly putting together a noteworthy season despite less than ideal circumstances. The Cowboys’ top receiver has gradually developed chemistry with quarterback Andy Dalton – who returns to Cincinnati to face his former team – and has settled into the short-to-intermediate role and safety valve. Over the past three games, Cooper has garnered 24 targets, 17 receptions, 236 yards, and two touchdowns. Cooper boasts the route-running savvy and enough long speed to win downfield, but his sheer target volume provides a comfortable floor. He will likely draw cornerback William Jackson III in coverage, which bodes well for his Sunday stat line.


Titans WR Corey Davis vs. Jaguars You may remember me listing Davis in the Trends portion of this column last week. A coming-of-age story, the fourth-year receiver continued his prolific season last week, amassing 11 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets. This week, Davis will see a depleted Jaguars secondary missing three of their top cornerbacks. A.J. Brown, Tennessee’s leading receiver, has been battling through a nagging ankle injury, which could create more opportunities for Davis to add to his career year on Sunday. Leave Davis in your lineup for the next two weeks.


– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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