• Andrew DiCecco

ITB Fantasy Football Corner: Rookies Hold Key To Title Aspirations

It’s fantasy semifinals week! If your team is still alive and kicking, congratulations.


However, last week was merely a stepping stone toward championship glory. As the margin for error narrows and stakes increase, I’ve highlighted some sneaky plays and savvy pickups that can hopefully propel you to the finish line.


Let’s get to it!


Trends

*If you’re an owner who streams quarterbacks based on matchups, you’ll want Derek Carr in your lineup. The Raiders quarterback has compiled 697 passing yards and five touchdowns over the past two weeks and draws a leaky Chargers secondary.


*With Raheem Mostert on the mend once again, seek out 49ers running back Jeff Wilson. The Texans allow the second-most yards to running backs, and Wilson is a powerful inside runner who should see goaline work. I really like Wilson in 12-team leagues and believe he can provide favorable returns as a flex play. He'll have his opportunities.


*I’ve noted this in prior columns, but Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick has been quietly productive in recent weeks. The game script favors the Broncos, who will likely lean on the passing game to keep pace with the Bills. Patrick has averaged nearly six targets over the past six games – which includes the infamous Kendall Hinton game – and has reeled in four touchdowns over that span.


*In need of a plug-and-play tight end? Look no further than the Saints’ Jared Cook. The Saints can’t afford to waste drives getting the ground game jumpstarted with Taysom Hill if they expect to hang with the Chiefs, and the veteran tight end has hauled in touchdowns in consecutive weeks.



Flex Plays I like

Lions RB D’Andre Swift vs. Titans

The rookie first-rounder returned to his regular role atop the Lions’ pecking order following a three-game absence. However, the rookie played 36 snaps and logged just 11 touches on Sunday, which is why he remains a flex play. Still, even a likely negative game script shouldn’t hinder Swift, who can also manufacture yards in the passing game. The Titans’ defense has been surprisingly generous to opposing running backs this season, so Swift provides a safe floor and potentially high ceiling this week.


Browns RB Kareem Hunt vs. Giants

The Giants have allowed the ninth-most rushing yards to opposing runners but have been even more vulnerable to surrendering air yards to running backs. Nick Chubb is among the best at his position and should eclipse the 100-yard mark in this one, but the Browns consistently involve Hunt in the weekly game plan. Over the past two weeks, Hunt has yielded 20 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. However, he has made his mark as a receiver, reeling in 9-of-10 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. He should also continue to see short-yardage work in the red zone.


Giants RB Wayne Gallman vs. Browns

Gallman has racked up 52 carries for 286 yards and a touchdown over the past three games and draws a Browns team that was just trampled by a dynamic Ravens’ ground game. Game script could be a factor in this matchup, so the receiving prowess of Dion Lewis could eat into Gallman’s workload, but I’m banking on Gallman’s volume and consistency in what's essentially a must-win game for the Giants.


Ravens RB Gus Edwards vs. Jaguars

It wasn’t long ago that J.K. Dobbins appeared in this space, but the rookie has since\ claimed the lead back in Baltimore, cementing himself as an RB2 in one of the league’s most effective rushing attacks. However, Dobbins’ production hasn’t impacted Edwards, who has produced three touchdowns over the past three weeks. The bruising runner is averaging nearly eight carries a game over that span and managed two touchdowns last week on just seven touches. This week, Edwards is a savvy play in a game where the Ravens should cruise to an early lead – the Ravens are 13.5-point favorites – and turn to the running game to bleed the clock in the second-half.


49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk vs. Cowboys

(49ers rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk should flourish with Deebo Samuel out)

Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel will reportedly be out for a while with a significant hamstring injury, opening a plethora of targets for the rookie first-rounder Aiyuk. The Cowboys have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers, and the red-hot Aiyuk has reeled in 15 receptions for 214 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 25 targets the past two weeks. This week, Aiyuk finds himself in a suitable spt to continue his late-season tear – and to help punch your ticket to the championship final.


Steelers WR Diontae Johnson vs. Bengals

Johnson is the prototypical high-volume upside player who belongs in flex spots. Yes, Johnson was benched for a quarter due to an accumulation of egregious drops, but he still secured four receptions on Monday night for 40 yards – on seven targets. In the Steelers Week 10 matchup against the Bengals, Johnson erupted for six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. The Bengals' secondary has been a sore spot all season, so look for the Steelers to strike early and often.


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

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