Just when you think you have the fantasy landscape figured out, along comes Week 11.
Running backs Bo Scarbrough and Jonathan Williams came out of nowhere to produce double-digit fantasy points. Receivers Deebo Samuel and Randall Cobb went over 100 yards for the second week in a row. And tight end Ryan Griffin hit the century mark for the first time in his seven-year career.
So can we really expect these guys to keep this up? As always, ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters are here to help.
Scarbrough: This is about as “Where did that come from?” as it gets. The former Alabama running back made his NFL debut Sunday — less than two weeks after joining the Detroit Lions’ practice squad. And he ran 14 times for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Scarbrough bounced around the NFL last year with the Cowboys, Jaguars and Seahawks, but he had been out of work since the preseason. Nevertheless, Lions reporter Michael Rothstein thinks the 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser has a chance to stick, considering how much Detroit has struggled to find a go-to running back since Kerryon Johnson was injured last month.
“Scarbrough is a bigger back, which gives the Lions a different dynamic than Ty Johnson or J.D. McKissic. And it showed in Darrell Bevell’s offense,” Rothstein said. “Bevell said Tuesday that what Scarbrough does — specifically breaking tackles — is ‘kind of what we were looking for in the run game.’ And he believed Scarbrough gave them a spark.
“Is he a one-week wonder? Probably not considering Detroit faces woebegone Washington this week and no one else has established themselves in the Lions’ backfield. But I still think he’s boom-or-bust on a fantasy level, based on whether he can score a touchdown.”
Williams: The fourth-year pro has already doubled down on his breakout performance. He went from a total of 1 rushing yard through the first 10 weeks of the season to 116 in Week 11 and another 104 yards and a touchdown Thursday night.
Colts reporter Mike Wells said it has become pretty obvious that Williams will remain the workhorse back while starter Marlon Mack is out indefinitely with a broken hand. Although Wells said that Williams doesn’t have quite the same explosiveness or vision as Mack, he has obviously made the most of this precious opportunity with his third NFL team.
Samuel: The San Francisco 49ers rookie had just 227 receiving yards through the first nine weeks. Then he more than doubled that total over the past two games with 16 catches for 246 yards. As 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner pointed out, only Michael Thomas has more yards over that span.
Wagoner wrote about how the 6-foot, 215-pound “battering ram” has been exactly what San Francisco needed while tight end George Kittle and receiver Emmanuel Sanders are nursing injuries. Wagoner said it would “probably be wise to temper expectations a bit” when Kittle and Sanders are healthy — especially since Samuel is dealing with a shoulder injury of his own.
But Wagoner also said it’s reasonable to think Samuel will play a prominent role even when all of them are on the field.
“Samuel has clearly earned the trust of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which makes him worth plugging in until/if he stops producing,” Wagoner said.
Cobb: The ninth-year veteran is no stranger to the fantasy spotlight. But it has been a while since injuries derailed his career with the Packers before he signed with the Dallas Cowboys this year. And he also had just 274 yards on the season through nine weeks before busting loose with 10 catches for 221 yards and two TDs over the past two weeks.
Stephania Bell doesn’t feel confident in Michael Gallup’s fantasy production in Week 12 because of the Cowboys’ matchup with the Patriots.
Cobb is essentially the No. 3 receiver in Dallas behind Amari Cooper and also-surging Michael Gallup. But Cowboys reporter Todd Archer thinks he can continue to have value for precisely that reason — especially this week against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who are known for taking away an opponent’s top target.
“He will continue to be a viable part of the passing game, especially with the attention that has to be paid to Cooper and if Gallup can be effective on the outside,” Archer said. “Dak Prescott is not afraid to go to Cobb in any situation. They have hit it off right away, and Cobb’s numbers could be a lot better if not for penalties and drops.”
Jacob Hollister: The Seattle Seahawks’ third-year tight end belongs in this group too, even though his breakthrough came in Weeks 9 and 10 (a combined 12 catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns on 16 targets). As Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson wrote, Hollister almost had a fourth TD, but Russell Wilson missed him by about a foot on his overtime interception against the 49ers.
“Hollister should remain a viable fantasy play for the foreseeable future given the impact he’s made of late and the injuries to Ed Dickson and Luke Willson,” Henderson said — though he cautioned that it might be hard to count on Hollister to sustain that many targets with recently acquired receiver Josh Gordon “getting more comfortable in a Seattle offense where there are only so many balls to go around.”
Griffin: The seventh-year veteran played in 90 career games with the Houston Texans and New York Jets, including the playoffs, before he finally posted his first 100-yard game last week (five catches for 106 yards and a TD). So expectations obviously need to be tempered.
Matthew Berry is optimistic on Sam Darnold, Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder because of the Jets’ upcoming schedule, and he reveals his other top Week 12 QB streamers.
But Griffin did catch four passes for 66 yards and two TDs in Week 8 and six for 50 yards in Week 9. And Jets reporter Rich Cimini said he thinks Griffin will continue to be a “viable option” in the passing game, especially now that it’s clear Chris Herndon won’t be returning because of a broken rib.
“QB Sam Darnold trusts him, and they’ve been moving him around the formation in recent games, trying to create favorable matchups,” Cimini said. “He’s tied with Le’Veon Bell for the second-most red zone targets on the team, and there’s every reason to believe that won’t change.”
Now for the rest of our weekly tour around the league:
Arizona Cardinals: The Cards’ backfield has become a committee of one, wrote Josh Weinfuss, with Kenyan Drake running ahead of David Johnson.
Cincinnati Bengals: Squeaky wheel alert. Receiver Tyler Boyd voiced his frustration over his lack of targets after he caught just one pass for zero yards, per Ben Baby.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys still believe Ezekiel Elliott is the “straw that stirs the drink,” despite his recent dip in rushing yards, wrote Todd Archer.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Squeaky wheel alert, Part 2. Leonard Fournette reached out to his father and to Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen, among others, after he was visibly upset about getting just eight carries last week, according to Michael DiRocco. Fournette said he is optimistic his workload will increase this week.
Miami Dolphins: Receiver DeVante Parker’s breakout season is finally here, wrote Cameron Wolfe.
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara’s workload won’t always be as heavy as it was in Week 11. But he was the elixir when New Orleans needed to revive its offense.
New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley hasn’t quite delivered like the No. 1 pick in most fantasy drafts this year. But he is feeling healthier after the bye week. And he vowed to get back to his running style and “just ball and have fun” over the final six weeks, wrote Jordan Raanan.
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Carson Wentz is also looking for a late-season boost. And the NFL’s easiest remaining schedule won’t hurt, wrote Tim McManus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Per Jenna Laine, Bucs coach Bruce Arians still thinks TE O.J. Howard is a “talented, talented guy. But it’s not showing up on Sundays.”