With just about all of Week 13 in the books, DeVante Parker stands at the top. He’s not just the highest-scoring wideout of the week, he’s the highest-scoring fantasy player of the week.
Parker collected 159 yards and two touchdowns at the Eagles on Sunday, helping Miami score a seismic upset. And the video looks just as good as the stat sheet — Parker won with speed, physicality, determination, route running. It took five seasons, but Parker is finally cashing in on his first-round pedigree.
League winner? Yeah, DeVante Parker might just be one of those rare league winners. If nothing else, he’s driven a lot of fantasy teams to the playoffs. He’s been one of the FAAB hits of the year.
But let’s also acknowledge the other side of this Parker story. Let’s give a nod to the old warhorse, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Dolphins had a few stops and starts in their season this year, but they finally admitted in Week 7 that Fitzpatrick had to be the quarterback, no matter that he’s 37 and on the last lap or two of his career. Josh Rosen simply couldn’t be trusted, and the Dolphins wanted some modicum of respect and competitiveness in 2019.
Sure, it’s a rebuilding job in Miami. Sure, the Fish would like a nice pick in the upcoming draft. But rookie head coach Brian Flores was trying to install a culture and some pride; no football team wants to be the joke of the league. And no organization wants to go winless, either.
Since Fitzpatrick’s reinstatement, Miami has become a plucky underdog, a sneaky source of value. The Dolphins are 3-4 in their last seven games — after starting off 0-6 — and they’ve covered in six of those starts. Parker is the WR8 in PPR formats over the past six weeks (he’ll move up after Sunday), with Fitzpatrick the QB6 over that sample. There have been some hiccups along the way, but this is a professional offense again, a fun team again, a source for bankable stats again.
Projectable volume has helped Parker, to be sure — he has five double-digit target games over the last two months. When rookie Preston Williams got hurt, Parker became the unquestioned focal point of this offense. Opportunity is always a huge part of the equation.
But let’s grasp just how critical it is for any offense to have adequate quarterback play. It’s a game-changer, for real life and for fantasy. The Bengals finally got a win Sunday, toppling the Jets, and it came with Andy Dalton back at quarterback. The Lions certainly miss franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, but at least Jeff Driskel and David Blough have been respectable in their emergency starts.
Quarterback attrition is the major fantasy story of 2019. A number of name quarterbacks have lost their way, and a shocking number of quarterbacks have gotten hurt. Land mines all over the place. In many weeks the fantasy chase has brought anxiety and frustration; the Circle of Trust shrinking like a t-shirt washed on the wrong heat setting.
You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. Maybe Fitzpatrick isn’t a great quarterback, but for our purposes, he’s good enough. He’ll chuck the ball downfield. He knows where his playmaker is, and he makes sure the vertical game flows through Parker.
Fitzpatrick turned Miami’s season around. And in an indirect way, he’s been a fantasy godsend as well. And maybe in a week or two, we’ll be saying this about Andy Dalton.
I don’t want to overrate what Dalton did for the Bengals today, but he was competent. Ryan Finley was clearly over his head during his starting stint. And the Bengals offense has used a narrow tree all year — Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd become easy volume plays if Dalton can simply keep the chains moving.
Duck Hodges in Pittsburgh? Hey, at least he’s not Mason Rudolph. Mike Tomlin’s done one of his most amazing coaching jobs this year. Every key offensive Steeler in the win over Cleveland was someone buried on the depth chart when the year started.
• Odell Beckham isn’t completely at fault for his lost year, but he’s the sports car in Cleveland — and no one on the Browns has the keys. Jarvis Landry is the reliable car that gets you from Point A to Point B.
• Props to my friend and podcast partner Michael Salfino, who correctly diagnosed this week that Nick Foles couldn’t be trusted. Mike’s key point was the elevated risk that Foles could be benched in any game, and that finally came to fruition Sunday, after three messy turnovers.
• Apparently every gadget play works against the Eagles this year. Warm up the Statue of Liberty.
• No victory laps needed for Tyler Higbee and Jack Doyle; all it took was a simple diagnosing of opportunity and matchup. The Arizona tight-end giveaway will get its biggest test in the next two weeks; can the Steelers and Browns join the end-zone party?
• As great as Derrius Guice looked at Carolina, we should acknowledge Adrian Peterson has been better than anyone expected. And now Chris Thompson is back in the mix, at least to steal some touches. Perhaps the Redskins should push everyone out of the way and let Guice get 20-plus touches down the stretch, switch into evaluation mode. But Peterson’s quality year is probably going to mark some territory. Coaching staffs reward that sort of thing.
• If you got to Alshon Jeffery proactively in Week 13, good for you. Given his injuries and poor form this year, I was going to need a show-me week. Jeffery hasn’t looked at good in a couple of years, albeit the Miami secondary escorted him along.
• Allen Lazard has earned an expanded role, and you can see Aaron Rodgers beginning to trust him. It’s not like Marquez Valdez-Scantling or Geronimo Allison have done a thing. I hope Davante Adams comes with even a tiny discount next year; I’ll aggressively buy that stock. Turf toe is a pox; rest is the only way to completely fix it.
• Courtland Sutton had a monster game despite everything working against him (low volume, and a poor debut from Drew Lock). That underscores how special Sutton is.
• There’s been a fair amount of Kyler Murray touchdown deodorant of late, but remember he was under 5.0 YPA at San Francisco and again on Sunday. Arizona is still a work in progress. I’m still eager to see Andy Isabella play more — understanding he’s a raw route runner — and hopeful Chase Edmonds can return to a semi-featured role. But those are not fantasy angles we can go after proactively.
• Although Ryan Tannehill took too many sacks at Indianapolis, he’s still throwing the ball at a very high level (131.2 rating). But one of Tannehill’s biggest strengths — he takes what the defense gives him — turns into a pesky thing for fantasy. Like usual, the Titans did not feature any specific receiver in Week 13. Nine different players were targeted, and no one saw more than four. Bottom line, you play Derrick Henry every week and you can consider Tannehill against anyone, but that’s it. No one else is booted up.
• Raheem Mostert has always been an efficiency darling and a tape darling, it’s just a matter of predicting when the opportunity will come. I’d love to push the chips in on Mostert, but I know he could easily be the team's secondary or tertiary running option next week. That’s how Kyle Shanahan rolls.