Hey there fantasy football fanatics, Parker Olhiser back again! I’m here to talk to you about some players whose fantasy stock is rising in the second half of the season. They may have been injured or simply unproductive through the season so far, but these are guys that will likely catch fire soon and help you win a championship this year. Let’s get started!
Miles Sanders – RB PHI
With the exception of a couple of weeks, Miles Sanders has been mostly a disappointment after being selected on average at 2.05. But if you’ve held onto him or traded for him, he is about to redeem himself.
Sanders has produced at an elite level any time he is given a snap share of a true starting running back. In 9 of his 16 games as the starter, Sanders has received a 71 percent or more snap share. During those games, he has produced 5.13 yards per carry on 14.6 attempts per game, 32 receptions on 49 targets, and seven touchdowns.
Boston Scott has not proven that he can produce at the same level as Sanders in his absence, so we cannot expect him to take any sort of serious workload away from Sanders upon his return. Coach Doug Pederson has shown that he can trust Sanders to be his every-down back and no longer operate this backfield as a running back by committee.
Injuries have plagued both Sanders and his offensive line all season long, but after their bye week, it appears as though he, Lane Johnson, Nate Herbig, and Jason Peters are finally all healthy at the same time. The Eagles receiving options are also getting healthy with the recent return of Dallas Godert, Jalen Reagor, and possibly even Alshon Jeffrey.
Even though they are in first place in their division, they are only 3-4-1 and need to play at a far higher level for the remainder of the season. The offense as a whole should improve with many starters returning just in time to secure a playoff spot.
With the combination of Doug Pederson’s trust in his every-down back’s ability, his efficiency as the starter, and the overall health of this team vastly improving, brighter days are ahead for Miles Sanders and his fantasy owners.
Rob Gronkowski – TE TB
Since the injury to OJ Howard, Gronk has begun heating up. Clearly feeling heathier, Gronk appears to be Tom Brady’s top red-zone target.
Over the past four weeks, Gronk has averaged 6.5 targets per game. That time off must have helped him heal because Gronk is still showing us that he can produce at a high level with this heavy workload – even at the age of 31. With the healthy workload over the past four weeks, he has recorded 15 receptions for 183 yards and three touchdowns. He finished as a top-8 TE in three out of those four weeks.
Over the course of the season, Gronk has recorded the second-most air yards out of tight ends with 470 and the 3rd highest average target distance at 10.2 yards per target. He is also a part of the Buccaneers’ plan of attack when they cross the 20-yard line with an excellent 20.4 percent share of red-zone targets. Meaning he is not just getting typical check-down work that most tight ends receive, but Tom Brady is actually pushing deep passes to him down the field AND regularly targeting him in the red zone, resulting in more high-value opportunities and big splash plays.
And believe it or not, with a tight end-high 281 unrealized air yards, Gronk STILL has room to improve his numbers and make big plays even more regularly. We have not seen his best game(s) from him yet this season, start him where you can so he can help you make a run at the playoffs. Because, oh, by the way, his playoff schedule is tasty too. (MIN, @ATL, @DET, and ATL).
Allen Lazard – WR GB
Aaron Rodgers showed an obvious report with Allen Lazard early on this season and a lot of people have forgotten just how good they were together in Weeks 1-3. During that time he put up 13 receptions for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns. That is a 17.4 point PPR scoring pace which is the 13th best pace among all WRs.
Lazard has also shown Rodgers that he can trust him with only one dropped pass this year. Because of this trust and report with his quarterback, he received an 88.9 percent snap share. With the lackluster performances by MVS and company as the WR2 to Davante Adams the past few weeks, I do not see anyone cutting into this large role he’s carved out for himself.
Early on this season, he proved that he could produce as the Packers’ WR1 or the WR2 to Davante Adams. In Week 1 with Adams healthy, he posted 4 receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Without him in Week 3, Lazard was the WR1 and posted 6 receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. This is much needed by the Packers’ pass game for the remainder of the season because they will want to have a solid WR2 to step up when they soon face strong secondaries with solid CB1s to cover Adams like IND, CHI, and PHI. Allen Lazard is that WR2.
And in reality, Lazard is the biggest, strongest, and fastest receiver that the Packers have. With a 6’3” 225 lb frame, a 4.55 40 yd dash time, and a speed score of 107.9, Lazard tops even Adams in all those categories. Now, I’m not saying he is a better NFL WR than Davante Adams, but I am saying he has the equivalent physical tools, quarterback, and an experienced veteran to learn from. Allen Lazard’s future is bright in this league and it all starts now.
Kareem Hunt – RB CLE
Many believed Kareem Hunt would run wild with the Browns’ backfield mostly to himself, but that has not been the case for the past four weeks. It may seem backward, but he has actually done considerably worse since the injury to Nick Chubb. In response, many owners are selling/trading him where they can because they believe he has reached his maximum potential. I am here to tell you why Hunt will actually IMPROVE with Chubb back in the lineup and could possibly be even more productive than he has been at any point this season.
In the first four weeks of the season, while Chubb was still healthy, Hunt was an extremely efficient runner with 5.9 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns on 12.5 carries per game. Without Chubb, he has posted a much weaker 3.9 yards per carry and 0 touchdowns on 16.25 carries per game.
Not only was he a more efficient runner during that time frame, but the coaching staff gave him more opportunities in the red zone. During Weeks 1-4, Hunt received 21 red zone opportunities through the air and on the ground. Since then (Weeks 4-8) he has only gotten 9 chances to score in the red zone.
Also, the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. will force the Browns to get creative and spread the ball around even more in their passing attack. Hunt started the season in both the WR and the RB meeting rooms, receiving coaching at both positions. If either of these backs is going to see an increased role in the passing game after the loss of their WR1, it will be Hunt.
During Chubb’s absence, defenses did not have to worry about both of these weapons out of the backfield and have been able to focus solely on Hunt. Chubb’s return will stop all this and the absence of OBJ will only expand Hunt’s role beyond what it was early in the season.
Now, if you do not have these players rostered, do not panic. Due to their underperformance in the first half of the season, they will naturally be undervalued. It is hard for fantasy managers to accept change, especially in the middle of a season. Keep an open mind and take advantage of those who don’t.
If you have any questions about these gentlemen or any other players in the league, you can follow me on Twitter @ParkerJamesFF. Thank you for reading and good luck this week in all your matchups!