Fantasy Playoffs are around the corner
By Chinmay Kulkarni
Welcome to the endgame…
After four long, grueling months of triumph, heartbreak, euphoria, and disappointment, we’ve approached the end of the regular season.
The fantasy football community has arrived at its yearly impasse. For the passive fantasy football enthusiasts, this time is no different – life goes on, with or without making 10 waiver wire claims a week. For the more aggressive-minded owners, a struggle between life and death reaches an inflection point – personal dignity is on the line. Some owners look to avoid punishment, while another look at winning a cash prize. Regardless of personal importance, there’s no doubt that fantasy football is something uniquely American, having the abilities to form tight relationships, teaching us about teamwork, decision making, marketing, trades, etc. For some, fantasy football is a way to make friends. For others, it’s the only commonality of keeping friends together.
Our virtual season simulation, when played correctly, is a multi-season marathon. It starts with preseason draft analysis, free agency scalping, and the weekly routine of setting one’s lineup. With an entire arsenal of advanced stats, projections, and hot takes, there’re a few players that have maintained status with the set-and-forget status that we take for granted. Let’s look at the top 5 players primed to bring fantasy football playoff success.
1. Jonathan Taylor – RB1
The defacto RB1 since Derrick Henry’s injury – Johnathan Taylor reached a set-and-forget status that the second-year back was meant to be. Behind one of the best offensive lines coupled with a QB favoring the continuous checkdown, the Wisconsin product is a menace in the backfield with several 100+ yard rushing games on top of a constant receiving threat. We must look back to week 3 when Taylor didn’t score a touchdown, becoming the most valuable picks in a redraft. Taylor should be a lock for each week moving forward, with NE, ARI, and LV left on the schedule.
2. Austin Ekeler – RB2
The Chargers’ backfield often gets overshadowed by some of the passing and receiving talent on his team. Considered a less sexy option for RB1, Ekeler may be the league’s premier pass-catching back, averaging nearly 5 catches per game, 43 receiving yards per game, and securing 7 passing TDs and 8 rushing TDs on the entire season. With an extremely aggressive approach by Brandon Staley with respect to his offense, Ekeler is a staple that makes the Chargers offense move then the passing game stalls. The Chargers play NYG, KC, and HOU in the coming weeks, and should have plenty of opportunities to run the ball.
3. Joe Mixon – RB3
The Cincinnati backfield at times has evolved into an RB by committee, with head coach Zac Taylor tending to the hot hand. Joe Mixon still towers over his fellow backfield with respect to sheer talent, standing second in both rushing attempts and rushing yards on the season. As a regular sighting in the endzone, the last non-touchdown game from Mixon was in week 3, just like Johnathan Taylor. Cincinnati is still a very pass-heavy scheme, but with the last playoff push necessary to improve potential standing, upcoming matchups with SF, DEN, and BAL will require establishing the run.
4. Cooper Kupp – WR1
To say Cooper Kupp broke out only this year is an understatement. Kupp achieved his lone 1000 yard/10 TD season in 2019. What makes this season starkly different, is his shattering of previous personal records extremely early in the season. He stands with the most receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs this season, and averages 100+ yards per game. His connection with Matt Stafford is exceptional and should continue with the absence of Robert Woods and replacement with Odell Beckham Jr. Clearly a set a forget WR1, the Rams must look to remain within striking distance of Arizona for the number one spot in the NFC West, and look to play their rival in the upcoming week, similarly with dates playing SEA and MIN.
5. Alvin Kamara – RB4
The Saints roster is in complete shambles. With several injuries on the defensive line, running back group, and the threat of COVID impacting some players, Kamara is the only reliable offense left on the entire team. The Saints passing offense took a nosedive after the Jameis Winston injury and therefore needs the running and short passing threat from Kamara to move the offense. With Kamara scheduled to return as the lone back in week 14, matchups with NYJ, TB, and MIA carry enough weight to make a final playoff push from the Saints. Kamara should eat up touches and should be the only New Orleans player started with absolute confidence in the fantasy playoffs.