Welcome to your new fantasy column! I’m Hank Mardukas and recently I’ve been lucky to join the great team at Blitzed NFL. Look, I know that it’s a little late for fantasy advice for the season but there are some people out there who play through Week 17. Yes, those people are batshit crazy but hey, they still need advice. For the sake of this week, I’m just going to write an article called “5 to Thrive.” But starting next season, it’ll be “5 to Thrive, 5 to Dive.” In this weekly write-up, I’ll try to predict which players will outperform their weekly FantasyPros rank (Thrives) and those who will underperform (Dives). This isn’t a start-sit piece. It’s simply telling you who have a chance to do what this week.
Five to Thrive
Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 13)
HAHAHA just kidding, fuck that guy.
Sam Darnold, QB New York Jets
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 17)
This ginger-headed rookie from USC appears to have finally found his stride at the end of his rookie year and could continue his fiery run in Week 17 against a New England defense that’s given up 254 yards/game through the air on the season. Thanks to a newfound chemistry with top WR Robby Anderson, Darnold has thrown for 594 yards and 5 TDs the last two weeks. The Pats could look to neutralize Anderson with shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore, but Darnold has proven that he can find other targets in the passing game as well. For those of you crazy bastards playing in Week 17 and need a streaming QB, the red-hot Darnold could and should be an option.
CJ Anderson, RB Los Angeles Rams
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 17)
Who in the hell saw Anderson’s Week 16 performance coming? I’ll tell you one person who didn’t: me. I rode Todd Gurley to the title game all season and then added rookie John Kelly who had been with the Rams all season. I didn’t buy into the hype of McVay saying Anderson would play a “major role.” Welp, I was wrong and it cost me a title. But I’m not bitter. It appears that Gurley will again sit out this week which will leave the majority of the work to Eddie Lacy or I mean CJ Anderson. In his LA debut, Anderson ran for 167 yards and a TD against an Arizona front 7 that looks like it’s comprised of 5 dead bodies and 2 high school players. This week, CJA gets to take on the 49ers, who have surrendered the 6th most fantasy points to RBs the last 4 weeks. Ride this turd to fantasy glory.
Royce Freeman, RB Denver Broncos
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 29)
All the hype surrounded this third round pick out of Oregon coming into the season (see Brad Evans), but Freeman has disappointed as he’s watched fellow rookie Philip Lindsay rip defenses apart with his quickness and tough running. Well, Lindsay will be out this week with injury which should leave the backfield to Royce Freeman and an opportunity to show why the Broncos drafted him as high as they did. And lucky for him, he’ll get to take on a Chargers defense that has given up the most fantasy points/game the last 4 weeks to RBs. This bruising back should see somewhere around 20 carries and you’ll take that guaranteed workload and run with in Week 17 where you could see some big-time fantasy starters sitting out. I expect Freeman to run free, man this week at home in the season finale to high-end RB2 performance.
Kenny Golladay, WR Detroit Lions
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 14)
I love me some Kenny G and his smooth routes. I also love me some guaranteed targets in an offense that has no one else to throw to. The Lions legit have no one else to even think about passing. They’d be better off trotting out their list of WR busts from the mid 2000’s (hello, Charles Rogers) instead of going with what’s left at their depth chart at WR. The Packers defense was just ripped up by the before-mentioned Darnold and Anderson combo last week, and I could see the same this week with Stafford-Golladay. If the Lions can get some help around Babytron for next season and a new OC, Golladay has all the traits to be a star. If you’re in a dynasty league, be patient with this future stud.
Chris Hogan, WR New England Patriots
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 47)
Now, I’m never a fan of advocating for one of Tom Brady’s weapons, but I also have to be realistic for a second. Hogan has stepped into the role that was vacated by Josh Gordon’s suspension and will be taking on a Jets defense that has given up a ton through the air on the season. New York has given up the 2nd most fantasy points on the season to WRs and has allowed over 250 passing yards/game. Brady has a ton of weapons so Hogan’s targets could be limited, but all it takes is one long catch to make this value play worth it, even if he plays for Patriots.
Hank Mardukas is a Steelers fan and has been a fantasy writer for years. You can follow him on Twitter at @Blitzed_Fantasy.