Fantasy Football Playoff Analysis: Look to a pair of Commanders rookies for lineup help

Welcome to Championship Week, fantasy managers! If you are reading this, hopefully you advanced to the last round of the fantasy playoffs. However, with injuries continuing to affect our lineups, you might be looking for FLEX options to fill the gaps. Therefore, this article will highlight multiple players who could provide some fantasy value based on their volume and usage over the last couple of weeks.

Before we begin, below are two metrics I will be using throughout the article:

  • Expected Fantasy Points (or xFP): A usage metric that calculates the average fantasy value of a player’s total opportunities based on historical play-by-play data.

  • Fantasy Points Over Expected (or FPOE = Actual Points - Expected Points): An efficiency metric that is often subject to regression. Players who rely on FPOE to produce are much more volatile on a weekly basis.

For a more detailed breakdown of these metrics, be sure to check out my series primer from Week 1!

Let’s dive in!

Data courtesy of nflfastR

Jahan Dotson - Washington Commanders

In last week’s article, I highlighted Drake London as a rookie who could contribute to your rosters based on his recent improvement in usage. However, Jahan Dotson has seen a similar increase in volume and has been much more productive than London over the last few weeks.

Since Week 13, Dotson has averaged an 81.3 percent snap rate, a significant improvement from 56% in his first three games back from a hamstring injury. In that time span, we have seen his usage drastically change as well. In his last three games, Dotson is averaging:

  • 23.8% Target Share

  • 31% Air Yards Share

  • 12.6 Expected Fantasy Points

  • +3.73 Fantasy Points Over Expected

To put his usage into perspective, his Expected Fantasy Value (or xFP) is higher than Chris Godwin’s, Christian Watson’s and Terry McLaurin’s over the last four weeks. So, while the matchup is not the most favorable against the Cleveland Browns — 23rd-best against the wide receiver position since Week 10 — Dotson should still provide FLEX value based on his improved volume in recent weeks.

Russell Gage - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you are in a deeper league and need a starter for Week 17, Russell Gage could be an option in a pivotal matchup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You might already know that the NFC South has been one of the worst divisions in the league with every team currently boasting a losing record. However, the Buccaneers could separate themselves this week by defeating the Panthers.

When we analyze the matchup, the Panthers have been one of the better run defenses in recent weeks, ranking in the top 10 in yards per carry (4.0) and rushing yards (75) allowed per game since Week 10. On the other hand, they have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. As a result, Godwin and Mike Evans should have very productive weeks.

However, we should not forget about Gage, who has averaged a 20% target share and 11.4 Expected Fantasy Points (WR22) over the last two games. If you need a FLEX option, this could be the perfect matchup for Gage to have a productive week.

WR Russell Gage could be a solid fantasy FLEX option in an important Week 17 game for the Buccaneers.
Wide receiver Russell Gage could be a solid fantasy FLEX option in an important Week 17 game for the Bucs. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) (Thearon W. Henderson via Getty Images)

Brian Robinson Jr. - Washington Commanders

Brian Robinson Jr. is coming off of a disappointing performance in which he totaled just 5.8 half-PPR points on 23 opportunities against a tough 49ers defense. However, if you survived the semifinals despite his performance, he should be much more productive in Week 17 as he faces the Cleveland Browns. Over the last seven weeks, the Browns have averaged the fifth-most fantasy points to the running back position while allowing the most yards per carry in that time span.

From a usage standpoint, Robinson remains one of the most heavily involved running backs in the league. Since becoming the starter in Week 6, Robinson is averaging 18.3 opportunities on a 29.2% opportunity share, ranking as the RB24 in Expected Fantasy Points (11.1) in that stretch. And while his lower target share (3.9%) will continue to limit his overall upside, Robinson should be heavily involved in the Commanders’ game plan in a favorable matchup this week.

Cam Akers - Los Angeles Rams

It has been a disappointing season for Cam Akers, whose role on the team has been marred with uncertainty for most of the year. However, we have seen Akers’ usage improve in recent weeks, which has directly translated into multiple top-24 performances since Week 13.

And in the fantasy playoffs, those numbers have increased even more. Since Week 15, Akers is averaging a 75.5% snap rate while Kyren Williams’ snaps have declined to 10.5%. So, over the last two weeks, Akers has commanded a 39.6% opportunity share, 10.4% target share and an impressive 13.8 Expected Fantasy Points. In fact, his usage value (xFP) ranks RB15 in that time span, ahead of players like Dalvin Cook and David Montgomery. Even more encouraging, the Rams now face a Chargers defense that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs since Week 10. If you have held on to Akers through the fantasy playoffs, he should be a solid RB2 option in a favorable matchup this week.

Cole Kmet - Chicago Bears

After an impressive five-game stretch earlier this season, Cole Kmet has cooled off slightly since the team's bye week. Over the last two weeks, he has averaged just 4.9 fantasy points per game, ranking outside of the top 20 in both matchups. On a positive note, he continues to receive high volume and usage in the Bears’ offense.

Since the bye, Kmet is averaging a 23.9% target share (TE8) and 6.7 Expected Fantasy Points (TE14). While those numbers are marginally lower than his pre-bye usage, his Week 17 matchup against the Lions should lead to a much more productive performance since they allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. So despite a disappointing stretch over the last couple of games, Kmet has the upside to finish as a TE1 this week.

Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers

If you have rostered Aaron Rodgers this season, I would not be surprised if he has been sitting on your bench for most of the year. Especially in recent weeks, as he has finished outside of QB1 range in his last three games despite ranking as the QB5 in Expected Fantasy Points (20.4) since Week 13. However, Green Bay now faces a Minnesota defense that has been absolutely terrible at defending the wide receiver position. Quarterbacks have averaged the fourth-most fantasy points and most pass attempts per game against the Vikings since Week 10. Keep in mind, this matchup could have significant playoff ramifications, which means it should be a very competitive game for both teams. Coupled with Minnesota’s explosive offense likely forcing the Packers to throw the ball, Rodgers should be in line for a QB1 performance in the final week of the fantasy season.

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