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Week 13 Fantasy Care/Don't Care: Javonte Williams makes statement

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5 Things I care about

Javonte Williams aces the first test

It was always destined to be this way.

With Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock as the only possible quarterback “answers” in 2021, the Denver Broncos' offense was designed to disappoint relative to its talent.

Javonte Williams’ breakout game was just a reminder of that ability. The rookie cruised to 100 yards from scrimmage with ease, ripping off big plays via the run and pass game. He shone like a bright star even as his team put up a non-competitive effort.

Remember, this was Williams’ first game without Melvin Gordon. Most of Fantasy Twitter has been crying out all year for Willaims to be “free” and fully unleashed. Wishes were answered on Sunday night. Williams touched the ball 29 times and accumulated 178 yards with a score. No. 2 back Mike Boone handled just five touches. Williams completed aced his first test outside of the dead-even split he’s lived in with Gordon.

Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33)
What an amazing performance by Javonte Williams in his first start. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

If Gordon leaves in the offseason, it will be hard to quell the unwavering enthusiasm for Williams in 2022 fantasy drafts. He might be “next year’s Jonathan Taylor” in a best-case scenario — the two have similar advanced rushing metrics like breakaway run percentage and missed tackles forced. Taylor is a special physical specimen with superior size-adjusted long-speed but there’s no doubt Williams has the juice.

A few weeks ago I wrote that a small handful of big-play running backs were proving to be difference-makers for their teams. Williams will be ready to make his case to be included in that club in 2022.

He will need a few breaks beyond just Gordon’s departure, however. The Broncos need to stay healthy and perhaps patch some holes on the line. They drastically need a new, more progressive angle in the play-caller department. Frank Reich beautifully designs his rushing scheme for Taylor and the screen work is pristine. And most important of all, the Broncos have to do something of consequence at the quarterback position.

Is Taylor having this season if the Colts don’t get Carson Wentz and instead march willingly into the quarterback wilderness? No chance and the Broncos have a chance to aim higher than the Wentz-level.

If you want Williams on your team next season, be ready to sink the Round 1 to 2 turn pick you made with Taylor this past year. How smart that looks will depend on at least a few of those breaks going Williams' direction this summer.

As for this season? It's impossible to guess. Many times coaches can't simply put the genie back in the bottle when a young player breaks out like this. Yet, Vic Fangio might play this a bit more old school than others and truly, despite Williams' clear ability, Gordon hasn't done anything to lose work.

What we all want might not be what the coach does.

Russell Wilson might be back(ish)

The NFC West is weird. The Rams own the Seahawks, the 49ers own the Rams, the Seahawks own the 49ers and the Cardinals pop in and mess things up like the drunk uncle at all your family holidays.

So perhaps it’s not worth getting too excited by the Seahawks' win over the previously surging 49ers this week but what’s important here: Russell Wilson looked much better than his last three games. Perhaps all that matters is getting more distance from that finger injury.

Wilson looked more comfortable as the game went on. He mounted three scoring drives starting on six minutes left in the second quarter. And he was thwarted by one of his own players to a high degree.

When you catch four passes for seven yards on six targets and somehow the box score doesn’t show how bad of a day you had, you know it was miserable for Gerald Everett.

He popped up a perfect pass in the end zone for an interception — perhaps he saw Ja’Marr Chase’s interception volley and said, “Hold my beer.” Everett sandwiched that play with a fumble on the opening drive and another fumble on a shovel pass right at the one-yard line.

It truly was that bad.

Despite that, Wilson offered up a solid performance. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both received eight targets and the offense finally had some life.

We still might be looking at the end of an era in Seattle once this season ends. At least the final episode might be a decent show we actually want to watch.

Kyler Murray is back

Despite registering just 15 passes, Kyler Murray was the top-scoring quarterback of the early slate with 30 points. It was his first game back after a three-game absence.

Murray’s 10 carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns — combined with his two passing scores — completely broke the Chicago Bears' backs. It looked like they were playing different sports.

Week 13 was a reminder of just how efficient and deadly the Cardinals offense can be when Murray is under center. The mark of a great team is surviving with a backup quarterback, as the Cardinals did with Colt McCoy.

The mark of a great player is how instantly superior the entire operation looks as soon as they return. Murray is that guy.

With no true frontrunner in the current MVP race, don’t rule out Kyler Murray swooping in and snagging the award despite missing time. The MVP usually goes to the most dynamic quarterback on the best team. Does that not sound like Kyler Murray?

Unless someone else — like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen — goes completely wild the rest of the season, Murray is going to get near the top of that discussion.

Keenan Allen positive TD regression

Keenan Allen had garnered a whopping 58 targets from Weeks 8 to 12. Despite that huge target total, he’d scored just one touchdown even with some healthy red-zone usage.

Week 13 provided the course correction. Allen snagged two touchdowns right away in the first quarter.

Allen has been a lesson in trusting great players all season. When Mike Williams had his fun start to the season, the right move was always to believe a proven elite route-runner like Keenan Allen would eventually retake the top wide receiver role. That happened.

When he wasn’t finding the end zone despite all the signals showing he’d get there, you just leaned on math flipping the right way. That happened.

The Eagles played the Jets today

Not breaking news to you on this one but it’s worth keeping this piece of context while examining and extrapolating anything from Gardner Minshew’s day.

Minshew completed 20 of 25 throws for 242 yards with two scores. He was white-hot early in the game and helped push tight end Dallas Goedert to a 105-yard outing. The former Jags passer is an excellent backup-level quarterback. He’s a pro that we should expect to come in and keep the ship afloat at a bare minimum, smack around a bad defense at best.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this was indeed a cake matchup. New York ranked 32nd in EPA per play allowed since Week 8 coming into this week.

Credit to Minshew for making the most of his opportunity. He’s a fantastic backup quarterback. But his performance today, when adjusted for the Jets, doesn’t need to spark multiple weeks of a quarterback controversy as the Eagles head into the bye. Jalen Hurts might not be the future of the franchise either but they need to spend the rest of the season ruling that out with certainty.

5 Things I don’t care about

Excusing the Chiefs' drop-to-interception volleys

However many times a pass has clanged off Tyreek Hill or any Chiefs receivers' hands only to volley up into the arms of a waiting defender, it feels like there's been more. Normally, I write these off as flukes. Months ago I was doing just that.

However, after yet another one of those plays cost Patrick Mahomes on a mid-game pass to Hill, I threw in the towel. Drops aren't that big of a deal but drops and miscues that consistently lead to turnovers 13 weeks deep into a season? That's problematic.

Watching that specific play, I'm not sure it was all on Hill. I referenced this graphic during the Steelers receivers' mega drop-fest games from last year often:

As the Chiefs implement more of these quick-hitting RPO plays to try and work on boosting their offense's short game and matriculate the ball down the field, could this be part of the reason for the back-break drop/turnovers? The answer is hard to know but in a season where Kansas City has constantly been searching for explanations, this might be just another "look in the mirror" prompt for the offense.

The Ravens record

The Ravens are an 8-4 team. At some point, you are what your record says you are. It’s just hard to convince yourself the Ravens are that good of a team.

It’s mostly injury pessimism; they just won’t stop for this team. Baltimore’s defense is clearly a shell of its once dangerous self and now they’ll take another hit as Marlon Humphrey is expected to miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. The Ravens' secondary had been bleeding big plays all year. Now they’ll go the rest of the way without their last good cornerback remaining.

Things are weird on offense. Devonta Freeman has emerged as a feature piece — that says it all. Lamar Jackson has played poorly for two straight weeks. He’s made mistakes and consistently missed layups against Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The team has mysteriously phased out impressive rookie Rashod Bateman.

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The Ravens need to be an offensive team with the state of their defense. They’ve been just that at times this year. It’s now trending in the wrong direction.

Perhaps this is just some weirdness brought on by playing their division rivals, who are all strong operations in their own right. That’s not exactly comforting considering they play all three of their AFC North brethren again before the end of the season.

People refusing to stash backup RBs

As the news was breaking that Darrell Henderson was unlikely to play this morning, I noticed that Sony Michel was only rostered in 54 percent of Yahoo leagues. The other 46 percent of leagues on the platform are grossly irresponsible.

What are you people doing?

In situations where the No. 2 running back is clear as day, a guy like Sony Michel should be on rosters in every single league. You do not need some random WR5 on your roster. Ditch your second tight end. Even if a player — like Michel would in a normal week — is projected for sub-five points, you want the upside on your bench, not freely available on the waiver wire. I will say this every week if I have to.

In replacement of Darrell Henderson, who was indeed not involved at all, Michel ran the ball 24 times for 121 yards and a touchdown while snaring three passes on four targets. He was a workhorse. It will be fascinating to see if Michel returns to the role of a pure backup when Henderson is healthy or if he’s forced this into more of a committee situation.

Saquon Barkley’s big runs

Saquon Barkley is going to have a big run every week. He had a 32-yard run and finished with 40 total last week. He had a 23-yard run but just barely cracked 50 on Sunday.

Barkley has always been a boom-or-bust runner. It’s becoming more of an issue now that his overall rushing volume continues to drop with New York’s whole offense unable to sustain drives. He did get nine targets and that receiving work will help keep his floor afloat but it's a mild floor. Nothing close to a ceiling is all you can expect from Barkley right now.

He didn’t make my top-15 ranked running backs this week, despite multiple starters being out this week. I’m not sure when he’ll get back there. Guys like James Conner, Alexander Mattison and Sony Michel being better fantasy plays (without a shadow of a doubt) than Barkley tells you all you need to know about the state of the Giants.

Emphasizing Zach Wilson when debating Elijah Moore

Credit to Zach Wilson for having a strong first half against the Eagles. He looked comfortable and moved the offense from the jump, two things we haven’t been able to say about the rookie very often. I’m not sure Wilson is going to be smooth-sailing the rest of 2021 but I am done using him as a crucial variable when debating Elijah Moore every week.

Moore saw 12 targets against the Eagles. He caught six of them for 77 yards and a touchdown with one rush attempt stacked on top.

We know that Moore has had his best games with the Jets’ backup quarterbacks on the field. Wilson missing a wide-open Moore in the back of the end zone for what would have been his second first-half score was a painful reminder of that. Nevertheless, it’s so clear that Moore is the best player on the field for New York’s offense and it’s just not close. The volume now reflects that on a weekly basis.

Moore is a weekly FLEX play at this point regardless of who is behind center.

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