Fantasy Impact: the slot receivers who caught fire and what else we learned in Week 12

Taylor Gabriel and Tyreek Hill are fast, very fast and almost every quarterback seemed to save his game with a huge second half.

Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel has now scored touchdowns in his last four games - including two against the Cardinals yesterday. Gabriel struck pay dirt on a couple screen passes that he took the distance and also showed what he can do rushing the ball with a carry for 27 yards that put him over 100 combined yards. Gabriel broke into the league with current offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan when both were with the Browns two seasons ago. After the Browns cut him this year, the Falcons grabbed him and the rest is Twitter trolling history. The Falcons account actually thanked the Browns yesterday after Gabriel’s big day.

The takeaway: Gabriel is a must-start. Ride him while he’s hot, Mohammed Sanu is pretty unspectacular and has mostly been a possession receiver with the Falcons. Gabriel’s coming out party is tied a little bit to the loss of tight end Jacob Tamme who the Falcons lost a few weeks ago for the season. It has meant more targets and with the ATL passing game in the top three all season, that means lots of opportunities including jet sweeps and creative ways of getting Gabriel the ball.

Holy triple-threat. Just when you thought the Chiefs were unwatchable … here comes Hill.  Sunday night proved more evidence that Hill, who is said to run a 4.2 40-yard dash, might be the fastest man in the NFL.

Hill scored three TDs, by rushing, receiving and returning in a more-exciting-than-it-should-have-been OT win over the Broncos. I’ve been preaching Hill in past columns, but only as a good pickup and possible flex-play. He brings a spark to an offense that minus an injured Jamal Charles and thanks to an invisible man impression/love affair with the injured list that Jeremy Maclin alternates between, has been a fantasy dead weight, save for Travis Kelce.

The takeaway: Don’t mortgage the house on Hill’s stock and make him an every week starting fixture. As fast as he is and even with the Chiefs finding more and more ways to get the ball in his hands, The Chiefs are 27th in the league in total offense and not to mention this was his first receiving touchdown in four games which included a three catch, 11 yard game and a four catch, 53 yard game last week. Even in his breakout against the Broncos, he had nine catches for 52 yards and has seven games of under 40 yards.

Kap is the man:

Collin Kaepernick is the fantasy comeback player of the year (so far). Evidence? He’s at or exceeding his career best season of 2014 - despite a smaller sample size and far less talent around him. Remember when he looked like the 21st Century QB of the future in 2014 with his dual threat awesomeness? This season statistically he is rounding back into form and even exceeding his performances from that career year in Chip Kelly’s offense (and with the help of many a fourth quarter of garbage time thanks to the depleted 49er defense).

Yesterday against the Dolphins, Kap rushed for 113 yards and passed for 296 and three scores. He is averaging 205 yards passing a game (in 2014 he averaged 210), with a career-best 53 yards rushing and 8.1 yards a carry.

Even in his career best season of 2014 when he totaled 639 rushing yards, he averaged 39 yards a game and 6.1 a carry.  I’ve been preaching for weeks about the 49ers QB potential, and the bullishness came true. The road to the title this season might be paved with fantasy teams starting Kaepernick this winter.

Tough Question Corner: Whither Gronk?

I think fantasy owners everywhere have to start asking is Rob Gronkowski a bust - and will he ever be worth a first round pick again. Counting yesterday, he's had five weeks of limited game action or injury-shortened performances.  Given the state of the tight end position, sure, he’s going to go in the top three rounds next season. This year he’s missed more games than he has touchdowns (three). We all know he’s a fantasy box score beast and that he’s in one of the best offenses during a time when elite tight ends are few. But … it’s hard to write this off. Martellus Bennett is the leading this team in receiving yards. Are we looking at a future TE by committee? It is also the third time in five years he will have played an injury shortened season impacting his production. Barring a late season surge, this year has been a bit of a disaster for Gronk owners.

On the topic of Patriots … Pick this guy up:

Malcolm Mitchell. It’s hard to admit, but I was … wrong last week for suggesting he is likely a flash in the pan as part of the supporting receiver cast of many in New England. He scored twice yesterday and should have had a third TD that he dropped. He also provides a bigger target than the usual suspects of Amendola, Edelman and Hogan who always seem like slot dependent chain movers. At times Mitchell, who has a big body, gives Tom Brady his best outside receiver threat since Brandon LaFell (when he was good).

Best game of the day: Raiders-Panthers: As great as the Sunday night-er was, at least the first half was watchable in Oakland. Just about everyone being counted on came through.

Best beat-down of the day: Saints and Rams: A nice message to former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams when you run a reverse pass while up 20 points - for a touchdown.

The “what the (blank)?” game: Seahawks and Bucs. Unless the topic is Mike Evans (and for him dear fantasy gods we give thanks), this contest left many fantasy owners at the altar. What a terrible game for both running offenses and the Seattle crew. Even the Bucs passing game shut down post-first quarter. And speaking of that, the game flew by so quick with so many punts, it seemed a quarter short. 

Welcome back: Sammy Watkins. In his first game back from what fantasy owners who used a top-4 round pick on him as “toe -gate,” Watkins made a splash with 80 yards on three catches. This could be the start of something big for the Bills, who have already been on fire in the running game.

And speaking of Bills ….

Bold prediction: LeSean McCoy will be the top scoring RB (aside from that Dallas rookie). McCoy, who has flipped a switch ever since the offensive coordinator change in Buffalo, has some great matchups coming - this week the Raiders (26th vs. the run), then in Week 14 the Steelers (9th vs. the run), who have been more susceptible to the pass, and in Week 15 the Browns (31st) and Week 16 the Dolphins (30th). Hello, championship …

Don't forget: Check out the Sportsworks Fantasy Lounge live every Thursday at 7:30 with Sean Baligian, Rico Beard and Sky Kerstein on the FOX 2 Facebook page.
 

About the Author:

David Komer is a web producer/multimedia journalist for FOX 2. He is a former fantasy sports columnist for SportsIllustrated.com where he wrote for three years and he has won more than 20 Michigan Press Association awards in news and sports coverage in his career.


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