Jeff Wilson, Jaylen Samuels among Week 14 sneaky starts

Most fantasy leagues are starting their playoffs this week, and owners who have A.J. Green, James Conner, Matt Breida and Greg Olsen will be without their services. Melvin Gordon and Kerryon Johnson may be out, too. In other words, more than a few owners will be scrambling for spot starts in a crucial week.

A great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.

Last week, I discussed Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota, Tarik Cohen, T.J. Yeldon, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin and Curtis Samuel in this space. Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 14. There are a lot of names here so I’m going to run through them quickly.

Josh Allen, Bills (vs. Jets, 26th in QB aFPA)

Allen’s passing production has been all over the map, but over the last two weeks he has shown some serious upside as a runner, posting 234 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the Jaguars and the Dolphins. The Jets aren’t particularly good against the quarterback position, so Allen should be able to score through the air, as well. 

Jeff Wilson, 49ers (vs. Broncos, 14th in RB aFPA)

The Broncos’ rush defense has improved, but they still yielded 6.8 yards per carry to Joe Mixon last week, 4.1 YPC to James Conner in Week 12, and 4.1 YPC combined to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler in Week 11. What makes Wilson intriguing is his likely workload after garnering 23 touches last week against the Seahawks. He gained 134 total yards and caught eight passes, giving him a  healthy 19.4 fantasy points in PPR formats. With Matt Breida already ruled out, Wilson should see 15-plus touches regardless of game flow.

BELLER: Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings

Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, Chargers (vs. Bengals, 32nd in RB aFPA)

Melvin Gordon hasn’t been ruled out for Week 14, but if he can’t play Ekeler and Jackson should form a committee in a great matchup against the Bengals. The Bengals yielded 159 total yards and two touchdowns to Phillip Lindsay last week, 128/2 to Nick Chubb in Week 12, 135/2 to Baltimore running backs in Week 11, and 264/3 to Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in Week 10. Jackson was more effective as a runner last week so he may see a few extra carries in Week 14, with Ekeler serving mainly as a pass-catcher. They both should produce if Gordon is out.

Jaylen Samuels, Steelers (at Raiders, 25th in RB aFPA)

James Conner has been ruled out for Week 14, and Mike Tomlin has indicated that the Steelers will use a committee to replace him. That committee should be led by Samuels, who is the only Pittsburgh running back not named Conner to touch the ball in the last two weeks. Stevan Ridley should also get a chance to carry the ball in a change-of-pace capacity. Surprisingly, the Raiders defense limited Chiefs backs to 97 total yards and a touchdown last week, but they gave up 184 total yards to Baltimore running backs, 157 total yards to David Johnson, and 165 total yards and a touchdown to Melvin Gordon in recent weeks.

BELLER: Target and Snap Report: Replacing James Conner and Matt Breida

Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, Buccaneers (vs. Saints, 18th in WR aFPA)

It’s simple—if DeSean Jackson sits, play Godwin and Humphries. In the three games Jackson has missed over the last two seasons, Godwin has averaged five receptions for 103 yards and 0.67 touchdowns. As for Humphries, he has scored at least 14.6 fantasy points in PPR leagues in five of his last six games and is averaging 6.8 targets per game in that span, and most of that was with a healthy Jackson in the lineup. The Saints’ stingy rush defense should funnel yards to the Buccaneers’ passing game.

Michael Gallup, Cowboys (vs. Eagles, 27th in WR aFPA)

Gallup caught five of seven targets against the Saints for 76 yards, and with 13 targets in his last two games, he’s starting to see consistent usage alongside Amari Cooper. The Eagles’ secondary is a complete, injury-wracked mess. 

Jordan Thomas, Texans (vs. Colts, 21st in TE aFPA)

Ryan Griffin was a healthy scratch in Week 13, with Thomas catching three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in his stead. It seems that the Texans have settled on their primary tight end. When Griffin missed Week 7 against the Jaguars, Thomas posted a goose egg, but he then found the end zone twice in following week (with against the Dolphins. He also caught a touchdown in Week 9 against the Broncos.

Dan Arnold, Saints (at Buccaneers, 25th in TE aFPA)

In his last four games, Arnold leads the Saints’ tight ends in targets (13), receptions (10), yards (115), air yards (128) and touchdowns (one). He’s only playing a handful of snaps, but he’s making them count. The Buccaneers have been generous to tight ends this season.