Alshon Jeffery turned back the clock last week with his best fantasy performance in four years … while being started in fewer than 25% of ESPN leagues.
More than 80% of ESPN fantasy owners also missed out on recent surges from James Washington, Anthony Miller, Cole Beasley and Dede Westbrook -- all of whom ranked as top-18 receivers in fantasy scoring over the past two weeks.
But can they keep it up? Can you actually trust any of these guys enough to use them in your starting lineups now that we’re into the fantasy playoffs?
As always, our NFL Nation reporters are here to help:
Jeffery: The 29-year-old went off with nine catches for 137 yards and a touchdown last week after missing the previous two games. It would be hard to expect a repeat of that caliber. But Philadelphia Eagles reporter Tim McManus recommended Jeffery as a fantasy starter “if you’re looking for solid but unspectacular numbers.” McManus said the key is just to make sure he’s going to be active every week, because he has been limited by calf and ankle injuries this season.
“He reminds me of a veteran power forward who doesn’t have the old burst but gets by thanks to his size and savvy,” McManus said. “He might not light it up, but he’ll still generate some offense for you, especially given the Eagles’ favorable closing schedule.”
Washington: The second-year pro has been a bit of a fantasy tease in the past. But Pittsburgh Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor said he is at least worthy of a roster spot because “no one has benefited more from the Steelers' quarterback change than Washington.”
“The chemistry he was supposed to have with Mason Rudolph has instead been found with Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges,” said Pryor, who wrote about the bond Washington and Hodges have formed while hunting together. “Since Hodges took over the job just after halftime against the Bengals [in Week 12], Washington has two touchdowns and 203 receiving yards.
“[Coach Mike] Tomlin, though, said this last game wasn't a breakout performance, hinting that Washington's is still to come. With JuJu Smith-Schuster out and Diontae Johnson going through a rough patch in his rookie season, Washington is emerging as the Steelers’ No. 1 guy.”
Miller: The second-year pro had career-highs of nine catches and 140 yards in Week 13. Then he followed up with his first TD catch of the season on Thursday night for his fourth straight double-digit fantasy week.
Jeff Dickerson wrote about the Chicago Bears’ cautious optimism in Miller's development last week. But Dickerson also warned that it’s still “a tad difficult to completely trust Miller since coach Matt Nagy has gone on record -- multiple times -- saying that the second-year receiver often struggles to be in the right spot.”
“Miller is an enticing fantasy play, and he has definitely been more involved lately with Taylor Gabriel sidelined because of a concussion. But there’s risk involved,” Dickerson said. “Remember, Chicago’s victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving was only Miller’s second 100-yard receiving game of his career.”
Beasley: The eighth-year veteran probably qualifies as another solid-but-unspectacular choice. But he has 12 catches for 186 yards and two TDs over the past two games. He has five touchdowns over the past seven weeks. And he is on pace for career-highs of 847 yards and seven TDs in his first year with the Buffalo Bills after having his biggest game yet last week against his former team, the Dallas Cowboys.
“Beasley is a sneakily productive receiver as Buffalo’s perceived No. 2 option,” said Bills reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques, who pointed out that the “opportunity is there” for Beasley, who is averaging nearly seven targets per game. “With formidable pass rushes coming up in the Bills’ next three games, Josh Allen will look to get the ball out quickly -- which makes Beasley even more valuable. If you’re looking for flex help in a PPR league, you can do worse.”
Westbrook: The Jacksonville Jaguars’ latest quarterback switch probably won’t make a major difference for Westbrook, who caught a total of 10 passes for 112 yards from Nick Foles over the past two weeks before catching three passes for 17 yards and a TD from Gardner Minshew off the bench.
But Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco still considers Westbrook a low-end flex option because he hasn’t shown this level of consistency throughout the season. His only other TD came in Week 1.
“He did have an 82-yard game and a 103-yard game with Minshew, and the offense certainly has been more effective with Minshew on the field,” DiRocco said. “But Minshew also likes to target DJ Chark and sometimes forced balls to him that he shouldn’t. Maybe the past three games he sat the bench will give him a better perspective.”
Now for the rest of our weekly tour around the league:
Buffalo Bills: Louis-Jacques also wrote about the Bills’ No. 1 receiver, John Brown, who is breaking out in his sixth NFL season with his third different team because “they're letting me be a receiver here.”
Kansas City Chiefs: Tight end Travis Kelce has been the one constant for the Chiefs this year, wrote Adam Teicher. Kelce is on the verge of becoming the first TE in NFL history with four straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Miami Dolphins: Receiver DeVante Parker should really have his own category in this column because he has become a weekly staple. Cameron Wolfe wrote about how Parker has been shedding the “bust” label.
New England Patriots: If Sony Michel is ever going to come through for fantasy owners, now might be the time. Mike Reiss wondered if the Patriots might return to the “ground-and-pound” approach they used when they ran for 176 and 173 yards in two wins over Kansas City last year.
San Francisco 49ers: What could be more Shanahan than an unpredictable RB rotation? Raheem Mostert became the third Niners back to run for more than 100 yards this season when he busted loose for 146 last week, wrote Nick Wagoner.
Tennessee Titans: At his current rate, QB Ryan Tannehill will become just the third quarterback in NFL history to complete more than 70% of his passes while averaging at least 9.0 yards per attempt, wrote Turron Davenport. The others? Some dudes named Joe Montana and Sammy Baugh.
Washington Redskins: Now healthy after two significant knee injuries over the past two years, RB Derrius Guice showed the patience, vision, speed and violence that the Redskins have been waiting for -- all in one run, wrote John Keim.