NFL Fantasy Picks: Time to turn to rookie QB?

By Sports Desk December 21, 2022

As in the NFL, not every team maintains an active interest in fantasy football at this stage in the year.

But for those who still have title hopes, there is no room for error.

Finding an edge can be tricky as franchises outside the playoff picture wind down for the year and the league's leading lights think about resting up for the postseason.

But Stats Perform has picked out four players and a defense that could make the difference in Week 16.

Quarterback: Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers vs. Washington Commanders

Nobody – at least nobody still in contention now – had any real interest in Purdy at the start of the year as he was the 49ers' third-choice QB, but that means he remains available in a number of leagues. It may well be time to fix that, with Purdy one of the outstanding performers across Weeks 14 and 15.

Josh Allen alone threw more touchdown passes (five to Purdy's four) without throwing an interception, while the rookie's 8.55 yards per pass attempt ranked third. Purdy was the sole QB in the NFL with a passer rating of at least 115.0 in two starts over this period. In fact, Aaron Rodgers is the only other player in league history to have had such a passer rating in his first two career starts.

Purdy is an obvious option for any fantasy player suffering QB woe, with the 49ers having clinched the NFC West but unlikely to slow too much as they hunt down the Minnesota Vikings and the second seed in the NFC.

Running Back: Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Gardner Minshew would be another popular pick at QB, with Jalen Hurts injured, but the Philadelphia Eagles still have not ruled out their MVP candidate. On the other hand, the Colts have shut down Jonathan Taylor for the year.

However, Indy would be wise to press on with the run game against the Chargers; only the Packers (42.9 per cent) have allowed opponents greater success on run plays this year than the Chargers (42.5 per cent).

That should mean plenty of touches again for Moss, who had 24 carries last week – as many as he had across the rest of the year combined.

Wide Receiver: Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers @ Miami Dolphins

The Packers' season never really got going, with Aaron Rodgers unable to make his receiving corps work without the departed Davante Adams.

But Watson, who had just 14 targets through nine weeks, has really come to the fore of late. Since Week 10, Watson has seven receiving TDs – leading the league ahead of Adams (five) – and has converted 17 of his 19 receptions into first downs.

Over the past two weeks, only two defenses have given up more receiving yards (671) and more receiving TDs (five) than Miami. They have also tied the Detroit Lions in allowing a league-worst 32 receiving first downs in this time.

Tight End: Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets

Engram has been a steady performer in his first year with the Jaguars, but there is reason to believe he may be able to move to another level now as Trevor Lawrence ignites this Jacksonville offense.

Over the past two weeks, the Jags rank second in net passing yards (679) and lead the way for TD passes (seven) and points (76).

Engram caught two of those TDs and has led the team in targets (25), catches (19) and receiving yards (224) over this period. He and those who can call on him for fantasy purposes are among the chief beneficiaries of Lawrence's late surge.

Defense/Special Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Arizona Cardinals

Opposition teams have been successful on only 36.5 per cent of plays against the Buccaneers this year, making this the league's sixth-best defense.

And now they will be faced with a Cardinals offense manned by third-string QB Trace McSorley, who is in line for his first career start despite struggling badly from his limited snaps so far this year.

McSorley has not thrown a single TD pass in 2022 but has tossed three picks, completing only 15 of his 29 pass attempts for an atrocious passer rating of 29.5.

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