NFL Real / Not Real: Week 11 (Late Edition)

Welcome to the eleventh edition of the “Real or Not Real” article for the 2016 NFL season. In this piece, Ricky Sanders will examine whether the hype and/or recent production surrounding certain players warrants deeming them as “for real” or remaining skeptical and considering them “not for real.”

Here are Ricky’s thoughts surrounding players who opened some eyeballs with their Week 10 performances one way or another:

Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Well, it finally happened: Russell Wilson finished as a top three fantasy QB for the first time this season. After not contributing to a TD in three consecutive games, Wilson has now thrown for five over the course of the last two ballgames. Wilson is a strange case where people were not actually afraid to start him during his cold streak and yet he still ended up only two-percent owned this week in FantasyDraft’s $25 GPP (Run and Gun) coming off a solid performance on Monday Night Football. The moral of the story is there really was never anything to worry about with Wilson other than adjusting to the poor play of his offensive line. The combination of going back to last season’s well of featuring Doug Baldwin in the passing game, Christine Michael being banged up and game flow have reignited the mojo that he enjoyed throughout the entire second half of the 2015 season. In 39 career games from Week 8 and on, Wilson averages 24.8 fantasy points per game compared to just 19.98 in 33 games from Weeks 1-7. Moral of the story: Wilson just needed to develop consistency, and maybe he gets more comfortable over time, but the one sure thing is he is back and rolling. His receiving core is loaded and he is feeling good heading down the stretch where he’ll face the Buccaneers, Panthers and Packers in a three game stretch coming up soon. Verdict: For Real

Ryan Mathews, Eagles – The takeaway from this week clearly should be to never trust Coach Doug Pederson’s word ever again. In fact, the sharper play is to actually interpret his words to mean the exact opposite because the back he has deemed the “lead back” has actually received fewer snaps and touches in three consecutive weeks. Finally it seemed the Eagles would be committing to Darren Sproles as “the guy” this week because Coach Pederson finally admitted it during a press conference during the week. What did he do on Sunday? He trolled fantasy owners by giving Ryan Mathews 21 touches while Sproles on touched the ball 10 total times. Thankfully, eight of Sproles’ 10 catches were of the reception (REC) variety so he managed a respectable fantasy day but the entire situation was still tilting. Quietly now, Mathews had scored in all but two games for the Eagles despite having played less than half the total snaps (309-144) of Sproles. When the Eagles infiltrate the red zone, he is almost always given at least one chance to punch it in considering he had garnered 20 red zone touches heading into this week (11th most amongst all backs)…and he frequently makes the most of those opportunities as evident by his nine total TDs. Regardless of what meaningless words come out of the coach’s mouth in upcoming weeks, Mathews is a staple of this rotation and clearly is carving out a fantasy-relevant role. Verdict: For Real

C.J. Prosise, Seahawks – With Thomas Rawls returning to practice on Monday, this is a quickly evolving situation. In Week 10, C.J. Prosise played 54-70 snaps, touched the ball 24 times including seven RECs and gained 153 total yards from scrimmage. Most of this was due to the fact Christine Michael was dealing with a hamstring injury because the team seemed content with Michael in the bell cow role in weeks past. Prosise is a speedster who excels in pass-catching but the return of Rawls all but assures his role to limited to mostly third downs. In terms of talent, the upside is oozing out of Prosise but unfortunately the situation is not incredibly cooperative for his fantasy value. With the competition only increasing now that Michael has a week to recover and Rawls has returned, it is difficult to chalk this week up to anything more than a fluke due to his extended role. He will not enjoy this sort of opportunity moving forward so he is more of a “do not forget” type guy as opposed to one who has deemed himself a must-start in the near future. Verdict: Not For Real

Allen Robinson, Jaguars – In back-to-back weeks Allen Robinson has set season-highs in terms of yardage and has scored in each of those contests. Remember, this was a player being compared to a young Dez Bryant in terms of skill set heading into the season and yet the entire fantasy world had panicked on him after a string of three consecutive quiet games (Weeks 5-7). After catching seven out of 12 targets last week, Robinson improved upon those numbers and registered his best catch rate of the season (69.0-percent) in Week 10 by hauling in 9-13 targets for 100-plus yards and a score. Yes, this was just the first time all season he eclipsed the 100 receiving yard plateau but it was the fourth consecutive game he trended upwards in terms of yardage. It took a while but Robinson seems to have reverted back to close to his 2015 form where he bested 1,400 yards receiving and caught a whopping 14 TD passes. Next week, Robinson draws a matchup against the lowly Lions who have allowed 2,449 yards via the air and 20 receiving TDs. His talent can no longer be overlooked or overshadowed by the fact he is playing with a struggling Blake Bortles because the man under center has been finding ways to get him the football lately (12-plus targets in three consecutive games). Once again, Robinson is back to his WR1 ways even if getting there is a little more frustrating process than last year. Verdict: For Real

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers – Only Delanie Walker bested Cameron Brate in terms on fantasy points this week and he currently rates as TE9 in terms of fantasy points per game for the season. On the surface those numbers are impressive but his 5.9 yards per target (YPT) heading into this week ranked 12th worst amongst all TEs that have been targeted at least 20 times this season. In other words, 28 TEs had average more YPT than Brate heading into this week (and there are only 32 NFL teams). Sure the banged up Buccaneers offensive line does not exactly create all kinds of time for Jameis Winston and is partially to blame but the statistic was still concerning nonetheless. After this week’s 84 yard performance, in which he averaged 12.0 yards per REC, he improved his season YPT to 8.0 and moved all the way up to 10th in terms of average depth of target (aDOT). Essentially, Brate showed he could stretch the field as well as act as Winston’s security blanket and did so while hauling in all seven targets. With little-to-no competition on his own team, it is difficult to imagine him falling off the table as he has now scored in three consecutive games while improving on average reception distance and trending upwards in terms of targets in each. His midseason mini-slump feels like it is in the distant past at this point because Brate is just getting better by the week. Somehow, someway this undrafted TE from Harvard has transformed himself into a true back-end TE1. Verdict: For Real