NFL Real/Not Real: Week 17

Welcome to the final 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 17 performances one way or another:

Shaun Draughn, 49ers – Sans Carlos Hyde, previous data would have suggested DuJuan Harris would receive a majority of the touches. Between Weeks 7 and 9 (the two previous games Hyde has sat out this season), Harris touched the ball a combined 28 times compared to just six touches during that span for Draughn. This was a strange change in trend for the 49ers because Draughn started for an extended stretch (six games) during the 2015 season and eclipsed double-digit fantasy points four times (mostly due to his involvement in the passing game). Apparently Coach Chip Kelly took a longer time to come around on his skill set than the previous coach (Jim Tomsula) but he slowly changed his mind down the stretch. Draughn started working in sporadically on offense back on Nov. 27 and he received at least five touched in all but one game since then leading up to Hyde’s MCL injury in Week 16. After Hyde went down, Draughn carried the ball 10 times (for a measly 17 yards) and caught 6-7 targets for 48 yards. Then, in Week 17, he followed up that performance by carrying the ball 21 times for 41 yards (2.0 yards per carry), scored two rushing TDs and caught 4-6 targets for 68 yards. The question for Draughn is did he make enough of an impact to solidify a role moving forward and the answer is probably “yes.” As evident by his 2.0 yards per carry (YPC) or less in consecutive games with an extended workload, his future in the league is clearly not one of a lead back. However, he is a solid pass-catching back and has flashed that ability dating back to last year. Assuming the next coach of the 49ers digs the short passing game, he could potentially sustain a fantasy-relevant role as a third-down/scat back. Otherwise, he is destined for fantasy (and NFL) purgatory for the foreseeable future. There were a solid few fantasy outputs during the stretch but Draughn is still not a player worth keeping much of an eye on. Verdict: Not For Real

Zach Zenner, Lions – The Lions offense struggled to move the ball against the Packers on occasion on Sunday night but Zach Zenner was certainly not to blame for those troubles. Against a stout defensive front, Zenner carried the ball 20 times for 69 yards (3.4 YPC) and a TD plus he added 4-41 through the air. This comes only one week after he broke 20 fantasy points against the Cowboys on the heels of 5.6 YPC and two TDs. In the absence of both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, the team was desperately searching for someone to be at least adequate in order to balance out their offense that already featured a QB battling a finger injury. Facing back-to-back rushing defenses ranking in the top half of Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric, Zenner looked pretty awesome. The issue for Zenner is the two returning backs next year, but at the same time, neither possess the skill set of a ground-and-pound back. In other words, neither back can be relied upon to gain a tough few yards on third and short (or when necessary). Therefore, Zenner may have earned himself a role on this team (or others) in upcoming seasons. In the short term, Zenner can be relied upon in playoff DFS as well as he is rolling for a team that badly needs him. Verdict: For Real

Corey Grant, Jaguars – Apparently all it took was a solid game for Corey Grant to catapult Denard Robinson on the depth chart. With Chris Ivory deemed inactive, and T.J. Yeldon already placed on injury reserve, it was Grant who dominated the Jaguars’ touches instead of last year’s starter (Robinson). All Grant did with those limited touches was rush for 122 yards on 18 attempts (6.8 YPC), scored a TD and caught two passes for 15 yards as icing on the cake. Neither Yeldon nor Ivory overwhelmed in their tenure with the team this year as they averaged 3.6 YPC and 3.8 YPC respectively. On 32 carries, so a limited sample size, Grant averaged 5.1 YPC, had one less 20-plus yard run (one) than Yeldon/Ivory combined (two) and scored as many rushing TDs as Yeldon (one). At age 25, the speedy Grant’s upside is probably Antone Smith of a few years ago for the Falcons aka guy with serious speed with the ability to burst long ones throughout the course of the year. He does not really project as an every down back, but hey, crazier things have happened. A large sample size is necessary to write the book on the kid but both his pedigree and skill set suggest he is probably nothing more than a flash in the pan. Verdict: Not For Real

Rishard Matthews, Titans – Okay so this is not the first time this season Rishard Matthews has appeared in this article and he was deemed “For Real” the first go-around. With Marcus Mariota done for the year, Matthews’ stock certainly had to be temporarily downgraded due to the uncertainty as to how he would mesh with a new QB. Last week’s sample did not really count because Matthews caught a TD with Mariota still on the field. When all said and done, he finished with just 3-31-1 on nine targets. Matthews did not take long to prove he is absolutely for real though as he still managed to catch 9-13 targets for 114 yards and a TD with Matt Cassel under center. If Matthews can get it done with Cassel then he can get it done with anyone. With Mariota slated to return healthy next season, Matthews is going to be an excellent value in both yearly and daily leagues from the get-go. Verdict: For Real

Geronimo Allison, Packers – In Week 16, Geronimo Allison quietly played 73-percent of the team’s offensive snaps in the absence of Randall Cobb. Sure he only finished with 4-66 but anyone seeing a healthy amount of playing time in Aaron Rodgers’ offense is destined to succeed. Low and behold, a week later Allison caught 4-6 targets for 91 yards and a TD at minimum price on nearly every site across the industry. As long as Cobb remains out, Allison has earned the role of “next man up” and probably the team’s fourth receiver overall. As long as Cobb remains out, Allison will have an opportunity to display his skills. According to Pro Football Focus’ Nate Jahnke on Twitter, Allison ranks third amongst rookie receivers in yards per route run (min 125 routes run) behind only Tyreek Hill and Michael Thomas. Although you may never have heard of this guy, he will continue to hold value any time a Packers WR is out (including the foreseeable future with Cobb questionable for the Wild Card round).  Verdict: Not For Real (unless another WR is injured)