Last season, Kenyan Drake had a December to remember with an NFL-high 444 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with 17 receptions for 150 yards. One of the bigger games came in Week 13 before most fantasy playoffs began, but he was still a large part of many championship rosters from last season. There are obviously many examples of guys having spectacular late-season stretches, which have made many fantasy owners happy.
Back in 2009, then second-year running back Jamaal Charles exploded for 658 rushing yards and four rushing scores in the final four games of the season. To expect that type of production is a stretch, but which players could be set for a breakout four-game stretch in 2018?
Since returning from his broken foot suffered during the summer, Elijah McGuire has just 25 carries for 98 yards along with eight receptions for 67 yards in four games for the Jets. Meanwhile, Isaiah Crowell recorded 21 carries last week, but he’s been inconsistent all season for a team that isn’t headed to the postseason. The Jets might decide to give McGuire an opportunity to see what he can do as a 15-20+ carry guy, especially with all the talk of the team wanting to sign All-Pro Le’Veon Bell in the offseason. If the second-year back that’s been compared to LaDanian Tomlinson by his position coach gets a chance, he might show that they don’t need to spend big money at the position.
Jon Gruden is going to try to win games to the best of his ability every single week, but rookie receiver Marcell Ateman could benefit by seeing a lot of targets down the stretch as the Raiders see what they have heading into 2019. The big six-foot-four seventh-round selection went up for a jump ball for a touchdown in last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, and Derek Carr is one of the better jump-ball/back-shoulder passers in the NFL. A nice touchdown run to end the season could be coming for Ateman.
The party has already started for Dante Pettis, as he’s put up lines of 4/77/1 and 5/129/2 in the last two games. Many have questioned the Niners selecting Pettis over Christian Kirk and Anthony Miller in this year’s draft, but Pettis is showing quick route-running and plus ability after the catch now that he’s healthy. The final four games aren’t easy matchups for the rookie receiver, but he could still do some damage if he’s given double-digit targets per game. Also, he faces the Seahawks team he just hit for the 5/129/2 line next week.
Curtis Samuel has also gotten started early on a potential late-season run, catching six passes for 88 yards in Week 13 after scoring a touchdown in three of his previous four games. As an explosive playmaker (while at a different position, not dissimilar to the dynamic abilities of Kenyan Drake and Jamaal Charles) in his second season for an offense that can put up points, Samuel has the makings of a potential gamebreaking difference-maker in the final quarter of the regular season.
Emmanuel Sanders appears to be done for the season with a torn Achilles, so rookie receiver Courtland Sutton will go from No. 3 before the trade deadline to No. 1 over the final four games of the season. A top receiver is always valuable in fantasy leagues, so he could provide some strong value despite playing in a run-based offense. Case Keenum essentially has no choice but to give Sutton several opportunities per game, which could lead to a few big plays every week. Fellow rookie DaeSean Hamilton is another player to keep an eye on now that he’s set to take the No. 2 role in Denver.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere to rack up 23 touches against the Seahawks over the weekend, Jeff Wilson could get among the heaviest workloads in the NFL to end the regular season. Matt Breida is going to miss at least Week 14 with an ankle injury, and there’s no reason for the Niners not to continue giving Wilson the ball to see what he can do. The undrafted rookie from North Texas showed versatility and toughness while battling through a foot injury last week, and we’ve seen what unheralded running backs have done in a Kyle Shanahan offense in the past.
Hopefully James Conner doesn’t miss much longer than this week, but if it’s a high-ankle sprain as many believe, his regular season could be over. Jaylen Samuels appears set to become the lead running back for the Steelers in Conner’s absence, and that could lead to many scoring opportunities on an offense that moves the ball. Don’t expect Samuels to put up the type of numbers Conner did, but he was a potent waiver add this week. Veteran Stevan Ridley (a former 1,200-yard, 12-touchdown runner for the Patriots) shouldn’t be counted out to be the primary ball-carrier, though.