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Fantasy Playbook: Rushing Quarterbacks Are Still Fantasy Football’s Most Reliable Loophole

Lamar Jackson led the way with more than 150 yards on the ground, but other passers—from Russell Wilson to Tom Brady—also subsidized their passing production with rushing success. Plus: this week’s fantasy risers and sliders, usage trends, and waiver wire recommendations.

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Quarterbacks leaned on a fantasy football cheat code in Week 6. Thanks to a scoring loophole of sorts that awards QBs more points for rushing yards and touchdowns than it does for analogous passing stats (rushing yards are worth 2.5 times as much as passing yards, and rushing touchdowns are worth 1.5 times as much as passing touchdowns), a bevy of NFL signal-callers jumped up fantasy leaderboards this week with the help of their legs. Pending Monday Night Football, four of the top five and seven of the top 12 scoring fantasy quarterbacks this week added either 30-plus rushing yards or a rushing score (or both) to their bottom line. The Konami Code—a moniker that pays homage to a cipher from the old NES video game Contra—helped boost strong passing performances from quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray while salvaging what could’ve been disastrous fantasy outings for a handful of others like Tom Brady and Baker Mayfield.

Brady got that mini-trend started on a strong note on Thursday Night Football, augmenting a mediocre passing day (334 yards with no touchdowns and one pick) by taking two quarterback sneaks into the end zone (and he almost had a third). He finished with a solid 22.0 fantasy points, on track for the QB7 rank this week (again, pending MNF). And the future Hall of Famer wasn’t alone: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson overcame a tepid 280-yard, one-touchdown, two-interception performance through the air by adding 42 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, giving him 29.4 fantasy points and a QB3 rank going into MNF. Mayfield tossed one touchdown and three picks in the Browns’ 32-28 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday but managed a top-12 score of 19.5 points (slightly ahead of Patrick Mahomes this week, by the way), thanks to his 35-yard, one-touchdown rushing line. And Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott ended up in a similar boat in Dallas’s 24-22 loss to the Jets, boosting a 277-yard, zero-touchdown passing day by rushing for 11 yards and a score—finishing with 18.2 fantasy points to put him in line for a low-end QB1 rank this week.

Elsewhere, 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo saved what would’ve been an absolute dud in the team’s blowout win over the Rams (243 passing yards, no touchdowns, one interception) by scoring on a QB sneak of his own, helping him limp to 12.1 fantasy points. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton did much of the same, managing a double-digit day (13.6 points) despite a 235-yard, one-pick passing performance, salvaging it instead with a 2-yard touchdown scramble late in the game. On the other side of the coin, Wilson strengthened his MVP bid with another outstanding passing performance, completing 22 of 33 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, but he added a cherry on top with an additional nine carries for 31 yards and a score to finish with 28.9 fantasy points—good for the QB4 spot at the end of Sunday. Wilson may not run quite as much as he used to, but he’s still dangerous with his legs, especially when everyone in coverage has their backs to the play. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray had his best day as a pro—both in real football and the fantasy realm—throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns while adding a few points on the top by rushing for 32 rushing yards on 11 carries. His 28.8-point outburst makes him the QB5 so far this week.

Of course, we can’t talk about the Konami Code without bringing up its poster boy over the past year, Lamar Jackson. The sophomore had an efficient day passing, completing 21 of 33 attempts for 236 yards. But it’s what he did on the ground again on Sunday that makes him such a scintillating fantasy option: Jackson posted a career-high 152 rushing yards in the team’s 23-17 win over the Bengals; that topped every other running back this week, made Jackson just one of just four quarterbacks in league history to rush for 150 yards in a game (he joins Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick, and Tobin Rote), and represented his third career game with 100 rushing yards—most by any QB in their first two seasons in the Super Bowl era. Jackson’s clearly a special talent as a runner; he reached 15-plus miles per hour on 10 separate carries for the second consecutive week, the only player—regardless of position—to have done that in the league this year, and the Ravens have smartly designed a diverse run game around him, implementing read option and quarterback keeper plays that confound opposing defenses and help spring Jackson for big runs—like his 21-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.

Jackson’s unique speed and explosiveness as a runner gives him an incredible fantasy floor week in and week out. As a great example, his 70 yards rushing last week helped him to an 11.4-point finish despite a disastrous outing through the air (161 yards and three picks). But while Jackson’s still had some miscues as a passer this season, he’s also made clear improvements in a few key areas, including his accuracy, touch, and decision-making. That development as a passer, when paired with his ability to make plays with his legs, gives him an extraordinarily high fantasy ceiling in every game, too. Jackson is the overall QB1 through six weeks precisely because he can do it all, picking apart defenses (and opposing fantasy teams) through the air and on the ground. Considering he was a late-round pick back in August, he’s been one of the most valuable fantasy assets in the first month and a half of the season.

Of course, the quarterback rushing cheat code isn’t automatic; You can’t rely on traditional dropback passers like Brady, Garoppolo, or Dalton to rush for a touchdown every week. Likewise, you can’t expect run-oriented quarterbacks like Jackson, Murray, or Buffalo’s Josh Allen to rack up passing stats every game, either. But Week 6 was another great reminder that there’s a massive edge to be found by rolling with quarterbacks who can score points in multiple ways. At worst, the Konami Code for quarterbacks can hide an ugly passing performance; at its best, it can give a dual-threat quarterback week-winning—and league-winning—fantasy potential.

Risers and Sliders

Riser: WR Stefon Diggs, Vikings

The disgruntled Vikings pass catcher followed up a quiet Week 5 with a performance for the ages in Minnesota’s 38-20 win over the Eagles on Sunday, hauling in seven of his 11 targets for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That was good for a career- and league-best 43.5 PPR fantasy points, the type of outburst that could have won you your matchup this week―assuming you were patient enough to keep him in your lineup. On one hand, Diggs’s big day could be the sign of things to come; Kirk Cousins has been sharp in the past two games and the Vikings have upped their passing volume significantly―no doubt in part due to the fact Diggs and Adam Thielen are two of the best receivers in the game. On the other hand, Minnesota’s not going to face off against the decimated, porous defensive secondary of the Eagles every week. Until he proves otherwise, Diggs remains a volatile fantasy option at best; he might be a good sell-high candidate ahead of the Vikings’ matchup with a tough Lions defense next week.

Slider: WR Will Fuller, Texans

A week after posting the ninth-best fantasy day for a wide receiver ever (53.7 points), Fuller fell back to earth with a thud, notching 9.4 points with five catches for 44 yards. It didn’t have to be that way, though, considering the mercurial wideout dropped three would-be touchdowns. Fuller is going to remain a relative boom-or-bust fantasy option, but considering the opportunities he gets in the Texans offense each week, it’s just about impossible to bench him, too.

Riser: WR Tyreek Hill, Chiefs

Hill caught two touchdown passes in his first game back from a clavicle injury on Sunday, going up high to grab a would-be pick in the first quarter before adding another touchdown in the third frame. It was an extremely promising return for Hill, who’s on track for a WR4 finish with 25.0 PPR points (10 targets, five catches, 80 yards, two touchdowns). That’s especially true considering Patrick Mahomes was again hobbled by an ankle injury and that Hill was on the field for only 27 offensive snaps Sunday, according to Next Gen Stats—just 57 percent of the team’s snaps. Hill has overall WR1 potential every week he steps on to the field.

Slider: QB Jameis Winston, Buccaneers

The Jameis Winston experience remains a roller-coaster ride; Winston threw the ball 54 times for 400 yards in the team’s 37-26 loss to the Panthers in London, but tossed an incredible five picks to finish with 12.1 fantasy points on the day. That was Winston’s fourth game with four-plus picks since he came into the league in 2015; no other NFL QB has more than two in that stretch. Bruce Arians may be running short on patience with the fifth-year passer.

Risers: RB Adrian Peterson and WR Terry McLaurin, Redskins

The Redskins’ decision to fire head coach and play-caller Jay Gruden and give the keys of the offense to an old-school offensive line coach in Bill Callahan paid dividends, as expected, for Adrian Peterson. The ageless runner carried the ball 23 times for 118 yards in Washington’s 17-16 slap fight with the Dolphins, a signal of what should be expected going forward—at least in relatively neutral game-script situations. Meanwhile, the decision to go back to quarterback Case Keenum as the team’s starter paid off for McLaurin, who has developed a strong rapport with the veteran signal-caller. The rookie posted his first multi-touchdown game, reeling in four passes for 100 yards and two scores to notch 26 PPR points―good for overall WR2 honors heading into Monday. McLaurin has proved to be a savvy route runner with elite speed, and that’s paired well with Keenum’s gunslinger mentality. As long as Keenum’s under center, McLaurin should be a plug-and-play starter at receiver.

Riser: WR Auden Tate, Bengals

Tate posted his second straight double-digit fantasy outing on Sunday (and his third in the past four games), catching five of 12 targets for 91 yards to net a respectable 14.2 PPR points. He remains the beneficiary in an injury-plagued Bengals pass catching corps, and has been pushed into a major―even leading―role thanks to the absence of A.J. Green and John Ross. On Sunday, he was helped even more by the fact the Ravens decided to bracket Tyler Boyd on just about every snap. As Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said about Boyd after the game: “We doubled him. We robbed him. We did different things to keep him out of it.” Don’t be surprised if that’s something other teams look to do going forward. Until Green returns to the lineup, Tate should continue to get the volume to be a startable WR3 option.

Slider: RB Joe Mixon, Bengals

Mixon’s already underwhelming season got worse on Sunday. The third-year pro carried the ball eight times for just 10 yards—with a long run of just 3 yards—while tacking on two catches for 29 yards to finish with a measly 5.9 PPR points. Mixon was the consensus RB11 in ADP, drafted on average in the middle of the second round. Through six weeks, he’s averaged just 9.8 points per game.

Riser: TE Darren Fells, Texans

Fells posted his third double-digit outing in his past four games, reeling in six of seven targets for 69 yards (12.9 PPR points) in the team’s win over the Chiefs. The 33-year-old has clearly earned Watson’s trust as an underneath and seam-running option in the Houston offense, and while he’s sure to have volatile week-to-week swings in production, you could do worse than the veteran pass catcher in a very thin tight end group. Fells’s 16 targets over the past four games ranks third on the team behind DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.

Slider: QB Jared Goff, Rams

It was a disastrous day for Goff, who wilted under the pressure of a hounding 49ers defense. The $134 million man finished 13-of-24 for 78 yards with no touchdowns and no picks, notching a laughable 1.1 fantasy points. He looked like the rookie-year version of himself, joining less-than-ideal company with his historically inept day:

The good news for fantasy owners is that the Rams don’t play the 49ers every week; the bad news is that after finishing as the QB7 overall in 2018, Goff is on track for a mid- to low-end QB2 finish. For context, he has been outscored this year by Marcus Mariota, who was benched Sunday by the Titans.

Riser: WRs Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder, Jets

So, as it turns out, Sam Darnold is a key piece to the Jets offense. Making his return after missing three games with mononucleosis, Darnold looked extremely sharp leading the New York passing game, spreading the ball around to his playmakers in the team’s surprising 24-22 win over the Cowboys. That was great news for New York’s two top wideouts: Anderson grabbed five of eight targets for 125 yards and a touchdown, much of it coming on this 92-yard catch-and-run score in the second quarter:

Crowder put his name back on the fantasy map, too, with six catches for 98 yards on nine targets. The Jets are fantasy relevant once again.

Cutting Up the Pie

Saints Take a Load Off Alvin Kamara

After dominating snaps and touches in each of the team’s past three games, the banged-up Kamara got some relief on Sunday from Latavius Murray. Kamara led the way with 11 carries for 31 yards, adding seven catches for 35 yards through the air to finish with 13.6 PPR points. But Murray played a significant role in the team’s win over the Jags, carrying the ball eight times for 44 yards while adding three catches for 35 yards (to net 10.9 PPR points). That workload split was likely more due to the fact Kamara, who was nursing an ankle injury going into the week, tweaked his knee during the game. He returned to the field, but could see his snap share decline over the next few weeks if the injury lingers.

Dolphins Move to Three-Way Committee at Running Back

Miami surprisingly gave Mark Walton the start at running back in the team’s loss to the Redskins. The second-year pro was ultimately outcarried by Kenyan Drake (Drake finished with 10 carries for 40 yards on 47 snaps, while Walton got six carries for 32 yards on 31 snaps), and both players were utilized in the passing game, with Drake catching six of nine targets for 30 yards and Walton grabbing five of six targets for 43 yards. And to muddy the waters in that backfield even more, Kalen Ballage got five snaps, including a few in the team’s goal-line looks (he scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter). The Dolphins backfield was productive against a bad Redskins defense, but will face tougher sledding against an elite Bills defense next week.

Eagles Still Splitting Roles in the Backfield

As expected, the bulk of the Eagles’ ground game touches went to Jordan Howard in the team’s loss to the Vikings on Sunday, with the veteran back carrying the ball 13 times for 49 yards to Miles Sanders’s three rushes for 6 yards. But Sanders proved that he does still have some fantasy value, reeling in three passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles have made a concerted effort to get the rookie running back involved as a pass catcher this season—and not just on dump-offs and swing passes. The former Penn State star now has four receptions of 30-plus yards this season.

Chiefs Backfield Continues to Keep Us Guessing

LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams split snaps relatively evenly in Kansas City’s loss to the Texans on Sunday (with McCoy playing 27 snaps to Williams’s 21), but McCoy dominated touches, with the shifty vet logging eight carries for 44 yards to Williams’s one carry for 6 yards. In the passing game, McCoy caught both of his targets but gained zero yards, while Damien Williams turned his one target into a 14-yard touchdown. Darrel Williams, who played seven snaps, caught one of his two targets for a 52-yard gain. With so much week-to-week volatility in usage and production, the Chiefs backfield had turned into a fantasy gamble whether you’re holding McCoy or either Williams.

The Injury Report

WR Amari Cooper, Cowboys: Cooper suffered an injury to his quad early in the team’s loss to the Jets and did not return. Reports that Cooper was in “pretty significant pain” after the game cast doubt on his availability for next week’s prime-time matchup with the Eagles. Tavon Austin (five catches for 64 yards) and Cedrick Wilson (five catches for 46 yards) were the beneficiaries on Sunday; if Cooper is forced to miss time, it should provide a fantasy boost for Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb, assuming he can get back on to the field after missing Sunday’s game with a back injury.

TE Will Dissly, Seahawks: Dissly left the game in the first half with an Achilles injury. That’s a brutal turn of events for a guy who returned this year from a patellar tendon tear, and leaves the Seahawks shorthanded at tight end. The recently re-signed Luke Willson looks like the next man up, and don’t be surprised if Seattle gets Jacob Hollister more involved. But neither looks like to be on the fantasy radar at this point.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos: Sanders left the Broncos’ shutout win over the Titans with a knee injury and did not return. Early reports indicate it’s not serious and that Sanders isn’t expected to miss any time.

RB Alvin Kamara, Saints: As noted above, Kamara left the game briefly with a knee injury but returned to the field. It’s worth monitoring his status this week, and even if he plays next Sunday against the Bears, he could find himself on a pitch count.

RB James Conner, Steelers: Conner left the Steelers’ win over the Chargers late in the third quarter with a quad injury and didn’t return for the fourth. The severity of the injury is still up in the air and Pittsburgh heads into its bye week, but with Jaylen Samuels on the shelf for the next few weeks, it’s worth giving Benny Snell a look on the waiver wire.

Smash the Add Button

Here’s a few must-add players on this week’s waiver wire.

QB Sam Darnold, Jets (rostered in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues): Darnold’s not startable next week against the Patriots’ impenetrable defense and gets a tough matchup against the Jags in Week 7, but if you want to get ahead of your opponents, now is a good time to scoop him up on the waiver wire. The Jets’ schedule from Week 9 through Week 15 is about as easy as you can imagine, with matchups vs. the Giants, at the Redskins, vs. the Raiders, at the Bengals, vs. the Dolphins, and at the Ravens.

QB Daniel Jones, Giants (29 percent): Jones has sputtered of late, but looks like a solid streaming option in Week 7 against an exploitable Cardinals defense. With Kyler Murray playing well, that game has high-scoring potential.

WR Auden Tate, Bengals (23 percent): Tate’s grabbed on to a major role in the Bengals passing game. If he’s still out there on waivers in your league, go pick him up.

RB Benny Snell Jr., Steelers (2 percent): If Conner can’t play in Week 8 in the Steelers’ matchup with Dolphins, Snell will be one of the most valuable waiver-wire pickups this week. The rookie back got 17 carries for 75 yards in the team’s win over the Chargers and would be in line for heavy volume in Pittsburgh’s injury-wracked offense.

WR Jakobi Meyers, Patriots (1 percent): Josh Gordon reportedly dodged a major knee injury in the Patriots’ win on Thursday Night Football, but if the veteran pass catcher is limited or misses time over the next couple of weeks, Meyers could step into a bigger role. The preseason star caught four passes for 54 yards in the team’s win over the Giants.

The Watch List

Here’s a handful of players to add to your waiver wire watch list. Be ready to pounce.

WR Scotty Miller, Buccaneers (zero percent): Through six weeks, the Buccaneers’ passing game has run almost exclusively through Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, but the rookie sixth-rounder has gradually begun to work his way into the receiver rotation and saw seven targets come his way in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. Miller reeled in just three of those targets for 39 yards, but he’s one to monitor going forward.

RB Darrell Henderson, Rams (28 percent): Henderson was out-carried by Malcolm Brown 11 to six in the Rams’ blowout loss, but made the most of those touches, picking up 39 yards (6.5 yards per carry). He showed some juice as a runner, in particular on a 22-yard scamper in the second quarter. If Gurley is forced to miss more time going forward, the Rams could look to get the rookie more involved.