Back on September 3, a footnote NFL transaction occurred that would change 2016 fantasy football landscapes later in the year: the Browns released Taylor Gabriel. He was later scooped up by the Falcons and has become one of the “league winners” category wide receivers in the second half of this season. This week the Falcons travel to Charlotte to take on the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers. [embedit snippet=”jeff-ads”]
At first, it was easy to dismiss Taylor Gabriel’s production. It had an air of flukiness to it, as he scored two touchdowns on thirteen targets in three games prior to the Falcons’ week eleven bye. Since then, however, the Falcons have made a concerted effort to get Gabriel the ball. In the four games since the Falcons’ bye, he has gotten 5, 6, 6, and 6 targets. His 23 targets in four games match the 23 targets he got from weeks one through ten, and he’s done great things with those targets. In the last four games, he is averaging 65 yards per game and has scored four touchdowns in as many games. Granted, he had some creampuff matchups in there like the 49ers, but it isn’t like he is taking on world-beaters defensively this week.
The Panthers are the sixth-worst at preventing fantasy point production to wide receivers through the first fourteen games this season. It’s questionable if Julio Jones will be playing this weekend, but Jones has participated in practice and is expected to play this week barring a setback. That’ll put defensive attention his way and will get Gabriel some running room to get a head of steam to get one of his now patented 30-yard touchdown catch-and-runs. It feels like a million years ago that the Panthers had Josh Norman to anchor their secondary to shut down opposing pass defenses, especially lately. Eight wide receivers in their last four games have at least sixty yards, and only keeping opposing wide receivers out of the end zone has kept them from blasting up the fantasy points per game charts.
Taylor Gabriel wasn’t a household name in fantasy football draft season, and a winless team thought he wasn’t worth keeping on their roster earlier this year. However, he has turned in double-digit fantasy point performances in six of his last seven games. This week he takes on a Panthers defense that bleeds yards to opponents, and he may finally be able to perform again without Julio Jones. He is the perfect WR3 or flex play this week to get that home run to win your matchup.