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Fantasy Spotlight: J.D. McKissic Is A Must Start With Alex Smith At QB

Washington Football Team running back J.D. McKissic (right) set career highs in targets (14), catches (nine) and receiving yards (65) against the New York Giants on Nov. 8, 2020. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

With eight games left, there is still time for teams to make a push for the postseason, but in fantasy football, that window is getting smaller with four weeks left before the playoffs in many leagues.

Like the Washington Football Team, NFL fans are adjusting their fantasy rosters to put themselves in position for a strong finish to the season. They're scrolling through fantasy analyses to find the move that will give them a big payoff on Sunday.

So, let's take a look at which Washington Football player fantasy owners should put in their lineup ahead of Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.

(NOTE: All rankings are based on ESPN Standard scoring, which includes one point per reception.)

Start: RB J.D. McKissic

Quarterback Alex Smith will make his first start in nearly two years Sunday, which is very good for running back J.D. McKissic's fantasy value.

In Smith's two appearances -- Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams and last week against the New York Giants -- McKissic combined for 15 receptions on 22 targets for 111 yards. McKissic had his best career receiving game versus the Giants, hauling in nine of his 14 targets for 65 yards and totaling 17.2 fantasy points -- the third-highest among running backs in Week 10.

While Washington was playing from behind for the entirety of those games, that has been the case for most of the season. It's partly why McKissic has averaged about 11.2 fantasy points per game since Week 3. That's a high floor for a player who still has not found the end zone this season.

"Well, I think the biggest thing with J.D. is you see his versatility," head coach Ron Rivera said Nov. 6. "You see it as a receiver, you see it as a runner. He's a quality back. I think the thing that he's showing is he can be a first-, second- and third-down guy. Do you want him touching the ball 30 times a game? Probably not if you don't want him to take that type of pounding. But you want the ball in his hands as much as possible. I do think he is a quality football player."

In terms of McKissic's fantasy production, the worst-case scenario would be if Sunday's game played out like Washington's 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7.

Running back Antonio Gibson outrushed McKissic, 20-5, in that game as Washington got out to a commanding lead and switched to a run-heavy style with Gibson and short-yardage running back Peyton Barber. McKissic finished with 7.1 fantasy points, his third-lowest total of the season.

Detroit has one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL (148.1 yards per game allowed), so Gibson should have plenty of room to run. But as long as Washington does not go ahead by multiple scores, which has rarely happened this season, McKissic should still receive a solid workload. Plus, McKissic has shown the ability to run between the tackles, leading all running backs with 4.8 yards per carry.

In passing situations, the Lions will likely pressure Smith to test his mobility and pocket presence coming off what many thought was a career-ending leg injury. If that's the case, expect a lot of dumpoffs to McKissic.

"Guys like him who can get out into space and make people miss, they become a problem for defenses." Rivera said of McKissic.

The bottom line is that McKissic is a top 20 running back in PPR formats with top 10 upside. And for a player who is still available in more than 40% of leagues, that is very good value.