The reality of fantasy football is that owners who invested in players at drafts or auctions or made a blockbuster trade or shockingly effective waiver pickup or two, those players are in lineups every week. It takes a lot for a fantasy owner to give up on a player they invested in – just ask those who spent dearly to land Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. The fear remains that they will go off for a huge week the one week they’re on the bench.
The fact of the matter is that, barring injuries and bye weeks, fantasy owners are creatures of habit. Barring injuries, the majority of their lineup is the same from week to the next at every position and, in 2019, it’s getting even more pronounced.
At quarterback, there are seven “must-start” guys who owners have a hard time benching even if the matchup doesn’t look great – Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson and Matt Ryan. This list doesn’t include Matthew Stafford (who is fourth in pass yards and second in TD passes), Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Derek Carr and Jared Goff.
At running back, the list is deeper – 13 deep – with Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara, Chris Carson, Nick Chubb, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Marlon Mack, Todd Gurley and Aaron Jones. Essentially, every fantasy team likely has at least one of these “must-start” guys and those who have two have very few decisions from one week to the next.
At wide receiver, the loyalty to stars is the deepest of any position. The “must-start” list includes 18 players – Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Tyler Lockett, Cooper Kupp, Keenan Allen, Adam Thielen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Julian Edelman, Chris Godwin, Amari Cooper, T.Y. Hilton, Kenny Golladay, Odell Beckham and Stefon Diggs. There are just as many players that are on the fringe of that status, which makes non-bye/injury roster decisions even fewer.
At tight end, 2019 has been disappointing, but owners don’t bench their stud tight ends, a list that includes George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry and Greg Olsen.
With the bye weeks ending next week, if you still have the opportunity to acquire a “must-start” player – even if it costs you two or three depth players to get it accomplished, give it a shot. The reality of fantasy football is that, from here on through, most owners will have their lineup 80 percent filled out before they even look at the matchups for that week. The most “must-start” guys you have, the better.
Here is the Week 10 Fantasy Market Report:
Mike Evans – With the exception of his Week 5 game in which he had no receptions, in five of the last six games, Evans has yardage totals of 89, 96, 180, 190 and 198 receiving yards. He has scored seven TDs in that span and, in his last three games, he has been targeted 45 times, catching 32 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Godwin has earned a lot of the raves along the way, but Evans remains the dominant receiver in Tampa…and perhaps the entire NFL.
Christian McCaffrey – The only team capable of slowing McCaffrey down has been Tampa Bay. In the other five games, McCaffrey has rushed for 117 or more yards in each, has scored at least one touchdown in seven of eight games and has two or more touchdowns in four games. He’s on pace to rush 330 times for 1,762 yards and 20 touchdowns and catch 84 passes for 726 yards and six touchdowns. Nobody who has McCaffrey would ever consider benching him, but he’s on this list this week because he’s on pace to threaten LaDanian Tomlinson for the greatest fantasy season ever. Halfway home, he’s still keeping pace.
Tyreek Hill – If there was ever a knock on Hill is what that if he didn’t have a huge catch, his numbers could be inconsistent from week to week in an offense that spreads the ball around if a player is double-covered. In the four games since coming back from a shoulder injury, Hill has caught 20 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns. He’s still the big-play machine he always is, but has become a more complete receiver and is becoming more than just a huge play waiting to happen.
Kirk Cousins – In his first four games, people were questioning whether or not Minnesota would eat the final year of his three-year, fully-guaranteed contract. Five weeks later, Minnesota has gone 4-1, Cousins has four games with 285 or more passing yards and has thrown 13 touchdowns. The Vikings are still an offense that runs through Dalvin Cook, but Cousins has re-established himself as a player fantasy owners can play with confidence – even when he doesn’t have his full complement of receiving talent.
Kenny Golladay – Marvin Jones has been getting most of the headlines coming off a massive four-touchdown game in Week 7, but Golladay has been the main weapon in the offense. When he was drafted, the Detroit media made unfair comparisons to Calvin Johnson, but he has been posting Megatron-like numbers. He has three games with more than 120 receiving yards in the four games he’s played since the Lions bye week and is averaging 24.8 yards per reception in that span. He was drafted in fantasy leagues to be a player who starts more weeks than not. Now, he’s a must-start.
Tom Brady – At a time when a lot of quarterbacks are posting eye-popping numbers on a weekly basis, The GOAT has been posting relatively pedestrian numbers. In his first five games, Brady threw 10 touchdown passes and had three games with more than 300 yards passing games. In the last four games, he has thrown just four touchdowns and, while his numbers remain start-worthy, he’s no longer a guaranteed fantasy starter and, as the weather gets colder, the Patriots historically run the ball more and work the clock, which come at the expense of Brady’s numbers.
Alshon Jeffery – Jeffery has been a solid fantasy receiver for years, including his first two years in Philadelphia. But, this season, Jeffery hasn’t been worthy of being a weekly fantasy play. His high yardage game is 76 yards and has weekly yardage totals of 0, 36, 38, 38, 49, 52, 64 and 76 yards and has scored just three touchdowns. In the Eagles offense, he has value, but just not to the extent of being an every-week lock to be in fantasy lineups.
Baker Mayfield – It would appear that the honeymoon is over between the Dawg Pound and Mayfield. Through eight games, Mayfield has thrown one touchdown pass in seven of them and none in the other. He has completed less than 60 percent of his passes in four of eight games and has 195 passing yards or fewer in three of eight games. He’s been rendered almost unplayable in any fantasy format and he’s taking Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry with him, especially if your season is on the line.
Jimmy Graham – There was a time when Graham was in the discussion of being the best tight end in the NFL and he has always seemed to find a God spot with quarterbacks. He earned his reputation with Drew Brees, then came together with Russell Wilson in Seattle and now is playing in his second season with Aaron Rodgers. But, his numbers have been brutal. He has 30 or fewer receiving yards in six of nine games and, over the last two games, he’s become little more than a Check-down Charlie – catching seven passes for just 37 yards. Graham is on rosters based on reputation, not production.
Mitchell Trubisky – At a time when passing numbers are setting individual and team records on a weekly basis, Trubisky may be the worst fantasy quarterback in the league. His high water mark for passing yards is 253 and he has just five touchdown passes in seven games – including five games with no TDs. Throw in that he brings almost nothing as a runner, he not only has rendered himself fantasy irrelevant, he has taken almost all of his skill position teammates along for the ugly, bumpy ride.