There comes a time in every season when a fantasy owner says, “I’ve seen enough” and makes the difficult decision to either bench or cut a player in hopes of finding something better. If a marginal roster player does nothing for a couple of weeks, he ends up on the waiver wire. But, what happens when it’s a guy you expected to be a key regular starter?
It’s one thing for a fringe guy to give off a stank most foul and be quickly jettisoned from your vicinity, but it’s another to have a guy you invested significantly in and have been counting on that just isn’t providing the return for the investment.
Injuries happen. Players go down. The NFL is a violent game. Some players leave rosters for those reasons. I thought 2019 Cam Newton was going to be poisonous and avoided him completely. I didn’t see Andrew Luck’s retirement coming. Those who felt Antonio Brown’s talents could travel were sadly disappointed. Those who invested in A.J. Green when the Bengals said they weren’t going to put him on the P.U.P. list because he was expected back by late September are all fully aware that he still hasn’t played.
Guys like that effectively became dead roster spots. They were cut and replaced. But, what about the players who have been on the field every week and just aren’t getting it done? Do you bench Tom Brady? In his last six games, he has thrown just five TD passes. Do you bench Carson Wentz? In his last five games, he has just five touchdown passes and has averaged just 214 yards a game.
If they had names like Tannehill or any of the three Allens who have become starting quarterbacks, owners wouldn’t have hesitated to pull the plug on them as their primary starter. But this is The GOAT and Carson Wentz – two QBs with pretty solid pedigrees.
The same goes for the other fantasy positions.
Saquon Barkley hasn’t been the same player since returning from his high ankle sprain. While his reception volume keeps him relevant, Alvin Kamara owners have seen him rush for less than 70 yards in seven of his last eight games, post 50 or fewer receiving yards in seven of his last eight games and score just two touchdowns after scoring 18 times in 2018. Joe Mixon has shown signs of life recently but has been shut down too often to ignore for a player drafted to be a starter. Le’Veon Bell hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in any game this season, Todd Gurley’s weekly numbers have been underwhelming, David Johnson has fallen off the face of the earth and highly-touted rookies Mike Sanders and David Montgomery have been fantasy disappointments when compared to their preseason expectations.
The same goes for receivers. Do you bench Odell Beckham because he has averaged just 70 yards a game and has scored just two touchdowns? Do you give up on JuJu Smith-Schuster because he had three or fewer receptions and 44 or fewer receiving yards in four of his last five games? Do you bury Alshon Jeffery for averaging just 44 yards a game in the eight games he has played? Do you have personal issues with Robert Woods for not scoring a touchdown all season and having more than five receptions just three times? Do you retire Larry Fitzgerald because his weekly numbers aren’t worthy of being a fantasy flex player? Do simply get rid of tight ends like O.J. Howard, Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald and Delanie Walker because they routinely disappear from the game plan?
As we approach the fantasy playoffs, these are some of the tough questions fantasy owners have to ask themselves (and answer). Just because you invested heavily in a player like Wentz or Brady or Beckham or Bell, if they’re not producing and you have other options, you’re at the point where you have to make the tough decisions that are best for your team. Some will go down with the ship out of fear the one week you bench one of your underachieving star players is the week they’re going to go off with the type of game you’ve expected all year long. There isn’t much loyalty in the real world of football. The same should apply to fantasy football.
Here is the Week 13 Fantasy Market Report:
Jonathan Williams – In the first nine games of the season, this Colts backup running back was inactive for seven of them and had two carries for one yard in the other two games. When Marlon Mack broke his hand in Week 11, Williams got an opportunity…and has run with it. In a game-and-a-half, he has rushed 39 times for 220 yards and a touchdown. It will be Mack’s job when he returns, but, until he’s back, Williams can continue to make his case for his long-term future – whether with the Colts or someone else.
D.J. Moore – The only frustration anyone had with Moore was that prior to the two-TD game he posted Sunday at New Orleans, he had only scored one touchdown. But, it has become clear that he is on the verge of becoming an elite receiver. He has only two games with less than five receptions and, over his last four games, he has come on strong – catching 30 passes for 442 yards and two touchdowns. Not many receivers have caught seven or more passes in six games or had more than 70 receiving yards in eight games. Moore doesn’t get mentioned among the game’s top receivers, but that won’t last much longer.
Derrick Henry – He never gets the respect he deserves for being an elite fantasy running back because he doesn’t catch many passes – although two of his 14 receptions have gone for touchdowns. He has scored 12 touchdowns, has four games with two TDs (including each of the last three) and, in the last two games – which Tennessee needed to win to stay in contention for a division title or wild card berth – he has rushed 42 times for 347 yards and four touchdowns. He’s becoming PPR-proof and the numbers show it.
Bo Scarbrough – When November started, he was unemployed. In the post-Kerryon Johnson era of the Lions 2019 season, they needed someone – anyone – to come in and provide a spark to its ugly run offense that was trying to take the heat off a backup quarterback. In two games, he has rushed 32 times for 153 yards and a touchdown – 14 carries for 55 yards and a TD in one game and 18 carries for 98 yards in the other. For those who have a dire running back situation, Detroit is giving him a long look at being someone they may envision in a dual-RB scenario.
Julian Edelman – There aren’t many players who are the clear-cut primary receiver for an offense week-in and week-out. Edelman’s value is clearly much better in PPR formats because he can go weeks at a time without scoring a touchdown. But, aside from Edelman, only three players have been targeted 10 or more times in a game this season – James White, Josh Gordon and Mohamed Sanu once each. Edelman has been targeted 10 or more times in eight games, with single-game targets of nine and seven in two of the three games he didn’t hit double digits. You don’t score fantasy points if you aren’t targeted and few players are targeted as often and as consistently as Edelman.
Saquon Barkley – In the two full games he played prior to a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss three-and-a-half games, Barkley rushed 29 times for 227 yards and a touchdown. In his last four games since his return, he has rushed 63 times for 152 yards and no rushing TDs. His fantasy impact has been more as a check-down receiver. Nobody who invested in Barkley is going to bench him (see above), but he’s getting to the point of having owners considering the possibility – even if they don’t have the guts to pull the trigger on it.
Aaron Rodgers – In his first eight games, Rodgers was what you would expect him to be. He threw 18 touchdowns, ran in one and had 235 or more passing yards in six straight – including three games with more than 300 yards and two with more than 400. In the last three games, he has two TD passes and yardage totals of 161, 233 and 104 yards. This may simply be the payback for having five of six games at home from Sept. 15 to Oct. 20, but Rodgers’ numbers are at their lowest level in a long time, whether by force or design. A-Rog owners aren’t going to put him out to pasture, but if they were counting on him the last three weeks, they’ve been disappointed every time.
Tampa Bay tight ends – There aren’t many teams that have two tight ends on fantasy rosters of any league, but the Bucs were one of them with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Howard is capable of great things and, for those who didn’t prioritize tight end, Brate’s red-zone acumen kept him in lineups and on rosters. But, things have changed this season. In the nine games he’s played, Howard has caught just 18 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown. In 11 games, Brate has caught just 25 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns – 10 catches in one game and 15 in the other 10 combined. Despite having a prolific pass offense embraced by Bruce Arians, Tampa’s tight ends have been rendered moot in the fantasy world.
Mike Sanders – There was a feeling that Sanders was going to be an explosive rookie to watch when he joined the Eagles. He had more carries than Jordan Howard in each of the first three games of his career but didn’t take the job over. In the next six games, Sanders never had more than 11 carries and Howard never had less than 11. When Howard went down with injury two weeks ago, it was a second chance for Sanders to take over the lead dog role. The results in the last two games as the lone featured back? 23 carries for 101 yards, five receptions for 32 yards and no touchdowns. He had a chance early. He’s had a chance the last two games. He hasn’t taken advantage.
Darren Waller – It’s hard to put him on this list because so many of us fell in love with him as our own discovery during the preseason. What got him noticed by everyone else was his fast start. In his first six games, he caught 44 passes for 485 yards and two touchdowns – a pace that would have him finish the season with 117 receptions for 1,293 yards and five touchdowns. But, once everyone had taken notice, the production has dropped. In his last five games, he has caught just 15 passes for 222 yards and one TD. He’s still a dangerous threat capable of big things, but the Waller Train has slowed considerably.