One of the oldest fantasy football axioms is “never sit your
studs”. It’s an interesting notion in the sense that
it assumes: 1) it is common knowledge who the “studs”
are; 2) their “status” don’t change from week-to-week
or month-to-month and 3) every fantasy team has enough great options
to consider benching them. The advice also works great because it
doesn’t leave the owner accountable should the strategy not
work (i.e. “it just wasn’t his week”).
Somewhere after the league draft and before midseason –
let’s say between Week 4 and Week 6 – the round in
which a player was selected should be pretty much taken out of
consideration in terms of how often they are relied upon as regular
starters. (Some would argue that it takes less time than that…)
In my estimation, true “studs” should be able to produce
at the floor of their fantasy position (QB1, WR2, etc.) almost
without fail and consistently deliver numbers that meet or exceed
the expectations for that position.
To find that kind of information (position expectations) quickly,
owners need to look no further than FFToday’s
Consistency Calculator. Generally speaking, I would focus
mostly on how often a player has been subpar in relation to the
rest of his peers at his position because the expectation is that
a truly great player will at least meet the baseline fantasy-point
average just about every week.
As far as I’m concerned, new players could (and probably should)
be added and subtracted to the “Stud Club” every month – if such
a thing existed. Can anyone discount the fact that Shane
Vereen has yet to turn in a single-digit fantasy-point total
in PPR leagues? How about Andre
On the other hand, it is hard to believe that owners of backs
such as Alfred
Morris and Giovani
Bernard aren’t at least considering other options. Very few
would question Morris and Bernard are among the better fits and/or
talents at their position in the league, but fantasy production
doesn’t always reward for that as often as we would like it to.
In Morris’ case, he is a player that is utilized very little in
the passing game and dependent on his team to be able to establish
and maintain a lead – which it has done very little in 2013. As
for Bernard, he is a fantasy RB1 talent is on the borderline when
it comes to how much work he sees every game. Few doubt the rookie
could probably be a rock-solid top 5-8 fantasy option at his position
if the Bengals simply gave up the notion their offense is better
off giving the ball to BenJarvus
Green-Ellis (179 touches) more often than Bernard (162). However,
we don’t get to make that call; all we can do is take the information
we have at our disposal and make educated guesses based upon what
offenses have done against similar defenses and assume what their
likeliest plan of attack will be in the coming week(s).
Woodhead has toyed with low-end RB1 status on occasion because
34.7% of his value comes from his 61 receptions. In standard leagues,
he’s more of a hit-or-miss RB2. The same can pretty much
be said about Pierre Thomas. Last year, I wrote a column “It’s
All Relative” in regards to the subject of never sitting
your studs and stand by the opinion that lofty status is not only
fluid, but relative. However, I wanted to expand on it a bit more
this time around and actually get more specific as owners prepare
to make the most important lineup decisions of their fantasy season.
Below is a list of the players in PPR leagues who I think should
be considered “studs” (or unquestioned starters) for
the final three weeks of the season based on any number of factors
such as talent, role and production over the course of the season.
The players in this first table have all played eight games, performed
at a QB1/RB1/WR1/TE1 or elite level more often than most of their
peers and should be expected to maintain that level throughout
the fantasy playoffs. Quarterbacks will be held to a higher standard
than running backs, receivers or tight ends for the simple fact
that a down fantasy week from that position typically sinks a
fantasy team in that week.
Some final notes:
players are listed in the order they fall on the consistency calculator.
Players highlighted in green actually “belong” in
the group above, but haven’t fully earned my trust or have
injury/supporting cast situations that make me a bit leery. Those
players highlighted in red don’t meet all of the criteria
to qualify for the group they are in, but have done enough to
make me believe they are worthy of consideration.
like Aaron Rodgers who are currently injured were intentionally
left off the list. Obviously, Rodgers will be a must-start if/when
he returns. Shane Vereen is another player that probably cannot
be removed from lineups given the likelihood he will see 8-10
carries in a chaotic backfield and handle pretty much all the
passing-down snaps as well, but given the fact he has played only
four games, I cannot place him above because I do factor durability
into this list. Rob Gronkowski has six games under his belt, but
is an obvious play as well.
Most of the players on this list should not come as a surprise,
but I’d like to discuss the seven players I highlighted
in red in a minute.
Before I get to those select seven, the first point I’d
like to reference is the rather low bar I had to set for running
backs – a position that has experienced its fair share of…er…uncertainty
this season. In two-RB PPR leagues, Charles and Forte have been
pillars of consistency with only one game apiece falling under
the 12.05 fantasy-point threshold. McCoy and Murray are the only
other two backs that have produced no more than two subpar performances.
Now back to the “red seven”. Lynch, Bryant, Thomas,
Marshall and Jeffery are all players who actually failed to meet
the criteria at their position. The reason they are included,
however, is because I cannot imagine too many situations in which
I could imagine benching them. Bryant has turned in three single-digit
games, but has fallen under the 14.39-point threshold five times
because Tony Romo has the audacity to lean on players like Jason
Witten and Terrance Williams when defenses make stopping Bryant
their top priority. Thomas is a bit of surprise here as well with
double-digit performances in every game, although his yardage
totals are probably a bit lower than most would expect due to
number of times Julius Thomas, Welker or Eric Decker have stolen
Marshall and Jeffery have essentially traded big weeks most of
the season and there is no reason to expect that to change. Jackson
has feasted on a number of poor secondaries, but has been a veritable
rock for his owners when compared to his previous five seasons.
With Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago left on the fantasy schedule,
owners can continue to expect huge numbers from him. Reed is a
bit of an oddity in the sense that it took him six weeks to mix
being healthy with having a substantial role in the offense. Additionally,
he has missed the last two weeks with a concussion, all of which
combines to make his 66.7% subpar rate a bit of a misnomer.
Note: Jay Cutler is a player who qualifies for this list
and is someone I would feel strongly about in this area.
Let the questions and doubting begin. By “waiting for admittance”,
I am suggesting these players are on the outside of the stud club
looking in, but are making their case to the bouncer – in
a matter of speaking. Let’s run through all of them quickly:
Seattle is usually content relying on Marshawn Lynch and playing
defense, turning to Wilson when the running game isn’t working
or in comeback situations – even though the second-year
quarterback is more than capable of carrying the team with his
arm or his legs. It’s for that reason alone I don’t
feel like he is a fantasy stud – Seattle is capable of making
him an intermediary between the center and the running back in
any given game. The Seahawks lead the NFC in points scored, so
it is hard to argue with their approach.
Romo could easily lead his fantasy teams to championships with
Chicago, Green Bay and Washington as his final three opponents.
The major question with him will be whether or not Dallas will
take that opportunity to feature DeMarco Murray on a regular basis.
The return of MLB Sean Lee should enable the team to be better
defensively, making it a real possibility the running game takes
Rivers should be set up for success in Weeks 14 (Giants) and
16 (Raiders), but three of his last four (and five of his last
seven) games have been one-touchdown efforts. That recent history
is enough to suggest to me that he may not be able to put together
three straight solid efforts to close the season. It’s also
conceivable that Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead perform well
enough in Weeks 14 and 16 that Rivers isn’t needed as much.
The Redskins’ season has been a lost cause, but Griffin
hasn’t been nearly as bad in fantasy as many have been led
to believe. If RG3 continues to run as much as he has in recent
weeks, he’ll hold up his end of the bargain in fantasy,
even if he doesn’t deliver elite numbers like he did as
RBs: Tread carefully with
Woodhead – who has no more than four catches or 70 total yards
in any of those contests, which has coincided with an increase
in passing-game usage for Ryan
Mathews. After many weeks of very good production, the ex-Patriot
is walking a thin line between RB2 and flex until his touches
and snaps increase to early-season levels.
C.J. Spiller tweaked his ankle injury yet again in Week 13, meaning
Jackson is probably back on track to be a great RB2 in the fantasy
playoffs. He has been the passing-down and goal-line back all
season long, so it is hard to believe that will change now since
Spiller cannot stay healthy despite a reduced workload. Assuming
Jackson’s owners can get past a fairly difficult game in
Week 14 against Tampa Bay, they should be able to enjoy some very
nice production over the final two weeks (Jaguars and Dolphins).
Bernard’s role isn’t going to change in all likelihood,
but 14 touches per game are enough for me to trust him in fantasy
– especially with remaining matchups against the Colts,
Steelers and Vikings.
Assuming the Chiefs continue their recent defensive downswing,
Morris finishes off his fantasy season with winnable matchups
against Kansas City, Atlanta and Dallas. The only question in
any of those games figures to be whether or not the Redskins’
defense can keep the team in the game long enough for Morris to
get the kind of touches he saw on a regular basis last season.
At a position where so few players are a good bet for 20 touches,
Stacy stands out as a rare fantasy property. The rookie has seen
at least 20 touches in all but one week since Week 6 – he
left Week 12 early due to a concussion – and is the centerpiece
of the Rams’ offense now. Two of Stacy’s three remaining
matchups are not great, but it is doubtful many owners have more
than one option on their roster that will see as much work as
WRs: Not surprisingly, Fitzgerald
has been a much better fantasy receiver following the Cardinals’
Week 9 bye, which apparently gave his hamstring(s) the necessary
time to heal. He’s not back to the elite receiver status
yet by any means – and may not get there against until Arizona
fixes its offensive line – but the Cardinals’ decision
to use more two tight-end sets in order to help the running game
and the pass blocking has gone a long way in giving Carson Palmer
a bit more time to find him. Tennessee and Seattle (Weeks 15 and
16) are poor matchups, but I feel confident a healthy Fitzgerald
can hold his own.
Shorts will be a sight to behold when he actually has a legitimate
NFL quarterback throwing him the ball. Until that time, he’s
just going to have to settle being the ninth-most targeted receiver
in the league despite missing the majority of one game earlier
in the year. Two of his three remaining matchups are less than
ideal, but any receiver who can post 14 catches for 135 yards
and a touchdown while spending most of his last two weeks against
Johnathan Joseph and Joe Haden doesn’t need to be terribly
concerned about matchups.
Allen will probably a top-15 receiver in next year’s drafts
at worst and his remaining fantasy schedule could solidify that
status. The Giants aren’t the greatest matchup on paper,
but they haven’t exactly slammed the door on many of their
opponents’ top wideouts. If Allen’s recent target
totals are any indication (12 and 10 over the past two weeks),
there’s a pretty good chance Denver and Oakland probably
won’t have much success against him either.
In part because he has one touchdown since Week 4, Garcon could
shape up to be something of a value pick in 2014 despite the fact
he is probably going to catch 100 passes and surpass 1,100 yards
receiving. The ex-Colt has been reduced to a garbage-time possession
receiver over the last couple weeks as Washington’s offense
continually shoots itself in the foot for three quarters, but
it doesn’t get much better than Atlanta and Dallas in Weeks
15 and 16.
With the exception of a possible Week 16 showdown against Aqib
Talib, Smith is going to have every opportunity to lift his owners
into their fantasy title games with soft matchups against Minnesota
and Detroit. Smith’s yardage numbers have dipped over the
second half of the season, but he’s made up for it with
three scores over the past four weeks. The Vikings and Lions should
allow him to have it both ways.
TEs: I initially had six
tight ends listed in “waiting for admittance”, but
I cannot make a strong case that Jordan Cameron, Charles Clay,
Tony Gonzalez, Coby Fleener, Antonio Gates or Jason Witten have
proven themselves worthy of it. No one will question the talent
of most of these players and most of them will start for owners
over these next three weeks, but that doesn’t necessarily
make them must-starts in my mind. As crazy as it may sound now,
I would strongly consider playing someone like San Diego’s
Ladarius Green over all of them.
Some of the regular readers are probably thinking, “Give
me some players that are actually available in my league that
I can use in the fantasy playoffs!” While I would not recommend
riding more than handful of these players for more than a week,
I can make a case for them in at least one of the next three games
due to matchups. I will bold the “handful” of players
I do feel could be useful as potential every-week starts in deeper
QBs: Joe Flacco (Week 14 vs.
Minnesota); Jay Cutler/Josh McCown (Weeks
14-16); Matt McGloin (Week 14 vs. NY Jets and Week 16 vs.
San Diego); Ryan Fitzpatrick (Week 14 vs. Denver and Week 16 vs.
RBs: James Starks (Week 14
vs. Atlanta, Week 15 vs. Dallas); Dennis Johnson (Week 14 vs.
Jacksonville, Week 15 vs. Indianapolis); Roy Helu (Weeks 14-16)
WRs: Robert Woods (Week 14
vs. Tampa Bay), Cordarrelle Patterson (Week 15 vs. Philadelphia);
Andre Holmes (Week 14 vs. NY Jets and Week 16 vs. San Diego –
assuming Denarius Moore remains out); Doug
Baldwin (Weeks 14-16)
Pitta (assuming he can play in Week 14, stash and make him prove
it); Brandon Myers (Week 14 vs. San Diego); Zach Ertz/Brent
Celek (Week 15 vs. Minnesota); Ladarius
Green (Weeks 14-16)
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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and appeared in
USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in 2010 and
2011. He is also the host of USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff
fantasy football internet chat every Sunday. Doug regularly appears
as a fantasy football analyst on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy
Drive” and for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C).
He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.