News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 14

(It’s Week 14 of the NFL season. This and every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)

My brother texted me Tuesday. James Conner was out, and he wanted to know if I thought he should pick up Jaylen Samuels. He’s made it to the playoffs despite a disappointing TE tandem of Jordan Reed and Benjamin Watson, and as this was a Yahoo league and Samuels was TE-eligible, I told him of course, and spend as much of his FAAB as he could.

“That’s what I thought,” he said. “I’m going to bid on him. Don’t you try to top me!”

Now, I exhausted my FAAB a few weeks ago on Josh Adams, so I couldn’t even if I wanted to, but as my brother sneaked into the playoffs as a six seed, and I am merely playing for the consolation bracket (I’m not going through it again, I hate the 2018 season, please get me the Eternal Sunshine technology so I can wipe it from my memory), I assured him I never would have anyway.

This appears to be a controversial subject in some circles, so I’ll lay it out here: Play the full season. Set your lineup every week, and set your best lineup every week. But once you can no longer win the title, and if there are no benefits for consolation games (draft seeding, payout for bottom finishers, etc.), don’t play the waiver wire. That’s the only realistic way to play.

It’s a keeper league. If someone randomly dropped, I don’t know, Le’Veon Bell, needing a roster spot, I’d put in a claim (my lack of FAAB would mean I wouldn’t get him, but I’d try). But absent the possibility of a player who might be on your roster the next year (Samuels, Jeff Wilson, etc., aren’t that in a two-keeper league), you sit out the waiver wire. Once waivers run, free agents are fair game, but leave the most relevant pickups to the contenders.

It’s the only reasonable way to play. If you’re eliminated, you shouldn’t have a direct impact on those who are not eliminated. They make roster changes Tuesday. Yours wait until Wednesday.

Welcome to the Week 14 advice.

Live chats

Our live chats are a fantastic resource to get specific help to your individual quandaries each week. The Tuesday-through-Saturday chats are posted here, and Scott Barrett hosts a last-minute chat Sunday mornings as well.

Rankings and start/sit

These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Friday is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

6. Aaron Jones, GB vs ATL (RB6) — Will the interim regime use Jones more than Mike McCarthy? We don’t know, but this is an excellent matchup.
7. Phillip Lindsay, DEN @ SF (RB7) — Lindsay is absolutely shredding opposing defenses on the ground.
8. Michael Thomas, NO @ TB (WR1) — The shaky Bucs secondary looked decent last week, but this is still a plus matchup for Thomas.
9. Antonio Brown, PIT @ OAK (WR2) — AB is rolling over the last month with the second-most fantasy points among wideouts over that span.

Two starts, two sits

START Jaylen Samuels in medium-sized leagues: Samuels is a great play this week, with James Conner out, but probably not a must-play like we’ve seen from Pittsburgh’s backup running backs in the past (like DeAngelo Williams). Though Samuels has been named the starter, it seems clear, per this tweet, he’ll be working in a committee with Stevan Ridley.
START Zay Jones in deep leagues: Since Week 6, Jones ranks 22nd among wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (13.0). Although his production hasn’t been as good as his volume over this span, there’s good reason to believe both are better this week.
SIT Tyler Lockett in shallow leagues: All year I’ve been falsely prophesying a coming regression for Lockett, based on his league-leading and absurd 3.32 fantasy points per target. It’ll be hard for him to stay efficient this week, in shadow coverage against Xavier Rhodes.
SIT Sterling Shepard in medium-sized leagues: Over his last five games, Shepard averages just 5.0 targets, 26.0 yards, and 7.0 fantasy points per game. In a neutral matchup this week (Washington ranks 16th in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing slot wide receivers), Shepard is better off left on your bench.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Allen Robinson: Robinson goes to battle against the Rams secondary, which has given up the most fantasy points per target in the NFL (2.26). Robinson has displayed his ceiling against other weak secondaries — he torched the Lions, who rank second-to-last in points per target allowed, for 6-133-2 — and the Bears expect starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to be back under center.
BUST: Austin Hooper: Hooper faces a Packers defense that has given up the third-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. Green Bay has allowed just one enemy tight end to score against them this season.

Players to drop

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: What went wrong here? The No. 2 receiving option in an Aaron Rodgers-led passing offense should be putting up prolific fantasy stats on a weekly basis, but MVS just isn’t getting it done out there. Despite running nearly route-for-route with Davante Adams since Week 5, MVS has seen his receptions drop precipitously over the past three weeks (1, 1, 2).
Demaryius Thomas: Thomas is also playing on a run-first team that makes it difficult to rely on target volume. Thomas has yet to surpass four receptions in a game with his new team, as the Texans sport the second-heaviest run-play percentage in the league (48.2%).

Waiver claims to make

ADD Josh Allen in shallow leagues: Allen is on fire. He went over 100 rushing yards last week and threw for two passing scores.
ADD Curtis Samuel in medium-sized leagues: Samuel’s role has continued to expand, and he actually led the Panthers in targets last week.
ADD Antonio Callaway in deep leagues: Callaway’s big play upside again came to the surface last week.

QB streamers

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: Going back to Week 6, Prescott is fantasy’s No. 5 QB. That’s a span of seven games — almost half a season — during which he’s outperformed the likes of Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and others. And yet, he remains unowned in approximately half of leagues while being parked on the bench in four out of five last Thursday despite an inviting matchup.

DST streamers

New Orleans Saints: This is a much different New Orleans defense than the one Ryan Fitzpatrick ran roughshod over in Week 1. In their Week 13 loss to the Cowboys, the Saints DST still managed to post top-10 fantasy totals by sacking Dak Prescott seven times and recovering two fumbles.

Deeper dives

You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.

Long-term sleepers

Anthony Firkser, TE, Tennesse Titans: The best case to stash Firkser in dynasty and deeper formats is his demonstrated efficiency. He’s caught all 13 of his targets this season and now leads the team with 0.9 Catches Added.

Snaps, Pace, and Stats

Ravens at Chiefs: The Ravens would not have been described as ball hogs before Lamar Jackson took over as starting quarterback, ranking 17th in average time of possession after 10 weeks (30:40). Since then, nobody is remotely close to their 37:40 mark. They are still first in plays per game, and have added nearly four to their average. However, Baltimore has gone from allowing the 11th-most snaps per game (64.0) to the NFL’s fewest (51.7).

Trade value chart

Steelers passing game: James Conner’s injury is obviously a huge blow to his value, but rather than give a huge bump to his backups (Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley), look for more of the offense to flow through Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown and the passing attack.

Weather and venue adjustments

Falcons at Packers: Matt Ryan has played just one regular-season and one playoff game this decade with a game-time temperature below 30 degrees. The first was in Week 14, 2013, and Ryan completed 20 of his 35 passes for 210 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, unsurprisingly in Green Bay. The second was in last year’s playoffs in Philadelphia, where Ryan went 22-for-36 for the same 210 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 picks.

RB committee report

Jeff Wilson trending UP: Yet another injury to Matt Breida’s ankle opened the door for Wilson to play 72% of the 49ers’ offensive snaps in Week 13. He certainly capitalized, finishing with 134 yards on 23 touches, including eight catches on nine targets.
Mark Ingram trending DOWN: Another player seemingly skating by on last year’s reputation is Ingram, who is owned in 96% of ESPN leagues and was started in more than 60% of lineups last week. Sure, he’s been mostly effective on the ground, averaging 4.8 YPC with a couple of 100-yard games. However, his usage is tough to rely on as his fantasy production has come in bunches.

DFS advice

First things first: We’ve introduced a new DFS piece, and it’s a doozy. Scott Barrett’s guide to all things DFS hits Week 13 from every DFS angle, taking you through the process of an expert as he prepares for the weekend. It’s a home run.

We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game). And Scott Barrett offers up his favorite tournament plays of the week on both primary sites.

Bargains

LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills: McCoy doesn’t read like your traditional bargain pick, but on FD, he is priced in the range of Samuels and other RB2s despite a favorable matchup against the Jets.
Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina Panthers: Thomas benefits from the season-ending injury to tight end Greg Olsen and he should get off to a fast start in his expanded role in Week 14. The Browns have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Thomas is dirt cheap on both DK and FD.

Locks

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: The game isn’t in New Orleans, but Brees and the Saints are still eight-point favorites against the Buccaneers in a game with the highest over/under of Week 14 (55.5).
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers: McDonald gets a great Week 14 matchup against the Raiders, who have allowed the most fantasy points per target to opposing tight ends this season (2.69). Basically, every tight end playing against Oakland turns into the best tight end in the world on a per-target basis.

Stacks

Jameis Winston, QB; Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, WRs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers stack is likely to be the most widely owned in large-entry tournaments, so be careful not to get too much exposure. Having said that, it’s a high-profile stack for a reason. The Saints pass defense is a near-perfect matchup and gamescript should require Tampa Bay to keep throwing the football early and often. From an individual matchup standpoint, Godwin has one of the best on the slate against Eli Apple.

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