There have been a lot of stud early-round picks this year that have disappointed, leading a lot of fantasy teams to .500 or sub.-500 records that could still have a shot at the playoffs if those big-name studs bank on their high-price value in the second half. A guy I’ve been notoriously down on all year, Matthew Stafford, finally showed fantasy owners something against a tough Seahawks D, but it might have been too late as he was started in just over 50% of fantasy leagues.
It’s a big week if you’re hanging onto hope for your studs to pull you through to your playoffs. For example, in my long-time dynasty league I have Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin against that terrible Saints D. I’m facing the two-time defending champion and need some major Eagles love. If it doesn’t happen this week, not only will Vick be seeing my fantasy bench, he might be sent to the real-life bench. Just like the Eagles and the Lions in real football – they’re hanging onto a prayer that what they had planned to take them to the playoffs pays off.
Looking at last week’s picks, Chris Givens has yet another 50+ yard touchdown, and Alex Green was decent for a flex play with 82 total yards and 4 catches if you’re in PPR, but it was brutal for all my other sleeper picks. Brandon Weeden somehow got his team a win throwing for only 129 yards, I saw Robert Meachem in the same way Haley Joel Osment saw dead people in the Sixth Sense (managing to have negative points on no catches on 3 targets and a carry for -6 yards), and Brandon Stokley was pretty useless.
For my benchers, Cam Newton got Bear-ed, Michael Turner got Eagle-ed, Hakeem Nicks got Cowyboy-ed/not 100% healthy-ed, and Vernon Davis got Cardinal-ed/NFC West-ed. Not a bad week for my bench calls. Only guy I was off on was Trent Richardson who absolutely went off against a Chargers Run-D that was 2nd in the NFL heading into last week while also recovering from that rib injury. Richardson is going to be a beast through his career.
Here’s five guys not started in enough leagues and five guys started in too many leagues that should be benched, along with their % started in ESPN leagues and Yahoo leagues, respectively. And remember, these picks are not always suggestions for direct 1-for-1 swaps if you own players in both sections, but merely picks for guys not started enough and started too often.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle (3.8%, 7%) Wilson hasn’t been that high-upside fantasy contributor a lot of analysts thought (hey, I was one of ‘em) after his electric preseason, but I was actually pretty surprised at how consistent he has been in matchups not against those tough NFC West defenses. The only two weeks he hasn’t had touchdowns were at San Francisco in week 7 and at St. Louis in week 4. Sure he hasn’t really gone off except for that New England game, but he’s been scoring you points as a fill-in or QB2. The Vikings defense has imploded as of late, and I like Wilson to have another solid, quality game to be a top-15 QB this week.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit (2.4%, 7%) After a ridiculous debut from Kevin Smith, then a hot start for Mikel Leshoure, it’s been a fantasy who-what-when-where for the Detroit Lions stable of runners. I think all fantasy owners had doubts about Smith, but the majority of analysts thought Leshoure could carry this backfield. It certainly hasn’t been the case with declining carries the past three weeks and the inability to score in the red zone. Enter the emerging Joique Bell, who has 14 catches the past 4 weeks and getting more and more work. I have a feeling the Lions finally break out going at Jacksonville this week, with Bell getting work early in the passing game, and work late in the running game in garbage time. He’s a perfect high-upside flex for me this week as a fill-in.
Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona (13.4%, 29%) Roberts has been a consistent target for John Skelton, garnering 20 targets in Skelton’s two starts. Roberts has also had a really underrated year, as he is the 16th ranked WR in fantasy in non-PPR and 18th in PPR. That really took me by surprise. Going at Green Bay and with Skelton again as the starter, the Cardinals are going to have to throw and throw often. Obviously Fitzgerald gets the majority of the coverage his way, opening up some single coverage on Roberts. Start with confidence.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati (32.8%, 42%) Even with a bit of an underwhelming week in the Bengals’ last game two weeks ago, I have high hopes on Gresham going up against the Broncos. Denver gives up the third-most points to opposing TEs, which is where opposing offenses have found their most success. The Bengals are going to have to abandon the run to keep up in this game, so I expect Gresham to be out on routes a lot more than in blocking.
Super Deep: Louis Murphy, WR, Carolina (0.1%, 0%) If you need an absolute hail mary or in a NFC-only league or something weird like that, I think Louis Murphy is an interesting deep sleeper today. Brandon LaFell is going to be out after experiencing post-concussion syndromes, giving Murphy the nod opposite Steve Smith. I actually really like what I’ve seen from Murphy in the preseason and during the year (if you’re just now stumbling upon one of my articles for the first time, I am a self-loathing, die-hard Panthers fan), even if it hasn’t translated into fantasy relevance. Murphy got a lot of brownie points from the coaching staff after recovering a Cam Newton fumble in the endzone last week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it helps Murphy get a few extra looks this week. The Redskins give up the 2nd most points to opposing WRs, helping his case as well.
Son of a Bench
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (80.1%, 72%) After an absolutely blistering start, Eli has cooled off mightily as of late. The past three weeks he’s only thrown two touchdowns and only topped 200 yards once. The Steelers D isn’t the Steel Curtain they’ve used to be, but they’re still giving up the 8th least fantasy points to opposing QBs, and I think keep Manning limited again this week. I’d roll with a different QB.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (85.7%, 74%) I don’t mean to bring out any Giants hate, and both these Giants calls have me a little nervous with the Giants playing for something a little extra as the Northeast recovers from Sandy, but I don’t trust Bradshaw at all this week. He missed Friday’s practice and is questionable heading into a 4:25 kickoff, and while everything looks like he’ll be gutting it out, we’ve seen surprise inactives from Bradshaw before. Even though that is unlikely, the Steelers D still gives up the 4th least points to fantasy RBs.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas (70.4%, 76%) All reports indicate Bryant is going to be able to play on Sunday Night, but if he’s even remotely limited, it’s going to be a very tough game against the Falcons’ 2nd best defense against opposing WRs. I don’t trust Felix Jones in the least, but the Falcons D is much better against the pass and I think the Cowboys have a more balanced attack than they showed last week with Romo chucking it for 437 yards against the Giants. If you have some better options, I would leave Bryant on your bench.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore (43.3%, 47%) Smith has been in a monumental decline over the past three weeks, failing to top 50 yards after eclipsing that mark in each of his first four games. The Ravens passing offense has been searching for answers, and I think Baltimore keeps it simple with the run and screen plays for Ray Rice at Cleveland. I know Smith had his second best game of the year against the Browns in week 4, but Cleveland has Joe Haden back, who is still a legit shutdown corner who will be blanketing him. I’d stick with other options.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay (54.2%, 57%) I feel like the hate on Jermichael Finley has been well documented across all the numerous fantasy advice channels, however when I saw his %-start numbers, I guess the sentiment from us writers hasn’t translated to all fantasy leagues. For a guy like Finley who has been a huge bust all season long to be started in over half of fantasy leagues is just mind-boggling, and why I have him included as a bench. Go to your wire, and pick up virtually any of the top-10 TE available scoring options not on a bye and you’ll have better results.
If you have any last second decisions, shoot some comments below or tweet me @jbgilpin. I’m going to be out until a little after noon, but I will be back to answer everything before kickoff. Good luck to everyone today in week 9!