It’s that time of year – where your fantasy studs have a week off and you’re stuck scouring the wire starting someone you’ve barely seen any Sportscenter highlights on.
As with all of fantasy football, it’s real easy to see the upside play and miss the better matchups and more consistent options. Bye weeks are even worse because you feel the need to get an elite player’s points from, well, not an elite player. Hopefully my thoughts on some fill-ins for this week keep your team afloat if you’re decimated by byes (say that three times fast).
Reflecting on last week’s picks, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a huge game and Lance Moore was pretty solid with 7 catches for 67 yards. However, my plays of Mikel Leshoure, Ramses Barden, and Christian Ponder were all pretty brutal. My bench calls of Tony Romo, both Chicago backs, and Reggie Bush were solid, but Cam Newton had a great fantasy game and Dez Bryant, despite Tony Romo playing terribly, had his second career 100-yard game. Not the best week.
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.
Jackie Battle, RB, San Diego (27.1%, 32%) Quickly rising up the fantasy ranks, Battle makes a great start this week at New Orleans. The Saints are absolutely terrible against the run, giving up the second most fantasy points to opposing running backs, and with Ryan Mathews’ value falling faster than Facebook’s stock after their IPO, I think Battle is a solid flex. As I mentioned on this week’s Razzball Fantasy Football Podcast, what really intrigued me last week was Battle’s 4 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Watching Mike Tolbert every week for my Panthers has shown me that even running backs with no track record of success catching balls and with terrible hands can be useful in the Chargers passing game. I’m even considering playing Battle over BenJarvus Green-Ellis in a PPR league.
Kendall Hunter, RB, San Francisco (2.5%, 6%) As Brandon Bolden showed us last week, you don’t have to be a great running back to murder the Bills run defense. From a talent standpoint, Hunter is a better back than Bolden, and with the continual plan of keeping Frank Gore’s touches down, especially in blowouts, I think Hunter has a big game here with 15+ touches. The Bills are a giveaway machine and the 49ers will get this game out of hand. By the second half I think it’s all Hunter. Another great flex play for me.
Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cincinnati (12.0%, 22%) Even though last week was a measly 3 catches for 39 yards, it was still Hawkins worst game by far, and with the volatility across fantasy football these days, that’s not a bad worst game. He’s easily the second in line for targets behind the monster that is A.J. Green, and the Dolphins pass-D has been pretty bad so far, giving up the 6th most fantasy points to opposing wideouts this year. I have a feeling the Dolphins are able to limit the run (again, why I’m hesitant starting the lawfirm) and the Bengals get a lot done through the air. Like Hawkins a lot.
Jon Baldwin, RB, Kansas City (1.6%, 2%) A pretty deep sleeper for me this week, I think we see Baldwin’s emergence through the junk time against the Ravens. Baltimore’s pass defense hasn’t been as effective this year, and while I do think the Ravens win easily, they are going to blanket Dwayne Bowe and leave a lot of single coverage for Baldwin. I have a feeling he gets a late score here and 5 or 6 catches.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina (14.7%, 32%) Coming into the season, I was pretty low on Olsen from a fantasy perspective, but the Panthers have really altered how they’re using him this year. Sure he split out wide here and there in 2011, but they’re lining him up outside frequently these days, and turning him into their second wide receiver. I don’t mean literally as in a position change, but he’s clearly better than Brandon LaFell and Louis Murphy, and is the best target for Cam behind Steve Smith. Against the vaunted Seahawks defense, the Panthers are going to need to methodically move the ball, and give a lot of work to Olsen on mid-range routes. I think he gets 6-7 catches with a shot at a score without any issues.
Son Of A Bench:
Willis McGahee, RB, Denver (80.3%, 65%) In a game that’s going to turn into a shootout real fast, I don’t think McGahee has a large share of Denver’s offensive output at New England. In Peyton’s last two starts against the Patriots in 2009 and 2010, the Colts managed 91 and 71 yards on the ground, respectively. Plus the ratios of pass attempts to rushes were 42 to 18 and 52 to 20. Given McGahee is a better back than what Indianapolis had in those days (well, and still have – Donald Brown has shown me nothing to back my love for him in the preseason), but I think he gets left behind and has a really bad fantasy game here.
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo (57.3%, 33%) Even though he’s fully practicing, Jackson is donning a knee brace and still isn’t 100% yet. On top of that he’s facing a menacing defense at San Francisco and splitting carries with C.J. Spiller. If you’re going to start a Bills running back, it’s got to be Spiller for this week as he’s got the big play ability. I think the Bills get into pass mode fairly early, and while Fitzgerald will dump it off to either back, I think we see more of Spiller in passing situations. I’m keeping Jackson out this week.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay (40.4%, 46%) I am absolutely shocked at the sheer preposterousness of the percent started numbers for James Jones. Shocked. For a guy who has never had a long-term string of fantasy relevance, I feel like owners are going crazy for the Packers’ third receiver. I know Greg Jennings is out, but Jones’ 2-TD game last week was a complete fluke and function of the game, with the Packers spreading it out and shredding a terrible Saints D. This week at the Colts, the Pack won’t need to do that, with a lot more power back sets and running their offense through Cedric Benson. Jones is only going to get a few short targets, and I’m guessing won’t even be on the field more than 60% of the time. Even as a bye week fill-in, I like a lot of other options over Jones.
Brian Hartline, WR, Miami (62.8%, 52%) I know it’s extraordinarily hard to bench a guy coming off such a ridiculous week, but I have a feeling Hartline gets shut down at Cincinnati. The Dolphins have no one else as a deep threat, and with now a lot of tape on Miami’s #1 receiver and Tannehill, I think the Bengals will scheme very heavily on the breakout wideout. The Bengals D looked much stronger last week (given it was the Jaguars), and I think with a specific player to target in their secondary coverage, they will be effective in stifling him. If you’ve got a lot of receivers on bye he’s still a strong play, but I wouldn’t bench any of your fantasy veterans for the upstart Hartline just yet.
Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants (60.5%, 57%) I have a feeling Bennett’s success through the first few weeks was more of the outlier, and his one catch for single digits last week is closer to what you should expect from the big fellah. I do think Bennett is talented, and we all know he has some catching issues, but even with Nicks out, I don’t think he has a big role this week. The Browns are actually giving up the 3rd least amount of points to tight ends, and I think we see the Giants finally getting their ground game going with Bradshaw and Brown this week. I’d bench Bennett for one of the multitude of other mid-range tight ends this week, like Olsen.
If you have any last second decisions, shoot some comments below or tweet me @jbgilpin. Good luck to everyone today in week 5!