The goal of any fantasy season is to make as many good decisions as possible, hoping that the accumulation of good decisions will get you where you need to go. I am not saying everyone listed in this article needs to be automatically benched on your roster — your team depth and context will determine how you play that. Perhaps you’ll use this column more for a DFS slant, or as a springboard to player props.
Like anything else, I advise you to consider any reasonable argument you come across but ultimately make your own measured decision.
I welcome your own fades (and music reccos, and dog photos); join me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski.
Terry McLaurin at Dallas
McLaurin goes down as one of my biggest regrets of 2021, not that I blame any of it on him. He was one of my heaviest-drafted receivers, as I anticipated a third-year spike and a nifty connection with new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Alas, Fitzpatrick was hurt in the first game of the year, and Washington has struggled to find competent play elsewhere. Every once in a while Taylor Heinicke takes a step forward, but it’s soon followed by two steps back. Last week, the WFT was down to its fourth quarterback option, Garrett Gilbert.
Heinicke steps back into the saddle this week, but the opponent is Dallas, the No. 1 pass defense in the league. The Pokes have several difference-makers on defense, and most troublesome for McLaurin is star CB Trevon Diggs.
McLaurin is merely a WR3 for me on the Week 16 board, and a reactive play, not someone I’d be actively seeking to start. He has just one touchdown in his last seven games, averaging about six targets and 44 yards per week. It’s another case of loving the player and hating the current situation, while trying to be mindful that we want numbers in fantasy football, not merely big names.
DK Metcalf versus Chicago
Perhaps the Seahawks and Russell Wilson are where the Patriots were with Tom Brady two years ago, with a breakup being the best resolution for all parties. It’s frustrating to watch Seattle play offense these days. The Seahawks play at a turtle’s pace, Wilson no longer is a proactive scrambler, and there’s been little chemistry between Wilson and Metcalf, the expected No. 1 receiver. Metcalf hasn’t scored a touchdown or topped 60 yards in six straight weeks.
Okay, so Chicago’s spotty secondary comes to town, that’s a plus. But Tyler Lockett is expected back, and he’s turned into Seattle’s No. 1 receiver in the second half of the year. I understand any fantasy manager who doesn’t have the stomach to bench Metcalf, but I’ll be looking to fade his weekend props, and I won’t consider him in DFS roster construction.
Duke Johnson and DeVante Parker at New Orleans
You likely can sniff this one out, but let’s take a look around, anyway. The Miami at New Orleans game includes a total of 38.5, a silly low number in today’s NFL. These are defense-first teams that will likely try to hide their quarterbacks and passing games.
First team to 17 points could win.
It’s tempting to jump back on the Johnson train after his smash game in Week 15, but it’s a long haul from the Jets (the league’s worst run defense, per DVOA) to the Saints (the best run defense). And perhaps Myles Gaskin is ready for an expanded role after a modest Week 15 workload, coming back from COVID-19. Parker will not only have to deal with a New Orleans secondary that erases No. 1 wideouts but the limitations of Tua Tagovailoa as well.
Fantasy football success in 2021 is often about survival, and perhaps you have to consider some Miami players because of injury or availability issues elsewhere. But I can’t start either of these players proactively.
Evan Engram at Philadelphia
Engram will show up on some sleeper lists this week, for plausible reasons. The Eagles are the No. 2 giveaway when it comes to tight-end coverage. The middle of the field is always open against these guys.
But is Engram reliable enough to take advantage? He posted a tepid 3-37-0 line against the Eagles a month back, and despite playing 12 games this year, he’s only the TE25 in basic scoring. The Giants are likely down to their third-string quarterback in Jake Fromm, and while Fromm can’t be much worse than Mike Glennon was the last couple of weeks, perhaps the Giants offense is simply broken. New York is averaging an abysmal 273 yards over the last nine games, and it has the lowest implied team total of the week.
Obviously we want to attack plus matchups whenever possible, the outlier draws. But we have to assume a basic level of competence for the players we start. There’s nothing I trust with this Giants offense right now.