Fantasy Football Mailbag: Thursday 12/1/16

Fantasy football research never stops, and roles change drastically from one week to the next. That's where our fantasy football mailbag comes into play.

Have a question about a certain player, team, strategy, or anything football? Shoot us a question on Twitter or send an email to, and we can talk anything fantasy football related -- even daily fantasy football.

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Now, let's answer some questions.

Email submission from Rocky:

Have Kyle Rudolph as my lone TE. Already clinched a playoff spot (playoffs run week 14-16). Thinking of picking up a second te in case of injury or bad matchup for Rudolph. Best available look to be McDonald and Kendricks. 12 team league, .5 ppr, and majority of teams are rostering 2 and I'm low on FAAB dollars and pretty set at rb and wr so prefer to grab one now cheap. Which one? Thanks.

Kyle Rudolph has a solid role in the Minnesota Vikings' offense, and his playoff matchups against the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers are phenomenal. If you've got him, he's a guy you want to keep. But in planning ahead, if you need an alternative, Vance McDonald is hard to pass up.

McDonald has at least six targets in each of his past five games, something no other skill-position player in the San Francisco 49ers' offense can claim. His 18.2% target market share over that span ranks 10th among all tight ends, trailing largely guys who are already owned in most leagues. Colin Kaepernick seems to dig McDonald, and it's making him a fun weekly option.

The other plus of McDonald is what he does when he gets those targets. Of the 25 tight ends with at least 40 targets, he has the best Reception Net Expected Points per target, our metric for tracking the expected points a player adds on receptions. McDonald has at least 50 yards or a touchdown in each of his past four games, and he's a solid option if you need a bench player going forward.

Email submission from Keenan Bates:

Who would you play between Michael Thomas, Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant? I'm leaning towards Thomas, since he has a better match-up and is playing in the Superdome. But wanted to get your input.

Normally, we're going to choose Dez Bryant in pretty much every situation here. He's an absolute monster, and he's always a decent bet to get into the end zone. But given the disparity in matchup between him and Michael Thomas, we may have to deviate a bit for this week.

Bryant will face the Minnesota Vikings, who -- despite some recent decline -- still rank second in numberFire's schedule-adjusted pass defense metrics. No receiver has had more than 81 receiving yards against them this year, and they've allowed only eight touchdowns to receivers in 11 games. The Dallas Cowboys' passing offense will be the stiffest test they've faced, but we shouldn't go out of our way to use players against this unit.

Thomas, on the other hand, is another question. The opposing Detroit Lions rank 31st against the pass, based on numberFire's metrics, and the New Orleans Saints are the fourth-ranked passing offense. Thomas has a 21.1% target market share in six games since their bye week, and when your quarterback is as efficient as Drew Brees, there's tons of value in that. This is why -- in this one instance -- we can feel fine about using Thomas and leaving Bryant sitting on the bench.

Both Brandon Marshall and Donte Moncrief are in one of the most exciting games this week for fantasy purposes between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts. They rank 25th and 30th, respectively, against the pass, so there could be a ton of points in that game. If you've got these guys, you're absolutely using them this week. So if you're looking to squeeze in Jamison Crowder, the best option to sit would be Allen Robinson.

Robinson has been getting plenty of targets recently, but there is no matchup in football worse for wide receivers than the Denver Broncos. They're easily numberFire's top-ranked pass defense, and only seven wide receivers have had more than 50 receiving yards against them. Robinson's quarterback saps him of a floor, and this matchup takes away his upside. That's enough to justify sitting him if you're itching to fire Crowder.

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