6 Fantasy Football Last Minute Start or Sit, Week 14

Pass-catchers galore... and nowhere to find a solid starting candidate. At least not in Washington.

Did you sit Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore and Brandon Myers like I told you to back on Thursday? How about starting Knowshon Moreno as a sleeper, like I said would be a great idea back on Wednesday? If so, then you're currently sitting pretty. If not, then well, you have more work ahead of you to save yourself than Norv Turner does.

So far this week, we've already looked in-depth at Reggie Bush, DeMarco Murray (both in our Thursday Start/Sit, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, Vick Ballard, Danario Alexander, Josh Gordon, Heath Miller, and Brent Celek (all in our Week 14 Sleepers article). But there's still more players that we'd like to take a look at a little bit closer.

If you want our full projections, make sure to check out our Week 14 Projections page. But below is an expanded look at six more key players for Week 14. And for this addition, we're filled with pass-catchers; including one out of the backfield and two at the tight end slot.

Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Sunday, Week 14

Darren Sproles - New Orleans Saints
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.41 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 31 Ranked RB (No. 100 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 50.6%
Week 14 Opponent: at New York Giants
Verdict: Sit Him

Can we move his projections page to the wide receivers side? Since returning from injury two weeks ago, Sproles has as many rushing attempts as Deuce McAllister has had: zero. Instead, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram have taken the rushing game load, instead leaving Sproles to be looked at exclusively as a receiver (instead of mostly as a receiver) out of the backfield.

And when we look at Sproles as a receiver, we find that a decent, but not exceptional, number of targets are there, but the likelihood of turning them into big plays is not. Last week, Sproles ended the game with nine targets, a solid figure only until you realize that they represented only 18% of Brees's above-average 50 pass attempts. The week before may look slightly better, with the same nine targets as 22% of Brees's throws, but still not a figure that gets me to jump up and run to start him.

Then if that's the case, the runningbackceiver should have some big play ability, but alas, even that has failed him as of late. Sproles has averaged under 10 yards per reception over each of his last two games with only one combined catch over 20 yards to his name. Earlier in the season, he showed a bit more promise getting into the endzone, but even then, his total four receiving touchdowns on the season only represents 13% of Brees's touchdown tosses. He's not a primary threat (that would be Colston, Moore, or Graham), and as a result, only has a projected 0.41 TD total this week.

If you're going to start Sproles, you essentially need to guarantee that he's going to score a touchdown. But the Giants aren't the best bet to let that happen; they have allowed 2.15 points under expectation so far this season as numberFire's No. 7 defense, and they allowed 27 combined points the past two weeks to top ten offenses Washington and Green Bay.

James Jones - Green Bay Packers
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 9.46 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 16 Ranked WR (No. 65 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 30.3%
Week 14 Opponent: vs. Detroit Lions
Verdict: Start Him

To be fair, there are a large number of reasons that you could be scared of James Jones this week. Greg Jennings (also a must-start) returned to action last week and saw a team-high eight targets. Randall Cobb remains one of the most consistent options out there, and his 76.1% catch rate is the highest among all receivers with at least 50 targets. And in the last Packers/Lions game, Green Bay only threw the ball 27 times as compared to 29 rushes.

But fantasy football is about playing the law of averages, and plenty of numbers this week suggest that Jones should fit in as a strong play right alongside Cobb and Jennings. Jones has struggled in recent weeks - two targets against Minnesota and none against the Giants? - but our analytics take a look at the bigger picture rather than such a narrow view. And remember that, before Green Bay's Week 10 bye, Jones was the single leading receiver in the Green and Gold. Week 7 against St. Louis saw a team-high 10 targets and six receptions. Week 8 against Jacksonville saw a team-high nine targets and seven receptions. Week 9 against Arizona saw a second-on-the-team seven targets and 12 FP. And those three games came directly after three straight games of at least 15 FP for Jones.

If there's a team who he can return to star form against, it's this Detroit secondary. The Lions have allowed 94.04 points over expectation against opposing passing games so far this season, or an average of over seven extra points per game. That figure is the eighth-worst in the entire NFL and contributes greatly to Detroit sitting as numberFire's No. 27 opponent-adjusted defense.

Dwayne Bowe - Kansas City Chiefs
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.35 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 35 Ranked WR (No. 102 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 57.5%
Week 14 Opponent: at Cleveland Browns
Verdict: Sit Him

At what point do you stop saying, "This guy has talent, they have to throw his way eventually!" and instead start saying, "Well, this guy can't produce, let me stick him on the bench and never let him see the light of day again."

For Dwayne Bowe, that point was about five weeks ago.

I understand the reasoning for wanting to play the top Kansas City wideout against the Browns defense, but neither of those prospects are as enticing as they may seem once you look at the numbers. For starters, although Bowe has received 19 combined targets the past two weeks with Quinn at QB, his 42% catch rate on those passes leaves something to be desired. And that's not even counting his 0-for-2 day against Cincinnati back in Week 11, when Matt Cassel missed him twice and Quinn did not even attempt to throw the ball his way. On the season, Bowe has almost doubled the targets for any other Chiefs receiver (112 looks to Dexter McCluster's 60), but it has resulted in exactly zero games over six FP since Week 4.

And that lack of production isn't likely to change against Cleveland. For as maligned as the 4-8 squad has been offensively, they currently hold numberFire's No. 12 opponent-adjusted defensive unit on the season. In their past three games - two victories and an OT loss to Dallas - Cleveland allowed only a combined 5.50 points over expectation against the pass. By comparison, the Chiefs allowed 6.66 points over expectation to the Carolina Panthers' passing game last week alone.

Pierre Garcon - Washington Redskins
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.83 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 32 Ranked WR (No. 95 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 40.5%
Week 14 Opponent: vs. Baltimore Ravens
Verdict: Sit Him

Ah, my old friend Stone Hands Garcon. It's so nice of you to join me in the Start/Sit Forum once again.

One of the most popular new start candidates this week, Garcon has made waves based on two distinct stats: his increased targets from RGIII, and his sudden ability to somehow catch the ball over the past two weeks. I'm skeptical on both, and so are our numbers.

Last week, Garcon received 11 targets from RGIII, or an inconceivable 52% of Griffin's total throws. If you think that's sustainable, congratulations, D.C. would like to offer you a job in the Energy Department as well for your belief in making those high conversion rates stick. The week before may have been a bit more believable for Garcon; he tied for the team lead with six looks, or 24% of Griffin's throws. And both of those were significant in raising his targets total from... 15. Total. On the season. In four previous games. Griffin's newfound preference for Garcon has no basis, especially when you consider his early season 3.75 targets per game average. I'd like to wait another week or two before trusting him to see those targets on a regular basis.

But giving me even more pause would be the catch rate. Last week he went 8-for-11 catching passes; the week before, it was 4-for-6. That combined 71% catch rate maintains his season average of 72% on the year. But that's with a small sample size of 32 looks all season. In seasons where he's had more looks? Well, let's just say that Garcon's previous season-high came in 2010, Peyton Manning's last season of play in Indy. That year, Garcon managed a staggering... 57% catch rate on 119 targets. His other two seasons with at least 50 targets, he didn't get above 52%. If he's playing that poorly with Manning, how has he suddenly turned it around with a great, but not pre-surgery Manning, RGIII? Once again, I'm skeptical.

Brandon Pettigrew - Detroit Lions
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.83 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 16 Ranked TE (No. 136 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 47.0%
Week 14 Opponent: at Green Bay Packers
Verdict: Sit Him

The Lions offense might be starting Herman Moore at receiver this week, Pettigrew's coming off a 10 FP day, and he has averaged 10 targets per game over his last four outings. So why don't we like Pettigrew this week? Well, for starters, good luck getting him into the endzone.

For one, Pettigrew's 10 FP day was his highest total on the season. That's right: Pettigrew had not registered a single game in double-digits before last week. By comparison, Kyle Rudolph has five such games, and Martellus Bennett and Dennis Pitta each have four. (Fun fact: all three of those players are being started in fewer leagues than Pettigrew this week). Pettigrew now has three touchdowns on the season, which accounts for one-sixth of Matthew Stafford's total. There's a reason that our analytics project Pettigrew to only score 0.12 touchdowns this week.

Adding insult to non-touchdown-getting injury, the Packers have been surprisingly efficient against the pass this season. Against opposing passing games this season, they have allowed only 30.96 points over expecation against opposing passing games; last year, that number was over 60 Net Expected Points (NEP). And while Kyle Rudolph got the best of them last week, Green Bay went from Week 5 to Week 12 with no single tight end gaining more than five FP on them. One of those was Pettigrew himself in Week 11, who had only four catches for 22 yards on seven targets.

Owen Daniels - Houston Texans
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 8.18 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 3 Ranked TE (No. 89 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 64.1%
Week 14 Opponent: at New England Patriots
Verdict: Start Him

Ignore the past three fantasy point outings of five, eight, and four for a second. They don't matter, and they'll make you feel slightly unwell. Instead, look at the sweet, sweet targets Owen Daniels has been getting. Week 13: 10 targets for the team lead. Week 12: eight targets for second on the team. Week 11: nine targets for second on the team. And remember, these are supposed to be his down weeks.

Regardless of whether he has put up the high point totals recently, Daniels will always be an analytics darling as long as he keeps getting those looks. Andre Johnson may be the clear #1 target in this offense, but Owen Daniels is the clear #2. And that bodes well for Daniels, who needs a high target count in any particular game to supplement his pedestrian catch rate (currently at 61%).

The New England Patriots have given bundles of points and receptions to tight ends this year; only the Redskins have allowed opposing tight ends to make more receptions this season. And that's reflected heavily in our projections; Daniels and his 0.49 receiving touchdowns are the most projected TDs of any tight end this week.