Week 14 Fantasy Football Drop List: Welcome to the Playoffs
The fantasy playoffs are here for pretty much every fantasy football league, so each roster decision could be the one that ends championship aspirations. Congratulations if you made the playoffs -- nobody wants to be watching the next few weeks from their couch.
Fantasy playoff time always reminds me of the greatest day of my life. (This is a half joking statement as this occurred after my wedding, many other significant life events, and the births of not one but two children.)
I finished the season one game out of the playoffs. The opponent that I needed to lose to get in won their Week 13 game by 0.6 points. It was a miserable week, after I found my team on the outside of the playoffs in my home league for the first time seven years.
But the sadness lasted only a few days.
On Thursday morning, I woke up to an early Christmas miracle. A stat correction had been applied, and his team’s defense lost a sack and, therefore, a full point from his team's score. His win was reversed to a loss. Based on season points for, my team was thrust into the fantasy playoffs.
We all have moments like this that we'll remember forever from fantasy football, especially in long-time leagues.
This week’s drop list highlights players who could harpoon those title hopes. Frankly, if you were relying on these players for much of the season, it's a surprise your team is still alive.
As always, these are not all must-drop players, but drop considerations depending on league size and roster construction.
Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons
Yahoo Ownership: 92%
ESPN Ownership: 89%
Matt Ryan has been a consistent top-12 fantasy option for much of his career. He's had two of the best wide receivers in the game, Roddy White and Julio Jones, and a Hall-of-Fame tight end, Tony Gonzalez, as elite passing game options.
Now, Gonzalez retired and White has slowed down, leaving just Jones as one of the lone reliable targets in Atlanta.
After starting the season 5-0, the Falcons find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. Costly mistakes in the red zone has plagued Ryan's season, and he currently sits outside the top 25 quarterbacks in fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues. He’s on pace to throw the fewest touchdown passes since his 2009 campaign when he missed two games with an injury.
Most troubling for Ryan, though, is his upcoming schedule, where he faces the Carolina Panthers’ elite defense twice in the next three weeks. Based on our metrics, heading into Week 13, Carolina had the second best Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), or pass defense, in the league.
Although quarterback options are dwindling, there's likely a quarterback with a friendlier schedule and higher upside to navigate your team into the fantasy playoffs.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams
Yahoo Ownership: 66%
ESPN Ownership: 61%
Tavon Austin’s early season production was going to be difficult to remain consistent based on the number of targets and the shaky play of Rams’ quarterbacks. All the concerns for Austin have been fully realized over the course of the season.
He has more than a pair of catches in just 6 of 12 games, as the offense has been unable to sustain drives. His touchdowns have slowed down as well. After scoring seven touchdowns in his first seven games, Austin has managed just one score over his last five.
The Rams’ Adjusted NEP is worst in the league based on our metrics -- the offense is a disaster once again. Even running back Todd Gurley has come back to earth after a crazy good start to his rookie season.
Heading into Week 13, Austin’s Reception NEP per target of 0.29 ranked last among 61 wide receivers with 60 or more targets. An explosive player, no doubt, Austin has struggled to be a consistent receiving threat for the Rams.
You can't trust his inconsistency in the fantasy playoffs.
Martellus Bennett, Tight End, Chicago Bears
Yahoo Ownership: 84%
ESPN Ownership: 84%
After a quiet November that ended with a rib injury, Martellus Bennett’s first game in December was possibly his worst of the season. Bennett was targeted just 4 times Sunday, reeling in 3 catches for 14 yards.
Bennett started off the season with two touchdowns in his first four games, but has found the end zone just once since Week 4. His early season totals have not continued over the second half of the year.
The return of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has impacted the amount of targets going Bennett’s way. Bennett was targeted 53 times in his first six games, but has seen just 27 targets in his last five. A huge drop which has limited his effectiveness and fantasy production.
Heading into Week 13, Bennett’s Reception NEP per target of 0.50 ranked 15th out of 23 tight ends with at least 50 targets on the season.
Bennett’s fantasy stats are in a decline and he is suffering from an injury that is easily aggravated. This makes him a dicey option for fantasy owners heading into the playoffs.
Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings
Yahoo Ownership: 61%, 70%
ESPN Ownership: 30%, 69%
These two Vikings pass-catchers can be covered together, as the largest barrier to fantasy relevance comes from the same place. The Minnesota passing game doesn’t provide much fantasy potential for pass-catchers -- going into Week 13, our metrics ranked them 27th in the NFL in Adjusted Offensive Passing NEP, while their Adjusted Offensive Rushing NEP ranked first.
Not a surprise when Adrian Peterson is a team’s running back, I guess. Even so, Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been able to compliment the rushing attack in his second season, leaving Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs, and the other wide receivers scraping for targets. Bridgewater is averaging under 200 passing yards per game, and has as many interceptions as he does touchdowns with 8 each.
As for Rudolph, the targets haven't led to much positive results on the field. Out of 23 tight ends with at least 60 targets on the year, Rudolph’s 0.40 Reception NEP per target ranks 22nd.
Expected to be a red zone asset for the Vikings, Rudolph has just four touchdowns on the season -- I guess it’s difficult for pass catchers to score touchdowns when the team’s quarterback is on pace to throw for under 11 touchdown passes on the season.
Diggs, on the other hand, looked to be a strong wide receiver option with 80 receiving yards are more in four straight games, all while scoring two touchdowns from Week 4 to 8. In his five games since, Diggs has added two more touchdowns, but has failed to reach 70 receiving yards once.
When given the chance, Diggs has provided a boost to the offense with a Reception NEP per target of 0.83, which ranks 8th out of 61 wide receivers with at least 50 targets on the season. The problem for Diggs is there just isn't enough yardage or scoring opportunities in Minnesota to keep him fantasy relevant.
As long as Bridgewater continues to zap almost all fantasy value from Vikings’ pass catchers, Rudolph and Diggs should be left on fantasy benches and preferably, at least for Rudolph, completely off fantasy rosters.