4 Players Who Are Tough to Trust in the Fantasy Football Playoffs
It's Week 14, and the fantasy football playoffs are here. If you got this far -- congrats to you. However, as you know, your work is just getting started.
For some of your teams, pure talent can win out -- you can set and forget your lineup, because it's filled with studs. For others, you're still playing matchups. You're still looking for players who are facing bad defenses, and you're not afraid to bench the above-average guys who've gotten you this far.
Here, we'll take a look at the latter set of players -- we'll look into players who may have helped you throughout the regular season, but given the way things are trending, they may not be so helpful in the playoffs.
Quarterback: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
When do you fade a quarterback who ranks eighth overall in our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric and fifth overall among quarterbacks in Success Rate? In Philip Rivers' case, the fantasy playoffs look like the time to consider other quarterback options, as the San Diego signal-caller is trending downward.
Then take into account that, according to Rotoworld's Rich Hribar, Rivers ranks in the bottom third of quarterbacks in fantasy when he faces teams who are in the top half of the league in giving fantasy points up on a per attempt basis. As a result, you have virtually no choice but to expect Rivers to falter in this week's matchup versus Kansas City, who held him to six fantasy points a few weeks ago.
In spite of his hot start which left us thinking Rivers could be the top fantasy quarterback, it would be wise to follow our remaining year projections. Those paint Rivers as a run-of-the-mill quarterback for the fantasy playoffs.
Running Back: Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
I hate picking on the Chargers for multiple positions, but their offense is a dumpster fire right now, making them tough to trust.
As many Danny Woodhead owners know, it's been a frustrating experience owning him this season. You watch Woody come in and dominate during stretches (he ranks second overall among running backs in Total NEP and first in Reception NEP due to his pass-catching abilities) and wonder why the team continues to go to Melvin Gordon with poor results.
Woodhead routinely has out-snapped Gordon for the season (50% of offensive snaps to 40% for the season), but hasn't been fantasy relevant since the Monday Night Football game against the Bears almost a month ago. Rotoworld's Hribar also noted that, since Week 7, Gordon has averaged 17 touches per game compared to Woodhead's 8 touches per game.
Earlier in the season, Gordon averaged 14 touches per game compared to Woodhead's 12 touches per game. It was that period where Woodhead was producing as a top fantasy running back with four double-digit fantasy point outputs. So, in spite of the lack of Chargers receivers options mentioned above, Woodhead is being targeted less and less while the team tries to figure what they have in Gordon for the future.
Woodhead's output last week of 3 carries for 10 yards and 3 receptions for 24 yards isn't going to cut it in the fantasy playoffs. And recent games before that haven't been much better.
Wide Receiver: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
In a similar vein to Rivers not having quality options to throw to, Dez Bryant's value is diminished due to who is throwing to him. Matt Cassel simply hasn't been able to find chemistry (not having a catch until late in Monday night's game against Washington is a prime example) with the Cowboys' star wideout, making it very difficult to trust Bryant with your fantasy season on the line.
Let's face it: with Bryant working his way back from his foot injury anyways and with Tony Romo out for the season, fantasy owners may have been winning in spite of Dez's production, or using viable alternatives anyways. Since returning, the Cowboys' star wideout has 2 touchdowns and has only topped 60 yards twice in six games played. He also hasn't caught more than 5 balls in a game despite being heavily targeted with 21 catches on 47 targets.
With Dallas playing the Packers, Jets, and Bills down the stretch, Bryant's schedule isn't favorable either from a matchup perspective. At this point, if a fantasy owner had to choose between starting someone like Doug Baldwin or Bryant, they'd have to go with the hot-hand approach and start Baldwin.
Those are the exact reasons that we have Bryant ranked 23rd in our rest-of-season rankings at wide receiver.
Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
How do you bench someone you likely drafted as a top-five tight end in your most important game of the season? Good question. I'm not necessarily saying you should. However, Travis Kelce isn't quite the lock most believe he is.
Kelce ranks 8th, 8th and 12th in our Reception NEP, Target NEP, and Reception NEP per target metrics, meaning by all accounts he's a fantasy starter. However, when you take a look at the fact that he has played 91.8% of all offensive snaps and has only had three double-digit standard scoring fantasy point games since Week 6, you wonder in a one-game scenario what that holds for the Chiefs tight end.
Game flow certainly goes against Kelce, as his high snap percentage is on a base of a very low number of offensive plays run -- the Chiefs have only run more than 70 plays once, and typically find themselves under 60. The team has won six straight with this formula of pounding the ball on the ground, as well as Jeremy Maclin breaking out in his last two games with double-digit targets. As a result, the cupboard isn't very open for Kelce to outperform his counterpart in your fantasy playoff matchup, especially when Alex Smith drops back 30 or less times in a game.
With that said, Kelce still has a better floor than most tight ends, with 5 or more receptions in 8 of 12 games and 40 yards receiving or more in 10 of 12 games. He's also got four touchdowns on the season (but only two in the six-game winning streak). So, the decision on what to do with Kelce is a very difficult one when you're considering your roster options and the waiver wire.
We have Kelce ranked as the sixth best tight end in Week 14 and seventh best for the rest of the season.