It happens every year. Fantasy football owners all over the world get to the playoffs and just blow it. Why is that? Are they overthinking things? Do the other owners just have better teams? Is it just bad luck? Well, today I would like to offer a revolutionary, yet somewhat common sense driven idea. Fantasy owners simply fail to start the correct mix of fantasy playmakers given their specific situations.
What on earth does that mean? Well, it could mean a lot of things. Sometimes we’ll bench a stud (or two) that got us to the playoffs because he had a “tough” matchup. Other times we just get lazy and start a “safe” lineup in the first round of the playoffs just trying to survive until the championship. On the flip side of that, some of us really crazy owners completely change our lineup because we aren’t confident in our team’s ability to beat that dominant 1-seed.
The best way to fix this, is to understand what types of playmakers generally build championship winning lineups. For simplicity’s sake I’ll break them up into three categories: homerun hitters, faithful flexes, and studly starters. These titles may be self-explanatory, but allow me to explain.
Homerun hitters are players that you may have picked up off the waiver wire. They’re players that may have confusing levels of usage amid their team’s offense, but offer amazing upside. Homerun hitters may be the riskier play, but could very well be the difference when you need it most. Why would you need to use homerun hitters if your team is good enough to make the playoffs? Well, your team is probably decent if you made it to the playoffs. You probably have plenty of trustworthy playmakers. The problem is that so does every other playoff team. In fact, they may have an even stronger roster than you do on paper. How do you differentiate yourself in the playoffs? You choose the right homerun hitter at the right time.
Faithful flexes are players that are just simply reliable. They don’t have to sit in your “flex” spot necessarily. They could be your RB2 or WR2 as well. Faithful flexes generally have steady target or carry floors that can be counted on, with a decent amount of healthy upside. Faithful flexes are generally playmakers that have gotten you to the playoffs with their consistency. Maybe they aren’t the sexiest fantasy football assets out there, but when push comes to shove you can just trust them. Don’t overthink things just because it’s playoff time. You don’t need a roster full of these guys, but having a few helps ensure your fantasy floor at the most crucial time.
Last, but definitely not least are the studly starters. Studly starters are nearly always your early-round draft picks that have absolutely carried you to the playoffs. If you didn’t draft them early, they’re at least players that have established their mix of incredible talent, massive upside, and reliability in a safe amount of touches. At the very least, they’re players you drafted early enough that you probably don’t have a better option. But wait, why would I not start one of these guys? Well, not every stud playmaker has an easy fantasy playoffs schedule. Odds are that you’ll consider benching a stud throughout the upcoming weeks. These are players that you just don’t bench at this point. If you do, they’ll respond with a 30-point performance that will haunt you until your dying day.
So, if you made it this far without skimming to the actual players congrats, and thank you for reading. Also, these lists will make a heck of a lot more sense now.
Taylor Gabriel (Atlanta Falcons) – Gabriel is the ultimate homerun hitter. He hasn’t eclipsed 5 targets in a game all season long, but has gained some trust and consistency as of late. His targets over the past 4 weeks: 3, 5, 5, 5. Taylor has shown that it only takes one play for him to put up a startable performance. Start him at your own risk, but he’s had no less than 10 PPR points the past few weeks. Plus, his ceiling has been a whopping 25 PPR points. That’s some fantastic upside.
Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs) – Tyreek Hill just scored a rushing, receiving, and return touchdown in the same night, in prime time. In dynasty leagues he is the ultimate sell high, but he’s also a homerun hitter for your playoffs. If your league is very deep at all you might have room to squeeze Hill into your lineup. He just grabbed 9 balls against a tough Denver defense. Now he gets an Atlanta defense that just lost their best DB (Desmond Trufant) for the year to a pectoral injury.
Marquess Wilson (Chicago Bears) – Who? You may remember Marquess being relevant for a hot minute last season. Where has he been this year? He’s been on the injured reserve list, until just recently. I had the opportunity to watch him live against my Titans last week. He was the best wide receiver by far for the injury-stricken Bears. Plus Matt Barkley (Bears starter for the foreseeable future) obviously loves Wilson. He racked up 8 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown against my Titans. Now he gets to play the 49ers horrible defense? Yes, please.
Dion Lewis (New England Patriots) – Dion Lewis was (and still is) one of the most elusive players in the NFL. The Patriots have been easing him back into the lineup the past few weeks. But if you like playmakers who can hit a homerun on any given touch on the high-powered offenses, you’ll love Dion Lewis.
Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons) – Tevin Coleman kicked off this season with some unbelievable efficiency. Then he went down with an injury and many impatient owners dropped or forgot about him. The problem with Coleman is his usage. He’s averaged only around 11 touches per game. However, he averages 15 yards per reception. He can take it to the house with his game-breaking speed on any play. He’s a high upside, very low downside homerun hitter.
Rob Kelley (Washington Redskins) – Fat Rob looked pretty fat last week against the Dallas Cowboys just four days removed from crushing the Packers on the ground. Why is that? He’s a homerun hitter. Also, because Thursday Night Football is terrible. Expect a bounce back performance from Fat Rob that could be the fantasy homerun that you need to keep your championship hopes alive.
Tyrell Williams (San Diego Chargers) – Tyrell Williams has been a fantastic surprise this year. This week is no exception. He’s facing a porous Tampa Bay secondary. Plus, he has had at least 69 yards or a touchdown in all but three games this season. Tyrell doesn’t have blow-you-away upside, but he’ll get you what you need.
Jamison Crowder (Washington Redskins) – Crowder was my boy coming into this season and I just can’t get enough. Kirk Cousins loves to find Jamison all over the field. Jamison is averaging 5 catchers per game for 66 yards this season. Those numbers won’t blow you away, but he’s found the end zone six times. Not only that, but Crowder has at least 3 catches in all but one game this season. Jamison Crowder is the perfect picture of what a faithful flex looks like. You’ll need a few fantasy playoff playmakers like him if you want to win.
Kenny Britt (Los Angeles Jeff-Fisher-Is-Awfuls) – Kenny Britt has had less than six targets in a game just once this entire season. His absolute floor has been four catches for 38 yards. His resurgence has been undeniable, yes somehow still unbelievable. Just dig into his stats and try to convince yourself not to give him a shot if your league is very deep at all. He’s a surprisingly faithful flex.
Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals) – I know. I know. Jeremy Hill has had a mind-blowing floor in recent memory. However, with Gio Bernard out for the season, Jeremy Hill will be the primary back for the rest of the season. He’s been given 18 touches for two straight games. The Eagles run defense is average at best. Hill won’t give you a monster week just yet, but he has a trustworthy floor for once.
Spencer Ware (Kansas City Chiefs) – Spencer Ware has had a monstrous ceiling at times this season in relief for the injured Jamaal Charles. But if you have owned Ware all year you know he has actually struggled lately. He hasn’t eclipsed 80 yards on the ground since week 7. But you can’t deny his unbelievably consistent usage in Kansas City. Spencer’s averaging more than 17 touches per game. That usage warrants faithful flex status by itself.
Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions) – Theo’s value in standard versus PPR formats is vastly different. That much is obvious. However, even in standard he’s held flex value all season. Riddick has had at least 48 yards from scrimmage in every single game he’s played this season. If that’s not a faithful flex play I don’t know what is.
Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos) – “Demaryius Thomas is old and having a bad year.” He is on pace for 87 catches, 1073 yards and 7 TDs. Demaryius is also still just 28 years old. There have been some weird narratives surround him this year, but he’s still a stud. The upside hasn’t been there because Trevor Siemian isn’t a good QB, but you have to start him regardless of who his quarterback is (could be Paxton Lynch this week).
Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints) – When a player drops a goose egg it’s really easy to overreact. Don’t be that guy. Brandin Cooks has been targeted at least six times in all but two games this season. Plus he had had either a touchdown or 66 yards in all but three games. He’s a stud to start this week against Detroit.
Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders) – Amari Cooper is going to wind up in Canton one day. Yes, I said it. It’s way early. I don’t care. His mix of elite route running, speed, burst, strength and ability to create after the catch make him a stud. Amari has been frustratingly ignored in the red zone at times this season. But you can’t sit him. Put him in your lineup and enjoy his performance this week against the Bills.
Lamar Miller (Houston Texans) – Lamar has been frustrating for many owners this season since they most likely invested a 2nd round pick in him. However, the truth is he has had less than 63 yards from scrimmage just one time. He is a trustworthy start and a stud from a skill set standpoint. The Texans keep feeding him touches. Plug him in against a Green Bay run defense that has been struggling.
Matt Forte (New York Jets) – It somehow seems like years since Matt Forte exploded for two consecutive weeks of 100+ yards from scrimmage as a New York Jet. However, I have no idea why. Forte has had six games with 98 yards or more from scrimmage this year. He’s over 30 and still has it. Expect a big game out of Forte against a horrible Indianapolis Colts defense.
Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins) – Jay Ajayi counts as a stud? Yes. Since week 6 Jay Ajayi has had 80 yards from scrimmage in every game but one. He has at least 20 touches in every game in that same stretch. Roll Ajayi out with confidence.
I hope this helps you in your championship run. If you have start/sit questions just use our Fantasy Authority rankings or reach me on Twitter @FF_TravisM.