Welcome to the second week of the Fantasy Playoffs Playmakers series. If you missed last week, here’s a brief refresher course on the concept.
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.
LeGarrette Blount (New England Patriots) – Usually when people think of a homerun hitter in fantasy, they may visualize a faster, big play generating machine. Well LeGarrette is a homerun hitter for a fairly unique reason. He scores an unreasonable amount of touchdowns. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens have been solid against the run this season. But Blount has scored at least one touchdown in 9 of 12 games this season. He could easily blank in the TD column and disappoint. But LeGarrette could go off for three touchdowns at any time. Plug him in if you’re looking for massive touchdown upside.
Latavius Murray (Oakland Raiders) – It has been well documented that I am not a LatEHvius MEHrray fan. Why? Well beyond his average overall ability at every facet of the game, my disdain has been in relation to his maddening inconsistency. But it seems his usage is finally rising to a trustworthy level in a high-octane offense. He’s averaging over 20 touches per game over the past four weeks. If Oakland’s solid offensive line allows Latavius to break a couple big runs or fall into the end zone three times like he did against Denver, that could be the homerun you need to win the fantasy playoffs.
Thomas Rawls (Seattle Seahawks) – Thomas Rawls quickly reminded fantasy owners why we all fell in love with him last year. Rawls ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on just fifteen carries. However, that was just one game against a Panthers team that looks like they’re packing it in for the season. I don’t trust Thomas Rawls’ floor just yet, but he clearly offers homerun upside in the playoffs against a struggling Packers defense.
Ted Ginn Jr. (Carolina Panthers) – Ted Ginn Jr. has done it again. Right when the world was about the write off the now 31-year-old burner, he decides to be relevant. Ginn has actually had at least 5 catches or a touchdown in every game since week 6. Wait, so he’s a steady flex then, right? No. I wouldn’t go that far, unless we’re talking full point per reception. However, with his elite deep game Ted Ginn can score on any play. He’s a fantastic homerun threat who has scored three weeks in a row now.
Taylor Gabriel (Atlanta Falcons) – Taylor Gabriel has been a viable starter in PPR formats for four weeks in a row now. Matt Ryan has targeted him at least five times in every game. Now it looks like Julio Jones will not be 100% thanks to a turf toe injury. When you combine the soft matchup against the Rams and the potential for Gabriel’s highest target total coming this week, you get a homerun hitter for the playoffs. Expect great things.
DeVante Parker (Miami Dolphins) – Any time a wide receiver plays a top five pass defense it’s hard to trust them. I get that. However, DeVante Parker has finally been putting on a show as of late. Parker has at least 64 yards receiving or a touchdown four weeks in a row. If Parker can break free for a big play or two you could find yourself in the fantasy championship.
Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns) – Isaiah Crowell is not an overwhelmingly talented running back. The Cleveland Browns are not an overwhelmingly talent offense. What’s there to like? Well, the Bengals have allowed the tenth most rushing yards in the NFL this season. Crowell has averaged about 15 touches per game this season. Plus, the last time he faced the Bengals, Crowell averaged 5.25 yards per carry. He’s definitely a decent deep league flex play for your playoffs.
Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers) – Carlos Hyde has been sneaky consistent this year (when healthy). When he plays, Carlos never gets less than 13 touches. In fact, He’s averaged nearly 20 touches per game this year. The problem (with Hyde’s upside) has been that the touchdowns just haven’t been there lately. Hyde hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since week 5. However, his trustworthy touch floor renders him a faithful flex. If he adds a touchdown that’s just icing on the cake.
Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts) – Frank Gore just moved into 8th place for career rushing yards in NFL history. Frank has been an absolute workhorse for his entire career. The only reason that really changed in the second half this week was because the Colts embarrassed the Jets. They built a huge lead early and rested the future Hall of Fame running back. Gore doesn’t have an easy matchup against the Houston Texans this week. But please remember, Frank ran over the Texans in week 6 for 106 yards. Start him if you enjoy winning games in the fantasy playoffs.
Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins) – Jarvis Landry’s upside has finally been a little exposed this season. Landry hasn’t eclipsed 87 yards since week 6. Now he faces a tough Cardinals defense this week. There’s good news though. Tyrann Mathieu may not be 100% or even play. If you play in PPR formats Landry is an automatic start every week. Don’t over think things.
Julian Edelman (New England Patriots) – Without Gronkowski to dominate the targets in New England there is only one Patriot receiving option I am trusting this week against a tough Ravens defense. Edelman has had grabbed at least 7 receptions for four straight weeks on an average of 12 targets. You can’t bench Edelman. He doesn’t score a lot, but he has about the safest floor in the NFL right now.
Tyrell Williams (San Diego Chargers) – If last week showed us what Tyrell looks like when he plays hurt, I’m all for plugging him in yet again this week. He only had 2 catches, but still found the end zone for the fourth week in a row. Tyrell is bigger, faster, and stronger than any Carolina defensive back by far. Expect Philip Rivers to target him early and often this week.
Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints) – Mark Ingram can be a frustrating stud to own. He’ll miss time with various injuries. He’ll split carries with Tim Hightower (even though he is much better). Sometimes the Saints will just seemingly forget about him. However, he is just too good to bench. Ingram has been a top 15 running back virtually all season. Tampa’s run defense has been improving since the half way point this year, but don’t screw yourself out of the playoffs by leaving this talented back on the sideline.
Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams) – Yes. You heard me right. I am advocating that you should start Gurley, and that he is also still a stud. Jeff Fisher is trying his best to ruin Gurley’s career, but Todd won’t have it. Yes, Gurley’s usage and yardage have been frustrating. Yes the Falcons have at least an average run defense. But don’t let that stop you from starting one of the best running backs in the league this week. The Falcons defense is actually pretty banged up right now. Start your studs.
Matt Forte (New York Jets) – You want me to start a New York Jet after last week’s putrid performance? No, I want you to start two Jets (see Brandon Marshall below). The Jets are a hot mess right now, but there’s a glimmer of hope this week. Why? The San Francisco 49ers may be even worse. How in the world is that possible? Well, for starters, they have allowed nearly 350 more rushing yards than any other team in the NFL. Their offense can’t stay on the field. Their quarterback only throws 100 mph fast balls. The head coach is Chip Kelly. Half of their defense retired or is currently on injured reserve. Shall I go on? No, because there may be a 49ers fan reading this right now, sobbing uncontrollably.
Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos) – Emmanuel Sanders is a stud. Some fantasy owners forget that, but it’s true. He has out-targeted and out-produced Demaryius Thomas this year (remember that guy who’s finished as a WR1 for three years in a row?). Now he draws a matchup against my Tennessee Titans horrible secondary. The front seven of the Titans has done remarkably well against the run. But this week the Titans’ secondary will be rolling with Jason McCourty, Valentino Blake (who was so bad he changed his name), Brice McCain and two rookies. Don’t expect less than 5 catches for 80 yards.
Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints) – Brandin Cooks has been frustrating for many owners lately. That much is true. Drew Brees even struggled somehow last week against a bad Detroits Lions defense. Have no fear. With the exception of week 12, Cooks has had at least 5 targets in every game. He’s actually been averaging 7 targets per game all season. Expect at least that volume to be thrown his way. He’s a solid WR2 this week for your fantasy playoffs matchup.
Brandon Marshall (New York Jets) – And here’s the second New York Jet I am probably unwisely suggesting you start this week. Reminder, the 49ers are horrificly bad. They haven’t been as bad against the pass as they have been the run. But most teams just haven’t had to pass much against them because they just don’t need to. The Jets are bad enough that they’ll need to be passing the whole game. If Bryce Petty ever gets tired of chucking it deep to Robby (poor hands) Anderson Brandon Marshall will his logical next option.
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.