Welcome to the third 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.
Kenneth Farrow (San Diego Chargers) – If you somehow managed to make it through as a Melvin Gordon owner, I hope you had Farrow on your roster. In Melvin’s absence, Farrow stepped up to have 22 touches. The Oakland Raiders have surrendered the 5th most touchdowns on the ground this year. Farrow could pull a Melvin and fall into the end zone a couple of time this week. He has a safe floor of usage mixed a massive ceiling thanks to the matchup. Enjoy!
Kenneth Dixon (Baltimore Ravens) – Don’t look now, but Kenneth Dixon is taking over the Baltimore backfield just in time to win you a championship. Dixon out-touched Terrance West 19 to 6 in their game against New England. But he does have to face the improving Steelers defense this week. That will make things tough, but Kenneth produces through the air too. It could be another 8 catch game for him this week giving him a very high ceiling.
Bilal Powell (New York Jets) – In case you missed it, Bilal Powell ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns last week. Many forget that Bilal was very trustworthy last year around the playoffs when Chris Ivory went down. If Matt Forte is truly out with his torn meniscus then Powell could win you a fantasy championship. Start him with confidence in the flex knowing he can provide RB1 upside against the Dolphins this weekend.
Dontrelle Inman (San Diego Chargers) – Inman has quickly become one of Philip Rivers favorite targets this season. His future value beyond this season is definitely in question, but for now he’s incredibly relevant. Inman likes to score long touchdowns. That’s exactly what you want to see out of your homerun threats in the playoffs. Rivers has found Inman for the score three weeks in a row now. And this week against the Raiders’ struggling secondary there is a solid chance he’ll do that again.
Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs) – Tyreek Hill truly has been a homerun threat on seemingly every play for the past few weeks. Even if your league doesn’t count return yardage, Hill has an incredible matchup at home against my Tennessee Titans this week. He’ll be facing a handful of rookies and maybe Brice McCain this week. That wouldn’t scare some high school wide receivers. Start him confidently.
Sammy Watkins (Buffalo Bills) – Sammy Watkins feels like he should be in the stud section based on his talent. However, the entire Bills passing game is suspect to say the least. They simply don’t throw enough. Nor do that throw the ball well enough to expect a safe floor right now. But this week the Bills play the Browns. The Browns have given up a league-leading 30 passing touchdowns this year. That’s four more than any other NFL team. Sammy could easily burn the Browns for two scores this week.
Ty Montgomery (Green Bay Packers) – Ty Montgomery has been frustrating to start for several weeks this year. However, in weeks where he has been the presumed starter or primary ball carrier he has averaged about 15 touches per game. With James Starks in concussion protocol, and the Packers brass hinting that Ty could handle a workload of 20 touches if needed, it’s time to trust him. Montgomery will have at least 15 touches this week. That’s flex-worthy.
Rob Kelley (Washington Redskins) – Fat Rob keeps getting the touches of a feature back. Yes, Chris Thompson ran a touchdown in from about twenty yard out this past week, but don’t expect that to happen all of the time. When the potent Redskins offense gets in close expect Rob to get the call. His steady workload of 14-20 touches makes him nearly an automatic start.
Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns) – Isaiah Crowell has been one of the only Browns players worth starting all year long. Crowell has quietly been a top 20 RB for most of the season. Don’t forget that now. This week he gets to face a struggling Browns defense that just surrendered around 300 yards of offense to Le’Veon Bell. Even if Crowell gets you a third of that you’ll be happy you trusted this faithful flex with ample opportunity.
Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks) – The Seattle Seahawks offense has been a roller coaster this year. Russell Wilson can’t seem to find his groove. The offensive line can’t seem to protect. And last week was basically a meltdown. But Doug Baldwin still deserves flex consideration this week (especially in PPR) because of his consistent target and reception floor. He has had four or more receptions in every game, but one this year. Don’t count on a touchdown, but Russell will find Baldwin.
Julian Edelman (New England Patriots) – Julian was here last week, but he’s back again because we’ll all need a reminder that he’s still worth trusting. The Patriots face a tough defense in Denver who just kept Marcus Mariota under 100 yards passing. However, Julian is still the primary target for Tom Brady. He will garner his usual trustworthy targets. He’s still nearly a must-start in PPR formats. But don’t worry if you’re playing standard. Julian will deliver.
Jamison Crowder (Washington Redskins) – Jamison finally had a down week. But don’t let that scare you off of starting him in the playoffs when it counts the most. The Panthers secondary has gotten burned all year. They don’t have a single corner who can cover Crowder in the slot. He’s still getting around seven targets per game. You can trust Jamison to be a faithful flex this week.
Lamar Miller (Houston Texans) – It’s become pretty difficult to trust Lamar on a consistent basis. I get it. But in the fantasy playoffs, facing a terrible Jaguars run defense, it’s time to start Lamar with confidence. Lamar hasn’t had less than 14 carries since October 24th against the Broncos. He’ll easily get 20 touches in a game against a poor defense. This is where you start your studs.
DeMarco Murray (Tennessee Titans) – I hear you. This is an easy decision for most. But an away game at Arrowhead Stadium isn’t the most enticing matchup. DeMarco has simply been too good for you to consider benching for any reason. Plus without Derrick Johnson in the mix at linebacker for the Chiefs the Titans shouldn’t have problems winning in the run game.
Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons) – In a game where the Falcons absolutely annihilated the Los Angeles Rams (formerly known as the Los Angeles Jeff Fishers) Freeman nearly disappeared. Don’t expect that to be the case moving forward. The Falcons get to run all over the San Francisco 49ers this week. Freeman will be a part of that.
Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints) – Brandin Cooks is someone who Drew Brees trusts. Even when they fail to connect for a short period Brees keeps coming back. It’s definitely difficult to start Cooks in a matchup against the Cardinals tough defense. I get that. But if the Saints want to get their game back into shape Cooks is going to have to stretch the field some to open up some holes underneath. I expect at least one massive play this game for Cooks. A long touchdown would immediately make him worth the start.
T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis Colts) – Despite the brief streak of touchdowns, Donte Moncrief has simply not stepped up in the way that many thought he would. Hilton is still the superior receiver in just about every facet of the game. He draws a tough matchup against Minnesota, but they have shown weakness as of late. They’ll get after Andrew Luck pretty quickly this week, but Hilton will be the beneficiary in the short to intermediate passing game.
Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders) – Amari Cooper grabbed six catches for 138 yards and a score the last time that he played the chargers. Since then he’s been inconsistent to say the least. Derek Carr has clearly struggled to connect with Cooper in colder games (like last week). But in balmy San Diego, expect them to find their connection again.
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.