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Fantasy Spin: Stay Away From These Players

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Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting "SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday" every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.

Hey everyone, Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your holiday was great ... and I'm assuming if you're reading this, the Eagles made you exceptionally happy. Given the Eagles played on Thursday, this will be an "abbreviated" edition of my weekly column as we approach playoff time.

Are there any stats fantasy players should take into account when it comes to some key players down the stretch?

When you approach the end of the fantasy season, you need to realize if some players are performing at a higher level than expected, and if others are performing at a lower level than expected. It's possible the players who got you to this point aren't the players who will be winning you championships. So let's look at some stats that could be either encouraging or discouraging, depending on your current fantasy team.

At quarterback, I've been pushing Ryan Tannehill as a legitimate fantasy option for weeks now, but I just want to reiterate that as we come down the stretch. Over the last five games, he's averaging 23.2 FPG, which puts him firmly in the top 10 among all QBs. He has 10 touchdowns to three interceptions over that span, plus 19/126/1 rushing, which is what really helps him out for fantasy. In scoring systems that don't punish for turnovers, he's fallen below 20 FP just twice in his last eight games, after starting the season with three straight games below 20. He has a couple tough matchups in Weeks 14 and 15 with the Ravens at home and the Patriots on the road, but he could put up big numbers this week at the Jets and in Week 16 at home against the Vikings.

For two really low-end options if you're grasping for QB help, consider Zach Mettenberger (No. 3 ranked schedule over the next four weeks for QBs) and Eli Manning (No. 8 ranked schedule for QBs the rest of the way), especially if you don't get hurt too much by turnovers. Mettenberger's Week 16 matchup against the Jaguars is particularly appealing, and in general he's played pretty well (as Eagles fans saw in Week 12).

At running back, I have serious concerns about Andre Ellington and his level of play, no matter if it's his injuries or the Cardinals' offensive line that's forcing him into struggles. Ellington has now failed to top 4.0 YPC in eight of his last nine games, and has failed to top 2.5 YPC in each of his last three games, a span over which he's posted 47/89/1 rushing (1.89 YPC). Fortunately, he has 21 receptions over his last five games as well, plus three TDs, a span over which he's the No. 15 PPR RB at 15.6 FPG despite averaging 2.8 YPC. He's been the poster boy for getting it done with volume, because he's struggling in every other department. Ellington has a tough schedule down the stretch – he has an easy game with Atlanta this week, but then faces Kansas City, St. Louis and Seattle. It'd be prudent to examine his level of play each week and consider benching him if he doesn't improve, if you have depth. In non-PPR formats, Ellington really hasn't been getting it done at all.

On the positive side at running back, consider C.J. Anderson. He has averaged 25.1 FPG in a PPR over the last three weeks, which actually ranks him No. 1 among all RBs who have taken a snap in each of the three games over that span (meaning, not Jonas Gray). But this should be no surprise. Anderson's a decent receiver, which obviously helps his cause, but since Peyton Manning arrived in Denver in 2012, seven different RBs have led the Broncos in any given week in PPR scoring. Over those 43 games, the Broncos' top-scoring back has averaged 18.2 FPG in a PPR league, which would rank that theoretical back No. 7 among all RBs in 2014. The point is this: even if you don't think Anderson has special talent, and he may not, playing in this backfield and leading in snaps is just an excellent way to predict fantasy success. If Anderson is the Broncos' only truly healthy and reliable back, then it's fair to consider him an RB1 moving forward. Call me crazy, but I'd actually rather have him than Ellington right now, especially in non-PPR formats.

FantasyGuru.com's Week 13 Flex Rankings: 31-60
Rank Player Rank Player
31 RB Denard Robinson, Jaguars 46 WR Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
32 WR Torrey Smith, Ravens 47 WR Kenny Stills, Saints
33 RB Mark Ingram, Saints 48 RB Giovani Bernard, Bengals
34 WR Andre Johnson, Texans 49 WR James Jones, Raiders
35 RB Shane Vereen, Patriots 50 WR John Brown, Cardinals
36 WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans 51 RB Trent Richardson, Colts
37 WR Steve Smith, Sr., Ravens 52 WR Andrew Hawkins, Browns
38 WR Mohamed Sanu, Bengals 53 WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
39 RB Isaiah Crowell, Browns 54 WR Eric Decker, Jets
40 WR DeSean Jackson, Washington 55 WR Robert Woods, Bills
41 WR Martavis Bryant, Steelers 56 WR Kendall Wright, Titans
42 RB Tre Mason, Rams 57 TE Greg Olsen, Panthers
43 RB Jeremy Hill, Bengals 58 TE Travis Kelce, Chiefs
44 RB Lamar Miller, Dolphins 59 RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
45 WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers 60 WR Charles Johnson, Vikings


START 'EM

QB: Philip Rivers, Chargers – I've been down on Rivers' fantasy production of late, but he played pretty well last week and the Ravens are much easier to attack through the air.

RB: Tre Mason, Rams – Mason has been getting volume, and it's a great matchup with the Raiders this week.

WR: Martavis Bryant, Steelers – I'm back on the Bryant big-play train against the Saints' miserable defense this week.

TE: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings – He returned to the box scores last week and played a high percentage of snaps, so he's officially viable down the stretch.

SIT 'EM

QB: Josh McCown, Buccaneers – McCown's been a viable streamer, but his fantasy production has outweighed his actual level of play. This is a tough matchup against the Bengals.

RB: Darren McFadden, Raiders – Even if Latavius Murray is out with the concussion, I would much rather not have anything to do with McFadden, whose play has totally slipped.

WR: Percy Harvin, Jets – This QB situation is officially too terrible to consider Harvin.

TE: Garrett Graham, Texans – Graham showed some life with Ryan Mallett at quarterback, but it's back to Fitzpatrick this week.

Who are some important most added/most dropped players I should have on my radar this week?

MOST ADDED

RB LeGarrette Blount, Patriots (added in over 4,900 NFL.com leagues) – Do you remember what I said about Jonas Gray last week and how I don't trust this backfield at all? You can probably just copy and paste everything from last week's column into this one. Just a week off a 200-yard, four-TD game against the Colts, Gray overslept and was late for practice, so he didn't play a snap last week against the Lions. Meanwhile, Blount pissed and moaned his way off the Steelers, lands in Foxborough, and immediately scores two TDs. Hooray (of course, he only played 17 offensive snaps). He had two long runs, both because of missed tackles by safeties, and really it just felt like Belichick was taunting fantasy players.

The point, of course, is that Belichick builds run-game plans and inserts players into those game plans – he doesn't build game plans around players, especially ones who don't have special talent. Neither Gray nor Blount is a special talent, of course. And while the matchup on the ground is easier this week against the Packers than it was against Detroit (Green Bay gives up nearly 110 rush YPG to RBs over the last five weeks), it's possible Gray was up bright and early every day this week to try to reclaim his role. If you want to mess around with this situation in your lineup at this stage of the fantasy season because you want a piece of this offense in general, just understand the risk you're taking that either Gray or Blount will look at Belichick the wrong way and see himself parked on the bench.

MOST DROPPED

RB Ronnie Hillman, Broncos (dropped in over 3,400 NFL.com leagues) – Because of the emergence of C.J. Anderson, fantasy players have bailed on Hillman, who is expected to miss more time with a foot injury. If you have an extra bench spot, he may be worth a prospective add in the event he comes back sooner than expected because having a piece of this backfield is smart. But it's hard to imagine a healthy Anderson giving up his role in this backfield.

INJURIES TO WATCH

Quarterbacks

Ryan Mallett, Texans – Mallett (pectoral) is out for the year. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start but it's possible we see Tom Savage at some point if the Texans are eliminated from the playoffs.

Michael Vick, Jets – Vick (wrist) isn't seriously hurt, but was playing poorly enough to be benched for Geno Smith.

Running Backs

Arian Foster, Texans – Foster (groin) has been limited in practice this week, and the Texans reportedly expect him to play. But we've heard this song before, so keep an eye on his status and have Alfred Blue at the ready.

Latavius Murray, Raiders – Murray (concussion) was hurt last Thursday and has yet to be cleared. It appears less and less likely he will be able to play this week. Regardless, Darren McFadden is not a fantasy option.

Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, Vikings – McKinnon (back) has missed some practice time this week and will not play, as he's been bothered by a back injury for weeks. Meanwhile, Asiata (concussion) has been cleared. This backfield is officially a mess, with Ben Tate likely getting a bigger role this week.

Mike Tolbert, Panthers – Tolbert (leg) is off of the IR-Designated for Return list and is expected to rejoin the Panthers' ugly backfield this week.

Wide Receivers

Roddy White, Falcons – White (ankle) has missed practice all week and is questionable to play. Even if he goes, however, note that he often advises against starting himself when he is playing hurt. Have a backup option ready.

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Fitz (MCL sprain) has missed a lot of practice time this week after not playing last week. He says he's going to play this week, but it still seems like a long shot, and he hasn't been effective with Drew Stanton anyway.

Robert Woods, Bills – Woods (foot) has been limited in practice this week but is expected to play.

Davante Adams, Packers – Adams (heel) was added to the injury report on Thursday but is probable to play.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – Patterson (knee) has had a lost season, and injuries have something to do with that. He may not be able to play this week.

Tight Ends

Julius Thomas, Broncos – Julius (ankle) has a chance to return this week, but note that his game is Sunday night so you may not have the luxury of waiting on him.

Jordan Cameron, Browns – Cameron (concussion) may return this week, but is still listed as questionable.

Dwayne Allen, Colts – Allen (ankle) will not play this week.

Jordan Reed, Washington – Reed (hamstring) has been limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable.

Charles Clay, Dolphins – Clay (hamstring/knee) may not be able to play Monday against the Jets, so look for another option. Unfortunately, that option cannot be ...

Jace Amaro, Jets – Amaro (concussion) is not expected to play on Monday.

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