Fantasy Football Overvalued/Undervalued: Week 13
Week 13 is fascinating in that it’s either the most or least important game of the season for fantasy players. For some, this is the first week of the playoffs, meaning it’s do or die from this point forward. For others, the playoffs have started in all but name as this week determines whether they get into the tourney. For some of the lucky few, this week means nothing, because they’re already in. Finally, for the particularly unfortunate, this week means nothing because the season is for all intents and purposes over as the result of a bad record. Quite the dichotomy between fellow competitors who are all sharing the same stage, and far more interesting than any round of the playoffs, depending on who you ask. It’s akin to Week 17 in the NFL, to such an extent that this might be the closest fantasy football and real football ever come to one another. No matter which camp you’re in, last week is probably the least of your concerns, but it’s tradition at this point so we might as well go over it quickly.
Cam Newton (CAR): ECR – 5 / Finished – QB13 / WIN
Jordan Howard (CHI): ECR – 1o / Finished – RB51 / WIN
Adam Thielen (MIN): ECR – 6 / Finished – WR21 / WIN
Greg Olsen (CAR): ECR – 10 / Finished – TE33-T / WIN
Blake Bortles (JAC): ECR – 29 / Finished – QB7 / WIN
Orleans Darkwa (NYG): ECR – 19 / Finished – RB39-T / LOSS
Corey Davis (TEN): ECR – 42 / Finished – WR43 / LOSS
Eric Ebron (DET) ECR – 20 / Finished – TE19-T / LOSS
Sometimes with these picks you can be wrong in victory and right in defeat. Adam Thielen finished well below his ECR, but to say he had a bad day couldn’t be further from the truth. Eric Ebron was as involved as I thought he’d be, but he didn’t make the most of his opportunities and thus didn’t rank highly enough to call it a win. The only player whose performance disappointed me was Orleans Darkwa, just because I really have no explanation as to why he was so bad when I thought he’d be so good. Everything else pretty much went as expected: Cam Newton is a bad passer, Jordan Howard can’t get going because his team is terrible, Greg Olsen wasn’t ready to go, and Blake Bortles has quietly been a good QB.
I can only hope for as much success this week, so let’s just get started.
Overvalued: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): @ CIN; ECR – QB9
I almost wanted to pick Cam Newton again, but in addition to that being boring – taking the same players over and over again – his prospects lean very heavily on the health status of the New Orleans secondary, which we simply don’t have enough information on right now. Instead, I’m going to do something even more predictable and go with Ben Roethlisberger in a divisional road game. In fairness, Ben hasn’t had his usual home-road splits (see the team’s disastrous loss to Jacksonville earlier in the season in Pittsburgh). Cincy’s defense against fantasy quarterbacks is in the top half, and while these teams aren’t in the same stratosphere in terms of contention, it’s still one of the fiercest divisional rivalries in the league – the likes of which has led to pretty low-scoring games.
Undervalued: Geno Smith (NYG): @ OAK; ECR – QB 32
This almost feels like cheating, as for the second straight week I’ll be picking a quarterback who is ranked so low that he’s behind guys who won’t play (see: Ryan Fitzpatrick). But I can only work with what I’m given. This is more than thinking Smith will exceed his current ECR expectations as literally the worst possible starter – he could actually be pretty good. Oakland is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to QBs, and as decimated as the Giants pass-catching group is, he did just fine against the Raiders back in 2013 with a comparably abysmal set of weapons. He’s very high risk, high reward, but the ceiling his higher than you might think.
Overvalued: Lamar Miller (HOU): @ TEN; ECR – RB14
As is the case with most (if not all) NFL offenses, Houston’s offense died when the starting quarterback went down. Miller has been surprisingly efficient alongside Tom Savage, which can probably be attributed to an increase in volume that’s necessary with said QB on the field, but it’s only a matter of time before a good run defense stacks the box against Miller and dares Savage to win the game. Tennessee might be this team, as they’re allowing the 6th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. If Miller scores, he’ll probably meet his ECR, but I’m betting he doesn’t as the Texans head into the home stadium of a division rival.
Undervalued: Alfred Morris (DAL): vs. WAS; ECR – RB29
When he’s gotten the call, Alfred Morris has delivered this season in the absence of Ezekiel Elliot. In the three games that Elliot has missed, Morris has averaged at least 4.0 YPC. The issue has been volume, and given the Cowboy’s struggles on offense these past few weeks – especially as it’s related to Dak Prescott – the team would be wise to try and recreate their old offense with Morris in the place of Elliott. Morris will also get his first chance to start against his former team since leaving them for Dallas almost two years ago, which is always a fun narrative that occasionally even delivers. Washington has bigger issues than the narrative though: they’re giving up the 8th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Darren McFadden has retired, leaving Rod Smith as Morris’ only completion for the role, and Smith hasn’t done nearly enough to warrant all of the attention he’s gotten in some fantasy circles. I believe in Morris’ talent and opportunity.
Overvalued: Antonio Brown (PIT): @ CIN; ECR – WR1
Antonio Brown is a player who really pads his stats against bad secondaries. Sure, every player benefits by playing against bad defenses, but the contrast in performance by Brown against good defensive backs and bad ones is pretty stark. He’s gone off a lot this year, but the only good secondary he’s had his way with has been Jacksonville (which is no small feat). But when he’s had to deal with guys like Rashaan Melvin or Darius Slay, the star wideout has been quiet. Now, the Bengals don’t really have anyone on that level, but they’re still the 3rd-toughest fantasy defense to wide receivers. Also, if you haven’t noticed this week’s theme yet, it’s worth mentioning that the Steelers are of course in the same division as the Bengals, and the game is being played in Cincinnati.
Undervalued: Kenny Stills (MIA): vs. DEN; ECR – WR46
There might not be a better third receiver in the league than Kenny Stills. To his credit, he’s been making the most of the opportunity, and balling out since Week 6. The only reason I can think of as to why his ECR is so low is that some of the people responsible for these rankings haven’t watched Denver at all for the past two months and are still scared off by the matchup. In case you too haven’t watched the Broncos, let me fill you in: their defense isn’t good, or at the very least, they don’t care anymore. Derek Carr just lit them up in a game where he lost both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Andy Dalton threw three TDs against the Broncos. Pretty much anyone can do it these days, and yes, that includes whoever the Dolphins trot out there this Sunday. Stills will benefit once more from his teammates, as DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry should preoccupy Chris Harris Jr. Stills is a deceptive play this week, especially in daily games.
Overvalued: Kyle Rudolph (MIN): @ ATL; ECR – TE11
I’ve vaunted Atlanta as a good defense against tight ends in the past, and I’m riding that wave for at least one more week. It’s not just the Falcons strengths that motivates this decision, but also their weaknesses. Both Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole are banged up, which could create some great opportunities for Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Rudolph has been a solid and consistent player for the past few years, but he’s not a guy that the Vikings will force the ball to either – and they shouldn’t have to on Sunday.
Undervalued: Cameron Brate (TB): @ GB; ECR – TE21
Every time I bring up Brate, I talk about his connection with Jameis Winston. Winston, of course, is returning from injury this week, which is great news for one of his favorite targets in Brate. The matchup isn’t particularly favorable and there aren’t really any statistics that suggest Brate is a good play this week, but his current ECR doesn’t seem to accommodate for the increase in volume I believe he’ll witness with Winston returning to the fray. Tampa Bay should have no problem moving the ball through the air this week, so it’s merely a matter of which receivers benefit. Mike Evans should feast, but Brate will get his fair share too.