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Fitz’s Fantasy Football Rankings, Tiers & Start/Sit Advice (Week 14)

Fitz’s Fantasy Football Rankings, Tiers & Start/Sit Advice (Week 14)

My hope is that you are still playing fantasy football in Week 17 — that you are about to embark on a fruitful playoff run that leads to an appearance in your league’s championship game.

That won’t be the case for all of you, of course. Some of you will be evicted from the playoffs in Week 15 or 16. And for some of you, Week 14 will be the terminus of your fantasy season — the end of the line.

Not everyone can hoist a championship trophy and cash a winner’s check. Every league has its also-rans. As Judge Smails once noted, “The world needs ditchdiggers, too.”

If you aren’t going to win your league, hopefully you’ll at least come out of the 2023 season with some takeaways and lessons that will help you draw up your plan for world domination in 2024. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail,” said the great Confucius.

There you have it: quotes from Confucius and Judge Smails in a span of two paragraphs. And you thought this was going to be a mundane day.

Before we get to the rankings and tiers, let’s look at some of the lessons that players have provided us this season.

Talent often matters more than situation.

Is there a better example of this than Mike Evans? Evans was WR32 in the FantasyPros Consensus Preseason ADP despite producing more than 1,000 yards in each of his first nine NFL seasons. Evans has already topped 1,000 yards in 2023 and has an outside chance to surpass his previous single-season high of 1,524 yards.

The belief was that a perceived QB downgrade from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield would gut Evans’ production. The funny thing is, Mayfield hasn’t really outkicked expectations. His 2023 passer rating (90.0) is just a smidge better than his career passer rating (87.0), and his 6.8 yards per attempt this season is lagging his career YPA of 7.2 yards.

Evans’ greatness is such that he can shine even without great quarterbacking. Brady was far from great in 2022, averaging only 6.4 yards per attempt, but Evans still amassed 1,124 yards. Great players can still thrive in adverse ecosystems.

Size doesn’t matter (Part 1).

There were four wide receivers selected in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, and they all came off the board consecutively from pick No. 20 to pick No. 23: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers and Jordan Addison. At 6-3 and 208 pounds, Johnston was the biggest of the bunch, and QJ’s combination of size and speed was alluring to a lot of fantasy managers.

Johnston has been the most disappointing of the first-round receivers by far. Injuries to other Chargers receivers (Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer) presented Johnston with a golden opportunity to contribute as a rookie, and he has failed spectacularly. Johnston has 26-242-1 receiving in 12 games. He’s averaging an anemic 5.5 yards per target and ranks third-to-last among qualifying receivers in average yards of separation, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Meanwhile, Tank Dell had turned in arguably the most impressive season of any rookie receiver before breaking his leg in Week 12. Dell measures 5-10, 165 pounds.

Size doesn’t matter (Part 2).

Rookie RB De’Von Achane, who is averaging 31.3 PPR points in games where he has played at least 40% of Miami’s offensive snaps, is 5-9, 188 pounds.

You can find premium RB production late in drafts (or on the waiver wire).

Here are the preseason ADPs for some of the running backs who currently rank inside the top 25 in PPR fantasy scoring:

So, 48% of the running backs who rank among the top 25 fantasy scorers had ADPs of RB27 or beyond, and overall ADPs of 70 or beyond.

This is the case for the Zero-RB strategy in a nutshell: High-end RB production often comes from unexpected sources, but it’s hard to find high-end WR production later in the draft. The only wide receivers inside the top 25 in PPR fantasy scoring who had ADPs outside the top 40 at the position are Courtland Sutton (ADP: WR41), Adam Thielen (WR53), Nico Collins (WR56), Tank Dell (WR74) and Puka Nacua (WR90).

Pay attention to coaching tendencies.

Rookie RB Bijan Robinson is supremely talented, which is why he had a preseason ADP of RB3. But Bijan is RB13 in fantasy scoring, largely because Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has used his star rookie as a committee back.

If you cast Denzel Washington for a movie, you put him in a starring role. You don’t make Denzel part of an ensemble cast. The takeaway: It’s worth trying to figure out how a player will fit into a playcaller’s system. (Also, if you happen to be a Hollywood producer, don’t hire Arthur Smith as a casting director.)

The TE position is deep. No, really … it’s the truth this time.

Tight end depth is no longer a myth. It actually exists now. A wave of talented young TEs — Sam LaPorta, Dalton Kincaid, Trey McBride, Cole Kmet, Jake Ferguson — has bolstered the position and will reduce the incentive to spend an early-round pick on a tight end in 2024 fantasy drafts. And, oh, by the way, University of Georgia TE Brock Bowers is likely to be a top-10 pick in next year’s NFL draft and will probably be a coveted fantasy asset right away.

Our years-long TE drought is finally over.

There are other 2023 takeaways and lessons that we at FantasyPros will be digging into throughout the offseason, but the aforementioned ones are among the most notable.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the final week of fantasy football’s regular season.

As always, feel free to use these tiered rankings as a tiebreaker for your difficult lineup decisions. Beneath the tiers, I’ll offer a few brief thoughts on some of the borderline start/sit guys and some other interesting cases.

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Fitz’s Fantasy Football Week 14 Tiers & Rankings

QUARTERBACKS

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Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Tier 5

Do you dare bench C.J. Stroud this week? He’s going to be without playmaking WR Tank Dell, whose season ended when he broke his leg last week. Stroud has a difficult matchup against a Jets defense that’s giving up 192.2 passing yards per game and 6.2 yards per attempt. And the forecast for Texans-Jets includes wind and rain. I have Stroud ranked QB10, and that feels overly optimistic.

The weather forecast is expected to be better for Jordan Love when he rolls into East Rutherford on Monday night to face the Giants at MetLife Stadium, and Love has been scorching-hot lately. His fantasy finishes over his last four games: QB12, QB9, QB5, QB7. He’s averaged 286.5 passing yards per game over that stretch, with 10 TD passes and two INTs. Packers WR Christian Watson is dealing with a hamstring injury and probably won’t play, but Love is still a reasonably appealing fantasy option for Week 14.

The Joshua Dobbs saga has been wildly entertaining, and he’s an easy guy to root for. That said, I would have major reservations about starting Dobbs this week, even though the Vikings are getting star WR Justin Jefferson back from injury. Dobbs was so atrocious in the Vikings’ last game — he threw four interceptions in a 12-10 loss to the Bears in Week 12 — that Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell wouldn’t commit to Dobbs as his starter immediately after that game. With some time to cool off, O’Connell eventually stuck with Dobbs, but there’s a possibility of a quick hook if Dobbs struggles when he faces the Raiders this week.

RUNNING BACKS

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Tier 3

Tier 4

Tier 5

Tier 6

Tier 7

My friend Rich Hribar of Sharp Football noted earlier this week that among 42 qualifying RBs, Breece Hall is either last or second to last in a bunch of rushing metrics over his last seven games: success rate, explosive run rate, percentage of runs that have failed to gain yardage, and percentage of runs to result in either a first down or a touchdown. Hall has averaged just 2.4 yards per carry over his last seven games, but he’s also caught 36 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns over that stretch, so he’s finding a way to contribute despite the severe limitations that his supporting cast imposes upon him. That pass-catching production is why Hall is RB18 in fantasy scoring (0.5 PPR) since Week 6. I can understand the temptation to bench Hall in shallow leagues, or if you’re stacked at the RB position. But in most cases, it probably makes sense to play Hall, and it’s possible that an inclement weather forecast for the New York/New Jersey metro area on Sunday forces the Jets to lean on Hall more heavily than usual.

I wasn’t sure what the Carolina backfield split was going to look like after the firing of head coach Frank Reich and running backs coach Duce Staley. Well, the new regime has made up its mind: This is Chuba Hubbard‘s backfield. Hubbard’s played 65% of the Panthers’ offensive snaps last week and had a season-high 25 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Now he gets to face a deteriorating Saints defense that has given up 370 rushing yards in its last two games. It’s hard to believe, but Hubbard should be a fantasy auto-start this week.

Gus Edwards always poses a rankings dilemma. His committee-back status and lack of pass-catching production suggest that he should be ranked in RB3 range or lower, but the dude keeps finding the end zone. Edwards has punched in 10 touchdowns this season and has hit pay dirt nine times in his last six games. I’m still below consensus on Edwards simply because he doesn’t have a safety net of yardage to fall back on if he doesn’t score a TD. Edwards is averaging 49.2 rushing yards per game, and aside from a freak 80-yard reception in Week 7, he’s basically done nothing as a pass catcher. But Gus Bus could give you another two touchdowns and make you feel silly for even thinking about benching him.

Alexander Mattison‘s fantasy value hasn’t been completely destroyed by the Vikings’ increased usage of Ty Chandler over the last month and a half, but it’s been damaged. Mattison logged a snap share of 69% or higher in five of his first six games. In each of his last six games, Mattison’s snap share has been 65% or lower. Mattison’s rushing load has decreased only slightly. He averaged 13.7 carries over his first six games and has averaged 12.7 carries over his last six. But the decrease in Mattison’s receiving production has been more significant. After averaging 3.0 catches 17.3 receiving yards over his first six games, Mattison has averaged 1.5 catches and 11.7 receiving yards over his last six. Mattison is RB42 in fantasy scoring since Week 6. He has a favorable matchup this week against a Raiders defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to RBs, but Mattison still profiles as a midrange RB3 at best.

The Bears’ backfield is a complete mystery going into Week 14. When we last saw the Bears before their Week 12 bye, Roschon Johnson logged a season-high 74% snap share in Chicago’s Monday-night win over Minnesota, finishing with 10-35-0 rushing and 5-40-0 receiving. Is the rookie taking over as Chicago’s lead back? It’s possible that Roschon’s usage spike was matchup-related. The Vikings blitz at one of the highest rates in the league, and Roschon is outstanding in pass protection. It’s not clear that Roschon has leapfrogged Khalil Herbert in the Bears’ RB pecking order, and now D’Onta Foreman is returning from an ankle injury to further complicate matters. I have Roschon ranked RB36 this week, Hebert RB37 and Foreman RB46. This is a messy situation that’s best avoided.

After a brief run as a leading man, Devin Singletary is back to being a committee back. In Weeks 10-11, Singletary had 52-262-2 rushing and was RB2 in half-point PPR fantasy scoring over that span behind only Jahmyr Gibbs. But Singletary has logged only 14 carries over his last two games. Singletary played five more snaps than Dameon Pierce last week, but Pierce had 15 carries and got a goal-line touchdown. Singletary, meanwhile, had just eight carries and one target. Singletary might have some fringe flex-worthiness this week in a matchup against the Jets, who have given up the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs, but you can no longer count on ample touch volume for Singletary.

WIDE RECEIVERS

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Tier 6

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Tier 8

How depressing is it that Garrett Wilson investors were probably rooting for Zach Wilson to return at quarterback? Wilson was banished to the bench after a 32-6 blowout loss to the Bills in Week 11. With Tim Boyle starting for the Jets in Weeks 12-13 (and with Trevor Siemian replacing the ineffective Boyle in the second half of last week’s game), Garrett Wilson had 10-94-1 receiving over those two contests and averaged 5.5 yards per target. In Zach Wilson‘s nine starts this season, Garrett Wilson has averaged 5.8 catches and 68.6 yards per game, and 6.3 yards per target. Those aren’t very sexy numbers, but the reinsertion of Zach Wilson at quarterback at least makes Garrett Wilson a high-end WR3 this week.

I can understand not wanting to play Cooper Kupp this week. Kupp has been held under 50 receiving yards in six straight games, and his touchdown against the Browns last Sunday was his first since Week 6. Maybe Kupp’s ankle still isn’t right. Maybe it won’t be right for the rest of the season. It doesn’t help that Kupp has a rough Week 14 matchup against the Ravens, who have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. The question is: How long before we jump ship on an established star who’s mired in a prolonged slump? Not all fantasy managers are like-minded on this dilemma. I’m inclined to keep the faith with Kupp a little longer. I have him ranked as a high-end WR3 and would play him under most circumstances.

Jayden Reed had a quiet game against the Chiefs last week with 4-16-0 receiving, but he’s WR18 in fantasy scoring (0.5 PPR) since Week 7, and Reed’s target outlook will be enhanced this week if Christian Watson is unable to play due to a hamstring injury. Reed also gets a spicy matchup against the Giants, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and seventh-most receiving yards to wide receivers.

Brandin Cooks is going to pose a lineup dilemma for a lot of fantasy managers this week. On one hand, Cooks is WR9 in fantasy scoring over the last four weeks, and he gets a scrumptious matchup against the Eagles, who have given up the most fantasy points to WRs. But Cooks has drawn more than four targets in only three of his 11 games this season. He’s been extremely efficient this season, averaging 9.6 yards per target and scoring a touchdown on 13.5% of his receptions. Maybe Cooks smashes again this week in a great matchup. I won’t talk you out of playing him, but I’m below consensus on Cooks simply because his usage doesn’t justify a top-25 ranking.

It’s funny how quickly people have climbed back aboard the Gabe Davis bandwagon. From Week 10 to Week 12, Davis had two catches in three games. Then, last week, he had 6-105-1 against an Eagles defense that’s been flambeed by almost every wide receiver it’s faced over the last two months, and now Davis is back in our good graces? Davis simply hasn’t been as involved in the Buffalo offense with the dual emergence of TE Dalton Kincaid and WR Khalil Shakir. When Davis faced the Chiefs in the playoffs two seasons ago, he turned in a performance for the ages: eight catches, 201 yards, four touchdowns. Despite that past triumph in Kansas City, I’m not very enthusiastic about the Week 14 outlook for Davis and have him ranked as a midrange WR4.

Since the Raiders fired Josh McDaniels as head coach following a Week 8 loss to the Lions, Jakobi Meyers has averaged 4.8 targets, 3.5 catches and 46.8 yards a game. Meyers has actually overachieved to produce that much yardage over his last four outings. He’s averaged a robust 9.8 yards per target over that stretch. But Meyers doesn’t have the same sort of chemistry with rookie QB Aidan O’Connell that he had with Jimmy Garoppolo (it shows in the target totals), and Meyers simply doesn’t have a prominent enough role in the Las Vegas offense anymore for you to trust him in your lineup.

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TIGHT ENDS

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Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Tier 5

Tier 6

Dallas Goedert has been practicing for the Eagles this week and is expected to return from a fractured forearm Sunday night against the Cowboys. Coincidentally, Goedert sustained his injury the last time the Eagles played the Cowboys, which was in Week 9. Before that game, Goedert was TE8 in fantasy scoring, and that’s where I have him ranked this week. The Cowboys haven’t been a particularly onerous matchup for tight ends, allowing 46-527-6 to TEs through 12 games.

In the Ravens’ first game without TE Mark Andrews, who’s on injured reserve with an ankle injury, Isaiah Likely had 4-40-0 against the Chargers on six targets. A Week 13 bye gave Likely some extra time to do additional film work and settle into his new role as a starter. I’m optimistic enough to rank Likely as a low-end TE1 this week against the Rams, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and sixth-most receiving yards to tight ends.

It’s hard to tell what to make of David Njoku these days. In the three games since the end of Browns QB Deshaun Watson‘s season, Njoku has been peppered with 30 targets. But Njoku has averaged just 4.4 yards per target over that span, even though two of the Browns’ opponents in those three games — the Broncos and Rams — have been bludgeoned by tight ends this season. Last week, in Joe Flacco‘s first start for Cleveland, Njoku had 2-17-0 on six targets vs. the Rams. Njoku has another promising matchup this week against the Jaguars, who have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to TEs, but I can’t get him any higher than TE11 in my rankings.

I’m fading Evan Engram this week. He has a hellish matchup against the Browns, and he’s probably going to be catching passes from backup QB C.J. Beathard. About that matchup: The Browns have allowed 27 catches and 262 receiving yards to TEs this season. No other team has allowed fewer than 40 catches or 418 receiving yards to opposing tight ends.

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