News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 15

By Daniel Kelley
Dec 16, 2018

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(It’s Week 15 of the NFL season. Every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)

Apparently I need to revisit the point I made in this space a week ago, because it became a hot topic on fantasy Twitter this week: What to do when you’re eliminated from title contention.

I’ve told this story before, but I used to be an avid poker player. And that meant going to games and playing, but it also meant living with a fellow player and playing idle for-nothing games when it was late at night and we were bored. Basically, awake meant playing.

When we played at the big games, there was real money involved, and we played seriously. When we played at home, there was little or no money at stake, and my roommate Brad generally treated them like nothing — all-in on random cards, calling bets when he knew he was losing, just messing around.

Me? I still played the game about the same. Maybe I wasn’t quite as fastidious, but if I was going to play I wasn’t going to just be silly about it. I was playing poker to play poker — the chance at money was all well and good, but I enjoyed the game first.

That’s how I view fantasy football. I want to win the money at the end of the year, sure. But I also just want to play. So when I’m eliminated from the playoffs and there’s a consolation bracket — even if the bracket has no greater meaning like money or draft seeding — well, it’s still a matchup and I still want to win.

The obvious difference here is that there are people who can still win money diving into the same player pool. That’s why I give them priority. Teams eliminated from contention shouldn’t be active on the wire or spending FAAB, and they shouldn’t be diving on the Damien Williams types when a starter is unexpectedly ruled out. But I have Spencer Ware and Odell Beckham Jr. in a league where I’m eliminated, so yeah, after all the contending teams had their shot, I picked up a couple of players.

If you’re only playing fantasy football to profit, that’s great, but that’s not my thing. I play fantasy football because I like fantasy football. If that means playing for ninth place, then I’m playing for ninth place. It’s still the game I enjoy.

On to the Week 15 advice.

Live chats

Our live chats are a fantastic resource to get specific help to your individual quandaries each week. The Tuesday-through-Saturday chats are posted here, and Scott Barrett hosts a last-minute chat Sunday mornings as well.

Rankings and start/sit

These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Friday is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

15. Adam Thielen, MIN vs MIA (WR7) — He’s cooled off a bit after that electric first half of the season, but Thielen is still a rock-solid WR1.
16. David Johnson, ARI @ ATL (RB9) — Johnson gets a plus matchup and should see plenty of touches.
17. JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT vs NE (WR8) — The Steelers continue to sustain two fantasy WR1s.
18. Amari Cooper, DAL @ IND (WR9) — Since joining the Cowboys, Cooper is fantasy’s No. 1 wide receiver.

Two starts, two sits

START Dalvin Cook in medium-sized leagues: Despite battling through various injuries, Cook has played well this year, ranking third of 50 qualified running backs in missed tackles forced per touch (0.24). Now, he appears to be nearing full health, and volume has never been better.
START Larry Fitzgerald in deep leagues: Fitzgerald has disappeared in recent weeks, and is hard to trust, but he did see nine targets last week. Heavy target-volume makes sense again this week with Christian Kirk out and Chad Williams questionable, as nine-point underdogs against the Falcons.
SIT James White in shallow leagues: White is still a “start” in a lot of leagues but is worth bumping down into the mid-RB2-range in PPR leagues. His role just isn’t as valuable as it was when Rex Burkhead was out of the lineup. Over the last five weeks he ranks just 28th in expected fantasy points per game (11.2).
SIT Ian Thomas in medium-sized leagues: Thomas had a monster game in Week 14 — catching nine of 11 targets for 77 yards. If this were any other opponent, I might be excited to write him up as a “start” for tight end streamers, but not this week against the Saints. The Saints have been the NFL’s toughest defense to tight ends for two straight seasons, leading the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game allowed.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery had his best game since October last week, catching six passes for 50 yards and a score against the stingy Cowboys defense. He’s a good bet to build on those numbers in Week 15 against the Rams, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points per target to receivers.
BUST: Courtland Sutton: Sutton was an unmitigated disaster last week in what should have been a great spot. He caught just two of five targets for 14 yards — tied for his second-lowest yardage output of the season — despite serving as the presumed No. 1 in Denver. He also got banged up (he’s expected to play, but check his status), and it’s clear he’s going to have to contend with DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick for targets.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Randall Cobb in shallow leagues: He’s back and finally healthy. Cobb slots in as a WR3 option for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.
ADD Kenneth Dixon in medium-sized leagues: His role is expanding, and Dixon flashed more upside than Gus Edwards this past week.
ADD Dallas Goedert in deep leagues: Goedert almost had an enormous game last week and is worth a look if you’re desperate at tight end.

QB streamers

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers: Entering their Monday night game, the Seahawks had surrendered multiple passing scores in all six games since their bye, including four straight with 20-plus fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. As is often the case, the numbers dip further when not playing at CenturyLink Field. Seattle owns our fifth-worst pass-rush grade on the season, and that’s an area Mullens can exploit.

DST streamers

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Mark Sanchez era appears to have been a brief one as he was benched in the third quarter after throwing two interceptions (with one being returned for a touchdown). Josh Johnson fared a bit better in what was basically garbage time but also had an interception. Streaming the DST unit facing the Redskins has been fantasy gold over the last four weeks as they have allowed 16 sacks, nine turnovers, and two defensive touchdowns.

Deeper dives

You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.

Long-term sleepers

Robert Foster, WR, Buffalo Bills: After the Bills released Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes last week, Foster had the chance to make his second career start. With 7 catches for 104 yards on 8 targets, he certainly took advantage.

Snaps, Pace, and Stats

Cardinals at Falcons: While this appears to be a chance for the nose-diving Falcons to feast on crippled Cardinals – and an early east coast kickoff for a zombified western team is a juicy spot for Atlanta – neither team boosts play volume. It has hurt the fantasy production of ancillary Falcons weapons, and presumably would do the same to the Cardinals if they had any.

Trade value chart

JuJu Smith-Schuster: Smith-Schuster saw his value rise this week, and it’s worth asking if he’s the Steelers wideout to own in dynasty and keeper leagues moving forward. He only just turned 22 (less than a month ago), and he’s built upon his impressive rookie campaign with a truly breakout sophomore season. He has 91 receptions, 1,234 yards and six scores with three games still to play.

Weather and venue adjustments

Buccaneers at Ravens: If there was ever a team to embrace playing in rainy conditions, it is the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens. Since Jackson took the helm of the Ravens’ offense in Week 11, they have run the ball on two thirds of their offensive plays. Only six other teams are north of a 50% run ratio over that same stretch, and only the Seahawks are within 10% of them.

RB committee report

Derrick Henry trending UP: Although Dion Lewis has been trending down for some time, no one can honestly say they foresaw Henry’s outburst against Jacksonville. And while it most certainly was an anomalous performance, the fact is that Henry was the only qualified RB to post a top-10 elusive rating in each of the last two seasons.
Peyton Barber trending DOWN: Barber has logged double-digit carries in nine straight games and continues to operate as Tampa Bay’s lead only viable early-down option. That he is still owned in almost 70% of ESPN leagues and was started in one out of four lineups – in a playoff matchup – feels quite a bit ludicrous.

DFS advice

First things first: We’ve introduced a new DFS piece, and it’s a doozy. Scott Barrett’s guide to all things DFS hits Week 15 from every DFS angle, taking you through the process of an expert as he prepares for the weekend. It’s a home run.

We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game).

Bargains

DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Denver Broncos: The biggest volume-per-dollar play on this slate is Hamilton, who is priced under 4K on DK. In Hamilton’s first extended action in Week 14, he was targeted nine times and caught seven receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: It’s that time of the year where the DFS slate is impacted by injuries, and with Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz unexpectedly ruled (likely) out midweek, that leaves Foles as a screaming bargain on both DK and FD at his price tag.

Locks

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Elliott is one of the surest bets on the entire slate, not just at the running back position. Elliott’s usage over the last four weeks is absurd. He’s averaging 32.5 touches per game in the last month and there are no signs the high usage is going to stop any time soon.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts: Ebron faces the Cowboys in Week 15, who have allowed five touchdowns to tight ends over the last six weeks. That bodes well for Ebron, who has 13 touchdowns in 13 games this year — most among all tight ends.

Stacks

Kirk Cousins, QB; Adam Thielen, WR; Vikings DST: A change in offensive playcaller boosted the Packers in Week 14 and we believe it will do the same for the Vikings in Week 15. A matchup against a middling Miami Dolphins defense that has allowed the 13th-most points to opposing quarterbacks also helps. We also love the fact this is back in Minnesota where the crowd could help produce some Ryan Tannehill turnovers if the Vikings jump out to a lead.

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