Fantasy football owners often make a proclamation around this time of the season: “I'm never starting (insert disappointing star) again!”
This season, it could be C.J. Spiller or Ray Rice; maybe Dwayne Bowe or Maurice Jones-Drew. Either way, fantasy owners are sick of the subpar results, especially if another guy they considered starting has a good game.
At a certain point, you can only “be patient” for so long, especially if you're sliding further and further down the standings. But, at the same time, do you really want to bench proven players for fliers? The key is deciding if a player has been “bad” as opposed to “disappointing.” There's a subtle difference, and it involves disregarding when a player was drafted. For instance, Jones-Drew and Rice rank 29th and 30th, respectively, among RBs. Spiller is 36th. On a game-by-game basis all have been inconsistent, but they're still “starting” flex players in 12-team leagues. They've certainly been disappointing, but they haven't been abject busts, even though it seems that way.
Bowe ranks 53rd among all WRs. For someone who hasn't had a bye yet, that's legitimately bad. He always has upside (just last week he had nine targets) and will likely improve, but if you're sick of starting Bowe, no one would blame you for finding a replacement.
Who you're subbing in is the other key. Don't bench a player just to bench him. This isn't real life, and you're not “sending a message” like a real coach would. You're just missing out on potential points. If you have a suitable replacement, then by all means make the move. But if you're sitting Rice to play a backup RB who might score, then you're managing mad, not smart.
But we're here to help you manage smart, so let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 7.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's Fantasy Mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
Apparently, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers don't need healthy receivers to light up fantasy score sheets. Ryan, playing without Julio Jones (foot) and Roddy White (ankle, hamstring), scored a season-high 27.7 points; Rodgers, playing without Randall Cobb (leg) and James Jones (knee), put up 29.6 fantasy points, his third-highest total of the season.
We know Ryan will be without Jones all season, but White is due back at some point, and the fact that the Falcons barely used TE Tony Gonzalez (4 targets) last week is ultimately a good sign for Ryan's overall value. He's not a must-start, but he should be more than capable in most matchups. Rodgers remains a must-start, even if TE Jermichael Finley (head/neck) joins Cobb on the IR. Jones should be back soon, and Jordy Nelson is a legit WR1. Jarrett Boykin also stepped up this week, so Rodgers will have plenty of passing options.
Notable Riser: Washington's Robert Griffin III looked better than he had all season, throwing for 298 yards while running for another 84. The real lesson here might be that the Bears' defense isn't a unit to be feared anymore, but it's still nice to see RGIII looking more like last year's model. A couple other mobile quarterbacks, Russell Wilson (@ARI) and Jake Locker (vs. SF), impressed last week in tough matchups, though Locker padded his stats in garbage time. Either way, his running ability makes him a worthwhile backup, especially if your starter hasn't had his bye yet.
Notable Faller: Tom Brady might be the best example of a disappointing star. After scoring just 7.1 points last week -- despite getting an extra quarter and the return of his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski -- Brady is now ranked 21st among QBs, right behind Locker, who missed two games. The Pats receiving corps has been snake-bitten by injuries, so Brady seems to have hit his low point, but he looked terrible on Sunday and it's tough to trust him as a starter. Other disappointments, such as Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, seem to have more upside.
Running back continues to be a war of attrition for fantasy owners. Last week, both Doug Martin (shoulder) and Arian Foster (hamstring) exited their respective games early, with Martin's injury possibly being season-ending.
If Martin is out, Mike James would take over. He isn't nearly as talented as Martin, and given Martin's relatively mediocre production so far, it's tough to imagine James having many big games. But a starter is a starter, so fantasy owners would be wise to grab James, who could do more damage as a receiver. Houston's backup, Ben Tate, suffered a rib injury, and if both him and Foster are out after Houston's Week 8 bye, it's unclear who would get the start.
Notable Riser: Chris Ivory was a popular preseason sleeper, but he started slowly, then hurt his hamstring. Now, it appears as if he's the Jets' feature back, running 34 times for 104 yards against the Patriots. The yards-per-carry wasn't good (3.1), but any back who gets around 20-plus touches has potential value. Ivory, Dallas' Joseph Randle (22 total touches in his starting debut) and the Giants' Peyton Hillis (23 touches in his season debut) aren't particularly explosive, but they're still capable RB2s while they're starting.
Notable Faller: The Dolphins came out of their bye week featuring Daniel Thomas, not Lamar Miller, more than ever. Thomas outcarried Miller 12 to nine and outgained him by 17 yards. This obviously isn't a good sign for Miller's future value. Perhaps the Dolphins had a specific gameplan for this game, but right now, Miller is a risky flex from week-to-week.
Another faller, despite gaining 95 yards on 19 carries, is Washington's Alfred Morris. For some reason, he was pulled twice around the goal line for Roy Helu, who converted two 3-yard TD runs. Chances are since it worked last week, this could be the norm for Washington. Morris is still an RB2, but it's unfortunate since he looked like a legit RB1 entering the season.
Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne tore an ACL on Sunday night -- obviously a big blow to the Colts' passing game. Both T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey should see an uptick in targets. Hilton had 11 last week, and Heyward-Bey had his best game of the season with 13.4 fantasy points. Heyward-Bey is worth a waiver claim, especially if he steps up the way Harry Douglas (20.9 points) and Boykin (16.3) did with their teams' top receivers out.
Similarly, plenty of other receivers stepped up in the absence of their normal QBs. Vincent Jackson (22 targets) continues to develop a strong rapport with rookie Mike Glennon. Both Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins had at least 8.9 fantasy points with Case Keenum under center. Kendall Wright (9 catches, 12 targets, 98 yards) kept up his solid showing even after Locker returned. After Jay Cutler (groin) got hurt, Josh McCown helped Alshon Jeffery to a 100-yard receiving game while also throwing often to Brandon Marshall. Only DeSean Jackson (21 yards) struggled with Philadelphia's backup QBs, but he still had eight targets, so there's still upside there.
Notable Riser: Whether it's his hamstring injury or something else, it seems like Miles Austin is being phased out in the Cowboys' offense. Rookie Terrance Williams continues to excel, catching six of seven targets for 71 yards and a TD. He's now scored in three straight games, and his explosiveness gives him plenty of upside every week. Dallas' other under-the-radar receiver, Cole Beasely, is also becoming a fantasy factor. He caught six of seven targets for 53 yards last week, and not only is he a PPR option, but he's also taking away some of the underneath/security-blanket throws that normally go to TE Jason Witten. Keep an eye on this going forward.
Notable Faller: The Pats WR corps clearly took a backseat to Gronkowski, who received 17 targets -- 10 more than both Aaron Dobson and Julian Edelman and 12 more than Kenbrell Thompkins. Until Danny Amendola (head) returns, it seems likely that Edelman will at least have some PPR value, but Gronkowski is clearly Brady's guy in this offense. Don't expect Dobson or Thompkins to be much more than desperation plays.
Jermichael Finley's head/neck injury could keep him out for the rest of the season, giving Andrew Quarless a chance to start. Quarless has flashed potential in the past, so he could have value going forward. Finley should be dropped in all leagues.
Similarly, Jimmy Graham (foot) looks like he'll be questionable for this week's game, which would make Ben Watson New Orleans' starter. Watson isn't nearly the type of athlete Graham is, so Graham's absence might actually benefit New Orleans' receivers more than the backup TE.
Notable Riser: Washington's Jordan Reed had been steadily rising on fantasy radars in recent weeks, but he truly broke out last Sunday, catching all nine targets for 134 yards and a TD. Griffin III didn't throw to TEs much last year, but clearly he's found something he likes in Reed. With the TE position becoming more lackluster this year, Reed immediately vaults to starter status.
Notable Faller: Chicago's Martellus Bennett managed a late score last week, but it was his only catch (out of just three targets) in what ended up being a shootout. It's possible that when Jay Cutler (groin) left the game at the end of the first half, Bennett's value went with him, as backup Josh McCown looked almost exclusively to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Cutler is expected to miss at least four weeks, which could be bad news for Bennett.
Panthers at Buccaneers
Stat to know: The Bucs have allowed at least eight fantasy points per game (FPPG) to D/STs in every contest this year, and four times they've allowed double-digits. The Panthers, who rank fourth overall in defensive fantasy points, are a great play.
Stumbler: RB DeAngelo Williams (Bucs have allowed just one 100-yard rushing game and zero rushing TDs to RBs.)