Never is the value of a name alone more apparent than in fantasy football. Former brilliance is emphasized over current production, simply because a player used to be great. With the playoffs well under way in most fantasy formats, that way of thinking is a one-way ticket to the consolation bracket.
For reference of this phenomenon, let's break out the oldest of fantasy football writer tropes: the blind player test. Here is a look at two running backs and how they've performed over the past quarter of the season:
Player A: 68 CAR, 210 YDS, 10 REC, 77 YDS (28 PTS in standard scoring)
Player B: 54 CAR, 218 YDS, 5 REC, 35 YDS, 4 TDS (48 PTS in standard scoring)
Player A was Ryan Mathews, who is owned in 100 percent of leagues. Player B? Bilal Powell, owned in 3.1 percent of leagues.
The best part of that scenario? Mathews isn't even on the droppables list.
Remember, these are guys that you can drop. I'm not advising that you absolutely must drop them in every format. Obviously, if you have William Powell or Larod Stephens-Howling on your roster, you're not going to drop Darren McFadden first.
Nonetheless, the following guys are on rosters in more than 95 percent of leagues despite being drop-worthy.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR, Arizona Cardinals)
I just want to fly to Arizona and reenact the most famous scene of Good Will Hunting with Fitzgerald. It's not your fault, Larry. It's not your fault.
While the Cardinals' quarterback situation may not be Fitzgerald's fault, it's all but eliminated his fantasy value. In the past four weeks, Fitzgerald has caught six passes for 67 yards. Not averaged. Those are his actual totals.
For that, you can thank the pu-pu platter known as Ryan Lindley and John Skelton. They have targeted teammates 37 times over the past four contests, but only completed 16.2 percent of those attempts.
I don't need a percentage to prove how bad Skelton and Lindley have been. But with Kevin Kolb's status very much in doubt for the remainder of the season, Fitzgerald is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
Even so, there is only one player available in most leagues that make dropping Fitzgerald worthwhile: Chargers receiver Danario Alexander. The third-year wideout is available in 72.8 percent of leagues despite gaining more than 70 receiving yards in each of the past five weeks, scoring five touchdowns in those contests and emerging as Philip Rivers' top target.
Obviously, if you have someone like Rod Streater on the bench, drop him and keep Fitzgerald on your roster just in case returns to form. However, if Fitzgerald is the only droppable guy sitting on the bench, there's no reason to hesitate.
Best Replacements: Danario Alexander
Antonio Gates (TE, San Diego Chargers)
Unlike Fitzgerald, Gates' descent out of fantasy relevance mostly comes from a steep decline in skills. At 32 years old, it seems like the debilitating injuries that have marred the past few seasons have finally caught up and now Gates is settling into a second-tier role in the back half of his career.
For fantasy owners, that means Gates will get a roster spot more out of name value than actual production going forward. He's scored just four touchdowns on the season and already has eight games with four or fewer fantasy points in standard scoring.
Contrast that with Brandon Myers, who has emerged as a vital force in the Raiders' passing offense and is available in 64.9 percent of leagues. He had just one reception for seven yards last week against Denver, but that was just the second time since Week 8 he had fewer than five fantasy points.
And Myers isn't the only player. Guys like Dallas Clark, Martellus Bennett and Greg Olsen are all available about half of leagues that should be better than Gates down the stretch.
Best Replacements: Brandon Myers, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, Dallas Clark
Darren McFadden (RB, Oakland Raiders)
McFadden's reaggravation of his ankle injury scared most owners, but he's expected to play in Week 15. However, just because he's expected to be in the lineup doesn't suddenly make McFadden an effective running back again.
Including last week's game against the Broncos, McFadden has rushed for fewer than 60 yards in six of his nine appearances. His 13 receptions in Week 1 saved his value that week and a touchdown did the same last Thursday, but McFadden has been a human cocktail of ineffective and injured all season.
With the way Oakland continues to fall behind early in games, that isn't likely to change. The Raiders do play the Chiefs this week, so you may be tempted to give McFadden one last chance to shine.
However, Powell and David Wilson are guys that are more of a guarantee to be effective. Remember, this is an Oakland offense that has only had a running back carry the ball 20 or more times once all season.
Like Fitzgerald, only drop McFadden for the best possible running back waiver additions. But, if you have to, drop him and move on before McFadden sinks your squad.
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