Fantasy football leagues are decided by bold moves. Oftentimes, that bold move is to start an unheralded player—chances are good that if you started Nick Foles last week, you won your matchup. But sometimes whom you sit is more important.
You need to know when to cut your losses and bench a high-round draft pick who isn’t working out. Here are a couple of those players who shouldn’t be starting for your fantasy squad if you can at all avoid it and some possible alternatives that you can plug-and-play.
Note: All fantasy points allowed stats are for standard ESPN leagues and can be found on ESPN.com. Likewise, all ownership percentages are for ESPN leagues.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan vs. Seattle Seahawks
Matt Ryan is a great quarterback, but you probably want to stay away from him if you can. He’s thrown seven interceptions in his last two games and is struggling without his two favorite receivers.
One good sign is that Roddy White is back on the practice field, but that doesn’t mean he’s definitely going to play this week. ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reports that the Atlanta Falcons are being patient with White and want to make sure he’s completely healthy.
Even with White back, the matchup is terrible.
Ryan gets the misfortune of facing the Seattle Seahawks and the Legion of Boom. You can bet that one reason White wants to get back on the field this week is because of his contemptuous relationship with Richard Sherman.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like a battle that White can win, and the entire Falcons receiving corps faces a difficult matchup.
The Seahawks are the second-worst fantasy matchup for quarterbacks, allowing only eight passing touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions. They also only give up 10.0 fantasy points per game.
A terrible matchup and Ryan’s recent struggles mean that he should be on your bench. Someone like Jake Locker (owned in 23 percent of leagues) or Nick Foles (owned in 37 percent of leagues) is more likely to score more points than Ryan this weekend.
Running Back: Ray Rice vs. Cincinnati Bengals
It’s never a comforting moment when you have to sit your first-round pick, but that’s what you should do this week. Part of it is an unfavorable matchup, but it’s mostly because Rice has been dreadful this year.
To be fair, the majority of the blame should go to his offensive line, which couldn’t create running lanes against a Pop Warner football team right now, but you don’t get fantasy credit for his terrible situation.
On top of all that, the Cincinnati Bengals are the fifth-worst fantasy matchup for running backs. They may be vulnerable without Geno Atkins and Rey Maualuga, but it’s not worth the risk of gambling on Rice.
Running back depth is limited, so you may need to keep him in your lineup—he may even be an adequate play in points-per-reception leagues.
Some sleepers are worth your while, such as Mike James (owned in 24 percent of leagues), Pierre Thomas (owned in 55 percent of leagues) and Donald Brown (owned in six percent of leagues).
Wide Receiver: Steve Smith vs. San Francisco 49ers
A number of high-priced receivers are on the sit list (e.g., Mike Wallace and Cecil Shorts), but Steve Smith is the one with the lowest ceiling this week.
He has only hit double-digit points once since Week 1, and he’s had a tough time racking up large yardage totals or finding the end zone. He only has three touchdowns on the season.
His matchup against the San Francisco 49ers doesn’t help matters. They’re allowing only 17.1 points per game to receivers (as a position group, not individually), and the game figures to be a battle on the ground anyway.
Smith is a risky play, and the payoff is unlikely to outweigh the cost of using a starting spot on him this week.
That spot would be better spent on somebody like Marvin Jones (owned in 56 percent of leagues), Eddie Royal (owned in 49 percent of leagues) or Riley Cooper (owned in 23 percent of leagues).
Your fantasy team needs you to make the right calls. Be bold and sit these players this weekend. Your front office will thank you after you win your week.