NFL Fantasy Football Week 13: Last-Minute Advice for Setting Your Roster

Jim McCormick@@_JimmyMcCormickFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2015

NFL Fantasy Football Week 13: Last-Minute Advice for Setting Your Roster

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    It wasn't so long ago when fantasy drafts were fresh, and our rosters were stocked and stable. When that Eddie Lacy and Dez Bryant combo felt glorious. It's now December, with every player among the top 10 in ESPN drafts this summer proving injured or disappointing, save for Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    Past the big names, we find rising prospects like the Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson. Not only does Johnson lead all rookies with eight total touchdowns, he's already consumed 48 percent of the team's tailback targets this season and is poised for as many as 25 touches on Sunday in St. Louis versus a Rams defense that has ceded the third-most receiving yards to tailbacks this season. From the waiver wire to workhorse, playoff hopes will be decided by the rising rookie. 

    On the doorstep of the fantasy postseason, please join us in discussing the key undervalued commodities, such as streaming defenses and waiver-wire wonders, as well as the major injuries impacting this specific week's market. As always, feel free to post your lineup conundrums and questions for Week 13 in the comments below. 

Game-Time Decisions: Eifert Likely out for Cincinnati

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    Injuries can strike at random and without reason in the risk-laden NFL landscape, while fantasy managers are left to navigate the questionable calls the NFL offers each week.

    This week we find the league leader in touchdowns proving doubtful to play, as the Cincinnati Bengals' Tyler Eifert hasn't practiced this week and is likely out for this week's Ohio battle versus the Cleveland Browns, per Coley Harvey of ESPN. 

    While the Bengals' roster doesn't offer a viable tight end option to consider, with meaningful targets likely to trend towards A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, we do like several key waiver wire assets at the position.

    Let's delve into this week's most meaningful injury scenarios. 

    Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears

    Bennett is on track to return to the field this week, per ESPN's Jeff Dickerson. Any potential team drama, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, could be considered another fade angle to consider given Bennett's middling production pattern of late. We still find Bennett in the starting tier at the position, however, given he's still sixth among NFL tight ends with 7.4 targets per game this season. 

    Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints

    Snead is listed as doubtful by the team, per Evan Woodberry of The Times Picayune, opening up increased interest in tight end Ben Watson as the key between-the-painted-numbers asset for the passing game. 

    Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Hurns is tied for sixth among NFL wideouts with seven scores on the season but has been ruled out with a concussion, per Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union. It's difficult to project much upside for Marqise Lee now that he's starting, given such a lack of rapport with Blake Bortles, but we certainly find increased interest in tight end Julius Jones, who could feast on the Ravens' soft secondary given a share of Hurns' vertical routes. 

    Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins

    The Dolphins have ruled Matthews out for this week, affording rising rookie DeVante Parker increased exposure and awesome upside. Even if you wouldn't start him this week, stashing Parker for the playoffs is an ideal move. 

    Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowksi, New England Patriots

    Jim McBride of the Boston Globe suggests signs point towards Amendola proving active versus the Philadelphia Eagles' porous secondary. Get the diminutive dynamo ready in all PPR formats, while "Gronk's" investors can possibly look to Scott Chandler in his place as the team's red-zone understudy at the position. 

Waiver-Wire Wonders for Week 13:

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    Late in the season, as rosters erode, it's helpful to identify some widely available players with the potential to provide instant production from the waiver wire.

    While these aren't stars or consistent plays, here are some of the better bargain buys in the league this weekend.

    Quarterback Values 

    Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

    Pushed to the waiver wire after sporadic and underwhelming production for much of the season, Tannehill could post efficient numbers versus the Baltimore Ravens' suspect secondary, as the team has ceded the second-most fantasy points to opposing arms in ESPN leagues this season. Even as a new offensive agenda could trend run-heavy, the matchup metrics (Baltimore is sound versus the run) suggest game script could still favor the passing phase. 

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets

    The Giants have afforded opposing arms the fifth-most fantasy points per game in ESPN leagues, while home settings on the "road" offers "Fitz" rare stability among the widely available signal-callers. 

    Running Back Bargains

    Shaun Draughn, San Francisco 49ers

    We rarely ever see a true every-snap back, but Draughn played on every offensive snap in Week 12 for the 49ers, per Football Outsiders' sortable snap index. Still available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN leagues, we find particular interest in his services in PPR formats, as Draughn has 17 receptions over the past three outings.

    Antonio Andrews, Tennessee Titans

    Rookie David Cobb simply isn't ready to consume a meaningful share of the duties, with Andrews poised for double-digit touches and the leading goal-line role. It's not pretty, but you'll take it in Week 13.

       

    Waiver Wideouts

    DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins

    Rishard Matthews is ailing, and Parker is coming off a career outing, suggesting he can be trusted as a starting asset in deeper formats facing the Ravens' amazingly porous pass defense. 

    Dontrelle Inman, San Diego Chargers

    The matchup metrics are troubling, as the Broncos have proven stingy to receivers, but with Chris Harris reportedly shadowing Stevie Johnson, Inman could be the heavy target for Philip Rivers on Sunday.  

    Tight End Streamers

    Scott Chandler, New England Patriots

    ESPN's fantasy football projections suggest Chandler is poised for the fourth-most fantasy points at the position this week. In place of an ailing Rob Gronkowski, we can find rare value in this plug-and-play tight end given a rich red-zone role for the Patriots. The one fade angle would be the Eagles' success in defending the position, but the price is still truly right for daily and redraft usage. 

    Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons

    Tamme's usage has proven sporadic, but we've also seen him consume a strong target share when Leonard Hankerson has been hurt. With the receiver still ailing, we like Tamme as a pivot for investors in Gronkowski or the Cincinnati Bengals' Tyler Eifert. 

Streaming of Vegas: Let the Desert Help with Identifying Fantasy Defenses

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    How can we leverage the point-projection system Vegas and offshore sports books produce each week in seeking streaming D/ST options? The foundation of the idea has us liking favorites in games with point totals under 46.5. 

    The results showed favorites in games below this threshold ended up in the top 10 in ESPN fantasy leagues 49 percent of the time.

    Here is a simple breakdown of the quadrants for this concept: 

    • Favorites in games with a point total under 46.5: 49 percent in the top 10 of fantasy D/ST units.
    • Favorites in games with a point total over 46.5: 38 percent top-10 rate. 
    • Underdogs in games with a point total under 46.5: 29 percent top-10 rate. 
    • Underdogs in games over a point total over 46.5: 21 percent top-10 rate. 

    We can also use these trends to help identify a potentially productive under-the-radar D/ST unit for Week 13. 

    The Chicago Bears host the fantasy-friendly San Francisco 49ers, as D/STs have averaged the fifth-most fantasy points versus the fallible 49ers this season in ESPN leagues. As home favorites with a low implied-point total around 42 points, per Odds Shark,  the requisite ingredients for a strong streaming defense are present for Vic Fangio's emerging and aggressive defense. 

    The Tennessee Titans are slight dogs in Jacksonville, while this is the rare game where we can appreciate both teams given friendly fantasy allowances to the position for both teams. The better play based on Vegas and matchup trends, however, is the Jags, as the Titans have ceded the third-most sacks in the league. With a point total at 43 points per Odds Shark as of press time, we find upside in the Jags in daily and deeper fantasy formats.