Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 17: Examining Fringe Fantasy Football Flex Starters

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2019

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) runs against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Only one week remains in the 2019 NFL regular season. This means that if you're still alive in your season-long league, you're probably playing for a championship. Unfortunately, you might not be able to play all of your championship-caliber players.

With it being the final week of the regular season, several teams are likely to rest starters. The Baltimore Ravens, for example, have clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed and have already stated that they won't play fantasy studs like Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram.

"It's not a hard decision really, if you sit back and think about it," Harbaugh said, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

The Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings are also locked into their playoff slots.

This means you may have to rely on some second-tier starters to bring home a fantasy title. Here, we'll examine which of these fringe starters are worth playing—and which should be avoided—in Week 17.


Start 'Em

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots

Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns

Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Greg Ward, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Jacob Hollister, TE, Seattle Seahawks

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys


Start 'Em: Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns

As the backup to NFL rushing leader Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt is dependent on his PPR value and on his matchups. Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, for example, he caught four passes but had just 41 total yards—not the sort of value you want in championship week.

This week, however, Hunt has a favorable matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati ranks dead-last against the run and 21st against the pass. However, the Bengals also rank 8.1 yards per reception, second-most in the league. This means that if Hunt gets his hands on a few passes, he's likely to put up some respectable numbers.

The last time Hunt faced the Bengals, he finished with two receptions, 68 total yards and a touchdown. He should have a similar outing in Week 17.


Start 'Em: Greg Ward, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Perez/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles have been short on healthy wide receivers for a large portion of the season, which has allowed Greg Ward to emerge over the past few weeks. He's caught at least four passes in each of the past three weeks and is coming off a four-catch, 71-yard game against the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps most importantly, he's earning the trust of his teammates.

"He's a crafty route runner and a competitor," safety Malcolm Jenkins said, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

The Eagles may have to rely on Ward even more in Week 17, as star tight end Zach Ertz is dealing with a fractured rib.

"He's hurt pretty bad," a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.


Sit 'Em

Patrick Laird, RB, Miami Dolphins

Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Detroit Lions

Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers

Albert Wilson, WR, Miami Dolphins

Ted Ginn Jr., WR, New Orleans Saints

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings


Sit 'Em: Albert Wilson, WR, Miami Dolphins

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Fantasy managers who have streamed receivers into the postseason have been able to rely on Miami Dolphins' Albert Wilson in recent weeks. Last week against Cincinnati, for example, Wilson caught seven passes for 79 yards. The week before, he caught five for 59.

This isn't a week to lean on Wilson, however, as he'll be facing the New England Patriots in Foxborough.

The Patriots rank second in the NFL in pass defense, allowing an average of just 170.7 yards per game through the air. They've also produced 45 sacks and 25 interceptions on the season.

This is a game New England has to have, too, as a loss could potentially push the Patriots out of the AFC's No. 2 seed. Expect them to provide quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with a miserable afternoon, which will, in turn, limit Wilson's production.


Sit 'Em: Bo Scarbrough, RB, Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions host the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 in a game that means nothing for Detroit and everything for Green Bay—the Packers are still in the hunt for the NFC's No. 1 seed.

Still, this doesn't mean every Lions player should be avoided in fantasy. While the Packers defense has been good in stretches, it's also been inconsistent overall. Green Bay has been particularly inconsistent against the run, allowing an average of 116.7 rushing yards per game.

If you're going to stream a Lions back this week, though, Bo Scarbrough is not the one to pick. While Scarbrough was an admirable starter during Kerryon Johnson's absence, Johnson returned in Week 16 and led Lions backs with 11 touches (Scarbrough had eight).

Detroit is likely to use a committee approach in Week 17, which means neither Scarbrough nor Johnson should be considered a safe start. However, Johnson is likely to be the more productive of the two.