Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 18: Examining Fringe Fantasy Football Flex Starters

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2022

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 18: Examining Fringe Fantasy Football Flex Starters

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    The final week of the NFL regular season has arrived. While many season-long fantasy leagues are already over, some larger leagues will still be going strong as the non-playoff teams bid adieu to 2021.

    Unfortunately, managers may not have all of their stars available. Teams regularly rest starters in the final week, either in anticipation of the postseason or because there's nothing left to play for. The Cincinnati Bengals, for example, may think about resting quarterback Joe Burrow, who suffered a knee injury late in Week 17.

    "We haven't gotten too deep in conversations," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said of possibly resting players, per Mike Petraglia of the Jungle Roar podcast.

    The bottom line is that it's always smart to have a backup plan during the final week, even if that plan involves a fringe starter.

    Here, we'll dive into some of those fringe fantasy starters—those rostered between 30-80 percent of Yahoo and/or ESPN leagues, according to FantasyPros. We'll dive into both options to use and options to avoid in Week 18.

    All picks are based on points-per-reception (PPR) scoring.

Start 'Em: Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    If you haven't watched the New Orleans Saints over the past few weeks, you might dismiss quarterback Taysom Hill as a fantasy option.

    The 31-year-old has played well enough, though, and the Saints have won their last three starts with him under center.

    The benefit of playing Hill in fantasy is that he adds rushing yards to the equation. He ran for 45 last week against the Carolina Panthers while also passing for 222 yards and a touchdown.

    Expect an even better performance out of the BYU product this week, as the Saints battle for a playoff spot. They need help—the San Francisco 49ers must lose—but they also need to beat the rival Atlanta Falcons to get in. Both New Orleans and San Francisco are playing in the late-afternoon window, so don't expect starters to sit in this one.

    The Panthers, by the way, have surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The Falcons have given up the sixth-most.

    If you're concerned about a starter like Burrow, Aaron Rodgers or Jalen Hurts sitting in Week 18, Hill should be a go-to fallback option. He might even be available off the waiver wire, as he's rostered in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues and 50 percent of ESPN leagues.

Sit 'Em: Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    The Saints' playoff situation is precisely why this isn't the time to suddenly count on Falcons running back Mike Davis.

    New Orleans has had a couple of bad outings in run defense—it surrendered 242 rushing yards to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11—but no team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs.

    The Saints will be all-in to win, and that doesn't bode well for the Falcons rushing attack.

    Davis, meanwhile, has fallen completely out of favor in the Atlanta offense in recent weeks. He's seen fewer than 10 touches in each of his past three games, and while he did have a touchdown last week, he's only seen three targets and two receptions during that span.

    The 28-year-old has topped 50 rushing yards only once this season, and he's topped 80 scrimmage yards only once.

    Davis is rostered in 50 percent of both ESPN and Yahoo leagues, so many of you do still have him on the bench. However, there simply isn't enough upside to justify a start in this tricky matchup.

    If you're going to trust a Falcons back this week, it had better be Cordarrelle Patterson, who had six catches and 126 receiving yards the last time these two teams met. Even then, I'd be skeptical because the 30-year-old has faded down the stretch.

Start 'Em: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    The fact that Amon-Ra St. Brown is available on the waiver wire in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues and 23 percent of ESPN leagues is a clear sign that some managers are operating on autopilot late in the season.

    The Detroit Lions wideout isn't going to challenge for Offensive Rookie of the Year or anything, but he's been fantastic down the stretch. He's also managed to produce regardless of who has been under center for his team.

    Over his last five games, the 22-year-old has averaged 11 targets, eight receptions and 90 yards. He's found the end zone in four of those five games and scored twice (once rushing) in Week 17.

    The Green Bay Packers have hinted that they're not going to rest starters, but with the No. 1 seed already locked up, it's hard to envision them playing through the entire game. They have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, but I'd expect mostly backups in the second half.

    Even if the Packers played their starters all game, St. Brown should have a decent floor. The Lions passing attack now flows through the rookie, and his PPR upside alone is enough to warrant a flex start.

Sit 'Em: Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    I like Courtland Sutton the player. As a fantasy option, I liked him a lot better early in the season when the Denver Broncos offense had some semblance of potency. Over the past nine games, he has caught more than three passes only once.

    Perhaps this is why the once-rising fantasy star is now only rostered in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues and 67 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Denver will host the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, which is a problem. The Chiefs still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but they need a win and a Tennessee Titans loss in Week 18. With the Chiefs playing on Saturday and Tennessee playing on Sunday, there's virtually no chance Kansas City rests its top players.

    While the Chiefs were torched by Bengals wideout Ja'Marr Chase in Week 17, Sutton isn't Chase—and quarterback Drew Lock certainly isn't Joe Burrow. While Kansas City has surrendered the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing receivers, this isn't likely to be a breakthrough game for Sutton.

    When these two teams last met, Sutton had two catches for 15 yards. Don't expect a ton more than that on Saturday.

Start 'Em: Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears

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    Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

    Fringe tight ends usually won't get the blood pumping for fantasy managers, but they can be necessary. If you're worried that a player like Dallas Goedert or Darren Waller won't be available, Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet is worth having on standby.

    Rostered in only 32 percent of Yahoo leagues and 36 percent of ESPN leagues, the 22-year-old might even be available on the waiver wire.

    Kmet is coming off a modest three-catch, 25-yard outing, but he's seen at least five targets in each of the last six games. With his role in the offense expanding, he has become a fine emergency option. When he last played the Minnesota Vikings, by the way, he caught six passes for 71 yards.

    Minnesota is on tap this week, and while it has been decent at defending tight ends, it hasn't been great. The Vikings have allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points to the position this season.

    Don't expect a Travis Kelce-like outing here, but 10-plus points is a very reasonable expectation.


    *Fantasy roster information and points allowed from FantasyPros. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.