Fantasy football Week 13 preview

Fantasy owners already know who their must-start players are, but everyone has a few decisions to make when it comes to setting a lineup. We’re here to help with those tough decisions.

Each week this space will be dedicated to identifying whom you should start or sit for your upcoming fantasy matchups.

Start

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers — Rivers has had only three subpar games this season and faces the Buccaneers this week. They are 20th in points allowed to quarterbacks. Rivers has a nice fantasy playoff schedule; none of the defenses he faces are better than 20th in points allowed to his position.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks — It’s tough to tell you to start him for the second straight week after he threw up a dud against the Buccaneers. He’ll be at home this time, facing a shorthanded Panthers defense that is 25th in points allowed to quarterbacks.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is pressured by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during the first half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is pressured by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during the first half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions — He faces the Saints, which are middle of the road in points allowed to quarterbacks. They give up 271 yards per game and have only made seven interceptions all year.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers — He’s turning into a classic example of a good fantasy player that isn’t great at leading his team to victory. In four of his six starts he’s rushed for at least 50 yards. He’s thrown at least one TD in every game he’s played. A start against the Bears should be productive.

Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Theo Riddick, RB, Lions — Make sure his ankle is good to go because he has a great matchup with the Saints. It should be a high scoring affair and that’s great for fantasy production.

Jordan Howard, RB, Bears — Any decent running back who gets at least 16 touches in a game should start against the 49ers.

Matt Forte, RB, Jets — I haven’t given him much credit this season, mostly because of a poor stretch of production from Week 3 through Week 6. Since then he’s turned it up a bit. He’ll get back on track against the Colts after last week’s hiccup against the Patriots.

New York Jets running back Matt Forte (22) runs the ball against the New England Patriots during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New York Jets running back Matt Forte (22) runs the ball against the New England Patriots during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos — The amount of touches he gets makes him a solid play nearly every week. His opponent, the Jaguars, are ranked in the bottom half in points allowed to running backs.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals — He had a season-low four targets last week. Expect him to bounce back against Washington.

Michael Thomas, WR, Saints — The Saints are at home and I’d expect almost all of Drew Brees’ targets to have a good day against the Lions in a high-scoring game.

Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown as E.J. Gaines #33 of the Los Angeles Rams defends during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 27, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown as E.J. Gaines #33 of the Los Angeles Rams defends during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 27, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs — He’s been targeted at least five times in each of his last six games. He’s got a good matchup with the Falcons and he’s a threat to go the distance with every touch.

Sit

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars — Bortles has been solid in four of his last five games, but you don’t want to start him against the Broncos.

Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles — He’s been serviceable in his last two games, but I don’t see him having much success at Cincinnati. He has two touchdown passes against five interceptions in his last four weeks.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants — Manning’s only had two good road games out of five this year. One was the first game of the season and the other was last week against the Browns. He’s on the road this week to face the Steelers who are seventh in points allowed to quarterbacks.

Corey Lemonier #52 of the Cleveland Browns sacks Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Corey Lemonier #52 of the Cleveland Browns sacks Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers — Cam Newton taking short-yardage touchdowns away from Stewart combined with a matchup with the Seahawks makes the running back a weak start.

Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins — His best games have been against subpar defenses. This week he faces the Cardinals, who are second best at limiting running backs.

Rashad Jenning, RB, Giants — He’s got a good matchup, but the Steelers should lead for most of the game, cutting on rushing opportunities.

Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars — A murderer’s row of matchups begins this week as Robinson faces the Broncos. The next three weeks will be tough.

Jacksonville Jaguars' Allen Robinson (15) catches a pass as Buffalo Bills' Corey White (30) defends during the first half of NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Jacksonville Jaguars’ Allen Robinson (15) catches a pass as Buffalo Bills’ Corey White (30) defends during the first half of NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins— He’s on a two-game scoring streak, but I expect that to end as he faces the ninth best team at limiting wideouts.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers — Before last week he hadn’t scored in six straight games. Facing the Seahawks will bring him back down to earth again.

Fantasy football mock draft before dress rehearsal week

It’s dress rehearsal week for NFL teams so we should get a better look at the talent available for upcoming fantasy drafts. Before a majority of those games kicked off, I decided to take another look at where players are going in a mock draft. With a better idea of players average draft positions (ADP), I think I assembled a high value team. There were a couple of missteps along the way, though.

You can see my first mock draft here and my second one here. Here’s what I ended up with this time around, drafting in a 12-team standard league.

  • Round (overall pick)–Player, pos., team
  • 1st (8)–DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
  • 2nd (17)–Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
  • 3rd (32)–Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
  • 4th (41)–Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
  • 5th (56)–Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
  • 6th (65)–Drew Brees, QB, Saints
  • 7th (80)–Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars
  • 8th (89)–Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
  • 9th (104)–Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
  • 10th (113)–Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars
  • 11th (128)–DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders
  • 12th (137)–Panthers Defense/special teams
  • 13th (152)–Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
  • 14th (161)–Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
  • 15th (176)–Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
  • 16th (185)–Chris Boswell, K, Steelers

My first four picks went as well as could be expected. I took DeAndre Hopkins with the eighth pick and he’s going one spot higher in most drafts. Ezekiel Elliott was taken seventh, allowing me to snag Hopkins.

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) keeps his balance after a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Houston, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) keeps his balance after a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Houston, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Jamaal Charles was available at No. 17 because someone picking 16th reached for Doug Martin, even though he’s normally taken around the 25th spot.

Taking Keenan Allen with the 32nd pick was very nice since that’s about 10 spots lower than his ADP. Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery and Amari Cooper went ahead of him.

Latavius Murray was my fourth pick, taken six spots after his ADP. He’s expected to do it all for Oakland so I felt comfortable having taken two good WR1s and a proven RB1.

My biggest mistake came in selecting Emmanuel Sanders nearly 20 spots before his ADP. A minute goes by fast so make sure you have the appropriate amount of windows open while drafting online. I missed out on Andrew Luck, Michael Floyd, Frank Gore and Ben Roethlisberger.

Drew Brees and Allen Hurns made me feel better in the next two rounds. Brees was available six spots after his ADP while Hurns was available 20 spots after his. Hurns also started a run of Jaguars for me. Before you judge, let me explain.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns (88) makes a catch for a 24-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns (88) makes a catch for a 24-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Chris Ivory was too good to pass up in the eighth round as he was available 25 (!) spots lower than his ADP. He’s been going as high as the third round. I took Julius Thomas in the 10th round because the tight end pool was getting pretty shallow.

Sandwiched between Ivory and Thomas was rookie Michael Thomas, who is on my sleepers list. I may have reached a bit, but he’s gone as high as the sixth round in some drafts. If he pans out as a WR2, I’ve got the QB-WR link with Brees.

DeAndre Washington serves two purposes as the 128th pick. He’s a handcuff for Murray but could carve out a role for himself as a third-down option.

 

De Andre Washington #33 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
De Andre Washington #33 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

With the Panthers defense slipping to 137th, I decided to fill a starting spot with a top-four defense.

After taking Derek Carr at the 152nd spot, a whopping 48 spots lower than his ADP, I took another shot at a sleeper, selecting Tyler Boyd. He’s gone as high as the sixth round, but don’t take him before the 11th. His ADP is early in the 12th.

With my final pick, disregarding the kicker, I decided to go with a steadying influence in Jason Witten. If Thomas turns out to be a bust, I’ll have insurance.

Other notes and trends:

  • DeMarco Murray is clearly on the rise. He went 90th overall in my first mock but leaped to the 37th pick in this one.
  • Jamaal Charles is nearly falling to the middle of the second round. Don’t be afraid to take him late in the first.
  • Alshon Jeffery continues to hold onto second-round status, but injury concerns could cause him to slip to the third.
  • Don’t take Carlos Hyde in the third round or earlier. Either Murray is a better option.
  • The top three Cardinals receivers all went within eight spots of each other, in the late fifth and early sixth rounds.
  • Tyrod Taylor is a sleeper, but someone drafted him in early in the seventh round when he likely would have been available in the 10th.

Fantasy sleepers and lottery tickets

These next two weekends are the busiest in terms of fantasy drafts. It’s time to talk sleepers and lottery tickets.

Sleepers are those players that aren’t really on anyone’s radar, but can come through for you in the late rounds of your draft. Sleepers are all about finding that player who has the potential to significantly out-perform his draft position. You’re not drafting them to be your starters, but you can hope they’ll work their way into your lineup sooner rather than later.

Lottery tickets are players who, frankly, need the starter in front of them to go down with an injury or demotion in order to be productive.

Here’s a look at some of the potentially most productive sleepers and lottery tickets.

Looking for sleepers and lottery tickets for your fantasy football draft? Here are six possibilities for 2016 (clockwise, from top left): Bill quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Falcons backup running back Tevin Coleman, Rams receiver Tavon Austin, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas and Bears receiver Kevin White.
Looking for sleepers and lottery tickets for your fantasy football draft? Here are six possibilities for 2016 (clockwise, from top left): Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Falcons backup running back Tevin Coleman, Rams receiver Tavon Austin, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas and Bears receiver Kevin White.

SLEEPERS

Kevin White, WR, Bears: He had high expectations before a stress fracture caused him to miss his entire rookie season. He’ll be Chicago’s No. 2 receiver behind Alshon Jeffery, who many fear might not hold up due to his soft tissue injury history. White’s been going around the eighth round in mock drafts, so he could be a WR3/WR4 that produces like a WR2 if things pan out.

Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: There are quality receivers in New Orleans, but Thomas could end up being worth a later-round pick if he continues to impress like he did in his first preseason game — four catches for 67 yards, though just one catch for five yards in his second game. He’s being drafted in the middle of the 10th round, so if he’s around at that point, you might as well snag him.

Tavon Austin, WR, Rams: I’m opening myself up for ridicule with this one, but he totaled over 900 yards of offense and had nine touchdowns last season. He’ll be nobody’s first, second or even third option, but it looks like he finally started to find ways to contribute last year. The Rams will need to lean heavy on Todd Gurley and find ways to continue to get the ball into Austin’s hands in a variety of ways. Going typically in the 11th round, you can afford to take a flyer on this guy.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati: Another rookie that could end up contributing meaningful numbers. He’s had three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown so far this preseason. With little reason to believe in Brandon LaFell as a solid No. 2, Boyd could end up being A.J. Green’s lightly covered counterpart. He could be a steal in the 12th round.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) catches a 12-yard touchdown pass as Detroit Lions defensive back Tavon Wilson (32) defends in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) catches a 12-yard touchdown pass as Detroit Lions defensive back Tavon Wilson (32) defends in the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Detroit, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Sammie Coates, WR, Steelers: He could end up filling the role vacated by Martavis Bryant, who’s suspended this season. Markus Wheaton has had ample opportunity to be the second option behind Antonio Brown, but has been passed up multiple times. Coates has been getting drafted around the 11th round, but you might even be able to get him in the 14th.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills: With an ADP around the 10th round, he could be a nice insurance policy for whichever starter you pick before that. He accounted for 24 touchdowns and more than 3,500 yards last season while missing two games.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: He’s been pretty consistent his entire career, gaining at least 700 yards every year after his rookie season. If you want to carry a second tight end, he could be had in later rounds. It could be one final solid season from the tight end and a healthy Tony Romo.

Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers: Even with Doug Martin’s resurgent season, Sims had more than 1,000 yards of total offense. He’s getting drafted early in the ninth round and could be a nice flex player even with Martin as the lead back.

LOTTERY TICKETS

Tim Hightower, RB, Saints: He was one of the best running backs at the end of last year, gaining 456 total yards and scoring four touchdowns in the final four games. A pick in the 14th round could end up winning you the lottery.

Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks: Thomas Rawls was impressive last season, but 583 of his 803 rushing yards came in just four games. Michael has looked good in the preseason and might just need an opportunity. He’s going in the 10th round, but might be around in the 12th.

Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael is tackled by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

DeAndre Washington, RB, Raiders: Latavius Murray should be used heavily in Oakland, but Washington has shown flashes in the preseason. He could carve out a nice role for himself, but if Murray goes down, then he could really shine. His ADP is in the 11th, so it shouldn’t be too tough landing this potential lottery ticket.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: It was odd that Atlanta drafted him a year after taking Devonta Freeman. Freeman then went on to have a great year. I’m not sold on Freeman duplicating his early success last season. He rushed for more than 80 yards just twice in the final eight games. He scored just four touchdowns in that span. Coleman should be available in the middle of the ninth round.

NFL rookies likely to make an immediate impact

Rookies always make an impact in fantasy football and if you make a smart pick on a first-year player he could help you get over on your fantasy competition. Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Amari Cooper were big contributors last season as rookies. Odell Beckham Jr. probably won a championship for some of you the year before as a rookie for the Giants. Here’s a look at some new talent that will make an early impact.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: This list has to start with Zeke. The buzz around him leading up to the draft increased daily and the Cowboys eschewed conventional wisdom to select what they must think is a special player. He has all the traits you want in an every-down back. He’s tough, with good size and has the speed to break off long runs. He can even catch the ball well out of the backfield. Add to that the fact he’ll be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the game and you could see why he could put up big numbers. The biggest obstacle to him impacting the game early on is the fact that he’s in a crowded backfield. Darren McFadden is still in town, and he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time since 2010 last year. But it was just his second time playing all 16 games. Add to that, Alfred Morris was signed as a free agent and Lance Dunbar is expected to fill a third-down role. That’s got to show how much the Cowboys think of Elliott, given that there’s barely room in the backfield. We think he’ll be the lead back early on and put up the best numbers of any rookie this season.

Ezekiel Elliott has all the attributes you want in a running back. He could play every down if the Cowboys trust him early on. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Ezekiel Elliott has all the attributes you want in a running back. He could play every down if the Cowboys trust him early on. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings: With a young quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, you’ll want a receiver who can win 50/50 balls. Treadwell is that kind of player, drawing comparisons to guys like DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has produced with no-name qbs and Treadwell actually has a decent one in the backfield. We think he’ll produce the biggest numbers of rookie wideouts.

Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins: If anyone has a shot to be better than Treadwell as a rookie, it’s Doctson. He’ll be playing with the best quarterback of the rookie receivers on this list in Kirk Cousins. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson will hold the WR1 and WR2 spots, but Jackson has missed eight games over the last two seasons and Garcon will be entering his ninth season.

Josh Doctson of TCU holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #22 overall by the Washington Redskins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Josh Doctson of TCU holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #22 overall by the Washington Redskins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Corey Coleman, WR, Browns: He’s obviously in a bad place to win, but with the Browns needing lots of help at receiver, he should end up getting the lion’s share of targets. With no proven quarterback in town, his outlook isn’t great, but we could see him contributing to your team in your stars’ bye week or against a good matchup.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: A.J. Green will be on the opposite side of the field and all Boyd will have to do is beat out Brandon LaFell, a player who has only caught more than 50 passes just once in five seasons. If Boyd can step up, he could start bringing in WR2-type numbers. With Green as the big-play threat, Boyd could fit in nicely as a possession receiver.

Derrick Henry, RB Titans: He’ll backup DeMarco Murray, but we just don’t trust Murray to stay healthy all season given that he’s done so just once in his five-year career. Henry should make an impact even if Murray is healthy because the Titans should run a lot.

Will Fuller, WR, Texans: His main role with Houston will be to free up DeAndre Hopkins by running off defenders. But that doesn’t mean he won’t hit the big play occasionally. He’s got the speed to run by anyone, though his hands are a bit of a liability. He won’t be a WR1 or WR2, but he could end up as a flex alternative if the Texans face a bad secondary that gives up the big play every once in a while.

Will Fuller will stretch the field for the Texans, but he's got to get better at catching the ball. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Will Fuller will stretch the field for the Texans, but he’s got to get better at catching the ball. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks: Though Thomas Rawls was awesome last season, he’ll have more pressure to perform. Prosise’s value is in his pass-catching ability, but if Rawls struggles to perform as the starter, keep an eye out. We think Prosise is the logical handcuff to Rawls. The Seahawks must not be too confident in Rawls since they drafted three running backs.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: If Victor Cruz has trouble coming back from injury, Shepard could find himself with WR2 numbers. Even if Cruz ends up bouncing back, Shepard can do some real damage in the slot. You can’t reach on him, but after you’ve got your top two receivers, feel free to go speculating.

Sterling Shepard could provide some useful fantasy numbers if Victor Cruz struggles to come back from injury. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Sterling Shepard could provide some useful fantasy numbers if Victor Cruz struggles to come back from injury. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: With the Matt Forte era over in Chicago it looks like Jeremy Langford who will fill the role. Don’t be surprised if Howard finds his way into a running-back-by-committee situation. He’s a bruising runner and if he’s not slow to the line he’ll be effective. He’ll put pressure on Langford not to falter.

Other likely contributors:
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens
Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos
Paul Perkins, RB, Giants
Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
Braxton Miller, WR, Texans
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints