The Must Stash: Week 14

Every Friday I will list 5 players who I think, if things go their way, will wind up in those waiver articles the following Tuesday. You don’t have to stash all of them – it depends on who you have on your roster, the depth of your benches, the scoring system of your league, etc. But these are guys that should at least be on your radar. 

Stashing players is only something that can occur in deeper leagues with large benches, so to make this information worthwhile, I will only be recommending guys that are under 20% owned on both Yahoo and ESPN, and in many cases, you’ll see percentages in the single digits. If you’re in a league where guys like Alexander Mattison (60% on Yahoo, 35% on ESPN) or Rashaad Penny (66% Yahoo, 53% on ESPN) are on the waiver wire, you’re either in a league too shallow for stashing, or you should go pick those guys up right away.

 

Week 13 is in the books, and it appears I missed the boat on Raheem Mostert taking over the 49ers backfield. I’ve always been a Tevin Coleman fan, but I’m surprised by how Kyle Shanahan has chosen to use him this year. Coleman isn’t elusive in tight spaces and therefore isn’t much of a between-the-tackles runner. Coleman is at his best in open spaces, where he can use his 200-pound frame and 4.4 speed to outrun defenders and run over the ones that get in his way. I thought San Francisco would deploy him in the passing game more often and line him up receiver occasionally like they did when Shanahan and Coleman were together in Atlanta.

The problem with Mostert going forward is that Matt Breida’s return, which could be as soon as this week, likely muddies up the waters and potentially makes the entire 49ers backfield too risky to start in Week 14. If you’ve made the playoffs in your fantasy league and you own any 49ers running backs, you likely have better options. You never want your fantasy season to be decided by the whims of a head coach, especially one like Shanahan who will make sweeping changes to touch counts from one week to the next. I’d much prefer the safer floor of guys like Jamaal Williams and Duke Johnson than anyone in the 49ers backfield.

Elsewhere in week 13, it looked like my recommended stash Darrel Williams had moved into a 50/50 split with LeSean McCoy until Williams suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. Williams’s injury opened the door for Darwin Thompson to get involved, and he responded with 11 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown. Thompson was a trendy sleeper pick in the preseason and his performance in this game has led some people to get excited about him again, but I’m not buying it. All 11 of Thompson’s carries came on the final drive of a 31-3 game. It seemed to me that Andy Reid decided to suddenly lean on Thompson as a way of preserving McCoy with Darrel and Damien Williams both unavailable.

My other stashes didn’t do much. Chase Edmonds was active but didn’t play, and the more I see of Kliff Kingsbury’s decision making and the Cardinals offense as a whole, the more I want to avoid it. But who knows, I still think Edmonds could get back in the mix when we least expect it. Gus Edwards had his typical snap share and continues to be a mandatory handcuff for Mark Ingram owners.

On to week 14:

 

Patrick Laird, RB, Miami Dolphins (13% on Yahoo, 9% on ESPN)

 

It’s strange. We’ve seen the ownership percentages of Raheem Mostert and Alexander Mattison sky-rocket this week while Patrick Laird’s has barely moved. I discussed my concerns with Mostert to open the article and I’d have the same concerns with Mattison – once Dalvin Cook is healthy, you won’t be able to use Mattison with any confidence. Laird, on the other hand, has a shot at the starting job for his team with Kallen Ballage headed to injured reserve.

The problem with the starting running back job for the Miami Dolphins is that their offensive line can’t open any running lanes and they’re typically behind in games, needing to throw the ball. Dolphins running backs are averaging a whopping 2.9 yards per carry and have combined for just 4 rushing touchdowns on the year. Their offensive line is ranked dead last in run blocking according to Football Outsiders. But still, I think there are two positives to consider with Laird:

  • Patrick Laird is replacing the worst running back I have ever seen. If Ballage’s appallingly low 1.8 yards per rush aren’t enough, take a look at this highlight reel:

  • Laird is a good receiver. Laird was a walk-on at the University of California and red-shirted his sophomore season in an attempt to convert from running back to wide receiver, but he ultimately moved back to running back and earned the starting job as a junior. He caught a combined 96 balls in his last two years of college, including a team-leading 51 receptions in his senior year, and led the Golden Bears in scrimmage yards both years.

When Brian Flores got hired in Miami, he stated that he wanted to borrow concepts from the Patriots offense, featuring short passes and using his running backs in the passing game. That proved true in the early portion of the season when Kenyan Drake averaged 5.5 targets per game, but the running back targets dwindled after Drake’s trade with the less effective Ballage and Mark Walton taking most of the snaps. Now with Laird in the lineup, we’ve seen a resurgence since in running back targets. In just 90 snaps played for the Dolphins, Laird has been targeted 14 times for 12 receptions. The Dolphins average 65 snaps per game, so Laird’s production to this point translates to about 5 targets per game assuming 50% snap share and about 7.5 targets with a 75% snap share. That’s worth owning, especially in PPR formats.

I’m not sure you can start him this week, but Laird might have the right skills for this constantly-needing-to-pass offense. If you’ve been relying on Tevin Coleman, Ronald Jones, or anyone playing for the Steelers or Colts, Laird might be your RB2 savior.

 

John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (13% on Yahoo, 7% on ESPN)

 

John Ross appeared to be headed for a third-year breakout prior to the reportedly life-threatening shoulder injury he suffered in week 4. He returned to practice this week to little or no fanfare, probably because he plays for a one-win team. Ross is expected to suit up against the Browns this weekend, and this might be your last opportunity to acquire him for free.

Ross averaged 4.0 receptions for 82.0 yards and 0.75 TD’s in the 4 games he played this year, which is WR1 production. His production was mostly predicated on big plays and I’d expect him to regress into WR2 or WR3 territory, but his big-play potential is also what makes him worth stashing. Ross, and other speedsters like him, can be a valuable weapon in the fantasy playoffs because he’s capable of scoring 10+ points on a single play. He did that twice against Seattle back in week one and nearly reached 35 points in PPR scoring.

If I were a significant underdog in a fantasy playoff matchup this week, I’d consider starting Ross over low-ceiling guys like Jamison Crowder, Sterling Shepard, and Larry Fitzgerald, in hopes that Ross can deliver one of those boom weeks and deliver me an upset victory. Next week is dicey with the Bengals facing the Patriots, but Ross might make some big plays against the Dolphins in week 16. Don’t drop anyone crucial, but I’d stash Ross as your fourth or fifth receiver for a championship run.

 

Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (2% on Yahoo, 2% on ESPN)

 

It’s easy to view Parris Campbell’s rookie season as a disappointment due to the lack of production, but I’m giving him a pass. He suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason, an abdominal strain in week 4, and broke his hand in week 10. Developing as a rookie is all about getting consistent reps, and Campbell hasn’t had the opportunity to do that.

Campbell can still salvage his rookie year in these last four weeks, though. He returned to practice earlier this week and is expected to play. Much like John Ross, Campbell offers the big-play potential that the Colts sorely need. T.Y. Hilton may miss another week with a calf injury, and I’m starting to wonder if this is a Kevin Durant partially-torn-Achilles type of calf injury.

If Hilton sits again, I think the Colts have to throw Campbell in the starting lineup because they don’t have any other options. Chester Rogers has joined Devin Funchess on injured reserve. Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson are the only other receivers who have played significant snaps. Last week it got to the point where the Colts were lining Jack Doyle up at receiver out of desperation. Campbell is the most talented receiver on this roster behind Hilton, so I believe there’s a chance he could put up some big numbers down the stretch. I’d prefer Ross as a high-upside stash, but Campbell is a close second.

 

Gardner Minshew, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (15% on Yahoo, 13% on ESPN)

 

A few weeks ago I advocated stashing Nick Foles because of Jacksonville’s schedule during the fantasy playoffs. The same logic applies to Gardner Minshew, who will take over for Foles for the second time this season. I discussed the transition of Foles to Minshew a bit in Jeff Berckes’s Beating the Spread article for this week. To sum it up, I think Minshew fits the Jaguars offense better than Foles right now because of his mobility. There are too many traces of the Blake Bortles era remaining on this team. Their personnel is accustomed to playing in power formations that feature Leonard Fournette and set up play-action passes. They haven’t been efficient playing in the shotgun offense that Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo brought from Philadelphia. Minshew’s quickness makes him much more effective in play-action and gives him a chance of escaping when the protection breaks down.

The quarterback position is surprisingly thin this year for fantasy. The only guys that I would start every week, regardless of matchup, are Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson. Everyone else is matchup-dependent. I don’t like Minshew’s matchup this week, playing a Chargers defense that now includes all-pro safety Derwin James. Week 15 in Oakland and week 16 in Atlanta look pretty favorable. You might prefer Minshew in week 15 if you’ve been relying on Matt Ryan (playing at San Francisco). You might prefer Minshew in week 16 if you’ve been relying on Josh Allen (playing at New England). Hopefully you have one of the four studs that you can start every week and don’t have to worry about this, but if not, consider stashing the guy with the mustache.

 

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (0% on Yahoo, 0% on ESPN)

 

Two weeks ago Mike Florio speculated that the Chargers might bench Phil Rivers due to ineffectiveness in favor of Tyrod Taylor. Florio loves to stir the pot so I didn’t put much stock in it at the time, but then last week Ian Rappaport reported that the Chargers were indeed considering such a move.

It would make sense, I guess. Rivers is a free agent at the end of the year. He hasn’t played well enough to deserve big money and didn’t want to move to Los Angeles in the first place. He might decide to fade off if into the San Diego sunset when this season is over, and if he plays another year it’s likely for a team that believes they’re a quarterback away from being a contender. The Bears or Broncos would be interesting fits. Regardless, I think Rivers is done in LA and it would be wise of the Chargers to get a preview of life without their 16-year starter. The Chargers don’t make many wise decisions, but this move may be helped by Anthony Lynn’s connection to Tyrod Taylor from their time in Buffalo. Lynn doesn’t owe anything to Rivers and his job appears secure, so he may use this opportunity to do his buddy Tyrod a favor.

What would Tyrod be like for fantasy? Better than you might expect. Tyrod has never had the type of weapons he’d have at his disposal here. His accuracy on short throws would work well with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. He doesn’t throw a great deep ball, but Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are big and athletic enough that his throws won’t have to be perfect. He’s always a threat to run, which would mask the Chargers O-line issues and would allow them to run read-option plays with Melvin Gordon

I still have my doubts as to whether Lynn will have the guts to bench Rivers, but stranger things have happened (remember when Eli got benched for Geno Smith?). There’s enough upside here that I’d stash Tyrod in any leagues that allow you to start two quarterbacks, and I’d consider holding him as my backup QB in deeper leagues over bottom-of-the-barrel guys like Kyle Allen, Drew Lock, and Dwayne Haskins.

That’s it for week 14. Feel free to weigh in and tell me who I missed.

 

Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Tom (@QBLTom)

Tom lives in an alternate universe where the Bostick onside kick never happened and Nick Foles still plays for the Eagles. There is mounting evidence that Brady is a system QB. #GPG

sdf

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