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Benching Star Players? Don't Dance With Who Brung Ya

The common adage is to "start your studs" or, in more folksy terms, "dance with the one who brung ya." The common thought between it all is simply that certain guys on your team have been solid for you all year and gotten you into the finals or 3rd place game, where you're playing for money, so you should stick with them.

As with most over-used pieces of advice, this is overly simplified and inaccurate. You should start the players who are in the best position to win you this all-important week. Yes, sometimes that will be the guys who have been studs for you all season long, but sometimes it won't be. You need to know when to be faithful and when to find a new partner to spin around the dance floor.

Okay, the metaphors have been sufficiently mixed, so let's just dive into the specifics and look at some studs who you may be better of benching this weekend.

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Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play; perhaps the best (according to Phil Simms), but we need to break free from the notion that he is a must-start stud in fantasy. The Packers seem content to take leads and then run the clock out, and they love using their running backs in the red zone, which has all led to some poor fantasy performances from Rodgers. Here are his weekly finishes:

Week 1: 24th
Week 2: 19th
Week 3: 24th
Week 4: 2nd
Week 5: 22nd
Week 6: 12th
Week 7: 1st
Week 8: 3rd
Week 9: 21st
Week 10: 22nd
Week 12: 21st
Week 13: 1st
Week 14: 28th
Week 15: 23rd

He's been outside the top-20 far too often, and you likely have better options than him going up against the Vikings in Week 16.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen always has a high rushing floor which makes him intriguing for fantasy purposes. However, he's also going into Foxboro to play an elite Patriots Defense that held him to 153 yards and three interceptions earlier in the season. In games against Baltimore's and Pittsburgh's elite defense, Allen struggled to consistently hit on the deep passes and has been corraled as a runner. That's the same thing New England did to cause his poor game the first time they played. Yes, he ran for a touchdown in that game and might again on Saturday, but he's far too risky of an option to play with fantasy titles on the line. He's been the sixth-best quarterback so far this year, but he's likely not the guy to take you across the finish line.


Running back

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

This decision has already been made for you and is simply about health. With another loss, the Raiders have been eliminated from playoff contention and had no need to push their star rookie running back anymore. With Jon Gruden mentioning that Jacobs could barely take his shoulder pads off after Sunday's game, it seemed obvious that he might be held out against the Chargers and now it's official. Adding Deandre Washington is the obvious call here but if you didn't grab him off waivers in time, pivot to a high-end RB3 like Kenyan Drake or David Montgomery.

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

Le'Veon Bell hasn't been the stud many people expected when they drafted him in one of the first two rounds this summer, but he's currently the 16th ranked RB in half-PPR leagues, which makes him a high-end to mid-tier RB2 depending on league size. However, Bell has already missed a late-season game due to illness (while still bowling the night before) and the Jets are dysfunctional enough offensively to limit his effectiveness when he plays at 100%. To top it off, they play a Steelers Defense that is currently 5th in the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs and will be fighting for their playoff lives.

If I have any solid RB2 or high-ceiling RB3, like the aforementioned Drake and Montgomery or Raheem Mostert, I'd be playing him over Le'Veon this weekend. With Dalvin Cook out and Alexander Mattison limited by his ankle injury, I'd play Boone over Bell as well.

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Everybody keeps talking about Lindsay as a league-winner because of his schedule, but the second-year back has been failing to deliver. Despite being the 18th-ranked RB in half-PPR leagues, Lindsay saw fewer snaps last week than Royce Freeman. Much of that had to do with the Broncos being in catch-up mode against the Chiefs, which they likely won't be in against the Lions this week, but it's simply hard to trust the workload Lindsay is getting right now.

Even in the Broncos' two wins the week before, Lindsay didn't top 58 yards rushing or see more than three targets through the air. You can't rest easy on that with your championship on the line. I'd rather trust Mostert, Boone, Singletary, or Adrian Peterson (Yes, that Adrian Peterson).

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions

Yes, I know Kerryon is technically a stud from a production standpoint, but he's a fantasy darling coming back from a long absence to save your fantasy life. Don't fall for it. The Lions run offense has been a mess, and they face a solid Denver defensive unit. We have no idea how many snaps Johnson will see or just how capable he'll be after so many weeks off. The floor is sub-basement level, and I just don't see the ceiling this week.


Wide Receiver

Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions

Kenny Golladay has been admirably putting up fantasy points regardless of who is throwing him the ball this year and is the 7th-ranked receiver in half PPR leagues. However, last week showed that David Blough is simply not talented enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL as Golladay was held to 44 yards on three catches against Tampa Bay, the easiest match-up for receivers in the league. Golladay will now see the Broncos' 7th-best unit, which means shadow coverage from Chris Harris Jr., one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Without Marvin Jones Jr. inactive, Golladay will see almost all of the defensive attention and is likely in for a long day. I would rather roll out upside options like A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin or Breshad Perriman or touchdown-regression monster Mike Williams.

Julien Edelman, New England Patriots

Edelman is the ninth-ranked wide receiver in half-PPR leagues, and you're likely rolling him out this week, but you need to temper expectations. His knee injury is clearly a problem as he could barely plant on his routes in last week's win over the Bengals. With a shifty player like Edelman, his speed and quick-twitch athleticism are what makes his game, so taking it away makes him more of a Danny Amendola-type asset.

I expect Edelman to be on the field and see his fair share of Brady's targets, but I view him as more of a WR2 this week and would prefer guys like Tyler Lockett, A.J. Brown, or Devante Parker.

D.J. Moore / Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

If David Blough is not suitable to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, then Kyle Allen is not far behind. The Panthers have benched the Texas A&M product and are turning the offense over the third-round rookie Will Grier. Nobody knows what to expect from Grier, who the team clearly didn't trust despite Allen being a liability for a few weeks now. Moore and Samuel give Grier solid options to move the ball, currently ranked as the 10th and 29th-best receivers in half PPR leagues respectively, but it's hard to feel confident about them with a rookie quarterback under center.

You're likely still starting D.J. Moore and crossing your fingers unless you're loaded at wide receiver and grabbed waiver options like DeVante Parker or A.J. Brown, but I wouldn't feel comfortable starting Curtis Samuel in anything outside of the deepest leagues. He's a WR4 for me this week. I'd rather have Anthony Miller, Darius Slayton, Danny Amendola, Justin Watson, Chris Conley, etc.

John Brown, Buffalo Bills

John Brown has been Josh Allen's go-to weapon and put up a valuable fantasy day against the Steelers' dynamic defense on Sunday night. However, the 17th-ranked receiver in half PPR leagues now faces Stephon Gilmore's shadow coverage in a game in Foxboro that the Patriots need to win to clinch the division and keep alive hopes of being the #1 seed in the AFC.

Nothing in this game will come easy, and I don't want any part of it for fantasy if I am not forced to. Yes, Brown could rip off a long touchdown completion, but he's more of a WR3 this week and could be benched for the upside of Perriman, Christian Kirk, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, or Marquise Brown.

Jarvis Landry / Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

I know it's hard to think of any Browns player as a stud right now, but Landry is the 18th ranked receiver in half-PPR formats and Beckham was drafted in the first three rounds of most drafts this year. The latter hasn't been borderline usable this season, coming in as the 33rd ranked receivers in half PPR-leagues, and both have played amidst continuous rumors that they want out of Cleveland. On top of all the dysfunction, the Browns play the red-hot in a game in which the Ravens can clinch the #1 overall seed with a win. I don't expect either Browns wide receiver to do much this week, especially considering Arizona allegedly knew that plays the Browns were going to run.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Hilton has been a "stud" based on season-long numbers since he's missed six games this season with various injuries. However, when healthy, Hilton has been effective this year. He had five touchdowns through his first five games and was a top-20 wide receiver through the first eight weeks of the season, which included the Colts' bye and one game he missed with an injury.

The temptation will be to throw him back in your lineup, especially now that he has one more week of practice after returning to action. I'd caution against that. Hilton was only in on 51% of the Colts' snaps in the Monday night loss and with them eliminated from playoff contention, there's no reason to push him out on the field. His floor is too low to make him anything more than a risky WR3, even against Carolina.

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