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The Cut List (Week 11) - Time to Let Go?

I opened this column last week by lamenting the performance of my most cherished home-league fantasy team. The way things are going for me at the moment, I might just make that my weekly routine. In Week 10, I had Nick Chubb. I was facing Kyler Murray. One refused to score an easy touchdown. The other was rewarded for bombing a ball into triple coverage because his intended receiver was one of maybe five wideouts ever who could have come down with it. To say I am absolutely beside myself would be an understatement. I stand in solidarity with any and all fantasy managers who fell victim to this cosmic sadism en route to a brutal loss in Week 10.

Having acknowledged that the fantasy gods clearly hate our guts, those two plays aren't solely responsible for the fate of our fantasy teams. They're just the most memorable ones. If we lost in Week 10 by a slim margin, chances are there are other players in our lineups whose performances cost us dearly. You might find at least a couple of those players discussed below.

We're heading into Week 11. Most fantasy leagues have three games left to sort out playoff berths and seeding. Those of us in contention need to jettison players who can't help us get there. If the universe wants to keep you-know-whatting us with incidents like the Great Chubb/Murray Catastrophe of 2020, so be it. We don't have any control over that. We do have control over which players get to stay on our rosters for the stretch run. Here's the Cut List for Week 11. All roster percentages reflect ESPN.com leagues.

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Droppable Players

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

22.3% rostered

I will always root for Baker Mayfield the football player. Give me a guy who plays with emotion and genuinely cares about his teammates, and I'm willing to look past a lot about his actual performance. Baker Mayfield the fantasy quarterback, however, is another story. Mayfield has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in six of nine games; he hasn't even eclipsed 140 yards passing in three of his last four. He lit up the Bengals for 297 yards and five touchdowns in Week 7, but the rest of his 2020 campaign has been littered with games in which he did just enough not to lose you your fantasy matchup, and a handful of outings in which he absolutely did lose you the week if you started him.

While some of this can obviously be attributed to him individually, a lot of it is a product of the team he plays for. The Browns are presided over by a notoriously run-heavy head coach in Kevin Stefanski, and they've got the NFL's best two-pronged rushing attack with which to lean on such a philosophy in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The upshot of all this is that the Browns are winning. At 6-3, Cleveland looks more competitive than it has in years, and is now sneakily in position to overtake Baltimore for second in the AFC North and a playoff spot. In other words, the Browns don't exactly have an incentive to change up their offense, which ranks third-to-last in total pass attempts on the year.

I wrote about Mayfield in the preseason as a potential top-15 quarterback you could grab in the later rounds if you missed out on the top guys. Today, I'm admitting defeat and taking the loss. He could be a decent streaming option in Week 12 at Jacksonville and Week 16 at the Jets. I don't imagine you'll have a hard time grabbing him off the waiver wire when the time comes if you do need a fill-in at quarterback for those weeks.

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

46.4% rostered

On one hand, you could choose to look at Tyler Higbee's Week 10 outing as a season-high in both targets and receiving yards. On the other, you could acknowledge that neither six targets nor 60 yards on three catches are all that indicative of an impending late-season surge. Higbee scored three touchdowns in Week 2, and hasn't caught one since. Over one-third of his 296 total receiving yards have come from three catches. His season-long target share is below 10%, and the Rams have attempted the sixth-most rushes in the league. Higbee is very much an afterthought in an offense that clearly prefers to run the ball.

There's not much hope for scoring-position output to boost his weekly floor, either. Jared Goff has attempted 37 passes in the red zone, which ranks 18th in the league. Higbee has seen three of those targets. Five Rams, including running backs Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown, have seen more. Also, the closer the Rams get to the endzone, the less prone they are to throwing. Goff has attempted just 12 passes inside the 10-yard line. Dak Prescott, who hasn't played since Week 5, has 10. Higbee is the fourth receiving option in a run-heavy offense that hates throwing the ball near the goal-line. If you need to make room on your roster for any reason, Higbee is hardly a guy I'm clinging to at this juncture.

DeeJay Dallas, Seattle Seahawks

34.2% rostered

The Seahawks are the latest team to join the NFC West's never-ending game of "Good luck figuring out our backfield in any given week!" DeeJay Dallas had 25 carries and caught all seven of his targets in Weeks 8 and 9. He converted the work into a respectable 97 yards and scored three total touchdowns. For where he sits on Seattle's depth chart, the Seahawks could've done much worse with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde unavailable. Naturally, Dallas was then rewarded for his efforts by getting to watch Alex Collins lead the team with 11 rushing attempts in Week 10. Dallas was given just two carries and three targets, playing just 33% of snaps in the loss.

Carson is already trending toward playing for Week 11. If the Seahawks were willing to lean on a guy who wasn't even on their practice squad three weeks ago over Dallas, then Carson's return represents the final nail in the rookie's outlook for the immediate future. I'd hold onto Dallas until Carson is officially given the green light, but I'd be looking to pick up someone with a clear path to playing time when that transpires.

James White, New England Patriots

41.3% rostered

James White racked up 17 total targets in Weeks 4 and 6, with a bye sandwiched in between. In four games since Week 6, he's been targeted just 12 times. You could attribute some of this drop-off to the Patriots looking absolutely lost on offense for the better part of a month, but they've begun to play well of late and White's involvement hasn't increased.

White used to be the check-down safety valve for a pocket passer who wasn't a threat to run. Now it seems as though White's skill set isn't as useful to the Patriots since they can simply call designed runs with Cam Newton in short-yardage situations, or Newton can take off out of the pocket when a true passing play breaks down. In any case, White is no longer the top-tier PPR threat he once was. He's averaging under four receptions per game and has not found the endzone once all season. Meanwhile, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead are beginning to find a rhythm out of the Patriots backfield. White has very much faded into the background, and is thus completely untrustworthy in fantasy lineups.

Hold For Now

Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos

93.1% rostered

Melvin Gordon is the worst kind of player in fantasy in that you know by now he is going to be completely unusable most weeks, but you can't just cut him loose because he's going to continue to see enough work that he could accidentally have a decent or even good game from time to time. Gordon's last remotely serviceable fantasy outing was in Week 7, when he went for 68 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Kansas City. In the three games since, he's rushed 25 times for 90 yards and zero touchdowns. This includes an utter failure to do anything against a Raiders defense that has given up an average of 141 scrimmage yards and just over a touchdown per game to opposing running backs.

The good news is Phillip Lindsay hasn't been any better. Lindsay has followed up a strong Week 8 (six carries, 83 yards, one touchdown) with back-to-back duds of his own, going for just 25 yards on 12 carries in his last two games. As long as both players continue to cede volume to one another by virtue of not being very good, this will remain among the NFL's least interesting timeshares. Either way, I keep repeating this on a weekly basis: if you have a healthy running back with anything closely resembling a starter's role this late in the season, you can't just launch him overboard for nothing. Keep Gordon as a fill-in for now, or try to trade him to the person in your league who stopped paying attention six weeks ago.

Other Options To Consider Dropping



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