Players Sending Out Warning Signals: Heading Into Week 14

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It is Week 14, and congratulations are in order for those of you that made the playoffs in your leagues. While your shrewd decision making throughout the season has carried your team this far, now is not the time to relax when it comes to analyzing the players that could be doing your roster more harm than good.

There are others that will be using this week to make one last attempt to sneak in to the playoff race, while many others will be trying their hardest to steer clear of a last place finish.

With all of that being said, it is time to take a look at a few players you might want to avoid for the remaining weeks of the season, and check back on the concerning players from last week.

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Heed the Warning Signs

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL)High Warning Level

Coming off of a 173-yard effort without any touchdowns, Matt Ryan has made his way to the warning list for the second time this season. For the second time in his past three games Ryan has been below 200 yards passing, and he has failed to throw at least one touchdown in half of his games this year. The inability of the Atlanta Falcons’ offense to get in to the end zone in Week 13 reflects the inconsistency and devastating regression that both Ryan and the unit have displayed all year. His numbers are down in just about every statistical category this season, with his touchdown to interception ratio notably plummeting from 5:1 last year to 2:1 in 2017.

Many of the fantasy players that drafted Ryan early had an eye on the two New Orleans matchups late on the schedule this year, with hopes that if they were able to lead their teams to the playoffs Ryan might just win it all for them. Unfortunately for these players, not only has Ryan showed that he will not be matching his record setting pace from last year, but the New Orleans defense is playing at a level they haven’t been able to reach in some time. Consequently, the matchup presents its own set of issues, as the Saints have either picked off at least one pass or held an opposing quarterback to less than 200 yards in all but one game since Week 2. All of this means that Ryan will be a very tough start with very little upside on a short week. The likelihood that Ryan doesn’t reach at least 20 fantasy points is frighteningly high, as he has failed to do that across all scoring formats in all but one or two games this year. At this point fantasy owners are hopeful that Ryan can at least attain a double digit fantasy score, which is not something you should be aspiring for from your quarterback at this point in the season.

Carlos Hyde (RB, SF)Medium/High Warning Level

After booming a couple of times in the early weeks of the season, Carlos Hyde has hovered around or below middle of the pack production for the bulk of the year. Even though Hyde has ceded some snaps to promising rookie Matt Breida he still retains the vast majority of the work on a weekly basis, and the situation hasn’t turned into a full-blown time share at any point this season, although you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at Hyde’s sagging numbers. Hyde rushed for two touchdowns each in Weeks 3 and 6, but has been kept out of the end zone ever since. Since that burst in Week 6 Hyde has rushed for over 60 yards only twice, and has only been able to muster 3.7 yards per carry.

Hyde has remained respectfully active in the passing game, and it has in fact been this activity that has boosted poor rushing stats to provide fantasy owners with somewhat salvageable outputs. Even with Breida garnering 13 touches in last week’s win against Chicago, Hyde’s 21 touches per game is still good for eighth best among all running backs. Even with these positives though, the struggles that the 49ers’ offense have dealt with all year aren’t likely to turn around in the last few weeks of this season, and Hyde has mostly become a cross-your-fingers flex play. For the first week of the playoffs, rolling Hyde out against a Houston defense that is allowing the fourth fewest points to running backs will be a dicey proposition.

Golden Tate (WR, DET) - Low Warning Level

Golden Tate has become one of the more prominent PPR receivers in fantasy over the years, but in recent weeks his production in even these formats hasn’t been all that helpful. Last week’s 69-yard eight catch outing was much more meaningful in PPR than it was in standard leagues, but over the past three weeks Tate has only managed to accumulate just over 100 yards marked by a season low seven yards in Week 12. While Tate has never been the type of player to put up monster touchdown numbers, his mere three touchdown grabs certainly hasn’t done owners any favors either.

To make matters worse, Matthew Stafford’s availability for Week 14 is now anybody’s guess. Stafford is tough and has carried the Lions all season long, but even if he is able to play, an injury to his throwing hand doesn’t inspire much confidence. If backup quarterback Jake Rudock gets the start, the prospects for Tate’s production could be even worse. While it is true that this could end up working in Tate’s favor, as he is the receiver that is most likely to be available for a quick outlet on passing plays, his upside in such a scenario will be severely limited. Tate certainly has the ability to have huge games, and his heavy involvement in an offense that seems to enjoy playing from behind is valuable as he has dipped below five targets in only two contests. But he has had more busts than booms in recent weeks, and this trend may force those in standard leagues to explore greener pastures for the playoffs if possible, while keeping owners in PPR leagues on high alert.

Jared Cook (TE, OAK)High Warning Level

Jared Cook had been relatively solid before the Raiders’ bye in Week 10, and although he had only caught one touchdown he had a pair of huge 100 plus-yard receiving efforts, and at least 40 yards in all but three of his games. Cook was especially disappointing in Week 13 though, a game in which the team’s two top receivers were out with Michael Crabtree serving a one game suspension and Amari Cooper sidelined with a concussion and ankle injury. Outside of Cook, there just weren’t many viable pass catchers available for the Raiders, and he had a golden opportunity to do some major damage. While it can be argued that his one catch nine-yard performance was a result of increased defensive attention, that still isn’t saying much as the Giants were clearly in the bottom of the league in defending tight ends having allowed a touchdown to the position in all but two games heading in to Week 13.

Since Week 11, Cook has caught just four passes for 47 total yards in three games, and there aren’t very many signs of life that his downward trend will get much better as the season draws to a close. After a season high nine targets in Week 9 Cook has seen just 15 targets since, and while this is nothing to scoff at, his role in the offense has clearly declined from where it was in the early going. While one of his two 100-yard games came against Kansas City in Week 7, he will be very hard to trust against them this week with his production being extremely inconsistent at best ever since then.

 

Updates From Last Week

Marcus Mariota (QB, TEN)Same Warning Level as Last Week

Marcus Mariota’s fantasy output was saved by a rushing touchdown in the second quarter, but he otherwise failed to do much, remaining under 200 passing yards for the second straight week. He did manage to get through the contest without any turnovers, but again only threw one passing touchdown for the fourth game in a row. It is encouraging to see Mariota making plays with his legs again though, and if this is something he can continue to do there is some optimism for his fantasy outlook for the remaining games of the season. His inability to show sustained consistency for the most of the season doesn’t instill much faith however, and he will likely continue to be an unstable play at quarterback for the rest of the year.

Stefon Diggs (WR, MIN)Higher Warning Level Than Last Week

Stefon Diggs’ seemingly season long slump continued in Week 13, as he tallied only 32 receiving yards for the second time in three weeks. Diggs was again outgained by Thielen, and the Vikings continued to lean on the run game with a 50/50 passing and rushing split. Diggs sinking production right in time for the fantasy playoffs is difficult to manage, as his big play threat is tempting enough to keep him in lineups, but his floor could just about tank your week. Diggs has now totaled just 97 yards on 11 catches in his past three games, and a road tilt against a generous Carolina Panthers secondary could be his last chance to put together some inspiring production.

Jay Ajayi (RB, PHI)Same Warning Level as Last Week

 For the first time since his arrival in Philadelphia, Jay Ajayi saw more than 40% of the team’s snaps, and led all members of the team’s backfield committee with 12 touches. While this usage is encouraging by itself, an improvement in production didn’t come along with it, and there is no guarantee that this type of workload will come back around for him again for the rest of this season. Ajayi had been breaking off big runs to make his final stat line somewhat more palatable for fantasy owners, but those big runs have been absent in the past two games, and he will be just about impossible to trust in the playoffs this year. His ability to break off those big runs make him worth a look, but if you have better options you should probably give them a second look before deploying Ajayi.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG)Same Warning Level as Last Week

 With Sterling Shepard back in the line-up and Geno Smith under center, Engram had his best performance of the season, grabbing seven balls for 99 yards and a touchdown. After getting off to a slow start with yet another drop Engram settled in and made some big plays in the fourth quarter, including a remarkable one handed catch, and a touchdown grab that pushed his total to six on the season. It appears that playing with Smith was what he needed to boost his production, but unfortunately for Engram and fantasy owners, it appears that Eli Manning will get the start in Week 14. Engram is one of the most talented skill players on the team right now, but the uncertainty and ineffectiveness at the quarterback position will make him a volatile play during the playoffs.

 

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