There's nothing wrong with conventional wisdom. But being predictable is usually a pretty good way to get beat. Sometimes it's best to zig when people zag. Yin when people yang. Be unpredictable like an M. Night Shyamalan film (one of the good ones). That's where this column comes in. The tips below aren't for everyone and not all of them may be appropriate for your draft. But keep these handy when you want to throw your league-mates a curveball each week.
We have come down to the nitty gritty in the fantasy football regular season. While I'm familiar with gritty, I don't know exactly what nitty is ... but it sounds important. Either way, we've reached the portion of the program where the waiver wire has been picked clean and the trade deadline will likely have passed by the time you read this. Now comes the time to get really creative. Forget your Cybertruck reveals. We're really getting wired here.
Bo Knows Sleeper Values
Tired -- The Lions backfield is a mess. Ever since Kerryon Johnson was lost for the season, the remnants of the Detroit backfield have made about as much sense as a chimpanzee with a spice grinder. We thought maybe Ty Johnson would be a thing but the Lions started throwing the ball like crazy. We thought J.D. McKissic could be a nice streaming play in PPR formats, then Bo Scarbrough came out of nowhere to be the Lions RB du jour. Once that happened, fantasy managers and analysts alike threw up their hands in frustration and let loud lamentations ring through the air. A pox upon your house, Matt Patricia. We are done with ye and your running back committee of ill repute.
Wired -- Go with the flow with Bo. We don't exactly know what's going through the minds of Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- and we've certainly been fooled before -- but Bo Scarbrough offered a physical running element that Detroit's offense has missed since Kerryon Johnson's injury. The ability to run the football effectively is a hallmark of Bevell's offenses. That could come into play this week against a Washington defense that hasn't stopped much of anything but has been particularly atrocious against the run. No one is going to confuse Scarbrough with peak Marshawn Lynch, but he's the closest thing the Lions have right now and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him used in a similar role. Now that we've stopped hyperventilating over what happened last week, let's pick a running back and roll into Week 12.
Fitz and Startz
Tired -- You can't trust Ryan Fitzpatrick. How many times have we seen this movie? Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over as a starter and might have one or two big games but he's generally not trustworthy enough to consider using outside of the most cherry matchups. Even then, you might want that matchup to be maraschino before you throw him in the lineup. It's not all bad ... Fitz has proven to be a better option than Josh Rosen and has given life to DeVante Parker but that's not enough to think that you can trust the Bearded Wonder as a streaming quarterback option.
Wired -- But maybe this week? All of the above is true and you're not really a true fantasy football manager until you've been burned by a Ryan Fitzpatrick streaming start. But the allure of loading the Amish Rifle is that he has the ability to go off on any given week. This has the makings of that week. The Browns have been a middle-of-the-road defense when it comes to stopping fantasy quarterbacks but they've also faced some pretty bad quarterbacks. cough Luke Falk cough And that was WITH Myles Garrett rushing the passer. Now Cleveland is without its top pass rusher and facing an offense that has been several shades less than terrible recently. Considering Miami's void in the running game, the load will fall on Fitzpatrick's shoulders this week. Now if only we could be sure that those shoulders are healthy heading into Sunday.
Riding the Wentz Wagon
Tired -- Carson Wentz isn't the same guy. Things have not gone according to plan for the Philadelphia Eagles this season. The team is 5-5 and possibly in need of help to make the playoffs. The Eagles have been riddled with injuries at a number of positions. But maybe the biggest disappointment has been the play of Carson Wentz. It's not that he's been bad, he's just been ... okay. That's not what the Eagles were hoping for from a player who'd been an MVP candidate just a couple of seasons ago. Fantasy managers are probably even more disappointed with a guy who is the QB14 but has struggled to crack 15 fantasy points in five of his last six contests. At this point, it seems like a big ask to trust Wentz in any of your fantasy lineups.
Wired -- Things are getting better. It could be that the worst is behind Philly right now. Alshon Jeffery is getting healthy, adding a much-needed weapon to the passing game. That coincides with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert stepping up their individual games. But the biggest reason to buy a return ticket on the Wentz Wagon is a schedule that lightens up considerably. After dealing with the Cowboys, Bills, Bears and Patriots, the Eagles now get a run that features the Seahawks, Dolphins, Giants and Washington. All the pieces are falling into place at the right time for Wentz and he could be a quarterback that propels you deep into the fantasy postseason.
Tired -- Slayton is a flash in the pan. Over the past four weeks, Darius Slayton has been a nice fill-in play, especially in deeper leagues. The Giants rookie receiver has logged 13 catches for 177 yards and four touchdowns in that span. But what's most notable is who has been absent from Big Blue's offense. During that time, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have missed time with injuries. Slayton's targets have been nice but many of them have come out of necessity. That's a hard way to live, especially if those other guys are able to get back into the lineup.
Wired -- Stay with Slay(ton). First things first ... unless something changes, we might have yet another week without Engram or Shepard in the Giants lineup. That means those targets should still be available. But even with Engram returns, nothing during his time playing with Daniel Jones suggests that he will become a big play guy. Dating back to Week 4, Engram has topped 50 yards just once and has just one touchdown. Meanwhile, the two rookies seem to be building a solid rapport with one another. Big Blue's fantasy playoff schedule is a pretty tasty slate with Philadelphia, Miami and Washington. In deeper leagues, Slayton could be a productive flex option for the final three weeks.