Today we feature a piece by Ben Ice, a well-known expert in the fantasy football industry. He's a four-time Fantasy Football Writers Association Finalist, including "Best Fantasy Football Article, Online" and co-founder and former Managing Partner of RotoExperts. He is also a weekly expert panelist on the Fantasy Knuckleheads Google+ Q&A Hangout every Sunday morning.
Week 13 is, for many leagues, the final week before fantasy playoffs begin. It’s the most crucial time of the season to take one last look at your roster and figure out who goes and who stays, with the end result being a league championship, cold hard cash and the attention of love-starved hotties.
Ok, maybe I’m the only one surrounded by female fantasy football groupies, but the rest can still apply. The key is to make an honest assessment of your roster. Do you still have Rashard Mendenhall on your bench? Do you really think he is going to make the difference for you during your playoff run, or are you hanging on to him because you drafted him in the eighth round and you are determined to have that move pay dividends? If you started him in Week 5 against the Eagles when he came back from surgery the first time, you got all the value you are likely going to get. Jonathan Dwyer has overtaken him. And without a quarterback, neither is worth owning as more than a desperate flex play.
What you need to do is flush the waste down the sewer and stack your playoff roster with the likes of Bilal Powell, Brandon LaFell, Chris Givens and others who are gaining playing time as the season progresses. These are the unsung heroes who will step in should one of your main starters break a leg or suddenly come down with the flu just when you need them most and provide critical points during the playoffs.
As an example, LaFell has 1 more target than Steve Smith over the last 3 weeks and 2 more catches. He has 196 yards receiving, with 2 touchdowns during that stretch versus 140 for Smith, who has zero scores.
Why is this important?
Teams that are out of the playoff hunt, but have aspirations for next year, should be high on your target list. This is the time they’ll mix in some of their secondary players to see what they have for the following season. Smith has been on the trading block according to several sources around the league. LaFell is predicted to be his heir apparent. You also have to be concerned about teams locking up the top seeds early as they often will rest their studs, which are typically your studs as well. When this happens, having solid bench depth makes the difference between being the 12-1 team that gets knocked out the first round or the team that moves on. It’s also the reason a 7-6 team chugs ahead; they had to be waiver wire whores most of the season just to survive.
With a player like Givens, it is simply a talented rookie taking advantage of an injured starter (read Danny Amendola). Givens has surpassed Brian Quick and Brandon Gibson on the depth chart. And even when Amendola returns, Givens remains the Rams' best deep threat. With games against Buffalo, Minnesota and Tampa Bay during playoff weeks 14-16, he could be a sneaky, but solid play.
Powell was rumored early on as the guy who would replace Shonn Greene. Greene saved his job, at least for the moment, when Greene went off to the tune of 161 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Colts. Looking past the numbers, however, we see that Greene’s production has tailed off into the single digits while Powell has been vulturing end zone carries. With the Jets floundering and Greene in a contract year, Powell could get more attention.
The eventual champions most often are the people who pay attention to managing their bench over the final weeks of the season rather than resting on their laurels, and studs, only to find that a couple of key players are being rested or injured just when they are needed the most.