It’s Thanksgiving Week, which is fitting — because as is sadly the case every year, fantasy football has been full of turkeys in 2023.
You might not know it from reading this column, but it hasn’t been all bad in 2023. There have been players who have exceeded expectations quite delightfully, whether it’s Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert or Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua. The fantasy managers who used late picks or waiver claims to grab those values have feasted on delicious fantasy points all season long.
But for every C.J. Stroud there has been a Joe Burrow, who rounded into the form we expected just in time to suffer a season-ending wrist injury. For every Mostert there has been a Miles Sanders, who we just won’t talk about. For every Nacua there has been a Jahan Dotson, who not even my “drop an NFC East guy and he’ll go off” superpower could make more than a so-so WR3 last week.
The closer we get to the fantasy postseason, the more important it is to trim the fat from your fantasy roster — to get the leftovers out of the fridge before you wind up with fantasy salmonella. To rid your roster of oyster stuffing before it ruins dinner altogether.
Oysters…do…not…belong…in…stuffing. Just leave them in the ocean where they belong.
So, like that uncle we all have who drinks half a bottle of wine before the Lions game starts and then wants to talk (slur) politics, it’s time for these players to go.
(Rostered Percentages Courtesy of Yahoo)
Darrell Henderson, RB. Los Angeles Rams (51 Percent – Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
Henderson was a fun story while it lasted — a player who went from watching football on TV just like us to joining the Rams midseason to posting double-digit PPR points three times in four games. Back when Henderson was re-elevated to the active roster, head coach Sean McVay lauded how quickly Henderson was able to reacclimate to being not just in the NFL but on the field.
“Darrell came back in,” McVay said, “He’s done a great job of being able to quickly re-acclimate himself back to a lot of the things that we’ve done, he’s taken good care of himself in the meantime.”
Well, the party’s over. Yes, Henderson was able to score a short-yardage touchdown last week and catch four passes for 28 yards. But he carried the ball six times and gained one yard, which is a robust average of six inches (no, really) per carry. He was out-touched by Royce Freeman 17-10. And most importantly, Kyren Williams is fully expected to return from injured reserve this week.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers (63 Percent – Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
Want to know how it feels to slowly have the will to live drained from your body one Sunday at a time? To yearn desperately for the days when you tried to make Carson Wentz a functional NFL quarterback? Listen to Frank Reich’s post-game pressers in Carolina, where he talks about the process and the long-term and Oh God when will the losing stop it won’t ever stop.
“Not getting the results you want is frustrating,” Reich told reporters after Carolina was drilled by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11. “So, I’m frustrated most of all for (our coaches and players), but I’m frustrated for our fans as well. … You want change to happen overnight, but sometimes it takes longer than you want. But you have to keep your head down and be strong-willed and keep your vision every day and be able to fight your way through the tough times.”
My guy needs a hug.
I long ago advised cutting Miles Sanders who may have, earlier, been my single worst fantasy recommendation of 2023. But unless you are absolutely desperate for six points a week from an RB spot, the time has come to cut bait on Hubbard, too. Sanders and Hubbard are splitting touches almost right down the middle, and the Panthers are 29th in the league in rushing at 92.3 yards per game. Just get out — before you wind up like poor Frank.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers (98 Percent – Droppable (Maybe) in Shallow 12-Team Leagues)
OK, before everyone goes scrambling off to the comments to accuse me of sniffing glue, hear me out. I’m well aware that Jones appears to have at least dodged an ACL tear after Sunday’s scary-looking injury — the 28-year-old himself admitted to reporters that he feared the worst when he was originally carted off the field.
“If it was my ACL, then I’m done for the season,” Jones said postgame, via The Athletic. “I put in a lot of work and time in here with these guys, it felt like ‘man, I can’t catch a break,’ but I caught a break. I hope it’s not anything serious, and I’ll be back here.”
However, as of the time I’m writing this, we don’t know the results of the MRI on Jones’ knee. If it’s a significant MCL injury, then Jones could easily wind up on injured reserve, which would mean that he couldn’t return until Week 16 at least. At that point you’d be getting back a rusty ball-carrier who was 35th in PPR points and 26th in points per game over the first 10 weeks of the season.
You really want to roll that guy out in the semis? If it’s projected to just be a week or two absence, that’s one thing. But that’s not what I expect to hear — and this late in the game we might as well just face the fact that “Mr. Jones and Me” ain’t happenin’ this season.
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (93 Percent – Droppable in Shallow 12-Team Leagues)
Might as well really give the folks in the comments something to chew on. And no, I haven’t been hitting the wine. More of a beer fella.
We’re all still working through the five stages of grief to one extent or another about Burrow’s season-ending wrist injury, which is the capper to what has been a truly miserable contract year for Higgins. The Bengals are still in denial — or more appropriately, as backup quarterback Jake Browning told reporters, delusion.
“I’m not gonna hide the fact that I’m excited for my opportunity,” Browning said. “I think everybody in here, including Joe, kind of knows that. I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself. I think I’m borderline delusional when it comes to optimism.”
At least he’s honest.
Now, things could be worse — the Bengals could be starting Tim Boyle (pour one out for Garrett Wilson). But Higgins has a hamstring injury of his own that leaves his status for Sunday’s game with the Pittsburgh Steelers in doubt. And from what we saw of Browning against the Ravens last week he is, um, not Joe Burrow.
I’m not dropping Ja’Marr Chase, because, well, that’s kooky talk. But a banged-up No. 2 wideout playing with a backup quarterback the rest of the way? Given their respective situations, I’d drop Higgins for Odell Beckham right now without a second thought.
Rashee Rice, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (71 Percent – Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
From just about the moment that Rashee Rice was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, the fantasy community has been waiting for him to break out. And, well, we’re still waiting. However, despite a quiet first year, wide receivers coach Connor Embree told reporters that the team has been pleased with the progress they have seen from the former SMU standout.
“Rice is coming along throughout the season,” Embree said. “I like where he’s at. He’s working well and working hard every day. Then the snap count, it just depends. We got seven to eight receivers, so it’s kind of whoever has the hot hand, we’ll keep feeding. Then it’s a next man up mentality and stay ready.”
I love how he says “seven or eight receivers” like any of them have been good this year. If they had, the Chiefs might have beaten Philadelphia in Week 11 instead of scoring zero points after halftime in a game where Justin Watson was targeted 11 times.
Here’s the cold, hard truth. As great as Patrick Mahomes is, the only wide receiver in Kansas City who fantasy managers can trust in a must-win game is none of them. Rice has topped 60 yards in a game once as a rookie, and in a lot of leagues there are more reliable options with lower rostered percentages only because they don’t play with Mahomes.
Just stay the hell away from Tim Boyle—and that infernal oyster stuffing.
Gary Davenport wishes you all and your families a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. He’ll be in a turkey coma this week on Twitter at @IDPSharks.
(Top photo: John Fisher/Getty Images)