Much of fantasy football in-season owner strategy centers around which players to pick up from the waiver wire or to target in the trade market. However, roster spots are a premium resource. Cutting a player - or adding them to a trade - opens a roster spot for a key waiver wire addition or flexibility to keep a currently injured player through a missed game or two.
With the playoffs starting in Week 14 for many/most fantasy football leagues, many bench spots (outside of dynasty leagues) are about utility for the next week or two. This means adding an additional kicker or defense if there is an optimal matchup in an upcoming game or insulating from injury with a key backup or handcuff at the skill positions.
SHALLOW FORMATS, redraft leagues
Why: There are a host of better streaming options for shallow formats than these two, both sitting with strong MFL roster rates heading into Week 14. With Stafford, his weapons have eroded to a comical level as Levine Toilolo was a feature target in Week 13 and secondaries can load up on Kenny Golladay. Arizona, Buffalo, and Minnesota to close the fantasy schedule is also a rough trio even if playing the matchups.
Derek Carr enjoyed a rogue quality game (285-3-0) but it came against the known deficient Kansas City defense after three touchdowns over the previous four games combined. The Steelers bring Oakland's schedule back to reality in Week 14 and the Broncos are another negative adjusted SOS (strength of schedule) matchup in Week 16.
Why: Mack has two good games this season, both before the Colts' Week 9 bye. The Colts have stingy Houston and Dallas defenses the next two weeks and holding Mack for the off-chance he is in play for lineups in Week 16 (Giants) over a higher-upside primary backup or solidifying another position in shallow redraft leagues is sub-optimal.
Howard is on 100% of MFL rosters but has been a forgettable option all season. He has not caught more than one pass in a game since Week 3, has a season-high of 82 rushing yards in a game, and has devolved into a touchdown-or-bust low-upside fantasy option. Tarik Cohen is clearly the better fit for Chicago's spread and attack offense and Howard should be nowhere near playoff lineups in the closing weeks.
Why: Valdes-Scantling has been a shadow since his midseason flash. Over his past three games, Valdes-Scantling has a combined 4-30-0 stat line on 12 targets. Randall Cobb is back for Green Bay and Jimmy Graham is playing through a hand injury, both limiting the projectable upside of any non-Davante Adams wide receiver.
Robby Anderson has not scored since Week 5 on a limited Jets offense and has only one game of 50+ receiving yards on the season. The Bills are the worst matchup for opposing wide receivers, up for the Jets in Week 14 and Houston is no slouch in Week 15.
Taylor Gabriel is an ancillary piece to the spread-it-around Chicago offense and nothing more than a shot-in-the-dark flex for fantasy playoff teams. With Allen Robinson looking healthier by the week and Tarik Cohen a huge part of the offense, Gabriel is a shallow league cut unless dying at receiver and relying on his matchup with the Rams in Week 14 in lineups.
Why: One of the more big names mentioned in this column for 2018 is now Trey Burton. Adam Shaheen is back for the Bears and collected a goal-line touchdown this past week. Burton relied on red zone shovel passes for multiple touchdowns earlier in the season and benefitted greatly from Shaheen being out of the lineup. Burton has a meager 14-123-1 stat line over the past month, getting by more on name value than substance for shallow league roster rates.
moderate depth dynasty leagues
*25 or more roster spots*
Why: Bibbs is a purely situational hold in dynasty and with Chris Thompson returning, Bibbs' situational upside is dwindling late in the season. Bibbs is a non-optimal hold into the offseason as well with Derrius Guice slated to return for Washington and Bibbs a baseline talent to find a clear RB2/3 depth chart role in 2019.
Cannon had some situational buzz midseason with injuries running rampant for the Jets backfield. However, Cannon has a thin build and is merely a good enough athlete for his size to stick in the NFL for a stretch, not carve a meaningful role when the NFL talent shuffles the deck over an offseason.
Why: Cole's biggest contribution in recent weeks was drawing a defensive pass interference penalty on a deep target. Cole has four targets and 16 yards over the past month and has turned back into a pumpkin after his promising 2018 season (42-748-3).
Garcon popped back up on the radar with a broken coverage touchdown against a hapless Oakland defense in Week 9, Nick Mullens' historic debut. However, Garcon has looked physically done this season and looks to be closer to the NFL fringe for 2019 than a rebound candidate.
Some dynasty GMs are holding Bryant tightly, but the reality is few NFL teams had any interest in Bryant even before his Achilles injury. The setback will slow down the already questionable speed and separation ability of Bryant heading into an offseason where best case there is similar (minimal) interest in his services. Even if signed, the projection for lineup utility is questionable.
Why: Seals-Jones has taken a noticeable step back since the running-on-fumes Jermaine Gresham has returned to the lineup. Seals-Jones showed some promise in 2017 but largely was overlooked by opposing secondaries with broken coverage and chunk plays as a result. Seals-Jones looks like 'just a guy' at the tight end position and Arizona is likely to make a move for an upgrade in the offseason.