Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fantasy Football Week 14 mailbag: How should you handle Dalvin Cook if he plays Thursday?

The toughest question Fantasy Football players have this week revolves around the Vikings running backs. Now, I’m not saying Dalvin Cook playing in Thursday’s game against the Steelers is a bad thing, but him missing the game — as we expected — would have made things a lot easier on us. However, with Cook expected to play after missing one game with a shoulder injury, you’ve got a real decision on your hands.

Because you can’t sit Cook, right? Alexander Mattison is, obviously one of the best backup running backs in the league, and he’s been an elite Fantasy option when Cook has been out. However, when Cook plays, he tends to play his normal role. The lone exception was in Week 4 when he played just 49% of the snaps and had nine carries, but he was coming back from an injury in that one and re-aggravated it — he might have played his normal role otherwise.

That is, of course, a risk here. Cook has a long history of serious shoulder issues dating back to high school, and his latest was assumed to be a multi-week issue. Now, he’s back on a short week after missing just one game. The risk of re-injury here is high, and it’s also possible the Vikings limited his playing time to try to avoid that risk as well.

There’s no easy answer here, but if Cook is active, I’m going to have him in my lineup unless I’ve got several elite options. I would start him over Aaron Jones, who has his own questions about his role, and I would start him over Javonte Williams, with Melvin Gordon likely back. Cook slots into the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 range of my rankings, while Mattison is more like a fringe RB2 with upside. 

Surely, you’ve got plenty of other questions for Week 14. If you subscribe to the Fantasy Football Today Newsletter, you can get your questions answered every week by emailing them directly to me, so head here to subscribe. Today’s questions are taken from subscribers to the newsletter, and we’ll start with one about Jones:

Dave: Would you start Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon this week?

That’s one of the toughest questions for this week, because Dillon had 20 carries and five targets in Week 12, while Jones had just 10 and one, respectively. Of course, that was in Jones’ first game back from a knee injury that we expected to keep him out longer than he was, so it’s fair to assume that Jones was being limited to at least a certain extent. However, it may not have been all because of the injury, because it’s not at all unreasonable to argue Dillon has done enough to make himself an indispensable part of the Packers offense.

Dillon has been about as effective as a runner as Jones has and he’s been quite a bit better as a pass-catcher — 93.1% catch rate to 77.1% for Jones, and 9.0 yards per target compared to 6.2 for Jones. There’s noise in those numbers, to be sure, and Jones has a long enough track record that he’s earned some benefit of the doubt, but how much is the question we can’t really answer. 

My assumption for this week is that Jones will be the lead back, and while I’m not treating him like I was at the start of the season, when he was close to a top-six RB, I’m still treating him like the better option in Green Bay for at least this week — but I will be keeping a close eye on the playing time splits, especially in passing situations and near the goal line to see who has the more valuable role down the stretch. 

Mikel: Should I start Kirk Cousins over Lamar Jackson?

I understand being frustrated with Jackson, and Cousins has been better than him of late. But it’s worth keeping some context in mind there — Cousins is averaging 2.4 points per game more than Jackson in six-point-per-pass-TD scoring and less than one point per game more in four-point-per-pass-TD scoring, despite having an 11-to-1 TD/INT ratio compared to a 7-to-8 ratio for Jackson. 

Cousins is more touchdown-dependent than Jackson, and now he’s playing without his best red zone weapon with Adam Thielen ruled out for Thursday. I’m still going with Jackson here. 

Don: It’s been a rough season.  The King went down, Calvin Ridley decided not to play anymore, and Michael Thomas was never activated off IR.  Yikes. And I just lost Logan Thomas. So, do I start Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Onta Foreman, Chuba Hubbard, or Chase Claypool?

I’ve got Edwards-Helaire ranked the highest of this group, but I could see a case for Foreman. Foreman suffers in my eyes from having a really limited passing game role, which leaves him very touchdown dependent. However, he just got 19 carries in a game the Titans lost by three scores, and he’s got a great matchup on the way against the Jaguars. Edwards-Helaire is the safer option of the two, probably, but I might end up talking myself into Foreman before the end of the week.

Ed: Who would you rather start this week and the rest of the season: Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Russell Gage?

I tend to aim for upside at wide receiver more than anything else, and I think Valdes-Scantling has a lot more upside given his role in the Packers offense. And, if the 19 targets he has over the past two games are remotely sustainable, he might be a very valuable starter down the stretch. 

But I’ll go with Gage for now. He has at least 9.9 PPR points in four of his past five, and at least 13.4 in three of those games. The Falcons offense is kind of a mess right now, and Gage has never been a particularly efficient option, but he’s just getting so many targets that it’s hard to go away from him. Valdes-Scantling probably has a better chance for, say, 15-plus points, but he also has higher odds of ending up with three. 

Frank: At flex in 0.5PPR, would you start Elijah Moore, Ezekiel Elliott, or Mark Ingram (if Alvin Kamara is out)?

Kamara got a full practice in on Wednesday, so I think the smart money is on him returning — he nearly did last week, so that’s been my assumption since Monday. More notably, Ingram was placed on the COVID list Wednesday, so he’s likely out for this week anyway. So, you can take him off your list, at least. Of course, I’m not sure that makes your decision much easier anyway. 

Moore is on fire right now, with three straight games of a target share over 30%, and he ranks second among all wide receivers in PPR points with 100.3 over the past five weeks. The Saints aren’t a great matchup — they’ve got a very good defense and an offense that aims to limit possessions — but I’m not sure it’s a matchup that should cause you to actively avoid a player like Moore right now.

But I would have a really hard time going away from Elliott. I know you’re probably frustrated with him, but he still played 64% of the snaps in Week 13 and still got 59% of the RB opportunities in a game where reports indicated he might have a limited role. With extra time off since last Thursday’s game, I’m assuming Elliott is going to have his typical role, and this is a game the Cowboys shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball. For all the consternation about Elliott, his role in this offense simply makes him too valuable to sit for me. I know my colleagues don’t necessarily share my faith, for what it’s worth.

Tim: With Jonathan Taylor on bye and Christian McCaffrey done for the season, I’m looking for your thoughts on my bench options … Sony Michel, D’Onta Foreman, or Chase Edmonds. Realizing Edmonds is only coming off IR and may need a bit to get into game shape.

Yeah, I think Edmonds is probably someone I prefer to wait a week and see how the Cardinals use him before I get him in my lineup if I have that luxury, and you do. If Darrell Henderson is out again, Michel is an obvious must-start option

Tom: For WR, I need to start one between Darnell Mooney & K.J.Osborn. For flex, I need to start two and the choices are: Tony Pollard, Melvin Gordon, Sony Michel, Mooney or Osborn (from above), and JaMychal Hasty.

I prefer Mooney here, I think there’s more upside with his role in the Bears offense than with Osborn’s role in the Vikings offense, but there’s a chance you might end up starting both. It’s hard to answer the flex question until we know about the status of Gordon, Henderson, and Elijah Mitchell/Jeff Wilson, because I would start Gordon, Michel, or Hasty above Osborn if they are in the valuable roles. Gordon would be a low-end RB2 for me if he is able to play, while Michel would be a borderline No. 1 if Henderson is out or limited; Hasty would probably be ahead of Gordon if both Mitchell and Wilson are out. So, this is one you’ll need to pay close attention to as the week goes on. As of now, I’d plan on Mooney, Michel, and Hasty. 

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