We’re 12 weeks into the 2023 fantasy season. The end of the regular season is right around the corner. And there are three camps at this point.
There’s the 8-4 or better going to make the playoffs happy dancing smiley-faced camp, who are smug and unsufferable unless you happen to be one, in which case it’s delightful. There’s the 4-8 or worse camp who are depressed and angry and want to drag as many teams down with them as possible because misery loves company. And there’s the 5-7 to 7-5 camp for whom nothing is certain and are already panicking about Week 13.
I’m in all three camps, because I play in far too many leagues and have deep-seated psychological issues.
All of those camps have something in common — they are carrying dead weight on the roster that they don’t need.
Granted, it’s trickier in Week 13 because of the second Byepocalypse of the season — I’m 77 percent sure that it was Arthur Smith’s idea to have a six-team bye week this late in the season. But even then, so long as you have the guys to field a full lineup, there’s a question fantasy managers should be asking themselves right now.
“Is there any realistic chance I would start this player without getting stinking drunk on cheap gin first over the next month?”
If you have C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans backing up Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills at quarterback, then you aren’t dropping Stroud, of course. That you should have traded one or the other three weeks ago is a conversation for another article. But if you have Derek Carr backing up Allen just so you have a reserve quarterback, then you’re wasting a roster spot that could be spent on a backup for your starting running back — a Jeff Wilson for your Raheem Mostert. Or a second defense with a great playoff schedule.
The deeper into the season you get, the less depth matters. And at this point, it’s time to vote these players off the island.
(Rostered percentages courtesy of Yahoo)
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (69 Percent — Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
One year ago, Smith led the league in completion percentage, was eighth in passing yards, fourth in touchdown passes and finished well inside the Top 10 in fantasy points on the way to being named Comeback Player of the Year. This year, Smith hasn’t come close to duplicating that success, although the 33-year-old continues to insist that he can turn things around in 2023.
“For us, it just gets back to doing what we do, which is playing good football, playing sound football and knowing that we can execute,” Smith said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. That’s the reality, being confident in that. I’ll always remain confident in myself, but I’m going to continue to preach that I’m even more confident in the guys around me, and I know that we all collectively can get it done. That’s where it lies.”
Smith can keep talking the talk until he’s blue in the face, but there’s been nothing to indicate that he’s suddenly going to become 2022 Geno Smith again — and that was before he injured his right arm. Smith is 20th in fantasy points among quarterbacks, 24th in fantasy points per game and plays the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles over the next three weeks — arguably the three best pass-rushing teams in the NFL.
That Smith is still rostered in almost seven leagues in 10 shows how stubborn fantasy managers are about accepting what is vs. hoping for what was.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (27 Percent — Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
Speaking of living in the past.
Last year. Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon helped win a lot of folks leagues. Not only was the veteran scat-back a Top 20 running back for the season, but from Week 12 on last season, McKinnon was a Top 5 fantasy option and touchdown machine. Back in August, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid talked up what the 31-year-old brings to the table while speaking to reporters.
“He’s just a good guy to have around on your football team from a locker room standpoint. And then from a playing standpoint, there’s nothing that he can’t do,” Reid said. “He does everything so well. He’s got the good hands, he can run well, he can run inside, outside, he’s a good blocker, picks up blitzes — the whole thing there.”
The thing is, not only has none of what happened last year happened so far this season, but there has been zero indication that it will. The Chiefs didn’t trust Isiah Pacheco as an every-down back as a rookie. This year, they do — and he’s a Top 15 fantasy option as a result. On top of that, McKinnon’s hurt — he sat out Week 12 with a groin injury. If you have Pacheco, McKinnon’s worth keeping around as injury insurance. Otherwise, live in the now — and McCut him.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos (64 Percent – Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
Heading into the 2023 fantasy draft season, the prevailing wisdom among the fantasy community was that Jerry Jeudy would be the more valuable of the Denver receivers this year. In related news, sometimes fantasy analysts are wrong. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from an FSWA Hall of Famer who told me when I started doing this that I would be wrong four times in 10 — if I was lucky.
I’m a go-getter, so I doubled it. You don’t have to thank me.
Instead, Courtland Sutton has emerged as Russell Wilson’s go-to wideout. Jeudy’s is averaging a career-low 44 receiving yards a game, but he made it clear that he’s doing his part to be a bigger contributor in the Broncos offense.
“I mean, as a receiver, there’s a lot of people you’ve got to depend on,” Jeudy said, via the Denver Post. “You can be open, but if the line don’t do their thing or the quarterback don’t do his thing or the (offensive coordinator) don’t put you (in a good spot), it’s a whole lot of stuff that you’ve got to go through as a receiver to be successful. I can’t really (worry). At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what I do. People can say, ‘Oh, look at the stats, look at this, look at that.’ But the eye in the sky don’t lie.”
All fantasy managers care about is the box score, and after 12 weeks Jeudy is 55th in PPR points at the position, behind luminaries like Josh Downs of the Indianapolis Colts and Kendrick Bourne of the New England Patriots — who hasn’t played since Week 8. There are a couple leagues where I’m hanging onto Jeudy as injury insurance in case Sutton goes down. But as an individual asset. We were wrong. It’s not happening. Deal with it.
Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Seattle Seahawks (61 Percent – Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
To be clear, this has nothing to do with Smith-Njigba as a player. He’s an immensely talented young player and savvy route-runner who has a bright future in the NFL. He was an excellent pick by the Seahawks. His one-handed catch against San Francisco on Thanksgiving was the highlight of the game for Seattle and drew raves from offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
“I feel like that was one of those rare catches where the slow-motion replays don’t do the justice to it as [being] on the sideline,” Waldron said. “I’m standing right there and looking at the ball in the air thinking, ‘I don’t know if he’s going to be able to even get a fingertip on the ball right there.’ And then sure enough. … It was just so impressive to then be able to finish the catch through landing on the ground right there in a locked-up position. Just an unbelievable play that really displays his ball-tracking skills to a T right there, where you can picture him whether it’s Jaxon or Willie Mays.”
Willie Mays? Hyperbole much? It was a really good catch, but come on, man.
The problem for Smith-Njigba is that he’s the No. 3 option in a Seahawks passing attack that ranks 18th in the NFL in passing. He’s yet to have an eight-target game. Or a 65-yard game. Again, if you have Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, there’s a logic in rostering JSN as an insurance policy of sorts. But he’s 51st in PPR points and has no real fantasy ceiling to speak of.
Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Commanders (64 Percent — Droppable in 12-Team Leagues)
The Washington Commanders are a fantasy enigma in 2023. Sam Howell leads the NFL in passing yards (Yes, I recommended dropping him — I was wrong), but outside running back Brian Robinson all those yards haven’t amounted to a whole lot. Terry McLaurin has been a high-end WR3. Thomas has been a low-end TE1 or high-end TE2. Don’t get me started on Jahan Dotson.
Thomas came roaring out of the gate — over his first four games of the season, he averaged over six targets a game, scored a pair of touchdowns and ranked sixth in PPR points per game at the position. It was fun to see Thomas return to a measure of fantasy prominence after battling injuries for years. At a position sorely in need of steady producers, he was a welcome addition.
But this is fantasy football. And in fantasy football we cannot have nice things, because Arthur Smith (That’s right — he’s ruining tight ends all over the place now. He’s a fiend, really.) Since his 9/77/1 line against the Bears on October 5, Thomas has posted double digit PPR points all of twice. Thomas is 21st in PPR points per game among tight ends since Week 6 and just had his second-worst stat line of the season on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys. If you can’t do any better at tight end for the playoffs than Thomas (who also still hasn’t had his bye), then you’re headed for indigestion as bad as eating week-old turkey.
Follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks. And don’t eat week-old turkey.
(Top photo: Perry Knotts/Getty Images)