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Start / Bench Week Thirteen

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By Grant Playter | Staff Writer

For anyone looking to decide who to play and who to bench for this week in fantasy, you need to look no further. We’ll take ten players who could go either way and offer whether you should play or bench them. Let the writers here at the Capital Sports Report make the tough decisions for you. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, you know who to wave the pitchforks at.

Running Back Battle: Orleans Darkwa (New York Giants) vs. Kenyan Drake (Miami Dolphins)

This week I wanted to talk about two running backs who have inherited the position from the original starter, whether it be due to poor play or injuries. Since I talked about Jamaal Williams in last week’s column, though it would be fun to highlight two of the other running backs who are in a similar position: Orleans Darkwa and Kenyan Drake.

(Note: I would have loved to talk about Samaje Perine, who also moved up due to injuries, but unfortunately the Redskins played Thursday Night Football this week, so let’s talk about these two!)

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake rushing the ball (Getty Images)

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake rushing the ball (Getty Images)

Darkwa had to fight hard to get his spot. Paul Perkins was the original starter on the season, but an injury to him amidst poor play cost him the gig. From then on, it’s been a battle between Darkwa and rookie Wayne Gallman for dominance at the position, but it seems Darkwa has earned the starting gig. Not that that means much on a team like the Giants, and Gallman is fighting him for snap counts – a lopsided game script last week resulted in Gallman getting more snaps – but Darkwa has been a great flex or RB2 option most weeks.

Kenyan Drake was actually two spots behind the starter. Jay Ajayi was the lead back before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, and in spite of what I would argue was superior play, seemed to take a background role to Damien Williams. With Williams out now; however, Drake is the only decent running back on their roster. With sole lead back duties, his snaps and volume are likely to go up.

I like both of these guys because they get volume, but both have unique problems facing them that has brought starting them into question. Eli Manning was benched this week, and I for one do not expect Geno Smith to light it up in the passing game. On the one hand, this means when — not if — the interception comes, the Giants will likely be more reliant on the running game and Darkwa will get some volume. The goal line touches should be there, at the very least.

However, stacking the box against Smith is a viable tactic, which could greatly reduce the output from Darkwa, who tends to run it straight down the middle. Additionally, if the Giants are down big — as they have been up to this point — Gallman will take more snaps than Darkwa.

On the other side of the fence, Kenyan Drake has looked explosive, with lots of big plays and touchdown potential. He’s the better on-the-ground running back compared to Williams, who was better in the pass-catching role. Getting more snaps as someone who likes to have the ball on the ground is good, it gives him a chance to break defenses down. And, let’s face the truth, Jay Cutler hasn’t been lighting it up after coming out of retirement.

The thing going against Drake is the system he’s used to. He’ll definitely get more snaps, but he’s a sophomore player who’s just now seeing significant playtime. That takes a toll on younger players, and he’s used to a system where he can rely on other running backs to lighten the load. As it stands, Drake is going to be in the game for what I assume are the vast majority of snaps, which will likely limit the explosiveness we’ve seen from him in years past. Having another running back to lean on, while costing chances for glory, is the best way to prevent burnout or injuries.

Ultimately when deciding between the two, I turn to the game script. Neither team has been especially good this season, but the Miami Dolphins haven’t been half as bad as the dumpster fire that is the New York Giants. I think, especially with a worse quarterback under center and defensive superstar Janoris Jenkins on IR, the Giants will be down big and lean on other options. For that reason, START Kenyan Drake and BENCH Orleans Darkwa.

  1. Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns)

I kinda hate myself for talking about a guy who’s become a meme, but he’s relevant to the discussion at hand. Gordon, after a suspension that’s taken him out of the action in the NFL since 2014. He’s finally gotten clean from his drug habit, has been training with the team, and is set to not only play, but start, in this upcoming week against the Chargers. The question of whether the former golden boy can get back to golden form has come up, and I want to provide an answer.

As fun as the possibility of an 0-16 season is, I do think the Cleveland Browns — armed with Corey Coleman and a newly passable DeShone Kizer — have been improving up to this point. I think Josh Gordon is, to the surprise of many, set to have a big game against the Los Angeles Chargers. All indications from training camp have been that Gordon is in incredible shape, and while I’m not going to go as far to say he’s a WR1, I do think they’ll at least give it a shot. He might blow up, he might not, but I think the targets will be there as a test for Gordon, so he’s a START for me this week.

  1. Jermaine Kearse (New York Jets)

Jermaine Kearse season has been on the decline for quite some time. Early on he seemed to be the lead receiver for the Jets, but slowly that role has eroded in favor of Robby Anderson, who’s currently enjoying a five-game touchdown streak. For Kearse owners, however, who had almost certainly benched him last week, he lit it up to the tune of 23.5 points in PPR scoring and a top ten performance. The glimmer of hope is in owner’s eyes: is the flexible Kearse from the first half of the season back?

I am here to answer those hopes with a resounding no. The game script called for a shoot-out last week, and I don’t think the Jets will find themselves in that position all too often. Robby Anderson will, for the most part, do what they need to get done in the receiving role, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins is no slouch as a tight end. With their running backs presumably back to full strength, I think Kearse is going to go back to his meager production, which I’ll happily let him do on my BENCH.

  1. Ricky Seals-Jones (Arizona Cardinals)

Hey, remember when I talked about this guy last week? And said to bench him? And he put up another amazing performance? And the man I did recommend, one Jared Cook, put up one reception for two yards? I sure do! I wish I didn’t, but I sure do!

All jokes aside, I stand by the call I made last week. I personally added and sat Jones in one of my leagues, and while he very well could have won the week for me – actually, I think he would have – banking on him to have a consecutive miracle performance was risky at best and straight up idiotic at worst. How many one hit wonders do we need to have before people realize that, hey, that’s a bad idea?

Having said that, two weeks is enough for me. I think Jones has gotten into a rhythm with Blaine Gabbert, and while he likely won’t put up another great stat line, the volume should be there. His snap counts are trending in the right direction, and he’s almost certainly available in most leagues. I picked him up in one of my leagues, and as much as it pains me to start someone barely battle-tested, I’m STARTING Ricky Seals-Jones.

  1. Tyler Kroft (Cincinnati Bengals)

Tyler Kroft has walked the line of starting tight end this year. In PPR scoring he currently sits at the 13 spot, which in my 12 team league means he’s an every-week starter. In an 8 team league, it’s a different story; and in a 10, yet another. Kroft’s utilization is very dependent on a lot of factors, so let’s look at the match-up and see if he’s likely to deliver a good we-

Oh.

Oh. It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. That… does not look good.

The Steelers, in spite of some recent troubles, have been a really good defense this year. And most weeks, they’ve done it via limiting points scored on them. I don’t like the match-up for someone who’s already on the border of startable like Tyler Kroft, it means a spot on the BENCH for me. I’d personally go for a statistically weaker tight end with a better match-up, like a Ricky Seals-Jones type.

  1. Oakland Raiders D/ST

The Oakland Raiders are not a good defense. In fact, they are the worst, getting their first interception of the year in last week’s game. Having said that, not only do they get to play against the New York Giants, but they get to play against the New York Giants with Geno Smith under center. I’m flashing back to Nate Peterman versus the Chargers all over again. Even if Geno Smith isn’t utterly incompetent, I don’t see the Giants scoring many points on the Raiders, making them a START for me in spite of their terrible track record.

  1. Seattle Seahawks D/ST

The once elite Seahawks defense has been really hurt by the injuries to it’s “Legion of Boom” and the once plug-it-and-forget-it defense needs to be evaluated on a week to week basis now. It’s a shame, because quite frankly they were one of the better defenses in both fantasy and the NFL, but match-ups now matter. And the Philadelphia Eagles have been an elite offense, elite enough that I’m BENCHING the Seattle Seahawks D/ST.

Quarterback Faceoff: Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears) vs. Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers)

And so we finally arrive at the section I seem to have some modicum of success in! Although, let’s face it, with the trade deadline over, you’re left with slim pickings off the waiver wire. With that in mind, I’ve picked two quarterbacks who will almost certainly be available on the waiver wire. Whether you want to start either is…debatable, to perfectly honest, but if you’re really hurting for streaming options or you’re in a two-quarterback league, Mitch Trubisky vs. Jimmy Garoppolo is an interesting discussion.

Trubisky is coming off his worst week of the season, outside of the ones Mike Glennon started. He couldn’t get anything started in the air, which is to be expected, or on the ground, which isn’t what you want from a supposedly athletic, young quarterback. Whether he can get the passing game going with weapons like Dontrelle Inman or Kendall Wright is…frankly, debatable, but the 49ers have one of the worst defenses in the league. The weapons are sub-par, but if he’s going to get it done, especially as a rushing quarterback, this is the week.

On the other hand, Garoppolo seems to be an incredibly talented quarterback, at least from what we’ve seen from him. Several of the 49ers weapons have picked up some steam as of late, in particular, ‘m a fan of former Olympian Marquise Goodwin, but this is the first game he’s starting. Most rookie’s have terrible opening games while they adjust to an NFL atmosphere, including the very opponent he’s playing. Performing, and performing against a stout defense like the Chicago Bears, will be hard in spite of his talent.

To me, it ultimately comes down to who I think will have an easier time cracking through a defense. And, in spite of the difficulties he’s faced up to this point and the lack of weapons, I do think Mitch Trubisky has a better chance getting something going against the 49ers than a rookie quarterback on a mostly bad team has of breaking through the Bears. The 49ers have more effective weapons than the Bears, but a soft paper towel also has that claim to fame.  I think the defensive match-up is better for the comparative veteran, and a quarterback needs to break through a defense to score points. Long-term I like him more, but this week I suggest BENCHING Jimmy Garropolo and STARTING Mitchell Trubisky.

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