Fantasy Football with Tristan Cockcroft
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday morning, ESPN.com fantasy expert Tristan Cockcroft will drop by to take your questions and analyze all the latest football news from a fantasy perspective.
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Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:01 AM)
Good morning everyone! Let's get right to your questions...
Your thoughts about benching Colston for Charles this weekend? Good idea?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:03 AM)
Nope, and I do like the Jamaal Charles matchup, but I'm not sitting a Marques Colston for him. For one thing, DeAngelo Hall is no lock to play for the Redskins, and I don't think it's a guarantee Albert Haynesworth will go, either. If either or both is out, upgrade that matchup, but the bottom line is that Colston is as talented as any receiver in the game.
T.O has been hot lately, but I am dreading the matchup with Revis. Would you bench him for Maclin, esp because of Djax injury?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:04 AM)
I'm dreading it too, Nicole. It's a bad matchup. Look at all of Terrell Owens' terrible outings this year; that could very well be the result when Darrelle Revis shadows him all day, which he will accounting for T.O.'s recent hot streak. I like the Jeremy Maclin matchup. The Falcons stink defending wide receivers so I'd call the rookie a low-end No. 2 option, which means an ESPN-standard starter.
Jeremy (Little Rock, AR)
Avant or Meachum for Week 13?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:06 AM)
Ooooh is that a toughie, because I'm a Robert Meachem fan based upon the way he has been used lately (heavy amount of red-zone looks), but I like Jason Avant quite a bit for this week. If this is a PPR question, it's Avant without a doubt. It's close otherwise, but I still go Avant, being that I think the Saints might run a bit more than usual this week.
Seems funny asking but Brandon Jacobs or Rock Cartwright in PPR?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:07 AM)
It's not funny to ask that. While I don't see the Saints coming out and utterly clobbering the Redskins, like a 46-7 score where they're up by three scores in the first, I do think there's a very real chance that the 'Skins will be throwing almost exclusively for half the game. From that standpoint alone it has to be Jacobs.
TC- Ethics question. I'm out of the playoff picture but playing a guy who needs a win to get in, who also is my cousin. My team is horrible and I want to take a flyer on a few guys(Britt or Avant)but am affraid the league will think I tanked it. Thoughts?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:09 AM)
What's wrong with going with your gut? It'd be one thing if you went ahead and started Michael Jenkins and declared to the league, "I'm in great shape with him starting!" Jason Avant, as mentioned before, is a fine sleeper play for this week. Kenny Britt, well, I like him, but I admit I think his matchups in Weeks 14-15 are more attractive than this one. But in terms of ethics, you know, you set the best lineup you possibly can. There's no shame in taking a shot on a sleeper, so long as you can legitimately back it up if questioned.
No good answer to this question, kind of like "honey does this dress make me look fat" if Warner can't start do you like Leinart or Sanchez. also pats D or Jets D. Thanks
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:11 AM)
I know Thanksgiving just passed -- and I hope everyone's was a happy one -- but I can say today that I'm thankful that I have a wife who will not ask me that question, mainly because she recognizes how stupid a question it is. She also, fortunately, would not ask me the quarterback question, either, though that's because she's not a fantasy football player -- not at all! Anyway, to the serious answer, I don't like either, but pressed to choose I'm going Matt Leinart. Sounds like you're a Kurt Warner fan, so the handcuff route is a smart one to protect yourself, and one thing I can say in Leinart's defense is that the Vikings' secondary has holes. At least there's that. Yeah, he stinks, but the matchup offers a hint of promise.
Is Westbrook going to play again this year?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:13 AM)
I don't know the answer to that as I am not Brian Westbrook's doctor, but I'm a die-hard hockey fan who knows quite a bit about concussions. The first instance is pretty serious. A repeated instance? Really bad. I stand behind my previous comments that any more game action by Brian Westbrook this season will surprise me somewhat, but the bottom line for fantasy is I wouldn't be making any plans around having him help me.
No worries for Tom Brady right? especially down this important stretch?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:15 AM)
I don't really want to give you a canned answer, Ryan, the age-old, "Nope, he's fine," but the truth is that's the correct answer. I do get the rationale behind the question. It's legitimate, or I wouldn't answer it. But Tom Brady is Tom Brady. He's got great receivers, a coach who despite some questionable decisions recently gets the most out of his offense. The upside is tremendous. And if you look at that schedule, there's a Miami matchup and a Jacksonville matchup, and I'd be confident in expecting 300/3s in both of those weeks. The upside is there. As for the Buffalo matchup, the guy did clobber them in Week 1, so that shouldn't scare you.
Will Laurence Maroney continue his TD streak, or would J Stew be a better play vs a TB D/ST he owns?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:17 AM)
I'm thinking no re: Maroney, but this is a track-practices question, which is why it gets the answer. DeAngelo Williams has a bit of an ankle problem, and if he's going to be even slightly limited, Jonathan Stewart will get an increase in carries, and remember that the last time Williams was nicked up Stewart was the guy who got the touchdowns of the two. I love that matchup; Stewart routed the Bucs earlier in the year in his traditional backup role. Maroney? He's got a healthy Sammy Morris as a threat to his workload, and Morris does have the capability of being a goal-line vulture at any point.
Jake (VA Beach)
Charles has to be a better play than Jacobs at this point, right?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:18 AM)
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:19 AM)
To give a little more on that one, though, realizing the long-term angle is vague with the one-word answer, for Week 13, yes, absolutely. Beyond that? I haven't closely examined the matchups individually (not a ton of time given the chat time to answer each question), but I'd say you will have a close call each week.
TC....SNOW is in the forecast. Is this something you watch closely now that playoffs are here?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:21 AM)
I do, but I also don't put a ton of stock in weather beyond extreme circumstances. Some examples: High wind, heavy rain and/or snow, something that would obviously affect the game conditions. Kickers are the most obvious players affected by these weather conditions. Quarterbacks have a bit tougher time with the wind. It's something I'd be keeping an eye on, yes, but no radical shifts barring extreme conditions.
What does the future hold for Slaton?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:22 AM)
You know, I gotta think the Texans realize Steve Slaton is the future of their team at running back, don't you? It's inexplicable what Gary Kubiak has done with that position this season. I know Slaton has a fumbling problem, but I keep going back to the fact that Tiki Barber had a huge fumbling problem, he and the Giants worked on it and he developed into one of the best backs in the league. I see so much of that in Slaton, a guy who can be top-five with a little work, so I'll say here that I'm hopeful the Texans take the offseason, work on it and Slaton comes back with a bounce-back 2010. Otherwise, I have to root for a change of scenery, because I think the guy's too talented to be declared done for a career.
Nate (Happy Valley(English class))
Morning Tristan! Strategy question for you. If you lock up a seed in the playoffs are you in favor of intentionally losing a game to get a better matchup or do you play your best players and go for the win every week?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:26 AM)
There isn't a cut-and-dry answer, Nate. First of all, this is why I tend to craft my leagues' rule sets to encourage playing your best every single week. In my keeper league, for instance, top seeds are rewarded with byes (which is huge), prizes and the ability to pick their own playoff matchups (best team picks opponent). If your league's rule set actually does make it advantageous to punt a week, well, what can I say. The goal here is to win the league. That's the bottom line. I think it's best to put your best effort forth -- because you don't want to make enemies in a league or you'll lose future trade partners or have people giving you future payback if they're in this spot -- but you know, you have got to win your league whatever way is permitted by the rules. I do, however, have a hard time believing anyone succeeds with your strategy barring being 11-1 right now with a three-game lead and trying to set a poor opponent in the playoffs' first round. I call this unlikely.
Forsett...in or out?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:28 AM)
I said last Tuesday -- in spite of the Julius Jones-is-my-starter proclamation by Jim Mora -- that I would start Justin Forsett. I was confident. I turned out right. I pretty much say the same thing again, that I continue to believe in Forsett. This Julius Jones talk is nonsense, not that I'm suggesting you should dismiss it outright, but I'm skeptical it's going to wind up true. Forsett has performed too well not to be trusted, barring the highly unlikely scenario that Jones practices all week, gets glowing health reports and then is declared active and the starter on Sunday. And I think we'd all see that progressing throughout the week if it happened.
Please help (does begging work)?...How concerned are you about Jake D going down and does this drop Steve Smith below a starting Avant?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:30 AM)
I don't really have a radically different opinion about the Panthers regardless of their quarterback; Steve Smith has a good matchup and he's fine as a No. 2. Sure, Delhomme or Matt Moore isn't about to get him the football 10-plus times, but that's a bad secondary. Smith will find his openings, and if he catches five passes one is going to go for a touchdown. Unless you're in a PPR league, he's my pick.
Avant's not starting, I read it was Reggie Brown
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:31 AM)
"Starter" doesn't always mean "guy getting the most targets" -- but it's a factor as to why I'd pick a guy like Steve Smith first.
Good morning sir. Your thoughts on Jets D @ Buffalo or Pitt D vs Oak? I took the expert advice last week with pit against Baltimore over the jets domination of Carolina even though it seemed odd to have them ranked that way. Anyway your thoughts this week? Thanks
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:33 AM)
I think it was understandable; the Steelers remain one of the most talented defenses in the game, Troy Polamalu or no Troy Polamalu. I'm sticking with them, especially in light of that extremely attractive matchup.
I'm one of the many who lost Matt Ryan for the year. Do I start Josh Freeman or Matt Stafford, or is there another sleeper I could grab off waivers/
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:34 AM)
Is Alex Smith available? How about Vince Young? Otherwise, you're just going to have to piece this together week by week, and I have to wonder how if you're a Ryan owner you didn't already roster yourself a quality backup. He was looking pretty shaky before getting hurt, after all.
Scotaaaayyy (Fargo, ND)
What does the future hold for Steve Slaton THIS SEASON?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:35 AM)
Not a lot of positives. Potentially an even-Steven split with Chris Brown, where Brown is the higher probability for the goal-line touches. If Slaton is a flex option in more than half of his remaining games, I'd consider it a strong finish for him. It's a shame, but it's the truth.
Does the Carolina D have teeth this week, or do I stick with Dallas?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:36 AM)
I'm not a huge fan of the Panthers' defense, but facing the Buccaneers is a solid matchup. I know the Giants are in a terrible funk, but Giants-Cowboys games are typically tight affairs and often can be shoot-outs. And the game is in New York. The downside in that game is greater.
Everywhere I look, people are rating Green Bay's Defense very low this week. Why? I think they have a great matchup this week against Baltimore.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:37 AM)
They've lost some key individuals in recent weeks and that makes them very much a boom-or-bust play. That it's a home game does help, I think, as does the fact that Joe Flacco has looked rather ordinary since his hot start cooled. But I'd probably have the Packers around the back end of my top 10 defenses. They won't be a top-five, certain play the rest of the way.
Jerious Norwood (Atlanta)
Do you think I'm a good play this week?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:40 AM)
Better in PPR, perhaps a low-No. 2/high-flex type, somewhere in the No. 20 range at your position. It's not a great matchup, but I do think Norwood gets a healthy chunk of the rushing work.
Please rank your top 5 CB's as far as the ability to shut down top-flight WR's?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:43 AM)
See, that's immensely difficult to answer because specific cornerbacks don't always glue themselves to a specific No. 1 receiver every single week of the season. Look at Nnamdi Asomugha: he covers one portion of the field, not necessarily a specific receiver. If what you're asking is "cover corners who scare me as individual matchups" -- which still doesn't mean an instant "sit 'em" declaration, I'd go: Darrelle Revis, Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Johnathan Joseph, Champ Bailey.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:43 AM)
For the record, Revis is the only one who individually scares the dickens out of me right now, if my WR1 is going head-to-head with him.
Joe (Bronx, NY)
So you'd go with the Jets D vs Bills based on the Revis/T.O. matchup?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:46 AM)
Darrelle Revis versus Terrell Owens is only one tiny facet of that football game. That hardly makes a team-defense decision. That said, I think the Jets do stack up well versus the Bills, yes, and I'd have them top 10. I'd use 'em over those aforementioned Packers, for one. And the Cowboys. And Carolina.
Read this from Philly.com Sport: If Jackson cannot play, Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin will likely be the starters, with Reggie Brown working as the No. 3 receiver.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:47 AM)
Interesting point, and I'm not confirming that by posting it, but the bottom line here is that's a pass-happy offense that's going to run three-receiver sets a decent amount, so I wouldn't sweat the "starting" designations. Maclin's the top play of the bunch, as a mid-to-low-2, Avant's in the Nos. 20-25 range, so high-flex, maybe low-2. I won't use Reggie Brown. I doubt he'd be active at all if Kevin Curtis was healthy.
Another ethics question- Is it fair for me to take the bad side of a one sided trade in order to stop a competitor from getting into the playoffs? (i.e trading a team out of the playoffs a great player for a sucky one only so he beats someone who could beat me to the playoffs)
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:49 AM)
I bet you everyone attending this chat today is going to tell you this is terribly unethical. But I think those who read my work know that I'm also a huge fantasy baseball fan, and there have been countless columns over the decades about how trades in Rotisserie baseball have to take into account the categorical shifting, that making a deal to push your competition down in a category is a smart move even if you paid too much "in a vacuum" (as people here call it). So, with that in mind, how is this a bad strategy? Again, I draw back to the bottom line: Win your fantasy league. Do it whatever way is legally permitted by your rule set. Period. It's very hard for me to argue any other way unless you think you're going to severely damage any future trade relations with your ownership group.
Trade veto help at the deadline! Need unbiased opion! Brady for Palmer and Crabtree... The team giving Brady is out of the playoffs and it's a father son trade. Vetoable right?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:51 AM)
Funny to post this right after that previous question, because hey, maybe it's this very instance. I think this very much teeters the edge. But the fact remains that the difference between Brady and Palmer, this season, has been fewer than four fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, that the difference isn't huge means you probably need to let it go, hard as that might be. But I continue to stress that I am extremely liberal with trade judgment.
Should I start intereception-happy Jay Cutler against a dismal STL pass defense this week, or roll the dice with Ben Roethlisberger against Nnamdi Asomugha and the 12th ranked pass defense in OAK? Obviously, Big Ben is coming off a concussion and OAK ranks second to last in the league when it comes to run defense, so do you think they are going to completely emphasize the run and keep Ben's passing modest?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:52 AM)
Cutler's turnover tendencies petrify me, but this is one time I'd be OK starting him. Certainly over Roethlisberger, who has a weaker matchup and health questions (though he's expected to play).
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
You play to win the game.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:52 AM)
NE's rush defense looked a little questionable vs. the Saints... Thoughts on Ricky's chances against them?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:54 AM)
If you're looking for a specific reason to sweat the Ricky Williams matchup, it's that the Patriots have had a history of obliterating the Dolphins in their matchups, so the run could be quickly out of the mix. That said, I'm not terribly worried; Ricky plays way too integral a role in that offense. He's a top-10 play to me, though near the back end.
Worried enough about K.Warner to trade him for Alex Smith and his juicy schedule in week 14 v. ARI & week 16 v. DET? Other options on my bench are Hasselbeck
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:56 AM)
Nope. I'm a little worried about Kurt Warner based upon his age and injury history, but let's point out that he probably has the best schedule of anyone in the entire game the next four weeks. (If he plays, of course.) If I'm in your spot, I'd be finding someone else to trade to get Alex Smith, and it should not require a lot. Certainly not Warner himself.
Normal people (Everywhere)
Is winning fantasy worth losing friends over Aryeh?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:56 AM)
To be clear: No one should ever be "losing friends" over fantasy football. There's no reason anyone should ever get that upset about anything that happens in our game.
Tristan, what is so bad about relatives trading with each other? It seems that every time or every other time I read an "ethics" question, it involves family members trading. Explain why it would be bad!
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:59 AM)
I think it's understandable people are skeptical about family members. If you're family, you probably care about each other and want to see each other succeed. Well, not me and my brother; we're in a ton of leagues together and it's like a Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, where we're dying to beat each other. Heck, I'm in several leagues with a father and son, two brothers and then me and my brother. But I know these people personally and they're ethical. I think it's to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
What happens with BReaston here on out? Is it Leinart, is it 2 TE sets, is it phasing him out of the offense, is it running more, is it.....??
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:00 PM)
I think you just listed most all of the Steve Breaston concerns. Though the two-tight end sets are a little less worrisome to me, and the running more is a little more worrisome. I'm not saying Breaston is done, but this is the risk in having a No. 3 receiver on your fantasy roster.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:00 PM)
OK, let's take, let's say, 10 of the start 'em types, since we haven't done a lot today, then it's time for me to grab some lunch...
hines ward, garcon, maclin, crabtree?? need 2 please help fatasy career on the line????
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:01 PM)
Oh how I wish I could tell you I like Michael Crabtree's matchup enough to start him over Hines Ward, but I can't. Look at Crabtree's Week 12. 'Nuff said. Maclin, Ward.
Please Pick 2 in non-PPR league... Addai, Jacobs, Forsett.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:02 PM)
I'm playing Justin Forsett. As of 12:01 p.m. ET on Wednesday afternoon, Forsett will be in my lineups. Addai will be my other starter; better matchup against a Titans run defense that hasn't played that great the past several weeks.
Sit one: SJax, AP, Ceddie B, Ricky WIlliams?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:03 PM)
Cedric Benson, who is supposed to play. This one boils down to my not possibly being able to sit any of the other three, especially not for a guy with health concerns. One note: If Jackson does have any setbacks this week -- and remember that he just played Week 12 despite missing the full week of practice so my concern is small -- at least Benson is there to be your fallback.
Do you dare sit Roddy White (& the Samuel matchup) for Garcon or Miles Austin?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:05 PM)
Good spot to start talking about why the previous cornerback question can't be a be-all and end-all. In most cases, a cornerback won't be a specific receiver's shadow for the entire 60 minutes. I think White will find his openings; can't sit the guy. Too talented. And I love that Miles Austin matchup. The Giants' pass defense stinks right now.
Welker, V.Jackson, B.Marshall, M.Austin....I need 2, and all have good matchups.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:06 PM)
Hmmm. That is a toughie. Wes Welker for sure. Returns to Miami, that secondary is porous, he has huge numbers versus his old team... and for No. 2 I'll go Miles Austin.
Snelling or Chris Brown at FLEX?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:07 PM)
Linked to the practice reports, but right now I'm saying that I believe Jason Snelling takes a backup role and the best-case has him in the 8-10 carry range where he gets a goal-line carry and scores. That's not an extremely great endorsement, and I think Brown has a higher probability of more touches, so it's him (with hesitation).
Eric (California, PA (Anatomy Class))
Hey Tristan, Whats for lunch?!?!? Wide Receiver who do I start Meachem, Manningham, Nicks, Breaston, and how about D/ST Denver or San Diego?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:09 PM)
Very good question. Might be buffalo wings, but we'll see. Might be a spur-of-the-moment day. I'd go Robert Meachem in this case, and ride the hot streak. It's a trend; you play the trend. As for the defenses, San Diego all the way. What a matchup!
Hey, TE question...who to start (heath) miller or finley?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:10 PM)
I'll go Jermichael Finley, and it's a bit of a gut call. I know Donald Lee got that score on Thanksgiving, but those are traditionally supposed to be Finley plays. With the Ravens potentially breathing down Aaron Rodgers' neck a lot this week, I think he'll need to ramp up Finley's number of targets.
Addai, Jackson, Charles, Wells, Hightower....pick 2
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:11 PM)
I assume that is Steven Jackson, who is a no-brainer, and I'd go Jamaal Charles here as well.
Bruce (The Windy City)
K.Boss or Bad Finger Celek?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:13 PM)
I would make absolutely certain that Brent Celek has completed at least the full Friday practice and preferably gets a positive report before that, but I'd be surprised if he's not going to be the better play this week health concerns or not. Good matchup, will be needed with DeSean Jackson's status unclear (I think he sits).
Matt (NH (Chem class))
Enjoy your lunch Tristan. Pick 2: D'will, Benson, McCoy, Forsett, Pierre Thomas?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:14 PM)
Thank you Matt! I want to tell you DeAngelo Williams is a clear play because he's an elite talent and the matchup is favorable, but he has the aforementioned health questions. If he's a-OK by the weekend -- again, check Friday reports -- he's getting my thumbs up. Justin Forsett is as well. And I'd probably go Cedric Benson in Williams' place (or Forsett's if the unthinkable happens where Julius Jones is declared the starter) if needed.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:14 PM)
OK, time to wrap things up for the day. Thanks for all of your questions, and sorry if I didn't get to yours. Best of luck to you in your Week 13 matchups, and take care everyone!