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 (11:00 AM)
Good morning everyone! It's a critical week in the fantasy football world, so let's get right to your questions...
ESPN projects Snelling to have 98yds and 2 TDs?! WOW! Will Harvin play he is my stud (return yrds count). & SJAX,Grant,Rice,Harrison and I guess Snelling now. pick 3 PPR
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:02 AM)
I agree with that projection, or at least, the upside that's being hinted at. The Bills stink as a run defense, and I'd be stunned if the Falcons foolishly rushed Michael Turner back again for the chance he again aggravates his angle. That said, Snelling's a no-go for me if Turner plays inexplicably. I'd go Snelling over Jerome Harrison for sure. I don't trust Eric Mangini, and I think Harrison is going to be grossly overrated as a Week 16 play as a result of what he just did. Just be careful, everyone, as he's more of a flex play, a guy in the 20s at his position in value this week.
Thoughts on Charles vs, Cincy ?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:03 AM)
Jamaal Charles is not going to sit for me at this critical stage of the season. To me, he falls into that class of automatics, or what I like to call the "start your studs" category. By my definition, Charles is now a "stud."
Jeremy (Little Rock, AR)
My union advised me to boycott all "fantasy football experts" after the Adian Foster debacle. Should I cross the picket line?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:05 AM)
Of course I'm going to say yes, but I must point out that it's really harsh to criticize the advice-givers for telling you Foster has some sleeper value, flex-play potential, which still means he's what, in the 20s or 30s at his position in terms of Week 15 rank? Besides, that's all Gary Kubiak's fault, and what we can take from it is that you shouldn't trust anything out of Kubiak's mouth the rest of the year. Like what he's now saying that Foster will get another chance. Boy, all I can say is that I'm glad Kubiak's not my editor, because it'd be rough to chat knowing that the first second I misspell "fnatasy" typing really quickly, I'd get pulled from the chat for someone else...
Hey Tristan, thanks for these chats. I love reading the transcripts every week. Those of us smart enough to listen to some espn experts were lucky enough get both Ray Rice and Cedric Benson very late in the draft. I imagine both will go much higher next year. Who do you see taking their places as potential late round/high upside RB's?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:08 AM)
Immensely difficult to give an answer on Dec. 23 of one season and still stick to it 100 percent come Sept. 1 of the next, but the first three names that come to mind as potentially huge advancers for 2010 are Beanie Wells, Justin Forsett and LeSean McCoy. I could see each of them being "the guy" in his respective backfield, and the talent's there for each to succeed.
Erin (Ashburn, Virginia)
With the possibility of another big week for Joshua Cribbs against Oakland. Would you take a chance on the Cleveland D? They got 29 points last week (special teams included).
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:11 AM)
I understand the thinking, Erin, and I'm not going to tell you that it's a foolish thought. That said, the problem with doing this is that you're banking entirely on Cribbs himself returning a touchdown, and that's only slightly less unpredictable than figuring out which no-name tight end is going to get that five-yard screen-pass touchdown in any given week. I want to give you some numbers just to caution you about overrating return scores for a D/ST: The Browns D/ST had 11 fantasy points in Week 15. Cribbs was responsible for 12 on the two scores all on his own. So without them, that defense gets a minus-1, because it's a terrible defense, period. To me, you couldn't be talking a greater risk, though you're correct that if you're in a rough spot at the position, at least it's better to take a shot on the return scores than a D with no upside whatsoever.
Need your help to get my first championship!!! H. Miller vs BAL or J. Finley vs SEA???
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:11 AM)
Well, Jermichael Finley isn't going to sit for me unless I have an elite tight end, period. Did you know he has a team-high 41 targets the past five weeks? And the Seahawks' pass D stinks.
Sit Peyton vs NYJ; Start Alex Smith vs. DET ... am I crazy?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:15 AM)
I've been asked this very specific question between the two once before this week, and I'll repeat the answer here: Much as I like Smith's matchup, I am not sitting Peyton Manning in the fantasy playoffs. Not unless I have clear word he's sitting a significant number of minutes, and I don't believe that's happening. I might feel differently if Smith didn't look atrocious in the early portion of the Eagles game, I admit, but that's a very good reason why you shouldn't be going reaching for "cute" plays just to avoid your studs. Ask yourself, how are you going to feel if Manning goes off for 15 fantasy points and Smith tosses a clunker for, say, eight points? Wouldn't you be kicking yourself for having done that, and more so than vice versa?
Does the soft matchup this week help or hurt the Saints players? Do Colston and Meachem lose value by the threat of an early lead and a Brunell appearance? Or is the matchup just too good to bench them?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:16 AM)
That Sean Payton has already said he has no plans to rest his starters has me saying "helps." Though I could completely see a 35-7 thrashing, especially since it's a home game. Though if that's the case, then that means all your Saints got you numbers before departing late, so why sweat it?
Chris F (Littleton)
How do you see the Saints backfield playing out this week against a terrible Bucs Defense?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:18 AM)
I think health is going to ultimately determine how that backfield plays out, which means Reggie Bush probably gets the least time of the bunch. I'd go Pierre Thomas first and foremost, my thinking being that in the previous Bucs game, he's the one who ripped off some long gains. I bet he gets the most chances to do damage.
So do you like Snelling so much that you'd start him over SJAX or Beanie Wells? Is Buffalo that bad?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:18 AM)
Let's not get crazy here...
Clauss (not Claus) (Wilmington, DE)
What are your thoughts on Reggie Wayne this week with the Revis factor and also possibly not finishing the game? I definitely gotta go w/J. Stewart (if he starts) over Wayne in my flex and even thinking upside like Josh Morgan vs. the Lions if J. Stew does not. What do you think?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:20 AM)
I think you are right on with the two primary concerns with Wayne in Week 16: Revis, early hook. Both are enough to have me saying he's in no way a certain starter in an ESPN standard league. As a flex play? OK, sure, maybe he'd be my No. 25 wide receiver, just as Roddy White might have been in Week 15 going up against Revis. But that doesn't mean I'd sit him for Josh Morgan necessarily, unless I heard some clear word Wayne might not even play half the game. It's close. I'd call the most likely scenario here that J-Stew does start, and if that's the case, he's the clear play here.
Championship Dilemma: Minnesota DEF or Green Bay DEF? I love both of their matchups quite a bit.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:21 AM)
I agree, and that is sure a toughie. I think one of the biggest differentiators here is that the Vikings' game is a road contest, so I'd give the slight edge to the Packers, who have played remarkably well of late (Steelers game aside).
Peyton (maybe he gets the hook early) or Schaub? Championship game!!
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:22 AM)
That's one case where I'd suggest you sit Peyton Manning, crazy as that sounds. The Dolphins are weak in the secondary, and Schaub isn't a far cry from Manning in terms of fantasy potential in a typical week.
Jason (Twin Cities)
Hey Tristan, Happy Holidays! Is Josh Morgan a viable starter this week, or is the 49er offense strictly going to run the football? Also, does Cotchery have any value in what could be a shootout with the Colts this week? Thanks!
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:24 AM)
Regardless of what I said earlier, I do believe in Morgan as a low-level sleeper. A team thin in depth in ESPN standard might consider him for the RB/WR spot, but more likely he'd be a No. 3/flex in a league that goes 2RB, 3WR plus flex. As for Cotchery, I suppose in deep leagues like that he might warrant a look, but I don't see it being a tremendous matchup for him. I prefer Morgan of the two.
Jake (VA Beach)
Season 8 of 24 has Freddie Prinze?! As the new Curtis/Tony type at the new CTU...nooo! Ok, so pick 3 WRs from these: Wayne, MSW, Calvin, Nicks, Gage, or Morgan.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:26 AM)
I know, I've got my concerns too, but I'll give him a chance I suppose. Hakeem Nicks has some health concerns, so I'm going to shy from him, but I'd go Mike Sims-Walker for sure, not that he's an elite play but I think a decent No. 2, then Reggie Wayne and Calvin Johnson. Morgan's close, though.
Happy Holidays THC! Do i play the hot hand in Fred Davis or go with what got me to the championships with Kellen Winslow.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:27 AM)
Very, very close, these two tight ends. I'm going to go with Davis. In a close race I tend to prefer the hot hand, so long as "hot hand" means multiple games of quality production. That game could be a real mess for the Bucs.
Ed (New York)
Any chance you see the Bengals giving LJ a bigger workload than normal because of the revenge factor against KC? If so, does this hurt Benson's value at all or is the matchup just so good?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:30 AM)
I do, because Larry Johnson has been waiting since the day he signed with the Bengals for this specific matchup. I bet he'll get in the ears of the coaches enough to get double-digit touches, even if Cedric Benson does the bulk of the rushing work, and the matchup does provide some flex-play appeal in larger leagues. I wouldn't toss this matchup aside.
Obviously you use different algorithms, but why do the ESPN projections differ so much from other fantasy sites? e.g. Snelling is a 15 point difference between my leagues.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:31 AM)
Because we're awesome. (What would you expect I'd say though?) Not sure what to tell you there; projections are done with different formulas by different people, and as I've said all season, they do lock people into one specific thought on a player, whereas no two players might be alike. Regarding Snelling, I do very much like that our projection is predicting a high-upside game, because he has that kind of upside. People should know he's a surprisingly good start.
I'm in the championship game and I'm scared to use Chris Johnson, why?!?!
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:32 AM)
Yeah, why? Sorry Tom, not intending to belittle your question at all, but I am very curious why you have fear? I wouldn't hesitate for an instant to start him.
I dont think DeAngleo Williams is even ranked in the ESPN projections this week. Is that because ESPN assumes he will not play?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:34 AM)
He has an ankle sprain that was likely an aggravation of a previous injury, so I think it makes sense that today, you should be preparing for the week under the assumption he's a no-go. But it's everyone's job to do his or her homework and check practice reports, because this is not a game where you can make all your moves and set all your lineups on a Wednesday and believe you're in good shape.
Jack Bauer (Nowhere and Everywhere)
This is a matter of national importance. Don't make me MAKE you talk! Britt, Bowe, Breaston or Morgan for WR3? With CTU dismantled they are the best we have...
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:35 AM)
After seeing what you did to Santa Claus, Jack, I am petrified. So to answer your question, so I can stop shaking, I'd go Dwayne Bowe. Yup, he's back. And enough so that I'd play him ahead of that matchup, so long as I understand that he's a No. 2/3, not a top-tier play.
Joel (Stanwood, WA)
Tristan, do you prefer to play in D/ST leagues or IDP leagues?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:37 AM)
Joel, that's an interesting question and a little tough to answer, because each has its benefits. I personally prefer IDP, if only because I don't think defensive teams are an ideal reflection of the real game; too much unpredictability when you're lumping a whole group of players into one "player." Of course, I'd also point out that IDP tends to reward tackles first and foremost, and often, just being on a really bad team whose defense is perpetually on the field can make you an elite IDP, even if you're not necessarily the best talent on the field. I do think it's a little more strategic, more fun and a more accurate reflection of the real game, though, so long as you get the scoring and the roster sizes correct.
Matt (New York)
FEAR of ranking Harrison too high, but play him over "five point" Forte with the horible matchup? How about pairing Bradshaw with Jacobs instead of Maroney?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:40 AM)
I'd start every single one of those guys over Matt Forte. My rankings: Brandon Jacobs, Laurence Maroney, Jerome Harrison, Ahmad Bradshaw, Forte.
Brian (The Shore)
I am at the Jersey Shore eating Crab Claws. Whats For Lunch? Do you Think Chambers is a Better play than Bowe?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:41 AM)
Good question -- think I still had some leftover pasta. I envy you with the crab claws, good choice. And no, I do not think Chris Chambers is a better play than Dwayne Bowe. The Week 15 numbers were fluky; look under the surface and it was clear Bowe is back as that team's No. 1 guy.
Rough QB situation -- Garrard, Campbell or Ryan this week?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:43 AM)
Ugh indeed. I think if I recall this statistic correctly, David Garrard has 12 passing touchdowns at home and only one on the road all season. Doesn't that inspire confidence? I like Mike Sims-Walker, but not his quarterback this week. It's Jason Campbell for me. Hey, he'll throw a good deal.
Even with the defenses taken into consideration, I still have to go McNabb over Palmer, correct?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:44 AM)
Yes. I do like Carson Palmer for most, but the consistency of these two quarterbacks is not equal.
mike (madison wi)
uglier qb situation...cutler, campbell or freeman?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:45 AM)
It is still Campbell. The other two are facing defenses that can terrorize opposing quarterbacks; the Vikings in terms of that vicious pass rush, and the Saints in terms of creating turnovers.
What kind of value does Felix Jones have? Talking heads think he is going to get more time and he is playing a skins team that has packed it in, but in a rivalry game, does that go out the window? I am looking at Felix, Meacham or Santonio Holmes at the flex
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:46 AM)
I think deep-league flex play, and that's it, and even then I'd be iffy. Jones might touch the football 10 times and perhaps get 50 or so yards, because he has that kind of talent, but I don't think he's at all a factor near the goal line. That's Marion Barber's job. For me, it's Santonio Holmes. With the Ravens' defense so nicked up in recent weeks, I'm not scared at all.
Do you have the statistical breakdown on which playoff seeds win ESPN fantasy league championships? Fluke performances seem to destroy strategy this time of year.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:48 AM)
I do not, unfortunately, but I can assure you that any playoff seed can win a league title. That's why you have to see this thing right through to the final day. In one of my most important leagues, in fact, I'm a No. 6 seed playing the No. 5 in the finals. I've also got two No. 2 seeds in the finals. And in another key league, in which I'm out of the running, it's a No. 1 team versus a No. 6 seed. Anyone's game!
Jon (Des Moines)
Is Greg Jennings back to a must start this week with the matchup v. Seattle? I'm planning to bench Wayne for him based on mentionings in this chat so far.. Also, do you like Snelling more than Fred Jackson or Justin Forsett?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:49 AM)
I do think Greg Jennings is a must-start this week, yes. Well... let's just say a top No. 2 option, and I'd find it hard to believe anyone has three better alternatives. And I do absolutely prefer Snelling to Forsett.
Ethics Question: I picked up Mo Morris and Westbrook off waivers so my championship opponent couldn't have them to fill an injury void on his roster (I will not be starting either). Today he is complaining that that was an underhanded "backstabbing" move. I told him to quit whining and that he should've put in a waiver request. Sorry dude, but I wanna win. Who's right here?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:50 AM)
I think you have every right to tell this owner to quit whining and that he should have put in a waiver request. Perfectly legitimate strategy, and I would do it myself in a heartbeat wherever I could.
Curious as to why you like MSW this week? On the road at New England, with an inconsistant QB. One that has only thrown one TD on the road. Where will the points come from??
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:53 AM)
Patriots have allowed 30-plus fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in three of their past six games, and have allowed the sixth-most to the position all season. Sims-Walker is Garrard's go-to guy, and while I could totally see Garrard going 200-1-2, which isn't a good fantasy day at all, that's still enough for MSW to have perhaps a 6-80-1 kind of game. This team is going to have to throw in a road contest it should trail, so that's why I'd be more optimistic in receiver than quarterback. When we pick matchups, remember, they're not a blanket "love the entire team" thing sometimes.
Brett (Mechanicsburg PA)
HAPPY FESTIVUS...let us gather round the pole and ask a question...better flex play...Harrison, Beanie or Megatron?? Part 2, TE, Celek or F Davis. Thanks a lot.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:55 AM)
Brett, first you have to defeat me in the "Feats of Strength" in order to have your question answered. Just kidding ... Beanie Wells. Love that matchup, and his recently increased usage. And I'd go Brent Celek. He's not going to sit for me, not involved as he is in that offense.
Josh in Michigan should have let him have Westbrook...would've been a much better strategy.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:56 AM)
Ha, funny, Kyle, and maybe that'd make sense, but you never know that if the next-best player on the waiver wire after Westbrook is now Tashard Choice, then Josh did a good thing. In most of my leagues, that'd be about what's left out there.
Instead of repeatedly answering the same types of questions let's say hypothetically you own every RB and QB...who are your top running backs and QBs for this week, in order.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (11:58 AM)
Good question, and in the very few seconds I get to mull the answer, here's the quick tops of my lists at those two spots, and I hope I'm not forgetting anyone: Rodgers, Brees, Schaub, Rivers, Warner, Brady, Big Ben at QB; CJ, Gore, MJD, Rice, ADP, S-Jax, Beanie, Charles at RB.
Frank Rizzo (Upstate NY)
Have you ever played in a league with between 8 & 12-teams and used a 2QB system? It's by far, the best way to balance the RB position so that 13 of the first 15 picks aren't always RB's, and a team can win with good QB or good RB play.....
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:00 PM)
I do play in a two-quarterback league and have for a very long time, and yes, the draft does play out a heck of a lot differently than it does in a one-quarterback league. I actually find that one a little frustrating, because position runs at quarterback are unavoidable, and you almost have to overpay for a quarterback -- usually 20 spots higher than ADP!
How do you recommend doing keeper rights? Whoever owns them at the end of the season, or give some bias to a team that drafted or held a player most of the year?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:01 PM)
You cannot possibly decide this in-season. During the winter come up with a fair rule set and ride it out for 2010 with everyone knowing the criteria. I have a league where we have player prices, and there's a set price for midseason pickups that makes you pay more than usual to keep them, in order to encourage people to draft and roster their keeper candidates all season. There needs to be a reward for long-term scouting, I think.
Joe (Bronx, NY)
Wow no Eli Manning on that list? Or was that a forget?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:02 PM)
It was not a forget. Eli Manning is probably not even a top-10 quarterback for me this week, not against Carolina. That's a good pass defense and a poor run D, so I think it's the Jacobs/Bradshaw show.
Chase (Madrid, Spain)
Championship question.... Mendenhall against a stingy Baltimore D or Jennings against a generous Oakland D?? and Merry Christmas in advance!!
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:04 PM)
No one's going to use Chris Jennings here, Chase, but the question is valid from the angle that Eric Mangini has been impossible to predict with his running backs of late. People think of Jennings and Week 15 stud Jerome Harrison as the big two in that backfield, but Josh Cribbs has been getting rushing work, too. It's a three-headed beast and that's why I refuse to strongly endorse any of the three this week. Harrison is a flex play, that's it. Jennings? Keep him on your bench.
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:05 PM)
Pretty much right after those, and heck, if I had a couple more minutes to crunch my numbers I might slot him a place or two higher.
Tristan - You always hear about a team with poor pass D but good run D. Isn't part of the reason they have good run D because the other team exploits their poor pass D and visa versa? Are there any teams with both good pass and rush D?
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:05 PM)
Tristan H. Cockcroft (12:06 PM)
OK, time to wrap things up for the day. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I didn't get to yours. Please do feel free to e-mail me if you've got a pressing question, and I will do my absolute best to get to yours this week. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone, and best of luck to you in your Week 16 matchups!