Stock Watch with Hayes: Gut Check

Friends, it’s the final week of the fantasy football regular season. If you blinked, you probably missed the whole damn thing.

I’ve been playing fantasy football for more than a decade now, and it seems like every season goes quicker than the one before it. Now that I think about it, you could easily apply that to every aspect of life. The older you get, the faster it goes.

For your sake, I hope this upcoming Week 13 means something. Maybe you’ve been cruising all year and already locked up a playoff spot and first-round bye. If so, chances are you drafted extremely well and avoided the dreaded injury bug. Couldn’t be me.

If you’re anything like me, this weekend is going to be quite nerve-racking. You might be fighting for seeding, or you could be desperately trying to squeeze in the final playoff spot. You’re going to swap out players in your lineup almost every hour leading up to Sunday. And once the first wave of games begins, you’re going to second-guess yourself like there’s no tomorrow. Sadly, for some of us, that might be the case. Everything is on the line.

Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. I’m in three fantasy leagues this year, and I’m either fighting for playoff positioning or simply trying to stay alive in all three. Not quite the season I envisioned, but you have to roll with the punches. Keep in mind that the 2020 NFL season – much like all aspects of life this year – has been pure chaos. The best any of us can do is take it day by day, matchup by matchup. 

Feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt, but when it gets to be this time on the fantasy football calendar, I go with the guys who got me here. Don’t overthink it this week. Play your studs and live with the results. If it doesn’t pan out, at least you can sleep at night knowing you started your best possible lineup and didn’t get cute.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If one of your startable players has a nightmarish matchup, you may want to consider other options if you have some. If you absolutely need that win this week, you can’t afford to play a guy with a low floor and low ceiling. But for the most part, you should stick to your guns and start your best players.

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned since I began playing this maddening game is that your first instinct is usually the correct one. When I’ve plugged a guy into my lineup at the last possible minute, he rarely does well. Meanwhile, the guy I initially aimed to play – who is now riding my bench – usually goes off. 

Trust yourself. You’re good at this. Now go eat that W, and I’ll see you in the postseason.

Before we get there, though, it’s time for another round of “Buy or Sell.” We’re going to examine two receivers and two tight ends this week:

BUY: Darnell Mooney (WR, Chicago Bears)

This year has brought us some of the best rookie receivers in recent memory. From Justin Jefferson to Tee Higgins to Chase Claypool and many more, fantasy managers – especially in dynasty formats – are thrilled with the production they’ve gotten from their young pass-catchers. But a name not many people are discussing is Darnell Mooney of the Chicago Bears.

Mooney is the PPR WR60 on the season, a far cry from the other rookies listed above. However, there’s plenty of reason for optimism. He was targeted 11 times against the Titans in Week 9 and received nine targets just last week against the Packers. It seems like quarterback Mitchell Trubisky likes to find Mooney, and I expect he’ll do so again against the lousy Lions defense. Even better, the Bears face Houston, Minnesota and Jacksonville the rest of the fantasy season.

SELL: T.Y. Hilton (WR, Indianapolis Colts)

We had been waiting all season for the T.Y. Hilton breakout, and it finally happened in Week 12. Hilton snagged four balls for 81 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort against the Titans. So, is he back? Can we confidently play Hilton the rest of the way? Eh, I doubt it.

Sure, Hilton has another favorable matchup this weekend against the reeling Texans. But keep in mind there are plenty of other mouths to feed in Indianapolis. You have to think Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines will run all over the Houston defense. Plus, quarterback Philip Rivers seems to prefer other weapons like Michael Pittman Jr., Trey Burton and Jack Doyle. At this point, it really seems like the veteran’s best days are behind him.

BUY: Noah Fant (TE, Denver Broncos)

We’ve come full circle. You may recall that back in the preseason, Noah Fant was one of my “All-In” choices this year. While he hasn’t quite lived up to that hype, he’s still been a solid fantasy contributor at the tight end position. I mean, let’s face it:  Unless you own Travis Kelce, you’re taking what you can get. 

I think Fant is a great option this week. The Broncos are on track to get quarterback Drew Lock back under center Sunday against the Chiefs. And when they’re both healthy, Fant is one of Lock’s go-to dudes. To top it all off, Kansas City’s defense is particularly susceptible to the tight end position:  They allowed Tampa Bay’s Rob Gronkowski to go off for 106 yards just last week. I’m starting Fant with confidence.

SELL: Richard Rodgers (TE, Philadelphia Eagles)

Richard Rodgers had a good run for a while in Philadelphia, but it’s time for fantasy managers to move on. Fellow Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert has returned to the Philly offense, and veteran Zach Ertz is on the way back, too. Yes, Rodgers has surpassed everyone’s expectations the past several weeks. He’s the overall TE22 on the season, not bad for a third-stringer. However, his Week 12 numbers were inflated by a fluke Hail Mary touchdown grab in the waning seconds of the game. Unfortunately, the clock is about to strike midnight on Rodgers’ Cinderella story.


Thanks for reading. For more takes, find me on Twitter @Chris_Hayes8.