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Week 13 Need to Know: Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet

Making the case for more Tony Pollard.

I know the Twitterverse already loves to unload on the painfully obvious ineptitude of Taysom Hill, but it’s just so frustrating to watch over and over again. Sean Payton needs a Taysom intervention. I megaloathe Hill. Does Payton interact with any human being outside of his sphere of influence? Like, if I ran into him on the street, I’d just ask, “What are you seeing that everyone else is not?” Payton has said he can play safety, tight end, H-back, etc. Yeah, well, let him do that, please. Payton has said Hill could be the next Steve Young! *eye twitch*

Let’s just move on to this week’s need-to-knows!

1. Tony Pollard vs. Ezekiel Elliott

It’s been bubbling for weeks. We’ve seen it coming since at least last season, but the best back on the Cowboys is Pollard and it’s not particularly close. Elliott still has his charms, of course. He’s a well-built back who can rumble between the tackles. Or can he? The Cowboys use him in those situations but he’s not good at that, either. You’d think because he’s not moving as quick as he used to, Elliott is still a 6-foot, 230-pound athlete with nine touchdowns on the year. They’re using him at the goal line, so he must be good at it? Right?

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

I believe the quintessential rushing stats are rushing yards after contact per rush (YAC/att) and rushing attempts per broken tackles (Att/Br). It’s not perfect, because some backs are more elusive, some get more outside rushes so first contact comes later in the play (outside rushes take longer to develop), and the list goes on. But let’s just focus here for now.

Elliott has 312 rushing yards after contact and averages a paltry 1.8 YAC/Att. He has six broken tackles this year. Yes, you read that right: six. That comes out to 28.8 Att/Br. That’s not good.

As stated though, these stats don’t tell the whole story. Pollard’s numbers in these categories aren’t that much better (2.2 YAC/Att and 17.8 Att/Br). What’s different here is that among running backs with 100-plus carries this year, Pollard is first in yards before contact per attempt (YBC/att). So not only is he further downfield than any running back before getting touched on average, he’s still doing more than Elliott after contact.

Elliott is under contract with the Cowboys until 2026. Over these five years of the deal, he is on the hook for $65.3 million, or just a hair over $13M per year. There’s no chance he sees more than another year with the team. Pollard’s base salary is $850,000 in 2021 and $965,000 in 2022 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Contract or long-view aside, the on-field results speak for themselves. Don’t need to be a professional football coach to be able to see Pollard should continue to see a larger role.

2. Assessing Trevor Lawrence

Considering the criticism faced by some of the other rookie quarterbacks in this class, it seems as though Lawrence is getting a pass. It’s been easy to pile on Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. Second-year QB Jalen Hurts has had plenty of WTF moments with errant throws and questionable reads. How does Lawrence stack up to his peers?

Two red flags pop out to me: bad throw percentage (Bad%) and on-target percentage (OnTgt%). Both stats exclude spikes and throwaways. On the year, Lawrence has 93 bad throws (for a 24.1 Bad%) and sports a 67.4 OnTgt%. That’s the worst OnTgt% and second-worst Bad% of any quarterback with at least 160 pass attempts.

Maybe it’s pass protection (or lack thereof)? Well, Lawrence is pressured on 24% of dropbacks (Prss%). That’s 15th among quarterbacks with at least 160 pass attempts, so right around the middle of the pack. He also has a mostly-average pocket time (PktTime) of 2.4 seconds. He’s been hit 41 times, the same total as Josh Allen and one more than Justin Herbert, so the Jaguars’ line doesn’t appear to be any better or worse than most of the OL units in the game.

PlayerProfiler has some interesting advanced stats for QB play that I feel are reflective of some of what we’ve already covered. Lawrence has 29 danger plays (unnecessarily risky play that could’ve resulted in a turnover, fifth-most in the league. He has 32 interceptable passes, second-most in the league. They give him a 6.9 accuracy rating, where each throw’s accuracy is rated from 1 to 10, good for 34th.

Most rookie quarterback evaluations simply have too many factors at play. We have to consider his supporting cast, playcalling, coaching and the list goes on. Am I overly concerned? As a fantasy manager, no. I’m not starting him and I assume you aren’t, either. He isn’t playing well, so why would you? As a Jaguars fan, I’d be more disappointed in the team as a whole because nobody is playing very well. But there’s not a lot of silver lining here and we’ll have to see how head coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke proceed this offseason.

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3. The lost art of landing the waiver wire league winner

I’d argue the league winner of 2021 is not going to be Dontrell Hilliard, Chuba Hubbard or Alexander Mattison, etc. It’s not a guy who could even emerge from the injury aftermath of Week 13 and beyond.

Nov 7, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs New Orleans Saints during the first quarter at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 7, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs New Orleans Saints during the first quarter at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The league winners of 2021 are Elijah Mitchell and Cordarrelle Patterson. Some receivers have emerged, of course, but if you look at the top 30 receivers this year, maybe Hunter Renfrow wasn’t drafted and was a waiver wire add. But all those guys are players we expected to be good.

Let’s dive into some context here, though.

The 2020 season was a bit of an aberration for the 49ers’ run game. Injuries plagued their backfield. Raheem Mostert missed eight games, Tevin Coleman missed eight weeks and Jeff Wilson missed four. Their No. 4 back was Jerick McKinnon… Need I say more?

So let’s go back to 2019 then. The 49ers were second-best in rushing yards, only behind the even more run-heavy Baltimore Ravens. Remember that was Lamar Jackson’s MVP year so their rushing totals were off the charts. San Francisco’s zone run scheme was in full effect as they had three running backs with 500-plus rushing yards (Mostert, Coleman and Matt Breida).

That’s a reason why Trey Sermon was thought of so highly in the offseason by most fantasy analysts. He was supposed to be the guy. Sky’s the limit, right? It just turns out our attention was off by one. It was Elijah Mitchell who would be the unlikely underdog to carry the load. Sermon hasn’t really been able to get going all year and Mitchell has been more than capable of toting the rock in his absence. We’ve all seen it.

For the Falcons, maybe we whiffed on Mike Davis, but fantasy managers had a chance to pivot. Patterson’s Week 1 game wasn’t much and his Week 2 felt a bit fluky. That said, if you go back and watch Patterson in those games, he jumps off the screen compared to Davis. He was running harder, better, faster, stronger!

When you look at the top scoring running backs this year, Patterson’s 18.6 PPR points per game are sixth-best in the league. But like the 49ers, we were one player off. It was Patterson, not Davis, who would be the guy. After Week 1, you had to add Mitchell after he delivered 104 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. After Week 2, you had to add Patterson after he provided 69 combined yards and two touchdowns.

If you missed out on both, you need to think about why this happened. What in your evaluation of their situations scared you off? You cannot miss out on the season breakouts. Why? Because you will not have a hit with every draft pick!

If you simply didn’t bid enough for either guy—that’s a tough pill to swallow. Now you know you’ve got to be more aggressive with your FAAB bids. If you didn’t have the waiver wire priority and missed on both, I don’t agree with the use of waiver wire priority so I would talk to your commissioner about using a FAAB system as it adds a wonderful strategy wrinkle every week.

For those that feel fantasy is all luck, you’re probably the guy in your league who doesn’t churn his roster every week to include emerging players. You’re probably the guy who whiffs on early-season breakouts. You’re probably the guy who doesn’t read to the bottom of articles like this, anyway. Kudos to those of you who did.

4. Week 13 SI Fantasy Must-Reads

Before setting your lineups, make sure you check out some of the world-class fantasy lowdown from our SI Fantasy analysts: