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December 10, 11:00 AM ET
Fantasy Sports with Tristan Cockcroft

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:01 AM)

Good morning everyone! Busy day today, as we're deep into the fantasy football playoffs, and things are happening on the baseball hot stove. Both sports fair game, as always, so it'll be a mix. Let's get started, shall we?

Joe (Pittsburgh)

Thoughts on Bradshaw? Was he banged up just enough to sit out most of the second half, or was does Wilson get a bigger piece of the pie going forward?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:04 AM)

I've said multiple times throughout the season that Ahmad Bradshaw is playing through a knee injury, one sure to limit him on a week-to-week basis, but that the one saving grace for him in fantasy was that Andre Brown's season-ending injury at least restored the goal-line work, which he needs to score touchdowns necessary to stabilize his value. Think of it like this: Bradshaw might not get much more than 12-15 carries each week as the Giants preserve him accounting for the knee, but if he's going to get the 1-2 goal-line carries each week, he'll still be fine as an RB2. That hasn't changed.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:04 AM)

Now as for David Wilson, an important name to discuss today...

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:07 AM)

I cannot see how his Week 14 doesn't remove him from Tom Coughlin's doghouse, as he set a franchise record for all-purpose yards, had the highest number in the <i>league</i> in the category in almost two years, and he showed the kind of explosiveness that had him on my list of breakout candidates during the preseason. I turned out wrong on that; the opportunity didn't come initially. But I'd say now it has: What if this is a Bradshaw-12-carries, Wilson-8-to-10, arrangement going forward? Wilson also keeps that return work, so there's a chance he could be flex-play capable (though that's about it for now).Another critical angle: Keeper leagues. I've been huge on Wilson in these, to the point that I've rostered him in mine all year because he'll be cheap. He might be one of 2013's biggest breakouts, because he's sure got the skills for it.

Franklin (Nashville)

Thoughts on Bryce Brown next week. Should I be worried about how the Bucs shut him down? Is Shady coming back?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:09 AM)

I haven't heard an update that has LeSean McCoy's return being imminent, but homework must be done (that's you <i>and</i> me, and I'll have a Wednesday ranking to reflect it).Forgive Brown his Week 14. The Bucs' defensive strength, after all, is limiting the run, and the game flow at least in the latter two-thirds wasn't conducive to Brown getting on the field a great share. I think it's a blip, though I've consistently ranked him more high-end RB2 in his starts than clear RB1.

Eric (CO)

Baseball! In his blog yesterday, ESPN's Keith Law said that Wil Myers has top 5 players in the league potential. When should he be drafted in 2013?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:11 AM)

I agree with Keith, that's Myers' ceiling for sure. That said, "ceilings" and guarantees are vastly different things. Let's not forget that, anyone who's criticizing the Royals with this trade. It's hardly an automatic that Myers becomes a superstar at that level, though I do like him quite a lot.As for Myers in Tampa, keep in mind the organizational philosophy: Lock the prospect up to an affordable deal at the onset, or keep him in the minors and manage his service time so you can control him for as long as possible. It means Myers -- this is my guess today -- probably isn't on the Opening Day roster. So I'd say he's not worth more than a late-round pick in our standard game.

Scott (MD)

Did not see the Bills game yesterday but I cant understand how they can continue to limit carries for Spiller. How do you think they will use Spiller next week with Jackson potentially out again with injury. Thanks for all your work

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:13 AM)

I shrug my shoulders, Scott. I have no idea why the Bills continue to suppress C.J. Spiller's workload. But Jackson's injury effectively forces them to turn back to Spiller, and he was an RB1-capable fantasy player when he had the backfield entirely to himself. Plan accordingly.

Robbie (Memphis)

After seeing what Seattle did to Arizona yesterday, is it a safe bet to start the Lions in week 15 and get more than a modest return? (Seattle is my starting DST)

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:16 AM)

I'm not starting the Lions over the Seahawks, but if I'm seeking a plug-in defense, I'd sure take a look at the Lions. Check my Consistency Ratings archives, I wrote one in I believe October about the streaming-defenses strategy. I stand firmly behind that strategy still today, with largely the same recommended matchups as back then.Some to consider: All vs. Cardinals (DET, CHI, SF remain), vs. Chiefs (OAK, IND, DEN), vs. Jets (TEN, SD, BUF), vs. Chargers (CAR, NYJ, OAK), vs. Titans (NYJ, GB, JAC). If you're in a tough spot, those are places to look.

Nathan (Mississippi)

Can we keep saying "You have to start Aaron Rodgers"?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:17 AM)

Consider your alternatives. Do you really think a Joe Flacco type belongs in your lineup over the respectable, albeit modest, contributions of Aaron Rodgers over the past month? Not the way I'd play...

Bob (DC)

Seattle's D yesterday is why I love leagues that award a bye to top seeds. One less chance of losing on a fluke like that (btw, I had a bye and will be facing the guy with Seattle's D next week).

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:20 AM)

I take this opportunity, at this time each year, to share the outstanding playoff format my keeper league uses: In addition to byes for the 1-2 seeds (six make the playoffs), in each round, the highest active seed gets to pick its preferred opponent (so in Week 14, the 3 seed picks from 4-5-6, and in Week 15, the 1 seed picks from 2 and the Week 14 winners), and in each individual matchup the team with the greater number of wins earns a 5-point bonus for each additional win over his/her opponent (so a 10-win team facing a 7-win team starts the matchup leading 15-0).

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:21 AM)

The No. 1 seed has won in every season in the league's history, and a No. 6 seed has never won a single playoff game.

Brint (Wichita)

BASEBALL: If he doesn't get traded and makes the rotation out of spring training, where do you see Trevor Bauer going in drafts next year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:22 AM)

I don't think that he will, not in our standard mixed format, nor <i>should</i> he. That said, he'd be a "watch-list" type player, and as an aside, I do think there's a reasonable chance he's still traded and starting somewhere at the start of the year. A guess today: Bauer is more 14-team and greater redraft mixed late-rounder, and in NL-only leagues goes mid-to-late or for maybe a $5-8 kind of auction bid. Interesting player, but opportunity isn't guaranteed.

Josh (Dallas, TX)

On your league format, do you like that? Having less parody with the higher seed usually winning?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:23 AM)

Without question. But remember how many complaints I get annually about, "Oh, I cannot believe this terribly shocking result in my playoffs," and each year I remind, it's something you have to accept if you're going to play a standard playoff system.Incidentally, I'd also throw my support behind our standard playoff system, which I also consider much more fair: The two-week playoff matchup system. Expand the sample and you improve chances of the best team winning.

Jimmy B (Boston)

Aaron Rodgers has been mediocre in the past month, next week he gets the NFLs best pass defense in Chicago, a team he got 10 points against in Week 2. Freeman is playing the WORST pass defense in the league (NO) and had 35 points in their meeting this year. I know "you always start your studs" but this seems a little different. Can't believe I'm typing it but I'm seriously considering Freeman over Rodgers. Help?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

But, see, Jimmy, Josh Freeman isn't in Joe Flacco value-point territory. Thinking about it today, I'm probably going to rank Rodgers higher -- haven't run my matchups numbers that I use to do my rankings yet, I do that on Tuesday -- but that's not crazy talk. The only thing I'd say to you as caution: If Rodgers goes off with a Rodgers-esque 30-point fantasy day, and Freeman has a typical Freeman game (15-20), what are you going to be saying next Monday?If, "Oh, I hate myself," is the answer, you need to be sticking to your studs. Go down with those ships.

Brint (Wichita)

BASEBALL: Is Albert Pujols still a lock 1st round pick?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:26 AM)

Not a lock but he made mine. Barely (10th).

Billy (NY)

I didn't see any of the Jags game yesterday, did Montell Owens look like he'll be startable going forward assuming MJD remains out?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:28 AM)

In all honesty, I did not either, only highlights, as I couldn't bring myself to watch 60 minutes of Jets-Jaguars. But the highlights were positive enough, and I'll point out that Owens was in and out of that game with cramping, so that he did what he did was impressive enough. Sure to be a high-end flex rank for Week 15.

Brint (Wichita)

In general, do you play in more keeper or redraft leagues? Which format do you prefer?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:30 AM)

Way, way, way, <i>way</i> more redraft leagues, but that's a product of the invitations I receive. Expert leagues are always redraft, and most friends and colleagues of mine play redraft over keeper. I active play in a keeper baseball and football league -- almost identical ownership groups in either -- and love both formats for different things.

Mike (San Diego)

So in the playoffs, everyone says play your studs. How do you nitpick when you can't play them all? I can only play two of Spiller, Charles, and Morris and every week I have been leaving a highly productive Morris on the bench because of the upside of the other two. Should I keep going or does Spiller ride pine this week with a tough matchup?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:34 AM)

I'm seeing an increasing number of instances of readers misinterpreting my advice; blanket statements shouldn't necessarily be taken literally.Examples: The talent-versus-matchups thing doesn't mean you just use any wide receiver facing the Redskins ahead of Calvin Johnson. That's ridiculous. The point is that matchups matter <i>more</i>, and if you have a close call, go with matchup over skill. Key words: <i>Close call</i>.With the play-your-studs thing, all it means is that you don't use Joe Flacco over RGIII in Week 14. You just don't do it. If you've got an abundance of riches as you do, you're free to pick and choose the matchups, because you're sitting a stud no matter what you do.I look at your squad and say go Spiller and Charles.

Kevin (Long Island)

Why doesnt you league just have regular season games and no playoffs if its basically impossible for the number 1 seed to lose?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:35 AM)

Nothing is impossible in fantasy football. To be fair, the league is in its sixth season, so it's a relatively small sample. A little fluky, if you ask me, but I like that the odds are better for the No. 1 seed to win. That's what it's about: Shouldn't the top seed have a greater chance at winning the championship than the No. 6 seed?

Danario Alexander (Stud?)

Am I matchup-proof now?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:36 AM)

I'd say so. I'm assuming this relates to the Panthers and Jets being his next two matchups, and I'm not terribly bothered by those. Though I will say the matchups note from before might have me conservatively ranking him for Week 15, somewhere in the No. 20 range. He won't be generously ranked, but he'll be startable.

Mike (Miami)

Going back you your DST advice, you recommended both NYJ and TEN. For this week which would you go with? what about the Dolphins at home against the Jaguars. Thank you

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:38 AM)

Those were merely listings of candidates to stream. I would never use either one over the Dolphins considering the matchups.

Jeremy (NYC)

In my league the #1 seed had the 11th most points, and me as the 5 seed had by far the most points scored. Why should the #1 seed record wise have such a disctinct advantage when based on points they are an inferior team? Just looking to understand how your league would handle that.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:39 AM)

We have a reward for the team that scores the most points, and believe me, the winner of said reward has no complaint about his/her standing.Plus: Teams with higher seasonal point totals have an outstanding record of playoff victory. Generally speaking, those are the more successful playoff teams in fantasy.

Pablo (Santa Fe)

Didn't get to see the game, did Ben improve as it went? Stats looked pretty bad after 1st qtr, but fine by end of the game. Thanks

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:42 AM)

I'm not sure it's fair to judge his garbage-time work. He looked fine then, but I agree, like he needed to shake the rust (as I noted in our inactives report beforehand) in the earlier stages. I'd chalk it up to meeting expectations, so I think he's fine to call, hmmm, a 10th-or-so option for Week 15.

Dan (DC)

Effect of Cam Cameron getting axed on Ray Rice?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:44 AM)

It cannot be anything but positive. Cameron's playcalling was often inexplicable, and Rice really needs to be the leading man in that offense. I'd say it only strengthens his status as an RB1, meaning instead of being perhaps a weekly 8, he's a weekly 4 (or so).

Ben (Charlotte)

and word on Gronk's status this week?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:45 AM)

Last I checked -- a little over 24 hours ago -- he hadn't even appeared in a single practice. I can't see how he'd be back this week, but again, homework.

Todd (Cleveland)

Where will James Shields end up in your ranks to begin the season next year? Change much with the trade?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

No, not much. I think the only adjustment I'd make is slightly less win potential, but even that might be negligible (leaving, say, a 90-win team for one that might be in the low 80s -- mostly that the Rays would've been a stronger bet).

BASEBALL!!! (Tx)

What are your thoughts on Todd Frazier for next year? Would be a 9 dollar keeper for next year...Worth it?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:48 AM)

Certainly. Dual-position qualifier (1B/3B), deep lineup to pad the counting numbers (R/RBI), hitting-friendly home ballpark. If that's NL-only I'd say it's a no-brainer.

Cam Newton (Carolina)

So, about this Sophomore Slump thing??? Who was saying that again? Who's still my mom's favorite player?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:49 AM)

I think it's the kid from the commercial.Seriously, pace of 322 fantasy points, and I was telling a colleague this morning that, should Tom Brady fail to score 18 fantasy points tonight, Newton will wake up tomorrow the No. 2 scorer in all of fantasy football.

Brian (NYC)

Fantasy playoffs!! I have a really close matchup with tonight to decide it, do i roll with Owen Danials or Aaron Hernandez? Dont need a homerun, but cant put up a dud....

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:50 AM)

I am taking Owen Daniels. Neither player has a terribly low basement, but I think Daniels simply has the stronger matchup of the two.

Bill (Cle)

Shields at 15 dollars or Moore at 13. AL only. Thanks

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

Matt Moore, slam dunk.

Rick (Kansas)

My favorite league has been one where we play the entire regulary season and redraft once the real playoffs start. If someone wants to keep a player when the real playoffs start, they lose their first pick in the playoff redraft. If they keep 2, they lose their first two picks of the redraft. Are you in any leagues like this?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:51 AM)

I've heard of those but never played in one. I should try sometime, but I've never, ever found enough other people interested to play.

Michael (Milwaukee)

What do you see David Wilson's role being next season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:52 AM)

Backup being groomed to eventually take over, perhaps before season's close. In other words, one of the most intriguing upside plays among No. 2 running backs come the draft.

CJ2K (Ten)

Lets talk a little Chris Johnson before the end of this thing

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:53 AM)

Ok, well, his offensive line is in shambles, and I'd hope his owners have not forgotten how awful his September when his O-line was underperforming (though healthier than it was today).NYJ, @GB, JAC remaining schedule shouldn't condemn Johnson as a fantasy option, but he's RB2 material once again, and his upside has faded.

John (Atlanta)

talk about Knowshown, must start?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:55 AM)

"Must," no, probably not, but I've previously sung the praises of the Broncos' schedule. It's good enough that he should be fairly consistently RB2 material, smack dab in the middle of that group.

Chip (NC)

Dynasty question- Do you like what you see from Foles? I didn't watch the game but I followed it on line. Seems like the kid has some moxy and a great arm! Thoughts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:56 AM)

I've watched the vast majority of Foles' past two games and indeed liked what I saw. Good poise, solid decision-making under pressure, which he was sure to see considering how dreadful his O-line. He's going to start for that team -- barring some shocking turn of events -- so I'd say in a deeper league he might warrant a stash. Say, if you're 12 or more teams and keep eight-plus, and he's cheap, he could be worth the keep.

Charles (NY)

Do you ever consider Fantasy Playoffs when drafting? Such as matchups or starters potentially sitting?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

Nope.

Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona)

Help me!!!

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:57 AM)

Yes. Really can't say anything else to that.

Alex (PA)

Tristan - quick question about your teams - Who was your best Draft Pick in all your Fantasy Leagues this year?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:58 AM)

Best pick was Peyton Manning, but best move was trading Greg Jennings for Doug Martin.

Brint (Wichita)

BASEBALL: Do AL West pitchers get a bump this year from getting to play the Astros regularly?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (11:59 AM)

Slight. We're talking a buck or two's difference from having three favorable matchups (Oakland, Seattle, Houston) within the division. But Texas and L.A. remain stout offensively, so it's not like I'd say "go AL West" as a pitching strategy. NL West still has 'em beat.

Bill (Athens)

Out of curiosity, since the time has obviously passed now, when do you start to think about playoffs? Midseason? Trade deadline?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:01 PM)

Well, if it's with regard to my own team's standing, I'm always thinking about it but I don't assume anything about my status until the day it's formally decided. If it's with regard to player valuation, I need to see a good eight games of stats in the books before I could properly judge, say, Weeks 15-17 in advance.

Bill (Vegas)

Tristan you seem to be quite the nerd.

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:02 PM)

Nerds are the new jocks.

Carl (Ohio)

If I need an RGIII replacement next week do I go with Weeden, Cousins, Foles, or Locker?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:03 PM)

Oh my. Weeden gets the Redskins, that's a favorable matchup, and Foles gets a home game on short week against the Bengals. It's gotta be one of those two. On skills I say Foles, though I might shift Weeden a spot or two ahead once I run my matchups stats. Say Foles for now.

Dan (Boston)

Speaking of Jennings - will he be relevant this year??? Invisible last night

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:04 PM)

I'd say so, yes, though again, he's recovering from surgery and expectations needed to be tempered. I've never said he's back to WR1 status and he might not get there until 2013 (or the NFL playoffs). Last night merely adjusted my expectations back to the WR3 class.

Cody (Chicago)

Hey Tristan. Tough matchup against the #1 seed next week. I liked Givens as a Flex2 with homerun upside but he really disappointed me this weekend. I didn't need him yesterday (SEA D/ST owner) but I'm not sure I can afford those stats next week. Thoughts?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

I'm not going back to the well with Givens to the extent that I did this week, but a matchup against the Vikings remains comparably favorable to this past one. He'll be in my WR3 class, still, and I expect him to bounce back. Let's say rank him 30-35 or so.

Rob (Work)

How many waiver moves do you typically make in a season?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

Two dozen. Maybe more. Average is certainly greater than one a week, though probably beneath two.

Tom (Chicago)

Limited keeper slots, would you keep Profar or Myers?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:06 PM)

Jurickson Profar. I expect him to start, he's in a great park and lineup, and he's the one with greater positional value.

Brian (Philly)

So... the Lions RB situation is... are there words to describe it?

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:09 PM)

A single word fails to come to mind, but aren't we just back to where we were about a month ago? Leshoure and Bell splitting, with Bell looking like he was sneaking up/overtaking? Flex plays, both of them. Leshoure being the stronger TD bet (goal-line carries), Bell for catches (PPR).

Tristan H. Cockcroft
  (12:10 PM)

Ok, time to wrap things up for the day. Thanks for all your questions, and sorry if I couldn't get to yours. Best of luck to everyone still in playoff matchups, tonight and in Week 15! Take care.