by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Thursday games are often tricky, because there isn’t necessarily a reason to take any undue risks with questionable options (which could set you back and spoil your week). Who are the borderline players that should be in lineups? Who should be sat down? Let’s take a look at the skill players taking the field tonight and try to answer those questions:
Dak Prescott – Quarterback
He’s pretty close to a must use option, but Minnesota has allowed the third fewest points per week to opposing QB this season (though they’ve been a little bit worse of late). Prescott is also coming off a game where he only attempted 24 passes, throwing for 195 yards and 1 TD. With Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield there’s always the potential for a run-based attack, and that will help to limit Prescott’s upside. He’s a QB1, but you can make the argument that he’s not one of the true elite. Unless you have one of those, you are likely going to be utilizing him however.
Cole Beasley – Wide Receiver
I know we want to dub him a must use option, and he has been consistent this season. Of course, it’s been consistently mediocre for the most part. He’s never eclipsed 75 yards and only once has he been below 50 yards. He’s been right in that range each and every week, so when he finds the end zone he’s put up some nice days (he has 5 TD, split between 4 games). When he doesn’t? He’s an easily replaceable option. Minnesota has allowed just 8 receiving TD to opposing WR this season, tied for second fewest in the league. This early in the week that makes him a tough sell.
Jason Witten – Tight End
Big name, average production. That’s what we’ve come to expect from Witten, who was averaging over 8 targets per week in his first three November games. Those opportunities tumbled on Thanksgiving (3 targets), but with Minnesota yielding points to opposing TE of late (254 yards and 2 TD over the past four weeks) you would think his chances will return. That puts him on the TE1 spectrum, though he’s a low end option.
Must Use Options:
Sam Bradford – Quarterback
Bradford is completing 71.3% of his passes to go along with just 3 INT. You would think that would make him worth at least considering, but despite the completion percentage he hasn’t been racking up yards (169 and 224 in his past two games) or touchdowns (he’s thrown more than 1 TD in a game just three times, and never more than two). Sure the matchup seems favorable, as Dallas has allowed the fifth most points per week to opposing QB over the past four weeks, but there’s far too much downside to trust him outside of two-quarterback formats.
Jerick McKinnon – Running Back
The last time McKinnon averaged more than 3.4 yards/carry in a game was over a month ago (October 23 against the Eagles, and he was at just 3.9 in that one). Over the past four games he’s gotten more than 9 carries once and he hasn’t had more than 3 receptions in a game. Throw in 1 TD over this stretch and being in a timeshare, there’s nothing to see here.
Matt Asiata – Running Back
He continues to share time with McKinnon but has scored in three straight games. That said, it’s not like he’s getting a significant number of carries:
Is there any reason to buy into him, as a low usage TD dependent option? Considering Dallas has allowed just 5 rushing TD to opposing RB this season there’s far too much risk to utilize him for a Thursday game.
Stefon Diggs – Wide Receiver
A healthy Diggs would be a no-brainer start, the question is if he’s going to play or not. Signs appear to be heading in that direction and averaging nearly 10 targets per game there’s certainly going to be value. Sure we’d love for him to be finding the end zone (2 TD) or producing more yardage in general (he’s averaging 11.1 yards per catch), but the pure volume trumps it all. If he’s in the lineup, he’s a must use option.
Adam Thielen – Wide Receiver
He had 11 targets on Thanksgiving, picking up 8 receptions for 53 yards. Of course that came with Diggs out of the lineup, and with signs pointing towards the team’s top receiver returning it seems unlikely that Thielen comes close to matching that type of opportunity level (he had averaged 5 targets per game in the previous five games). In other words, don’t bother.
Cordarrelle Patterson – Wide Receiver
He’s eclipsed 45 yards twice all season and never more than 67. Why would you even consider him, with Diggs expected to be back?
Kyle Rudolph – Tight End
Rudolph is a player we want to trust, but just look at what he’s done over the past four weeks as a sign of his general inconsistency:
So half the time he’s a non-factor, and on Thanksgiving he was targeted 10 times. With Diggs likely back he won’t match that mark and the potential for him disappearing is too high. He’s more of a TE2.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
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