by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Thursday games are often tricky as it is, 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:
- Julio Jones – Wide Receiver – Jones is one of the elite players in the game and while he was contained in Week 13 (2 receptions for 24 yards), he’s a week removed from a 12 catch, 253 yards, 2 TD explosion. Of course the numbers don’t matter, Jones is a must start no matter what.
- Matt Ryan – Quarterback – Like Jones it was a down Week 13 for Ryan, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their performances go hand-in-hand. Ryan hasn’t been quite as good as anyone had hoped this season, though with New Orleans’ defense struggling of late and having shown some big days he’s a viable QB1 (but it all depends on your alternatives).
- Devonta Freeman – Running Back – When healthy he’s operated as the lead back and returning in Week 13 nothing appeared to have changed (13 touches vs. 11 for Tevin Coleman). The problem here is that the touches have decreased as the season has progressed, having not topped 12 carries in a game or scored a TD since October 1. While he may be the better play than Coleman, it’s impossible to consider him a must start given the timeshare.
- Tevin Coleman – Running Back – Coleman has had some big days, but all of them have come when Devonta Freeman was sidelined. In the 9 games that Freeman has at least 9 carries Coleman has been good, but not great, with 338 yards and 1 TD on 71 carries (he’s added 19 receptions for 225 yards). In fact Coleman has only once topped 9 carries when Freeman was on the field and more than half of his total TD (4 out of 7) have come when Freeman was out. He’s a viable RB2, but the workload is too risky to consider him a must start.
- Mohamed Sanu – Wide Receiver – He’s had more than 45 yards once in his past five games (64 yards) and hasn’t been above 85 yards in any game this season. That doesn’t seem like a good risk to take, especially early in the week when he can put you in a hole.
- Austin Hooper – Tight End – While tight end is a frustrating position, that doesn’t mean it’s worth taking a big gamble. The production just isn’t there and he’s about the fifth option on the team.
New Orleans Saints
- Alvin Kamara – Running Back – The rookie has been electric and has shown no signs of slowing down. While he doesn’t get a lot of carries (81), he makes the most of them with 606 yards and 7 TD. He’s also become a go to receiving threat, with 59 receptions, 614 yards and 4 TD (at least 5 receptions in five straight games). Considering Atlanta has allowed the most receptions to opposing running backs (77) and the impressive production, you could argue that Kamara is the best option heading into Week 14.
- Mark Ingram – Running Back – You would think that there wouldn’t be enough touches for two backs, but New Orleans is showing that there is. Ingram has 85+ rushing yards in three of his past four games (922 for the season), and while Kamara dominates the receptions Ingram also plays a role (42 receptions for 255 yards). Throw in 5 TD over his past four games (9 TD on the season) and what is there not to like?
- Michael Thomas – Wide Receiver – This is a running back dominated offense, but Drew Brees still has to throw the ball to a receiver now and then. When he does it’s Thomas, who has turned 111 targets into 75 receptions and 875 yards. You can knock him for a lack of TD (3), and that’s fair, but he did score in Week 13 and has at least 5 receptions in all but one game in ’17. Consider him a borderline WR1.
- Drew Brees – Quarterback – The matchup would call for Brees to be used, but he’s simply no lock to throw for a TD as he has 1 TD or less in three of his past four games. This is a running back dominant offense, and that makes him a tougher player to trust. It all comes down to the alternative.
- Ted Ginn Jr. – Wide Receiver – Ginn has had some big days this season, though there have been far more duds. He has topped 4 receptions three times, has been over 70 yards twice and scored 3 TD. In what has clearly become a running back-centric attack, banking on Ginn getting opportunities is far too risky.
- Willie Snead – Wide Receiver – There would appear to be name value, but he has 5 targets in the past three games (5 receptions for 63 yards on the season). There are too many alternatives to think the ball will head his way.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
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Make sure to check out all of our Week 14 rankings: