Dez Bryant

All-Time Quarterback: A Thanksgiving pep talk

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If you’re reading this, fantasy football is still an integral time-suck. This is a critical and uncomfortable fantasy eve as active management is required on a short business week wherein routines are thrown for a loop. Accept that you’ll have to work on Thanksgiving, eat less, stay sharp, duck out, and disappoint the people you love. They will never understand.

Be thankful that you had the foresight to draft smart and trust the process: running backs early and often, no receivers before the fifth round provided you’ve scouted the right troops (Eric Decker, A.J. Green, Reggie Wayne), an upper echelon tight end, Josh Freeman at QB1, and then more running backs. Be thankful you saw Cam Newton’s sophomore slump coming.

Be thankful to be a contending force when such a widespread swath of your league is app-ing it in. Be thankful for the team of rivals that you’ve blown past. Be thankful for the silent life of contention. Be thankful for Doug Martin’s breakout rookie campaign. Be thankful that the Dallas Cowboys remain relevant and a gold mine of fantasy dysfunction. Be thankful for the NFL’s generous approach to Thanksgiving: It no longer matters that your parents don’t have NFL Network because the night game is on NBC for the first time.

Aim low and keep firing

At some point during the traditional crushing of the Detroit Lions today, the fat and happy realization that there are two weeks left in the fantasy season will lead to nausea and indigestion. Work is an enduring Outlook inbox, and the Xbox enthusiasts that round out your league—high school cohorts that send weekly, insulting trade requests and litter the Internet with pointless updates like “lmfao Tony Romo!”—were the only ones with the time to conjure up playoff scenarios and keep tabs on standings.

The rest of the league matters, suddenly—and in watching neighboring box scores down the stretch you’ll be wincing at every Tom Brady completion. Unless it’s an archaic, aggressively European total points league, setting and forgetting Alfred Morris is only half the work. These next two weeks aren’t just about getting to the postseason; they’re about setting forth enough jarring changes that the Jenga high rise collapses. It’s time to aim low and get your hands dirty.

Human capital is an underrated component to fantasy football; the factors that you can control should be itemized and targeted. Is there a weak-minded rival with a penchant for pulling bad moves? Stop rolling your eyes at their decisions and reach out. Take a close look at league regulations and straddle the line—offer draft picks, home-cooked meals, or fine cigars to balance out a fringe deal. That club making a late-season run that threatens to derail your 7-3 record’s hard work? Gather the elites and freeze them out where possible by tanking matchups. If you’d like to take a more honorable route, fine, but the governing principle remains: Write down the obstacles—Rob Gronkowski’s forearm, Miles Austin’s ineffectiveness as it relates to Dez Bryant’s ascent, harboring anchors of tight ends—and then be aggressive down the stretch with movement.

Deep Cuts: The home stretch

Until now, the waiver wire has been an area of niche needs and guarded moves for depth and prospect monitoring. Today, it’s about hoarding need areas from opponents. Matt Schaub’s record-setting Week 11 overtime start won’t happen again, but he’s been a frequent add/drop and I’d nab his services to make sure those echoes of fire don’t reverberate through the league again. Injured star wattage, high-scoring tight ends, and Marcel Reece need to be stashed—it doesn’t matter if you need a better defense this week—you need to hoard leftovers.

Beyond the scattered greatness of LaRod Stephens-Howling or Daniel Thomas or the increased duties of Ronnie Hillman in light of Willis McGahee’s torn MCL—there are long shots available that warrant roster consideration. At this point, many can be written off as pan flashes, but it’s still important to lose stale ideas like Donald Brown and target a series of late-season hunches, never looking back. Here’s a starting lineup of possibilities:

  • Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins (owned in .5 percent of ESPN leagues)
  • Cedric Peerman, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (owned in .3 percent of ESPN leagues)
  • James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (owned in 7 percent of ESPN leagues)
  • T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianpolis Colts (owned in 3.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
  • Danario Alexander, WR, San Diego Chargers (owned in 4.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
  • Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders (owned in 14.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
  • Brandon Stokley, FLEX, Denver Broncos (owned in 12.3 percent of ESPN leagues)

Henne tossed four touchdowns against the Houston Texans and simultaneously broke the Gabbert shackles off a Jacksonville offense that looked mighty competent. I’d actually snag this new potential starter over Schaub because it’s entirely possible more big throws are imminent. Peerman turned eight carries into 75 yards but more importantly looked GQ stylish in the process. On a 5-5 Bengals team that will be in every outing going forward, he’s my favorite late-season handcuff.

Starks is fresh legs that toted 25 times in relief for the ineffective Alex Green. Hilton has cooked up countless chicken feed number weeks but you’re not looking for a starter, just making sure that those 16- and 22-point outlier moments occur on in controlled environments (i.e. the bench). Alexander will be a top 10 receiver going forward, however, with three touchdowns and over 200 receiving yards in two starts. Myers is the most consistent Raider. Stokley has touchdowns in two straight games.

Photo via @DezBryant/Twitter