The middle-third of the NFL season is the trickiest time for fantasy owners. Byes and injuries thin out rosters, and yet depth is crucial to survive these weeks. It’s easier to argue for someone being on your roster than against him, but the fact is fantasy rosters aren’t infinite. Some players need to end up on the waiver wire.
Knowing who you can afford to drop can make the difference between a playoff berth and an early end to your season, or a regular season championship and a third-place finish. In this space over the next few weeks, we’ll help you find the players you won’t miss. We call them The Droppables.
One quick note before we get going. If a player is droppable, that does not mean you should get rid of him at all costs. What it does mean is that the player in question should not hold a priority spot on your roster. If you need to make a move, the players below can be on the chopping block.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
We didn’t know it at the time, but Oct. 11, 2015, marked the end of Jamaal Charles as a truly elite fantasy RB1. Charles spent the first seven years of his career as one of the best dual threats in the league, ushering in the age of the running back who’s just as dangerous through the air as on the ground. Charles bounced back from a torn ACL he suffered in 2011 with three straight top-eight seasons among running back. He was well on his way to another such season last year, totaling 364 rushing yards, 177 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 4.5 games before tearing his ACL against the Bears. Charles’s rehab took longer than expected, and his surgically repaired knee swelled up after his first significant game action. With Spencer Ware looking every bit the part of an RB1 himself, Charles’s days atop a fantasy depth chart are likely in the rearview mirror. His knee could be an issue for the rest of this season.
Even if he is able to make a return, he’s running second, at best, in the Kansas City offense. Spencer Ware suffered a concussion on Sunday, but there’s no questioning his status as the lead back for the Chiefs. Charles, meanwhile, isn’t likely to be more than a role player, which feels blasphemous to write even though it’s true. Charles doesn’t need to be owned in most standard formats.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars
Thomas has scored touchdowns in both of Jacksonville’s last two games, and those scores have saved his days. The last time Thomas topped 30 yards receiving in a game, there were still two weeks remaining in the MLB regular season. With each passing week, we get more evidence that Thomas’s stint as a TE1 was a product of the Peyton Manning-led Broncos’ offense. Outside of that environment, he’s just another guy. Thomas is averaging 3.1 receptions and 36 yards per game this year. Even though tight end has turned into a wasteland from a fantasy perspective, Thomas has both a floor and ceiling so low that he shouldn’t be on the fantasy radar in all traditional leagues.
Golden Tate, WR, Lions
If you’re in a deeper league—14 teams or more, or even 12-teamers that start 11 or more players every week—you might want to rethink this. Tate put together a couple of strong games in a row heading into Sunday’s contest with the Texans, but he reverted to his first-month self in Houston. Tate caught seven of his nine targets for 42 yards, marking the sixth time this season he had fewer than 50 yards in a game. Tate had 165 yards in his best game of the season, a Detroit win over Los Angeles in Week 6. He has 227 yards in his seven other games this year.
Tate doesn’t make any big plays down the field, so he needs to piece together catch after catch after catch to pile up a meaningful day for his fantasy owners. He has taken a backseat to Marvin Jones in the red zone, as well, so he needs to work exceptionally hard to post WR2 numbers. Tate doesn’t project as more than a top-40 receiver the rest of the way, meaning plenty of fantasy owners can afford to let him go.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
Lockett is still owned in about half of all fantasy leagues, a surprisingly high number given what we’ve seen from him going back to the summer. Remember, Lockett first started showing the cracks in his foundation for fantasy success when his snap rate was suspiciously low during Seattle’s preseason games. That has carried over to the regular season, with Jermaine Kearse out-snapping Lockett every week. Lockett has had fewer than five targets in five of his seven games this season—though, to be fair, he left one of those games early with an injury. Still, there’s no explaining away Lockett’s total lack of fantasy production. He has 17 catches on 26 targets for 197 yards and zero touchdowns this season. In all but one game, he has had 32 yards or fewer. Those of you who are still hanging on to Lockett, even in deep leagues, can let go. He’s not going to make a fantasy impact this season.
T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
The Jaguars entered their Week 8 game 31st in the league in rushing at 72.6 yards per game. They ran for 48 yards in their loss to the Titans, with Blake Bortles leading the way at 22 yards. Yeldon ran for 71 yards against the Colts’ porous run defense and has rushed for 40 or fewer in every other game. Ivory, meanwhile, hasn’t topped 50 yards in any game this season. He ran for just six yards on four carries against the Titans and has scored fewer than five fantasy points in four of his five games this year. Yeldon and Ivory get in one another’s way with the backfield split, but it wouldn’t matter if one of them turned into a workhorse. There simply isn’t any value in this backfield. Owners in deeper leagues will want to hold on to Yeldon and Ivory for depth purposes, but owners in standard formats can cut bait.