The Fantasy Hipsters are here to save you from being duped into starting these mainstream "must-starts" of Week 13. These players are sprinkled around the top of the consensus rankings for the week, but Matt Harmon and Matt Franciscovich (Franchise) have some underground knowledge to get you in the know and make you think twice before locking them into your starting lineups. So make sure your ripped skinny jeans are cuffed, because you're about to tread into some contrarian waters. Dude, is that coffee you're drinking even locally sourced? Folgers!? Are you kidding me? Ugh, whatever.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Change of pace running backs are totally where it's at these days. That's why Giovani Bernard was such a stud in the eyes of savvy fantasy managers targeting running backs in later rounds. But now that Bernard is out for the year, the Cincinnati backfield belongs to Jeremy "run-of-the-mill" Hill who, according to mainstream fantasy experts, is a "must-start" based on like, volume or whatever.
But contrary to popular belief, volume isn't everything when it comes to fantasy production. Just ask Todd Gurley.
Anyway, Hill is an organic garden variety fantasy start this week. He's rushed for fewer than 80 yards in nine of 11 games this year. Last week, in the first game with Bernard out, Hill rushed for 21 yards on 12 carries. That's like when your fresh brewed French press is hot and ready to drink, but the grounds aren't filtered out and you basically have to chew your coffee. Not a great experience, man.
Plus, Hill is facing an Eagles defense that has allowed just 288 rushing yards over the last four weeks and just five rushing touchdowns to running backs the entire season. I mean, touchdowns are overrated but they still can help you win in fantasy. Hill won't have any this week though, so please reconsider your commonplace RB2 slot with someone more underground.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
There's nothing worse than when an artist you love goes mainstream. Make no mistake, Dak Prescott has been a quarterback artist this year.
Not only did he dispel of radio country hit Tony Romo even when the long-time starter returned to health, Prescott is on pace to have the best statistical season in the history of rookie quarterbacks. He's painting a picture that even an NFC East cynic can't help but at least give an approving slight smile towards.
I've been a Dak Prescott fan way before he broke out as the official starting quarterback in Dallas. I know what you're thinking, "cool, you liked him in the preseason and maybe drafted him late in a couple of leagues, real impressive." Wrong. I've been jamming with Dak since way back in 2014.
See? Over two years ago I was praising this guy before any of these pregame shows on network TV dedicated 75 percent of their coverage to covering him and his rookie teammate. Twitter never forgets.
Yet, at some point, Dak is going to have "that rookie game," the one's he's avoided essentially throughout this season. Amazingly, only twice has Prescott posted a passer rating under 100 this year, once in his first career start and again when he faced the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Even in those games, he did not completely take. It's quite possible he suffers his first true slip-up of his rookie season against the Vikings on Thursday night.
Minnesota has yet to allow a QB1 (Top-12) performance this season. Their defense as a whole gives up just 17.5 points per game this year, which is only bested by the Seattle Seahawks at 17. Only 31.1 percent of the drives against them have ended with a score. Now, you could argue that Dallas is a different beast, and they just might be. Few teams have shown a counter to Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys' pristine run-blocking. The Vikings at home on Thursday might well be up to the task, as per Next Gen Stats, their run defense allows only 3.1 yards per carry to running backs this season when they stack the box with eight-plus defenders, ranking sixth-lowest.
Prescott has shown an ability to win through the air on his own this season, no question, but it is worth noting that those two contests where he posted passer ratings under 100 were in his two highest pass attempt marks of the year. Throwing into the teeth of the Vikings defense has not been a fun task for opposing teams this season. Their 3.0 percent interception rate is the third-highest this year, and 15.6 percent of opposing drives against them end in a turnover, which is also the third-best mark of any NFL defense.
It's hard to go away from something that's been so trustworthy all year, and Prescott sure has been just that. Yet, at this point, he's like your local chain restaurant/bar hybrid that all the worst people from your former high school drink at on Friday night. Everyone knows about it. Let's hope you're finding alternatives to being caught dead in a spot like that, just as you should think about finding an alternative to Prescott for this week. We'd rank Matthew Stafford in a high-scoring affair with New Orleans, or the game-stack options of Jameis Winston and Philip Rivers or Tyrod Taylor and Derek Carr over the sensational rookie this week.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
I mean, Rawls was legit in 2015 as an undrafted rookie (total hipster pickup by the Seahawks because undrafted players are the new first-round pick) when he averaged 108.0 rush yards per game in his seven starts. But he let the popularity go to his head, man. This year, Rawls has yet to rush for 60 yards in a single contest despite receiving 12-plus attempts in three of his four outings and is averaging 30 rushing yards per game.
Seriously, why is this humdrum running back even on your fantasy roster?
He's like that mint-condition vinyl you found at the antique store last year, mistakenly let your yuppie roommate borrow, and when he returned it, it was all scratched up and skips every time you spin it. But since Seattle let Christine Michael go (mistake) and C.J. Prosise is injured, Rawls is all they have to lead their 27th-ranked rushing attack (averaging 88.9 rush yards per game).
Making matters worse, Rawls faces Carolina this week. The Panthers defense has allowed just one rushing touchdown to running backs over the last month, and just four all season.
I can't even. And you shouldn't either, unless you're like, trying to conform or something.
Tavon Austin, WR, Los Angeles Rams
We're all for trying something fresh, original and shooting for the cutting edge. However, there's nothing worse than when some "try-hard" attempts to force it. That's why Franchise and I never let Dameshek come sit with us in the coffee shop on NFL Network's "Fantasy and Friends" at any point during the 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time block when it airs. Dad tries way too hard.
It was clear at the time, and it's still apparent that the Rams were trying too hard when they traded up to the eighth overall pick back in 2013 to take Tavon Austin. Four NFL seasons later and it's still hard to see what they're up to with Austin. On the season he ranks 29th among wide receivers in targets with 79, but ranks 66th in receiving yards.
Perhaps the Rams are finally seeing the error of their ways with Austin despite handing him a hefty new contract this offseason. Austin played on 79 percent of the team's snaps in their first seven games, but his snap share dipped to 75 percent since they returned from their bye week. That coincided with Brian Quick getting more playing time.
Fantasy players who not so coincidentally listen to the Top-40 playlist on Spotify with the repeat button lit-up will believe the insertion of No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff at quarterback will help Austin's middling outlook. Yes, he caught a touchdown last week, but don't be a sheep. Austin is tied for fourth on the team in targets since Goff took over in Week 11, falling behind Kenny Britt, Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick.
If anything, Goff will only serve to help the deep passing game become a more integrated part of the Rams' offense. He showed in Week 12 that while he's a work in progress, he could be an asset as a downfield passer by going 4-of-9 with 80 yards and two touchdowns on passes that traveled further than 10 yards in the air.
Should Goff continue to improve in that area it'll make a difference for Kenny Britt, who the masses still don't realize is trending up. Britt leads the Rams with a whopping 38.9 percent share of the team's completed air yards this season. Austin, despite seeing just two fewer targets than Britt, owns a miniscule share by comparison with 15.4 percent. He's never been a downfield player, and with just one target inside the 10-yard line all year, he has no useful predictive value for fantasy leagues.
Jordan Reed/Vernon Davis, TEs, Washington Redskins
If you own Jordan Reed and are concerned about his shoulder injury, the fantasy plebeian move is to add his B-side, Vernon Davis and start him this week if Reed can't go. After all, in the two games that Reed has missed this year, Davis has performed well with a combined eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
But here's why you might want to consider other options instead of settling for a Washed-ington tight end this week. The Redskins face an Arizona pass defense that ranks second in the NFL and has quite literally abolished the tight end position this season. The Cardinals (perhaps the most underrated bird family in North America, have you seen their coiffure?) have surrendered just 282 receiving yards to the position this season. That breaks down to 25.6 receiving yards per game. As for those touchdown things you apparently need to win in most fantasy leagues, Arizona has allowed diddly squat to tight ends this year (zero for you commoners) resulting in an average of just 2.56 fantasy points per game to the position, lowest in the league.
If you're going the Davis route, you might as well grab a bag of Doritos, put a six-pack of light beer on ice and start binge-watching "The Walking Dead" because you've already succumbed to the mainstream tight end trap. Go all-in at this point, embrace the conformity and let it wash over you.