When you’re in eight leagues and your day job involves breaking down the fantasy prospects of every player for every game, it’s inevitable that football is never far from your mind. And since many of the same dilemmas I encounter are ones you the readers bump up against as well, I thought it might make sense to share some of my thought processes with you. There’s no rhyme or reason to the topics to be discussed here, other than at some point they popped into my head, kicking to the side lyrics from some obscure ‘80s song (“Baby I'm/Tired of toein' the line”) and commanding my attention.
It shouldn’t even be a question, should it? He still ranks 13th in fantasy points among wide receivers, was my big-ticket item at the auction and/or first- or second-round pick in the draft, and has carried that ASYS card for years.
But in sticking with that ASYS philosophy I’m consistently leaving points on the bench. And with potentially six of my eight teams heading into the playoffs where one bad lineup decision is all it takes to bring a championship season to a screeching halt, it feels like it’s time to ask...
DO I BENCH REGGIE WAYNE?
It feels almost dirty to even consider such a notion, but anyone watching the Colts implode against the Chargers Sunday night has to admit that invulnerable feeling you used to get when slotting members of the Indy passing game into your lineup is quickly evaporating.
You get the feeling that after the season it will be revealed that Wayne played the final two months without a femur or something along those lines. However, because the Colts list everyone who falls between paper cut and lung transplant as “questionable”—and Wayne regularly takes a day or two off practice already—we have to assume that barring a new malady we’ll be getting the full Reggie the rest of the way.
Or at least the Reggie we’ve been getting... which may be the problem.
In any event, because Wayne is a fixture on half of my personal fantasy clubs—three contenders and one scrapping to make the playoffs—his ASYS status is a matter of critical importance... at least to me.
First, let’s establish what we’re working with. While three of the four clubs have a flex position, we’ll focus on whether or not Wayne cracks the WR rotation. And here are those options:
Dyslexic Dogs (start 2/flex): Wayne, Colston, S Johnson, Manningham.
Mattress Police (start 2): Wayne, White.
Frieda’s Boss (start 2/flex): Wayne, Wallace, Bowe, Meachem, Bess.
Huddle/SOFA Ten (start 3/flex): Wayne, A Johnson, Mason, Meachem, B White, J Jones.
Let’s also note that in Week 13—in which the first three teams listed above are playing for a division title and the fourth has to win to have a shot of making the playoffs—Wayne is a must start. Indy faces the Cowboys, who have given up the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers and are giving up even more points per game to WRs over the past few weeks. Even a potentially fading stud like Wayne deserves the benefit of the doubt with a favorable matchup like that.
WEEK 14: WAYNE @ TENNESSEE
Wayne hasn’t seen the Titans yet this season; the rematch will take place in Week 17, when most self-respecting leagues will be holding an all-play or some event other than their title game. But Reggie’s history against Tennessee is not that good; he has one TD in his last seven against the Titans and hasn’t had a 100-yard game against them since Week 2 of 2004.
There’s always the possibility Courtland Finnegan does something stupid and illegal this week and earns himself a suspension for Week 14, but as it stands now Tennessee should have its secondary at full strength. And it’s a secondary that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year. In fact, since a three-game hiccup back near the start of the season when four different wideouts cracked the century mark against Tennessee, the Titans have reeled off a six-game stretch in which they’ve allowed only one 100-yard receiver and three WR TDs. Your upside looks to be something along the lines of the 106 and 1 Santana Moss posted in Week 11 or Andre Johnson’s 9-56-1 prior to his ejection last week.
Does that earn Wayne bench? Depends on your options, obviously.
As you may have noticed, the Mattress Police have no backup wideouts. And in a 16-team league it’s unlikely there will be something I’ll want to start over Wayne in the free agent pool, even given the matchup. The Dyslexic Dogs have both Colston and Stevie Johnson with favorable matchups, more than enough firepower to throw Wayne into a flex position debate with Manningham and whichever two backs don’t start. Frieda’s Boss is loaded at wideout, but Bowe will face a motivated San Diego defense (you know, the one that shuts down elite WRs as pointed out in last week’s Off Tackle), Bess gets the Jets and the inconsistent Meachem has a sneaky tough matchup against the Rams. For my SOFA team, AJ faces the Ravens so both my hosses have toughies. With three spots to fill, however, both are still better options than either Meachem or lesser wideouts on the same team.
Decision: it’s not automatic, but Wayne likely offers you more upside than your bench.
WEEK 15: WAYNE vs. JACKSONVILLE
You have to ask? Barring injury, you’ve got an elite receiver facing the #28 defense against wideouts. Oh, and Wayne has four straight 100-yard games against the Jags. So, yeah, he’s in.
WEEK 16: WAYNE @ OAKLAND
Though Nnamdi Asomugha has not been as dominant as in previous seasons, the Raiders still rank 10th against wideouts. The good news is, there have still been plenty of big games by wideouts against Oakland—including lately, when two Chiefs receivers scored in Week 9, two Steeler wideouts scored in Week 11, and one Dolphin WR scored while another topped 111 yards and a third reached 75 yards.
So this isn’t a matchup to run screaming from; in fact, if Wayne and the Colts’ offense have righted the ship it’ll take a couple of walkovers from your depth at the position to consider sitting him. The Dogs have a pair of decent matchups (Colston at Atlanta, Johnson vs. New England) but are both enough to unseat Wayne? Only if his slump continues. Frieda’s Boss has Wallace facing a stout Carolina secondary and Bowe squaring off against the Tennessee defense that gave us pause in Week 14; again, tough to move Wayne out of the lineup there. And the SOFA team that has to start at least three wides has AJ at Denver (in), Mason against Cleveland (ugh), and three guys who aren’t their team’s top option.
Apparently I’m losing sleep over nothing; Wayne needs to be in my lineup every week. Now I just need him to be the Wayne of old—or at least the Wayne of Week 11—to reverse that 1-3 record in fantasy bowls from last year.