Fantasy Football Week 16: Start or Sit Jimmy Graham, Vance McDonald, or Austin Hooper?
It’s the Christmas season, and our lawyers tell us that I can say that, even to those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas. To you, I wish a hearty and healthy two extra days off this week. This week is also the fantasy football finals, which means we are on our last start or sit decisions of the year, and since tight end sits come last, this is also our last start or sit article of the season! I am no stranger to the diluvian uptick in Christmas music since Thanksgiving, and all I can think of is how tight end start or sits are a lot like some of our “favorite” Christmas music (that is mostly, actually bad).
(just like most tight ends)
Start or Sit Jimmy Graham at New York Jets
We start off by playing the biggest hit of them all; the “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” of the tight end start/sits. The song that everyone ends up playing everywhere, but it has a lot of warts that get sort of glossed over. Like, what kind of weird Christmas tradition is telling “scary ghost stories?” James “Jimmy” Graham exemplifies people telling “tales of the glories of the [seasons] long, long ago.”
I am going to operate by pretending that Aaron Rodgers is a-okay and that the Green Bay Packers will operate as we think (read: hope) they will this weekend against the Jets. Given how he’s played this year, that is as real as Santa Claus. I guess Aaron Rodgers being healthy is more of a seasonal feeling than an actual, real-life concept. I won’t mince words about Jimmy Graham this season. He’s been more disappointing than getting Aunt Edna’s fruitcake for the third straight year. The same fruitcake, it just keeps coming back. The TE4 by ADP at season’s beginning, Graham has yet to turn in a top-four week in any format (except, I guess, NFC North-only leagues). He peaked back in week six against San Francisco, where he turned in five catches for 104 yards (TE6).
Graham has been a backend TE starter, I won’t take that away from him, but given his draft stock, he’s been more coal than a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Granted, starting Jimmy Graham wouldn’t have you shooting your eye out, but he’s been extraordinarily disappointing, given what you paid for him. His average finish has been TE21 this year, and he’s finished outside the top-ten ten times already this year. This week he gets a Jets team that is hit-or-miss against the tight end, but on the balance of the year, is a bottom-ten matchup. They’ll give a sporadic touchdown here or there, but they mostly stop tight end production entirely. The short stat: only Gronk and Ebron have more than 42 receiving yards against them. As with all tight ends, you’re banking on a touchdown, and Graham has that upside. However, he has just two on the year, and the Jets have allowed just five. I would not bet on that in your championship. It’s time to move on from the guy I said to not draft in the first place. If you’re considering whether you should start or sit Jimmy Graham, go ahead and sit him this week.
Start or Sit Vance McDonald at New Orleans
If Jimmy Graham is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Vance McDonald is the local elementary school’s rendition of “Let it Snow,” played via recorder. Yeah, there’s something decent there in the middle, but there’s so much cacophonous nonsense surrounding it that you don’t want to have to deal with it. And just like that local recital, you end up pinching your nose and starting Vance McDonald because of the nebulous “upside” he delivers.
McDonald has been cruising on undue goodwill for seasons now. He averages two top-ten games per season (ten in five years), and he still ends up on sleeper and TE stream lists. You can sorta squint your eyes and see a world where McDonald is a worthy tight end play, but that makes him a startable TE as much as the GameStation your grandma got you when you were eight could play Spyro the Dragon or Halo. Geez, grandma. Much like the GameStation, Vance McDonald was better than nothing a lot of the time this season, posting at least seven fantasy points more than half of the time. He wasn’t what you wanted, but he would do in a pinch… like a knock-off toy.
This week, McDonald gets one of the worst possible matchups. The Steelers travel to Nawlins to take on the Saints and their TE defense that has allowed just three tight ends to score against them all season. The same defense that hasn’t allowed a tight end to top fifty yards against them since O.J. Howard in week one. People like to talk about how this game will be a shootout. Don’t listen to the liars and the cowards; the Saints defense is on an absolute roll. They last allowed a team over seventeen points on November 4, nearly two whole months ago. There won’t be much here for Vance McDonald, and he is as likely to completely tank your week, and all your season-long hard work, as he is to do anything of value. If you’re wondering if you should start or sit Vance McDonald this week, go ahead and sit him.
Start or Sit Austin Hooper at Carolina
For all of the sound and fury surrounding Austin Hooper as a weekly play (I’m guilty), he ultimately hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot of value. He has just five top-twelve games this season in HPPR. Last week his full floor was on display, as he had just one target, and zero catches. If he were a Christmas song, he would be “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” We like the idea of the song, and we like what it could be, but if you listen to that one on Spotify, it’s all jammed up with narrative nonsense in the middle. The poetry is nice, but not great without the visuals. That’s Austin Hooper: you can tell a good story about him, but he’s not showing you anything.
Hooper popped as a weekly TE play because he and Matt Ryan had a connection. Just like Matt Ryan and Mo Sanu for a couple of weeks. Eerily similar to that rock-solid Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley had, and lost, as well. Hooper had 22 targets over two weeks back in weeks five and six, but things have gotten a lot less bountiful lately. He has just seventeen targets over the last four games, and that is not a recipe for success in your fantasy football finals. The Carolina team that he gets his requisite four-and-a-quarter targets against is not great against tight ends on the balance of the season, but they are one of the worst matchups over the last six weeks. I will call them overwhelmingly neutral. The six pack of white socks of fantasy football stat lines. Austin Hooper was a good story in the middle of this season and popped a couple of times, but if you’re wondering if you should start or sit him, you’ve already lost. Sit Austin Hooper in your fantasy football finals.
None of these guys are great plays this weekend, but I would start them in the following order (and I say this fully acknowledging that one touchdown from these guys makes me look like a dang fool):
- Austin Hooper
- Jimmy Graham
- Vance McDonald
Good luck with your start or sit decisions this weekend, and good luck in your finals!
Looking for more week sixteen start or sit advice? Check out our additional pieces below!
Start or Sit Dak Prescott, Baker Mayfield, or Josh Allen?
Start or Sit Cam Newton, Jared Goff, or Tom Brady?
Start or Sit Marlon Mack, Chris Carson, or Damien Williams?
Start or Sit Matt Breida, Smallwood, or Peyton Barber?
Start or Sit Dante Pettis, Robby Anderson, or Josh Gordon?
Start or Sit Jarvis Landry, Chris Hogan, or Antonio Callaway?
Start or Sit Blake Jarwin, Chris Herndon, or David Njoku?