My First Mistake

I screwed up, you guys.

One of my early season headaches, as I’m sure you remember, was at the tight end position. Gary Freaking Barnidge could not get anything going, the entire Cleveland offense was a mess with a revolving door at quarterback. I finally decided to bench him and stream a replacement, and Jacob Tamme let me down on a Monday night when I needed 6 points to get ahead of my opponent and he gave me only 3. It wasn’t until Week Four that I finally got a reliable scorer into my lineup in Kyle Rudolph. And even though he didn’t do anything in Week Five, I’m still glad to ride him, given how great Minnesota’s offense has been and the role he has there in general. He faced a stingy defense last week and consequently had his only low score of the season. Most of the way going forward, he should be a standout.

So I gradually cut the other TEs on my roster – and I had a lot to start out with. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins? Cut to make room for Tamme. (This was a couple of days before he was cut by his actual team after getting arrested for DUI. He has a new home now with the Jets, but man am I glad I got off that train before it became a crazy train.) Tamme? Cut for Rudolph. Virgil Green? Cut to make room for a streaming defense. And as for Barnidge? I held him in the hopes of getting trade value for him, and last week that panned out. I had someone express interest in tight end help, so I offered up my bench tight end, and in return I got a WR that I have hopes of using, not as an every-week player, but on occasion. I was so glad to see the back of Barnidge that I took the first offer I got, as soon as the possibility came up.

Now the trade, in and of itself, is not where I made my mistake. I’m not the world’s greatest Robert Woods fan – he went to USC, so you know he’s never going to be my favorite guy – but I can find use for him, even if that use is to trade later as his value grows (as I expect it to do, in a way that Barnidge’s probably won’t). No, I stand by the trade.

It’s the timing of the trade that’s given me a non-stop headache this week.

The Minnesota Vikings are on a bye this week. My starting TE is on a bye. And I just traded away the only other TE I was left with.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t see this coming. I’m not so dumb as to have not looked at when Kyle Rudolph’s bye was before I traded away his backup. I just let myself believe I could stream someone for Week Six instead, someone who would be, if not at Barnidge’s level (whatever that is), then at least serviceable. But the TE wire has been thin this week.

So… we scramble.

I have two options here: make the best of a bad waiver wire, or try to make a trade. I did look into trades, but I never got so far as to propose one. Mostly, this is because there’s no one on my roster I want to part with for a streaming piece. Kyle Rudolph has had a great season. When he gets back, I’m starting him. Even if I’m aiming at someone my potential trading partner has on their bench, I’d have to come up with an equivalent player to part with, and I just don’t have anyone who fits the bill. My WR bench corps… yes, I could use them for trades, but the one I’m most likely to get interest on is Randall Cobb, and he’s the one I’d most like to keep. Tyrod Taylor… I’m getting no interest in him so far. I need there to be a major quarterback injury elsewhere in the league, or a major change in Buffalo’s fortunes, to make him interesting to someone. Paul Perkins… no one wants him but me. And I really, really want him.

Okay, so waiver wire it is.

Which did not leave me with a lot of options.

At this point, I’ve narrowed it down to two: Charles Clay, of Buffalo, and Dennis Pitta, of Baltimore. Pitta is probably the better player, while Clay has the better matchup. Both offenses can be capable, but neither one should really be trusted at this point. And both men are projected at 5 points.

I’ve bounced back and forth on this for a few days now. I actually picked Clay up off of waivers, and then second-guessed myself, and then second-guessed my second-guessing, and so on and so on ad nauseam. Last night I pulled the trigger and dropped Clay for Pitta. But I still don’t particularly love it. I’ll probably keep second-guessing myself until kickoff on Sunday.

My other real option is Eric Ebron, if and only if he returns from injury to play this week. He has everything I’d want – a reliable role in a good passing offense (Detroit), with a good QB who likes to throw to him, and a favorable matchup for Week Six (against LA, who I’ll be rooting for even though I don’t sincerely expect them to do much against the Lions). What he also has are knee and ankle injuries that caused him to sit out last week. Even if he does go this week – and there’s just no way of knowing yet – who knows if he’s 100% or can perform like it?

If Ebron does start, I’ll probably try to scoop him up. But my instinct is that he’s not playing this week. So I’ve got Pitta prepared to go in his stead.

And all this headache could have been avoided if I’d just been willing to hold on to Gary Freaking Barnidge for one more week. Not that I expect him to be great either, but he’d be equivalent to any of these waiver wire guys, and I wouldn’t be tearing my hair out trying to decide which of them to use.

I swear, even when I get rid of that guy he finds a way to screw me.

I did make one other change of note, and that’s to stream a new defense for the week. Welcome to Team BlueAndGold, Tennessee Titans! Since I can no longer chase the quarterback who has the honor of destroying the Cleveland Browns on any given week (or just choose not to, now that I’ve got Brady on my side), I’ll chase the defense that has the honor of stopping them instead. I want to keep relying on the Texans, but honestly, they make me nervous at this point, with no J.J. Watt and a string of less-than-stellar performances since he went down. And I don’t know what to expect of their matchup this week against Indianapolis, who is equally bipolar in their offensive performance. I’m still holding the Texans, waiting to see if they get back to reliable form, and I cut the streamed Rams defense to make room for the streaming Titans defense. It was fun to have the hometown team on my team, but not so much fun to only earn 3 points from my defense. They’re not going to do any better this week, either, against Detroit. Titans it is, then, for Week Six.

I’m keeping Mason Crosby as my kicker, though. That guy was money in Week Five, and I expect him to continue to be money in Week Six and beyond. I feel so good about him that I went ahead and cut Catanzaro. Let’s ride Green Bay’s offense until they give me reason to doubt them, as Arizona has already done.

Normally, this is the point where I’d announce my lineup is set and start getting myself hyped for the week ahead. But… it’s not set. And it won’t be set until I convince myself that I’ve covered my TE hole with the best possible option. Or even just a reliably decent one.

I’ve made missteps before – Alex Smith comes to mind – but they were born of ignorance of the ways of fantasy football. I didn’t know what to look for in a streaming piece, so I didn’t stream effectively. I learned, and I did better. But the Barnidge trade is the first honest-to-goodness mistake I think I’ve made. I knew it was a risk to be without a backup TE when I would need a bye cover so soon, and I knew the TE waiver wire was thin (or else why would my opponent be willing to trade for my bench player?), and I decided to trust to it anyway.

Hopefully it’s a mistake I can recover from.

And hopefully after this week I never have to think about Gary Freaking Barnidge again.

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