For some reason, starting Owen Daniels at tight end with any regularity still feels about as sexy as, say, playing with Lego on a Saturday night (don’t judge me). Yes, he’s tied for second in fantasy scoring among tight ends, with his 73 points putting him alongside Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller, and behind only Rob Gronkowski. And yes, he’s a consistent target for Matt Schaub, especially with Andre Johnson declining.
He still isn’t named Gronkowski or Graham, though, which seems to be a central problem, and he was taken on draft day in August significantly behind the likes of those two and Tony Gonzalez. Life, it’s not fair. But by now you should have abandoned your desire for fantasy sex appeal — three words that perhaps don’t belong together and usually mean something entirely different, but I digress — and be a proud Daniels owner.
Expect for today, when owning Daniels could really, really suck.
That’s because he’s struggling severely with a hip injury after being very limited and sore after practice Friday. So we anticipated bad news on Daniels coming into the weekend, but often even with players who will be game-time decisions, there’s a pretty heavy lean towards where the decision will fall long before Sunday. We know what’s coming, and anything else is a surprise of either the pleasant or unpleasant variety (see: Harvin, Percy).
Sure, there are exceptions and Sunday pain. Thanks, Aaron Hernandez. But usually our educated guess long before the official inactives come out becomes true, and therefore taking security measures based on that guessing is easy. Daniels will be the bastard wrench in that thoroughly-greased machine. He’s not a game-time decision in the sense that Harvin was today, or Calvin Johnson supposedly was last week. No, he’s a true game-time decision, according to Adam Schefter.
This is the part when you look at your nearest sun dial and realize how long it is until Daniels’ game time, and thus his game-time decision. Daniels and the Texans play the Bears in the Sunday night prime-time slot, long after the afternoon games have concluded. Yep, one of those.
In Week 10 when playoff jostling is at its peak, the anguish over losing a tight end who’s averaging 9.1 fantasy points a week has doubled down, especially since Daniels has been one of the most consistent red-zone targets in the league, and has five touchdown receptions over his last six games. So I realize that hoping is instinctive here, and letting go is hard. But please, I beg you, walk away. Just walk away now.
That’s the right move in leagues with moderate depth (10-team leagues), because when we combine Daniels’ injury situation with the Windy City that will be, um, really windy and rainy and awful and terrible tonight, production from one of fantasy’s top tight ends will likely be severely limited. In ideal conditions there’s an opportunity here against a Bears pass defense that’s giving up a middle of the pack-ish 230.9 passing yards per game, as early this year they allowed Jason Witten to bust out of his slump with 13 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown.
I know, hard decisions are hard, and hard things aren’t easy. But despite the appeal of this matchup there’s just far too much risk in burning a roster spot on a player who’s far below optimum playing level in a game where Dorthy may actually swirl by in the raging winds.
Those in deep leagues (more than 12 teams) are the exception, as they’re likely left with little choice but to start Daniels. Hopefully by now you’ve picked up Garrett Graham, Daniels’ primary backup who’s still almost universally available in ESPN leagues. Kellen Davis and Tony Moeaki are also widely unowned emergency options, with Davis playing in the same game tonight, and Moeaki waiting to play until tomorrow night when his Chiefs travel to Pittsburgh.