Fantasy football: Championship week heroes are hard to find

It seems there routinely are strange heroes come fantasy playoff time. There was Derrick Henry last season, who finally delivered what many fantasy owners had been waiting more than two years to enjoy. Or Damien Williams stepping in for the Chiefs after they cut Kareem Hunt for his off-the-field behavior.

There was Blake Bortles’ magical garbage-time run in 2015. You can go all the way back to 2004, when Billy Volek and Drew Bennett carried fantasy teams to the championship week.

This season, DeVante Parker already is making a case to be a playoff waiver-wire hero.

So as strange as it might seem that Mike Boone and DeAndre Washington, both on the waiver wire as of just a couple of weeks ago, could play a major role in who wins your league’s title, this type of scenario is that strange.

The question isn’t: Are either of these running backs startable? They are. The question is: Under what circumstances do you start them?

Boone is the more complicated situation of the two. The Vikings don’t play until Monday, and we have yet to get clarity on the availability of starter Dalvin Cook or primary backup Alexander Mattison. Though we don’t expect either to play, which would pave the way for Boone, that isn’t a certainty. And the last thing you can afford in championship week is a dud in your lineup.

Thus, we have to couch our decision on Boone based on other earlier alternatives or possibly pivots on Monday. And those Monday pivot options are quite limited — in fact, the list is just one: Adam Thielen. If Cook or Mattison play, we aren’t interested in using either one. Neither is likely to be fully healthy, and the risk of reinjury in likely high, since neither seems close to a return as of late this week.

We’re already going to be starting other Monday options we care to play — Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Any others, we don’t consider viable. We’re a bit soft on Thielen because he is not far removed from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Week 6, save a brief Week 9 return. But considering our confidence level of Boone being the main ballcarrier Monday, we would run the risk since we don’t consider the downgrade terribly dramatic.

The Raiders’ Washington doesn’t provide such complications. Starter Josh Jacobs is out. And Washington has a strong matchup against the Chargers. But we also have less confidence in the Raiders’ ground game than in the Vikings’, so we prefer Boone if Cook and Mattison are out. And whatever worries we have regarding Ameer Abdullah stealing pass-down snaps from Boone are offset by those same worries regarding the workload between Washington and Jalen Richard.

We consider Boone, in ideal conditions, around RB19 this week — ahead of Le’Veon Bell, Phillip Lindsay, Washington, Austin Ekeler and Devin Singletary, but behind Marlon Mack, Kenyan Drake, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb. That puts Washington in the RB22 territory.

Don’t be afraid to play either one if the situation is right. But don’t get too cute. Don’t sit someone who is producing consistently, even if disappointingly — like Saquon Barkley or Alvin Kamara. Be smart, but don’t be silly, and you can become a champion.

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