There’s good and bad news entering Week 10 of the NFL season from a fantasy football perspective. On one side, only four teams are on bye. It’s always easier to set your lineup without having to scan the waiver wire for 2-3 starters. But on the opposite side, there are a few fantasy options at key positions who are tough to gauge and have great matchups.
One of those names is Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald, who’s been hit-or-miss this season. Entering Thursday night’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers, there’s certainly some appeal to giving him the starting nod. It’s risky and depends on the specific situation you’re in, but it’s a very real option.
Let’s break down whether McDonald is a legitimate starting candidate for fantasy football to consider this week, or if he belongs on your bench (or waivers).
Should You Start or Sit Vance McDonald?
I can’t blame you for finding any possible reason not to start McDonald. Maybe you’re just thin at tight end and have no other options or somehow the bye weeks did impact you (unlikely). As frustrating as the Steelers tight end has been at times, it mainly stems from the fact that he’s posted semi-similar numbers as teammate Jesse James. He also loses snaps to him.
On the year, McDonald has caught 26 passes for 246 yards and one touchdown while James has 21 receptions for 336 yards and one touchdown. Obviously, James’ 138-yard game earlier this season boosts his numbers, but McDonald has seen more targets on the year (33-27). He also out-snapped his teammate 51-35 in Week 9 and has played at least 59 percent of the offensive snaps in all but one game going back to Week 4, per Football Outsiders.
The key here comes down to the matchup, and that’s what the big sell on McDonald is. As ESPN shows, the Panthers have been the worst team in the league against opposing tight ends, allowing 55 receptions for 613 yards and seven touchdowns. In what projects as a high-scoring game Thursday, McDonald should see plenty of chances, especially considering he’s received 17 targets over the past three weeks to James’ 13.
It’s unlikely I’d use McDonald is any league smaller than 12 teams, and I’d prefer to stick to 14-teamers and above. You likely have better options in a 12-team league, but if he’s one of the top options (possibly due to deep benches) and you need a play, I’m fine with him in this matchup.