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Fantasy Frenzy – Stick with Steve Slaton

Steve SlatonSteve Slaton may be the most frustrating player for fantasy football owners this season. After a disappointing start, Slaton has been on fire. Slaton’s propensity to fumble kept him out of some key goal-line situations. Unfortunately, Slaton’s latest fumble kept him off of the field entirely, putting Slaton owners in a panic. What do you do with Steve Slaton?

Coming into Week 8, Slaton was ranked in the top five and projected to score 20 points. Slaton had a great matchup against the overall worst team in the NFL against the run, the Buffalo Bills. Slaton had just come off back-to-back 20 point weeks and was becoming a dual threat due to his receiving numbers. Slaton owners like myself, were feeling very confident that we finally got the value of our high draft pick. Unfortunately the honeymoon came to an end on Sunday when Slaton produced one point for the entire game.

[adinserter block=”1″]Slaton fumbled on his first carry of the game Sunday. It is inexcusable, and Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak had been vehement all week about his disgust over Slaton’s constant fumbles. Kubiak did the unthinkable and benched Slaton for the rest of the game after the fumble. This was an extremely gutsy move on Kubiak’s part as his team was 4-3 coming into the game and in desperate need of a win. The move paid off as Ryan Moats came in and scored three touchdowns and led the Texans to a huge victory in Buffalo as Slaton owners got sick to their stomachs seeing their first-round pick on the sidelines watching.

Steve Slaton owners are in a frenzy this week about what to do with their top running back. Is Ryan Moats the new starter for the Houston Texans? Will Slaton get any playing time next week? Will Slaton ever get a goal-line carry again? Do you pick up Ryan Moats off waivers and start him over Slaton? Do you trade Steve Slaton for whatever you can get? I am here to tell you that after carefully deliberating this as a Slaton owner myself, I say to stick with Steve Slaton. As a matter of a fact, start him this week vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

There is nothing worse for a fantasy football player than when your player doesn’t finish a game. It doesn’t get any worse than watching your player on the bench as his backup comes in and scores all over the defense. I am right there with you on that one. However, I will give you several reasons why I think you should stay the course with Steve Slaton. The first reason is simple. He is just too good and too talented to ride the bench.

It is one thing when you see a player like L.T. being pulled out of a goal-line situation because he just doesn’t have it anymore. It is another thing seeing a player pulled because of mental mistakes. The difference is that you can work through the mental mistakes, but you can’t fight a lack of talent. Steve Slaton has been a beast since Week 3. Other than this week, he has put up double-digit fantasy points in the last four of five games. Of those five games, he put up 20 points in each game in three of them (according to one of my league’s scoring). Guys with that kind of production aren’t riding the bench!

Ryan Moats had a big day in place of Slaton against Buffalo. However, this was the 32nd worst rushing defense in the NFL. The way I see it is that Steve Slaton could have had five touchdowns if Moats had three. There is a reason that Ryan Moats hasn’t been starting games in Houston. Hell, Ryan Moats hasn’t even been the number-two running back behind Slaton. Moats has been the third running back all season long. I really liked Moats when he was in Philadelphia, but the word in the media was that he had a hard time learning the plays. Are the Texans going to dumb their playbook down in Week 9 for Ryan Moats? Moats is a great change-of-pace player, but he is not an every-down or starting running back. If he was, he would have been starting somewhere by now. Ryan Moats is not taking the carries from Steve Slaton on talent alone.

Gary Kubiak is fighting for his job. It is well known that Kubiak is under the microscope this season. The Texans have been disappointing under him for the last few seasons. I could see a coach that had job security sending Slaton a message and benching him for a game or two, but Kubiak doesn’t have that luxury. Does he want to be the guy responsible at the end of the season for missing the playoffs because the team had Slaton on the bench? Kubiak is no fool and he wouldn’t have pulled this benching anywhere else but against the Buffalo Bills. Fumble-prone or not, Slaton is a weapon that any coach on the hot seat is only going to keep on the bench for so long.

Ryan Moats may get some extra carries next week in Indy, but I would be shocked if he had more than 10 carries. Moats will also have an extremely short leash. I keep hearing about Slaton’s short leash, but what is the alternative? There is a big risk in starting Slaton for fantasy owners. Should Slaton fumble, you could wind up seeing Slaton sitting on the sidelines for more than one game. However, the Texans have a ton of division games coming up. I would be shocked if Gary Kubiak pulled a stunt like this in a divisional matchup. It just isn’t going to happen!

Benching Slaton after today will send a terrible message to the locker room. Who wants to go out there and risk their career every Sunday for a coach that won’t give your team the best chance to win? Matt Schaub had no touchdowns today and why do you think that is? Yes, the loss of Owen Daniels but also the loss of Slaton. Schaub and Slaton had great chemistry and do some real damage together. Add the Daniels injury, and Kubiak has no time to get cute with the lineup. Kubiak needs to put every weapon he has into the game and he isn’t sitting Slaton after losing their star tight end.

The schedule favors Steve Slaton owners down the stretch. Slaton has a bad matchup against Indy next week. However, he is on a bye week after that. Any NFL player will tell you that the later the bye week the better. You will have a running back with a week off coming into the home stretch of the season. He also has games against Tennessee, Jacksonville, and St. Louis who all give up big numbers to running backs. If you own Slaton, you own a running back going against the Rams in Week 15 as your playoffs begin. Who doesn’t want that matchup for their first playoff week?

Finally, up until this week Slaton was starting to get more goal-line carries. It was a promising sign that Kubiak kept Slaton in on several goal-line opportunities against San Francisco last week. Normally, Slaton would have been removed from those situations in favor of Chris Brown. It was obviously a huge sign of confidence and it paid off as Slaton wound up scoring. So in one week Kubiak is going from giving Slaton goal-line carries to making him second-string? What happened Sunday in Buffalo was a hard message, but it is nothing that will impact Slaton down the stretch.

[adinserter block=”2″]So I say keep Steve Slaton in your lineup. We went through this with the Raiders game and got past it. Of course, watch the news this week and see what Kubiak has to say. Even if Slaton isn’t starting, I would start him. The Texans are going to need everything they can get to hang with the Indianapolis Colts. Sure, Moats may start but if the Texans are trailing by 14 in the second-quarter than Slaton is getting a lot of playing time. I am guessing that even if Slaton fumbles next week, he will still get a good amount of playing time. Remember, you are talking about a head coach on the hot seat who is playing his NFL division rival.

Now on the other hand, should Moats start next week and have a repeat performance than I’d say that we Steve Slaton owners have a serious problem on our hands.

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