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Erickson: Week 10 fantasy football rankings overview

Nov 8, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s preview of the massive Week 10 NFL slate, I'm highlighting key insights for the second half of games upcoming this weekend. All my analysis on the first seven games is featured in PFF’s huge NFL Week 10 Preview, but I'll be sure to include any updates considering all the injuries and Covid-19 cases that have occurred in the past few days.

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I'll identify sleepers, busts, DFS picks and waiver-wire options with consideration for injuries and other fantasy-relevant news and notes. It’s a behind the curtains look into my Week 10 fantasy rankings

Los Angeles Chargers @ Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa was the highlight of this week’s waiver wire piece because he is an extremely favorable spot and rises in the quarterback rankings to QB12. Spicy take, I know. 

The Los Angeles Chargers have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to QBs this season. Per Ian Hartitz’s Mismatch Manifesto, this game has a chance to be a sneaky shootout based on the teams' combined EPA/play. 

Running back Kalen Ballage looks to be getting the nod in for the injured Justin Jackson, but this backfield has the potential to be a full-blown three-man committee. Last week it was only Ballage and rookie Joshua Kelly who saw work because Troymaine Pope sat out with a concussion.

Pope should be back in the mix for Week 10 and will be vying for touches based on his heavy involvement during Week 8’s contest. 

Ballage seems to be the consensus highest-ranked Chargers running back, but that's solely based off last week in a plus matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Miami Dolphins present a much bigger challenge, as they have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs over the past four weeks. 

On 28 total touches, Miami limited Chase Edmonds to just 11.8 PPR fantasy points. The Chargers RBs last week combined for 31 touches between just two backs. By adding a third back to the mix, this is a backfield that should be avoided. 

If I was forced to play one, Kelley would be my selection — I have him ranked highest as such. He has been involved regardless of which other Chargers running backs are active. He routinely also sees targets (11 targets last three weeks) and occasionally works near the goal line. 

The Miami backfield is equally as messy, but I’ll shoot my shot with DeAndre Washington if Matt Breida can’t go. He is a great stash ahead of Week 10 and could show out in a plus-matchup if he is given opportunities.

The Chargers have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks.

It doesn’t get much safer than playing Keenan Allen, who still hasn’t failed to see double-digit targets during a full game with Justin Hebert. His hot streak should continue versus the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to WRs over the past two weeks.

Allen is also going to see plenty of slot cornerback Nik Needham, who is the Dolphins’ lowest graded starting cornerback this season. 

Mike Williams is in a much tougher position going up against the likes of Byron Jones and Xavien Howard on the outside. He’s on the WR3/4 fringe this week at WR40 in my rankings

DeVante Parker is at just $5K on DraftKings, and that is way too cheap with Preston Williams out of the picture. We saw Parker go on an absolute tear last year once Williams went down with an ACL injury, and his usage spiked last week after Williams left the game. He led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yardage in Week 9 — we should expect more of the same from Miami’s No. 1 wide receiver. 

Speedster Jakeem Grant is also going to see a bump in usage operating as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver, so he is a nice value in DFS at the stone minimum. He brings 4.42 speed and can deliver explosive playmaking upside. Grant scored a touchdown on a punt return two weeks ago — he has averaged 8.2 fantasy points playing in limited fashion over the past three weeks.

Mike Gesicki continues to keep burning fantasy managers week after week (as opposed to opposing defenses), and I understand the reluctance to go back to him. But it can’t be overlooked that Preston Williams’ injury is a huge boost for the supremely spry tight end. 

Williams was the team’s primary deep threat and led the team in air yards share. With him gone, somebody needs to take on those air yards — Parker and Gesicki are the most likely candidates.

The matchup also favors the Dolphins’ tight end. The Chargers have allowed the third-most touchdowns to tight ends this season and have been one of the worst defenses guarding the slot. They have allowed a league-high 139.1 passer rating rating and 9.6 passing yards per attempt to players lined up in the slot this season. 

Buffalo Bills @ Arizona Cardinals 

In his last three games, no wide receiver has performed higher over expectation than Christian Kirk. His expected production based on usage should be 11.3 fantasy points per game, but he has pulled the ultimate “hold my beer” move and posted 22.2 actual fantasy points per game.

This high-end production could fizzle out rather quickly this week against the Buffalo Bills, who have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks. 

Kirk almost exclusively lines up on the right side of the formation (82%), which means he should see plenty of Bills top cornerback Tre’Davious White

The Bills defense also prides itself on limiting chunk gains to opposing passing games. Buffalo has faced the lowest deep pass attempt rate (6%) this season. Specifically to wide receivers lined up on the right side of the field, they have allowed just seven completions of 20 or more yards — the fifth-lowest total in the league. 

During Kirk’s last three games, 50% of his fantasy production (32.1 fantasy points) has come on three catches from deep targets. 

Former UMASS wideout Andy Isabella is in play from a DFS standpoint ($3,500) because he does draw the plus matchup from the slot against Taron Johnson. Isabella is still playing behind Larry Fitzgerald (eyeroll), but 18 of his 21 targets this season have come from inside. 

Sep 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) against the Washington Football Team at State Farm Stadium. Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Edmonds saw a whopping 28 touches last week and his price dropped in DFS. The Dolphins defense has improved in recent weeks, but the same can’t be said for the Bills defense. They rank dead last in PFF run defense grade (32.5) and have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to running backs over the past four weeks. 

Play Edmonds everywhere, assuming Kenyan Drake doesn’t play. 

Josh Allen is my No. 1 quarterback ranked this week. My rationale? He owns PFF’s fifth-highest passing grade, the second-highest yards per attempt (9.7) and the most big-time throws against man coverage. The Arizona Cardinals rank second in the NFL in man coverage snaps. 

That makes Allen a super attractive player to target in DFS, as he is $500 cheaper than Kyler Murray and offers a similar ceiling. The only caveat with Allen is the status of John Brown.

Every peak fantasy week for Allen this season has coincided with a healthy Brown, and his down weeks have all come when Brown has been limited or inactive. 

Brown was featured as one of my “starts” in the Week 10 start em’ or sit em’ column because the he should feast in a #revengegame. 

In that same piece, I referred to Devin Singletary as a “sit” which makes Zack Moss the only legitimate Bills running back option for fantasy in Week 10. Moss led the backfield in touches in Week 9 and will see a decent matchup versus the Cardinals’ 25th-graded PFF run defense. 

He is a top-24 running back this week in my rankings. 

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints

Michael Thomas didn’t post gaudy numbers (5-51-0) in long-awaited return to the lineup, but his team-leading targets (six) and routes run (28) are a good sign that he is back to full health. He gets a great matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers, who have allowed the most fantasy points to WRs over the past two weeks. 

The last time Thomas faced the 49ers was back in 2019, and he posted 11 catches for 134 receiving yards and a touchdown on 15 targets. 

Thomas falls in at WR3 overall for me this week because I think we see vintage Thomas ball out. He’s a player worth targeting aggressively in DFS tournaments — the “injury” will scare people off, but that just creates the perfect opportunity to get an elite player at a lower ownership.

And let's not forget that Davante Adams also made his return from injury back in Week 6 against the same Tampa Bay Buccaneers and posted just a modest 6-61-0 statline. The next week he scored 47.6 fantasy points. 

The return of Thomas does put a slight damper on Alvin Kamara’s Week 10 projection. Last week Kamara saw his fewest targets since Week 4. and the matchup is brutal versus the 49ers. They have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs.

Kamara should still be fine in seasonal leagues because the 49ers have allowed the fifth-most receptions to running backs over the past four weeks, but it’s hard to not just pay down for Aaron Jones in DFS at a $1,100 cheaper price point on DraftKings. 

Emmanuel Sanders should be viewed as a low-end WR3 option, as he averaged a WR33 finish in his two games played this year alongside Thomas. Those performances have been bolstered by touchdown receptions in each game, but his chances are as good as almost any receiver to score with the Saints having the second-highest implied team total on the main slate.

It could be a difficult day for the 49ers’ offense passing attack to get going because Nick Mullens is going to be under pressure all day. 

They rank No. 1 in the league pressure rate (50.6%) over their last two games, and Mullens has been a liability under pressure this season — he has a 48.5 quarterback rating under pressure and a 1:3 touchdown to interception ratio.

The one saving grace for the 49ers’ wide receivers is the fact that New Orleans still has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks. Kyle Shanahan can often scheme plays to get the ball to his playmakers in space.

Brandon Aiyuk will be a top-30 wide receiver should Deebo Samuel remain sidelined. In his last two games played, Aiyuk commanded a 27% target share and compiled over 200 receiving yards. 

Raheem Mostert is not playing in this game, so Jerick McKinnon “seems” like the best option to pivot to in the 49ers’ backfield. Now, we have seen this play out in the past with McKinnon looking like the guy just to see JaMycal Hasty gets all the touches. 

But in this spot against the New Orleans Saints, who have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs over the past four weeks, I can’t project this 49ers offense to run wild. 

McKinnon ranks 12th in targets and 11th in routes run among running backs, so his work as a receiver should get him inside the top-30 running backs

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s a great matchup for Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game, but two factors have me lower on Big Ben than the market. First off, the projected total in this game is one of the lowest of the week (46.5), and Roethlisberger’s absences from practice could prove detrimental to his performance. 

The track record of QBs missing practice due to Covid-19 issues, ie Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton, has resulted in less than stellar results. 

The Steelers’ quarterback is also dealing with injuries to both his knees (yikes), so the game plan for Pittsburgh could be to just go in and pound the rock with James Conner

Sep 27, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) reaches the ball over the goal line for the game winning touchdown as Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) defends during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 28-21. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards to running backs this season, so this is a prime bounce back spot for the Steelers’ running back. Conner nuked DFS lineups last week, so he should be a lower owned target for GPPs. 

It’s always a fun activity ranking the trio of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers. My order for this week is Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and then JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Johnson ranks first because he has seen the most steady target share in favorable matchups during his healthy weeks. Claypool is coming off a whopping 15 targets and has the most weekly upside of the bunch because of his role as the team’s vertical threat.

Smith-Schuster ranks third just because he saw the fewest targets last week (eight). His targets are so close to the line of scrimmage (6.16 aDOT) that he needs volume to put up fantasy production.

Still, Smith-Schuster does have a favorable matchup from the slot against LeShaun Sims, who has allowed the third-most fantasy points and yards per route covered this season. In DFS, Johnson is the easy selection — despite the fact that he almost always sees double-digit targets, he is priced the lowest of the trio ($5,200). 

Eric Ebron was of my starts of the week at the tight end position and should be played across all formats. 

If Joe Mixon is healthy, he can’t be viewed as anything more than a mid-range RB2. The Steelers present the toughest matchup for opposing running backs and there’s no guarantee that Mixon sees his normal workload returning from an injury that is still forcing him to miss practices. 

Tyler Boyd is the highest-ranked Bengals wide receiver, grading out as a top-18 WR option. He has averaged 16.8 fantasy points per game (15th-best) and is the safest option among the Cincy wide receivers.

Tee Higgins could be due for a blow-up game based off his team-leading air yards and deep targets back in Week 8. The Steelers’ defense has struggled at times when they can’t get pressure — that's when they often get burned in the backend. They have allowed the third-highest percentage of explosive pass plays to opposing WRs, and that should be music to the ears of Higgins managers. 

Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams

Get ready for Russell Wilson to not just cook in this matchup but light the fantasy streets ablaze. The Los Angeles Rams boast one of the league’s best defenses (second-fewest fantasy points per game to QBs), but that hardly matters when it comes to Chef Russ. 

First off, this defense gave up over 41 fantasy points to Josh Allen in Week 3 and over 29 fantasy points to Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 6. With that in mind, a 30-plus point fantasy outing is well within his range of outcomes.

The other reason why this could be a big game for Wilson is that the Rams predominantly run zone coverage and he owns PFF’s highest passing grade against zone coverage this season (92.4). 

Chris Carson’s status is up in the air still, keeping DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer in play. I’d lean Homer because of his usage last week, and the matchup favors Homer as the pass-catching back.

Last week Dallas played just 20 snaps — 11 less than Homer (31) and just seven more than Alex Collins. The Rams are also tied for the league lead in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs this season (three). The appeal with Dallas the past two weeks has been tied to touchdowns, so he's tough to trust.

The Tyler Lockett over D.K. Metcalf “take” last week failed to come to fruition, but don’t lose faith. Lockett has another outstanding matchup from the slot against the Rams’ weakest cornerback Troy Hill, so continue to roster him in DFS.

He is also priced significantly cheaper than his Seattle teammate. In his last four games against the Rams, he has scored three times. 

For anyone desperate at tight end or looking to punt the position on DraftKings, let me introduce you to tight end Jacob Hollister. Hollister led Seattle's tight ends in snap share (48%), receptions (five) receiving yards (60) and targets (seven) in Week 9. He is just $2,600 on the DFS giant, and that matchup bodes well for him to easily pay off his salary. The Rams have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the tight end position.

Seattle also aggressively targets their tight ends near the goal-line — they lead the league in end-zone targets to the tight end position.  

I am extremely bullish on Cooper Kupp this week, ranking him inside my top-10 WRs. It’s as simple as PFF’s Sosa Kremenjas pointed out on Twitter. Seattle has allowed the most receiving yards to slot WRs (977). The second team in that regard is the Cleveland Browns at 694 . That’s quite the margin. 

Kupp is a great option on DraftKings at $6,900, but I can’t say the same for Robert Woods. Woods’ 28.4 fantasy outing in Week 8 was 11.6 fantasy points over expectation. Considering he hardly sees end-zone/deep targets, he is the Rams’ wide receiver worth fading in DFS.

Josh Reynolds would be my high-priority target at just 3.5K to pair with Kupp because he is seeing an extremely large portion of the Rams’ high-value targets. He leads the team in percentage of end-zone targets (33%), deep targets (36%) and air yards (27%). 

Last season we saw both tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee post 100-yard receiving games in their matchups against the Seattle Seahawks. However, the main difference was that Everett produced even when Higbee was active, while Higbee needed Everett to be inactive to put up a huge game.

That brings us to determining which Rams’ TE could be usable in this game, and that falls on Everett. He has out-targeted Higbee in games they have played together dating back to Week 3. In their last game, Everett saw nine targets versus Higbee’s four. 

Everett is also the cheaper option ($3,100), so he should be viewed as a great pay-down tight end option. 

Darrell Henderson Jr.’s availability isn’t trending the way fantasy managers would prefer, so there’s a good chance that Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown split the backfield in Week 10. 

Brown would be the best replacement option, as he has owned the pass-catching role and the team has shown us nothing to believe they are ready to unleash their rookie running back. When Henderson was ruled out of Week 8, Brown led the snap share (68%) and Akers led the way in carries (six to five).

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

Over the past two weeks, Cam Newton has played significantly better as a passer. He has PFF’s third-highest passing grade (87.7) over that span behind only Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. That improvement should warrant Newton at least high-end QB2 status for Week 10.

He is also rushing almost 10 times per game (9.85), and that should help him overcome a tough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens who have allowed the 14th-fewest fantasy points to the quarterback position over the past four weeks. 

Newton is tied with Kyler Murray for the league lead in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks (eight), and each quarterback this season that has scored at least 20 fantasy points against Baltimore has scored a rushing touchdown. 

The absence of the Ravens' highest-graded interior defensive linemen, Calais Campbell, should also ensure the Patriots’ ground and pound assault is effective. 

Lamar Jackson has hardly played up to the MVP standards he set last year, averaging just 20.7 fantasy points per game — 10th-best this season. Last year through his first eight games, he was averaging 25.5 fantasy points per game, which ranked No. 1 in the NFL.

Nov 1, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts after throwing a second half touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Although he isn’t providing winning weeks for fantasy managers, he should still post a solid stat line against the New England Patriots. They own PFF’s 31st ranked run defense and made Joe Flacco look elite — 262 passing and 3 touchdowns — last Monday night. 

I expect Jackson to run the football effectively because of the matchup, and he should have more success throwing with play-action. Jackson’s completion percentage (65.8% vs. 61.4%), yards per attempt (8.0 vs. 6.7) and passer rating (107.2 vs. 88.7) all improve dramatically with play action.

In 2020, the Pats rank dead last in play-action yards per attempt allowed (11.1). 

I hate to admit it, but Marquise Brown might not be the worst option among WRs in this spot.  He is still the clear cut No. 1 receiving option based on his underlying team shares of raw targets, deep targets, air yards and end-zone targets.

Again, we saw the Patriots defense get torched by the New York Jets of all teams, so this should be a spot where Hollywood can shine. No team this season has allowed a higher percentage of explosive passing plays (35.2%) to WRs than the Patriots.

The Patriots have also made it their mission to shut down all tight ends, so it’s going to be another rough outing for Mark Andrews. They have allowed the fewest fantasy points to the position, and that includes matchups against Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller.

If Andrews is out of the picture, Brown could see more looks, which would help solidify him as a WR3/4 option in Week 10. Andrews is my TE13 and Brown is my WR41 in my current rankings

Jakobi Meyers has seen a league-leading 36% target share over the past three weeks. The volume isn’t going to remain at such a high level, but considering the lack of playmakers on the Patriots, Meyers is still going to get his.

Despite the tough matchup, he can still be trusted as a low-end WR3 option. All wide receivers that have seen at least eight targets against the Ravens have scored double-digit fantasy points. Meyers has averaged 10 targets per game over his last three games.

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

It sounds gross, but should David Montgomery miss this game with a concussion, Ryan Nall would be a plug-and-play RB2 option this week. Nall saw four targets after replacing Montgomery and would likely take over early-down work as well.

The Minnesota Vikings provide a favorable matchup, as they have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks.

Montgomery’s absence would also be an upgrade for Cordarelle Patterson, so don’t forget about him when creating lineups for single-game DFS contests.

Jimmy Graham draws a great matchup in Week 10 versus the Vikings — they've allowed a receiving touchdown to a TE in two of their last three games and rank dead last in yards per target to the TE position (10.5)

Considering Graham ranks third among all TEs in end-zone targets (eight), his weekly chances of scoring are as good as almost any tight end. He also ranks third in targets (47, 6.7 per game) since Week 3, so his floor might be safer than one would expect.

Darnell Mooney has a chance to blow up in this game after seeing encouraging usage for the past several weeks. He was showcased in my Week 10 high-value opportunities article because of the insane end-zone/deep targets the rookie has seen in recent weeks. Those are key indicators of future production, so I expect him to reach the moon Monday night.

That being said, I’d rather play Mooney than Justin Jefferson in the same game, as the latter has fallen by the wayside in recent weeks with Dalvin Cook taking over the entire Vikings offense. The matchup just isn’t great for Jefferson to post huge numbers. Chicago has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks. 

Adam Thielen is my WR18 in my Week 10 fantasy rankings, so he is still worth starting this week. Like Mooney, Thielen is just seeing too many high-value targets to give up on him after two bad weeks. 

No player has a higher percentage of a team’s end-zone targets than Thielen (61%), and I sure don’t expect Irv Smith Jr. to catch two touchdowns for a second straight week. 

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