With another week of NFL action behind us, and another week of fresh data to analyze and consider, I’m here to help you with some of your toughest fantasy football start/sit decisions.
If you’re ever stuck between a few players, please feel free to reach out to me on twitter (@ScottBarrettDFB) early in the week, and I’ll try to do my best to fit them into that week’s column. Here were some of your most frequently mentioned players for Week 11:
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ Cleveland) – Bortles is a high-end QB2 and a fine start for those in need of a bye week fill-in. Though Jacksonville is the most run-heavy team in the league (50 percent), Bortles ranks seventh in pass attempts per game since Week 6, and the matchup also dictates Jacksonville should lean more pass-heavy. Cleveland ranks 30th in opposing passer rating (104.4) and second in yards per carry allowed (3.11). They also rank second-worst in fantasy points per dropback, worst in fantasy points per game over expectation, and rank last in pressures per dropback (0.28).
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Arizona Cardinals (@ Houston) – Gabbert is another “gross” name but a fine start for those desperate. He was our second-highest-graded quarterback this preseason, and ranked behind only Tyrod Taylor in rushing fantasy points per dropback last regular season. Houston ranks last in the league in fantasy points per dropback, third-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation, and are allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks over the past month of the season (27.0). Like Cleveland, they are a “pass funnel” defense, ranking 28th in opposing passer rating (99.7) but seventh-best in yards per carry allowed (3.55).
Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins (vs. Tampa Bay) – Drake totals eight targets, but just 16 carries over the past two weeks. Still, he’s likely earned himself more volume as he’s out-gained Damien Williams by 118 rushing yards over this stretch, despite seeing the same amount of carries. Up against a Tampa Bay defense allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (20.7), he’s a fringe low-end-RB2/high-end-RB3 this week.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, New York Giants (vs. Kansas City) – Darkwa quietly ranks third-best in yards per carry (5.12) among all 34 running backs with at least 75 carries. Volume has been poor, but the matchup is strong, despite poor gamescript, up against a Kansas City defense allowing the second-most rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (16.1). I have him a few spots ahead of Drake in my rankings this week.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots (vs. Oakland in Mexico) – Although Rex Burkhead has been drawing more buzz this week, I’m more optimistic regarding Lewis’ potential in Week 11. Lewis has seen between 10 and 15 carries in each of his past four games, and has been hyper-efficient on those carries. He’s been the second-most difficult running back to tackle this year, and ranks as our eighth-highest-graded running back. Oakland is getting run on at the third-highest rate in the league (46 percent) and rank ninth-worst in yards per carry allowed (4.31). Lewis is still just a high-end RB3 this week, but he’s fine as a desperation flex play.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (@ Seattle) – Devonta Freeman is unlikely to play in Week 11. Though Terron Ward will see some usage, and the matchup is tough, Coleman is still an easy must-start as a low-end RB1 this week.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders (vs. New England in Mexico) – The Patriots are allowing the most yards before contact per attempt (2.55) and the most yards per carry (5.00) to opposing running backs. While gamescript is unlikely to be good, and the Patriots have been just as beatable through the air, Lynch is a fine start if you don’t have better than a high-end RB3.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings (vs. LA Rams) – While I’m still of the belief that Jerick McKinnon is the superior talent, usage has been fairly even over the past two weeks, with McKinnon averaging only 0.5 expected fantasy points per game more over this stretch. While McKinnon has been more productive and is the better play again this week, the matchup tilts more toward Murray’s favor. The Rams rank fourth-worst in rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (15.3), but only 18th-worst in receiving fantasy points per game (6.2). Murray is a fine low-end RB2 this week.
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams (@ Minnesota) – Since Week 3, Woods ranks sixth among all wide receivers in fantasy points per game (16.4), despite facing the third-toughest cornerback schedule in the league this season. Although an Xavier Rhodes shadow would cap his upside, it’s not a lock he shadows, and Woods’ recent production has been too good to leave him on your bench this week.
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings (vs. LA Rams) – I’m not sure why Thielen finds his name in this list every week. He ranks fifth among wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (16.4), third in actual fantasy points per game (16.5), and is our fourth-highest-graded wide receiver this year. The Rams have been above average against slot wide receivers this year, but Thielen is an every-week must-start moving forward, even with a healthy Stefon Diggs.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Tennessee) – Like Thielen and Woods before him, Smith-Schuster’s recent usage and production has been too good to pass up. While this week’s matchup won’t be as good as it was last week against an Indianapolis defense scheming to take away Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster is a strong low-end-WR2 or high-end WR3 this week.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (@ Dallas) – Dallas is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers (23.6) and Jeffery ranks 16th-best among wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (13.6). He’s a high-end WR2 for me this week.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Buffalo) – Allen has had three straight tough matchups (Denver’s Chris Harris Jr., a New England defense that schemes to take away a team’s top offensive weapon, and a Jacksonville defense allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers). He’s disappointed in each game, and it appears his owners are panicking. However, Allen still ranks 10th-best in expected fantasy points per game (14.5), and is most often targeted where Buffalo is weakest (surrendering the 10th-most fantasy points per game to receivers on short and intermediate passes).
DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins (vs. Tampa Bay) – While Landry has seen better volume and draws the better matchup, Parker is still a strong mid-range WR2 this week. Parker runs the plurality of his routes to Jay Cutler’s left, and the Buccaneers are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing left wide receivers (12.6). Excluding Week 5 when Parker saw just five snaps before leaving with an injury, his usage has also been excellent, ranking 10th-best in expected fantasy points per game (14.9) at the position.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ Cleveland) – Over the past four weeks, Lee ranks fourth among wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (18.7) and 11th in actual fantasy points per game (16.7). Unfortunately for him, he’s likely to draw our No. 2-graded cornerback Jason McCourty in shadow coverage this week. Still he’s a high-end WR3 this week and is more of a “start” than “sit.”
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions (@ Chicago) – Prior to last week, Jones was leading all wide receivers in almost every conceivable usage-based metric over the previous four weeks of the season. Chicago is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing right wide receivers (14.4), which is where Jones runs 51 percent of his routes. Golden Tate has the tougher matchup, considering Chicago is allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers (9.3).
Bruce Ellington, WR, Houston Texans (vs. Arizona) – For those truly desperate, I like Ellington’s upside with Patrick Peterson on DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller out for Week 11. Ellington has seen seven targets in each of his last two games, and has run 67 percent of his routes from the slot. Arizona is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers (14.2).
Tyler Kroft, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (@ Denver) – Denver ranks third-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing tight ends, and has led the league in percentage of receiving fantasy points allowed to tight ends in each of the past two seasons. Kroft is averaging five targets per game over his last six games, and is a fine high-end TE2 this week.
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins (@ New Orleans) – Davis draws an extremely tough matchup against a New Orleans Saints defense that has only allowed one tight end (Rob Gronkowski) to reach even 30 yards against them. Still, his recent usage has been too good to pass up, ranking first among tight ends and fifth among all receivers in expected fantasy points the past two weeks (34.6). He’s still a mid-range TE1 this week if Jordan Reed sits.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (@ Pittsburgh) – Mariota hasn’t posted a single QB1 week since Week 1, and now has to face off against a Steelers defense allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per dropback to opposing quarterbacks (0.42). The Steelers rank top-five in opposing passer rating (76.8), pressures per dropback (0.41), and fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing quarterbacks.
Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings (vs. LA Rams) – Keenum has been a top-five fantasy quarterback in each of his last two games, but this is not the week to get cute. Over their last five games, opposing quarterbacks are averaging just 9.3 fantasy points per game against the Rams. For the season, they rank third-best in both opposing passer rating (75.0) and pressures per dropback (0.41).
Alfred Morris, RB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Philadelphia) –Morris is a mid-to-low-end RB3 this week, due to minimal passing game involvement, up against a Philadelphia defense ranking first in yards per carry allowed (2.88) and allowing the fewest rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (6.3). Especially with Tyron Smith questionable, I have Rod Smith ahead of Morris (Philadelphia is allowing the third-most receiving fantasy points per game to opposing running backs) in half-point and full-point-PPR leagues.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers (vs. Baltimore) – Nelson is averaging 8.0 expected fantasy points per game in Brett Hundley starts, while Cobb is averaging only 6.8. For perspective, over the course of a full season, this would rank just 73rd and 90th, respectively, among wide receivers. I have Nelson as a high-end WR4 and Cobb as a low-end WR4 this week against a Ravens defense allowing the third-fewest (24.8) fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams (@ Minnesota) – Watkins ranks 83rd among wide receivers and third among wide receivers on his team in expected fantasy points per game (7.4). I’m going to need to see some more reliable usage from Watkins before he’s worthy of a start outside of extremely deep leagues.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. Washington) – The Saints are passing at the sixth-lowest rate in the league (53 percent) and are up against a Redskins defense allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing outside wide receivers (14.0), which is where Ginn runs 80 percent of his routes. He’s just a high-end WR4 this week.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Buffalo Bills (@ LA Chargers) – Benjamin likely draws Casey Hayward in shadow coverage this week. Since Week 6, Hayward ranks sixth among cornerbacks in routes in coverage (173), but ranks 123rd in fantasy points allowed (7.9) over this stretch. He was, by my metrics, the best shadow cornerback in the league behind only Patrick Peterson over the past two seasons. Add in the fact that he’ll be seeing targets from a rookie quarterback in his first career start, and Benjamin is an easy fade this week.
Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans (@ Pittsburgh) – Not only is Walker dealing with a wrist injury, but he faces a Pittsburgh defense ranking third-best in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends (9.5). After holding Kyle Rudolph, Travis Kelce, and Jack Doyle all under 9.0 fantasy points, I have a hard time imagining Walker finishes as a TE1 this week.