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 13.
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Cleveland) – Rivers draws a matchup we’ve been targeting all year, playing at home against the Browns. Cleveland ranks second-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation, third-worst in opposing passer rating, and fourth-worst in fantasy points allowed per dropback. Rivers is coming off of his best game of the year, and I like his chances of again finishing as a QB1.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins (@ Dallas) – Cousins quietly ranks fourth among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game and fifth in fantasy points per dropback this year. The matchup is excellent as well, with Dallas allowing 22.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in the four games Sean Lee has been absent. With Lee out for Week 13, Cousins is a high-end QB1 for me this week.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (vs. Houston) – Mariota has played poorly this season, but he has the ultimate “get right” matchup this week. The Texans rank worst in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing quarterbacks over their last five games and over the course of a full season. They also rank worst in fantasy points allowed per dropback. While Mariota has undoubtedly underperformed, he’s also due for some touchdown regression. He averaged a touchdown pass on 5.5 percent of his throws in his first two seasons in the league, but sits at just 2.9 percent this year. If Mariota disappoints this week, however, he’s an easy-drop.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (vs. LA Rams) – Peterson has failed to score in five straight games, and averages just 3.05 yards per carry over that stretch. That said, he’s a strong start this week. He ranks sixth among running backs in expected fantasy points per game over the last five weeks (15.1), and is coming off of three straight tough matchups (Seattle, Houston, and Jacksonville) to face a Rams defense giving up the second-most rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Gamescript is a concern as 7-point underdogs, but Peterson has also seen more work as a receiver in recent weeks. He’s a mid-range RB2 for me this week.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings (@ Atlanta) – Over the last two weeks I’ve preferred Latavius Murray in this column, because Minnesota’s last two opponents were more susceptible to opposing running backs on the ground, rather than through the air. That won’t be the case this week against an Atlanta Falcons defense giving up the ninth-fewest rushing and the sixth-most receiving fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. The Falcons also gave up the most receiving fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last year, not including 14 receptions, 110 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown to James White in the Super Bowl. Only 0.2 expected fantasy points per game (in McKinnon’s favor) separates the two running backs since Week 6. McKinnon is a mid-range RB2 for me this week, several spots ahead of Murray.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (@ NY Jets) – Hunt is coming off a woeful 26-yard performance in a dream matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Still, he remains a low-end RB1 in my rankings. He’s still our second-highest-graded running back this year, and ranks 11th in opportunities (carries plus targets) per game (19.2) since Week 7. The matchup isn’t great, and he’s more risky than other players within his tier, but he’s not someone I’m ready to bench yet.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Minnesota) – If Freeman is active for Sunday’s game, and there are no reports he’ll be on a snap count, he returns to action as a borderline RB1. The matchup is tough, but Freeman is our highest-graded running back this season, has seen between 15 and 24 opportunities in six of his last seven full games, and handled 88 percent of the team's carries inside the 5-yard line over this stretch. Given Freeman’s pedigree, he’s not someone I’d be overly concerned might come back rusty or would be worthy of benching given the matchup.
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Detroit) – Even with Danny Woodhead finally back, Collins has taken a stranglehold over the Baltimore backfield, totaling 36 carries and nine targets over the past two weeks. As home favorites against a Detroit defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, I like Collins’ chances of returning mid-range RB2 value this week.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots (@ Buffalo) – Lewis is our fourth-highest-graded running back this season and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry since Week 5. While Rex Burkhead will likely continue to “vulture” near-end-zone work, the matchup is strong for Lewis, who has seen 10-15 carries in each of his last six games. Buffalo is allowing the most rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this year, despite Hunt’s dud last week. I have Lewis as a high-end RB3 this week, and one spot above Burkhead in half-point-PPR leagues.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Indianapolis) – Lee saw two targets last week, catching just one for 13 yards, while shadowed by Patrick Peterson. That's mostly to be expected, but Lee did see 48 targets over his prior five weeks. He was fairly productive as well, averaging 15.3 fantasy points per game over this stretch – despite having the second-toughest cornerback schedule over this span (running 60.1 percent of his routes against top-30-graded cornerbacks). Things get much easier for Lee this week, against an Indianapolis defense that just lost Rashaan Melvin (our No. 14-graded cornerback) and was already allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
Ted Ginn, WR, New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina) – Fresh off a season-high 11 targets last week, I have Ginn as a high-end WR3 for Week 13. Ginn has been hyper-efficient when targeted this season, leading all wide receivers in passer rating when targeted (135.9). He runs 44 percent of his routes from Drew Brees’ right, while Chicago is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing right wide receivers.
Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Philadelphia) – Richardson might be worth a start this week, drawing Jalen Mills – the league’s most-targeted cornerback – for the majority of his Week 13. Richardson runs 53 percent of his routes from Russell Wilson’s left, while the Eagles are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to left wide receivers. While Doug Baldwin runs the majority of his routes against Patrick Robinson (our No. 2-graded cornerback this year), Richardson should see more work than typical, causing me to bump him up to the low-end WR3-range.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (@ Arizona) – After an 11-target, 100-yard performance against the Saints last week, Kupp gets ready to take on an Arizona defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers, which is where Kupp runs about half of his routes. With Patrick Peterson likely shadowing Sammy Watkins, enough targets should be funneled toward Kupp to move him up to the high-end WR2 range.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins (@ Dallas) – Crowder ranks eighth among wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game over the last five weeks of the season, averaging 9.5 targets per game over this stretch. This week he draws a Dallas defense allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers, which is where Crowder runs 74.1 percent of his routes.
Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Cleveland) – Henry’s volume has seemed to fluctuate wildly over the course of the season, but he has seen between five and eight targets in five of his last seven games. This week he draws a Cleveland Browns defense that ranks last in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing tight ends for the second straight year. He’s an easy TE1 this week.
Jared Cook, TE, Oakland Raiders (vs. NY Giants) – If Henry has the best tight end matchup of the week, Cook’s matchup ranks second-best against a Giants defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. He should also see a nice target boost with Michael Crabtree suspended and Amari Cooper unlikely to play dealing with concussion and ankle injuries. Crabtree being out significantly raises Cook’s touchdown-upside, considering he ranks fourth in end zone targets per game (1.3) and Cook ranks second on the team with (0.6). While Cook disappointed last week in a similarly strong matchup (he also had a touchdown called back after review), I’ll be starting him with confidence this week.
Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts (@ Jacksonville) – Doyle has solidified himself as the team’s top receiver, averaging 8.7 targets per game over his last seven games (Hilton averages 6.7). Luckily for him, he’ll also have the benefit of avoiding Jacksonville’s elite cornerbacks. Jacksonville is allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to both opposing slot and outside wide receivers, while funneling 26.5 percent of their receiving production allowed to tight ends, which ranks sixth-most.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions (@ Baltimore) – Stafford has been on a heater lately, ranking second in total fantasy points since Week 8. Still, he’s just a mid-range QB2 this week travelling to Baltimore. The Ravens rank second-best in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing quarterbacks, best in opposing passer rating, and second-best in fantasy points allowed per dropback.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (@ Seattle) – I believe in Ajayi's talent, and the talent of Philadelphia's offensive line, but under no circumstances can I rank him any higher than a RB4, given the (only) six to eight touches he's seen in each of the past three weeks.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Minnesota) – With Freeman back, Coleman reverts back to just a high-end RB3. In all games Freeman started and finished this year, Coleman averaged just 9.9 opportunities and 10.7 fantasy points per game.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (@ LA Chargers) – Gordon put together one of the most impressive wide receiver seasons of all-time in 2013. Only Randy Moss totaled more receiving yards before the age of 23. However, Gordon also hasn’t played professional football in 35 months, and now gets to face a Chargers defense whose two perimeter cornerbacks both grade among our top-15 at the position. Gordon is certainly worth owning as a lottery ticket, but he’s a player where I’d rather “see it first” before starting. Though, he honestly might be worth playing if you’re a heavy underdog this week and reports are optimistic he’ll see a significant workload.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams (@ Arizona) – Patrick Peterson ranks second-best in fantasy points allowed per route run among 74 qualifying cornerbacks, despite shadowing the likes of Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, and more. Only Hopkins caught more than two passes against him. When Watkins played the Cardinals in Week 7, Peterson shadowed him on 50 percent of his routes and Watkins failed to see a single target against him.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (@ Jacksonville) – Jacksonville ranks first in fantasy points per game and fantasy points per target to both outside and slot wide receivers. Hilton has six games of 30 or fewer yards and three games of 150 or more over his last nine games. If I had to pick, I’d bet he finishes under 30 again this week.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Green Bay) – Brate had a 16.5 percent target market share under Jameis Winston, but that number shrunk to 8.4 percent with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. With Winston named the starter for Week 13, I understand the optimism, but I'll be avoiding Brate this week due to the matchup. The Packers rank second-best in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing tight ends. They've surrendered just one touchdown and one 50-yard game to opposing tight ends this year.
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Arizona Cardinals (vs. LA Rams) – Jones leads all tight ends in fantasy points over the past two weeks, but has also played on only 19 percent of the team’s snaps over this stretch. He’s someone I’ll mostly be avoiding, having him as a mid-range TE2 in my rankings this week.