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 15.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (@ Oakland) – This season Prescott has averaged 25.7 fantasy points per game with Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup, but just 15.4 fantasy points per game while he’s been suspended. Still, his matchup this week is too good to pass up. The Raiders rank worst in opposing passer rating and are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing quarterbacks. I have Prescott as a mid-range QB1 this week.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Tennessee) – Garoppolo ranks as our fourth-highest-graded passer over the past two weeks, and ranks sixth in total passing yards over this stretch. I have him penciled in as a high-end QB2 this week up against a Tennessee defense ranking third-worst in fantasy points per dropback.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (@ NY Giants) – If desperate for a QB streamer this week, you can do far worse than Foles. The Giants rank third-worst in opposing passer rating and fifth-worst in fantasy points per dropback. The Giants also lead all defenses in plays of 30 or more yards surrendered to opposing receivers, with seven more than the next-closest defense. New York will still be without top-graded cornerback Janoris Jenkins and likely starter Eli Apple. Slot cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played on just 40 percent of the team’s snaps in Week 15, and their top-graded defender in coverage (safety Landon Collins) has not yet practiced this week, dealing with an ankle injury. I have Foles as a mid-range QB2 in my rankings this week, ahead of names like Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, and Marcus Mariota.
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LA Rams) – Davis has played in three games this season, but just nine full quarters, having to leave two games early due to injury. Per four quarters, he’s averaging 15.4 carries, 3.6 targets, and 100.0 total yards, with the bulk of this coming in tough matchups against Philadelphia and Jacksonville. If he’s fully healthy this week, he’s a strong start as a low-end RB2 up against a Rams defense allowing the second-most yards per carry and third-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (@ Minnesota) – Last week, with Joe Mixon out, Bernard saw 11 of the team’s 13 carries as well as eight of the team’s nine running back targets. Despite a brutal matchup against the Vikings, he’s still a borderline must-start in PPR leagues (high-end RB2) if Mixon sits out again.
Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins (vs. Arizona) – Byron Marshall was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, joining fellow running backs Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, and Keith Marshall. Perine was already averaging 14.9 expected fantasy points per game over the last four weeks (sixth-most at the position), but should begin serving in an even greater bell-cow capacity following Marshall’s injury. He draws a tough matchup this week, but should be held afloat by positive gamescript (favored by 4.5 points) and heavy usage.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (@ Carolina) – I understand the concerns that Williams is in a tough matchup against Carolina and that the team might lean less run-heavy with Aaron Rodgers back under center, but Williams’ workload has been too good to pass up. Since Week 11, Williams ranks second in expected fantasy points per game (20.4), running back snap share (96 percent), and running back touch share (92 percent).
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens (@ Cleveland) – Collins has been one of the league’s most efficient running backs in the league this season, ranking third-best in yards per carry, seventh-best in elusive rating, and eighth-best in PFF grade. Volume has been strong as well, averaging 17.3 carries and 2.8 targets per game since Week 11. While Cleveland ranks second-best in yards per carry allowed, Collins should have plenty of positive gamescript to run behind (as 7.0-point favorites) as well as plenty of scoring opportunities thanks to Cleveland’s stumbling and turnover-prone offense.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Cincinnati) – It seems like every week we’re mentioning a different Vikings running back in this column. This week Murray gets the better draw as 11.0-point favorites up against a Bengals defense allowing the fourth-most rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs since Week 9.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (vs. Baltimore) – If you own Gordon, you’re starting him. While the matchup looks tough on paper, the Ravens will be without our No. 13-graded cornerback Jimmy Smith. Baltimore ranks fourth-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation surrendered to opposing WR1s over their last five games, and Antonio Brown just torched Baltimore to the tune of 213 yards last week.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (@ Indianapolis) – Thomas was one of the most frequently named players in your start/sit questions this week, but he’s also one of the harder players to project. Since Week 9, Thomas ranks third among all receivers in expected fantasy points, and has totaled more expected fantasy points than Emmanuel Sanders in seven consecutive games. Still, production has been poor, forced to catch passes from some of our worst-graded quarterbacks in Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Trevor Siemian. However, the matchup is great against an Indianapolis defense now onto third and fourth-string cornerbacks as starters, and already allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers this year. He’s a high-end WR2 this week.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins (vs. Arizona) – I like Crowder as a low-end WR2 against the Cardinals this week. Crowder runs 75 percent of his routes from the slot, where he’ll avoid Patrick Peterson, and the Cardinals are surrendering the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers. Volume has been strong for Crowder as well, averaging 9.2 targets per game over his last six games.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (@ Seattle) – If you own Robert Woods, you’re probably starting him — considering he ranks 14th at the position in fantasy points per game — but his return doesn’t necessarily hurt Kupp. Kupp will return to full-time slot duties, while Seattle is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (@ Tampa Bay) – Julio Jones will get all of the buzz this week, after putting up 253 yards against the Buccaneers the last time these two teams played. Still, Tampa Bay is allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers, which is where Sanu runs 66 percent of his routes. I have Sanu as a high-end WR3 this week.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Tennessee) – Goodwin has cemented himself as the team's WR1 under Garoppolo. Over the past two weeks, he totals 19 targets (10 more than the next-closest receiver), 14 receptions, and 205 yards. He’s a strong start again this week, as a low-end WR2, up against a Tennessee defense allowing the third-most fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing WR1s.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Houston) – I have Westbrook and Marqise Lee ranked right next to each other as low-end WR3s this week. Westbrook ranks 14th among all wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game since his NFL debut, totaling 17.7 expected fantasy points more than Lee over this stretch. Westbrook also totals four more deep targets than Lee over this span, while Houston is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers on deep targets.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (@ New York Giants) – Despite the quarterback change, Ertz is still a must-start at the tight end position. Ertz totals 267.6 fantasy points over his last 16 games, which would have ranked third-best among all receivers last season. He draws a Giants defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and with Landon Collins (their highest-graded defender in coverage and primary tight end defender) questionable for Week 15.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills (vs. Miami) – If looking for a TE-streamer this week, I’m fine with Clay as a borderline TE1. His recent volume and production hasn’t been too encouraging, but he does draw a soft matchup against a Dolphins defense ranking third-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing tight ends.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans (@ San Francisco) – Mariota suffered a knee injury in Week 14. While he’s likely to play in Week 15, this certainly caps his rushing upside. This season, 29 percent of Mariota’s fantasy points have come on the ground, which ranks third-most at the position. He does have a plus matchup against the 49ers, but his recent performance implies he’s far too risky to start, averaging just 212.0 passing yards per game with a six to 10 touchdown to interception ratio since Week 7.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LA Chargers) – After a cake matchup against Oakland, Smith plummeted down my rankings this week, from a high-end QB1 to a high-end QB2. The Chargers rank third-best in opposing passer rating, sixth-best in fantasy points per dropback allowed, and top-three in fantasy points per game allowed over expectation over their last five games and over the course of the full season.
Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Denver) – Gore saw an outlier-ish workload in Week 14 (36 carries), thanks to some very inclement weather. While he also saw between 13 and 22 opportunities in his previous five games, the matchup this week is enough for me to stay away. Denver ranks third-best in opposing yards per carry and sixth-best in fantasy points per game allowed over expectation to opposing running backs.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans (@ Jacksonville) – Miller hasn't topped 75 rushing yards once this season. If it wasn't going to happen last week against the 49ers, it's unlikely to happen this week against the Jaguars. Since Marcell Dareus joined the team in Week 9, Jacksonville ranks top-10 in rushing yards per game allowed and yards per carry allowed to opposing running backs. As 10.5-point underdogs and Andre Ellington ready to syphon away targets, it's hard to imagine Miller posts a big game. He’s just a high-floor low-end RB2 this week.
Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets (@ New Orleans) – With Anderson, I’m less concerned about the quarterback change as I am about the matchup. We’re projecting rookie Marshon Lattimore to shadow Anderson in Week 15. Lattimore has shadowed three times this season, holding Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, and Julio Jones to a combined 88 yards on 10 targets. Among 118 qualifying cornerbacks, Lattimore ranks third-best in opposing passer rating, fifth-best in PFF grade, and 10th-best in fantasy points allowed per route in coverage.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia) – Shepard totaled just 16 yards in Week 14 against a Cowboys defense that went into the week allowing the most fantasy points to slot wide receivers since their bye. After that, it’s hard to trust him this week against an Eagles defense allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers – which is where Shepard runs 83 percent of his routes. I have him as a low-end WR3 this week.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (vs. Green Bay) – It might be hard to bench Olsen given his pedigree, but after playing on 92 percent of the snaps and drawing just one target in Week 14, he's still far too risky to have in your lineup.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta) – The fantasy community was high on Brate last week, assuming he would return to his typical workload with Jameis Winston back under center. However, in Week 14, he played on a season-low 35 percent of the snaps and saw just one target, while rookie O.J. Howard saw five and played on 79 percent of the team's snaps.