- Ryan Collinsworth is here to answer those tough fantasy football start or sit questions for the Week 15 NFL slate.
- He highlights picks at each skill position, including Lamar Jackson over Jameis Winston.
In this article, I compare players with similar ESPN fantasy projections based on our Action Network Consensus Rankings and projections. In doing so, I advocate starting players with higher upside and fading comparable players with downside risk.
All rankings and projections are based on PPR scoring. Reported player projections are based on median expected outcome and are current as of writing. For a complete breakdown of all players, check out our FantasyLabs Models powered by “The Oddsmaker,” Sean Koerner.
Quarterback: Start Lamar Jackson over Jameis Winston
The Ravens confirmed that Jackson will remain their starting quarterback, Joe Flacco’s health notwithstanding. Baltimore’s public commitment to Jackson mitigates his downside risk and arguably elevates him into fantasy QB1 territory for the remainder of the season.
Jackson is a proven commodity at this point: He’s going to deliver running back-like rushing statistics, and any passing production he generates is a bonus. In four games as a starter, he’s averaged 16.8 rush attempts, 84 rushing yards, 0.75 rushing touchdowns and 17.9 fantasy points per game.
He draws an excellent matchup against the Buccaneers, who rank 30th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA and 28th in pass defense DVOA. Tampa Bay concedes 20.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.
Baltimore doesn’t just have a budding star quarterback; it also boasts an elite defense that could stifle Tampa Bay’s electric passing offense. The Ravens rank second in defense DVOA and fourth in pass defense DVOA. They’re allowing the third-fewest fantasy points (14.4) and third-fewest passing yards (225.9) per game to opposing quarterbacks.
Granted, Winston has been rolling over the last three weeks since being reinstated as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback. However, his excellent play has come against the 49ers, Panthers and Saints — three of the NFL’s worst passing defenses.
Not only is Tampa Bay facing a suffocating defense, but it must also overcome ball control issues. Baltimore’s offense ranks ninth in time of possession per drive, and its defense ranks second in yards allowed per drive. The combination of those metrics suggests that Tampa Bay could have limited offensive opportunities. On top of that, Winston has the highest interception rate (4.4%) of his career.
Given the mountain of matchup-based data in favor of the Ravens, ride with the home favorite: Start Jackson and let Winston and his pass-catchers ride the bench.
Running Back: Start James White over Doug Martin
Martin is a trendy RB2/flex play this week due to his outstanding matchup against the Bengals, but there are a couple reasons to temper expectations.
When Marshawn Lynch suffered a season-ending groin injury in Week 6, it opened the door for Martin’s renewed fantasy relevance. Unfortunately for him — and for fantasy teams — he hasn’t received the kind of workload many had hoped he would. Since Week 8, Martin has averaged 28.4 offensive snaps per game, which translates to a 45.9% snap rate. Meanwhile, his backfield mate Jalen Richard has averaged 27.4 offensive snaps per game over the same span.
Martin’s 50-50 split with Richard combined with his lack of receiving usage substantially limits his fantasy ceiling. Moreover, the Raiders are 23rd in run rate at just 38.28% per game, which further lowers his fantasy floor. He has salvaged starting fantasy performances each of the past three weeks only because he’s scored a touchdown. His rushing production on its own is not sufficient to justify starting status — he absolutely must score in order to return value as a starting fantasy running back.
So, at best you’re rolling the dice that Martin will vulture a touchdown, and even then he still doesn’t offer a high ceiling projection. He lives in fantasy purgatory: Good enough to roster, but not good enough to start.
In some ways, White is the antithesis to Martin. White doesn’t need huge rushing volume or touchdown production in order to produce starting fantasy numbers, and his receiving volume is so elite that he’s almost immune to poor game script.
White has disappointed fantasy teams for the past few weeks, but I urge you not to lose faith. What follows is a torrent of statistical data that proves White’s starting viability. Among running backs, he ranks:
- First in air yards market share (9%)
- First in target share (23%)
- Second in receptions (78)
- Second in receiving yards (693)
- Tied for first in receiving touchdowns (6)
- Tied for eighth in total touchdowns (10)
- 10th in offensive snaps (518)
Don’t be a victim of recency bias. Continue to start White with confidence — especially in a game in which the Patriots have the fourth-highest implied team total (27) on the slate.
Running Back: Start Elijah McGuire over Theo Riddick
McGuire is an intriguing flex play against the Texans. Admittedly, Houston’s run defense will be an immense challenge, but McGuire’s projected rushing and receiving volume could make up for poor efficiency.
Isaiah Crowell has already been ruled out and Trenton Cannon has been limited in practice with a foot injury. Still, Cannon’s snaps and production have waned dramatically over the past several weeks. Even if Cannon suits up, I don’t see him as a real threat to McGuire’s workload.
Those injuries vault McGuire into workhorse status. And in a league full of running back committees, being the sole horse in the stable is incredibly valuable. McGuire logged a 17-60-1 rushing line last week with Crowell sidelined and hauled in three passes for 23 yards. He ranked 12th among running backs with 17.3 PPR fantasy points.
Here’s the big payoff: He achieved that production against the suffocating Bills defense. That should assuage anxiety regarding his downside risk against the Texans.
Riddick is another running back with a difficult matchup — coincidentally against the Bills — but I don’t have much faith in his ability to overcome that challenge. Detroit at Buffalo has the second-lowest Vegas total (39) of the slate and projects as a war of attrition.
Riddick has not scored a single touchdown all season, and that does not seem to be due to poor variance. He’s earned only two rushes and zero receiving targets inside the 10-yard line this season.
He’s also experienced a decline in his receiving volume with Kerryon Johnson sidelined for the past two weeks. That decline in pass targets and receptions could be linked to his uptick in rushing attempts over the same span.
On the surface, that seems like a good thing, but Riddick’s fantasy profile is dependent on his receiving. If he’s working into the Lions’ rushing attack to subsidize the loss of Johnson, that limits his ability as a receiver, especially out of the slot.
Until Johnson is healthy again, Riddick is staying put on my bench.
Wide Receiver: Fade Buccaneers Receivers
I already expounded on my Tampa Bay take this week, so it should be no surprise that I’m not high on the Bucs’ wide receivers. The lone exception is Mike Evans, who is always a must-start due to his enormous air yards market share and big-play ability.
Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries — however — are big fades for me this week. But rather than drone on about their poor matchups, let me instead highlight two excellent alternatives to start in Week 15.
Start Josh Gordon over Chris Godwin
Gordon ranks among the top 24 wide receivers in median and ceiling projections this week, but his greatest value is his floor. He has at least 70 yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his 10 games as a Patriot. Since Week 6, he’s averaged 7.4 targets, 4.4 receptions and 77.4 receiving yards per game.
He leads New England in almost every single receiving category, despite starting the season as a Cleveland Brown:
- Receiving yards (701)
- Air Yards (899)
- Yards After Catch (261)
- Average Depth of Target (13.6)
He also ranks third in the NFL in yards per reception (18.0). He’s quietly flying under the radar as a consistent WR2 option each week regardless of matchup. He also benefits from playing in a high 54-point total game against the Steelers (see live odds here).
Start Tyler Lockett over Adam Humphries
Lockett is undoubtedly the most underrated and unsung wide receivers of the 2018 fantasy season. His consistency, efficiency, touchdown production and advanced metrics are absurd for a consensus fantasy WR2/WR3.
Lockett is the No. 1 overall wide receiver in individual DVOA by a huge margin. He ranks second in the league in catch rate (79%), fifth among wide receivers in total snaps (823) and tied for third among wide receivers in receiving touchdowns (9).
For the season, he ranks 23rd among wide receivers in PPR scoring per game (14.3), but ranks 16th over his last five games, averaging 15.5 PPR points over that span.
He also draws an excellent matchup against the soft 49ers secondary this week. San Francisco ranks 25th in pass defense DVOA and concedes on average the fourth-most fantasy points (26.7) and the most receiving touchdowns (1.54) per game to opposing wide receivers this season.