- Ryan Collinsworth is here to answer those tough "start or sit" questions for the Week 11 NFL slate.
- He highlights picks at each skill position, including Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Bears TE Trey Burton.
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.
Since switching to a new format for this weekly column, I’ve gone 7-4 on my recommendations, with a 4-1 record in Week 10.
Let’s see if we can go 5-for-5 on our recommendations this week.
Quarterback: Start Deshaun Watson over Kirk Cousins
Watson has been an inconsistent fantasy producer this season, due in large part to a rib and lung injury he suffered in Week 5 against the Cowboys, which has limited his practice availability and on-field mobility since.
From Weeks 1 to 5, Watson was averaging 40.2 rushing yards per game. But, since his injury, he’s only managed 16.8 rushing yards per game. Importantly, however, reports indicate that Watson is nearing 100% recovery. He rushed six times for 38 yards against the Broncos in Week 9 before earning much-needed rest during the Texans’ Week 10 bye.
He draws a reasonable matchup against the Redskins, who have given up the seventh-most passing yards on average (286.7) to quarterbacks this season.
Cousins, on the other hand, has an incredibly difficult matchup against the Bears, who boast elite metrics in nearly every defensive category imaginable.
Chicago ranks first in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, fourth in pass defense DVOA and second in rush defense DVOA. The Bears are also tops in forced interceptions per game (1.78) and opponent QB Rating (79.8). On top of that, the Vikings also rank poorly in explosive pass play rate this week.
With the cards stacked against the Vikings offense in this matchup, Cousins might best serve your fantasy team by remaining on the bench.
Running Back: Start Dion Lewis over Dalvin Cook
Let’s get my Cook take out of the way as a natural segue from my discussion of Cousins in the previous section: The Bears defense is really good.
Chicago is allowing the fewest fantasy points (11.7), third-fewest rushing yards (68.3) and fewest rushing touchdowns (0.11) per game to running backs. The Bears boast the No. 1 ranked run defense according to Pro Football Focus.
While I understand the optimism surrounding Cook after his 89-yard rushing performance in Week 9, this matchup severely limits his upside.
Instead, I recommend firing up Lewis, who has been one of the most undervalued fantasy running backs of 2018. He ranks 21st among running backs in PPR settings despite only scoring two touchdowns this season. In addition to his high receiving volume, Lewis has also experienced a marked increased in his rush attempts per game (17.3) over the past three weeks.
Lewis draws an excellent matchup against the Colts, who rank 31st in targets (10.0), 31st in receptions (7.9) and 29th in receiving yards (63.4) allowed to running backs per game. The Titans could also be without wide receiver Taywan Taylor, who is the team’s third-most targeted player with a 15.6% target market share. This further amplifies Lewis’ projected volume this week and makes him an excellent RB2 option.
Tight End: Start Jordan Reed over Trey Burton
Throughout his career, Reed has proven particularly untrustworthy due to his injury-proneness and generally poor touchdown volume. Nonetheless, optimism has remained high for Reed as he’s managed to avoid the dreaded injury plague. Alex Smith has also historically targeted tight ends at an above-average rate, inspiring hope that 2018 could finally be the season Reed pulls it all together.
But it simply hasn’t worked out that way so far.
Reed has been underwhelming but draws a very advantageous matchup against the Texans this week. Houston boasts elite ranks in defense DVOA and rush defense DVOA, but only a middling 16th-rank in pass defense DVOA. Diving even deeper, the Texans rank 31st in pass defense DVOA against tight ends specifically.
The way to attack the Houston defense is by targeting the tight end, which bodes well for Reed.
With running back Chris Thompson (ribs) doubtful and wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) questionable to suit up, Reed should receive an above-average target volume. He leads the Redskins in targets and receptions and is one of four tight ends with at least 20% of his team’s market share of targets.
Burton, by comparison, only ranks fourth on the Bears in targets (40), which substantially lowers his week-to-week floor. He has achieved PPR TE8 status on the season due in large part to his five receiving touchdowns and in spite of his low yardage totals. Burton has recorded four or fewer receptions in eight of nine games and has totaled 40 receiving yards or fewer in six games.
Burton’s viability as a fantasy starter is strongly dependent on touchdown production. Unlucky for him, the Vikings have allowed only three receiving touchdowns to tight ends all season.
Wide Receiver: Start Kenny Golladay over T.Y. Hilton
Golladay posted a 6-78-1 receiving line against the Bears in Week 10, receiving a season-high 13 targets in the process. Marvin Jones suffered a bone bruise in the third quarter and did not play much of the second half.
Jones’ status for Week 11 is questionable, which could affect Golladay in one of two ways:
- If Jones is unable to play, Golladay would be in line for another huge-target day as the Lions’ only real receiving threat. However, he could also be subject to bracketed coverage, which could limit his overall efficiency.
- If Jones is able to play, that could limit Golladay’s targets but free him up in terms of coverage.
Either way, Golladay projects as a solid fantasy WR2 against a mediocre Panthers secondary. Carolina ranks 24th in pass defense DVOA and 20th in pass defense DVOA against No. 2 wide receivers.
While Golladay’s fantasy stock has trended upward over the past several weeks, Hilton’s is pointed in the opposite direction.
From Weeks 1 to 3, Hilton averaged 10.7 targets and 5.7 receptions per game. However, since Week 4 (when healthy), he’s only managed 5.5 targets and 3.0 receptions per game.
Hilton’s poor receiving volume could be tied to Andrew Luck. Luck ranks 30th in yards per attempt (6.7) and has shown a penchant for targeting his tight ends often in the Colts’ offensive scheme. Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron and even Mo Alie-Cox have all gotten into the mix for the Colts, to the detriment of the wide receiver corps.
Start Sterling Shepard over Sammy Watkins
Shepard has had two poor outings in his past two games but could be in a huge bounce-back spot against the Buccaneers in Week 11.
Tampa Bay ranks 31st in defensive DVOA and 30th in pass defense DVOA. The Bus have given up the second-most fantasy points (27.7), second-most receiving touchdowns (1.7), fourth-most receptions (14.9) and 10th-most receiving yards (176.2) to wide receivers on average this season.
Watkins is still a viable fantasy starter this week, especially due to the Rams’ and Chiefs’ historically high over/under. However, there’s cause to temper expectations.
Watkins ranks third on his team in targets and receptions and is nursing a foot injury that held him out in Week 10. He also has limited scoring upside due to the red-zone dominance of tight end Travis Kelce, who leads the team in red-zone targets (17), receptions (10) and touchdowns (5) while leaving little volume remaining for Watkins.
On top of that, the Rams defense has allowed the third-fewest targets (17.0) and fourth-fewest receptions (10.9) to wide receivers this season.