Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Deshaun Watson
- Ryan Collinsworth is here to answer those tough fantasy football start or sit questions for the Week 14 NFL slate.
- He highlights picks at each skill position, including Deshaun Watson over Matt Ryan.
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 Deshaun Watson over Matt Ryan
The over/under for the Texans’ matchup against the Colts is set at 49.5 as of writing (see live odds here), which might be under-selling its sneaky shootout potential.
When these two teams met in Week 4, they combined for 71 total points and 839 passing yards. Watson went 29-of-42 for 375 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also added 41 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground on his way to 31.1 PPR fantasy points.
Since then, Watson has been somewhat disappointing, obviously hampered by the ribs/lung injury he suffered in Week 5 against the Cowboys. Nonetheless, he has increased his rushing volume in recent weeks, which could signal that he’s close to 100% again.
The Colts defense ranks 21st in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA, while Watson boasts top 10 ranks in median, ceiling and floor projects among quarterbacks. Moreover, he has the third-highest ceiling projection among quarterbacks this week, which reinforces his elite upside against the soft Colts defense.
Meanwhile, Ryan is coming off his worst statistical output of the season in a home loss to the Ravens. He went 16-of-26 passing for 131 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. His scoring potential is trending downward, as he’s averaged just 1.5 passing touchdowns over his past four games.
To make matters even worse, the Packers defense is allowing the sixth-fewest passing yards per game (242.8) to quarterbacks this season. The Falcons are also traveling to Green Bay in a game that projects to have an average game-time temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Atlanta is a dome team from the Southeast that’s not used to playing in the cold, which casts a shadow of doubt on the Falcons’ offensive potential.
The Packers also fired long-time head coach Mike McCarthy this past week, which could stimulate some much-needed momentum for Green Bay.
Running Back: Start Gus Edwards over Tevin Coleman
Since quarterback Lamar Jackson took over starting duties for the Ravens in Week 11, Edwards has posted ludicrous rushing statistics. He’s averaged 20.3 rush attempts, 105 rushing yards and 13.2 PPR fantasy points per game over Baltimore’s past three games.
Edwards ranks among the top 25 running backs in median, ceiling and floor projections this week, and should be in line for another high-volume day against the Chiefs, who rank 26th in defense DVOA and dead-last in run defense DVOA. They’ve also allowed the third-most fantasy points (23.8), seventh-most rushing touchdowns (tied at 0.8) and eighth-most rushing yards (109.4) per game to running backs this season.
Edwards does nearly all of his damage on the ground and has not featured in the Ravens’ passing attack. Coleman, on the other hand, has built his real-world and fantasy value on his aptitude as a receiver out of the backfield.
However, Coleman hasn’t lived up to expectations this season while starting for the injured Devonta Freeman. Over his past three games, Coleman is averaging just 6.7 rush attempts for 24 yards and 2.7 receptions for 15.7 yards. He’s exceeded 60 rushing yards in only two games and has only two rushing touchdowns all season.
Part of the problem with Coleman is his poor overall rushing volume. He’s earned more than 13 rush attempts in only three of 12 games. Instead, he’s relied on receiving volume and receiving touchdowns to buoy his fantasy stock from week to week.
Unfortunately for Coleman, his matchup against the Packers doesn’t bode well for his receiving potential. Green Bay concedes the second-fewest targets (5.4), is tied for the fourth-fewest receptions (4.2), 10th fewest receiving yards (38.3) and is tied for the fourth-fewest receiving touchdowns (0.2) per game to running backs this season.
Wide Receiver: Start Jarvis Landry over Sammy Watkins
Landry posted one of his better receiving lines of the season last week against the Texans. He caught six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He ranks seventh in the NFL in pass targets (10.0 per game) and ninth in air yards (1267), and also leads the Browns in air yards market share (31.0%) and target share (27.0%).
Landry has been more volatile than expected this season but still boasts elite receiving volume metrics across the board. This implies that he might be a victim of poor statistical variance, in addition to dealing with a quarterback and coaching change midseason.
Landry’s matchup against the Panthers inspires hope that he can stay on track as a solid fantasy WR2. Carolina ranks 28th in pass defense DVOA and has allowed the fifth-most receiving yards per game (181.0) to wide receivers. And as Ian Hartitz points out in his weekly WR/CB matchups column, none of the Panthers cornerbacks rank among Pro Football Focus’ top-60 corners this season.
Watkins’ matchup is far stiffer.
The Ravens have boasted elite defensive metrics all season, ranking fourth in defense DVOA and fifth in pass defense DVOA. They’ve given up on average only 10.8 receptions and 125.1 receiving yards per game to opposing wide receivers.
Watkins is questionable with a foot injury that has caused him to miss the Chiefs’ past two games. If he returns this week, he could still be bothered by foot soreness. He also ranks third on his team in target share (15.0%) and air yards market share (16.0%).
Watkins’ low overall receiving volume could severely limit his upside against the stingy Ravens secondary.
Tight End: Start David Njoku over Jimmy Graham
I recommended Njoku last week and he posted a total dud, catching just three passes for eight yards. Still, he drew six passing targets, which is encouraging. We also don’t know how much his injured hamstring bothered him last week.
Njoku can be hard to trust, because when he busts, his floor is almost zero. Still, despite this frustrating inconsistency, Njoku has scored a touchdown and/or totaled at least 50 receiving yards in six of his past nine games.
He also draws an advantageous defensive matchup against the Panthers this week. They rank 31st in pass defense DVOA against tight ends and have allowed the third-most receptions (5.8) and most receiving touchdowns (0.75) per game to the position.
Graham enters hi matchup against the Falcons with a probable designation despite lingering thumb and knee injuries. However, even if we assume he plays without restriction on Sunday, he might not provide starting-caliber fantasy production.
He’s averaging 4.5 targets, 2.8 receptions and 31.2 yards per game over his past six games. He ranks 22nd among tight ends in PPR fantasy points per game (7.0) over that span. He’s caught only two touchdowns all season and has been held to fewer than four receptions and 35 receiving yards in six of his 12 games.
As I alluded to in my discussion on Matt Ryan, cold weather in Green Bay could limit passing potential for both teams. Given Graham’s poor red-zone usage and inconsistent target volume, he might carry too much downside risk to make him a viable fantasy starter this week.