15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 11
The worst part about college exams wasn't the act of taking the test. It was the hours of preparation and cramming done the week -- the multiple weeks -- prior.
Research and analysis is time consuming, even if you know the subject like the back of your hand. And that's no different for me when it comes to fantasy football. It's just that instead of studying up on economics or chemistry, I'm dissecting a game about a game.
(I'm really saving lives over here and doing important work, I know.)
During the fall, Sundays are exam days. They're easy. It's the portion leading up to Sunday that can be tough. And it all starts, for me, with these transactions.
Hold Drew Brees
The Saints are one of the best teams in football, and that's hurting Drew Brees. Since the end of 2009, Brees has never had a season where he's averaged fewer than 40 pass attempts per contest. This season, he's averaging a little over 33 per game. And the Saints, due to their consistent positive game scripts, have a 1.08 pass-to-rush attempt ratio in 2017. That's the first time that number has been lower than 1.62 for New Orleans over the last half decade.
While volume doesn't correlate to fantasy success at quarterback quite like other positions in the game, it still matters, especially for an efficient passer like Brees. The result of this run-heavy offense has been rushing touchdowns. New Orleans currently has one more rushing touchdown than passing touchdown, which is a pretty rare thing to see in today's NFL: since 2011, only nine teams have finished a season with more rushing touchdowns than passing ones.
This may all seem awful, and to be fair, it kind of has been awful, as Brees has just one performance this year where he's ranked better than 10th in weekly scoring at quarterback. But there are some positive signs here, too.
When games have seen a neutral script -- that is, when the scoring margin is within a touchdown -- the Saints have a 1.28 pass-to-rush attempt ratio. That's essentially an average rate in the league. What this means is that a close game could keep the Saints throwing. And, in the fantasy playoffs, New Orleans will face division rival Atlanta twice (Weeks 14 and 16). While the Falcons appear to be underperforming this year, the offense is certainly not, averaging the third-most yards and eighth-best scoring rate per drive in the NFL.
I mean, look, I'm all about selling quarterbacks in fantasy football because they're probably overvalued in your league. And maybe Brees has some value based on his name alone. If you're looking forward to the playoffs, though, he's not a sell right now. You're better off just holding him.
Buy Michael Thomas
While things haven't been great for Brees, Michael Thomas has been low-key awesome. Aside from the whole scoring touchdowns thing.
I wrote up Thomas last week, but it makes sense for some reiteration here in Week 11 because Thomas has dominant peripheral numbers right now. Over the team's last five games, he's averaging over nine targets per contest (pretty elite), a 31.72% target share (elite), and over 41% of his team's air yards (ultra elite).
Thomas has been a more-than-usable asset in fantasy leagues despite the fact that the Saints have such a low pass-to-rush ratio. The reason he's not looked at as a top-notch option right now is because he's not finding the end zone. But, as I noted last week, those touchdowns should come. He's scored just twice on 59 receptions and 662 yards this year, when players over the last six years with that type of production would usually see well over four scores.
Like Brees, if and when the Saints have to toss the rock more, Thomas could go absolutely nuts. At the very least, even if he performs as he has, you're not getting a bad fantasy asset.
Hold Alfred Morris, Add Rod Smith
To be honest, if you're an Alfred Morris owner, you shouldn't walk away from Sunday's Cowboys game filled with pessimism. The team saw a negative game script thanks to a lot of reasons, and they couldn't get things going offensively due to constant pressure in Dak Prescott's face. No, he wasn't perfect, and the Cowboys are a better team with Ezekiel Elliott. But not having Tyron Smith proved to be huge, as Adrian Clayborn notched six sacks against Dallas while Alfred Morris ran almost all of his rushes to the right side of the field, away from the left side of the line.
The good news is that Morris had 11 of 15 running back rushes in the game. When a positive script hits, he should benefit the most in the team's backfield.
Unfortunately, that didn't exactly happen in Week 10. Instead, it was Rod Smith who played more snaps (60%) than any other Dallas running back, as he hauled in 4 catches for 15 yards. He was used as the team's receiving back.
And I think that's how we have to look at this backfield moving forward. You can feel confident that the team wants -- hypothetically -- to get Alfred Morris going on the ground. Things don't always go to plan, though, because game script can influence production. That's why adding Smith is a smart move this week, but don't move on from Morris just yet. He gets a tough one against Philadelphia in Week 11, but their next three games are at home, with the fourth one against the hopeless Giants.
Add Corey Coleman
Corey Coleman is apparently fully healthy, and he's eligible to return to the field this week. With not a whole lot on the Browns wide receiver depth chart, he'll more than likely be slotted into their number-one role.
You may roll your eyes at that, but Coleman had a decent 5-catch, 53-yard, 1-touchdown line against Pittsburgh all the way back in Week 1, and over his two full games played this year, he tallied 13 targets for a strong 21.31% target share. There's nothing wrong with that, but beware that the Browns schedule moving forward isn't the most wide receiver-friendly one in the world.
Buy LeSean McCoy
I won't lie, there's risk involved in buying LeSean McCoy right now. The Bills have looked horrendous over their last two games, and if not for garbage time, their 31 total points during this time would look much worse. And with the rush defense allowing nearly 500 yards in Weeks 9 and 10, the team's time of possession has plummeted. They've run nearly seven fewer plays per game over their last two contests as a result.
Durability concerns are there for McCoy, too. He dealt with what looked like a groin injury in Week 9, and you've got to be a little concerned about his 50% snap rate in Week 10, the lowest one of his season.
But maybe he's actually healthy, and maybe they sidelined him because the Saints were doing whatever they wanted against the Bills on Sunday. If that's the case, then you're looking at games against the Chargers, Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Dolphins, and Patriots to close out the fantasy football season. None of those teams rank in the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to the running back position, offering upside for McCoy. Just know that taking him on right now is a risk.
Add Rex Burkhead
It's now been three games since Rex Burkhead's return from injury (Week 7), and his snap count has risen in each of those contests, going from 18% in Week 7 to 31% in Week 8 followed by a 51% rate in Week 10. We've seen him gobble up 10 targets over the team's last two contests as well. Teammate Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch in Week 10 against Denver, which may have been a matchup-related move more than anything else. Regardless, there's no doubt that Burkhead's stock is trending up, and he's worth an add because of it.
Buy the Jacksonville Jaguars Defense
I don't usually recommend buying a defense, but when I do, it's the best defense in football with an incredible playoff schedule.
You don't need me to tell you that the Jacksonville Jaguars have the most well-rounded defense in football, and that's shown up in fantasy football, as they've scored more points than any other unit in the league. But on top of this is a schedule component that could help win you your league: they get the Texans in Week 15 and then the 49ers in Week 16. Since Tom Savage took over for Houston two weeks ago, their opponents, the Colts and Rams, have ranked in the top-10 in weekly defensive scoring. Meanwhile, San Francisco entered Week 10 with numberFire's bottom-ranked offense.
The best fantasy football defense has the best fantasy football playoff schedule. And that makes them a juicy trade target for teams mostly locked into a playoff spot.
Sell Davante Adams
Over Brett Hundley's three starts for the Packers, he's targeted Davante Adams on 26.44% of his throws, which is an increase over what we saw with Aaron Rodgers. That's a plus for Adams owners in fantasy football.
I think you know where I'm going with this, though. The Packers and Adams aren't close to the same offense without Rodgers, and just predicting Adams' good performances -- like the one he had in Week 10 -- may be a tough task. In addition to this, Adams will face Carolina and Minnesota in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively. According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, those are two top-half pass defenses, with Carolina ranking 6th and Minnesota ranking 14th. And against Minnesota, Adams should see a lot of corner Xavier Rhodes.
Add Austin Ekeler
One of the bigger shocks from Week 10 was Austin Ekeler's usage, as he played 33% of the Chargers' snaps, touching the ball 10 times on the ground with 5 more targets through the air. For some reference, starter Melvin (Mehlvin?) Gordon carried the ball 16 times and saw 8 targets, so he was still leading the charge (get it?) in the backfield.
Ekeler hadn't seen this type of volume up until Week 10, but he's actually been digging into Gordon's snaps of late. From Weeks 1 through 6, Gordon played fewer than 74% of the team's snaps just once, and it happened during a week where he was on the injury report with a knee situation. During the team's last three games, Gordon's played no more than 69% (nice) of Los Angeles' snaps, and his rushing attempt market share in the team's backfield has dipped by about 8%.
This is all because Ekeler's had a snap rate at or above 30% to go along with a near 25% rushing attempt share over these three games. So not only is Ekeler become a semi-viable flex option in deeper leagues, but that's on top of his upside if something were to happen to Gordon himself.
Buy Corey Davis
Corey Davis has tallied 25 targets in his three full games played this year, which equates to a 22.12% target share in the Titans offense. He's yet to score a touchdown, but he came awfully close on Sunday, fumbling at the goal line.
Those tuddies should come, especially if and when Marcus Mariota's 2.8% touchdown rate moves closer to his career average of 4.9%. With matchups against Indianapolis, Houston, and San Francisco remaining on the Tennessee schedule, don't be shocked if Davis is able to post strong performances from here on out.
Add Jamaal Williams
It sounds like rookie Aaron Jones will be sidelined for three to six weeks with an MCL injury, which leaves Ty Montgomery as the Packers' lead running back. But he left Sunday's game against the Bears with a rib injury, allowing Jamaal Williams to be the featured back. Williams ran 20 times for 67 yards, but he had a slightly-better-than-average 40% Success Rate (percentage of positive expected point runs), which is a good sign.
If Montgomery misses time, Williams will be shouldering the load for Green Bay, and that warrants an add off the wire.
Hold Robert Woods
Even before Bobby Woods' back-to-back big games in Weeks 9 and 10, he was giving fantasy owners a decent floor each week, falling below the five-target mark in a single game just once. And he hadn't scored through the first eight weeks of the season, so the fantasy gods are just working their overcorrection magic.
Woods has over 21% of the Rams' targets this year, and he's seen an uptick of a couple percentage points over his last few games. He's basically been the team's top receiver, not only seeing the most volume through the air, but also running the most routes on the team while tying Sammy Watkins for the most deep ball targets.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what's to come, though. Woods has feasted on weak secondaries over the last two weeks, and the Rams get the Vikings, Saints, and Cardinals over the next three games. Each of those teams have strong cornerback play, and depending on how things work out, Woods could be matched up against some top-tier talent.
So I suppose I'd be open to hearing trade offers for Woods -- you should be open to trade talks about any player -- because of the potential matchup issues. The issue is that most fantasy owners probably know you're trying to sell high, so it's not like you'll get something significant in return. And there's always a chance some of those defenses focus more on Watkins instead.
Add Samaje Perine
If you want to add another mediocre running back this week, Samaje Perine's in the mix. It's looking like Rob Kelley is going to be sidelined for some time, which leaves Washington's backfield to Perine and pass-catcher Chris Thompson. In two games missed by Kelley this year, Perine saw 28 carries on the ground, but his inefficiency has been a problem -- he has just a 33.33% Success Rate with a 3.18 yards per carry average on the season.
A running back getting volume is worthwhile in fantasy football, though, and there's still some upside with the Washington offensive line getting healthier and Perine getting more reps.
Add Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles has given fantasy owners somewhat of a floor this year, but absolutely no ceiling. He's thrown for at least one touchdown in all but one game (because he threw 14 times in that game), and he's tossed for more than one just once. Remember that game in London against the Ravens? That was the one.
But Jacksonville has a decent implied team total in Week 11 against the Browns, a team that's given up 13-plus fantasy points to all but one quarterback they've faced this season. And that group of passers includes just one top-12 quarterback on a points per game basis, Deshaun Watson. Bortles is in a decent spot this week as a quarterback streamer.
Add the Chargers Defense
Like I said above, the Bills have struggled on offense over the last two weeks, scoring just 10 points in non-garbage time scenarios. They've allowed 9 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in these two games as well, though those numbers are slightly skewed due to a dominating performance by the Jets defense in Week 9.
This is who the Los Angeles Chargers get this week, though. The Bills are traveling to LA where the Chargers are 4.5-point favorites in a game with a fairly low 43.5-point over/under. Since Week 4, the Chargers have ranked outside the top-14 in weekly defensive scoring only once, and it came against the Patriots. With the unit playing better football, they make for a good pickup off the waiver wire.