Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 11
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart managers learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward. Let's dive in and look at some interesting pieces of information from Week 11.
Kirk Cousins Is Worth The Paycheck
If you ever wonder over to a site like Spotrac to look at contract information for NFL players, you may be surprised at who occupies the spot for the second-largest cap hit in the NFL this season. Russell Wilson is first, but second is not Tom Brady or Dak Prescott or Aaron Rodgers. Instead, at a $31 million hit, you have Kirk Cousins. Sounds crazy, right? Actually, it's not. Cousins is on the shortlist of the most effective and efficient quarterbacks in 2021 and has done more than almost any other signal-caller to contribute to his team's wins.
Cousins ranks eighth in fantasy points this year, ahead of Rodgers, Prescott and a whole host of other elite passers. His ascension this season coincides with Dalvin Cook missing a couple of games and ranking only 15th among running backs in fantasy points. As a result, the Minnesota Vikings have called Cousins' number more frequently. The Vikings rank 16th in pass play percentage this season (58.2%) after finishing 2020 at 27th (54.2%).
It certainly helps when you have the weapons at your disposal that Cousins does. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are a lethal one-two punch, and Tyler Conklin has surpassed all expectations. But Cousins still has to get the ball to them at the right place and at the right time. In terms of Net Expected Points per drop back, almost no one across the NFL is doing it better.
|Player||Drop Backs||Passing NEP
per drop back
This list represents the top quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back among those with at least 100 drop backs this season. You can see Cousins' value, especially when you consider that only Brady, Justin Herbert, and Josh Allen have more drop backs than Cousins does.
Cousins has the Vikings firmly in a playoff spot with seven games to go after two convincing wins. He becomes a free agent again at the end of the 2022 season, and some owner is going to need to open up the checkbook wide once again if this level of passing efficiency continues.
Elijah Moore Doesn't Care Who Plays Quarterback
Elijah Moore apparently heard all the talk about Ja'Marr Chase being the best rookie wide receiver and decided he wanted to get in on some of that action. Despite catching passes from three different quarterbacks over the past four weeks -- none of them particularly good -- Moore has figured out a way to evolve into a quality fantasy wide receiver.
Over the past month, only Deebo Samuel has more half-PPR fantasy points than Moore does. Moore's 17.9 fantasy points per week would be second to only Cooper Kupp this season if extrapolated over the whole year. How has he been able to post 24 catches, 336 yards and four touchdowns and thrive with so much quarterback turnover? It's a simple combination of available volume and red zone usage.
The New York Jets -- because they are so putrid -- rank third in team pass plays per game. More frequent deficits lead to more pass attempts, and the overall team volume has helped Moore pile up 31 targets the last four weeks. Those 31 targets are five more than he has the entire rest of the season, and his 141 receiving yards in Week 11 were more than he had in Week 1 through Week 7 combined.
Moore also has four red zone targets the last four weeks, which puts him among the top-30 wide receivers in that category. But what's most interesting about his red zone usage is that his red zone catches over the past month average 17.7 yards. That means as soon as the Jets enter the red area, they start looking Moore's way. They're not counting on their run game to find the points they need. Rather, Moore and Jamison Crowder (five targets) have become the go-to end zone threats.
It will remain to be seen what happens with Zach Wilson back under center, but the hope is that volume and usage trumps all, allowing Moore to keep thriving.
George Kittle Is Officially Back
Speaking of dominant performances over the past four weeks, George Kittle is officially back. Despite playing just three games in that four-week stretch, Kittle has the third-most fantasy points among tight ends and highest points per game average over the last month.
Before Kittle missed three games with injury, he had games of nine and 10 targets. Since Week 9, he continued on that pace with 19 targets in three games plus 185 total yards and three touchdowns. It seems clear that Kittle and Deebo Samuel are going to be the featured pieces of this offense moving forward.
Where the San Francisco 49ers have really missed Kittle is in the red zone, and they are making a point to use him there since his return. Kittle has three catches on three targets for three touchdowns since Week 8. It's making San Francisco fans happy.
George Kittle's numbers in the red zone:
3 targets, 3 completions, 15 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Yeah. Maybe do that a little more.
— Jason Aponte (@JasonAponte2103) November 22, 2021
The window to acquire Kittle with any discount is completely shut at this point, so hopefully you didn't sell for a loss. Kittle is officially back in the discussion for the top tight end in the game.