Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 11
I'm amazed, each year, by the influence average draft position and preseason evaluation has on late-season start/sit decisions. I understand why in, say, Week 3, your before-the-season feelings still pull a lot of weight -- underperformance to start a year isn't uncommon for players, as game script or matchup can dictate poor outings.
But, guys, it's Week 11. Why, last week, was Peyton Manning even in your consideration set? Why do you think, after multiple plus matchups, Jeremy Hill is all of a sudden going to be a worthwhile fantasy start in your 10-team league?
What's happening now is much more important than what happened last year and how you felt about things entering this one. Though a particular player's consistent production may not make a ton of sense to you, it's probably because you're looking at things with a close mind. You're looking at things as if the present was August, not November.
So when you make your start/sit decisions this week, remember to remove any preseason feeling you may have had. Because, especially in 2015 where injuries and busts are prevalent, those feelings don't matter.
Quarterbacks to Sit
Ryan Tannehill (vs. Dallas): Tannehill has shown a ceiling this season, but it hasn't come often. Sure, he's topped 24 standard fantasy points on two separate occasions, but every other performance has resulted in 16 or fewer points scored. And speaking of 16 fantasy points -- Dallas has surrendered that to just three quarterbacks this season: Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. According to Net Expected Points (NEP), each of those passers have been far more efficient than Tannehill this season, meaning there's little reason to believe the Dolphins' passer puts it together this week.
Kirk Cousins (at Carolina): As they say, don't go chasing huge Week 10s. Like Tannehill above, Cousins has shown that he does indeed have a decent ceiling -- he's finished as a top-five weekly passer three times this year. But against Carolina, he's an obvious sit, despite his big Week 10 performance. The Panthers, on the year, have allowed just one, QB1 (top-12) performance, and it came against Aaron Rodgers. Ranked second against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, they shouldn't have any trouble with Cousins and the Redskins.
Start These Quarterbacks Instead
Mark Sanchez (vs. Tampa Bay): Casual fantasy owners won't touch the butt fumbler in pretend pigskin, but his matchup is right. And we can't forget that he was one of the more efficient passers in the NFL last season in this Chip Kelly offense, ranking 12th among all quarterbacks with 200 or more attempts in Passing NEP per drop back. The Buccaneers rank 26th against the pass per our numbers, all while allowing the 7th most fantasy points to the quarterback position. Sanchez was fairly reliable last year, putting together QB1 performances in 3 of his 7 starts -- don't let the name scare you away.
Matt Ryan (vs. Indianapolis): Matt Ryan shouldn't be counted on week in and week out, but his Week 11 contest against Indianapolis is one that should bring a lot of fantasy goodness. The Colts have surrendered the 12th most fantasy points to the quarterback position this year, and Vegas has pegged the Falcons with one of the highest team totals of the week. Though Vontae Davis is the right kind of corner to try and contain Julio Jones, that high team total is intriguing enough to trust Ryan considering the strong correlation between it and quarterback success in fantasy football.
Running Backs to Sit
Carlos Hyde (at Seattle): It sounds like Hyde could be back in uniform this weekend, but he's facing Seattle's top-ranked fantasy rush defense. Though they do rank fourth against the run when adjusted for strength of opponent, Seattle's mostly contained backs this season, especially ones who don't catch a ton of passes out of the backfield, like Hyde. You'd need a touchdown from him to be of worth, and considering they've allowed just three to backs all year, it's not worth the risk.
Jeremy Hill (at Arizona): Speaking of not worth the risk -- why are you still putting Jeremy Hill in your lineups each week? This isn't September, guys -- Hill isn't a trustworthy asset in fake football, as he's scored double-digit PPR points just three times all year. He's also played roughly 18% fewer snaps than Giovani Bernard this season and gets a matchup against a Cardinals' rush defense that's sixth against the run according to NEP. Please, I beg you, don't start Jeremy Hill.
Ronnie Hillman (at Chicago): Though the matchup isn't awful for Hillman, my fear is that, with Brock Osweiler under center, the Broncos are going to be able to run the true Gary Kubiak offense. If that's the case, C.J. Anderson is a more intriguing option to see touches, as he objectively fits the scheme far better. Remember, before the season started, there was a reason he was highly touted in fantasy football. With the change, he could finally break free, leaving Hillman his typical change-of-pace role.
Start These Running Backs Instead
Frank Gore (at Atlanta): In the two contests where Matt Hasselbeck was under center for Indianapolis this season, Gore saw 17 and 22 attempts. On the season, Gore's median attempts is 15, and while game script obviously favored his higher volume a bit in those two games, it also makes sense for the Colts to rely a little more on the ground game with Andrew Luck sidelined.
Atlanta, from a fantasy standpoint, has been much friendlier against ground attacks versus air ones, as they've allowed six high-end, RB1 performances in PPR leagues this year. Much of that has to do with backs getting involved through the air, but let's not pretend Gore doesn't get any work through the air -- he ranks 21st in the league in running back targets. Not only that, but he's averaging an additional reception per game this season in contests the Colts lose. Oh, yeah, they're six-point underdogs.
Jonathan Stewart (vs. Washington): Since the Panthers' Week 5 bye, J-Stew has been more involved in the offense. He's seeing over seven more attempts per game and, more importantly, his percentage of red zone carries has jumped from roughly 20% to over 60%. As a result, he's ranked outside of RB2 (top-24) territory in PPR leagues just once over his last five games, giving you awesome consistency. Against Washington -- a team that's allowed a top-20 running back performance each week since Week 4 ended, he makes for a good play.
David Cobb (deep play, at Jacksonville): I'm really only advocating this move for the desperate, but according to reports, there's a chance David Cobb could make his debut against the Jaguars on Thursday night. Jacksonville has allowed the 10th most points to the running back position this season, so the matchup is there. Plus it's a Thursday night game, where more running occurs.
But the real opportunity for Cobb exists because the backfield has been a mess this season. Antonio Andrews, who's seen the highest number of carries for Tennessee, has a Rushing NEP per rush of -0.08. That's 38th best of the 50 running backs with 50 or more carries.
If Cobb is on your wire and you see positive reports about his playing time on Thursday, he's not an awful desperation play.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Pierre Garcon (at Carolina): Can someone explain why Pierre Garcon is being started in nearly 30% of ESPN.com leagues? He's seeing the same number of targets as rookie teammate Jamison Crowder (actually, he's seen fewer since Week 3), and he's ranked higher than 30th in weekly wide receiver scoring (PPR leagues) just twice all season long. Against Carolina and Josh Norman? Nope. No way.
Kamar Aiken (vs. St. Louis): Aiken has very intriguing rest-of-season value, as he'll more than likely get close to averaging nine or so targets per game from here on out. That's really why you want him, and why you'd want to use him. But he faces St. Louis this week, a team that not only stops opposing wide receivers better than almost any other team in football but also that has faced the seventh lowest pass-to-run ratio in the league. In other words, Aiken's biggest asset -- volume -- might be limited.
Start These Wide Receivers Instead
Steve Johnson (vs. Kansas City): Volume should be Stevie Johnson's friend moving forward, too, but unlike Aiken, Johnson gets a nice matchup against the Chiefs. Kansas City's surrendering the second most points to opposing wide receivers, and they've seen the eighth highest pass-to-run ratio in football this season. With the Chargers as home underdogs, that should bring a negative game script, which means lots of volume to the Chargers passing attack. A combination of a poorer secondary and volume in the passing game equals fantasy success for a wide receiver, doesn't it?
Danny Amendola (vs. Buffalo): Amendola ended up playing about 70% of New England's snaps in Week 10, and he saw 11 targets thanks to an injury to Julian Edelman. It's logical to assume he'll continue to see love in the passing game, as Edelman left behind over 10 targets per game. If you're in a PPR league, Amendola is going to be a strong start from here on out, as he'll be seeing what's projected to be eight or nine targets per contest with Tom Brady, the league's best quarterback, throwing him the ball.
Brian Quick (deep play, at Baltimore): I've got to cater to every type of fantasy league, and some of you out there -- in 14-, 16- or even 18-team leagues -- may be desperate for a wide receiver. Don't sleep on Quick, who played a season-high 50.8% of team snaps last week, seeing a team high seven targets. The Ravens have been the absolute worst team against wide receivers this season, and with Case Keenum under center, there should be far more risks being taken in St. Louis' offense. If Quick keeps seeing the field, he may not have a bad game.
Tight Ends to Sit
Martellus Bennett (vs. Denver): Update: Bennett is no longer a sit with the injuries to Chicago's weapons. Whether Bennett's lack of work in the offense is due to him wanting a new contract and the Bears not having it, I'm not sure. All I know is that he's ranked 15th or worse in tight end PPR scoring in four of his last five games, and Zach Miller has been the red zone threat for Chicago, scoring three times over the team's last two contests. Against Denver, you'd think the Bears attack the middle of the field as opposed to looking outside at their top-end corners. That makes Bennett intriguing, but in shallower leagues, his lack of involvement doesn't warrant a start.
Start These Tight Ends Instead
Eric Ebron (vs. Oakland): By now, most fantasy owners know the story with tight ends against Oakland. Essentially every tight end who sees significant snaps in his offense has performed against the Raiders. And even when that starting tight end doesn't, it seems like the backup ones -- like Jesse James and Rhett Ellison -- score touchdowns instead. Ebron's seen five or more targets in each completed game this season (he left his contest against Seattle), and he should have a nice game against the team that's allowing the third most fantasy points to tight ends.
Jacob Tamme (vs. Indianapolis): Tamme now has three top-10 tight end performances over his last five games, and he can thank volume for that -- in each of those contests, he saw 10 or more targets, a number that's pretty absurd for a tight end. But since Week 5, Tamme hasn't dipped below the five target market, acting as Matt Ryan's number-two option thanks to an aged Roddy White and an injury to Leonard Hankerson. Though Hankerson may suit up this week, it's important to note that Indianapolis has allowed a top-15 tight end performance in PPR leagues in seven of nine contests this year.
Defenses to Sit
Arizona Cardinals (vs. Cincinnati): The game is in Arizona, sure, and the Cardinals are pretty heavy favorites. Cincinnati, too, is coming off a bad offensive performance against the Texans. But the Bengals haven't generally been kind to opposing defenses this year, and a low floor is certainly real, as three different defenses against them scored negative fantasy points. The Cardinals have upside, but I'm not sure the risk is worthwhile.
Other defenses to sit: Minnesota Vikings (vs. Green Bay), Buffalo Bills (at New England)
Start These Defenses Instead
Baltimore Ravens (vs. St. Louis): Case Keenum's career as a starter looked great -- his first three starts saw over a 100 quarterback rating and a seven-to-zero touchdown-to-interception ratio. Over his last seven starts, though, he's thrown an interception in each game (eight total), all while tossing just four touchdowns. He could be an upgrade over Nick Foles, but he's also more of a risk-taker in the pocket. And that type of DGAFing produces points for fantasy defenses.
Other defenses to start: Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Tampa Bay), Seattle Seahawks (vs. San Francisco)