This is a fun week. The first thing that stands out about the slate is the number of exciting running back options. None of them are crazy expensive (Najee Harris and Jonathan Taylor are tops at $9,400) but the top guys are priced up enough to force you to make some hard choices at other positions. Tight end is the best place to try to save some money to afford one or two of the elite running backs. Wide receiver does not offer much in the way of cheap value, which makes roster construction a bit more difficult and maybe pushes towards trying to save at least a little bit of money at quarterback. D'Ernest Johnson is going to be mega-chalky if Nick Chubb is out and there is no good reason to fade him given his salary and likely role in a great Browns running game.
If you are multi-entering this week, take a shotgun approach at the quarterback position. There is not a single elite play on the slate and there are a dozen or so quarterbacks who have a realistic shot at being the top point-per-dollar options on the slate.
Top QB Plays
Justin Herbert ($8,000) LA Chargers vs. Minnesota
Herbert brings a strong combination of floor and ceiling to the table at a mid-tier price and what is likely to be fairly modest popularity. His floor is high due to the fact that he has attempted at least 35 passes in every single game. We have seen his ceiling on a consistent basis as well. He has thrown for at least 337 passing yards in half of his games this season. In two of those four monster passing games, he also added a rushing touchdown. Or to put it slightly differently, he has been the slate-breaking quarterback 25% of the time this season.
We have seen the Vikings pass defense turn into a pumpkin in recent weeks due to injuries to key defenders, including Danielle Hunter. Cooper Rush threw for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns Week 8 in Minnesota. Last week, Lamar Jackson threw for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns and also ran for another 120 yards.
Russell Wilson ($7,500), Seattle at Green Bay
On a week where there is a lot of parity in terms of mean and median projections amongst the top players, it may make sense to simply hone in on the best player who is going to be extremely unpopular. With Wilson returning after a long absence and facing a good Packers pass defense (eighth in DVOA), he is not going to attract much ownership. However, we know what Wilson is capable of and any matchup featuring him and Aaron Rodgers has realistic shootout potential. It is also worth noting that Wilson’s hand injury is one that should allow him to hit the ground running. It is not the more common ankle or knee issue where he was not able to condition.
Other QBs to consider:
Tom Brady ($8,300), Tampa Bay at Washington
Washington is the second-worst pass defense in the NFL and Brady has been excellent this season. This is an obviously advantageous spot and it makes sense to be with the field on Brady. It is worth monitoring the status of Chris Godwin too before deciding how heavy to go on Brady. With Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski sidelined, losing Godwin as well could limit Brady’s efficiency.
Josh Allen ($8,700), Buffalo at NY Jets
The Jets have struggled to defend the pass but have not given up many big fantasy games. Their 18.7 FanDuel points allowed to opposing QBs is middle of the pack. Allen has also been a bit less prolific in his career in intradivision games. He has just three touchdown passes in five career starts versus the Jets. You will want to have some exposure to Allen if multi-entering but I am content to be below the field here given Allen’s popularity.
Assuming basically every other Browns running back is out this week, D'Ernest Johnson is far and away the best value on the slate. In the mid-tier, James Conner stands out. There are a number of exciting options at the high end of the salary scale. Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, Aaron Jones, and Najee Harris are each worth targeting if you can find the cap space to fit one or two of them in.
Top RB Plays
D'Ernest Johnson ($5,400), Cleveland at New England
Note: We may not know the status of Nick Chubb until game day. He would need to test negative for COVID-19 multiple times between now and Sunday to suit up.
Kareem Hunt is out. Demetric Felton is likely out. It seems like Chubb will be out, which leaves Johnson as the last man standing in the Browns backfield. We saw this same situation once before this season and Johnson exploded for 168 total yards and a touchdown against a very good Broncos defense. The Patriots have allowed 2.0 points per game more to opposing backs than have the Broncos as a point of reference. Cleveland has an elite offensive line and run scheme, so any back in this system is going to look good.
D'Ernest Johnson could have another opportunity awaiting him on the road in New England.— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 12, 2021
On a slate where we are starved for value, Johnson is the one slam play on the slate. The lean here, even in larger tournaments, is to try to have more Johnson than the field even though he will be popular.
Jonathan Taylor ($9,400), Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville
With one potential exception (who we will get to below), Taylor is THE running back to just lock into your lineup every week going forward until his price and/or ownership gets prohibitive.
It is not just that Taylor leads some of the above categories, but the margins by which he leads that are so eye-opening. He has 15 carries from Inside 5 yards. Nobody else has more than 10. He has 44 carries in the red zone. The next closest is Derrick Henry, who had 32 before his injury. Nobody else is even within shouting distance.
I'm back— Spence (@JTRB1) November 11, 2021
Jonathan Taylor among qualified RBs:
2nd in Rush Yds
6th in Rec Yds
3rd in TDs
1st in RZ Touches & GL Carries
2nd in YPC
3rd in Breakaway Runs
1st in Juke Rate
2nd in Yds Created/Touch
1st in EPA
2nd in Ftps/Game
3rd in Ftps/Snap
Also, the season-long numbers do not tell the full story because Taylor has been on a strong upward trajectory. He averaged roughly 50% of the snaps over the first five weeks of the season. He has averaged roughly 70% of the snaps since Week 6. After three weeks, Taylor was averaging just 9.3 FanDuel points per game. Since Week 4, he is averaging 24.7 FanDuel points per game. He has not scored less than 16.5 in any of his last six games.
Christian McCaffrey ($9,000) Carolina vs. Arizona
Given the matchup (Arizona 6th-best against RBs), low implied team total (17), and the mediocre fantasy performance last week (12.6 fantasy points), McCaffrey is flying somewhat under the radar heading into the weekend. He is going to be very low-owned considering we are talking about Christian McCaffrey here. He has been out quite a bit the last two seasons, so he is not front of mind for most people right now. However, this is a guy who has been on an insane fantasy streak in recent seasons.
Christian McCaffrey fantasy weekly finishes among RBs in his last 21 games— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 9, 2021
44 (hurt, 30% of snaps)
14 (first game back, 49% of snaps)
Prior to injury
Top-2: 9 of 19 (47%)
Top-6: 16 of 19 (84%)
Top-8: 18 of 19 (95%)
Other RBs to consider:
Najee Harris ($9,400), Pittsburgh vs. Detroit
Harris has been the most consistently utilized running back in the NFL in all phases o the game. He leads all running backs in snaps and the gap to number two is massive. Over the last four games, he has 22-plus carries in each in addition to an average of 4.5 targets per game over that stretch. The matchup is fantastic. Detroit has given up 28.1 FanDuel PPG to opposing running backs (second-most) and the Steelers are a big home favorite. The only negatives here are price and popularity, with Harris likely to be the second-most popular back on the slate behind only D'Ernest Johnson.
James Conner ($7,000), Arizona at Carolina
Conner leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (11) and should take on a true lead role with Chase Edmonds sidelined. He will be popular and the matchup is difficult but Conner is underpriced by $1,000 given his current role.
Injuries will play a much larger role than normal this week. The Buccaneers are especially banged up, leaving Mike Evans as the only fully healthy top pass catcher. Diontae Johnson is in a similar situation for Pittsburgh, as is Terry McLaurin for Washington. Injuries have also potentially opened up some value, with Tyler Johnson stepping into a starting role with Antonio Brown out. James Washington in Pittsburgh also moves up a notch on the depth chart.
There are also plenty of strong options at the top. Davante Adams is always going to be a great play. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett look much better with Russell Wilson back for the Seahawks. Stefon Diggs still feels due for a big game at some point.
Top WR Options
Mike Evans ($7,400), Tampa Bay at Washington
Tom Brady is averaging 331.3 passing yards and 3.1 touchdowns per game this season. He is facing the NFL’s second-worst pass defense. He is going to do his thing this week. Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski are out and Chris Godwin is a game-time decision. If Brady has his typical 300-yard, 3-touchdown game, how does he get there without Evans having a big game?
Evans already has three multiple-touchdown games this season (38% of his games). He is projected to be in approximately 10% of GPP lineups this weekend. 38% is more than 10%. Sure, that is an oversimplified way to look at it but it is not too far off from the answer you should be getting from more advanced simulation models.
Mike Williams ($6,900), LA Chargers at Minnesota
Is Williams the guy who scored 18-plus points in four of his first five games or the guy who has been held to under seven FanDuel points in each of his last three outings?
The answer is probably somewhere in between but digging deeper provides reason for hope that we will see Williams bounce back towards his early-season usage levels and production. During his three-game cold stretch, Williams faced Darius Slay, Marlon Humphrey, and received extra attention from the Patriots defense. The Vikings have been comparatively better against slot receivers than outside guys making this a spot where we should see Williams reemerge as the top Chargers target. The price is right, as well.
Other WRs to Consider:
Davante Adams ($8,700), Green Bay vs. Seattle
Adams has seen 14-plus targets three times already this season. The two times he did so with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, he had 25.2 and 32.1 FanDuel points. We have seen him turn in more monster games than any other wide receiver over the last two seasons. The last time he faced Seattle he had 10-166. The only negatives are his popularity and the high salary.
DK Metcalf ($8,000), Seattle at Green Bay
Metcalf has been a bit of an afterthought in tournaments lately with Russell Wilson sidelined. With Wilson back, Metcalf again has realistic slate-breaking potential. He is averaging 1.0 touchdowns per game on the season and makes for a nice low-owned stacking option with Wilson. Run it back with Adams or Aaron Jones and you could be positioned for a big score if the Seahawks-Packers game gets spicy.
Nearly every top tight end is off of the main slate. No Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or Mark Andrews. That leaves T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts as the two best options on the slate by process of elimination. However, the matchups for both are middling. The optimal is viewing the position as a path to getting to the elite running backs. Saving money by playing someone in the $5K range like Pat Freiermuth, Ricky Seals-Jones, or Dan Arnold makes lineup building much easier.
Top TE Options
Pat Freiermuth ($5,100), Pittsburgh vs. Detroit
Kyle Pitts is always in play for tournaments but fellow-rookie Freiermuth at $1,800 less looks like the better option this week. He is actually seeing a higher percentage of targets per route run (23.6%) than Pitts. With Chase Claypool out, Freiermuth should be the number two option in the passing game this week and the go-to option in the red zone. The matchup is solid. Detroit ranks 28th in pass defense (DVOA)
Matt Canada on Pat Freiermuth: "I mean the decision to make that [draft] pick was a great one for us, great for the organization, because he's making a lot of good plays and as I've said, I'm a big fan of him." #Steelers pic.twitter.com/pO46EBO0CR— Steelers Depot ðŸ¦ƒ (@Steelersdepot) November 11, 2021
Ricky-Seals Jones ($5,300), Washington vs. Tampa Bay
Note: This play assumes that Logan Thomas will be sidelined for one more week but Thomas is questionable and has a chance to return. If he is back, Seals-Jones is not worth considering.
Since becoming the starter in Week 5, Seals-Jones has produced solid numbers (4.3-41-0.3 per game) but his usage makes you wonder if there might be even more upside that could get unlocked. Seals-Jones ranks second in the NFL with a 37% share of Washington’s red zone targets despite starting only half of the games. He has missed a grand total of one offensive snap since becoming the starter.
The matchup looks ideal. Tampa Bay is allowing the ninth-most FanDuel points to opposing tight ends. This is a defense that funnels opposing offenses towards a pass-heavy game plan. Plus, Washington is a nine-point underdog so the most likely game script is Tampa Bay getting out to an early lead and Washington being forced to employ an aggressive pass-heavy approach.
Other TEs to consider:
Kyle Pitts ($6,900), Atlanta at Dallas
Pitts is the clear top option in the Falcons passing offense with Calvin Ridley sidelined. He may see extra attention from Trevon Diggs this weekend but the targets should be there. With almost all of the other top tight ends off of the main slate, Pitts is the highest-upside tight end on the slate.
Dan Arnold ($5,100), Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Arnold makes our list of favorite options for the second week in a row. On a tough slate for tight ends, it may make sense to just roster one of the top bargain options and hope for 60 yards and a touchdown. Arnold has as good a chance as any in the $5K range at providing that. He’s topped 60 receiving yards three times in his past four games.
Tampa Bay ($4,400) at Washington
The Buccaneers have a great chance of jumping out to an early lead, eliminating the Washington running game, and being able to tee off against Taylor Heinicke.
Arizona ($4,800) at Carolina
We have one of the league’s best defenses facing an offense that has been a disaster of late. Four of the last five defenses to face the Panthers have scored 11-plus fantasy points.