Fantasy Football Overvalued/Undervalued: Week 11 (2020)
Two’s company, three’s a crowd. No truer words have been spoken when it comes to fantasy football, and we’ve seen it play out time and time again this season.
Back in the good old days of the bell cow running back, it was an affront to our delicate sensibilities to have to deal with a two-man backfield committee. But now a two-way timeshare feels perfectly manageable, particularly if both players have well-defined and consistent roles. In today’s game, it is the three-man backfield committee that is the bane of fantasy managers’ existence.
Exhibit A: The Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are second in the league in rushing, but they don’t have a single running back in the top-50 in fantasy points per game. Think about that for a second. Yes, a lot of those rushing stats come from Lamar Jackson, who operates as the team’s number one quarterback and running back. But the running back snaps have also been so evenly divided between Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards that it has prevented any of them from being reliable weekly fantasy options, outside of the recent two-game stretch that Ingram missed with an ankle injury.
It’s a similar story for the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts, who both lack a single running back among the top-27 in fantasy points per game. Like the Ravens, the Rams and Colts’ backfields are nearly impossible to figure out, with a different back liable to emerge as the “guy” in any given week (or at least lead the team in fantasy scoring any given week). Fantasy managers who took a chance on rookies Dobbins, Cam Akers, and Jonathan Taylor have had a frustrating experience, to say the least.
The three-headed monster isn’t just ravaging the running back position, either. At wide receiver, the Steelers, Buccaneers, Rams, and Panthers all have three different receivers who seem to alternate big weeks. The good news is that most of these receivers are more playable than running backs in a three-man committee, but the intense competition for targets is nonetheless taking a toll on the plausible upside of early-round selections like Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, and D.J. Moore.
The Colts have even deployed a three-man committee at tight end, but that is too disgusting to even talk about. I find it a little less disgusting to talk about is how my Week 10 overvalued/undervalued picks fared, but it wasn’t one of my better weeks.
My top hits were Cam Newton, who continues to be underrated thanks to his rushing production, and Robert Tonyan, who continues to fade into oblivion from a fantasy perspective. But I had some of my biggest whiffs last week. For the second time this season, I moved D’Andre Swift up in my rankings at the last minute due to reports he would see an expanded role, but it still wasn’t enough to account for his massive breakout. I also badly missed at wide receiver, where Travis Fulgham was barely a rumor and Justin Jefferson somehow managed to post 135 receiving yards against a tough Bears secondary. Austin Hooper also underperformed my expectations, while Josh Allen (who finished midway between my ranking and ECR) and Matt Breida (who didn’t play) go down as a draw.
On to Week 11, where my picks will once again come against FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings for 0.5 PPR formats. Hit me up with any start/sit questions on Twitter @andrew_seifter. You can also catch me on MFSN’s The Hub on YouTube, where I talk waiver wire every Tuesday and fantasy strategy and player picks every Saturday.
Overvalued: Jameis Winston (NO)
My Rank: QB17
Look, if Sean Payton opts to use Winston the way he used Teddy Bridgewater when Drew Brees was injured last season, Jameis has a good chance to outproduce his ECR, let alone my lower ranking. But Winston and Bridgewater have very different track records. Bridgewater plays an efficient brand of football like Brees, whereas Winston led the league (by a wide margin) with 30 interceptions last year. Maybe Payton is fully convinced that Winston has learned to protect the football during his short time in New Orleans, but if he isn’t, we could see a heavy dose of Taysom Hill on Sunday, especially in goal-line situations. It’s even within the realm of possibility that Hill plays more snaps than Winston.
Payton has not announced whether Winston or Hill will start against Atlanta, and even if word drops that Winston is starting, there’s really no way to know how the two QBs will be deployed until we see it with our own eyes. Some fantasy managers may be willing to embrace the risk of starting Winston for the potential reward, but that isn’t my style. The QB position is too important in fantasy to take a chance on someone who may not play the entire game, or anywhere close to it. I like the idea of stashing Winston if you don’t love your current QB, but I can’t endorse putting him into your starting lineup this week.
Undervalued: Andy Dalton (DAL)
My Rank: QB15
I know a lot of fantasy managers — and analysts — have given up on the Cowboys’ offense at this point, and I can’t really blame them. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the Dallas offense is going to look a lot better coming out of the bye with Dalton back under center. What could possibly go wrong?
We all know Dalton is no Dak Prescott, but he is an experienced QB with a solid resume, including two top-10 fantasy seasons early in his career. He even finished as the QB20 in fantasy points per game last year, despite having far inferior weapons in Cincinnati than he now has at his disposal in Dallas. The bye gave Dalton time to get healthy, and perhaps also allowed him to develop some chemistry with his new teammates in a way that wasn’t possible when he was immediately thrown into action. This week, he gets a favorable matchup against a Vikings defense that has given up the sixth-most passing yards and seventh-most passing scores per game. He’s a plausible streamer and an underrated option in Superflex and two-QB formats.
Overvalued: Jonathan Taylor (IND)
My Rank: RB35
I feel like I’ve been about a week ahead of the fantasy community in downgrading Taylor for a couple of weeks running now. After last week’s disaster, the ECR has finally taken Taylor out of RB2 range, but I’m still lower on him than consensus. Taylor is tied with Darrell Henderson as the RB28 for the season, but he hasn’t led the Colts’ backfield in snaps in any game since the team’s Week 7 bye. Over that three-game stretch, Taylor is the RB55. He does get a very enticing matchup with a soft Packers run defense this week, but this is truly a “hot-hand” backfield at the moment, and both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins have recently displayed hotter hands than JT, who seems to constantly be running directly into the back of one of his own linemen. Forget what you expected from Taylor at the beginning of the season — he’s now a complete roll of the dice.
Undervalued: Gus Edwards (BAL)
My Rank: RB33
Given my complaints about the Ravens’ running back committee at the beginning of this article, you may ask yourself: “Well… how did I get here?” The answer is simple. Edwards currently leads all Baltimore running backs in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, and I am merely ranking him as a low-end RB3. This three-man committee is alive and well, but when Mark Ingram returned to the fold last week it was Edwards who led the backfield in touches — and he was also the one who was far and away the most effective with his opportunities.
Edwards didn’t reach the end zone in Week 10, but he did score in each of the previous three games, and he appears to have surpassed Ingram as the team’s primary goal-line back (not named Lamar Jackson). This week he faces off with a Titans defense that gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. ECR has J.K. Dobbins as the best fantasy option in this backfield, but if you’re scrambling for an RB3/flex option, I’d rather use Edwards.
Overvalued: Robert Woods (LAR)
My Rank: WR21
I’ve picked on the Rams receivers in this space before, and I am once again the low man on both Woods and Cooper Kupp this week. Woods, in particular, has seen his outlook nosedive with the emergence of Josh Reynolds, who has seen more targets than Woods since Week 4. In fact, over the last four games, Woods ranks last or tied for last among the Rams’ top three receivers in routes run, targets, air yards, and red zone targets. But reduced usage isn’t the only factor working against Woods and the rest of the Rams passing attack. This week, Los Angeles goes up against a tough Buccaneers secondary that gives up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, and they’ll do so without starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was carted off with a knee injury last week. Whitworth’s absence could be very significant for Jared Goff, who struggles mightily when under pressure.
Undervalued: Amari Cooper (DAL)
My Rank: WR17
Did I mention that I’m optimistic about the Cowboys’ passing game this week? Honestly, Cooper feels like an even safer bet than Dalton. Even as Dallas’ offense completely bottomed out with injuries and ineptitude, Cooper has still managed to produce at least five catches and 75 scrimmage yards in three of the four games since Dak Prescott went down. As the team’s clear number one receiver, Cooper’s numbers will only rise if the Cowboys can begin to get their act together. Cooper has only reached the end zone twice so far this season, but he has a good chance to add to that total this week against the Vikings, who are tied with Dallas for the most touchdown catches allowed to wide receivers.
Overvalued: Hunter Henry (LAC)
My Rank: TE10
It sure seems like Henry should be a top-five tight end. He’s the third-best — or arguably even the second-best — receiving option in an offense that is taking off with gunslinger Justin Herbert under center. But the cold hard statistics tell a different story. The reality is that Henry hasn’t broken 40 receiving yards in a game since Week 3, and has only found the end zone twice all year. Those aren’t top-five numbers, they’re TE13 numbers. I can’t rank him quite that low against a Jets defense that was shredded by Travis Kelce in their last game, but Henry is no Kelce, so he still just barely sneaks into my top-10. Yes, tight end is terrible. But at a certain point, Henry needs to do something to justify his high weekly ranking, no?
Undervalued: Rob Gronkowski (TB)
My Rank: TE4
Speaking of doing something to justify your ranking, Gronk is the TE3 in fantasy over his last seven games. That is not a small sample size. Essentially, if you discount the first two games — when he was likely still working into game shape after a year-long hiatus — he’s been one of the most steady performers at the tight end position.
It’s fair to question what impact Antonio Brown’s increasing involvement will have on Gronkowski, much like we have to for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. But at the same time, we expect so much less from our tight end. All they really have to do is get in the end zone to pay off, and Gronkowski will always be a decent bet to do that as long as he’s playing with Tom Brady. This week’s matchup with the Rams is certainly a challenging one, but Los Angeles did give up a big game to George Kittle in Week 6 and surrendered three touchdowns to Bills tight ends in Week 3, so it’s safe to say they aren’t a must-avoid matchup for opposing tight ends.
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