Week 12’s Toughest Start/Sit Decisions: Taysom Hill, Kenyan Drake, Antonio Brown
Every week fantasy football owners are confronted with difficult lineup questions. Who should you start, and who should you sit? That’s what many are left asking, often with little help. It’s good you landed here, as we can help each week using our Who Should I Start tool. Simply type in several players that you are deciding between per position or for your flex and we will let you know who the experts would start and who they would sit.
Here’s a look at the toughest start and sit decisions of the week along with our expert’s advice.
Start Derek Carr (QB – LV) or Taysom Hill (QB – NO)?
77% of Experts Would Start Carr
He continued his efficient ways against the Chiefs last week, throwing for 275 yards and three touchdowns on just 31 pass attempts. On the year, he’s completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 7.7 yards per attempt, and a 19:3 TD to INT ratio. The downside is that he’s thrown more than 32 passes just three times all year. I’m expecting him to get to that mark this week against the Falcons, who’ve seen 37.3 pass attempts per game. They are allowing a robust 107.0 PPR points per game to their opponents, which ranks second to only the Seahawks. The only reason they don’t allow as many points as the Seahawks do is due to their opponents running just 63.4 plays, not the 72.1 plays the Seahawks face. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve allowed 1.68 PPR points per play, which is six percent higher than any other team. The NFL is a hard game to predict because there are so many small details, but when you see that type of gap, it stands out. Quarterbacks have outscored running backs by 5.03 fantasy points in PPR formats against the Falcons. Not one other team in the NFL can say that quarterbacks outscore running backs against them. The Raiders should find some consistency through the air, as Falcons opponents have averaged 8.41 yards per attempt, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. By comparison, Russell Wilson is averaging 8.25 yards per attempt this year. If you remove rushing production allowed to quarterbacks, the Falcons have allowed more fantasy points through the air than any other team in the league, which is good for the immobile Carr. The 0.55 fantasy points per actual pass attempt ranks as the second-most behind only the Cowboys. When you add in his 29.3-point team-implied total, he looks like a great streamer in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 range.
He played well in his first NFL start, completing 18-of-23 passes for 233 yards, and though he failed to throw a touchdown, he rushed for two of them. Unfortunately, he can’t play the Falcons every week. But still, a quarterback with his mobility comes with a sky-high floor and can be considered a streamer almost every week. The Broncos pass defense has been much better than most expected given the lack of pass-rushing options, as quarterbacks have averaged just 6.69 yards per attempt against them, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in football. It’s touchdowns, too, as they’ve allowed just a 4.20 percent touchdown-rate, which is below the league average. It’s not a small sample size either, as teams have tried throwing the ball on 58.1 percent of their plays, which has amounted to 35.7 pass attempts per game. Despite that, there’s been just one quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) who’s finished with 300-plus yards. That’s not necessarily what we care about with Hill, though. He’s a mobile one and the Broncos have allowed 5.05 yards per carry to quarterbacks, which ranks as the 10th-highest number in football. And keep in mind they lost interior linemen Mike Purcell three weeks ago, and Jurrell Casey a few weeks before that, so they’re only getting worse up the middle. We’ve already witnessed Cam Newton rush for 76 yards and a touchdown against them, while Sam Darnold totaled 84 rushing yards and a touchdown. Hill has the looks of a high-floor low-end QB1/high-end QB2, though we shouldn’t jump to play him over proven options, as he’s only played one game against what might be the league’s worst defense. But based on what we have seen, he looked good.
Start Kenyan Drake (RB – ARI) or David Montgomery (RB – CHI)?
65% of Experts Would Start Drake
It was practically a 50/50 timeshare between these two last week, as Edmonds played 36 snaps to Drake’s 33 snaps. Drake did touch the ball 15 times to Edmonds’ six touches, including the goal-line carries, which are clearly worth a lot, especially with Kyler Murray dinged up. Drake also saw a season-high five targets against the Seahawks, which would be massive for his value moving forward. It’s not like the Seahawks were a matchup to exploit through the air, but part of me wonders if it was due to Murray’s shoulder issue. Time will tell, but Drake clearly has a valuable role. The Patriots opponents have run the ball a league-high 48.8 percent of the time, which has led to 22.4 carries per game against them by running backs. “Wait, why isn’t it more than that for a team who faces such a high percentage of run plays?” It’s due to the fact that teams have averaged just 57.6 plays per game against them. Removing the one game where Drake didn’t play, the split in carries has been Drake 146 – Edmonds 39. We should be expecting 16-plus carries out of Drake this week. Efficiency hasn’t been that much of an issue against the Patriots who’ve allowed 4.42 yards per carry and 6.47 yards per target to running backs; both of which are above the league average. Every running back who’s received at least 14 carries against the Patriots (five running backs have) has finished with at least 83 total yards. Drake should be worth considering as a low-end RB2 for this week. Edmonds has averaged just 8.0 touches per game when Drake is active, which is hard to trust as anything more than an RB4.
He should be back in the lineup after now having two full weeks off with his concussion. It hasn’t been a season fantasy managers will remember, but since Tarik Cohen went down with his season-ending injury, Montgomery’s fantasy finishes have been 15, 14, 24, 21, and 49 (concussion). He’s yet to eclipse 89 yards rushing or 45 yards receiving, and his team is almost never in scoring position, but he’s getting 17-plus touches every single week, which has value as an RB2. When playing the Packers, running backs outscore quarterbacks by 14.72 fantasy points, which is the second-largest gap in the league. Running backs are averaging a robust 31.3 PPR points against the Packers, which is the second-highest number in the league. On average, wide receivers outscore running backs by 12-14 PPR points per game, but not against the Packers, as that gap is a league-low 2.59 PPR points. Here’s the best way to lay it out: The Packers allow 74.3 PPR points per game to skill-position players, and a league-leading 42.1 percent of that goes to running backs. The Packers opponents have targeted their running backs on 23.1 percent of pass attempts, which ranks as the second-highest number in the league. That’s led to running backs producing 14.1 PPR points per game through the air alone, which is the most in the NFL. That’s crazy when you consider the Saints allow just 17.4 PPR points per game to the position as a whole. It’s not just volume, either, as the 1.91 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is also the most in the league. All in all, the Packers have allowed 156.9 total yards per game to running backs, so knowing Montgomery receives at least 75 percent of their touches/production, he should be in lineups as an RB2.
Start Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND) or Damien Harris (RB – NE)?
69% of Experts Would Start Taylor
Now what do we do? Didn’t I tell you to never fully trust a Colts running back? Just when you think it’s Hines’ job, Taylor comes out and gets a massive 26 touches. The good news is that it appears Jordan Wilkins is back to being the clear-cut third-string running back, which leaves us with Taylor and Hines to fight about. The last time these two teams met, it was Hines who was crushing them for 115 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t really a fluke either, because when you factor in fantasy points per weighted opportunity, the Titans rank as the fifth-best matchup for running backs. They’ve allowed 10 top-24 running back performances through 10 games, including five top-10 performances. Most of the production has been on the ground, too, as Hines is the only running back who’s accumulated more than 29 yards through the air against them. David Johnson was the only running back who’s received 15-plus carries and didn’t average at least 4.10 yards per carry, so it wasn’t just one large performance that carried them. They’ve allowed eight running backs touchdowns (6 rushing, 2 receiving) in their last six games, and have been having issues in the secondary, so it’s difficult to say which problem they want to address, though they can’t let Hines run all over them again, as he had massive lanes to run through on seemingly every carry. The matchup here isn’t the problem. Figuring out the timeshare is. Clearly, the Colts want Taylor to be the guy, though he’s also on a short leash. For now, we should consider him the top back in the offense, though it’s not an offense to take things for granted. Because of that, he’ll remain in the high-end RB3 territory. As for Hines, he should be in play as an RB3/flex option considering what he did to this defense the last time around, but you already know the risk involved.
Now that Rex Burkhead is out for the year, we have narrowed down the running backs available to syphon touches to Harris and White. While there’s surely someone else to come in and take a few touches, these are the mainstays. There are plenty of opportunities to go around, especially when it comes to White, who has newfound targets. Why should we assume he inherits most of the opportunity that Burkhead had? Well, because Harris and Sony Michel have totaled seven targets… combined. That’s not one week. That’s all season, so they’re essentially non-factors, and it’s the reason White saw a season-high nine targets last week. He’s never going to be someone who gets more than a handful of carries, but in PPR formats, he’s certainly valuable. The Cardinals have allowed 4.39 yards per carry, which is essentially the league average, though it’s important to note that they lost interior lineman Corey Peters prior to their Week 10 game. He was their best interior lineman, and it allowed the Seahawks to rush for 123 yards and a touchdown on just 21 carries. Harris is extremely similar to the downhill runner that Carlos Hyde is, so that performance bodes well for Harris. It’s still worrisome that no running back has totaled more than 84 yards on the ground against the Cardinals, but the loss of Peters is huge. Harris should be considered a high-end RB3 who is a bit gamescript dependent with his lack of pass-game usage. Running backs haven’t seen many targets against the Cardinals (6.3 per game), but when they do get targeted, they’re averaging a solid 5.89 yards per target and 1.57 PPR points per game, which are both above the league average. There’s been just one running back who’s totaled more than 31 receiving yards due to the lack of targets, but White should get at least 10 opportunities in this game, making him a worthwhile RB3/flex option, especially in PPR formats. Think of him like a J.D. McKissic-like option.
Start Antonio Brown (WR – TB) or Christian Kirk (WR – ARI)?
64% of Experts Would Start Brown
Brown has now seen 2.4 air yards per snap, which ranks as the third-highest in the NFL among receivers with 25-plus targets. Brady is clearly trying to get the ball to him, as evidenced by his 21 targets over the last two weeks. Brown has looked decent on them, though he’s lacking that elite separation he used to get. It was a tough matchup last week, though this week isn’t going to be much easier. He plays almost all his snaps on the perimeter, which means he’ll see a mix of Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward in coverage. Both cornerbacks have allowed less than 1.72 PPR points per target in their coverage, though we did see Breeland slip a bit last week, allowing 4-of-4 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown to the Raiders’ wide receivers. While Brown’s talent can rise above the competition, the issue is that you can’t expect all the Bucs receivers to post top-30 numbers, especially considering the Chiefs have allowed just nine wide receivers to do that all year. Knowing that Brown plays on the perimeter the most, he’s the one who’ll have the hardest time. Because of that, he’s in the low-end WR3 territory, though Brady clearly wants him to be “the guy.”
Kirk wasn’t able to deliver a huge performance against the Seahawks last week, which was most likely due to Kyler Murray’s shoulder injury. Assuming that Murray’s good to go for this matchup, Kirk should get back to being targeted deep downfield. It’s a favorable matchup for opposing WRs and Kirk could easily go off in this one. Start him as a high-end WR3 this week.
Start Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG) or Tyler Boyd (WR – CIN)?
67% of Experts Would Start Shepard
Shepard’s not providing much upside for fantasy managers, but he’s not hurting them either. He’s providing a safe floor week in and week out and he now gets a nice matchup here against the Bengals secondary. He’s a low-end WR3 in my rankings, but he does get a slight bump up in Full PPR formats.
With Brandon Allen behind center, it’s hard to trust any of these receiving options. Boyd has played with backup Ryan Finley previously and put up stable production with him at QB, though, but his chemistry with Allen is unknown. While there’s very little room for upside here, Boyd should still be a viable fantasy asset. He can be viewed as a mid-range WR3.
Start Robert Tonyan (TE – GB) or Mike Gesicki (TE – MIA)?
63% of Experts Would Start Gesicki
He’s the No. 6 tight end on the season, but here’s a fun fact for you. He’s the only tight end inside the top-15 who’s seen fewer than 49 targets this year… he’s seen 37 of them. This year has not been friendly to those who stream tight ends. Sure, Tonyan may be the No. 6 tight end on the season, but he’s finished as a top-12 tight end just four times. While the Bears are one of the worst matchups in the league for offenses as a whole, tight ends have accounted for 22.2 percent of the fantasy production by skill-position players against them, which is the most in the league. Opposing tight ends have averaged 9.3 percent more fantasy points against the Bears than they do on the year, making this the 10th-best schedule-adjusted matchup for tight ends. It’s the only positional matchup that’s above average against the Bears. It may not sound like much, but there have been eight tight ends who’ve finished as the TE18 or better against the Bears, which is a rock-solid floor for streamers, making Tonyan a high-end TE2 in this matchup.
After finishing as a top-15 tight end in three of his first five games this year, Gesicki has failed to finish better than TE17 over his last five games. I do feel like he’s inching up the radar a bit, though, as he’s now totaled at least four targets and 40-plus yards in each of the last three games. You’d expect his targets to increase with Preston Williams out of the lineup and really no No. 2 wide receiver available to take those targets. If you just looked at his target share over the last three games, you’d see he’s sitting at 15.4 percent, which isn’t horrible. Knowing the Jets face an average of 36.8 pass attempts per game, we could see a six-target day for Gesicki. Against the Jets, that could be massive, as they’ve allowed 2.22 PPR points per target to tight ends, which is the third-highest mark in the league. It’s a combination of both yardage (8.21 yards per target ranks as the 8th-most) and touchdowns (have allowed a touchdown every 9.0 targets, which is the fourth-most often). Through 10 games, there have been seven tight ends who’ve finished as the TE14 or better against them, including five top-eight performances. Gesicki is in the low-end TE1/high-end TE2 conversation this week.