The Primer: Week 11 Edition (2021 Fantasy Football)
Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Kyler Murray: As of this writing, it sounds as if Murray at least has a chance at returning for this divisional showdown with the Seahawks. He was present at the open portion of Wednesday’s practice, which is more than what can be said for his participation level the past two Wednesdays. The Cardinals managed to cruise to a victory without Murray in Week 9, but Week 10 showed the limitations of Colt McCoy. The team also has a bye next week, so they might not want to rush Murray back. DeAndre Hopkins is out with a hamstring injury, so Murray would be without his best weapon. Regardless, if he’s active then he’s in your season-long fantasy lineup. Don’t expect him to have much rostership in DFS, though.
Russell Wilson: “Mr. Unlimited” was downright bad in Week 10, finishing the week 25th in EPA per play and 20th in CPOE. The Seahawks were shut out for the first time with Wilson as their starter. Perhaps he was rusty in his first game back from the finger injury, or maybe he was sleep-deprived. We should also note that Green Bay’s defense has been on fire recently. This is a long way of saying to not overreact to one week. The issue is that Arizona is a tough matchup for quarterbacks. PFF gives him the sixth-best pass rush and sixth-best coverage units in the NFL this season. They’re far more vulnerable against the run. Expect Pete Carroll to want to “establish it” in Week 11. Wilson is a low-end QB1.
James Conner: While Conner only narrowly out-carried Benjamin (10 to 6), he basically served as the Cardinals’ every-down RB. Conner played 84% of the snaps, including 83% of the short-down-and-distance opportunities and 91% of the long-down-and-distance opportunities. He’ll have another game as Arizona’s bell-cow against Seattle this Sunday, which keeps him in the RB1 conversation. Kyler’s presence would be helpful, but we should feel confident in the workload even if McCoy starts. The advanced metrics on Seattle’s run defense are mixed. PFF has them as the third-best run defense, but they rank 14th in EPA per rush. Trust the workload here.
Eno Benjamin: The new handcuff in Arizona received six carries and one target in Week 10. He played 27% of the snaps and doesn’t have any standalone value unless something were to happen to Conner.
Alex Collins: It doesn’t sound as if Chris Carson (neck) is ready to return for Week 11. On Wednesday coach Pete Carroll said Carson hasn’t made progress as they hoped. This sets up as another game for Collins to serve as Seattle’s lead runner. Arizona is vulnerable on the ground and Collins handled 91% of the Seahawks’ rushing attempts in Week 10. Consider him a TD-dependent FLEX option this Sunday.
A.J. Green: Green returned in Week 10 from a one-week COVID-related absence and ran a route on 78% of the Cardinals’ dropbacks. He wasn’t as involved as Kirk was, which was likely due to Green spending the majority of the game as an outside receiver. Kirk’s slot usage makes it easier for him to connect with McCoy. Green’s Week 11 outlook is enhanced by the absence of DeAndre Hopkins, who’s out with a hamstring injury. Green is a FLEX option against Seattle.
Christian Kirk: The 24-year-old has been the biggest recipient of additional work with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined the past two games. For the season Kirk has run a route on 77% of dropbacks, but he’s above the 92% threshold in Weeks 9-10. It has resulted in 149 yards on 13 receptions (14 targets). That doesn’t sound like anything special, but it’s important to keep it in the context of how badly Arizona’s offense struggled this past Sunday. With Hopkins out again this week, Kirk is a high-end WR3.
Rondale Moore: It just isn’t happening for the rookie this year. Moore has been held under 26 total yards in five straight games. Not even all the recent injuries have created opportunities for him. The 21-year-old is a far more interesting dynasty league stash.
D.K. Metcalf: It was a wildly inefficient Week 10 for Seattle’s entire passing offense. Metcalf hauled in just 3-of-8 targets for 26 scoreless yards. The matchup against the Cardinals isn’t a strong one for the reasons listed in Wilson’s writeup, but you never bet against Metcalf’s talent in season-long leagues. He’s a low-end WR1 this week and every week moving forward. Better days are ahead, even if it doesn’t happen right away this weekend.
Tyler Lockett: Meanwhile, Lockett caught just 2-of-8 targets for 23 scoreless yards against the Packers. He profiles as a better “buy low” option since fantasy managers are likely more frustrated with his inconsistencies. It was almost a big Week 10 for Lockett, who totaled 229 air yards and two end-zone targets. Week 10 doesn’t set up as the best spot for a bounce back, but he should remain plugged into season-long lineups as a WR2/3. Additionally, he sets up as a nice tournament play in DFS.
Zach Ertz: Ertz’s usage has been tremendous in each of the past two weeks, though that might be due to Hopkins missing time. With everyone healthy Ertz is best viewed as being on the TE1/2 borderline. Should Hopkins miss this weekend’s game against the Seahawks, however, then Ertz would be in the low-end TE1 conversation.
Gerald Everett: Per Dwain McFarland’s utilization report, Everett has approached the elite 80% route threshold (for tight ends) in back-to-back games. This makes him a weekly streaming option at fantasy’s weakest position, but the slow-paced Seattle offense lowers his floor/ceiling combo.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Ben Roethlisberger or Mason Rudolph: Roethlisberger landed on the COVID-19 list and was sidelined for Week 10. The hope is that he’ll return to face the Chargers this week. Mason Rudolph started in place of Roethlisberger last Sunday and completed 30 of 50 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 16-16 tie with the Lions. Neither Roethlisberger nor Rudolph would be an appealing play in a tough Week 11 matchup against the Chargers.
Justin Herbert: Herbert has been trending downward ever since pasting the Browns for 398 passing yards and four touchdowns in Week 5. His weekly fantasy finishes in the Chargers’ four games since: QB22, QB15, QB2, QB15. That’s hardly a disastrous run, and there’s even a QB2 week mixed in there. But it’s not the sort of excellence to which we’ve become accustomed with Herbert. He’ll try to turn things around in Week 11 against a middling Steelers pass defense. He’s a low-end QB1 this week, but he’s a fade in DraftKings contests at $6,700.
Najee Harris: The Steelers continue to pile work on their rookie RB’s plate. Harris has logged more than 20 carries in five consecutive games. He has 121-461-3 rushing and 18-139-1 receiving over that span. Harris is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, but considering the workload, and considering that the Steelers rank 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards run-blocking metric, we shouldn’t fault Harris for the low YPC. This is an immensely valuable workload, and it’s made Harris a midrange RB1. He’s now a pricey $8,400 on DraftKings, but Harris is nevertheless a solid value.
Austin Ekeler: The normally staunch Pittsburgh run defense ranks 17th in DVOA, so the Steelers aren’t an especially tough matchup for Ekeler. However, it’s worth noting that the Steelers haven’t given up a TD catch to a running back this season, and Pittsburgh’s opponents have only targeted running backs 46 times. Ekeler is a midrange RB1 and a reasonable DraftKings value at $7,900.
Diontae Johnson: The targets just keep coming. Backup QB Mason Rudolph targeted Johnson on 13 of his 50 throws last week, and Johnson finished with 7-83-0. It was the sixth time this year that Johnson has seen double-digit targets. For all the looks that Johnson is getting, you have to imagine that his four-game touchdown drought is destined to end soon. But Johnson and the Steelers have a tricky matchup this week against a Chargers pass defense that ranks seventh in DVOA. Johnson is a back-end WR1 this week, checking in at WR12. He’s a sound cash-game value on DraftKings at $6,500.
Chase Claypool: Turf toe is typically a multiweek injury, but it appears that Claypool will be back in action this week after missing just one game. He’s been unusually quiet lately, with 9-92-0 over his last three games. The notion that Claypool’s production would be enhanced with JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the year has been faulty thus far, but Claypool is such an extraordinary athlete that he could erupt at any time. He likely won’t be at 100% physically, and the Chargers are a tough defensive matchup, but Claypool still deserves lineup consideration in redraft leagues as a midrange WR3.
Keenan Allen: Mike Williams‘ recent slump seems to be providing a target boost for Allen. Over his last three games, Allen has 26-279-1 on 35 targets. Allen has scored only two touchdowns this season and is averaging 10.7 yards per catch, but he continues to be a steady and valuable performer, particularly in full-point PPR leagues. He ranks WR15 this week in half-point PPR.
Mike Williams: Over his last four games, Williams has 10-137-0 on 21 targets, producing 18.7 fantasy points over that stretch on 187 offensive snaps. Rookie WR Josh Palmer has produced 17.1 fantasy points over the Chargers’ last four games on 76 offensive snaps. We keep waiting for the early-season Williams to come back, but there haven’t been any signs of him. Williams had a golden opportunity for a touchdown on a slant last Sunday but flat-out dropped it. He’s just a high-end WR3 this week against the Steelers, and that may be too generous.
Pat Freiermuth: Never mind that Freiermuth’s fumble at the end of overtime cost the Steelers a chance to win a game that wound up ending in a 16-16 tie. Freiermuth had a season-high nine targets in that game and finished with 5-31-0. Over his last four games, Freiermuth has been targeted 29 times and has produced 21-176-3. He’s become a low-end TE1 as a rookie, which is rather impressive. He’s a solid play this week against a Chargers defense that’s yielding 10.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends.
Jared Cook: Cook has reached 30 receiving yards in only one of his last five games, and he’s gone three games without a touchdown. He’s averaging 6.6 fantasy points per game, down from 7.3 FPPG last year. The 34-year-old tight end might simply be showing signs of age. He’s the TE20 this week and not a consideration in DFS.
New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Daniel Jones: “Um, excuse me. We were promised that Daniel Jones was going to be a Konami Code quarterback. I’d like to speak to the manager.” Jones has shown only incremental growth as a passer in his third NFL season, so the only way he’s going to really pay dividends in fantasy is if he adds significant value with his rushing numbers. Early on, it looked like that might happen. Jones had 15-122-2 rushing in his first two games. He’s had 35-136-0 rushing in his last seven contests. Since Week 3, Jones is QB25 in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks with at least four starts. He’s the QB20 this week against the Buccaneers.
Tom Brady: Uh-oh. It’s Tom Brady vs. the Giants. This is going to be a memorable game, isn’t it? OK, so these aren’t the Eli Manning-era Giants who proved to be such a perfect foil for Brady and the Patriots. But it will still be fun to watch Brady face a team against whom he has such a freighted history. Brady didn’t play especially well last week in a 29-19 loss to Washington, throwing for 220 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But he’s thrown 17 TD passes in his last five games and is on pace for a 51-TD season. Brady is the QB4 this week.
Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker: Barkley is expected back this week after missing the last four games with an ankle injury. He returns to a tricky matchup against a Buccaneers run defense that’s giving up 79.8 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry, but it’s possible the Bucs won’t be quite as effective against the run without 347-pound DT Vita Vea, who was carted off last week with a knee injury. And of course, Barkley is a weapon in the passing game, too. He’s just a midrange RB2 this week, but Barkley is still going to be a must-start in most leagues. Booker is dealing with a hip injury and will probably be relegated to backup duty anyway now that Barkley is returning. He’s not a fantasy consideration this week.
Leonard Fournette: It seemed like an anomaly when Fournette had 76 receptions with the Jaguars back in 2019 since he hasn’t had more than 36 receptions in any of his three other NFL seasons. But Fournette has once again become a prolific pass catcher. He has 38 catches so far, putting him on pace for 72 on the year. He had a season-high eight catches for 45 yards in last week’s loss to Washington. Fournette has 112-486-4 rushing and 38-284-0 receiving, putting him on pace for 1,454 yards from scrimmage. He’s the RB14 this week against a Giants defense that’s allowing 22.1 fantasy points per game to running backs.
Kadarius Toney: Toney has become a really tough guy to predict. He looked like an instant star when he had 16-267-0 receiving in Weeks 4-5. He’s since dealt with ankle and thumb injuries, and he hasn’t scored a touchdown or had more than 36 receiving yards in any of his last three games. Toney has a wide range of outcomes this week against a pass-funnel Buccaneers defense. He’s a midrange WR3 for Week 11.
Kenny Golladay: A knee injury kept Golladay out of action in Weeks 6-8, but he returned in Week 9 just before the Giants’ bye and had 2-28-0 on three targets. With so many injuries to different receivers, it’s hard to figure out what the Giants’ target distribution is going to look like. Golladay has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé, but it’s possible that Kadarius Toney is a star in the making who could cut into Golladay’s target total. Golladay is hard to rank for Week 11, but he lands at WR35.
Chris Godwin: In the three games that Antonio Brown has missed with an ankle injury, Godwin has 23-308-2 on 31 targets. Brown is expected to miss at least another week, and Godwin has a juicy matchup against flammable Giants slot corner Darnay Holmes. Godwin checks in at WR9 this week.
Mike Evans: With five touchdowns over his last three games, Evans now has nine TD catches on the season, putting him just one behind league leader Cooper Kupp. It would only take four more touchdowns for Evans to tie the career-best mark of 13 that he established last season. Evans figures to run most of his routes this week against Giants CB James Bradbury. It’s not an easy matchup, but Evans isn’t an easy matchup for Bradbury either. Evans is a low-end WR1 this week.
Tyler Johnson: With Antonio Brown sidelined by an ankle injury for the Buccaneers’ last three games, Johnson has played 121 snaps over that stretch and has had 10-98-0 on 13 targets. He’s the WR68 this week.
Evan Engram: With a TD catch in each of his last two games, Engram has become mildly interesting again. Since making his 2021 debut in Week 3 following an ankle injury that kept him out of the Giants’ first two games, Engram has been the TE21 in fantasy points per game. He’s also the TE21 in this week’s rankings.
Rob Gronkowski: Gronk practiced fully on Friday, and it appears that he’ll return from a back injury to face the Giants in Week 11. If he suits up, he’ll fall into low-end TE1 range. He has 16-184-4 in four games this season.
New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
Mac Jones: The fifth quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft, Jones has been the best of the rookie QBs this season, and it’s not that close. He played his most efficient game of the season last weekend, completing 19 of 23 passes for 198 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Patriots’ 45-7 evisceration of the Browns. Since Week 4, Jones has averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. For what it’s worth, Tom Brady has a career average of 7.5 yards per attempt. Just sayin’. Jones hasn’t been a great fantasy quarterback this season, ranking 25th in fantasy points per game among QBs with at least six starts. That’s largely because the Patriots’ offense has the ninth-highest percentage of running plays, and because New England has scored 13 rushing touchdowns, the sixth-highest total in the league. But Jones has thrown multiple TD passes in three of his last five games. He gets a Week 11 date against an Atlanta pass defense that ranks 30th in DVOA and 31st in opponent passer rating. Jones is the QB15 this week and an attractive streaming option.
Matt Ryan: Ryan has been doing an admirable job under adverse circumstances this year, but the Falcons’ offense ran aground last week in a 43-3 loss to the Cowboys. Ryan completed 9 of 21 passes against Dallas for 117 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The veteran quarterback has been trying to make do with a bare-bones WR corps. Atlanta traded Julio Jones to Tennessee in June, and Calvin Ridley played five games before taking a mental-health sabbatical. In the first six games of the season, Ryan averaged 40.7 pass attempts and 278.0 passing yards per game, throwing 12 TD passes and four interceptions. In the three games since Ridley stepped away, Ryan has averaged 26.0 pass attempts and 202.0 yards per game, throwing three TD passes and four interceptions. Ryan now gets a tough Thursday-night draw against a Patriots defense that has more interceptions (14) than TD passes allowed (13) and is giving up 14.6 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, the third-lowest total in the league. He’s merely a back-end QB1 this week.
Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden: Stevenson’s breakout performance in Week 10 makes this backfield tough to peg in the short term. The rugged rookie from Oklahoma had 20-100-2 rushing and 4-14-0 receiving against the Browns, making him the RB2 in fantasy scoring for the week. Those were hard-earned yards, too, with 64 of his rushing yards coming after contact. Bolden and Stevenson both sustained concussions in Week 9, but Stevenson cleared the concussion protocol in time for Week 10 and Harris didn’t. Harris was back at practice early this week, and presumably, he’ll be active in Week 11. The guess here is that Stevenson has forced his way into a larger role and will share work with Harris. The question is whether it will be a situation akin to the near-50/50 split between Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams in Denver, or more of a Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt type of arrangement, with Harris in the Chubb role since he’s the incumbent. It’s also unclear whether Bolden, who’s primarily been a special teamer throughout his career, will continue to play a lot on passing downs, or if the surprisingly versatile Stevenson might oust Bolden from that role. For now, Stevenson ranks RB23 for the week, Harris is RB24, and Bolden isn’t really a fantasy consideration at RB54.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Davis: Patterson is dealing with an ankle injury and seems unlikely to play Thursday. Davis, who’s been largely ineffective all season, had 4-18-0 rushing in last Sunday’s 43-3 loss to the Cowboys, while Gallman had 15-55-0 rushing and 1-21-0 receiving. Were the Falcons just letting Gallman mop up in a lopsided loss, or were they making a change? Like Davis, Gallman has been a competent if unexciting career backup. It’s possible both Davis and Gallman will play roles against the Patriots on Thursday night if Patterson is out. It’s also possible that Gallman will go from third-stringer to lead back in the course of a week. I tentatively have Gallman at Davis at RB34 and Gallman at RB41 in a tricky matchup against New England, but this is a highly volatile and unpredictable backfield for Week 11.
Jakobi Meyers: The long touchdown drought is over! Meyers finally scored in his 39th career game, catching an 11-yard TD pass from backup QB Brian Hoyer with 4:13 left in the Patriots’ 45-7 blowout of the Browns. The bad news is that Meyers has had a season-low four targets in each of his last two games. After averaging 10.3 targets over his first four contests, Meyers has averaged 5.8 targets in the six games since. Considering that he’s averaging 9.7 yards per catch and isn’t exactly a prolific TD scorer, it’s going to be hard for Meyers to be a needle-mover in fantasy with such modest target volume.
Kendrick Bourne: Is there a more stealthy fantasy asset than Kendrick Bourne? Since Week 3, he’s been the WR15 in half-point PPR fantasy scoring – outscoring Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, Adam Thielen, and myriad other more well-regarded receivers – and yet Bourne rarely finds his way into fantasy lineups. Granted, the WR15 ranking is slightly skewed by the fact that Bourne has stayed healthy all season and hasn’t been on bye yet. But he’s averaged 61.6 receiving yards a game since Week 3 and has established a relatively high weekly floor. Bourne checks in at WR40 this week in a plus matchup with the Falcons.
Nelson Agholor: Agholor might have some deep-league appeal this week only because he’s like to run most of his routes against Falcons CB Fabian Moreau, whom PFF grades 84th out of 119 graded cornerbacks. But Agholor has been disappointing to date, with 24-356-2 in 10 games.
Russell Gage: It’s official: The Falcons’ WR corps is a disaster without Calvin Ridley, who said last month that he was stepping away from football to attend to his mental health. Gage was thought to be the de facto No. 1 receiver with Ridley gone, but he’s been shut out in two of his last four games. He wasn’t even targeted in Week 8. At least Gage got three targets in Week 10, though he wasn’t able to catch any of them. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has always been more of a find-the-open-man type of passer than a tight-windows guy, and Gage and the rest of the Atlanta receivers simply aren’t getting open consistently. Gage is merely the WR52 this week against a good New England pass defense.
Hunter Henry: The TD-regression grouches are no doubt clucking their tongues about how Henry is due for a comeuppance. He’s scored seven touchdowns over his last seven games. Henry has averaged 3.2 targets over his last five games, yet he’s scored five TDs over that span. He’s scored touchdowns on 22.6% of his receptions this year – an even higher rate than 2020 Robert Tonyan, who had 11 TD catches on 52 receptions, a 21.2% TD rate. We’ll concede to the regression grumps that Henry is out over his skis as the TE3 in fantasy scoring, but are we going to deny that Henry is a valuable fantasy asset even if he’s been a bit lucky with the touchdown count? He lands at TE8 in this week’s rankings.
Kyle Pitts: In the three games since Calvin Ridley left the Falcons to focus on his mental well-being, Pitts has had 9-135-0. That relatively barren stretch followed back-to-back 100-yard games. With Ridley out of the picture and the Falcons short on receivers who can consistently get open, opponents are giving Pitts considerable defensive attention these days. Do we expect that Bill Belichick is going to be lax in preparing for Pitts and the Falcons this week? The Patriots are giving up 5.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends, and they’re sure to give Pitts extra attention on Thursday night. The rookie is special, but even a ranking of TE6 for this week feels overly optimistic.