Sneaky Starts: Week 11
All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
As of Week 4, the aFPA Hot Spots reports that you see on the site are now using 2020 data, so we can now pay serious attention to positional strength of schedule. A defense’s ranking against a particular position is listed in parenthesis next to each player.
Let’s take a look at the top Sneaky Starts for Week 11...
Taysom Hill, Saints (vs. ATL, 32)
Don't worry, I'm not going to pontificate about Hill's TE-eligibility at certain fantasy sites, I'm just going to discuss his prospects as a quarterback against the Falcons in Week 11. When the news broke Friday morning that Hill would draw the start, I had to completely redo the projections for the Saints because Hill is obviously a very different player than Jameis Winston, the presumed starter. The first thing I did was to track down his preseason stats from 2018-19: 76/108 (70.4%) for 808 pass yards, 7.48 YPA, 5 TD/3 INT, 10 sacks, 36 rush att, 309 yds and 2 rush TD. That's roughly four games of work which would average to 19/27 for 202 yds, 1.25 TD, 0.75 INT, 9 rush att, 77 yds and 0.50 rush TD which would equate to 22.3 fantasy points. I'm not projecting him that high, but within our projections system it was difficult to keep him outside of the top 10 given his rushing upside and relatively normal preseason stats which indicate that he'll be able to function as a passer as well as a superior runner. (Remember, Tim Tebow had some huge fantasy days as a starter.) Regular season defenses with starting-caliber players are going to be a tougher test for Hill, but the Falcons are last in the league in QB aFPA and are very young in the secondary. Another concern is that Sean Payton didn't confirm the news that Hill is going to start and is instead playing coy with the media. I asked beat writer Nick Underhill (who reported that "Taysom Hill has been taking starter reps this week") if Winston was also taking starter reps and he simply replied, "Hill has been preparing as the starter." ESPN's Dianna Russini reported that Winston "will not be part of any offensive packages" against the Falcons. The Saints famously paid Hill $16 million to stick around 2021 and possibly take over for Brees if he retires. So, in short, I'm approaching this week as if the plan is for Hill to play the entire game. Given the matchup and the talent around him, he's set up for success.
Derek Carr, Raiders (vs. KC, 9)
I thought Carr was going to produce against Denver in Week 10 but the Raiders ran roughshod over the Broncos en route to four rushing touchdowns and three field goals. I don’t think Vegas will be able to stick with the run against the Chiefs. The last time Carr faced Kansas City, he threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns. In his last four meetings with the Chiefs, he has averaged 33.0 pass attempts, so the volume should be there.
Joe Burrow, Bengals (@ WAS, 17)
Predictably, Burrow didn’t have a great game against the Steelers (213/1), but Week 11 brings the Washington Football Team, which just yielded 276/3 to Matthew Stafford. Four of nine quarterbacks to face Washington have scored 20+ fantasy points.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (@ DEN, 18)
It was a decent showing (169/2) for Tua against the Chargers. The Broncos got railroaded by the Raiders' running game, but it’s doubtful that the Dolphins will have the same success on the ground. Denver gave up 284/3 to Matt Ryan in Week 9 and 278/3 to Justin Herbert in Week 8.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (vs. DAL, 22)
Cousins has 220/3 and 292/2 in the last two weeks against the Lions and the Bears. This week’s matchup against the Cowboys is appealing. Dallas yielded at least two passing touchdowns in four straight games and in seven of the last eight.
Alex Smith, Washington (vs. CIN, 29)
Smith has cleared 325 yards in two straight games, and he only played in 81% of the snaps in Week 9. The Bengals have given up at least two touchdowns in six straight games and have averaged 294 yards allowed in that span.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (vs. PHI, 27)
We’ll see how the weather looks in Cleveland this weekend. Mayfield’s numbers have suffered due to 30+ MPH winds against the Raiders and the Texans. In better conditions, Mayfield should be able to put up some points on the Eagles, who have given up 20+ to four of the last five opposing quarterbacks, the lone exception being Ben DiNucci in Week 8. Update (11/21): They are expecting fairly heavy rain for the entire game, so I've downgraded Mayfield.
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