How has the fantasy season treated you thus far? Regardless of your record, this year has been more chaotic than any other, and Week 11 will present its own set of challenges. Whether you’re looking to stay atop the standings, jockeying for position in the fantasy playoff race, or fighting just to keep hope alive, this column is for you. Let’s take a look at some players flying under the radar who are sneaky starts in Week 11 (please note, all players below are currently starting in fewer than 20% of leagues):
Cam Newton (QB - NE)
This is one of those cases where overall numbers don’t match up to what you’re actually seeing. A quick glance at the stats reveals that Houston is a slightly below average matchup for fantasy quarterbacks this season overall. But if you throw out the bad weather game against the Browns last week, the last four quarterbacks they faced (Gardner Minshew, Ryan Tannehill, Aaron Rodgers, Jake Luton) averaged 313 passing yards, 2.8 passing touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per game against them—that’s an average of 23 fantasy points per game. Only Rodgers (283) threw for fewer than 300 yards. Now, Newton is not throwing the ball to that same sort of level this season, but he still is running effectively and the Texans have the worst rush defense in the NFL, allowing 10 yards per game more on the ground than the second-worst team (Dallas) and 25 yards per game more than the third-worst squad (Detroit). I can’t see this defense holding Newton under 20 fantasy points.
Jameis Winston (QB - NO)
[Editor's note: Welp, they're gonna start Taysom Hill. So, uh, yeah. More on him at the bottom of article.]
Let’s get wild. It looks like we’ll see the return of the Jameis Winston Experience this week against the Falcons with Drew Brees dealing with cracked ribs and a collapsed lung. Yes, Taysom Hill will get some work (more on him later), but I expect Winston to start and get at least 90% of the passing attempts. There isn’t a better matchup for Winston to walk into, as he’s extremely familiar with Atlanta’s defense, a unit allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Since 2016, Winston is averaging 299.3 passing yards, 3.3 touchdowns, and 1.1 interceptions per game against the Falcons for an average of 25.8 fantasy points. Even dating back to his rookie season, his worst game against Atlanta in his career resulted in 16.54 fantasy points. He’s got plenty of weapons to work with in New Orleans and should be able to thrive this week. Remember, he was the QB4 in total points and QB6 in average fantasy points per game last season.
Rex Burkhead (RB - NE)
Remember all of those damning rushing stats about Houston in the Newton section above? That leads directly to why Burkhead is a sneaky start this week. Burkhead is ranked just inside my top 30 running backs for Week 11 because of the matchup and because it appears he’s taken the primary pass-catching role away from James White, at least in the short term. Burkhead has outsnapped White in each of the last four weeks and is poised to catch White for the team lead in targets and catches by a running back this season either this week or next. Burkhead is coming off back-to-back strong games against the Jets and Ravens, and if he gets 10-15 touches against this Houston defense, he’s going to be fantasy relevant.
Salvon Ahmed (RB - MIA)
Ahmed was given a heavy workload last week against the Chargers and held his own. He rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and caught his only target. The potential return of Matt Breida could throw a wrench in Ahmed’s plans, but even in that instance I can see Ahmed getting the majority of the workload with Breida filling in as a change-of-pace and two-minute drill back. The Broncos are league average against fantasy running backs this season, so the matchup isn’t something to run from. There’s some risk here for my RB31 this week, but I’d be willing to take a chance if I were an RB-needy team.
Carlos Hyde (RB - SEA)
If Chris Carson is active, I’m likely avoiding any other Seahawks running back. If he continues to be sidelined as expected, Hyde could be a valuable play this week. All indications are that he’s more likely to go than Carson, and Hyde recently had some success against Arizona. He ran for 68 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals in Week 7, and it’s hard to imagine Seattle giving significant work to Alex Collins, Travis Homer, or DeeJay Dallas over Hyde if they decide to play him this week. Hyde should be in flex consideration.
Jakobi Meyers (WR - NE)
Although I don’t anticipate Meyers will add another passing touchdown to his 2020 numbers this week, I do love his ability to exploit a favorable matchup against the Texans. Meyers has four consecutive double-digit fantasy point games under his belt and ranks as the WR15 in average fantasy points per game since Week 7 (17.2). He’s averaging 9.3 targets per game over the last month and will be Newton’s top pass-catching option once again against a Houston defense allowing the 13th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season and the 16th-most passing yards. Meyers is a borderline top-25 wide receiver this week with a floor of 10-12 fantasy points.
Corey Davis (WR - TEN)
Davis has one bad game this year. I’ll say it again… Davis has one bad game this year. The fourth-year Titan has at least 11 fantasy points in six of his seven games this season and 15.9 fantasy points per game if you throw away the goose egg against the Bears in Week 9. On a per-game basis (minimum four games played) Davis ranks as the WR32, yet is still available in about one-third of leagues. It blows my mind. He doesn’t have A.J. Brown’s upside, but he’s been the more consistent and looked-to option on a weekly basis. The Ravens defense is good, but not unbeatable. I would not be surprised to see Davis not only have another productive day, but the best output of any Titans pass-catcher on Sunday.
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR - IND)
The rookie had his best game of the season on Thursday Night Football against the Titans last week. He set career highs across the board with eight targets, seven catches, and 101 receiving yards (122 total). That was on the heels of his 4/56/0 performance on seven targets against the Ravens four days prior. Now healthy and re-acclimated in the Colts’ offense, Pittman is a viable fantasy option for those in multi-flex leagues. He’s ranked inside my top 40 wide receivers this week despite the slightly unfavorable matchup. Rivers looks like he trusts Pittman, who can serve as his new Mike Williams, as long as he’s healthy, for the rest of the season.
Taysom Hill (TE - NO)
[Editor's Note: Hill is now the TE2 in ESPN leagues and QB16 for everyone else]
Let’s get wild, part two. Hill is tight end-eligible in ESPN leagues and he’s not only a sneaky start, he’s a top-10 option for me this week. Why? The tight end position is an absolute mess right now. It took just 13.1 fantasy points to be the overall TE1 in Week 10. If we include passing attempts, Hill is averaging more than 8.3 touches per game over the last three weeks… with Drew Brees starting. Brees is out this week (and probably longer), which means an increased role for Hill. I would not be surprised to see Hill get 15 touches on Sunday against a brutal Falcons defense—and now it looks like a lot more if he's actually the starting quarterback. Plus, given all the ways Hill will be used, he might have had the best chance of any tight end not named Travis Kelce to score a touchdown this week even before becoming the presumptive starter. If you don’t have a premier option at the position and can put Hill at tight end, take the chance. However, I do not think he's a must-start as a quarterback, but if you need help he'll be ranked as my QB16.
Logan Thomas (TE - WSH)
Thomas continues to prove he can be a reliable option weekly at a very unreliable position. He’s averaging 5.8 targets per week this season and 11.4 fantasy points per game over his last four, ranking as the TE6 since Week 6. He’s good for 3-4 catches per game with a fairly decent chance at a score. At tight end—a position, I remind you, that was led by 13.1 fantasy points in Week 10—that’s about all you can ask for near the bottom of TE1 territory.