Sunday Morning Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em: Sterling Shepard, Jamaal Williams, Leonard Fournette & More

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by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Just hours before the start of Week 11 I know many people have questions running through their heads. Who should I start? Who should I sit?  Let’s take a look at how some of the recent news changes things:
 
Sterling Shepard – Wide Receiver – New York Giants
Any time a player is added to the injury report late in the week there is tremendous skepticism, though “illness” doesn’t generate the same concerns.  However, according to Adam Schefter (via Twitter) the news doesn’t appear good for Shepard:
“Giants’ WR Sterling Shepard, added to team’s injury report Saturday with illness, is unlikely to play vs Chiefs, per source. But team wants to first test him in pre-game warmups before making any determination.”
It’s an extremely favorable matchup and the Giants have few viable alternatives on the outside (TE Evan Engram would likely be a target monster if Shepard sits, and would be a must play).  Luckily the Giants play at 1 PM, so we’ll get clarity early in the day, but for now plan for an alternative.
Verdict – Usable if he plays, but plan to be without him
 
Jamaal Williams – Running Back – Green Bay Packers
Both Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones are out for Week 11, leaving Williams to carry the load in the Green Bay backfield.  He had 20 carries last week after the injuries struck, though the production wasn’t there (3.4 yards/carry).  With a week to plan and prepare it’s likely that the Packers utilize Devante Mays and Aaron Ripkowski as at least change-of-pace options, and that could limit Williams’ touches a little bit.
The Ravens have allowed the third most rushing yards to opposing backs (997), so even if it’s only 12-15 touches the upside is going to be there.  He should be a locked in RB2 in all formats, though given his struggles last week there’s a bit of risk.
Verdict – Viable RB2
 
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Leonard Fournette – Running Back – Jacksonville Jaguars
Depending on Fournette is starting to become difficult, though Ian Rapoport tweeted this morning
“After not practicing Friday, #Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is questionable & will have a pre-game evaluation to determine whether he plays. The team is optimistic that he will, I’m told.”
If he does play, though, you have to wonder if he will be limited in any way.  With Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon behind him, his touches could easily be limited.  If he dresses the upside is there and he’s worth gambling on as a FLEX, depending on your alternatives, but there’s obvious risk.
Verdict – Risky FLEX play, but monitor the news

 
Alex Collins – Running Back – Baltimore Ravens
Collins has been operating as the lead back for the Ravens, but things are about to get crowded.  Both Danny Woodhead and Terrance West are expected to return, joining Collins and Javorius Allen in what could deteriorate into a four-headed mess.  This tweet from Jeff Zrebiec could help ease some concerns:
Mornhinweg said that Alex Collins will remain Ravens featured back even with Terrance West and Danny Woodhead returns”
That said “lead” back is subjective and it’s hard to imagine him getting 15+ touches.  His role could be game flow dependent, and that makes him a risky proposition.
Verdict – Viable FLEX, but nothing more
 
Tevin Coleman – Running Back – Atlanta Falcons
Devonta Freeman has been ruled out due to a concussion, leaving Coleman to operate as the lead back against the Seahawks.  We love the potential workload, but while the Seahawks aren’t the same defense that they once were they are still allowing the fifth fewest points to opposing running backs.  It’s in the secondary where they’re banged up and against opposing wide receivers that they’ve struggled.  With that in mind, would it be surprising if the offense is centered around Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and company?  While Coleman does hold appeal there’s reason to believe that his upside is capped.  Utilize him as a RB2, but don’t enter the week expecting more than that.
Verdict – Risky, but solid, RB2
 
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Larry Fitzgerald – Wide Receiver – Arizona Cardinals
As if the downgrade from Carson Palmer to Drew Stanton wasn’t enough, now it will be Blaine Gabbert under center for the Arizona Cardinals.  Or is that really a negative, especially for Fitzgerald?  Over the past two weeks Stanton had completed 50.6% of his passes overall, but he targeted Fitzgerald early and often (23 targets).  We’d expect the same usage regardless of who the quarterback is, as the Cardinals try to offset questionable ability by letting their best player make as many plays as possible.
Considering the matchup against Houston, who is allowing the second most points per week to opposing wide receivers (behind only the Chiefs), and that Gabbert may not be a downgrade and is there any reason to be concerned?
Verdict – Continue firing Fitzgerald up as a WR1
 
Damien Williams/Kenyon Drake – Running Back – Miami Dolphins
According to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald (via Twitter):
Clyde Christensen said that despite Drake’s penchant for big plays, the formula is going to stay the same.
Over the past two weeks that led to the following in terms of touches:

  • Damien Williams – 24 touches (16 carries, 8 receptions)
  • Kenyon Drake – 24 touches (16 carries, 8 receptions)

Drake has been far more productive, though of his 151 rushing yards 108 came on two big runs.  That puts him as a very big boom or bust play, since it’s impossible to depend on a 40+ yard run every week.  Tampa Bay has allowed eight runs of 20+ yards, tied for sixth most in the league, but that still doesn’t guarantee it.  Drake is the better play in this committee, but his value is still capped.
Verdict – Drake stronger play, but neither more than a FLEX
 
Phillip Rivers – Quarterback – Los Angeles Chargers
After suffering from a concussion there were questions of his availability, but it was revealed on Friday that he had already cleared the protocol and was set to play against the Bills.  Buffalo has allowed the fifth fewest points per week to opposing quarterbacks, with just 7 TD vs. 11 INT.  Rivers has struggled as well, completing less than 60% of his passes in six of his past seven games and has been at 235 yards or fewer in each of his past three.  In shallower formats he’s impossible to trust, and even in two-quarterback leagues he’s a borderline option.
Verdict – Must sit in one-quarterback formats, desperation play in deeper leagues
 
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Alshon Jeffery – Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles
He plays on Sunday night and found his name on the injury report late in the week, which never is a good sign.  That alone would put a red flag on him, and the idea of Jay Ajayi playing a bigger role hurts a little bit more.  That said all expectations are that Jeffery is going to play in what is a favorable matchup against the Cowboys.  Jeffery has also seen his production rise in recent weeks, heading into Philadelphia’s bye, with 3 TD over his two games heading into the bye week.  There’s a bit of risk involved, but as a WR2 he’s well worth using.
Verdict – Solid WR2 option
 
Bruce Ellington – Wide Receiver – Houston Texans
Everything appears to be slanting into Ellington’s favor given these two pieces of news:

  1. Will Fuller has already been ruled out
  2. Reports have Patrick Peterson shadowing DeAndre Hopkins

The Arizona Cardinals have allowed the sixth most points per week to opposing wide receivers, so the opportunities will be there.  With Ellington as the clear second option, it’s a perfect situation.  He’s been targeted 17 times over the past two weeks, and with those opportunities in this matchup he has the potential to post big numbers.
Verdict – Must use WR3 with WR2 upside
 
Vernon Davis – Tight End – Washington Redskins
Jordan Reed has already been ruled out for today’s game against the New Orleans Saints, leaving Davis to operate as the team’s top tight end.  Over the past two weeks, with Reed on the sidelines, Davis has generated 20 targets and turned them into 13 receptions and 148 yards.  While we’d all love to see a TD, no one is going to complain about that type of production or workload.  Considering the questions around the position, it’s more than enough to utilize him as a TE1.
Verdict – Must use TE1
 
Charles Clay – Tight End – Buffalo Bills
People like to point to Clay as a potential option, but there are a lot of factors working against him:

  1. A rookie quarterback, whose production is a complete mystery
  2. A questionable tag (and there’s no guarantee that he plays as Adam Schefter tweeted this morning that, “Bills uncertain whether TE Charles Clay and WR Jordan Matthews, both questionable for Sunday, can play vs. Chargers, per source. Team wants to test them pregame before it decides.”)
  3. Only eclipsing 55 yards in one of his six games played
  4. A matchup against a Chargers defense that has allowed the second fewest points per week to opposing tight ends

In other words, is he worth the risk?
Verdict – Borderline TE2, but better left on the bench
 
Eddie Lacy – Running Back – Seattle Seahawks
After missing Week 10 Lacy was not listed on the Seahawks’ final injury report and is ready to suit up for the Week 11 matchup against the Falcons.  Of course Lacy is no guarantee to get the bulk of the touches, as he is an unproductive piece (2.7 yards per carry) of a completely unproductive backfield.  He just muddies the waters a little bit more, but isn’t a player to trust.
Verdict – Desperation FLEX play
 
Sources – NFL.com, ESPN
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Make sure to check out all of our Week 11 rankings:

RankPlayerTeamQuick Thoughts
1)Jacob deGromNew York MetsAfter back-to-back Cy Young Awards what's left for deGrom to prove? It turns out he may have been tipping his pitches in April (4.85 ERA), once he corrected the issue he didn't have an ERA above 2.92 in any month after. Even if he's not your #1, he's clearly in the top tier.
2) Max ScherzerWashington NationalsWhen healthy Scherzer continued posting elite numbers, the problem was that he was limited to 27 starts (and missed time in the playoffs). Current reports have him fully healthy for Spring Training, but it will be something that needs to be monitored.
3) Justin VerlanderHouston AstrosWe keep waiting for Verlander to start slowing down, but he is showing no signs (including racking up 300 K in '19). There is some slight concerns in his luck metrics (.218 BABIP, 88.4% strand rate), but that just makes his first half 2.98 ERA a better expectation.
4) Gerrit ColeNew York YankeesHe signed a massive contract this winter (9 years, $324 million) and there will be questions as to whether or not he can live up to it in New York. While opponents need to make contact for it to become an issue, groundball rates of 36.0% and 40.3% the past two seasons, now pitching in Yankee Stadium, raises a small red flag.
5) Walker BuehlerLos Angeles DodgersThe Dodgers took it slow with their young ace in the spring, and that may have factored into his early season struggle (5.22 ERA). In 24 starts from May 1 through the end of the year he posted a 2.88 ERA, and he showed strikeouts (10.61 K/9) and control (1.83 BB/9) all season long.
6) Chris SaleBoston Red SoxIt's fair to be concerned about Sale, after he was limited to 147.1 IP in '19 due to elbow issues and posted a 4.40 ERA when healthy. However he continued to show strikeouts (13.32 K/9), control (2.26 BB/9) and should improve upon his luck (66.7% strand rate). Reports have him healthy heading into Spring Training, so don't ignore him.
7)Shane BieberCleveland IndiansBieber put his name on the map in '19, with a 3.28 ERA and 1.05 WHIP courtesy of a 10.88 K/9 and 1.68 BB/9. He's always displayed elite control, but now he's delivering swings and misses (14.0% SwStr%) while utilizing his secondary pitches more and more (he threw his fourseam fastball 45.73%) has solidified his place among the elite.
8)Stephen StrasburgWashington NationalsCan Strasburg stay healthy? That's always been the biggest question, though Washington is betting on it after signing him to a 7 year contract. Last year he showed just how good he could be, utilizing his sinker and curveball more led to a 51.1% groundball rate (to go along with strikeouts and control).
9)Mike ClevingerCleveland IndiansClevinger's SwStr% rose to 15.2% in '19, and he's continued to throw strikes (2.39 BB/9 in the second half) and limit hard contact (33.0% Hard%). That's the makeup of a Top 10 starter, though he's often not considered so highly.
10)Patrick CorbinWashington NationalsA year after receiving a big free agent contract, Corbin lived up to the expectations with a 3.25 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 202.0 IP. He did it while showing all three skills we look for from a pitcher, and also improving his Hard% (34.5%).
11)Luis CastilloCincinnati RedsHad it not been for a late season swoon (ERA of 5.70 and 4.40 over the last two months), there would be a lot more chatter about Castillo being a potential Top 10 option. He showed strikeouts (10.67 K/9), control (3.73 BB/9) and groundballs (55.2%), and even as he struggled late in the year an improvement in his control (2.76 BB/9 in the second half) speaks to just how high his ceiling could be.
12)Charlie MortonTampa Bay RaysAfter breaking out in Houston it was fair to wonder if Morton could replicate the success while maneuvering through the AL East. He proved more than capable, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 194.2 IP. With his skill set and believable luck metrics (.298 BABIP, 75.3% strand rate), the good times should continue.
13)Blake SnellTampa Bay RaysHe missed time due to injury (107.0 IP) and struggled when on the mound (4.29 ERA), though it was poor luck (.343 BABIP, despite a 34.8% Hard%) and not a regression in skills that caused the issues. Maybe he's not as good as he was in '18, but he should continue to be in the mix for a Top 10 spot.
14)Carlos CarrascoCleveland IndiansRegardless of the results, the fact that Carrasco returned late in the year is promising after he was limited by injuries. Over his career he owns a 9.37 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 and 48.5% groundball rate, as he's consistently been among the better starters. As long as he's healthy he should return to that status.
15)Frankie MontasOakland A'sHe was limited to 96.0 innings, but don't take that to mean that the breakout wasn't for real. He began using a split-finger fastball, which contributed to his 9.66 K/9, 2.16 BB/9 and 49.4% groundball rate. He should continue on the same path, which would allow him to maintain that success over a full season.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Prof, 2 questions.
    13 team standard league.
    QB: Rivers, Goff, or Manning (Shepard’s out)
    1 WR & 1 Flex: AJ Green, K. Allen, K. Drake

  2. Professor!
    I have Kamara/Mckinnon starting with devante parker as my flex. But now fournette is active. Do I start him, flex mckinnon, sit parker?

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