November 29, 2021

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The Sports Fanatics

Fantasy Football: Week 11 winners and losers, plus early Week 12 waiver targets

Fantasy Football can make you look stupid. And I looked really stupid coming out of Sunday, after Jonathan Taylor’s one-man demolition of the vaunted Bills defense in Week 11. Taylor seemingly made it his mission to push the Bills out of first place Sunday, racking up 185 yards and four rushing touchdowns, while adding a receiving touchdown on his three catches for 19 yards. 

Taylor’s was just the eighth five-touchdown game since the AFL-NFL merger, joining a pretty impressive list: 

  • Alvin Kamara (NFL-record six TD): 12/25/2020
  • Jamaal Charles: 12/15/2013
  • Clinton Portis: 12/7/2003
  • Shaun Alexander: 9/29/2002
  • James Stewart: 10/12/1997
  • Jerry Rice: 10/14/1990
  • Kellen Winslow: 11/22/1981

He dropped 53.4 PPR points against a team that had allowed just 109 to opposing running backs in nine games! And, of course, he did it the week I called him a sell-high candidate. Yikes. 

Through 11 games, Taylor has 266.4 PPR points, which would have been good for fourth in 2020 for the whole season. Yeah, he’s having one of those kinds of seasons. In fact, over his last 16 games, including the playoffs, he has 298 carries, 1,760 yards (5.9 YPC), 21 touchdowns, plus 41 catches, 356 yards and two more touchdowns; that’s good for 388.6 points, which would be the third-best season by a running back over the past decade.

For all of your sakes, I hope you didn’t listen to my sell-high advice this week. And, if you want evidence of some karmic retribution, I got buried by Taylor in multiple leagues this week. That’s what I deserve, I suppose. 

Taylor wasn’t the only story on Sunday of Week 11, but he was the biggest one, for sure. Thankfully, that means that we mostly managed to avoid serious injuries, it seems. As of Monday morning, the biggest injuries we’re following from Sunday include A.J. Brown (ribs), CeeDee Lamb (concussion), Jarvis Landry (knee), Justin Fields (ribs), Michael Carter (ankle), and Marcus Johnson (hamstring) were the only Fantasy relevant names I saw who were forced out of their games and were unable to return. 

We’ll learn about more injuries Tuesday, of course, but here’s what you need to know coming out of Sunday’s games, including an early look at the top waiver-wire targets, the biggest winners and losers, plus five things that mattered from Sunday. I’ll have my full rankings for Week 11 and Jamey Eisenberg’s full waiver-wire priority list for tomorrow’s newsletter, and if you have any waiver-wire or trade questions, make sure you send them my way with the subject line #AskFFT to [email protected]

Elijah Moore
IMAGN/USA Today Sports
  1. Elijah Moore, WR, NYJ 61%
  2. Cam Newton, QB, CAR 73%
  3. Ty Johnson, RB, NYJ 20%
  4. Dontrell Hilliard, RB, TEN 0%
  5. Nick Westbrook, WR, TEN 0%

For all of my top early priorities and why I’m targeting them, head here

Week 11 Winners and Losers

Oct 24, 2021; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) celebrates his first quarter touchdown as they take on the Chiefs at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.
Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the biggest winners from Sunday’s action — the players that stood out as clear-cut winners in Week 11 and moving forward:

Winners

These players come out of Week 11 looking better than they did coming in.

  1. Darnell Mooney — With Allen Robinson out, Mooney was treated like a legitimate No. 1 receiver, with a massive 47% target share. He caught just five of those — hey, the Bears QB situation isn’t great, what do you want — but turned them into 121 yards and a score. I don’t expect him to get nearly half of the team’s targets even without Robinson, but I also expect him to catch a much higher share of his targets, so all in all, I’ll take this game as a win. Mooney is the top option in this passing game, and I think he’s worked his way into the WR3 range. And, if Andy Dalton is starting Thursday against the Lions, he might just be a WR2. 
  2. Brandon Aiyuk — The 49ers are responding to the re-emergence of Aiyuk and George Kittle’s return from IR in interesting ways that make it possible for all three to be viable Fantasy starters even on a low-volume passing game. Sunday, Aiyuk was featured in the running game, receiving eight carries to make up for just two targets; Aiyuk was the top target in the passing game, while Kittle found the end zone for the third straight game. Samuel will need more than two targets to be a starting Fantasy option, but if he’s getting five-plus carries, there could be room for him to remain an elite option while still giving Aiyuk room to break out. He has at least 80 yards and a touchdown in two of three games and looks like a solid Fantasy starter moving forward. 
  3. Chase Claypool — In his return from the toe injury, Claypool played 91% of the snaps, had nine targets, and even added a couple of rush attempts to his ledger. The Steelers know they need to get Claypool involved, and it was good to see him being used as such a focal point coming off the injury. They won’t always throw it 44 times, so you can’t count on that kind of volume week-in, week-out, but Claypool is going to get his deep shots and red zone looks, including two targets from inside the 10 Sunday. He’ll probably be a somewhat frustrating Fantasy option, given Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles with the deep ball, but the highs will be worth chasing. 
  4. Antonio Gibson — Week 11 looked like a disaster for Gibson, who didn’t play a single one of Washington’s 19 snaps in the second quarter after fumbling near the end of the first. Gibson has been extremely game-script-dependent, so this one looked like extremely bad news. However, he played 24 of 35 snaps in the second half, including six on pass plays, so he wasn’t buried at all. Based on his usage, Gibson seems to be close to full strength, and if Washington can remain competitive down the stretch, he should be in line for some big games. 

Losers

It’s hard to feel better about these players coming out of Week 11 than you did coming in.

  1. DK Metcalf — Russell Wilson’s return was supposed to make Metcalf a must-start player again, but he’s had just 57 yards on 16 targets in two games so far. 16 targets in two games are pretty great for Metcalf, because he’s been a super-efficient receiver with Russell Wilson in the past, so I have to assume they’ll get on the same page soon enough. However, I do wonder if Wilson might have rushed back from his finger injury just a bit too early. He hasn’t been as accurate as we’re used to seeing, and the offense looks downright dysfunctional right now. I think Metcalf will be fine moving forward, but you have to be a little concerned about the state of things right now. 
  2. Ryan Tannehill — The Titans offense has, low-key, been a disaster since Derrick Henry’s injury. Whether that’s because of Henry’s injury or not is an open question, but the fact of the matter is, of the six touchdowns they’ve scored in three games as an offense, two came on drives inside of the opponent’s red zone, while another two started with field position outside their own 40. Tannehill is averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt and has a whopping 7 rushing yards in those three games. It’s not all his fault — Julio Jones is out, A.J. Brown is clearly less than 100%, and Marcus Johnson left Sunday’s game with an injury — but I don’t know how you can start him in Week 14 against the Patriots. The schedule lightens up after the bye in Week 13, but I don’t think you have to hang on to him through then.
  3. Hunter Renfrow — The problem with relying on a player solely because of volume — not because you think they are actually good — is that, when the volume goes away, they have nothing left to fall back on. Renfrow entered Week 11 with 26 targets in his previous three games, so he had been a viable Fantasy option even while averaging under nine yards per catch. He averaged just 7.5 Sunday, right in line with where he’s been, but turned it into just 30 yards on four targets. Renfrow’s value is tied to getting a ton of targets even if he doesn’t do much with them, and that’s a profile that can go bad pretty quickly. 
  4. Tee Higgins — The Bengals passing game wasn’t great Sunday, but it was Higgins who struggled most of all. Despite playing 80% of the snaps, Higgins saw just three targets on Joe Burrow’s 29 passes, fewer than both Ja’Marr Chase (six) and Tyler Boyd (eight). That’s frustrating because Higgins had been sporting a 25% target share for the season entering Week 11 but just hadn’t been having a great season due to a dip in his efficiency and a lack of touchdowns. You could still trust him as a starter in spite of that because of the volume and the promise of things turning around, so hopefully, the three targets were just a one-time thing. I’ll still view him as a higher-end WR3 for Week 12 against the Steelers, but I’m nervous. 

The 49ers are making room for three stars, the Titans are a mess, and Elijah Moore could be a superstar. Plus, three things that happened Sunday that didn’t matter. To read the full column, head here: 

Three things that mattered: 

  • Deebo Samuel’s usage — Samuel had a career-high five carries in Week 10 and topped it just one week later as he rushed for 79 yards on eight carries including a touchdown against the Jaguars Sunday. And the 49ers really are using Samuel like a hybrid player right now, as he played 10 snaps lined up at RB. He was still used as a wide receiver, of course (43 snaps, 23 routes), so don’t be too concerned about his one-catch line. The way I view it, Samuel’s time spent as a running back looks to just be in addition to his time as a wide receiver, and it has helped him continue to put up big numbers even with Brandon Aiyuk stepping up and George Kittle returning from injury. 
  • The Titans offensive struggles — The Titans managed to win their first two games without Derrick Henry against the Rams and Saints, but Sunday saw an embarrassing 22-13 loss to the Texans. And while the offense put up over 400 yards, that’s a bit misleading, as they needed 79 offensive plays to do so. They are already missing Henry, obviously, as well as Julio Jones, and A.J. Brown left Sunday’s game with a finger injury and then a chest injury — in addition to knee troubles he’s been playing through all season. And they also lost Marcus Johnson, who had been showing signs in Jones’ absence, to a hamstring injury Sunday. I’m not sure there’s a single player I definitely want to start in Week 11 against the Patriots. 
  • Elijah Moore’s big day  Moore put up a career-best eight catches for 141 yards (with 15 rushing yards on top for good measure), and it wasn’t just the result of one or two big plays. He led the team with 11 targets and played 79.7% of the snaps, his highest mark since Week 1. He was second on the team with 35 routes run on 42 passing plays, too. Moore has been trending up in his production of late, but he had played 36%, 60%, and 56% of the team’s snaps the previous three games. Seeing an increased role is key to him sustaining his recent hot streak, and if he’s going to be playing nearly every pass play, his breakout potential for the rest of the season is real. He’s the top target on waivers heading into Week 12 and can be viewed as at least a top-36 WR moving forward. 

Three things that (maybe) didn’t matter:

  • Mike Williams’ bounce-back game  It was nice to see Williams produce nearly 100 yards and a touchdown after he had just 137 yards and no scores in his previous four games, but if you’re hoping Sunday’s performance was a sign that he might be back to being a reliable Fantasy option, I don’t think that’s what happened. Prior to his late 53-yard touchdown, Williams as on pace for another subpar outing — in fact, four catches for 44 yards on five targets wasn’t far from what his recent stretch had produced. What we saw Sunday was the upside of Williams’ current role as the deep threat in the Chargers offense. He’s a clear third option behind Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler in the receiving hierarchy, and his production will likely continue to be hit or miss. He’s a WR3 because it’s still a pretty valuable role. 
  • Dan Arnold’s goose egg — It’s hard to make sense of much of what the Jaguars offense has tried to do this season, but Arnold getting no targets is especially hard to make sense. In part, it was probably a result of a terrible game script — the Jaguars didn’t run their first play until there was 1:55 left in the first quarter, and the 49ers had run 34 offensive plays before the Jaguars ran their fifth. They ended up with just 44 offensive snaps, and Arnold ran a route on 23 of 30 pass plays, right in line with his rate from Week 10 when he had eight targets. This was a disappointing game from a guy who had at least 10 PPR points in four of his previous five, but I’m writing it off as the result of just a weird game flow. 
  • Rondale Moore’s 11 targets — Moore had 11 targets in the Cardinals 23-13 win over the Seahawks, which seems exciting on the surface for a player we’ve been waiting for a breakout from. However, he turned his 11 targets into just 51 yards, which is your first sign that this wasn’t as promising as it seems — Moore had -9 air yards in the game. His first three targets came on nearly identical plays, as Colt McCoy checked down to him within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage when his deep options weren’t available. His fourth came on a swing pass as he motioned into the backfield, and it nearly ended in a safety for the Cardinals offense. He didn’t have a single target travel more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. It’s good that the Cardinals got Moore as involved as they did, but he was still fourth in routes run among wide receivers and played just 39% of the snaps. I think Moore has a ton of potential, but not in his current role. His role Sunday was more about trying to get the ball out of McCoy’s hands as quickly as possible than anything else.