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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football This or That: Who To Start In Week 13

  • The Draft Network
  • December 6, 2020
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By Zach Cohen

Let's try something new! This week, I decided to take two players at each position and see which one is more deserving of a start. Enlisting the help of Fantasy Pros, I looked at commonly asked player-versus-player decisions by the fantasy community for Week 13. You'll see that I present the case for each player, which includes counterpoints and a final verdict. 

No player ever has a perfect matchup, as there is always something that can go wrong. I really try to consider that when I make projections and when I set my lineups. It's not necessarily about what could go wrong, it's about the likelihood of it going wrong. That brings a whole slew of factors into play, some of which I mentioned below. I also added Jaime Eisner’s ranking for the player because two heads are better than one. 

So without further ado, let's dive into two top-10 quarterbacks who both have compelling cases to make your starting lineup.

Quarterback: Justin Herbert or Ryan Tannehill

Justin Herbert (QB - LAC) 

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: QB4

The rookie quarterback has surpassed expectations this season en route to being QB8. Over the last five games, Herbert has averaged nearly 22 points. When it comes to quarterbacks, you want one that either runs the ball a ton or throws the ball a ton. He doesn't run often, but he can still make an impact on the ground. Herbert has had double-digit rushing yards in all but two games this year. As for his passing, he throws the ball nearly 10 times more per game than Tannehill does. The Patriots have been pretty solid against quarterbacks this year, though I'm not too concerned considering how Herbert’s been playing. He's basically a lock to be in starting lineups. It also helps to have Austin Ekeler back, who is the ultimate safety valve.

Ryan Tannehill (QB - TEN) 

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: QB6

Tannehill hasn’t been too fantastic this year, though he is right behind Herbert as this season’s QB9. He had a little bit of a slump: He went four straight games without reaching 18 points. In the two games since then, Tannehill has averaged nearly 20 points. However, he doesn’t have much rushing upside anymore; Herbert wins that battle. I do love Tannehill’s matchup this week against Cleveland, and so does Jaime. Perhaps that’s why Tannehill was his favorite start in this week’s Start or Sit episode on our YouTube channel.

The Browns have allowed the eighth-most points to quarterbacks and they’re without Denzel Ward, who is arguably their best defensive back. That’s juicy.

Verdict: Herbert 

As reliable as Tannehill generally is, it’s hard to sit Herbert this week. He just offers more on the ground and should throw the ball more. New England has been a little weird against quarterbacks this year, though. While they're coming off a game where they contained Kyler Murray, they did give up 20.5 points to Joe Flacco earlier in the year. Herbert has scored 20-plus points in all but two games. He’s basically been a starting lineup lock.

Running Back: Giovani Bernard or Benny Snell

Giovani Bernard (RB - CIN) 

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: RB32

There was a lot of hope for Bernard to replicate Joe Mixon’s early-season success when Mixon went down with an injury. He did see some of that success, though his production has dipped noticeably since his bye week. In the three games since then, Bernard is yet to see double-digit carries and has yet to reach 10 fantasy points. He's also averaging 26.7 yards on the ground in that time. Losing Joe Burrow for the season hurts the veteran running back, too. With Brandon Allen under center, Bernard saw just three targets, which was his lowest total since taking over the lead role. He appears to be trending down and will need a good showing against a stingy Dolphins’ defense. Might I add that Miami’s defense has allowed just two rushing touchdowns to running backs since their bye in Week 7? (Although, the best running backs they faced were Melvin Gordon and Chase Edmonds). Still, I wouldn't expect Cincinnati’s offense to be too productive, although a negative game script could favor Bernard.

Benny Snell (RB - PIT) 

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: RB22

Snell dominated the Steelers’ backfield in his first game as the lead back. (James Conner was on the COVID-19 list.) He didn’t score in what was a sloppy game from both teams, though he did manage a solid 12.3 points. That includes three receptions for 33 yards on four targets. It appeared that Snell nearly took Conner’s exact role, as the latter was averaging three targets per game. It’s one thing to say Snell may be the top back for Pittsburgh, but that holds no weight this week. I am a little concerned about the matchup for Snell; Washington’s defense has been surprisingly good. Their defense has held running backs to the third-fewest fantasy points all season. But the Steelers’ offense has been mostly clicking this season, and it is tough to bet against good offenses: Pittsburgh has the fifth-highest offensive touchdown rate this season. They are also tied for the fourth-most red zone touchdowns, which is just another cherry on top for Snell’s outlook.

Verdict: Snell

The only way I’d go Bernard over Snell is if Conner returns in time for Monday afternoon’s game (that’s not a typo). Bernard may very well see more targets than Snell, but nothing suggests that Snell won’t also be a factor in the Steelers’ passing game. I’m going Snell over Bernard here unless Conner is active. Monitor that situation if you have either player.

Wide Receiver: Brandon Aiyuk or Tyler Boyd

Brandon Aiyuk

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: WR28

Aiyuk missed last week while on the COVID-19 list, but he was already comfortably leading the 49ers in targets. He was averaging about 20 points in the last three games, though it should be noted those games were without Deebo Samuel. It’s expected that Samuel‘s return will cut into Aiyuk‘s workload, yet it’s a tougher projection to make than you think. Aiyuk has not played a game with Samuel and Nick Mullens together this year. In the four games that Aiyuk and Samuel have played in with Jimmy Garoppolo, Aiyuk’s stats didn’t appear to be too affected by Samuel. In fact, he actually saw more playing time than his teammate, and that was before Aiyuk emerged as the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver. The rookie also saw more targets in three of those four games.

Based on that, it appears Aiyuk’s role has been relatively unaffected by Samuel. 

So let’s look at the matchup, then. The Bills have been relatively tough to wide receivers. Interestingly enough, their three worst performances to wide receivers came against NFC West teams, including the Cardinals in Arizona three weeks ago. That’s where this game takes place on Sunday. It’s not like that’s a deciding factor or anything, I just thought it was cool to note. I guess if you’re superstitious when setting your lineups, that may have a little sway on your decision.

Tyler Boyd

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: WR53

Boyd has been the ultimate security blanket in 2020. Before Joe Burrow’s injury, he was averaging 16.2 points. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter because Burrow won’t be playing again this season. With Brandon Allen at the helm against the Giants, Boyd caught three of his team-high six targets for a season-low of 4.5 points. Yuck. Teams have been throwing more against the Dolphins, so that could mean more targets for Boyd. And no matter who’s the quarterback, it seems Boyd is still the focal point of the offense. You’re just betting on the Bengals’ offense against a good Dolphins’ defense. Luckily, Boyd plays in the slot, so he won’t see coverage from Xavien Howard or Byron Jones. So the big projection here is if Boyd will have enough opportunities to get the ball. Well, in the last three games, Cincinnati has averaged about 27 minutes of possession, the seventh-lowest in that span. The Jets are the worst with a 24-minute average. In the loss to the Giants, the Bengals had the ball for just 22 minutes and 34 seconds. A negative game script could force Zac Taylor to run more passing plays, but are you really willing to bet on that?

Verdict: Aiyuk, slightly

This was a tough decision, though I think I need to barely lean with Aiyuk. His game just seems more favorable to score points in. Boyd could still have a solid game, but there seems to be too much uncertainty with how he’ll fare in Game No. 2 without Burrow. While there is some uncertainty with Aiyuk as well, his season stats don’t suggest too big of a decreased role with Samuel back. Aiyuk also has a bit more upside than Boyd because of his big-play ability. Both players seem to have floors of 5-6 targets, so Aiyuk gets the slight nod.

Tight End: Kyle Rudolph or Robert Tonyan

Kyle Rudolph

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: TE19

Disclaimer: All this flies out the window if Irv Smith Jr. plays on Sunday. He’s been nursing an injury and didn’t practice on Thursday, so keep a close eye on his status. Without Smith and Adam Thielen against the Panthers, Rudolph had his best game of the season. He got seven of eight targets for 68 yards, posting 13.8 fantasy points. I expect him to continue to see about 70% of Minnesota’s snaps. It also helps that Kirk Cousins seemed to be replaced with a version of himself from a different dimension, because he has been playing very well lately. Don’t get me wrong, Cousins is no Aaron Rodgers. But he has thrown 11 touchdowns and one pick in the last four games. This gives a player like Rudolph a better chance to get more points. He faces Jacksonville this weekend, who has played well enough against tight ends since their bye. However, they’ve allowed a touchdown in each of their last two games to the position. 

Robert Tonyan

Jaime’s Week 13 Ranking: TE17

Tonyan has been a fun fantasy story this season en route to being a top-five tight end. However, it’s clear he has become touchdown-dependent to be relevant in fantasy. He scored twice in his last two games, posting 15.4 points and 17.7 points, respectively. He also doesn’t see too many targets and he sees the field about 10% less than Rudolph does per game. Having a quarterback like Rodgers certainly helps, though. Considering how barren the position is in fantasy, sometimes you’ll need to roll with a risky, scoring-dependent guy like Tonyan. 

Before I give my final verdict, let’s look a little bit more into this matchup. Tonyan faces the Eagles defense, which has turned it up as of late versus tight ends—that includes holding Evan Engram to 3.5 points just three games ago. It still doesn’t take away from the risk that Tonyan brings to your lineup. 

Verdict: Rudolph, if Smith is inactive

This could come down to a player who gets more yards/targets or a player who needs touchdowns to be successful. Tonyan could easily score again and put this whole conversation to rest, although it’s a lot to bank on. Rudolph seems like the safer route, while Tonyan’s a bit more of a boom-or-bust play this week. I tend to lean toward the safer players when setting my lineups, though if you’re a heavy underdog, I’d consider Tonyan.

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