Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Browns (21.75 projected points, -3 point spread) vs. PIT
Baker Mayfield is dead last in Ben Baldwin’s predictive DAKOTA metric for quarterbacks this season. He’s struggling against pressure and in the red zone where he’s throwing a touchdown on just 13% of pass attempts (league average 24%). I expect that to eventually regress, but bounce-back expectations have to be realistic with Mayfield playing against the NFL’s second-best defense in adjusted sack rate this week. Mayfield is a low-end QB2 who needs to get Odell going to reach a QB1 ceiling. … Nick Chubb has a running partner again with Kareem Hunt off suspension. Last week, they played together with Chubb seeing 56 snaps to Hunt’s 38. Their roles are very different though, so Chubb’s fantasy value shouldn’t take much of a hit. Chubb extended his 20-carry streak to four games in Week 10, while Hunt debuted with just four carries. Instead, Hunt came in as a pass-catcher, finishing with a likely unsustainable nine targets. Moving forward, I’d expect Chubb to have 15-20 carries and 1-5 targets as a mid-to-low end RB1 with positive touchdown regression potential (see tweet below). Meanwhile, Hunt is a boom-or-bust flex option who needs to see those valuable targets to pay off.
Odell Beckham has been one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2019, but there are two reasons for optimism -- the upcoming schedule and last week’s usage. Odell set new season-highs in targets and air yards in Week 10 after Baker said he’d start getting the ball to his No. 1 receiver. If Baker continues giving him chances, Odell is bound to go off soon as a buy-low candidate. The Steelers Defense is improved with play-making S Minkah Fitzpatrick, but it’s not a complete shutdown unit. Odell is an upside WR2 who gets PIT, MIA, PIT, CIN, and ARI to close out the fantasy schedule. … Jarvis Landry has had strong WR3 usage as a low-aDOT receiver for the arguably skittish Mayfield. Landry has double-digit targets in three straight games and could’ve had bigger games because he only has two red-zone touchdowns on 13 red-zone targets. That makes him a slight positive touchdown regression candidate. Landry is a fantasy WR3. … Rashard Higgins ran a route on 59% of the Browns’ 44 dropbacks last week, but he was only targeted once. The passing offense goes through Odell, Jarvis, and the two running backs. Higgins is purely a low-priced DFS Showdown tournament option. … Demetrius Harris was the only tight end to see a target (2) and run at least 15 routes for the Browns last week. Like Higgins, Harris is just a DFS punt play.
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Steelers (18.75, +3) @ CLE
Mason Rudolph hasn’t thrown three touchdowns or reached 260 passing yards in a single game this season. At best, Rudolph is a low-upside streamer in two-quarterback leagues, even against a Browns Defense that’s quite forgettable outside of DE Myles Garrett. … James Conner (shoulder) practiced in full and is expected to regain most of his modified bellcow role right away. In his last five games, Conner is averaging 15 carries and 4.4 receptions. Jaylen Samuels is a candidate to steal away some of that pass-catching work, but Conner should see 15+ touches and goal-line opportunities against the Browns, who are a bottom third unit in run defense DVOA. Conner is on the RB1/2 borderline but has a somewhat capped ceiling with Vegas only projecting the Steelers for 18.75 points this week. Samuels is not a recommended flex play.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has averaged 3.6 receptions and 49 yards in his last six games while only seeing six targets and per contest. JuJu offers some positive touchdown regression potential since he hasn’t scored on any of his six red-zone targets, but volume and quarterback play are major concerns. JuJu, for no fault of his own, is not a must-start if you have other WR3 options, especially on the road on a short week. The Browns are in the top 26th percentile against fantasy receivers this season, which includes the weeks when CBs Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams were injured. … James Washington and Diontae Johnson are seeing very similar usage to JuJu this season but are doing it in different ways. Washington has been winning downfield (14.4 aDOT), while Johnson operates underneath (9.3 aDOT). Washington has out-air yarded (Yes, I’m making up words at this point in the season) Johnson in all three games post-bye and is the receiver with more upside for DFS Showdown lineups. Last week, Washington made big plays but also continues to have weekly mess-ups (dropped passes, fumbles, etc.). … Vance McDonald ran a route on 91% of the Steelers’ 44 dropbacks last week and has averaged six targets in the three games since the Week 7 bye. McDonald, unfortunately, hasn’t done much with his limited opportunities this season, checking in with a career-low 5.3 YPT. The 29-year-old is a touchdown-dependent TE2 on a team only projected for 18.75 points this week.
The rest of the Week 11 Fantasy Football Forecast will be posted on Friday morning. There will be bonus Lamar Jackson rushing content, too, so make sure to check it out.