All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
There are four teams on bye—the Colts, Jets, 49ers and Panthers—while Devonta Freeman, Will Fuller, Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, Chris Hogan, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz and Philip Rivers are all dealing with injuries that may, or, in some cases, will, keep them out for Week 11.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best Sneaky Starts for this week:
Blake Bortles, Jaguars (at Browns)
The Browns are last in the league in quarterback aFPA, so this is mainly a matchup play. In their last two games, the Browns have yielded 537 combined yards and five touchdowns to Matthew Stafford and Case Keenum. Cleveland is also solid against the run, which may funnel a few more plays to the Jacksonville passing game.
Jamaal Williams, Packers (vs. Ravens)
Aaron Jones is definitely out and Ty Montgomery may sit with a rib injury. If that’s the case, Williams could see around 20 touches as Green Bay’s primary runner. Despite ranking 26th in running back aFPA this season, the Ravens are traditionally tough against the run, and they’ve improved in that area over the last two weeks as defensive tackle Brandon Williams has gotten healthy. This is not a great matchup, but Wililams’s probable workload makes him a solid play this week.
Jamison Crowder, Redskins (at Saints)
Crowder will line up in the slot against P.J. Williams, who represents the best matchup among the Saints cornerbacks. Crowder has 13 catches for 199 yards on 24 targets over the past two weeks. Considering he averaged 5.0 targets per game in the first six weeks, it’s clear Washington is making a significant effort to get him the ball.
Bruce Ellington, Texans (vs. Cardinals)
Ellington caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown against the Rams last week, and with Will Fuller likely out with a rib injury, he could see increased usage against the Cardinals. Head coach Bill O’Brien said on Wednesday that Ellington “needs to get the ball more.” He’s a decent spot starter in PPR formats.
Austin Hooper, Falcons (at Seahawks)
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is likely back this week, so Seattle is probably better than their current No. 24 ranking in tight end aFPA. However, Hooper has been very involved of late. He has three straight games with six targets and is averaging 5.8 targets per game since Week 4.