Is Dion Lewis or Justin Forsett a better RB2?

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Unfamiliar with the SAP Player Comparison Tool? Well it's about time you get acquainted! The tool can be a great asset for those tough roster decisions, whether you're dealing with start/sit conundrums, trade comparisons, or decisions on which players to pick up on the waiver wire, you can benefit by learning the ins and outs of the customizable tool. This week in what we like to call Fantasy Football Audibles, we take a look at three player comparisons to help you take some of the guesswork out of those mind-boggling roster determinations.

Here's a quick primer in the factors that the SAP Player Comparison Tool takes into consideration when analyzing players:

»Performance: player performance (NFL statistics and Fantasy points) from the current season
»Matchup: opponent-specific fantasy points against (FPA) data and matchup analysis
»Consistency: stability of historical player fantasy point production
»Upside: potential for significant fantasy point performance
»Intangibles: additional factors including injury status, weather, game location, team support and player rest

Who should I start: Dion Lewis or Justin Forsett?

Let's start this off the right way by wishing Justin Forsett a happy 30th birthday. I hope he goes out and gets himself an ice cream cake or something. Man ice cream cakes are good.

Anyway ...

Lewis vs Forsett
Lewis vs Forsett (NFL.com)

So you drafted Forsett in the fourth-ish round during your draft and have finally been able to enjoy some success out of him for your fantasy team recently. He's fantasy's RB4 over the last two weeks with 320 yards from scrimmage and a score. It seems like a no-brainer to start him while he's hot. But you find yourself in a tough situation since you went out and scooped up Dion Lewis off the waiver wire following Week 1. Lewis has been even better with double-digit points in standard leagues in all four of his games this year. So now you're wondering who's the better play for Week 6? The Player Comparison Tool suggests that it's an even split, but personally, I beg to differ.

Forsett has been on a roll, but he did injure his ankle against the Browns, which raises a bit of concern, especially for a back his age. It's not believed to be a high-ankle sprain, according to coach John Harbaugh, but as of Wednesday, Forsett had yet to practice and even if he does suit up, he could be limited. While the juicy matchup against the 49ers is appealing, he still carries risk heading into Week 6.

But it's not just because of Forsett's injury that I would lean Lewis in this case. With the potential for a monstrous amount of points to be scored in Sunday night's Deflategate revenge game, Lewis is poised for a big week.

If you watch Lewis' tape from New England's Week 5 rout of the Cowboys, you'd see how he juked and jived all day, making defenders miss with his quick feet on his way to 93 total yards and a score. With the Patriots averaging over 37 points per game so far this season, it's easy to see why Lewis needs to be a mainstay in your fantasy lineup.

 

Who should I start: Blake Bortles or Andrew Luck?

Bortles vs Luck
Bortles vs Luck (NFL.com)

I've been starting Blake Bortles the past two weeks with Andrew Luck on my bench, and, in a lapse of cognitive brain function, I was seriously considering leaving the hot Jaguars QB in my lineup this week over the ailing Colts star.

So in a selfish decision, I decided to throw one of my personal lineup conundrums into the Player Comparison Tool and see what it threw back at me.

According to the tool, Bortles is recommended over Luck by a score of 17-15!?

My goodness, I need a candy cigarette. Let's get to the #analysis.

OK, so performance-wise, sure, Bortles has been pretty awesome in fantasy the last few weeks while Luck has been sidelined with a shoulder injury. The second-year slinger has tossed five touchdown passes and collected 653 total yards, and has proven worthy of his standing as QB6 for the season. In Luck's first three games, he threw more picks than TD passes and failed to eclipse 18 fantasy points in a single game. Ugh.

But now, the intangible tables have turned a bit as Bortles suffered a shoulder injury in Week 5, and while all signs point to him playing, Luck has rested for two straight weeks and is likely to return healthy against the Patriots in what should be a shootout for the ages.

Looking at Player Comparison Tool, every category except for performance is just about even, which really doesn't make sense since Bortles technically has a better matchup against a Houston defense that has bled fantasy points to opposing QBs this year, and just allowed Luck's backup to throw for 213 yards and two scores against them a week ago. (Daily daps to Matt Hasselback.)

It seems like the tool is giving Bortles the upper hand here, merely based on season performance so far which doesn't really seem fair. Luck is the far more talented quarterback and is hopefully healthy, while Bortles' already shaky accuracy could be affected by his shoulder injury. If nothing else, this comparison really drives home the idea that you need to do your own research when making lineup decisions. Don't get lazy and rely on auto-fill data tools. Go with Luck.

 

Who should I start: Gary Barnidge or Travis Kelce?

Six weeks ago, if I had tweeted that at some point, you'd have to consider benching Travis Kelce for Gary Barnidge, you'd have probably publicly shamed me, muted, blocked and then unfollowed me, only after you reported me to Twitter as spam. But with five weeks of football in the books, Barnidge has more fantasy points than Kelce and this is now a realistic decision. While the two rank as fantasy's TE3 and TE4 respectively for the season, 10.6 points are all that separates them. Let's see what the Player Comparison Tool says, shall we?

Barnidge vs Kelce
Barnidge vs Kelce (NFL.com)

With Barnidge and Kelce having such similar production, it's surprising that the Browns TE gets a large four-point advantage in the performance category. The tool also inaccurately gives Barnidge the edge in the matchup category. He goes up against a Denver defense that has yet to allow a tight end score against them. In fact, the Broncos have allowed just three receiving touchdowns all season. Kelce will face a Vikings defense that has allowed two TE touchdowns and 1.85 more fantasy points per game to the position than Denver.

Every game, all season

Fantasy owners also need to keep in mind that with Jamaal Charles out for the season with a torn ACL, Kelce should be in line for more targets. But the real kicker for me is a key stat in Kelce's favor. He's collected 201 yards after the catch compared to Barnidge's 129 YAC. When you combine Kelce's uncanny ability to shed tacklers and gain extra yards after he's got the ball in his hands with his better matchup in Week 6, the decision should be easy. It's Kelce over Barnidge.

In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang recaps Week 5, looks ahead at Week 6 waiver wire targets, and discusses which struggling veterans they're giving up on. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!


Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. Hit him up on Twitter @MattFranchise fantasy advice all season long.

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