Who to start Week 11: Jimmy Graham or Jordan Reed?


Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. It finally appears as if the tool is fully operational (though not 100 percent reliable), so I'll use a combination of the tool and old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on four difficult Week 11 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.

Who should I start at QB: Cam Newton or Marcus Mariota?

Typically I try to avoid players in the Thusday Night contests, but this dilemma was too good to pass up. Since returning from a concussion in Week 6, Newton has two 23-plus point fantasy outings sandwiched around two sub-15-point outings. That's not the type of production fantasy owners hoped for when drafting Newton in the first few rounds back in August. This matchup, however, could be a get-right game for the reigning NFL MVP. The Saints allow the 10th-highest completion percentage (65.2), sixth-most yards per atempt (8.01), ninth-lowest sack rate (5.06) and the 12th-lowest interception rate (1.79) to opposing passers. In other words, signal-callers are able to move up and down the field against the Saints, racking up fantasy points, with minimal risk for a turnover or sack. An additional boost for Newton is his running ability. When Newton last faced the Saints in Week 6, it was his first game back from his concussion and he only ran the ball twice (one of which was a 1-yard touchdown). In the three games since then Newton averages over eight rush attempts per game. All told, SuperCam looks like a top-tier option at quarterback this week.

Since Week 5, no quarterback has scored more fantasy points (149.4) or more fantasy points per game (24.9) than Marcus Mariota. He's mostly abused bad defenses, though, with his biggest games coming against Miami, Cleveland, San Diego, and Green Bay in that stretch. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, he faces the Colts. On the year, Indy's stop unit allows the seventh-highest completion percentage (66.0), ninth-most yards per attempt (7.73), eighth-lowest sack rate (4.9) and the lowest interception rate (0.86) in the league. Mariota has scored multiple touchdowns in every game since Week 5, including three four-touchdown performances when you factor in rushing scores. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been absolutely on fire in fantasy and shows no signs of slowing down, especially against an uninspiring Indianapolis front.

Verdict: While Mariota has been the more consistent scorer in recent weeks, this shapes up as a better matchup for Newton, despite what the Player Comparison Tool indicates. He's at home and has the weapons to exploit the holes in the Saints defense. Meanwhile, Mariota's lowest fantasy output in his current hot streak came against the Colts, and that was when he was at home. Neither option is a bad start, but when push comes to shove I'm siding with Newton here.

Who should I start at RB: James Starks or Rob Kelley?

Conventional wisdom told us that James Starks would be brought along slowly in his first game back from knee surgery. Instead, he played 69 percent of the snaps for the Packers and handled just shy of 70 percent of the backfield opportunities. He could be featured more this week against a Washington front allowing 4.6 yards per carry and the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (11) this season. The Packers acquired his wokeness, Christine Michael, off waivers this week, but he'll only see a few plays here or there, if any at all on Sunday. With Ty Montgomery sliding into a smaller, more complementary role in the offense for the moment while he battles sickle cell and a different illness, it looks like Starks could be in line for a significant workload in a plus matchup.

An undrafted free agent out of Tulane, Rob Kelley (aka "Fat Rob") was awarded starting oppotunities after Matt Jones literally fumbled away the job. In his two weeks as the starter, Kelley has taken 43 carries for 184 yards (4.3 ypc average) and, most importantly, not fumbled. On paper, the Packers look like a tough draw matchup-wise as they allow the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. However, they are allowing 119.4 rushing yards per game since Week 6 after allowing just 42.8 yards per game through Week 5. The only issue with Kelley is Chris Thompson's role in the passing game. Even though Kelley has dominated the carries, he's barely outsnapped Thompson by a margin of 85-69 the last two weeks. That's because when the game script turns pass-heavy, as it could Sunday night, Thompson is the featured player. In Week 8 against the Bengals (a 27-27 tie), Thompson played 47 snaps to Kelley's 41, with 39 coming on passing plays. If this game does turn into a high-scoring affair as many suspect, Kelley could find himself on the bench an awful lot.

Verdict: Both backs are in great spots, and with the Player Comparison Tool offering little here to help decide who to start, I'll be judge, jury and executioner. And my decision is that Starks is the better play for this week. He has less competition for touches at the moment (keep an eye on Montgomery's status/health, though), and won't be washed off the field completely if the quarterbacks start airing it out. Kelley looks to be more game-script dependent than we'd hope.

Who should I start at WR: Rishard Matthews or Donte Moncrief?

Coinciding with Marcus Mariota's breakout has been Rishard Matthews' emergence as the No. 1 wideout for the Titans, as he's led in wide receiver snaps in each of the last three weeks. Since Week 5, Matthews is the WR7 in standard scoring thanks to a league-high six touchdown receptions in that span. While his yardage totals aren't overly impressive (high of 70 since Week 5), Matthews has converted all five of his red-zone targets into scores during this streak. He's becoming a reliable option for Mariota beyond Delanie Walker, and should have a great matchup this weekend against the Colts. The only fear for Matthews is if the Colts decide to shadow him with top cover corner Vontae Davis, but that seems unlikely as to date he's only shadowed DeAndre Hopkins and that was for one half. Otherwise, he primarily covers the offensive left side of the field, which is great news for Matthews who plays 54 percent of his snaps on the right.

Pegged as an undeniable breakout candidate before the season, Donte Moncrief was cast into the waiver-wire pool during a five-game absence while he recovered from a shoudler injury suffered in Week 2. Since returning to action in Week 8, though, Moncrief leads the team in targets with 15 (21 percent share) and receiving touchdowns with two. He'll likely matchup with Jason McCourty on Sunday, who predominantly plays against the left wide receiver, where Moncrief takes 45 percent of his snaps. McCourty has played well this year with 14 passes defensed and two interceptions, and has the size and speed (6-foot-2, 4.3 40-yard dash time) to contend with the freakishly athletic Moncrief. Moncrief will have his hands full besting McCourty, but his prowess in the red zone could be the difference maker here.

Verdict: The Player Comparison Tool rates this one closely, though strangely tips the intangibles in favor of Matthews even though it is Moncrief who is playing at home ... in a dome. Anyway, Matthews is due for some touchdown regression at some point as he's scoring roughly every 5.5 targets since Week 5. Moncrief, on the other hand, is playing at home with his arrow firmly pointed upward. I'd chase the upside with Moncrief instead of chasing the points with Matthews in this one.

Who should I start at TE: Jimmy Graham or Jordan Reed?

Perhaps the Player Comparison Tool took a bye week here, because it's hard to fathom how Jimmy Graham could trail Jordan Reed so badly in every category. Especially considering Graham is the TE3 on the year and the TE5 over the last four weeks -- both higher rankings than Reed. Graham is the clear second option in Seattle's passing attack behind Doug Baldwin, and with Russell Wilson getting healthier this offense could be chasing new heights down the stretch. However, Graham faces a tough test in Week 11 against a Philadelphia defense that has allowed a league-low 237 yards to tight ends in 2016. However, the Eagles have received some good fortune in this regard, as they faced Washington and Detroit when Jordan Reed and Eric Ebron were out with injuries. The Eagles' strong safety tandem could help control Graham, but his natural size/ability combined with Wilson's improving play make him a pretty safe start.

While Vernon Davis is eating a bit into Jordan Reed's production of late, Reed has still seen double-digit targets in three of his last four games. Though his two-catch, 41-yard performance last week was disappointing, he welcomes a perfect bounce-back opponent into FedExField on Sunday in the Packers. Green Bay has struggled to cover tight ends all season, allowing the fourth-most yards to the position and the seventh-most fantasy poitns on the year. The team's young inside linebackers have struggled to corral atheletic tight ends and just let Delanie Walker carve through them like a hot knife through butter for nine catches, 124 yards and a touchdown. No player on the Packers offers a one-to-one matchup for Reed, and if Washington is smart they'll feature him prominently all over the field.

Verdict: Even though Graham has had more recent and season-long success, the matchup screams to start Reed in this spot. The Washington passing attack has more mouths to feed than Seattle, but Kirk Cousins loves targeting Reed when he's healthy and open, especially near the red zone. Both are strong tight end plays this week, but Reed deserves the start as he could absolutely wreck the Packers secondary.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar