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: Blake Bortles or Derek Carr?
The Allens duo has combined for 11 TDs this season, which is the most among any WR duo in the NFL. Their stellar play so far this year has clearly lifted Bortles into the QB1 conversation in fantasy. Bortles has thrown 15 TD passes in total this year, which ties him with the likes of ... wait for it ... Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton and Drew Brees. But Bortles has also thrown eight interceptions this year, which ties him for sixth-most in the NFL and has hurt his fantasy totals.
There's a good chance he puts at least one into the hands of a Jets defender this week. And since his top target, Robinson, will have his head buried deep in the sand dunes of Revis Island, Bortles will be forcing the ball to Hurns and tight end Julius Thomas. Derek Carr was able to overcome the Revis Island challenge last week, but beyond Hurns and Thomas, there aren't many other outlets in the passing game for Bortles.
Carr has had his ups (Week 2, 3, 7 & 8) and downs this season (Weeks 1, 4 & 5). But in a tough matchup last week against the Jets with Amari Cooper smothered by Revis, Carr shredded the weak points of New York's secondary, and got the ball to Andre Holmes and Michael Crabtree for a total of 156 yards and three touchdowns.
In the last two weeks, Carr has posted fantasy totals of 23.86 and 29.32 fantasy points, steering the Raiders to two big wins where they've averaged 35.5 points per game, third most in the NFL. Additionally, Carr has thrown the same number of TD passes as Bortles, 15, but has four fewer picks than his NFL sophomore peer.
Carr faces a Steelers defense that has allowed an average 269.5 passing yards per game this season, seventh most in the NFL. And although the Steelers held Andy Dalton in check last week, the Pittsburgh defense surrendered at least 14 fantasy points to opposing QBs in each of the previous two weeks (Alex Smith, Carson Palmer).
So I have to agree with the Player Comparison Tool on this one, and recommend Carr over Bortles for Week 9. I have a feeling that following a quiet week, the Raiders are going to unleash Amari Cooper on the Steelers, which will obviously directly benefit Carr. Adam Rank would agree too, and while you're here, you should check out all of his sleepers.
Who should I start: Allen Hurns or Stefon Diggs?
The Player Comparison Tool shows this one as a dead-even split, so I guess it's up to me to help you decide. Do you trust me? It's OK if you don't, just be honest. If you trust the Player Comparison Tool more than me though, then we might have a problem. Anyway ...
Hurns has been a solid option all season, as he's collected 31 receptions for 513 yards and five touchdowns on 51 targets and ranks as fantasy's WR15 for the season. He's scored in five straight games, including an impressive Week 7 game-winning TD catch against the Bills in London.
Had it not been for that clutch diving grab though, his fantasy owners would have come away with a sour taste in their mouth heading into the Jaguars bye. Prior to that catch, Hurns had just a single reception for 22 yards, yet he was targeted a total of eight times in the game. That 25 percent catch rate raises some concern heading into Week 9. But to Hurns' credit, half of those eight targets were bad throws by Bortles.
Hurns and the Jaguars face a Jets defense that has been tough against opposing WRs this season, more specifically No. 1 wideouts. In other words, Hurns will probably be Bortles' go-to guy in this game, since Robinson will get the Revis treatment. Now, Carr and the Raiders were able to work around Revis Island last week, as Carr connected with his secondary receivers, Holmes and Crabtree, for three touchdowns as mentioned above. That bodes well for Hurns' Week 9 outlook ... but is he a better option than rookie phenom Stefon Diggs?
The Vikings play host to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (15.93). Through seven games, the Rams have surrendered just three receiving TDs to wide receivers and the unit is one of only five that has allowed fewer than 1,000 receiving yards to the WR position. In short, Diggs has an unfavorable matchup, much worse than the one Hurns faces, contrary to what the Player Comparison Tool shows.
Still, Diggs has seemingly fared well even in unfavorable matchups. Take Week 4 against the Denver Broncos for example. It was Diggs' first game as a starting wideout for the Vikings and he hauled in six of his 10 targets for 87 yards, but a majority of his production came against second-year corner Bradley Roby (not Aqib Talib or Chris Harris Jr.). This week though, Diggs will likely draw the attention of Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, who according to Pro Football Focus, both rank as top 15 corners this season. So I can understand why you might be nervous about the matchup.
Over the last four weeks though, Diggs has produced enough to rank as fantasy's WR9 and has quickly risen to be Teddy Bridgewater's number one guy. He's collected just two fewer targets in his four games (40) than Mike Wallace has in seven games (42). His target totals over the last four weeks are 10, 9, 9 and 12 and he leads the Vikings in receiving yards (419), receptions per game (6.3) and yards per catch (16.8). And you can't deny the kid's fancy footwork, which he has displayed on numerous occasions this season including this TD catch and run from last week against the Bears. Wheeew!
All right, so I think I've talked myself into going with Diggs here. It really comes down to the fact that he's solidified himself as a WR2 in fantasy and Bridgewater will find ways to get him the ball no matter what, while Hurns is more of a WR3 and the second option in the Jaguars passing attack. So if you're dealing with this decision, go with Diggs despite the bad matchup.
Who should I start: Darren McFadden or Danny Woodhead?
First of all, if you're starting either of these running backs, you'll be waiting until the Week 9 primetime games, as the Cowboys face the Eagles on Sunday night and the Chargers take on the Bears on Monday night. Not like that matters for fantasy production, but it's always fun to get a late RB in on your opponent and watch them squirm as your guy potentially racks up fantasy points.
In the few games that McFadden has been the "starter" for the Cowboys, he has produced extremely well. McFadden has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and has averaged a ridiculous 28.5 touches in his last two games. Even in an unfavorable matchup last week against the Seahawks, Dallas fed McFadden the rock 20 times on the ground and he added six receptions, totaling over 100 yards from scrimmage.
The Eagles have been tough against opposing running backs this year, allowing an average of just 13.89 FPPG to the position, and have only surrendered two total TDs to RBs all season. But Jonathan Stewart gashed Philadelphia's run defense for 125 yards in Week 6, and in Week 7 the Giants running back committee combined for 136 rush yards and a TD on 21 total rush attempts against the Eagles. If McFadden sees anywhere close to 20 touches again, he'll bring surefire RB2 value to the table in fantasy. But what does Woodhead bring?
On 30 fewer touches, Woodhead has far out-produced his rookie teammate, Melvin Gordon, who has yet to score or reach the 100 total yards mark in a game yet this season despite garnering early down work. But for some reason the Chargers keep feeding Gordon, though he just can't do anything behind a shaky offensive line.
Woodhead has seen more total snaps than Gordon, and through eight weeks the pass-catching specialist has collected 14 red zone touches compared to Gordon's four. The Bears' defense is about middle-of-the-pack when it comes to stopping opposing runners, but there's nothing about this matchup that might scare you away from using Woodhead. Plus, when you consider that the Chargers have lost their top receiver in Keenan Allen for the season, it would make sense for them to give Woodhead even more looks in passing situations who is already second on the team in receptions (39) and receiving yards (443) behind Allen.
So while Woodhead's production to this point really makes this a tough decision for Week 9 matchups, I think I have to side with the Player Comparison Tool. McFadden's every-down usage trumps Woodhead's passing down role. Leaving an RB who's averaging over 25 touches per game on your bench in a week with six teams on bye is a fool's game.
Plus, the Cowboys released Joseph Randle earlier this week, further cementing McFadden's feature back role. Christine Michael (11 total touches in the last two games) is clearly not a threat to McFadden's volume. And even though the Cowboys do have Dez Bryant back, which might mean they won't have to force the ball to their starting RB as much, McFadden should still be able to produce numbers that would warrant a start over Woodhead.
Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. He suggests you put "Holy Ghost" by Borns on your headphones immediately. Hit him up on Twitter @MattFranchise to find out what he's listening to and for fantasy advice all season long.