Week 12 Usages Rates: Start Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed in Fantasy Football

by Joshua Kellem · Matchups Start/Sit

Entering Week 13, the Buccaneers and Panthers are on bye. That means fantasy football assets such as Tom Brady, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Davis, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel hit the bench.

Knowing who to replace these assets with is imperative. Last week, we suggested to Flex Cole Beasley and Brian Hill. This week, we’re firing up Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed specifically as the Brady and Gronkowski fill-ins, respectively.

While this is not a start/sit or sell high/buy low piece, we know that the biggest question you have every week is who to Flex. So, each week of the fantasy football season, we provide you a handful of players to target specifically for the week at the position. We also include a few players that have seen consistent opportunity but have yet to break out. Stats don’t play favorites. For more takes, watch our weekly Top 10 Takeaways show.

Trends are taking shape, so let’s use PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics to unearth actionable, evidence-based takes for fantasy football.

Below are key statistics to know while following along:

Route Participation  – How frequently a pass-catcher runs a route on his team’s pass plays.

Target Rate – Targets Per Routes Run. How frequently a pass-catcher commands a target in context with his Route Participation mark.

Weighted Opportunities – Determines which backs receive the most meaningful touches.

Kirk Cousins

Here’s a fun fact: Kirk Cousins has thrown three passing touchdowns in all but one home start. The game in question is Week 1, when he threw for two touchdowns and totaled 20.8 (No. 12 among qualified quarterbacks) fantasy points on 25 pass attempts – pass-volume skeptics be damned! Cousins is literally a QB1 at home, compiling five of a possible six top-12 finishes in home starts, averaging 22.15 Fantasy Points Per Game. For context, that would be QB8 on the season. Good thing Cousins plays at home this week. The “You Like That!?” quarterback manages a 17:6 TD:INT ratio at home as well. Cousins is the Tom Brady bye-week replacement.

In spite of averaging 31.1 (No. 29) Team Pass Plays Per Game, and totaling 321 (No. 20) Pass Attempts, Cousins proves to make the most of his opportunity with 23 (No.7) passing touchdowns. As pointed out by Around The NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal, Cousins is demonstrating a Jameis Winston-esque all-or-nothing mentality in 2020, totaling 1,663 (No. 7) Completed Air Yards thus far. Fortunately for fantasy managers starting him, he’s totaled just 11 interceptions as well.

Action: Making Cousins more appealing is his game’s second-highest implied total of the week at 52 points, and that the Jaguars defense ranks as the second-worst Pass DVOA.

Jordan Reed

Don’t look now, but Jordan Reed has commanded six targets in consecutive games from Weeks 10 and 12 – after returning from injury Week 9. While he’s a part-time player, typically totaling a 40-percent Snap Share, Reed’s Target Rate sits over 30-percent in the aforementioned games. Last week, he led the 49ers offense with 84 Air Yards, and he has a 19.0-percent (No. 9) Air Yards Share on the season. San Francisco averages 37.4 (No. 16) Team Pass Plays Per Game, but working in Reed’s favor is his quarterback’s 6.0 (No. 35) Air Yards per Attempt, which aligns closely with Reed’s 7.8 (No. 15) Average Target Distance.

Action: This week, Reed faces a Bills defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends. Said defense ranks middle of the pack at No. 15 in Pass DVOA, while the implied point total for the matchup is 48 points, so volume elevation is in play as well. Lastly, the 49ers target tight ends at a 25.4 (No. 9) clip. You can do worse than Reed.

Drew Sample

We thought Drew Sample would pop earlier in the season. We were wrong. Though a bet on Sample this week is a bet on his newfound connection with Brandon Allen. In Allen’s first game, he targeted Sample five times, which tied for second among pass-catchers with Tee Higgins and trailed Tyler Boyd‘s six. That said, the Bengals threw it enough with Allen recording 29 attempts. For context, that’s just behind Kirk Cousins‘ 31.1 (No. 29) Team Pass Plays Per Game, but if Sample is No. 2 in the pecking order, it doesn’t matter as much.

Action: With Byron Jones and Xavien Howard playing on the outside, it’s possible Allen gives more looks to his middle-of-the-field pass-catchers Boyd and Sample. Only start Sample if you have to.

Gabriel Davis

In John Brown‘s absence, Gabriel Davis totaled a 100-percent Snap Share, four targets on 29 routes (good for a 13.7 Target Rate) and, most importantly, 70 Air Yards. The opportunity parlayed into a 3-79-1 receiving line for Davis – good for a WR20 weekly finish. This week, Davis catches a middle-of-the-pack Pass DVOA in the 49ers, who rank No. 14, while the game’s implied total sits at 48 points.

Check out Gabriel Davis on PlayerProfiler’s New DYNASTY DELUXE Rankings:

Action: Coming off a game which Josh Allen, fantasy’s QB4, attempted just 24 passes, we’re betting on the Bills getting back to their pass-happy ways. Buffalo averages 38.0 (No. 14) Team Pass Plays Per Game, while Allen’s 1,804 (No. 6) Completed Air Yards aligns with Davis’ 14.1 (No. 21) Average Target Distance.

Keke Coutee and Isaiah Coulter

With Randall Cobb on injured reserve, Kenny Stills released, and Will Fuller suspended – Keke Coutee is the de facto No. 2 receiver for Deshaun Watson. For his part, Watson averages 23.7 (No. 7) Fantasy Points Per Game. The Texans average 35.6 (No. 23) Team Pass Plays Per Game, but Watson also totals 54 (No. 13) Red Zone Attempts. This indicates the team’s desire to throw the ball with Watson when the offense gets in close. Now let’s insert Isaiah Coulter, who may step into the Fuller role. Watson’s 1,855 (No. 5) Completed Air Yards, 8.7 (No. 7) Air Yards per Attempt, and 40 (No. 17) Deep Ball Attempts gives Coulter Flex appeal for real. Who should you grab off waivers? The answer is both.

Action: With a slight lean toward Coulter because of Houston’s vertical attack, the combined absences of Cobb and Fuller open up 11 targets per game. Depending on roster construction, target the 4.45 speedster Coulter for the potential Air Yards. Or, if you’re looking for a floor, target the 4.43 Coutee with his 61.3-percent Slot Rate.

Collin Johnson – If D.J. Chark and/or Chris Conley Out

As of this writing, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley are limited in practiced. Enter Collin Johnson. The rookie receiver commanded a team-high eight targets and 135 Air Yards last week, totaling a 4-96-1 receiving line. He also posted a season-high 78.3-percent Snap Share.

Action: The Vikings allow the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers, and the Jaguars-Vikings implied total is this week’s second-highest at 52.5 points. It’s Wheels Up for Johnson!

Olabisi Johnson – Even If Adam Thielen Plays

Piggybacking off the 52.5 implied point total from Collin Johnson‘s section, the same case can be made for starting Olabisi Johnson. Even with Adam Thielen due back, but Irv Smith still not practicing, we know Kirk Cousins is a good bet to throw three passing touchdowns this week at home. Well, Johnson is coming off a 7-74 receiving line last week on seven targets. That was good for 14.4 (No. 24) fantasy points.

Action: Also working in Johnson’s favor is the fact the Jaguars allow the eighth-most fantasy points to receivers. The same Jags defense ranks second-worst in Pass DVOA. The unit is just a bunch of guys.

T.Y. Hilton

T.Y. Hilton sighting! Hilton hauled in his first touchdown of the season last week on a 4-81-1 receiving line. He had five targets and finished the week with 18.1 (No. 16) fantasy points. While Ben Gretch points out Hilton totaled just 67 Air Yards (a heavy Air Yards Share is what made Hilton great in fantasy), I’m in on him this week from a matchup standpoint.

Action: The Texans allow the eleventh-most fantasy points to receivers, while the Colts-Texans implied total sits at 51 points. The Houston defense ranks No. 22 in Pass DVOA as well. While Game Script mainly explains Hilton’s production last week, everything listed above makes you double take and realize he again has Flex appeal for different reasons.