The Tennessee Titans’ passing game remains a work in progress under rookie signal-caller Will Levis, who’s cooled off since a four-touchdown professional debut against the Atlanta Falcons. Nevertheless, he’s demonstrated improved efficiency in his last two starts.
Two of his more prominent targets entering a Week 13 matchup against an inconsistent Indianapolis Colts defense are highly decorated veteran DeAndre Hopkins and fourth-year pro Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
Which should fantasy football managers roll with at a critical juncture of the season?
Should You Start DeAndre Hopkins or Nick Westbrook-Ikhine This Week?
In the Pro Football Network Start/Sit Optimizer, PFN’s Consensus Rankings say that Hopkins is unequivocally the player to start Sunday. His projected 13.1 points include a projection of 5.4 receptions, 61.3 receiving yards, and 0.3 touchdowns.
In contrast, Westbrook-Ikhine’s projection checks in at 5.4 points, which includes 1.6 receptions for 26.0 receiving yards and 0.2 touchdowns.
When you isolate my rankings, I concur with the consensus. I see Hopkins as a much more trusted target for Levis and also feel like he benefits from what are typically much higher-percentage catch opportunities.
Hopkins’ Fantasy Outlook This Week
Hopkins has demonstrated solid rapport with Levis to date, posting an 18-323-4 line on 36 targets over the five games the rookie QB has played in. He is being targeted on a robust 27.1% of his routes over that span by Levis, who clearly and unsurprisingly has latched on to the five-time Pro Bowler as a security blanket.
The veteran wideout is averaging an atypically elevated 17.9 yards per reception in that span. However, it does bear noting that number is skewed by Hopkins’ four-catch, 128-yard day in Levis’ debut against Atlanta, a game in which three of the accomplished receiver’s four touchdowns in tandem with the young signal-caller have come.
Nevertheless, Hopkins has seen no fewer than five targets and as many as 11 in his games with Levis.
The opposing Colts have actually been an excellent pass defense on the road, allowing only 194.6 passing yards per game in that split. However, Indy’s overall pass-defense profile on the road actually fits better for Hopkins than it does for Westbrook-Ikhine, who typically has a deeper average depth of target.
On the road, Indianapolis has been more likely to give up the short and intermediate passes Hopkins specializes in, as evidenced by the 65.5% completion rate and 8.5 yards per completion they’ve conceded when traveling (compared to 63.7% and 11.8, respectively, at home).
Additionally, with Hopkins’ position mate and deep threat Treylon Burks seemingly on track to return this week from a three-game absence due to a concussion, there’s a chance for both less defensive attention to be heaped Hopkins’ way and less overall opportunity for Westbrook-Ikhine, as we’ll discuss next.
Westbrook-Ikhine’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
Westbrook-Ikhine has, at times this season, been a beneficiary of Burks’ frequent absences. But as has been the case throughout his career, the former is still struggling to cobble together week-to-week consistency.
Westbrook-Ikhine was actually more productive during Burks’ first three-game absence this season in Weeks 4-6, which was the result of a knee injury. He produced a 9-85-1 line on 13 targets in that sample.
Conversely, he’s generated a 6-57 tally on 10 targets over Burks’ trio of concussion-related absences, a stretch that has also seen Chris Moore and Kyle Philips eat into some of the relatively sparse pass-catching opportunities available for players not named Hopkins in what is still a run-centric Titans offense.
Burks’ return also figures to bump Westbrook-Ikhine back down to a No. 3 role at minimum, with the very real possibility he’s rotating snaps at that spot with at least one other player against Indianapolis.
Given all the factors cited, Westbrook-Ikhine’s outlook just isn’t anywhere near secure enough for fantasy managers to start him over the closest thing to an alpha receiver in Tennessee’s air attack, that naturally being Hopkins.
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