Week 3 Start/Sit


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Week 3 Start/Sit

Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett are here to help you out with all of your Start / Sit needs with a deep rundown of their favorite- and least-favorite plays every single week. This article will be continually updated with news throughout the week, so make sure you keep it locked on our projections and on this column all the way through to kickoff on Sunday.

For the context of this article, any Start / Sit recommendation for “Shallow” leagues refers to 10-team leagues while “Deep” is 12- or 14-teamers.

Note1: For all of the players we neglected to mention, and even the ones we did, please defer to our rankings, which will be continually updated until Sunday kickoff.

Note2: Graham will be in our Discord channel every Thursday at Noon ET and on Sunday mornings answering all of your start/sit questions. Make sure you come hang out!


Shallow leagues

Start: Justin Herbert @ Chiefs

Who are the QBs we should be viewing as an every-week must-start QB1?

There’s the “Best QBs in Football” tier: Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson.

And there’s all of the Konami Code QBs: Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts.

Then there’s the “plus passer in a pass-heavy hyper-efficient offense” tier: Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, and I think Justin Herbert.

That’s, I think, all of the every-week must-start QB1s. After that, things get weird.

Ryan Tannehill is in a sort of tier all by himself. Prior to Week 1’s dud, he had been playing at a supra-Mahomesian level and was arguably the most efficient passer in football. Was that sort of hyper-efficiency not at all sustainable? Was Arthur Smith the true catalyst behind Tannehill’s recent success? I have no idea.

After that, we have a few players who we might see ascend into one of these tiers… For instance Justin Fields (our QB13 this week), Daniel Jones (our QB14), Sam Darnold (our QB15), and Derek Carr (our QB16).

Fields has massive Konami Code-upside, ranking top-5 all-time in Speed Score and forty-yard-dash time by a QB. This preseason, Fields averaged 22.8 fantasy points and 10.1 rushing fantasy per four quarters.

Jones also has massive Konami Code-upside, but I’ll let Graham talk about him in a minute.

Darnold has an elite supporting cast, and leads the league in first-half passing yards along with a 135.1 passer rating. He totals 37.2 fantasy points in the first half, but just 1.8 total fantasy points in the second-half. That’s totally a function of Carolina winning both games in a blowout. But what happens when a team actually forces Darnold to keep his foot on the gas? And, though it feels somewhat like an anomaly, Carr is 2-0 with a league-high 408.5 passing YPG after facing two stout defenses in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. He averages 24.2 FPG, with a low of just 20.9, over his last six games. A similar case could be made for Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, and Teddy Bridgewater who all currently rank as fantasy QB1s. I think we know Minnesota wants to be a run-first offense, and I think we know who Goff and Bridgewater are at this point in their careers, but, I guess, stranger things have happened.

Anyway, this is the current landscape of the QB position. There’s about 11 lock-and-load QB1s you should feel good about every week. And yes, I do have Herbert within that tier. The results haven’t been great through two weeks, but he’s (just barely) eclipsed 335 passing yards in each of his last two starts. (He also had 83 yards and 2 TDs negated due to penalty last week.) And, remember, as a rookie last year, from Week 4 on, Herbert ranked as the overall-QB5, averaging 23.4 FPG. This was just 0.1 FPG off of QB4, 0.5 FPG off of QB3, and 0.8 FPG off of QB2. And, simply, he’s way better than his current production implies. Look for a bounce-back game this week, in what should be a pass-heavy high-scoring affair against the Chiefs. – (SB)

Sit: Baker Mayfield vs. Bears

After wasting way too much time in the previous section, I’ll spare you a lengthy write up here. Cleveland was already one of the most run-heavy offenses in football, but Mayfield himself has no Konami Code-upside. And now the team will be without Jarvis Landry, and though Odell Beckham Jr. will probably play, it’s unlikely he’s very close to 100%. Against a ferocious Bears pass rush, don’t expect much more than the 16.1 FPG Mayfield has given you thus far. – (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: Daniel Jones vs. Falcons

This is a really fun week for streamers with Kirk Cousins, Teddy Bridgewater, and (finally) Justin Fields cracking the QB1 fringe – but Jones sets up as the best play of that bunch. Sure, we’ve had the rug pulled out from under us plenty of times with Jones in the past but the combination of his recent play, running ability, and matchup is too good to pass up here. Jones has put up two of his 6 best scoring weeks in his career in back-to-back weeks (21.4 FP / 29.5 FP) thanks in large part to way more designed runs. Jones’ Week 2 should have been even better if it weren’t for a brutal drop from Darius Slayton.

I’ve been very skeptical of OC Jason Garrett in this offense and still am, but I also have to give some credit where it’s due for Garrett recognizing that Jones was underutilized as a runner. Seven of Jones’ 13 carries have been on designed plays and those designed carries have resulted in 12.4 YPC and 2 TDs. Not bad! In fact, only Lamar Jackson (31.3) has scored more rushing FPs among quarterbacks than Jones (24.2) while Jalen Hurts (20.4) is third. Mix in that the Falcons have given up the most passing FPG (26.9) through two games to two totally different quarterbacks (Hurts and Brady) and Jones makes for a high-ceiling QB1 streamer. – (GB)

Sit: Joe Burrow at Steelers

The Bengals have played it very conservative with Burrow through two games and, honestly, who can blame them? The face of the franchise is still less than a year removed from a devastating knee injury and wasn’t able to practice at the speed he wanted to this summer. HC Zac Taylor has simply just put more work on Joe Mixon’s plate to start the season and has been very balanced as a play-caller, going 60% pass (16th) when the game is within a score and 66% pass (17th) when trailing. This matchup is way better than the public will think – the Steelers secondary is overrated and they might be down Watt, Bush, and Haden again – but there are just too many good streaming options this week to play Burrow in a 1-QB league. Until we see the Bengals start airing it out a bit more, Burrow is going to remain a back-end QB2. – (GB)

Running Backs

Shallow leagues

Start: Chris Carson at Vikings – (GB)

Carson has gotten it done in his first two games, albeit in very different ways. In Week 1, Carson was the RB16 (14.7 FP) on the back of 117 scoreless scrimmage yards. Last week? Well, the opposite happened. Carson disappointed in the yardage department (31 total yards) but made the best of his three carries from inside-the-10 and scored twice en route to a RB15 (15.1 FP) scoring week. Everything should come together this week, though. The Vikings run defense has been sketchy (at best) to start the year and has given up 221 yards to Joe Mixon / Samaje Perine and Chase Edmonds / James Conner, and neither of those teams are running juggernauts. Carson has been a true bell-cow to start this season and will have every opportunity to erupt in a fantastic matchup and scoring environment. – (GB)

Start: Running Backs You’re Worried You May Have Overdrafted

For the first time in his career, last week, Tony Pollard saw a more valuable-workload than Ezekiel Elliott (11.9 XFP to 11.1). Pollard has long been — not just more efficient than Elliott — but one of the most efficient running backs in all of football. Yeah, long-term you really need to worry about Pollard eating into Elliott’s workload, but it’s a little early to throw him to the wolves just yet. In a fairly tough matchup this week, but one with (projected) favorable gamescript, we still like Elliott as a low-end RB1.

Saquon Barkley does not at all look like Saquon Barkley. In fact, he sort of looks like Falcons-era Todd Gurley. Yeah, I know. But he’s still a high-end RB2 this week. He played on 83% of the team’s snaps last week (4th-most), and walked away with 69 YFS on 13 carries and 3 targets. The Giants are favored this week, for just the 3rd time in their last 20 games, and the Falcons have a bottom-3 defensive line. – (SB)

Sit: Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Chargers

The same two concerns about CEH’s rookie season are coming back to haunt us here in the early goings of this year. Edwards-Helaire played a distant third fiddle to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in the passing game in 2020 and not only has that been the case once again, he’s now an afterthought near the goal-line. Kansas City has run 18 plays inside of the red-zone so far this season, and CEH has only been on the field for 10 of them. And, on those red-zone plays, CEH has exactly 2 touches. Two. Last week, Edwards-Helaire was even more of an afterthought in the passing game as Patrick Mahomes targeted him a grand total of zero times. CEH looked good as a runner for most of the game, but ended up costing the Chiefs a come from behind win after fumbling as Mahomes was marching the offense down the field.

There are no two ways about it: CEH has been a disappointment since entering the NFL. We now have a 17 game sample size that shows us Edwards-Helaire is capped as a receiver because Mahomes doesn’t check it down. Plus, CEH is capped in the TD department because Hill, Kelce, and now even Darrel Williams are getting touches near the goal-line instead of him. Right now, CEH is a low-ceiling RB2 and we can’t trust him more beyond that until something materially changes with his role. – (GB)

Deep leagues

Start: Chase Edmonds at Jaguars

Edmonds has been Austin Ekeler Lite to start the year, finishing as the RB18 in Week 1 (on 16 touches and 106 scrimmage yards) and was the RB19 last week (on 13 touches and 75 scrimmage yards). While he has yet to see any scoring opportunities with James Conner playing in the short-yardage role, Edmonds is still getting it done as a mid-range RB2 by averaging 5.5 YPC and getting 4-6 catches per game. Now, this is a chance for Edmonds to hit a big ceiling against a dusty Jaguars defense that just hemorrhaged 146 scrimmage yards and 34.8 FP to Texans RBs in Week 1 and 143 total yards and 17.3 FP to Broncos backs in Week 2. The Cardinals should run into a good gamescript here as massive road favorites and it’ll give Edmonds plenty of opportunities to have his best game of the season so far. – (GB)

Start: Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon vs. Jets

Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I think it’s a great sign that Williams has already forced a 50/50 timeshare with Melvin Gordon. It only means that Williams’ time is coming and the Broncos are in as good of a spot as they might get all season as 10.5-point home favorites against a Jets defense that has given up 323 scrimmage yards to CMC and Patriots RBs already. Sure, Williams and Gordon will split touches again as the 1A / 1B combo, but they will both have plenty of runway to hit ceilings here. Both are RB2s with low-end RB1 upside for Week 3. – (GB)

Sit: Darrell Henderson Jr. vs Buccaneers

It may only be a matter of time until Sony Michel forces a committee, but, in the meantime, Henderson is looking every bit the part of a top-end bell cow. Through Los Angeles’ first 7 quarters of play, so, prior to his fourth quarter injury last week….

Henderson is averaging: 16 carries, 3.4 targets, 96.6 YFS, and 18.8 fantasy points per four quarters.

More impressively, over this span, he's seen a 97% snap share and a 69% route share.

That’s drool-inducing usage. But the bad news is: 1) He’s hurt, and might not even play this week. (He failed to practice on Wednesday). 2) This a bottom-5 matchup against the league’s best run defense. If you include the postseason and count (by way of technicality) Cordarrelle Patterson as a WR, Tampa Bay has allowed only three RBs to exceed 13.5 fantasy points over their last 16 games.

So, he’s just a low-end RB3 if he plays. If he’s out, bump up Michel to the mid-RB3-range. – (SB)

Wide Receivers

Shallow leagues

Start: Underperforming Stud Wide Receivers

Yeah, obviously, if you own Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, Deebo Samuel, or Mike Williams, you’re starting them this week (as a low-end-WR2 or better). But what about all of the WRs you drafted ahead of them who aren’t doing so great?

D.K. Metcalf is a top-6 fantasy WR this week. He has a top-3 matchup against the Vikings (3rd-most FPG allowed to opposing WRs), and his volume (13th among WRs in XFP market share) has been a lot better than it looks. And, simply, I assure you, he’s very good at football.

A.J. Brown is a high-end WR2 this week against Indianapolis, which has given up a combined 62.8 fantasy points to slot-heavy WRs Lockett and Kupp. That’s especially notable considering Brown leads the team in slot routes this year, running a route from the slot on 38% of his routes (up from 14% last year). He’s averaging 8.5 targets and 15.0 XFP per game after averaging 7.6 and 13.0 last year.

Allen Robinson understandably flopped in Week 1, against Jalen Ramsey and the Rams, but he still walked away with 11 targets. Week 2 was weird; the Bears totaled just 15 completions and 116 yards through the air in a game Andy Dalton left with an injury. Still, Robinson scored 10.4 fantasy points on just four targets. There’s a new QB under center now, but it’s hard to imagine Justin Fields would be much worse than any other QB Robinson has been saddled with throughout his career. We like him as a high-end WR2 this week, against a Browns defense that has given up 30.0 FPG to opposing WR1s (Tyreek Hill and Brandin Cooks).

Yes, it’s very weird that Van Jefferson has run more routes than Robert Woods this year (56 to 50), but Woods also saw 9 targets last week (30% target share). And now he gets a matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that’s given up a league-high 67.1 FPG to opposing WRs. Start him this week as a mid-range WR2. – (SB)

Start: Courtland Sutton vs. Jets

Without Jerry Jeudy (ankle) for at least the next month, Sutton is set up as the Broncos clear-cut No. 1 wideout. And, boy, did he deliver in Denver’s first game without Jeudy. Granted, it was against the lowly Jaguars, but Sutton exploded for 9/159 on a team-high 12 targets. No other pass catcher got more than 6 looks from Teddy Bridgewater. The highlight of the day was this 55-yarder to open up the third quarter where Sutton got on top of the defense and Bridgewater delivered an excellent throw. Bridgewater went deep to Sutton multiple times and he routinely got open. After a slow start last week (1/14 receiving), Sutton showed that he is back to full health. Sutton is a WR2 start with a WR1 ceiling against a bottom-5 Jets secondary that really hasn’t been tested yet. – (GB)

Sit: Chris Godwin vs. Rams

Yeah, so Godwin isn’t an outright sit. And if you’re a Godwin owner, you have to feel pretty good long-term. He might be the WR1 for what’s looking like the most potent passing attack in football — maybe even one of the most potent passing attacks in the history of football. Through two weeks, he ranks (among WRs): 11th in targets per game (10.0), 2nd in end zone targets per game (2.0), 8th in XFP per game (19.1), 11th in XFP market share (23%), and 10th in FPG (19.1). And, by each stat (minus FPG), he’s well above the next-closest Tampa Bay receiver.

But here’s why he ranks as just a high-end WR3 this week…

Godwin has run 73% of his routes from the slot this season. So, if this were last year, that would have meant he’d spend at least 73% of his day away from Ramsey’s blanket-like coverage. But this year isn’t last year, and this year Ramsey is being used a borderline nickelback. Through two games, Ramsey has aligned in the slot on 55% of his snaps in coverage, and the Rams unsurprisingly now rank 4th-best in FPG allowed to the slot. And, because Godwin can be viewed as Tampa Bay’s WR1 (I just made that argument), I think it’s highly likely we see Ramsey shadow him for nearly the entirety of this game. Historically, that means we should be shaving off about 39% from Godwin’s FPG average (which would then drop from 19.1 to 11.7). – (SB)

Sit: Brandin Cooks vs. Panthers Carolina is the most improved defense in the league to start this season. Combine Brian Burns maturing into one of the best young pass rushers with a zone coverage scheme that keeps everything in front of them, and this is a major trouble spot for the Texans — especially with Davis Mills now at the controls.The positive is that Cooks is still the only show in town. Mills peppered him with 9 targets on his 18 throws last week, but the duo only connected 4 times (once for a score). Cooks is still a fine mid-range WR3 for deeper 12- and 14-team leagues this week, but his floor could drop out here if the Texans offense struggles to move the ball. You probably have a better WR3 / FLEX option in shallow leagues than Cooks. – (GB)

Deep leagues

Start: Sterling Shepard vs. Falcons

Coming off two-straight top-20 scoring weeks (24.3 FP in Week 1 vs. DEN and 18.5 FP in Week 2 vs. WAS), Shepard is well poised to keep his fantastic start going against Atlanta. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Falcons secondary has been trash to start this season and has coughed up over 16 fantasy points to four different wide receivers already, including a 4/62/1 line to the Bucs' slot man Chris Godwin last week. Shepard is Daniel Jones’ guy – he has seen at least of 20% Jones’ targets in 12-straight games dating back to last year – and is now running white-hot into maybe the easiest matchup he’ll have all season. – (GB)

Start: Marvin Jones vs. Cardinals

Since Week 8 of last season, only three wide receivers have outscored Marvin Jones: Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs. Over this span, Jones is averaging 8.8 targets and 18.0 FPG. For perspective, those numbers would have ranked 10th- and 6th-best (respectively) if over the full season.

This year, Jones ranks (per game): 17th in targets (9.5), 9th in air yards (132.0), 4th in end zone targets (1.5), 5th in deep targets (2.5), 15th in XFP (17.6), and 16th in FPG (18.1).

So, he’s producing like a high-end WR2 on high-end WR2-levels of volume. Or, WR1-levels of both volume and production if you include the second-half of last season. And now he gets a top-3 CB matchup, in a game that offers the 4th-highest over/under of the week (52.0). Laviska Shenault is banged up with a shoulder injury, and D.J. Chark, after missing all of the team’s preseason games and months of practice time, doesn’t yet have the rapport with QB Trevor Lawrence that Jones has.

You’re starting him this week as a high-end WR3. And you’re probably starting him every week beyond that until he flops. – (SB)

Sit: DeVonta Smith vs. Cowboys

Despite only modest production, if you’re a DeVonta Smith owner, you have to be excited. Through two weeks, he ranks 26th among all WRs in XFP per game (15.3). He averages +5.3 more XFP, +3.5 more targets, and 75.5 more air yards than any other Philadelphia receiver, so he clearly looks to be the team’s WR1.

Unfortunately, being the team’s obvious WR1, that also means he’s likely to get shadow-treatment from Dallas CB Trevon Diggs. Dallas has given up the 5th-most FPG to opposing WRs this year, but Diggs has been lights out. Shadowing Mike Evans in Week 1 (79% of his routes) and Keenan Allen in Week 2 (44% of his routes), the two WRs combine to average just 6.4 FPG against his coverage. Because Smith runs only ~20% of his routes from the slot, expect him to spend roughly 80% of his day against him. That means he’s just a WR4 this week. – (SB)

Sit: DeVante Parker at Raiders

1) WR Will Fuller is back this week, which will likely eat into his target totals.

2) QB Tua Tagovailoa is out, replaced by Jacoby Brissett, which is, obviously, not ideal.

3) Parker is likely to draw shadow coverage from Casey Hayward Jr., PFF’s highest-graded cornerback this year, who has allowed a total of zero fantasy points on 76 routes and 6 targets. The last time Hayward shadowed Parker was Week 10 of last year, holding him to just 5.1 fantasy points on 7 targets.

He’s just a low-end WR4 this week. – (SB)

Tight Ends

Shallow leagues

Start: Mark Andrews at Lions

It’s been a slow start for Andrews this season which is surprising given all of the Ravens injuries at wide receiver. Andrews has scored just 16.7 total FP in Weeks 1-2 on five targets in both outings, but is poised for a blowup game here against a Lions secondary that is giving up a league-high 3.3 fantasy points per target to the position. While his production has been disappointing, Andrews’ usage has not. He’s run a route on 92.5% of Lamar Jackson’s dropbacks – which is the highest rate among TEs and a huge uptick from previous years. So, even if Andrews even gets the low end of his target range (5-7) again, he can make the best of those opportunities against a bottom-8 TE defense in 2020 that is shaping up as such again in 2021. – (GB)

Sit: {{Mike Gesicki|TE|MIA} at Raiders

WR Will Fuller will be back this week. QB Tua Tagovailoa is out, replaced by QB Jacoby Brissett.

Gesicki is averaging just 4.5 targets and 3.7 FPG, running a route on only 66% of the team’s dropbacks. Yeah, this one is easy. Gesicki is closer to a “drop” than a “start” in shallow leagues. – (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: {{Robert Tonyan|TE|GB} at 49ers

In 2020, Robert Tonyan put together one of the most efficient seasons we’ve ever seen from a TE:

- He finished as the overall TE3, despite ranking just 24th in targets (59).

- Remarkably, he had more touchdowns (11) than he had incompletions thrown his way (7).

- He averaged 2.99 fantasy points per target, which was the most by any 50-target TE in any season all-time.

So, yes, I knew that sort of hyper-efficiency was unsustainable. But I expected his looming regression to be more than offset by a major increase in volume. Afterall, HC Matt LaFleur told us in June, that he “wants to feature Robert Tonyan in the offense more in 2021.”

Ultimately, that hasn’t seemed to materialize. Through two weeks, he ranks just 23rd in route share (59%) and 22nd in target share (11%). And so, he’s looking a lot like who he was last season. A hyper-efficient touchdown-or-bust TE, but, still — given the barrenness of the position — a low-end TE1 for fantasy. Even in this week’s tough matchup against the 49ers. – (SB)

Sit: {{Adam Trautman|TE|NO} at Patriots

Pour one out for the TRAUTGOD.

Last week, Juwan Johnson ran more routes than Trautman (16 to 11), and also out-targeted him 3 to 0. Through two weeks, and of 63-qualifying TEs, Trautman ranks 62nd in PFF Grade, above only Geoff Swaim. Yeah, not good.

We have him ranked just 32nd among TEs this week, with a 5.4-point projection. Johnson ranks four spots higher (5.6). – (SB)