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.
Note: 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!
Start: Derek Carr @ Chargers
Truthfully, I don’t quite understand how we got here. But here we are.
Carr currently ranks behind only Tom Brady in PFF Pass Grade (86.4). He’s thrown for 1,203 yards through three games (granted, 14 quarters), which is 116 more than the next-closest QB (Brady). Over his last 7(!) healthy games, Carr is averaging 25.1 FPG (low of 22.2) and 372.4 passing YPG (low of 316).
On paper, this matchup is only neutral, as the Chargers are much tougher through the air than they are on the ground. Still, as 3.5-point underdogs, behind a 52.5-point over/under (3rd-highest on the week), this game projects to be a potent, pass-heavy, high-scoring affair. And good enough overall for Carr to rank as our QB12. (SB)
Sit: None of note
This is such a great week for quarterbacks, we have Justin Herbert at QB10 and Aaron Rodgers at QB11 in our projections (as of Wednesday evening). In shallower leagues, you’d have to be in a pretty dire spot to not have an option available on the wire. Carr, Cousins, Darnold, and Tannehill all have QB1 upside while Heinicke, Garoppolo, and Bridgewater are live as deeper streamers. (GB)
Start: Kirk Cousins vs. Cleveland
Similarly to Carr, Cousins quietly ranks 6th in FPG (24.1) and 3rd in PFF Pass Grade (86.3). He’s our QB13 on the week, just behind Carr. While Cleveland absolutely embarrassed Justin Fields in Week 3, they gave up 33.3 fantasy points to Mahomes in Week 1 and a combined 23.5 to Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills in Week 2. And like with Carr and the Chargers, Cousins should be forced to lean pass-heavy again this week — Dalvin Cook is banged up, the Browns rank top-5 in YPC allowed (2.96) and rushing YPG allowed (50.3), and the overall environment sets up nicely for the passing game. The Vikings are 2.0-point home underdogs, behind the week’s 5th-highest Over/Under (51.5). (SB)
Sit: Justin Fields vs. Detroit
Fields (thumb) was back practicing on Wednesday and, even though HC Matt Nagy has yet to name a starter, it would be a surprise to see him bench him after Week 3. But, boy… I have to admit that after seeing Fields struggle so badly against the Browns, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Nagy sat him again in the near future. Both of these ideas can be true and are not mutually exclusive: 1) Fields was bad against Cleveland and 2) Nagy’s game-plan did not help. The Lions have given up 314 yards (on 25 attempts) to Jimmy Garoppolo, 26.8 FP to Aaron Rodgers, and what should have been over 30 FP to Lamar Jackson last week (if it weren’t for Marquise Brown) – but there is just no way you can trust Fields in a 1QB league regardless of how easy this matchup is. The Bears are impossible to invest in right now. (GB)
Start: D’Andre Swift @ Chicago On Wednesday, HC Dan Campbell had this to say of Swift: “I, certainly, think you’re going to see a lot more of Swift, and he can very easily be out there first play. I think he’s done enough to earn that.”
Swift, who has been dealing with a lingering groin injury, technically hasn’t started in a single game this season. And he’s been stuck in a 60/40 committee backfield alongside Jamaal Williams. Swift is averaging 11.7 carries and 8.0 targets per game (59% of the backfield XFP), but that's only 2.3 carries and 3.3 targets more than Williams (41%). Nonetheless, Swift currently ranks 3rd among all RBs in XFP per game (20.2) and 3rd in FPG (20.0).
So, any type of demotion for Williams would be massive for Swift. For instance, if this committee moves to 70/30 in Swift’s favor, he’d lead all players at all positions in XFP per game (23.7).
On paper, the matchup would be difficult for most RBs. Gamescript is negative (as 2.5-point underdogs against Chicago), but that’s probably good news for Swift, who ranks 3rd among all RBs in target share (19%) and 2nd in targets per game (8.0). And, just last week, Kareem Hunt went 6-74 against the Browns through the air (on 7 targets).
So, yes, start Swift this week as a mid-range RB1. And probably every week moving forward. Congratulations on drafting a probable league-winner. (SB)
Start: Jonathan Taylor @ Miami
Taylor ranks just 30th among RBs in FPG (10.7), which, of course, is extremely unideal for those of you who drafted him in Round 1. Carson Wentz’s recent performance, playing on two bum ankles? Also unideal. Only two targets since totaling 60 receiving yards in Week 1 (7 targets), and getting out-snapped by Nyheim Hines last week? Unideal. Week 4’s projected gamescript? It’s close, as only 1.5-point underdogs, but certainly not ideal. (For his career, Taylor averages 17.6 FPG in wins, but only 13.0 FPG in losses.)
The good news is, Taylor’s volume is still fairly strong, ranking 8th in XFP per game (18.3). And he’s a screaming touchdown-regression candidate, currently leading the league in XTD (4.0). That alone — if he was perfectly average in touchdown efficiency, rather than worst in the league — is the difference between him ranking 6th and 30th at the position in FPG.
More good news: This week’s on-paper matchup is very ideal. The Dolphins are giving up the most rushing FPG (20.1) and the 2nd-most total FPG (34.0) to opposing RBs. I mean, for crying out loud, they just gave up 23.2 fantasy points to Peyton freaking Barber.
Even though the last few weeks have been rough, start Taylor this week as a fringe RB1. (SB)
Sit: Mike Davis vs. Washington
It’s honestly hilarious that the Falcons have built their offense around throwing short passes to Davis and Cordarelle Patterson… but here we are. Davis is straight up getting out-played by Patterson, though, and his snaps (54 > 46 > 37) and routes run (34 > 28 > 19) have fallen in three-straight as a result. Patterson deserves a bigger role, and he just might get it in a game where the Falcons are expected to trail as 2-point underdogs. Patterson (RB26) has a slight edge over Davis (RB31) in our rankings this week, which is exactly what everyone expected one month into the season. (GB)
Start: Chuba Hubbard at Dallas
This week’s FAAB darling with fantasy darling CMC out, Hubbard can immediately be trusted as a high-end RB2 for his spot start against Dallas. After Christian McCaffrey went down, Chubba Hubbard played on 39 of 50 possible snaps while Royce Freeman got 11 snaps. More importantly, Hubbard was involved on 20-of-27 passing plays (74%) and got 5 targets so while it’s possible that Freeman steals a few carries – Hubbard has a strong floor based on his usage alone. Obviously, there is upside for Hubbard to hit a RB1 ceiling here with this total sitting at 50 as the matchup ripe with scoring appeal. (GB)
Sit: Ravens RBs at Broncos
The Ravens backfield has devolved into a mess. Even though Ty’Son Williams looks like the best runner they have (by far), he simply isn’t getting that type of usage. This past week, Williams got just 5 carries while Lamar Jackson and Latavius Murray both handled 7 carries and Devonta Freeman had 3. Williams is capped at just 50% of the snaps and is going to continue to have inconsistent usage in the passing game because Lamar rarely checks down. There is no way you can trust Williams or any Raven RB in a lineup right now. (GB)
Start: Keenan Allen vs. Las Vegas
Mike Williams is probably a massive league-winner. No doubt. But you’d be mistaken if you think that means Allen should no longer be viewed as a mid-range WR1 for fantasy. Through three weeks, Allen ranks 15th in FPG (17.6) and 5th in XFP per game (20.3). And part of the discrepancy there is due to some pretty brutal luck. Allen has seen a league-high five targets and 62 receiving yards negated due to penalty. If not for those penalties, he’d be leading the league in targets (37) and averaging 106.7 receiving YPG, which would rank behind only Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, and Brandin Cooks.
And Allen is a great bet to out-score Williams this week. That’s because Williams is likely to draw shadow coverage from Casey Hayward — PFF’s 2nd-highest-graded CB this year — who has shadowed in all three games thus far (Marquise Brown, Chase Claypool, and Jaylen Waddle). Hayward currently ranks 8th-best in yards allowed per snap in coverage, but Las Vegas has surrendered the 11th most yards to WRs out of the slot (where Allen runs 62% of his routes). Look for Allen’s efficiency to pick up in this favorable matchup, while also getting more volume at Williams’ expense. (SB)
Start: Deebo Samuel vs. Seattle
My guy Deebo is off to a white-hot start and has taken advantage of Brandon Aiyuk’s injury/demotion with 8 or more targets and 5 or more catches in every game so far. Even looking back to last year, Samuel has been the most consistent piece in the 49ers passing attack when he’s active and has now seen at least 20% of the team’s targets in eight-straight healthy games. Now, Samuel gets a cake matchup against a Seahawks secondary that has allowed four different receivers across the talent spectrum to clear 17 or more FP against them (Pascal, Julio, Thielen, and Jefferson). Seattle is going to be a matchup to target all year long and Samuel flamed DC Ken Norton’s defense in both matchups back in 2019 (8/112 and 5/102). He is a high-end WR2 with a WR1 ceiling for Week 4. (GB)
Start: Brandin Cooks at Bills
While Davis Mills doesn’t inspire confidence, Brandin Cooks’ volume does. Mills has attempted 46 passes this season and Cooks has been targeted on 20 of them for a massive 44% target share. We now have a five game sample of Cooks absolutely smashing as the Texans No. 1 wideout as he’s tallied the following monter stat lines across his last five games: 7/141/1 (WR7) > 11/166/2 (WR1) > 5/132 (WR22) > 9/78/2 (WR10) > 9/112 (WR11). The Bills have done a good job at slowing opposing receivers this year, but as 17-point road underdogs, you had better believe that Cooks will get peppered with targets in a game that the Texans will trail throughout. (GB)
Sit: DJ Moore @ Dallas
OK, let’s clear this up — Moore is not a “sit.” If you drafted him, congratulations, you probably landed a WR1 at a low-end WR2 price-tag.
Moore leads the league in targets (22, by 5), receptions (17, by 3), and ranks 2nd in receiving yards (231) in the first-half of games. QB Sam Darnold leads all QBs in first-half passing yards (609), but he ranks just 27th in second-half passing yards (279). In other words, Moore and Carolina’s offense are both a lot better than their numbers look. It’s just hard to tell, because, in three straight blowouts, they haven’t at all had to keep their foot on the gas. The good news is: gamescript projects perfectly for Moore this week, as 5.0-point underdogs against a Cowboys defense that has surrendered the 2nd-most passing yards through three weeks (1,043).
The bad news is: Moore’s individual CB matchup is brutal, against Trevon Diggs — PFF’s highest graded CB in coverage this year — in shadow coverage. Through three weeks, Diggs has held Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, and DeVonta Smith to a combined 6 catches for 96 yards and 0 touchdowns. There’s a chance Diggs doesn’t shadow (he didn’t travel with Smith exclusively last week), but even if that is the case, Moore is still likely to spend roughly 40% of his day against him.
Again, don’t sit Moore this week, but do temper your expectations. We have him ranked as just a low-end WR2 this week. (SB)
Start: Jakobi Meyers vs. Tampa Bay
Excluding a Week 2 (positive) blowout against the Jets, Meyers is averaging 11.5 targets per game (25.6% target share). As 7.0-point underdogs, and with RB James White out, look for Meyers to see similar or even better volume this week. And his production and efficiency numbers should all be quite a bit better too. That’s because the Buccaneers have given up a league-high 66.9 FPG to opposing WRs (25% more than the next-closest defense). Although they’ve technically been a little more vulnerable on the outside (where Meyers runs just 19% of his routes), they’re still bottom-5 against slot WRs, after surrendering 26.4 fantasy points to Rams WRs out of the slot last week. And, per PFF, SCB Ross Cockrell is the team’s worst-graded CB in coverage.
So, start Meyers — a player we were enamored with all offseason — with confidence this week as a mid-range WR2. (SB)
Start: Odell Beckham Jr. @ Minnesota
OBJ is back! Or, at least definitely from a usage standpoint. Beckham earned 18.3 XFP in Week 3, which led the team and ranked 17th-best among WRs on the week. In total, he earned 10 targets, 1 rushing attempt, and 175 air yards (3rd-most). He might not be fully healthy, coming back from ACL surgery, but I’d expect volume to remain about as good as it was this week for however long Jarvis Landry remains sidelined. Because, keep in mind, this good usage came in a 26-6 beatdown where the Bears totaled just 68 passing yards. Beckham gets a pillow-soft matchup this week, against a Vikings defense that has given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing WRs and the 4th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs. (SB)
Start: Corey Davis vs. Tennessee
Revenge Game Alert!
Corey Davis faces his old team, the Titans. Asked if the Titans were interested in re-signing him, Davis said, “No, sir.”— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) September 29, 2021
Did that bother you?
“A little bit. I’m not going to lie to you.” #Jets pic.twitter.com/zYm6za6O5j
After a monster performance in Week 1 (26.7 fantasy points on 7 targets), Davis hasn’t done much. Though he did see 10 targets last week. But, and as bad as the Jets have been, I’m fairly bullish this week. Zach Wilson has been under pressure on 46.7% of his dropbacks (2nd-most), but this week’s matchup should finally allow Wilson some time in the pocket, as the Titans rank 6th-worst in PFF pass rush grade. And Tennessee has surrendered the 3rd-most FPG to opposing WRs (50.1), including four performances of 21.0 fantasy points or more. With Elijah Moore unlikely to play (concussion), and thus leaving behind 6.7 targets per game, we like Davis this week as a mid-range WR3. (SB)
Start: Kyle Pitts vs. Washington
It’s been a slow start for Pitts this year, but the good news is that he’s playing a ton – he’s just not seeing targets. Pitts has run a route on 81.5% of the Falcons’ passing plays, which is the sixth-highest involvement rate among TEs. This is now Pitts’ easiest matchup of the season against a Washington secondary that is allowing a whopping 168 yards per game to slot receivers. And Pitts is basically just a big slot receiver. He’s lined up in the slot on 45% of his snaps this season. He hasn’t shown it yet, but Pitts has a top-5 ceiling at the position this week. (GB)
Sit: Robert Tonyan vs. Steelers
Unfortunately, with LT David Bakhtiari and his replacement Elgton Jenkins out, the Packers are relying on their tight ends to help block. Tonyan stayed in to chip and help with Nick Bosa last week and you had better believe he’ll stay in to help again in Week 4 against Pittsburgh – especially if T.J Watt is back. Tonyan has just 8 targets so far this season and just hasn’t taken on the bigger role we expected with the Packers offensive line troubles. (GB)
Start: Evan Engram @ New Orleans
Engram, in his first game back, played on just 56% of the team’s snaps. He caught only two passes for 21 yards, and also lost a fumble. But he did see 6 targets on the day. With Kenny Golladay still banged up (hip), and Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Darius Slayton (hamstring) questionable, the Giants likely have little choice but to feature him this week. In a slightly below average matchup, we have Engram ranked as a high-end TE2. But given the overall state of the position, you can do a lot worse this week. (SB)
Sit: Adam Trautman vs. Giants
After earning a 30% target share in Week 1, Trautman has just one target and zero fantasy points over the past two weeks. Over this span, he’s run only 4 more routes than fellow TE Juwan Johnson, who has also seen 3 more targets. Trautman — aka “the TROUTGOD” — is an easy “sit” this week, and is also probably an easy “drop” as well. (SB)