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.
With six teams on bye (Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Vikings, Steelers, and Chargers), this is going to be the most difficult week of the season for start / sit decisions. Let’s get to it.
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: Ryan Tannehill vs. Chiefs
Tannehill hasn’t come close to the production we were thinking we were going to get when we were taking him in the 9th and 10th round of drafts with QB21, QB15, QB12, QB17, QB23, and QB20 scoring weeks through six games. That isn’t going to get it done. Tannehill has thrown more than 1 TD once all year and that is due in large part to not having A.J. Brown and Julio Jones healthy basically all year. Now that Brown is back healthy and the Titans get a high-scoring affair with the Chiefs on tap, I’m thinking this is the spot where Tannehill re-discovers his ceiling. Prior to Taylor Heinicke face-planting last week, the Chiefs had given up 321 yards to Baker Mayfield, 32.3 FP to Lamar Jackson, 28.8 FP to Justin Herbert, 28.2 FP to Jalen Hurts, and 36.5 FP to Josh Allen across their five previous games. In that stretch, Chiefs’ games were fantasy carnivals and combined for a whopping 54 or more total points with their defense not offering any resistance on the ground or through the air. (GB)
Start: Joe Burrow at Ravens
We were big on Burrow last week and he came through for a season-high 22.8 FP in basically what amounted to three quarters of work. Burrow has now thrown multiple passing scores in every game this year, but we really haven’t seen a truly big game just yet because the Bengals haven’t been forced to throw a ton. That should all change this week with Cincinnati going into Baltimore as touchdown dogs. This Ravens defense isn’t one to be afraid of, either. They didn’t shut down Justin Herbert – the Chargers just completely flopped as Herbert had arguably his worst start as a pro. Prior to last week, the Ravens were shredded by Derek Carr in Week 1 for 435 yards and 2 TDs and Patrick Mahomes threw for 343 yards and 3 TDs in Week 2. Then, Baltimore got Jared Goff in Week 3 and Drew Lock in Week 4 (Bridgewater got hurt) before getting ripped again by Carson Wentz for 402 yards and 2 TDs in Week 5. Like last week, this is a spot where Burrow can combine what has been a very safe floor with a 25+ FP ceiling. (GB)
Sit: None of note
This is obviously a tough week with no Dak, Herbert, Cousins, or Allen – but there really aren’t any glaringly bad plays at the position this week. You’d have to be in a very deep 14-team league to not have a decent option.
Tua Tagovailoa, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, and Jameis Winston are mid-range QB streamers in decent-to-good spots while even Daniel Jones and Jimmy Garoppolo are in play.
Tua is only on 45% of rosters on Yahoo despite facing a Falcons defense that has given up huge games to a wide swath of QB talents in Hurts (28.8 FP), Brady (29.6), and Heinicke (27.9 FP). The Dolphins can’t run the ball, either, so I’m expecting Tua to dropback 38-42 times here. He’s my favorite streamer of the week. (GB)
Start: Darrell Henderson vs. Lions
Heading into Week 6, HC Sean McVay hinted that the team might employ more of a committee backfield moving forward. But that wasn’t at all true last week, with Henderson handling 21 of 30 carries and 3 of 3 targets out of the backfield, while playing on 82% of the team’s snaps, including 5 of 5 snaps inside the 10-zone.
And that’s been Henderson’s role all year — a full-on bell cow role on one of the most potent offenses in football. Excluding the fourth quarter of Week 2 (due to injury), Henderson is averaging: 17.1 carries, 3.4 targets, 103.4 YFS (RB8), 16.4 XFP (RB10), and 19.6 fantasy points per four quarters (RB5) on 84% of the team's snaps (RB2).
He’s a top-5 option this week, in a dream matchup against the Lions, who are giving up a league-high +11.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs. In other words, if Henderson gets 80% of the work out of the backfield this week, we should be expecting him to score 28.9 fantasy points this week. Detroit also ranks 8th-worst in YPC allowed (4.58), 4th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (17.5), worst in receiving FPG (14.8), and worst in total FPG allowed (32.2) to opposing RBs. (SB)
Start: D’Andre Swift at Rams
Despite being stuck in a 65/35 committee alongside Jamaal Williams, Swift’s volume has been phenomenal. He’s essentially the team’s WR1, ranking 2nd among all RBs and essentially tied with T.J. Hockenson for the team-high in receiving yardage share (19.7%). He ranks 10th in FPG (18.2) and 4th in XFP per game (18.8). But he saw his best usage of the season last week, with the backfield tipping closer to 80/20 in his favor. He hit a new season-high in snap share with 77%, up from 66%. And he hit a new season-high in backfield XFP% with 80%, up from 62%. If he saw an 80% share of the backfield XFP every week, he’d be averaging 23.5 XFP per game, which would lead all players at all positions.
Swift’s on-paper matchup against the Rams is just about perfectly neutral by every metric that matters to me, but he does get an ideal gamescript, as 16.0-point underdogs. That’s about in line with the gamescript he had last week, in a 11-34 beatdown loss against the Bengals. Start him with confidence this week as a mid- to low-end RB1. (SB)
Start: Darrel Williams at Titans
Williams isn’t just a must-start, he’s our No. 5-overall RB on the week.
He should be viewed no differently for fantasy than as a richer man’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Essentially, CEH if CEH were allowed to score touchdowns. (Williams is the only Chiefs player with a carry inside the five-yard-line, and he has 5 such carries.) Over the past two weeks (minus CEH), Williams has handled 26 of 30 carries and 9 of 13 targets out of the backfield (73% XFP%) while playing on 56% of the team’s snaps. Over this span, he’s averaged 15.6 carries, 5.5 targets, 19.8 XFP (RB4), and 19.2 fantasy points per four quarters (RB6).
Gamescript is strong (favored by 5.5-points), and the matchup is neutral-at-worst, against a Titans defense that ranks 7th-worst in YPC allowed (4.62) and middle-of-the-pack in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (-0.3). (SB)
Start: Leonard Fournette vs. Bears
The lightbulb finally flickered on for Bruce Arians that Ronald Jones has no business playing as near as many snaps as Leonard Fournette and the results for fantasy have been stellar. With RoJo demoted, RB1 Lenny has averaged 22.3 touches, 125.3 scrimmage yards, and 22.9 FPG while putting up three-straight top-15 scoring weeks over the last three weeks. Fournette has been heavily utilized near the goal-line, too, as he’s played on 83% of the Bucs’ 24 plays inside of the 10-yard line over the last three weeks. Attached to a Bucs’ team that has a gigantic 31-point team total, there is no way you can take Fournette out of a lineup right now. (GB)
Sit: Devontae Booker vs. Panthers
Booker (more or less) got the bell cow workload we all envisioned, last week earning 12 of 15 carries and 4 of 6 targets out of the backfield on 71% of the team’s snaps. But he’s an easy bench in shallow leagues, up against a Panthers defense that ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-8.1). If you’re starting him (we have him ranked as the RB31), just know you’re basically praying he finds the end zone to salvage his day. (SB)
Start: Chuba Hubbard at Giants
Since Christian McCaffrey went down with an injury, Hubbard has handled 75% of the team's backfield XFP (but 97% in Week 6) while playing on 63% of the team's snaps (66% last week). Per four quarters, with McCaffrey out, he’s averaging: 17.3 carries, 4.3 targets, 16.1 XFP (RB12), and 14.5 FPG (RB20).
He gets a highly favorable matchup this week, favored by 3.0-points against a Giants defense that ranks: 3rd-worst in yards allowed before contact per attempt, 4th-worst in YPC allowed (4.75), and 9th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+3.5) to opposing RBs. With so many top running backs either hurt or on bye, that’s good enough for a high-end RB2 ranking this week. (SB)
Start: J.D. McKissic at Packers
If Antonio Gibson (shin) is out… Then McKissic becomes one of the best RB2 / FLEX plays on the slate. Granted, Washington didn’t have Jaret Patterson last year. But when Antonio Gibson missed two games at the end of the 2020 season, JD McKissic handled 65% and 88% of the snaps in his spot starts. In those two games, McKissic got 11 and 13 carries to go along with 4 and 10 targets. And it’s a tiny sample, but we saw a continuation of last year’s theme with Washington trusting McKissic to play a big role last week and he was in on 8-of-10 snaps after Gibson went down against the Chiefs. Sure, The Team was down big in the fourth quarter to Kansas City, but this profiles as another spot where Washington is going to be behind on the scoreboard as massive 8.5-point dogs to Green Bay. (GB)
Sit: Khalil Herbert at Buccaneers
Herbert came through for a nice 19.2 FP for anyone who picked him up off of the waiver wire or used him in DFS last week, but this is not the spot to get cute. Damien Williams should be back off of the COVID list in time to play and the Bucs’ are not a defense you run on. Tampa has allowed just 45.3 yards per game to opposing RBs, which for a reference of how amazing that is, the Saints (58.6) have given up the second-fewest YPG and it’s well over 10 yards more than the Buccaneers. (GB)
Start: Calvin Ridley at Dolphins
After Stefon Diggs hit last week, Calvin Ridley is now probably your No. 1 buy-low WR. But just know, like with Diggs last week, your buy-low window is about to slam shut.
Among all WRs, Ridley ranks 25th in FPG (14.6), but 3rd in XFP per game (20.5), 5th in air yards per game (132.5), and 3rd in targets per game (11.5). He’s seeing elite high-end WR1-levels of volume, but is producing as just a high-end WR3. That’s not great, but expect the regression to hit in a big way this week. The Dolphins are giving up the 5th-most YPG to opposing WRs on deep passes (139.0), the 8th-most FPG to opposing WR1s (18.2), and the 9th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (24.9). Start him with confidence as an easy top-5 option this week.
There is some concern that Xavien Howard will return from injury and shadow Ridley (with Byron Jones shadowing Kyle Pitts like he did Darren Waller). But I don’t think it’s a major concern. In three shadow games thus far, Howard’s opposition (Diggs, Henry Ruggs, and Antonio Brown) has combined for 20.0 FPG and 87.3 YPG. (SB)
Start: Brandin Cooks at Cardinals
Cooks predictably struggled against the Bills and Patriots in Weeks 4-5, but he finished as the WR20 vs. Jaguars in Week 1, WR8 vs. Browns in Week 2, WR11 in Week 3 vs. Panthers, and was the WR16 last week vs. Colts. We’ll get another week of Davis Mills under center with Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) still out, which is just another boost to Cooks’ stock. Mills has attempted 139 passes and 45 of them have gone to Brandin Cooks (32%) while no other Texan has more than 16 targets. As 17-point underdogs, the Texans will have to throw all day long again. With his amazing role and easy matchup, Cooks is legitimately on the WR1 borderline this week. (GB)
Sit: DeVonta Smith at Raiders
Smith is a major regression candidate, ranking 25th in XFP per game (tied with Antonio Brown) but just 48th in FPG. But I’d bet against the regression coming this week. Las Vegas, led by PFF’s top cornerback Casey Hayward (who is also a threat to shadow), ranks 7th-best in FPG allowed to outside WRs (19.0) and 9th-best in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (13.8). (SB)
Start: Allen Robinson at Buccaneers
I know, I know. A-Rob has been a shell of himself this year and clearly hasn’t formed much chemistry with Justin Fields. But… if he can’t get it done here… whew. Tampa is facing the fourth-most WR targets per game (24.0) because their front-seven doesn’t allow anyone to run on them and their opponents are often behind on the scoreboard and have to throw to keep up. The good news is that A-Rob’s role, at least from a market share perspective, has been solid as he’s tallied targets shares of 30%, 25%, 19%, and 28% in four games with Fields. If Chicago trails and has to throw a ton, the volume that hasn’t been there should be and we know A-Rob has the talent to put up a ceiling score in this matchup. I’m giving A-Rob one more go as a WR3. (GB)
Sit: Tyler Lockett vs. Saints
This one is painful because I’m a Lockett stan and have him on a ton of my teams, but even with this week’s brutal bye week, it’s time to bench him until we see a semblance of chemistry with Geno Smith. Lockett actually leads Seattle in targets (11) over DK Metcalf (10) with Smith under center, but the duo has linked up just three times for 42 yards in about five quarters of work. Lockett is a completely boom-or-bust WR3 this week and not someone you can trust in lineups. Metcalf is in fairly similar territory, but at the very least he and Smith have shown a decent connection (9-of-10 targets for 112 yards and a TD). (GB)
Start: Dallas Goedert at Raiders
It’s hard to say for sure what Goedert’s role will look like now with Zach Ertz now in Arizona. But what we do know is, it’s going to be massively improved.
This season, Goedert ranks just 23rd in XFP per game (7.9) on a 58% route share. Ertz, clearly the team’s TE1, ranked 10th (10.5) on a 59% route share.
Since 2019, in games Ertz has missed, Goedert’s target share jumps from 11% (TE20) to 16% (TE9), and he averages +2.3 more FPG — 9.6 (TE15) vs. 11.9 (TE9). Most importantly, his route share jumps all the way up to 87% (TE2).
My best guess is this: let’s say he’s now the clear TE1 (taking Ertz’s XFP per route rate) and in line for an 80% route share (a modest projection). That would put him at 14.3 XFP per game, which would rank 4th-best. Factor in the matchup — the Raiders are giving up the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (+4.3) — and that’s good enough for a top-6 ranking this week. (SB)
H. Roseman: “Getting him in a role where it’s not just sharing time and he’s the guy, because in terms of our bargaining power, there’s going to be no discount on Dallas Goedert. We know that, so we want to get as much information and give him as much opportunity to take over…” https://t.co/mLfcG0HySP— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) October 16, 2021
Start: Mike Gesicki vs Falcons
With all of the Dolphins injuries at receiver and their lack of a run game, this team desperately needed Gesicki to step up and he has definitely answered the call. Gesicki shredded the Jaguars for 8/115 and showed the chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa we saw towards the end of last year. Over the last month, Gesicki is the TE4 in FPG – which only trails Mark Andrews, Dalton Schultz, and Dawson Knox – and he’s tied for the second-most targets (34) at the position in this span. And more good news! Gesicki gets the Falcons next. Keep rolling him out as a TE1. (GB)
Sit: Evan Engram vs. Panthers
Engram’s volume is no doubt fairly alluring. He ran a route on 75% of the team’s dropbacks last week (10th-most). He ranks 14th in targets per game (5.3). And New York’s receiving corps is decimated by injury — WR Kenny Golladay, WR Kadarius Toney, WR John Ross, TE Kaden Smith, and RB Saquon Barkley all failed to practice on Wednesday. Oh, and the matchup is somewhere between above average and neutral (+1.0).
The chief concern is this: he might just not be very good anymore. Despite consistent fringe-TE1-levels of volume, has hit double-digit fantasy points only once over his last 9 games. So, he’s just a high-end TE2 for us this week, despite everything else working in his favor. (SB)
Start: Ricky Seals-Jones at Packers
Over the past two weeks, with Logan Thomas out, Seals-Jones has played on 100% of the team’s snaps, averaging 7.5 targets and 12.5 FPG. If including plays negated due to penalty, he’s averaging 8.5 targets, 74.5 receiving yards, and 16.0 FPG. He’s a bell-cow TE, so you’re starting him this week as a mid-range TE1 against a Packers defense that ranks 4th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+4.7). (SB)