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: Joe Burrow at Lions
It’s been a bit of a boring, but consistently productive start for Burrow with QB17, QB23, QB19, QB15, and QB18 weekly finishes to start the season. This is certainly a spot for him to finally find a ceiling as Detroit is giving up the second-most fantasy points per pass attempt (0.596) and third-highest passer rating (111.7). The one concern is that while the Lions have fought hard, they are still the only team yet to lead in a game. If the Bengals get out ahead early here, they could lean heavily on the run in the second-half – which is basically exactly how Lions’ games have gone all year as they’ve the fewest pass attempts per game (26.8). Still, Burrow’s floor has been so solid and there is more than enough to make us excited for his first blow-up game of the year. (GB)
Start: Taylor Heinicke vs. Chiefs
Last week we saw Heinicke struggle mightily for the first time in his stint as Washington’s starter. After putting up 20 or more FP in four-straight starts, Heinicke completed just 49% of his throws for 6.1 YPA against the Saints in Week 5. Well, good news! Heinicke draws a Chiefs defense that’s giving up yards and points in spades and that’s failing to get to the QB this week. Through five games, Kansas City is allowing 7.1 yards per play (most), 3.29 points per drive (most), and they have generated a sack on just 4% of pass plays (second-lowest rate). As massive underdogs to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, I’m expecting a ton of passing volume for Heinicke here and am trusting him as the top streamer of the week. (GB)
Sit: Ryan Tannehill vs. Bills
Tannehill has finished as the QB16 or better just once all year as the Titans passing offense has struggled to get off of the mat with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown both battling injuries. Even though it seems like Brown is getting closer to 100% and Julio is at least back practicing, this isn’t the spot to get cute and plug Tannehill back in your lineups after the Bills just smothered Patrick Mahomes to 5.0 YPA and a 70.9 passer rating on SNF last week. Overall, Buffalo is now allowing the fewest passing fantasy points per game (8.4) and a league-low 0.239 fantasy points per pass on the season. Until we see Julio and Brown healthy again, Tannehill is best left on your bench in 1-QB leagues. He’s a floor play in SuperFlex. (GB)
Start: Jonathan Taylor vs. Texans
Only a few short weeks ago, Taylor was our No. 1 positive regression candidate. In the two weeks since, he’s averaging 15.5 carries, 3.5 targets, 141.5 YFS, and 26.2 FPG. He’s still capped at something like 55% of the team’s snaps, and Marlon Mack (inexplicably) is still getting meaningful work. But he’s an easy top-5 RB this week, favored by 9.5-points against a Texans defense that ranks 5th-worst in YPC allowed (4.75). (SB)
Start: Leonard Fournette at Eagles
It seems like Bruce Arians has finally come to his senses with Ronald Jones. Over the last two weeks, Leonard Fournette has out-touched (39 to 12) and out-snapped (109 to 23) Ronald Jones by massive margins. Now, the Buccaneers are huge favorites against an Eagles front-seven that is facing the fifth-most rush attempts per game (26.4) and have allowed 155 yards to Cowboys RBs, 144 to Chiefs RBs, and 101 to Chuba Hubbard over the last three weeks. After finishing as the RB15 and RB14 over the last two weeks, Leonard Fournette has a fantastic chance to keep his hot-streak going as a high-end RB2 in this spot. (GB)
Sit: Miles Sanders vs. Buccaneers
It’s been a brutal start for Sanders and the Eagles run game for a few reasons, but the main one is that their offensive line has resembled a Final Destination film once again. Unfortunately, this is far from a get-right spot for Sanders. The Bucs’ front-seven is giving up the sixth-fewest scrimmage yards per game to RBs (99.8), including the fewest rushing yards by far (39.6). Sanders has been held under 60 scrimmage yards in four-straight games and, as huge underdogs, this game-script won’t be in Sanders’ favor. Kenneth Gainwell saw 4 and 8 targets in Weeks 3-4 when the Eagles trailed to both the Cowboys and Chiefs all day long. If the Eagles get down big, Sanders’ path to paying off will be reliant upon a touchdown. (GB)
Start: James Robinson vs. Dolphins
Robinson is on quite the tear, hitting at least 20 touches, 75 rushing yards, and 20.5 fantasy points in three straight games, averaging 22.6 FPG and 119.0 YFS per game over this span. And, keep in mind, all three games came with heavy negative gamescript, as Jacksonville held a lead on only 19% of their plays over this span.
Carlos Hyde’s snap share dipped down to about 25% last week. So, he’s still keeping Robinson from full-on bell cow status, but I think it’s only a matter of time before Urban Meyer (yes, even Meyer) realizes that’s a mistake.
This week’s matchup is fairly excellent for the 0-5 Jaguars. Projected gamescript isn’t positive, but it’s at least close against the Jacoby Brissett-led Dolphins (-3.5). And Miami ranks second-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+9.3). (Basically, this stat implies that if Robinson sees 80% of the work this week, we should be adding another 7.4 points to his FPG average.) Miami also ranks worst in total FPG allowed (33.2), 3rd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (19.2), 4th-worst in receiving FPG allowed (13.9), and 9th-worst in YPC allowed (4.60) to opposing RBs. (SB)
Start: Darrel Williams at Washington
With Clyde Edwards-Helaire (IR; knee) sidelined, Williams is in line to take over a nice role in this backfield. I know we were often chasing our tail with CEH, but Andy Reid has trusted Williams in similar pinches before. After CEH left the game last week, Darrel Williams (24) drastically out-snapped Jerick McKinnon (8) and handled 10 of 12 opportunities (carries + targets). Granted, they didn’t have McKinnon, but we saw Williams handle fairly sizable workloads in the two games that CEH missed late in 2020 as he saw over 70% of the snaps in each start. Williams has RB2/FLEX appeal for his strong role alone and borderline RB1 upside if the Chiefs drop 30+ points on Washington. (GB)
Sit: Chase Edmonds at Browns
After toughing out a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice for most of the week, Edmonds was ineffective in Week 5 vs. the 49ers as he bottomed out for season-lows in touches (9) and scrimmage yards (34). Edmonds is still getting drastically out-snapped in the red-zone by James Conner and that combined with his injury and this matchup has our projections significantly lower on him. The Browns are giving up the fourth-fewest scrimmage yards (89.4) along with the fourth-fewest catches per game (3.4) to RBs. (GB)
Start: Stefon Diggs at Titans
Across his final 11 games last season (including the postseason), Diggs averaged 11.2 targets, 109.6 receiving yards, and 25.5 DK fantasy points per four quarters (adjusting for the one game he left early). For perspective, those numbers would have ranked best, best (7th-best since 1970), and 2nd-best (9th-best all-time) if over the full season.
Alongside Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp, Diggs is one of only three players to hit 60 receiving yards in all five of their games. So, he’s been incredibly consistent, and his volume has been excellent, but the massive “boom” games haven’t been there. And, as such, he ranks just 29th in FPG (14.3).
But again, his volume has been excellent. He ranks 8th in targets per game (10.4), 2nd in air yards per game (141.6), and 11th in XFP per game (17.7). In other words, he’s a screaming regression candidate and a glaring buy-low trade target. We know who he is. Simply, there is no way Diggs isn’t going to continue to rank as one of the most inefficient WRs in fantasy. In fact, the reverse is probably true — he was the league’s 6th-most efficient WR last year, out-scoring his volume-based expectation by 46.1 fantasy points.
And this is a great get-right spot for him. Tennessee has given up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+9.2). And, maybe more importantly, they’ve given up a league-high 168.7 receiving YPG (2X the league-average rate) to opposing WRs on deep passes. Diggs, by the way, leads all players in deep targets (13).
Start him this week as a high-end WR1, and know — if you don’t own him — the buy-low window slams shut by the end of this week. (SB)
Start: Ja’Marr Chase at Lions
Ja'Marr Chase totals 98.4 fantasy points, which ranks 7th among all WRs. That's also — behind only Randy Moss (104.7) — the 2nd-most fantasy points by any rookie WR in their first five career games all-time.
What’s most impressive about this is Chase isn’t really seeing good volume. He ranks just 32nd among WRs in XFP (61.4). So, he’s producing like a mid-range WR1 on low-end WR3-levels of volume. And, as such, he’s the No. 1 XFP regression candidate at any position (+37.0).
Although I do think an efficiency regression is coming, I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to out-perform his expectation at one of the highest rates in the league. After all, is this not the best WR prospect since Julio Jones? And, in any case, there’s no way the regression comes this week.
Although Stefon Diggs leads the league in deep targets, Chase is only one target behind, and he's been far more productive on those deep targets. He leads all WRs in deep receptions (6), deep yards (261), deep touchdowns (4), and fantasy points scored on deep targets (56.1, 57% of his total production). And although Diggs’ matchup against Tennessee is the best-possible matchup for a deep threat, Chase’s matchup against Detroit is the clear No. 2, as Detroit has given up 153.0 receiving YPG (2nd-most) to opposing WRs on deep passes. And Detroit also ranks 6th-worst in fantasy points allowed per target (2.13) to opposing outside WRs.
We have Chase ranked as a top-3 WR this week. Yes, you read that right. (SB)
Start: Keenan Allen at Ravens
If Diggs isn’t your No. 1 buy-low target of the week, it’s Allen.
Allen, like Diggs, has been remarkably consistent, hitting double-digit fantasy points in all five of his games (one of only 8 WRs to have accomplished this feat). Like Diggs, his volume has been excellent. He’s one of only three players to hit 15.0 XFP in all five of his games — Cooper Kupp and Derrick Henry are the other two. Among all WRs, he ranks just 21st in FPG (15.4) but 4th in XFP per game (19.9).
But Allen hasn’t been as inefficient as his -4.5-point PAR implies. Rather, he’s been incredibly unlucky, seeing 5 targets and a league-high 62 receiving yards called back due to penalty. If those plays counted, Allen would rank 2nd in total targets, 10th in receiving yards, and 13th among WRs in total fantasy points scored.
Like with Diggs, an efficiency regression is inevitable. And I’m betting on the regression hitting like a Mack Truck this week. Allen runs 61% of his routes from the slot, and his Week 6 matchup (Baltimore) is the premier slot funnel defense. They’ve given up the 6th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs but the 4th-fewest FPG to opposing outside WRs. So, look for Allen to post a big game, somewhat at Mike Williams’ expense. (SB)
Start: D.J. Moore vs. Vikings
Last week was Moore’s first blip on the radar with Sam Darnold looking like he turned the clocks back to 2018 en route to a three-INT day. While Moore did see quite a bit of Darius Slay (who is playing well right now), Moore’s first down game of the year (5 receptions, 42 yards) was much more due to Darnold’s poor play. Well, this is the ultimate bounceback spot for Moore now against a Vikings defense that has been shredded to the tune of 21.2 FPG (fifth-most) to receivers that line up on the boundary. Since Moore is lining up out wide on 85% of his routes from PFF, he stands to benefit most from what has been a very shaky Vikings secondary all year. Go right back to Moore as a low-end WR1 here. (GB)
Sit: A.J. Brown vs. Bills
You’ll notice we mentioned Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen as massive buy-low trade targets, and also parenthetically Calvin Ridley, but not A.J. Brown. Brown definitely should be considered as a buy-low at some point, but I’d wait until after this week.
That’s because he’s likely to draw shadow coverage from Tre’Davious White. And White is a big reason why the Bills have given up the 2nd-fewest FPG to opposing WRs (27.0), and the 6th-fewest to outside WRs (17.3). Opposing WR1s (Diontae Johnson, DeVante Parker, Terry McLaurin, Brandin Cooks, and Tyreek Hill) averaged just 50.0 YPG and 11.7 FPG against the Bills, though they collectively average 88.1 YPG and 18.7 FPG in all other games.
Brown, meanwhile, averages just 32.5 YPG and 7.3 FPG this year. He’s just a mid-range WR3 this week, given this brutal matchup. (SB)
Start: DeVonta Smith vs. Buccaneers
Like Allen, Smith has been a little unlucky. He’s seen a league-high 6 targets negated- and also 2 touchdowns called back due to penalty. And though he hasn’t been as consistent as Allen, he does have at least 6 catches and 70 receiving yards in 3 of his 5 games. One of his lackluster performances came against Trevon Diggs’ shadow coverage, and the other came in a bottom-10 matchup when Jalen Hurts completed only 12 passes.
But his volume has been strong, and he is the clear WR1 on this team. He ranks 17th in XFP market share (21%) and 14th in total XFP (16.1 per game). And he gets a dream matchup this week. Tampa Bay is giving up a league-high 32.3 FPG to opposing outside WRs, and they rank worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+14.5). Fire him up this week as a mid-range WR2. (SB)
Start: Brandin Cooks at Colts
Through the first three weeks of the season, Cooks ranked 5th in DK FPG (22.6, low of 21.2) and 4th in targets per game (10.7). But, over the last two weeks, he ranks just 72nd in FPG (7.5).
But, in his defense, he did walk away with a 54% YMS in Week 4 (12th-highest of any player in any week this season). And in Week 5, we expected him to flop, as New England always sells out to stop an opposing team’s top option. This opened things up for the rest of the offense, as QB Davis Mills posted a shocking and impressive 21/29-312-3-0 line, though only 3 catches and 23 yards went to Cooks.
Though somewhat understandable or predictable, the last two weeks have been rough, but we’re expecting him to get right back on track this week. Indianapolis ranks 7th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.0). And they’ve given up big games to fellow WR1s: Tyler Lockett (26.0) or D.K. Metcalf (16.0), Cooper Kupp (36.8), DeVante Parker (17.7), and Marquise Brown (33.5).
Given the matchup, and Cooks’ elite usage (6th in XFP%), we’re expecting high-end WR3-levels of production this week. (SB)
Sit: Courtland Sutton vs. Raiders
Over the past four weeks, Sutton’s production has been fairly volatile, but his volume has been rock solid. He totaled 19.8 XFP in Week 5, which ranked 9th-best, and marked the third time in four games he’s finished top-15. Over this span he ranks 17th in FPG (16.5), 16th in targets per game (9.3), 13th in XFP per game (17.4), 3rd in air yards per game (147.0), and 1st in deep targets per game (3.0).
While Chase and Diggs have ideal “deep-threat matchups,” Sutton’s matchup almost couldn’t be worse. The Raiders are giving up just 5.7 FPG (3rd-best) and 47.3 receiving YPG (3rd-best) to opposing WRs on deep targets. And Sutton’s 3.0 deep targets per game has been the driving force behind his high XFP totals.
But wait! It gets worse. Sutton is also likely to draw shadow coverage from PFF’s highest-graded CB, Casey Hayward, who has given up just 9.3 fantasy points on 15 targets and 181 snaps in coverage. Add everything up and Sutton should be downgraded as just a low-end WR3 this week. (SB)
Start: Mark Andrews vs. Chargers
Andrews busted his scoring slump in a big way last week and was a huge part of the Ravens come from behind win, posting 11/147/2 while adding not one but two (!!) octopuses (TD + 2-point conversions). While we obviously can’t expect another 40-burger, this has the makings of another strong game with the Ravens likely trading points with Justin Herbert and the Chargers all day long. While L.A.’s defense has been stellar at limiting big plays against wide receivers, the trade-off is that tight ends are getting free underneath against their zone coverage. To be fair, the Chargers have faced Kelce and Waller, but David Njoku just shredded them last week as well. Overall, L.A. has the worst tight end defense in the league right now by the numbers and are giving up 2.43 fantasy points per target (most) and 81.3 yards per game (second-most) to the position. (GB)
Start: Noah Fant vs. Raiders
Last week, with Albert Okwuegbunam out, Fant ran a route on a position-high 93% of his team’s dropbacks (up from 74%). The target volume wasn’t there (only 4 targets), but it will come, and I think this increase in usage is more significant. Afterall, last week’s matchup came against a Steelers defense that ranks 4th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (-4.8), but his matchup this week, against the Raiders, ranks 6th-best (+3.8).
Through five weeks, Fant ranks 9th in targets per game (6.4), 10th in XFP per game (10.3), and 11th in FPG (10.1). And his volume should be quite a bit better than that this week, with Casey Hayward likely to shadow Courtland Sutton (7.8 targets per game). I’d start Fant this week as a mid-range TE1. (SB)
Sit: Robert Tonyan at Bears
Tonyan has cleared 8 receiving yards in just 1 of 5 games thus far. And now he gets a worst-possible matchup against a Bears defense that ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (-6.4). He’s an easy “sit” this week as just a mid-range TE2. (SB)
Start: Ricky Seals-Jones vs. Chiefs
Last week, Seals-Jones played on 99% of the team's snaps (most), running a route on 88% of the team's dropbacks (4th-most). He earned a 19.5% target share (8th-most) on 8 targets (4th-most), catching 5 for 41 yards.
RSJ might not be particularly good, but his volume and usage is excellent. At the barren wasteland that is the fantasy TE position, that’s enough to start him this week as a borderline-TE1. And the matchup doesn’t hurt either — Kansas City has given up the 4th-most FPG to opposing TEs. (SB)