6 Fantasy Football Stars to Start or Sit for Week 8

Lead Writer Zach Warren takes a look around the league at not only the Niners and Seahawks, but a number of players toeing that start/sit line for your fantasy team this week.

Excited for Bucs/Vikings? Then you're a proud Twin Cities or Tampa resident. But for the rest of us, tonight is all about one thing: fantasy football.

There are some clear starters in this game; if you bench Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, or Vincent Jackson, the Fantasy Police (who in my mind's eye all look like Richard Ayoade) will come and hunt you down. But outside of those three, there are still plenty of questions to be answered for tonight's game and heading into the weekend.

Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 8

Doug Martin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 8: 9.26 Projected Points (#18 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 68.8%
Verdict: Start Him

Earlier today, I told you why Doug Martin is probably a good bet to have under 65.5 rushing yards in this game. nF projections only see him getting 49.4. He only has two rushing touchdowns on the season, and he has not yet hit 100 rushing yards in a game in his NFL career. And if you have him on your team, you should completely, unequivocally trust him for this game.

I don't think I'm crazy, sometimes I just act that way. And this time, I'm acting that way for a good reason.

The first reason is the receiving numbers. Did you know that Martin has put up 92 combined receiving yards over the past two games against the Chiefs and Saints? Granted, those aren't the two best defenses in the NFL (might not even be in the SEC), but they still help prove that Martin is getting his looks throwing the ball. Martin's 22 targets are third on the Bucs this season, and he has had at least three passes thrown his way in every single one of Tampa Bay's games so far this season.

And while Minnesota's #19 opponent-adjusted defense may not provide the absolute best matchup for Martin, many other running backs competing for your starting lineup position are facing even worse. Mikel LeShoure, Trent Richardson, Darren Sproles, Michael Turner, La'Rod Stephens-Howling, Jonathan Stewart, and DeAngelo Williams all face defenses this week ranked in numberFire's opponent-adjusted top ten; all of these backs also fall in between #15 and #26 of our projections this week. Being a clear lead back and having a comparatively easier matchup makes Martin an easy choice this week.

Mike Williams - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 8: 8.84 Projected Points (#23 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 23.5%
Verdict: Flex Him

But the expected weak week for running backs does not only help Martin; it boosts the prospects of starting his Buccaneer teammate in your flex spot as well.

I've been down on Mike Williams this entire season; I don't think I've suggested starting him for a single game so far this season. But the numbers don't lie, and six games in, Williams has been performing better than our initial prediction model said he would.

Our main problems with Williams have always been his catch rate and his targets not justifying the big play potential. Well, that catch rate still reveals a busted ship (52.8% is just sad and sorry), but his targets have helped him limp to some solid fantasy days. Williams has not had less than six targets in any of Tampa Bay's past four games; he finished second on the team behind Vincent Jackson every single one of those weeks. The Bucs have thrown the ball on 56% of their total offensive plays this year, and that emphasis on the pass has led to some big moments for Williams. He's put up three double-digit fantasy outings in six games so far this year.

Do I like him as a straight away starter? Not really; the top end of his nF range is only 13.63 points. But if you're struggling to fill a flex spot this week due to byes, you could do much worse than putting Williams in that slot and hoping for the best.

Kyle Rudolph - Minnesota Vikings
Week 8: 6.08 Projected Points (#9 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 49.7%
Verdict: Probably Start Him... if you don't have a Top 8 Guy

This week, there are eight clear "You must start NOW!" tight end candidates. Kyle Rudolph is #9. As you can see, that causes some problems.

We like Rudolph. Any tight end who sits second on his team in targets, has five of his team's nine receiving touchdowns, and plays in a system that passes the ball 52.4% of the time, is going to be a valuable starter. He has starting capability on most fantasy teams.

But there are still major questions about his catch rate - 55.6% would be low for a wide receiver, let alone a tight end. Furthermore, Tampa Bay doesn't offer a matchup that has me scrambling to my roster: they only allowed Jimmy Graham-replacement David Thomas to two catches for 27 yards last week and have not given an opposing tight end a double-digit fantasy day since Week 2.

That's why you should check our projections carefully before instantly putting him your starting lineup. Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Aaron Hernandez, Heath Miller, Tony Gonzalez, and (perhaps most surprisingly) Jared Cook are all much, much better options this week.

Jared Cook - Tennesee Titans
Week 8: 7.34 Projected Points (#8 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 36.6%
Verdict: Start Him

In speaking of that Cook guy, what exactly makes him such a great option for this week? Nobody knows when Jake Locker's going to return (and hey, the Titans are 2-1 under Hasselbeck anyway), Cook hasn't finished higher than third on his team in targets each of the past two weeks, and the Titans still have only the 23rd most efficient offense in the NFL according to numberFire's analysis.

This week though, it's all about the matchups. The Colts hold numberFire's 29th most efficient defense so far this season, below the Chiefs, Raiders, Bengals, and even Jaguars. The Colts are especially adept at giving up the passing TD - their average 2.0 passing TDs per game given up is one of the worst figures in the league - and numberFire expects Jared Cook to take advantage. His projected 0.45 receiving TDs ranks fourth this week behind only Miller, Gates, and Gronkowski.

Meanwhile, many of the tight ends he's competing with have poor matchups. Much like the running backs, many of the tight ends right on the bubble (the #8 through #14 projection slots) are facing top ten defenses. This includes the aforementioned Rudolph, Greg Olsen, Brent Celek, Brandon Pettigrew, and this next guy.

Vernon Davis - San Francisco 49ers
Week 8: 5.48 Projected Points (#14 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 93.0%
Verdict: Sit Him

If one goes up, another must come down. And this week, the one falling down is the second-most started tight end in all ESPN fantasy leagues.

Perhaps Davis owners don't want to hear this, but the supposedly top-shelf tight end has averaged only 3.5 targets over San Francisco's last four games. Exactly half of those 14 targets came in one game - Week 5 against Buffalo, when Davis's 106 yards receiving netted him his only double-digit fantasy outing since Week 3. His other three games? Two FP against the Jets Week 4, three FP against the Giants Week 6, and a zero spot despite being healthy the entire game last week against Seattle.

While Davis remains a top target for Alex Smith - his 34 targets are second on the Niners and one ahead of Mario Manningham - San Francisco has become increasingly run-heavy over the past four weeks. Last week against Seattle, Alex Smith only passed on 41.8% of the Niners' offensive plays. Week 6's 68.5% proportion looks to be an outlier, as San Francisco attempted to come back against the Giants, but Week 5 (40.0%) and Week 4 (33.3%) look to be the same case.

And especially against Arizona's #3 opponent-adjusted defense, I expect to see a heavy dose of somebody, anybody, other than Davis. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph, Scott Chandler, and Lance Kendricks combined for two catches and 11 yards over the past three weeks facing this D.

Willis McGahee - Denver Broncos
Week 8: 12.85 Projected Points (#7 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 66.3%
Verdict: Start Him

I'm ending today's edition of the start/sit with an easy one, because it's wholly inconceivable to me that over one-third of all Willis McGahee owners still have him on the bench. Where are you people and why are you not playing in any of my fantasy leagues?

Oh, I'm sorry, is a minimum of 12 carries (his lowest output on the season) not enough for you? Would you rather he be playing the dead-last opponent-adjusted defense on the year rather than merely the Saints' #31 defense? Or is it that you don't quite trust how he's done lately, seeing as how he's only put up at least eight FP in each of his past three games.

numberFire has McGahee with our second-highest projected rushing TDs total (behind only Alfred Morris) this week as well as our eighth-highest projected rushing yards total. Nobody is going to poach McGahee's carries - Lance Ball and Ronnie Hillman each average less than three carries a game - and the Broncos run the ball on a not-great, but still serviceable 40.5% of all plays.

I hope that the other one-third of people simply forgot to place him back in the lineup after Denver's Week 7 bye. Don't be one of those people. Don't make me sad. Put McGahee in your starting lineup right away.