Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 3
Let's face it. Start-or-sit dilemmas in fantasy football can be tough.
We can ponder them all week. We can go back and forth. But at the end of the day, we can only hope for the best come kickoff.
I know I'll never be 100% accurate with prognosticating the game, so that's why my utmost goal each week is to figure out why a player is or isn't in a good spot to come through for our fantasy teams.
The biggest obstacle in my way this week is Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson. Johnson has disappointed in consecutive weeks, and he's a trendy call to "sit" until we see him perform. It's true that Johnson is trending downward, but is one of the league's best playmakers really a "must-sit" because of a slow start?
Well, it depends pretty much entirely on which other running backs you can turn to in Week 3.
What if you don't even have DJ on your squads? Then that analysis doesn't help your fantasy teams. And I'm trying to help your fantasy teams.
For this -- and many other reasons -- I like to bucket players into groups when deciding who we should start or sit in a given week. To me, no player is ever a must-sit, but there are players you should want to sit if you have any other viable options. That's the goal here, as well as to show why we should feel certain ways about players.
So, based on market shares, snap counts, betting lines, and defensive matchups, I'll be grouping players into three tiers to help with start-or-sit decisions: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider playing whenever we don't have better alternatives but who aren't must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives.
For the most part, these players are listed in order of confidence and preference (so higher on the list means more startable), and the groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench, should I start this player this week? Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league.
Start With Confidence
- Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers produced 16.0 fantasy points and a respectable 6.7 yards per attempt last week against the Vikings despite being severely limited due to a knee injury. The matchup with Washington probably looks tougher than it actually is, as they've limited Sam Bradford and a new-look Andrew Luck to 17.2 total fantasy points. Despite some tough defensive matchups and the injuries, Rodgers still ranks seventh in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back.
- Tom Brady: Brady came through in the end last week, even down in Jacksonville. He produced 16.4 fantasy points, which was actually just 18th at the position in Week 2. If you're going to be disappointed by 16.4 fantasy points from Brady in a tough spot, then I hope you didn't draft him too early. Anyway, Brady faces the Detroit defense on the road in Week 3. Detroit allowed 15.7 fantasy points to Sam Darnold (14.8) and Jimmy Garoppolo (16.6) on a combined 47 attempts. Brady is a lock.
- Patrick Mahomes: There is no justifying benching Mahomes at this point, as he's averaged north of 33 fantasy points through Week 2. He ranks second in expected points per drop back to start the season and has added 39 rushing yards on 10 attempts. The 49ers have allowed 22.3 fantasy points per game to Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford, too.
- Drew Brees: Brees and the Saints are underdogs in Atlanta, but the over/under is sitting up at 53 points. Brees has already turned in 31.6 and 17.6 fantasy points, giving him two top-14 weeks. Brees did average just 15.1 fantasy points against Atlanta last season, though things are different in New Orleans this year, as the Saints rank second in pass play percentage.
- Kirk Cousins: Cousins has started hot for the Vikings, producing 20.4 and 34.5 fantasy points over 84 pass attempts. Cousins ranks fifth in Passing NEP per drop back and eighth in Passing Success Rate through two games. Buffalo has been wrecked by opposing passers to start the year and ranks 30th in pass defense by our metrics at numberFire.
- Cam Newton: Newton has topped 18 fantasy points in both games so far and faces a Bengals squad that let Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco each produce at least 19.8 fantasy points -- almost exclusively through the air. Now, those two passers had more than 50 pass attempts en route to those fantasy totals, but the Bengals rank just 25th in Passing Success Rate and 16th in Passing NEP per attempt to start the year. Newton has added 100 rushing yards through two games and has an easy passing matchup to exploit.
- Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger heads back on the road -- where he generally struggles to offer up the same upside he does in Pittsburgh -- this week to face Tampa Bay, a defense that ranks 26th in Passing Success Rate allowed through two weeks. For what it's worth, via the Rotoviz Game Splits App, Roethlisberger has accrued 7.80 yards per attempt on the road against bottom-half pass defenses since 2016, compared to 7.72 at home. The fantasy points fall (to 17.4 from 25.8), but you can't knock 17 fantasy points from your passer, and the Bucs let Nick Foles tally 16.2 last week on 48 attempts.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick has lit the fantasy football world aflame through two weeks and now faces a Steelers defense that has given up 0.69 passing fantasy points per pass attempt, one of the highest rates in the league. Even if Fitzpatrick takes a step back from his consecutive 400-yard games, the matchup and over/under (53.5 points) make up for it.
- Jimmy Garoppolo: The 49ers face the Chiefs in Arrowhead, which should lead to fireworks and some catch-up from San Fran. While you don't want pure volume from your fantasy quarterbacks, the Chiefs have given up efficiency (8.57 adjusted yards per attempt, 25th-worst) on the league-high 111 pass attempts they've faced. Via FantasyData, Garoppolo has been hit on 25.0% of his drop backs, 2nd-worst in the league. The positive is that the Chiefs have the 2nd-lowest quarterback hit rate on the defensive side of the ball (8.0%).
- Deshaun Watson: Watson has been hit on a league-high 30.1% of his drop backs, but the Giants rank 26th in quarterback hit rate defensively. Watson has averaged 35.4 fantasy points in games when Will Fuller has played, compared to 17.4 without him.
Consider If Needed
- Matt Ryan: Ryan's Falcons have a high implied team total of 28 points, but he did get limited to 9.8 and 15.2 fantasy points against the Saints in two contests last year, combining for 2 touchdowns and 4 picks on a solid 8.1-yards-per-attempt average. He's not a lock to come through in this spot.
- Matthew Stafford: Stafford's Lions are at home in a game with a 51.5-point over/under, which should scream locked-in quarterback start. However, the Lions are 6-point 'dogs with a 22.75-point total, which isn't anything to get rambunctious about. Stafford has had two wildly different outings (12.0 and 24.7 fantasy points) to start the year, similar to what the Patriots have surrendered (12.0 to Deshaun Watson and 33.6 to Blake Bortles).
- Russell Wilson: Wilson ranks 21st among 34 passers with at least 10 attempts in Passing NEP per drop back and 20th in Passing Success Rate, while being hit on 23.5% of his drop backs, the 30th-highest rate in the NFL. He produced 93 passing yards on 21 attempts in Week 16 against Dallas last year, salvaging his day with 2 touchdowns and 29 rushing yards. If I were simply pointing out quarterbacks who should underperform and considering them as "sits," then Wilson would make the list, but he's a solid bet for a low-end QB1 week.
- Carson Wentz: The Colts' pass defense hasn't been quite as bad as advertised. Or at least we can say that opposing quarterbacks haven't lit them up like we expected to see. Sure, they've faced Alex Smith (17.5 fantasy points) and Andy Dalton (13.1), who have flirted with league-lows in average depth of target (aDOT) to start the year, and Wentz' 9.9-yard aDOT in 2017 was a top-eight number. Wentz will be without Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace this week. Jeffery had a team-high 13.7-yard aDOT last year, and without Wallace (or Torrey Smith, who had a 12.9-yard aDOT), Wentz may play it closer to the line of scrimmage in his return. That approach led to solid outings from Smith and Dalton already. Just don't anticipate a ceiling game, given the state of the Eagles' receivers.
Bench If Possible
- Philip Rivers: Rivers' Chargers are 7-point "road" underdogs against the Rams, whose defense has been as advertised this year. Sure, they've faced Derek Carr and Sam Bradford, but it's enough to worry a bit about Rivers, who has been great, ranking third in both Passing NEP per drop back and Passing Success Rate if you have viable alternatives.
- Jared Goff: Goff has been one of the highest-floor options around since the start of 2017, but he's topped 20 fantasy points in just 5 of his 20 games since then. The Chargers' defense ranks 25th in pass defense, via our metrics, through Week 2, but you should be aiming higher than with Goff in a 10- or 12-team league if you can.
- Andrew Luck: The 2018 version of Luck isn't what we've gotten used to in years past. His average depth of target has declined to just 5.5 yards, tying him for a league low with Derek Carr and Alex Smith, via FantasyADHD. Overall, he's notched just 5.9 yards per attempt, a pretty dreadful number, and Luck no longer flashes rushing upside, running 5 times for 7 yards to start the year. The Colts have given up a quarterback hit on 18.4% of drop backs, a bottom-10 mark, while the Eagles have hit quarterbacks at a league-high 25.6% clip. Bench Luck if you have any viable options in a standard-sized league.
- Tyrod Taylor: Taylor has been a solid fantasy quarterback through two games (24.6 and 15.4 fantasy points), but he's thrown 70 pass attempts for just 5.6 adjusted yards per attempt. Where he makes his fantasy money is on the ground: Taylor has added 103 yards on the ground (12 carries), so the floor is there provided he plays all four quarters, but the ceiling isn't high enough to start him in a standard league.
- Alex Smith: Smith has a fine floor because he's tallied 28 rushing yards on 12 carries through 2 games, but the minuscule aDOT of 5.5 yards doesn't leave much to be desired. Washington's 21.25-point total isn't enough to consider Smith a go-to streaming option in 12- or even 14-team leagues against a Packers pass defense that has been around the league average in efficiency.
- Andy Dalton: Dalton isn't owned in too many leagues, and if you needed to, you could start him in a pinch. Just know that he shouldn't be on the streaming radar in shallow leagues. The fact of the matter is that he's got a 5.6-yard average depth of target and has 6 touchdowns to show for it (an 8.6% touchdown rate). He's going on the road against what's been a somewhat beatable Carolina secondary. There's just not enough reason to roll with him in a 12-team league.
- Derek Carr: Carr threw just 3 incompletions on 32 attempts in Week 2 but still managed only 15.5 fantasy points because of a 5.8-yard aDOT. Overall, Carr has the lowest depth of target of any passer, which won't lead to big plays. Miami has had two soft matchups against Tennessee Titans and the New York Jets, but they've come through, netting 5 interceptions and allowing just a 57.0% completion rate. Miami is dead last in quarterback hit rate defensively, while Oakland is second-best offensively. Still, you're simply hoping that Carr's receivers carry him to yards after catch, as he's attempted just 7 passes at least 16 yards downfield.
Start With Confidence
- Todd Gurley: Gurley left Week 2 with cramps, but really, it was just that the Rams were winning easily in the third quarter. Gurley has had 15 red zone carries, and the next closest back is at 8. His workload is unmatched.
- Alvin Kamara: Kamara's receiving work (19 targets) has been elite to start the year, and the Falcons' inability to stop running backs out of the backfield has continued into 2018.
- Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott has played 93.2% of Dallas' snaps and has accounted for 95.5% of their running back targets and carries (opportunities). No back has accounted for a higher market share. Seattle's rush defense has been barely better than league average.
- Melvin Gordon: Gordon has seen 44 total opportunities to start the year, ranking 5th among all running backs. He's 4th among all backs with 20 targets, which will come in handy in a game where his Chargers should trail the Rams as a 7-point underdog.
- Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey has accounted for 35.0% of the Panthers' carries and targets so far this year, ranking him sixth at the position, via our trends tool. He's played a workhorse-like 85% and 94% of snaps. His workload really has been as big as advertised in the offseason.
- Kareem Hunt: Hunt has had 17 and 19 opportunities while playing 40 snaps in each game so far. He boosted himself to an RB13 performance in Week 2 by scoring a receiving touchdown. Hunt is a solid home favorite and is still the clear-cut lead back on a team that should score plenty.
- Saquon Barkley: Barkley's touchdown equity is awful in the Giants' offense, but he has pieced together consecutive top-12 half-PPR weeks at the position, thanks to 22 targets.
- James Conner: Conner was last week's RB7 in half-PPR formats even with only 8 carries because he added 5 catches for the second week in a row and tallied 65 total yards and a touchdown. The Steelers should score plenty again in Week 3.
- Tevin Coleman: Coleman handled 16 carries and 4 targets (20 opportunities) while playing 65% of Atlanta's snaps in Week 2. He did have a post-fumble scare that saw Ito Smith handle red zone carries, but Coleman is a home favorite in a game with a 53-point total. He's a strong start again.
- Latavius Murray: With Dalvin Cook ruled out and with the Vikings expected to destroy the Bills, Murray steps into a locked-in role for Week 3. The Vikes have an 85% chance to put away the Bills, meaning positive script and carries aplenty for Murray. Murray has 15 carries on just 37 snaps and has been a more efficient rusher than Cook has based on our Rushing Success Rate metric.
- Jordan Howard: Howard has played 72.1% of the snaps and handled 71.7% of the team's running back opportunities, a top-12 rate. The Bears' total isn't high by any means, but they're comfortable road favorites, meaning a big workload should be in store for Howard.
- Giovani Bernard: Bernard has only rookie fourth-rounder Mark Walton to contend with in Week 2, as Joe Mixon will miss multiple weeks due to cleanup surgery in his knee. Via Rotoviz' Game Splits App, Bernard has averaged 12.7 half-PPR points in 36 games with at least 10 carries in his career. The Bengals are road underdogs, but all indications are that Bernard is going to be a workhorse in Week 3.
- Leonard Fournette: If Fournette plays, he should smash in this spot against the Titans as a touchdown-plus favorite at home. Fournette played just 21 snaps in Week 1 but saw 12 opportunities, an elite rate.
Consider If Needed
- David Johnson: I'm not naive enough to think that you've got countless running backs in great spots on your roster waiting to plug in above Johnson (I sure don't where I have him rostered), and I'm also not pretending like he's a must-start simply based on name value. That's why he's here in the middle tier. Despite the slow start, Johnson has played 72.4% of the Cardinals' snaps and handled 68.8% of the opportunities doled out to Arizona running backs, a rate that ranks 13th among all backs. That's not a workload that you just bench for the sake of being fed up with the production. There's talks that the Cardinals will get Johnson more involved in the pass game, where he really thrives. The 16-point team total as a 6-point underdog means that he could soak up targets, provided the Cardinals can stick in this game against the Bears for long enough that they don't turn it over to Chase Edmonds.
- Lamar Miller: Houston is favored in this one over the Giants, so he should be featured, as he has had 34 carries and just 4 targets to start the season. Miller's 76.6% snap rate has him in workhorse territory.
- Kenyan Drake: Drake has played 74.2% and 60.0% of the Dolphins' snaps to start the year and has handled 63.5% of Miami's running back opportunities, ranking 16th in the league. Miami is a home favorite over the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 to help matters.
- Chris Thompson: Thompson has an outstanding 21 targets and 155 receiving yards to date and leads Washington's backfield in snap rate at 54.2%. Washington's underdog status makes him the Washington back to prefer this week.
- Carlos Hyde: Hyde has maintained a 55.0% snap rate through two weeks and has handled 66.1% of the running back opportunities for the Cleveland Browns, ranking 15th among all backs through two weeks. The Jets haven't stifled opposing backs, either, ranking 20th in Rushing Success Rate allowed.
- Matt Breida: This should be a Breida game, as the 49ers are healthy underdogs on the road in Kansas City. Breida has 6 targets and 22 carries to start the year, and he's been quite efficient with his touches.
- Alex Collins: Collins owners have reason to be concerned, but the facts are that he has played 43.4% of the team's snaps on the full season (49.4% in Week 2) and that his team is a 5.5-point home favorite. He's handled a team-high 3 carries from inside the 10 this season and has faced a ton of carries against 8-man boxes, via Next Gen Stats, dragging down his efficiency.
- Marshawn Lynch: Lynch has two RB2 performances despite playing on an Oakland offense that has taken some time to get rolling. Lynch has played on 51.9% of the team's snaps and has 33 opportunities, ranking 19th at the position.
- Jamaal Williams: We can't know how many snaps Aaron Jones takes from Williams, who has played 61.7% and 61.0% of snaps in his contests thus far. He's handled 37 total opportunities (75.5% of the backfield opportunities available, ranking 5th among all running backs), so he's worth a start until we see otherwise -- just not a confident start.
- Phillip Lindsay: Lindsay should see a lot of targets if the game goes as planned in Baltimore; Denver is a fairly heavy underdog, and that's when Lindsay is on the field. Just a quarter of his carries have come against stacked boxes.
- Corey Clement: Clement should be the Eagles' RB1 on Sunday against the Colts, given the status of Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles. Clement finished as the RB7 last week on just 11 touches and 33 snaps. Indy has allowed two top-10 performances to backs to start the season.
- Dion Lewis: The offense should get stifled against the Jags, but that almost guarantees targets for Lewis out of the backfield. Lewis has 9 targets, compared to 1 for Derrick Henry. Lewis has had 17 of the 22 carries between them and all 8 targets when trailing.
- Adrian Peterson: Peterson has 11 carries and 3 targets while trailing, a very real possibility this week against Green Bay. That's 11 of 16 running back carries but just 3 of 17 targets. Thompson is the Washington back to prefer, but Peterson won't be an afterthought until the game gets out of hand, and Green Bay has been very generous to running backs to start the season, ranking 31st in Rushing Success Rate allowed.
- Peyton Barber: Barber has dominated the Bucs' backfield, playing 67.7% of the snaps and handling 72.5% of the carries and targets. Unfortunately, he hasn't cracked the top 38 in weekly scoring yet.
- Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, and James White: It's hard to bench all of these guys if you're in need of an RB3 or flex because of the over/under and status as favorites. The snap rates were split 55.7% for White, 24.6% for Burkhead, and 21.3% for Michel in a game where the Pats trailed in Week 2. Despite the low snaps, Michel had 12 opportunities, the same number as White. They're all desperation plays.
- Austin Ekeler: Ekeler has some flex appeal in a game where the Chargers are heavy underdogs. He has run 25 routes on 46 snaps and has tallied 8 targets.
- Theo Riddick: Riddick profiles as a potential flex play in negative game script. He had 12 targets last week and 7 in Week 1. As an underdog, the volume should be there yet again while the Lions are in catch-up mode.
Bench If Possible
- Alfred Morris: Morris has the same number of touches as Breida does (28), but he's had just 2 targets, and as underdogs, the 49ers should lean toward Breida in Week 3. Their team total is still high enough to roll the dice on a goal-line touch or two, but it's not the right game to deploy him if you don't need to.
- LeSean McCoy: The Bills' total sits at 12 points, which isn't a typo. They're 16.5-point underdogs on the road in Minnesota, one of the toughest defenses in all of football. McCoy's snap rate has hovered around 50% in each game so far, which lowers his floor dramatically. The offense's struggles takes him off the map entirely, even if he plays in Week 3.
- Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny: Who would've thought that these two would see their 40.3% snap rates in Week 1 dip in Week 2? Penny led the team at 30.3%, while Carson played 28.8%. Penny has the edge in opportunities through 2 weeks (24 to 19), but they're both must sits for now.
- Javorius Allen: Allen has been the Ravens' pass-catching back with some goal-line work mixed in. As a home favorite, he shouldn't see enough bankable work to play him in a 12-team league if you have him rostered.
- Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell: The Jets' team total is uncomfortably shy of 20 points, as they face the Browns on Thursday Night Football as field goal underdogs. That nixes both touchdown equity and positive game script from Crowell's workload, and we've seen him net 10 and 15 opportunities through two games so far. Cleveland has limited opposing rushers to a bottom-10 Rushing Success Rate through two weeks, despite facing Kamara and Conner. The best snap rate for either of them has been 52% in a single game. Splitting touches in a game with a low total against a tough defense isn't the right time to deploy committee backs. Bench them if you can swing it.
- Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount: The Lions are heavy home underdogs and already own the 27th-ranked rush offense through 2 weeks, via our metrics. Johnson has played just 36.1% of snaps this year, and Blount has played 20.8%, keeping both out of contention.
- Royce Freeman: For as good as Freeman looks when he's given space, his role has him shaping up to be a touchdown-or-bust option on the road against the Ravens. Freeman played just 24.2% of snaps last week.
- Duke Johnson: Johnson -- despite playing on 42.4% of the Browns' offensive snaps -- has just 16 combined carries and targets, a 25.0% utility rate and an opportunity market share (25.8%) that ranks him outside the top 50 among running backs. There's talk that Johnson is to get more involved moving forward, but until we see it, we're just trusting Hue Jackson. Bench Johnson if you can.
- Derrick Henry: Henry is a one-dimensional back on a weak offense against an elite defense. He has had just 5 of 27 running back touches when the Titans have been trailing.
- Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack, and Nyheim Hines: With Mack back in the fold in Week 2, each of these three players saw between 30% and 40% of the Colts' snaps. Mack and Wilkins each netted 10 carries and 2 targets, while Hines had 4 carries and a target. He did have a shifty score near the goal line, yet his workload was third in his own backfield. The Eagles have stifled opposing rushing attacks to start the year and own a top-two mark in both Rushing NEP per carry and Rushing Success Rate allowed. This trio is one to avoid.
Start With Confidence
- Antonio Brown: Brown reported to practice on Wednesday, and nothing yet suggests he's at risk of missing Week 3's game against the Bucs. Brown leads the NFL in routes run, via PFF, and owns a 32.7% target market share.
- Odell Beckham: Beckham's Giants are road underdogs in a game against the Texans, and he's already been held out of the end zone to start the year. However, OBJ has 4 end zone targets, tying him for third in the NFL, suggesting the touchdowns will come.
- Julio Jones: Jones has 3 end zone targets and 7 that featured him within 15 yards of the end zone, but he hasn't scored, which has been the norm for Jones in his career. Jones leads the league with a 41.2% target market share, so the workload is basically unmatched.
- DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins has two straight 11-target games and actually has benefited from playing alongside Will Fuller, averaging an eye-opening 20.3 half-PPR points in 10 games.
- Tyreek Hill: Hill took a backseat last week but still saw 6 targets and produced 90 yards. In all just 3 of his 14 targets featured him within 40 yards of the end zone, but the big-play ability is clearly still in play for Hill. The 49ers have allowed five different receivers to post a top-30 week already, though none were top 12.
- Michael Thomas: Thomas had two different outings last year against the Falcons: a 4-catch, 5-target, 66-yard game and a 10-catch, 14-target, 117-yard, 1-touchdown game. He's been force fed 38.0% of the Saints' targets this year and has an NFL-record 28 catches through two weeks.
- A.J. Green: Green's 6 end zone targets have him tied for the league lead (only he and Marvin Jones have more than 4), and Green has accounted for 24.3% of the Bengals' targets and 47.1% of their air yards, including 4 of their 10 deep targets. He's matchup proof and shouldn't have much of an issue against James Bradberry this week.
- Mike Evans: Evans' workload has been stellar to start the season: 19 targets, a 31.2% target market share. Pittsburgh hasn't been able to slow down receivers at all this year, allowing 3 different top-24 outings already.
- Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen: Both are surefire starts in essentially any matchup. Diggs, last week's WR1, drew 13 targets, converting them into 9 catches, 128 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Thielen took a backseat and still had 13 targets (12 catches, 131 yards, and 1 touchdown). Thielen and Diggs have combined for more than half of Cousins' attempts so far. The Bills' cornerback corps has allowed 18 completions on 21 targets, via PFF, this season.
- T.Y. Hilton: Hilton has seen 22 targets through 2 contests, 11 in each, and he's produced at least 13.0 half-PPR points in each. There is a problem in there: he's scored in each game, which hasn't been his forte in recent years. However, 5 of his 22 targets have featured him inside the 16-yard line when targeted. Hilton has just 2 of Luck's 8 deep attempts but still has accounted for 40.4% of Luck's air yards. We should feel a bit worried about the touchdown-boosting performances, but 11 targets is enough to play Hilton through just about any matchup.
- Davante Adams: Adams has netted 20 targets through two games, scoring in each, and he'll have an easier go this week without Xavier Rhodes across from him.
- Jarvis Landry: Landry has played north of 90% of snaps in each week and possesses a 32.4% target market share, a top-10 rate among receivers. He'll see Buster Skrine in the slot on Thursday night, and for as solid as the Jets' corners have been overall, Landry has offered one of the best fantasy workloads in the game through two weeks. He's a confident start.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster: JuJu has cleared 100 yards in both games and offers up a 26.3% target market share. The Bucs are shaping up as one of the best wide receiver matchups in the league early on.
Consider If Needed
- Keenan Allen: The Rams haven't given up more than 4.7 half-PPR points to a receiver yet through two games. Allen is the best wideout they'll face yet, but Nickell Robey is one of the league's premiere slot corners. You're only sitting Allen if you're fortunate enough to be able to sit someone with 19 targets in two games.
- Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders faces a Baltimore squad that ranks first in Target Success Rate allowed to wide receivers, but that's in part because they faced the Bills to open the season. Sanders' target volume dipped to just 4 in Week 2 after after being 11 in Week 2. He's caught all but 1 of those 15, but none of those targets came from within 25 yards of the end zone. We should expect volume to bounce back in Week 3.
- Brandin Cooks: Cooks' matchup is rough against the Chargers, but he moved all over the field to get advantageous matchups in Week 2. Cooks has had 18 targets through two games, along with a 37% air yards market share.
- Nelson Agholor: Agholor posted a 44-catch, 71-target, 610-yard, 7-touchdown line from Wentz in 2017 and now is the top wide receiver option in the offense while Alshon Jeffery remains sidelined. He draws Kenny Moore, a 2017 undrafted corner from Valdosta State, in the slot this week. PFF has credited Moore with 2.12 yards allowed per route covered since 2017, one of the worst marks of the week for a starting corner.
- Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones: They're all startable but not must-starts in a standard-sized league. Tate leads them with 26 targets. Jones leads them with 336 air yards and is tied for the league-lead with 6 end zone targets. Golladay has actually run the most routes. Tate and Golladay have two top-25 performances, while Jones has been 30th and 49th in half-PPR formats.
- Will Fuller: Fuller has been the real deal while catching passes from Deshaun Watson. He caught 8 of 9 passes last week for 113 yards and a touchdown. That included 133 air yards and an end zone target.
- Allen Robinson: Robinson got used very differently in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, with an aDOT that was trimmed to single digits. He moved all over the field and saw 14 targets. Patrick Peterson no longer shadows, so Robinson should have the ability to provide on his targets in Week 3.
- Larry Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald would be a trendy "sit" candidate, given the state of the Cardinals' offense, but the fact of the matter is that he's seen 24.6% of the team's targets and 41.1% of their air yards. It's a strong workload, and the Bears have been beaten in the slot this year.
- Amari Cooper: We should probably not overreact to Cooper's 10-target game in Week 2. It's promising that he hit double-figures after just 3 Week 1 targets, but none of Cooper's 13 targets so far have featured him inside the 20, and only two have been closer than the 35-yard line. Oakland's not an offense that will generate many scoring drives (they have 18 red zone plays so far, 25th-most in the league), so it's concerning that Cooper hasn't gotten any looks there.
- Sammy Watkins: Watkins netted 7 targets last week after 5 in the opener and caught 6 of them for 100 yards against a weak Steelers secondary. He gets another strong matchup in what should be another high-octane, back-and forth game.
- Robert Woods: Combining market share and air yards share, it's Woods who actually has the best opportunity among all Rams receivers, but he does run the risk of facing the toughest matchups against the Chargers while Cooks is moved around to get the best looks. He's still a fine start, given the high-equity looks (2 end zone targets and 2 more from within the 5-yard line).
- Chris Hogan: We can't know how much Josh Gordon will play, but we do know that Hogan already has been held to 5 targets in each game and now has more competition for targets and touchdowns. He'll avoid Darius Slay by playing primarily out of the slot, but you can't feel confident in him. The reason he's not a sit is that he's tied to what should be one of the highest scoring offenses of Week 3.
- Randall Cobb: Cobb is pretty neutral this week against Washington. It's a matchup he can win, but he also saw only 6 targets for 30 yards last week in a tougher spot. Fabian Moreau hasn't proved to be a matchup to avoid.
- Demaryius Thomas: Thomas was the go-to option in Week 3 but reeled in just 5 of 11 targets for 18 yards. He's been the primary goal-line receiver for the Broncos, but he's tied to a 19-point implied team total. He's not someone you must sit, though you can if you've got an option above him on this list.
- Tyler Lockett: Lockett has some volume concerns this week in what should be a slow matchup with Dallas, but he does have 2 end zone targets and another from inside the 10. Overall, he has a 25.0% market share and 17% of the Seahawks' air yards.
- DeSean Jackson: Jackson has two top-8 performances to start the year on just 9 total targets (9 catches for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns). That can't last, but Jackson does face the Steelers' torchable secondary.
- Cooper Kupp: Kupp has 8 targets within 20 yards of the end zone out of his 17 total looks. He's a touchdown threat each game, but the yardage upside is never really there (52 and 63 this season). He cleared 76 yards twice last year.
- John Brown: Brown has 14 targets but just 7 catches. Seems just okay. The great part? Of those 14 targets, 7 of them have featured him in the end zone or within 10 yards out. He's been the go-to option near the goal-line for the Ravens, who are a home favorite with a healthy team total.
- Devin Funchess: Funchess is a prime example of why I like to bucket players into non-absolute tiers. Does he have a 20.0% target market share? Yup. Did he see 9 targets last week with Greg Olsen injured? He sure did. Did 3 of them feature him within 11 yards of the end zone? Yup. So normally, he'd find his way into "start" territory, but that means that you don't have two or three receivers in a better spot than than what Funchess has: a 23.25-point implied total and a matchup against William Jackson III, who has been stifling this year as usual, allowing just 0.64 yards per coverage snap on 116 routes covered, via PFF (19th among high-volume cornerbacks).
- Keelan Cole: Cole hasn't officially emerged as the Jags' top option out wide, but he's the best bet for a deep target on the squad and leads the team in routes run. Against the Titans' generous defense, he's in play, but the presence of Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief will keep him out of must-start territory all season.
- Quincy Enunwa: Enunwa has been the go-to guy for the Jets, seeing 20 targets on a team-high 58 routes run, via PFF. He will face Briean Boddy-Calhoun, a tough matchup, on the majority of his snaps, but Enunwa's 35.9% target market share -- a top-three rate among all receivers -- will help overcome the cornerback draw. He's a low-end flex play on a short week.
- Chris Godwin: Godwin has 2 end-zone targets (and 2 touchdowns) and should be in a shootout in Week 3, but you're really banking on touchdowns, as he has 97 yards through Week 2.
- Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon: Goodwin is on track to return and would be in the flex consideration against a secondary that has struggled to limit fantasy production. Garcon bounced back from a dud in Minnesota in Week 1 to catch all 4 targets for 57 yards last week. He's a low-end play in a good matchup.
Bench If Possible
- Corey Davis: Davis has a 33.3% target market share, a top-5 rate among receivers, but the matchup with Jacksonville keeps him out of play, as he's been held to single-digit half-PPR points despite the heavy target workload.
- Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Paul Richardson: There isn't a lot to separate the three from a target standpoint (8 for Crowder, 10 for Doctson, and 12 for Richardson). Richardson has been the downfield threat, but they're all afterthoughts after Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed.
- Sterling Shepard: Shepard has caught 8 of 12 targets for just 72 yards and faces Aaron Colvin in the slot. He's a sit this week, provided that you can swing it.
- Michael Crabtree: Crabtree's ownership is really high, given how much he's produced for our fantasy teams through Week 2. He's hauled in 8 of 16 targets, just 1 of which has come from within 15 yards of the end zone. Without yardage upside, he's a touchdown-or-bust option.
- Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams: Neither Williams can be counted on. Tyrell has had at least 75% of the team's snaps in both games, but he's had just 7 targets. Mike was boosted on a touchdown last week, salvaging a 2-target outing.
- Kenny Stills: The bottom fell out on Stills in Week 2, as he saw 3 targets for 17 yards. And no, they weren't deep looks: he totaled 20 air yards. With DeVante Parker likely back in the mix, we should bail on the Dolphins' receivers until someone emerges.
- Ted Ginn Jr.: Ginn saw 7 targets in Week 2 after 6 in the opener, but his snap rate plummeted to 45.5%. Ginn had a 76-yard, 1-touchdown game against the Falcons last year but also a 2-catch, 10-yard game.
- Robby Anderson: Anderson has run just 2 fewer routes (56) than Enunwa (58) has this season, but he's drawn 14 fewer targets (6 total). Enunwa has lost his deep-threat role, as well. Of Sam Darnold's 14 deep attempts, just 2 have gone toward Anderson, who owns a 16.2% air yards market share. Terrelle Pryor (4 of 14 deep attempts and a 28.8% air yards share) has been Darnold's deep threat of preference. Sit Anderson for now.
- Jordy Nelson: Nelson (71 routes run) has had similar route-running numbers to Amari Cooper (73), but Cooper has a 12 to 8 edge in targets. Similar to Cooper, Nelson has a problem with high-leverage looks, as just one of his targets has featured him inside the 45-yard line. He's a sit and probably a drop candidate in 12-team leagues with how this offense has been shaping up.
- Kelvin Benjamin: Benjamin leads the Bills with a 15.9% target market share, which is the type of workload that some quaternary options see in offenses. Of Josh Allen's 15 deep pass attempts, just one has been directed toward Benjamin. After a heavy 113-air-yard showing in the opener on 7 targets, Benjamin's deep looks were sapped, as he racked up 34 air yards on 3 targets in Week 2.
- Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley: Sanu and Ridley are owned in enough leagues where they're on the brink of being needed in a 12-teamer, but neither has topped 6 targets in a game, and they've been clear afterthoughts behind Julio Jones while doing enough to cannibalize the other.
- D.J. Moore: Moore scored late last week, but he saw just 2 total targets and played 25.4% of the team's snaps. He's a fine stash if you have space, but he's not a Week 3 start, despite the touchdown.
- John Ross: Ross is owned on a significant portion of fantasy teams (43.9%), but it's Tyler Boyd who is the Bengals' WR2. Boyd (68) has run one fewer route than Green (69) and 20 more than Ross (49). Ross has tallied just 6 targets to date, so leave him on your bench -- or drop him for Boyd or a receiver who is more involved.
Start With Confidence
- Rob Gronkowski: Gronkowski has a 16.2% target share in the Pats' offense and 27.9% of the team's air yards, which puts him third at the position.
- Travis Kelce: Kelce leads all tight ends with a 30.1% target market share and has racked up 211 air yards, 50 more than any other tight end. The 49ers have given up 2 touchdowns on 6 targets to tight ends this season, and the return of Reuben Foster should shore that up, but Kelce is a weekly start with his workload and elite offense.
- Zach Ertz: Ertz has played at least 93% of snaps in each game to date and has amassed 23 total targets, a 28.1% target market share, second-highest among all tight ends. Ertz saw 84 targets from Wentz in 2017 (19.1%), but Jeffery's absence keeps Ertz as the top option in the passing offense. Indy has allowed 12 completions on 14 targets for 119 yards (9.9 per catch) to tight ends to start the season.
- Jimmy Graham: Graham's Week 1 target total doubled from 4 to 8 in Week 2, but his snap rate did fall from 98.3% to 75.3%, and just one of those 8 targets from Week 2 featured Graham inside the 30, while he had 2 targets inside the 10 in the opener. Eventually, the volume and goal-line looks will cross paths for Graham in this offense.
- George Kittle: Kittle's volume fell from 9 targets to 4 last week despite a near identical snap count (51 and 50, respectively). His routes fell from 31 to 23, as well, but in a catch-up game against a leaky Chiefs secondary that has given up 201 yards and a touchdown on 15 tight end targets, Kittle is a firm start.
- Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph is a home favorite with a high implied team total, which checks all the boxes from a process standpoint. Rudolph has topped an 80% snap rate in both games so far, and saw 8 targets go his way in Week 2. However, just 1 of his 10 targets have come within the 20 (a Week 1 end zone target for a score). If you aren't confident starting him this week, you never will be.
Consider If Needed
- Jordan Reed: Reed's tallied 13 targets so far for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. He has a lower aDOT of 5.7 (compared to 6.4 last year) and is a home underdog. He's not a lock for production, so he's not someone you should consider a must-play on the off chance you can upgrade. Despite the concerns, he's not someone to sit in a standard-sized league.
- Evan Engram: Engram has seen 12 targets through 2 games, a 15.0% target share, and he now draws a matchup with the Texans, who have already given up 138 yards on 10 targets to tight ends this year (mostly from Gronkowski, of course). Problematically, the Giants have struggled to score, and Engram has just one target from inside the 35.
- Eric Ebron: Make no mistake: Ebron hasn't been the Colts' top tight end to start the year. Jack Doyle has played at least 93% of snaps in both games for the Colts so far and has accumulated 15 targets. With Doyle out though, we can look to Ebron, who has 3 end zone targets to start the year. Before you get overly excited about Ebron, know that his snap rate fell from 45.1% to 27.9% in Week 2. He's being boosted by touchdowns.
- Trey Burton: Burton has 10 targets and 35 yards to start the season despite playing at least 86% of snaps in each game. He has run 73 pass routes, via PFF, ranking him 6th at the position. You have to assume that the volume will follow, and the Cardinals have done little to resist tight ends, giving up 77 yards and 2 scores on 10 targets. The problem is that the Bears are touchdown favorites in this one, and volume could be a concern again for Burton in Week 3.
- Jared Cook: The Dolphins have allowed 155 yards on 10 catches by tight ends, and they haven't exactly played a bunch of studs to start the year (though Delanie Walker did have 4 catches for 52 of those yards). Either way, Cook ranks second in targets among tight ends with 16 (though he had just 4 last week). Cook can rack up big yards-per-catch numbers, and that's what Miami has allowed to the position to start the season.
- O.J. Howard: Howard's 6 targets and big plays aren't bankable in standard-sized leagues. He's an exciting talent and will be in a game with high scoring potential, but he's not someone you should lock in unless you need to. He's also not a player you need to bench if you're thin on replacement options, as the Steelers showed they can be torched through the air last week.
Bench If Possible
- David Njoku: Njoku is one of two Browns with at least 65 routes run (he has 78) and just one of three with at least 45. He's seen 7 targets in each game and owns a 21.0% target market share, which ranks him fifth among all tight ends. That volume makes him about as safe as you could want from a non-elite tight end, but the results just haven't been there.
- Tyler Eifert: Eifert drew near the rumored 50-snap limit in Week 2 already, as he played 49 against the Ravens on Thursday night. He had 4 targets for just 23 yards and has no targets from inside the 10 to start the season.
- Will Dissly: Dissly has run 52 routes, 20th-most among tight ends, but has just 6 catches to show for it. He's been hyper efficient, and volume isn't a guarantee against the slow-paced Cowboys in Week 3. Dissly does, though, have a pair of end zone targets and another from inside the 5, but it's not the best week to chase him.
- Benjamin Watson: Watson nearly had an easy touchdown but was overthrown by Brees last week. He's always a touchdown threat, given his stellar offense, but that's about all he's offering, as he has 63 yards on 9 targets to start the year. He's a fine deeper league play, as he's 12th in routes run among all tight ends and is in another high-scoring game in Week 3, but he's a bench in standard-sized leagues.
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins: ASJ ranks 15th in routes run at the position but has just 8 targets, one of which came from inside the 35. The touchdown-dependent option hasn't been featured near the goal-line.
- Charles Clay: The Vikings have given up some big games to tight ends lately, but they were on more efficient offenses (isn't every tight end?), and Clay has seen only 5 targets through two games, while playing a solid 66% snap rate. If you're looking for any upside, it's the Clay has an average depth of target of 13.8 yards, and three of his targets came within 21 yards of the goal line (but none from closer than 15).