Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 4
One of the most important lessons I was taught in my 18 years of schooling -- wow, really? 18? Jeez. -- came from a journalism ethics class in graduate school.
My professor asked us if we had ever heard the expression about hearing both sides of an argument. Everyone did. I'm sure you have.
But he pointed out that no topic had only two sides. Every topic could be approached from many, many perspectives. And that really stuck with me. Assuming that not everybody is viewing the same scenario from equal footing has altered the way I think about conflicts.
I didn't think about it at the time, but that applies pretty directly to start-or-sit questions in fantasy football. If you're in a 10- or 12-team league, your start-or-sit questions probably look more like "Demaryius Thomas or Kenny Golladay" rather than "Antonio Callaway or Taylor Gabriel?"
I love talking up sneaky plays as much as anyone, but I know that in my deeper leagues, start-or-sit dilemmas aren't as hard, mainly because I don't have as many options. It's in the smaller, more traditional leagues where the decisions really come into play, and I'm not really considering going with Callaway or Gabriel over Demaryius Thomas or Chris Hogan or some other player with a better role on a better offense who happens to be in a bad spot this week. You likely don't need to be desperate in standard leagues.
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, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.
Start With Confidence
- Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes travels to face the Denver Broncos with an implied total over 30 points. He's topped 25 fantasy points in all three games so far, and Denver ranks 20th in passing fantasy points per attempt allowed and 25th in adjusted yards per attempt allowed. Mahomes is a locked in starter.
- Drew Brees: Brees has been off to a blistering start, averaging 29.9 fantasy points and 359.3 passing yards per game. The New York Giants have been a mostly neutral matchup, and Brees has been hit on just 9.0% of his drop backs, a top-five rate among active quarterbacks in Week 4.
- Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers hosts the Buffalo Bills as a double-digit favorite. Rodgers ranks 17th among 34 passers with at least 25 drop backs in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back but 24th in Passing Success Rate. A matchup with the 20th-ranked pass defense by numberFire's metrics should get Rodgers back on track (and he's already had at least 16 fantasy points in all three games, anyway).
- Philip Rivers: Rivers, who ranks 4th in per-drop back efficiency this season by our metrics, gets the 27th-ranked pass defense (the San Francisco 49ers) at home this week. He's had at least 17 fantasy points in all three games to start the 2018 campaign, and the Niners have given up at least 20 to every passer they've faced.
- Deshaun Watson: Watson has gotten back on track since Week 1 (increasing weekly from 12.0 to 23.8 and 26.0 fantasy points), though the Indianapolis Colts have been better than advertised against opposing passers (14.3 fantasy points per game allowed and 9th in fantasy points per pass attempt allowed). Still, Watson has averaged north of 35 fantasy points in games that Will Fuller has played, according to the Rotoviz Game Splits App.
- Tom Brady: Brady has gotten off to a slow start, ranking 19th in Passing NEP per drop back and 23rd in Passing Success Rate, and the Miami Dolphins have actually been a top-10 pass defense by just about every measure. The Dolphins' lack of pass rush success (they're 4th-worst in quarterback hit rate among teams playing in Week 4, via FantasyData) should let Brady get back on track, as he is at home with a heavy implied total.
- Matt Ryan: Ryan, who is 6th in in Passing NEP per drop back and Passing Success Rate, has overcome his lack of ceiling with consecutive 30-plus fantasy point outings. He stays at home to face the Cincinnati Bengals, who have surrendered an average of 23.3 fantasy points to quarterbacks. Things are clicking for Ryan right now.
- Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger's matchup against the Baltimore Ravens isn't ideal, but they are banged up. Roethlisberger has been the QB1 and QB10 the past 2 weeks, while scoring at least 25 fantasy points in each (39.0 and 25.0). He finished as the QB18 and the QB1 against Baltimore last year, the QB1 outing coming on 66 attempts.
Consider If Needed
- Kirk Cousins: Cousins has played three pass defenses that rank 20th or worse by numberFire's metrics, and now he faces the 5th-ranked pass defense: the Los Angeles Rams. The good news (for Cousins, that is) is that Aqib Talib is expected to need surgery, and Marcus Peters is expected to miss multiple weeks. Cousins topped 20 fantasy points in each game until a clunker last week in a letdown spot. The only reason not to be more confident in him is that it's a road game on a Thursday night.
- Russell Wilson: Wilson's metrics are below average, and the game against the Arizona Cardinals has the lowest total on the board by a big margin. Still, his fantasy floor has been 15.5 fantasy points this year. Arizona is a bottom-8 pass defense, though, and he's found ways to produce in bad matchups to start the season.
- Andy Dalton: Dalton faces the depleted Atlanta Falcons this week, a team that has surrendered 28.6 and 40.5 fantasy points to quarterbacks who aren't Nick Foles. Dalton has been above 17.5 in each of his three games and finds himself top-10 in Passing NEP per drop back. It's a matchup to attack this week for Dalton, making him a low-end QB1 play in 12- and 14-team leagues.
- Carson Wentz: Wentz was fine in his debut, but the Tennessee Titans have also been that -- fine against the pass. They're 14th in Passing Success Rate and passing fantasy points per attempt allowed. Wentz did run 3 times for 10 yards last week, but until we see a ceiling game from him (a boost from his 7.9-yard average depth of target would be a start), he's not a confident start.
- Andrew Luck: Luck gets an advantageous matchup against a Houston Texans defense that ranks 29th in pass defense by our metrics. Luck sits outside the top 20 in our passing efficiency metrics, and he's run just 6 times through Week 3, lowering his fantasy floor. He's about as low as we can go in 12- and 14-team leagues with any comfort.
- Matthew Stafford: Stafford is easy to overvalue this week. He's not someone you can't play, but know that the Dallas Cowboys have faced 26 pass attempts in 2 of 3 games and that the Detroit Lions have played slower when possible. Dallas hasn't let any quarterback top 18.2 fantasy points yet -- in part because of the slow pace. We shouldn't expect a high-ceiling showing from Stafford, and in a standard-sized league, we shouldn't try to rely on him in Week 4.
- Jared Goff: Goff faces a Minnesota Vikings team on a short week after a big loss, but they still haven't given up more than a passing touchdown in a single game to opposing passers. They're trending down, while Goff is trending up, but if you can find a passer in a better spot than a short week against a still-tough defense, you should do it. Goff isn't a "must-sit," but he's not a "must-start," either. It all depends on the other options available to you.
Bench If Possible
- Case Keenum: Keenum could be considered a shallow-league streamer because of the matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, but it's hard to get excited about him, despite a 22-fantasy point debut in Week 1. Plus, the quarterback surplus in 1QB leagues makes it easy to find replacements on a weekly basis. Overall, Keenum ranks 24th in per-drop back Passing NEP and 19th in Passing Success Rate. The Chiefs' bottom-five pass defense and lack of pass rush makes him a low-end streamer if you're in a bind.
- Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill may be one of the top streamers of the week, and we could profile him as a "start," but we likely aren't in a situation where we need him, and guys like Stafford and Goff -- despite the negatives -- are better shallow-league plays. That being said, Tannehill has averaged 19.6 fantasy points and faces a New England Patriots defense that is 22nd in pass defense, by numberFire's metrics. Just don't be trying to start him where you don't need him.
- Derek Carr: Carr is not a good fantasy football quarterback. He's thrown at least 32 times in three games, but the efficiency hasn't followed, and he's maxed out at 15.6 fantasy points. The Cleveland Browns have limited both Ben Roethlisberger (12.0 fantasy points) and Drew Brees (17.6), as well.
- Mitchell Trubisky: Trubisky has been struggling this year and ranks just 28th in Passing NEP per drop back. The matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is promising, as they've allowed an average of 24.2 fantasy points per game to passers, but Trubisky has just 2 career games with at least 18 fantasy points. Don't start him in shallow leagues, despite the matchup.
- Blake Bortles: Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars struggled to move the ball in Week 3, and the loss of tackle Cam Robinson shouldn't be understated. The New York Jets have a top-7 quarterback hit rate.
- Dak Prescott: Prescott's ownership is bound to dip after his dreadful three weeks to open the season (8.7, 14.9, and 10.8 fantasy points). Prescott ranks bottom-3 in Passing Success Rate and Passing NEP per drop back. The Detroit Lions have quietly limited opposing passing production and have yet to face more than 26 attempts in a game. Bench Dak (and drop him if you can).
Start With Confidence
- Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott actually leads the Cowboys with 18 targets (for just 37 yards) and has played 93.8% of the possible offensive snaps. That type of workload is almost unmatched. Detroit has been the most generous rush defense in terms of Rushing NEP per carry to running backs.
- Todd Gurley: Gurley has handled at least 22 opportunities (carries plus targets) in each of his three games. He's played 81% of the Rams' snaps, and Minnesota is actually just 18th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs.
- Alvin Kamara: Kamara's 38 targets are 11 more than any other running back, and his 75 opportunities are second only to Gurley's 76 on the season. The Giants have given up 1.27 fantasy points per target to running backs, ranking 23rd in the league.
- Melvin Gordon: Gordon has actually played just 72% of the Chargers' snaps but still has tallied 63 total opportunities, including 24 targets. Gordon and the Chargers are double-digit home favorites, a script that surprisingly hasn't led to ceiling games for Gordon in his career.
- Saquon Barkley: Barkley has been in on at least 71% of the Giants' snaps in each game, and he's had at least 22 opportunities. That has led to 19.8, 17.8, and 20.2 fantasy points. He's been as productive as possible in the Giants' offense. The Saints are the top rush defense by Success Rate allowed, but the targets make that pretty irrelevant.
- Kareem Hunt: There are some reasons to worry about Hunt (mostly the declining snap rate -- 71.4%, 69.0%, and 61.8% -- and the lack of passing work -- 3 total targets), but he's still tied to the offense with the highest implied total of the week. Denver has been a top-12 rush defense this season in terms of Rushing Success Rate and per-carry Rushing NEP allowed, yet Hunt does have 5 carries from inside the 10, and touchdowns are always in play when he's playing a healthy majority of snaps.
- Jordan Howard: Howard has yet to have a ceiling game this season (13.2, 8.3, and 15.1 fantasy points), but he's had at least 18 opportunities in each game. Regardless of game script, Howard has played at least 62.0% of snaps in each game to start the season, and he's now a home favorite against a weak rush defense (Tampa Bay).
- James Conner: We saw another down game from Conner in Week 3, and that came in the form of an 84.8% snap rate, 15 carries, and 6 targets, so it could be a lot worse. He's had 5 catches in every game and is a home favorite over a Ravens defense that keeps on losing key pieces.
- Tevin Coleman: Coleman has played 65.1% and 77.9% of snaps in two games without Devonta Freeman and has handled 20 and 18 opportunities in those. The Bengals haven't done much to hold opposing rushers in check, most recently letting Christian McCaffrey run 28 times for 184 yards.
- Giovani Bernard: Bernard returned an RB9 performance last week without Joe Mixon, turning 21 opportunities into 17.1 fantasy points. More promisingly, he played 87.7% of the snaps, suggesting he's a workhorse back until Mixon returns. The Falcons just lost Ricardo Allen in addition to all the other injuries they're dealing with.
Consider If Needed
- Leonard Fournette: Fournette's hamstring could limit him in Week 4 and as a heavy favorite, he could see limited touches. However, the Jets are just 17th against the rush, and Fournette's workload ranked him 3rd in touches per game last year among backs.
- Dalvin Cook: Similar to Fournette, the uncertainty pushes Cook out of the confident range. The Vikes are "optimistic" that he'll play, but the Rams have allowed just a single running back to get inside the top 20 (Melvin Gordon was the RB14 last week). That's why Cook is a fringe play, and if you happen to have options like Coleman or Bernard, you should prioritize them over Cook.
- David Johnson: Johnson's usage was less bad in Week 3 than it was in prior weeks, and he's finished as the RB15, RB43, and RB17 through Week 3. His snap rate has been climbing (67.9%, 77.8%, and 86.0%), and he finally saw a deep target, which led to a touchdown.
- Carlos Hyde: Hyde's snap rate has been hovering between 52% and 58%, lower than we'd like for an RB1 in fantasy, but he's been fed 22, 16, and 23 carries. His lack of targets (2, 1, and 3) have played part in capping his upside. He's scored in each game (including twice in Week 3), and that's boosted some otherwise iffy games (65 total yards in Week 1 and 50 total yards in Week 2).
- Lamar Miller: Miller has played at least 76% of snaps in all 3 games this season but has seen his carry count fall each week (20, 14, and 10). He's made up for it with some targets (2, 2, and 6), but he's failed to net us even 12 fantasy points in a game. He's a road underdog (albeit a slight one) against the Colts, who rank 29th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs through 3 weeks of action. The snaps and matchup make him startable.
- Marshawn Lynch: Lynch has boosted his fantasy game logs with a rushing touchdown in each game: 11.9, 13.8, and 16.1 fantasy points, while paired with 49, 68, and 86 total yards. Lynch actually has 3 targets from inside the 10 already, and he's played at least half of the snaps in consecutive games. As a home favorite, he's in the starting conversation, despite a slightly negative matchup against the Browns.
- Matt Breida: Breida has finished as the RB47, RB3, and RB20 despite not hitting a 50.0% snap rate yet. This week profiles as one where he should see a ton of checkdowns from C.J. Beathard, who gave Carlos Hyde 8.3 targets per game last season, as the 49ers are heavy underdogs against the Chargers.
- Alex Collins: I'm a bigger believer in Collins than most seem to be, but this isn't the right matchup to deploy him with much confidence. The Ravens are road underdogs against Pittsburgh. Still, he isn't a must-sit by any means, as Collins has actually totaled 8 targets in the past two games, and has 7 targets while trailing this season, compared to 9 for "pass-game back" Javorius Allen. He's still going to play half the snaps for a team in a game with a 48.5-point over/under.
- Chris Carson: Seattle fed Carson 32 carries in Week 4 and more importantly gave him 72.5% of the snaps to differentiate himself from Rashaad Penny. Arizona has been vulnerable on the ground, so the volume could lead to another solid game for Carson.
- Sony Michel: Michel has been getting a ton of usage when on the field, as he's had 12 and 17 opportunities on 13 and 23 snaps to start his career. He's the go-to man on the ground (10 and 14 carries), and the Pats are solid home favorites on the Dolphins, and Rex Burkhead has been placed on injured reserve.
- Kenyan Drake: It's been more has been more "Hate the Drake" to start the season, as he's finished as the RB31, RB11, and RB65 through Week 3 with declining chances in each game (18, 15, and 9). As a heavy underdog on the road, he should see some pass-game work (he's had 4 targets in each game but hasn't cleared 20 receiving yards), but that's about all you can bank on here.
- James White: White has played 48.0% of snaps or more in all 3 games to start the year, and he's been heavily targeted (9, 8, and 3). The end results have been RB17, RB17, and RB22 production.
- Javorius Allen: Allen has played 49.4% and 54.2% of the Ravens' snaps, and they should trail in Pittsburgh. Allen's receiving ability is overstated -- he has had 17 targets for 70 yards through Week 3 -- but he's still been involved and has been a top-22 running back in each week so far.
- Kerryon Johnson: Johnson's snap rate hasn't cracked the 50% mark yet (22.9%, 46.8%, and 44.6%), but he has seen his opportunity count climb each week (8, 14, and 19). The Lions are road underdogs, but Dallas has been beatable on the ground already and will be without Sean Lee.
- Phillip Lindsay: Lindsay got ejected last week but managed 6 opportunities on 11 snaps, a usage rate similar to what he's seen through the first 2 weeks. Lindsay is a home underdog in a game where the Broncos need to score, so his anticipated receiving workload puts him in play. Just know that Devontae Booker saw 7 targets last week while Denver tried to make up ground. We should probably just chalk that up to the ejection, though.
Bench If Possible
- Austin Ekeler: Ekeler may be talented, but he's played 26.8%, 42.1%, and 34.6% of snaps and has had 10, 14, and 7 opportunities. You're banking on elite efficiency, which he can offer, but the workload should be dampened in Week 4 as a heavy favorite against the 49ers.
- Royce Freeman: For as many flaws as he's had with his usage, Freeman has been the RB35, RB30, and RB23 to start his career. Still, we should be benching him if we can in a game where the Broncos should be trailing. On the flip side, Freeman has had 5 carries from inside the 10, and Denver has a pretty high total. He could see some goal-line work, but that's not something you should bank on if you don't need to.
- Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, and Aaron Jones: They cannibalized each other to RB44, RB31, and RB47 finishes, respectively, in Week 3. Williams still led with 30 snaps, compared to 20 for Montgomery and 17 for Jones in a negative game script. Yes, Williams is the best bet to see the most touches. Yes, Aaron Jones is the most efficient rusher. Yes, the Packers are heavy favorites. But you run the risk of starting a back who fails to see 10 touches.
- Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry: Neither of these options are players you should be aiming to start. Lewis has finished as the RB12, RB 47, and RB44; Henry has been the RB57, RB41, and RB42. Splitting snaps on a team that has averaged 1.48 points per offensive drive (27th in the NFL).
- Isaiah Crowell: As a heavy underdog, Crowell is always a bit sketchy. On the road in Jacksonville with an implied team total south of 16 points, well, it's best to bench him regardless of the fact that he's been the RB5 and RB8 in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively. He did that thanks to 2 touchdowns, a count the Jets are barely expected to get to in Week 4.
- Bilal Powell: The same goes for Powell. In theory, he'd be the preference over Crowell as the team's pass-catching back, but Powell has had just 2 red zone carries, compared to 9 for Crowell. If either will luck into a score, it's likely going to be Crowell.
- Alfred Morris: C.J. Beathard shouldn't inspire confidence in the Morris owners, but he does throw often to running backs. Problematically, Morris hasn't been used that way, and he has just 2 targets on 88 snaps.
- Peyton Barber: Barber has finished as the RB38, RB55, and RB56, and his snap rate has been declining (72.7%, 62.1%, and 59.5%). As a road underdog against the Bears, we should be worried. He has had 19 and 16 carries in the first 2 weeks, but the script suggests more of an 8-carry, 2-target workload like he saw in Week 3 while trailing.
- Theo Riddick: Riddick has fallen out of favor (58.6%, 36.4%, and 28.4% of snaps). This could be a week where the Lions trail, but Dallas' offense (31st in points per game) doesn't project to get out ahead too early or too heavily.
- Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, and Marlon Mack: Hines commanded the backfield snaps in Week 3 (72.9%) but turned those 43 snaps into 10 opportunities. Wilkins (17 snaps and 8 opportunities) and Mack (18 snaps and 12 opportunities) can't be trusted. No Colts running back has finished better than the weekly RB30.
Start With Confidence
- Antonio Brown: Brown has been a letdown to start the 2018 campaign, finishing as the WR10, WR38, and WR25. He's gathered 16, 17, and 9 targets in those 3 games, though, and he now faces a Ravens defense that is losing key pieces.
- Julio Jones: Jones' touchdown woes continue, as he's 0 for 3 on red zone targets to start the year, while Matt Ryan is 11 for 13 with 6 touchdowns to other Falcons. Still, Jones has handled 33.7% of the Falcons' targets and 57.5% of their air yards, ranking him top-2 among the league in each.
- DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins has had double-digit targets in each game and has played virtually every snap for Houston. Hopkins trails only Julio Jones in air yards (484) on the season. Indy has actually been pretty tough on wide receivers, but they haven't faced many on par with Hopkins.
- Michael Thomas: Thomas has been outrageous to start the season and has finished as a top-10 receiver each week, while catching an NFL-record 38 passes through 3 weeks. Thomas has nearly 5 inches and 20 pounds on Janoris Jenkins.
- Odell Beckham: OBJ has finished as the WR14, WR61, and WR18 despite not scoring. He's had 4 end zone targets, ranking 5th in the league, and his 49.6% air yards share ranks second in the NFL. He can escape Marshon Lattimore from the slot, and slot man Patrick Robinson is out for the year now for the Saints, a team that's already dead last in Target Success Rate allowed to receivers.
- A.J. Green: Green is dealing with a groin injury, though the term being thrown out is "optimism." The Falcons have allowed just a single top-24 receiver, but that was Michael Thomas last week for 129 yards. Green's 7 end zone targets rank him second in the league. If he plays, he's in a stellar spot.
- Adam Thielen: Thielen may have the best workload in football among receivers right now: 12, 13, and 19 targets with nearly every snap played. He's accounted for 43.5% of Minnesota's air yards, and the matchup with the Rams is not as tough as it seems, now that Aqib Talib is on IR and Marcus Peters is unlikely to play.
- Mike Evans: Evans has scored in all 3 games and has had yardage to go along with it (147, 83, and 137) to finish as the WR7, WR17, and WR4. He should see Kyle Fuller most often in coverage, a 5-inch, 40-pound advantage for Evans.
- Davante Adams: Adams has been a top-24 receiver in each week, thanks to 8, 12, and 9 targets and a touchdown in each game. He's had 4 targets from inside the 2, and the Packers have a high implied total against a Bills defense that has given up 3 top-24 fantasy receivers to start the season.
- Keenan Allen: This should be a bounce-back week for Allen, who has been the WR44 and WR76 the past 2 games. Allen faces a 49ers secondary that's 19th in the league in fantasy points per target. They haven't let up a big ceiling game, but they've faced three teams who spread it around (Minnesota, Detroit, and Kansas City).
- Jarvis Landry: The Baker Mayfield era is underway in Cleveland, and Landry saw 9 of Mayfield's 23 attempts in Week 3. Landry already leads the league in target market share, and he now faces a Raiders defense that is 26th in fantasy points per target to wide receivers.
- Tyreek Hill: Hill surely hasn't overcome volume concerns (8, 6, and 5 targets), and he put up his first dud in Week 3 (WR 50 on 2 catches for 51 yards) despite a big offensive display from the Chiefs' offense. Hill caught 2 of 6 targets against Denver last season in Week 8, though 3 of those were against Aqib Talib, no longer with the team.
- Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders faces the Chiefs, who haven't been quite as awful as advertised against fantasy receivers, but they've let up more than 30 points per game, and the Broncos' passing offense flows through the two receivers. Sanders has totaled 24 targets, 20 of which came in Weeks 1 and 3 alone. The 56-point over/under puts nearly everyone in play in this game, starting with Sanders on the Denver side.
- T.Y. Hilton: Hilton gets a boost by returning indoors to Indy, and he dropped 32.0 fantasy points on Houston in Week 9 of 2017 (and 2.9 in Week 17). Houston has let up 3 top-24 receiver weeks already.
- Stefon Diggs: Diggs has had enough volume (6, 13, and 10 targets) even as the secondary option behind Thielen, and the injuries to the Rams really keep him in the trustworthy territory despite a 17-yard, 10-target showing last week.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster: JuJu has had just 4 fewer targets than Antonio Brown (42 to 38), and he's benefited from the heavy slot usage, finishing as the WR22, WR5, and WR15. He has about 4 inches and 30 pounds on Tavon Young.
- Demaryius Thomas: Thomas dipped to 5 targets last week but still played 79.4% of the snaps, in line with his snap rates in Weeks 1 and 2 (71.6% and 89.4%). He has totaled 26 targets so far, actually leading the Broncos, and the matchup with Kansas City is ripe, as they've allowed 5 receivers to hit double-digit fantasy points.
- Will Fuller: Fuller has totaled 20 targets the past 2 weeks, going over 100 yards and scoring in each game. The Colts rank 25th in adjusted yards per attempt on deep passes, albeit on a small sample. Watson should test them, as he has 29 deep attempts, 2nd-most in the NFL.
Consider If Needed
- Golden Tate: Tate has seen 15, 13, and 8 targets in his 3 games while playing 81.4%, 84.4% and 74.3% of the Lions' snaps. The low-water mark for targets and snaps came in positive script against the Patriots in Week 3. They're 3-point underdogs on the road in Week 4 against a slow-paced Dallas team, so it should stick tight long enough for Tate to flirt with double-digit targets against a defense that has used its slow pace to suffocate fantasy production to receivers.
- Robert Woods: Woods leads the Rams with a 28.7% target share and 45.7% of the team's air yards. He's had 9, 9, and 11 targets, putting him in the conversation despite the tough matchup with Minnesota, who is 2nd in the league in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers.
- Brandin Cooks: Cooks has cleared at least 87 yards in every game so far and has played virtually every snap. His workload isn't the best on his own team, but his talent is, and his moving around should keep him away from Xavier Rhodes enough to bank on yet again.
- Kenny Golladay: Golladay is tied with Marvin Jones for the most routes run on the Lions, and he's turned in 3 top-24 fantasy weeks in as many games. The only concern for him is the pace in this outing.
- Allen Robinson: Robinson will never be a confident start until Mitchell Trubisky flashes more consistency, but the usage for Robinson has been strong (7, 14, and 7 targets), and he's been on the field for at least 93.2% of the snaps in every game, too. The Bucs have allowed 3 top-12 fantasy receivers in as many games.
- Sammy Watkins: Watkins has notched consecutive top-24 outings (WR23 and WR16) on 15 targets. His snap rate has been up past 80% in every game. With Chris Conley playing out of the slot, Watkins should see Isaac Yiadom in coverage. PFF charged Yiadom with 4 catches on 5 targets for 68 yards last week and the 5th-most yards per snap let up among corners with at least 25 snaps.
- Marvin Jones: Jones leads the league with 9 end zone targets, 2 more than anyone else. He's had 4 catches in each games but hasn't cleared 70 yards, so the touchdowns have been key, helping him turn in WR30 and WR19 outings he past two weeks.
- Nelson Agholor: Agholor's volume dipped last week in Wentz' return (5 targets after seeing 22 in Weeks 1 and 2), but he's still the top option until Alshon Jeffery returns, and the only weak spot for the Titans has been through opposing receivers.
- Cooper Kupp: Kupp has been living in the red zone this year again, and he has 4 targets from within the 10 and 9 from inside the 20. The weakest link in the Vikings' secondary is slot corner Mike Hughes.
- Amari Cooper: Cooper has been, well, Amari Cooper, seeing 3, 10, and 5 targets, finishing as the WR84, WR19, and WR89 to start the season. Cooper has a 16.8% target share, 3rd on his own team, and a 29.1% air yards share. Just 1 of his 18 targets have been within the 20-yard line. He should be treated as a low-end flex option with that usage, and the saving grace is that the Browns have allowed 3 top-24 performances from wideouts already.
- John Brown: Brown's usage has been really promising to start the year (4, 10, and 9 targets). The catches have been hit-or-miss (3, 4, and 5), but Smokey has seen 5 targets from inside the 10, 3 of which were end zone targets. He's tied for 3rd in air yards at 466. Pittsburgh has allowed 4 top-24 fantasy receivers already, most of any team.
- Calvin Ridley: Ridley broke out last week but ran just 29 pass routes, ranking him outside the top 50 for receivers in Week 3. More promisingly, he has seen 4 targets from within the 10 (and within the end zone) this season. His targets (2, 5, and 8) have climbed each week, and he's getting high-leverage looks.
- Tyler Boyd: Boyd's targets have been pretty steady (5, 9 and 7) for a secondary option. He's scored in consecutive games, but he's also tallied 91 and 132 yards in those, both of which were top-12 weekly performances. Operating out of the slot, Boyd will have a 4-inch height advantage on Brian Poole, who has been credited for allowing 16 catches on 20 targets for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns, according to ProFootballFocus.
- Sterling Shepard: Shepard stands to benefit from Evan Engram's absence. Shep has run nearly as many routes as Odell Beckham has but has totaled just 18 targets. He finished as Week 3's WR12 (6 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown), a game in which Engram played just 13 snaps.
- Randall Cobb: Cobb has fluctuated in usage (10, 6, and 11 targets), but his snap share has been at least 86.7% in every game. The Bills have let up 14 receptions on 18 targets and 2 touchdowns to the slot so far this season.
- Michael Crabtree: Crabtree's targets have been elevated to start the year (6, 10, and 10), but he has just 2 targets while inside the 10, and nearly half of his looks have been on the wrong side of the 50. Those are low-value targets, but the Steelers have given up double-digit fantasy points to 5 different receivers already, 6th-most in the NFL.
- Mike Williams: Williams has played 53.7%, 68.4%, and 67.3% of snaps and has had his targets yo-yo (6, 2, and 7), but the matchup is ripe against some undersized corners, and Williams has 3 end zone targets to his name. The high total for LA could lead to a third consecutive game with a touchdown.
Bench If Possible
- Corey Davis: Davis' workload (29.6% target share and 45.3% air yards share) is one of the best in football, but while he's tied to an offense that can deliver only 13 catchable balls (on 24 targets), he's someone to try bench.
- Marquise Goodwin: Goodwin caught 12 of 30 passes from Beathard last season, albeit for 328 yards and a touchdown (27.3 yards per catch). The matchup with Casey Hayward, however, makes this a bet you shouldn't feel good making.
- Tyler Lockett: Lockett has seen 11 of 17 targets from outside the 50 yet has scored in 3 straight games to finish as the WR24, WR28, and WR14. Eventually, the scores won't come, and we'll be left with the 5.7-target, 65.3-yard line. He'll avoid Patrick Peterson when running from the slot, but this matchup is more bad than good.
- Chris Hogan: Hogan has seen 5, 5, and 4 targets, salvaging his season with a 2-touchdown outing in Week 2. Other than that, he's been rough, falling shy of 43 yards in each game. He'll play from the slot and avoid Xavien Howard, but it's the volume that makes Hogan someone to sit if you can swing it.
- Larry Fitzgerald: Fitz saw just 2 targets in Week 3 and has returned WR37, WR81, and WR96 finishes. Fitz played every snap with Josh Rosen down the stretch; he was targeted once on 7 attempts, which was a pick six that got called back. Take from that what you will, but Fitzgerald isn't someone we can trust until the Cardinals' play volume increases. Same goes for Christian Kirk in case you're hoping to buy in early.
- DeSean Jackson: Jackson hasn't hit a 60.0% snap rate yet and has had 5, 4, and 5 targets. We know the upside (WR3 and WR8 finishes), but we know the floor (WR59), as well. Jackson is still 3rd in routes on the team (behind Evans and Adam Humphries), but he's all-or-nothing, and the Bears have been about league average in performance on deep passes.
- Chris Godwin: Godwin, like Evans, has scored in every game, and he's up to 6 end zone targets, tied for 3rd in the NFL. However, he's not a full-time player and has played 50.0% of snaps in 2 straight games. Even with the touchdowns in each game, he's been "just" the WR35, WR29, and WR26.
- Kenny Stills: Stills has played at least 90.0% of snaps in all 3 games for Miami, but he hasn't surpassed 5 targets in a game. Miami should have to throw in this game against New England, but that's not a guarantee for Stills' volume. He can break big plays, but he's the type of player you should be hoping to bench in a 12-team league, based on the terrible floor.
- Keelan Cole: Cole is the only receiver in the Jags' offense with ownership that suggests he's in the start/sit conversation in standard-sized leagues. He has had 4, 8, and 9 targets with a climbing snap rate (74.6%, 83.1%, and 93.0%), but while he's tied to Bortles, we can only deploy him in plus matchups. The Jets have given up the fewest fantasy points per target to wide receivers this season.
- Ted Ginn Jr.: Ginn's targets have been okay (6, 7, and 6) in a strong offense, and he's had 6 targets from inside the 10. You could do worse, but you can also do a lot better in 12- and 14-team leagues.
- Mohamed Sanu: Sanu is still playing heavy snaps (80.0%, 76.2%, and 86.8%) and seeing decent targets (6, 2 and 7), but the low aDOT (6.9 yards) caps his upside if he's not getting red zone looks.
- Jordy Nelson: Nelson's big game isn't one to chase. He's ran nearly as many routes as Amari Cooper, but 56.2% of his yardage has come on 2 catches, and his snap rate has declined each week: 97.3%, 84.6%, and 72.4%.
- Quincy Enunwa: Enunwa's volume has been great (10, 11, and 8 targets), but he's finished as the WR18, WR32, and WR47. He should have a massive size advantage on Tyler Patmon in the slot, but that's about the only positive thing to say in this spot against the Jaguars.
- Robby Anderson: Anderson has yet to top 5 targets, 3 catches, or 41 yards in a game and now gets his toughest matchup of the year. He's also lost a fumble in consecutive games.
- Kelvin Benjamin: Benjamin has not posted a finish better than the WR50 yet and has seen his snap rate decline each week (73.4%, 64.5%, and 61.2%). He's failed to top 30 yards in any game. You can roll the dice on him for a touchdown, as 4 of his 15 targets have been from inside the 10, but 8 have been from outside the 50, too.
Start With Confidence
- Rob Gronkowski: Gronk has been the TE2, TE41, and TE20 to start the season, certainly not why you drafted him early. The snaps have been great, though, and the target share (18.1%) is something that's always in reason with this offense. Once the efficiency comes, like we saw in Week 1, he's got week-winning upside.
- Travis Kelce: Kelce has come through the past two weeks, turning 20 targets into 15 catches, 223 yards, and 2 scores. Denver has given up 236 yards to tight ends on 17 targets, and they're 30th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends.
- Zach Ertz: Ertz has returned TE10, TE5, and TE11 results through 3 weeks despite being scoreless. He has totaled 33 targets in those games and has seen 5 targets from inside the 10. Tennessee's tight end defense looks tough on paper, but they've faced Miami, Houston, and Jacksonville.
- Jimmy Graham: Graham's target numbers have pumped up since a 4-target debut in Green Bay (he has 15 in 2 games since then). Despite his red zone build, 12 of his 19 targets have come from outside the 50, but he does have 3 targets from within the 10-yard line. As a heavy home favorite, Graham is in play for finally getting into the end zone.
- Trey Burton: The Bucs have surrendered 2 top-6 tight end performances and 3 top-12 outings already. Burton's 15 targets through Week 3 are kind of empty, as just 5 have been within the 50-yard line, but Chicago is a home favorite against a weak tight end defense.
- Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph bounced back from a 2-target opener to total 14 in the next two games. He's been a top-10 performer in every week, and this profiles as a game where the Vikings will need to put up points.
- Eric Ebron: Assuming Jack Doyle is questionable, Ebron would be a good play, but he didn't practice Wednesday. Houston has allowed 2 top-6 tight end outings to start the season, and Ebron has 6 end zone targets, tying him for 3rd in the NFL. He played 88.1% of snaps in Week 3 without Doyle. You really can't ask for a better workload.
Consider If Needed
- O.J. Howard: Howard has finished as the TE12, TE3, and TE9 despite scoring just once, and the Bears have let up a top-12 outing to a tight end in consecutive weeks. Howard has been getting more involved, too (2, 4, and 8 targets).
- Tyler Eifert: Eifert's snap rate has jumped from 40.0% to 64.5% and 64.6% the past two weeks, and he saw 8 targets last week. Surprisingly, just 2 of his 15 targets have featured him inside the 10, while 9 were outside the 50. It's been Boyd and Green near the end zone this year. Still, the Falcons have given up 2 top-12 tight end outings already this season.
- Austin Hooper: Hooper has played at least 84.0% of snaps each week and has seen 4, 5, and 4 targets, 2 of which were end zone targets. As a home favorite with a high implied team total, Hooper checks the boxes, though he's been touchdown-dependent early on and hasn't cleared 60 yards in a game.
- Vance McDonald: Vance has returned to see 10 targets on 69 snaps, a 14.5% rate, 6th among all tight ends with at least 20 snaps per game, via FantasyData. Baltimore has been tough on low-end tight ends, but Vance is Pittsburgh's third option right now.
- Benjamin Watson: Watson has had 4, 5, and 6 targets but no scores despite 3 targets from inside the 10. You're banking on a touchdown from him, which isn't out of the question, and he's been the TE12 twice without scoring yet. The Giants haven't given up much to tight ends yet, but they've faced some low-end producers from Jacksonville, Dallas, and Houston.
- Jared Cook: Cook has 5 targets from inside the 10 but no touchdowns to show for it. He's been the TE1, TE19, and TE27 through 3 weeks, and Cleveland has given up the 5th-most fantasy points per target to tight ends.
Bench If Possible
- George Kittle: Kittle saw 20 of Beathard's 224 attempts (8.9%) last year and caught just 10 for 120 yards. Kittle is no longer a locked-in TE1.
- David Njoku: Njoku's targets fell from 7 and 7 in the first 2 weeks to just 2 in Week 3, though both of those looks came from Mayfield. Njoku's snaps are still high (87.6%, 74.2%, and 80.5%). The Raiders haven't faced any big-time tight ends yet (they've faced the Rams, Broncos, and Dolphins), so Njoku could bust out here. But in a standard-sized league, you likely don't need to risk him. He's not a must-sit: he's a player to bench if you have a viable alternative.
- Will Dissly: Dissly is owned in a lot of leagues after a TE3 and TE8 start, but he's maxed out at 5 targets and 3 catches, and he's played 57.9%, 71.2%, and 56.5% of snaps. Drop him.