Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 5
One of the toughest parts of my job is answering start-or-sit questions for people.
I realize the irony there, but answering "Should I start Patrick Mahomes against the Jacksonville Jaguars?" leaves out a lot of context. Can you pick up Ben Roethlisberger because you're in an 8-team league? Or is the alternative someone like Josh Rosen? That matters.
Even a fully appropriate question -- such as "John Brown or Marvin Jones?" -- requires some nuance and explanation of why we should prefer one over the other -- or if we should just consider them in the same group.
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.
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
- Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger's matchup with the Atlanta Falcons should yield plenty of fantasy points in Week 5. The total opened at 57 points and has increased in some places. Excluding a rain-soaked Week 1, Roethlisberger has averaged 26.6 fantasy points in his past 3 games, and the Falcons have let every quarterback not named Nick Foles to finish as a top-10 passer and to surpass 25 fantasy points.
- Cam Newton: Newton is a heavy home favorite over the New York Giants, who have been pretty solid against the pass, allowing 15.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, including 8.6 to Drew Brees in Week 4. Newton has averaged 25.5 fantasy points per game already, despite twice throwing for 161 yards or fewer, thanks to rushing totals of 58, 42, and 36 yards. The Giants have allowed 37.8 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks and have let four different quarterbacks get to 28 rushing yards (Blake Bortles, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, and Taysom Hill).
- Jared Goff: Goff's finishes have improved each week (QB16, QB13, QB6, QB2), and he now faces a Seattle Seahawks without Earl Thomas. They rank 18th on the full season against the pass, according to numberFire's adjusted metrics.
- Matt Ryan: Ryan has been on fire lately, finishing as the QB5, QB2, and QB8 the past 3 weeks, topping 29 fantasy points in each of those. The Pittsburgh Steelers have let up four straight top-13 outings to opposing quarterbacks, including an average of 28.4 fantasy points per game.
- Tom Brady: Even in a down year, Brady has averaged 17.0 fantasy points, though that's not really cutting it anymore (he's returned QB8, QB18, QB29, and QB14 performances). The Indianapolis Colts have let just one quarterback surpass 17.5 fantasy points and break the top-15 in weekly scoring (Deshaun Watson last week). Brady gets Julian Edelman back this week, which has only marginally helped his overall splits. The floor is high enough still to keep him a confident start this week.
- Deshaun Watson: Since a 12-point dud in Week 1, Watson has averaged 27.3 fantasy points and has finished as a top-10 option in each week. There are some pace concerns against the Dallas Cowboys, who haven't let any passer crack the top 14 in fantasy points. However, Dallas ranks 27th against the pass by numberFire's metrics, and the Houston Texans' uptempo pace should help Watson produce again.
- Philip Rivers: Rivers faces an Oakland Raiders team that can't really generate pressure (they're 31st in adjusted sack rate, via FootballOutsiders, and 31st in quarterback hit rate, via FantasyData). Despite this, they have yet to give up 300 yards passing (against Jared Goff, Case Keenum, Ryan Tannehill, and Baker Mayfield). Rivers hasn't gotten past 256 since Week 1 (424), but he's thrown for 3 touchdowns in 3 of 4 games and multiple in all 4.
- Drew Brees: Brees has been up-and-down to start the season, giving us QB2, QB14, QB1, and QB27 outings. Washington ranks 5th in adjusted pass defense, via our metrics, and they've had a bye to study up on the New Orleans Saints' offense. Despite any concerns, Brees is a heavy home favorite with a high total -- just the type of matchup that can give us a QB1 outing.
- Aaron Rodgers: The Detroit Lions haven't faced more than 27 pass attempts in a game this season, and no passer has finished better than the QB16 or scored more than 18.4 fantasy points against them. Rodgers has averaged 17.3 fantasy points since Week 2 and has thrown 40-plus times in those 3 games. You're not benching Rodgers and you can feel good about a high-floor performance, but a ceiling game may not be in the cards for him in Week 5, despite a high over/under.
- Matthew Stafford: Stafford has averaged 21.3 fantasy points and 305.3 yards over the past 3 games, while netting multiple touchdown passes in all of them. The Green Bay Packers rank 13th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and fantasy points per attempt allowed. This game has a heavy over/under, though, and Stafford is 13th in Success Rate of his own.
Consider If Needed
- Patrick Mahomes: Quarterbacks facing the Jacksonville Jaguars haven't really been studs week in and week out (Eli Manning, Tom Brady, a banged-up, off-the-bench version of Marcus Mariota, and Sam Darnold), but only Brady (16.4) reached even 12 fantasy points, making Brady's QB18 finish the high-water mark. Mahomes has wound up as a top-12 passer each week while surpassing 22 fantasy points in every contest. He isn't a must-sit, but with quarterback scoring through the roof, you can probably find a better alternative in Week 5 in a 12-team, 1QB league.
- Carson Wentz: Wentz faces a Minnesota Vikings defense that is astonishingly 30th in adjusted yards per attempt allowed to opposing quarterbacks through Week 4. They also lack an elite pass rush without Everson Griffen, which should give Wentz plenty of time in the pocket, given the line in front of him. Despite all of that, Wentz just hasn't been that great, ranking 21st in per-drop back efficiency.
- Kirk Cousins: Cousins has thrown 51 times per game over his past 3 contests, generating 34.5, 11.0, and 31.7 fantasy points in them. Overall, the Philadelphia Eagles have let up 7.29 adjusted yards per attempt, ranking 16th, but they're 4th in overall pass defense via our adjusted metrics, thanks to a strong pass rush. That could mitigate Cousins' upside in Week 5, given the state of his offensive line.
- Andy Dalton: Dalton has been sacked at the 7th-lowest rate in the NFL through Week 4, and the Miami Dolphins boast one of the weakest pass rushes in football based on any metric you find (and have experienced injuries on the defensive line to William Hayes and Andre Branch). They haven't given up a top-12 week yet but have allowed 3 straight passers to get to 15 fantasy points or more (most recently Tom Brady with 21.0).
- Alex Smith: Smith gets a dream matchup with the Saints in the Superdome, and this doesn't project as a game where Washington will lead and milk the clock. Smith's average depth of target has climbed each week (3.2, 7.1, 10.1, via FantasyADHD). Despite the massive ceiling games the Saints have let up, they've also held Tyrod Taylor and Eli Manning to 15.4 and 14.7 fantasy points, respectively, so we shouldn't get overconfident in Smith's ceiling here.
Bench If Possible
- Russell Wilson: Sure, we can miss out on a massive fantasy showing from Wilson at any moment, but we have to be realistic. He's finished as the QB7, QB21, QB19, and QB25 to start the season with declining yardage totals in each (298, 226, 192, 172). His rushing upside has been non-existent (10.5 yards per game and no more than 21). The Los Angeles Rams' lack of pressure could turn things around this week, but with other quarterbacks flashing flashing big upside, Wilson is becoming expendable.
- Andrew Luck: Luck broke out in Week 4, throwing for a career-best 464 yards on 62 attempts (7.5 yards per attempt). That was the first time he's bested 6.0 yards per attempt in a game, though, and he now is entering this game on a short week without his best playmaker in T.Y. Hilton and is a double-digit road underdog. You'd be banking on garbage points from him in Week 5.
- Baker Mayfield: Mayfield wound up as the QB21 in Week 4 against the Raiders in Oakland. He threw 41 times for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns (with 2 picks). He now faces the top-ranked pass defense by numberFire's metrics, and cornerback Jimmy Smith is able to return in Week 5.
Start With Confidence
- Todd Gurley: Gurley boasts the 4th-highest market share among running backs, and he has 13 carries from inside the 10, 2nd-most among all rushers. The Rams are 7-point home favorites, too.
- Alvin Kamara: Kamara leads the position with 103 total opportunities and is 2nd in opportunity market share. He has played at least 77.3% of snaps in every game. Now, Mark Ingram is back from suspension. Last year, he played at least 50% of snaps in 5 of his final 6 regular season games (excluding an early exit in Week 14). In the playoffs, Kamara played 66% of snaps. There's no need to worry about the player who's finished as the RB1 in 3 of 4 weeks to open the season.
- Ezekiel Elliott: Zeke owns the highest market share among all running backs and has produced at least 13.3 fantasy points in every game, finishing as a top-20 back in every contest. The Houston Texans have been a tough rush defense by Success Rate allowed, but they've let up 1.32 fantasy points per target to the position, ranking 25th. Zeke leads the Cowboys in target market share.
- Melvin Gordon: Gordon has finished as a top-14 back in every week and a top-4 back in the past 3 weeks. He's seen 19, 29, 16, and 25 opportunities (carries plus targets) in those games, a workload that's one of the heaviest in football. Gordon has played 72.1% of snaps or more in 3 of his past 4 games and has amassed 27 targets in his past 3 games alone.
- Saquon Barkley: Barkley has been a top-13 back every week and has netted at least 17.8 fantasy points in every contest. Barkley has averaged 22.8 opportunities per game and the Panthers are actually just 23rd in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs.
- Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey has a top-7 overall market share among running backs and has played 85.1%, 94.0%, and 100.0% of snaps in his 3 games. He's a workhorse behind the league's best line via adjusted line yards. The Carolina Panthers are 7-point favorites on the Giants at home.
- James Conner: Conner's trending the wrong direction in snap rate (91.7%, 89.0%, 84.8%, 79.4%), but we have to nitpick to find fault with that snap rate. This is a get-right spot in a game with a massive total, and the Falcons have already allowed 7 more catches to running backs than any other team. Conner has had 6, 5, 6, and 7 targets to date.
- David Johnson: Johnson got back on track in Week 4, playing 91.7% of snaps and handling a season-high 26 opportunities. Johnson checks in 3rd in total opportunity share this season. He's quietly been a workhorse. He's just on a low-volume, low-value offense. The San Francisco 49ers have been a tough rush defense, but only the Falcons (42) have given up more running back catches (35) so far.
- Kareem Hunt: Hunt's snap rate has fallen each week (71.4%, 69.0%, 61.8%, 57.7%), but his fantasy points have moved inversely (4.9, 14.5, 16.4, 25.0). The Jaguars have a top-8 running back defense both on the ground and out of the backfield, but Hunt has had 16, 18, 18, and 19 carries to make up for the bad matchup.
- Joe Mixon: Mixon appears ready to return, and Giovani Bernard actually appears unlikely to play. In Week 1, Mixon played 76.4% of snaps and handled 24 opportunities. He had 22 on just a 51.3% snap rate in Week 2. He's a featured back who shouldn't have any committee to worry about in his return against a banged-up Dolphins front seven. Cincy is a healthy home favorite in that spot, too.
- Carlos Hyde: He's been the RB19, RB19, RB3, and RB19 each week while playing between 52.8% and 61.0% of snaps. He's not a workhorse with that snap count, but he's seen 24, 12, 26, and 23 opportunities, a heavy, heavy workload, ranking him 5th among all running backs in total opportunities. The problem is that -- among the 30 teams in action in Week 5 -- the Ravens have the 7th-best rush defense by Success Rate allowed to running backs, and Hyde sits below average in Success Rate. His 9 carries from inside the 5-yard line make him the only back with more than 5, however.
- Sony Michel: Michel has been getting fed, netting 10, 14, and 25 carries in his 3 active games, despite just 21.3%, 47.9%, and 40.7% of snaps. His 59.0% carry share ranks him 10th among all running backs over the past 3 games. New England is a double-digit favorite on the Colts, who are 17th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs.
Consider If Needed
- Tevin Coleman: Coleman hasn't been a must-start performer without Devonta Freeman, finishing as the RB13, RB27, and RB28. His snap rate dipped to 57.1% in Week 4. A matchup with the dreadful Steelers defense will help, but they have been pretty stout against running backs, both on the ground and out of the backfield.
- T.J. Yeldon: Yeldon has played at least 57.7% of snaps in every game, maxing out at 66.7%. He's returned solid fantasy finishes of RB16, RB34, RB24, and RB12 while twice handling 21 opportunities. The Chiefs are bottom-2 in Rushing NEP per carry and Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs and 30th in Target Success rate out of the backfield.
- Jay Ajayi: Ajayi has seen 15, 8, and 19 opportunities while playing 40.3%, 27.8%, and 52.6% of snaps in his active games. Despite playing with Nick Foles and being limited, he still has 6 carries from inside the 10, tying him for 7th in the league.
- Dalvin Cook: There's some guesswork to do here. Cook played just 18 snaps in Week 4 (24.3%) but now will have 10 days to recover for a road matchup with a tough Eagles front-seven, a squad that ranks 3rd in Rushing Success Rate allowed. The Vikings running backs as a whole are dead last in Success Rate, but they've gotten Pat Elflein back of late. Cook -- at his best -- can be an 80% snap, 23-opportunity player like we saw in Week 1. As a field-goal underdog, Cook -- who had 12 targets in Weeks 1 and 2 -- projects to be the go-to back for the Vikings in Week 5.
- James White: White has been the RB17, RB17, RB22, and RB4 to kick off the year, thanks to target tallies of 9, 8, 3, and 10. He's played at least 48% of snaps in every game but does run the risk of getting phased out with Julian Edelman back in the fold. That, plus New England's status as big favorites, pushes White into just an "if-needed" level of confidence.
- Chris Thompson: Thompson has seen just a single negative script to start the year. In it, he saw 14 targets. In Week 1, he still had 7 targets in the first half alone. As a 7-point road underdog in New Orleans, the top rush defense by Rushing Success Rate allowed, Thompson profiles as the feature back in Week 5.
- Mark Ingram: Ingram walks back into a pretty stellar spot as a 7-point home favorite with a 29.5-point implied team total against a Washington defense that's 31st in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs. Ingram's most recent game, last year's Wild Card week, saw him play 46.6% of snaps, and he played at least 49.2% of snaps in his final 6 regular-season outings, as well. There's room for Kamara and Ingram in Week 5.
- Marshawn Lynch: Lynch has been a top-24 performer each week (RB21, RB15, RB12, RB14) despite the Raiders' 1-3 record (they've run the 25th-most plays while trailing, though). Lynch's 29.0% market share ranks him 14th among all running backs. The problem is that the Raiders are 5.5-point underdogs and Lynch has just 9 carries in those 88 plays while trailing. He could fall flat, but the workload keeps him out of "sit" or "bench" territory if we're being rational.
- Aaron Jones: Jones bumped up from a 24.6% snap rate to 38.2% last week, and he saw 12 opportunities, turning them into 82 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Lions rank 32nd in Rushing NEP per carry and 30th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to running backs this season. He's the best bet to produce out of this backfield.
- Phillip Lindsay: Lindsay's been the RB13, RB18, and RB17 in games when he wasn't ejected. That's solid, but he is playing a modest snap rate (35.1%, 42.4%, and 40.0% in those). He does have 18, 15, and 14 opportunities, a pretty heavy workload for a "committee" back. The Jets are 13th against the rush, and Denver's implied total is only 21, so he's not a surefire start by any means.
- Kerryon Johnson: Johnson's snap rates (22.9%, 46.8%, 44.6%, 37.0%) and opportunity totals (8, 14, 19, 10) wouldn't lead you to believe that he's been the RB49, RB28, RB24, and RB24, but he has. He now faces a Packers defense that's given up 5.43 yards per carry without Muhammad Wilkerson, via TheQuantEdge.
- Alex Collins: Collins has been stuck at about a 48% snap rate the past 3 weeks, finishing as the RB21, RB16, and RB29 in those. He's scored in 2 straight games but lost another fumble in Week 4. The Cleveland Browns grade out well against backs overall but have given up 4 top-14 outings, regardless. The Baltimore Ravens are favored in this one by about a field goal.
- Matt Breida: Breida scripts should be the norm for the 49ers now with C.J. Beathard under center, though they are 4.5-point favorites on the Cardinals, who are 29th in fantasy points per target allowed to running backs. Last Week, Breida played 63.3% of snaps and had 3 targets.
Bench If Possible
- Kenyan Drake: Drake has just a single finish inside the top-30 (RB31, RB11, RB65, RB55) despite having played at least 60% of snaps in 3 games. He recorded just 5 total opportunities in Week 4, all coming in the first half. However, he's seen his opportunity count decline each game (18, 15, 9, 5), and he's just not a justifiable start as a touchdown underdog on the road.
- Adrian Peterson: The Saints are the top rush defense by Rushing Success Rate allowed, and Washington is a 7-point underdog. That script suggests that it could be a dud week for Peterson, who had just 14 touches for 50 yards in Week 2 in that script. (If you think Washington leads, then by all means roster Peterson, who has been the RB8 and RB2 in hugely positive scripts this season).
- Derrick Henry: If there's a week for him, it's this week as a home favorite on a Bills team that's let up 5 rushing touchdowns to running backs already. Henry has yet to post a top-40 week or score more than 6 fantasy points. Jack Conklin's return could help improve Henry's Rushing Success Rate, which ranks him 38th among 52 backs with at least 20 carries.
- Dion Lewis: Lewis ranks 47th in Rushing Success Rate among 52 backs with at least 20 carries. The return of Conklin might help moving forward, but Lewis turned in 0 successes on 4 carries in Week 4. It's just not a bankable situation, even as favorites. It's a backfield to bench if you can justify it.
- Royce Freeman: I'm a Freeman fan, and he's improved his weekly finishes each week (RB35, RB30, RB23, RB20), but he's maxed out at 12.7 fantasy points and has scored in 3 straight games while playing 39.2%, 24.2%, 42.6%, and 26.7% of snaps. He's had just 2 targets this year, and the Broncos are slight underdogs. Bench Freeman if you can.
- Chris Carson: All signs point to a return for Carson in Week 5. He played 72.5% of snaps in Week 3, and it's clear the coaching staff wants to get him the ball. He handled 32 carries in that game, but the Seahawks are 4.5-point underdogs against the Cardinals, which should tell you a lot about the state of the offense. With how Mike Davis performed in Week 4, though, it's no guarantee there's enough rushing to go around in this backfield.
- Lamar Miller: Miller,who is unlikely to play in the first place, has finished in the conversation (RB23, RB35, RB28, RB38) each week, but his snaps fell from 76% to 53.5% last week, and he was getting phased out late last year, as well, due to inefficiency. In a pace-down game against the Cowboys, he could be lucky to flirt with the 14 to 16 opportunities he's had the past 3 games.
- LeSean McCoy: McCoy has been the RB64, RB30, and RB36 while playing 53.1%, 48.4%, 60.3% of the Bills' snaps and seeing 10, 13, and 11 opportunities. McCoy isn't even getting touches on a team that's averaging 3.7 yards per play.
- Ty Montgomery: Montgomery hasn't cracked a 40% snap rate yet and doesn't seem likely to with Aaron Jones back and healthy, as his snap rates have been 29.0% and 26.3% with Jones back. If you anticipate the Packers trailing Detroit, then he's in play for the receiving workload (he's had 104 receiving yards on 10 targets the past 2 games), but that's about it.
- Jamaal Williams: Williams has just once been better than the RB44 this season (RB32 in Week 2) and has seen his snap rate dip from 61.0% to 43.5% and 36.8% with Aaron Jones back in the fold. He's trending out of the picture and can't be started, even in a great matchup with the Lions.
- Austin Ekeler: Ekeler has been a top-22 back in 3 of the first 4 games (RB9, RB41, RB20, RB22), but he has cracked a 35.0% snap share just once (42.1% in Week 3). His low opportunity count (10, 7, 14, 11; 42 total, ranking 40th among running backs) requires elite efficiency, which he has shown. However, he's not the type of player you should be banking on in a 12-team league, even though the Chargers are touchdown favorites on the Raiders, one of the worst rush defenses by Success Rate allowed to running backs. Eventually, he's going to give us another low-end outing. He's not a "must-sit," but he's someone you should be trying to bench if you have someone else higher on this list to replace him with.
- Javorius Allen: Allen busted his 3-game touchdown streak in Week 4, showing us what he's capable of on the low end (47 total yards on 12 opportunities). Allen has had between 10 and 12 opportunities and between 37.5% and 54.2% of snaps in every game.
- Bilal Powell: Powell has finished as a flex-worthy option each week (RB36, RB3, RB37, RB33) and could do so again as a thin favorite against the Broncos, who have been vulnerable to running backs via the run and pass. He's seen 14, 11, 15, and 15 opportunities, a fine workload if you need to deploy him but certainly a situation to bench whenever and wherever you can
- Isaiah Crowell: Any time a running back sees 5 opportunities in a game, you have to worry, and that's what happened to Crowell in Week 4 while the Jets trailed early. They're home favorites (1.5 points) on Denver, but Crowell has totaled 93 yards after a 102-yard rushing outing in Week 1.
- Alfred Morris: Morris played just 23.3% of snaps and had 4 carries and 3 opportunities in Week 4. His snap rate has dropped every week (51.5%, 48.4%, 33.8%, 23.3%). Without positive script, Morris isn't playable, and banking on positive script from C.J. Beathard shouldn't be something you try to do in a shallow league.
- Duke Johnson: Johnson's ownership levels suggests that he could be in play for some of us, and he really shouldn't be, as he's played below 40% of snaps in 3 straight games, with 5, 4, and 8 opportunities in those.
Start With Confidence
- Antonio Brown: Brown has been held in check this season (WR10, WR38, WR25, WR23), but a matchup with a banged-up Falcons secondary should be the antidote. They're 27th in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers and have let up 7 touchdowns already. In addition to owning a top-8 target market share, Brown has 6 end zone targets and 3 more from inside the 10.
- Michael Thomas: Thomas finished with just 4 targets last week (down from 17, 13, and 10 the first 3 games). He caught 6 of 10 targets for 91 yards against Washington last year, with no targets against Josh Norman.
- DeAndre Hopkins: Nuk has had at least 10 targets in every game and has tallied 7 end zone targets and 11 from inside the 10 in total. Dallas ranks 26th in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers but have given up just a single top-12 performer, given their pace. That's the only concern for Hopkins in Week 5.
- Odell Beckham: Beckham has 5 end zone targets but hasn't scored yet, and he's 5th in target market share among receivers and 2nd in air yards market share.
- Julio Jones: Jones is the only receiver to have more than half of his team's air yards. He just is non-existent in the red zone. Pittsburgh has let up 5 touchdowns on deep passes so far and rank 21st in adjusted yards per attempt on deep throws.
- Adam Thielen: The NFL's target leader gets a matchup against a tough-on-paper slot corner in Sidney Jones, but the Eagles have let up 3 top-12 wide receivers already this year.
- Stefon Diggs: Diggs has had 13, 10, and 15 targets over his past 3 games, twice topping 120 yards in that span. Philly is 19th in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers, nothing to worry about.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster: JuJu actually has a better matchup than Brown this week, as the weakest link in Atlanta's secondary is Brian Poole in the slot. JuJu has 5 end zone targets and 9 total from inside the 10.
- A.J. Green: Green has actually been out-targeted by Tyler Boyd on a per-route basis, and he now faces Xavien Howard, whose numbers aren't quite as solid as some may think. He's let up 2.07 yards per route covered, via PFF. Green has 10 end zone targets and 11 from inside the 10, making a third of his targets incredibly high-leverage looks.
- Jarvis Landry: Landry has seen 29.7% of Baker Mayfield's targets this year and just had a pair of end zone targets in Week 4. Baltimore has been tough on receivers, but they're most vulnerable inside, and Landry has been getting showered with targets.
- Davante Adams: Adams has yet to crack the top 13 but has been a top 33 receiver in all 4 weeks. He saw 14 targets in Week 4, volume he could flirt with given the uncertain status of Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, making him a solid play against the Lions' bottom-5 pass defense.
- Golden Tate: Tate has 3 top-25 weeks to his name, thanks to a 26.2% target share. He's separating himself from his teammates with targets and has seen at least 85.0% of his team's routes in every game, despite a snap rate that isn't as high as the rest of the Lions' trio.
Consider If Needed
- Brandin Cooks: Seattle ranks just 18th in pass defense based on numberFire's metrics, and they're without Earl Thomas again. Cooks has had 8 targets while inside the 10 but just 1 touchdown, and only 21.2% of his 33 targets came from outside the. 50. He's due to pad the touchdown column eventually.
- Keenan Allen: We have to worry at a certain point, as Allen has been under 70 yards in 3 straight games, despite 8, 7, and 10 targets in that span -- and Oakland has held receivers to a 52.8% catch rate. Overall, Allen had 7 targets from inside the 10 but 20 (55.6%) from outside the 50. But it takes a deep team to bench the volume Allen gives us.
- Julian Edelman: Edelman returns from a long, long layoff to face a secondary that is 23rd in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. His 29.0% target share from 2016 suggests he'll be in the running for most targets of any Patriot in Week 5, particularly with a less-than-100% Rob Gronkowski.
- Tyreek Hill: HIll's matchup with Jacksonville is as bad as it gets from a fantasy points per target standpoint, Sammy Watkins will play, and the weather is both rainy and windy in KC. Still, he had 13 targets in Week 4 and only ever needs one play to provide a strong fantasy outing. He's just not a confident start by any means.
- Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders has yet to see a red zone target, and Case Keenum has just 4 end zone throws on the year. He has a big advantage over Buster Skrine in the slot, but the overall offense has to keep us a bit concerned.
- Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery returned to play 83.3% of snaps in Week 4 and ran a route on 87.5% of Philly's drop backs. Jeffery had 2 end zone targets and another from inside the 10 on 9 total looks. He does face shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes, yet Jeffery caught all 3 targets for 27 yards in Rhodes' coverage in last year's NFC Championship game -- from Nick Foles, of course.
- Kenny Golladay: Golladay has the 2nd-best workload among the Lions' receivers and faces a modest pass defense this week. He's been a top-24 receiver in every week until Week 4, when he turned 4 targets into 74 yards.
- Marvin Jones: Jones is tied for the league lead with 10 end zone targets. His overall volume is down, but he's been the go-to guy near the goal line. That's worth betting on in a game with a total over 50 points.
- John Brown: Brown's 22.1-yard average depth of target is insane, and he's got 42% of Baltimore's air yards. Cleveland has been a top-12 defense against deep passes, but Brown has 5 end zone targets and 8 total from inside the 10 to make up for that concern.
- Sterling Shepard: Shepard has seen 17 targets the past 2 weeks, catching 16 for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns. He's netted 3 end zone targets and 2 more from inside the 3-yard line, and the Panthers aren't a secondary matchup to worry about.
- Robert Woods: Woods leads the best offense in football in target market share and air yards share and is featured near the goal line, with 8 of his 34 targets coming from inside the 10 (23.5%).
- Corey Davis: Davis broke out in Week 4, turning all of the peripheral stats into production. He has the 2nd-best weighted opportunity rating in football but faces Tre'Davious White, who has let up less than a yard per route covered this season. Now that we know his quarterback has a pulse, we can roll him out even in a bad cornerback matchup.
- Calvin Ridley: Ridley is still 3rd on his own team in snaps and routes but has seen 6 of his 21 targets while inside the 10. In a shootout, he's in play, and we can worry about the touchdown regression in a tougher spot.
- Cooper Kupp: Kupp is tied for 3rd in the NFL with 6 targets from inside the 10, and he's 4th with 10 red zone targets. He also has 23.9% of the targets in the league's best passing offense, which has an implied total near 30 this week, per usual.
- Tyler Boyd: Boyd has been dealing and has had 5, 9, 7, and 15 targets to start the year, a target total higher than A.J. Green's (though Green missed about half a game). He's offering up a high floor each week.
- Will Fuller: Fuller is expected to play Sunday night but is dealing with a hamstring injury. The emergence of Keke Coutee and the slow pace of Dallas -- plus the injury and iffy practice schedule for Fuller -- makes him a mere player to consider if needed, despite 2 top-10 finishes when healthy this year.
- Amari Cooper: Cooper's bounced around to start the year (WR84, WR19, WR89, WR7) and has seen an uneven 3, 10, 5, and 12 targets. Against Casey Hayward and the Chargers, it's probably best to bank on a dud game here, but by no means is he a must-sit option against a secondary that ranks 31st in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers.
- Nelson Agholor: Agholor has seen volume (10, 12, 5, 12 targets) but hasn't done much with it (33, 88, 24, 22 yards). The snap rates (at least 91.1% in every game) peripheral stats suggest that he's got more to give, and the best matchup against the Vikings is in the slot with Mike Hughes.
- Mohamed Sanu: Sanu has finished as a top-30 receiver in consecutive weeks and owns nearly a 50-pound and 3-inch advantage over slot corner Cameron Sutton in a game with a sky-high over/under. He's not a bad low-end flex play.
- Donte Moncrief: Moncrief leads the Jaguars in air yards, but you're really just guessing at which receiver will get the most volume. It's a great matchup against the Chiefs, making Moncrief a justifiable play if you need him. If you need, you can also roll the dice with Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook this week.
Bench If Possible
- Demaryius Thomas: Thomas has turned 10, 11, 5, and 7 targets into WR18, WR81, WR43, and WR75 finishes, and the Jets' perimeter corners are much tougher than what Thomas just saw in Week 4.
- Doug Baldwin: Nickell Robey has been stingy to slot receivers this year. Baldwin ran a route on 87% of Seattle's Week 4 drop backs but turned 7 targets into 41 yards (on 66 air yards). Russell Wilson's deep pass numbers have been dipping each week, and he attempted no deep balls in Week 4.
- Larry Fitzgerald: Fitz is struggling. He's not 100%, and he missed practice Wednesday. It's a good matchup, but he's cleared 28 yards just once in 4 games. You're best off benching him if you can.
- Michael Crabtree: Crabtree has been living in the middle of the field with his targets, and 47.1% have come from the wrong side of the 50. He's had volume (6, 10, 10, 8 targets) but no upside games, maxing out at 11.3 fantasy points.
- Devin Funchess: Funchess will face Janoris Jenkins, who kept Hopkins (5 catches for 62 yards on 8 targets) and Michael Thomas (4 of 4 for 47) somewhat in check. Newton has thrown 26 or fewer times in 2 of 3 games, suggesting there won't be enough volume for Funchess to break out this week.
- Mike Williams: Williams has had bumpy targets (6, 2, 7, 3) but has 3 end zone targets if you're looking for a silver lining. For all the upside, he still has just one game better than WR40.
- Jordy Nelson: Nelson has shown signs of life with 173 and 48 yards plus a touchdown in each of his past 2 games, but he's maxed out at 8 targets and 54.3% of his targets have come from the wrong side of the 50.
- Jamison Crowder: Saving Crowder this week is his matchup with P.J. Williams in the slot. He's let up 2.37 yards per route covered, via ProFootballFocus, a bottom-10 rate among starting corners this week. Crowder has had 4 targets each game and has yet to clear 40 yards, but the over/under and matchup make him a desperation flex.
- Kenny Stills: Stills has seen 5, 3, 5, and 6 targets and has been unable to top 61 yards in 3 straight games. The game projects to be high scoring, and Cincy has let 4 receivers finish top-24 (6th-most in the league). You're still just banking on a big play, given Stills' low volume.
- Quincy Enunwa: Enunwa faces Chris Harris in the slot this week and has caught 8 of 16 passes over the past 2 games. He has topped 66 yards just once and needs to score to give us a solid fantasy outing.
- Tyler Lockett: Lockett snapped a 3-game touchdown streak last week and wound up with 7.8 fantasy points (WR54). The low volume (4, 6, 7, 6 targets) had been masked by scores, and Wilson isn't pushing the ball downfield this year, making even a big play unlikely.
- Pierre Garcon: His 7 targets last week were a season high, but he's yet to finish better than the WR56, and no passer has had more than 35 attempts against the Cardinals. Garcon ranks bottom-5 in average separation, so it's not a great bet he'll get open often against a speedy secondary.
- Paul Richardson: Richardson has the best market share and air yards combination among Washington wideouts, and he's run at least 90% of the available routes in every game, via ProFootballFocus. He's just a dart throw at best, though, given his shoulder injury.
- Chris Hogan: Hogan had a lone target last week and has just a single finish better than WR66. There's no reason to be playing him with optimism based on his workload now that Gronkowski is expected to play and Edelman is back.
- Josh Gordon: Gordon played just 18 snaps in Week 4. Unless we hear that he's set for a full workload, he's a sit.
Start With Confidence
- Zach Ertz: Ertz has seen 27.8% of the Eagles' targets, the 2nd-highest target market share among all tight ends. Minnesota ranks 22nd in fantasy points per target to tight ends.
- Rob Gronkowski: Gronk is playing, so you're playing him, regardless of the injury. The Colts have let 71.8% of passes to tight ends to be caught and 11.1 yards per catch.
- Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph has finished as a top-14 tight end every week so far, and his 22 targets rank him 9th at the position. The Vikings have been the most pass-heavy team in the league through Week 4 to help overcome any matchup concerns for Rudolph this week.
- George Kittle: Kittle hauled in 6 of 8 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown with C.J. Beathard under center in Week 4, and he now has finished as the TE6, TE35, TE5, and TE2 this season.
- Travis Kelce: The Jags have given up just 6.1 yards per target and 1.20 fantasy points per target (9th-fewest) to tight ends, a list that includes Rob Gronkowski and Evan Engram. Regardless, Kelce has seen 10, 10, and 12 targets the past 3 games and should see that many without Sammy Watkins in the mix.
- Jordan Reed: The Saints have been good against tight ends but haven't faced many tough ones yet. Reed doesn't yet have an end zone target, and his red zone usage has been poor, too (2 red zone targets, a 20.0% team share). Reed has seen volume (5, 8, 7 targets) despite a snap rate that's been pretty low (51.9%, 54,1%, 65.6%). But if you can't be confident about him against a terrible pass defense, you may as well trade him.
- Jimmy Graham: Graham has had fairly low yardage totals in 3 of 4 games (8, 95, 45, 21), and he's also failed to see an end zone target, but without Cobb, he stands to see solid volume again (8, 7, 6 targets in his past 3 games), keeping him in play against a weak pass defense.
- Eric Ebron: He's kind of the last man standing for Indy, as T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle are out. Ebron has 7 end zone targets and has played 88.1% and 83.3% of snaps the past 2 weeks.
- Jared Cook: Cook ranks 5th in target market share among tight ends, but the targets have yo-yoed (12, 4, 6, 13). The Chargers did just let up a TE2 week to George Kittle but also held Travis Kelce to 1 catch on 6 targets.
- Vance McDonald: McDonald checks the tight end streamer boxes this week as a home favorite with a high implied team total. He's got just a single red zone target but has run a route on 63.4% and 66.7% of Pittsburgh's drop backs the past 2 games. That will keep him on the field in a high-scoring game.
Consider If Needed
- Austin Hooper: Hooper has 3 duds so far and hasn't seen more than 5 targets, but he's playing snaps (81.4% or more in every game) and running routes (at least 71.0% in every game). It's a bad week for tight ends, so start him if you need him.
- Benjamin Watson: Washington hasn't let up a top-10 outing to a tight end yet, and they're 2nd in fantasy points per target, but Watson is a home favorite dart-throw on a high-scoring offense, given his solid-enough red zone usage.
- David Njoku: Njoku should be a bench option, but it's a thin week for tight end options. He has had 7 targets in 3 of 4 games and 2 in the other, giving him 23 on the year (8th among all tight ends). He has yet to finish better than the TE17, in part because 56.5% of his targets have come on the wrong side of the 50 -- and just 1 has been inside the 10.
Bench If Possible
- Between injuries and byes, there aren't many popular tight ends who can be considered sit-worthy this week. We aren't in the business of sitting viable options to be cute. The tight end pool is dry this week. Normally, I'd consider Antonio Gates a bench candidate, given his lack of involvement outside the red zone, as well as Ricky Seals-Jones for his declining volume, but those guys are in play if they're the best you can scoop up this week to replace Evan Engram, Jack Doyle, Tyler Eifert, Will Dissly, Trey Burton, or O.J. Howard.