Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 10
Finding a new television series to watch is a pretty tough task at times. With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and whichever other streaming services you have, you're always faced with seemingly countless choices.
Narrowing things down is hard -- at least for me.
Back before DVR and streaming, I just had to settle for what was on right then and there, so choosing between reruns of The King of Queens was almost always going to win out over tuning into some movie that was half over already or some series that was in the middle of its run. With few options, it's easier to settle.
With tons of options, you
just rewatch The Office for the 20th time really have to think long and hard about what you're investing your time into. Setting fantasy football lineups is kind of like that.
In a 10-team home league, you can be picking between Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones, which is like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Parks and Recreation. One has an edge this week, but generally, it depends on the matchup and mood. In that 14-teamer, you probably are just putting on whatever you can and starting Sterling Shepard regardless because your next-best option might be Robby Anderson.
I lost the metaphor, but hopefully you get it. Your start-or-sit dilemmas depend entirely on context, and you're not sitting Andrew Luck against the Jacksonville Jaguars if you're in a 2QB or deep league with no viable replacement options. In a 10-team home league, you can almost assuredly do better this week. That's the whole point if you want me to come right out and say it.
For many 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 other, more 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; these aren't rankings, but they're close), 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 want to 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 vs. ARI: Mahomes is just a free space each week, as he has thrown for three or more touchdowns in four straight games and at least 300 yards in every game since Week 2. The Arizona Cardinals are coming in off a bye and are 12th against the pass by numberFire’s Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play metric, but there isn’t any concern about Mahomes -- other than maybe the injury update to Sammy Watkins.
- Aaron Rodgers vs. MIA: Rodgers has just one pick this year against 15 touchdowns and has churned out at least 14.9 passing fantasy points in every game this season. The Dolphins started out hot but rank 25th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play now. Rodgers is a locked-in QB1 this week.
- Philip Rivers at OAK: Rivers’ efficiency isn’t that far behind Mahomes’, and he’s got his offense up to second in Adjusted Passing NEP per play this season. The biggest concern against the 32nd-ranked pass defense is a lack of pass volume, and Rivers has already averaged only 24.8 attempts over his past four games -- but he’s had at least two touchdown passes in every game.
- Tom Brady at TEN: Brady hits the road to face a Titans squad that ranks 26th in adjusted pass defense. He’s thrown for 1, 3, 0, and 1 touchdowns in his past four games but has still averaged 17.1 fantasy points in those games. He’s a high floor play but hasn’t shown much of a ceiling this entire season, just once surpassing 23 fantasy points.
- Cam Newton at PIT: This is the type of game we don’t want for Newton: he’s on the road against a tough pass defense. However, Cam has produced at least 18 fantasy points in every game this season and has thrown for multiple touchdowns in every game since Week 2 while still rushing for 42.8 yards per game, elevating his floor even higher. Pittsburgh has let up 5.32 yards per carry to quarterbacks, ranking 27th in the NFL.
- Jared Goff vs. SEA: Goff has a tough matchup with the Seahawks, who are fifth in adjusted pass defense, but we just saw Rivers average 8.8 yards per attempt on them in Week 9. Goff has flashed his ceiling in close games the past two weeks (26.5 and 30.3 fantasy points). As a 10-point favorite at the open, the ceiling could be capped, but the floor has been super high for Goff in similar spots this season, as he has just once dropped below 16 fantasy points and averaged 10.0 yards per attempt against Seattle in Week 5 despite injuries to multiple Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp.
- Carson Wentz vs. DAL: Wentz returns from a bye to host the Cowboys, who will be on a short week after having played Monday night. Wentz has averaged 306.6 passing yards, 2.4 touchdowns, and 21.8 fantasy points, excluding his season debut, and Dallas’ pass defense is just middle-of-the-road (22nd by numberFire's metrics).
- Drew Brees at CIN: The Bengals’ pass defense has let up 7.50 adjusted yards per attempt (21st) and 0.46 passing fantasy points per attempt (23rd) this season, so that helps with the built-in downgrade for Brees, who has led the third-best adjusted passing offense this season, of playing on the road and outdoors.
Consider If Needed
- Ben Roethlisberger vs. CAR: Ben is on a short week against the mid-level pass defense of thePanthers (13th). Roethlisberger has thrown for more than 300 yards just once in his past five games, a span in which he’s still averaged 20.5 fantasy points. He’s a low-end QB1, meaning that you can sit him for a passer in a better matchup, but the matchup and short week aren’t enough to put him in bench-first territory.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. WSH: Washington showed they could be touched up last week, allowing Matt Ryan to throw for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns, but they’re still 14th in adjusted pass defense despite that game, and Fitzpatrick showed that it’s not all rainbows for him in Week 9. He did generate 4 touchdowns on his 40 attempts, but it’s not a guarantee that this game becomes a shootout. Fitz is a fine streamer but more of a low-end QB1 than a must-play level of option.
- Baker Mayfield vs. ATL: Mayfield has thrown for two scores in three straight games and has rushed for an uneven 43, 9, and 0 yards in those contests. The Falcons are 28th in pass defense and 27th in fantasy points per pass attempt this season. They did add Bruce Irvin to a pass rush that ranks 31st in quarterback hit rate, via FantasyData, bumping him down to just outside of a surefire trust.
- Matt Ryan at CLE: Last week, Ryan showed us a lot, going for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns on the road against a top-12 pass defense, and he’s actually averaged 7.39 yards per attempt on the road, a usable mark, as well as 0.11 Passing NEP per drop back, in line with the league average. The Browns' defense is 19th in adjusted yards per attempt since Week 6. Still, Ryan's full-season marks are boosted by five of eight games at home, though he's still a low-end QB1 at worst.
- Mitchell Trubisky vs. DET: Trubisky is at home against numberFire’s 30th-ranked pass defense. After four straight top-10 games, he slipped to QB18 against a tough Bills defense in Week 9. Against low-level defenses, Trubisky has come through, so we can trust him as a streamer in Week 10, but volume concerns could limit his ceiling and make his floor a bit shakier than we'd like from a more locked-in replacement.
- Russell Wilson at LAR: Wilson’s low-volume ways went out the window last week as he trailed and threw 39 times, and that should be the case against the Rams (who are favored by 10). Wilson hasn’t surpassed 250 yards since he had 298 in Week 1, but he’s thrown for 2.8 scores per game over his past four. The Rams are wont to allow passing production, by product of their big leads, so Wilson remains a low-end option in Week 10.
Bench If Possible
- Andrew Luck vs. JAC: Both Luck and the Jaguars had a bye to prep for this game, so that’s a factor here. The Jags are seventh in adjusted pass defense. On 248 attempts against top-13 pass defenses this season, Luck has posted just 5.93 yards per attempt and 0.07 Passing NEP per drop back (league average is 0.12), and the Colts are bottom-six in pass rate in neutral script over the past three games. He’s not the worst play, but he’s still a sit-first option given the matchup.
- Andy Dalton vs. NO: Dalton, who enters this home game off a bye, will be without A.J. Green. Yes, the Saints are 29th in pass adjusted defense, but Dalton has gotten to 20 fantasy points just three times and has been held under 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in four straight games.
- Matthew Stafford at CHI: Stafford heads outdoors after succumbing to seven sacks in Week 9. That may have been an anomaly, as he had been sacked 13 times prior. However, Stafford has just one top-12 performance this season and has averaged only 263.8 passing yards. There isn’t enough of a ceiling here to embrace the low floor unless he’s your best option on the waiver wire.
- Alex Smith at TB: Smith very well could wind up a top-rung quarterback this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31st-ranked pass defense, but he has yet to surpass 19.6 fantasy points or 22 rushing yards and his line has been decimated. He’s a fine desperation streamer but not one you should be actively hoping to play in a 12-team league based on the context surrounding him.
- Dak Prescott at PHI: Dak has moved back up the ranks in the fantasy realm but now faces the third-best adjusted pass defense in football. He's on a short week, and they enter off a bye. The Eagles have let up rushing production to quarterbacks, but with an average of just 15.3 passing fantasy points per game even in his recent surge, Prescott is more of a 14-team replacement than a shallow-league play.
- Derek Carr vs. LAC: Carr, outside of two top-five outings, has been the QB18 or worse in every game and has thrown for zero or one scores in all of those bust games. He’s averaged at least 7.5 yards per attempt in every game but one this season, yet that’s not getting the job done for fantasy purposes, even against a leaky pass defense.
Start With Confidence
- Todd Gurley vs. SEA: I mean, Gurley has been a top-nine performer in every week and a top-five running back in every game but two. He’s seen an average of 25.7 opportunities (carries plus targets) this season, ranking him first among all backs.
- Kareem Hunt vs. ARI: Hunt’s played his two highest snap rates over the past two games, as if we needed more reason to like him. Last week, his target total dipped to two after three straight games with six, but he’s been the RB1 in two of the past three weeks and the RB15 or better in every game since Week 2. He’s now a 16.5-point home favorite.
- James Conner vs. CAR: Conner has averaged an 84.0% snap rate and 25.1 opportunities per game, second-most among all backs. He’s been the RB1, RB5, RB1, and RB5 the past four games, and he’s now a four-point home favorite on a short week against the 26th-ranked adjusted rush defense.
- Saquon Barkley at SF: Barkley’s been the RB16 or better in every game and has low-water marks of a 71.0% snap rate and 18 opportunities. The 49ers are bottom-five in targets and receptions allowed to backs, and Barkley’s snap rate has been a season high in each of the past two games (92.2% and 97.1%).
- Melvin Gordon at OAK: Gordon opened as a double-digit road favorite against the Raiders and returned post bye to play a season-high 88.2% snap rate, proving that he’s good to go. His worst finish has been RB14, and his 21.9 looks per game ranks him seventh among all backs. Even without adjusting for his missed game, Gordon’s 19.0% target share is second best on the Chargers.
- Christian McCaffrey at PIT: McCaffrey has played at least 94.0% of snaps in every game since Week 2, finishing as a top-22 back in every one of those weeks. McCaffrey also has a 20.3% target share since his Week 4 bye, a mark that’s actually still 21.0% since the return of Greg Olsen.
- Ezekiel Elliott at PHI: Zeke has been a top-24 back in seven of eight games while playing at least 76.8% of snaps in every week. Helping out his floor as a road underdog with a tough matchup is his 17.2% target share, which was still 16.7% with the addition of Amari Cooper in Week 9.
- Alvin Kamara at CIN: Kamara has played at least 54.9% of snaps in each of the three games since the Saints’ bye and has seen opportunity counts of 19, 21, and 24. In a season-long format, Kamara, also the Saints' leader in red zone targets, is locked in.
- Joe Mixon vs. NO: Mixon runs the risk of negative script, but he’s averaged 5.0 targets per game over his past four, a 14.9% target share, to help alleviate some concern this week. Mixon has averaged a 77.0% snap rate in those, too. He’s a workhorse who is startable in any league.
- James White at TEN: White, who has a sky-high 26.8% target share, has been a top-22 back in every week and a top-12 back in five of his past six. That’s an elite floor, and he’s played at least 70.0% of snaps in three straight games without Sony Michel. The Titans are the toughest pass defense in terms of fantasy points per target allowed to backs, but the 9.2 targets per game will help overcome that. Even with Michel's return, White's target numbers keep him a firm start.
Consider If Needed
- Marlon Mack vs. JAC: Mack is a home favorite against a top-12 rush defense but has accounted for 64.7% of the running back carries for the Colts in two games since his snaps spiked in Week 7 (56.1% and 62.8%). He’s also had a modest 3.5 targets in those two games, but the workload keeps him as an RB2 this week, though the floor is a bit shaky if they fall behind.
- Tevin Coleman at CLE: Coleman’s snap rate has been below 60.0% in five straight games, but he’s finished as a top-20 back in three straight. He’s coming off a seven-target game, and the Browns have let up the fifth-most receiving yards to backs.
- Nick Chubb vs. ATL: Chubb has handled 93.5% of the running back carries since the Carlos Hyde trade and has topped 20 opportunities in three straight games, keeping him in the high-end RB2 conversation against Atlanta’s 31st-ranked rush defense.
- David Johnson at KC: You're playing Johnson, despite the fact that he’s a 16.5-point road underdog and the rushing usage wasn’t very promising in Week 8 under a new offensive coordinator. They’ve had a bye to script him open more, his 19.5 opportunities per game rank him 10th in the league, and he has a sturdy 14.5% target share, ensuring he gets looks while they play catch-up.
- Aaron Jones vs. MIA: Jones has played 61.5% and 58.1% of snaps the past two games with 14 and 18 opportunities and is now a 10-point favorite against the Dolphins’ 18th-ranked rush defense, which has allowed eight top-12 backs this year.
- Jordan Howard vs. DET: Howard is a home favorite against the Lions’ 29th-ranked rush defense, keeping him firmly in the RB2 tier. Howard has played at least half the snaps in every game and enters with three straight top-20 performances.
- Matt Breida vs. NYG: Breida played 49.1% of snaps on Thursday night in Week 9, a short turnaround for him. He now has 11 days to rest up for a matchup with the Giants on Monday. Raheem Mostert is on injured reserve, and the G-Men are susceptible to receiving backs, ranking 26th in fantasy points per target allowed to backs.
- Adrian Peterson at TB: Peterson dropped off in Week 9, a negative script, and that’s been a clear trend for him this season. He’s averaged a 55.1% snap rate and 23.8 opportunities in positive or neutral games but just 33.8% and 11.0 in games where Washington primarily trailed. Now, he did get in 46.4% of snaps last week but had 9 carries and 3 targets to show for it. As a road underdog and with a decimated offensive line, Peterson is just an RB2 option at best for Week 10.
- Duke Johnson vs. ATL: Johnson gets a dream matchup against the Falcons, who have faced the third-highest rate of targets directed to running backs. In his first game with a new coaching staff, he played 46.7% of snaps and had 9 targets, a 21.4% share.
- Tarik Cohen vs. DET: Cohen’s usage has shifted dramatically (21, 14, 18, 8, and 8 opportunities the past five games) despite seeing a snap increase (47.5%, 48.6%, 51.2%, 57.6%, 54.9%). As a heavy home favorite, Cohen should take a backseat to Jordan Howard again, relegating him more to a flex expectation in Week 10.
- Kenyan Drake at GB: This sets up as a Drake game script, as Miami is a 10-point road underdog. Drake has averaged a 60.1% snap rate this year but had just three carries and six targets in Week 9. Drake does rank second in target share on the Dolphins, though, so he’s a viable start in a heavy bye week, given the pass-game work.
- Mark Ingram at CIN: Ingram’s usage (15.0 opportunities per game, 25th among backs) has been so-so while playing roughly half the snaps each week, but he’s a favorite against the league’s 28th-ranked rush defense, which has surrendered six top-six weeks to backs this year.
- Kerryon Johnson at CHI: Johnson’s snaps fell from 81.4% to 55.7% with the return of Theo Riddick last week, but he still saw five targets (14.7% of the available passes). Johnson has shown the ability to be a flex option with barely half the snaps all season, however.
- Dion Lewis vs. NE: Lewis comes off a season-high 84.3% snap rate into his revenge game with the Patriots’ 10th-ranked rush defense. They are, though, 22nd in fantasy points per target allowed to backs, and Lewis has averaged 5.0 per game in his past two, with 4.6 per game on the full season (a 16.8% share).
- LeSean McCoy at NYJ: I can’t fault you for benching McCoy if you can afford to do so. His team total is just 14.5 points, and the Jets rank ninth in rush defense, but he’s been the RB36 or better in five of eight games, given his generally elevated snap count.
- Doug Martin vs. LAC: Martin’s status as a massive underdog should be common moving forward. He still played 45.6% of snaps in last week’s blowout loss and 56.0% in his first game as a featured back, finishing with 28 total looks and as the RB32 and RB27. The Chargers are just 23rd in adjusted rush defense to help out Martin's attempt to be at least a low-end RB3 for the third straight week.
- Jalen Richard vs. LAC: Richard had just four targets in last week’s blowout loss but has averaged 6.3 per game and is sure to see targets against a defense that’s bottom-eight in fantasy points per target allowed to backs.
Bench If Possible
- Leonard Fournette at IND: If you can afford to sit Fournette, that’s probably best, as he hasn’t finished a game yet this season and is a road underdog.
- T.J. Yeldon at IND: Yeldon should remain the team's passing-game back, which is noteworthy because they're road underdogs, but he also could be third in line for touches with Carlos Hyde in tow. The best bet is to sit him if you can, though he might have the best shot to lead the team in snaps in Week 10, based on the projected game script and unknowable health of Fournette.
- Sony Michel at TEN: Thee Patriots have a bye in Week 11 and shouldn't be forced to feed Michel in his return to action, keeping his floor and ceiling lower than we'd like it to be. With that level of uncertainty, Michel is someone to sit unless you can't find anything else to replace him with.
- Isaiah Crowell vs. BUF: Crowell’s a solid home favorite on the Bills, but they’re top-five in adjusted rush defense, and Crowell played 34.8% of snaps last week and is yet to hit 50.0% in a game. At best, he is an if-needed flex given his role in an offense with a low implied team total.
- Austin Ekeler at OAK: As a 10-point favorite, Ekeler could see extra work in a blowout, and he’s still been the RB44 or better each week. However, he played just 17.6% of snaps last week and isn’t someone we can bank on, even against the league’s 30th-ranked rush defense.
- Wendell Smallwood vs. DAL: Smallwood has played 62.0%, 52.2%, and 50.0% of snaps since Jay Ajay’s injury, seeing 20, 11, and 11 opportunities in those games. Dallas, again without Sean Lee, has let up eight top-24 weeks but just three top-12 weeks to backs so far. Still, the Eagles have a full-on committee, dropping him down to bench-first territory.
- Peyton Barber vs. WSH: Barber’s a committee back who is averaging 15.8 opportunities since the Week 5 bye, which would rank him 22nd on the full season. He’s also a home favorite with a high team total against the league’s 24th-ranked rush defense. You can do worse, especially if you buy into the thought that Washington struggles a bit given their ruined offensive line, but there's no way Barber is an optimistic start given what he's shown so far this season.
- Ito Smith at CLE: Smith is always a potential flex play, as he’s #goodatfootball and has been playing snaps (46.3%, 43.1%, and 41.2%), but a lack of receiving work (two targets in three straight games) keeps him as a low-end RB3/flex who has cracked 10 fantasy points just once.
Start With Confidence
- Antonio Brown vs. CAR: Brown has been the RB25 or better in all but one game and leads the league in end zone targets with 14. The Panthers are 13th in adjusted pass defense and have let up only two top-12 weeks, but Brown, obviously, remains a locked in start regardless of matchup.
- Julio Jones at CLE: The Browns boast the top adjusted pass defense in the league and are eighth in fantasy points per target allowed to wideouts but could be without both Denzel Ward and E.J. Gaines. Jones has a 29.2% target share and 41.7% of the Falcons’ air yards over his past five games, a span during which he’s averaged 3.28 yards per route run and finished as the WR20 or better five times.
- Davante Adams vs. MIA: Adams faces Xavien Howard this week, but the Dolphins overall are 25th in adjusted pass defense and 21st in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers, which keeps Adams and his 27.0% target share a firm WR1 this week.
- Michael Thomas at CIN: Thomas hits the road, which dings him a bit, and the Bengals have let up just one top-six receiver this season -- but five top-12 receivers. Thomas owns a 29.4% target share overall and 34.1% share since the Week 6 bye. A WR1 in five of eight games, Thomas remains a confident start.
- Odell Beckham at SF: Beckham’s Giants are somehow underdogs against the 49ers, but he’s been the WR12 or better in three of four weeks, during which he’s had a 28.4% target share and 40.6% of the Giants’ air yards. San Fran is 20th in adjusted pass defense, too.
- Mike Evans vs. WSH: Evans has averaged 10.0 targets per game in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s starts, which can come in handy against a Washington pass defense that’s 24th in fantasy points per target allowed to the position and has been getting toasted more and more by the week.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. CAR: In Week 9, JuJu bounced back after some down weeks, playing 95.1% of snaps and seeing 9 targets for a WR19 finish. He’s at a 23.3% target share this year and clearly should benefit from a matchup with a tight spread based on his script-dependent usage this season.
- Tyreek Hill vs. ARI: Hill faces a Cardinals team as a massive home favorite, so he’s at risk of being phased out and also has to deal with odd home splits. Just 10.9% of attempts against the Cardinals have been at least 16 yards downfield, the lowest rate in the NFL (league average is 18.2%). Without Sammy Watkins to draw attention from him, Hill could be more bust than boom in Week 10.
- Tyler Boyd vs. NO: Boyd has played at least 92.3% of snaps in three straight games entering the bye, a span during which he’s had a 22.1% target share (it’s 23.0% on the full season). Against the Saints’ 29th-ranked pass defense (32nd in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers), he’s a borderline WR1 option in Week 10 with A.J. Green sidelined.
- Robert Woods vs. SEA: Woods has been the WR36 in seven straight games and still has maintained his snap and target numbers with Cooper Kupp back. Seattle is 16th in fantasy points per target to receivers, and the total for the Rams is above 30.
- Julian Edelman at TEN: Edelman has been a top-24 receiver in every game since Week 6, his second game back (which coincided with a snap rate spike of 90.1% or more in every game). In that split, Edelman has accounted for 25.4% of the targets and 40.9% of the red zone targets. Tennessee is 26th in adjusted pass defense, too.
- Cooper Kupp vs. SEA: Kupp returned in Week 9 to play 100% of snaps and draw 6 targets (a 15.4% share). Even without factoring out his missed games, he owns a 21.2% red zone share and is tied for seventh in the league with seven targets from inside the 10.
Consider If Needed
- Keenan Allen at OAK: Allen’s status as a big favorite can be seen as a concern, but he leads the Chargers with a 26.9% target share. It’s 29.2% over the past five games (but he has just a 10.0% red zone share in that span). Something has to give, and it could be this week, as he faces the league’s 32nd-ranked adjusted pass defense.
- Josh Gordon at TEN: Gordon has played at least 80.3% of snaps in four straight games, but his route rate dipped from an average of 94.6% in the first three to 81.1% in Week 9. In that split, he has had 38.4% of the team’s air yards with a 13.7-yard aDOT. Tennessee is 27th in Passing NEP per attempt allowed on deep balls.
- Brandin Cooks vs. SEA: Cooks has a 44.7% air yards share since his Week 5 injury, thanks to a 19.5-yard average depth of target. Seattle’s defense is third in deep-ball efficiency, but we’re still looking at 6.8 targets per game on a top-three offense.
- Jarvis Landry at ATL: Landry’s Week 9 usage was a little odd, as his air yards share dipped from 31.4% on the full season to 18.4% in that game, but he still has accounted for a team-high 31.0% deep target share and 48.4% of the team’s red zone targets. Against the Falcons’ 28th-ranked pass defense, which is especially generous to slot receivers, he’s a high-floor WR2.
- Alshon Jeffery vs. DAL: He now has to deal with Golden Tate, but Jeffery has been a target hog this season, accounting for 24.5% of the Eagles’ targets, 44.8% of the deep targets, and 29.0% of the red zone targets since his return. Dallas is 22nd in adjusted pass defense but has allowed for just two receivers to finish better than the WR24.
- Marvin Jones at CHI: Jones saw eight targets, a 23.5% share, without Golden Tate in the offense last week. The Bears are a mid-range matchup overall but are sixth in deep-ball defense, which caps his upside. The added volume, though, keeps him a low-end WR2-caliber play.
- Kenny Golladay at CHI: Golladay saw just four targets in Week 9 but played 97.1% of the snaps and ran a route on every drop back. Eventually, that’ll turn to targets, but he has a 7.4% target share in three games since a Week 6 bye.
- T.Y. Hilton vs. JAC: Hilton’s a tough case this week against the Jaguars’ seventh-ranked pass defense. He’s had just 4 and 5 targets since returning from injury, but that’s a 17.0% target share. He’d be a traditional sit candidate if we were simply looking at the matchup, but the Jags are just middle-of-the-road on deep balls, and Hilton is always the best bet to lead the Colts in targets, keeping him at least a flex candidate with six teams on bye.
- Golden Tate vs. DAL: Tate had a bye week to get acclimated to the Eagles’ offense and enters a solid spot against the Cowboys’ 22nd-ranked defense on a short week. With the inefficient Nelson Agholor accounting for 18.5% of the team’s targets since Jeffery’s return, there’s volume to be had for Tate right away.
- Sterling Shepard at SF: Shepard has had eight targets in each of the two games since Evan Engram’s return, a 19.3% target share. He’s also had 36.3% of the air yards in that split to different results: 19.2 and 5.4 fantasy points. Against a weak pass defense, he’s in the WR3 tier this week based on that usage.
- Sammy Watkins vs. ARI: Watkins may not even play, but if he does, know that he hasn’t seen 10 targets in a game yet and is a huge home favorite, so the volume could bottom out here against a team that is still 12th in adjusted pass defense and 5th in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. But with a 17.9% target share and a 33.25-point total, Watkins is far from a sit-first candidate.
- Larry Fitzgerald at KC: The Chiefs are actually the top defense based on fantasy points per target allowed to receivers, but Fitz had a 32.4% target share and 44.3% of the air yards in Week 8 under a new offensive coordinator. In a game where the Cardinals will certainly trail, we can chase volume with Fitz as a WR3 or flex-level play.
- Amari Cooper at PHI: Cooper accounted for eight targets (26.7%) and 36.8% of Dallas’ air yards in his debut, while being involved in the red zone. The matchup is rough overall (Philly is third in adjusted pass defense), but they’ve indicated they’re intent on feeding Cooper.
- Devin Funchess at PIT: Funchess’ matchup isn’t great (Pittsburgh is 8th in adjusted pass defense and 13th in fantasy points per target), but he’s had a 20.9% target share and at least 29.0% of the deep targets and red zone targets since the Week 4 bye. Over the past two games, though, he’s down to a 15.7% target share (but still 30.0% of the deep attempts and 28.6% of the red zone targets).
- Calvin Ridley at CLE: Ridley, despite injuries to the Browns' secondary, remains in flex-only territory because he still has just a 14.9% target share on the year. Still, he's not a priority bench in this spot.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. MIA: With Geronimo Allison headed to injured reserve, MVS’ role should be solidified. He played 81.1% of snaps last week and ran a route on 78.7% of drop backs. He’ll square up with the torchable secondary of Miami, which ranks 25th in adjusted pass defense.
- Randall Cobb vs. MIA: Cobb played 75.7% of snaps last week and ran a route on 76.6% of drop backs. He’ll benefit from the loss of Geronimo Allison and sticks as a low-end flex option with blowout risk.
Bench If Possible
- Doug Baldwin at LAR: Baldwin could see a target spike in Week 10 as the Seahawks are 10-point underdogs, but even with Wilson throwing 39 times in Week 9, he had just 4 targets. Since his return in Week 4, he has a 19.0% target share to lead the team, but that’s equated to only 4.2 targets on average.
- Tyler Lockett at LAR: The Rams are 26th in Passing NEP per attempt on deep attempts, which plays into Lockett’s strength, but he has averaged 3.8 targets per game since Doug Baldwin returned to the lineup five games ago.
- Corey Davis vs. NE: Davis has combined for 42.2% of the Titans’ deep targets and red zone targets, the highest rate of any player, but he’s hit 10 fantasy points just once and has finished better than the WR30 just once. Against tough receiver defense and shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore, bench Davis if you can.
- D.J. Moore at PIT: Moore burned us last week but ran a season-high 96.4% of routes and played a season-high 85.5% snap rate. The below-average matchup and lack of red zone usage keeps him as more of an if-you-must play, as we know the floor isn't elevated yet.
- Taylor Gabriel vs. DET: Gabriel has just a 15.9% target share since Anthony Miller’s return (5.0 targets per game over the past four). The matchup is enticing (Detroit is 30th in adjusted pass defense), but the targets are too low to trust, even with a jump back up to an 86.3% snap rate in Week 9. He’s a possible DFS option and a deep-league play but not a trustworthy 12-team start.
- Tyrell Williams at OAK: Williams has a 41.% deep target share over the past five games -- during which he has 4 touchdowns -- and Oakland is 31st in deep ball defense. He’s not the worst dart throw, but he still has just a 13.9% target share over that split.
- DeSean Jackson vs. WSH: Jackson ran a route on just 48.9% of drop backs last week and saw 4 targets -- though he had a 25.3-yard average depth on those. He’s a boom-or-bust option who can’t be trusted to run routes. Washington is 13th in Passing NEP per attempt allowed on deep throws this season.
- Christian Kirk at KC: Kirk has maxed out at eight targets this season but has been the WR15, WR38, WR45, and WR24 in his past four games while averaging 11.5 fantasy points. It’s a bad per-target matchup, but the Cardinals should have to throw. Kirk is a deeper league option and a game-stack candidate in DFS, but he’s not a 12-team start.
- Chris Godwin vs. WSH: Godwin’s snap rate fell to 55.2% last week, and his route rate dropped to 53.2%, too. Tampa has four players with a target share between 13.0% and 15.0%, keeping Godwin outside of the try-to-start realm.
- Mohamed Sanu at CLE: Sanu has just one top-24 week this season and has dipped below 70.0% of snaps in three straight games while dealing with a hip injury, a span during which he’s seen just 7.9% of the team’s targets.
- Tre'Quan Smith at CIN: Smith is up to a 15.9% target share since the Week 6 bye, but that’s been just 4.3 targets per game, and he now travels, where the overall pass efficiency for the Saints should dip.
- Mike Williams at OAK: Williams played just 29.4% of snaps last week and has averaged just 3.4 targets per game over his past five. We can expect pass volume to be low again.
Start With Confidence
- Travis Kelce vs. ARI: Kelce has been the TE1 in two straight weeks and faces a Cardinals defense that's 21st in fantasy points per target allowed to the position. Without Watkins, the target share (25.9%) could get even higher, keeping him the odds-on favorite to repeat as the TE1.
- Zach Ertz vs. DAL: A top-12 performer in every week, Ertz now has Tate in the fold to take some targets, but he's the lead receiver for this team in terms of target share. Dallas has seen a top-eight rate of targets get funneled to tight ends.
- George Kittle vs. NYG: He's been a top-12 performer in five of nine games and commands a 24.8% target share. The Giants have limited production on a per-target basis (third), but the volume keeps Kittle a front-half TE1 in terms of expectations.
- Greg Olsen at PIT: Olsen has been the TE6 and TE5 the past two weeks on a total of 10 targets, but he's played at least 96.9% of snaps in all four games since his return, and he's run a route on at least 81.4% of drop backs in that span. That's great usage relative to most tight ends, keeping him in the confident start tier.
- Jimmy Graham vs. MIA: Graham has just 10 targets the past two games but faces a tight end defense that's 27th on a per-target basis. Graham's played at least 71.1% of snaps each game, as well.
- Jack Doyle vs. JAC: Doyle played 73.1% of snaps in his return in Week 8 and had a week to heal since then. The Jags are 16th in yards per target allowed to tight ends, but he's a strong bet to push a 90.0% snap rate like he did the first two weeks.
Consider If Needed
- Evan Engram at SF: Engram has played at least 81.2% of snaps in each game this year and has a 15.7% target share since his return. The 49ers are a mid-range tight end matchup with injuries in the secondary, benefitting Engram's outlook.
- O.J. Howard vs. WSH: Howard somehow has been the TE12 or better in every game he's finished despite an 11.7% target share. Since the Week 5 bye, he's had 17.0% of the deep targets and 22.2% of the red zone looks.
- Rob Gronkowski at TEN: Even if Gronk plays, he faces the league's first-ranked tight end defense by fantasy points per target, and he's been called to block more and more, maxing out at eight targets in a single game.
- Trey Burton vs. DET: Burton has a 17.5% target share since a Week 5 bye, finishing as the TE11, TE1, TE29, and TE10 in those games. The Lions are 30th in adjusted pass defense and per-target defense to tight ends.
- Jared Cook vs. LAC: Cook has seven targets in two games since the bye, finishing as the TE4 and TE27 in those, and his snap rate has declined from an average of 84.8% pre-bye to 60.8% post-bye. The problem is that his workload is about as good as most tight ends outside of the elite tier.
- David Njoku vs. ATL: Njoku's snap rate has been mostly in line with his usual total of late, but he ran just 60.0% of routes last week, well off his full-season rate, and he's had just 9.4% of the Browns' targets over his past three games.
- Jordan Reed at TB: Reed hasn't been a top-14 tight end since Week 1 and played 53.6% of snaps in Week 9, the lowest mark for him since Week 1. His route rate also dropped to a low since the opener. It's a fantastic matchup, but that's all we're clinging to.
- Austin Hooper at CLE: Hooper could offer some relief in the middle of the field against the Browns' generally tough outside defense, but injuries could leave them vulnerable all over. That leaves Hooper and his 9.6% target share over a two-game cold streak an if-needed option only.
- Vance McDonald vs. CAR: Vance has just nine targets in two post-bye games but did play 63.0% of snaps in the most recent one, similar to his full-season usage. The Panthers are 29th in per-target fantasy points allowed to tight ends.
Bench If Possible
- Eric Ebron vs. JAC: It's been bad enough where I can't usually recommend tight ends to sit, but if there's one on the fringe this week, it's Ebron, who is a full-on dart throw this week, as he played just 21.8% of snaps in Week 8 and ran a route on 32.3% of drop backs. He had a bye week to rest up but remains a very volatile option based on unknowable usage.
- Benjamin Watson at CIN: Watson is another option to recommend sitting. He's owned in enough leagues where you may be considering him. He averaged a 65.2% snap rate before the Week 6 bye. It's now 40.7% after the bye, though he's been the TE5, TE46, and TE7 in those games on a total of 10 targets. The low snap rate pushes him out of the range where you can feel comfortable starting him unless you're desperate.