Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 2
The start/sit question is one that many a fantasy football analyst dreads. And yet, it's often the most important one.
As fantasy football enthusiasts, we spend the offseason poring over stats, news, projections, rankings -- whatever we can get our hands on -- all in anticipation of dominating our leagues on draft night.
But while we might agonize over whether Player A will have a better season than Player B as the clock ticks down on our eighth pick, the truth is that once the dust settles and the games actually begin, a good chunk of our roster will be cycling in and out of our lineups all season. At the end of the day, it won't matter that you picked the right guy if you started him in all the wrong weeks.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week and will hopefully be able to sway you in one direction or another. And away we go!
Start Cam Newton (vs. Tampa Bay): If you're the proud fantasy GM who started Week 1's top quarterback performer in Lamar Jackson, there's little reason you shouldn't double down in Week 2 with Baltimore checking in as massive 13.0-point home favorites against the fast-paced Arizona Cardinals.
Following his own eye-popping performance, Dak Prescott should also perform well again this week against Washington in what's looking like a vastly improved offense under offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
Tom Brady quickly silenced the doubters, too, and with or without Antonio Brown, he should absolutely obliterate the tanking Dolphins as the main cog of a Patriots offense that should roll (33.00 implied total).
Make no mistake, Week 1 was a very worrying result, as Newton was nonexistent in the running game (three attempts for negative two yards) and wasn't involved on any of Carolina's red zone plays, handing the ball off all five times. He also had an average depth of target (aDOT) of just 5.7 yards and whiffed on all three of his deep pass attempts (16-plus air yards), raising some familiar concerns on a shoulder that's endured two shoulder surgeries in three years.
None of this is reassuring, but unless you happened to draft one of the aforementioned trio in the latter stages of your draft, chances are you don't have anyone who can match Newton's weekly potential -- at least when he performs at the level we've come to expect.
And a matchup against the Buccaneers might be just what the doctor ordered. Carolina is showing a robust 28.25 total in a game with shootout potential (49.5 over/under), and despite Tampa Bay's strong Week 1 performance against Jimmy Garoppolo, this is still a defense that ranked 28th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play in 2018.
The initial returns are concerning, but we shouldn't abandon ship after just one clunker -- even through his shoulder issues last year, the dual-threat quarterback still averaged just over 20 fantasy points per game. Newton is projected as numberFire's third-best quarterback in Week 2.
Start Josh Allen (at New York Giants): It's not always pretty in real life, but Josh Allen just keeps getting the job done in fantasy. Sure, 254 passing yards with a touchdown and a pair of picks against the Jets is hardly awe-inspiring, but add on 10 rushes for 38 yards and a rushing score -- now you have yourself a nice day at the office.
In Week 2, Allen gets to face a Giants defense that just got diced up by Dak Prescott and was last week's second-worst passing defense by numberFire's metrics. And while we shouldn't put too much stock into one game, these Giants were 25th against the pass in 2018, too.
Let's not forget that Allen averaged 52.6 rushing yards per game last year -- more fantasy points than a passing touchdown is typically worth -- and that's not even accounting for his eight rushing scores.
If Week 1 was any indication, it should be more of the same on the ground in 2019, and with the Allen-to-John Brown connection already paying dividends, even the passing upside could be there in soft matchups like the Giants. In fact, Allen's 254 passing yards against the Jets exceeded his output in all 11 starts from last season.
Sit Kyler Murray (at Baltimore): After struggling for most of the game against Detroit, Kyler Murray salvaged his day between a furious game-tying fourth quarter comeback and some additional possessions in overtime.
However, while 308 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception make for a good fantasy bottom line, Murray completed just 53.7% of his passes and was Week 1's fifth-worst starting quarterback in terms of Passing NEP per drop back. He also only rushed three times for 13 yards, so his theoretical upside on the ground doesn't appear to be something we can bank on just yet.
That makes him all the more of a very shaky bet on the road against the Ravens, numberFire's top-ranked pass defense in 2018. Only Miami has a lower implied total than Arizona's paltry 16.75 points.
Other quarterbacks to start: Baker Mayfield (at New York Jets), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Seattle), and Jameis Winston (at Carolina) should bounce back this week. In deeper formats, Derek Carr (vs. Kansas City) is worth a look in a potential shootout.
Start Sony Michel (at Miami): In a game where the Patriots throttled the Steelers 33-3, you would think Sony Michel was one of the players who feasted. Instead, he rushed for all of... 14 yards. Welp.
Rex Burkhead ended up being the surprise team leader in rushing (44 yards), but the good news is that Michel still led the team in carries (15) over both Burkhead (8) and James White (4). The Patriots' crowded backfield is always a headache, but based on that usage, Michel is still the top dog in the ground game, and he should still thrive when the game script favors the Pats.
Of course, that should surely be the case against the lowly Dolphins. Miami was destroyed on the ground by the Ravens in Week 1, allowing 265 rushing yards and 2 scores, and it's of little surprise that they ranked bottom-five in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play for the week. A similar workload should be more than enough for Michel to bounce back in such a dream matchup.
And sure enough, Gore did get 11 rushes to Singletary's four, but Singletary was the one featured in the passing game, seeing six targets while Gore had none. Meanwhile, Yeldon barely saw the field at all.
Best of all, Singletary made the most of his chances, turning those 4 carries into 70 rushing yards, combined with 5 receptions for another 28 yards. On the other hand, Gore was ineffective, converting his 11 touches into a mere 20 rushing yards. As one might expect from those results, Singletary boasted a pristine 100.0% Rushing Success Rate compared to Gore's 27.3%. Singletary also saw the field significantly more, out-snapping Gore 48-19.
Gore is still listed atop the depth chart, but it's crystal clear who the top back is in this backfield. Singletary's role should only grow moving forward, and he enters Week 2 with loads of potential against a Giants defense that just got lit up for 35 points by the Cowboys.
Sit Phillip Lindsay (vs. Chicago): Just about any running back getting in the neighborhood of 15 touches is hardly a must-sit, and that's certainly what we have with Phillip Lindsay, who tallied 11 rushes and 4 receptions (6 targets) in Week 1 against the Raiders.
But as anyone who watched the game witnessed, this was a near even timeshare with Royce Freeman, who notched 11 touches of his own (10 rushes, 1 reception). Sure enough, Lindsay took the field for 34 snaps, just four more than Freeman's 30. Furthermore, even with the Broncos trailing the entire game, they didn't give any indication that Lindsay is the preferred back in negative game scripts, either, using the two backs interchangeably throughout.
That makes this an incredibly frustrating and unpredictable situation moving forward, and even more so in poor matchups like this week against the Bears. Although the Bears' offense left a lot to be desired in Week 1, the vaunted defense did their part, holding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to just 10 points. Chicago was numberFire's second-ranked defense against the run in 2018.
Lindsay still warrants consideration in deeper formats, especially in PPR, due to his decent volume and looks in the passing game, but this split backfield is one to avoid if possible in a tough spot versus Chicago.
Other running backs to start: Despite a dreaded committee developing in Kansas City, Damien Williams (at Oakland) is still the lead back in a high-scoring offense, and LeSean McCoy saw enough touches to warrant flex consideration. Matt Breida (at Cincinnati) will see a hefty workload with Tevin Coleman out with a high-ankle sprain. Giovani Bernard (vs. San Francisco) should be in lineups if Joe Mixon sits. Washington is going to have to pass to stay with Dallas, which should give Chris Thompson the edge over Adrian Peterson with Derrius Guice out.
Start Tyrell Williams (vs. Kansas City): Many were excited to see how Tyrell Williams would do following the Raiders' surprise release of Antonio Brown, and he didn't disappoint, grabbing 6 of 7 targets for 105 yards and a score. That was good for a strong 26.9% target share, behind only tight end Darren Waller on the Raiders.
Entrenched as one of the top two passing targets for Oakland, Williams should see plenty of looks with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs coming to town. Kansas City is 7.5-point road favorite in a game with a 52.5 over/under, so Derek Carr and company will surely have to throw to try to keep up with the offensive juggernaut.
And while we shouldn't expect the Raiders to be able to hang with the Chiefs, they should still be able to put up their share of points. The Chiefs were numberFire's worst-ranked pass defense last year, and they just coughed up 347 yards and 3 scores to rookie Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles.
Start Marquise Brown (vs. Arizona): Marquise Brown was a popular waiver wire pickup this week and is worth throwing into your lineup right away in deep leagues.
The Cardinals are still without the suspended Patrick Peterson and were lit up by Matthew Stafford for 385 and 3 touchdowns (including overtime) in Week 1. Now, they get to hit the road and face a Ravens squad that just put up 59 points and has the third-highest implied total of the week (29.75).
Considering Brown played only 14 snaps (18%) last week, we should proceed with some caution before getting overly excited from his Week 1 box score. Still, despite the limited snaps, his five targets were second on the team (20% share), and he led the team in air yards (36.7% share). Also, it's quite possible his lack of playing time had a lot to do with him coming off an offseason foot issue and not being needed in an easy victory.
His snaps can only go up from here, and against the fastest playing team in the league, it's well worth betting that the opportunities will be there this week.
That's exactly how things played out in Week 1, with Beckham scooping up 28.9% of the targets, while Landry saw an underwhelming 18.4%. That's a far cry from the 26.6% share Landry saw in 2018, and that's not even including the fact that it dropped to just 21.1% when Freddie Kitchens took over in 2018 -- before Beckham was even around.
With Beckham not going anywhere and guys like David Njoku and Nick Chubb also taking chunks of the pie, there's little reason to expect Landry's targets to see a bump in the coming weeks. Baker Mayfield and this offense as a whole should perform better against the Jets this week, and Landry could still have his moments, but he won't be the PPR dream of years past.
Other wide receivers to start: DeSean Jackson is always boom-or-bust but should keep things rolling against Atlanta, numberFire's second-worst team against the pass in 2018. John Brown excelled in his first game with Buffalo (27.8% target share, 41.0% air yards share) and now gets a weak Giants pass defense. Cole Beasley also saw 25.0% of the targets if you need someone in deep formats.
Start Darren Waller (vs. Kansas City Chiefs): Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, and Darren Waller were all hot names this week following their strong performances last week, and all three are worth slotting into your tight end spot.
But Waller is still curiously owned in just 72% of Yahoo leagues and 55% of ESPN leagues, and he's one of the strongest starts of the week. At face value, maybe 7 receptions for 70 yards won't turn many heads, but his 8 targets were good for a team-high 30.8% target share, which is especially amazing for a tight end. Waller was also on the field for 100% of the Raiders' snaps.
As noted with Tyrell Williams, Oakland is expected to need to chuck it plenty to try to hang with the Chiefs, so we should once again see Waller rolling in the targets as Derek Carr's top pass-catcher.
Sit Eric Ebron (at Tennessee): Eric Ebron is sadly relegated to this spot for the second straight week, as doubts about his role came to fruition in Week 1. Ebron and Jack Doyle combined for a mere five targets (three for Ebron and two for Doyle), effectively cancelling each other out as fantasy assets. Doyle also out-snapped Ebron 43-25, further throwing cold water on Ebron's value.
Other tight ends to start: Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson