Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 10
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 Kyler Murray (at Tampa Bay): Kyler Murray was predictably held in check by a ruthless 49ers defense for much of last Thursday, but a better second half, capped off by Andy Isabella doing most of the work on an 88-yard catch-and-run score, helped Murray to a QB6 finish. While Murray was a bit lucky to salvage his night off that one play (plus the ensuing two-point conversion), it was still encouraging to see him notch two touchdowns -- particularly in a tough matchup -- after accounting for no scores the prior two weeks.
Good fortune or not, he'll have a much easier time coming through again this week in a possible shootout against the Buccaneers (52.0 total). A far cry from the 49ers' defense, the Bucs rank 22nd in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play -- numberFire's schedule-adjusted metric for pass defense -- and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
Additionally, since Murray started running more in Week 3, he's averaged just over 7 carries and 42 rushing yards per game over the last seven weeks, hitting pay dirt twice. It all adds up to numberFire's projections ranking Murray as the QB3 this week.
Start Philip Rivers (at Oakland): From a fantasy perspective, Philip Rivers was a total dud in Week 9 (QB24), but that had more to do with the Chargers relying on the run game and cruising to a fairly easy victory over the Packers. Despite throwing no touchdowns, Rivers tallied 294 passing yards on just 28 passes (10.5 yards per attempt), exceeding 290 yards for the seventh time in nine games.
Rivers ought to flirt with similar yardage numbers again this week against Oakland and shouldn't have trouble getting back in the touchdown column. The Raiders rank 30th against the pass by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics and have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers.
Start Daniel Jones (at New York Jets): Daniel Jones has been boom or bust this season -- and let's be honest, mostly bust -- but deep leaguers looking for bye-week help could do worse than a take shot on him against the woeful Jets. The Jets rank 26th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and have been roasted by both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gardner Minshew for three-score passing days the last two weeks.
numberFire's projections actually like Jones as a top-12 quarterback this week, and despite the obvious risks, it's worth remembering he's popped off for 28-plus fantasy points twice this year.
Sit Jared Goff (at Pittsburgh): With six teams on bye, Jared Goff may very well be your best option, but he could struggle on the road against Pittsburgh. Not only are the Steelers numberFire's fourth-ranked pass defense, they're second in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders. Goff's results have generally aligned with the quality of opponent, and in prior tough matchups against San Francisco (second against the pass) and Carolina (third), he was held to single-digit fantasy points both times.
Start Ronald Jones (vs. Arizona): With Ronald Jones seeing a season-high 53% snap rate in Week 9 and hitting 20 opportunities (carries plus targets) for the first time since Week 4, Peyton Barber was relegated to a mere 4 carries, and this looks to finally be Jones' backfield to lose moving forward. Bruce Arians stated that Jones has "earned the right to start," and while anything a coach says has to be taken with a grain of salt, this last game sure reflects that. For the season, Jones has been the better back in terms of Rushing Success Rate, too, outdoing Barber 43.5% to 36.1%.
With all signs pointing to an increased workload moving forward, Jones should be able to take advantage of a matchup against an Arizona defense that ranks 23rd in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. numberFire's projections rank Jones as a top-25 back in all formats this week.
Start Devin Singletary (at Cleveland): Along similar lines to the Bucs, we may have seen a changing of the guard in Buffalo last week. Devin Singletary has mostly been used as a passing-down back in conjunction with Frank Gore this season, but Singletary appeared to take the reins as the lead back in Week 9 against Washington, amassing a season-high 24 opportunities (20 carries and 4 targets) over Gore's 11. Their respective outputs couldn't be much different, either, as Singletary went off for 140 total yards and a score, while Gore mustered only 15 yards. This also marked the second straight game in which Singletary has out-snapped Gore, logging at least 66% of the snaps both weeks.
He should be able to keep things going against the Browns, numberFire's 26th-ranked rush defense. Singletary projects as the RB22 in standard formats and RB20 in PPR leagues, according to our models.
Start Damien Williams (at Tennessee): Yet another shifting backfield, predicting the Chiefs' running back usage has been an absolute nightmare in 2019, but maybe, just maybe, we can finally trust Damien Williams as the top dog. Williams saw just under 72% of the snaps against Minnesota, the highest rate any Kansas City back has seen this season, easily out-snapping both LeSean McCoy (10%) and Darrel Williams (18%). Damien's 14 opportunities weren't amazing, but he turned them into 128 yards from scrimmage and a score -- easily his best performance of the year, thought a huge chunk of that came on one play.
Sit LeSean McCoy (at Tennessee) and Frank Gore (at Cleveland): It's hard to truly take any meaningful running back off the table during such a tough bye week, but the aforementioned gains for Damien Williams and Devin Singletary leave little to no optimism that either LeSean McCoy or Frank Gore will bounce back this week. As things stand, McCoy has been held to single-digit fantasy points for five straight weeks in PPR scoring, and Gore has a similar four-game streak.
While both backs figure to remain involved, their snap rates are heading in the wrong direction and their respective floors have bottomed out entering Week 10. Purely from a volume perspective, even taking a chance on (gulp) Kalen Ballage is worth considering over these two.
Start DeVante Parker (at Indianapolis): Obviously, no one gets super excited about starting Dolphins players, but with Preston Williams ruled out for the season, that leaves DeVante Parker as the de facto top option in the passing game, which should lead to a boost in targets. Parker has averaged 8 targets over the last three games with a 23.5% target share (tied with Williams). That's a pretty solid starting point, and even with the added defensive attention, the potential volume increase should be a net benefit even in a tougher matchup versus the Colts. Parker projects as a top-20 wideout in PPR formats.
Start Mike Williams (at Oakland): Mike Williams put up 111 yards against the Packers -- the first 100-yard game of his career -- but he still hasn't hit pay-dirt in eight games. However, the Raiders are an ideal opponent to put an end to this scoreless streak, ranking 25th in Target Success Rate allowed to wide receivers and coughing up the second-most fantasy points to the position. Over the Chargers' last four games (since Hunter Henry returned), Williams ranks third in target share (19.3%) and is a smidge behind Keenan Allen for the highest air yards share (30.8%). Despite the lack of scores, Williams edges out Allen and Austin Ekeler for the team lead in red zone targets (10) and targets inside the 10-yard line (5).
Start D.J. Moore (at Green Bay): The Panthers' offense doesn't exactly exude upside for anyone not named Christian McCaffrey, but D.J. Moore has quietly turned into a reliable high-volume option for Kyle Allen. Over the last four games, Moore has averaged 9.3 targets per game with a 29.4% target share and 38.9% air yards share. A 20.50 implied total at Green Bay isn't ideal, but Moore's recent usage makes him a solid play -- he's numberFire's WR21 in all formats.
Sit JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs Los Angeles Rams): I expect JuJu Smith-Schuster to bounce back from last week's dismal outing, and numberFire's projections place him in WR2 territory -- but it's still hard to get real excited about him in an upcoming date with the Rams. In Mason Rudolph's four healthy starts, Smith-Schuster has seen a modest 20.3% target share in an offense that's struggled to move the ball through the air. Rudolph is averaging just 6.6 yards per attempt this season. Between a decline in targets, a subpar passing attack, and potentially seeing Jalen Ramsey in coverage (though he should avoid him when in the slot), it's difficult to see JuJu having much upside this week.
Start Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron (vs. Miami): It's another fun week of scraping the barrel at tight end, particularly if you normally have Zach Ertz or Evan Engram at your disposal. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron continue to eat away at each other's fantasy potential as low-floor options on the Colts -- but with T.Y. Hilton expected to be out against Miami (and Parris Campbell also sidelined), they both have added touchdown potential on a team sporting a 27.25 implied total. Doyle and Ebron are third on the team in red zone targets (five each) behind Hilton (eight) and Pascal (six).
The matchup doesn't get much better than Miami, too, which ranks 32nd against the pass in numberFire's metrics and 28th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends. Both tight ends are projected as top-eight options in Week 10.
Start Michael Gesicki (at Indianapolis): On the other side of the same game, Michael Gesicki is coming off his best game of the season, catching 6-of-6 targets for 95 yards against the Jets, and he could be worth a whirl in deep leagues. He's logged over 60% of the snaps in back-to-back weeks and should also benefit from the absence of Preston Williams. Indianapolis ranks 18th in Target Success Rate given up to tight ends and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to them.