Week 6 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Navigating the First Week of Byes

The start-or-sit dilemma is virtually synonymous with managing a fantasy football team.

Having the foresight to start the wide receiver who erupts for 100 yards and a touchdown in a cakewalk matchup while sitting a receiver against a shutdown cornerback feels so good.

And that's why hundreds of fantasy articles each week are dedicated to start-or-sit scenarios. But answering the question "Should I start Player X?" is hard. Context matters.

Mostly, when it comes to answering the question of "Who do I start?," the real answer is: "Well, who else is available?"

That's why for this version of a start-or-sit column, I'm going to be listing out all relevant fantasy football players each week and bucketing them into tiers.

No player is ever a must-sit. I mean, sure, your tight end might have a terrible matchup and be playing in a game with a low over/under, but what if the only options left are second-stringers who see no run?

However, we also know that, yes, there are players you should want to sit if you have any other viable options. That's my overall goal with this start-or-sit column.

To take some of the guesswork out of it, I'll be leveraging thousands of slate simulations that are based on numberFire's player projections with dynamic measures for variance, such as quarterback rushing, running back receiving, and receiver target depth.

The results will boil down to three tiers: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider starting whenever we don't have better alternatives but who are not locks to start, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives (i.e. players above them on the list).

These players are listed in order of frequency of hitting the stated threshold (i.e. QB12, RB24, WR24, and TE12 performances; higher on the list means more startable).

The groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench or the waiver wire, 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: These players are at least 50% likely to finish the week as a top-12 quarterback, according to the slate simulations.

- Josh Allen at TEN (76%)
- Patrick Mahomes at WSH (73%)
- Lamar Jackson vs. LAC (68%)
- Tom Brady at PHI (59%)
- Dak Prescott at NE (58%)
- Justin Herbert at BAL (55%)
- Jalen Hurts vs. TB (55%)
- Matthew Stafford at NYG (54%)
- Kyler Murray at CLE (53%)

Consider If Needed: This tier has odds between 35% and 49% to post a top-12 week.

- Joe Burrow at DET (46%)
- Aaron Rodgers at CHI (45%)
- Trevor Lawrence vs. MIA (42%)
- Ryan Tannehill vs. BUF (41%)
- Taylor Heinicke vs. KC (39%)
- Jacoby Brissett at JAC (39%)
- Mac Jones vs. DAL (38%)
- Daniel Jones vs. LA (37%)
- Sam Darnold vs. MIN (35%)
- Baker Mayfield vs. ARI (35%)

It's a tight spread dispersion of top-12 odds for this large tier of quarterbacks, which speaks to the depth of streaming this season even with four teams on bye. Joe Burrow seems set to play in an indoor game against a leaky Detroit Lions pass defense (which ranks 30th in adjusted pass defense, via numberFire's metrics).

The sims are also in favor of Taylor Heinicke in a shootout game against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game with a really fast pace and two poor defenses (both sides are 26th or worse in overall adjusted defense). Heinicke has roughly league-average passing numbers and has, overall, overperformed versus expectation based on his efficiency splits.

Daniel Jones is pacing toward playing this week, and if he does, he makes for a strong start after a short stint in Week 5. Jones has outperformed expectation by 0.11 points per play on his drop backs based on our expected points model at numberFire. That helps against a Los Angeles Rams defense that ranks 13th at numberFire.

Bench If Possible: These quarterbacks are under 35% likely to net a top-12 result and likely aren't in the one-quarterback-league conversation.

- Derek Carr at DEN (34%)
- Carson Wentz vs. HOU (33%)
- Justin Fields vs. GB (32%)
- Kirk Cousins at CAR (32%)
- Jared Goff vs. CIN (30%)
- Teddy Bridgewater vs. LV (30%)
- Ben Roethlisberger vs. SEA (27%)
- Geno Smith at PIT (20%)
- Davis Mills at IND (17%)

Running Back

Start With Confidence: These running backs are at least 60% likely to finish the week inside the top 24, according to the slate simulations. You're starting them.

- Christian McCaffrey vs. MIN (86%)
- Derrick Henry vs. BUF (84%)
- Najee Harris vs. SEA (79%)
- Ezekiel Elliott at NE (77%)
- Dalvin Cook at CAR (76%)
- Jonathan Taylor vs. HOU (74%)
- Austin Ekeler at BAL (73%)
- Joe Mixon at DET (73%)
- D'Andre Swift vs. CIN (70%)
- Nick Chubb vs. ARI (70%)
- Darrell Henderson at NYG (70%)
- Aaron Jones at CHI (69%)
- Antonio Gibson vs. KC (68%)
- James Robinson vs. MIA (67%)

McCaffrey missed practice on Thursday, so monitor that situation and plug in Chuba Hubbard if McCaffrey is out. He should be considered at the top of the "Consider If Needed" tier.

Mixon also did not practice on Thursday, and Samaje Perine is on the COVID-19 list. Chris Evans could be in line for a significant workload if both sit.

Not that you need to worry about D'Andre Swift, but Jamaal Williams missed practice on Thursday.

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt both missed practice on Thursday, though it seems likely at least one of them -- if not both -- will play, meaning there's probably not a ton here unless both sit. Update: Chubb missed practice again on Friday, and Hunt practiced. Update Again: Chubb has been ruled out.

Consider If Needed - This tier is sitting between 40% and 59% for an RB2 week, and you're probably starting most of them even if they're shy of that top tier.

- Leonard Fournette at PHI (59%)
- Khalil Herbert vs. GB (58%)*
- Kareem Hunt vs. ARI (56%)
- Josh Jacobs at DEN (55%)
- Myles Gaskin at JAC (54%)
- Melvin Gordon vs. LV (53%)
- Javonte Williams vs. LV (53%)
- Miles Sanders vs. TB (52%)
- Damien Williams vs. GB (51%)*
- Devontae Booker vs. LA (51%)
- Chase Edmonds at CLE (45%)
- Jamaal Williams vs. CIN (44%)
- Zack Moss at TEN (43%)
- Darrel Williams at WSH (42%)

Update: With news that Damien Williams is on the COVID-19 list, Khalil Herbert vaults to a 58% probability of finishing with a top-24 outing this week in the fresh simulations.

Leonard Fournette has played on 59.7% of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' snaps on the season and 63.4% last week while seeing 4 red zone carries in addition to 12 overall carries and 5 targets in Week 5. He's moved beyond mere flex conversation.

Kareem Hunt isn't exactly a bench candidate or anything, but he has the 11th-highest PPR-point-per-snap rate among all flex players (with a minimum of 75 snaps) since 2016. He'll have to come back to earth eventually, but this game against the Arizona Cardinals should be very fantasy-friendly provided the wind doesn't disrupt it too much. (Reminder, Hunt missed practice on Thursday.)

Josh Jacobs' matchup isn't ideal. The Denver Broncos rank top-10 in some key metrics against backs. We could say that this is enough to make Jacobs a snazzy sit candidate, but the reality is that he isn't. Jacobs played 71.7% of the Las Vegas Raiders' snaps in Week 5 while seeing 5 targets and 15 carries for one of the best overall workloads available at running back.

Devontae Booker draws the NFL's 23rd-ranked adjusted rush defense this week, and the Rams also rank 25th in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry allowed to backs. The arrow is up on Booker, provided Jones gets the start.

Bench If Possible: These backs are under 40% likely to net a top-24 result.

- Damien Harris vs. DAL (39%)
- Latavius Murray vs. LAC (39%)
- James Conner at CLE (37%) - due for mega touchdown regression
- Tony Pollard at NE (35%)
- Jerick McKinnon at WSH (32%)
- Devin Singletary at TEN (32%)
- Mark Ingram at IND (30%)
- Kenneth Gainwell vs. TB (30%)
- J.D. McKissic vs. KC (27%)
- A.J. Dillon at CHI (27%)
- Nyheim Hines vs. HOU (27%)
- Alexander Mattison at CAR (24%)
- David Johnson at IND (24%)
- Salvon Ahmed at JAC (23%)
- Sony Michel at NYG (23%)
- Chris Carson at PIT (23%)
- Alex Collins at PIT (21%)

Wide Receiver

Start With Confidence: You're starting these guys in a 12-team league.

- Davante Adams at CHI (76%)
- Tyreek Hill at WSH (73%)
- Cooper Kupp at NYG (71%)
- Stefon Diggs at TEN (70%)
- DeAndre Hopkins at CLE (61%)
- Justin Jefferson at CAR (61%)
- Amari Cooper at NE (59%)
- D.J. Moore vs. MIN (59%)
- CeeDee Lamb at NE (59%)
- Mike Williams at BAL (54%)
- Terry McLaurin vs. KC (54%)
- A.J. Brown vs. BUF (52%)
- Ja'Marr Chase at DET (51%)
- Chris Godwin at PHI (51%)

Consider If Needed: These players are more matchup-dependent than the tier above but are likely where we are looking for a lot of our WR2, WR3, and FLEX plays this week.

- Mike Evans at PHI (48%)
- Brandin Cooks at IND (47%)
- DeVonta Smith vs. TB (46%)
- Keenan Allen at BAL (46%)
- Robert Woods at NYG (45%)
- D.K. Metcalf at PIT (45%)
- Tee Higgins at DET (43%)
- Diontae Johnson vs. SEA (42%)
- Jakobi Meyers vs. DAL (42%)
- Antonio Brown at PHI (41%)
- Marvin Jones vs. MIA (41%)
- Marquise Brown vs. LAC (41%)
- Allen Robinson vs. GB (39%)
- Courtland Sutton vs. LV (38%)
- DeVante Parker at JAC (37%)
- Michael Pittman Jr. vs. HOU (37%)
- Jaylen Waddle at JAC (36%)
- Chase Claypool vs. SEA (35%)
- Tyler Lockett at PIT (33%)
- Adam Thielen at CAR (32%)
- Emmanuel Sanders at TEN (32%)
- Odell Beckham vs. ARI (31%)

The case for rolling out Brandin Cooks got a lot stronger after Davis Mills' strong showing in Week 4. Cooks has a 34.2% target share from Mills in three games started by the rookie passer, which works out to 7.7 targets per game (and 8.9 when weighted for downfield and red zone work). The Indianapolis Colts rank dead last in adjusted fantasy points per target to receivers.

I probably don't need to fixate here, but don't worry about Keenan Allen. Allen faces a Baltimore Ravens team that is 11th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to receivers, sure, yet there's shootout appeal, and no receiver is due for more positive touchdown regression than Allen, according to my data.

Where are we with Allen Robinson? It's a fair question to ask. In three games started by Justin Fields at quarterback, Robinson has a viable 24.6% target share, but that works out to just 4.7 targets per game with no red zone targets and just a downfield target per contest in an extremely run-heavy offense. The weighted workload is similar to Marquez Callaway's in that span, which isn't exactly what we're hoping for from Robinson. The sims cling to hope, but if you have anyone close to Robinson's 39% odds to be WR24 or better, I'm more than fine making that swap.

There are also questions to ask about Odell Beckham, who accrued just 20 yards on 3 targets in Week 5's shootout game. The positives, however, are that Beckham has upped his snap rate from 62.8% in his Week 3 return to 79.7% and 79.4% the past two games while working his way back from injury. In total, he has generated a team-high 21.3% target share in his three games back. That's only 6.3 targets per game but comes with 3.7 high-leverage (red zone and downfield) targets, so he could be in for a make-up game eventually. With the winds brewing in Cleveland, though, I understand the case for sitting him.

Bench If Possible: These players finished as a WR2 or better under 30% of the time.

- Cole Beasley at TEN (29%)
- Darnell Mooney vs. GB (29%)
- Robby Anderson vs. MIN (27%)
- Tim Patrickvs. LV (27%)
- Laviska Shenault vs. MIA (27%)
- Kadarius Toney vs. LA (25%)
- Tyler Boyd at DET (25%)
- Sterling Shepard vs. LA (24%)
- Hunter Renfrow at DEN (23%)
- A.J. Green at CLE (22%)
- Darius Slayton vs. LA (22%)
- Nelson Agholor vs. DAL (22%)
- Mecole Hardman at WSH (22%)
- Kalif Raymond vs. CIN (21%)
- Christian Kirk at CLE (21%)
- Rondale Moore at CLE (19%)

Tight End

Start With Confidence: These guys are the Big Five for this week.

- Travis Kelce at WSH (85%)
- Darren Waller at DEN (76%)
- Mark Andrews vs. LAC (70%)
- T.J. Hockenson vs. CIN (54%)
- Dalton Schultz at NE (51%)

Consider If Needed: You'll likely be starting these options if you don't have a top-tier tight end.

- Mike Gesicki at JAC (49%)
- Noah Fant vs. LV (46%)
- Dawson Knox at TEN (46%)
- Jared Cook at BAL (40%)
- Jonnu Smith vs. DAL (40%)
- Hunter Henry vs. DAL (39%)
- Dan Arnold vs. MIA (39%)
- Dallas Goedert vs. TB (39%) -- on the COVID-19 List
- Tyler Higbee at NYG (37%)
- Ricky Seals-Jones vs. KC (35%)
- Robert Tonyan at CHI (35%)

Dawson Knox's role is really good within the Buffalo Bills' offense, and that has little to do with his touchdown scoring. (Ignore that he's the biggest overachiever in receiving touchdowns among tight ends, according to my model.) Knox ranks 8th in snap rate (77.4%) among tight ends while playing within one of the NFL's best offenses.

The sims rate Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry around identically, but for me, Henry has the clear edge in the New England Patriots' offense. While their season-long target shares narrowly favor Henry (13.9% to 12.3%), Henry has separated over the past two weeks (18.6% to 10.0%). Henry is also much more in play for the limited downfield work that does come from Mac Jones.

Ricky Seals-Jones really stepped into a great role with Logan Thomas out. In Week 5, Seals-Jones played on 98.7% of the Washington Football Team's snaps and drew 3 red zone targets with 8 total targets.

Bench If Possible: These tight ends aren't in the starting conversation in 12-team leagues unless you're desperate.

- Cole Kmet vs. GB (33%)
- Zach Ertz vs. TB (33%)
- Austin Hooper vs. ARI (31%)
- Evan Engram vs. LA (30%)
- Anthony Firkser vs. BUF (28%)
- Tyler Conklin at CAR (23%)
- Jack Doyle vs. HOU (22%)
- David Njoku vs. ARI (22%)