Fantasy Football Week 3 Best Starts and Must Sits (Thursday)

With Giants/Panthers tonight and a whole slate of big matchups for Sunday, find out our opinions on 7 key players to start or sit inside.

There is a lot of info in this article, so let's get right into it. This is: The Zach Warren is Pessimistic About Everybody Report. Wait, how did that get typed? I meant to say... This is: your numberFire Start/Sit rundown for six key players on the bubble (plus Ramses Barden) heading into tonight's game between the Panthers and Giants.

Fantasy Football Week 2 Start/Sit (Thursday Edition)

Andre Brown - New York Giants
Week 2: 10.28 Projected Points (#23 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 14.0%
Verdict: Start Him

Where you one of the lucky ones to listen to me on Tuesday and pick up Brown off the waiver wire? With Ahmad Bradshaw already being ruled out for tonight's game, your waiver wire sleuthing skills may already be paying off. Give yourself a big pat on the back, Ted Thompson Jr. Brown's only being started in 14.0% of ESPN leagues right now, but I expect that number for skyrocket as tonight gets closer. numberFire still projects somewhat of a timeshare - Brown has 9.06 projected carries while David Wilson has 2.88 projected carries - but all indications right now are that Brown should see the heavier side of the load. Brown has been extremely effective as a back so far this year, gaining 0.14 Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush (for an explanation of NEP, read the introduction to this article) for his team while increasing the Giants' chance to score on seven of his 14 rushes. The obnoxious "Sample Size" Sensors should be going off in your head that this may not necessarily continue, but this is a Carolina defense that allowed 6.0 yards per rush to the Saints' platoon of backs and 95 yards rushing to Doug Martin in week 1. And on top of all this, what pushes Brown over the edge is his potential in the passing game: Giants backs received five combined targets from Eli in week 2, with Brown catching both throws that came his way. numberFire projects him for 2.98 catches and 28.96 receiving yards this week.

DeAngelo Williams - Carolina Panthers
Week 2: 7.65 Projected Points (#31 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 23.3%
Verdict: Sit Him

Other sideline, same deal; Jonathan Stewart could be out for tonight's game as well with a toe injury. He's currently listed as questionable, so this is one name you'll want to monitor throughout the day. I wouldn't start Stewart either way because of that nagging injury, but where does that leave the other half of the mythical two-headed panther, Mr. Williams? Also on your bench, if you're smart. Williams has not been too successful through the first two weeks of the season, registering a -0.14 NEP per rush mark while only having a success rate of 35% of his rushes. Granted, he was a lot better in week 2 (43% success rate) than week 1 (17% success rate), but not to the point where I would trust him. One interesting note to watch for will be how many of Williams' carries are Cam Newton-ized; Newton had a career-low five carries in week 1, but followed that up with 13 carries in week 2, the second-highest total of his career. numberFire expects Newton to be right in the middle with 7.80 rushing attempts this week, but that is still a number of rushes that will not benefit Williams' owners (especially with Newton's abilities in the red zone). And don't forget about Mike Tolbert quite yet. He has been more of a threat in the passing game than the running game so far, but he did rush the ball 119 times with a -0.06 NEP per rush rating for San Diego last season.

Brandon LaFell - Carolina Panthers
Week 2: 7.95 Projected Points (#30 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 11.4%
Verdict: Sit Him

I was a big fan of Cliff Notes when I was younger. No, don't go rushing to my old English teachers, I just liked to use them to... make sure I didn't miss anything. That's it. But in honor of my old shortened-reading days, here's the Cliff Notes version of my Brandon LaFell article from yesterday. LaFell's not a bad receiver. He'll get some looks in the Carolina offense, and he's been catching the ball at a pretty good rate this year. It's just that, given the numbers, his current level of production doesn't look sustainable. Cam Newton's throwing the ball among the least of any QBs in the league with Carolina rushing so much, LaFell's 25% of Newton targets is completely uncharacteristic of Carolina #2 receivers, and his catch rate has never been anywhere near as solid as its been this season. If you're going to start him at all, against a weaker New York Giants secondary would be the time to do it. But I'm not even doing it then. With Greg Olsen still in the mix and likely increased playing time for pass-catcher extraordinaire Mike Tolbert with Jonathan Stewart nicked up, Newton does have other options in this game.

Ramses Barden - New York Giants
Week 2: 4.54 Projected Points (#62 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 0.1%
Verdict: Sit Him

Yes, I know that Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon are out for this game. That does not automatically mean that you start whoever is going to be the #2 WR for the Giants, likely Barden. He had a 47% catch rate last season and has never caught a TD pass ever. Stop trying to get cute.

Martellus Bennett - New York Giants
Week 2: 4.17 Projected Points (#25 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 30.2%
Verdict: Sit Him

Just so we're clear and all that, this is still the numberFire projection after Nicks and Hixon were ruled out. Call me whatever names you want, I don't care that Eli Manning does not have many other targets. Because of those injuries, this is actually the highest projected point total of the entire season for Bennett at 4.17 points. That's saying something. Bennett's 56.3% catch rate this season is one of the worst among all starting tight ends; the league average for tight ends usually sits between 65% and 70%. Bennett was at a 65% catch rate last season, but that was with the least number of targets in his NFL career at 26 in Dallas. Otherwise, he's been all over the map, from a 74% catch rate his rookie 2008 season to a 50% catch rate the very next year in 2009. Bennett isn't likely to see as many targets as he saw in his breakout week 2 game; Manning's 51 pass attempts were the most in the NFL in week 2, second-most of his career (most since 2007), and only the second time he's topped 10 passing yards per attempt since week 4 last season. Bennett's not a terrible start, but with so many other strong TE options available in most leagues, I wouldn't trust him.

Kevin Smith - Detroit Lions
Week 2: 4.90 Projected Points (#38 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 36.9%
Verdict: Sit Him

Man, I'm falling into the same pessimism trap I did with this article last week. I don't like anybody right now. But I might as well continue with the trend: there is zero reason to have Kevin Smith anywhere near your starting lineup this week against the Titans. Tennessee is a great matchup for the Lions back; Stevan Ridley and the Chargers Pu Pu Platter Backfield ran roughshod over them in the past two weeks. But take a closer look at that depth chart before going any further. Hear that Jaws theme music? That's Mikel LeShoure, coming to destroy your fantasy hopes and dreams. LeShoure comes back this week after falling to injury last season and falling to the Ginger Hammer's suspension ruling in weeks 1 and 2. Many others are touting LeShoure as the top fantasy pickup this week; I've learned that it might not be a good idea to trust Lions' running backs, especially when the carries distribution in that backfield has not been determined yet. But one thing is for sure: the Lions are going to want to get the 2011 second-round pick in the game. That severely limits Smith's value going forward.

Malcom Floyd
Week 2: 10.88 Projected Points (#9 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 30.1%
Verdict: Start Him

I don't like to end the article on a sour note, so I want to look at a guy on the polar opposite side of the Grand Fantasy Football Spectrum as Smith: Malcom Floyd. How good has he been? Oh, only the single-most effective WR in the NFL through week 2 according to numberFire's metrics. No really, he's been that good. Not only was he Philip Rivers' top target in both week 2 (25% of Chargers targets) and top wide receiver target in week 1 (18%, only behind Antonio Gates), but he's converting those targets at a spectacular 71% catch rate. The Atlanta Falcons have looked good the first two weeks, but they've had some trouble stopping their opponents' receivers - Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Dwayne Bowe, and Dexter McCluster have all reached the 50 receiving yard mark against Atlanta this season. There are 69.9% of fantasy owners who need to insert Floyd into the starting lineup immediately.