FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit for NFL Week 5

October 5, 2022 GMT
Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) sets up to pass during NFL football practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) sets up to pass during NFL football practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) sets up to pass during NFL football practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) sets up to pass during NFL football practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
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Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) sets up to pass during NFL football practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

Another season of fantasy football, another group of start-or-sit scenarios to answer.

It’s not just enough to draft the right team and make the right moves off the waiver wire. We all know that. We also have to make sure that we are starting the right players each week.

Of course, we have our studs, anchors, and the players we’re starting virtually no matter what. We don’t need anyone to tell us to start Cooper Kupp.

But, the further down the lineup we go, the more those questions trickle in.

Then again, no player is a “must-sit” in every scenario, and perhaps the WR3 you’ve been plugging in each week may have a better alternative.

To answer the question, “Should I sit Player X,” depends on the answer to the question, “Who can you start instead?”

That’s why I like to switch up the typical start-or-sit column format. I’m going to be listing out all relevant fantasy football players each week and bucketing them into tiers.

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Take some of the guesswork out of setting our lineups weekly, 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 aren’t must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives (i.e. players listed 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), and higher on the list means more able to start.

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.

QUARTERBACKS

Start with confidence:

— Josh Allen vs. PIT (74%)

— Patrick Mahomes vs. LV (69%)

— Jalen Hurts at ARI (68%)

— Lamar Jackson vs. CIN (66%)

— Tom Brady vs. ATL (57%)

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— Justin Herbert at CLE (54%)

Consider if needed:

— Joe Burrow at BAL (49%)

— Kirk Cousins vs. CHI (46%)

— Matthew Stafford vs. DAL (44%)

— Aaron Rodgers vs. NYG (44%)

— Kyler Murray vs. PHI (44%)

— Russell Wilson vs. IND (42%)

— Derek Carr at KC (40%)

— Trevor Lawrence vs. HOU (36%)

— Marcus Mariota at TB (36%)

— Teddy Bridgewater at NYJ (35%)

Bench if possible:

Justin Fields at MIN (33%); Ryan Tannehill at WSH (32%); Daniel Jones at GB (32%); Jared Goff at NE (31%); Geno Smith at NO (31%); Carson Wentz vs. TEN (28%); Cooper Rush at LA (27%); Davis Mills at JAC (25%); Jacoby Brissett vs. LAC (23%); Zach Wilson vs. MIA (22%); Jimmy Garoppolo at CAR (22%); Bailey Zappe vs. DET (21%); Matt Ryan at DEN (21%); Kenny Pickett at BUF (19%); Baker Mayfield vs. SF (19%); Jameis Winston vs. SEA (06%).

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Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out. Miami’s Teddy Bridgewater is a viable streaming candidate if you need one at quarterback. The New York Jets rank 28th in opponent-adjusted pass defense, according to numberFire’s metrics, and they are 24th in adjusted fantasy points per drop-back allowed to quarterbacks, as well. Bridgewater wasn’t afraid to throw deep while trailing last week (his 8.9-yard average depth of throw dominated the NFL average of 7.6), so Bridgewater is a high-upside option for needy streamers. ... If New Orleans ‘Jameis Winston plays, he is still rating as a Tier 3 option. ... Las Vegas’ Derek Carr has been average this season from a passing efficiency standpoint. He has a per-drop-back rate of 0.07 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). The NFL average is 0.06, and Carr is at -0.01 Passing NEP per drop-back over expectation (that is, adjusted for opponents faced). That’s led to just 17.0 fantasy points per game. The Kansas City Chiefs are 14th in adjusted pass defense, so it’s not a terrible matchup, and the models like him this week well enough to consider rolling with in a potential shootout game. ... The Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence has been very efficient (0.18 Passing NEP per drop-back) and draws a plus matchup against the Houston Texans, a team ranked 23rd in adjusted passing efficiency allowed. Houston is 30th in pressure rate generated, a welcome shift for Lawrence, who has faced three top-10 defenses by pressure rate this season. In his lone game against a team outside the top 10, Lawrence wasn’t sacked and went 25 of 30 for 235 yards and two touchdowns while posting a Passing NEP per drop-back of 0.60, the third-best mark of the season among any quarterbacks.

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RUNNING BACKS

Start with confidence:

— Derrick Henry at WSH (79%)

— Christian McCaffrey vs. SF (73%)

— Saquon Barkley at GB (72%)

— Dalvin Cook vs. CHI (71%)

— Nick Chubb vs. LAC (69%)

— Leonard Fournette vs. ATL (66%)

— Joe Mixon at BAL (66%)

— Austin Ekeler at CLE (66%)

— Josh Jacobs at KC (63%)

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— Aaron Jones vs. NYG (60%)

Consider if needed:

— Miles Sanders at ARI (55%)

— Jamaal Williams at NE (55%)

— James Robinson vs. HOU (53%)

— Jeff Wilson at CAR (53%)

— Najee Harris at BUF (53%)

— Dameon Pierce at JAC (53%)

— Damien Harris vs. DET (52%)

— Melvin Gordon vs. IND (52%)

— David Montgomery at MIN (52%)

— Breece Hall vs. MIA (51%)

— A.J. Dillon vs. NYG (49%)

— Ezekiel Elliott at LA (47%)

— James Conner vs. PHI (47%)

— Rhamondre Stevenson vs. DET (47%)

— J.K. Dobbins vs. CIN (47%)

— Devin Singletary vs. PIT (45%)

— Rashaad Penny at NO (44%)

— Cam Akers vs. DAL (42%)

— Jonathan Taylor at DEN (40%)

Bench if possible:

Tyler Allgeier at TB (37%); Kareem Hunt vs. LAC (37%); Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. LV (37%); Nyheim Hines at DEN (37%); Raheem Mostert at NYJ (36%); Chase Edmonds at NYJ (35%); Brian Robinson vs. TEN (34%); Travis Etienne vs. HOU (31%); Tony Pollard at LA (31%); Mark Ingram vs. SEA (30%); Michael Carter vs. MIA (30%); Alvin Kamara vs. SEA (29%); Rachaad White vs. ATL (25%); Jerick McKinnon vs. LV (24%); Darrell Henderson vs. DAL (24%); Caleb Huntley at TB (23%); Antonio Gibson vs. TEN (23%); Rex Burkhead at JAC (23%); Mike Boone vs. IND (19%).

The Colts’ Jonathan Taylor has a partial projection, given his uncertain status for Thursday night. If he plays and is limited, he’s a Tier 2 option. It’ll be hard to bench him if he has the green light in any capacity, yet it’s also hard to envision a full workload for him. Nyheim Hines is right on the cusp of Tiers 2 and 3 and would be a 49% top-24 option if projected without Taylor. ... If the Saints’ Alvin Kamara is a full-go, he is a Tier 1 play (60%). ... Chicago’s David Montgomery is projected to play in Week 5, bogging down the projection for himself and Khalil Herbert. If Montgomery misses, Herbert is a Tier 2 play (51%). ... D’Andre Swift is expected to be out through the Detroit Lions’ bye. Jamaal Williams is projected with a full workload.

There are some rookie running backs trending toward establishing a lead role.

One such instance is in Houston with Dameon Pierce. Pierce has now played 62.7%, 60.7%, and 67.9% of the team’s snaps over the past three games after a 27.9% snap rate in Week 1. More important than the slight snap bump in Week 4 was the route rate. Pierce, for the first week of the year, ran more routes (18) than Rex Burkhead (14). That led to six targets. The arrow is up on Pierce, who faces a middling Jaguars defense against running backs this week. ... Breece Hall also saw a relevant role change in Week 4. Hall dominated the route rate battle (57.9%) over Michael Carter (31.6%) in Week 4 and also had a snap rate spike from 51.3% in Week 3 to 67.2%. Hall handled 17 of 26 running back carries in the Jets’ backfield and also six of nine running back targets last week. Hall could see routes and targets in a negative script this week against the Miami Dolphins, who are tough against the run, but are 21st in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to backs. ... Although the results haven’t been there, it’s hard to hate Devin Singletary’s role — and his team’s status as a two-touchdown favorite this week. Singletary’s snap rate was lingering around 55.0% in the first two games and has since been 74.4% and 87.1% in the past two games. His route rate is also sky-high (70.3% last week). Being on the field for a team as good as the Bills will have value eventually. ... A difficult matchup awaits Rashaad Penny after a breakout game in Week 4. The New Orleans Saints are a top-six running back rushing and receiving defense to start the season when adjusting for opponents faced. Penny will feel like a tough sit after his game with two touchdowns and 157 scrimmage yards. Just think about whether you have better options before chasing the points.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Start with confidence:

— Cooper Kupp vs. DAL (83%)

— Deebo Samuel at CAR (76%)

— Davante Adams at KC (72%)

— Justin Jefferson vs. CHI (72%)

— Ja’Marr Chase at BAL (66%)

— Stefon Diggs vs. PIT (65%)

— Tyreek Hill at NYJ (62%)

— A.J. Brown at ARI (58%)

— Mike Evans vs. ATL (57%)

— Tee Higgins at BAL (57%)

— Christian Kirk vs. HOU (57%)

— Jaylen Waddle at NYJ (55%)

— Tyler Lockett at NO (51%)

— Courtland Sutton vs. IND (50%)

— CeeDee Lamb at LA (50%)

Consider if needed:

— Chris Olave vs. SEA (49%)

— D.K. Metcalf at NO (48%)

— Michael Pittman Jr. at DEN (47%)

— Marquise Brown vs. PHI (47%)

— Brandin Cooks at JAC (46%)

— Amari Cooper vs. LAC (40%)

— Diontae Johnson at BUF (40%)

— Drake London at TB (39%)

— Mike Williams at CLE (39%)

— Keenan Allen at CLE (38%)

— Chris Godwin vs. ATL (37%)

— DeVonta Smith at ARI (36%)

— D.J. Moore vs. SF (35%)

— Jerry Jeudy vs. IND (34%)

— Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. LV (33%)

— Robert Woods at WSH (31%)

— Rashod Bateman vs. CIN (31%)

Bench if possible:

Adam Thielen vs. CHI (29%); Allen Lazard vs. NYG (29%); Gabe Davis vs. PIT (28%); Brandon Aiyuk at CAR (27%); Darnell Mooney at MIN (27%); Josh Reynolds at NE (27%); JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. LV (25%); Mack Hollins at KC (25%); Terry McLaurin vs. TEN (25%); George Pickens at BUF (24%); Allen Robinson vs. DAL (22%); Garrett Wilson vs. MIA (22%); DeVante Parker vs. DET (22%); Michael Gallup at LA (21%); Elijah Moore vs. MIA (20%).

Although Seattle’s Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf had averaged under 70 yards apiece through two games this season, in the past two games, Metcalf is at 106.5 yards, and Lockett is at 83.5. They each have a 26.4% target share or higher with average target depths of 13.0 or higher (those are both Lockett’s rates; Metcalf’s are 30.6% and 14.4, respectively). If the past two games are any indication, this offense has figured it out. This week, they draw the Saints, who are just 18th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. New Orleans is also traveling back from London after playing overseas in Week 4. Though New Orleans has allowed only two touchdowns to wideouts, they rank fourth worst in yards per route run allowed to receivers. ... Can we play D.J. Moore? Maybe. It depends. That’s why we have the odds to examine. Moore has ran a route on 98.4% of the Panthers’ drop-backs and a 25.7% target share. Despite that, he has averaged only 34.5 yards per game while posting a catch rate over expectation of -19.3%. That’s the lowest mark among all wide receivers with at least 20 targets this season by a full 5.0 percentage points. Something has to give eventually, so don’t bail on Moore unless you have options higher on the list. ... There’s some room to grow for Robert Woods now that Treylon Burks is injured for the Titans. Woods has run at least 83.3% of the Titans’ routes the past two games. Last week, even with Burks playing 65.4% of the snaps, Woods had a 19.0% target share. Yes, that was four targets in this run-heavy offense, but for needy teams, Woods is a desperation, low-end, Tier 2 play.

TIGHT END

Start with confidence:

— Travis Kelce vs. LV (86%)

— Mark Andrews vs. CIN (79%)

— Darren Waller at KC (58%)

— Kyle Pitts at TB (52%)

— George Kittle at CAR (52%)

— T.J. Hockenson at NE (50%)

Consider if needed:

— Zach Ertz vs. PHI (48%)

— Tyler Higbee vs. DAL (46%)

— Dallas Goedert at ARI (46%)

— David Njoku vs. LAC (37%)

— Gerald Everett at CLE (35%)

— Pat Freiermuth at BUF (33%)

— Dalton Schultz at LA (32%)

— Tyler Conklin vs. MIA (30%)

Bench if possible:

Irv Smith Jr. vs. CHI (29%); Logan Thomas vs. TEN (29%); Robert Tonyan vs. NYG (29%); Dawson Knox vs. PIT (28%); Evan Engram vs. HOU (24%); Brevin Jordan at JAC (24%); Cole Kmet at MIN (24%); Austin Hooper at WSH (22%); Mike Gesicki at NYJ (21%); Mo Alie-Cox at DEN (21%); Hayden Hurst at BAL (20%).

Tyler Higbee has been a bit of a late-round steal so far this season. He is second among the position in target market share (25.5%) and now faces a Dallas Cowboys defense that is a bit soft to tight ends (they’re 24th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends after facing a non-threatening list of players). Higbee has played at least 93.0% of the Los Angeles Rams’ snaps in every game and has drawn at least nine targets in three of four games. ... Pat Freiermuth was Kenny Pickett’s most-targeted receiver in the second half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 4 game, and in total, Freiermuth has a 23.6% target share for the season. That ranks him fourth best at the position behind just Mark Andrews (31.9%), Tyler Higbee (25.5%), and Travis Kelce (24.5%). The New York Jets haven’t allowed a tight end touchdown yet, but are getting targeted at the fourth-highest rate on a per-route basis and have not yet allowed a catch on three end zone targets. That’s a great recipe for Freiermuth. ... Tyler Conklin is on the fringe of start-worthy territory. The Jets ranked 28th last week in pass rate over expectation with Zach Wilson under center. Conklin handled five targets on 24 routes (63.2% of the team’s drop-backs). This week, he’ll face the Dolphins, who are an average tight end defense. Look elsewhere if you can.

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