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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

Week 5 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 6:46 pm ET

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Matthew Stafford vs. Packers: Stafford had a really solid Week 4 in Dallas, completing a sterling 80% of his passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns. However, he still has just one top-12 week this season, a QB9 afternoon Week 2 in San Francisco. Outside of that, he’s been the QB26 (Week 1 vs. NYJ), QB14 (Week 3 vs. NE), and QB14 (last week at DAL). To this point, Stafford has been a fringe QB1 but has been pretty consistent since the opener. Stafford has enjoyed big success against the Packers in recent meetings, but those were against stale, overmatched DC Dom Capers. Anyway, it’s still worth noting Stafford has averaged 354 yards passing with a cumulative 10:2 TD:INT mark in four meeting with Green Bay since the start of 2016. The Packers are a different unit with more secondary talent under new DC Mike Pettine. They’re currently 13th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 10th in pass-defense DVOA. But they faced Mitchell Trubisky in Week 1 and Josh Allen in Week 4. In between, Kirk Cousins threw for 425 yards and 4 TDs (QB3) and Alex Smith averaged 11.0 YPA with 2 TDs (QB16). Green Bay CBs Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are both battling groin injuries. Alexander was limited in practice Wednesday, while King was full after missing the previous 2.5 games. Fellow CB Davon House was recently lost to injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Stafford has also been sacked just six times through four games. This game has a 51-point total, fifth-highest of the week and will be played in a dome environment in Detroit. Stafford is a legitimate top-10 fantasy passer.

Starts

Blake Bortles at Chiefs: Bortles has alternated lackluster and stellar weeks through the first four games, being his normal unpredictable self. He flamed the Patriots for 377 yards and four touchdowns in Week 2 (QB4) and went for 388 yards and two scores last week against the Jets as the QB10. In Weeks 1 and 3 versus the Giants and Titans, Bortles averaged 165.5 yards passing with one total touchdown. This week sets up great for Bortles on paper; the only way it could be better is if it was being played in Jacksonville. But the 4-0 Chiefs are on a short week after a come-from-behind, emotional divisional win in Denver on Monday night. Arrowhead is one of the toughest places to play, but it’s too hard to ignore this awful Kansas City defense. The Chiefs have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and are 30th in pass-defense DVOA. They actually improved those numbers after Case Keenum was a total flop against them in Week 4. Keenum didn’t throw a single touchdown, missing a wide-open Demaryius Thomas for a would-be game-winning 28-yard score on the final drive. Keenum is the worst starter in the league right now. Bortles isn’t al lthat much better as a passer, but he has shown an ability to summon big games and has rushed for at least 25 yards in all four starts to raise his floor. Without Leonard Fournette (hamstring), the Jaguars could ask more from their quarterback. In two games without Fournette already this year, Bortles has averaged 39.5 attempts compared to 35.5 with Fournette in the lineup. Bortles is a solid streaming option that I’d prefer over hot Week 5 pickup Marcus Mariota in Buffalo or Russell Wilson at home against L.A.

Alex Smith at Saints: Smith is the current QB20 in fantasy points per game, as he and Cam Newton are the only two quarterbacks who have already had their bye. Smith lit up the Cardinals in Week 1 for the QB11 day, face-planted at home against the Colts in Week 2, and then averaged a voluminous 11.0 YPA with two touchdowns against the Packers in Week 3 as the QB16 before having Week 4 off. As we all know, Smith is by no means sexy, but he has the ability to be a serviceable fantasy starter and can produce in primo spots. Monday night under the roof at the Superdome against the Saints is one of those. The Saints have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and the third-most passing touchdowns while checking in at 20th in sacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick hung 453 total yards and five touchdowns on the Saints at the Superdome Week 1, and Matt Ryan threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns against New Orleans in Week 3. Eli Manning was completely incapable of taking advantage of this defense last week at the MetLife Stadium, missing a wide-open Odell Beckham on a number of occasions and throwing only one touchdown as the Giants got stomped in their own backyard. Manning is confirmed washed at this point. With Adrian Peterson (ankle) looking unlikely to play this one after missing practice Wednesday, Smith could be forced to carry this offense through the air, using short passes to Chris Thompson as the Redskins’ “running” game. Smith doesn’t get to play in domes often, but he had two games in one last year, throwing for 324 yards and 3 TDs in Houston and then 263 yards and 2 TDs in Dallas. The 52.5-point total for Redskins-Saints is the third-highest on the board for Week 5, and New Orleans being 6.5-point favorites could lead to plenty of points-chasing for the Washington pass group.

Kirk Cousins at Eagles: Cousins is currently the overall QB6, so this may be an obvious start to some or most, but I’ve seen Cousins scooped up off the waiver wire in some leagues I’m in this week. That shows fantasy owners aren’t yet treating him as a set-and-forget QB1. The Eagles’ defensive line hasn’t been quite as dominant as it was a year ago and is probably feeling the loss of DT Timmy Jernigan (back, NFI) inside a bit. They’re a respectable t-9th in sacks with 11, but the secondary isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Outside CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are getting torched too often, with Mills grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 109 cover corner out of 110 qualifiers after a quarter of the season. Darby checks in at No. 91. Philly has surrendered the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and just got worked last week by Marcus Mariota for 390 total yards and three touchdowns, while giving up a career day to Corey Davis. Things should have been worse, too, as backup WR Darius Jennings dropped a LONG touchdown late, and Taywan Taylor couldn’t hold onto a deep ball earlier in the game. Mariota also missed Davis on a potential 55-yard score. Cousins is fresh off 422 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams last Thursday night and has had 10 days to prepare for this one. He also has plenty of experience against DC Jim Schwartz’s defense after playing in the division for the Redskins. On top of all that, the Eagles are coming off a long overtime game on the road, and teams coming off long OT contests the previous week tend to play much worse their next game. I like the Vikings to win this game outright.

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Sits

Carson Wentz vs. Vikings: Wentz has been sacked nine times in two starts since returning from his ACL surgery and is the QB23 in fantasy points per game. The counting numbers were very solid last week in Tennessee with Wentz throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns, but he needed 50 attempts and an overtime period to get there. Wentz looks all the way back on tape, but there are just so many good fantasy quarterback options each and every week. Coming off a long overtime game on the road and facing a Vikings defense that has had 10 days of rest after getting called out by coach Mike Zimmer following a shredding at the hands of Jared Goff, this just doesn’t look like a spot I want to go all in on Wentz. I’ll bet on the Vikings talent with CB Xavier Rhodes likely to shadow Alshon Jeffery and Harrison Smith tracking Zach Ertz. As the Rams showed last week, the guy to pick on is LB Anthony Barr, who was beat for three touchdowns in coverage. You can bet the Vikings spent a lot of time trying to fix that black hole in the defense since last Thursday night. Wentz is a surefire two-QB league start, but he’s more a mid-to-high QB2 in one-QB leagues.

Marcus Mariota at Bills: Mariota was the talk of the town after his big-time Week 4 performance taking down the defending Super Bowl champions with 390 total yards and three touchdowns. It was one of the best games we’ve seen from Mariota in his four-year career. He was dropping dimes over the top of the defense and should have had an even bigger afternoon if not for a dropped long touchdown by Darius Jennings, a misfire on a would-be 55-yard TD to Corey Davis, and an earlier deep ball that Taywan Taylor was unable to snag. Mariota was one of the hottest waiver-wire adds of the week and is even being talked about by some as a rest-of-season QB1. I’m not ready to go there. Prior to Week 4, Mariota had truly been one of the biggest disappointments in the league. He’d failed to top 103 passing yards in Weeks 1-3 and continued to be injury-prone. I believe in Mariota’s talent; I just want to see him replicate it before diving back in for fantasy. And going on the road to Buffalo after a long overtime game and emotional win over the Eagles screams big letdown spot to me. We saw it with these same Bills against the Vikings in Week 3 when Minnesota was coming off a full-OT tie against the Packers the previous week. The Vikings were asleep on the field and got boat-raced by Josh Allen’s group. And Buffalo’s defense isn’t the team’s problem. The Bills are 20th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 15th in pass-defense DVOA, and 12th in sacks. Tre’Davious White is Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 cover corner out of 110 qualifiers and figures to shadow Corey Davis much of the game, clamping down Mariota’s No. 1 option. The 39-point total for Titans-Bills is easily the lowest of the week. Mariota is more of a QB2 for me.

Patrick Mahomes vs. Jaguars: Okay, this isn’t a straight-up “sit” from me at all. It’s just an alert to significantly lower expectations. We all know Mahomes has set the league on fire as the game’s next big star. He’s the overall QB1 and the front-runner for the MVP after 25% of the season. Last week was Mahomes’ worst statistical game of the season, and he still finished as the QB11 in Denver on Monday night while throwing for 304 yards and a score while adding a second touchdown on the ground. Mahomes lit the Broncos’ defense up in the second half after going into the break with 65 scoreless passing yards. His 192 passing yards outside the pocket were the most in the last decade. But the Chiefs are on a short week off a road game and will be welcomed back home by a Jacksonville pass defense that has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns, fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and ranks No. 6 in pass-defense DVOA. Tom Brady is the only quarterback to throw multiple touchdowns against this group through four weeks, and he needed comeback mode to do it while finishing as the QB17 in Week 2. Mahomes owners are likely going to need the rest of their fantasy lineup to carry more of the load this week.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: Matt Breida vs. Cardinals: Breida is currently the RB16 in half-PPR, so this is a fairly obvious call, but Breida owners easily could have multiple options at running back right now, complicating their decision. Breida is a bona fide top-10 play at the position for Week 5. He’s coming off a quiet Week 4 against the Chargers where he handled 12 touches and turned them into 71 scoreless yards. But Breida once again dominated the backfield playing time and has out-snapped Alfred Morris 67-37 over the last two weeks since Breida’s Week 2 explosion against the Lions. Breida now gets a Cardinals defense that has been absolutely wrecked by opposing running backs. They’re surrendering the most fantasy points to the position and have faced the most rushing attempts. Every running back to face Arizona has finished as RB15 or better. Chris Thompson (RB7) totaled 128 yards with one touchdown in Week 1, and teammate Adrian Peterson (RB8) amassed 166 yards and a touchdown in the same game. Todd Gurley scored three touchdowns en route to the overall RB1 finish the following week. Jordan Howard (RB15) totaled 81 yards and one score in Week 3, and Mike Davis (RB6) went for 102 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in Arizona last Sunday. C.J. Beathard played well enough in his Week 4 start where defenses can’t just stack the box against the Niners. This game has a basement-level 41-point total, but both defenses are horrific and a hit on the “over” wouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Lock Breida into lineups.

 

 

Starts

Chris Thompson at Saints: Thompson’s named has faded to the background a bit in recent weeks. After a big first two weeks that saw Thompson pile up 221 total yards and a touchdown on nine carries and 19 catches, Thompson crashed back to earth in Week 3 with just 17 yards on seven touches before the Redskins then had their bye. We’re not playing Thompson for his rushing numbers, but there’s a chance he could be asked to do more on the ground with Adrian Peterson battling an ankle injury and Rob Kelley already sent to I.R. He should be a focal point in the pass game with the Redskins as 6.5-point underdogs on the fast track at the Superdome. This is the place Thompson broke his leg last Week 11 after catching a touchdown on 18 snaps. The Saints have been pretty solid against running backs, ranking No. 1 in run-defense DVOA and giving up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the position, but they faced Peyton Barber and then the Browns Weeks 1-2. Tevin Coleman caught a touchdown against New Orleans in Week 3, and Saquon Barkley went for 100 yards and a touchdown last week. With Alex Smith simply refusing to throw outside the numbers for the most part, Thompson, Jordan Reed, and Jamison Crowder are likely to be his targets of choice in a game with a sky-high 52.5-point total, the third-highest of the week.

Aaron Jones at Lions: Suspended the first two weeks of the season, Jones made his debut Week 3 against the Redskins, playing 17 snaps and totaling 47 yards on seven touches. Last week, Jones saw more playing time, getting in on 29 plays against the Bills, turning 12 touches into 82 yards and one touchdown. In that same span, Jamaal Williams has continued to disappoint with 16 carries for 56 scoreless yards and two catches for 16 yards. Jones played one more snap than Williams in Week 4 and seems poised to take control of this Packers backfield. Williams is averaging just 3.4 YPC on the season with no touchdowns while Jones is at 6.3 YPC and ran over a defender at the goal line last Sunday. This is a dream matchup for a running back. The Lions are getting eviscerated on the ground, giving up easily the most rushing yards and third-most fantasy points to running backs. They’re 27th in run-defense DVOA. Only the Patriots were unable to take advantage of them in Week 3. Isaiah Crowell hung a 10-102-2 rushing line on Detroit in Week 1 en route to the RB5 finish. Matt Breida was the overall RB3 in Week 2 with 159 yards and one touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott was the RB2 last week after piling up 240 yards and a touchdown. Jones is currently the only Packers running back worth starting in fantasy as Williams is falling deeper out of favor and bordering droppable. Packers-Lions will be played on the fast Ford Field turf with a 51-point total.

Bilal Powell vs. Broncos: I think both Powell and Isaiah Crowell are worth firing up this week. Crowell is far more volatile, but the Jets are one-point home favorites against a Broncos team coming off a Monday night loss on a short week and traveling east. This could be another big Crowell game. But Powell, in his own right, is very much on the FLEX map. His workload has been far more consistent because he plays both when the Jets are playing from behind or trying to hold a lead. He has seen double-digit touches (13 > 10 > 14 > 12) in each game thus far and has been able to buoy his floor by catching 10 passes. There isn’t anything flashy or sexy about Powell, but he consistently gets the job done, which is why he’s continued to outlast any running backs the Jets bring in each year. The Broncos have been mediocre against running backs this season, giving up the 13th-most fantasy points to the position and checking in at No. 19 in run-defense DVOA. Kareem Hunt hung 175 yards and a touchdown on this unit last week. Alex Collins and Javorius Allen both scored a touchdown versus Denver in Week 3. Marshawn Lynch went for 68 yards and a score in Week 2. And Chris Carson turned 10 touches into 79 yards in the opener. The running backs on both sides in this game are really the only reliable fantasy targets in a game with a 42.5-point total.

Sits

Dalvin Cook or Latavius Murray at Eagles: I talked about Cook on the podcast Thursday morning, but that was before we knew about him missing practice both Wednesday and Thursday. It sure sounds like he suffered a setback with that hamstring after rushing for just 20 yards on 10 carries last Thursday night against the Rams. As it appears right now, Cook is doubtful at best for Week 5. Enter Murray, who hasn’t been any more impressive than Cook. Murray is averaging 3.4 YPC and has no touchdowns on 19 attempts. The Vikings have the worst rushing offense in the league at the season’s quarter mark. Yet their offense continues to pile up the points on the backs of Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph. Should Cook be ruled out, Murray would essentially be guaranteed 12-15 carries at minimum, putting him very much in the fantasy conversation, but this Eagles run defense has been lights out. They’re third in fantasy points allowed to running backs and third in run-defense DVOA. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for 24 yards on 12 carries against Philly last week. Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines amassed 27 yards on 11 carries the previous game. Peyton Barber had 22 yards on 16 carries in Week 2. And Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman rushed for 45 yards and a score on 15 combined carries Week 1. Minnesota’s offensive line is 26th in Football Outsiders’ run-blocking metrics. Odds are high Murray isn’t going to the one to expose this Eagles run defense.

Mike Davis vs. Rams: Davis came out of literally nowhere to turn 25 touches into 124 yards and two touchdowns as the Seahawks’ lead dog last week. Chris Carson was a surprise inactive because of a hip injury, and Seattle gave Davis the keys to the car. Davis got things started with a 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That was a fine run, but the rest of the day wasn’t all that impressive on film. Davis lucked into his one-yard score in the second half after Arizona was called for a penalty in the end zone to set the Seahawks up on the doorstep. But coach Pete Carroll was happy enough to say Davis has earned a spot in the “rotation” for the Seahawks. Carson is coming back this week, and Rashaad Penny is still in the mix as well. Even though Davis was a hot add this week, it’s impossible to throw him into lineups with any sort of confidence. We have literally no idea who is going to lead the group in touches and playing time. And the Seahawks are massive 7-point underdogs against a Rams team coming off a mini-bye following last Thursday night’s win. Run defense has been a bit of a weakness for the Rams, but since they get up so big on the scoreboard, opposing offenses have no choice but to pass to try and catch up. Expect no different this week. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin are going to have to carry the water for this offense.

LeSean McCoy vs. Titans: McCoy has been a regular in this section through five weeks. And as long as he keeps failing to produce, I’m going to keep betting against him. McCoy is averaging a healthy 4.0 YPC, but the problem is he’s averaged seven carries and less than three catches per game. That’s not nearly enough volume to put McCoy in fantasy lineups on an offense that doesn’t score points. I like the Bills more than most this week, but the matchup on the ground is not ideal. The Titans are the only team yet to allow a touchdown to a running back and are surrendering the third-fewest fantasy points to the position. The Bills have been trying to save McCoy’s legs by giving plenty of work to Chris Ivory and change-of-pace Marcus Murphy. The once-bankable volume that we envisioned for McCoy this season is anything but, leaving him as a low-floor RB3. At this point, we’re going to have to see it from McCoy before he can be trusted again. Right now, he’s steadily creeping his way toward drop territory in 10- and 12-team leagues.

WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Kenny Golladay vs. Packers: Fantasy’s WR21 to this point, Golladay is coming off his worst game of the season, which wasn’t even bad with a 4-74-0 day in Dallas. His four targets were a season-low after averaging 9.3 per game Weeks 1-3. The minor concern here is Golladay’s targets have decreased each week from 12 > 9 > 7 > 4. Good news is this passing offense can carry multiple players, making all three of Golden Tate, Golladay, and Marvin Jones start-able on a weekly basis. This game isn’t any different. The Packers are a solid 10th in pass-defense DVOA and 12th in fantasy points allowed to receivers, but their cornerback group is getting banged up by the game. Davon House was already lost to injured reserve. Kevin King is coming back from a 2.5-game absence with a groin injury, but Jaire Alexander now has a groin issue of his own. As noted above, Matthew Stafford has lit up the Packers in his past four games dating back to 2016. Golladay played in one of those last Week 17, catching a pair of passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. I’ve gotten some questions this week with owners showing concern about Golladay, but he’s confidently a WR2 with upside in a potential NFC North shootout with a 51-point total.

 

 

Starts

Jordy Nelson at Chargers: Nelson was being talked about as a drop in most formats after Week 2 but then had a resurgence against the Dolphins the following game and continued his stat-stuffing last week against the Browns. After averaging four targets and 26.5 yards per game Weeks 1-2, Nelson has 221 yards, two touchdowns, and a pair of two-point conversions Weeks 3-4. The Chargers are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to receivers and have surprisingly really struggled against the pass. Casey Hayward, Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 cover corner a year ago, has allowed a passer rating of 140.3 in his coverage. Nickel CB Desmond King has faced 14 targets in the slot, and all 14 have been caught by the receiver. Nelson has been running over 50% of his routes out of the slot the past two weeks. After getting their first win and Derek Carr showing serious progress last week, the Raiders look to be in another attackable spot. The 53.5-point total for Raiders-Chargers is the second-highest on the board. Keep riding the Nelson wave while he’s hot.

Tyler Boyd vs. Dolphins: Since Week 2, Boyd is fantasy’s WR6 with a pair of 100-yard games and a 91-yard effort as one of the most consistent receivers in that span. He’s averaging 10.3 targets per game over the last three, yet still probably isn’t being viewed as a surefire starter in some leagues. However, with John Ross (groin) looking extremely doubtful and Tyler Eifert suffering a season-ending broken ankle last week, Boyd is essentially all the Bengals have behind A.J. Green. The Dolphins have yielded the seventh-fewest fantasy points to receivers and are eighth in pass-defense DVOA. But they just lost top slot CB Bobby McCain to a multi-week knee injury and will be without him for this matchup. Second-year UDFA “Torry McTyer” is next man up in the slot for Miami, and that’s where Boyd runs 68% of his routes. To call this a mismatch would be an understatement. The Bengals are a top-five offense and get a Dolphins team that was just embarrassed by the Patriots. Cincinnati’s implied team total of 28 points is the sixth-highest of Week 5. Boyd is a lock-and-load WR2 the remainder of the season.

Dede Westbrook at Chiefs: Much like Blake Bortles above, sophomore Westbrook has alternated big games with mediocre ones. When Bortles is on, that typically means Westbrook is also. And with Bortles being in a good spot against a rough Chiefs defense, Westbrook is put on the WR3 map. Westbrook saw a career-high 13 targets last week against the Jets, catching nine for 130 yards. Two weeks prior, against the Patriots, he nabbed four balls for 83 yards and a touchdown. Westbrook is the WR33 on the year and gets a Kansas City unit that is 30th in pass-defense DVOA. Westbrook is running 88% of his routes out of the slot and figures to see plenty of CB Kendall Fuller on Sunday. Fuller has been extremely up-and-down the first four weeks. He was toasted by Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger the first two weeks and then gave up six catches in his coverage against Case Keenum last Monday night. Westbrook is dripping with talent and needs to be treated as a high-upside play on a day the Jaguars will likely be throwing more with no Leonard Fournette.

Sits

Demaryius Thomas at Jets: Thomas has been a total bust through four weeks. He’s the overall WR53 despite being 21st among all receivers with 33 targets. Among wideouts with at least 20 catches, Thomas’ 8.4 YPR is second-worst only to Nelson Agholor’s 6.7 mark. Both players have just one touchdown. Thomas should have had another score last week, but Case Keenum missed him on a 28-yard touchdown on the final drive. Thomas may deserve some of the blame after possibly slowing up on his route. He also leads the league in drops. The Jets are No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA and middle-of-the-pack in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Emmanuel Sanders is the far more reliable wideout play for Denver, and even he doesn’t look all that appealing in a game with a 42.5-point total that figures to be dominated by defense and the run games. Thomas needs to be treated as a WR4 until he shows he can catch the ball and Keenum starts playing better.

Sammy Watkins vs. Jaguars: Watkins pulled his hamstring last Monday night against the Broncos, missing the final three quarters and not catching a pass. But he was practicing Wednesday and appears to have a good chance to play Sunday against Jacksonville. It’s good news for the Chiefs that Watkins will likely be out there, but this matchup is about as difficult as they come. The Jaguars are No. 6 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Jalen Ramsey was beat by Chris Hogan a couple times in Week 2, but otherwise he and A.J. Bouye have been as shutdown a duo there is in the league. At less than 100% and in a tough spot, Watkins is an easy sit for Week 5.

Quincy Enunwa vs. Broncos: Enunwa is 16th among receivers with 37 targets through four games, but after a big Weeks 1-2, Enunwa has slowed down a bit the past two weeks. Enunwa is averaging just four catches for 61.5 scoreless yards in that span. Opportunity was definitely there for a bigger stat line Week 4 against the Jaguars, however. Sam Darnold badly missed a streaking Enunwa down the seam that could have gone for a long touchdown at best and lengthy gain on 4th-and-1 at worst. Darnold has not been sharp since he busted onto the scene with a big win against the Lions on Monday Night Football in Week 1. Running 69% of his routes from the slot, Enunwa will se a ton of Broncos stud slot CB Chris Harris on Sunday. Harris is currently Pro Football Focus’ No. 19 cover corner out of 110 qualifiers and has yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: Vance McDonald vs. Falcons: Tight end is in such a sad state of affairs thanks to its already shallow depth that has now been ransacked by injuries one month into the season. Finding capable players at the position has become a serious chore. McDonald has been ultra-consistent the last three weeks after he missed the opener. He’s been targeted five times each game and hung 4-112-1 on the Bucs in Week 3 before catching all five of his targets for 62 yards last Sunday night against the Ravens. He’s a legitimate top-five option at the hollowed-out tight end spot. The Falcons present an above-average matchup after allowing a touchdown to Tyler Eifert last week before he broke his ankle a week after Ben Watson hung 5-71-0 on them. The 58-point total for Falcons-Steelers is the highest total we’ve seen yet this season, so we want any part we can get of these offenses. McDonald is a must-start.

Starts

Ricky Seals-Jones at 49ers: Talk about making the most of your opportunities. Seals-Jones was a virtual no-show Weeks 1-2 with Sam Bradford under center, but he turned three targets into one catch for a 35-yard touchdown in Week 3 against the Bears before Josh Rosen stuck him with 21- and 31-yard passes last week against the Seahawks. Rosen made the offense far more palatable and actually threatened defenses down the field unlike Bradford. That should continue to open up the seams and the middle of the field for Seals-Jones and Larry Fitzgerald. If everyone were healthy at tight end, RSJ would be more of a TE2, but being in the state we are now at the position, he’s very much on the streaming radar. The Niners have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends. They let Antonio Gates get wide open for a touchdown last week after Travis Kelce went for 114 yards on eight grabs the previous game. Kyle Rudolph also scored against San Fran in Week 1.

Austin Hooper at Steelers: Hooper has been a total non-factor much of the first four weeks; he did score a red-zone touchdown against the Panthers in Week 2, nabbing all five of his targets for 59 yards that day. Since then, Hooper has four catches for 42 scoreless yards on six targets in prime spots against the Saints and Bengals at home. Hooper was a popular streaming pick both weeks and ended up being a total dud each game, as he watched No. 2 TE Logan Paulsen score a TD up the seam in Week 4. We have to keep chasing Hooper’s talent and position in a high-octane offense. The Steelers have allowed the most catches and second-most fantasy points to tight ends. The Ravens’ trio of Maxx Williams-Nick Boyle-Mark Andrews combined for a 10-99-0 line last week after the tandem of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate went for 9-106-1 in Week 3. Travis Kelce hung a 7-109-2 day on the Steelers in Week 2. Hooper will be on the field, but he just needs the targets.

David Njoku vs. Ravens: Baker Mayfield seems to have revived Njoku. Since Mayfield was inserted under center 1.5 games ago, Njoku has seven catches for 88 yards on nine targets. Njoku also caught a touchdown from Mayfield in the preseason, so the two obviously have a connection. There aren’t many tight ends with Njoku’e blend of size and speed; he just needs to learn how to hang onto the football as drops have been his nemesis. The Ravens have notoriously been stingy against tight ends, and they’re 10th in fantasy points given up to the position through four games. Vance McDonald, though, caught five passes for 62 yards against them last Sunday night. Prior to that, Baltimore faced the Broncos and Bills, who have a couple of the worst tight end situations. Njoku will provide a stiffer test and is a locked-in backend TE1 with obvious upside.

 

 

Sits

Here’s where things get tough. With the injuries to Hunter Henry (torn ACL), Greg Olsen (broken foot), Tyler Eifert (broken ankle), Jack Doyle (hip), Evan Engram (torn MCL), Will Dissly (torn patella tendon), Delanie Walker (broken ankle), and O.J. Howard (knee) with Howard and Trey Burton being on bye, it’s impossible to recommend sitting any even remotely competent tight end. Guys like C.J. Uzomah, Nick Vannett, and Geoff Swaim are creeping onto the fringe of the TE1 map these days. If you have a healthy tight end who plays heavy snaps, he’s a good option at this point. I just can’t in good conscience recommend any sits outside of the obvious, namely Rhett Ellison, Dallas Goedert, Jesse James, and Jonnu Smith. If I listed tight ends like that, the responses here would be something like “duh.” There are legitimately only 10-12 tight ends worth their salt in the league right now.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for Rotoworld since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.