I won’t be talking about most obvious starts who have been getting it done for you. I’ll stick to the guys who you might not be 100% sure about.
In what should be a positive game script for the Patriots, Michel has a shot of getting another 20+ carries tonight against the Colts at home. Andrew Luck is down TY Hilton, so he’ll be fighting and scrapping to make his guys relevant, which to his credit, he did a great job of that last week. This is how you know a QB is good; he makes unknown guys productive. Either way, with Julian Edelman back, the Patriots should run less 12 or 21 personnel and more 11, which should leave Michel with less stacked boxes. He’s seen a ton of defensive base formations, and with one less defender in the box, he should be able to find even more holes. There are only two guys in this backfield that are relevant; him and James White, so I’m playing him in any given week as this offense finds its groove. Gronk is expected to play, so that would benefit him as well. The Patriots are favored by about 10 points.
In what should be a high-flying shootout against the Steelers, there is enough to go around for Julio, Ridley, and Sanu this week. The Steelers were up against a tough Ravens defense last week, but they usually light it up at home… they aren’t going to have a problem lighting it up against this Falcons defense. Matt Ryan has been forced to sling it, and because of it, Sanu has come through for fantasy over the last two weeks. He grabbed 6 of 9 targets for 100 yards, while out-targeting (9 to 6) and out-snapping Calvin Ridley (79% to 54%). With him getting 7 and 9 targets the last two weeks in shootouts, this is a specific matchup I’m perfectly fine playing him in. Sanu has played on either the left side or in the slot on 85% of his snaps, and Pittsburgh has given up the 5th most and 3rd most fantasy points to each position, respectively.
Michael Crabtree was a huge disappointment with all of his dropped balls last week in a great spot. He has another great matchup this week, but the better WR in John Brown also has one. Denzel Ward has been a good rookie CB, but the Browns have given up the 6th most and 3rd most fantasy points to the right and left side on the perimeter, respectively, and Brown lines up on the outside on about 75% of his snaps. He should be able to take advantage, especially when he lines up on that left side against E.J. Gaines.
Case Keenum hasn’t been great, but Sanders has survived. This week, he goes up against Buster Skrine and the Jets, who’ve allowed the 6th most fantasy points to WRs in the slot, and have actually been pretty good on the perimeter with Trumaine Johnson and especially Morris Claiborne, who was very underrated last year and continues to be this year. Not that Sanders wasn’t already Keenum’s favorite target, but he lines up in the best possible spot for this particular matchup. Skrine has been heavily targeted in the first four weeks of the season, and the weakness in this defense has been exposed. It’s going to be hard for me not to have Sanders in my lineup this week.
Kenny Golladay and Golden Tate
Packers’ CB Tramon Williams has been playing very well this year, and hasn’t allowed a ton of fantasy points on his side of the field, and that’s where Marvin Jones lines up most of the time. Obviously you’re starting Golden Tate, who’s been balling through four games, especially last week. His matchup against Jaire Alexander is easy money, and Kenny Golladay against Kevin King is another matchup that he can win. These two corners are giving up the 11th and 5th most fantasy points in the slot and that right side, respectively. Alexander specifically has been giving up almost half a fantasy point per route run against him, so Tate should have a field day in what should be a high scoring game. We’ll see if Aaron Rodgers actually has any weapons available and healthy, but regardless, these two are good starts.
If he gets through the concussion protocol, Allison is a good play against Nevin Lawson while Darius Slay shadows Davante Adams. No Randall Cobb most likely; it’ll be Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the slot, who’s a deeper league play. If Allison misses, MVS gets an upgrade, and we’ll see J’Mon Moore take over opposite Adams on the outside. Deeper league fliers, only because they have Aaron Rodgers throwing them the ball. As of today (Thursday), Allison is still in the concussion protocol, and Davante Adams did not practice today with a calf injury he suffered in Wednesday’s practice. Randall Cobb didn’t practice either on Thursday. Good luck, Aaron Rodgers.
Edelman should slide back into his slot WR role right away coming off of his 4-game suspension. The Colts haven’t been great against the slot this year, but they have some injury issues. Kenny Moore is out, Nate Hairston is banged up, so this bodes well for the slot. Gronk is also banged up, and the Patriots desperately needed WR help. In a PPR, Edelman’s tough to sit.
In the two games since Carson Wentz has returned, Nelson Agholor just hasn’t produced. However, those were two matchups on the tougher side for slot WRs, and the Eagles were still figuring out their shaky WR corp with the addition of Jordan Matthews. Agholor did see 12 targets last week in a game he would like to forget. This week, Alshon Jeffery will most likely be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes. Even though Jeffery can still win that matchup at times, Wentz will likely try to take advantage of the Vikings’ Mackensie Alexander’s inability to cover the slot. So far, they’ve given up the 2nd most fantasy points to slot WRs this year, with Alexander giving up more than half a fantasy point per route run against him; he was already playing bad before the Rams WRs destroyed him last week. It’s a nice get-right spot for Agholor, who’s been underwhelming, but I wouldn’t get too cute with other options in PPR as he’s seen less than 10 targets only once in four games.
Obviously with Fournette out, you’re going to start Yeldon. There’s a chance they work in Corey Grant more than we think, but Yeldon is the primary guy, and is a better start in PPR leagues than non-PPR. This leaky KC defense giving up 5.7 yards per carry can make Yeldon look better than he is.
With the Saints likely getting out to a lead at home on Monday night, the game script should play out in Thompson’s favor. Peterson will probably see the field in the beginning of the game, but I can’t imagine him having that much success anyway with the Saints only giving up 3.2 yards per carry. When the game script favors Thompson and he’s relatively healthy, you gotta play him, especially in PPR leagues.
It was Dede last week, and he had the advantageous matchup in the slot against the Jets, but this week it’s Cole with the advantage. The Chiefs have been terrible against WRs, particularly on the outside, where Cole lines up more than 70% of the time. Westbrook barely leaves the slot, and even though I’m not worried about the matchup, the outside is where the Chiefs are the most vulnerable. Donte Moncrief plays on the outside as well, but he hasn’t surpassed 34 yards total before last week, and I wouldn’t bet on a WR who isn’t so great in creating separation. The Jaguars will probably not depend on their defense to get a win in KC, and I would expect their offensive game plan to be more aggressive, especially with Leonard Fournette out. Bortles has thrown 1.8 TDs per game compared to 1.27 and an extra 65 yards per game when Fournette’s missed over this year and last. Picking between these WRs is not easy, and you’ll probably get it wrong, but Cole can provide that ceiling you might need in your lineup this week. As far as the guy to own, it’s probably Dede at this point.
It’s tough to predict when Still will have that big play for a TD, but he has a good chance against the Bengals. A candidate to potentially progress into a shutdown corner, William Jackson III has done the opposite and has had a terrible start to his year. Kenny Stills moves all around the formation, and will see Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III, who’ve allowed the 9th and 2nd most fantasy points to WRs lining up on that side. For Kirkpatrick to give up the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs lining up against him is very surprising to me, but he simply hasn’t been good. It’s always tough to start a guy like Stills, but if you’re desperate and need some upside, he’s a good play in that regard. Great play in DFS tournaments too.
With Corey Davis locked up with Tre’Davious White, Taylor should see some extra opportunity. Taywan Taylor is explosive, and he’s starting to get some volume. With Rishard Matthews out of the way, Taylor is the #2 option in that passing offense with a 22% target share in Week 3, and 21% in Week 4. If you watched last week’s game, you’ll see that Taylor was getting the ball all over the field, and they had plays dialed up for him. He had a very healthy 162 air yards over the last two weeks, and he’s where Mariota went on a critical 4th and long play to extend the game in OT this past Sunday. When I see a young and explosive WR getting volume, that’s someone I want to have on my fantasy team. We can hopefully depend on the volume in PPR this week, but have the big-play upside as well. The matchup against Ryan Lewis and Taron Johnson are good ones, so he should produce with volume.
Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson
These are pretty desperate starts, but nickel corner P.J. Williams got destroyed by Calvin Ridley the week before and then gave up a great game to Sterling Shepard last week. Crowder hasn’t seen volume, but he’s a guy who you can plug in this week and actually hope that something happens in the Redskins’ attempt to come back against the Saints at home. As far as Paul Richardson, Ken Crawley and that left side of the Saints defense has allowed the most fantasy points to WRs, so he’s also a shot. He caught a long TD in Week 3, and can do something similar this week. These are both long shot plays, with Richardson being a potential DFS tournament play.
Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant, Zach Pascal
The Colts will likely be down and Andrew Luck will potentially have another 60 attempts in this game. This WR corp will benefit, only because Luck is good at what he does, and that’s make guys relevant. Good luck picking who will have the best game. If I had to take a shot, Grant has the highest floor in PPR, Rogers has the highest overall upside in PPR, and Pascal probably has the best shot at a TD. There you have it, I tried my best.
Nyheim Hines (PPR only)
In the three games the Colts had to come back in, Nyheim Hines caught 7 of 9, 5 of 5, and 9 of 11 while averaging 36 routes per game. The only game he caught one ball in was against the Redskins, in which they were up all game. Hines saw 69% of snaps last week and 73% the week before, and we can see a similar number tonight in a game the Patriots are favored to win by 10. Also, with TY Hilton out, there are some more targets to distribute. I doubt the Patriots linebackers will be able to cover Hines well; the Patriots rank 27th DVOA in covering pass-catching RBs, so he’s a good start this week with a high floor in PPR sprinkled with a bit of upside.
I’m still not comfortable starting him until Jamaal Williams plays less snaps; Jones played 38% of snaps to Williams’ 37% last week. With that said, the Lions have allowing 5.6 yards per carry to opposing RBs, and Jones can do some work on limited touches. He’s a desperation play, but one that has decent upside.
We’re always going to temper expectations when Funchess is going up against a tough corner like Janoris Jenkins, but Jenkins has gave up some plays this year. Funchess might not explode, but he always has a shot at scoring on any corner while Greg Olsen is out.
This Baltimore defense seems to be back, after shutting down Big Ben and the Steelers offense in Pittsburgh; that’s not an easy thing to do by any means. Baker Mayfield will most likely have a tough time, but his safety blanket in Landry has a good matchup against nickel corner Tavon Young. Baltimore’s given up the 14th most fantasy points to slot WRs, but held Juju Smith-Schuster to his worst game of the season last week. Landry did see 10 targets last week, but only caught 4 for 34 and a TD saved you. We can be looking at a similar game this week. Update: Jim Harbaugh has said that they might move Brandon Carr to the inside with Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith on the outside, which would downgrade Landry.
He’s going up against Jacksonville, but after having two sub-par games in a row, now is the time to throw him in all of your GPP or tournament lineups in DFS. Bad matchup, hasn’t been doing well, I would assume his ownership will be pretty low. He’s surprised us in the past, like when he had 3 total TDs against the Broncos in Denver when that defense was elite. Just putting that out there. I’m still playing him in season long, but obviously we have to temper our expectations when you have guys like AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey covering you.
Fresh off of his monster career game last week against the Vikings, he has a tough matchup this week in the slot against Justin Coleman and the Seahawks. Now, I’m still okay starting him, because that defense did just lose Earl Thomas, but don’t be surprised if Kupp’s output this week is leveled off; Coleman has only allowed 0.16 fantasy points per target, and QBs are barely looking his way. Brandin Cooks easily has the best matchup of the three LA WRs against Tre Flowers.
He’ll likely be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes, who’s been up and down this season. I’m not too worried about the matchup personally, as we’ve seen good WRs beat Rhodes in the past. It’s likely that Minnesota will be able to put up points through the air, so the Eagles will probably have to play catch-up at home. Jeffery can see another 10 targets in this game.
Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett
The Vikings tore up the slot against LA last week, but the Rams were doing a decent job against slot WRs before that game. Baldwin should be fine, he’s Russell Wilson’s guy, and Lockett will likely see a lot of Marcus Peters. Robey-Coleman is a good nickel corner, but with the Seahawks potentially getting down in this game, Baldwin will be the primary target in a comeback attempt.
Corey Davis will likely be shadowed by Tre’Davious White this week while he lines up on the outside. He moves around quite a bit, but is on the outside about 75% of the time. White has shadowed Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and Keenan Allen when these guys lined up on the outside so far this year, and is allowing only 0.18 fantasy points per target. QBs just aren’t really looking in his direction much compared to the other Bills’ corners. Corey Davis leads the league in target share, so Davis will likely see his targets and will likely see some balls in creative scenarios, but the upside isn’t there this week. You still might want to consider other options in what Vegas thinks is the lowest scoring game of the week, but the target share should keep him afloat.
Baltimore is only favored by 3 points against Cleveland, and Vegas thinks the game total will be about 47. That’s a good amount of scoring, which I am a little surprised about. Can’t necessarily see Baker Mayfield killing it through the air against this Ravens D who gets Jimmy Smith back. They’ve also been pretty good against the run, which is why I don’t expect much from Hyde, but if the implied total for Cleveland is about 20 points, someone has to score for Cleveland. He’s not a sit, but I would definitely temper expectations on a guy who hasn’t been necessarily efficient. He could see a goal line TD though.
Peterson is dealing with an ankle injury, but should be good to go for Monday night. First of all, the Saints should be able to get out to a lead at home, so the game script isn’t the best for Peterson. Secondly, the Saints have allowed a league-best 3.2 yards per carry through the first four games. The Redskins are going to have to air it out, and it’ll likely be Chris Thompson on the field a lot more than Peterson. I’ll be looking for another option.
I don’t want to play the Dalvin Cook game this week. Minnesota’s offensive line is struggling, the Eagles have one of the best defensive fronts in the league, allowing only 3.4 yards per carry. In PPR, I’m okay with it, but I actually expect the Vikings to challenge the Philadelphia secondary a lot more since they’ve been struggling. Cook makes me nervous, and I don’t want another game with him on a pitch count. He came out on Monday and said he’s not 100%, so I’ll take his word for it. Hopefully you have a Nyheim Hines or someone who can take his place this week in PPR.