Good luck this week! If you don’t see one of your high-end players here, it’s probably because there’s no need to talk about them, as they need to be in your lineup. I want to spend more time on the guys you’re trying to decide between.
Marlon Mack – He hasn’t been killing it every week, but he’s doing what you want. He’s getting volume, and scored in two of three weeks. Only mentioning him here in case he’s not an exciting start. He should be in your lineup as a high-end RB2.
Wayne Gallman – For now, Gallman is the guy in the backfield for the Giants. He’ll likely play a 3-down role against the Redskins, which is a great matchup for his 2019 debut as the starter. The Redskins defense is susceptible in both the run and pass game, and so are the Giants, so this game can go in any direction. The Redskins have gone up against a couple of timeshares and Ezekiel Elliott, so only Elliott had the big game against them. With that being said, you picked up Gallman because you needed help at the RB position, so get use out of him in a good matchup before his tough matchups over the following two weeks, and before the Giants sign someone who can take work away from him.
Josh Jacobs – With the Colts potentially out TY Hilton, this game can remain close. Jacobs has been game script dependent, as we found out over the last two weeks, averaging only 11 carries. Jon Gruden said he wants to get him more involved in the pass game, which is great, so hopefully that happens. Either way, the game script should be in Jacobs favor this week, and the matchup is sneaky good. Darius Leonard should be back this week from a concussion, but the Colts were letting RBs be efficient in the first two weeks regardless. Overall, they’ve been giving up 5.41 yards per carry to opposing RBs. The Raiders want to revolve their game plan around Jacobs, and they’ll have a chance to do that this week. Update: Leonard is not practicing on Thursday, not a good sign that he will play on Sunday.. good sign for Jacobs.
LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams, Darrel Williams – Now, we’re not starting all three, but starting them depends on the scenarios. McCoy seemed to re-injure his ankle last week, but he did say he’s going to play this week… but don’t trust players when they talk about their injuries. If either Damien or McCoy is out, Darrel is a flex play and the other would be a high-end RB2 play. If both are out, Darrel is a high-end RB2 play, and should find a way into your lineup. If all three play, Darrel is a non-play, but it gets more interesting between Shady and Damien. In this scenario, it depends on the practice reports.
Assuming both get full practices in this week, the assumption is that McCoy gets more of the early down work while Damien is the passing down back; in this scenario, Damien is the more valuable guy. We did see Damien get goal line work with both of these guys active, but Shady was still learning the offense. There’s a possibility that Shady takes over this backfield as the first option in both the run and pass game as he gets more familiar with this offense, so keep that in mind. Both would be RB2 plays if they are healthy this week, but who will score isn’t as predictable, so only one will likely end up producing as a RB2 or higher in Week 4. Update: Damien Williams didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, while LeSean McCoy had a full practice… so it looks like it’s going to be primarily Shady with Darrel as the 2. Darrel is a low-end flex with Shady seemingly more healthy than he was at this time last week.
Kerryon Johnson – It’s been an interesting ride ever since Kerryon Johnson was drafted. The 75% of snaps and 20 touches he received last week after CJ Anderson was cut was very encouraging, but the production couldn’t have been worse. Another encouraging point was getting the goal line looks, which resulted in a TD that saved his fantasy outcome for Week 3. That type of volume and opportunity need to be in lineups, so start him as a solid RB2 with upside against the Chiefs.
James White – I feel like I’ve said James Develin’s name 15 times this week. But with him on IR, the Patriots can potentially become a bit more pass heavy and depend on White more than they have in the first two games. Develin was a big part of their run game, and White is the most reliable piece of this Patriots backfield. We might not have to guess whether this will be a Michel or White game with Develin placed on IR; it just might continue to be James White weeks going forward. White is matchup independent.
Leonard Fournette – His performance in Week 3 was terrible, but he’s only the field for 100% of snaps. That deserves a start every week, even if you consider him a RB2. In such a shitty week, he still had 16 PPR fantasy points.
James Conner – You’re frustrated if you have Conner, but who are you starting over him? He’s still getting some good combined run and pass volume, and that shouldn’t be an issue this week at home against Cincinnati. In PPR, he has a safe floor, and can potentially have a big game against a Bengals team giving up the 2nd most rushing yards in the league, only behind Miami. They’ve also given up the 2nd most rushing TDs behind Denver, and is allowing 5.24 yards per carry to opposing RBs. Start him as solid RB2.
Joe Mixon – The Steelers have given up the 3rd most rushing yards in the league behind Miami and Cincinnati, so Mixon has a chance to have a good game. He’s another week removed from his ankle injury, so it’s possible we see less of Gio Bernard on the field… at least that’s the hope. Still, 17 touches last week is good, and he was somewhat efficient against a tough Buffalo defense. Start him as a mid to low-end RB2.
Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk – If you haven’t got it by now, you’re starting these guys every week, especially in PPR leagues. The Seahawks haven’t allowed big games to WRs in the slot yet, but they did allow Juju to have a 5 for 84 game, and Boyd to grab 8 for 60. The PPR value is there this week, and they will have to pick their poison once again between Arizona’s two slot WRs. Damiere Byrd has a hamstring injury, so there will be more targets for these two if he doesn’t go.
Marquise Brown – Brown didn’t kill it last week, but he still led the Ravens in targets. So far, the Chiefs have actually been okay defending perimeter WRs. Both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams have hamstring injuries, so it’s possible they are both out; neither practiced on Thursday. I would do my best to have Brown’s upside in my lineup.
DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel – Houston’s secondary hasn’t been great against perimeter WRs, giving up the 4th most fantasy points to outside WRs. Houston has given up the 4th most fantasy points to WRs specifically lining up on DJ Moore’s side of the field, and Johnathan Joseph has also been vulnerable. Curtis Samuel should have a good day as well, as Joseph is allowing almost half a fantasy point per route run against him. Kyle Allen only targeted Moore two times last week, but I’m okay going back into the well in this matchup; Allen only had to throw 26 times, so the volume wasn’t there. In a more competitive game, passing volume should increase.
Tyler Boyd – The Steelers did add Minkah Fitzpatrick, but he’s playing free safety, and only a handful of snaps in the nickel. Boyd should still have a great matchup against a Steelers team giving up the most fantasy points to slot WRs. He’s a WR2 in PPR leagues.
Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson – Hardman especially. Detroit gives up the 5th most fantasy points to slot WRs, so he’ll have the best matchup of all the Chiefs WRs this week. Don’t expect volume to either; it’s all about the big play. These would normally never be every-week plays, but they are Patrick Mahomes’ WRs with Tyreek Hill out – it’s an exception.
Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp – These two have the better matchups between the three Rams WRs against Vernon Hargreaves and MJ Stewart. Start both as WR2s.
Adam Thielen – Thielen hasn’t had volume, but he’s been efficient. He also has the better matchup between him and Diggs this week on the right side of the formation where Kyle Fuller is. He’s a good corner, but the Bears continue to give up fantasy points to that side of the field, giving up the 5th to WRs lining up there. Kirk Cousins will obviously have to have time against the Bears’ pass rush, so you have to temper some expectations. I’ll still start Thielen as a WR2, as I have more confidence in him than Diggs at this point.
Sterling Shepard – Danny Dimes targeted Shepard 9 times last week, and Shep caught 7 for 100 yards, a TD, and a 2-pt conversion. A rapport has been built, and it should continue this week against a Redskins team giving up the 7th most fantasy points to slot WRs, and the most overall fantasy points to WRs. Start him as a high-end WR3 this week.
Tyler Lockett – Just in case you didn’t know, Lockett is an every-week WR2 start at the moment. Averaging 13 targets over the last two games is amazing volume, and when you combine that with the big play ability, it’s the best of both worlds. Great matchup this week against an Arizona team giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to slot WRs.
Terry McLaurin – Scary Terry has been killing it so far this year; he even came through in a tough matchup against the Bears last week. This week, he goes up against a Giants team giving up the most fantasy points to perimeter WRs, where McLaurin lines up 83% of the time. Tough to bench this week against the Giants. Update: McLaurin had a hamstring strain on Thursday, and was listed as a limited participant. When a hamstring pops up in the middle of the week, that’s usually not a good sign for availability, but would be fine playing him if he’s a full participant on Friday. If he’s a game-time decision, I might lean against playing him in case he aggravates it during the game.
Carlos Hyde – Hyde has a neutral matchup against the Panthers, and has a chance to get volume. He’s TD dependent, but hopefully some volume will help. He was inefficient last week, after doing well the two weeks prior. In the two road games, Hyde only got 10 carries, and in their one game home game he got 20. He’s at home this week, so hope the trend continues. Start him as a low-end RB2 in Week 4.
Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson – He might have a chance to give you some value this week. He was livid last week when he wasn’t given the opportunity to get the goal line opportunities late in the game, but the Redskins were in comeback mode and wanted to remain versatile. The Giants can allow some volume to running backs; it’s a good matchup, and this is the first game where Peterson doesn’t have a tough one. He can get some volume along with goal line looks. As far as Thompson, he’s a start in PPR leagues. He’s right at 15 PPR fantasy points in 2 of his 3 games, and he had 10 in the other. The Giants defense has holes, and this can turn into a bit of a shootout because of the two bad defenses.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman – Each of these guys have gotten enough touches and are plenty involved in the pass game over the first few games to consider them low-end RB2 starts in PPR leagues. Lindsay has seemed to get the goal line looks, but part of that in Week 3 was due to Freeman leaving with an injury. Still, it’s possible Lindsay maintains that role; he’s the preferred play of the two. Jacksonville isn’t an easy matchup, but these guys were both relatively efficient against the Bears last week at home, and they’re at home again this week.
Rex Burkhead – This is a tricky one, obviously, but if you read my waiver wire column, you know why he was a pickup this week. In short, FB James Develin was put on IR, and the Patriots might need more versatility because of it. Sony Michel has been used for a single purpose, and that’s been running behind the fullback without being involved in the pass game. In a game where the Patriots had full control last week, why not use Michel to grind it out? Instead, Burkhead played on 74% of snaps with James White out, while Michel was third in snaps behind Brandon Bolden with only 22%. He’s a desperate play because we know that the Patriots backfield can go in any direction, and James White himself can potentially grab 65% of snaps with 15 touches. In PPR leagues, Burkhead was able to provide fantasy output in the first two games even with White in the game, so he should be involved regardless. His versatility makes him matchup independent, and this isn’t a horribly tough one. He’s a flex play.
Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber – Who knows which one of these backs will get volume? Play Jones for upside, but don’t be surprised if it’s Peyton Barber with 20 carries. The Rams are more vulnerable on the ground than they are through the air, so that will likely be the Bucs’ gameplan. However, if the Rams go up big, which is very possible consider their WRs and the generous Bucs secondary, we can see a lot of Dare Ogunbowale on the field.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Second straight appearance in this section for MVS. Last week, he had a great matchup while Davante Adams was busy being shadowed by Chris Harris. This week, both have good matchups. Starting CB Ronald Darby will miss time with his hamstring injury, and this secondary was already pretty terrible. On top of that, it’s a short week, and this defense has to prepare for Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau. The Eagles have given up the 2nd most fantasy points to perimeter WRs, and that’s where MVS has lined up on 87% of his snaps. This has been a theme of this offense, as the Eagles, with the lack of depth at CB and the same DC last year, gave up the most fantasy points to perimeter WRs last season as well. Just a side note: the buy low window for Davante Adams will likely close on Thursday night.
Jarvis Landry – Landry has been extremely inefficient on his targets dating back to last season with Baker, but a lot of them are uncatchable. He does have a decent matchup this week, as the Ravens have given up the 9th most fantasy points to slot WRs. Without David Njoku in the middle of the field, Landry should temporarily get volume until Rashard Higgins is back. He’s a flex play with upside.
Randall Cobb – Cobb is available on most waiver wires, so if you’re in a tough spot this week, he is a decent play considering that. The Saints have given up the 3rd most fantasy points to slot WRs this season, and without Michael Gallup, Cobb can potentially get more throws his way. He did have a 73 yard TD wiped off the board last week due to penalty, so the upside is there in New Orleans.
Chris Carson – Carson is a start this week, but if he fumbles again, it’s bad news – he’s going to be pulled. He fumbled too many times over the first three games, but it looks like Pete Carroll will go back to him. Penny also can have a bigger role than he would have normally if he’s ready to play this week. Carson will likely keep his goal line role, and will likely still be part of the passing game even if Penny’s role increases.
Aaron Jones – If you drafted Aaron Jones, you’ve reached the highs and lows in only three weeks. Week 1 was terrible, Week 2 was amazing because of the usage and production, and Week 3 was good because of production, but the usage was concerning. It’s clear that he’s the goal line guy in this apparent timeshare, which is a sigh of relief, but Jamaal Williams did out-touch him 14-11 in Week 3. On top of all that, the matchup this week sucks. Jones can definitely overcome the matchup as he did in Week 2, but not if the touches aren’t heavily in his favor like they were. The Eagles allowed only 36 yards on 20 carries by Kerryon Johnson last week, Devonta Freeman to 22 yards on 11 carries, and 18 yards on 10 carries by Derrius Guice. The last two aren’t great examples of supreme talent/health, but you get the picture.
Derrick Henry – Henry is a volume play; it’s worth noting that Dion Lewis has been playing around 50% of snaps all year long. Henry is TD dependent, as he’s hardly involved in the pass game. He has a nose for the end zone, so that helps, but if he doesn’t score, you’ll be disappointed. He’s a solid RB2 start this week against Atlanta (who’s been relatively stout against the run so far), but want to set expectations after his first three weeks.
Devonta Freeman – Ito Smith might be out this week with him in the concussion protocol, but if he doesn’t play, Freeman becomes a low-end RB2 play based on volume. If Ito plays, I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing Freeman; the touches aren’t there when both are playing; would probably sit him. Tennessee hasn’t been extremely stout against the run; they just haven’t given up many rushing TDs on the year so far. Freeman hasn’t been good this season, but can get it done with volume. Update: Ito has returned to practice, so there’s a possibility he gets removed from the concussion protocol. It’s tough or me to play Freeman or Ito if both play.
Todd Gurley – The Rams aren’t throwing the ball to their RBs, so they have become TD dependent. Add in the fact that Malcolm Brown is getting a few series’ to himself per game, Gurley’s upside is limited. Hopefully the Rams can use their passing game to put Gurley in good positions to score against the Bucs in Week 4. On top of that, the Bucs have allowed the fewest fantasy points to RBs; Christian McCaffrey went for only 37 yards on the ground on 16 carries, and Saquon reached 10 yards on 8 carries. If Gurley doesn’t score, you’ll be pretty disappointed this week.
David Montgomery – Montgomery’s usage has been frustrating so far, but his future upside is clear – if he gets the touches, he will perform at a high level. Starting him against Minnesota is a tough proposition, but Aaron Jones was able to have success against them in Week 2. Josh Jacobs also gained 44 yards on his 10 carries; he couldn’t get volume because the Raiders couldn’t keep up. Chicago’s defense is always going to keep them in the game, so Montgomery will never be phased out; he also played on a handful of third downs, so he’s involved in the passing game too. Still, from the ridiculous goal line packages without Montgomery, to running the ball with Cordarelle Patterson, to Tarik Cohen running the ball on short yardage situations, you have to be patient. This matchup isn’t as bad it it might seem on paper; it’s the usage we should temper expectations on.
Calvin Ridley – Adoree Jackson has stepped it up so far this season, allowing only 0.19 fantasy points per route run against him, while the Titans have allowed the 10th least fantasy points on that side of the field; Ridley lines up on that side 64% of the time. If he gets a hold of Malcolm Butler at all, he’ll be able to take advantage, but he might not get too many opportunities against him. He’s a WR3 start, but wouldn’t mind sitting him for a better option. Don’t get too cute though; this pass defense wasn’t great last year, as they allowed a ton of fantasy points through the air, including on Adoree Jackson’s side. However, they did show improvement as the year went on.
Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders – We won’t know which one of these receivers, if either, is shadowed by Jalen Ramsey. Whoever does get shadowed will likely get wiped off the box score. They are still WR3 plays this week; Sutton plays most of his routes on the left side of the field where AJ Bouye primarily plays when Ramsey doesn’t shadow. If I could avoid these two, I would, but they’re not absolute sits.
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones – It’s a surprise, but the Chiefs have actually been relatively stout against perimeter WRs. However, with the Lions trying to catch up with Patrick Mahomes, expect a lot of volume for either of theese two. Golladay has the better matchup most of the day against Charvarius Ward, while Jones will see more of Bashaud Breeland. Golladay is the preferred start out of the two, and if there is volume, there’s a higher likelihood it goes Golladay’s way. Volume to a good WR usually trumps a decent pass defense, so I wouldn’t go out of my way to sit him. Marvin is more a flex play, while hoping for Stafford to air it out in the second half.
TY Hilton – Hilton has a good matchup this week, but I’m worried about him playing this week. He aggravated a quad injury, and I would like a couple of full practices for him before I feel comfortable starting him. If he’s a game time decision and plays, I might substitute him for a decent alternative; would hate for him to aggravate it early in the game leaving me with a zero. Update: He is not practicing on Thursday.
Sammy Watkins – I’m not sitting Watkins, but he’ll likely be shadowed by Darius Slay. Teams have focused on him as the Chiefs #1 WR, so this can be another Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson game. Either way, with the volume Watkins has been getting from Mahomes, he’s so tough to sit. The good news is that Watkins has played more in the slot lately to get out of tough coverage, so he can blow up against a team giving up the 5th most fantasy points to WRs lining up in the slot.
Robert Woods – Carlton Davis has actually held it down for Tampa Bay on his side, where Woods primarily lines up. The Bucs are giving up the 9th least fantasy points to WRs lining up on that side. I’d still play Woods as a WR3, but temper expectations.
Stefon Diggs – Volume is a real issue for Vikings WRs, especially Diggs. Last week, Diggs only caught 3 balls for 15 yards. It’s really tough to trust Diggs right now, and I would only play him for upside at this point… he only has 6 receptions through three games. This week against Chicago is a tough proposition, and he has the tougher matchup between him and Adam Thielen. Kyle Fuller’s side has allowed a good amount of fantasy points when the pass rush can’t get to the QB, but that’s where Thielen will lineup for most of the game. Diggs will get his opportunities on that side, but he’ll have to take advantage. Start him as a WR3, but temper expectations that he’ll even return on that.
Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon – The Bills have allowed the 6th least fantasy points to slot WRs so far, but they will allow receptions. Jamison Crowder had 14 in Week 1, and Boyd had 6 last week. Edelman is Brady’s best WR, but he’s also a little banged up with a chest/rib injury. I’ll still play Edelman as a WR2 and hope for the best. Tre’Davious White has yet to shadow this season, and I’m not sure he starts this week. He had a shot to shadow Robby Anderson in Week 1, but the Bills chose not to. If White continues to play his side, Josh Gordon will potentially see almost 70% of snaps away from him. That bodes well for Gordon, as the Bills actually have given up the 5th most fantasy points on that left side where he primarily lines up. There’s always the chance that the Bills actually view Gordon as shadow-worthy, so keep that in mind when playing Gordon this week – the matchup would no doubt get tougher.
Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor – The Packers defense has taken a step forward this year, and the secondary is actually playing well… not something we’ve been able to say about the Packers for a while. With DeSean Jackson missing this week, Agholor is somewhat in play, but the Packers have given up the least amount of fantasy points to WRs running routes from the slot. Jeffery has a tough matchup against Jaire Alexander and Kevin King on the outside, but he has enough ability to overcome these matchups. Jeffery is the preferred play, but temper expectations.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – The Rams have been extremely stout against the pass so far this year. Mike Evans will see a near equal amount of both Aqib Talib and Chris Harris; while he can win those matchups, I’m not sure Jameis Winston is trustworthy enough against this defense. They’ve allowed the 7th least fantasy points to perimeter WRs, meaning Evans, and is almost as stingy towards slot WRs too. I’m starting Evans as a WR2, and Godwin should be downgraded to a WR3. Keep in mind that Godwin didn’t practice on Thursday with a hip injury, so have a backup just in case he can’t go.
Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard – The split is way too even between the three RBs in this timeshare for you to depend on any of them. Sanders’ two fumbles last week can impact a step forward in touches this week, and Howard was the back getting the goal line looks. In a deeper league, you might be thinking about starting one of these two, and I get that, but I would temper my expectations. Sanders is on the up though, as he got 15 touches last week, but playing only 34% of snaps usually doesn’t lead to a ton of production.
Duke Johnson – Johnson has been severely underutilized in this offense in favor of Carlos Hyde. Johnson is still the passing down back and is getting a decent amount of snaps, but he isn’t touching the ball enough to warrant a start.
Frank Gore – The Patriots defense has shut down the run, allowing a total of 101 rushing yards over the first three weeks, which is by far best in the league. They will likely force Josh Allen to throw the ball, and Gore will likely not be too involved in that department. Even if Singletary is out, Gore’s perceived volume going in might not be there against New England.
Sony Michel – Michel is very tough to trust. Again, for the third time in this article, I’m mentioning James Develin. His fullback is on IR, and that’s not good for him, as he primarily runs behind him. I’m not sure the Patriots are comfortable running him in other formations, which is why he was a non-factor in Week 3, playing only 22% of snaps in a game a) without James White, and b) where they had full control throughout. They used Rex Burkhead instead in a game where they didn’t necessarily need the versatility. Tough to trust right now, I would leave him on my bench until we see some more volume and time on the field.
John Brown – He’s likely to be shadowed by either Stephon Gilmore or Jason McCourty. I’m staying far away. The Patriots have allowed the least amount of fantasy points to WRs lining up anywhere.
Allen Robinson – Xavier Rhodes will likely shadow Robinson, and while Robinson is capable of overcoming this matchup, we might not be able to trust Mitch Trubisky to get him the ball in this matchup. Rhodes probably won’t shadow into the slot, so Robinson will have some opportunity, but probably not much.
DJ Chark – No guarantee Chris Harris shadows Chark, but it’s not going to be Dede since he plays mostly inside. Chark isn’t necesssarily shadow-worthy, but why not take away the one bright spot for Gardner Minshew? Makes sense from the Broncos’ perspective, so I’m avoiding Chark this week if I can.