If you don’t see guys like Aaron Jones and Kerryon Johnson, it’s probably because they are obvious RB1 and RB2 starts. If you don’t see them and usually start them every week, that’s probably why you don’t see them below.
Sony Michel – The Patriots are favored by 16.5 points at home for what seems like the third or fourth time this season. The Giants are without several skill players on offense, and it’s likely going to be very one-sided. Because of that, it should lead to a game script where Sony Michel gets enough work to start him as a solid RB2. If Burkhead doesn’t get a full practice in before the game or is inactive, it should give you more confidence in having Michel in your lineup. The Giants have given up 7th most rushing yards at 4.6 yards per carry… good matchup.
Mark Ingram – Ingram gets an upgrade in his matchup against the Bengals this week at home. You’re usually starting him, but it might be worth treating him as a must-start against a team giving up the 2nd most rushing yards in the league, the 5th most rushing attempts, the 2nd most receptions to RBs, the most receiving yards to RBs, and tied with the Dolphins for the most combined TDs given up to RBs. You probably were starting Ingram anyway, but why not have a bit of extra pep in your step this week?
Joe Mixon – Mixon has held a floor over the past three weeks, but his ceiling has definitely been limited due to the offensive line and the defense putting the offense in tough positions. Still, 17, 19, 20 touches over the past three weeks is good enough to start when you’re as talented as Mixon. The Ravens have allowed almost 5 yards per carry and is the 9th worst rush defense DVOA. The Ravens have blown teams out of the water in the beginning of the year, but as their offense slowed down, guys like Nick Chubb and James Conner were able to get some volume on the ground.
Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy – The RB usage was extremely off for this backfield last week, but it’s not the norm. LeSean McCoy fumbled and didn’t see much of the game after that, but Andy Reid blamed that on pass protection issues. Either way, this is likely to remain a 2-man backfield between Williams and McCoy, with Damien being the lead for now. The Chiefs will likely be without Sammy Watkins, and the matchup against the Texans couldn’t have come at a better time to lean on the RBs a bit, especially with Patrick Mahomes a bit hobbled with his ankle injury. Houston has given up 45 receptions on 49 targets to RBs this year through five games, the most in the league. The 336 yards gained by RBs through the air is the 2nd most in the league, only to the Bengals. Teams are targeting their RBs in the red zone more against the Texans than any other team. You might want to shy away from them after last week, but this is matchup I wouldn’t want to pass up for the Chiefs RBs. I would treat Williams as a RB2 and McCoy as a high-upside flex, both in PPR.
Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida – In Tevin Coleman’s return from a high ankle sprain, he looked great, and was the primarily ball carrier for the 49ers. Jeff Wilson Jr. was inactive with Coleman back, and that’s significant because Coleman becomes their primary red zone and goal line back. The efficiency in the run game is going to be there for this offense, but keep in mind that Matt Breida will likely not see goal line opportunities, as he was taken off the field in favor for Jeff Wilson’s 4 goal line TDs over previous two games. Still, Breida should see enough opportunity per week to keep him in the flex conversation. This week, they go up against a Rams team who have given up the 2nd most goal-to-go touches to opposing RBs, which sets up nicely for Tevin Coleman. There were four backs so far who had 19+ carries against the Rams this year, and we could see 30+ carries combined from 49ers, who are currently the most-run heavy team in the NFL. Kyle Shanahan’s outside zone is very efficient, so 15 carries should be enough for each RB to make you happy this week.
Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon – Ekeler continues to be the more solid play until we see Gordon get real work. Hunter Henry might miss another week, leaving Ekeler as one of the needed weapons in the pass game. He only had three carries last week with the Chargers losing from the beginning in that game… his 15 catches more than made up for it. The Steelers are stout against the run, but they’ve allowed the 6th most receptions to RBs so far this year. Gordon didn’t produce last week while shaking off the rust, but I’ll start 16 touches from Gordon again. Chances are he gets more this week.
James Conner – He’s been getting it done for you lately, but it’s worth noting that Jaylen Samuels is going to be out for a month with a knee injury. Samuels was a threat to Conner’s touches, especially in another potential wildcat offense scenario while Mason Rudolph remains out. Now, Conner will likely get the majority of the workload, but the offense will most likely take another hit. The Steelers are going to want to pound the rock as long as this game is close, so start Conner for the volume, even though the offense isn’t at full strength.
Malcolm Brown – Todd Gurley is likely out this week, and while Brown’s matchup isn’t amazing, he should get 15-20 touches against the 49ers. There aren’t any workload concerns for Brown, so it’s possible he sees more touches than Gurley has been averaging. Start him as a solid RB2.
Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald – Kirk might be back this week, and he couldn’t be walking into a better matchup. Larry Fitzgerald was a disappointment this past week without Kirk, but these two get the Falcons in Week 6. They’ve given up the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs, and the 5th most fantasy points specifically to slot WRs over the last four weeks. Keep Larry in your lineup, and start Kirk as a PPR WR3 if he gets a full practice in.
Michael Gallup – Gallup has produced at a high level this year, and was back to himself two weeks after having meniscus surgery. This week, he has a great matchup against the Jets. Gallup will continue to benefit from Amari Cooper drawing #1 coverage, and he primarily lines up on the left side where the Jets have given up the most fantasy points to WRs who have run routes from that side. You’ll likely keep Gallup in your lineup all year long.
Courtland Sutton – It’s getting to the point where Sutton is tough to bench.. he’s getting it done every week. Malcolm Butler is the Achilles heel of the Titans pass defense, and Sutton lines up opposite Butler on 58% of his routes. The Titans have given up the 7th most fantasy points to WRs lining up on that side, so Sutton has an advantage this week.
Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones – Jones more of a desperate WR4/flex play, and you’re likely starting Golladay, but I just want to point out that it’s not a matchup you should be afraid of. Overall, the Packers haven’t given up a ton of fantasy points to WRs, but if you look deeper, they have been giving up points to perimeter WRs – 7th most over the last four weeks. I know Green Bay has this perception of being a great defense this year, and they are better, but Kevin King and Jaire Alexander’s aggressiveness can work against them at times.
Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen – Thielen has gotten it done for you for the most part this year, and Philly’s secondary is where teams will have to attack to win. Running against the Eagles is like running into a brick wall, so they will have to get creative with that zone running for Dalvin Cook. Meanwhile, Diggs and Thielen have a huge advantage against the Eagles secondary, who have given up the most fantasy points to perimeter WRs, especially on the right side of the field. That right side is where Thielen runs a majority of his routes, but both of these guys move around enough that they can get their… IF the Vikings choose to air it out.
Alshon Jeffery – I wouldn’t worry about the Xavier Rhodes shadow to the point where I’m benching Jeffery. D-Jax out again, and the Vikings have actually given up the 7th most fantasy points to perimeter WRs. I’ll start Jeffery as a WR3. If the Eagles have a tough time running the ball against the Vikings, we might see more volume from Carson Wentz, after throwing the ball an average of only 28 times over the last two weeks.
Terry McLaurin – He will likely draw a shadow from Xavien Howard, but Howard hasn’t been anything close to shutdown this year. Miami is giving up the 10th most fantasy points to WRs running routes on the perimeter, where McLaurin lines up 82% of the time. With Case Keenum back this week, the targets should come his way regardless of the shadow.
Ronald Jones – Between Jones and Peyton Barber, Jones is the one with the juice and the upside. Jones has had 70+ rushing yards in 3 of 5 games, and it’s possible that Jones is the one getting the workload over Barber this time around against Carolina. Playing Jones is a risky flex option, but since it’s not as tough of a matchup as last week, he has a much better chance at seeing close to 15 touches. The Panthers have given up 4.7 yards per carry so far this year, so the matchup is a decent one; Carolina is actually 4th worst in rush defense DVOA.
Jordan Howard – Even though Howard is in a tough spot this week against the Vikings, it’s very possible Carson Wentz and this offense is able to move the ball through the air. WRs have been relatively successful against the Vikings so far this year, so it’s possible Howard sees some opportune goal-line looks. Since he’s the primary red zone option on a good offense, he always has a chance to score. So while he’s a TD dependent option in a terrible matchup on paper, he remains flex-worthy
Adrian Peterson – The Dolphins are up this week, and Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan apparently thought the Redskins should’ve been running the ball more. Callahan was in charge of the offensive line, which is usually the coach who operates the run game. If Peterson is going to get volume in any game this season, it’s going to be this one against Miami, who’ve been giving up the most fantasy points to RBs this season. They’ve given up the 3rd most rushing yards this year through only 4 games, compared to the 5 games that the other teams around them have played. They’ve given up the most red zone touches to RBs and the most goal-to-go touches to opposing RBs.
Mohamed Sanu – Sanu’s been getting it done over the last three weeks. His production is usually unpredictable and can come to a halt at any point, but we can take advantage of his hot streak if you need him this week. Luckily, his matchup this week is sweet; the Cardinals are giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to slot WRs. Matt Ryan has had 43 pass attemps in 4 of 5 games this year, so the volume has a good chance of being there.
Marquise Brown – Brown hasn’t been reliable, but he was on his way to a decent game last week after scoring an early TD. Two targets in the red zone last week was encouraging, and he has a pretty good matchup against Cincinnati this week. The Bengals have been stout against WRs lining up on William Jackson’s side, but Brown has only run 13% of his routes there. Everywhere else has been quite generous, so Brown has a better chance of having a good game.
DJ Moore – The Bucs have allowed the most fantasy points to WRs lining up on the left side of the field and in the slot over the last four weeks, so DJ Moore has a big advantage this weekend. Moore lines up in those positions 76% of the time, and he actually performed with volume last week in a good matchup for him. Curtis Samuel doesn’t have as good of a matchup on the other side against Carlton Davis this week, so he doesn’t get the upgrade Moore dose.
Demarcus Robinson – Tyreek Hill can be back this week, but Sammy Watkins is still out. If Hill plays, that’ll move attention away from Robinson. As we’ve seen, Patrick Mahomes will find the open guy this year, no matter who it is. It’s also possible that Hill is the one who is always open 🙂 If you’re in a pinch, Robinson can take advantage of a Houston team giving up the 2nd most fantasy points over the last four weeks. Mecole Hardman has a shot, but the Texans have been relatively stout against slot WRs lately.
Preston Williams and Davante Parker – Williams would probably be the better play, since he’s getting the majority of target share and air yards of the two. Washington’s porous on the perimeter, giving up the 6th most fantasy points over the last four weeks to WRs on the outside, where Williams runs 96% of his routes. Upgrade Parker as well, as he lines up on the outside around 65% of the time. Keep in mind Albert Wilson could be back this week, so he can potentially take a significant bite into that target share.
Tyler Boyd – Boyd might actually see a shadow from Marlon Humphrey, even though he primarily runs routes from the slot. Humphrey shadowed OBJ in Week 4, and was following Juju on 77% of his routes. With Juju running a majority of his routes from the slot, it’s a good indicator that Boyd will also be shadowed. Humphrey’s a good corner, so Boyd should be downgraded to a WR3. It’s unfortunate, because the Ravens have been giving up a ton of fantasy points to slot WRs.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Not that you would have high expectations after last week, but the matchup isn’t great this week against the Lions. If Darius Slay plays, he’ll likely shadow MVS, but if he doesn’t, there’s a chance the other corners do. They’ve been solid on the outside, giving up the 6th least fantasy points to WRs running routes on the perimeter. He’s a low-end WR3 play, and still considered Aaron Rodgers’ #1 WR… whatever that’s worth. Geronimo Allison might actually be the better play this week, as the Lions have given up the 6th most points to slot WRs.
Will Fuller – Fuller’s extremely tough to sit after his amazing game last week, and I’m playing him if I can. The Chiefs have been stout against perimeter WRs, giving up the least amount of fantasy points to them over the last four weeks. This could be a product of them not facing great talent so far, or it could be because this secondary has stepped up. I’m playing Fuller as a WR3 in this high-scoring game, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t blow up for the second week in a row.
DJ Chark – As Chark continues to kill it, he’s going to start getting attention. He’s had a potential shadow for each of the last two weeks, with neither of them happening. This week, Marshon Lattimore might shadow him, but who knows if they’ll choose to. For whatever reason, teams are choosing not to so far. New Orleans was very vulnerable earlier in the year, but Lattimore and Co. have stepped up lately. It’s not a matchup you’re terrified of though, and the way Chark has been playing, he probably should be in your lineup this week.
Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder – Sam Darnold’s back, and these guys are now relevant again, finally. This week, however, we might want to temper expectations. Crowder doesn’t need a great matchup to gain another 14 catches for less 100 yards, so he has the advantage of potentially soaking up volume in PPR. Anderson primarily lines up on Byron Jones’ side, where the Cowboys are giving up the 7th least fantasy points to WRs. For Anderson to hit, him and Darnold will likely have to take advantage on the other side against Chidobe Awuzie, where Anderson lines up on only 26% of his routes.
Juju Smith-Schuster – Tough to bench Juju, but you’d have to have some real faith in him and Devlin Hodges for you expect a lot. It doesn’t help that the matchup against Desmond King is pretty tough, as the Chargers are allowing the 5th least fantasy points to slot WRs. He’s a WR3 play this week.
Mike Evans – What a roller-coaster of a season for Mike Evans. Chris Godwin has surpassed him as the #1 WR for the Bucs, but Evans always has big-game ability if he’s targeted. I probably wouldn’t sit him unless I’m in a small league, but he’s going up against James Bradberry again – Evans doesn’t have a good history against him. You do have to think after a 0-catch performance last week, Jameis going to try and get him the ball.
Jon Hilliman – I personally wouldn’t do it. It’s possible Hilliman gets a bunch of check downs while the Giants try and catch up, but I’d be looking for another option.