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

The start-or-sit dilemma is part of managing a fantasy football team.

Having the foresight to start the wide receiver who goes for 100 yards and a touchdown in a matchup while sitting a receiver against a shutdown cornerback is one of the keys to victory.

For this version of a start-or-sit, I’m going to be listing all relevant fantasy football players each week and placing them into tiers.

And to take some of the guesswork out of it, I’ll be leveraging thousands of slate simulations that are based in numberFire’s player projections with dynamic measures for variance, such as quarterback rushing, running back receiving, and receiver target depth.

The results will boil down to three tiers: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider starting whenever we don’t have better alternatives, but who aren’t must-plays and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives.

These players are listed in order of frequency of hitting the stated threshold (i.e. QB12, RB24, WR24, and TE12 performances and higher on the list means more start-able).

The groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench or the waiver-wire, should I start this player this week?

Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.

QUARTERBACKS

Start with confidence: These players are at least 50% likely to finish the week as a top-12 quarterback, according to the slate simulations.

— Patrick Mahomes vs. BUF (66%)

— Josh Allen at KC (64%)

— Kyler Murray vs. SF (62%)

— Lamar Jackson vs. IND (58%)

— Dak Prescott vs. NYG (52%)

— Matthew Stafford at SEA (52%)

— Russell Wilson vs. LA (50%)

Consider if needed: This tier has odds between 35% and 49% to post a top-12 week.

— Jalen Hurts at CAR (48%)

— Tom Brady vs. MIA (48%)

— Kirk Cousins vs. DET (48%)

— Aaron Rodgers at CIN (47%)

— Joe Burrow vs. GB (47%)

— Justin Herbert vs. CLE (47%)

— Ryan Tannehill at JAC (44%)

— Derek Carr vs. CHI (43%)

— Sam Darnold vs. PHI (41%)

— Daniel Jones at DAL (40%)

— Trevor Lawrence vs. TEN (36%)

— Matt Ryan vs. NYJ (35%)

The Carolina Panthers’ defense started the season hot, but were a little less scary last week against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. That sets up well for Jalen Hurts to continue his fantasy success. Hurts has played to opponent expectation as a passer, but has run 8.5 times for 56.5 yards per game.

On the flip side of that game, we have Sam Darnold, who likely won’t run for multiple touchdowns every week. But that’s OK. He’s aggressive and has averaged a 9.0-yard average depth of target (compared to the position average of 7.6) with 6.0 downfield attempts per game (16-plus air yards). The Philadelphia Eagles rank 22nd against the pass, by our metrics, and they’re 29th in yards per target allowed on downfield passes.

Bench if possible: These quarterbacks are under 35% likely (17th or worse) to net a top-12 result and likely aren’t in the one-quarterback-league conversation.

Mac Jones at HOU (32%); Zach Wilson at ATL (31%); Justin Fields at LV (28%); Jared Goff at MIN (27%); Taylor Heinicke vs. NO (24%); Baker Mayfield at LAC (24%); Jacoby Brissett at TB (21%); Carson Wentz at BAL (21%); Ben Roethlisberger vs. DEN (19%); Jameis Winston at WSH (17%); Davis Mills vs. NE (14%); Trey Lance at ARI (06%)(asterisk); Jimmy Garoppolo at ARI (04%).

(asterisk)If Trey Lance gets the start, his top-12 odds would increase. He ran seven times for 41 yards in Week 4 in limited action game.

RUNNING BACKS

Start with confidence: These running backs are at least 60% likely to finish the week inside the top 24, according to the slate simulations. You’re starting them.

— Derrick Henry at JAC (84%)

— Dalvin Cook vs. DET (81%)

— Ezekiel Elliott vs. NYG (79%)

— Alvin Kamara at WSH (77%)

— Aaron Jones at CIN (75%)

— Najee Harris vs. DEN (73%)

— Austin Ekeler vs. CLE (71%)

— Saquon Barkley at DAL (70%)

— D’Andre Swift at MIN (65%)

— James Robinson vs. TEN (65%)

Consider if needed: This tier is sitting between 40% and 59% for an RB2 week, and you’re probably starting some of them even if they’re shy of that top tier.

— Darrell Henderson at SEA (59%)

— Antonio Gibson vs. NO (59%)

— Damien Williams at LV (59%)

— Jonathan Taylor at BAL (59%)

— Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. BUF (58%)

— Nick Chubb at LAC (57%)

— Chuba Hubbard vs. PHI (57%)

— Chris Carson vs. LA (54%)(asterisk)(asterisk)

— Leonard Fournette vs. MIA (53%)

— Josh Jacobs vs. CHI (47%)

— Chase Edmonds vs. SF (47%)

— Mike Davis vs. NYJ (45%)

— Miles Sanders at CAR (43%)

— Kareem Hunt at LAC (43%)

— Michael Carter at ATL (43%)

— Damien Harris at HOU (40%)

Bench if possible: These backs are under 40% likely to net a top-24 result.

Jamaal Williams at MIN (39%); Cordarrelle Patterson vs. NYJ (35%); Latavius Murray vs. IND (34%); James Conner vs. SF (34%); Javonte Williams at PIT (34%); Melvin Gordon at PIT (34%); Tony Pollard vs. NYG (34%); Myles Gaskin at TB (33%); Joe Mixon vs. GB (31%); Devin Singletary at KC (29%); Trey Sermon at ARI (26%); Kenneth Gainwell at CAR (25%); Mark Ingram vs. NE (25%); Samaje Perine vs. GB (24%); Kenyan Drake vs. CHI (22%); Ronald Jones vs. MIA (21%); J.D. McKissic vs. NO (20%); Zack Moss at KC (19%).

WIDE RECEIVERS

Start with confidence: You’re starting these guys in a 12-team league.

— Davante Adams at CIN (70%)

— Tyreek Hill vs. BUF (69%)

— Cooper Kupp at SEA (66%)

— Justin Jefferson vs. DET (65%)

— Stefon Diggs at KC (63%)

— Calvin Ridley vs. NYJ (60%)

— DeAndre Hopkins vs. SF (59%)

— D.J. Moore vs. PHI (59%)

— D.K. Metcalf vs. LA (58%)

— CeeDee Lamb vs. NYG (57%)

— Amari Cooper vs. NYG (55%)

— Keenan Allen vs. CLE (54%)

— Deebo Samuel at ARI (52%)

— Tyler Lockett vs. LA (52%)

— Chris Godwin vs. MIA (51%)

Consider if needed: These players are more matchup dependent for Week 1 than the tier above but are likely where we are looking for a lot of our WR2, WR3, and FLEX plays this week.

— Brandin Cooks vs. NE (47%)

— Mike Evans vs. MIA (47%)

— Terry McLaurin vs. NO (47%)

— Tee Higgins vs. GB (46%)

— Ja’Marr Chase vs. GB (44%)

— Mike Williams vs. CLE (42%)

— Kenny Golladay at DAL (41%)

— Marvin Jones vs. TEN (39%)

— Adam Thielen vs. DET (39%)

— Diontae Johnson vs. DEN (38%)

— DeVonta Smith at CAR (38%)

— Courtland Sutton at PIT (36%)

— Jakobi Meyers at HOU (36%)

— Allen Robinson at LV (36%)

— Corey Davis at ATL (35%)

— Robert Woods at SEA (33%)

— Tyler Boyd vs. GB (33%)

— Michael Pittman Jr. at BAL (31%)

— Emmanuel Sanders at KC (30%)

— Odell Beckham at LAC (30%)

Bench if possible: These players finished as a WR2 or better under 30% of the time.

Antonio Brown vs. MIA (28%); Robby Anderson vs. PHI (28%); Marquise Brown vs. IND (28%); DeVante Parker at TB (27%); Cole Beasley at KC (26%); Laviska Shenault vs. TEN (26%); Darnell Mooney at LV (26%); Henry Ruggs vs. CHI (26%); Chase Claypool vs. DEN (25%); Jaylen Waddle at TB (23%); Curtis Samuel vs. NO (23%); Tim Patrick at PIT (21%); Kalif Raymond at MIN (19%); Rashard Higgins at LAC (18%); A.J. Green vs. SF (18%); Amon-Ra St. Brown at MIN (17%); Hunter Renfrow vs. CHI (17%); A.J. Brown at JAC (17%)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk); Christian Kirk vs. SF (17%); Jamison Crowder at ATL (17%); Brandon Aiyuk at ARI (16%); JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. DEN (15%); Nelson Agholor at HOU (15%).

TIGHT END

Start with confidence:

— Travis Kelce vs. BUF (80%)

— Darren Waller vs. CHI (75%)

— George Kittle at ARI (60%)

— Mark Andrews vs. IND (60%)

— T.J. Hockenson at MIN (54%)

Consider if needed: You’ll likely be starting these options if you don’t have a top-tier tight end.

— Kyle Pitts vs. NYJ (45%)

— Jared Cook vs. CLE (39%)

— Evan Engram at DAL (38%)

— Dalton Schultz vs. NYG (38%)

— Tyler Higbee at SEA (37%)

— Noah Fant at PIT (36%)

— Mike Gesicki at TB (35%)

— Dan Arnold vs. TEN (34%)

— Austin Hooper at LAC (33%)

— Dallas Goedert at CAR (31%)

— Robert Tonyan at CIN (31%)

Bench if possible: These tight ends aren’t in the starting conversation in 12-team leagues unless you’re desperate.

Dawson Knox at KC (29%); Cole Kmet at LV (28%); Zach Ertz at CAR (27%); Tyler Conklin vs. DET (27%); Hunter Henry at HOU (27%); Jonnu Smith at HOU (25%); Anthony Firkser at JAC (23%); Jordan Akins vs. NE (20%); Ricky Seals-Jones vs. NO (19%); Cameron Brate vs. MIA (19%); Gerald Everett vs. LA (19%); Jack Doyle at BAL (18%); Blake Jarwin vs. NYG (18%); C.J. Uzomah vs. GB (17%); O.J. Howard vs. MIA (17%); Maxx Williams vs. SF (15%).

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