We’re four weeks in, and things are slowly coming into focus. I’ve always said four games can give a good snapshot of a player’s fantasy value. Yes, turnarounds happen—for better and for worse—but my column focuses on who you should start or sit in Week 5, not for the rest of the season. The best way to figure that out is by looking at the previous four weeks.
Keep in mind: Some teams may appear better at defending certain positions. For example, the Cardinals have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. On the surface, that may make George Kittle seem like a riskier start. However, let’s take a look at the top-scoring tight ends against Arizona each week: Anthony Firkser, Tyler Conklin, Jacob Hollister, and Tyler Higbee. That’s not great. My point is you should dive deeper into the numbers when evaluating players this early in the season. You may have a better idea of a player’s true value, but nothing is truly predictable in fantasy football.
On that note, let’s predict some football games! As always, I identified one player to start and sit at each position with a few alternative options. Let me know what you think on Twitter @ZachCohenFB, I’m more than happy to help you out!
I also included OwnersBox prices to give you an idea of each player’s value. If you haven’t signed up yet, playing on OwnersBox is easier than scoring unanswered points against the Falcons! All jokes aside, visit OwnersBox.com or download the OwnersBox app on iOS or Android and use the promo code Drew9 today and you'll get a free $10 entry into the $25K NFL Week 5 Contest.
Start: Sam Darnold vs. PHI ($6,400)
Don’t look now, but Darnold is the overall QB5. He’s averaging just under 24 points per game and he’s been reborn under Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. For as solid as he’s looked, Darnold has also made an impact on the ground. We know how huge that is in fantasy football. He’s scored two rushing touchdowns in each of the last two games. This is likely due to Christian McCaffrey’s absence, though. While I expect Darnold to regress a bit, he’s still been productive enough to slot him in your lineups.
Other Players to Consider: Trey Lance, Daniel Jones, Ryan Tannehill
Sit: Justin Fields @ LV ($5,700)
The Fields fanfare has quickly died down. After a colossally hyped-up debut two weeks ago, Fields has since put up 11.2 points in two starts. Now, I get that Fields probably isn’t starting in most leagues. It’s just tough to choose a quarterback outside the normal top-12 since they all deserve a starting spot. But if you’re one of the few souls stuck deciding whether to start Fields, you should hold off until he proves he can be a reliable fantasy asset. A lot of that depends on how good the Bears’ offense can be, too.
Other Players to Consider: Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield
Start: Leonard Fournette vs. MIA ($5,200)
This one was almost too easy. Fournette should feast against a Dolphins defense that’s allowed the third-most points to opposing running backs in fantasy. Among the many things not going Miami’s way, they’ve been extremely susceptible to big fantasy performances. Peyton Barber scored 23.2 points on them, Devin Singletary scored 17.1, and Jonathan Taylor just scored 20.4. I know Fournette is only RB26, but he’s seen more involvement than Jones in recent weeks. Fournette has played 58% of the Buccaneers' snaps to Jones’ 20%. Fournette is also averaging a solid 4-5 targets a game. A positive game script should work in his favor, too. If Fournette doesn’t ball out, then I may just quit fantasy football altogether. (Yeah, right.)
Other Players to Consider: Damien Williams, Kareem Hunt, Cordarrelle Patterson
Sit: Melvin Gordon @ PIT ($5,200)
If you roster one or both of the Broncos’ running backs, let me offer my sincerest condolences. Gordon hasn’t been bad, but I’m sure he’s been a massive headache to own. After all, he and Javonte Williams have split backfield work almost right down the middle. While Gordon has seen five more carries and two more targets, he’s just been better than Williams. It’s still not enough to make Gordon a safe play, though. It doesn’t help that the Steelers have the fourth-toughest defense versus fantasy running backs. The Broncos’ offense looked lost last week against the Ravens—who were easily the best team Denver’s faced thus far. I can’t imagine their offense finding their stride against Pittsburgh’s defense, hence leading to less usage of their running backs. Gordon is best kept on your bench.
Other Players to Consider: Zack Moss, Michael Carter, Damien Harris
Start: Corey Davis @ ATL ($5,700)
It’s alive! The Jets’ offense showed signs of life against the Titans last weekend en route to their first win. As an encore, they travel to London to face the Falcons. And the Falcons defense… isn’t very good. They’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. That bodes very well for Davis, who has become Zach Wilson’s favorite target. He’s averaging more than seven targets per game and has finished as a WR1 twice this season (in 12-man, PPR formats). For what it’s worth, Jamison Crowder is also a solid play, especially since Atlanta’s starting nickel cornerback, Isaiah Oliver, is out for the season. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I expect the Jets passing offense to have a good day. It has to happen more than once, right? Just don’t forget to set your lineups before kick-off at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Other Players to Consider: Jaylen Waddle, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow
Sit: Odell Beckham Jr. @ LAC ($5,400)
When Jarvis Landry went down, there was a lot of positive commotion about Beckham. After a fine 13-point performance in Week 3, Beckham barely grazed five points against the Vikings in Week 4. Even though he and Rashard Higgins led the team with seven targets, Beckham only caught two of them. I think it’s connected back to the bigger issue at hand: Beckham just doesn’t fit in Cleveland’s offense. He’s yet to recapture his glory days as a Giant, especially in an offense that centers around the run game. Landry is perfect because he’s more of a possession receiver. Beckham isn’t. It’s hard to start a player who’s playing in the wrong offense for his skill set. Unless you’re desperate, keep Beckham out of your lineups against the Chargers—who are the No. 1 defense versus fantasy wide receivers.
Other Players to Consider: DeVonta Smith, Robby Anderson, Brandon Aiyuk
Start: Dawson Knox @ KC ($4,600)
At this point, I’ve written so much about Knox that I’m surprised I even have to list him as a starter. He’s only 14th in targets among the position, so there is a bit of risk with starting him. However, among tight ends to see at least half of his team’s snaps, Knox is fifth in PPR points per snap. Translation: He’s a real threat in the Bills’ offense. He’s also TE6 so far. Even if he doesn’t find the end zone, you can still expect a floor of 8-9 points. That makes him a better option than all but six-to-seven tight ends. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed roughly six catches and 80 yards to tight ends per game. I’m not saying Knox will reach that threshold, but it makes him even more worthy of a spot in your lineup.
Other Players to Consider: Mike Gesicki, Dalton Schultz
Sit: Robert Tonyan @ CIN ($3,800)
It’s come to the point where you should probably consider dropping Tonyan. Excluding his 14-point Week 2 performance, Tonyan has 7.2 points all season—and even that great game was inflated because he had just one touchdown on three targets. Sure, it was nice to see Tonyan get seven targets against Pittsburgh, but he only caught two of them. His usage is too low, so if you start him, you’re banking on a touchdown. That’s too risky. Don’t start Tonyan, and consider dropping him for Knox, Mike Gesicki, or Dalton Schultz.
Other Players to Consider: Austin Hooper, C.J. Uzomah