Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Deshaun Watsons, Austin Ekelers, and Chris Godwins of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Matt Ryan at Texans: Ryan comes into Week 5 as the overall QB7 with 25% of the season in the books. But he’s coming off an empty 397 yards on 53 attempts last week against the Titans in an embarrassing home loss. Weeks 1-3, Ryan tossed multiple touchdowns with 300-plus yards in all three starts. The Falcons lead the league in pass attempts and pass-play percentage (72.37%), so no matter the game script, Ryan has been paying off as a weekly fantasy start. The Texans are 11th in pass-defense DVOA and 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but have faced the sixth-most pass attempts. However, their schedule hasn’t exactly been littered with premier offenses. Houston has faced Kyle Allen and Gardner Minshew, along with the molasses-slow Chargers in Week 3 and Saints in Week 1. Drew Brees is the only one with a top-12 week. Both the Falcons (No. 5) and Texans (No. 13) are in the top half of the league in offensive pace. In a week with very few good-looking games from a pace and points lens, this one stands out. The 49-point total is the third-highest on the board. The Texans’ cornerback trio of Johnathan Joseph, Bradley Roby, and Lonnie Johnson all have negative coverage grades at Pro Football Focus. Julio Jones should light up this defense.
Andy Dalton vs. Cardinals: Dalton enters Sunday as the overall QB19 after a round of disastrous performances following his impressive Week 1 in Seattle. The latest was a miserable 171 scoreless yards and one interception across 37 attempts (4.62 YPA) against the Steelers this past Monday night. Dalton is fourth in the league in pass attempts and sixth in yards but has just five touchdowns to four picks. Sunday’s opponent, Kyler Murray is third in attempts. Murray has absorbed a league-high 20 sacks, and Dalton is right on his heels with 19 after taking eight in Week 4. We know this game is likely to feature plenty of plays, as both clubs are top 12 in offensive pace. And the Cardinals are 28th in opponent plays per game. At the very least, we should see high volume. Efficiency is a whole other question, however, but the volume is enough to chase Dalton as a fantasy streaming option. The Cardinals are 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 31st in touchdown passes surrendered while failing to record an interception. Kyle Allen hung four touchdowns on Arizona en route to the QB6 day in Week 3. Lamar Jackson was the QB2 in Week 2 after Matthew Stafford put up the QB4 afternoon in the opener. Russell Wilson completed over 78% of his throws last week in Arizona but tossed just one score as the QB17. Dalton’s supporting cast is a concern following the loss of John Ross (collarbone, I.R.) and continued absence of A.J. Green (ankle), but the Cardinals have shown no ability to contain any opponent. Tyler Boyd should feast inside, while Auden Tate has a distinct size advantage as a red-zone threat. We already know the Cardinals can’t defend tight ends, and Joe Mixon will also be a dual-threat out of the backfield. The 47.5-point total for Cardinals-Bengals is the week’s fourth-highest. Cincy’s implied total of 25.25 is seventh-best.
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Jacoby Brissett at Chiefs: Quietly, Brissett is fantasy’s QB10 with a quarter of the season in the books. He has multiple touchdown passes in all four starts and has seen his pass attempts climb each week from 27 > 28 > 37 > 46. Ideally for the Colts, Brissett wouldn’t throw the ball the 46 times he did last week in a home loss to the Raiders, but this spot against the Chiefs sets up as a likely similar comeback mode-driven one. Kansas City is a whopping 11-point favorite, and this game features, by far, the highest total of Week 5 at 56 points. The Chiefs field a plus defense, but teams fall behind them so often that quarterbacks typically have to throw it when chasing points. The Chiefs are 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and are fresh off surrendering the QB6 day to Matthew Stafford in Week 4. Lamar Jackson and the Jaguars’ duo of Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew also have top-10 weeks versus Kansas City. The Chiefs are 24th in opponent plays per game and play at the fourth-quickest offensive pace, leading to more possessions for the opposition. T.Y. Hilton (quad) returned to a limited practice Thursday. If he can suit up Sunday night, it will be an even bigger boost to Brissett’s stock after Hilton missed Week 4. Indy’s offensive line is No. 7 in adjusted sack rate, so Brissett has had plenty of clean pockets. Brissett doesn’t feel comfortable, but he’s an appetizing streamer.
Jameis Winston at Saints: This was a toss-up between Winston and Kyler Murray. But I’m going with the quarterback who is playing better right now, with a better offensive line and supporting cast, who is also playing in a friendly dome environment. Murray has the dual-threat skill set facing a worse defense, but his offensive line is putrid and Arizona just lost Christian Kirk (ankle) to injury. Winston absolutely unloaded on the Rams last Sunday in an upset 55-40 victory, posting 385 yards and four touchdowns en route to the QB1 afternoon. Winston is now the overall QB9 after a shaky start to the year. This isn’t the Bucs-Saints high-paced, light-up-the-scoreboard matchups we’ve been used to, mainly because the Saints are playing ball-control offense at a molasses-slow pace (30th) with game manager Teddy Bridgewater under center. The Saints are still 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 26th in pass-defense DVOA despite their strong Week 4 showing against Dak Prescott. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin form arguably the highest-ceiling receiver duo in the NFL. This game’s 46.5-point total is the sixth-highest on the board. Winston is squarely in the QB1 crosshairs.
Daniel Jones vs. Vikings: Jones hung the overall QB2 day on the Bucs in his NFL debut two weeks back but followed it up with the QB17 afternoon last week in a letdown against the Redskins. The rookie tossed a pair of ugly picks, but the Giants dominated Washington and had no reason to push the tempo. Minnesota presents a much stiffer test than either Tampa or Washington posed, as the Vikings are 10th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 16th in pass-defense DVOA. Jones at least gets Golden Tate back from suspension to give him a full complement of pass-game assets, joining Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Attacking Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith on top of the Vikings’ pass rushers isn’t something I’d actively be looking to do for fantasy purposes in a game with a 43.5-point total, the fourth-lowest of Week 5. The Giants’ implied team total of 19 is better than only four other teams.
Philip Rivers vs. Broncos: Rivers and the Chargers took a bit to get rolling in Miami last week, but the 38-year-old still finished with 301 yards and two scores as the QB9 for Week 4. Rivers is the QB11 on the season and has been more than fine as a locked-in weekly top-12 play. This is Rivers’ least appetizing draw to date, however. The Broncos and Chargers are both top-five in opponent plays per game while the Chargers play at the second-slowest offensive pace. Those two together screams of a low-volume passing day on both sides of the ball. Further, the Bolts are heavy 6.5-point home favorites getting Melvin Gordon back from his holdout. The Chargers may just choose to stick the ball in the bellies of Gordon and Austin Ekeler, while Rivers flirts with 20-25 attempts. He would need to produce a lofty touchdown rate to pay off as a one-QB league start. The Broncos are No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, facing the third-fewest attempts. This game’s 44.5-point total is on the lower side of things for Week 5.
Baker Mayfield at 49ers: Mayfield is coming off his best game of the first four weeks of the season after throwing for 342 yards and one score in an upset road win over the Ravens. He still finished as just the QB14 and is the QB23 on the season. The Browns now get to travel all the way across the country to face a 49ers team well rested off their bye. San Francisco is No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 9 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Niners put the clamps on Jameis Winston in Week 1 before having no issues with Andy Dalton and Mason Rudolph their other two contests. This will be a bigger test than the Bengals and Steelers, but it’s not like the Browns have been firing on all cylinders. The Browns play at the league’s fifth-slowest pace while the Niners are No. 7 in opponent plays per game. Jarvis Landry is in the concussion protocol and didn’t practice Thursday, and David Njoku remains out with a broken wrist. Rashard Higgins hasn’t been healthy since Week 1. Cleveland is leaning heavily on Nick Chubb right now, and he’s probably this offense’s best bet to neutralize a stellar pass rush that should eat up the Browns’ offensive line. Mayfield has yet to toss multiple scores in a game.
Start of the Week: Joe Mixon vs. Cardinals: This likely feels like a no-brainer after Mixon was consistently a second-round fantasy pick over the summer, but to date Mixon has severely disappointed as the overall RB37. Last year’s AFC rushing leader, Mixon has just one touchdown to his name and has yet to even sniff 100 rushing yards in a game. The Cincinnati offensive line is 31st in yards created, opening up no running lanes. Mixon has also battled a bit of an ankle issue but is no longer on the injury report. The good news is Arizona’s run defense is as bad as the Bengals’ offensive line. The Cardinals are surrendering a mediocre 4.35 yards per carry to running backs. Chris Carson rebounded last week against them with 145 yards on 26 touches. Christian McCaffrey had 188 yards and a touchdown the previous game. And with John Ross (collarbone, I.R.) out and A.J. Green (ankle) still sidelined, the offense is even more concentrated and narrow for the Bengals. The vast majority of things should go through Tyler Boyd and Mixon, who could get even more involved in the passing game moving forward. He’s already proved to be a three-down back with plus pass-game chops. Mixon caught a score against the Bills in Week 3. This game features two of the 12 fastest-paced offenses, and the Cardinals are 28th in opponent plays per game. The 47.5-point total for Arizona-Cincinnati is the fourth-highest of Week 5, while the Bengals’ implied total of 25.25 is seventh-best. As a home favorite against an atrocious defense, Mixon should actually have a shot at 20-plus touches.
David Montgomery vs. Raiders: After playing just 38% of the snaps and seeing seven touches in the Week 1 opener, Montgomery has been in on 60.1% of the downs. Weeks 2-4, Montgomery has touch counts of 19 > 16 > 24. In that same span, Tarik Cohen has touch totals of 6 > 6 > 7 while Mike Davis has played a total of 16 snaps and zero in Week 4. Davis has been phased out of the offense, and Montgomery has been taking a larger piece of the pie. We’ve still yet to see Montgomery break out for that big game, but it’s coming sooner than later. Perhaps in this trip across the pond in London. Montgomery is currently the RB35 in half-PPR points per game. But his recent usage suggests we should be locking Montgomery into fantasy lineups as an every-week RB2 with upside. The Raiders have been pretty solid against the run to date, checking in at No. 9 in run-defense DVOA and 14th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. They’re fresh off shutting down Marlon Mack in Indy last week. However, Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison had a ton of success against them Week 3, combining for 168 yards and two scores on 28 carries. The Broncos’ backfield tandem of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman averaged a healthy 4.62 yards per carry on 21 totes Week 1. This game’s 40.5-point total is the lowest on the board for Week 5, but with Chase Daniel under center for the Bears in place of an injured Mitchell Trubisky, I expect the Bears to lean even more on Montgomery as 5.5-point favorites. The Raiders losing LB Vontaze Burfict to suspension also helps his cause.
Devonta Freeman at Texans: Much like Joe Mixon above, Freeman has been a major disappointment as an early-round fantasy pick. He’s the overall RB35 with four games in the books. Freeman has yet to score a touchdown and is 41st in red-zone carries. Only one of those four red-zone totes has come inside the 10 and none inside the five. He and Ito Smith have the same amount of inside-the-20 attempts, but Smith has two from five yards and in and converted one into a touchdown. Freeman is still out-snapping and out-touching Smith by a pretty significant margin, and things are bound to swing in his favor sooner than later. Freeman is averaging 16 touches and 65 yards per game. The ceiling isn’t high for Freeman in this pass-happy offense running behind an injury-riddled offensive line, but the floor is there thanks to volume. After catching eight balls last week, Freeman now gets a Texans Defense that has yielded the most catches to running backs. He has a bankable share of the pass-game work over Smith. Christian McCaffrey led the Panthers in receiving last week, turning 37 total touches into 179 yards and a score. The week before, Austin Ekeler was second on the Chargers in receiving with seven grabs while he and Justin Jackson combined for 111 yards. Alvin Kamara had seven catches versus Houston in Week 1. A progression to the mean in the touchdown department makes Freeman an attractive buy-low. This game sports a juicy 49-point total, the second-highest on the board, and two offenses in the top 13 in pace.
Jordan Howard vs. Jets: This feels an awful lot like points chasing with Howard after his Week 4 explosion in Green Bay when he hung 115 yards and three touchdowns on 18 touches on the Packers. But Howard played a season-high 53.2% of the snaps last Thursday night while Miles Sanders has been in on just 34.6% of the plays the last two weeks after playing 45.5% Weeks 1-2. Sanders may be concentrating more on kickoff returns after leaving plenty of yards on the field. He’ll still be involved on offense and makes for a FLEX option in this spot. But Howard appears to be taking the lead run-game role in this backfield. The spot just sets up perfectly for the Eagles to hammer the Jets via the ground. Philly is 13.5-point home favorites, putting multiple touchdowns and 18-plus touches back in Howard’s realm of possibilities. Running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, volume upside gives Howard the green light as an RB2 with an even higher ceiling. He finished as the overall RB2 behind only Nick Chubb last week. The Eagles’ implied team total of 28.5 points is the third-highest of the week.
Josh Jacobs vs. Bears: Jacobs had a usable Week 4 in a surprise win over the Colts, totaling 108 scoreless yards on 19 touches. It was good enough for the overall RB21 performance. The bad news is Jacobs’ fantasy success is largely tied to the Raiders winning. If they fall behind at all, Jacobs comes off the field in favor of Jalen Richard, coach Jon Gruden’s preferred pass-game back. Gruden has talked about wanting to get Jacobs more involved in the pass game, but he again ran just 13 routes last week in Indy and is averaging 11.25 per game. His two catches last week were Jacobs’ first since Week 1. And he hasn’t visited the end zone since the opener. Jacobs now gets to square off with a Chicago defense that is top five in both run-defense DVOA and fantasy points allowed to running backs. Opposing backs are averaging just 3.05 yards per carry against the Bears with one total touchdown. They suffocated Dalvin Cook last week, holding him to 35 yards and a short score on 14 carries. Cook was able to raise his floor by catching six passes, but that’s something Jacobs hasn’t shown to this point. The Raiders are sizable 5.5-point underdogs in London with an implied 17.75 team total, the third-worst of Week 5. In the Raiders’ two losses, Jacobs is averaging a measly 11 touches with fantasy finishes of RB26 and RB44 against the Chiefs and Vikings, respectively.
Carlos Hyde vs. Falcons: Hyde enters Week 5 as the overall RB28 and has out-touched Duke Johnson 57-31 after four weeks. Hyde has a clearly defined role as an early-down between-the-tackles bruiser who offers next to nothing in the pass game, but that role has been enough to keep him afloat as a low-ceiling RB3. Johnson, meanwhile, has settled into RB4 territory. The Falcons are No. 7 in run-defense DVOA and 13th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Stud DT Grady Jarrett has also remained in the lineup playing through an elbow injury and has been absolute nails against the run. The Falcons are surrendering just 3.97 yards per carry to opposing backs. This feels more like a Johnson game. Atlanta annually struggles to cover running backs in the pass game, and this game’s 49-point total has a shootout feel to it. As long as the Falcons keep it close or have a lead, perhaps Johnson will get more opportunities to make plays. Hyde simply has to luck into a goal-line touchdown to cash as a fantasy start. He’s not an accruer of yards with heavy volume. Houston’s pass game is in a much better spot. If forced to pick between Hyde and Johnson, I’d lean Johnson this week.
Royce Freeman at Chargers: Freeman played a season-best 61.8% of the snaps last week against the Jaguars and ran 21 pass routes, but he saw a season-low 10 touches in the loss, turning them into 40 scoreless yards. The Broncos are using an even-split two-back rotation in the backfield with Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. Neither has a defined role as the preferred runner or pass-game option; they simply rotate series. It’s good for making both viable RB3/FLEX plays with upside for more in positive scripts, but this looks like a spot to fade largely due to its slow pace and projected low play volume. The Chargers are No. 1 in opponent plays per game (55.5) and play at the second-slowest offensive pace. That severely caps the upside of the opposition’s offense. Denver is on the pass-heavy side of things as an offense as well. It doesn’t look to be more than 10-12 touches out there for Freeman in a slogging AFC West game that features a 44.5-point total. And Denver’s implied total of 19 is the fifth-lowest. The Chargers aren’t great against the run by any means, but the Broncos are likely to be chasing.
Start of the Week: Will Fuller vs. Falcons: Fuller is 12th in the NFL in air yards (399) but has just 183 real-life receiving yards to show for it with zero touchdowns. Something's got to give with him. Fuller is seeing consistent targets with 7 > 7 > 6 the last three weeks but has faced three legit secondaries in the Jaguars, Chargers, and Panthers in that span. Fuller was tackled at the three-yard line in Week 3 and had a would-be 75-yard touchdown slightly overthrown and go off his fingertips last Sunday. The big game is near, and I’d prefer to be out in front of it rather than reacting to it. The Falcons are 21st in pass-defense DVOA and 20th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Top CB Desmond Trufant should see a lot of DeAndre Hopkins in this one, leaving Fuller to work on first-year starter Isaiah Oliver, a 2018 second-round pick. Oliver ran 4.50 coming out of Colorado and is billed more as a press corner with plus size at 6’/201. Fuller, or course, blazed a 4.32 forty at the 2016 Combine and has looked like his normal fast self coming off knee surgery. Oliver is surrendering 13 yards per catch and a 127.6 passer rating with three touchdowns in his coverage. Houston’s implied team total of 27 points is the fourth-highest of Week 5. And this game’s 49-point total is second-best behind Colts-Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Playing in a friendly home dome environment, Fuller has breakout written all over him.
Larry Fitzgerald at Bengals: After being near the top of the league in air yards after Week 2, Fitzgerald has tumbled all the way to No. 31 among receivers in the category as the Cardinals have completely taken the air out of the ball with a boat load of short passes at the line of scrimmage. The targets are still there for Fitzgerald with 36 through four games, however, and now Christian Kirk (team-high 37 targets) is out with an ankle injury. The tentative expectation is Pharoh Cooper will replace Kirk in the slot opposite Fitzgerald while KeeSean Johnson and Trent Sherfield soak up outside reps in four-WR sets. None of Cooper, Johnson, or Sherfield project as high-volume options, leaving Fitzgerald and David Johnson as the main veins of the offense. It would be an upset if Fitzgerald didn’t draw 10-plus targets Sunday against a Bengals Defense that is 31st in pass-defense DVOA. Both these teams are top-three in pass-play percentage and top-12 in offensive pace, so there should be plenty of plays in this one. Cardinals-Bengals sports a 47.5-point total, the fourth-highest of Week 5. After posting the overall WR39 finish Weeks 3-4, this is a get-right smash spot for Fitzgerald as a WR2.
Calvin Ridley at Texans: After posting a combined 12-169-2 line Weeks 1-2, Ridley has strung together back-to-back tough outings, going 1-6 on one target Week 3 against the Colts and 3-32 last week against the Titans. Mohamed Sanu has totaled 15 catches for 166 yards the last two weeks. The good news is Ridley’s playing time remains steady at a 75% clip while Sanu maintains his around 78-80%. Nothing has changed there. I’m chalking it up more to the ebbs and flows of the season. This is a bounce-back spot against the Texans, who have surrendered the fourth-most catches for the ninth-most yards to opposing wideouts. Their cornerback trio of Johnathan Joseph, Bradley Roby, and Lonnie Johnson all have poor coverage marks at Pro Football Focus. While Julio Jones should feast, there’s enough meat on the bone for Ridley to rebound as well. Falcons wideouts have distinct speed advantages versus this secondary. We want parts of this game. Falcons-Texans has a 49-point total, the second-highest of Week 5.
Phillip Dorsett at Redskins: Operating as the Patriots’ clear third wideout now that Antonio Brown is out of town, Dorsett was in on 62% of the snaps against the Bills last week and ran 32 routes, his second-most to date. Dorsett was targeted nine times in Buffalo, second on the team only to James White, and two more than both Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon. Dorsett didn’t do much with those looks, securing just two for 10 scoreless yards, but Tom Brady didn’t have a whole lot of room to throw against the Bills’ top-notch defense. The Redskins’ defense is as bad as the Bills’ is good, so this is a nice rebound spot for everyone in New England’s pass game. The Redskins are 29th in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Taylor Gabriel of all people just caught three touchdowns against this unit in Week 3 after going almost a full calendar year without a score. All three of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Devin Smith had at least 68 yards and/or one touchdown the previous week. And DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery each scored two touchdowns against the Skins in the opener. Dorsett needs to be owned in every format and fired up as a high-ceiling WR2/3. New England’s implied team total of 28.75 points is the second-highest of Week 5.
D.J. Chark at Panthers: Chark leads the Jaguars in air yards and is the overall WR8 in fantasy to this point. He’s drawn target counts of 9 > 5 > 8 in Gardner Minshew’s three starts. Chark was held out of the end zone last week in Denver but did have an 18-yard score negated by a penalty. Chark scored each of the first three weeks. Those lofty touchdown numbers are largely driving Chark’s WR1 status. He’ll draw a stiff test this Sunday against Panthers top CB James Bradberry, whose 6’1/212 size, long arms, and plus athleticism should match up well with 6’4/198 size-speed freak Chark. Bradberry is Bradberry is Pro Football Focus’ No. 17 cover corner out of 107 qualifiers and has yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage while quarterbacks have a miserable 35.4 passer rating targeting him. Bradberry is fresh off shutting down DeAndre Hopkins (2-18) on five targets last week. Mike Evans (3-61 on six targets) and Robert Woods (1-11 on three targets, INT) have also struggled versus Bradberry. The 41-point total for Jaguars-Panthers is the second-lowest of the week. Jacksonville’s implied team total of 18.75 is fourth-lowest on the board. Carolina is No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA and sixth in fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts.
Tyrell Williams vs. Bears: I keep betting against Williams, but he keeps scoring touchdowns. He’s the only player in the league with a touchdown catch in all four games. The Gazelle is doing it on relatively low volume while also playing through injuries with one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks. Williams is averaging fewer than six targets per game the last three weeks and has a total of 111 yards in that span. Take out the touchdowns and Williams is putting up 3.7 catches for 37 yards across the Raiders’ last three games. He’s expected to play through a foot issue this Sunday in London, but at less than 100% against the best defense in the league with a scary-low yardage floor has me looking elsewhere for options where I own Williams. He’s expected to see plenty of CBs Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara on the outside. Chicago is No. 6 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 9 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. And this game features two of the 10 slowest offenses in football with an ugly 40.5-point total.
Terry McLaurin vs. Patriots: McLaurin missed Week 4 against the Giants with a hamstring injury but feels much better and returned to get in a round of practices this week. He’s fully expected to suit up against New England. The question remains who will be throwing him the ball. Case Keenum is in a walking boot, Dwayne Haskins was horrendous in relief last week, and Colt McCoy has barely practiced since last season after breaking his leg. It likely won’t even matter who is under center. McLaurin is expected to draw Stephon Gilmore’s coverage much of the afternoon. Gilmore has turned himself into the league’s best corner. The Patriots are No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Opposing No. 1 receivers have struggled against the Patriots, as John Brown went 5-69-0 last Sunday, Robby Anderson 3-11-0 in Week 3, DeVante Parker 0-0 the previous week, and JuJu Smith-Schuster had a garbage time-aided 6-78-0 in the opener. McLaurin is off limits for me at less than 100% health against a top-two defense. Washington’s implied team total of 13.75 points is the week’s lowest.
Start of the Week: Jack Doyle at Chiefs: With T.Y. Hilton (quad) out of the lineup last week, the Colts used more “12” personnel, featuring two tight ends. Doyle played a season-high 72.7% of the snaps with 33 pass routes in a game the Colts were chasing points. Doyle has been in on 70% of Indy’s offensive snaps this season and remains the better fantasy bet between he and Eric Ebron. Ebron has played just over 43% of the downs. If choosing one of these tight ends, I’d prefer the one who is on the field more. And with the Colts expected to chase points again this week, Doyle is squarely in play as a streamer. He’s second on the Colts in both red-zone targets and targets inside the 10-yard line, trailing only Hilton. The Chiefs have surrendered the most catches for the fifth-most yards to tight ends. Lions rookie T.J. Hockenson visited the end zone against them last week. Ravens TEs combined for 9-87-0 in Week 3. Darren Waller produced 6-63-0 the week before, and the Jaguars’ duo of James O’Shaughnessy and Geoff Swaim combined for eight grabs in the opener. This game’s 56-point total is the week’s highest.
Tyler Eifert vs. Cardinals: This is probably the first real true blind dive into the TEs-versus-the-Cardinals theory. Arizona has been absolute set on fire by opposing tight ends through four weeks, giving up the most catches, yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points to the position. Every tight end that has faced them has exceeded expectations. But Eifert isn’t an every-down player by any means and has only been in on 41.1% of the Bengals’ snaps. The good news is he’s ran a respectable 90 routes on that low snap share and has drawn at least five targets in 3-of-4 games. With John Ross (collarbone, I.R.) and A.J. Green (ankle) out, the target tree narrows for the Bengals. Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon should do most of the heavy lifting, but Eifert and Auden Tate have major size advantages and are big-time red-zone threats. Eifert had a potential touchdown go off his hands in the end zone last week against the Steelers. If he’d have reeled that in, Eifert would be a no-brainer fantasy play and heavily-owned DFS proposition. He should still be treated as a quality season-long streamer. Every No. 1 tight end to face the Cardinals this season has scored a touchdown. For those looking to be contrarian, C.J. Uzomah is even worth a dart throw in DFS tournaments. Uzomah has played 55.2% of the snaps, and maybe the Bengals feature more two-TE sets in the absence of Ross. Cardinals-Bengals, as noted above, has the week’s fourth-highest total at 47.5 points.
Jared Cook vs. Bucs: Cook has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments with a quarter of the season wrapped up. He’s the overall TE33 and has yet to even sniff the end zone after being talked up all summer. Losing Drew Brees didn’t help the cause by any means, and the Saints are now playing at the third-slowest offensive pace. Cook has reverted to his old drop-prone self recently and has produced zero big-time plays. A sliver of hope is Cook was targeted six times last week against the Cowboys and is playing 65% of the snaps. Teddy Bridgewater also doesn’t challenge downfield at all, which theoretically funnels more passes inside and in the short areas of the field where tight ends typically work. Cook also draws a glorious matchup against a Bucs defense that has allowed the third-most catches, second-most yards, and second-most fantasy points to tight ends. Tight end isn’t deep at all, so there are far worse options than rolling with Cook in a plus spot at home in the friendly Superdome.
Dawson Knox vs. Titans: After going 3-67-1 against the Bengals in Week 3, Knox saw his playing time spike to 67.1% last week versus New England. Tyler Kroft remains out for the Bills with lower-leg injuries, and Knox is taking advantage. Only eight tight ends have ran more pass routes than Knox after four weeks. The Titans surprisingly have struggled to cover tight ends, yielding the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Austin Hooper hung a 9-130 line on Tennessee last week. And all three of James O’Shaughnessy, Eric Ebron, and David Njoku caught touchdowns against the Titans the previous three weeks. Knox tested extremely well athletically at the Combine and has a chance to develop into a far better pro than college player.
Noah Fant at Chargers: Fant caught his first NFL touchdown last week against the Jaguars and is top 10 in routes run among tight ends. He’s playing 70% of the Broncos’ snaps. The bad news is Fant has yet to top 37 yards in a game and has somewhat settled in as a three catches for 30 yards type right now in this anemic offense. The Chargers don’t exactly present a breakout opportunity. They’ve allowed the 13th-fewest catches for the 12th-fewest yards to tight ends, and Los Angeles is No. 1 in opponent plays per game. Volume is unlikely to come Fant’s way in this one. He looks safe for 5-6 PPR points, but there doesn’t appear to be much upside.
James O’Shaughnessy at Panthers: This paints the picture of the sad state of the tight end position, as O’Shaughnessy enters Week 5 as the current TE14. He has 11 catches for 96 yards on the year but has scored in back-to-back games. Lumbering O’Shaughnessy leads the Jaguars in red-zone targets with four. A poor man’s Will Dissly, O’Shaughnessy has played 65% of the offensive snaps and catches short touchdowns in the scoring area. The bad news is the Panthers have suffocated tight ends, surrendering the fewest yards and fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position. The 41-point total for Jaguars-Panthers is the week’s second-lowest, and Jacksonville’s implied team total of 18.75 is better than only the Redskins, Jets, and Raiders.
Jason Witten vs. Packers: If you like tight ends that catch 3-4 passes for 35-45 yards and might flirt with a touchdown, then by all means Witten is in play. He’s seen exactly four targets -- no more, no less -- in all four games and has caught all but two of them. Witten is a mere safety blanket in the short areas of the field where Dak Prescott can make easy completions. The Packers have handled tight ends relatively well, allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position. Michael Gallup (knee) is also back for the Cowboys, widening the target tree. We can do worse than Witten, but we can also do better. He’s merely a mid-range, low-ceiling TE2.