Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 7
With nearly half of the fantasy football season in the books, your hopes and dreams of 2018 success are at a pivotal moment. In most formats, the worst teams can still dream of a 7-6 finish while I know some of you are chasing the perfect season. Let’s mix up a little start-sit magic and grab wins for everyone.
Catering to all formats is impossible, but I’ll do my best to provide context as I go. The ECR given is for standard leagues since that’s what we are scored on. Please note that I’m using Tuesday night’s ECR and updates will surely roll in from Wednesday morning on, as well as injury news. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on against the consensus within a start/sit range from 10- to 14-teamers, or so. Let’s dive in.
Andrew Luck (vs. BUF): Mariano Rank: 8, ECR: 11
Luck squares off with a serious Bills defense in Week 7, but if Luck gets T.Y. Hilton and/or Jack Doyle back then I might just move Mr. Andrew up another slot or two. The Colts boast the fastest offense in the league, averaging a play every 23.14 seconds with the ball — good for more than one second above the Ravens’ second-place 24.51 rate. Those worried about the pace dropping with a lead will be happy to see their 25.7 seconds per play with a lead of seven points or more, which checks in as sixth-fastest. Marlon Mack is here, sure, but Buffalo hasn’t allowed a rusher to top 80 yards yet. The BUF-IND tilt opened with a 42.5 total and has already risen to 43.5 at some Vegas books. I’m here for the passing game.
Joe Flacco (vs. NO): MR: 13, ECR: 15
So, about that second-fastest offense. Flacco is on the cusp of startable territory in 12-team leagues, and I would have no problem firing him up in a favorable matchup at home. The game’s Vegas projected total is still sitting around 50 — making it one of four games to beat that mark. We’ll continue to lean into this next point, but the Saints defense is ranked first in team Defense-adjusted Value Over Average per FootballOutsiders against the run and 30th against the pass. Flacco has averaged 44 pass attempts per game as he looks to turn in his first game with three passing TDs since Week 1.
Deshaun Watson (at JAC): MR: 22, ECR: 16
One can easily draw parallels between Dak Prescott and Watson with their mobility and think that if Dallas can put up 40 on the Jags then Watson should be fine. I respect the risk-takers out there, but that’s not for me. Jacksonville had a terrible, awful, no-good day in Week 6 but have still held five-of-six QBs to under 250 passing yards, with the sixth being Patrick Mahomes who had zero TDs and two INTs. True to his injury reports, Watson also rushed a season-low two times for two yards in Week 6 against Buffalo.
Baker Mayfield (at TB): MR: 17, ECR: 14
In case you missed it, Tampa Bay’s defense has been a laughing stock in 2018. Chris Conte getting stiff-armed into the River Styx epitomized it well. But they’ve at least given their defensive unit a chance by firing defensive coordinator Mike Smith, elevating their linebackers coach into the role.
Meanwhile, Mayfield was brilliant in his NFL debut against the Jets, imprinting us all with a heroic image (thanks a lot, anchoring bias) compounded with the shiny-new-toy syndrome. Jarvis Landry is great and David Njoku is emerging as a top-10 TE, but Antonio Callaway is a drop factory and Damion Ratley is intriguing at best. Mayfield’s full three games have seen him go just 68-of-130 with four TDs against five picks. Don’t let the hype get out of control here, that (bleep) is contagious.
Phillip Lindsay (vs. ARI): MR: 18, ECR: 22
Latavius Murray was the latest to gash the Cardinals on the ground, collecting 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Cards give up the most fantasy points to opposing RBs and Denver desperately needs to make a statement on offense since Case Keenum and company were just booed at home. Lindsay’s 459 total yards best Royce Freeman’s 293 by a considerable margin and the Cardinals also bleed points through the air to RBs — the 49ers RB corps tallied 110 receiving yards in Week 5. His ceiling remains capped by the three-horse stable, but I still love his range of outcomes here.
Chris Thompson (at DAL): MR: 29, ECR: 41*
I’ll put an asterisk here because Thompson’s rankings are undoubtedly skewed by his knee and rib injuries, but he practiced in full last week and I’m optimistic that he returns for a divisional showdown with Dallas. He’s also here because Dallas gave up decent receiving lines to Christian McCaffrey (6-45-0), Saquon Barkley (14-80-0) and Alfred Blue (8-73-0) thus far. This has more of a PPR slant, of course.
Alex Collins (vs. NO): MR: 23, ECR: 18
Everyone loves to pick on the Saints defense, but they’ve quietly allowed fewer than three yards per carry in 2018 and stand with the fifth-fewest points allowed to RBs on average. And they’ve faced solid runners in Saquon Barkley, Adrian Peterson, Carlos Hyde, and Tevin Coleman, so the success is real. Collins salvaged his Week 6 line with two touchdowns, but 54 yards on 19 carries is ugly. His failing to play more than 50% of snaps in any of Baltimore’s six games is also ugly.
Carlos Hyde (at TB): MR: 24, ECR: 11
I’m not out here saying the Bucs are going to blow away the Browns, but expectations need to be tempered. The Bucs haven’t yielded more than 61 rushing yards to any RB thus far, though Alvin Kamara and Tarik Cohen have both ripped them for 100+ receiving yards. Hyde has caught a whopping six total passes this season and is barely averaging above 3.5 YPC. Hue Jackson has sung Nick Chubb’s praises and promised to find him more work, which seems inevitable with Hyde’s struggles even though Chubb’s increased workload hasn’t come yet. This matchup doesn’t fit Hyde’s profile, meaning another shoddy 14-34-0 dud like in Week 6 is all too possible.
Michael Crabtree (vs. NO): MR: 20, ECR: 25
Crabtree is on the edge of WR2 territory in 12-team formats, but he deserves to be a respected member of the WR2 community in Week 7. Crabtree is seeing steady volume in a Baltimore offense that has struggled to get Alex Collins and the ground game going while Joe Flacco has embraced the air-it-out philosophy of 2018. Crabtree’s 142 air yards were sixth out of all WRs in Week 6 and Marshon Lattimore is no reason to run off and hide in ’18.
Taylor Gabriel (vs. NE): MR: 26, ECR: 33
Gabriel has topped 100 yards in Chicago’s last two games, which is perfect momentum heading into a matchup with the Patriots in Week 7. The Pats are notorious for trying to take away an opponent’s top weapon (sometimes it doesn’t work, see: Tyreek Hill), but Gabriel should benefit from any additional attention paid to Allen Robinson, Trey Burton or Tarik Cohen. The Patriots are one of nine teams to allow nine or more TDs to WRs while the Vegas over/under sits at a healthy 50.
DeSean Jackson (vs. CLE): MR: 30, ECR: 26
Jackson was already a boom-bust type to start, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s deep-slinging ways helped tilt things towards “boom” in the early going. Jameis Winston can also sling it, but it’s no secret that he loves both of his tight ends in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate and hasn’t shown real rapport with Jackson. As a result, DJax’s volatility gets cranked up and makes him more of an iffy proposition. Those in 10-team leagues or 2WR leagues should target a healthier range of outcomes.
Corey Davis (at LAC): MR: 37, ECR: 27
Davis is one of the last pass-catchers standing for Tennessee, but his Week 6 was ruined because his quarterback was barely standing. Marcus Mariota mustered just 10 forward passes compared to 11 sacks! That’s batty and meant Davis had just one catch. This is the bed you lie in with Davis and the Titans. I realize the Chiefs and the Rams have taken turns torching the Chargers secondary, but the Bills, 49ers, Raiders, and Browns all failed to produce a 100-yard receiver against LAC. Davis had one great game in Week 4 but hasn’t topped 6.5 standard points in his other five contests and has no one to take attention off of him.
Austin Hooper (at NYG): MR: 8, ECR: 11
The Falcons’ rushing attack is underwhelming thus far, which has made Matt Ryan into a weekly top-five QB and all Atlanta pass-catchers into legitimate weapons. The Giants’ defense against TEs was meme-worthy in 2017, and while they’ve fared much better in ’18, they’ve still given up between 35-65 yards to five different TEs in their last four games and gave up a 7-43-1 line to Zach Ertz in Week 6. Hooper has seen an eye-popping 22 targets over the last two weeks, posting respective lines of 9-77-0 and 9-71-1 in the process. Follow the targets!
James O’Shaughnessy (vs. HOU): MR: 20, ECR: 28
Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh? For those of you in deep waters, O’Shaughnessy should see lots of work with Niles Paul hurt and Austin Seferian-Jenkins lost to the IR. O’Shaughnessy’s snaps stepped up to 75% last week and his four targets were aligned with Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and T.J. Yeldon‘s team-leading five targets. I know Blake Bortles instills zero faith right now, but at least Houston’s defense has surrendered three TDs to TEs so far.
Greg Olsen (at GB): MR: 15, ECR: 12
Outside of one broken play yielded to Tampa Bay’s O.J. Howard in Week 2, the Eagles have been stout against tight ends in ’18. Eric Ebron saw 11 targets in Week 3 and only managed 33 scoreless yards. I respect that Olsen saw seven targets while playing 98% of the snaps in his return from injury, but Philly’s defense is a monster at home. I would rather play guys like Cameron Brate or C.J. Uzomah, though I admit this territory is thin between players. Consider this more of a PSA not to feel tethered into starting Olsen simply because his name is Greg Olsen.