Week 15’s Toughest Start/Sit Decisions: Raheem Mostert, Zach Pascal, Darius Slayton
Every week fantasy football owners are confronted with difficult lineup questions. Who should you start, and who should you sit? That’s what many are left asking, often with little help. It’s good you landed here, as we can help each week using our Who Should I Start tool. Simply type in several players that you are deciding between per position or for your flex and we will let you know who the experts would start and who they would sit.
Here’s a look at the toughest start and sit decisions of the week along with our expert’s advice.
Start Baker Mayfield (QB – TEN) or Carson Wentz (QB – PHI)?
51% of Experts Would Start Mayfield
After seeming like he was on the right track, Mayfield took a giant step back in fantasy owners’ hearts last week after he completed just 11 passes for 192 yards and no touchdowns against the Bengals. There was some concern about him not living up to expectations due to the run-game going off, but nobody expected what we saw take place. He’s now totaled less than 200 yards passing in three of his last four games, but should you be considering him as a streamer this week? Absolutely. The Cardinals are the worst pass defense in the league, and it’s not even close. Let’s count the ways: They have allowed 8.40 yards per attempt (3rd-most), a 6.64 percent touchdown-rate (3rd-most), and a ridiculous 71.8 percent completion-rate (highest in NFL). They’ve allowed an average of 26.6 completions per game. Not pass attempts, but completions. They’ve allowed an average of 311.5 passing yards and 2.46 passing touchdowns per game. The only three quarterbacks who didn’t finish as top-12 options were Russell Wilson (odd), Daniel Jones, and Devlin Hodges. The only quarterbacks who failed to finish with at least 7.4 yards per attempt were Andy Dalton and Daniel Jones. There is absolutely nothing to dislike about the matchup, outside of the fact that Mayfield has been maddeningly inconsistent. Still, this matchup is good enough where he’s in the low-end QB1 conversation.
He’s not particularly in a great place right now, but neither are his receivers, as he walked into last week’s game with just three active receivers, then lost Alshon Jeffery early in the game. He does have five touchdown passes over the last two weeks and has scored at least 19.9 fantasy points in each of them. While those games were against the Dolphins and Giants, his next matchup is against the team he had his best game of the year. Granted, he had both Jeffery and DeSean Jackson the first time they played the Redskins, but still. They’re a defense that kind of plays into the Eagles’ strength, which is up the middle of the field and through the tight ends. They’ve allowed a 72.5 percent completion-rate to tight ends this year, so look for Wentz to find his talented duo quite often. The best way to describe the Redskins as a defense is inconsistent. We’ve watched them allow three-plus touchdowns to guys like Sam Darnold, Kyle Allen, Wentz, Tom Brady, and Mitch Trubisky, but have also watched them hold Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Jimmy Garoppolo to one or zero touchdowns. Their pressure-rate is bottom-10 in the league, but they’ve generated a sack on 8.7 percent of drop backs which ranks No. 5 in the league. Everything about them just screams ‘guessing game’ for what you’re getting. Knowing Wentz has posted 306/2 and 313/3 the last two times he’s played the divisional rival, we should expect a solid performance, but at what point do all these losses at wide receiver impact our ability to start him? Consider him a high-end QB2 this week.
Start Raheem Mostert (RB – SF) or Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC)?
53% of Experts Would Start Ekeler
We all know Mostert had another good game in Week 14, but does it make us feel any better about starting him as anything more than an RB3? Knowing he got just 12 touches, probably not. The 49ers offense has gone a lot more pass-heavy since getting Emmanuel Sanders, and that’s going to impact this backfield in a massive way. They had totaled at least 32 touches between them in each of the first 10 weeks of the season, but over the last four weeks, the running backs have totaled 24-22-28-22. That’s not nearly enough for three running backs splitting work. The Falcons opponents have averaged 27.4 running back touches per game, so not too far off base from where the 49ers have been. In terms of efficiency, the Falcons have been somewhat middle-of-the-pack against the run, not too great, but also not too bad. Outside of Christian McCaffrey, they’ve allowed just two running backs to catch more than four passes against them. Speaking of McCaffrey, he’s played this improved Falcons defense twice in the last four weeks and didn’t score in either game. He and Alvin Kamara are the only running backs who finished top-24 against the Falcons without a touchdown. This all comes back to how comfortable you feel with the touch-split that’s bound to take place. The good news is that this game has a relatively high total, the 49ers are double-digit favorites, and they’re at home, which typically means a lot of rushing attempts. Mostert should be considered a high-end RB3.
Over the last five weeks, this duo has racked-up a massive 164 touches, or 32.8 per game. Gordon has 102 of them while Ekeler has 62, though Ekeler has kept pace and has actually scored 4.7 more PPR points in that time. After allowing just one team of running backs rush for more than 85 yards over the first eight games, the Vikings have started to show some vulnerability, allowing three of their last five opponents to total 103-plus rushing yards, including a 176-yard, two-touchdown performance from the combination of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. The downside is that outside that game against the Seahawks, they’ve allowed just three running backs to finish better than the RB20. They 123.5 total yards per game they’ve allowed to the position ranks 10th-best, so it’s highly unlikely we get two top-20 running backs against them this week. One thing to note is that running backs have totaled just 53 receptions against them, the third-lowest mark in the NFL, though it’s tough to put Ekeler in normal company considering he’s tallied at least four receptions in 10-of-13 games. The gamescript could go south, making Ekeler a bit more appealing than usual, which lowers Gordon into middling RB2 territory against the team that’s allowed just five rushing touchdowns this year. Ekeler can remain in lineups as a mid-to-low-end RB2 who might outperform Gordon.
Start Marlon Mack (RB – IND) or Kareem Hunt (RB – CLE)?
63% of Experts Would Start Mack
In Mack’s return to the lineup, he… surprise, surprise… wasn’t targeted at all. It was a brutal matchup against the Bucs, so we don’t want to think too much about his 13-carry, 38-yard effort. This matchup with the Saints was an absolute brutal one, but the injuries to both Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins are massive. Over the first three weeks and last week’s game without Rankins, the Saints have allowed 427 yards on 79 carries (5.41 yards per carry) with two rushing touchdowns. In the nine games with him, they’ve allowed just 450 yards on 153 carries (2.94 yards per carry) with three rushing touchdowns. Quite the difference, eh? Davenport also graded out as one of the better run-stopping edge defenders. Gamescript is the biggest concern for Mack, as his non-involvement in the passing-game would crush his value should the Saints jump out to a lead. Still, the numbers without Rankins should allow Mack to have a much better day when he does get the ball. Go ahead and plug him in as a middling RB2 with upside the game can remain competitive.
Hunt is difficult to project, as the Cardinals opponents have not felt the need to target running backs very often (6.6 per game). When they do, it does net results, as the 1.85 PPR points per target ranks as the fifth-highest mark in the league. Hunt has been efficient and maintained a high floor despite being limited to 10-12 touches in each game. Think of him as a slightly lesser version of Austin Ekeler, which puts him in the high-end RB3 range. There is no team in the NFL who’s allowed more fantasy points per game to skill-position players than the Cardinals.
Start Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA) or John Brown (WR – BUF)?
79% of Experts Would Start Lockett
It’s now been four straight games where Lockett has been outside the top-50 fantasy receivers. That comes after nine straight games as the WR46 or better. Clearly, the leg injury he sustained in that 49ers game affected him. He’s playing a full complement of snaps, so we have to think he’ll bounce back at some point. The Panthers are probably the best team to do it against, as they have James Bradberry and Donte Jackson on the perimeter with Ross Cockrell in the slot. While Cockrell is a solid NFL cornerback when healthy, he’s not a slot cornerback. He’s allowed 16-of-23 passing for 133 yards and a touchdown in his slot coverage, but just 12-of-32 passing for 212 yards and no touchdowns on the perimeter. We’ve seen Chris Godwin (twice), Dede Westbrook, Larry Fitzgerald, and Adam Humphries all finish as top-36 options against them. I’m trusting Lockett as a middling WR2 this week and expecting him to bounce back in a big way.
It was only a matter of time before the tough matchups affected Brown’s fantasy output, and though he’s failed to top 40 yards in each of the last three games, he had touchdowns to carry him through in the first two. The matchup in Week 15 doesn’t get much easier. Over the last five weeks against the Steelers, there has not been a WR1/WR2/WR3/TE1 combo to combine for 40 PPR points. In fact, each of the last four teams have failed to combine for more than 31.1 PPR points. It’s worth noting that the Bills offense is very concentrated to Brown and Beasley, which helps, but this matchup is not for those seeking upside. Brown will see a lot of Steven Nelson in this matchup, a cornerback who’s been rejuvenated by the relocation to the Steelers. On the year, he’s allowed just 26-of-49 passing for 359 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. The good news is that he has allowed seven 20-plus-yard passing plays, so Brown may be able to get loose deep. There have only been seven wide receivers who’ve finished better than WR28 against the Steelers, and two of them came before Minkah Fitzpatrick in Weeks 1 and 2. Brown is really tough to bench considering how much he’s overcome this year, but dropping expectations to a high-end WR3 makes sense here.
Start Darius Slayton (WR – NYG) or Zach Pascal (WR – BUF)?
65% of Experts Would Start Pascal
He’s turned into a fantasy superstar overnight, racking up 38 targets over the last four games. It’s helped that there’s seemingly always someone out of the lineup, but he’s made the most of his opportunity, turning those targets into 25 receptions for 386 yards and four touchdowns. The shift to Manning only seemed to help him, too. While it was a good matchup on the perimeter, it was surprising to see him get more targets than Shepard. We must consider them on somewhat of an even playing field, though Shepard still gets the nudge, as he’s averaged 8.0 targets over the entire season. This matchup may actually suit Slayton’s role a bit more, as his 13.4-yard average depth of target aligns with the fact that the Dolphins have allowed 14.6 yards per reception and a miniscule 59.2 percent completion-rate. They allow plenty of big plays, as there’ve been 54 pass plays that have gone for 20-plus yards, the fifth-most in the NFL. Slayton is in the mid-to-high-end WR4 conversation.
He’s officially the last man standing. With T.Y. Hilton unlikely to play, and Chester Rogers/Parris Campbell/Eric Ebron on injured reserve, Pascal is the clear-cut target leader among the Colts wide receivers. He’s seen 19 targets over the last two weeks, turning them into a rock-solid 12 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown. The downside is that he rarely plays in the slot, which is the area to attack the Saints. Maybe with the injury to Campbell, they do a rotation between him Johnson and Inman in the slot. The combination of Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple has been solid on the perimeter, allowing a combined 78-of-128 for 1,116 yards and six touchdowns in their coverage. That’s a solid 8.72 yards per target, though just one touchdown every 21.3 targets. Getting the target share he is, Pascal deserves middling WR3 consideration, though it’s not nearly as good of a matchup this week as it was last week.
Start Jacob Hollister (TE – SEA) or Dallas Goedert (TE – PHI)?
78% of Experts Would Start Goedert
Since joining the starting lineup, Hollister has seen a rather-high 42 targets over seven games. That amounts to 6.0 targets per game, which is a number that you should be comfortable starting a tight end every week with, especially when that tight end plays with Russell Wilson. The Panthers were able to keep Austin Hooper in check last week, but that hasn’t been the case for much of the season. They’ve allowed 8.89 yards per target to the tight end position, which ranks as the second-highest mark behind only the Cardinals. Whatever it is, teams haven’t targeted their tight ends very often, as the Panthers have seen a league-low 66 target to the position, which amounts to just 5.1 targets per game. The 13.3 yards per reception is the most in the league, while the touchdown every 22.0 targets is right around the league average. The matchup against the Panthers comes down to targets, so knowing Hollister has seen at least six targets in four of the last five games, he should be in lineups as a low-end TE1.
While Ertz is the one that’s an auto-play as a TE1, Goedert should also be played as a low-end TE1 considering he hasn’t seen less than five targets since way back in Week 7.