Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 3 (2020)
Now more than ever, team context is imperative when considering any start or sit lineup decision.
A running back with a subpar outlook may find himself as a “Sit” because he’s not an alluring top-25 play. Unfortunately, a fantasy football manager who drafted Christian McCaffrey, Raheem Mostert, and Marlon Mack will have no other choice beyond players still on the waiver wire.
And on the other side of the equation, you’re obviously not starting any of the tight ends recommended below if you also roster Travis Kelce.
Based on Week 3’s early Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) for half-PPR leagues, the following players near the edge of start-or-sit status. The final call will depend on you rother choices, but there are some strong plays in this tier along with others trending downward.
Start: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. HOU: QB10 ECR
So far, Roethlisberger has looked sharp for a 38-year-old coming back from a major elbow injury. He’s tossed 54o yards and five touchdowns in a pair of victories over the Giants and Broncos. While far from a league-winning find to lock into your weekly lineup, Big Ben has held his own as the QB13.
It’s tough to get a gauge on his upcoming opponent. You can’t fault the Texans too much for allowing 67 combined points to the Chiefs and Ravens. Despite the brutal opening schedule, they’re 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, as both AFC juggernauts attacked them on the ground. The Steelers could take a similar approach with a healthy James Conner, but Roethlisberger has attempted at least 29 passes in all but one of his last 27 full games dating back to 2017. (He went 22-of-25 for 328 yards and five touchdowns in the lone holdover.) No analyst has him ranked lower than QB14, signaling a relatively high floor for a low-end starter at home.
Sit: Drew Brees (NO) vs. GB: QB12 ECR
Is Brees still a true QB1 without Michael Thomas? Even in a stunning Monday night loss, his 312 passing yards, touchdown, and interception seem far from catastrophic. Yet given the current state of NFL quarterback play, those 15.48 fantasy points made him just the QB22 in Week 2. With the bar so elevated, it’s tough to rely on a 41-year-old who is simply unwilling and/or unable to throw the ball downfield:
Drew Brees has averaged 4.82 air yards on his passes so far this season.
That's his lowest through 2 games as a member of the Saints, and it's the lowest by any QB through 2 games since Brett Favre in 2009. pic.twitter.com/ghtlGu44eG
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 22, 2020
Drew Brees against LV in Week 2
▪️5/9 on passes 10+ yards downfield
▪️0/1 on passes 20+ yards downfield pic.twitter.com/Tkd9I1JSzz
— PFF (@PFF) September 22, 2020
On the other hand, the Saints host the Packers in one of four games with an over-under line above 50 points. The Packers have yielded 8.7 yards per pass attempt to Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford despite ranking 13th in passing defense. There’s shootout potential, but it may not matter if Alvin Kamara continues to see so much goal-line work. That’s the peril of turning to a quarterback who contributes nothing with his legs. I’m not saying you should stream Mitchell Trubisky over Brees, but there’s certainly merit to swapping out the future Hall of Famer for the next guy.
Start: Gardner Minshew (JAC) vs. MIA: QB16 ECR
When the world gets too bleak, I like to imagine a Good Place where Jason Mendoza is alive and appreciating the greatness of Gardner Minshew. He’s more than just a cult hero with a mustache; the second-year pro is looking like a great quarterback. Two games into the season, Minshew is 49-of-65 for 512 yards, six touchdowns, and two picks. He added 19 rushing yards in each bout, an extra 3.8 fantasy points that make him the QB9 instead of QB11.
He’s not a must-play every week just yet, but Minshew stays in Florida for a great Week 3 matchup. Facing two quarterbacks (Cam Newton and Josh Allen) known more for their rushing prowess than passing precision, the Dolphins have relinquished an NFL-worst 10.6 yards per pass attempt and 131.1 passer rating. If you’re defending them by thinking Newton and Allen are both looking superb thus far in September, so has Minshew. Contrary to the ECR, I’d rather play him than Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, or Carson Wentz this week.
Sit: Joe Burrow (CIN) at PHI: QB18 ECR
There’s probably ample temptation to start Burrow following his 316-yard, three-touchdown Week 2 outing against the Browns. Keep in mind, however, that he needed 61 pass attempts to pull off that gaudy fantasy line. Everyone is celebrating the Seahawks finally unleashing Russell Wilson fully in the passing game; he’s thrown 63 times in two games. The Eagles have seen 58 pass attempts against them this season. Let’s not go overboard and play a rookie quarterback in Week 3 — on the road — over Minshew or a more established stud.
Start: Joshua Kelley (LAC) vs. CAR: RB27 ECR
Kelley is facing the Panthers. Moves on to next person …
OK, you want a little more? After allowing the most fantasy points to running backs last season, Carolina has ceded three rushing touchdowns in back-to-back games. Kelley, meanwhile, is no mere change-of-pace backup to Austin Ekeler. Through two games, his 35 carries tie Ekeler and four others for sixth in the NFL. The rookie’s snap count rose from 27% in Week 1 to 52% in Week 2, and he received three handoffs inside the 10 in each contest. Lock Kelley into your Week 3 lineup.
Sit: Leonard Fournette (TB) at DEN: RB23
I’m not ready to trust a Tampa Bay running back yet. Both found the end zone last Sunday against the aforementioned Panthers. Yet Fournette and Ronald Jones played just 26 and 21 snaps, respectively, in a 31-17 victory. LeSean McCoy saw as many targets in just 11 snaps as his two teammates combined. While Jones was deemed the man to exploit this awesome matchup, Bruce Arians got bored of him again after an early touchdown. Jones finished with just 27 yards, and Fournette tacked on a 46-yard score while running out the clock.
Who’s to say Arians doesn’t switch it up again if Fournette looks at him funny or doesn’t trim his sideburns? The RB rankings dry up in a hurry, but managers in shallower leagues might be better off using their fourth receiver in the flex spot instead of Fournette (or Jones).
Start: Jerick McKinnon (SF) at NYG: RB29
The 49ers will play their second game in as many weeks at the Meadowlands. This time, however, they probably won’t have Raheem Mostert or Tevin Coleman. They’ll trek forward against the Giants, who surrendered 113 rushing yards to Benny Snell and 127 total yards (and a touchdown) to David Montgomery. Sidelined by major leg injuries for two years, McKinnon has exploded for 121 yards and two touchdowns on just nine touches. He should get more chances this weekend, even if the 49ers have him share snaps with Jeff Wilson Jr. Anyone missing Mostert or one of the fallen superstar running backs may as well swing for the fences with McKinnon.
Sit: D’Andre Swift (DET) at ARI: RB33 ECR
This is another backfield just not worth the hassle. Swift led the Lions’ running backs with just 20 snaps in Week 2. He also recorded the most touches (10) due to his five catches for 60 yards. However, he received fewer carries than Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson, who deposited Detroit’s only rushing touchdowns. Having permitted 5.0 yards per run, the Cardinals could be more vulnerable to a run-heavy attack that Peterson would likely spearhead. There’s too much uncertainty to confidently deploy any of this trio beyond a desperation flex flier.
Start: Tarik Cohen (CHI) at ATL: RB35 ECR
This is very much team- and league-dependent, as you’d only play Cohen in a 10-team or non-PPR league if injuries rampaged your roster. Right after signing a three-year, $17 million contract extension, the 5’6″ back turned six touches into 27 yards against the Giants. His 21 snaps leave a lot to be desired. Cohen’s inconsistent role has confounded in the past, but why would the Bears lock up a talented player they have interest in using?
They could unleash him against the Falcons, who have already allowed five rushing touchdowns and the second-most passing yards. Chris Carson caught a pair of scores in Week 1, so Cohen should re-emerge in a more unleashed passing attack. David Montgomery is the unquestioned lead back — and an easy RB2 – in Chicago, but Cohen also has a high ceiling as a flex gamble.
Sit: Sony Michel (NE) vs. LV: RB34 ECR
Kelley has more carries than Michel has snaps (34) through two games. While the New England rusher salvaged a subdued 37-yard Week 1 showing with a touchdown, his 19 yards came with no such score in Sunday night’s 35-30 loss to Seattle. There lies the risk of playing a touchdown-dependent running back who’s a non-factor in the passing game and teammates with Cam Newton. It’s touchdown or bust for Michel with this limited workload, but he has just two runs inside the 10 compared to Newton’s nine.
Start: Michael Gallup (DAL) at SEA: WR24 ECR
Given a golden matchup in what manifested into the shootout we expected, Gallup settled for two catches against Atlanta. Dak Prescott has looked his way five times in each game, giving Gallup a lower target share (11.6%) than Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dalton Schultz. None of this is encouraging, and yet Gallup finished the first two contests with 50 and 58 yards, respectively. He leads all Cowboys wide receivers in snaps and can make a major splash without double-digit targets. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, only Christian Kirk has a higher average of targeted air yards. Another high-octane bout is on the horizon against the Seahawks, who have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers in a pair of high-scoring wins. Don’t give up on Gallup as a high-end WR3 with game-breaking upside.
Sit: Emmanuel Sanders (NO) vs. GB: WR34 ECR
Sanders should be an easy start with Thomas sidelined, but he drew just three targets Monday night. He has compiled 25 receiving yards or fewer 10 times since the start of 2019. That doesn’t include the postseason, where he was held to 71 combined yards in three games with a goose egg against Green Bay. The floor is too low to comfortably roll the dice.
Start: DeSean Jackson (PHI) vs. CIN: WR36 ECR
The Eagles offense is a mess. Carson Wentz has the second-worst quarterback rating and third-fewest yards per attempt among qualified quarterbacks. In 2018, Jackson averaged 70.5 yards per game when targeted at least five times. He now has 110 yards on 16 targets. No other Philadelphia wide receiver has more than eight. Although the 33-year-old is healthy and reasonably involved, Wentz hasn’t connected with Jackson for a major strike. That could change Sunday. The Bengals yielded 8.3 yards per attempt last year and 8.1 this season against subpar Chargers and Browns passing offenses. Since he’s getting enough volume to present a reasonable floor, now is the right week to bet on a Jackson outburst.
Sit: Robby Anderson (CAR) at LAC: WR38 ECR
Anderson’s ECR may seem harsh following consecutive 100-yard showings. Consider the sheer depth of productive wide receivers raising our standards for a dependable starter. Anderson isn’t a bad play; he just might not be your best one. Because the Chargers have already played in two relatively low-scoring games — a 23-20 overtime loss is a defensive grind when facing Kansas City — this contest has one of the week’s lowest over-under lines (44). The Chargers have ceded just 6.0 yards per pass attempt, second to the 49ers. Tyreek Hill was the only Kansas City wide receiver to top 30 yards in Week 2, so Teddy Bridgewater likely won’t be able to again vault Anderson and D.J. Moore to huge outings. Whereas Moore was a consistent stud all of last season, Anderson has broken our hearts time and time again. There’s risk of a 30-yard clunker against Casey Heyward.
Start: DeVante Parker (MIA) at JAC
Considering he opened the season against Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White, while dealing with a hamstring injury, 100 yards and a touchdown is a nice start from Parker. He proved his health Sunday by playing 66 snaps and crossing paydirt on one of his eight targets. Miami’s star receiver finally draws a favorable matchup against the Jaguars, who rank 30th in passing defense with a 77.1% opposing completion rate. Play Parker as a WR3 as long as he’s a full go again.
Sit: Will Fuller (HOU) and Brandin Cooks (HOU) at PIT: WR27 and WR44
Maybe a healthy Fuller can replicate his 112-yard Week 1. If a hamstring ailment keeps him out of the lineup, Cooks might repeat the 95 yards he posted against Baltimore. Thus far, Texas hasn’t been big enough for the two of them. That should change down the road if both stay healthy, but not against a stingy Pittsburgh secondary surrendering just 6.9 yards per pass attempt. Although Cooks is a playable WR3 if Fuller is inactive, both are dicey if competing for targets at Heinz Field.
Start: Noah Fant (DEN) vs. TB: TE12 ECR
Fant has scored two touchdowns in as many games, placing him just one shy of matching last season’s tally. He’s averaging 12.5 yards per target. Per Pro Football Focus, Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel have a perfect passer rating when targeting the tight end. Look for Driskel to lean heavily on the burgeoning second-year pro, especially with star receiver Courtland Sutton joining Lock on Denver’s sideline. Given his immense tools and high impact per opportunity, Fant could blossom into a set-and-forget option if given a bit more volume.
Sit: Chris Herndon (NYJ) at IND: TE16 ECR
Many of us had high hopes for Herndon after catching six of seven targets in Week 1. He finished with five yards against the 49ers. While Herndon should be a major weapon for this offense sans Le’Veon Bell and Breshad Perriman, Adam Gase had other plans. Stay away from the Jets altogether against a Colts defense that just trounced the Vikings and hasn’t even allowed a full point per game to opposing tight ends.
Start: Evan Engram (NYG) vs. SF: TE14 ECR
A clear top-10 tight end on draft day, Engram is suddenly downgraded to TE2 territory in the Week 3 ECR. Perhaps that’s because he has tallied just 74 yards without a touchdown through two games. Or maybe it has more to do with the 49ers allowing a combined three catches for 26 yards to Dan Arnold and Herndon. Arnold is not a major pass-catching threat like Engram, and Herndon sent a surprising amount of Week 2’s loss blocking. That won’t be a problem for Engram, who has essentially operated as a wide receiver while playing all but six snaps this season. Despite the middling results, he’s received 15 targets. The Giants are now without Saquon Barkley, and Daniel Jones should have more time to throw now that the 49ers also lost Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas for the season. He’s still healthy, for now, so stick by Engram.
Sit: Austin Hooper (CLE) vs. WAS: TE17 ECR
Hooper played all but one snap for the Browns last Thursday. He received just four targets. Even with David Njoku out of the mix, Cleveland has clearly prioritized the dynamic backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Baker Mayfield attempted just 23 passes in a victory, and the Browns are an early seven-point home favorite against Washington. An exciting group of young tight ends (Fant, Jonnu Smith, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, and T.J. Hockenson) have all passed Hooper by as worthy starters.
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