Like the NFL, fantasy football is a “What have you done for me lately?” game.
You may have fond memories of a superstar who helped win your league in 2017, but that past glory means nothing if they’re no longer performing. Based on the early Week 7 Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR), taken from half-PPR scoring on Tuesday night, even the experts have fallen for reputation over results when appraising some of 2020’s biggest disappointments.
A handful of players highlighted as players to sit have fueled many fantasy championships over the years. Some of the players to start, meanwhile, are youngsters on the rise or guys still not receiving their proper due because of unimpressive past results. Looking at the numbers over the names can steer managers toward the right decisions.
Start: Justin Herbert (LAC) vs. JAC: QB9 ECR
Although yet to record an NFL victory, Herbert steered fantasy investors to triumph with seven touchdowns in two games before the Chargers’ Week 6 bye. The rookie has registered 298.7 passing yards per game with a 107.1 passer rating through his first four career starts, and he already leads the NFL with three 50-yard touchdown passes.
Those deep strikes may leave him liable to regression, but his Week 7 adversary is unlikely to cause it. Jacksonville is tied with Atlanta for an NFL-high 8.6 yards allowed per pass attempt while also ranking last in opposing completion rate (73.4%). While Matthew Stafford underwhelmed in the same matchup last weekend, Herbert deserves the starting nod.
Start: Ryan Tannehill (TEN) vs. PIT: QB14 ECR
Here is every active quarterback averaging more fantasy points per game than Tannehill: Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen. Since taking over as Tennessee’s starter last year, he has accrued 4,110 passing yards and 35 touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. It’s time to put some respect on his name.
Yes, the Steelers are certainly an unenviable matchup that has dragged down his ECR. However, they have yet to face a top-16 offense this season. They’re not an insurmountable foe; Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz were QB5 and QB10, respectively, in Weeks 3 and 4. Tannehill is projected for 16.2 fantasy points based on his current rank, but he’s surpassed that total in 12 of his last 15 games.
Sit: Drew Brees (NO) vs. CAR: QB12 ECR
Brees will probably be fine. He won’t sink your matchup with a dud a la Aaron Rodgers last Sunday. He also likely won’t be the reason you win. The 40-year-old has yet to finish a week better than QB10, and gamers can’t rely on him to score a rushing touchdown for the second straight week.
Expect a lot of dink-and-dunking against the Panthers, who have allowed a 67.0% completion rate, but NFL-low 6.1 yards per pass attempt. New Orleans could go ground-heavy as heavy home favorites against a defense yielding 4.9 yards per run. Consider Brees an acceptable, but low-ceiling play who should particularly take a seat if Michael Thomas doesn’t return.
Sit: Andy Dalton (DAL) at WAS: QB18 ECR
Dalton needed 54 passes attempts and a late garbage-time score to salvage any semblance of fantasy decency in his first start of the season. That junk-volume formula could pay off, but it’d take a truly abysmal showing for Dallas to trail big at Washington. Despite the subpar defenses, this feeble NFC East matchup has a rather small consensus over-under line (46) on BettingPros by 2020 standards.
This game could look more like Washington’s 20-19 loss to the Giants, with Dallas looking to force-feed Ezekiel Elliott into a redemptive performance following his two fumbles Monday night. There should be better streaming options (Herbert, Joe Burrow, Carson Wentz) in the typical one-quarterback league.
Start: Devin Singletary (BUF) at NYJ: RB18 ECR
Singletary is fresh off a 45-yard snoozer on a rare Monday late-afternoon bout that featured the return of Zack Moss. Anyone rostering Buffalo’s second-year back is likely feeling a bit uneasy, as he also settled for just 33 yards in Week 5’s loss to Tennessee. Maybe you’d bench him in a bad matchup. Following consecutive losses, however, the Bills are 13.5-point favorites over the Jets.
Despite Moss playing for the first time since Week 2, Singletary played three-fourths of Buffalo’s snaps. He averaged 16.5 touches through Buffalo’s 4-0 start, which could prove plenty given the vast scoring opportunities ahead. If he falters again, it’s going to be awfully hard to trust Singletary moving forward.
Start: D’Andre Swift (DET) at ATL: RB20 ECR
This is not a permanent stamp of approval for Swift. He’s unlikely to gain 116 yards and two touchdowns on the ground again this weekend — or this season — while continuing to play well under half of Detroit’s snaps. Before Week 6’s breakthrough against a vulnerable Jacksonville front seven, the rookie had a combined 48 rushing yards on 12 carries all season. He’d still be a “Sit” if not for the matchup.
The Falcons actually rank fifth against the run, but that’s because opponents are too busy carving them up in the passing game. Those rewards extend to running backs, who have an NFL-high 328 receiving yards and four touchdowns against Atlanta, per NFL.com. Swift is especially Detroit’s most talent back in the pass-catching facet, so he’s best equipped to excel once more.
Start: Boston Scott (PHI) vs. NYG: RB23 ECR
Scott served a meaningful role against the Giants twice last year. Both meetings went pretty well:
Once again, he replaces the injured Miles Sanders just in time to square off against Big Blue, who have permitted 20.0 fantasy points per game to running backs. His 54 yards without Sanders was disappointing in Week 1, but Scott should see more pass-catching involvement this time around.
Sit: Jerick McKinnon (SF) at NE: RB25 ECR
Even with Raheem Mostert out once more, McKinnon is not a must-start in Week 7. In Sunday night’s victory over the Rams, the 49ers may have found another alternative in JaMycal Hasty. The undrafted rookie, who hadn’t touched the ball since a Week 3 blowout, out-touched McKinnon (nine to eight) and gained more yards (37 to 28).
Although assuming an encore might be a Hasty generalization, it plants just enough uncertainty to fade the dicey situation. McKinnon shines as a pass-catcher, but the Patriots have ceded just 29.6 receiving yards per game to running backs. Although he flourished without Mostert against the Eagles and Giants, McKinnon might need a breakaway play to deliver value in this matchup.
Sit: Damien Harris (NE) vs. SF: RB30 ECR
Expected to take on more responsibility following a 100-yard season debut, Harris instead played just 12 snaps in Week 6’s 18-12 loss to Denver. James White is New England’s primary pass-catcher, and Cam Newton is its main rusher. Furthermore, Rex Burkhead remained involved (five carries on 18 snaps) even with White in the lineup. Harris is going to be a turbulent, matchup-based flex play, so sit him against San Francisco’s 10th-ranked rushing defense.
Sit: Adrian Peterson (DET) at ATL: RB27 ECR
The same reasons the Falcons are a great matchup for Swift make them a poor one for Peterson. The veteran is purely a two-down back, catching just five of seven targets all season. His snap rate has dipped in recent weeks, (59%, 44%, 35%), and he’s averaging 3.1 yards per run over those three contests. Treat Peterson as no more than a touchdown-or-bust flex option.
Start: Tyler Lockett (SEA) at ARI: WR25 ECR
At first glance, Lockett’s ECR seemed like a glaring glitch. Russell Wilson is cooking up an MVP campaign with help from his trusty wide receiver, who recorded 100 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3. He then, however, settled for 83 yards on just nine targets over his next two games combined before Seattle’s Wee 6 bye.
But he’s still the WR17 in 2020 despite last weekend’s breather. Per PlayerProfiler, Russell Wilson has a 139.3 passer rating when targeting Lockett, which he has done 7.6 times per game. The Cardinals have capitulated the least fantasy points per game (15.1) to wide receivers, but facing the Jets, Washington, and Dallas led by Dalton might have something to do with that. Some analysts might worry there isn’t enough room for both D.K. Metcalf and Lockett to go off in this NFC West matchup, but Lockett has way too high a ceiling to consider benching.
Start: Jamison Crowder (NYJ) vs. BUF: WR29 ECR
Crowder’s ECR was actually much lower at this time last week. Not only did his string of 100-yard games end in Week 6, but he fell way short at 48. He also saw 13 targets, giving him 46 in just four games. Nobody in the NFL is averaging more per contest. Had he maintained his 7.25-catch average over two games missed, he’d rank third in receptions behind De’Andre Hopkins and Amari Cooper.
The Bills have relinquished a 70.3% completion rate and 7.5 yards per attempt despite opening with a fairly manageable schedule in September. Although they limited the Jets to 254 total yards in Week 1, Crowder still reeled in seven catches for 115 yards and a score. Since he spends most of his time in the slot, he’ll avoid shutdown corner Tre’Davious White again. Crowder might have to rent out property in this section of the column until everyone gives him more recognition.
Start: Tee Higgins (CIN) vs. CLE: WR31
What more must Higgins prove to enter the starter’s circle? Since the Bengals made John Ross a healthy scratch in Week 3, Higgins has posted 304 yards and two touchdowns in four games. At 32 targets — with a game-low of seven — during that timeframe, he’s just three behind Tyler Boyd.
It didn’t matter that A.J. Green sprung back to life in Week 6’s loss to the Bengals; the rookie still registered 125 receiving yards. Ross was still in the picture when Higgins produced 35 yards in his NFL debut against the Browns. He’ll play a bigger role against the 27th-ranked passing defense in Sunday’s rematch.
Sit: JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) at TEN: WR30
Let’s look at Smith-Schuster’s weekly outputs: WR7, WR48, WR25, WR68, WR86. He has two more targets and nine more yards than Steelers teammate James Washington, who was rostered in 10% of Yahoo leagues prior to Wednesday’s waiver window opening. A different Steelers wide receiver has finished as their highest scorer (Diontae Johnson in Week 2, Smith-Schuster in Week 3, Chase Claypool in Week 5, and Washington in Week 6) in each of their last four games.
The 23-year-old certainly has the talent to punish anyone who loses patience. Pittsburgh also may have to throw more than usual to keep up with Tennessee, so Smith-Schuster still has a higher ceiling than most ranked near him. The floor is also lower than that of Crowder, Higgins, and Boyd. Furthermore, Brandin Cooks (WR32 ECR), Mike Williams (WR34 ECR), and Christian Kirk (WR40) also offer plenty of upside with better recent results and a favorable matchup.
Sit: Julian Edelman (NE) vs. SF: WR37 ECR
Dating back to last season, Edelman has gone eight games without a touchdown. That’d be one thing if he was still a volume fiend, but the slot wideout only has 20 catches in five games. Last weekend’s eight receiving yards represented his lowest tally since October 27, 2013. Outside of one outstanding outing (179 yards) against a highly suspect Seahawks secondary, Edelman has a combined 145 yards and 20.5 fantasy points in four games. You’d have to be in a really deep PPR league to stand by his side, especially after San Francisco just stifled fellow slot receiver Cooper Kupp to 11 yards on nine targets.
Sit: A.J. Green (CIN) vs. CLE: WR50 ECR
A WR50 ECR seems harsh for the former All-Pro wideout, but one bounce-back outing isn’t enough to re-instill full confidence in Green. After all, he had a goose-egg before collecting eight catches for 96 yards against the Colts. Higgins and Boyd still demand targets, so let’s see Green do it once more before starting him. With that said, he can be added wherever dropped and played above most receivers ranked in the 40s.
Start: Hayden Hurst (ATL) vs. DET: TE13 ECR
This looks like a case of data leading rankers astray. The Lions have permitted the third-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends (4.3) this season, so Hurst finds himself behind Evan Engram, Eric Ebron, and the suddenly functional Rob Gronkowski in the early ECR. That’s despite operating as the TE9 this season on an Atlanta offense third in passing attempts and second in passing yards.
As for Detroit’s success against tight ends, consider the opposition. After allowing touchdowns to Jimmy Graham and Robert Tonyan in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, the Lions have faced the Cardinals, Saints (without Jared Cook), and Jaguars. They’ve stopped the position because they haven’t faced anyone to stop. This contest is tied for Week 7’s highest over-under line at 56.5 points, and Hurst has endured his two worst games with Julio Jones out of the lineup. When sharing the field with Atlanta’s star receiver, the former Raven has 16 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns in four games.
Start: Austin Hooper (CLE) at CIN: TE14 ECR
Hooper has been featured here as a “Sit” more than once already in 2020. As feared, going from the pass-first Falcons to run-heavy Browns has hindered his targets, which have dropped from 9.7 to 5.5 per game. However, he’s found some light in recent weeks. With Cleveland no longer able to lean on Nick Chubb, Hooper has snagged five receptions in each of the last three games. He’s received more targets during that window (23) than Odell Beckham Jr. (21) and Jarvis Landry (20).
The opposing Bengals guided both Mark Andrews and Trey Burton to a TE3 finish in the past two weeks. Earlier in the season, Hunter Henry and Zach Ertz posted 73 and 70 receiving yards against them, respectively. The only tight end they have held in check was Hooper, who offered just two catches in a Week 2 win that saw Chubb handle 22 carries. That run-pass distribution will likely change this Sunday, so Hooper should provide a steadier floor.
Sit: Evan Engram (NYG) at PHI: TE6 ECR
How many last chances can Engram get? He’s the TE21 this season behind Mo-Alie Cox, Gronkowski, and Logan Thomas. Sort it by points per game, and he dips to 28th. Everyone (myself included) was holding out for his targets to translate into fantasy points. In the last two weeks, however, he’s drawn just five combined targets in cushy matchups against Washington and Dallas. He already has three drops, and an average depth of target of just 4.9 yards doesn’t set him up to inflict much damage.
He gets another great NFC East matchup against the Eagles, who have ceded the third-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Yet that includes a 15-catch, 183-yard shellacking from George Kittle. Engram has 177 receiving yards all season. Make him work his way back into your starting lineup.
Sit: Darren Fells (HOU) vs. GB: TE15 ECR
Fells has now finished as the TE3 and TE5 in the last two weeks. If this feels familiar, that’s because he was the TE3 last season from Weeks 5 to 8. Following that stretch, which included a pair of two-touchdown outings, he totaled 97 yards and two touchdowns over his final seven games. Despite the recent success, Fells is averaging just 34.2 yards and 3.2 targets per game. Don’t get fooled again.
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