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Week 13’s Toughest Start/Sit Decisions: Amari Cooper, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Taylor

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.

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Start Derek Carr (QB – LV) or Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – MIA)?
68% of Experts Would Start Fitzpatrick

Carr hurt fantasy managers last week. There were plenty of people that plugged him into their lineups last week and he simply just let them down. Based on that, it’s hard to trust him right away…but he gets a matchup against the Jets secondary this week. Carr’s still certainly in the streaming conversation, but it’s not going to be easy to trust him in your starting lineup.

We found out late in the week that Tua Tagovailoa would miss the game against the Jets and that it could be a multi-week absence, giving Fitzpatrick a new lease on life. He took advantage of the plus-matchup last week, compiling 257 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets poor secondary. The good news for him and all the pass catchers is that the Dolphins clearly trust him to throw the ball. He’s averaged 33.7 pass attempts in his starts while Tagovailoa has averaged just 25.0 attempts per game in his three full starts (removing Week 11 where he was benched). The Bengals generate a sack on just 3.23 percent of dropbacks, which ranks as the fourth-lowest percentage in the league, and they’ve only gotten worse at generating pressure after trading away Carlos Dunlap. Still, they’ve somehow allowed 20 points or less to three of their last four opponents, allowing 244 or less passing yards in each of them. The one quarterback who did eclipse that mark was Ben Roethlisberger, who threw the ball 46 times that amounted to 333 yards and four touchdowns. What Fitzpatrick has going for him is that the Dolphins really don’t have a 100 percent healthy running back on the roster, which should lead to more pass attempts for Fitzpatrick against a Bengals secondary that’s allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt. The only quarterback who’s thrown more than 30 pass attempts against the Bengals and failed to finish with at least 20.9 fantasy points was Lamar Jackson when he completed just 19-of-37 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a season-low three yards. If you want to stream Fitzpatrick, who’s finished with at least 16 fantasy points in 11 of his last 13 starts, including 20.5-plus points in nine of them, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. In fact, I think he’s a fine high-end QB2 for this game.

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Start Melvin Gordon III (RB – DEN) or Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)?
62% of Experts Would Start Gordon

Despite just 82 carries (35th among running backs), Lindsay ranks fifth in the NFL with eight 15-plus yard runs. Those long runs account for most of his production this year. In fact, those eight runs make up 46.4 percent of his rushing yardage this year. Sadly, he looks likely to miss this game. That would put Gordon back in the driver’s seat. In the three games without Lindsay in the lineup earlier this season, Gordon had 21, 12, and 25 touches. The 12-touch game came against the Bucs, so it was understandable. If you’re looking for production against the Chiefs, the running back position is a good place to look. Of the production they’ve allowed to skill-position players, running backs have accounted for 34.9 percent of it, which ranks as the fifth-highest percentage in the league. Running backs have accumulated 27.8 touches per game against them, and those touches have netted solid fantasy production. The Chiefs rank right around the league average in efficiency against running backs, which explains why there have been nine running backs who’ve finished as the RB25 or better against them despite the negative gamescripts. Here’s a great thing for Gordon’s floor: There’s been no running back who’s totaled more than 12 touches and finished with fewer than 10 PPR points against them. Damien Harris was the only one who didn’t finish as a top-25 option in that group, but he still posted 100 yards on his 17 carries, which is hardly a bad game. Gordon himself saw 19 touches against them back in Week 7 where he finished with 80 total yards and a touchdown. If Lindsay is out of the lineup, Gordon should be considered a solid RB2 for this game who should net 15-plus touches. If Lindsay plays, I’d still prefer Gordon, but he’d be more of a high-end RB3 while Lindsay would be a risky low-end RB3.

The Colts are supposed to get Taylor back this week, which is something they seem to need more than they know. With him out, Hines and Jordan Wilkins combined for just 51 yards on 16 carries against the Titans, though it didn’t help they were without starting center Ryan Kelly (who they hope to get back this week). Fun fact: Hines doesn’t have a single carry of 15-plus yards this year. There’s not a running back who’s seen as many carries as him (61) without one. Taylor should be happy to return to this matchup against the Texans, as its’ arguably the best in the league for his skill set. We know there are a lot of fantasy points up for grabs against the Texans, right? Well, of the production they’ve allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, we’ve watched running backs account for 37.3 percent of it, which is the third-highest mark in the league. They’ve now allowed a league-high 1,564 yards on the ground to running backs, which is more than 23 teams have allowed to running backs as a whole (receiving included). When you look at strictly production on the ground, the Texans have allowed a league-high 240.4 fantasy points. No other team has allowed more than 215.8 of them. It’s not the competition that’s made them look bad, either. Running backs average 6.3 more half-PPR points per game against the Texans than they do versus their season average; that ranks as the second-most in the league. All-in-all, the Texans have faced more weighted volume to running backs than any other team in the league. That’s led to them allowing a league-high 185.7 total yards per game to the position. The average top-24 running back performance in 2019 required 11.5 PPR points. That’s a number that a league-high 14 running backs have hit against the Texans. This is your reminder that they’ve played just 11 games. Taylor is never a full 100 percent trust under Frank Reich, but he should be trusted enough to be played as a low-end RB2 with upside, because the last time we saw him on the field, he netted a massive 26 touches. Let’s just hope Jacoby Brissett getting a few goal-line touches was due to Taylor being out, and not a regular thing moving forward. Production is there through the air as well for running backs in this matchup, as seven different backs have totaled 35-plus receiving yards, which bodes well for Hines’ role. He should remain in the RB3 conversation, particularly in PPR formats.

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Start Devontae Booker (RB – LV) or James White (RB – NE)?
61% of Experts Would Start White

We talked about Jacobs’ matchup last week and how it was tougher than most expected, but for him to total just 10 touches was something no one could’ve predicted. He hurt his ankle late in the third quarter, which knocked him out of the game, but he was mostly inefficient in that game. He will likely be questionable for this game, so pay attention to his status throughout the week. He now has 206 carries on the season, but just four of those carries have gone for 15-plus yards, so you kind of need him to get that high volume. Fortunately, he gets the Jets this week, who’ve allowed the fifth-most touches per game (29.4) to running backs. The downside is that they’ve allowed just 1.16 yards before contact to ball carriers, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in the league. We talked about it being necessary for Jacobs to get some of the passing game work last week, and though that didn’t really happen, it helps to know the Jets have watched running backs get targeted 21.9 percent of the time against them, which is tied for the fourth-highest mark in the league. All in all, the Jets have faced the second-most weighted opportunity to running backs this year, behind only the Texans. To see they’ve allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to them should be considered an accomplishment, as they’ve been the 11th-toughest matchup for running backs from an efficiency standpoint. But again, that volume has allowed nine running backs to finish with top-24 numbers against them. If he practices in full at some point, he should be considered a high-end RB2 this week. If he doesn’t, this is likely to be more of a timeshare between him and Booker, downgrading him into mid-to-low-end RB2 territory. If Jacobs were to sit this game entirely, Booker could be played as a middling RB2 who should be locked into 15-plus touches, and maybe even 20 of them.

Despite the fact that Harris has been a very good running back on the ground, we were reminded why it’s tricky to evaluate him last week. Since taking over the starting job, Harris has averaged 13.8 carries per game. Heck, let’s pretend that number has been 16.0 just for this exercise. He’s failed to receive a target in four of the last five games, so we can’t count on that. Even if Harris gets 16 carries and averages a rock-star-like 5.0 yards per carry, he ends the game with 80 yards. If he doesn’t score, he’s not getting into startable territory, especially in PPR formats. The Chargers have allowed 1.0 rushing touchdown per game this year, which is tied for 15th. Going back to what we were just talking about, the Chargers have allowed 4.98 yards per carry, which is the third-most in the NFL. So, that 5.0 yards per carry I mentioned was very relevant. There have been nine running backs who’ve totaled at least 61 yards on the ground against them. Harris should be considered an RB3 right now who’s extremely touchdown dependent because of how little he’s used in the passing game. As for White, he could have a decent outlook in this game. Running backs have been targeted 22.7 percent of the time against the Chargers, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the NFL. We were hoping that with Rex Burkhead out of the lineup that we’d see more targets for White, and we got them in Week 11 when he saw nine of them, but he followed that up with just one target last week. Fortunately, he snuck into the end zone twice on just five carries, which is something we’ll likely never get again, as White had just eight rushing touchdowns over the course of his 86-game career coming into that game. We need the passing game usage, so Week 12 was certainly a letdown. White should be considered a high-end RB4 in fantasy right now who apparently has a lower floor than we thought with Burkhead out of the lineup.

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Start Amari Cooper (WR – DAL) or Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)?
57% of Experts Would Start Cooper

I mentioned it last week, but despite all the turmoil on this Cowboys team, Cooper has been the shining light all season. He’s now finished with at least five catches and 67 yards in 9-of-11 games, highlighting a floor that not many receivers have. Unfortunately, his scoring opportunities aren’t going to be there (just three touchdowns all year), limiting expectations for his ceiling. Cooper may not have a massive ceiling without Prescott, but he’s still offering plenty of value. Wide receivers have seen just a 53.8 percent target share against the Ravens, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in the league. Not just a lack of targets, but lack of efficiency is a real thing against them, as receivers have averaged just 1.58 PPR points per target, which is lower than all teams not named the Rams or Bears. Last year, the average top-12 wide receiver performance took 19.7 PPR points, which is a number the Ravens have allowed just once this season. I describe explosion performances as 20-plus points for wide receivers and 15-plus points for tight ends. The Ravens have allowed just one explosive performance all year to those positions, while no other team has allowed fewer than three. Given the lack of scoring opportunities, Cooper sits in WR3 territory in this tough matchup.

It’s safe to say he’s healthy, eh? He went against a team that hadn’t allowed a receiver more than 18.6 PPR points against them all year and delivered an 11-catch, 133-yard performance (24.3 PPR points). His average air yards per target on each target is 1.6 yards. There is no other wide receiver with a number lower than 5.1 yards (Greg Ward). They’re getting creative and manufacturing touches for him to create after the catch, which is something he’s one of the best in the league at doing. According to NFL’s NextGenStats, he should be averaging 8.4 yards after the catch based on where defenders have been in proximity to him, but he’s managed to average 13.0 per reception. The 4.6-yard difference is the highest in the NFL, slightly topping A.J. Brown’s 4.1-yard gap. Of the fantasy production the Bills have allowed to skill-position players, wide receivers have accounted for just 45.7 percent of it, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league. But again, the Rams were even better than that. Tre’Davious White is their shadow cornerback, though he doesn’t go into the slot, which is where Samuel is placed 34 percent of the time. Taron Johnson is the slot cornerback who’s allowed 45-of-59 passing for 462 yards. There’s only one cornerback who’s allowed more slot yardage than him (Buster Skrine). It’s also worth noting that 44 percent of the yardage Johnson has allowed in coverage has come after the catch. Samuel should be in lineups as a WR3 until we’re given reason not to trust him.

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Start Corey Davis (WR – TEN) or Michael Pittman Jr. (WR – IND)?
60% of Experts Would Start Pittman Jr.

Davis didn’t have a large target total in week 12, but he made them count. Even in a game where Tannehill threw the ball only 22 times, Davis is still providing a safe floor each week. He can be viewed as a mid-range WR3 in this matchup.

Pittman Jr.
Pittman continued to be heavily targeted last week, although he wasn’t able to do much with the nine targets he saw. Rivers just simply could not put the ball on target for him and Pittman’s stats look a lot worse than what the film shows. Fantasy managers need to lean into the target volume and the talent with Pittman, but the QB play certainly downgrades his fantasy potential. Pittman can be plugged in as a mid-range WR3 this week with upside due to Bradley Roby now being out for the year.

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Start Kyle Rudolph (TE – MIN) or Austin Hooper (TE – CLE)?
52% of Experts Would Start Rudolph

We’ve gone over this plenty of times throughout the year, but when both of these tight ends are active, it’s going to be tough to trust them. With Thielen out, it became a bit more intriguing. When Smith was ruled out, Rudolph became a legitimate streamer. To be fair, we didn’t know Cousins would throw the ball 45 times, but after watching Rudolph see eight targets, he’s on everyone’s radar. If there’s a matchup to play borderline tight ends, it’s this one against the Jaguars, as they’ve allowed a league-leading 2.33 PPR points per target to tight ends. You need to monitor the status of both Thielen and Smith, as both would cannibalize some of the role that we have with Rudolph. Tight ends have averaged just 6.2 targets per game against the Jaguars, which ranks as the ninth-fewest in the league, while the Vikings have targeted their tight ends just 5.7 times per game. Are you starting to see why it’s going to be difficult to trust Rudolph with Smith in the lineup? If Smith misses, Rudolph would be a low-end TE1. If both play, they’re both stuck in the TE2 territory as touchdown-or-bust options.

Hooper only saw two targets last week, but he made them count by finding the end zone. The minimal target share is concerning moving forward, but there aren’t many tight ends who are seeing a significant and consistent target share every week. Hooper’s worth plugging into your lineup again as a low-end TE1.

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