We’re already four games into the 2021 NFL season. No matter how good or bad your September was, the best way for fantasy football managers to win in October is to know who to start and who to sit.
Here are some unheralded players to consider starting, and a few to think about benching ahead of Week 5.
Jameis Winston (QB) New Orleans Saints
Predictably, Winston has been unpredictable this season. Less predictably, the Washington Football Teams’ pass defense has been atrocious. No defense is giving up more points to opposing fantasy quarterbacks than them. Touted as one of the best defenses entering the season, they have fallen flat on their faces.
While Winston’s yard totals have been low, he’s faced a brutal schedule thus far and his touchdown to interception ratio is an impressive eight TDs to two interceptions. Impressive at least relative to what we’ve seen from him in the past. We know he has the upside to produce monster games and if he is ever going to have a monster breakout game it’s this week. If you’re searching your waivers for a streamable option then Winston is your man for Week 5.
Mike Davis (RB) Atlanta Falcons
Saying Davis has failed to impress would be an understatement. Cordarrelle Patterson siphoning off his touches and badly outperforming him hasn’t helped his case either. However, Davis is still getting a decent amount of touches. Through four weeks he still has 49 carries and 16 receptions. His volume is still notable despite a lack of production.
This week the Falcons take on the Jets, who are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Despite the lowly Jets finally getting a win against a broken Titans’ team, the Falcons will still likely be leading this game leading to a positive game script for Davis. At this point, he is only startable in the best of matchups. That’s exactly what he has this week.
Chuba Hubbard (RB) Carolina Panthers
Hubbard didn’t exactly blow the doors off last week against the Cowboys in his first shot at the starting role. Nonetheless, it’s not time to give up on him with the Philadelphia Eagles coming to town. They are giving up the sixth-most points to fantasy running backs and Hubbard is a lock for double-digit carries and a couple of receptions.
As long as Sam Newton, I’m sorry Sam Darnold, doesn’t continue to dominate the goal line rushing touchdowns, Hubbard should have a shot at a big day if he can find the end zone for the first time in his young career. My assumption is Darnold’s sudden stranglehold on goal-line work is an aberration and the running backs should start scoring touchdowns at some point. He is currently all alone with a league-leading five rushing TDs and that seems unsustainable to say the least.
DeVante Parker (WR) Miami Dolphins
Parker has seen strong volume and has an outstanding matchup this week. He faces off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who have been dreadful against the pass and week after week has wide receivers torch them. No defense has given up more fantasy points to opposing wideouts. This defense is dominant against running backs but is nothing to fear if you want to start anyone involved in the passing attack against them.
The floor for Parker is ideal, especially with Will Fuller out with a broken finger. He’s already averaging eight targets a game with his season-low being seven and he’s caught at least four passes in every game this season while averaging over 14 yards per catch. He’s a safe flex option this week and you may even be able to find him on your waiver wire in more shallow leagues. His production should only increase once Tua returns, so if he’s on waivers add him and plug him in this Sunday.
Marvin Jones (WR) Jacksonville Jaguars
With D.J. Chark out for the season, we no longer have to wonder which Jags receiver to start each week. I expect his volume to increase noticeably with Chark sidelined and Jones has a wonderful matchup this week against the Titans. The same Titans who managed to lose to the Jets last week. Only the Bucs are allowing more fantasy points to wide receivers. There is no reason to complicate this. Jones has a big opportunity and the Titans are bad. Odds are he’ll be a starter most week from here on out regardless of matchup, so you can’t bench him when he plays this secondary.
C.J. Uzomah (TE) Cincinatti Bengals
Uzomah saw his production skyrocket last week with Tee Higgins out. He caught five passes for 95 yards and two TDs. Before that game, he had four catches for 39 yards and no TDs all season. This is both encouraging and alarming. It also doesn’t help that Higgins has not been ruled out this week. However, the matchup is ideal. The Bengals will have to throw often to try to keep up with the Green Bay Packers offense. The Packers just so happen to be giving up the seventh-most points to fantasy tight ends and the eighth-fewest points to fantasy wideouts. Their elite corners help them shut down receivers, but they can’t seem to get a handle on the tight end position. If you are streaming TEs this week, Uzomah is a solid option.
Ben Roethlisberger (QB) Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger has an awful matchup this week against the Denver Broncos. So he should be nowhere near your starting lineup. More importantly, we are reaching a point that he should no longer even be on your roster anymore. In reality, he probably shouldn’t be on an NFL roster after this season. He’s an all-time great and a future Hall of Famer, but it’s time to let him go. Yes, this matchup is truly a nightmare, but the bigger issue is that he is washed.
Myles Gaskin (RB) Miami Dolphins
It has become abundantly clear over the first few weeks of the season that the Dolphins offensive coordinators have no idea what they are doing. The offense has been struggling this season with Tua Tagovailoa hurt, however, Gaskin has been averaging 5 yards per carry and contributing in the passing game. Until this week when he saw two total touches, both carries and the team opted to go with the putrid Malcolm Brown.
Brown of course plodded along to a lackluster 2.9 yards per carry and was consistently stuffed on key short-yardage plays. Why they are doing this, I have no idea. Still, this makes Gaskin currently unstartable until someone in Miami figures out what we all have known for years, that Brown is terrible. Hopefully, we see Gaskin’s volume go back up this week and the coaches come to their senses. With the Bucs opposite them, you don’t want to be starting any running backs regardless though.
Miles Sanders (RB) Philadelphia Eagles
Sanders is another case of volatile volume and brutal matchup this week. At least Kenneth Gainwell has looked good and has earned his touches in Philly though. Over the past two weeks, Sanders has seen just nine total carries for 40 yards and seven targets. Plus he’s not getting the red zone touches. There is no way you can trust him this week against the Carolina Panthers, who have been shutting down fantasy running backs every week. These issues may go well beyond just the matchup, but we will have to monitor the situation after benching him this week.
Odell Beckham (WR) Cleveland Browns
The Chargers are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers and Beckham isn’t good enough to have confidence that he can overcome this matchup. I don’t trust him and I don’t trust his quarterback this week and it’s that simple. This should be a low-scoring, run-heavy game and Beckham hasn’t been special in almost half a decade now. Put him on your bench, there are better options.
Brandin Cooks (WR) Houston Texans
This is as bad a matchup as you can get for Cooks. It goes beyond just the Patriots being very good against the pass, specifically top five against fantasy wideouts. Bill Belichick will take away your top option and few teams have a more clear top option than Cooks. Belichick also has a long history of dominating rookie and young quarterbacks. Davis Mills will be throwing Cooks the ball. Aside from one big play or a broken play, I don’t see how this goes well for Mills, Cooks, or the Texans’ offense. I’m not starting anyone of that offense this week and unfortunately, that includes Cooks.
George Kittle (TE) San Francisco 49ers
I understand that you probably aren’t actually benching Kittle this week. With that said, he has been average at best this season and has a tough matchup this week. For years the Cardinals were the worst in the league against tight ends and they have drafted to fix that issue with outstanding young athletic linebackers and safeties built to shut them down. They are now allowing the third-fewest points to fantasy tight ends. To make matters worse, they are allowing the fifth-most points to wide receivers. It’s clear how to attack this defense and it’s not with your tight end.
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