All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
The byes are letting up a bit. There are only four teams—Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Baltimore—off this week, but Jameis Winston (shoulder) is out, while Dez Bryant (ankle, knee) and DeMarco Murray (knee) could potentially miss Week 10 as well.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of Week 10’s best Sneaky Starts:
Andy Dalton, Bengals (at Titans)
Dalton predictably flopped last week against the Jaguars (136 yards and no touchdowns), but he threw 11 touchdowns in his previous five games. Looking at his game log, in four moderate (white) or favorable (green) matchups, Dalton has averaged 242 yards and 2.0 touchdowns per game. The Titans are No. 22 in quarterback aFPA, so they fall in that moderate-to-favorable range.
Orleans Darkwa, Giants (at 49ers)
Darkwa turned 18 touches into 79 yards against the Rams last week. In the past three games, Darkwa has garnered 59% of the team’s running back touches, and with another favorable matchup on tap—the 49ers are last in the league in RB aFPA—he should produce a good fantasy line.
Sterling Shepard & Tavarres King, Giants (at 49ers)
Shepard racked up nine targets in his first game back from injury, so he’s a fairly obvious play against the 49ers. King, however, is still flying well under the radar after turning six targets into three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown in Week 9. That was twice as many targets as what Roger Lewis saw, so it appears that King is the third option in the Giants passing game after Shepard and Evan Engram. He's a deep-league option this week against a shaky San Francisco defense.
Garrett Celek, 49ers (vs. Giants)
George Kittle has already been ruled out with an ankle injury, so Celek should see starter’s snaps this week. The Giants rank last in tight end aFPA, allowing a touchdown to the position in every game this season. In the seven career games where he’s seen at least five targets, Celek has averaged 3.1 catches for 39 yards and 0.29 touchdowns. That’s a conservative expectation given the extremely favorable matchup.