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  • John Brown has been one of the league's top receivers, and he can definitely keep it up. Plus more start/sit recommendations at every position.
By Michael Beller
October 04, 2018

Six receivers have been active for their team every week this season and have put up at least 13 PPR points in each of those games. Adam Thielen, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks and Davante Adams are five of the six. If you saw that list during the preseason, you wouldn’t have been surprised. They all had top-20 average draft positions among receivers, with Thielen, Brown, Hopkins and Adams all inside the top 12.

The sixth player was nowhere near these five during draft season, and may not belong in their class for the rest of the season, despite what he has done through the first four weeks. Still, he has established himself as the go-to receiver on his team, and has played his way off the weekly start/sit bubble. In that vein, consider this his farewell tour from the SI.com Start ’Em, Sit ’Em column for the 2018 season. Going forward, you won’t see him here any longer. His owners should just assume he’s a start in 99 out of 100 cases.

John Brown is here to stay.

Brown has been a revelation for the Ravens this season, leading the team in targets (30), receiving yards (338), and receiving touchdowns (three). He already has six catches for 20 yards or more, tied for ninth in the NFL and good for 40% of his total receptions. Brown’s least-productive game of the season from a fantasy perspective in PPR formats was in Week 1 when he caught three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown.

The love for Brown in the SI.com fantasy sports department is well-known. We talked him up as one of the most undervalued fantasy players during the summer. We sang his praises during the first two weeks of the season when he was still on far too many waiver wires. We had him consistently rated as a weekly WR2 as the rest of the industry has been slow to believe in him. Four weeks into the season, it’s now plain for everyone to see just how underrated Brown was by most of the fantasy community one month ago. With an average of 13.05 points per week in standard-scoring leagues, and 16.8 points per game in PPR formats, Brown ranks 20th in the former and 21st in the latter this season. He may not have the weekly floor of the other five players with at least 13 PPR points in all four weeks this season, but his ceiling is nearly as high, and his consistency has been equally as impressive.

This week, Brown and the Ravens get a matchup with the Browns’ defense, which is ranked 20th in wide receiver aFPA in standard-scoring leagues, and 18th in PPR formats. It’s essentially a neutral matchup, but Brown isn’t a matchup-based player. Three of the four defenses he has burned this season—Buffalo, Denver and Cincinnati—are all ranked higher against receivers than Cleveland, with the Bills and Broncos both among the top seven. The first-year Raven is an every-week fantasy starter.

With that, let’s get to the rest of Week 5 Start ’Em or Sit ’Em.

Quarterbacks

Start

Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at Eagles)

The startable quarterback pool is deeper than ever, and that’s helping push Cousins down to a consensus ranking on FantasyPros of the No. 14 quarterback this week. That’s more than a little ridiculous in my estimation. Cousins is the No. 7 quarterback in standard-scoring leagues this season, putting up two huge games and two decent ones. He has one of the best receiver duos in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and he’s already making great use of both of his top-flight weapons. We’re supposed to downgrade him because he’s at Philadelphia, a defense ranked 18th in quarterback aFPA? I don’t think so. I grant that the Vikings’ implied team total of 20.75 points (based on the over/under of 45 and the line of Eagles -3) puts a slight damper on my Cousins enthusiasm, but he’s the sort of quarterback who can transcend the oddsmakers. If I own Cousins, I’m not sitting him this week.

Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Packers)

It seems we have to do this every single week. Stafford goes into Sunday ranked as a low-end QB1, he puts up big numbers, like, say, the 307 yards, 10.23 yards per attempt, and two touchdowns he had against the Cowboys last week, and the needle doesn’t move at all. Stafford is as reliable as they come, at least from a fantasy perspective, and should be trusted in a matchup with the Packers on Sunday. This game has an over/under of 51, and with the Packers small favorites on the road, we could be looking at a shootout.

Andy Dalton, Bengals (vs. Dolphins)

You know everything you just read about Stafford. It all applies to Dalton, too, except for the parts specific to Stafford being on the Lions. Dalton has scored at least 17.52 points in all four games this season, and is the No. 9 quarterback in standard-scoring leagues. There’s some concern that the Dolphins could slow this game down, but not to the point that Dalton won’t be worth starting. The Bengals are six-point favorites in a game with an over/under of 49.5, giving them an implied total of 27.75 points. Dalton is a top-10 quarterback option this week.

Alex Smith, Redskins (at Saints)

Smith’s tenure in Washington hasn’t gotten off to a roaring start, with his 767 yards, 7.99 YPA and four touchdowns in three games basically par for the course in the modern NFL. He’s scoring just shy of 17 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, which ranks 20th among quarterbacks with at least three starts this season, and he has yet to find a true go-to pass-catcher. This matchup, however, sets up wonderfully for him, with the Saints ranked 31st in quarterback aFPA. They did manage to hold Tyrod Taylor and Eli Manning in check, but got carved up by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Ryan. This game has an over/under of 52.5, second-highest on the board for the week, so even though Washington is a touchdown underdog, they have an implied total of 22.75 points. Smith is a top-15 quarterback play for Week 5.

Superflex Special

Josh Rosen, Cardinals (at 49ers)

Rosen had a much better starting debut than the surface stats would suggest, as Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling covered in this week’s Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Rosen’s receivers victimized him with a few drops, and Chad Williams just barely missed getting his feet down in the end zone for what would’ve been the first touchdown pass of the rookie’s career. He could’ve been a top-15 quarterback last week if his receivers made a few more plays for him, and that bodes well for both his immediate and long-term future. For his second start, Rosen draws a matchup with a 49ers defense ranked 20th in quarterback aFPA. There’s some danger that this turns into a low-scoring affair, but Rosen unlocked something in David Johnson last week, and that’s great news for the rookie quarterback.

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Week 5 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Sit

Carson Wentz, Eagles (vs. Vikings)

Wentz volumed his way to a solid fantasy performance last week, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns. Believe it or not, that made him just the No. 15 quarterback last week, and he needed the overtime period to get there. Wentz has looked healthy in his two starts, and he has played well enough for the Eagles to win both (though they lost to Tennessee last week), but something isn’t quite all the way back just yet. He and Alshon Jeffery clicked in the receiver’s first game of the season, a great sign, but I still want to see more from him before I trust him as a regular starter. I have him as my QB17, so I’m not sitting him outright, and I’d play him over both of the next two sits, as well as Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota. In addition to all the starts, I’d play Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles and Patrick Mahomes (at Jacksonville) over Wentz.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (vs. Rams)

Wilson had his worst game of the season last week, throwing for 172 yards, 6.62 YPA and zero touchdowns in Seattle’s 20-17 win at Arizona. We’re used to seeing Wilson get the job done no matter who is around him, but this season is presenting an entirely new challenge. Wilson is the No. 20 quarterback in standard-scoring leagues, and has turned in just one QB12 performance this season, against the Broncos in Week 1. He has a brutal matchup with a Rams defense ranked sixth in quarterback aFPA on the season. Not only is Wilson untrustworthy this week, you may not be able to rely on him as an every-week starter this season.

Derek Carr, Raiders (at Chargers)

Carr is admittedly showing signs of growth this season. Most notably, his 8.12 YPA ranks seventh in the league, a welcome change after he was below league-average in YPA in each of his first four seasons. Like Wentz, Carr isn’t an outright sit. Raiders-Chargers has an over/under of 53.5, and the Raiders have an implied team total of 24 points. He has yet to fully earn our trust, though, and should be though of more as a mid-level QB2 than a QB1. I would play him over Wilson, Flacco and Mariota, though.

Running Backs

Start

Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (at Jets)

I wrote the following (basically) in the intro to our Week 5 rankings: Lindsay delivered again last week, running 12 times for 69 yards and a touchdown, and catching two passes for 10 yards. There's definitely some concern with the backfield split, as Royce Freeman picked up 67 yards and a score on eight carries, but Lindsay has scored at least 11 points in standard leagues (13.73 PPG) and at least 12 points in PPR formats (15.4 PPG) in all three games where he didn't get ejected. The Broncos are small underdogs at the Jets, but, again, this is a matchup aFPA likes, with the Jets ranked 23rd against running backs.

Yeah, I’m starting Lindsay.

Aaron Jones, Packers (at Lions)

I wrote my heart out to Jones in this week’s Target and Snap Report, and I am entirely confident he will take full control of the Green Bay backfield on Sunday. He looked great last week, totaling 82 yards and a touchdown on 12 touches, including 11 carries for 65 yards. His touchdown came from three yards out, and he picked up at least 10 yards on one-quarter of his touches went. Jones can be a do-it-all-back in a high-powered offense. Get him in your lineup this week, and possibly every week going forward.

Kenyan Drake, Dolphins (at Bengals)

If you watched Miami’s last two games and blinked at all, you might have completely missed Drake. He has eight carries for six yards and three catches for 20 yards in those games, and is on pace to be one of this season’s most significant letdowns. We can take a step back, though, and put this in context. First, last week’s loss to the Patriots was out of hand almost from the word go, and the Dolphins ran just 43 plays. Drake played two-thirds of the snaps in Week 3, and 45% of them in Week 4, so it’s not like he has vanished entirely from the offense. What’s more, the Dolphins’ coaching staff should see last week’s ineffectiveness as a sign that Drake needs more run on a weekly basis. The over/under on Dolphins-Bengals is 49.5, and while the Bengals are nearly touchdown favorites, this is still a good game in which to invest. The Bengals are ranked 20th in running back aFPA in standard-scroing leagues, and 21st in PPR formats, this season.

Dion Lewis, Titans (at Bills)

Marcus Mariota is still dealing with some discomfort in his arm, but that wasn’t readily apparent last week when he threw for 344 yards, 8.0 YPA and two touchdowns in the Titans’ win over the Eagles. A healthy Mariota is great news for Lewis, who has had his two best games of the season with Mariota under center from start to finish. The Bills present a great matchup, with a defense ranked 28th against running backs in both standard-league and PPR aFPA. The pace of this game could be an issue, and the over/under is just 39, but Lewis’ receiving upside makes him worthy of at least a flex spot in all leagues.

NFL
Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings

Sit

Adrian Peterson, Redskins (at Saints)

Peterson is one of the most predictable fantasy players in the league. When Washington gets in positive game script, he’s likely to see a ton of volume. When the team is in negative game script, his role could be nearly non-existent. As bad as the Saints’ defense has been this year, I don’t see Washington playing much of this game with a lead. If Peterson doesn’t strike early, he won’t strike at all, and that’s not a bet I want to make.

LeSean McCoy, Bills (vs. Titans)

At this point, it’s impossible to trust anyone in Buffalo’s offense. Last week seemed like a great spot for McCoy. He was back and close to 100% after missing one game with a rib injury. Josh Allen brought some competence to Buffalo’s offense, and made Chris Ivory a receiving weapon in McCoy’s absence. The Packers were comfortable favorites, but their defense hasn’t exactly been a shutdown unit this season. And then McCoy went out, got just five carries for some reason, and finished the game with 37 yards from scrimmage. This team needs to show us more than a little something before we can trust any of its players as fantasy starters.

Isaiah Crowell, Jets (vs. Broncos)

Why do I have to be the Crowell reality check every season? Yet again, Crowell is a touchdown-dependent player on a bad offense. This is someone who deserves serious fantasy consideration? I suppose if you regularly start Jordan Howard and were leaning on Peyton Barber as part of a zero-RB strategy, then Crowell might be someone you turn to this week. But then, you’re already in serious trouble if that’s the case, and you know it. Anyway, unless you want to take a shot on Crowell scoring a touchdown, he should be on your bench.

Royce Freeman, Broncos (at Jets)

Freeman made the most of his opportunities last week, turning eight carries into 67 yards and a touchdown. Ready for another healthy dose of reality? He played eight fewer snaps than Phillip Lindsay, got zero targets, and didn’t see the field on Denver’s final possession with the team driving for a go-ahead touchdown. If you think he can keep posting 1.5 fantasy points per touch, then go ahead and start him. Of course, if you believe that, you should probably be looking for a new hobby.

Wide Receivers

Start

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (at Jets)

Some fantasy owners are understandably bailing on Thomas, with the receiver totaling 20 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown through four games this season. Much of that, however, owes to the struggles of Denver’s passing game as a whole. Thomas has just four red-zone targets, two of which have come inside the 5-yard line. While the raw total is ugly, it represents one-third of the team’s red-zone targets, which ranks 13th in the league. Playing Thomas is a pure process-over-results decision. So long as Thomas is the dominant piece of Denver’s passing game when the team is in the red zone, the touchdowns will eventually come.

Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, Jaguars (at Chiefs)

The Chiefs are ranked 19th in wide receiver aFPA in standard-scoring leagues, 24th in PPR leagues, and 30th against quarterbacks. They shut down Case Keenum last week, but every other quarterback they’ve faced this season has scored at least 20.3 fantasy points, throwing for a minimum of 251 yards and two touchdowns. Blake Bortles, meanwhile, is the 11th-ranked quarterback in standard-scoring leagues, and Leonard Fournette has already been ruled out. The over/under on this game is 48.5, and the Jaguars are expected to account for 22.5 of those points. Investing in Jacksonville’s passing game makes a ton of sense this week.

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (at 49ers)

Fitzgerald didn’t do much in Josh Rosen’s first start, catching three passes for 28 yards. On the bright side, he led the team with seven targets, and was able to play without any complications related to his hamstring issue. The 49ers have proved a tough matchup for wide receivers, ranking in the top five in both standard-league and PPR aFPA, but, as we discussed earlier, Rosen brings some real juice to this Arizona offense. Don’t sleep on the Cardinals this week.

Sterling Shepard, Giants (at Panthers)

Shepard without Evan Engram or Odell Beckham is as automatic a start as Antonio Brown or Julio Jones. He delivered again last week, this time with the tight end injured, catching 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers are a tough matchup, ranking third in wide receiver aFPA in standard league and sixth in PPR, but Shepard typically gets the job done when he gets ample opportunity, and he should have that in this game. He has a WR3 floor, and is likely to get to at least WR2 numbers if he finds the end zone.

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Sit

Nelson Agholor, Eagles (vs. Vikings)

Agholor had 22 yards on 12 targets last week. I didn’t know that was possible unless you were a running back or 2013 Tavon Austin. With Alshon Jeffery back, Agholor took a backseat in the Philadelphia passing game, while Jeffery and Zach Ertz put up big numbers. Agholor is still valuable as a depth receiver, especially with some heavy bye weeks coming our way, but the only way you should be considering him for your lineup is if you’re short-handed at the position this week.

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (vs. Rams)

We touched on Seattle’s offensive struggles earlier, with respect to Russell Wilson. Lockett had actually risen above those struggles for the first three weeks of the season, totaling 12 catches for 196 yards and scoring a touchdown in all three games. Without the touchdown salve last week, though, his five-catch, 53-yard line looked a lot more pedestrian. It’s worth noting, too, that all of his touchdowns came with Doug Baldwin on the sidelines. Baldwin didn’t score last week, either, but he did lead the Seahawks in targets. On top of that, the Rams represent a brutal matchup for the Sehawks.

Michael Crabtree, Ravens (at Browns)

Crabtree has proved himself as touchdown-dependent as ever, turning 34 targets into 184 yards this season. This isn’t necessarily a bad matchup, with the Browns slightly more friendly to receivers in standard formats than PPR leagues, a suggestion that touchdown-dependent receivers fare better against them than those that rack up receptions. The Ravens have an implied total of 25 points and are favored by three points, so they should be getting in the end zone multiple times in this one. Still, John Brown is clearly the team’s top receiver, and Alex Collins and Javorius Allen are providing noticeable punch out of the backfield. The Ravens are also getting a lot of production out of their trio of tight ends, all of which is sapping Crabtree’s presence in the red zone. He was second in the league in targets inside the 5-yard line last year, and 14th in 2016. He has yet to receive one such target this season, and has just two red-zone targets. Without those looks in close, Crabtree’s touchdown upside plummets.

Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (vs. Jaguars)

Watkins left last week’s win over the Broncos in the first half with a hamstring injury. If he suits up on Sunday, it will likely be at less than 100%, and it will be against one of the most fearsome defenses in the league. Patrick Mahomes has been a magician this season, but even he can’t pull a rabbit out of his hat on this one. Watkins will have plenty of bright days this season, but this Sunday will not be one of them.

Tight Ends

Start

David Njoku, Browns (vs. Ravens)

I know I’ve been beating the Njoku drum all season, thus far to little avail. He had his best game of the season last week, though, catching five of seven targets for 52 yards in Baker Mayfield’s first start. He’s going to break through sooner rather than later, and he easily clears the low bar to start at the tight end position this week. Don’t worry about the admittedly tough matchup with a Ravens defense ranked second in tight end aFPA. Njoku belongs in your lineup.

Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals (at 49ers)

Njoku isn’t the only tight end benefitting from the move to a rookie quarterback. Seals-Jones caught two passes for 52 yards in Josh Rosen’s first start, finally showing some signs of life this season. The 49ers have been dreadful against tight ends, ranking 30th in aFPA against the position. They’ve allowed a touchdown to the position in all four of their games this season to a group that includes Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudloph, Antonio Gates and Michael Roberts.

Ben Watson, Saints (vs. Redskins)

When a position is as bad as tight end is this year, sometimes finding a starter is as simple as trusting a guy on a high-powered offense with an elite quarterback. Watson has 13 catches for 157 yards this season and has yet to score a touchdown, but backing the Saints’ passing game against Washington is a wise decision.

Sit

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jaguars (at Chiefs)

Seferian-Jenkins is a fine play against a Chiefs defense that has been terrible against the pass this year, but I’d rather back Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and T.J. Yeldon. Seferian-Jenkins is a touchdown-or-bust player, and even at this position, you want to try to find someone a little more reliable.

Nick Vannett, Seahawks (vs. Rams)

Vannett popped up on the radar with Will Dissly going to IR. Somehow, that alone has him as a high-end TE2 in the consensus rankings on FantasyPros, so I’m here to throw some cold water on that. The third-year player out of Ohio State has 24 receptions for 223 yards and one touchdown in his career, and, remember, couldn’t beat out Dissly to be the team’s starting tight end this week. Oh, and, as we’ve touched on a few times, the Rams are a terrible matchup for a slow offense with a bad offensive line.

Antonio Gates, Chargers (vs. Raiders)

Writing sit recommendations for the tight end position has really become soul-sucking, and it’s just Week 5. Can we hit the reset button on this position and get Hunter Henry, Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen, O.J. Howard and Tyler Eifert back, please? Anyway, Gates needs to score a touchdown to matter in fantasy leagues, and he’s not going to do that very often in an offense with Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler. Do not start him.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)