2014 Fantasy FootballBrett TalleyFantasy Football

2014 Fantasy Football: Week 3 Start/Sit

smith land
Steve Smith
Source: Larry French/Getty Images North America

Below are the guys I like or dislike in Week 3 compared to the other experts on FantasyPros.com. I’m focusing on guys that are actually on that start/sit bubble in 12-team leagues. For quarterbacks and tight ends, that means I’m focusing on guys I have on one side of 12th at the position while the consensus is on the other side. For running backs and receivers that means guys I have on one side of 24th at the position while the consensus is on the other side. For example, there’s no need to tell you I’m higher on Jay Cutler when I have him ranked #4 and the expert consensus rank (ECR) has him ranked #8. Both rankings have him in the top 12 and tell you to start him.

If you have specific start/sit questions, leave them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @TheRealTAL.

Start ‘Em

There’s not a lot going on at the quarterback position this week. There’s no every-week starter you should avoid this week because they have a bad matchup or anything, and there’s no one on the waiver wire that has a juicy matchup that demands you pick him up and start him. My top 12 quarterbacks are the exact same as the ECR top 12, albeit in a different order. Actually, my top 14 are the same as the ECR.

The first deviation comes at 15th where I have EJ Manuel and the ECR has Andy Dalton. Obviously, Dalton is better in a vacuum, but his matchup with Tennessee isn’t great, and Manuel has a nice matchup against San Diego. Manuel has also looked totally respectable to start the year. He’s top ten in the league in adjusted yards per attempt, and he has only turned the ball over once. He’s got weapons in C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins, and Fred Jackson and Robert Woods are solid contributors as well. If for whatever reason you’re looking for a plug and play quarterback this week, it’s Manuel, who is available in over 90% of ESPN.com leagues.

Bobby Rainey / at Atlanta / ECR: 34 / My rank: 19

As of this writing (early Wednesday evening), Doug Martin is listed as questionable for the Thursday night game after being able to participate in practice. It would obviously be ideal for Rainey owners if Martin were not able to go. That’s probably even true for people who own both Martin and Rainey. Because if Martin is a go, it really clouds things up. How much work will Martin be able to handle? Well Martin be effective even if given a healthy dosage of work? But if Martin is out and Rainey is shouldering the full load minus a little Mike James work, fantasy owners have a sure fire RB2 for Week 3.

Rainey did work against St. Louis last week, and he could surely do the same against an Atlanta team that allowed a total of 265 yards to Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill last week. Even if Martin does suit up, you still have to consider starting Rainey. Hill managed 96 yards and a score on just 17 touches against Atlanta. If Rainey can get just 12-15 touches, he could easily have a similar day. If Martin is out, Rainey will be a top 15 back for me. And even if Martin goes, Rainey is still probably a top 25 play at running back.

Donald Brown / at Buffalo / ECR: 29 / My rank: 24

Once you get outside the top 20 running backs, you’re either talking about backs that are part of a committee (Bush, Vereen, Bradshaw, etc…) or backs that may not be any good (looking at you Steven Jackson and Toby Gerhart). With Ryan Mathews injured, Brown should get the bulk of the work in San Diego, and Brown is a decent back. Yes, Danny Woodhead will get some work, but this should be more of a LeSean McCoy/Darren Sproles type split than a true committee. Woodhead can be effective in a Sproles type role, but Brown is the back you’d rather own. Because Brown should get more work than the other backs outside the top 20, he should be above that cut line of 24th at the position.

Brandin Cooks / vs. Minnesota / ECR: 27 / My rank: 21

I listed Cooks as a top 24 receiver last week after his impressive Week 1 performance in which he finished 10th among receivers with 95 yards and a score on eight targets and a carry. He wasn’t as impressive in Week 2, but he was still second on the Saints in targets (6), and he managed 48 yards on five touches (two more carries). With Mark Ingram on the shelf, Cooks could be in line to see a few more targets/touches. And the New Orleans offense is much, much better at home with more fantasy points to go around. As evidence of that, consider that, as a Saint, Drew Brees averages 20.9 fantasy points per game at home compared to 17.6 on the road.

Steve Smith / at Cleveland / ECR: 34 / My rank: 22

Someone is going to have to explain to me how you sit Smith right now. It’s possible you went heavy on receivers early and are just too deep at the position to need Smith. But if you’re not stacked, it’s hard to leave Smith on your bench. Smith is eighth among receivers in fantasy points, and in terms of team target percentage he is 11th in the league as 27.5% of passes that have come out of Joe Flacco‘s hand have been directed at Smith.

There is a lot of talk about Smith drawing the coverage of Joe Haden, but Haden could be shadowing Torrey Smith for all we know. Haden is typically used to shadow one receiver except when that receiver lines up in the slot. Torrey lines up in the slot more than Steve, but both have lined up in the slot less than 20% of the time through two weeks. If Steve does draw Haden, don’t be so sure that Haden will shut him down. The one receiver that has had repeated success against Haden is Antonio Brown. And Smith is similar to Brown in that they’re both guys who catch shorter passes and do some damage after that. Per ProFootballFocus, Smith has been 10.3 yards downfield on average when targeted and Brown has been 10.2 yards downfield on average.

Roll with the receiver who has been heavily targeted and successful with his many touches. And don’t be scared off by a cornerback matchup that may not be as bad as it seems and may not even happen at all.

Jared Cook / vs. Dallas / ECR: 19 / My rank: 10

Larry Donnell / vs. Houston / ECR: 15 / My rank: 11

Travis Kelce / at Miami / ECR: 16 / My rank: 12

It’s quite a week for those who stream tight ends as everyone should unless they own Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Julius Thomas. And Cook, Donnell and Kelce are definitely streamable given that all three guys are available in more than 95% of ESPN.com leagues. Waivers have processed already in most leagues, so it’s a bit surprising that they’re all still so widely available.

Cook has a great matchup with the Cowboys who gave up two touchdowns to Vernon Davis in Week 1 and 142 yards and a score to Delanie Walker in Week 2. Cook has four receptions in each of the first two games, so he’s been involved in the offense. Donnell has seen a higher percentage of targets than anyone else on the Giants. Someone getting that kind of usage is certainly usable. His matchup with Houston is an average one. And Kelce looked great in Week 2 averaging over 20 yards per catch on his four receptions. The Dolphins struggled defending tight ends last year, so Kelce also has a good matchup, if not as good as Cook’s.

Sit ‘Em

Chris Johnson / vs. Chicago / ECR: 23 / My rank: 29

Johnson is above the cut line in PPR leagues, but his teammate, Chris Ivory, is definitely the better play in standard leagues. Johnson has two more carries than Ivory this season, but Ivory has 56 more yards. And Ivory has two rushing scores to Johnson’s zero. The matchup appears good in that the Chicago defense is suspect, especially against the run. But some of that could be offset if the Bears elite offense puts them out in front early. That’s not guaranteed to happen, but the potential game flow could hurt Johnson. At the end of the day, Johnson is averaging 3.56 yards per carry, which is outside the top 30 among backs with 25% or more of their team’s carries.

Lamar Miller / vs. KC / ECR: 22 / My rank: 36

Meh. Miller got the chance to carry a heavier portion of the workload last year, and he averaged just 4 yards per carry. He also wasn’t a touchdown threat with only two touchdowns despite having more than 200 touches. Damien Williams got five carries last week, and Daniel Thomas is back in the mix. I actually watched quite a bit of Williams at Oklahoma last year and really like his talent. That obviously doesn’t mean Williams is going to usurp Miller this week or at any point, but it does mean there may be a viable alternative or supplement if Miami doesn’t want to fully rely on Miller. And the fact that they brought in Knowshon Moreno in the offseason indicates they may not view Miller as a No. 1 guy.

Roddy White / vs. TB / ECR: 18 / My rank: 33

White hasn’t practiced this week with a hamstring injury. He’s expected to go on Thursday night, but he shouldn’t be a go for your fantasy team. If you’ll remember, Roddy played several games while injured last season and was clearly nothing more than a decoy. That and the fact that it’s a short week for the Falcons make the hamstring injury a serious cause for concern. You also have to factor in that Julio Jones is healthy, so the Falcons don’t necessarily need Roddy to do damage. You really should have a better option at receiver this week.

Emmanuel Sanders / at Seattle / ECR: 21 / My rank: 37

The opinions on Sanders this week are extremely varied. Three respected experts that have a history of accuracy in the FantasyPros.com accuracy challenege have starkly different rankings of Sanders. Mike Clay and Sigmund Bloom have Sanders in their top 15 while the Sablich Brothers are the lowest on him at 41. My initial rank of Sanders was 37, but the rankings of Clay and Bloom give me pause. My ranking was based on the obviously bad matchup with the Seahawks and the return of Wes Welker. With Welker rejoining the impressive grouping of weapons that also includes Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Montee Ball, it’s hard to bank on Sanders, one of five excellent options, being a top 15 play at receiver. But Sanders has been the most productive Denver receiver so far, so maybe Clay and Bloom are right.

Kyle Rudolph / at New Orleans / ECR: 9 / My rank: 17

This marks the third consecutive week that the expert consensus has viewed Rudolph as a starting tight end while I have felt differently. I’ve been right both times, even when Rudolph had a touchdown in Week 1 because it only came with 16 yards on the day. Rudolph is so touchdown dependent, which is something to avoid if at all possible. And he’s such a low yardage guy that a touchdown doesn’t guarantee that he’s useful. He has topped 50 yards receiving once in every five games for his career, and he has averaged 27.4 yards per game. Avoid. Drop.

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