In our Week 5 fantasy football start ’em and sit ’em, we let the data give you another perspective that likely varies from the expert consensus.
Fantasy Football Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em Quick Hits
- Week 5 Yays: Russell Wilson (QB8), Khalil Herbert (RB10), Christian Kirk (WR12), Romeo Doubs (WR19)
- Week 4 Nays: Anthony Richardson (QB11), D’Andre Swift (RB21), Chris Olave (WR26), Jaylen Waddle (WR29)
- Wonder how we get our projections or how they differ from the market? This explains our model
Wide receivers totaling over 100 PPR points through the first four weeks of the season are extremely rare.
It’s an exclusive list, reserved for only the absolute elite. Since 2013, only six different receivers had hit that benchmark: Antonio Brown (Steelers: 2014), Julio Jones (Falcons: 2015), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals: 2015), Michael Thomas (Saints: 2018), Cooper Kupp (Rams: 2021, 2022), and Tyreek Hill (Chiefs: 2021).
This year, it was achieved by three receivers – Justin Jefferson, Keenan Allen, and for the second time in three years, Hill.
Falling just short of that number, currently sitting as WR4, is a good reminder of the importance of the waiver wire, or of finding the right diamonds in the rough at the end of your drafts. And it’s also a good reminder, that every once in a while, it pays big dividends to forget where a player was selected in the NFL Draft and to just trust your eyes as a fantasy manager.
It’s also advantageous to remember that while we constantly stress the importance of building up a dataset and avoiding one-game flukes, the first game of every season holds more weight because coaches have all offseason to build out the game plan for Week 1, which makes said game plan more revealing than any other.
So, for example, when you are the recipient of 15 targets in a Week 1 game, it’s a sign that coming out of the offseason program, your team and the quarterback trust you. It’s especially noteworthy when you’re a rookie. We are, of course, talking about the legend, Puka Nacua.
The lesson to remember here is when a player explodes like this in Week 1, it’s better to go after that player on waivers immediately. If they fall back to earth, they can be dropped immediately with no harm done. Because every once in a while, that supposedly one-off game turns into a trend.
Case in point, Nacua has caught 37.9% of the Los Angeles Rams’ passes this season, the highest mark in the NFL – just barely ahead of the great Davante Adams. Nacua’s 39 receptions through four weeks are tied for the fifth most by any player since 1960.
Meanwhile, when compared to rookies, it’s no contest. Since 1960, here’s the entire list of players to have at least 115 receiving yards in three of the first four games of their career: Nacua. How about players who recorded at least eight receptions three times in their first four games? Just Nacua, again.
Better yet, Nacua became the first rookie since at least 1960 to record 500 receiving yards through the first four games, and he absolutely shattered the previous receptions record, with his 39 significantly outpacing the mark of 30 set by Anquan Boldin back in 2003.
Maybe most critically for his fantasy football managers, however, is that it’s not just raw stats he’s putting up. The film and advanced data back it up. Sixty-five players have at least 21 targets this season. Nacua’s 80.8% burn rate is first among that group (Hill is second at 80%) and his open percentage of 90.4 is third amongst all the wide receivers in that group.
Now, there’s some skepticism about just how involved he will remain in the offense with Kupp coming off IR potentially as soon as this weekend. But, what Nacua has proven through four weeks is that he’s a damn good football player – too good to just completely go away. And if you have him, and he continues to put up numbers remotely resembling what he’s accomplished through four weeks, you have yourself a potential league-winning player.
Week 5 Yays
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Thursday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Russell Wilson, QB (DEN) vs. NYJ (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 8, Projected Points: 18.74)
The Broncos might not be very good, and they may not recover this season in the public’s eye from allowing 70 points to the Miami Dolphins, so what may be lost in the shuffle through four weeks is that Russ is QB9. And he’s doing it in an offense with some pretty strong indicators that it may be sustainable.
The Denver Broncos are fifth in the AFC in points scored, and Wilson is in the midst of what looks like a renaissance season. He’s tied for second in the NFL with nine passing touchdowns, and his 106.7 QB rating is third best.
Those numbers have a chance to get even better, because with the Broncos proving incapable of stopping anyone on offense, the burden will fall on Wilson and the offense to keep the team in the game. Facing off against Zach Wilson and the New York Jets, a team that just showed some signs of offensive life by nearly completing a comeback against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the bet here is that Russ will continue his solid play to start the season. He’s a top-10 play for the model.
Khalil Herbert, RB (CHI) vs. WAS (ECR: 26, Our Rank: 10, PP: 15.43)
With all the fantasy adoration that usually accompanies exciting rookies (Nacua, De’Von Achane, etc), it also usually lends itself to overrating quality starters that might just be blocking a rookie from playing time. For now, anyways, that’s exactly what Herbert is doing to Roschon Johnson.
Herbert is coming off a game in which he recorded 22 touches and 122 scrimmage yards. He’s averaging more yards per carry and more yards per catch than Johnson, and of the 29 running backs with at least 40 carries, his 2.3 yards per rush after contact is the seventh best mark. Johnson, in much fewer carries, is at only 1.4.
Thursday night games are always tough because if your player does poorly, all you can do is stare at your lineup until Sunday knowing you’re at a disadvantage for the week. But Herbert is good, and the Chicago Bears just proved to themselves and to the fantasy world what Herbert can do with a full workload alongside Justin Fields. He’s a strong play tonight against the Washington Commanders, and a better option according to our model than more household names like Miles Sanders, Derrick Henry, David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Christian Kirk, WR (JAC) vs. BUF (ECR: 22, Our Rank: 12, PP: 16.09)
Kirk made our Yays list back in Week 1, when we highlighted that the Jacksonville Jaguars had a friendly fantasy offense that could accommodate great games and seasons from multiple wide receivers. Well, Kirk finished Week 1 with only one more reception than you and me, not a good start to the season.
Luckily, when we highlighted that the model liked Kirk’s chances of a successful Week 1, the other thing we mentioned was simple – he’s good at football! Over the last three weeks, it looks like Trevor Lawrence remembered just that. Kirk is sixth in the NFL in targets and seventh in receptions since Week 2.
In their second straight London game, this time against Josh Allen and the high-flying Buffalo Bills offense, the Jaguars will likely need to win this game in a shootout. The conditions are there for Kirk to have another big game and as one of only seven wide receivers with a reception projection of higher than 6.5, our model thinks he is on track to do just that.
Romeo Doubs, WR (GB) vs. LV (ECR: 30, Our Rank: 19, PP: 14.31)
Doubs isn’t a star, and he’s not even really considered as the best receiver on his own team. That honor belongs to Christian Watson. But Jordan loves him (sorry, had to!) and that has resulted in back-to-back games with at least 12 targets.
Those two games have come against the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, two teams in the top seven in yards allowed per pass play. This week’s opponents for the Green Bay Packers, the Las Vegas Raiders, are a much friendlier opponent. Only three teams have allowed more passing touchdowns than the Raiders.
Our model is projecting him for 9.4 targets this week, 14th highest on the week, and because of that attention, he’s solidly in the WR2 tier alongside Dallas Cowboys star receiver CeeDee Lamb, Nico Collins and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ George Pickens. And if you need a little sentimentality to push yourself over the edge and trust our model, because for some reason 25 targets in two games isn’t a strong enough sign, this is a homecoming for Doubs, who played his college ball at Nevada.
Week 5 Nays
Anthony Richardson, QB (IND) vs. TEN (ECR: 6, Our Rank: 11, PP: 18.07)
Indianapolis Colts fans must be absolutely thrilled with what they’ve seen from Richardson through two-plus games to begin his career. His athleticism pops off the screen, and he makes five or so throws every game that are usually reserved for the elite quarterbacks. Houston Texans fans are similarly excited with the performance of their rookie, C.J. Stroud.
The difference between the two is that fantasy managers that invested in Richardson have reaped the benefits of a rushing touchdown in every game that he’s played and in his two full games, Richardson is averaging 25.75 fantasy points per game, which is more than the current QB1, Justin Herbert, is averaging.
What the model is highlighting, really, is that it’s extremely rare to see a rookie quarterback with an ECR so high. Our projections still think he has a strong chance of a top-10 finish on the week, but facing a tough Tennessee Titans defense that is hard to exploit on the ground, Richardson might have to rely a little more on the passing game to vault himself up into the range where his ECR suggests he should be.
D’Andre Swift, RB (PHI) vs. LAR (ECR: 5, Our Rank: 21, PP: 12.40)
If it weren’t for Christian McCaffrey and the Dolphins running backs, we might be talking more about how dynamic and incredible Swift has been for the Philadelphia Eagles through four weeks. Swift is second in the NFL in rushing yards (364) and third in yards per carry (6.17), and he’s doing this after essentially being a healthy scratch in Week 1.
Because of that production, Swift has vaulted from being borderline unplayable to an RB1 in a span of just three weeks. And it’s deserved, but while our model takes into heavy consideration recent events, it doesn’t forget about historical trends, patterns that emerge that highlight key factors such as Swift not scoring more than five rushing touchdowns in a season since his rookie year.
Even worse for Swift’s fantasy managers? He’s only the fourth option (at best) in the passing game. With Hurts looking to push the ball downfield to A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, and having tight end Dallas Goedert as a safety valve, there’s not much room left in a rushing heavy scheme for Swift to have success through the air. With only 2.2 projected receptions this week, he’s more of an RB2 in the Eagles matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, one spot ahead of Breece Hall.
Chris Olave, WR (NO) vs. NE (ECR: 13, Our Rank: 26, PP: 13.40)
Olave is a great wide receiver. But from a fantasy perspective, he’s got some weaknesses. For starters, he only has four touchdowns in 19 career games. Secondly, he only averages 3.5 yards per catch after reception. And finally, even though his overall numbers are impressive, he has an occasional dud.
Like last week, when he finished with one catch and four receiving yards. What’s more worrisome is that last week was Alvin Kamara’s first game back from suspension, and he saw 14 targets and finished with 13 receptions. Those 14 targets cut directly into Olave’s targets, who had entered the week with four straight games with double-digit targets, and finished Week 4 with only six.
This week, facing a New England Patriots defense that has only allowed three passing touchdowns, Olave’s chances of getting in the end zone aren’t great. And with Kamara and Michael Thomas stealing some of Olave’s targets, he falls into WR2 category.
Jaylen Waddle, WR (MIA) vs NYG (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 29, PP: 11.99)
Sometimes Waddle feels like a must-start, sometimes he feels like a fourth option on this offense. We’ve had Waddle on our Nay list in the past, and it’s gone both ways – well and horribly. When it goes horribly, it’s because Waddle is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, a player capable of averaging 18.0 yards per catch since the start of 2022, the highest mark in the NFL during that stretch. If you were to make a list of the five most likely players to score a 50+ yard touchdown, you’d be hard-pressed to not include Waddle on that list.
When it goes well, it’s because Tua Tagovailoa has so many weapons to distribute the ball to that Waddle ends with only four catches and 70 yards. And in case you’re wondering, that is Waddle’s exact averages through his three games so far this season.
It feels like a Waddle explosion is coming shortly, but he hasn’t had more than seven targets or five receptions in his last nine games. So, for now, this week against the New York Giants Waddle is a flex play, one fantasy managers are hoping can run into a big play.
Looking for more on trending players like Jonathan Taylor, Jameson Williams and Joe Burrow? Don’t forget to check out our weekly waiver wire takes, complete fantasy football rankings and start/sit comparison tool, as well as our NFL predictions and statistical leaderboard. Happy exploring. And follow along on Instagram and X.