News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 7

(It’s Week 6 of the NFL season. This and every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)

There’s a general structure to the week in fantasy football.

  • Mondays are slow, a time to look back, hope Monday night works out well for you, but usually not a time to make dramatic changes either way.
  • Tuesdays are crazy. Waiver claims to make. Standings are updated, so you need to step back and reassess your position. Maybe there are trades to discuss. If the week is a meal, Tuesday is breakfast.
  • Wednesdays might be slower than Tuesdays, but there is plenty of action. The waiver claims you made are processed, so you can see what your team looks back and where you still need to address. Injury news comes out.
  • Thursdays involve lineup-setting. Maybe you don’t need to finalize everything, but you at least need to figure out your plan for the Thursday games, and that involves strategy for the whole week, even if it isn’t finalizes.
  • Fridays are for finalizing, usually. Friday and Saturday wind down the fantasy action, only for it to ramp back up Sunday morning for last-minute decisions.

That’s how it’s supposed to be, at least. That means that news that breaks early in the week is easy to react to, easy to know how to respond to. Your star wide receiver his IR on Tuesday? Well, you can make a waiver claim. Team makes a change at starting RB on Thursday? Plenty of time to figure out the lineup implications.

That’s why, at least in my opinion, the Browns really made things difficult this week.

No one likes late-breaking Friday news. It flies under the radar, precisely because of when it occurs. Once you start to notice it, you notice it all the time — bad news from major organizations often comes on a Friday around 5, because people are heading into the weekend and the news cycle is quieter. So when a football team trades its starting running back on a Friday afternoon, after the primary advice has been finalized, it’s frustrating.

We had pieces Saturday morning, and our rankings are up-to-date, so this isn’t a disaster. We’ve addressed the fact that Carlos Hyde is now a Jaguar, Nick Chubb is now much more relevant in Cleveland. But, for example, podcasts that are recorded Friday morning (and there are a lot of them) previewed the weekend slate with the pre-trade presumptions, and then by the time most people listened to them, they were out of date.

Here's my analysis of the trade, pending other news being released:

  • Carlos Hyde is a low-end RB2, high-end flex for however long Leonard Fournette is out … after this week. This week, I wouldn’t start him if I had any other option (unfortunately for me in one league, I don’t). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jacksonville deactivates Hyde for this week. But after that, he’ll be the ball-carrier, with T.J. Yeldon the pass-catcher. Hyde’s floor is about the same in Jacksonville sans Fournette, but his ceiling is lower.
  • Nick Chubb is a mid-level RB2. He’ll have the same problem Hyde does, in that Duke Johnson will catch most of the passes, but Chubb has shown how electric he can be in a small sample, so even carries could pay off in a big way.
  • Duke Johnson goes from unrosterable to a flex-play flyer. He should catch more passes (especially given the stone-hands epidemic throughout the team’s receiver corps).
  • J. Yeldon has been an RB1 so far this year. He’s … not now.

So there, NFL. You break late news, I react even later.

On to the Week 7 advice.

Live chats

We’ve added live chats to our weekly repertoire of advice Maybe your questions were answered, or maybe you can just use this resource to find answers to questions you had but never got to ask. We hold four each week — Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tuesday’s through Saturday’s chat are linked below, and Sunday’s will be live two hours before gametime.

Rankings and start/sit

These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Friday is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

2.Saquon Barkley, NYG @ ATL (RB2) — The Giants aren’t playing well, but that isn’t stopping Barkley.
3.Melvin Gordon, LAC vs TEN (RB3) — The heavy volume continues for Gordn. He’s locked in as a top-end RB1.
4.Kareem Hunt, KC vs CIN (RB4) — Kansas City firing on all cylinders has really opened things up for Hunt.
5.Adam Thielen, MIN @ NYJ (WR1) — Can he top 100 yards for a seventh straight game? The matchup says he can.

Two starts, two sits

START Baker Mayfield in medium-sized leagues: Although Mayfield’s dealing with an ankle injury and has somewhat underwhelmed (at least by my lofty expectations), his matchup is ideal, against Tampa Bay’s borderline historically bad pass defense.
START Jermaine Kearse in deep leagues: Quincy Enunwa is out for Week 7 and both Terrelle Pryor and Robby Anderson missed practice Wednesday. Kearse caught nine of 10 targets for 94 yards last week, and now gets an even softer draw against the Vikings.
SIT Greg Olsen in shallow leagues: In his first game back, Olsen played on 59 of the team’s 60 snaps and saw seven targets. That’s a good sign, but he’s still just a fringe TE1 this week in a brutal matchup against the Eagles.
SIT Austin Ekeler in medium-sized leagues: Being one of the most efficient running backs in the league doesn’t mean much when you’re averaging 6.8 carries and 2.8 targets per game.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Mitchell Trubisky: Trubisky faces the high-scoring New England Patriots and will likely be forced to air it out all game long. The Patriots have given up the ninth-most fantasy points per dropback to opposing quarterbacks this year, while Trubisky ranks tied for fifth in PPDB.
BUST: Mark Ingram: It won’t be smooth sailing in Week 7 against the Ravens, who have given up the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields. Also, look for Alvin Kamara to be more involved, as the game-script won’t be so Ingram-friendly.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Marlon Mack in shallow leagues: Mack was back on the field in Week 6 and saw 55% of the team’s carries. Expect a committee to continue in Indy, but Mack will be in the lead.
ADD Willie Snead in medium-sized leagues: The veteran receiver has seen 40 targets through the first six weeks of the season, which is just two fewer than teammate John Brown.
ADD Chad Kelly in deep leagues: The clock is ticking for Case Keenum, so it’s worth pre-emptively adding Kelly in 2QB leagues.

QB streamers

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: All of Flacco’s volume could pay dividends Sunday against New Orleans. The Saints are a bottom-four graded coverage unit, having yielded the third-most fantasy points to opposing passers.

DST streamers

Jacksonville Jaguars: With this unit severely underperforming, there’s the chance a fed-up owner has had enough and drops them. Jump on the Jaguars if they hit the waiver wire this week as the matchup is ideal for this DST to be fantasy gold.

Deeper dives

You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.

Long-term sleepers

D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans: Foreman is eligible to come off the PUP list this week, but the most recent news I’ve read on his Achilles recovery is that it may be November before he’s ready to play. If you can spare the bench space as the heavy bye weeks approach, I recommend picking him up now.

Snaps, Pace, and Stats

Rams at 49ers: The last time the Rams played in San Francisco, we received one of the more pleasantly surprising Thursday night barnburners in memory. It produced 80 points on 134 snaps in a two-point Rams win. Brian Hoyer was the 49ers quarterback then, but as we just saw during Monday night’s classic in Green Bay, C.J. Beathard can support a shootout.

Trade value chart

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans: The biggest faller was Fuller, who has experienced the regression we knew was going to come eventually. With just eight catches for 97 yards over his last three games combined, Fuller hasn’t impressed. Keke Coutee’s emergence has also eaten into Fuller’s targets.

Weather and venue adjustments

New England Patriots: The forecast for Chicago at game time is for temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit and winds 5-10 miles per hour with gusts up to 15. Those aren’t exactly extreme conditions, but my research found that even cold-but-not-freezing and moderately windy conditions can hamper teams’ passing games.

RB committee report

Ito Smith trending UP: Devonta Freeman was trending down prior to the news of his season-ending injury. Smith was a big reason for that, given his regular usage in recent weeks. His 3.2 YPC average doesn’t look appealing on the surface, but all but one of his 102 yards have come after contact.
Jordan Howard trending DOWN: Tarik Cohen and Howard each has four runs of 15-plus yards this season, but Howard has done so on 46 more carries. In addition, Howard ranks way back at 58th in fantasy points per opportunity (0.31), between the likes of Devontae Booker and Alfred Blue.

DFS advice

We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game). And Scott Barrett offers up his favorite tournament plays of the week on both primary sites.

Favorite tournament plays

Josh Gordon on DraftKings: Last week, Gordon’s snap share jumped from 26% to 80% and he saw a team-high nine targets. On Tuesday, head coach Bill Belichick said of Gordon, “I would just say his role is expanding weekly and we’ll just see how it all plays out.”
Nick Chubb on FanDuel: With Carlos Hyde now in Jacksonville, Chubb would easily be the best value of the slate if he assumes the entirety of Hyde’s missing workload (granted, not a given). Hyde ranks 12th among running backs in expected fantasy points per game, averaging 19.0 carries, 1.5 targets, and 1.7 opportunities inside the 5-yard line per game.

Bargains

Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Goodwin came back to life for those who drafted him as a sleeper. Now fully healthy and the clear-cut first read for C.J. Beathard, Goodwin makes for a bargain play in any matchup based on volume and talent since you’ll have to scroll all the way down the WR list to find him.
David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns: Njoku has seen a massive uptick in targets since Baker Mayfield took over at quarterback, yet he is still priced as only a back-end TE1.

Locks

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns: Mayfield, a cheaper quarterback option, will be locked in against a Buccaneers defense giving up 367 passing yards per game (!) and over three touchdowns per game (!) to opposing quarterbacks.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: With eight targets in every game since his return — and three touchdowns in as many games — Jeffery provides both a stable floor and a high ceiling.

Stacks

Cam Newotn, QB; Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers: The Eagles defense appears to be more name than game this season with injuries in the secondary piling up and Rasul Douglas shifting from cornerback to safety. We avoid Greg Olsen here because only one team has allowed fewer points on a per-game basis to tight ends than the Eagles.

Fades/Contrarian Plays

Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: Luck is projected to be one of our five highest-owned quarterbacks on both sites, but that makes little sense to me given the matchup. The Bills rank third-best in fantasy points allowed per dropback, fifth-best in pressures generated per dropback, and second-best in schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks.

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