By Logan Garrett, Editor-In-Chief
This is the fourth installment of The Echo’s weekly fantasy football column, which is intended to provide insight into how to prepare for a draft and manage a roster. Student input is encouraged and appreciated. Ideas and feedback can be provided to Jake Moore, Assistant Sports Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this week’s column, Echo Editor-In-Chief Logan Garrett will be providing personal predictions on which players at each skill position that you should start (keep in your starting lineup), sit (don’t start these players due to a bad matchup or subpar recent performances), stash (place on your bench for later in the season or until they emerge as a solid fantasy play), or sell (trade them). The opinions expressed are based on both PPR (points per reception) and non-PPR criteria, but stats and scores will be expressed as PPR.
Start Matt Breida AND Tevin Coleman, SF: It’s always frustrating to play two players in one backfield (e.g. Phillip Lindsay & Royce Freeman, Damien Williams & LeSean McCoy, Miles Sanders & Jordan Howard), but the 49ers team is one of the only teams in the league that could sustain two fantasy relevant running backs. The Niners are running the ball at a league high 56.62 percent of the time, and that run percentage is the highest in the NFL since the 2009 Jets. This is truly a 50/50 split for Coleman and Breida (25 snaps for Coleman & 24 for Breida), and they’ll see plenty of opportunities against a fallible Rams run defense, which has given up huge games to Chris Carson, Nick Chubb, and even Ronald Jones. We know that Tevin Coleman will see the majority of early down opportunities, but Breida is an explosive player who will make the most of every opportunity. On his 83-yard touchdown during MNF, Breida actually clocked the top speed of any player in the NFL this season at 22.3 mph, and he’s a tailback that has averaged 5.7 yards per carry (YPC) over the past 18 games. Even if Coleman gets more carries and targets, Breida will also be a viable flex play considering the efficiency of his touches.
Sit Jonathon Hilliman, NYG: This is the worst possible “next man up” situation for Hilliman considering he’s going up against the Patriots’ exceptional run defense. Even though it’s assumed Hilliman will get most of the Giants’ backfield touches with Wayne Gallman going through concussion protocol, he’s playing in Foxborough against a Pats D that’s allowing a league-low 63 yards per game and has yet to give up a rushing TD to a running back. This is also on top of the fact that there’s a good chance that both Evan Engram and Sterling Shephard will be inactive heading into Thursday night, meaning this Giants’ offense will be even more stagnant than in previous weeks. This is just a terrible matchup for the rookie third-string back making his first start in his career.
Stash RB Handcuffs: By week 6, it’s becoming more clear which RBs will be the best fantasy options for the rest of the season, so if you own some of these tailbacks, this is an opportune time to start stashing RB handcuffs. The most valuable handcuffs are players that will step into a workhorse role in a good offensive scheme if the starter goes down, and the most obvious handcuff right now is Reggie Bonnafon (CAR). Christian McCaffrey is having a historically amazing season and is seeing an astronomical amount of touches and opportunities, so if he gets worn down over the season and has to miss a couple of games, Reggie Bonnafon stands to inherit that workload. He exhibited his skill on a 59-yard TD run last week while McCaffrey was sidelined by some cramps, and he should be rostered in 100% of leagues, especially if you’re a McCaffrey owner. Other important handcuffs include Alexander Mattison (MIN), Rashaad Penny (SEA), and Gus Edwards (BAL), simply because they’re all on top five teams in terms of rushing percentage and will see a ton of work if their respective starters get injured.
Sell James Conner, PIT: I doubt you’ll be able to get a ton of value out of Conner at this point, but I believe things are actually going to get much worse for the third year back out of Pittsburgh. Conner is already on his third quarterback this year, and I don’t believe this Steelers’ offense will get it together with Devlin Hodges under center. Conner is also already averaging 38th in YPC at 3.3 and has yet to eclipse 14 rushes in a game. His fantasy game last week was saved by a touchdown, so if you can deal him for a different top 20 back, I would pull the trigger.
Pass Catchers (Wide Receivers & Tight Ends)
Start DJ Chark, JAX: The Chark Attack is legit this year. The second year receiver out of LSU is obviously Gardner Minshew’s favorite target, securing 21.9 percent of the target share, and 34.6 percent of Minshew’s completions and 56.9 percent of his deep passing attempts have gone to Chark. Aside from his prominence among Jaguars receivers, Chark has been playing at an elite level among every receiver in the NFL. He is currently first in the league in deep targets (12), fifth in receiving yards (485), and second in receiving TDs (5). He might struggle this week against Saints corner Marshon Latitmore, who held Mike Evans to zero catches last week, but he’s currently a player you have to start until he gives you a reason not to.
Sit Brandin Cooks, LAR: Cooks has historically been a boom-or-bust speedster who will either give you 20+ points or less than 5. He’s also on a Rams offense that is far worse than they were last season, and it does not look like Jared Goff can sustain three fantasy receivers even though he’s thrown a league 222 passes this season. This doesn’t bode well for a banged up Cooks heading into a week 6 matchup with the 49ers, who are allowing the second least passing yards per game this season.
Stash Mohamed Sanu, ATL: Since becoming a Falcon in 2016, Mohammed Sanu has been a productive and dependable wide receiver. Atlanta has had to throw a ton this season, and Matt Ryan is the only QB with at least 300 passing yards in every game. This provides Sanu with amazing floor considering he’s logged at least 10 fantasy points in four out of five games this season, and he’s also one of only twelve wide receivers with at least four catches every single week.. He also leads the Falcons receiving corps in catches (29) and has caught 86.6 percent of his targets. He’s been a reliable target for Matt Ryan, and if Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley were to miss time due to injury, Sanu would be a respectable flex play. If you have a spot at the bottom of your bench, I believe he’s worth a stash.
Sell Sterling Shephard, NYG: This is a hot take considering how productive Shephard has been since Daniel Jones took over the Giants offense, but I want no part of Sterling Shephard for the rest of the season. In the first four weeks of 2019, Shephard ran 80 percent of his routes from the slot, but during Golden Tate’s return in week five, Shephard’s slot route percentage plummeted to 30 percent. In Shephard’s four year career, he has never scored a touchdown on the perimeter in comparison to 15 TDs from the slot, and he ranks 49th in non-slot performance among qualified receivers over his career. Despite his lack of slot routes and a poor performance overall, he still had 10 targets last week, but I believe we’ll see his target share drop even more as Golden Tate gets more integrated into this offense. He’s a WR4 for me going forward, and I would try to sell him for whatever you can possibly get this week considering he’s been ruled out with a concussion.