Staff Playbook: Which Hot Starts Are You Buying and Fading?
Welcome to the QB List Staff Playbook Series. Every week throughout both the season, we will conduct a staff survey, asking multiple fantasy analysts to share their insights on some of fantasy football’s most pressing questions. Essentially, we’re sharing our “playbook” with you, revealing the hard choices and strategic moves we would make to stay ahead of the competition.
This week, the QB List Staff was asked which hot starts we should buy and which ones we should fade:
Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs): Buying – Chris Godwin; Fading – Marcus Mariota
Reasoning: Chris Godwin has caught 26 out of 36 targets for 386 yards and 4 TDs. He’s on pace for 104 receptions, 1,544 yards, and 16 touchdowns. With Mike Evans playing opposite him in Tampa Bay, Godwin likely falls short of those lofty projections, but that won’t stop the two from each maintaining WR1 status moving forward as they overtake Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as the biggest, best, and most prolific receiving tandem in football. Through four weeks, Godwin is PFF’s highest-graded receiver in the NFL. In terms of most yards per route run this season, Godwin ranks third in the league with 2.59 behind only Keenan Allen and Davante Adams. He’s legit, elite, and everything we hoped he would be this year.
Chris Godwin ranks among WRs through the first month of #12SZN:
– 1st in receiving grade (90.1)
– 2nd in overall offense grade (90.2)
– 3rd (10+ targets) in NFL passer rating when targeted (155.0)#GoBucs
📷: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports pic.twitter.com/tVGYY467de
— PFF TB Buccaneers (@PFF_Buccaneers) October 2, 2019
On the other hand, Marcus Mariota looks more like a balloon about to pop. He has 933 passing yards and 7 touchdowns through four games, putting him on pace for 3,732 yards and 28 touchdowns, both of which would be career highs. He’s the only quarterback in football to start all four games this season without an interception, actually setting a Titans’ franchise record for most passes (169) without throwing a pick. However, according to PFF, Mariota has remained in the pocket at the highest rate for a qualifying quarterback since 2013. This has led to a league-high 17 sacks and 32.1% sack percentage, second-highest behind only Kyler Murray. As good as Mariota has been under pressure thus far, quarterbacks don’t keep getting better, nor do they stay upright when they’re already injury prone, as they continue to take that kind of a beating in the pocket. Assuming he doesn’t get hurt first, regression is likely coming for the Titans’ signal-caller.
Mike Miklius (@sirl0inofbeef): Buying – Mark Ingram; Fading – Terry McLaurin
Reasoning: Mark Ingram has proven over the years to be a capable runner who knows how to find positive yardage if it’s there. He has averaged a pace over 1000+ all-purpose yards per 16 games each of the last five seasons, and he is an ideal red-zone threat. Add in an amazing system to run in Baltimore, and Ingram should be an RB1/RB2 for the rest of the season. Sure, he might be a little touchdown-dependent. However, he looks strong right now and I’m happy to roll with him in my lineup each week.
Mark Ingram: “If I have to juke somebody, that’s what it is. If I have to run away from somebody, that’s what it is. If I have to run through somebody, that’s what it is.” pic.twitter.com/OgNyhLGTts
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) September 25, 2019
On the other hand, Terry McLaurin has gotten off to a red-hot start in his first three games, prompting many to say the breakout has already happened. I’m not 100% convinced. The Redskins have looked ugly this year–losing every game so far. McLaurin has been a bright spot, but there are reasons to worry. First, he pulled a hamstring and missed Week 4. Who knows how long he’ll be out and how he’ll be when he returns. Second, quarterback Dwayne Haskins looked bad in his debut. He struggled mightily, and I’m not convinced he can be an immediately effective passer, even to his college teammate. Third, McLaurin has done a good amount of his damage against prevent defenses when games are already out of hand. I don’t want to make a habit out of counting on this “garbage time” production. I would sell McLaurin right now if someone is still buying high and move on to a healthier option.
Josh Gleason (@JGleas): Buying – Cooper Kupp; Fading – Aaron Jones
Reasoning: Cooper Kupp had a quiet opener but has racked up 34 catches, 53 targets, 459 yards, and four touchdowns since, all those marks ranking either first or second over the last four weeks. Kupp looks as spry as ever coming off a major ACL tear. The Rams offense otherwise has been in shambles – at least comparatively – and the one consistent, safe option seems to be Kupp. In PPR leagues, he has a realistic chance to finish as WR1.
Aaron Jones is RB10/11 in non-PPR/PPR leagues. Did you realize that? Probably not unless you owned him and happen to peak that number next to his name. Jones has been woefully uninspiring on the field. Maybe he isn’t completely to blame, having to adjust to a new offense with arguably the worst pair of starting offensive guards in the league blocking for him. But the last two weeks Jones has totaled 40 rushing yards on 23 carries. Jones is a decent pass catcher but the Packers seem to prefer Jamaal Williams in passing situations, receiving more targets (and snaps) in Week 3; Williams is getting over 23% of his carries out of the shotgun compared to only 16% for Jones. Williams will likely be out for a short time after an ugly hit when he opened this past week as the starter, but he will be back to siphon the load away from Jones once again. Jones’ ineffectiveness, Williams eventual comeback, and the fact that the Packers play two stout run defenses during fantasy championship weeks (Bears and Vikings) would lead me to try to sell Jones right now while his stock is arguably at its highest because he won’t sustain being a top 15 back.
Kevin Taylor (@ktbeast918): Buying – Darren Waller; Fading – Matthew Stafford
Reasoning: On average, Darren Waller was the 20th tight end off the board in PPR formats according to Fantasy Pros ADP. Right now, he is the TE5 in PPR formats through four weeks and I think he can stay in the top-five for the remainder of the season. He has the number one target share for his team among tight ends and is number two in overall targets. He also has the most receptions at his position and the second-most yards after a catch. He is seeing a lot of looks, converting those targets into catches and then making plays after he catches the ball. That is a player that will post consistent weekly totals even without scoring touchdowns, which Waller has not yet.
“If there was ever a time to turn it up"
Darren Waller brought it on Sunday. His full Mic'd Up from the win 🎙️ pic.twitter.com/pMMUV3D2Qo
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) October 1, 2019
Among quarterbacks, Matthew Stafford right now is the QB8 in fantasy leagues, but I say he finishes in the QB15-20 range. His team is 19th in passing plays per game and that includes a 45 attempt overtime game in Week 1. He also ranks 30th in true completion percentage so far this year. He is tied for fourth in touchdowns and has a career high in touchdown percentage so far, so some regression in that aspect should be expected. He has had three of the friendlier matchups for quarterbacks so far. Stafford has played Arizona and their up-tempo offense/poor defense, Philadelphia and their terrible corners, and Kansas City which opposing teams need to throw more to keep up with because of their high octane offense. Lastly, of the 12 games he has remaining, half of them are within his division. Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago all boast a top-ten defensive DVOA and are sure to be tough matchups for the Lions offense.
David Fenko (@velcronomics): Buying – Will Dissly; Selling – New England Patriots DST
Reasoning: A Week 4 incompletion defines why Will Dissly is a hot start I’m buying into. In yet another red-zone target, Russell Wilson tried to put the ball between two defenders to get it to Dissly in stride. Wilson showed a lot of trust that Dissly would be there, and outside of a lunge by the safety in coverage, Dissly would have made a one-handed catch for a TD. Through Week 4, where he saw a season-high 79% snap percentage, Dissly has been on the field for 61% of Seattle’s offensive snaps. Prior to Week 4, Dissly was sharing the TE role with Nick Vannett, who found himself traded to the Steelers, so the higher Week 4 snap percentage looks like the new normal. Through four weeks, Dissly has seen a steady increase in targets (2, 5, 7, 8) with five of those 22 targets coming in the red-zone. Performance is a function of talent and opportunity, and it certainly looks like Will Dissly is seeing an increase in opportunity as a result of his solid performance to start 2019. Check out his elite potential in the film breakdown below:
Coming into the season, several outlets considered the Patriots to have one of the easiest schedules in the entire NFL, and the Patriots have feasted on that opportunity. Outside of the Dolphins in Week 2 and the Redskins later this week, the Patriots have also been lucky with their easy schedule; they have faced New York Jets third-string QB Luke Falk instead of Sam Darnold and only faced Josh Allen for half of the Bills game due to a concussion. Neither team is an offensive juggernaut, but it’s as if the world itself had the Patriots D on its fantasy team. New England will likely see another few weeks of success, as they get the Redskins and Giants coming up, but I imagine that their later season slate will slow the current scoring pace for this DST.
Rich Holman (@nextdoorFFguru): Buying – Mark Andrews; Fading – Dak Prescott
Reasoning: Lamar Jackson’s season has started off with a bang, and he quickly introduced us to his two favorite targets, Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown. Andrews was drafted with an ADP of 124.5, but he has quickly established himself as one of the top tight ends. Through the first four weeks, Andrews is tied with Evan Engram for the fourth-highest team-target share with 23% and is behind only Travis Kelce in Air Yards. His work in the passing game has been consistent week to week, garnering between 7-9 targets in each of the first four weeks, and he’s led the team in targets in Weeks 1 and 4. Now that Lamar Jackson has shown us he can indeed pass the ball, we should see Andrews be a consistent top-six tight end week to week.
Tight Ends who were targeted on over 30% of their routes run in Week 3:
Zach Ertz 42.1%
Will Dissly 40%
Mark Andrews 36.4%
Darren Waller 34.8%
Jack Doyle 30.8%
Evan Engram 30.4%
— Al Smizzle (@AlZeidenfeld) September 30, 2019
My disbelief of Dak Prescott has less to do with my belief in his skill and more to do with the Cowboys schedule and offensive philosophy. The Cowboys opened the season with three straight games against terrible teams – Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins – and Prescott was great, averaging over 300 yards and three touchdowns per game. However, Week 4 saw the Cowboys struggle to move the ball against the Saints. We know the Cowboys want their offense to roll through the run game, but they seemed to be just banging their heads into the wall against the Saints, where Ezekiel Elliott had 18 carries for 35 yards. Those early-season matchups aren’t coming back and starting in Week 10, the Cowboys have a five-week stretch against the Vikings, Lions, Patriots, Bills, and Bears, with three of those coming on the road. Prescott currently sits as the QB4 and if you can sell him for a positional upgrade, I’d do that in a heartbeat.
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(Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)