Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after the final whistle in an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after the final whistle in an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
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The start-or-sit dilemma is part of managing a fantasy football team.

Having the foresight to start the wide receiver who goes for 100 yards and a touchdown in a matchup while sitting a receiver against a shutdown cornerback is one of the keys to victory.

For this version of a start-or-sit, I’m going to be listing all relevant fantasy football players each week and placing them into tiers.

And to take some of the guesswork out of it, I’ll be leveraging thousands of slate simulations that are based in numberFire’s player projections with dynamic measures for variance, such as quarterback rushing, running back receiving, and receiver target depth.

The results will boil down to three tiers: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider starting whenever we don’t have better alternatives, but who aren’t must-plays and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives.

These players are listed in order of frequency of hitting the stated threshold (i.e. QB12, RB24, WR24, and TE12 performances and higher on the list means more start-able).

The groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench or the waiver-wire, should I start this player this week?

Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.


Start with confidence: These players are at least 50% likely to finish the week as a top-12 quarterback, according to the slate simulations.

— Patrick Mahomes at BAL (70%)

— Kyler Murray vs. MIN (62%)

— Josh Allen at MIA (61%)

— Dak Prescott at LAC (61%)

— Russell Wilson vs. TEN (60%)

— Justin Herbert vs. DAL (58%)

— Lamar Jackson vs. KC (57%)

— Tom Brady vs. ATL (56%)

Consider if needed: This tier has odds between 35% and 49% to post a top-12 week.

— Aaron Rodgers vs. DET (46%)

— Jalen Hurts vs. SF (43%)

— Matthew Stafford at IND (41%)

— Baker Mayfield vs. HOU (41%)

— Joe Burrow at CHI (39%)

— Ben Roethlisberger vs. LV (38%)

Despite Aaron Rodgers’ poor game in Week 1, the simulations are high on him to post a top-12 week against the Detroit Lions, who allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to throw for 314 yards on just 25 attempts.

Bench if possible: These quarterbacks are under 35% likely (15th or worse) to net a top-12 result and aren’t in the one-quarterback-league conversation.

Teddy Bridgewater at JAC (34%), Jimmy Garoppolo at PHI (34%), Ryan Tannehill at SEA (34%), Tua Tagovailoa vs. BUF (31%), Jameis Winston at CAR (31%), Kirk Cousins at ARI (30%), Trevor Lawrence vs. DEN (29%), Matt Ryan at TB (26%), Sam Darnold vs. NO (26%), Tyrod Taylor at CLE (26%), Zach Wilson vs. NE (24%), Jared Goff at GB (24%), Derek Carr at PIT (23%), Carson Wentz vs. LA (23%), Daniel Jones at WSH (22%), Taylor Heinicke vs. NYG (18%) Mac Jones at NYJ (18%), Andy Dalton vs. CIN (16%)


Start with confidence: These running backs are at least 65% likely to finish the week inside the top 24, according to the slate simulations. You’re starting them.

— Christian McCaffrey vs. NO (82%)

— Dalvin Cook at ARI (82%)

— Derrick Henry at SEA (80%)

— Alvin Kamara at CAR (79%)

— Nick Chubb vs. HOU (78%)

— Aaron Jones vs. DET (76%)

— Antonio Gibson vs. NYG (72%)

— Chris Carson vs. TEN (69%)

— David Montgomery vs. CIN (68%)

— Saquon Barkley at WSH (66%)

— Najee Harris vs. LV (66%)

— Joe Mixon at CHI (65%)

— Ezekiel Elliott at LAC (65%)

Consider if needed — This tier is sitting between 40% and 64% for an RB2 week, and you’re probably starting some of them even if they’re shy of that top tier.

— D’Andre Swift at GB (64%)

— Austin Ekeler vs. DAL (64%)

— Clyde Edwards-Helaire at BAL (62%)

— Damien Harris at NYJ (61%)

— Jonathan Taylor vs. LA (60%)

— Miles Sanders vs. SF (59%)

— Myles Gaskin vs. BUF (56%)

— Mike Davis at TB (55%)

— Chase Edmonds vs. MIN (53%)

— Darrell Henderson at IND (49%)

— James Robinson vs. DEN (48%)

— Melvin Gordon at JAC (48%)

— Leonard Fournette vs. ATL (42%)

— Josh Jacobs at PIT (40%)

Bench If Possible: These backs are under 35% likely to net a top-12 result.

Javonte Williams at JAC (37%), Devin Singletary at MIA (37%), Kareem Hunt vs. HOU (35%), Kenyan Drake at PIT (33%), James White at NYJ (32%), Ty’Son Williams vs. KC (27%), Elijah Mitchell at PHI (27%), Damien Williams vs. CIN (26%), Jamaal Williams at GB (26%), Nyheim Hines vs. LA (24%), Ronald Jones vs. ATL (23%), J.D. McKissic vs. NYG (22%), James Conner vs. MIN (21%), David Johnson at CLE (21%)


Start with confidence: You’re starting these guys in a 12-team league.

— Tyreek Hill at BAL (75%)

— Davante Adams vs. DET (68%)

— DeAndre Hopkins vs. MIN (67%)

— Stefon Diggs at MIA (62%)

— D.K. Metcalf vs. TEN (62%)

— Calvin Ridley at TB (61%)

— Amari Cooper at LAC (57%)

— A.J. Brown at SEA (56%)

— Keenan Allen vs. DAL (56%)

— CeeDee Lamb at LAC (54%)

— Justin Jefferson at ARI (54%)

— Tyler Lockett vs. TEN (52%)

— Deebo Samuel at PHI (51%)

— Chris Godwin vs. ATL (51%)

Consider if needed: These players are more matchup dependent for Week 1 than the tier above, but are likely where we are looking for a lot of our WR2, WR3, and FLEX plays this week.

— Allen Robinson vs. CIN (46%)

— Diontae Johnson vs. LV (44%)

— Jarvis Landry vs. HOU (43%)

— Cooper Kupp at IND (43%)

— Ja’Marr Chase at CHI (42%)

— Tee Higgins at CHI (41%)

— Robert Woods at IND (40%)

— Mike Evans vs. ATL (39%)

— Antonio Brown vs. ATL (39%)

— Terry McLaurin vs. NYG (39%)

— Courtland Sutton at JAC (38%)

— Corey Davis vs. NE (38%)

— D.J. Moore vs. NO (36%)

— DeVonta Smith vs. SF (36%)

— Marvin Jones vs. DEN (35%)

— Adam Thielen at ARI (35%)

— Julio Jones at SEA (34%)

— Brandin Cooks at CLE (33%)

— Mike Williams vs. DAL (32%)

— Chase Claypool vs. LV (32%)

— DJ Chark vs. DEN (30%)

Bench if possible: These players finished as a WR2 or better under 25% of the time.

Kenny Golladay at WSH (30%), Marquise Brown vs. KC (26%), Will Fuller vs. BUF (26%), Tyler Boyd at CHI (26%), Henry Ruggs at PIT (26%), Emmanuel Sanders at MIA (23%), JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. LV (23%), Robby Anderson vs. NO (21%), Tyrell Williams at GB (21%), Jakobi Meyers at NYJ (21%), A.J. Green vs. MIN (20%), Brandon Aiyuk at PHI (20%), Christian Kirk vs. MIN (20%), Rondale Moore vs. MIN (19%), Laviska Shenault vs. DEN (19%), Cole Beasley at MIA (19%), Nelson Agholor at NYJ (18%), Darius Slayton at WSH (18%), Jaylen Waddle vs. BUF (18%), Jalen Reagor vs. SF (17%), DeVante Parker vs. BUF (17%), Michael Pittman Jr. vs. LA (16%), Zach Pascal vs. LA (15%), Sterling Shepard at WSH (14%), Tim Patrick at JAC (14%)


Start with confidence: These guys are the big five.

— Travis Kelce at BAL (85%)

— George Kittle at PHI (78%)

— Darren Waller at PIT (74%)

— Mark Andrews vs. KC (64%)

— Kyle Pitts at TB (59%)

Consider if needed: You’ll likely be starting these options if you don’t have a top-five tight end.

— Noah Fant at JAC (54%)

— T.J. Hockenson at GB (51%)

— Rob Gronkowski vs. ATL (46%)

— Jared Cook vs. DAL (43%)

— Logan Thomas vs. NYG (41%)

— Dallas Goedert vs. SF (40%)

— Austin Hooper vs. HOU (38%)

— Jonnu Smith at NYJ (36%)

— Tyler Higbee at IND (34%)

Bench if possible: These tight ends aren’t in the starting conversation in 12-team leagues.

Hayden Hurst at TB (31%), Eric Ebron vs. LV (30%), Zach Ertz vs. SF (30%), Mike Gesicki vs. BUF (29%), Robert Tonyan vs. DET (29%), Dawson Knox at MIA (26%), Hunter Henry at NYJ (25%), Adam Trautman at CAR (24%)