Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey pushes away from New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey pushes away from New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
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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 vs. LAC (72%)

— Kyler Murray at JAC (71%)

— Josh Allen vs. WSH (63%)

— Dak Prescott vs. PHI (63%)

— Lamar Jackson at DET (62%)

— Russell Wilson at MIN (62%)

— Tom Brady at LA (52%)

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

— Jalen Hurts at DAL (49%)

— Justin Herbert at KC (46%)

— Matthew Stafford vs. TB (46%)

— Aaron Rodgers at SF (44%)

— Kirk Cousins vs. SEA (42%)

— Daniel Jones vs. ATL (41%)

— Derek Carr vs. MIA (41%)

— Justin Fields at CLE (37%)

— Ryan Tannehill vs. IND (36%)

Bench if possible: These quarterbacks are under 35% likely (17th or worse) to net a top-12 result and likely aren’t in the one-quarterback-league conversation.

Trevor Lawrence vs. ARI (33%); Jared Goff vs. BAL (31%); Baker Mayfield vs. CHI (31%); Teddy Bridgewater vs. NYJ (30%); Matt Ryan at NYG (29%); Sam Darnold at HOU (26%); Jameis Winston at NE (25%); Mac Jones vs. NO (25%); Joe Burrow at PIT (24%); Jimmy Garoppolo vs. GB (23%); Ben Roethlisberger vs. CIN (22%); Zach Wilson at DEN (19%); Taylor Heinicke at BUF (19%); Jacoby Brissett at LV (19%); Davis Mills vs. CAR (12%).


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 at HOU (87%)

— Derrick Henry vs. IND (84%)

— Dalvin Cook vs. SEA (84%)

— Alvin Kamara at NE (79%)

— Aaron Jones at SF (76%)

— Saquon Barkley vs. ATL (73%)

— Ezekiel Elliott vs. PHI (71%)

— Austin Ekeler at KC (67%)

— Nick Chubb vs. CHI (66%)

— Najee Harris vs. CIN (66%)

— Joe Mixon at PIT (65%)

— Jonathan Taylor at TEN (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.

— Chris Carson at MIN (63%)

— D’Andre Swift vs. BAL (63%)

— Darrell Henderson vs. TB (61%)

— Antonio Gibson at BUF (58%)

— Damien Harris vs. NO (56%)

— David Montgomery at CLE (55%)

— Miles Sanders at DAL (55%)

— Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. LAC (53%)

— Elijah Mitchell vs. GB (49%)

— Melvin Gordon vs. NYJ (47%)

— James Robinson vs. ARI (46%)

— Leonard Fournette at LA (45%)

— Myles Gaskin at LV (42%)

— Chase Edmonds at JAC (41%)

— Mike Davis at NYG (40%)

— Javonte Williams vs. NYJ (40%)

Bench if possible: These backs are under 40% likely to net a top-24 result.

Kareem Hunt vs. CHI (37%); Kenyan Drake vs. MIA (33%); Ty’Son Williams at DET (32%); James White vs. NO (31%); Devin Singletary vs. WSH (31%); Mark Ingram vs. CAR (31%); Tony Pollard vs. PHI (30%); James Conner at JAC (29%); Jamaal Williams vs. BAL (28%); Cordarrelle Patterson at NYG (27%); J.D. McKissic at BUF (24%); David Johnson vs. CAR (21%); Michael Carter at DEN (20%); Nyheim Hines at TEN (20%).


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

— Tyreek Hill vs. LAC (75%)

— Davante Adams at SF (71%)

— DeAndre Hopkins at JAC (68%)

— Tyler Lockett at MIN (66%)

— Justin Jefferson vs. SEA (66%)

— Stefon Diggs vs. WSH (65%)

— Cooper Kupp vs. TB (63%)

— Deebo Samuel vs. GB (62%)

— D.K. Metcalf at MIN (62%)

— Calvin Ridley at NYG (61%)

— A.J. Brown vs. IND (56%)

— Amari Cooper vs. PHI (55%)

— CeeDee Lamb vs. PHI (54%)

— Adam Thielen vs. SEA (53%)

— Chris Godwin at LA (51%)

— Keenan Allen at KC (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.

— Robert Woods vs. TB (48%)

— D.J. Moore at HOU (46%)

— Terry McLaurin at BUF (46%)

— Brandin Cooks vs. CAR (46%)

— DeVonta Smith at DAL (45%)

— Marvin Jones vs. ARI (44%)

— Courtland Sutton vs. NYJ (41%)

— Allen Robinson at CLE (41%)

— Mike Evans at LA (40%)

— Tee Higgins at PIT (39%)

— Odell Beckham vs. CHI (39%)

— Mike Williams at KC (38%)

— Julio Jones vs. IND (36%)

— Chase Claypool vs. CIN (35%)

— Ja’Marr Chase at PIT (32%)

— Corey Davis at DEN (31%)

— Kenny Golladay vs. ATL (30%)

Bench if possible: These players finished as a WR2 or better under 30% of the time.

JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. CIN (28%); Jakobi Meyers vs. NO (27%); Marquise Brown at DET (26%); Rondale Moore at JAC (25%); Sterling Shepard vs. ATL (25%); D.J. Chark vs. ARI (25%); Will Fuller at LV (24%); Jalen Reagor at DAL (23%); Quintez Cephus vs. BAL (23%); Henry Ruggs vs. MIA (21%); Michael Pittman Jr. at TEN (21%); Tyler Boyd at PIT (20%); Darnell Mooney at CLE (19%); Darius Slayton vs. ATL (18%); Cole Beasley vs. WSH (18%); Freddie Swain at MIN (18%); Zach Pascal at TEN (17%); Nelson Agholor vs. NO (17%); Elijah Moore at DEN (17%); Tim Patrick vs. NYJ (17%); DeVante Parker at LV (17%); Christian Kirk at JAC (17%); Emmanuel Sanders vs. WSH (16%); Jaylen Waddle at LV (15%); Robby Anderson at HOU (15%).


Start with confidence: These guys are the big five plus two newcomers.

— Travis Kelce vs. LAC (91%)

— Darren Waller vs. MIA (81%)

— George Kittle vs. GB (74%)

— Mark Andrews at DET (59%)

— T.J. Hockenson vs. BAL (58%) — A new addition to the big group.

— Rob Gronkowski at LA (56%) — Another new addition to the main group.

— Kyle Pitts at NYG (56%)

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

— Noah Fant vs. NYJ (49%)

— Dallas Goedert at DAL (45%)

— Tyler Higbee vs. TB (45%)

— Logan Thomas at BUF (41%)

— Jared Cook at KC (35%)

— Robert Tonyan at SF (30%)

— Jonnu Smith vs. NO (29%)

— Austin Hooper vs. CHI (27%)

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

Mike Gesicki at LV (25%); Hunter Henry vs. NO (24%); Cole Kmet at CLE (23%); Dalton Schultz vs. PHI (23%); Dawson Knox vs. WSH (23%); Jack Doyle at TEN (20%); Adam Trautman at NE (20%); Gerald Everett at MIN (19%); Juwan Johnson at NE (19%); Hayden Hurst at NYG (19%); Blake Jarwin vs. PHI (19%); Eric Ebron vs. CIN (18%); Dan Arnold at HOU (18%); Jordan Akins vs. CAR (18%); Anthony Firkser vs. IND (15%).