Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) rushes the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) rushes the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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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.

— Josh Allen at TEN (76%)

— Patrick Mahomes at WSH (73%)

— Lamar Jackson vs. LAC (68%)

— Tom Brady at PHI (59%)

— Dak Prescott at NE (58%)

— Justin Herbert at BAL (55%)

— Jalen Hurts vs. TB (55%)

— Matthew Stafford at NYG (54%)

— Kyler Murray at CLE (53%)

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

— Joe Burrow at DET (46%)

— Aaron Rodgers at CHI (45%)

— Trevor Lawrence vs. MIA (42%)

— Ryan Tannehill vs. BUF (41%)

— Taylor Heinicke vs. KC (39%)

— Jacoby Brissett at JAC (39%)

— Mac Jones vs. DAL (38%)

— Daniel Jones vs. LA (37%)

— Sam Darnold vs. MIN (35%)

— Baker Mayfield vs. ARI (35%)

Cincinnati's Joe Burrow seems set to play in an indoor game against a Detroit Lions pass defense (which ranks 30th in adjusted pass defense, via numberFire’s metrics).

Taylor Heinicke could have a shootout game against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game with a really fast pace and two poor defenses (both sides are 26th or worse in overall adjusted defense). Heinicke has roughly league-average passing numbers and has, overall, overperformed versus expectation based on his efficiency splits.

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

Derek Carr at DEN (34%); Carson Wentz vs. HOU (33%); Justin Fields vs. GB (32%); Kirk Cousins at CAR (32%); Jared Goff vs. CIN (30%); Teddy Bridgewater vs. LV (30%); Ben Roethlisberger vs. SEA (27%); Geno Smith at PIT (20%); Davis Mills at IND (17%).


Start with confidence: These running backs are at least 60% likely to finish the week inside the top 24, according to the slate simulations. You’re starting them.

— Christian McCaffrey vs. MIN (86%)

— Derrick Henry vs. BUF (81%)

— Najee Harris vs. SEA (79%)

— Ezekiel Elliott at NE (77%)

— Dalvin Cook at CAR (76%)

— Jonathan Taylor vs. HOU (74%)

— Austin Ekeler at BAL (73%)

— Joe Mixon at DET (73%)

— D’Andre Swiftvs. CIN (70%)

— Nick Chubb vs. ARI (70%)

— Darrell Henderson at NYG (70%)

— Aaron Jones at CHI (69%)

— Antonio Gibson vs. KC (68%)

— James Robinson vs. MIA (67%)

Consider if needed — This tier is sitting between 40% and 59% for an RB2 week, and you’re probably starting most of them even if they’re shy of that top tier.

— Leonard Fournette at PHI (59%)

— Kareem Hunt vs. ARI (56%)

— Josh Jacobs at DEN (55%)

— Myles Gaskin at JAC (54%)

— Melvin Gordon vs. LV (53%)

— Javonte Williams vs. LV (53%)

— Miles Sanders vs. TB (52%)

— Damien Williams vs. GB (51%)

— Devontae Booker vs. LA (51%)

— Chase Edmonds at CLE (45%)

— Jamaal Williams vs. CIN (44%)

— Zack Moss at TEN (43%)

— Darrel Williams at WSH (42%)

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

Damien Harris vs. DAL (39%); Latavius Murray vs. LAC (39%); James Conner at CLE (37%); Khalil Herbert vs. GB (35%); Tony Pollard at NE (35%); Jerick McKinnon at WSH (32%); Devin Singletary at TEN (32%); Mark Ingram at IND (30%); Kenneth Gainwell vs. TB (30%); J.D. McKissic vs. KC (27%); A.J. Dillon at CHI (27%); Nyheim Hines vs. HOU (27%); Alexander Mattison at CAR (24%); David Johnson at IND (24%); Salvon Ahmed at JAC (23%); Sony Michel at NYG (23%); Chris Carson at PIT (23%); Alex Collins at PIT (21%).


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

— Davante Adams at CHI (76%)

— Tyreek Hill at WSH (73%)

— Cooper Kupp at NYG (71%)

— Stefon Diggs at TEN (70%)

— DeAndre Hopkins at CLE (61%)

— Justin Jefferson at CAR (61%)

— Amari Cooper at NE (59%)

— D.J. Moore vs. MIN (59%)

— CeeDee Lamb at NE (59%)

— Mike Williams at BAL (54%)

— Terry McLaurin vs. KC (54%)

— A.J. Brown vs. BUF (52%)

— Ja’Marr Chase at DET (51%)

— Chris Godwin at PHI (51%)

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

— Mike Evans at PHI (48%)

— Brandin Cooks at IND (47%)

— DeVonta Smith vs. TB (46%)

— Keenan Allen at BAL (46%)

— Robert Woods at NYG (45%)

— D.K. Metcalf at PIT (45%)

— Tee Higgins at DET (43%)

— Diontae Johnson vs. SEA (42%)

— Jakobi Meyers vs. DAL (42%)

— Antonio Brown at PHI (41%)

— Marvin Jones vs. MIA (41%)

— Marquise Brown vs. LAC (41%)

— Allen Robinson vs. GB (39%)

— Courtland Sutton vs. LV (38%)

— DeVante Parker at JAC (37%)

— Michael Pittman Jr. vs. HOU (37%)

— Jaylen Waddle at JAC (36%)

— Chase Claypool vs. SEA (35%)

— Tyler Lockett at PIT (33%)

— Adam Thielen at CAR (32%)

— Emmanuel Sanders at TEN (32%)

— Odell Beckham vs. ARI (31%)

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

Cole Beasley at TEN (29%); Darnell Mooney vs. GB (29%); Robby Anderson vs. MIN (27%); Tim Patrick vs. LV (27%); Laviska Shenault vs. MIA (27%); Kadarius Toney vs. LA (25%); Tyler Boyd at DET (25%); Sterling Shepard vs. LA (24%); Hunter Renfrow at DEN (23%); A.J. Green at CLE (22%); Darius Slayton vs. LA (22%); Nelson Agholor vs. DAL (22%); Mecole Hardman at WSH (22%); Kalif Raymond vs. CIN (21%); Christian Kirk at CLE (21%); Rondale Moore at CLE (19%).


Start with confidence:

— Travis Kelce at WSH (85%)

— Darren Waller at DEN (76%)

— Mark Andrews vs. LAC (70%)

— T.J. Hockenson vs. CIN (54%)

— Dalton Schultz at NE (51%)

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

— Mike Gesicki at JAC (49%)

— Noah Fant vs. LV (46%)

— Dawson Knox at TEN (46%)

— Jared Cook at BAL (40%)

— Jonnu Smith vs. DAL (40%)

— Hunter Henry vs. DAL (39%)

— Dan Arnold vs. MIA (39%)

— Tyler Higbee at NYG (37%)

— Ricky Seals-Jones vs. KC (35%)

— Robert Tonyan at CHI (35%)

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

Cole Kmet vs. GB (33%); Zach Ertz vs. TB (33%); Austin Hooper vs. ARI (31%); Evan Engram vs. LA (30%); Anthony Firkser vs. BUF (28%); Tyler Conklin at CAR (23%); Jack Doyle vs. HOU (22%); David Njoku vs. ARI (22%).