Who should I start or sit in fantasy football? The question resonates through the minds of every fantasy team owner with such regularity that it starts to play with your sanity. Week in and week out, you do your due diligence, checking out who’s hot, who’s cold, the waiver wire, and the matchups of the week. But again, the guy who has 200 receiving yards and three TDs is on your bench and the guy who has three drops and 15 yards is in your lineup. It’s enough to infuriate anyone.
But fear not fellow fantasy football fan. In this article, we’ll take a look at what gives a player the green light, who’s a red flag, potential sleepers, and the insight into what helps you make the right selection. After all, on any given Sunday, anything can happen.
Figuring out who to bench and who to start in fantasy football is never an easy decision. Start the wrong person and you can miss out on the fantasy points that can propel you to victory. Bench the wrong player, and you can see yourself fall to the bottom of the rankings. It’s one of the major problems that new and intermediate players face, but even oversight by veteran NFL fantasy players can cost them a victory.
Since no two players have the same approach to a game, we’ll take a look at multiple options to answer the nagging question, “Who should I start or sit in fantasy football?” Your success depends on it.
Life happens. You might be extra busy on a given week compared to another or have to attend a social or work function that’s out of the ordinary. Regardless of the scenario, you still need to make time to conduct research, even if you’ve had a set it and forget it mentality in your flex or superflex league in the past.
Although setting your lineup an hour or so before kickoff gives you the latest on injuries, weather conditions, and other relevant information, don’t wait until then to get a jump on it. Doing so can cause a severe backlash in terms of your point production and could ultimately become the coup de grace against your weekly victory chances.
Make sure to read the news, look at the injury reports, and see who’s hot or cold, then compare players to help you determine the best lineup possible.
Las Vegas sports books spend more time, money, and resources than any fantasy football manager or expert to set the expected outcomes for players. By using the odds they set for player props you can get a more accurate understanding of what a players expected touchdowns and total yards might be. You can go to your favorite sports book website or you can use tools like Wise Guys Edge to save time comparing players and deciding who to sit or start.
Playing it safe is a cautious approach that works for many fantasy football players, but only if they’re in a firm position to make the playoffs already. If you’re stuck in the middle or bottom-half of the standings and need to make up ground, a risky approach can often be rewarded.
When you’re setting your lineup, the risk-reward factor is pronounced. For example, a wide receiver could be solid on paper—they have a good amount of touchdowns on the year and decent yardage. The only problem is that they’re a slot receiver who is very average with no big upside.
A slot receiver may get many receptions a game with no TDs—which might be alright for a PPR league. But a deep threat Z receiver with speed and the penchant for long plays could have tremendous upside—if they’re being targeted by the quarterback or are facing a weak secondary. This is like comparing Robert Woods to Gabe Davis or Deebo Samuel to Tyreek Hill.
There’s always a chance that this deep threat receiver could face non-stop double-coverage or fail to make a big play, but it’s a roll of the dice that could reward risky behavior.
While the NFL has had a decent amount of parity over the past three decades, certain teams continue to lead the pack while others have recently emerged as contenders. With a young core of talented individuals and an experienced coaching staff, you can readily expect certain teams to play better each week as they contend for a playoff spot.
Why is this important?: players on playoff contention teams are generally likely to play more rather than being rested by coaches in a season that doesn't matter, they may play harder, and are also less likely to be replaced by rookies the coach may want to test.
In the past few seasons, certain dynasties come to mind:
On the other end of the spectrum, these teams tend to almost always straddle the middle or bottom of the standings—at least in recent memory:
Other teams like Giants, Falcons, Ravens, or Colts tend to flip-flop more often, so they may require a bit more monitoring on your part. Obviously, these can change at any given moment. But if you’re continuously asking “who should I start or sit in fantasy football?” throughout the year, records are important.
Continuously monitoring teams’ records, whether they’re in playoff contention, are near clinching a spot, or whether they’ve been eliminated can point you in the right direction. It’s not 100% guaranteed, but it’s better than shooting in the dark. Look to Vegas futures odds of expected team records before the season begins.
Some analysts call the contract year phenomenon a myth, but in reality, it can often work to your advantage—especially if you’re at a loss over the common question of "who should I start or sit in fantasy football.”
The premise is that—in the final year of a contract and looking for a big payout next year—players will perform at a higher level. In recent memory, Albert Haynesworth sticks out as one of the biggest contract year phenomenons of all time. The defensive tackle put up gaudy numbers and career highs, secured a 7-year, $100 million contract, and promptly fell off the face of the Earth as a quality player thereafter.
However, statistics show that since 2015, contract-year players produce 6.3% more fantasy points than players not in a contract year. It’s not a ton, but it could be the little extra jolt your team needs or—at the very least—a bit of confidence moving forward.
The 2020s has been a time of evolving cultural trends and cancel culture is one of the most prominent. Although cancel culture is controversial at its core, you can use a similar principle to stifle your opponent and get some extra points in the process.
The idea here is simple. Check out your opponent’s QB. Then, look at that team’s wide receivers and tight ends. If you have them on your roster or they’re available on the waiver wire, slot them into your starting lineup. By doing so, you can counteract the QB’s yardage, completion and TD total.
For example, let’s say your opponent has Patrick Mahomes as his QB. Obviously, if you have Travis Kelce, you’re probably already starting him. But you could also put Kadarius Toney or Marques Valdez-Scantling into your starting lineup. Sure, any catch they make rewards your opponent’s QB, but you also get a few points as well.
In the NFL, bad weather almost exclusively favors the defense. In snow or rain, the ball is slippery and difficult to control—either throwing, catching, or simply holding onto the ball. Just check out the stats for the infamous Bills vs Colts Snow Game in 2017. Wind is also a demon on offense, making field goals and extra points far more difficult.
Starting a kicker playing in a dome might be a good idea in these cases, or if you’re in an individual defensive player league (IDP), selecting a player with maximum sack, tackle, or interception potential is ideal.
Pro Tip: Note that a football generally goes about three to five yards further in cold weather than in warm weather. This could play a factor if the Packers play the Dolphins in Miami or in Green Bay or if the Buccaneers play the Broncos in Tampa or Denver.
Injuries are part of football, and one that has a major impact when asking who should I start or sit in fantasy football. In 2021, the NFL had a whopping 129 injuries, although that number has fallen over time. Also of note is that injuries tend to come later in the season more often as opposed to the beginning, so you should always be keeping an eye on the injury report as the season wears on.
The NFL classifies injuries into four categories that can make an impact on your starting lineup:
As such, you should keep an eye on these. If Christian McCaffrey is doubtful, be prepared to replace him. Same goes for any event where a team has placed a questionable outlook on a player. The coach may even start that player but put them on a limited snap count, especially if they are the heavy favorites or winning by a lot.
Also, injuries to running backs tend to have a prolonged affect compared to other positions, at least in terms of production. So even if you have Titans running back Derrick Henry on the roster, look out for any type of injury classification going into your next fantasy football week so you can prepare with waivers.
Taking the loss in fantasy football is at the center of debates. Some think it’s a bit Bush league; others aren’t so upset about it. A prime example is during a heavy bye week.
Let’s say that your team has an inordinate amount of players without a game for the week—like if you’re stacked with several Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, or New England Patriots players on your team. While you could retool your entire lineup by adding, dropping, or trading players, strategically losing the week is still an option if the cost of making those changes is too high.
Opponents may frown upon this and you would only do it if you’ve already clinched a playoff spot, but it could take a load off your mind. A week off during fantasy isn’t necessarily a bad thing—you can even use it as an opportunity to make strategic long term beneficial trades or use bench space to pick up a rookie that is expected to develop into a stud much later in the season.
Not every gut decision or instinct you have will be the right one when it comes to who should I start or sit in fantasy football. But if you put in the time and research to come to your ultimate decision and use the strategies outlined above, you should be sitting pretty whether you’re trash-talking friends in your own league or playing DFS.
While you’re putting trust in yourself, you can also put your trust in Wise Guys Edge. Using the information provided by teams of mathemeticians, analysts, and software developers paid by Las Vegas sportsbooks. We compile all the information you need in one place. And with our helpful comparison tool that allows you to compare up to five players at once, you don’t have to worry about the endless scrolling and pen-and-paper routine that causes you to tire and lose interest.
While the answer of who should I start or sit in fantasy football is a personal one, Wise Guys Edge just makes the decision a little bit simpler.