Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 6: Is DeVonta Smith a weekly must-start?

With the NFL in full swing and fantasy football lineups being set, who makes the list of the top start 'em and sit 'em options for Week 6?

With five weeks of NFL games in the bag, fantasy football managers are starting to feel like they have a solid idea of who to start and who to sit heading into Week 6. But is that accurate, or are we jumping to conclusions after only five games? With not all matchups being equal, here are our top start ’em and sit ’em plays for Week 6 of fantasy football.

NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 6: Quarterbacks

Which QBs are must-starts, and who should remain on the bench in Week 6?

Start ‘Em | Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

How many of you would now have “throat contusion” in your recent searches if you were to share your browser history? I’m sure it’s not just me. Apparently, the injury is nothing too crazy. Joe Burrow will return for a Week 6 matchup against the Detroit Lions, who just had their hearts ripped out by the Vikings. 

After a bit of a slow start (which was to be expected), Burrow seems to have his footing, or at least his left knee, under him again. In his last two games, Burrow is averaging 35 attempts for 314.5 yards and has 4 TDs along the way, giving him 11 on the season. The Bengals are fairly stacked at WR. Every time Burrow targets Ja’Marr Chase, you are surprised if it doesn’t end in an end-zone celebration. While I do not expect to see Burrow hold a 300+ yard average, we’ve witnessed him turn a corner this season. He’s in a rather stacked low-end QB1/high-end QB2 territory.

Sit ‘Em | Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

I know the Steelers are taking on the Seahawks, who are No. 22 in points allowed to QBs per game (20.7). And yes, Seattle is 31st in yards allowed at 321.6. But it doesn’t matter how good the matchup is if the QB is not capable of taking advantage. Big Ben just had his best game of the season and yet only could muster a QB16 finish with 16 fantasy points. It was the first time he has finished as a QB23 or better this year.

There is zero rushing upside. Roethlisberger just lost JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) for the season and has a 5:4 TD-to-INT ratio over his last four games. I just do not see his upside even amid a great matchup. At best, he can equal his QB16 ranking, which does you no good as a fantasy manager. I would advise sitting Roethlisberger in Week 6 for fantasy football. 

Running Backs

While these RBs found themselves with adjusted roles following injuries to surrounding players and poor play from others, they are on opposite sides of start/sit debates for Week 6.

Start ‘Em | Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

Even though James Conner saw more work last week, Chase Edmonds remains the higher-valued player in fantasy. He came into the game nursing a shoulder injury and was considered a game-time decision, so it is not surprising that his volume was reduced. He is now the RB17 in PPR formats after coming into the week as the RB12. Edmonds is averaging 16.3 opportunities per game and 0.94 fantasy points per touch. He’s done all of this despite not scoring his first TD of the season.

Given the Cardinals’ firepower and Edmonds’ usage in the passing game (his 16.5% target share is No. 2 on the team), he is a weekly must-start as an RB2 for fantasy. 

Start ‘Em | Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I thought Leonard Fournette could have a big game last week — and he delivered. Fournette rushed 12 times for 67 yards and 1 TD while adding 4-of-5 receiving for an additional 43 yards. His 21 fantasy points were enough to finish as RB13 on the week. Over his last two games, Fournette has 249 total yards and a TD on 32 opportunities. He’s also playing on a healthy 72% of snaps over the past two weeks.

Fournette is currently the RB14 in PPR scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game. His performance has made Ronald Jones droppable in every format. In the passing game, Fournette’s 167 yards are fifth at his position. In Week 6, the Buccaneers take on the Philadelphia Eagles, who are No. 25 in points allowed to RBs at 26.92 per game. Fournette is a must-start who has top-eight upside this week.

Sit ‘Em | Alex Collins, Seattle Seahawks

Until we know more about Chris Carson’s neck, I am assuming Alex Collins is the starter for the Seahawks. That means I don’t want anything to do with their backfield.

As “the guy,” Collins recorded just 47 yards on 15 carries against the Rams in Week 5. However, he did salvage his day with 2 receptions for 25 yards. This netted him an RB36 finish, and things likely won’t get any better. Not only will Geno Smith start under center, but the Seahawks take on the Steelers, who, if anything, can stop the run.

Currently, Pittsburgh ranks No. 4 vs. RBs (16.2), allows 86 rushing yards, and is the only team in the NFL that has yet to allow an opposing RB to score a touchdown. Collins is a low-end RB3 whom I would recommend sitting in Week 6.

Sit ‘Em | Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

There is no way anyone can be feeling good about their investment if they drafted Miles Sanders this season. Sanders has yet to score a TD through the first five weeks of the season, and he has just 20 carries over his last three games combined. Through Week 5, Sanders has rushed 48 times for 214 yards and caught 16-of-19 targets for 111 yards. 

Outside of his RB12 finish in Week 1, Sanders has been the RB40, RB35, RB45, and RB34. He is averaging just 10.1 points per game and nearly half a point less per opportunity than teammate Kenneth Gainwell (1.26 to 0.79).

In Week 6, the Eagles take on the Buccaneers, whom no one runs the ball against. Sanders is a clear sit ’em for me in fantasy this week as I would find other options in Week 6.

NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 6: Wide Receivers

With the WR position deeper than ever for fantasy football, start ’em or sit ’em decisions for Week 6 are invariably matchup-dependent.

Start ‘Em | DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

After a handful of disappointing outings, DeVonta Smith is far and away the top option for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ passing game. Smith has now caught 14 of his 18 targets for 199 yards over his last two games while finishing as the WR12 and WR25 in PPR formats. With five games under his belt, Smith leads the Eagles in targets (39), receptions (25), and receiving yards (314). You would like him to find the end zone more (just 1 touchdown), but it’s hard to be upset with a player who has seen 7 or more targets in four of his first five games in the NFL.

We have previously noted the Buccaneers are a pass funnel, with opponents electing to air the ball out against them on 71.66% of their plays — by far the most in the NFL. This is why Tampa Bay is No. 31 in points allowed to WRs at 46.72 per game. It’s the volume plus injuries to their secondary. I like Smith as a WR3 this week, and he is a player I would start in Week 6 for fantasy.

Start ‘Em | Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

As of writing this, Michael Pittman has yet to play his Monday Night Football matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. I am going to assume he went ballistic because I reject your reality and substitute my own.

But in all seriousness, Pittman has been way better than he’s being given credit for in 2021. Heading into Week 5, only Brandin Cooks has averaged more targets per game without scoring a touchdown than Pittman (9). From Weeks 2-4, Pittman was No. 7 in targets (32) and the WR20 (15.2 ppg) with 20 receptions for 250 yards. He is a legitimate WR1 in the NFL and could be a solid fantasy WR2 if those pesky TDs started to fall his way.

If Pittman’s TD-free streak isn’t broken in Week 5, it will be in Week 6 against the Houston Texans. Add in the volume, and Pittman is a must-start for me in all formats until further notice.

Sit ‘Em | Curtis Samuel, Washington Football Team

Do. Not. Play. Curtis. Samuel. I do not care if this is cheating or not. Until he is 10000% healthy, he can not be trusted in your starting lineups. 

“However, the risk of further re-aggravation also means he could tweak his injury early and leave for the rest of the game with a goose egg in the scoring column.”

Who said that? I did! What happened? Samuel had 1 target and left early after he re-aggravated his groin. Anyone who has read my work knows I do not pat myself on the back for simply doing my job. But if Washington will not make the smart decision and sit Samuel down, we can not allow ourselves to fall into the “what if” trap. Week 5 was what if. That’s the risk you get for starting Samuel now or anytime in the future. 

Sit ‘Em | Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

Despite leading the team in snaps and routes, Odell Beckham Jr. had just 3 targets on Sunday, catching 2 of them for 30 yards. He has 19 targets, 9 receptions, 124 yards, and no touchdowns in his three games back post-ACL tear. He’s also done this without Jarvis Landry (MCL) on the field. While Beckham’s volume is encouraging for someone with his skill set, he and Baker Mayfield cannot get on the same page. It’ll come, but when?

Cleveland’s offense is not built on the passing game and will continue to rely on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to literally carry the load. While this is a good matchup as the Cardinals are No. 25 vs. WRs (40.48 ppg), you can’t reliably start Beckham Jr. the way things currently stand. He is a sit ’em for me in Week 6 for fantasy.

Tight Ends

Although the TE position in fantasy is notoriously shallow, start ’em or sit ’em decisions could mean the difference in a win or a loss in Week 6.

Start ‘Em | Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers

Even at 34 years old, Jared Cook is having one of the better TE seasons this year. He is averaging 3.4 receptions and 42 yards on 5.2 targets per game. In the world of fringe TEs, that’s actually not awful. He has seen 5 or more targets in 60% of his games. In Week 5, Cook was third among L.A.’s pass catchers in offensive snaps (50) and routes run (30). 

The lack of TDs is a bit of a concern, as is Donald Parham scoring in back-to-back games. But there are no signs of the Chargers limiting Cook’s snaps, and he remains the TE1. In Week 6, he has one of the best matchups possible against the Texans, who are No. 32 in points per game to TEs at 20.8. Cook is a mid-TE1 in Week 6 and should be started across all formats.

Sit ‘Em | Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots

Didn’t the Patriots sign Jonnu Smith to a four-year contract worth $50 million in the offseason? I guess I didn’t know blocking TEs were that expensive nowadays. Darn inflation.

Smith ran just 8 routes Sunday on his 40 snaps and was held under 30 receiving yards for the fourth consecutive week. He is droppable, which is a shame since he was one of my favorite breakout tight ends in 2020. But alas, that flame seems to have been snuffed. Well, until Smith scores again, at which point I might take him back. 

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.