Wharton’s Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 5: Sit Najee Harris and Ezekiel Elliott, Start Amari Cooper

Week 5's fantasy football start/sit decisions are highlighted by some big names: Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Ezekiel Elliott, among others.

Week 5 of the fantasy football season marks the start of the second month of action for managers. Hopefully, your carefully curated roster is in good shape after the devastating slew of injuries that have affected the NFL. You’re in the right place if you’re in a tough situation with your start/sit questions.

We’ve dug through the latest roster percentages to identify fantasy football players who you must either start or sit. Our three start options are currently being started in around 40% or less in leagues, whereas our three sit players are at around 55% or higher. We’re also looking at players owned in a majority of leagues.

Week 5 Fantasy Football Start’ems

Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

How favorable a player’s opportunity is can easily swing your fantasy matchup any given week. With Travis Etienne facing the worst defense in the NFL against running backs and getting more opportunities each week, this is the time to start the Jaguars backup. James Robinson owns the workload, but Etienne has received at least nine touches and targets in each of the last three weeks.

Efficiency hasn’t been the name of the game for the Jaguars’ ground game, but head coach Doug Pederson is dedicated to riding his two stars in order to help Trevor Lawrence. Robinson has 59 carries to Etienne’s 34, and Etienne has barely edged Robinson out with 11 pass targets to seven. Both should be the focal point against a Houston defense allowing 28 carries and 8.5 pass targets to backs per game.

Not every fantasy manager will need to shoehorn Etienne into their lineup as an RB2 or Flex. He’s ranked as our RB36 and No. 125 overall due to the lack of scoring opportunities and consistent production. But if there’s any week Etienne will ascend in his role, it’s now.

MORE: PPR Fantasy Football Rankings

I’m willing to take that chance in leagues where I need a breakout performer.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots

The Patriots continue to shift towards a more dominant running team as their quarterback depth wears thinner by the week. With rookie Bailey Zappe taking the reigns from both Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer, we’ll see both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson feast. The two combined for 32 carries for 152 yards and one rushing touchdown plus another 21 receiving yards on five receptions.

While Harris remains the more valuable starter because of his red zone upside and a constant stream of touches, Stevenson is a must-start against the Detroit Lions. The Lions have the worst defense in the NFL, allowing a whopping 5.6 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Just like how the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles mercilessly wore down the Lions, the Patriots will do the same.

The wonderful upside of Stevenson is his pass-catching. He remains a steady force on third downs, as the Patriots have opted against featuring anyone else. Although we’d love to see Stevenson get more goal-line opportunities, his five targets per week will suffice.

Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns

Coming off his worst game of the year after facing A.J. Terrell, I expect Amari Cooper and this Browns offense to bounce back a bit at home against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers may still win despite traveling so far for an early-afternoon game, but the Browns passing attack will be more efficient. Cooper combined for 16 catches, 202 yards, and two touchdowns in Weeks 2 and 3 before laying a goose egg with one catch for nine yards last week.

The big factor for Cooper is Jacoby Brissett. Like most average quarterbacks, Brissett has performed better at home than on the road. Expect that to continue and for Cooper to benefit more than anyone.

The Chargers have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to receivers this season and have yielded almost 14 receptions for 161.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. Cooper is the WR22 and No. 59 overall in our expert rankings this week, making him someone who should be locked into your WR2 or Flex lineup.

Week 5 Fantasy Football Sit’ems

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Despite being a first-round pick in most fantasy leagues this preseason, Najee Harris has been a massive bust, though by no fault of his own. The Steelers fed Harris more than any other back in 2021, and Harris had the third-most receptions at the position. And yet, only two teams have targeted their running backs less frequently than the Steelers in 2022.

The foundation of the offense changed around Harris despite the unit featuring two young quarterbacks, which is unconventional. Harris has become a matchup-based play for managers. Our expert rankings still have Harris as RB26 and No. 92 overall, so he could be a Flex option if you’re desperate, but goodness, the mighty have fallen.

Facing the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 is a major factor contributing to why I’d sit Harris. The Bills will dominate the Steelers’ lackluster offensive line. The unit, led by Von Miller and Ed Oliver, has allowed the second-fewest points scored and third-fewest rushing yards in the league. Backs, specifically, have averaged only 19.3 fantasy points per game since the unit has allowed only one touchdown to the position.

Don’t expect Harris to be the one who bucks that trend.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

While Ezekiel Elliott has historically performed well against the Los Angeles Rams, averaging 99.3 rushing yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game, the last time we saw these teams face off, they had significantly different rosters. Now, the Rams have an elite run defense led by Bobby Wagner, and the Cowboys are a below-average running team.

Dallas, even with backup quarterback Cooper Rush, has a bigger advantage if they throw the ball. The Rams are best in the NFL at limiting fantasy points to running backs, whereas they’re 31st in points allowed to receivers. That makes CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Noah Brown more playable than Zeke.

Elliott’s reduction of receiving targets this season has become a limiting factor for his fantasy value. Once a primary option on routes, Elliott hasn’t seen more than two targets in any game this season. Until Dak Prescott gets back or this offensive line sees sudden improvement, consider Elliott as a matchup-based option only.

Tyler Allgeier, RB, Atlanta Falcons

At face value, it seems like a no-brainer to start Tyler Allgeier against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The fifth-round rookie should start in place of Cordarrelle Patterson in one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. The Buccaneers just gave up 92 yards to Clyde Edwards-Helaire and 63 yards to Isiah Pacheco.

But the Falcons don’t have Patrick Mahomes to keep the Bucs’ front seven honest, and Tampa Bay had an elite run-stuffing unit until last week. Allgeier may not even be the clear RB1 in Atlanta. Caleb Huntley had the same number of carries (10) and scored a touchdown, while Allgeier was kept out of the end zone.

It’s best just to sit the rookie this week until we get more clarity on his role. I expect Atlanta to rely heavily on the ground game to eat as much clock as possible but fall short of the efficiency the team produced against Cleveland last week.

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