Ahead of Week 6 fantasy football start ’em, sit ’em decisions, the term “star” has quite the interesting application.
Technically speaking, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is a star this year—he’s a top-10 scorer at his position, ranked higher than Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and on and on.
The same applies to, say, Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson, formerly known as CJ2K. Or Cleveland Browns wideout Travis Benjamin.
A new year means new stars, which is a good thing. It increases opportunities, but alongside them rises the need for more legwork. Let’s take the latter out of the equation with a guide below.
Star to Know: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (at BUF)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is the star at the position this year. Weird, right?
Dalton leads all scorers at quarterback, including Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He looks like a different player this year and his entire supporting cast is healthy, yet he’s owned in just 81.2 percent of leagues.
A matchup on the road against the Buffalo Bills sounds scary until one realizes the unit surrenders the ninth-most points to quarterbacks this year, with four of five sets of quarterbacks reaching at least 15 points.
That’s Dalton’s floor. The ceiling? He winds up as the top scorer.
Star to Bench: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (at. MIN)
Ranked 13th in scoring, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith teased owners this year by starting with 22 points in the opening game. Then he scored four. Then he rebounded with 18 and 17. Then 13.
In other words, Smith hits the road to encounter a Minnesota Vikings defense allowing the seventh-fewest points to the position without perhaps the league’s best back behind him to take pressure off his production.
There’s an allure to Smith in an Andy Reid offense, but not in this matchup without Charles.
Star to Know: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (vs. SD)
It’s Eddie Lacy breakout week, folks.
The Green Bay Packers running back has reached paydirt and double digits just once this season, only carrying the ball 18 or more times in two of five contests.
It figures to change in what could be a shootout with the San Diego Chargers, though. The visitors allow the most points to backs on average this season, with four of five opposing backfields going for 20 or more points.
Green Bay knows the weakness, too. San Diego’s going to be too concerned with stopping Rodgers on the road to shore up wide-open running lanes.
Star to Bench: Alfred Morris, Washington (at. NYJ)
Still owned in more than 85 percent of leagues, it’s time for owners to forget about Washington lead back Alfred Morris.
Morris sits in the most confusing committee in the league, losing rushing snaps to Matt Jones and pass-catching snaps to Chris Thompson. Washington’s coaching staff doesn’t care about fantasy football, of course, but it’s odd to see the reliable veteran get less than 10 carries in two of five games this season.
The lackluster usage has held Morris out of double digits since Week 1. Now he has to deal with the stingy New York Jets defense, which allows the third-fewest points to the position and just one opponent’s entire backfield has reached double digits.
Not even guaranteed enough snaps to stand a chance, owners need to sit Morris once again.
Star to Know: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (vs. NE)
While the Indianapolis Colts have struggled to keep quarterbacks healthy, T.Y. Hilton has struggled to make an impact and has yet to go for double digits this season.
That’s about to change. Hilton sounds confident enough. He told Mike Chappell of Indy Sports Central he’s ready to step up against the New England Patriots.
“I’m going to make a lot of plays this week,” Hilton said. “When a play shows up, I’ve got to be there to make it. I know they’ll double me, triple me, do whatever they can to take me out of the game, but I’ve got to find ways to make plays and not go away this game.”
Hilton routinely has big games against the Patriots, and this shouldn’t be any different. Thanks to a prolific offense, New England’s defense yields plenty of points to wideouts, having allowed three of four opponents to go for at least 22 points—and the fourth would have if Dallas had a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on the field.
Star to Bench: Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins (at. TEN)
A reliable producer one year ago, Miami Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry cannot seem to wriggle free of the organization’s struggles.
Landry has double digits in two of his four appearances and has yet to find paydirt on an offense with plenty of options when it comes to pass-catchers, including Rishard Matthews, Jordan Cameron and Kenny Stills.
The Tennessee Titans are by no means the greatest against wideouts this year and have allowed five touchdowns in four games, but Landry’s intermediate routes, the wealth of weapons around him and attention from Tennessee’s top secondary defenders means another small day for the matchup-based WR1.
Star to Know: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (vs. MIA)
Thanks to a rookie quarterback, Tennessee’s Delanie Walker remains in the TE1 discussion on a week-to-week basis.
Walker has 19 targets in four games, a healthy amount at a position with such a strong chance for a goose egg each week. While it doesn’t sound encouraging, Walker has one trip to double digits on the season.
Odds are he makes it two with Miami in town. The Dolphins have surrendered double-digit outbursts in two of four games to tight ends, coincidentally against pass-catching threats Jordan Reed and Charles Clay.
Believe it or not, Walker might be better than both and will see more chances.
Star to Bench: Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
It’s time for Jimmy Graham’s 99.1 percent of owners to admit the mistake and treat him like any normal player at the position.
Despite the new locale, Graham has just two trips to double digits this year. In the three quiet performances, he’s totaled just six points. Graham isn’t helping the Seattle offense become more explosive, he’s just not seeing as many chances as he did in New Orleans.
It won’t get better against the Carolina Panthers, the team allowing the fewest points on average to the position. Four sets of tight ends have just 10 combined points and one score against the unit.
To think Graham can match or outscore four teams on his own is to throw away this week as a whole.
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