Sunday Morning Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em: Jay Ajayi, Corey Davis, Emmanuel Sanders & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Just hours before the start of Week 9 I know many people have questions running through their heads. Who should I start? Who should I sit?  Let’s take a look at how some of the recent news changes things:


Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos – Wide Receiver
Sanders is expected to return after missing the past few games, though there is obviously a lot of risk hovering over him.  For one he’s going to have Brock Osweiler playing quarterback, though how much of a downgrade over Trevor Siemian he is would be debatable.  Osweiler was able to get productive days out of both Sanders and Demaryius Thomas when he was starting for the Broncos down the stretch in ’15:

  • Sanders – 30 receptions, 496 yards, 2 TD
  • Thomas – 44 receptions, 559 yards, 5 TD

Obviously Thomas was the more productive option, and Sanders had a couple of virtual goose egg games (including days of 17 and 19 yards).  If Ronald Derby were to return the outlook would be that much worse, but even if he’s out Sanders is nothing more than a WR3 (at best).

Verdict – High risk WR3


Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles – Running Back
Les Bowen of The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News published the following on Friday:

Pederson said the package Ajayi is working with this week is “very limited – 10 to 15 plays” so that the newcomer isn’t overwhelmed.

“I just want him to feel comfortable there. But it’s a taste of a little bit of every aspect of the offense … So, first and second and third down; we’ll find out a little bit more today in the red zone,” Pederson said. “But it definitely won’t be the full complement of the playbook.”

In other words, in his first game with Philadelphia Ajayi is going to be severely limited and isn’t going to play a full set of snaps.  Couple that with a matchup against the Broncos, who are allowing the fewest points per week to opposing running backs, and Ajayi is going to be nearly impossible to trust.  There’s far too much risk, unless you truly have no alternative available.

Verdict – Desperation play only

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Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans – Wide Receiver
After being targeted 10 times in Week 1, Davis has been out since Week 2 with a hamstring injury but is finally set to return.  As per Adam Schefter (via Twitter), “Titans rookie WR Corey Davis will return to action Sunday vs. Baltimore after missing five games due to a hamstring injury.”

Just because he looked good in Week 1, and the Titans’ receiving corps has struggled in his absence, doesn’t mean he’s a good play.  In fact there’s a lot working against him:

  • The Baltimore Ravens have allowed the second fewest points per week to opposing WR
  • Davis could be on a “pitch count” in his first game back
  • The Titans are averaging 201.9 passing yards per game (seventh fewest) and have 5 passing TD (tied for the fewest in the league)

With the bye weeks he could be considered a WR3, but it’s a tough sell.

Verdict – High risk WR3, but tough to trust


Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles – Tight End
Ertz gave fantasy owners a scare early in the week, but according to Adam Schefter (via Twitter):

“Eagles HC Doug Pederson said TE Zach Ertz, questionable for Sunday with hamstring, will play vs. Broncos.”

That’s obviously good news, as even a limited Ertz is a must start option as he’s emerged as one of the few elite at his position.  The Broncos have allowed the second most points per week to opposing tight ends (behind only the New York Giants), so fire Ertz up in all formats.

Verdict – Must start


Rob Kelley – Washington Redskins – Running Back
Kelley has been a bitter disappointment thus far, and the outlook for a turnaround in Week 9 seems highly unlikely.  Ian Rapoport tweeted this morning:

“RB Rob Kelley, listed as questionable and still nursing an ankle injury, is expected to play. But he won’t have a full workload.”

Taking on the Seahawks, who have allowed the sixth fewest points per week to opposing running backs, alone would’ve limited the usage of Kelley.  Combine that with a limited workload?  The outlook is bleak, and he’s nothing more than a dart throw FLEX if you are desperate.

Verdict – Desperation FLEX and nothing more


DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins – Wide Receiver
The Dolphins have been a disaster, but both Parker and Jay Cutler are set to return for a matchup against the Raiders that shouldn’t scare you.  Over the past two weeks the Raiders have allowed the sixth most points to opposing WR as their secondary is dealing with a slew of injuries.  That alone is going to make Parker an intriguing option, but let’s not forget that over the first three weeks Parker averaged 6 receptions, 9 targets and roughly 77 yards per game.  Couple it all together and Parker is a locked in WR2 with the potential to produce like a WR1.

Verdict – Must use WR2


Marqise Lee – Jacksonville Jaguars – Wide Receiver
He’s slated to play, and the news that Dede Westbrook won’t be activated cements that.  However that doesn’t mean that Lee is going to be a good play this week as he will:

  1. Play in an offense that’s going to be centered around Leonard Fournette (who’s now healthy)
  2. Have Blake Bortles throwing him the football (58.7% completion rate)
  3. Have to battle Allen Hurns for targets
  4. Could potentially be on a “pitch count”
  5. Draws a Bengals’ defense that’s allowed the sixth fewest points per week to opposing WR

When you put those things in perspective, is Lee really a player to trust?

Verdict – Desperation dart throw, but hard to trust

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Vernon Davis – Washington Redskins – Tight End
The Redskins have already ruled Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder out, and with the lack of a running game that should mean ample opportunities for Davis to produce.  Thus far Davis hasn’t seen more than 5 targets in any game, though he’s proven capable of making the most of his opportunities (17 receptions on 22 targets) and an ability to make big plays (he’s averaging 18.4 yards per reception).

Davis should assume at least some of the targets that Reed leaves behind (about 6 targets per game).  The Seahawks don’t necessarily represent the best matchup, but there’s enough upside/opportunity to consider him a viable TE1 if you are in need.

Verdict – Low-end TE1


Sterling Shepard – New York Giants – Wide Receiver
After missing the past two games Shepard is set to return and will assume the spot atop the receiver depth chart.  Of course he returns to a difficult matchup against the Rams (seventh fewest points per week to opposing wide receivers) and isn’t guaranteed to see the bulk of the targets (that could easily go to Evan Engram).  The Giants offense isn’t nearly what was expected and you have to wonder if Shepard is going to be able to step up and produce, especially without Odell Beckham grabbing the attention of opposing secondaries.  He’s worth using as a WR3 (and he does have more upside than that), but there’s a lot of risk and he could potentially fall flat.

Verdict – Viable WR3, with upside


Jeremy Maclin/Mike Wallace – Baltimore Ravens – Wide Receiver
Let’s lump these two together, as they are in a similar situation.  Adam Schefter tweeted today that:

“Ravens WRs Mike Wallace (back) and Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), listed as questionable for Sunday, both expected to play vs Titans, per source.”

On paper it seems like a strong matchup, with the Titans allowing the 12th most points per week to opposing wide receivers.  However that’s not due to yardage (915), but instead 9 TD allowed.  Considering the Ravens’ struggles to get the ball to their receivers this season, is that encouraging?  Maclin & Wallace have combined for 35 receptions and 460 yards on the season and the upside is low.  Maclin has more TD potential (3) so he’s the better option, though neither are more than a WR3.

Verdict – Maclin worth the gamble as WR3, Wallace desperation play and hard to trust


Jonnu Smith – Tennessee Titans – Tight End
After missing practice earlier in the week Delanie Walker returned Friday on a limited basis.  Obviously an ankle injury is going to cast some doubt over his potential, and it’s likely that he shares the tight end opportunities with the rookie Smith if he’s able to play.  That’s going to make Smith an interesting streaming option, if you are desperate due to the bye weeks, as the Ravens have allowed the seventh most points per week to opposing tight ends due to 6 TD allowed (tied for sixth most).  The third round rookie has proven capable of finding the end zone, with 2 TD on 11 receptions, and at 6’3” and 248 lbs. he could emerge as the go to option.

If Walker were to sit out Smith would be a low-end TE1, but even if he plays he’s potentially streamer worthy.

Verdict – Streamable option

** PRE-SALE **
Pre-order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $6.25!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

Make sure to check out all of our Week 9 rankings:

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Thursday Start 'Em or Sit 'Em: Adrian Peterson, Thomas Rawls & More
Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em (2017): Week 9: Kirk Cousins, T.Y. Hilton, Alex Collins & More


  1. Trevor says:

    I have walker as my te. Kroft Is on the wire. Should I pick him up and start or better to take a chance on walker playing today?

  2. Eric says:

    Hey Prof– u still think i should roll with Cousins after they announced 3 starting lineman out and additionally Reed and Crowder inactive as well? I still can pick up Manning, Mariota, or Brissett

  3. Fernando says:

    Your thoughts on starting Ted Ginn over Corey Davis?

  4. Joel Macke says:

    I have Mariota and tyrod Taylor. One of the teams in my league lost watson. Do you think it would be worth trying to trade one for one of his RB? Currently have Abdullah, cj Anderson, buck Allen, and a few lottery tickets. He has bell and Gordon so I figured I could try Mariota and Kennan Allen for one of his top two.i would still have AJ green, Hopkins and Mike Evans at WR.thoughts?

  5. Tony says:

    Hi Professor,

    Weeks ago I dropped Perine for D Watson; I have Kelley as well, but he is doing nothing for my team, so do you think they will give Perine yet another chance, or is he clearly out of the picture since he failed to take advantage before when Kelley was absent?

    It’s looking as if Kelley will never be healthy this season, so wonder if Washington will give Perine another chance, or if they’ve given up on him already? He’s listed as being on special teams, so does that prevent Washington from inserting him at RB if Kelley is limited? I know they want to protect Thompson as well, who is their best RB, but not built for lots of carries.

    Thank you very much.


  6. Sahel Kazemi says:

    3wr 1 point PPR league
    At flex
    Mixon, Corey Davis, CJ Anderson, Drake, or Mack?

  7. Andrew says:

    Hey Prof! pick two….Davis, Mack, Henry?? Also any thoughts on Samuel? Drop MArtavis or Mike Williams for him?

  8. Bryan Waagner says:

    Ertz was juat ruled out. Of Hooper, kittles or Dickson who do I roll out with?

  9. dnz says:

    Yo Prof,

    with Fournette out I just picked up Chris Ivory. Would you start Ivory over either Lacy or Sanu? Or move Sanu to WR instead of Fuller and start Ivory and Lacy?

    10 team standard by the way. Thanks!

  10. C says:

    Hey professor,
    Would it be insane to bench AJ Green for DeVante Parker today? Other WR I’m starting is D. Baldwin, and RBs are Zeke, Hunt and Martin. Currently in second place at 6-2.
    Thanks a lot!

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