Koerner: Fantasy Football Start/Sit Strategy for 49ers-Cardinals

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald

  • Sean Koerner is here to help you make your Thursday Night Football fantasy start/sit decisions.
  • See which San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals players are must-plays (or stay aways).

There’s more strategy to Thursday Night Football fantasy sit/start decisions than people realize.

The No. 1 rule? Don’t use your Flex spot (if you can). It offers you flexibility come Sunday, so blocking the utility of this lineup spot on TNF only hurts you.

Now let’s run through whether to start or sit key fantasy players tonight. For more specific sit/start decisions, you can use my updated rankings.

Quarterbacks

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers

This a plus matchup for Garoppolo, but he’s always in danger of turning into a game manager if the 49ers take an early lead. And as 10-point road favorites, it’s much more likely he’ll be asked to not throw much in the second half if the game goes according to plan.

We cannot bank on passing or rushing yards to help boost his floor/ceiling combo, so ultimately his fantasy output is likely going to come down to touchdown luck. Having said that, he’s projected for the fifth-most passing TDs in my model with 1.86, so if he’s the best option you have this week, roll him out.

nfl-bets-picks-power-ratings-koerner-week 7-2019
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jimmy Garoppolo

More specifically, if Matthew Stafford, Gardner Minshew or Derek Carr aren’t available in your league then Jimmy G is the next-best 1QB league streaming option.

Kyler Murray, Cardinals

Due to the brutal matchup, this is a week to leave Murray on your bench. And with zero TD passes in four of his past five games, this is likely a pretty easy decision to make.

However, if you’re completely cornered and have no other option but to play him tonight, you can take comfort in knowing his playing style makes QB1-type numbers possible if he can break off a couple big runs or rack up some garbage time stats. He’s my QB23 this week, but he has baked-in upside that’s far higher than most QBs in this range.

Running Backs

Tevin Coleman, 49ers

Coleman is the only RB I’m willing to trust tonight. With the 49ers’ other RBs banged up on a short week, Coleman could see 15 or more touches, which would put him at a borderline-RB1 for Week 9.

If he’s involved in a sit/start decision for you, then congratulations — your team is absolutely stacked right now.

Matt Breida, 49ers

Similar to Murray, if you’re forced to play Breida tonight, it likely means you don’t have enough options to even make a sit/start decision. In that scenario, you can at least take comfort that Breida has a much higher ceiling than most players in his ranking range.

One good thing about having a player like this on TNF is you’ll have the advantage of knowing their results, which you can use to inform Sunday lineup decisions. If a TNF player like this busts, you can be more aggressive with your Sunday sit/start decisions and go with the higher risk/reward player. If they end up having a great game, you can lean toward the safer play on Sunday.

Kenyan Drake, Cardinals

Drake will have the tough task of learning a brand new playbook on a short week in hopes of being the Cardinals’ lead back tonight. He carries quite a bit of risk as we don’t know for sure just how many snaps he’ll see. But the Cardinals don’t have many other options with Chase Edmonds already ruled out and David Johnson (questionable) not expected to play.

Drake is a high-risk, high-reward RB3/Flex play this week. If you needed an emergency RB fill-in and nabbed him, start him with confidence.

Say you’re a decent-sized favorite and are deciding between Drake or Frank Gore, it might make more sense to go with the safer option in Gore. We can at least expect five to 10 points from Gore in half PPR while Drake has a much wider range of outcomes. And when you’re a big(ger) favorite, taking guaranteed points over riskier plays (for bottom-end sit/start decisions) is to your advantage.

On the flip side, if you’re a decent-sized underdog, Drake is ideal for you as the higher-risk, higher-reward option.

Wide Receivers

Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald; Cardinals

Both are just outside WR3 range for me, making them more WR4/Flex options. With the brutal matchup against the 49ers, who are likely to dominate time of possession, it’s going to be tough for the Cardinals to rack up their typical high play count, which will negatively impact WRs like Kirk and Fitz, who rely solely on volume.

A stat that should alarm you is that it’s been six games since Murray threw a TD to a wide receiver.

Right now I have Jaguars WR Chris Conley ranked just below these two. However, if Dede Westbrook is ruled out, Conley will jump Kirk and Fitz — something to keep in mind if you have access to Conley.

Emmanuel Sanders, 49ers

Just like that, Sanders is the No. 1 WR on the 49ers. Considering it was his first game as a 49er, we can only expect him to establish that role even more going forward.

Sanders lined up in the slot 50% of the time in his debut, which means he should be able to avoid Patrick Peterson coverage for most of the game. Sanders is a high-end WR3 this week.

Tight Ends

George Kittle, 49ers

There are no sit/start decisions tonight at TE.

Kittle is by far my No. 1 TE this week and gets a Cardinals defense that’s been destroyed by the position all season.