Just because a player is listed as a “fade” doesn’t mean they are automatic sits. As the adage goes, “Always start your stars.” What a “bust” designation does mean, however, is that you’ll want to consider higher upside options in the flex.
With the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins on a Week 10 bye, you might not be in a position to fade many assets as you look to complete a starting lineup! Still, being wary of potential down weeks from those you are forced to start can help make other decisions in your flex.
Fade: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Considering preseason expectations, there may not be a more disappointing fantasy asset than Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Even though the Jaguars rank 10th in the league in points per game and the fact that Lawrence is surrounded by a very talented cast of playmakers, not enough of the scoring has been funneled through the passing attack. Heading into Week 10, Lawrence sits as the QB17 in fantasy points per game, ranked behind the likes of Jordan Love, Josh Dobbs and Baker Mayfield. Lawrence’s 1,935 passing yards rank 15th in the league and 20th in the league with just nine passing touchdowns.
In Week 10, the Jaguars will face the San Francisco 49ers coming out of their bye week well-rested with a new premier edge rusher lining up next to Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave with Chase Young in the mix. Lawrence is averaging a full 2 yards fewer per dropback under pressure this season than he is from a clean pocket, a tough look now facing the 49ers, who are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game and third-lowest touchdown-to-interception ratio (0.91) to quarterbacks this season.
Fade: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
The New York Giants received some unfortunate news this week that QB Daniel Jones will miss the remainder of the 2023 season with a torn ACL. Though it might not be as big a loss in the passing game, it does mean that rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito (who?!) will get his first career start, as backup Tyrod Taylor is also on injured reserve with a rib injury. It remains to be seen what DeVito will yield with a full week of preparation, but even if he looks and plays his best, an interdivisional matchup against the Dallas Cowboys is less than ideal — especially without the Giants' top receiving option as TE Darren Waller is on injured reserve.
Barkley’s performance against the Cowboys has been a bit of a mixed bag, though he has totaled 51 or fewer rushing yards in five of eight such games. In their first matchup this season, the Giants failed to score a single point, with Barkley posting just 63 total yards for 7.8 fantasy points. So far this season, Micah Parsons and Co. have allowed the 11th fewest rushing yards and sixth-lowest explosive run percentage (7.8%) as PFF’s 13th most highly graded rushing defense. Circumstances are not ideal for a big week from Barkley or anyone on this Giants offense, unfortunately for fantasy managers.
Fade: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s be clear: you are not sitting Joe Mixon in your fantasy lineups in Week 10. Nobody can afford that, regardless of the matchup, considering he’s totaled the sixth-most touches among all running backs this season. However, this week, the Bengals will face the Houston Texans, whose run defense has tightened up in a big way this season compared to last, which should have fantasy managers bracing for a potential down week, especially with questions regarding the health of receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins that could allow Houston to hone in more closely on stopping the run game.
Over the past five weeks, the Texans have allowed opposing running backs just 2.66 rush yards per attempt, forcing a league-high 17.2% stuff rate against opposing running backs and the seventh-lowest explosive run rate in the league. The only running back to exceed 14 fantasy points against this defense in that span was Rachaad White in Week 9, on the back of two rushing touchdowns along the goal line, though they held him to an inefficient day at just 3.65 yards per carry. Mixon’s potential for a down week isn’t enough to sit him, particularly knowing this offense’s ability to overcome difficult matchups when they’re healthy but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t post another top-12 performance in Week 10.
Bust: Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens rookie Zay Flowers has played a significant role for his offense so far in his young career, quickly emerging as Lamar Jackson’s favorite wide receiver to target. His 62 targets to date this season rank 18th among wide receivers. He’s passed the eye test by a mile, too … even if it hasn’t translated into as much fantasy production; he's still seeking his first top-12 finish of the year. This week wouldn’t be the one to expect a breakout, however, as he's set to face the Cleveland Browns defense that’s been a lock-down matchup for opposing receivers. They’ve allowed just four wide receivers 15 or more fantasy points in half-PPR scoring formats this season.
Fade: Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns
Let’s face it: this Browns-Ravens matchup just isn’t one that’s bound to be overly productive for the wide receiver position. Despite instabilities for the Cleveland Browns at quarterback, Amari Cooper has been playing incredibly well, averaging a career-high 17.6 yards per reception, with 89 or more receiving yards in five of eight games this season. One of those three games where he didn’t hit that mark? You guessed it; it was against the Ravens, having caught just one of six targets for 16 receiving yards. Granted, it was rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson throwing to him, but still — this isn’t an ideal defensive matchup, even for Deshaun Watson.
The Ravens are allowing a league-low 7.7% explosive play rate, 5.3 pass yards per attempt, 4.3 yards after the catch per completion and a 1.7% passing touchdown rate. Targets to the wide receiver position have yielded -0.12 expected points added (EPA) per dropback — making this one of the most inefficient matchups in the league. Just three receivers this season have scored more than 15 fantasy points in a given week against Baltimore.
Bust: Cade Otton, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year TE Cade Otton is coming off a career-high 70 receiving yards and the first multi-touchdown game of his career. Naturally, the fantasy gods won’t give you much time to enjoy that success, pitting him in a matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Though this hasn’t been a shut-down secondary by any means, this defense has been a capable unit against opposing tight ends.
Mark Andrews, unsurprisingly, has been the most successful tight end performance against the Titans defense this season, posting 69 receiving yards for 8.9 total fantasy points (half-PPR) on the day. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Titans have had the ninth-highest defensive success rate against tight ends in the league, and considering Otton already ranks 19th among tight ends in team target share, this might not be the best matchup to target.