Week 5 of the Fantasy Football season might be best known for the season-ending injuries to New York Giants wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr., but what we should be focused on is how to determine just how confident we are in the trends and the sample sizes. There are a significant number of players among the leaders at their position that we wouldn’t have predicted in July and August.
New York Giants WR Situation – The Giants lost both Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for the season, while it looks like Sterling Shepard will sit out Week 6 against the third-ranked Denver Broncos passing defense. You should stay as far away from everything Giants in DFS this week, but beginning with Week 7, Sterling Shepard becomes an extremely intriguing play. Eli Manning is tenth in quarterback scoring on the back of 202 passing attempts (second-most passing attempts behind the Arizona Cardinals) and a lot of garbage time. Shepard is a buy low with one question, will defenses key on him? I’m taking a shot.
Jerick McKinnon, RB Minnesota Vikings – Week 5: 16 carries, 95 yards, one touchdown. Six targets, six receptions, 51 receiving yards. The Vikings are the kind of RB committee you want to avoid. You have an explosive, inconsistent, runner/receiver in Jerick McKinnon who is better in the passing game than between the tackles teamed up with a plodder (Latavius Murray) who needs a heavy workload to reliably produce and is likely to vulture goal line opportunities. Neither will receive all the opportunities Fantasy owners need to justify must-start status. Both are worth owning if you can afford the roster spots, but neither is more than an uncertain flex option going forward.
Ed Dickson, TE Carolina Panthers – In Weeks 4 and 5, Dickson has 62 and 175 receiving yards respectively, including three plays of 25 yards or more. He also doesn’t have a touchdown. Dickson has always been more potential than production but he has the skills to be a relevant pass catching Fantasy contributor. In the Carolina offense, he is a possible Top 10 tight end going forward. He hasn’t been a goal line target yet, but the yards and receptions should be there, and if he can wrangle in a TD from time to time, all the better. He needs to be owned and in many cases started.
George Kittle, TE San Francisco 49ers – I can’t believe how many words and column inches I have been spending on tight ends in recent weeks but when they are noteworthy, I have to bite my tongue and say so. Kittle had seven receptions for 83 receiving yards and a touchdown. Kittle hasn’t been among his position leaders in any relevant category, whether it be Fantasy points, targets, receptions, yards, or touchdowns, but he hasn’t been entirely absent either. Kittle is a viable starter going forward because the tight end position is loaded with mediocrity. There isn’t anything to be gleaned from Week 5 to suggest anything beyond what we knew before. He is a Top 20 tight end, but not a difference-maker. Act accordingly.
Aaron Jones, RB Green Bay Packers – Jones had a noteworthy Week 5 with 19 carries for 125 yards with a touchdown. Jones is the perfect example of why owners are justified in handcuffing their running backs. He isn’t a viable flex consideration when Ty Montgomery is handling a full workload. When Montgomery is banged up, Jones is a must-start flex play and an affordable DFS target. When Montgomery returns, which could be this week, relegate Jones to the bench but keep him warm and ready to relieve. He should be owned if roster limits allow it.
Baltimore Ravens Running Back Committee – The Ravens’ committee was a soupy one from day one with a pounder in Terrence West, a pass catcher in Danny Woodhead, a versatile multi-faceted Buck Allen and a depth guy in Alex Collins. Then Woodhead was lost for the season. It was believed that West would be the No. 1, but Buck Allen proved to be at least his equal, and then Weeks 3 and 4 came along. Alex Collins started to show that maybe he deserved a shot, and that’s the mess we currently operate in.
Then Week 5:
Buck Allen – 21 rushing attempts for 73 yards and one TD. Five targets, four catches and 12 receiving yards.
Alex Collins – 12 carries, 55 yards, 0 targets
Terrence West – two carries, 17 yards, 0 targets.
The Ravens have a crowded committee situation that nonetheless ranks fifth in rushing attempts and yards. So, you want some shares of them with the hope that whoever garners the most attempts will be Fantasy-relevant because of the volume. As things currently stand, Allen is the most versatile while Collins is the most explosive. Collins is the best pure runner in the lot but he is non-existent in the passing game. Allen participates in both the running and passing attack, and with the most recent sample, he is the one you want to own most because it looks like that’s what the Ravens’ coordinators want as well. Allen and Collins are a weekly flex play right now. While committees are usually something to avoid, when a team is on pace for 450 rushing attempts, more than 30 per game, it is prudent to use a bench spot for the possibility that one of the members emerges.
Cole Beasley, WR Dallas Cowboys – Week 5: six targets, four catches, 23 yards, two TDs. Dez Bryant is proving my preseason theory that he is a high-end possession receiver who lives and dies by the touchdown, which should bode well for Beasley but “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled.” Beasley has yet to have a 35-yard receiving game. Before his two-touchdown game in Week 5, he hadn’t scored since Week 11 of 2016. He isn’t a touchdown threat or a high reception wideout, and he isn’t productive in receiving yards. The Cowboys are ninth in passing attempts so, like the Ravens’ running back committee, it’s prudent to own shares with hopes of production, but right now it’s touchdowns or bust when choosing your flex calls from this group.
Marlon Mack, RB Indianapolis Colts – I am conflicted on this one because in last week’s column I pointed out that while Frank Gore is 730 years old, he is still toting the rock consistently. He isn’t sexy, but week-to-week he is putting in reliable, blue-collar efforts. At the same time, I have been screaming that Mack should be owned and that by Mid-November he could be the lead runner. We saw his potential in Week 5: nine carries, 91 yards and a touchdown. As the season drags along we will see Gore’s workload and production drop off, but Week 5 suggests that Mack isn’t willing to wait. Like Chris Carson in Seattle before the injury, the day was coming for Mack. While Week 5 was noteworthy, I expect by Week 8 we will see a trend. Mack needs to be owned. He is significantly more explosive than Gore and should lead the Colts in carries sooner rather than later.
Chris Hogan, WR New England Patriots – Hogan ranks 17th in targets, 19th in receptions and 15th in receiving yards while ranking fifth in Fantasy scoring and second in touchdowns, one behind leader Jordy Nelson among wide receivers. He has scored a touchdown in four consecutive weeks for a season total of five. Hogan already passed his career high in touchdowns after only five weeks and he was non-existent in Week 1 when he had only one reception, which makes it that much more impressive and worrisome. He is scoring like an elite wide receiver, but it’s how he is doing it that concerns me. The targets, receiving yards and receptions are all fine, but they aren’t “elite” good, suggesting to me that he is due for a drop off rather than continued production. The Patriots are loaded with target options and Hogan isn’t their best target in any facet of the game. Mike Gillislee and tight end Rob Gronkowski are better red zone targets, Brandin Cooks is a better big-play guy and Danny Amendola is a better third down and possession receiver. If your league owners don’t realize how good Hogan has been then you have to hold on and ride the hot wave, but in those leagues with Patriots fans or owners aware of his hot streak, sell high.
Devin Funchess, WR Carolina Panthers – Funchess led the Panthers in targets for Weeks 4 and 5 while scoring three touchdowns. He was second in targets for Weeks 2 and 3, and in three of those four games, he was targeted at least eight times. Funchess has become a viable starter when he doesn’t score touchdowns and a game-changer when he does. He is currently fourteenth in wide receiver scoring, making him a Flex starter at a minimum and a solid WR2 for most weeks going forward. His targets, production and friendly schedule make him a buy-low opportunity who is primed for a big season going forward. Jump on his wagon before it’s too expensive to afford the gas because there is a chance he develops into a WR1 before the year is through.
Will Fuller, WR Houston Texans – Fuller has six receptions for four touchdowns and 92 receiving yards in two games. End zone or bust isn’t the way I like to roll but it puts him on the radar. I lean towards labeling him “Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled,” but it’s hard to ignore those touchdown targets. I am riding the fence on Fuller. He isn’t a must-start, but he needs to be owned and considered for the flex spot until he either stops scoring or starts producing receiving yards and receptions. Two weeks is a trend when it is four touchdowns and that’s why he is in the article today.
San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense – Entering the season, the 49ers were an offense most Fantasy owners ran from, and most NFL fans knew they were going to struggle to compete. Being the contrarian that I am, I own Carlos Hyde everywhere and Pierre Garcon everywhere else. The passing offense hasn’t been excessively productive, but they rank sixth in passing attempts. With many more losses to come, I don’t expect those attempts to slow down. They currently have only four passing touchdowns and rank twentieth in passing yards per game. That difference should reconcile itself eventually. Pierre Garcon is seventeenth in wide receiver scoring and seventh in targets. The Niners’ passing offense is a place to find cheap DFS points, and Garcon is a buy-low opportunity going forward. The passing touchdowns have to increase and Garcon is a good bet to get them.
Duke Johnson Jr, RB/WR Cleveland Browns – Johnson is seventh in running back scoring despite getting only 16 carries and 77 rushing yards. He has made his bones with 31 targets, 23 receptions and 270 receiving yards with three total touchdowns. He is a unique playmaker who is basically a wide receiver who qualifies at running back, a gem of a value in deeper leagues. Tarik Cohen and Chris Thompson have garnered a lot of acclaim for their explosiveness and pass-catching prowess, but it’s Johnson who has been the better player, and he has done with a mess of a team and a disaster behind center. There is room for improvement in Duke Johnson Jr.