Below are notes covering each of the NFL’s 32 teams from a fantasy perspective. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for Week 6. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.
Throughout this piece, I’ll be referencing “OTD.” OTD stands for opportunity-adjusted touchdowns. It is a statistic that weighs every carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s scoring opportunity. For example, if a player has an OTD of 3.0, it means that a league-average player who saw the same number of carries/targets in the same area of the field would have scored three touchdowns.
The Cardinals can’t replace David Johnson with one player, but apparently they’ve determined that they can replace Johnson’s entire receiving workload with Andre Ellington. The 28-year-old back caught nine of 10 targets for 65 yards against the Eagles on Sunday. Ellington has now caught nine passes in back-to-back games and has at least 59 receiving yards in three straight. Despite playing a minimal role as a rusher, Ellington’s receiving work has allowed him the 13th-most fantasy points among running backs since Week 2 (the team’s first game without Johnson). There’s little reason to expect Ellington’s 20 percent target share will fluctuate much as long as Johnson is out, so he’s very much in the flex mix in PPR against Tampa Bay this week.
Last season, Julio Jones scored six touchdowns last season despite a 4.2 OTD and only six end zone targets. This year, Jones has yet to find the end zone but sports a 1.5 OTD (for a 6.0 pace) and four end zone targets (16 pace). Jones has totaled 20 end zone targets over the past four seasons, which helps explain his underwhelming 22 touchdowns during the span. Needless to say, despite his slow start to the 2017 season, Jones is, in fact, getting more work near the goal line with Steve Sarkisian calling plays. Jones should be healthy off the bye week and has a terrific matchup against Miami in Week 6.
Mike Wallace‘s 2017 season got off to a painfully slow start, but he bounced back with 133 yards on three catches against Oakland on Sunday. Though this might seem to vault Wallace back into the WR3 discussion, there are few reasons to pump the brakes. For starters, he was targeted only three times in the game, which obviously means the production is fluky and unsustainable. Secondly, Oakland’s already-struggling cornerback unit was without David Amerson and Gareon Conley on Sunday. Thirdly, the Ravens offense has managed only nine touchdowns in five games. Wallace averaged 7.1 target per game last year, but he sits at 4.4 per game through Week 5. He’s no more than a flex flier against Chicago and with four teams on a bye this week.
It’s not often that a running back leads his team in targets, but LeSean McCoy is well on his way. With nine more on Sunday, McCoy is up to 32 on the season. That’s a career-high 25 percent team share and four more targets than Charles Clay (28). A product of the hefty receiving work, McCoy sits ninth among running backs in fantasy points, despite failing to score a touchdown this season. Of course, his 2.3 OTD suggests McCoy should have two or three scores on the year. Expect him to rebound in that department following the team’s Week 6 bye, which will help solidify him as a solid RB1. Buy “low” if you can.
Ed Dickson put up 175 receiving yards on Sunday, which is nearly 100 yards more than his previous career high of 76 way back in 2011. Though Dickson is extremely unlikely to come close to 175 yards the rest of the season, he’s certainly in the TE1 discussion while Greg Olsen is out. During three full games without Olsen, Dickson has been on the field for all but one of the Panthers’ 183 offensive snaps. He has run 89 of 108 possible pass routes, which is only six behind Devin Funchess for tops on the team. Dickson’s nine targets over the past two weeks ranks fourth on the team but trails Kelvin Benjamin by one and Christian McCaffrey by four. Dickson has yet to score a touchdown this season, but he sits eighth in fantasy points at the position since Olsen has been out and is worth lineup consideration against the Eagles on Thursday.
2017 second-overall pick Mitchell Trubisky made his NFL debut on Monday night. The rookie was limited to 25 pass attempts, but his target distribution is worth a look as we try to determine if any of his pass-catchers will have fantasy relevance moving forward. Zach Miller paced the team with seven targets, and fellow tight end Dion Sims handled four. That works out to a hefty 44 percent of the Trubisky’s throws, which is notable, considering that quarterbacks facing Minnesota directed an NFL-high 66 percent of their throws at the wide receiver position coming into the week. This suggests Miller could be a high-volume target moving forward and thus sneak into the TE1 mix. Kendall Wright paced the team’s wide receivers with five targets and, though he appears to be atop the depth chart, he’s no more than a bye-week desperation flex at this point. Markus Wheaton (four targets) and Tre McBride (one) were the only other wide receivers targeted. Benny Cunningham (three) seems to be settling in as the third-down back, which has limited targets to Tarik Cohen (one) and Jordan Howard (zero).
A.J. Green exploded for seven receptions, 189 yards and one touchdown on 13 targets against the Bills on Sunday. Green has now managed a minimum of seven targets, five catches and 63 yards in each of the team’s first five games. He has scored a touchdown in three straight. Green sits third among wide receivers in fantasy points and trails leaders DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown by three points. There was some worry about the Bengals’ offense after the unit failed to find the end zone in Weeks 1 and 2, but Cincinnati has put eight scores on the board during its past three outings. The Bengals are on a bye this week, but Green is obviously an elite fantasy WR moving forward.
Rookie DeShone Kizer was benched for ineffectiveness on Sunday, which opened the door for 2016 fifth-round pick Kevin Hogan to seize the team’s quarterback gig. Hogan completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, adding 30 yards on four carries. Hogan has thrown the same number of touchdowns as Kizer (three) on 121 fewer attempts this season. Considering Kizer’s extremely poor play this season, it’s fair to say Hogan will get the start at Houston this week. Kizer has completed only 51 percent of his passes, has been off target on one-quarter of his throws and is averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. All are worst in the NFL. It’s likely Kizer will get another look later this year, but he’s well off the fantasy radar. The same can be said for Hogan in Cleveland’s low-scoring offense.
Believe it or not, Dak Prescott has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback every week this season. His best effort came against Green Bay on Sunday. The second-year quarterback completed 25 of 36 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 37 yards and another score on four carries. Prescott was QB6 in fantasy last season and sits fourth through Week 5 in 2017. As expected, the Cowboys haven’t been as dominant this season, which has allowed Prescott more opportunities to throw the ball. (Dallas’ pass rate is up to 61 percent from 54 percent last season.) The team is still scoring points, however, averaging 3.0 offensive touchdowns per game (down only slightly from 3.1 last year). Prescott’s efficiency has been below average, but he has offset that by adding points with his legs (126 yards, two touchdowns). He’ll return from the team’s Week 6 bye as a quality QB1 play against San Francisco.
Demaryius Thomas is four inches taller and has roughly 40 pounds on teammate Emmanuel Sanders, but it’s the latter who has become the Broncos’ preferred target near the goal line since the start of last season. Last year, Sanders led the team with 14 end zone targets and a 7.6 OTD, while Thomas handled eight end zone targets and posted a 6.0 OTD. This season has followed a similar trend. Sanders (2.0 OTD, three EZ targets) has two touchdowns and Thomas (1.0, 1) has none. Thomas certainly will find the end zone a handful of times down the stretch, but it’s no fluke that his touchdown totals have dwindled in recent years. He’s a high-floor, low-ceiling WR2. Sanders is more volatile but also is in the WR2 mix.
If you’ve yet to cut bait, Eric Ebron is safe to dump in your season-long leagues. The former first-round pick continues to struggle with effectiveness and is no longer getting enough volume to manage fantasy relevance. Ebron has fallen short of 10 receiving yards in three of five games this season. That included a one-catch, 6-yard effort against Carolina on Sunday. He’s averaging 4.0 yards per target and sits tied for 28th among tight ends in fantasy points. Ebron’s playing time is down considerably from last year and is trending the wrong direction this season. He was on the field for 84 percent of the team’s pass plays in Week 1, 67 percent in Weeks 2 and 3 and 54 percent in Weeks 4 and 5. Ebron is only 24 years old and very well could bounce back — he has been a top-15 fantasy tight end each of the past two seasons, after all — but he simply can’t be trusted right now.
Did Ty Montgomery get “Wally Pipped” on Sunday? Probably not, but it’s fair to say rookie Aaron Jones has earned a larger share of the pie moving forward. With Montgomery sidelined, Jones played 51 of 58 snaps and put up 134 yards and one touchdown on 20 touches. Fellow rookie Jamaal Williams, meanwhile, was limited to one carry for 1 yard on two snaps. Montgomery is expected back this week, but he’ll likely play a lesser role, and his efficiency will take a hit against Minnesota’s top-end defense. Consider him a RB2 and Jones no more than a desperation flex. If Montgomery is out, Jones, of course, should be locked into lineups.
When it comes to touchdown regression to the mean, it doesn’t get more obvious than when a player scores on four of his six receptions. That’s exactly the situation for Will Fuller V this season. Fuller scored on two of his four catches in Week 4 and followed that up with touchdowns on both of his catches against Kansas City on Sunday. Though Fuller is a near-every-down player in Houston, the volume he’s handling isn’t enough to support WR3 production moving forward. There’s obviously a ton of talent here — he was a first-rounder last year — but volume is the key. A boost in targets very well could come as the weeks progress (he has nine in two games), but savvy fantasy owners will be shopping Fuller around, considering his massive touchdown totals through two games. If you are able to move Fuller for an upgrade, pounce now while you still can.
Marlon Mack ran for 91 yards and a score on nine carries against the 49ers in Week 5. Granted the high-end efficiency came against a struggling defense, but Mack provided a much-needed jolt to a backfield that has been stagnant with late-career Frank Gore leading the way. Mack has yet to eclipse 17 snaps in a game but is averaging 9.3 looks per game. The rookie should be on benches, but he isn’t getting enough work to warrant starting consideration just yet. His usage does hurt Gore, however, who is no more than a fringe flex as long as Andrew Luck is out.
The Jaguars made their intentions very clear during the offseason: Build an elite defense and lean heavily on the running game in order to limit Blake Bortles‘ contributions. So far, so good. The Jaguars have called run on a league-high 52 percent of their offensive snaps. The defense dismantled the Steelers on Sunday. And it is now allowing 1.6 touchdowns per game (fifth lowest). The unit is allowing 5.3 yards per pass attempt (second best) but has struggled against the run (5.4 yards per carry allowed is the worst). Jacksonville’s D/ST is, by far, the top-scoring unit in fantasy, and the team’s light schedule moving forward locks the unit in as a strong play. The Jaguars’ defensive breakout is legit and far from a surprise.
Tyreek Hill caught four of six targets for 68 yards and returned a punt for a touchdown against Houston on Sunday night. The second-year receiver has now caught 25 of 33 targets for 356 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 24 rushing yards and the one return score. He’s sixth among wide receivers in fantasy points. Hill has been on the field for 74 percent of the team’s offensive plays, including 83 percent of the pass plays, and is handling 22 percent of the targets. Those numbers are up from 41 percent, 43 percent and 15 percent, respectively, last year. He’s very much in the WR1 discussion moving forward.
Hunter Henry is having what can only be described as an odd start to his second professional season. The 2016 second-rounder has gone without a target in two of his five games but has been targeted seven-plus times in two others. Henry has scored in back-to-back games, which is nice, but his inconsistent usage in the passing game makes him an extremely risky fantasy play. One reason for optimism that Henry’s career could be turning a corner is the fact that he ran more routes than Antonio Gates on Sunday. It’s only the second time in his career in which that has been the case, and the other was when Gates was returning from a two-game absence in Week 5 last season. Ignoring those two games, Henry set career highs in snaps and pass routes on Sunday. He should, at least, be on benches, and he could be on the verge of rejoining the TE1 discussion.
Sammy Watkins went without a catch on four targets against Seattle on Sunday. Watkins exploded for six catches on seven targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers in Week 3. But he has totaled eight catches on 13 targets for 105 yards and no touchdowns during four other games. Watkins has been a near-full-time player, running a route on 88 percent of the team’s pass plays since Week 2. Of course, he only has 3.75 targets per game to show for it. That’s not going to cut it, and a brutal schedule the rest of the way is only going to exacerbate the situation. Watkins’ massive ceiling makes him well worth a roster spot, but his lack of usage and the tough schedule make it hard to recommend plugging him into your lineup right now. The Rams’ play the red-hot Jaguars defense in Week 6.
So much for that Julius Thomas/Adam Gase connection. The Dolphins’ offense has been an absolute disaster this season, and Thomas’ box score is reflective of the debacle. Through four games, Thomas has caught 9 of 16 targets for 86 yards and no touchdowns. He has not been a full-time player, working 73 percent of the snaps, including 55 percent of the pass plays. Thomas has been asked to stay in and block on 23 pass plays this season, which is fifth most in the NFL. He has managed only one end zone target, and his 0.9 OTD suggests a big boost in scoring is not in his future. Thomas should be on waivers.
Monday Night Football gave us our first look at the Dalvin Cook-less Vikings backfield this season. Though Latavius Murray took a major lead in the carry department early, it didn’t take long for super-athlete Jerick McKinnon to steal the show. McKinnon played 47 snaps and led the team in carries (16), rushing yards (95), receptions (six) and receiving yards (51). McKinnon, who ripped off a 58-yard touchdown run, likely has the edge in this backfield moving forward and should be under RB2 consideration against Green Bay this week. Murray touched the ball on 14 of his 22 snaps but managed only 43 yards. He should be on benches.
We’re at the point now where it’s not unfair to label Chris Hogan the Patriots No. 1 receiver. Hogan was targeted a team-high 11 times in Week 5. And he has now out-targeted Brandin Cooks during three of the team’s past four games. The receivers both played 62 snaps in Week 2, but Hogan played more in the team’s four other games. Hogan has played 14 more snaps, run four more routes and has been targeted five more times than Cooks on the season. He only has seen 37 targets, but his five touchdowns have netted Hogan the fifth-most fantasy points among wide receivers. Cooks sits 13th, thanks to two scores and an average of 11.8 yards per target. Both should be locked into lineups as quality WR2 options moving forward.
The Saints enter their Week 6 matchup against Detroit fresh off a bye week, and Willie Snead is expected to make his 2017 debut. It’s easy to forget because he hasn’t played since last year, but Snead has been a top-35 fantasy receiver during each of the past two seasons. He has averaged 101.5 targets, 70.5 receptions, 939.5 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per season. And all of that came with Brandin Cooks in the mix. Snead’s target share won’t push significantly higher than the 16 percent he averaged during the past two seasons, but anything in the 16 percent to 20 percent range is in play and would be plenty to allow solid WR3 — if not WR2 — production in New Orleans’ high-volume, high-scoring offense.
With struggling Paul Perkins sidelined, the question was whether it would be Orleans Darkwa or rookie Wayne Gallman taking control of the Giants’ backfield in Week 5. It turns out the answer was “both.” Gallman was on the field for 25 plays and posted 82 yards on 16 touches. Darkwa played 20 snaps and generated 72 yards and a score on nine touches. Passing-down specialist Shane Vereen also was involved, handling five carries and four targets on 21 snaps. Considering no one clearly emerged, it’s fair to assume this committee will remain in place against Denver in Week 6. None of the backs are recommended starters.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins racked up team highs in targets (eight) and receptions (six) during Sunday’s win in Cleveland. Seferian-Jenkins has now registered 15 catches for 106 yards and one touchdown on 18 targets during three games this season. He has run a route on 81 percent of the Jets’ pass plays and is handling a generous 22 percent of the targets during the weeks he has been active. That has been enough to allow him the ninth-most fantasy points at the position during the span. Seferian-Jenkins is in the TE1 mix against New England’s struggling defense in Week 6.
Amari Cooper is in a funk. He caught one pass for 8 yards against Baltimore on Sunday. And he has now failed to eclipse 9 receiving yards in a game since Week 2, despite 15 targets during the three-game span. Despite Cooper’s atrocious start to the season, it’s hard to imagine this continuing much longer. Cooper — a first-round pick in 2015 — is one of only three wide receivers in NFL history to post two 1,000-yard receiving seasons prior to turning 23 years old (Mike Evans and Randy Moss are the others). Cooper, who turned 23 in June, has been on the field for 91 percent of the Raiders’ snaps, including 95 percent of the pass plays this season. Both are career-high marks. His target share (21 percent) is down only slightly from 22 percent in 2015 and 23 percent in 2016. Cooper makes for a strong buy-low target, especially with Derek Carr due back this week.
Carson Wentz completed 21 of 30 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinals in Week 5. He now has 10 touchdowns and three interceptions on the year and sits sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Despite his early-season success, Wentz’s 62 percent completion rate is actually the same as last year’s mark. There’s an explanation for that. The second-year passer’s average depth of throw has jumped from a conservative 7.5 to a massive 9.9 in 2017. Despite going deep more often, Wentz’s off-target rate is down from 17 percent to 15 percent. His yards per attempt has jumped from a poor 6.2 to a solid 7.7. Wentz also is adding more with his legs. He totaled 150 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries last year, but he already is at 108 yards on 26 carries this season. It’s too early to anoint Wentz after a five-game sample, but he’s well on his way to a breakout second season. Wentz remains a fringe QB1 and a fine streaming option, but he should be on benches at Carolina on Thursday.
Ben Roethlisberger‘s season is off to a very rough start, but there’s plenty of reason for hope that he’ll bounce back. For starters, the slow outset (albeit maybe not to this extent) is hardly unexpected. Roethlisberger has struggled on the road over the past three years, and three of the team’s first five games were away from Heinz Field. The Steelers’ two home games were against two of the league’s best defenses in Minnesota and Jacksonville. Roethlisberger should be on benches in Kansas City this week, and a home game against Cincinnati won’t be a cakewalk in Week 7, but the schedule lightens up from there (Detroit, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Green Bay). Roethlisberger does face a tough schedule during Weeks 14 to 16 (Baltimore, New England, Houston), which is the fantasy playoffs for many, but he certainly has a shot to provide QB1 value for a month or so leading up to that point. Keep streaming him.
Marquise Goodwin exploded for five catches and 116 yards on 11 targets against the Colts’ struggling defense in Week 5. Goodwin entered the game with nine catches, 127 yards and no touchdowns on 19 targets. Goodwin is averaging a solid 7.0 targets per game during the four games he has played in full this season, but the 49ers’ offense has scored seven touchdowns in five games (five of which came in one game). The combination of leaguewide byes and a very nice schedule (the Josh Norman-less Redskins, Cowboys, Eagles and Cardinals) sets Goodwin up with some flex appeal over the next month or so.
Seattle’s first game of the season without Chris Carson (injured reserve) provided us with very little additional clarity on what to expect from this backfield moving forward. Thomas Rawls was on the field for 31 plays and posted 35 yards on 10 touches. “Starter” Eddie Lacy played 19 snaps and was limited to 28 yards on 10 touches. Week 5 regression-to-the-mean poster boy J.D. McKissic played 17 snaps and was limited to 38 yards on five touches. Seattle is on a bye this week and faces tough the tough Giants defense in Week 7. This is a situation to avoid until one of the backs emerges.
Doug Martin is back. The veteran tailback missed the team’s first three games this season due to suspension, but he returned to feature back duties in Week 5. Martin handled 13 of the team’s 17 carries by a running back and posted 74 yards and one touchdown. He was targeted on three of his 25 snaps but ran only nine pass routes. Charles Sims actually played more snaps (30) and ran 26 routes. In fact, the Bucs have called pass on 94 percent of Sims’ snaps this season. It’s clear that Sims will continue to operate as the team’s passing-down specialist, which certainly limits Martin’s fantasy appeal. Martin is a fringe RB2 against Arizona this week. Jacquizz Rodgers, meanwhile, registered three carries and one target on 12 snaps against New England; he’s well off the fantasy radar.
Right when it seemed as if Derrick Henry was legitimately pushing DeMarco Murray for a significant share of backfield work, the 2016 and early-2017 game plan was quickly put back in place. Murray racked up 18 touches for 69 yards on 49 snaps against Miami in Week 5. Henry touched the ball four times on 10 snaps. Murray has battled some injuries this season, but he still has played 97 more snaps than Henry. Murray is very much in the RB1 mix against the Colts’ struggling defense this week. Henry is a great handcuff but shouldn’t be in starting lineups.
Could Josh Doctson turn the corner and emerge to fantasy relevance following the team’s return from their Week 5 bye? An increase in playing time will be the key, but it’s worth noting that his targets have trended in the right direction. He wasn’t targeted in Week 1, but he saw one target in Week 2, two in Week 3 and three in Week 4. I sense a trend. The second-year wideout has been on the field for only 34 percent of the team’s pass plays, but Doctson has been utilized as a specialist near the goal line, having now accrued five end zone targets in six career games. Doctson’s upside is absolutely massive, which makes him a very good bench stash. Scoop him up on waivers this week.