Fantasy Football Overvalued/Undervalued: Week 5
Believe it or not, we’ve already hit the quarter-mark of the season. Every team but Miami and Tampa Bay has already played 25% of their regular season games. Sample sizes are finally big enough to make bolder, yet more informed decisions. Most importantly for our purposes, we can now see what defenses struggle with which position groups, and which ones make you consider sitting your studs. Only a few of these are obvious going into the season. For example, we knew the Broncos had a good secondary before the season started. What we didn’t know is that Denver’s run defense – their biggest weakness last year – would be just as formidable.
What makes Week 4 so special? Well, colloquially, three instances is often considered the benchmark for anything to be considered a pattern. Four weeks of data allows us to better weed out outliers. For example, through two weeks, Cleveland seemed completely inept at guarding tight ends, but then in Week 3, Jack Doyle laid an egg, calling that narrative into question. Then Week 4 rolls along, and Tyler Kroft lights them up, suggesting that Doyle’s game was an exception.
Up to this point, most of my decision-making has been based on the player’s team more so than the team they were up against, outside of obvious situations (again, Denver). Now I’ll be targeting matchups on defense a bit more frequently, though it won’t necessarily be the only (or even the biggest) factor going into these picks.
But first, let’s look at how last week panned out:
Russell Wilson (SEA vs. IND): ECR – 3 / Finished – QB5 / LOSS
DeMarco Murray (TEN @ HOU): ECR – 18 / Finished – RB40 / WIN
DeAndre Hopkins (HOU vs. TEN): ECR – 11 / Finished – WR4 / LOSS
Kyle Rudolph (MIN vs. DET): ECR – 6 / Finished – TE26 / WIN
Tyrod Taylor (BUF @ ATL): ECR – 18 / Finished – QB18 / LOSS
Bilal Powell (NYJ vs. JAC): ECR – 32 / Finished – RB5 / WIN
Alshon Jeffrey (PHI @ LAC): ECR – 19 / Finished – WR 23 / LOSS
Jared Cook (OAK @ DEN): ECR – 11 / Finished – TE19 / LOSS
Another bad week. There’s no way around it. Neither of my QB selections finished on the wrong side from what I predicted, but they were both clear losses none the less. In fact, the only really ugly call was DeAndre Hopkins, who aided Deshaun Watson in putting up historic numbers on offense. Each of my wins are guys that I actually like a lot this week to similarly defy the experts, but it’s not very fun or entertaining to ride the same players over and over again. Sure, I could pick Ben Roethlisberger to underperform on the road every week and win that call pretty much every time, but where’s the fun in that? In fact, I do believe that this is the first week where I’ll be using a player for a second time – and it’s not someone who made me look very good the first time around.
Overvalued: Matthew Stafford (DET): vs. CAR; ECR – QB6
Matthew Stafford hasn’t been the gunslinger he once was, and that’s a good thing. His defense is allowing him to hand the ball off more often and make more conservative decisions when he does put the ball in the air. No quarterback wants to be described as a “game manager,” but that’s what Stafford has been this year, and to the benefit of the entire team. This new version of Matthew is a prime example of a player who is much better from an NFL perspective than he is from a fantasy one. There will come a time this season when the team is down and he can revert back into the comeback machine he was last year, but that’s probably not going to be this week. The Lions’ defense should have no problem containing Cam Newton, who only managed a great game last week against a porous Patriots secondary that left his receivers wide open. Couple this with the fact that Ameer Abdullah’s role continues to grow, and the Lions simply shouldn’t need Stafford to be anything other than what he’s been so far this season.
Undervalued: Brian Hoyer (SF): @ IND; ECR – QB22
As strange as it sounds. it might be a little bit too early to completely write off Brian Hoyer. No, he’s not good, but he’s faced some very tough defenses (and secondaries) this year. This week’s matchup against the Colts will be his first chance against a team that is currently in the top 10 in terms of most generous fantasy defenses versus quarterbacks. No QB has posted fewer than 16 fantasy points against the Colts, which is an excellent floor for a player who should be free on waivers in all leagues and available for cheap in daily.
Overvalued: Joe Mixon (CIN): vs. BUF; ECR – RB18
Going into the season, the only thing that was supposed to hold Joe Mixon back was opportunity. The Bengals were able to grab him late in the draft due to off-the-field issues, but they already had a couple of fairly talented players at the position. Most felt Mixon would eventually take over the two-down role from Jeremy Hill, and this has been the case since Cincinnati made the change at offensive coordinator to Bill Lazor.
But even with the needed volume, Mixon’s production just hasn’t been there. Last week against the Browns, he had 17 attempts for a measly 29 yards – that’s 1.7 YPC. Cleveland has been surprisingly stout against the run this year, but the Bengals had been shutting out the Browns until there were under two minutes left in the game. Cincy was in clock-control mode for the majority of the contest, and Mixon was abysmal despite significant opportunity. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are still in the picture too, cementing Mixon’s low upside until further notice.
Undervalued: Andre Ellington (ARI): @ PHI; ECR – RB33
Ellington has always been a good player. His only issue in his career has been his size and durability. Even as a bell cow way back when, Ellington got the job done – at least, up until he inevitably went down. Bruce Arians and the Cardinals obviously respect his ability as a playmaker but have struggled to find a way to use him recently. partly due to lack of necessity since the emergence of David Johnson a couple of years back. With Johnson out, the team has flailed helplessly trying to find a replacement, so right now, instead of slotting somebody into DJ’s role, they’re changing the way they run the offense.
Andre Ellington had 14 targets last week. Fourteen targets is excessive for a No. 1 wideout, never mind a third-down back. But that’s because Ellington isn’t really just a third-down back. He’s the only part of that backfield that’s working. Both Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams are under 3 YPC on the season, which is well below what it needs to be for a starting running back in the NFL. Ellington is all the Cardinals have at the position, and that counts for a lot when it comes fantasy.
Overvalued: Larry Fitzgerald (ARI): vs. @ PHI; ECR – WR10
We all saw Fitz in Week 3 remind us that he’s still got it. He’s an all-time great and apparently ageless. But the consistency hasn’t been there through a month of football in 2017. Last week would have been a total disaster had he not been bailed out by an overtime touchdown. John Brown is back in action. Both Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson have made their cases to see more looks, and now Andre Ellington is becoming substantially involved in the passing game. It’s not that Fitzgerald can’t finish in the top 10 because he certainly can given his talent and the matchup, but the odds are stacked against him.
Undervalued: Michael Crabtree (OAK): vs. BAL; ECR – WR35
Crabtree might be the most consistently under-appreciated receiver in the game throughout these past few years. Every year he’s ranked behind Amari Cooper, and every year he finishes ahead of him. Two weeks ago he leaves with an injury, then he misses one more game, and suddenly he’s a WR4? Look, the matchup with the Ravens isn’t ideal, nor is the quarterback situation with E.J. Manuel. But Crabtree’s talent is too much to overlook regardless of these circumstances. Amari Cooper has a serious case of the drops right now, and the running game can’t seem to get going at all. Crabtree is a great player and elite red zone option that Manuel should end up leaning on.
Overvalued: Jason Witten (DAL): vs. GB; ECR – TE9
Witten’s first two weeks were amazing. Weeks 3 and 4 were abysmal. His performances have been 50/50, but we know Witten isn’t an elite fantasy tight end based off of years upon years of statistics, so it’s more reasonable to assume that the bad games are closer to the norm than the good ones are. Green Bay has been the second-stingiest TE defense in the league, and their secondary is so much easier to exploit that it would be downright irresponsible for Dak Prescott to force the ball to Witten when he could have a much easier time on the outside.
Undervalued: Jared Cook (OAK): vs BAL; ECR – TE13
I’m double-dipping here, which is something I try not to do, as stated above. Cook came so close to having a great game last week that I just had to try again. E.J. Manuel leaned heavily upon his tight end upon taking the field, as backup QBs are wont to do. The Ravens are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends to boot, and Baltimore’s offense has struggled mightily to keep their offense on the field. If Cook can’t succeed this week, then maybe it’s time to reconsider his fantasy value, but for now, he deserves one more chance to put himself in the TE1 conversation.