10 Things We Learned: Week 5 (Fantasy Football)
Remember back when a 300-yard passing game signified a huge week for your fantasy QB? Well, that isn’t going to be nearly enough to give you an advantage over the competition in today’s NFL.
Remarkably, 14 of the 28 QBs who played this week went over 300 yards passing, and Joe Flacco missed the cut by two yards. There is a good chance that Drew Brees and Alex Smith join the 300-yard club tonight.
What does this mean for fantasy owners? We need to readjust our expectations for what a big QB performance looks like. Kirk Cousins threw for 301 yards and was barely a top-20 quarterback this week. To approach the top-12 at the position, you’ll need your QB to pair his 300-yard game with at least two — and quite possibly three — passing scores, and ideally some rushing production, too.
If your QB isn’t doing that on a regular basis, you’re playing at a competitive disadvantage and may want to consider grabbing one of the countless options on your waiver wire who may be able to deliver for you with more consistency. I haven’t traditionally been a big fan of streaming the position, but it’s hard to ignore the sheer number of QBs capable of putting up huge numbers when they have favorable matchups.
Here are nine other things we learned in Week 5.
James Conner might have just convinced the Steelers to trade Le’Veon Bell
After three straight mediocre rushing performances, many fantasy prognosticators were seemingly willing to throw in the towel on James Conner. Sure, Conner’s yards-per-carry average from Weeks 2-4 left something to be desired, but he simply had not been getting enough carries to find a groove. Thankfully, a renewed commitment to the running game and a matchup with the defenseless Falcons were just what the doctor order for Conner owners.
Conner handled 21 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns against Atlanta and, as he had done even during his slow stretch of games, chipped in substantial additional yardage as a receiver out of the backfield. It’s not fair to expect Conner to be quite as good as Le’Veon Bell, but he can certainly get the job done for both the Steelers and fantasy owners.
Conner is an every-week RB1 for as long as he has this backfield to himself. The question, of course, is how long that will be. Bell will reportedly report to the team over their Week 7 bye, but you have to wonder if this big performance from Conner, even against a soft defense, was enough to convince the Steelers to bite the bullet and trade Bell, even for a small return. Bell could be a real threat to team chemistry, and it’s not like scoring points has been Pittsburgh’s biggest problem this season, anyway.
Adam Thielen is incredible
I’ll confess that I expected Thielen’s production to taper off a bit this season, as new Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo looked to feature Stefon Diggs as the clear number one option in the passing game. But while Diggs has been just as great as advertised, it’s been Thielen who has been the even bigger fantasy standout.
Thielen now has gone over 100 yards receiving in all five games this season, a remarkable accomplishment for a player who was not even drafted coming out of Minnesota State-Mankato. That statistical output, combined with the fact that he’s seen double-digit targets in all five games, makes Thielen arguably the highest-floor receiver in all of fantasy football. His ceiling is plenty high, too, so Thielen has earned high-end WR1 treatment going forward.
The Bengals can’t be trusted on their backfield plans
Prior to Week 3, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis suggested that Giovani Bernard and Mark Walton would share the running back duties with Joe Mixon out. As Evan Silva pointed out, Bernard ended up getting 17 touches in that game, while Walton was given just one touch (which was negated by a penalty).
Fast forward to Sunday morning of Week 5, when ominous reports originating from Lewis and the Bengals coaching staff suggested that Mixon wouldn’t be “fully unleash[ed]” in his first game back. You can probably guess what happened next. Mixon played the most snaps he’s ever played in an NFL game, and out-touched Walton 25-to-2 on the way to 115 total yards and a touchdown.
With Bernard facing a 2-4 week absence from an MCL sprain, Mixon is locked in as a borderline RB1 for the rest of October. But the next time there is any uncertainty with Cincinnati’s backfield situation, make sure to trust history and not Marvin Lewis.
D’Onta Foreman should be stashed in fantasy leagues
Lamar Miller, who is averaging under four yards per carry for the second year in a row, was active for Week 5 but only in case of emergency. In his place, Alfred Blue produced exactly the kind of inefficient rushing performance we’ve come to expect from Alfred Blue. Blue ended up with 20 carries for 46 yards, albeit his 73 receiving yards were a nice bonus for fantasy owners.
Miller is a better talent than Blue, but that isn’t saying much. The Texans’ offense is productive enough that it can churn out low-end RB2 value from players like Miller and Blue, but it is increasingly clear that this offense would benefit from a more talented running back.
That’s where D’Onta Foreman comes in. The 2017 third-round pick has been working his way back from last season’s devastating achilles tear, and is eligible to return from the PUP list in Week 7. A torn achilles is a very serious injury, so the jury is still out on whether Foreman will be able to fully regain his past form. But he flashed enough ability last year to suggest he would be a significant upgrade over Miller if he is anywhere close to 100 percent healthy.
Foreman is a wise stash in fantasy leagues given the upside of the Texans’ offense and the uninspiring performances of his competition.
Isaiah Crowell is the ultimate boom-or-bust RB2
I’ll be sweating through the Monday night football game tonight, as I cling to a 2.5 point lead in my oldest fantasy league with my Chris Thompson facing off against my opponent’s Mark Ingram. Of course, I’d be sitting pretty if I had just put Isaiah Crowell in my lineup. Crowell put up the most gargantuan rushing line of this season in Week 5, busting off multiple big plays on his way to 231 total yards and a score against the Broncos.
Crowell now has three games this season where he has put up at least 17 points in standard non-PPR formats, and two games where he has scored less than four fantasy points. It hasn’t been easy to predict his big games based on his schedule, either — this monster performance came against a statistically decent Broncos run defense, while Crowell failed to reach 40 rushing yards in seemingly softer matchups with Cleveland and Miami. Then again, Kareem Hunt and Bilal Powell ran all over Denver too, so maybe this wasn’t such a tough matchup after all.
Regardless, we may have to live with the fact that we’ll never know when Crowell is going to be a stud or a dud. But he’s shown the kind of absurd upside that makes it very hard to sit him in neutral-to-favorable matchups like next week’s home game with Indianapolis.
LeSean McCoy is still a fantasy factor
After three highly forgettable performances and one missed game, McCoy finally delivered the kind of stat line in Week 5 that fantasy owners were hoping for when they took him in the third round of their drafts. It wasn’t an earth-shattering line, mind you; McCoy averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and didn’t score. But he did show some burst, and just as importantly, was given exactly the kind of high-volume usage he’ll need to provide reliable low-end RB2 value in fantasy leagues.
McCoy handled 26 touches in the low-scoring slugfest with Tennessee, and ended up producing 100+ yards from scrimmage for the first time this season. McCoy wasn’t used as a true bell cow — Chris Ivory ran the ball 14 times himself — but Buffalo ran the ball enough times that it hardly mattered. The Bills also happened to win the game, so it was a recipe for success that Sean McDermott will likely continue to rely on — at least in games where the Bills can manage to avoid falling behind by multiple scores.
McCoy’s upside is still severely capped by this anemic offense, and there will surely be games where Buffalo has to abandon the running game. He also still has the threat of a suspension hanging over his head. But this game provided some reason for optimism that he can be inserted into fantasy lineups going forward.
Aaron Rodgers can do just fine with a shaky supporting cast
Coming into Sunday’s game, there was a lot of discussion about how much to downgrade Rodgers due to his banged-up receiving corps. Rodgers was missing two of his top three receivers, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, and his number one option, Davante Adams, was seemingly playing at less than 100 percent.
Through the first half, Rodgers couldn’t get anything going and looked well on his way to another disappointing fantasy performance. But Rodgers came alive in the second half, feeding Adams and tight end Jimmy Graham, while also developing chemistry with rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. Rodgers ended up being the top fantasy passer of Week 5, piling up 442 passing yards and three touchdowns.
While it wasn’t quite garbage time, there’s no doubt that playing in catch-up mode throughout the second half benefited Rodgers statistically. And he’ll certainly face many tougher defenses than Detroit.
But the biggest takeaway from this game is that Rodgers is simply too good to struggle for long. He’s more likely to raise the performance level of his receivers than they are to drag him down. Rodgers won’t be the number one QB play every week, but he’s always a top-end QB1.
Demaryius Thomas and Robby Anderson awoke from their fantasy slumbers, but questions remain
Thomas and Anderson were both top-25 fantasy receivers in non-PPR formats last season, but they had each done next-to-nothing through the first four games of 2018. For one week at least, they turned back the clock by topping 100 yards receiving with a touchdown (two TDs in Anderson’s case).
Still, one big game isn’t enough to prove that this is a turning point for Thomas and Anderson. Thomas is on the wrong side of 30 and playing with a shaky QB, his touchdown was in garbage time, and he’s seen his target totals nearly halved since his highly-inefficient performance in Weeks 1 and 2. Anderson is a one-dimensional deep threat playing with a rookie QB, and should still see fewer targets than Quincy Enunwa going forward.
It makes some sense to pick up Thomas and Anderson if they’re sitting on your waiver wire (Thomas probably isn’t, but Anderson might be). But these two WRs are still best approached as boom-or-bust WR3/flex options, and can’t be confidently deployed in fantasy lineups until we see some week-to-week consistency from them.
We learn something new about the Seahawks’ running game every week
The Seahawks running game is evidently more educational than the University of Washington, because this marks the third straight week they’ve been featured in this “10 Things We Learned” column.
It was easy to dismiss Seattle’s stable of running backs based on the team’s rapid turnover at the position and inability to effectively run the ball since Marshawn Lynch left town. But that narrative is officially dead, and it’s not because of first round pick Rashaad Penny, who didn’t play a single snap in Week 5.
The Seahawks have now produced a 100-yard rusher for three consecutive weeks, making them the only team in the league to accomplish that feat. Two of those three weeks, that back was Chris Carson, who posted 127 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches in Week 5. Mike Davis, who produced 124 yards from scrimmage with Carson out of action in Week 4, had a solid 75 yards and a touchdown with Carson back in the fold this week.
It’s still a bit unclear how this backfield will ultimately shake out — for now it looks like Carson is the 1A and Davis the 1B. But the bottom line is that both Carson and Davis should be owned everywhere at this point. Whereas Seattle struggled in recent years to produce one fantasy viable running back, they now have two. Consider Carson a high-end RB2 and Davis a reasonable flex play for their juicy matchup with Oakland next week.