Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 5
Ready or not, a quarter of the fantasy football season is now in the books. While every year possesses its own unique blend of chaos, there is an undeniable rising tide of passing offense as the 400-yard games continue to stack up. This means more WRs are making their way into the flex conversation, even in standard leagues, and the range of trustworthy RBs is getting shallower.
Catering to all formats is impossible, but I’ll do my best to provide context as I go. The ECR given is for standard leagues since that’s what we are scored on. Please note that I’m using Tuesday night’s ECR and updates will surely roll in from Wednesday morning on. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on against the consensus within a reasonable start/sit range from 10- to 14-teamers, or so. Let’s dive in.
Alex Smith (at NO): Mariano Rank: 12, ECR: 16
This Monday night tilt already boasts a 52.5 implied total from Vegas, quickly rising from its 51 open. The Saints are favored by roughly a touchdown, which is more than fair given their offense and playing at home, but that means plenty of work should land on Smith’s shoulders (and legs). The Saints defense has limited the likes of Tyrod Taylor and Eli Manning to roughly 250 yards and one TD each but were eviscerated by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Ryan for ~800 yards and nine TDs altogether. Washington hasn’t needed Smith to hit the gas pedal often and he’s yet to top 300 passing yards through three games, but we know he’s got it in him alongside some sneaky rushing potential.
Carson Wentz (vs. MIN): MR: 14, ECR: 18
Wentz and the Eagles are favored by a field goal at home against a Vikings defense reeling from a 38-point beatdown at the hooves of the Rams, though the game only has a 44.5 total. It can’t be ignored that Josh Allen scored three total TDs against the Vikes in Week 3 either, and Wentz’s own condition can’t be questioned after 50 pass attempts in Week 4’s loss to Tennessee. Wentz looked good when moving and had no rust when connecting with Alshon Jeffery or Zach Ertz throughout the game, making him one of my favorite mid-range QBs to sneak into the top-12 this week.
Others I’m higher on C.J. Beathard (vs. ARI): MR: 21, ECR: 27
Blake Bortles (at KC): MR: 15, ECR of 12
What happens when a high-powered Kansas City offense gets to play at home against a stout Jacksonville defense that recently made the New England Patriots look like an NCAA program? Hyperbole aside, this game will draw lots of attention for that matchup with little talk of Jacksonville’s offense. Much gets made of Bortles’ potential when Leonard Fournette is out, but his floor is simply worse than many other streamable options. I don’t hate Bortles in this spot, but I find several better ranges of outcomes to play.
Others I’m lower on: Kirk Cousins (at PHI): MR: 16, ECR: 14
Aaron Jones (at DET): MR: 16, ECR: 25
Jones’ 29 snaps led Green Bay’s three-headed RB committee (Jamaal Williams was just behind at 28 and Ty Montgomery had 20) en route to a lovely 10-56-1 rushing line against the Bills. Green Bay now travels into Detroit to pick on a Lions squad that was brutalized for 240 total yards by Ezekiel Elliott. It also surrendered 167 total yards to Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell in Week 1 and 239 yards to Matt Breida and Alfred Morris in Week 2. Even James White and Sony Michel combined for 100 yards in a lackluster performance.
As much as I believe that Jones is the superior RB talent in Green Bay, I’m okay with the committee being utilized as long as Jones is the 1A. They all communicate with each other and are able to hit the field fresh. The Pack are road favorites (by a point) in one of six games with 50 total projected points or more per Vegas lines (they’re currently at 51). This game could produce 200+ yards between the trio, so don’t think last week was a fluke.
Phillip Lindsay (at NYJ): MR: 25, ECR: 32
It’s becoming apparent that Denver needs both of its rookie RBs to carry this offense, as Case Keenum simply isn’t a playmaker. That’s not a revelation to most of you, but it’s worth highlighting when you’re faced with playing Lindsay. His 24 snaps led all Denver RBs (Royce Freeman had 16, Devontae Booker had 20) as he out-touched Freeman 14-to-8, though both scored TDs. Lindsay being the change-of-pace back in a game that Denver is the slight underdog in bodes well for his floor compared to Freeman who’s more TD-dependent.
Dion Lewis (vs. BUF): MR: 33, ECR: 25
This is going to be a simple section: I don’t want the RBs in the lowest-projected score of the week per Vegas. It opened with a consensus total of 39.5 and has already dropped to an even 39. Those in Lewis’ corner should note the Bills have given up at least 30 receiving yards to four players out of the backfield and seven total TDs to RBs. But it seems like a great spot for them to give Derrick Henry 18-20 touches. He’s averaging just three yards per carry, though Lewis isn’t faring much better (43-143-1 on the ground). Lewis will still get his on screens, but he’s a bye-week flex play for me rather than low-end RB2.
LeSean McCoy (vs. TEN): MR: 37, ECR: 29
McCoy is still dealing with a rib injury that caused him to miss Week 3 and has only touched the ball a measly 29 times in three games thus far. McCoy’s skill set should make him game script-proof, but nobody is Buffalo offense-proof at this point. Mix in a Titans defense that hasn’t yielded a rushing TD yet and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s truly a sad waste of talent for a guy whose prime window is closing with his age-30 season.
Others I’m lower on: Nyheim Hines (at NE): MR: 41, ECR: 33
Doug Baldwin (vs. LAR): MR: 24, ECR: 34
Say what you will about the state of the Seahawks, but their Earl Thomas-less defense is likely to get obliterated by the Rams. Even at home, Seattle probably needs a 12th, 13th and 14th man to keep up. But this means that Baldwin and Russell Wilson should have plenty of reasons to connect against a Rams secondary that is down Aqib Talib and gave up a combined 19-258-1 line to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Baldwin led Seattle with seven targets in Week 4 after missing two weeks with (another) knee injury, playing on 76% of snaps in the return (Tyler Lockett got six targets on 94%). He should run free of Marcus Peters often and be the primary weapon of choice for Russ in an uphill battle.
Quincy Enunwa (vs. DEN): MR: 26, ECR: 36
I’ve stumped for sitting Enunwa each of the last two weeks where he’s put up nearly identical 4-57-0 and 4-66-0 lines on eight targets apiece. He’s caught just 21-of-37 targets from rookie signal-caller Sam Darnold, who I think/hope realizes he needs to incorporate Robby Anderson more to balance out the offense, but that’s beside the point.
Enunwa is the clear favorite in this passing offense and Denver’s defense has quietly been not so hot. The greatness of Patrick Mahomes aside, the Broncos are league average (between 15th and 17th) against No. 1, No. 2 and slot receivers per FootballOutsiders‘ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average data.
Keelan Cole (at KC): MR: 36, ECR: 29
The Jaguars WR corps are an interesting bunch. Donte Moncrief has the biggest share of air yards at 35.28% (296), followed by Cole at 20.72% (192) and Dede Westbrook at 19.88% (166). Week 4 saw Jacksonville’s offense tally 77 snaps, with both Cole and Moncrief in for 60 and Westbrook in on 57. Westbrook has 28 total targets, while Cole is at 24 and Moncrief has 22. I thought that maybe Cole’s Week 4 dud was due to Blake Bortles avoiding the only real formidable DB for the Jets in Trumaine Johnson, but Johnson was the victim of Moncrief’s TD. I have Cole on many teams, but I can’t justify putting him so far above the rest at this juncture.
Antonio Callaway (vs. BAL): MR: 52, ECR: 42
It’s never a good sign when Monday sees your head coach talk about reducing your playing time. Callaway has shown flashes of upside, but has caught just 10-of-25 targets due in large part to his lack of polish and seemingly thinking about his next move before securing the ball. Also, the Ravens are getting stud DB Jimmy Smith back to play alongside Marlon Humphrey, who has a solid 71.8 PFF grade of his own thus far, on the perimeter. Baker Mayfield increases the value of those around him, but Callaway’s just not trustworthy yet despite big-play ability.
C.J. Uzomah (vs. MIA): MR: 15, ECR: 28
My condolences go out to Tyler Eifert, and I hope he can make another comeback, but the Bengals passing attack is ramping up in 2018 and Uzomah has been used more than Tyler Kroft. Uzomah has eight targets to Kroft’s five, but most important is how Uzomah played in 70% of Week 4’s snaps compared to Kroft’s 27%. Tempering expectations is how Miami has held opposing tight ends to a combined 226 scoreless yards, but I expect additional work to go around with stud corner Xavien Howard likely sticking to A.J. Green like glue.
Dallas Goedert (vs. MIN): MR: 26, ECR: 15
I don’t dislike (or like) many top TEs by any real margin, but I was surprised to see Goedert so high. Maybe this will even out as more ranks come in. He played on just 40% of snaps with two targets in Week 4 after tallying 67% in Week 3, which has to be related to Alshon Jeffery’s return. I respect the draft capital used by Philadelphia on a talented TE, but his fantasy relevance isn’t much greater than Trey Burton’s last season. When Zach Ertz is healthy, I don’t see the rationale for playing Goedert.
Charles Clay (vs. TEN): MR: 21, ECR: 16
The Titans were roughed up by Zach Ertz (10-112-0) in Week 4, but kept Mike Gesicki, Jordan Akins, Ryan Griffin and Austin Seferian-Jenkins each under 25 yards in the first three weeks. Clay lies somewhere between those names and Ertz, but he’s closer to ASJ than the Tier One stud. With eight targets through three weeks, Clay was nearly invisible before seeing six targets in Week 4, so perhaps those in PPR formats can take solace in his being a safety outlet for Josh Allen, but I’m out.