Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 7 (2019)
What a weird week of NFL football. Three of the games that were supposed to be the biggest shootouts — Rams-Falcons, Ravens-Seahawks, and Eagles-Cowboys — turned into completely one-sided affairs, while the high-scoring games ended up being Vikings-Lions, Raiders-Packers, and Saints-Bears. Please tell me you saw that coming.
It’s a lot easier to make a list of disappointments than surprises this week, but I will say that the surprises sure surprised in a big way. If you had a lot of Packers in your lineup, then you probably won (I certainly didn’t). If you were among the rare few who started Chase Edmonds (nine percent started in Yahoo leagues) or Marvin Jones (25 percent started in Yahoo leagues), you were likely unstoppable.
But if you started David Johnson and Kyler Murray, while Edmonds sat on your bench? You’re surely cursing the fantasy Gods and perhaps hunting for new hobbies to occupy your time (don’t worry, we know you can’t quit this).
Top 5 Surprises
Chase Edmonds (RB – ARI)
I own DJ and Edmonds in a deep dynasty league I’m in with other FantasyPros writers, and up until about 11:30 am ET on Sunday, my plan was to play them both given Johnson’s uncertain health situation. But then I thought about the fact that there were ZERO reports Johnson would be limited, and that he and Edmonds were the only two running backs the Cardinals were dressing for Sunday’s game. It sure seemed like DJ would get his usual workload, so I dropped Edmonds from my lineup, just in time for him to pile up 150 yards and three TDs while DJ touched the ball once. I’m sure a lot of you have a similar sob story.
This was a dream matchup, but the biggest takeaway here is that Edmonds can play. Edmonds is now averaging 5.6 yards per carry this season, while Johnson is averaging 3.9. It’s possible, if not likely, that the Cardinals incorporate Edmonds into the offense in a more permanent way even when Johnson is back to full health. The good news is that Arizona runs tons of plays and lacks playmakers at wide receiver and tight end other than an aging Larry Fitzgerald and injured Christian Kirk. There is a path for DJ and Edmonds to both maintain fantasy value, with DJ lining up out wide more frequently and Edmonds taking on a larger share of the rushing work.
Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB)
I’ll own it, Rodgers was a huge swing-and-miss for me this week. After I pointed out that he hadn’t thrown 3+ TDs in over a calendar year, he went out and threw FIVE TDS while also rushing for a score. I only had him three spots lower than the consensus, so it’s not like I thought he was completely worthless, but I simply did not believe he’d be given the opportunity to put up huge fantasy numbers this week, especially with his receiver corps ailing. Rodgers is one of the best QBs in NFL history, and this is a good reminder that his underwhelming fantasy production over the last year has more to do with his coaches and surrounding talent than with a decline in his own skillset. I’m not ready to declare after one game that Rodgers is back to the elite fantasy producer of old, but performances like this are why we should never drop him too far down the QB rankings.
Marvin Jones (WR – DET)
After putting up just two catches for 17 yards last week in Green Bay, Jones went ballistic against the normally tough Vikings secondary, hauling in 10 of his 13 targets for 93 yards and a mind-melting four touchdowns. Jones isn’t considered the number one receiver on his team — that’s Kenny Golladay — and he isn’t the most consistent performer from week to week. But he sure does seem to be underrated in fantasy circles. After this massive game, Jones is now tied with Terry McLaurin as the WR13 in 0.5 PPR formats as we approach the season’s halfway mark, after finishing as the WR28 (2018) and the WR11 (2017) in points per game over the last two seasons. He belongs in more than 25 percent of fantasy lineups.
Zach Pascal (WR – IND)
While he didn’t quite equal the statistical explosions by Edmonds, Rodgers, and Jones, Pascal has to be considered the most under-the-radar fantasy star of Week 7. After compiling just seven catches for 133 yards and one TD through the Colts first five games, Pascal emerged from the team’s bye week with six catches for 106 yards and two scores on Sunday against the Texans. The performance may just be enough for Pascal to lock down the Colts’ number two receiver job, after sharing that role with Chester Rogers, Deon Cain, and Parris Campbell earlier in the season. Still, Indy will be a fairly low-volume passing attack most weeks, and one that generally flows through T.Y. Hilton and the tight ends. Pascal is suddenly an interesting stash in deep dynasty leagues, but the odds are stacked against him being a significant fantasy factor in most formats.
Kirk Cousins (QB – MIN)
Yes, Cousins was coming off of two other prolific passing games, but those were against the Giants and Eagles. He wasn’t supposed to do this against a respectable Lions pass defense, which had yet to allow more than two touchdown passes to Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, or Kyler Murray. The Vikings were fully expected to go back to their run-heavy ways in this one, and while Dalvin Cook certainly got his (25 carries for 142 yards and 2 TDs), there was plenty of opportunities leftover for Cousins to shred the Lions, too. You still have to believe that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will ultimately lean on the run when push comes to shove, and Adam Thielen’s hamstring injury will be worth watching this week. But this team is clearly more dangerous now that they’ve proved they can also beat teams through the air, and that puts Cousins back on the QB1 radar for favorable spots against Washington and Kansas City the next two weeks.
Top 5 Disappointments
David Johnson (RB – ARI)
There isn’t much to be said about DJ that I didn’t cover in the Edmonds section, other than acknowledging that a lot of fantasy owners are probably pretty ticked off at Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury right now. Kingsbury explained after the game that the plan all along was to use Johnson as little as possible to protect his knee for the rest of the season. This, unfortunately, appears to be a case where circumstances conspired against fantasy owners. Johnson likely would have been inactive if third-string RB D.J. Foster hadn’t injured his hamstring during the week, which would have allowed those with Edmonds as a handcuff to reap the benefits. The wet conditions in New Jersey may have played a part in Johnson’s light involvement, too. Yuck.
Evan Engram (TE – NYG)
DJ wasn’t the only major disappointment in the Cardinals-Giants game. Engram seemed perfectly set up for a huge day against an Arizona defense that is notoriously inept at covering tight ends, but it wasn’t to be. With Daniel Jones struggling badly, Engram caught just one of his five targets for a measly six yards. Meanwhile, backup tight end Rhett Ellison poured some salt in the wounds of Engram owners by catching two passes for 33 yards and a score. It was a frustrating result, but better days should be ahead for Engram, who remains one of the few tight ends that can expect to see 8-10 targets most weeks.
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
Mixon somewhat salvaged his fantasy day with a two-yard touchdown reception, but this was still a very discouraging day for his fantasy value going forward. Mixon is still in search of his first rushing touchdown of the year, and he now has run for 12 yards on 18 carries over his last two games. Not. Good. The 0-7 Bengals are firmly planted in the dumpster, with a badly broken offense that severely caps Mixon’s weekly upside. With A.J. Green and John Ross not coming back anytime soon, teams can continue to stack the box against Mixon, while Gio Bernard continues to vulture precious touches and snaps from him. At this rate, it won’t be long before Mixon completes his fall from the RB1 conversation to RB3/flex purgatory.
Kerryon Johnson (RB – DET)
Kerryon departed Sunday’s game with a knee injury after providing just five carries for 23 yards. His arrow appeared to be pointing up in a big way after the Lions released C.J. Anderson, and his bell-cow usage in Week 4 only added to the hype. But Kerryon couldn’t find any running lanes against the Packers last week coming out of Detroit’s bye, and he could now be looking at an extended absence if his knee injury proves to be significant. Ty Johnson accounted for just 57 yards on 14 touches (10 rushes, four catches) on Sunday, and hasn’t given us much reason to expect future superstardom, but he should still be one of the top waiver-wire pickups of the week. After several weeks in a row of painfully thin waiver wires, it should be quite clear to all that lead running backs do not grow on trees.
Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)
Ryan wasn’t injured until late in Sunday’s game, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at his stat line. Yes, the Rams defense is better with Jalen Ramsey in the fold, but fantasy owners were still expecting a lot more than 159 scoreless yards from Ryan. The early indications are that Ryan’s ankle injury isn’t serious, but an MRI will ultimately tell the tale. With the 1-6 Falcons on bye in Week 9, it wouldn’t exactly be shocking to see Ryan sit out next week’s game against the Seahawks no matter what the MRI shows. This was the first time this season Ryan failed to top 300 passing yards, and the Falcons defense is one of the worst units in the league, so Ryan owners can at least take solace in the fact that he will revert back to high-end QB1 status when he does return to the field.
Lamar Jackson is currently fifth in the league in rushing. Yes, you read that right, rushing not passing. Jackson had another nondescript day throwing the football (143 scoreless yards), but it hardly matters. His 116-1 rushing line was enough to ensure another top-six QB finish, not to mention an easy win for the Ravens in Seattle. Lamar remains a fantasy cheat code.
Ex-Bear Jordan Howard has more rushing yards and TDs than all Chicago RBs combined. This stat says less about Howard, who is merely a fringe RB2, than it does about the Bears, who have absolutely no running game to speak of. David Montgomery was one of the most-hyped draft prospects in this class, Mike Davis was one of the biggest free agent RB signings of the offseason, and Tarik Cohen produced 1,169 scrimmage yards and eight TDs last year. They’re all firmly off the RB2 map now.
The 49ers defense has given up 10 points combined in the last three games. Yes, Washington is a soft matchup, but San Francisco is fast becoming the ultimate shy-away defense for fantasy purposes.
Coaches week-to-week decisions have earth-shattering fantasy implications. Kliff Kingsbury’s lack of transparency about his plans for David Johnson cost a lot of fantasy managers their matchups this week. Meanwhile, Mike Zimmer and Matt LaFleur allowed Cousins and Rodgers to show that they are still fully capable of putting up huge fantasy stats when given the opportunity. We know a lot more about which teams and players are good than we did in Week 1, but at the end of the day, opportunity is still king. The trick is trying to decipher who will get that opportunity in any given week.
The QB landscape remains in flux. The 2019 season began with injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Nick Foles, and things haven’t exactly gotten calmer since then. Fantasy studs Patrick Mahomes and Matt Ryan got hurt this week, while Drew Brees and Cam Newton inch closer to a return. Running QBs like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen are changing the game, while Jacoby Brissett is making Colts fans and fantasy owners alike forget about Andrew Luck. And don’t even get me started on Minshew Mania.
Backup RBs can deliver fantasy championships. The two top-scoring running backs of Week 7 were Chase Edmonds and Latavius Murray. We’ve thankfully yet to see nearly as many serious injuries to top-tier RBs as we have to QBs this year, but that is an anomaly. Running back is a high-contact job, and one of the most injury-prone positions in football. Once you figure out how to navigate your roster through the bye weeks, the next highest priority should be stashing high-upside backup RBs like Alexander Mattison, Tony Pollard, Ryquell Armstead, Rashad Penny, and Reggie Bonnafon.