Fantasy Football Panic Meter: Week 5 (2020)
What a tumultuous Week 5! We lost some star players to injuries, saw another head coach and general manager figured, and dealt with a late-breaking game postponement. Fun stuff.
And like every week, we also saw some key players bust. In this column, I’ll identify the biggest disappointments of the week, and I’ll assign each player a grade from 0 to 5 that corresponds to my strategy of choice. Of course, I’ll leave out those whose disappointing performances were to injury, as you can read about those players in our weekly injury report.
|0||No fear. Keep starting this player.|
|1||A little worried. Consider benching them if you have a better option.|
|2||Wait-and-see. Bench them across the board.|
|3||On the block. Bench this player and try to sell.|
|4||Sell now. Take whatever you can get, but don’t drop them.|
|5||Droppable. Send them to waivers.|
So with the panic meter laid out, let’s get started!
Matt Ryan (ATL): 1
Ryan busted hard this week. He only threw for 226 yards, didn’t score once, and added an interception. That’s not what you want out of your QB1.
I’m confident that he’ll bounce back, though. Ryan is attempting a ton of passes per game (41), and most weeks, he’ll give you low-end QB1 numbers. Even without Julio Jones, Ryan still has Calvin Ridley, so he still has talented playmakers surrounding him.
The Falcons happened to underperform this week mostly due to Carolina’s defensive weaknesses. Atlanta knew that they could run the ball effectively against them, as the Panthers are one of the worst-ranking run defenses in the league, and Ryan suffered as a result.
Ryan should also have an easier time of things now that Dan Quinn is gone. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is the likeliest to take over the job, and as long as he does, Ryan and the passing game will continue to be a focal point of this offense.
Joe Burrow (CIN): 1.5
Burrow disappointed in his debut against the Ravens. He threw for only 183 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick; he also fumbled the ball twice. Marcus Peters and Patrick Queen feasted on him.
Burrow managers should take Sunday’s result with a grain of salt. The Bengals attempt too many passing plays per game (41.4) for him to not be a valuable fantasy asset, and they don’t have the run-blocking to pivot to get very far with Joe Mixon.
That said, the Bengals have a tough matchup next Sunday against the Colts. Indianapolis’ defense got exposed by the Browns this week, but they still kept Baker Mayfield to under 250 yards, and they’ll have home-field advantage in Week 6. I would strongly consider benching Burrow against them if you have a better alternative.
Jerick McKinnon (SF): 2
With Raheem Mostert back in this offense, Jet McKinnon disappeared — he touched the ball just three times and earned five yards. McKinnon had looked great alongside Mostert earlier in the season, so it was surprising to see him fade from the box score completely.
While I’m concerned about how much his role diminished, I’m also optimistic that we’ll better days from him moving forward. He had six touches for 44 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, and he got three touches for 77 yards and a score in Week 2 — and he played alongside Mostert in both games.
With his current workload, McKinnon looks like a boom-or-bust option, and he’ll need to hit paydirt to contribute to your lineup. He could struggle again in next week’s game against the Rams, so I’d leave him on your bench unless you don’t have a better option.
Le’Veon Bell (NYJ): 3
The Jets didn’t look good even with Bell back in the lineup. This roster is talent-starved, and head coach Adam Gase lacks the tools to turn things around. Worse, his love for running the ball with Frank Gore caps Bell’s upside.
Seriously, Gase gave Gore nine carries to Bell’s 13. He only caught one pass on one target all day, the same number of targes that Trevon Wesco got. It’s hard for any fantasy player to hit value on just 14 touches, and although Bell did his best, he won’t become a viable fantasy contributor until Gase gets canned.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT): 3.5
Both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool have outshined Smith-Schuster in Pittsburgh thus far. Although Smith-Schuster posted fantastic fantasy numbers earlier in the season, those depended upon him scoring touchdowns, and he failed to do that this Sunday.
Smith-Schuster caught five of his four targets for 28 yards. That level of production is in line with what he’s done so far this season — before this week, he was averaging 6.3 targets, 5.7 receptions, and 53.3 yards per game; his three touchdowns just happened to obscure his lower-volume role this season.
Smith-Schuster is a touchdown-dependent WR3 this year. That’s almost certainly not what you drafted him to be. Fortunately, because of his name recognition and his three touchdowns, you can probably trade him for more than he’s worth. Do so quickly.
Amari Cooper (DAL): 0.5
Yikes. Cooper caught just two of his four targets for 23 yards, and he lost two yards on his lone carry. The Dallas Cowboys also lost franchise quarterback Dak Prescott for the season, so things aren’t looking good in Dallas.
Before this week, it was finally starting to look like Cooper would be a reliable high-volume WR1. But CeeDee Lamb dominated the offense this week, and he led Dallas in targets (11), receptions (8), and receiving yards (124). That said, Cooper faded due to a tough cornerback matchup with James Bradberry, so his disappearance seems like an outlier.
I’m optimistic that Cooper will return to his low-end WR1 ways moving forward, but it’s disconcerting to see that Lamb is capable of seizing such a large share of this offense. While you should leave Cooper in your lineup for Dallas’ Week 6 matchup with the Cardinals, you should also pay close attention to how backup quarterback Andy Dalton distributes his targets.
Terry McLaurin (WAS): 1
F1 McLaurin struggled this week, but it’s not his fault. Why am I so willing to give McLaurin a pass on his three-catch, 26-yard showing? He was the only non-running back to earn more than four targets all day. He’s the best downfield receiving threat in this offense, and he’ll continue to see plenty of usage moving forward.
The Football Team’s offensive line won’t miraculously improve in a week, but they also won’t face Aaron Donald again. Whoever’s under center should have more time to throw next week against the Giants, and that could help McLaurin turn things around. That said, he’ll draw James Bradberry, so don’t get your hopes up too much.
A.J. Green (CIN): 4.5
Green earned a three after Week 4’s dud, but he’s fallen to a new low this week. He failed to catch his only target and didn’t show much hustle once Marcus Peters caught it instead.
The ball was way over AJ Green’s head. Ok. He makes a decision on an uncatchable ball. But AJ was most definitely not trying to tackle Marcus Peters at the end of this return. 😂 pic.twitter.com/stqlyOcC6Q
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) October 11, 2020
He eventually exited the game with a hamstring injury, but that wasn’t the cause of his poor performance, so he makes this list anyway.
I was hoping that Green might eventually rebound, allowing his managers to sell high. The time for that has come and gone. You can either trade him now, see if the Bengals trade him (which probably won’t help him much — but it could increase his trade value), or drop him. Up to you.
Tyler Higbee (LAR): 4
Like Mark Andrews, Higbee has been a low-volume, touchdown-dependent option at TE1 this season. Unlike Andrews, Higbee has failed to touchdown in all but one game this year. Also unlike Andrews, Higbee faces competition for targets at tight end, as Gerald Everett out-targeted Higbee 4-2 this week.
Through five weeks, it appears that Higbee has no floor. He’s seen between two and five targets each week, and that’s not enough volume for anyone to be a reliable fantasy contributor.
I would try to move on from Higbee ASAP. If you have another tight end, you could bench Higbee and wait for another multiple-score game before you sell, but you’re going to get burned a lot if you keep starting him every week.
Zach Ertz (PHI): 3
With the Eagles’ numerous injuries on offense, Ertz should have turned a corner by now. He hasn’t. After logging four catches for nine yards a week ago, Ertz caught just one pass for six years this week.
To be fair, Ertz is still drawing a lot of targets from Carson Wentz. He got five of them in Week 4 and six of them in Week 5. Ertz just hasn’t been very efficient lately. That could be due to increased attention from opposing defenses, and it’s hard to fade a player as talented as Ertz this early in the year.
At this point, you should start gauging Ertz’s trade value while formulating a backup plan at tight end. Don’t commit to anything yet, as he and Carson Wentz could turn things around, but don’t let his struggles cost you in the win column.
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