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The Primer: Week 6 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Oct 15, 2020

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They say to only worry about things you can control. They say that you cannot control someone else’s happiness. They say you have to do what’s best for you and your family.

Then why is it so hard to move away from the place you’ve grown to know as “home” over the years?

My wife Tabbie and I are at the crossroads of a tough life decision. We’re tired of the winters here in the suburbs of Chicago. We’re frustrated because we’re continually being taxed well beyond what’s reasonable in the state of Illinois, and it’s only getting worse. What makes the tax pill tougher to swallow is that we don’t have a lot of land and aren’t able to build/store things we’d like.

We’re fortunate in the fact that we both work from home, but it also takes away the one benefit from living in Chicago, which is typically the wages. The reason most families move to Chicago is due to the incredible job market. Believe me, there are many more people I’ve known through the years who’ve moved away for similar reasons to the ones we want to. I always go back to this saying: The people there are great, but if I wasn’t born and raised in Illinois, I sure as heck wouldn’t be moving there.

I know all the reasons I want to start over somewhere else, but maybe none more important than my three-year-old son having to call Illinois his home, which starts the cycle all over again. Our family tree has been in Illinois as long as I can trace it, which is the reason my parents stayed here. They wanted to move out west but never actually did it. I don’t want to continue that trend, so why is it so hard to pick up and start over?

Well, here’s the issue: Leaving friends and family behind is never easy. We’ve developed friendships throughout the years that will be tough to walk away from, but most of them understand why we want to. The most common response is, “If it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t stay here, either.”

Our daughter, Alyssa, will be graduating from high school this year, and that’s the reason we’ve stayed as long as we have, as it’s not easy for a teenager to switch schools and go through those massive changes in their teenage years. She’s talking about going to college but hasn’t decided on where. Naturally, she doesn’t want us to move, but I can’t expect her to understand why we’d be moving at her age. If my parents told me they were leaving the state when I was 18 years old, I probably would’ve felt the same way. But our window is closing, as Jonathan (the three-year-old) will start school, start developing friendships, and not want us to leave his friends. The time has to be now.

One of the toughest things is leaving our parents behind. While I lost my dad 12 years ago, my mom is still here and actually lives right down the block from us. When we go on our daily family walks, my son knows exactly where to go to get to grandma’s house. Still, she is somewhat of a snowbird and is gone four months out of the year. Tabbie’s parents live within 90 minutes from us. All of our brothers and sisters are within a half-hour as well.

Still, in the end, we know what we want. We’d like to hit the reset button for future generations. We know there are going to be sacrifices in order to make it work, and we’re essentially volunteering to take on the burden of starting over so that our kids don’t have to make the same tough decisions that we’re forced with right now.

Unfortunately, there are some others who’ll also be affected, like our parents, but that’s also why we’ve chosen our new “home” as Tennessee. We’ll still get seasons, though not to Chicago’s extremes. We can have land out there without getting taxed out of our minds. We’ll be just a six-hour drive away from our family in Chicago, which allows us to drive up for long weekend visits/holidays. It also doesn’t hurt to know some friends out in Tennessee who’ve been nothing but great to me and my family.

He may not know it, but my friend Kenneth Nixon of the band Framing Hanley said something that locked in Tennessee as the place we wanted to be. He said, “Mike, I grew up in Tennessee and thought maybe I’d like to move elsewhere. Then, I went and toured the world. It made me realize just how great we have it here.”

I’m sure a lot of people have gone through similar feelings when contemplating a move away from what you’ve known as “home” throughout your life. What are some things that helped you cope with that, or maybe something that was easier/harder than you thought once you did make the move? I’d love to hear from you.

Matchup Links:
HOU at TEN | BAL at PHI | ATL at MIN | CLE at PIT | CIN at IND | DET at JAC | CHI at CAR | WAS at NYG | DEN at NE | NYJ at MIA | GB at TB | LAR at SF | KC at BUF | ARI at DAL

So, what does The Primer offer? Anything you could ever want. Seriously, it’ll have wide receiver/cornerback matchups, recent history against each team, comparable player performances, unique stats, and most importantly, how they should be played that particular week. The idea here is to give you as much information and confidence as possible when you hit that ‘Submit Lineup’ button each week.

On top of all that, I’ll come back by Saturday morning to update once practice participation reports are posted. Still want more? We’ll be doing a livestream on our YouTube channel every Sunday morning from 11-12 EST, breaking down the inactives and letting you know which players benefit the most from them.

Now, which players should be in your lineup this week?

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Total: 53.5
Line: TEN by 3.0

QBs
Deshaun Watson:
It was a solid game from Watson last week in the first week without Bill O’Brien as his head coach, but we mustn’t forget the game was against the Jaguars funnel defense that was without their best pass rusher and cornerback. The Titans haven’t been as friendly to quarterbacks as the Jaguars, allowing the 13th-fewest fantasy points to them. They’re a team who’s continually pressured the opposing quarterback (fourth-highest percentage) but they haven’t converted those into sacks with just a 3.21 percent sack-rate (third-lowest mark). Eventually, those two numbers will meet. Watson has stumbled under pressure, posting just a 51.3 QB Rating in those situations, while posting a sky-high 117.6 QB Rating from a clean pocket. Pressure will be the key for the Titans trying to slow down Watson. The Titans have allowed just 7.23 yards per attempt this year, which is below the league average, but the problem remains that they’re not at full strength right now, as cornerbacks Adoree Jackson (still on IR) and Kristian Fulton (COVID) aren’t playing, and neither is defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (COVID). Still, the Titans defense did a solid job containing fellow mobile quarterback Josh Allen last week despite being without them. They have also intercepted two passes in each of their last three games. Again, Watson looked better in Week 5, but we have to look at his season as a whole to this point, which is one that’s been filled QB2-like performances. I’m cautiously optimistic due to the Titans being on a short week and being shorthanded, so we’ll consider Watson a mid-to-low-end QB1.

Ryan Tannehill: He took over the starting job for the Titans in Week 7 of last year. Since that time, he’s started 14 games. He’s thrown the ball 40-plus times once in that entire stretch. During that time, he ranks as the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy behind only Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick (crazy, right?) and Russell Wilson. Yet, here we are, as fantasy managers continue to doubt him. He’s scored at least 17.9 fantasy points in 12-of-14 games, so why should we doubt him against the Texans? They’re the only team in the NFL who’s yet to intercept a pass. They’re pretty average across the board allowing a 68.7 percent completion-rate (which is high), 7.44 yards per attempt, and a 5.52 percent touchdown-rate. They have had some stiff competition, so that can be blamed for much of the struggles, as they’ve played Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, and Gardner Minshew. Oddly enough, the only one who finished as a top-12 quarterback was Minshew. He also threw the ball 49 times, which was enough to rack up 301 yards and two touchdowns. No other quarterback has thrown for more than 260 yards. I’m as much of a fan of Tannehill as anyone, but this matchup isn’t a smash spot like we thought it’d be. It’s more of a reverse funnel where Derrick Henry should go bananas. Consider Tannehill a high-floor, high-end QB2.

RBs
David Johnson and Duke Johnson:
Remember Week 1 when we said Johnson looked like he had fresh legs and that he lost weight? I do, because I remember saying “maybe we were wrong about him being a boring low-end RB2.” Well, now five weeks in, he’s pretty much exactly what we thought he was going to be. He’s currently the No. 24 running back in PPR formats, as he’s yet to top 96 yards rushing or 32 yards receiving. Still, he’s seen at least 19 touches in back-to-back games, which is the volume we’d hoped for. Even better, they came with Duke Johnson in the lineup. While Devin Singletary may not have looked great last week, he missed a big opportunity against a Titans run defense that has allowed a massive 5.57 yards per carry, and even worse, they were without their best interior lineman Jeffery Simmons. Prior to that game, they’d allowed at least 78 yards and a touchdown on the ground to every starting running back. Singletary was the first starting running back who didn’t finish as a top-15 running back against them. Knowing Johnson’s workload, you should feel safe plugging him into your lineup as a solid RB2 this week. I’ll be honest, I was worried about Duke Johnson stealing some of the work from David when Bill O’Brien got fired, but it had the reverse effect, as Duke had a season-low four touches last week. Because of that, he’s not worth considering in fantasy.

Derrick Henry: Even though he’s already had his bye week, Henry ranks second in carries (101) on the season. Most would say he’s had a slow start to the season, and I’d agree, but he’s still the No. 10 running back in points per game. I’d imagine he’ll be a bit higher when I write this article next week. The Texans are the gift that keeps on giving to running backs, as they’ve already allowed three running backs top the century mark, including James Conner and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Some of the holes I watched them run through are the size of Texas. They may rank fifth in yards per carry allowed, but the 5.19 yards per carry they’ve allowed is massive. They may rank as the seventh-worst defense against running backs, but they have allowed the most fantasy points on the ground to running backs, which is where Henry makes his mark. Combine the Titans run-heavy ways (50.0 percent, which ranks fifth) with the 48.8 percent run play percentage opponents have against the Texans (second-most in NFL), and you have what we call a smash spot. Smash the start button with Henry this week.

WRs
Will Fuller:
He’s bounced back well from his zero in Week 2, as he’s climbed back up into the top-20 receivers on the year. Outside of that game against the Ravens where he didn’t even see a target, he’s totaled at least 15.4 PPR points, which is typically enough to get into WR2 territory. As long as he’s healthy, he’s a must-play in fantasy. The Titans are not a matchup to be worried about when it comes to cornerbacks, as he’ll see Malcolm Butler in coverage the majority of the day. Sure, Butler scored two interceptions last week, but he’s allowed 8.15 yards per target in his coverage over the last three-plus years, including a touchdown every 14.5 targets. The Titans have already allowed eight wide receivers who’ve finished with double-digit PPR points against them, and they’ve only played four games. Fuller should be in lineups as a WR2 with the way he’s rolling right now.

Brandin Cooks: Holy explosion, Mr. Cooks. Just one week after we all played him as a WR3 and he left us with a big fat zero, we all took a step back and said we need to wait this one out, while some even dropped him. He proceeded to see 12 targets and haul eight of them in for 161 yards and a touchdown. “So, what do we do now, Mike?” The change in the coaching staff could’ve shifted the focus of the offense and that’s something Deshaun Watson talked about after the game. He said they wanted to make it a point to get Cooks the ball, and they certainly did. The matchup with the Titans is another plus matchup, as they brought in Johnathan Joseph as depth this year, but he was forced to start with Adoree Jackson on the IR. We still don’t have word on Jackson, so expect more of Joseph, who was on the Texans just last year. Through four games with his new team, he’s allowed 10-of-15 passing for 175 yards and two touchdowns, so he’s accounted for half the touchdowns they’ve allowed to wide receivers. I’m not willing to anoint Cooks as an every-week starter, but he has seen at least five targets in 4-of-5 games and saw a big bump in the first game without O’Brien. He should be considered a high-end WR4 for now who’ll move back into WR3 range with another solid outing.

Randall Cobb: He hasn’t played bad or anything, but he also hasn’t been someone you want to rely on in fantasy football. He’s bottomed out at three targets and topped out at six targets, limiting the floor and ceiling, as he’s not a big-play receiver who can pay off with one big play very often, as evidenced by his career 12.2 yards per reception. If there were tough matchups for Fuller and Cooks, I’d look to Cobb in a pinch, but that’s not really the case this week, as they both have plus-matchups. It is worth noting that they’re playing a backup slot cornerback as Kristian Fulton is on the COVID list. His replacement, Chris Jackson, has stepped in and allowed 12-of-17 passing for 107 yards and two touchdowns, so maybe the Texans look to Cobb in the red zone this week, but his targets and lack of upside don’t leave you with many outs if he doesn’t score. He’s nothing more than a WR5.

A.J. Brown: Welcome back to the lineup, A.J. It was apparent we’ve missed him right away as he simply burnt Josh Norman like toast for a 16-yard touchdown. He looked healthy and explosive while catching 7-of-9 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown. He’s surely going to draw Bradley Roby in coverage, as he’s been shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers. That’s been a bit of hit-and-miss, as he limited D.J. Chark to just 3/16/0 on four targets last week but allowed Adam Thielen to work the secondary for 8/114/1 on 10 targets the prior week. Roby is far from a shutdown cornerback, though he can be limiting at times. The downside for Brown is that they don’t move him around a lot or into the slot, which is where Roby struggles in coverage. As a whole, the Texans have allowed 1.96 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the seventh-most in the league, including a massive 71.3 percent completion-rate. Brown hasn’t ever been the type to see a dozen targets or anything, so the high catch-rate matters. Brown should be locked back in lineups as a WR2 now that he’s seen 17 targets in his two games this year, and it seems like Corey Davis and Adam Humphries will be out again which only raises his target floor.

TEs
Jordan Akins:
He was ruled out last week due to the concussion that he suffered in Week 4, so that’s a bit worrisome, as most players return by the next week. It’s something to monitor as the week goes on. Akins has been a stud when targeted this year and you have to wonder why he isn’t targeted more, as he’s hauled in 14-of-15 targets for 168 yards and a touchdown. I mentioned last week that he might get a bigger role with Bill O’Brien out of town, but it seems Brandin Cooks was that guy. The Titans have seen just 26 targets to the tight end position so far, but they’ve allowed three touchdowns on them. The 6.81 yards per target is around the league average for tight ends, but the touchdown every 8.7 targets is the fifth-most often in the league. We have to tread lightly with a player who’s seen three or less targets in three of his four games, especially when we don’t know his role in the new offense. He’s extremely talented but cannot be considered a strong streamer right now. *Update* He’s been ruled OUT for this game, making Darren Fells a middling TE2. 

Jonnu Smith: As pointed out by my podcast co-host Kyle Yates, you need to take a look at the comparison between Smith and Mark Andrews:

Player Tgts Rec Yds TD PPR Pts
Smith 27 18 221 5 70.1
Andrews 29 18 222 5 70.2

 

Pretty crazy, right? It should also be noted that Andrews has played one more game than Smith. He’s a true breakout star that ranks fourth in points among tight ends despite ranking 13th in targets. He has so much burst, he looks like a gigantic wide receiver when the ball is in his hands. Speaking of Andrews, let’s hope Smith has more luck against the Texans than he did. Andrews finished their game with just one catch for 29 yards. It wasn’t one of Travis Kelce‘s best games against them, but it also wasn’t the worst, as he finished with just 50 yards and a touchdown. Eric Ebron was similar to Kelce, totaling 52 yards and a touchdown, finishing as a top-three tight end in Week 3. What’s great is that this game has a 53.5-point total and the Titans are projected for 28.5 points. It’s also worth noting that Smith played against them last year, catching all five of his targets for 60 yards. With the way he’s played, you can’t fade Smith as a TE1, but this matchup hasn’t really been a smash spot in 2019 or 2020.

Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles

Total: 47.5
Line: BAL by 7.5

QBs
Lamar Jackson:
Maybe we should’ve downgraded expectations for Jackson last week when he was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a knee injury, though to be honest, I’m expecting more teams to give their stars days off practice in a year like this. But it was clearly something that bothered him, as he rushed for just three yards in last week’s game. That was just the second time since the start of last year where he’s rushed for less than 40 yards (which is the equivalent of a passing touchdown). We talked about his passing touchdown rate going down this year, but his current 6.7 percent touchdown-rate is still likely to drop even more, so we need those rushing totals. The Eagles haven’t allowed a quarterback to rush for more than 17 yards this year, but they also haven’t played a particularly mobile quarterback. Going back to last year, they didn’t allow a quarterback to rush for more than 45 yards, so they’re clearly not a team that Jackson will just drop 80 rushing yards on without a problem. They’ve also held 4-of-5 teams they’ve played this year to less than 7.50 yards per attempt. That’s likely due to the pressure they’re bringing on defense, as their 40.7 percent pressure rate ranks second in the NFL behind only the Steelers. However, Jackson played extremely well under pressure this year, boasting a 122.0 QB Rating while pressured, the highest mark in the NFL. Keep in mind that passer rating doesn’t even factor in the rushing yards he’s tallied while being pressured. You need to keep trotting Jackson out there as an QB1, especially when we know the running backs are going to struggle to create much this week.

Carson Wentz: He took a step in the right direction last week. It wasn’t all pretty but he posted competent numbers against a defense that he matched up poorly against. The Steelers bring the pressure, and it showed when Wentz was sacked five times for 34 yards. That’s going to continue to be an issue for him, as his offensive line is banged up, and he holds onto the ball for far too long. His starting right tackle Lane Johnson had to be carted to the locker room last week, which certainly won’t help matters. The Ravens hadn’t been a top-tier defense when it comes to pressuring the quarterback through four weeks, but they awakened in Week 5, pressuring Joe Burrow a ridiculous 51.3 percent of the time. That was the fourth-highest pressure rate in any single game this season. If they do that to Wentz, he’s in big trouble, as he’s posted just a 40.9 QB Rating when under pressure this season, which is among the worst numbers in the league. Outside of that primetime game against Patrick Mahomes where the Ravens imploded, they haven’t allowed a quarterback more than 7.6 yards per attempt or one passing touchdown. In fact, they’ve allowed just two passing touchdowns in those other four games combined. The 0.39 fantasy points per actual pass attempt ranks as the fifth-lowest mark in the league. It’s also worth noting that no quarterback has rushed for more than 27 yards against the Ravens since the start of last season, so it’s unlikely he’s bailed out there, either. There are much better streamers than Wentz this week. He’s just a low-end QB2.

RBs
Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins:
We talked about it last week, but there isn’t a Ravens running back you can play with any confidence any given week. Based on opportunity, Ingram is the lead back here, but he ranks outside the top 45 running backs in the category. Sure, you can make the case that his opportunity is more valuable because it’s in the Ravens offense, but when a player has been capped at 11 touches with nearly one-third of the season gone, that’s a real problem. Even worse is that Dobbins’ role hasn’t grown at all. In fact, the seven touches he had in Week 1 was his career high. The Eagles have not been a defense to attack with running backs, either. Over their last 21 games, they’ve allowed just eight running backs to eclipse 15 PPR points, so the ceiling has been capped. As for the floor for someone like Ingram, they’ve allowed just 3.62 yards per carry on the ground since the start of last year. There have been just four running backs who’ve rushed for more than 66 yards against them in that time, which is just flat-out ridiculous. There have been just two running backs who’ve finished as top-20 options with fewer than three receptions, and those running backs were Rashaad Penny (who broke a long touchdown run) and Peyton Barber (who scored two touchdowns). Without a multiple-touchdown game, Ingram won’t crack the top-20 running backs. He’s a touchdown-or-bust low-end RB3/high-end RB4 option whose opportunity is just not there. Dobbins has 25 touches through five games, which is not nearly enough to be considered in fantasy, so he remains just a high-end handcuff until we see the tide shift with Ingram.

Miles Sanders: He looked mighty good on that 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the Steelers but struggled quite a bit outside of that run, as he totaled six yards on the other 10 carries. Still, he was the first running back to finish as an RB1 against the Steelers since 2018. He did it while seeing just four targets last week, too. Since returning, Sanders ranks eighth in total opportunity among running backs, which is a huge indicator of RB1 success. The matchup this week is a tough one; just ask Joe Mixon. The Ravens defense is allowing just 3.61 yards per carry on the year and have allowed just one touchdown on 102 carries. Those are very similar numbers to what the Steelers had allowed before they played Sanders, but again, a giant chunk of his production came on one play, which is something we can’t rely on every week. Both Mixon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire reached the 20-carry mark but didn’t top 64 yards, so it’s not a week to expect much on the ground out of Sanders, but he can do some damage through the air. They’ve already allowed five running backs catch at least four passes, which includes at least 35 yards to four of them, and 70 yards to two of them. The 65.8 PPR points they’ve allowed through the air ranks as the sixth-most in football, and Sanders has 23 targets through four games, which is tied for seventh-most among running backs. With the tough matchups for the Eagles receivers, I’m expecting Sanders to be heavily involved in the passing game. Given his role in this backfield, you start him every week regardless of matchup. His skill-set might suit this matchup better than most, so consider him a high-end RB2 this week.

WRs
Marquise Brown:
We knew his target and air yards shares were good, though the production didn’t quite match the opportunity through four weeks. He’s seen at least six targets in each game, so when you combine that with 16.9-yard average depth of target, his targets should be worth more than most. He saw a massive 10 targets in Week 5, which led to 6/77/1 against the Bengals. That was his best game since Week 12 of last year, so a step in the right direction, but Lamar Jackson hasn’t been what would be described as “on point” with his passes this season. The Eagles defense is going to be considered one to attack after Chase Claypool just tagged them for four touchdowns, but it hasn’t been that great of a matchup to this point. If you look at fantasy points allowed, they’ve allowed the seventh-most, but those numbers are skewed just a bit considering they’ve allowed 154 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns to receivers. The 7.58 yards per target they’ve allowed ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in the league. The 11.0 yards per reception they’ve allowed is the lowest mark in the league. I know it sounds crazy considering Claypool’s monster game, but this team essentially had a slip-up with him. Where they’ve struggled most is the slot, which is where Claypool did most of his damage last week, and where Tyler Boyd did his damage three weeks ago. Brown goes into the slot just 24 percent of the time, so it’s far from a great matchup against Darius Slay. They’ve allowed just one pass play of 40-plus yards to this point, so getting that one big play isn’t a great bet. Brown should be considered a relatively weak WR3 for this game who comes with a lower floor than most in that range.

Alshon Jeffery: Will he finally return? He’s practiced in a limited fashion the last two weeks, but has been ruled out before gameday both times, which means there wasn’t ever a chance. No matter what, you have to wait and make sure Jeffery can make it through an entire game before trusting him in your fantasy lineup. *Update* He’s been ruled OUT for this week’s game. 

DeSean Jackson: He’s now missed the last two weeks with his hamstring injury, though it seemed like he was getting close to playing last week after getting in limited practice sessions throughout the week. As always, I’ll come back and update the injuries late Friday/early Saturday, so keep an eye on the bottom of the notes. We always talk about Jackson’s targets being worth more than the average receiver, right? Well, not so much this year, as his 1.11 PPR points per target ranks as the fourth-worst in the league, right in between Jeff Smith and Larry Fitzgerald. Now going up against a Ravens secondary that has allowed just 7.87 yards per target on the season, he doesn’t look very attractive. There have already been 12 receivers who’ve seen at least five targets against the Ravens, but just four of them were able to finish as top-30 options. There’s not one cornerback Jackson will see much more than the others, so he’ll match up with a combination of Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Anthony Averett in coverage. The one matchup I’d consider a plus is when the Eagles go three-wide and they move Jackson over to Averett’s side of the field. He’s allowed 137 yards on just 14 targets in coverage and is the weakest link, though he does have 4.36-second speed to hang with Jackson down the field. Coming off a multi-week soft tissue absence, we should exercise caution with Jackson, who’s just a risky WR4 option this week. *Update* He’s been ruled OUT for this game. 

Greg Ward: His target totals have varied quite a bit through the first five weeks, going 7, 1, 11, 7, and 5. A lot of that has to do with the injuries to DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, and even Alshon Jeffery. It appears that two of those three will be back this week, while Travis Fulgham made a name for himself last week. The good news is that he’s locked into the slot role, as he’s played 83 percent of his snaps there while no other Eagles receiver has been over 32.7 percent. The bad news is that he’ll be going against Marlon Humphrey when he’s on the field, a cornerback who’s allowed just 161 scoreless yards on 31 targets in the slot, which amounts to just 5.19 yards per target. This is no fluke, either, as he’s been lights out since coming into the league in 2017. Ward isn’t a great streaming option in this matchup.

Travis Fulgham: There will be a lot of fantasy managers coming to check in on Fulgham’s write-up this week, and I don’t mean to disappoint you, but if Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson return to the lineup, his role is almost non-existent. He has bounced around from the Lions, Packers, and then Eagles’ practice squads after being selected in the sixth round of last year’s draft. Those are some WR-needy teams right there. If Jeffery and Jackson are held out again, Fulgham will once again be inserted into the starting lineup, but until then, he’s just a depth chart wide receiver who’ll need injuries to be fantasy relevant. If we hear that Jeffery and/or Jackson are out, I’ll come back and update. *Update* Both Jackson and Jeffery have been ruled out for this game, meaning Fulgham is going to be playing a full-time role in the offense. It’s still a brutal matchup and one that you should be concerned about. He should get enough volume to get into WR4 territory. 

TEs
Mark Andrews:
It’s been a yo-yo like season for Andrews, who’s now seen target totals of 6, 3, 8, 3, and 9. Oddly enough, he still hasn’t topped 58 yards this season, but he has scored five times, making yardage a bonus. He’s caught a touchdown every 5.8 targets, a number that is not going to keep up. Even in his first two seasons where he was hyper-efficient, he caught a touchdown every 11.4 targets which is still elite territory. He’s still 15th in yards per route run, so he’s not bad there, but he’ll need a bit more efficiency with his yardage to carry his current No. 3 tight end ranking. The Eagles have been the fountain of fantasy points for tight ends to this point, as they’ve allowed a ridiculous 86.5 percent completion-rate (highest in the NFL) and five touchdowns (second-most) through five games. Heck, even Logan Thomas had an efficient game against them when he caught four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Higbee, who’s been a non-factor for 4-of-5 weeks, was able to catch 5-of-5 passes for 54 yards and three touchdowns. We don’t even need to mention the 15 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown that George Kittle posted on 15 targets, but we will. There is nothing to worry about with this matchup for Andrews, and knowing the Eagles stop the run extremely well, we should see a lot of targets for the top-tier tight end. Start him as an elite TE1 this week.

Zach Ertz: “What in the world do I do with Ertz?!” I can’t tell you how many times I saw that question go across my timeline this past weekend, and I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit panicked. However, when you take a step back and realize that there are maybe 5-6 tight ends who are every-week starters, you should actually be looking to buy the long-time fantasy stud. Sure, he has 15 yards over the last two weeks, but matchups against the 49ers and Steelers are hardly ideal. He has totaled at least five targets in every game, including seven-plus targets in three of them. That’s hard to find at the tight end position. The Ravens have already allowed three tight ends to post 50-plus yards against them this year, including David Njoku and Jordan Akins. It’s the one position they’re below average against, as they’ve allowed a 72.7 percent completion-rate, 8.03 yards per target, and two touchdowns on 33 targets through five weeks. The Ravens have only played against three tight ends who’ve seen more than six targets in their last 21 games, but each of those tight ends finished with at least 12.5 PPR points. I understand the concern with Ertz, I really do, but the return of the wide receivers and emergence of Travis Fulgham should take some pressure off him. I’m suggesting you keep him in lineups as a TE1 and roll with the punches. *Update* With Jeffery and Jackson ruled out, Ertz will be the focal point once again, hurting his value.

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings 

Total: 55.5
Line: MIN by 3.5

QBs
Matt Ryan:
What in the world has happened to Ryan? After throwing for 723 yards and six touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season and being the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy football, he’s fallen off a cliff and has thrown for just 749 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions over the last three games. It’s clear that the loss of Julio Jones has had a massive effect on the offense, but we figured Ryan could at least be competent against the Packers and Panthers defenses. There were just two games where he had fewer than 14.5 fantasy points last year, while he already has three games with less than 12.5 fantasy points this year. The Vikings defense is coming off their best performance of the year last week. Sure, Russell Wilson still finished with 24.5 fantasy points, but the 6.8 yards per attempt they held him to was impressive. The rain surely didn’t help, but it was the first time this season they’d allowed less than 8.3 yards per attempt. Even after that performance, they’ve allowed 8.28 yards per attempt, which ranks as the fourth-highest mark in the league. Three quarterbacks have been able to throw for 300-plus yards against them, including both of their home games, so it’s far from a must-avoid matchup. We all know Ryan is a strictly pocket passer, so it should make you feel a bit better to know the Vikings have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt this year. The firing of Dan Quinn won’t change anything with the offense, as Dirk Koetter is still running that side of the ball. You have to err on the side of caution with Ryan considering how he’s played the last three weeks, but knowing the Vikings opponents have averaged 66.0 plays per game and that the Falcons run the ball just 37.6 percent of the time should present plenty of opportunity. If Jones remains out, Ryan is just a mediocre QB2. If Jones returns, Ryan should be considered a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 for this game. *Update* Jones is playing, so Ryan should return to his normal self. 

Kirk Cousins: The rain limited what could have been a big day for the Vikings passing game, but the lack of protection was once again a problem for Cousins, as he’s continually under duress, even against a Seahawks team that struggled to generate pressure through the first four weeks. The good news is that the Falcons haven’t pressure the quarterback more than 24.5 percent of the time in each of their last four games. They’ve also allowed 122.9 fantasy points per game to opponents, which is the most in the NFL and it’s not all that close, as there’s just one other team who allows more than 107.6 points. Their opponents have averaged a sky-high 68.2 plays per game, but it’s not just volume when it comes to production, as the 1.80 fantasy points per play easily ranks as the most in the NFL, as no other team allows more than 1.68 points per play. Lack of plays have been an issue for Cousins this year, but knowing the downgrade to the Vikings run-game with Dalvin Cook‘s injury, we should see the pass-to-run ratio increase, as well as the overall plays against the Falcons. Worried that Cousins’ floor with no mobility is an issue? Well, the Falcons have allowed 127.1 fantasy points through the air alone, while no other team ahs allowed more than 104.8 points. His floor is intact, making him a sturdy top-12 play this week.

RBs
Todd Gurley and Brian Hill:
It seems there’s still something left in the tank with Gurley after all, though matchups with the Packers and Panthers will do that, as they’re the two worst teams in the league against fantasy running backs. Yes, it seems like a great opportunity to sell high. While I somewhat agree with that, I need to remind you that he’ll play against the Vikings, Lions, and Panthers (again) over the next three weeks. There’s going to be another opportunity to sell high on Gurley, so my advice would be to hold on through the heart of bye weeks. The Vikings aren’t a team they’ll be able to run all over, as they’ve been somewhat of a middle-of-the-pack unit against the run. The 4.52 yards per carry is healthy, while the 4.47 yards per target to running backs is among the lowest in the league. Part of the reason they’ve allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to running backs is due to the 30.0 touches per game they’ve faced because the 0.81 PPR points per opportunity they’ve allowed ranks 19th, right in the middle of the league. From an opportunity standpoint, Gurley ranks as the No. 22 running back on a per-game basis, though it’s worth noting he had his best game last week, and not because he totaled 14 carries, but because he saw a season-high five targets. He’s running around 18 routes per game, which is fine, though nothing to write home about, but comparable to guys like James Robinson and Josh Jacobs. He’s an average running back in an average matchup, and he’s getting enough volume to be considered a stable RB2 right now. Hill has seen at least two targets in every game, but has topped out at six carries in 4-of-5 games, and knowing Gurley has looked more than competent over the last two weeks, it’s hard to see that changing right now. He remains the handcuff to Gurley who’d offer RB2 value if Gurley missed time.

Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison: It’s already been announced that Cook is out for this week, which means Mattison will carry the workload once again this week. Some will wonder about Mike Boone, but he played just five snaps last week while Mattison played 43 of them and looked good in the process. Mattison has now rushed for 681 yards and two touchdowns on 144 carries (4.73 yards per carry) in his career and has even flashed some mitts in the passing game, catching 18-of-21 targets for 139 yards. Through five games, the Falcons have allowed five running backs to post at least 18.5 PPR points against them. No running back has topped 89 yards on the ground, but they’ve allowed a league-high 98.7 PPR points through the air while no other team has allowed more than 77.8 of them. So, again, it was reassuring to see Mattison used in the passing game last week, as he caught all three of his targets for 24 yards. The only team who’s faced more running back weighted opportunity than the Falcons is the Panthers, a team we start every running back against. Mattison should be in lineups as a high-end RB2 even though his skillset is better on the ground. He should see 18-plus opportunities in this game.

WRs
Julio Jones:
I was saying last week that I think it’s more likely Jones missed multiple games before playing in last week’s game. I know they called him a game-time decision, but after not practicing all week, he was never going to play coming off a hamstring injury that he’s re-aggravated twice. Until we see him practice, you shouldn’t be planning on having him in your lineup, especially when you consider this team is 0-5 and going nowhere. If he suits up against the Vikings, he’d be tough to sit considering the state of their cornerbacks. The combination of Holton Hill, Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler, and Mike Hughes has been rough in coverage, as they’ve all allowed at least a 101.9 QB Rating in their coverage. They’ve combined to allow 2.16 PPR points per game to wide receivers, which ranks as the third-most in the NFL. We must pay attention to Jones’ practice participation throughout the week. I’ll update this section later in the week when he have more clarity. *Update* Jones has been removed from the injury report and is going to play, so plug him in as a WR1 like you normally would. 

Calvin Ridley: When Julio Jones is out of the lineup, we know Ridley is getting targeted heavily. In the 12 games where he’s seen at least eight targets, Ridley has never scored fewer than 16.7 PPR points. That’s ridiculous. The Vikings have faced just two receivers who’ve seen eight-plus targets, and those receivers went bananas (Davante Adams 14/156/2 and D.K. Metcalf 6/93/2). There is no cornerback that’ll travel around the field with Ridley, but based on alignment, he’d see Mike Hughes the most. They moved him from the slot out to the perimeter last week after he failed that experiment. It really hasn’t mattered where he’s been throughout his career to this point, though. Through two-plus years, he’s allowed 73-of-108 passing for 849 yards and six touchdowns in his coverage. If Julio Jones is out of the lineup, Ridley should be considered a can’t-miss WR1. If Jones is back, it would lower the certainty, but Ridley would remain the top play on the Falcons roster. He’s a plug-and-play WR1 every week and this matchup doesn’t change that.

Russell Gage: It’s been a disappointing couple weeks for Gage, who has now seen just 11 targets over the last three games, which included a lot of time without Julio Jones on the field. He’s also watched his yardage decline every week: 114, 46, 26, 22, 16. The Vikings did some shifting around last week and moved rookie Jeff Gladney into the slot, so that’s who we should expect Gage to see in coverage. Gladney has done a good job in the slot this year, much better than he’s been on the perimeter. On 12 slot targets, he’s allowed just six receptions for 93 yards, which included a lot of Tyler Lockett in coverage last week. Knowing that veterans Lockett, Adam Humphries, and Randall Cobb have struggled to do much against the Vikings, it’s probably wise to fade Gage in this matchup. The ceiling is not worth the risk you’re taking on a receiver who’s slowly being faded in the offense.

Adam Thielen: He did his part last week, though his performance could’ve likely been bigger had it not rained throughout the game. Still, you’re not complaining about a 9/80/2 performance. On the year, Thielen has a massive 31.7 percent target share from Cousins, which is the highest mark in all of football. Knowing that he’s getting that target share coming into a matchup against the team who’s allowed a league-high 9.95 yards per target to wide receivers, you should feel all warm and fuzzy inside. He’s playing most of his snaps at RWR, which is where the Falcons have Kendall Sheffield in coverage. He was bombarded with targets last week, allowing 9-of-13 passing for 124 yards against the Panthers. He’s not someone they’re starting because they want to but rather because they have to. All in all, the Falcons have already allowed seven wide receivers to hit 16-plus PPR points against them, including 28.3 points to fellow target-hog Allen Robinson. Start Thielen as a WR1 and expect results.

Justin Jefferson: There have been 66 different wide receivers who’ve seen at least 20 targets this year, but it’s Jefferson who leads them with 14.8 yards per target. It was certainly a letdown last week when he tallied just three catches for 23 yards against the Seahawks, but these things happen, especially when weather doesn’t cooperate. There were two plays that I recall from Sunday night’s game where Jefferson broke wide open and nothing came of it. Once was when Cousins didn’t get the ball over K.J. Wright‘s head and he intercepted it (there was nothing but green in front of Jefferson), and another where the play was designed to go to him down the field, and despite getting wide open, Cousins had no time to throw. There will be better days, and Week 6 might be one of those days. The Falcons have allowed a league-leading 9.95 yards per target and are lacking a pass rush. The Falcons tried something new last week and moved Isaiah Oliver into the slot. That didn’t change anything. He allowed 7-of-7 passing for 97 yards and allowed a touchdown for the fourth time in five games. Do they change it up again with Dan Quinn gone? Maybe, but it’s not like they have another solution that’s much better. He may have burned you last week, but you should really contemplate putting Jefferson back into your lineup as a WR3 with upside this week.

TEs
Hayden Hurst:
To say it’s been a disappointing start to the season for Hurst would be an understatement, especially knowing that he’s tallied less than 10 yards in two of the last three games. It appears that Julio Jones has a butterfly effect on the entire offense, so we should say it’s better when Jones plays. In the three games with Jones, Hurst has totaled 3/38/0, 5/72/1, and 4/51/0, which are respectable numbers. In the two games without Jones, Hurst has just 1/1/1 and 2/8/0. We don’t know what’s happening with Jones just yet, but it’s something to monitor for Hurst’s projection. The Vikings were the best team in the league against tight ends last year but that hasn’t translated to 2020, as they’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per target to tight ends. They’ve done that while playing against Mo Alie-Cox, Jonnu Smith, Jordan Akins, Greg Olsen, and Jace Sternberger, so it’s not like they’ve played against Kelce, Kittle, or Waller. The magic number is six targets, because even going back to last year, the Vikings have played nine tight ends who’ve seen six-plus targets, and all of them have finished as top-16 tight ends, which is streaming territory. That’s a number Hurst has hit in three of the last four games. While I don’t know if the ceiling is massive, Hurst can be considered as a high-end TE2 streamer, especially if Jones suits up, which sounds weird. I know it’s been rough if you’ve drafted, but if you take a look at the tight end position as a whole, it’s been extremely hit-or-miss and/or disappointing.

Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr: It’s a miracle! We saw a Vikings tight end get more than four targets for the first time since Week 13 of last year. It was only five targets, but hey, it was a step in the right direction. Smith has now run eight more routes and has one more target than Rudolph and is trending in the right direction, though it’s extremely difficult to say he’s a locked-in streamer just yet. He does have just 11 targets on the year, after all. Now with that being said, the matchup against the Falcons is pristine. They’ve allowed more fantasy points to the tight end position than any other team in the league, and it’s not just volume, either. They’ve faced 33 tight end targets, which is the second-most in the NFL, but the 2.72 PPR points per target also ranks as the second-most in the league. They’ve already allowed seven touchdowns to tight ends, which is ridiculous. How to explain that… There were just eight teams in the league who allowed seven or more touchdowns throughout the entire 2019 season. The only tight end who didn’t finish top-12 against them was Ian Thomas, who saw one target. Smith is far from a lock, so you need to understand the risk associated with him, but he’s on the streaming radar in such a great matchup. Rudolph is not someone who’s going to excite you, as he’s always going to be touchdown-or-bust, but even if he scores, it’s not like you’re winning your matchup because of him, as he’s failed to hit 50 yards in each of his last nine games.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

Total: 51.0
Line: PIT by 4.0

QBs
Baker Mayfield:
He took a shot to the ribs last week that required X-rays, but they came back negative and Mayfield said he’ll be out there in Week 6 against the Steelers fierce pass rush. The Colts struggled to get pressure on Mayfield last week, which allowed him to throw for 247 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers haven’t had issues generating pressure, as they lead the league in both pressure-rate and sack-rate. Opposing quarterbacks have been pressured an average of 47.3 percent of their dropbacks against the Steelers, and that’s a big problem for Mayfield, who’s been horrendous under pressure this year while posting a 30.9 QB Rating, which is second-worst to only Kyler Murray. On 40 pass attempts under pressure, he’s completed just 17 passes for 157 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. The Steelers secondary has been leaky despite all the pressure they’ve generated, as each of the four quarterbacks they’ve played have thrown for at least 256 yards and two touchdowns. But that’s the thing; they all totaled that, but none of them totaled more than 279 yards or two touchdowns or finished as a top-15 quarterback. The Browns are likely going to have to throw more than they would like in this game, as the Steelers opponents have passes on a league-high 67.9 percent of plays, but I can’t say that’ll be enough to start Mayfield as anything more than a low-end QB2 with all the pressure he’s bound to face.

Ben Roethlisberger: Now four games into his 2020 season, Roethlisberger is on pace for 4,064 yards and 40 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t quite match, do they? He’s thrown a touchdown on 7.0 percent of his passes, a number that’ll surely come down, as he hasn’t topped 5.7 percent since way back in 2007. Maybe he can continue his hot streak in Week 6 against a weak Browns team who’s allowed the second-most fantasy points through the air to quarterbacks. Their defense as a whole has allowed 107.6 fantasy points per game to their opponents, which is the third-most in the league, behind only the Falcons and Seahawks. Teams have picked whichever avenue they’ve wanted to score points against the Browns, which includes three 26-plus point performances to Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Dak Prescott. The only two quarterbacks who struggled against them were Dwayne Haskins and Philip Rivers, because, well, they’re just not particularly good. Even so, Haskins was able to throw two touchdowns against them. It does help to know that teams have chosen to go through the air, as the 43.0 pass attempts per game indicates. Looking closer, teams have passed on 67.0 percent of plays against the Browns, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. Roethlisberger isn’t ever going to be someone who wins you your league, but he is playing the role of someone like Drew Brees in years’ past where he’s offering low-end QB1/high-end QB2 numbers every week, and this game should be no different.

RBs
Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson:
As expected, Hunt took over the workhorse role in the Browns offense, netting 24 of the 33 opportunities available to Browns running backs, and it would’ve been higher had he not dealt with some cramping later in the game. It was a brutal matchup against the Colts rock-solid run defense, but he still managed to rack up 93 total yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, Hunt has another brutal matchup this week. The Steelers have allowed 26.5 more PPR points per game to wide receivers than they have to running backs, which is the third-biggest gap in the league. Sure, Miles Sanders totaled 80 yards and two touchdowns last week, but 74 of those yards and one touchdown came on one play. That was the first time a running back had finished top-12 against the Steelers run defense since 2018. With that being said, they have allowed at least one touchdown to each of the last three starting running backs they’ve played. Still, no running back has reached 100 total yards against them this year, and they’ve played against Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon, David Johnson, and Miles Sanders, all three-down backs. In the end, you’re starting Hunt as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 in season-long leagues, but it’s not one to attack him in cash games despite his massive workload. Johnson only got nine opportunities last week and it was a tough matchup, but there’s no way there’s going to be multiple running back supported in this game against the Steelers.

James Conner: Despite essentially missing the first game of the year when he left in the first quarter, Conner is currently the No. 16 running back in points per game. Over the three games since that injury, he’s totaled 59 opportunities, while Benny Snell trails with 18, and Anthony McFarland has 11. Those aren’t quite workhorse numbers, but they’re close. The matchup with the Browns has been a fruitful one for offenses as a whole, as they’ve allowed 30-plus points on three separate occasions, though no running back has finished better than RB11 in those games. Part of the reason is because there’s been just one running back who’s totaled more than 12 carries against them. Because of that, no running back has topped 57 yards on the ground. All in all, they’ve allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, but that’s a tad misleading because they’ve allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per opportunity. Knowing Conner hasn’t had fewer than 18 opportunities in each of the last three games, it’s tough to doubt that continuing with how he’s performed. His team also has a 27.5-point team implied total, which bodes well for him considering he’s receiving most of the carries inside the 10-yard line. It would also be a plus if defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi was held out for another week, as he’s certainly a force up the middle of the field. With that being said, the Steelers seem likely to be without starting Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro, so that may even out, though it’s a bigger loss for the Steelers. I’d still start Conner as a solid RB2 who should find his way into the end zone again.

WRs
Odell Beckham:
After a slow start where some fantasy managers left him for dead, Beckham is suddenly a top-12 wide receiver in fantasy. Now, to be fair, it hasn’t all been peachy for his managers, as he’s tallied 11.4 fantasy points or less in three of the five games. With the low-volume nature of the offense, that’ll continue to be a thing, but it’s nice to see him tally 17 targets over the last two weeks. Wide receivers have seen a very-high 62.2 percent target share against the Steelers this year, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league, and it makes sense when you see they’ve struggled to this point. As mentioned in the Hunt notes, the Steelers have allowed 26.5 more PPR points per game to wide receivers than they have to running backs, which is the third-biggest gap in the league. Beckham lines up on both sides of the formation, but mostly at LWR, which means he’ll see the most of Steven Nelson in coverage. While Nelson was fantastic last year, he’s struggled out of the gate in 2020, allowing 13-of-22 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. He has also intercepted two passes, so it hasn’t been all bad, either. But again, opponents have targeted wide receivers 62 percent of the time, which bodes well for Beckham, who’s the clear No. 1 target in this offense right now. Knowing they’re coming off a game where they allowed Travis Fulgham 10/152/1, this might not be the tough matchup it was for wide receivers last year when Beckham posted just 7/89/0… in two games combined against them despite seeing 16 targets. Beckham is far from a sure thing in the run-first offense but keep him in lineups as a WR2 while he rides a hot streak.

Jarvis Landry: Everyone knows about Beckham’s success as of late, but what would you say if I told you that Beckham and Landry have the same number of receptions (21) while they’re just 15 yards apart in production? The difference is the three receiving touchdowns for Beckham while Landry has none. Last year, it was Landry who scored six touchdowns to Beckham’s four touchdowns. The Steelers have struggled to defend slot receivers this year, as we’ve watched Randall Cobb post 4/95/1, Greg Ward hit 4/26/1, and Jerry Jeudy finish with 4/62/0. None of them saw more than seven targets. Mike Hilton has been the weakest link in a secondary that’s allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. To this point, they’ve allowed a massive 9.11 yards per target with a touchdown every 14.8 targets, which are both numbers to target. Hilton himself has allowed 19-of-25 passing for 248 yards and a touchdown. To allow nearly 10.0 yards per target while covering the slot is extremely bad. Among the cornerbacks who’ve played at least 40 snaps in the slot, Hilton’s 2.15 yards per snap is the fifth-most in football. In two matchups against them last year, Landry walked away with 4/43/1 in the first matchup and then 6/76/0 in the second one. Eventually, Landry is going to start catching up in the touchdown department, and this may be the week it starts. I’d consider him a semi-stable WR3 for this matchup.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: Through five weeks, Smith-Schuster is the No. 25 receiver in points per game. That’s not the end of the world, but knowing he’s caught a touchdown every 8.0 targets (ranks sixth among receivers) is not a good thing. Without those touchdowns, his 47.0 yards per game isn’t going to get it done. First, it was Diontae Johnson getting in the way of elite targets. Then it was Chase Claypool stealing the production. At some point, if you’re the No. 1 receiver in your offense, you’re going to produce more than your teammates. On the season, the targets have been disbursed like this: Johnson 26, Smith-Schuster 24, Claypool 20, and Washington 19. There’s no clear-cut No. 1 receiver here. If there’s a week where Smith-Schuster can appear as the No. 1 receiver, it’s this one. The Browns have allowed these performances to slot-heavy receivers through five weeks: CeeDee Lamb 5/79/2, Tyler Boyd 7/72/1, and Willie Snead 4/64/1. None of those receivers had more than eight targets, a number that should be reachable for Smith-Schuster. He’s been sliding down my rest of season rankings into WR3 territory, but this week is one where he should be looked at as a mid-to-low-end WR2.

Diontae Johnson: As of right now, it appears the Steelers remain hopeful that Johnson can play this week, though it’s still early in the week, so make sure to check back later in the week for updates. Johnson has been dealing with a lot lately, and the way he was bent in Week 5 looked rather painful. The matchup against the Browns would be a good one for him to be on the field, as the Browns have allowed the second-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position. Johnson lines up at LWR more often than anywhere else, which is where he’d see Terrance Mitchell in coverage. Over the last three weeks, he’s been tagged in coverage for 13 receptions, 162 yards, and a touchdown on 21 targets. The concern, of course, is the emergence of Claypool in his absence, as the Steelers could choose to ease Johnson back into the offense, if he plays at all. This is a week all about risk/reward with all Steelers receivers not named Smith-Schuster. If Johnson can get in a full practice, I’d feel confident about playing him as a low-end WR3. If he’s limited all week, he’s more in the risky WR4 basket. Stay tuned for updates. *Update* Johnson has been ruled OUT for this game.

James Washington: Before everyone crowns Claypool as the clear-cut No. 3 receiver in this offense, you need to understand the opportunity they’ve all had in the offense to this point. Here are the routes they’ve each run through the first four games:

Player W1 W2 W3 W5 Total Routes
Smith-Schuster 36 42 34 34 146
Johnson 34 39 10 4 87
Washington 25 22 27 32 106
Claypool 7 13 31 23 74

 

As you can see, Washington has had the same role almost all season, while Claypool’s opportunity has come when Johnson has had to leave the game. The targets have been disbursed rather equally, too, as Washington has just one fewer target than Claypool on the season. It’s not to say Washington is exciting, as he’s failed to eclipse 36 yards in any game this season and shouldn’t be trusted for fantasy. This section on him was to highlight the reason to question a true breakout from Claypool.

Chase Claypool: Kaboom. After his Week 5 explosion, he now has five touchdowns on 17 touches. His 3.53 PPR points per target is head and shoulders above any other player in the league (Allen Lazard is closest with 3.06), which obviously screams regression. Everyone sees the fantasy points scored, but you should probably look closer. In terms of routes run, both Smith-Schuster (34) and Washington (32) ran more routes than the 23 that Claypool ran last week. Not many know that Washington has been playing ahead of him all season, though they’ve been splitting snaps as the team’s third wide receiver. If Diontae Johnson plays, that’s likely to continue. Sure, this is a high-powered offense, but if you’re not running the routes, it’s going to be difficult to be relied upon for fantasy production. It’s a situation to monitor as the week goes on, as Claypool would obviously get a big boost if Johnson can’t go. It certainly helps that the Browns have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. They have seen the second-most targets in the league, as receivers have averaged a massive 24.8 targets per game, which allows for multiple receivers to be productive. It’s going to be hard to take Claypool off the field after that performance last week, so it’s possible he passes Washington in the pecking order, though that’s far from a guarantee. If Johnson plays, Claypool is a risk/reward WR4 option who has a lower floor than you’d think. If Johnson is out, Claypool should have enough opportunity to be considered an upside WR3. *Update* Johnson has been ruled OUT making Claypool an upside WR3 play in a plus-matchup.

TEs
Austin Hooper:
Is he becoming a thing in fantasy? After being a non-factor in the offense through the first three weeks of the season, Hooper has seen 17 targets, accounting for a massive 25.4 percent target share. If a tight end gets near 20 percent, it’s a great number. Unfortunately, the matchup this week isn’t very good against the Steelers, who’ve now held Evan Engram, Jordan Akins, and Zach Ertz to less than 30 yards. The lone good performance against them was Noah Fant, who totaled 15.7 PPR points, though 9.2 of those points came on just one play. Hooper hasn’t been someone to record long receptions, as he hasn’t recorded a catch longer than 18 yards this year, and he didn’t have one longer than 35 yards last year. Knowing he needs to rack up receptions to produce, it’s going to be difficult against a team that’s allowed just 3.3 receptions per game to the position. The 1.17 PPR points per target they’ve allowed ranks as the second-lowest number in the league. Hooper’s stock is rising but this is not a matchup to target with tight ends, making him a mediocre TE2.

Eric Ebron: He got the opportunity we wanted last week when he saw six targets against the very-beatable Eagles defense, and while he tallied five catches for 43 yards, he also lost a fumble, and then had another pass that was ruled as an interception due to his drop, but was ultimately overturned on review, as it hit the ground. Now that there are suddenly four wide receivers competing for targets, it’s harder to see a large portion of the pie going to Ebron. It certainly helps to know that the Browns have seen 43.0 pass attempts per game through five weeks, so there’s plenty of production to go around. As a whole, the Browns have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opponents, with 20.2 percent of the production to skill-position players (RB, WR, TE) going to the tight end position, which is the eighth-highest percentage in the league. They’ve allowed at least four catches and 31 yards to every tight end they’ve played this year, including four tight ends who’ve scored 11.5 or more PPR points. Even better news is that two of those tight ends were C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample, so it’s not just big names producing against them. Ebron is always going to come with some risk considering the talent around him, but he should be considered a high-end TE2 this week who can be streamed considering he’s seen at least five targets in each of his last three games.

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