Players to Cut: Week 6 (2021 Fantasy Football)
The NFL is never short on storylines and we have the first head coaching change of the year this week. Jon Gruden was not able to survive his email scandal and he is no longer the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I am not going to get into the specifics of the scandal, that does not matter from a fantasy perspective. What does matter is the head coaching change, as Rich Bisaccia takes over as the interim head coach.
Coaching changes can be significant in fantasy football, because Bisaccia may have plays that he prefers to dial up that Gruden did not want to call. A change in offensive philosophy can change the run to pass ratio. It can change whether the offense focuses more on short passes or it is more vertical, which can change the target share. All of that can impact what players are fantasy relevant and which players are no longer valuable enough to roster in fantasy. It is too early to tell what this change will do for the Raiders offense, but it is a situation to monitor in the next couple of weeks.
Also, this week we have our first bye weeks of the year. The Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49ers will be the first four teams of the year to take their bye week. That will shorten the pool of available players and fantasy managers will have to start players that would normally be on the bench and take a chance on some players they wish they could leave on the waiver wire.
Here are some players that I would consider cutting as we head into Week 6. Even with the bye weeks upon us, these players are starting to make less and less sense for fantasy managers this season.
12- and 14-Team Leagues
Phillip Lindsay (RB – HOU)
There is a reason that I write about Houston running backs each week, the Texans average only 16.1 fantasy points per week at the running back position. That is good for 29th in the league. When you further dilute that among three running backs, it makes it impossible to trust anyone. However, this week was a bit of an anomaly. The Texans scored 22 points, which was their most since Week 1. They also had a 22-9 lead in this game. That was also their biggest lead since Week 1. That gave us a different game script than them being hopelessly behind and we could finally see how the Texans split touches among their backs with the lead.
Mark Ingram finally saw a healthy number of carries with 16 carries, but he turned that into only 41 yards. David Johnson chipped in with two carries for five yards, but he also added six targets, five receptions, and 45 yards. That left Lindsay with no work in the passing game and five carries for 19 yards in the running game. I would not roster any of the Texans’ backs, but if they are playing in a competitive game script, Ingram is capable of seeing 15-18 carries and Johnson does see the most targets in the passing game. Lindsay seems to be the change of pace for Ingram at this point, which makes him completely useless in fantasy leagues. Despite that fact, he is still rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 23.1 of ESPN.com leagues. He should be rostered in zero leagues if he continues to be the third back in the offense.
Houston Texans Running Backs – 2021 Fantasy Football Production
Ronald Jones II (RB - TB)
I have written about Jones before and he is still rostered in 47 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 44.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The math is simple, Tampa Bay runs the ball only 17.2 times per game, which is the fifth-fewest in the league. Leonard Fournette sees about 65 percent of the work. That leaves Jones with about five carries per game and no role in the passing game with just four targets in five games. He would need Fournette to suffer an injury to have any significant role in the offense and even with that, he would probably see 10 carries per game. Fournette is the running back worth rostering at this point, he is on pace for 1,421 yards from scrimmage. Jones is only on pace for 415 yards from scrimmage.
Carlos Hyde (RB - JAX)
James Robinson dominated the backfield touches again this week with 18 rushing attempts for 149 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Hyde chipped in with five rushing attempts for 13 yards. Hyde has not had a reception since Week 1 and he has finished with less than 15 yards rushing in two of his last three games. I am not sure why Urban Meyer gives him any work, because Robinson is the superior option. Hyde is not worth rostering in fantasy football, because even if Robinson were to go down with an injury. He is 31-years old and he is not going to be able to handle 15-18 rushing attempts per game. He would be Jacksonville's version of Mark Ingram if anything were to happen to Robinson.
Peyton Barber (RB - LV)
Josh Jacobs missed two games in Week 2 and Week 3 and that made Barber fantasy relevant. He had 36 carries 143 yards and one rushing touchdown in Weeks 2 and Week 3 with the bulk of the work coming against Miami in Week 3. Since returning, Jacobs has had 28 rushing attempts and 10 targets in the passing game over the last two weeks. Barber has been relegated to the bench and has one carry for zero yards over the last two weeks. Barber was not active in Week 5 with a turf toe issue. Jacobs is now healthy, Barber is not, and I cannot see the coaching change impacting the pecking order on the depth chart even when Barber returns to being a healthy player. Barber is still rostered in nine percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 7.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues. That should be at zero percent with Jacobs healthy and Barber dealing with turf toe.
Curtis Samuel (WR - WAS)
Samuel has had a rough start to the season. He dealt with a groin injury for a large chunk of the offseason and it cost him all of training camp and the first three games of the regular season. He finally was active in Week 5 and saw four targets, four receptions, and 19 yards. He played in Week 5 and had one target, but now he has a groin injury again and could miss more time. Samuel is still rostered in 31 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and it makes no sense to hold onto him when it appears he is going to be nothing but injured this year.
Elijah Moore (WR - NYJ)
Moore did play in Week 5, but if you blinked you missed him out there. He had two targets and no receptions in the Jets loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Part of the issue is the game script. The Jets were down 20-3 at the half this week and Zach Wilson still threw the ball only 32 times. Compare that to Baltimore this week. They were down 22-3 in the second half and Lamar Jackson threw the ball 43 times to rally the Ravens and secure a 31-25 victory.
The Jets do not throw the ball much no matter what the score is in the game and when they do, they look for Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios. Davis leads the way with 36 targets and Berrios is next with 23 targets. Moore has 20 targets and Jamison Crowder is quickly overtaking Moore as Crowder has 15 targets in the last two games or almost as many as Moore has on the season. Moore just does not see enough looks in one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL to justify being rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo.com leagues and 19.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues. He should be on the waiver wire at this point.
Jalen Reagor (WR - PHI)
DeVonta Smith is the lead wide receiver, he has 39 targets on the year, which is almost eight per game. Then they spread the ball to everyone else as Reagor, Zach Ertz, Kenneth Gainwell, Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, and Quez Watkins all have between 17 and 25 targets. That is fine for Gainwell and Sanders because they also see rushing attempts. Ertz and Goedert are tight ends and they do not need to score as many fantasy points as a wide receiver. Even Watkins is at least averaging 20.5 yards per catch.
Reagor has been reduced to a possession receiver with his 25 targets, 17 receptions, 140 yards, 8.2 yards per catch, and one touchdown. His longest pass play is 24 yards. He has not scored a touchdown since Week 1 and he has failed to eclipse 25 yards in three of his four games since. A possession receiver that produces so few yards per catch and is not targeted a ton makes little sense in fantasy football. Reagor would need to see an increase in targets or be more of a red zone threat to have fantasy relevance.
K.J. Osborn (WR - MIN)
Osborn looked like he could be a breakout player this year when he had 15 targets, 12 receptions, 167 yards, and one touchdown in his first two games. He has since slowed with 13 targets, eight receptions, 66 yards, and no touchdowns in his last three games. Minnesota does not have a consistent enough passing game to warrant a third wide receiver in fantasy football. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are great options and Osborn will probably have a game or two where he puts up some big numbers. His norm is going to be three or four targets, two or three receptions, and 20-30 yards receiving. That is too low of a floor to continue hoping that Week 1 and Week 2 are anything more than an outlier.
Jared Goff (QB - LAR)
Goff can surprise you with a big game here or a big game there, but there is so little wide receiver talent on this team, it is hard to guess when that is going to happen. He shocked fantasy managers with 299 yards passing and two passing touchdowns in Chicago in Week 4, but he also had 217 and 203 yards passing in Week 3 and Week 5 with no passing touchdowns in either game. His next three games are Cincinnati, at the Los Angeles Rams, and Philadelphia. There is not a matchup that screams must start before the Week 9 bye and after the bye, he has road games against Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Goff is a desperation roster spot at this point and there is not much upside to rostering him and not playing him for the next month.
Justin Fields (QB - CHI)
I am surprised that fantasy managers have not ditched him faster, I think the only reason he continues to be rostered in so many leagues is that he is a dynamic rookie and fantasy managers hope he will breakout later in the year. He had three rushing attempts for four yards in Week 5 and he had just 111 yards passing and one passing touchdown in their win over the Las Vegas Raiders. The production continues to be underwhelming at this point. He has less than 15 yards rushing in four of his five games and with no running element to his game, he is nowhere near what he needs to be as a passer to warrant being on a fantasy roster.
Cameron Brate (TE - TB)
Brady had 411 yards passing and five passing touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins. He threw the ball 41 times and completed 30 passes. Brate was still an afterthought in the offense, he posted one target, one reception, and 12 yards. I am sure there will be a game this year before Rob Gronkowski returns where Brate has a surprise fantasy outburst. For now, he just is not seeing enough targets to justify a roster spot hoping that Tom Brady will start throwing to him. There are just too many other weapons in the offense for Brady to utilize and Brate is not a consistent enough red zone threat to roster him hoping that a touchdown will make him fantasy relevant.
Cole Kmet (TE - CHI)
Kmet has not topped 25-yards receiving since the opener and he has not found the end zone this year. I think he has a lot of talent, but he is stuck in a poor scheme and the Bears throw the ball only 24.4 times per game. Kmet is not worth rostering until he shows something, which is going to require his coaching staff to come up with a better plan for passing the ball.
Mac Jones (QB - NE)
Jones is a much better NFL rookie than he is a fantasy rookie. Jones is strictly a pocket passer, he has only eight rushing attempts for 30 yards through five games. That means to be a fantasy viable quarterback, he needs to be averaging 250 yards passing and two passing touchdowns per game. The passing yards are there, he is averaging 248.6 yards per game. Unfortunately, he has only five touchdown passes and five interceptions through five games.
In deeper leagues, you can hang onto Jones and hope that he continues to progress and closes the season on a tear. In a shallow league, that is more problematic. Jones is a game manager with very underwhelming fantasy numbers. Even with the bye weeks starting this week, it would be hard for me to roster Jones in a shallow league. There are probably better fantasy options on the waiver wire, even if Jones is doing well as a NFL quarterback.
Trey Sermon (RB - SF)
The 49ers did run the ball 28 times on Sunday, but 16 of those rushing attempts went to Trey Lance. That left only 12 carries for the rest of the team and Trey Sermon saw one rushing attempt for seven yards while Eli Mitchell saw nine rushing attempts for 43 yards. Sermon went from having 19 carries last week to having one due to Mitchell being healthy this week.
This backfield is about to become more crowded. Jeff Wilson Jr.is eligible to return from the IR in Week 8, which means another back could be introduced to this mix. Sermon has not lived up to the role that people thought he would have in the preseason. He has been a healthy scratch and he has had two games with a single carry. In a deeper league, the 49ers backfield is too good to not keep Sermon. In a shallower league, he has a bye week coming up and no defined role. It may not make sense to hold him in that situation, depending on what is out there on the waiver wire.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR - SF)
Deebo Samuel has been the star of this 49ers passing game. He has 52 targets, 31 receptions, 548 yards receiving, and three receiving touchdowns. He also has six rushing attempts for 22 yards and another touchdown. That has not left a big role for Aiyuk. He has 15 targets, eight receptions, and 90 yards receiving. He also has one rushing attempt for eight yards. Even with George Kittle out in Week 5, Aiyuk could only manage four targets, two receptions, and 32 yards. In a shallow league, it does not make much sense to hold a player going into the bye week that has had no games with more than 40 yards receiving and only one fantasy-saving touchdown.
Jonnu Smith (TE - NE)
Smith had all of his production on the second drive of the game when he caught both of his targets for 27 yards. He also had five rushing yards on one attempt. Meanwhile, Hunter Henry had six receptions on eight targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. Henry seems to have separated himself as the lead tight end in the passing game and Smith is much more touchdown-dependent as the second tight end in the offense. That could change later in the year, but for now, Smith is a backend TE2 and that makes it hard to roster him in shallower leagues.
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