With bye weeks starting, we are officially in the thick of the fantasy season. You may already be feeling less engaged than you were to start the season, especially if your team(s) haven’t started so hot. I’m here to help, breaking down things you might have missed from Sunday’s action.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills
- In a game that was competitive from start to finish, Dalton Kincaid played just 53% of snaps, had a 56% route participation rate, and only saw two targets (Note: He is now in the league’s concussion protocol, so that could explain his lack of usage, but he did finish out the game after briefly exiting). Most discouragingly, there is no evidence of an upward trend; if anything, his usage is heading slightly downward. You can hold him hoping for an increased role later in the season in deep leagues, but it’s hard to justify holding someone averaging 4.1 fantasy points, even at a shallow position.
- This was an encouraging bounce-back week for Calvin Ridley in many ways. I’m obviously not really going that far beyond the box scores on this one, as he racked up seven catches on eight targets for 122 yards. But I think it’s just as important that Ridley saw two designed rush attempts, and it was him, not Christian Kirk, who Trevor Lawrence audibled to for the game-sealing conversion.
- Through five weeks, Josh Allen has attempted just eight designed rushes, for an average of 1.6 per game. He has never before averaged less than three such attempts per game and has been above four for each of the last three years — not coincidentally the same three years in which he was a top-two fantasy QB. However, he’s still the fantasy QB1 through five weeks, thanks to a career-high in yards per pass attempt and scoring a rushing TD in each of the last three games. So, does this matter? Probably, but not too much — I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Allen slow down over the weeks to come, but he’s still an elite fantasy option.
Houston Texans @ Atlanta Falcons
- Here are Bijan Robinson’s weekly rush shares: 38%, 48%, 56%, 67% … 40%. After climbing for four straight weeks to start his career, the superstar rookie was out-carried by Tyler Allegier, 17 to 14. This is absolutely worth watching, as a continued reversal of this trend could push Robinson out of the ranks of elite fantasy RB1s despite his obvious elite-level talent.
- Both Robert Woods (ribs) and Tank Dell (concussion) missed parts of this game due to injury. This led to Nico Collins setting new season highs in both snap and route share, but he still finished with just 39 yards on four targets. Instead, this was a Dalton Schultz game, as the tight end caught seven of 10 targets for 65 yards and a touchdown. This now makes three weeks in a row a different Texan pass-catcher has had a big game, and three weeks in a row of me pointing out that this will be a frustrating situation of inconsistency for fantasy investors. (This is not to say Schultz’s big game was entirely unpredictable, as the Falcons are notoriously bad against tight ends, something our team was all over heading into Week 5 — this is why you subscribe to DrRoto.com!!.)
- Kyle Pitts set season highs in targets, receptions, and yards but season lows in snap share (53%) and route participation (64%, nearly 20% below his previous minimum of 83%). Essentially, this was a switch from bad production on good usage to good production on bad usage. If you’re optimistic, you could say now he just needs to put it all together to finally break out … but given how long we’ve been saying that, I lean more towards this as a sell-high opportunity that we will look back on as an outlier in a forgettable season.
Carolina Panthers @ Detroit Lions
- Last week, I said Chuba Hubbard out-snapping and out-touching Miles Sanders didn’t mean much, as the latter was limited coming off an injury. But then he did it again this week. If a 50/50 split like we saw this week is the new normal, both backs will struggle to have any fantasy value on a floundering Carolina offense.
- Jameson Williams had three targets in his season debut: one drop, one screen where he was immediately tackled, and one screen where he gained four yards. He was reportedly being eased in, but it’s still not encouraging to see the 2021 first-round pick play just 47% of snaps, especially with Amon-Ra St. Brown out. He’ll need to increase his usage fast to justify the spot he currently holds on many shallow fantasy rosters.
- In his new role as a target hog out of the slot, Adam Thielen is approaching WR1 territory, especially in PPR. He is eighth in the league in targets, although just 29th in air yards. His value isn’t keeping up with his production due to his anti-name-value as a 33-year-old, so he’s a great trade target.
Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts
- I probably don’t have to say this, but don’t worry about Jonathan Taylor’s lack of involvement (and Zack Moss’ huge day) in his first game back. This will be Taylor’s backfield sooner rather than later. If anything, Moss continuing to go off just shows how valuable Taylor will be once he takes over.
- With his eight-catch 140-yard outing, DeAndre Hopkins is now the Half-PPR WR34 without having scored a single TD. Adding just one touchdown would rank him tied for the WR24; two would land him at WR16. Hopkins’ lack of TDs isn’t entirely bad luck, as Derrick Henry is a TD black hole, but he was just inches away from one this week (ironically on a pass from Henry himself) and has four end zone targets on the year, tied for 15th among all WRs. As regression hits in the paydirt department, Nuk could establish himself as a backend WR2.
- Anthony Richardson looks set to miss multiple weeks with an AC injury, but I wouldn’t drop him unless you absolutely have to, and would add him if he is dropped by someone else. His 0.76 fantasy points per dropback is easily the most of any full-time (aka non-Taysom Hill) QB; even if you account for designed runs, his 0.64 points per opportunity is tied for first with Mr. Efficiency himself, Brock Purdy. That kind of upside is worth waiting for.
New York Giants @ Miami Dolphins
- With all the well-deserved hype around De’Von Achane, Raheem Mostert is an interesting trade target. On no other team could an RB average 6.5 yards per carry and score a touchdown and still have people calling for his job, and I don’t see Achane ever taking much more than his current roughly 50% of the load. Unfortunately, literally as I type this, news is coming out that Achane is being evaluated for a knee injury, so this might not be as under the radar as I originally intended. Update: Achane is looking very likely to miss time, making Mostert no longer a “sneaky” option. Instead, double-check your waivers for Jeff Wilson, whose practice window to return from IR has been opened.
- He didn’t see a single target, but Jalin Hyatt ran the second-most routes of any Giants WR this week. He’s still a long way from fantasy relevancy with this offense sputtering, but this is a step in the right direction and makes him a stash option in deep leagues.
- He doesn’t show up in the box score at all this week with zero yards on zero targets, but I’m not giving up on Durham Smythe as a relevant player in super deep and/or 2-TE leagues just yet. He was back up to a 91% route share this week, and anyone who’s that involved in this record-setting offense is intriguing … I’ll probably have him in a DFS lineup or two at $2,900 on DraftKings against the Panthers next week.
New Orleans Saints @ New England Patriots
- You can take everything I said above about DeAndre Hopkins, make the numbers slightly worse, and repeat it for Michael Thomas, another former superstar due for positive TD regression. MT has had essentially zero ceiling so far this season, but has at least fifty yards in every game this season, a feat only matched by Puka Nakua and Stefon Diggs, and should be able to produce WR3 numbers if he can score a TD or two.
- He’s lower in snaps and routes than DeVante Parker since his return, but Kendrick Bourne is seeing about one more target per game. He’s also 12th among all WRs in air yards on the season. On the other hand, the Patriots’ offense is a dumpster fire, and his 59% catchable target rate is one of the worst in the league among players with real volume. He’ll likely have more big games and deserves to be rostered in deeper leagues, but don’t expect consistency.
- Only five of Kendre Miller’s 16 touches came before there was a minute left in the third quarter, well after this game was essentially over. With elite passing-game usage (17 targets through two games) plus a complete hold of red zone work (minus one goal-line carry from everyone’s favorite vulture Taysom Hill), Alvin Kamara is an RB1.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- Over half of my notes for this game are some version of “X Ravens Player Drops Big Gain/Touchdown.” PFF has them down as having seven drops for an absurd 24.1% team drop rate, often in key moments. If even half of those catches are made, Lamar Jackson’s fantasy outing looks much better (and the Ravens win this game); I’m not at all worried about him going forward.
- George Pickens is like a deluxe version of Kendrick Bourne: He ranks even higher at ninth in total air yards with 531, but also features on a struggling offense and has a gross catchable target rate of just 62%. But, given that his ceiling games will be higher and more frequent, it’s much more worth putting up with his off weeks. Currently ranked as the WR13 coming off his second boom week of the season, he will likely finish the year as a WR2 or high-end WR3.
- Don’t look now, but Zay Flowers is starting to see real WR1 (NFL, not fantasy) usage. He saw 10 targets this week, and only one of them came behind the line of scrimmage, while four were at least 20 yards down the field. If he hadn’t had one drop and fallen down once when open behind the defense, he could have had a much bigger day. The hype train has lost some steam after the rookie’s hot start, and he’s a great buy-low candidate who should have bigger days ahead … especially if he can ever score a touchdown.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Arizona Cardinals
- James Conner suffered a knee injury, and his potential absence (which looks likely given the Cardinals added Tony Jones Jr. on waivers on Monday) will leave a gaping hole in this backfield. UDFA rookie Emari Demarcado will be the hot pickup as he took over this week, but I might prefer 2022 sixth-rounder Keaontay Ingram. Ingram has been inactive for the last two weeks with a neck injury, but had 12 carries to just three for Demercado through the first three weeks of the season. On the other hand, Demarcado was clearly the preferred receiving-down option even when both were healthy, so this has all the makings of a frustrating committee — try to add both, but temper expectations.
- On a day full of positive signs for the Bengals, perhaps the best was a simple 10-yard scramble from Joe Burrow to close at the third quarter. Burrow looked much more like himself on that play, and all day while moving in the pocket. That’s obviously a huge upgrade for all Bengals, but the one who might be going under the radar is Tyler Boyd, who benefits from Tee Higgins’ absence and had a TD called back for a penalty in this one — check if he’s on waivers in shallow leagues.
- Following James Conner’s exit, Rondale Moore saw 19% of the Cardinals’ rush attempts to go along with a 14% target share. For reference, Deebo Samuel had just a 12% backfield share in his legendary 2021 season … of course, he also had a much larger 25% target share. Still, given that he is now averaging 14.5 yards per rush attempt, Moore should continue to be involved out of the backfield, and a long absence for Conner might allow him to carve out deep flex value in a Deebo-light (pun intended) kind of role.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams
- With Cooper Kupp’s return, Van Jefferson was the odd man out, dropping from his previous 89% snap share to a grand total of two snaps. Kupp’s return is obviously still a downgrade for both, but Puka Nakua (who played every snap and saw 11 targets) and TuTu Atwell (who ran 40 routes on 42 Matthew Stafford dropbacks and caught a touchdown, although he totaled just nine yards) shouldn’t fall too far down your rest of season rankings.
- I predicted “bigger weeks coming up” for Dallas Goedert last week, but I can’t claim I was expecting his 21.7-point explosion, more points than he had through the first four weeks combined. Now, I want to make a similar argument for DeVonta Smith, about whom I have seen a shocking amount of panicking (perhaps my fault for spending time on Twitter, the same place that was trying to elevate him over A.J. Brown after Week 2). Smith is a hugely talented player who is running 99% of routes on one of the league’s best offenses. Just play him every week.
- I’m starting to come around to Kyren Williams holding onto his insane volume all season long. Yes, he’s arguably the least efficient starting back in the NFL … but he actually has a positive 1.46 relative yards per carry, because everyone else who has carried the ball for the Rams has been even worse. The “lack of competition” argument often falls flat (it did for another inefficient Rams RB already this season, as Cam Akers szn was very short-lived), but at a certain point, we just have to trust that Williams will be a weekly RB2 on volume alone.
New York Jets @ Denver Broncos
- Jaleel McLaughlin continues to stand out on the Broncos’ offense, averaging more than double Samaje Perine’s yards per carry against a tough Jets defense. But the Broncos don’t trust him to pass block, not even giving him a chance with zero pass-block reps on 41 Russell Wilson dropbacks. This lack of trust translated into Perine dominating both snaps both in long down and distances (five to two) and the two-minute drill (12 to zero), which in turn translated to Perine running 28 routes to McLaughlin’s 10. Until he earns the trust of the coaching staff as a blocker, the electric rookie’s ceiling will be heavily capped, while Perine will remain a fringe flex option.
- Dalvin Cook is more than droppable, as he has been fully phased out of this offense in favor of Breece Hall (and even Michael Carter), playing just 10 snaps.
- The Broncos are 12th in the league in passing yards and tied for third in passing touchdowns but don’t have a single receiver averaging double-digit fantasy points. Russell Wilson is spreading the ball around, as neither Courtland Sutton’s team-leading 21% target share or Jerry Jeudy’s team-leading 29% air yards share ranks higher than 30th among WRs. While this lasts, both are nothing more than inconsistent WR3/flex plays.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Minnesota Vikings
- Alexander Mattison hit new season lows in snap share (53%), rush share (47%), and route participation (42%). That rush share number is slightly deflated by three carries for Kirk Cousins and one by WR Brandon Powell, but even removing those leaves him with just a 57% RB rush share. He salvaged his day with a receiving touchdown, but this is flex usage on such a pass-heavy offense.
- Rashee Rice scored a touchdown this week but ran just 10 routes, seeing a 24% decrease from his Week 4 involvement. He wasn’t alone in part-time usage, as no KC receiver ran more than Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s 67% of routes. Rice is still my favorite stash of the bunch (he did see five targets on those 10 routes for an incredible 50% targets per route run), but with his usage trending in the wrong direction, it’s looking more and more likely that no Chiefs receiver emerges as a weekly fantasy play this season.
- With Justin Jefferson headed to IR with a hamstring injury, I would argue that both Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn are solid weekly plays. The Vikings lead the league with 204 passing attempts through five weeks, and (unlike the Chiefs) Minnesota tends to keep their top two WRs on the field for essentially every play.