Much of fantasy football in-season owner strategy centers around which players to pick up from the waiver wire or to target in the trade market. However, roster spots are a premium resource. Cutting a player - or adding them to a trade - opens a roster spot for a key waiver wire addition or flexibility to keep a currently injured player through a missed game or two. Here are the key players to cut or trade after Week 5:
*15-18 roster spots*
Why: Smith has been a solid, but unspectacular fantasy option this season. The matchup is decent (Carolina) this week, but mostly due to wide receivers scoring well in adjusted SOS (strength of schedule) more than elsewhere. This is where Washington struggles the most - winning on the outside and their wide receivers are weak. Smith has the Cowboys and Giants to finish this three-week stretch and can be thrown back to the waiver wire in shallow formats for possible streaming midseason when Atlanta and Tampa Bay are up.
Why: Owned in more than 80% of leagues, Williams is bogged down in a committee where Ty Montgomery has the hurry-up and pass-centric role and Aaron Jones is the more explosive and higher upside runner. Outside of being a handcuff, where they are tough to roster in shallow formats, Williams is a roster clogger with questionable upside even if Jones or Montgomery misses time.
Why: Garcon is still 60% owned across leagues and while C.J. Beathard has kept the 49ers offense afloat, Garcon is on life support for fantasy. Garcon looks to have lost a step or two from a year ago and has yet to log a 60-yard game (no touchdowns) this season despite Marquise Goodwin being in and out of the lineup. George Kittle is the No.1 receiver on the offense and ancillary receivers are beginning to flash enough where Garcon is an afterthought.
Why: Watson has been out-snapped by Josh Hill each of the last three weeks and the upside of being attached to Drew Brees has not been there for Watson. The Saints enter a bye (a good time to shed a streaming-level tight end in shallow leagues anyway), but also Watson has one game of 50+ yards this season and has yet to find the end zone. Considering his sagging snaps and high competition for targets, Watson is reserved for deeper leagues (25+ roster spots in dynasty, 20+ in redraft) with the glut of new starting tight ends in the NFL seeing much higher snap levels.
*18-22 roster spots*
Why: Mariota has three dud games out of four, with barely 100 passing yards in each, with the Ravens up next as one of the toughest matchups in the NFL. Mariota is still dealing with a grip issue and the schedule is not helping going forward. Mariota is at a career crossroads and Tennessee overall has underachieved this season. Avoid Mariota through their bye week and reassess then for streaming appeal.
Why: Mack has been limited by injuries, but the biggest takeaways from the Colts backfield thus far this season are they will struggle to run the ball and Nyheim Hines will siphon almost all of the receiving work from another back even if Mack, Wilkins, or Turbin were to get more carries. Mack was a big name in the offseason, but the writing is on the wall he will be a disappointment in 2018 even if healthy. For dynasty GMs, the trade market is weak for Mack, justifiably, and expect a late Round 2 type return at best if shopping.
Why: Owned in 49% of MFL leagues, Dorsett's snaps are suffering, as expected, with Julian Edelman back and Josh Gordon in the mix. Dorsett is firmly behind Edelman and Chris Hogan with Gordon's role likely to grow and Rob Gronkowski and James White critical elements. Dorsett is a best-ball option at most and more of a roster clogger in moderate depth leagues. At most Dorsett would carry late Round 2 (or more likely) Round 3 value for dynasty GMs looking to sell.
Why: Getting by on more name cache than substance, Gates has caught more than two passes just once this season, yet to eclipse 50 yards in a game, and for being a red zone and goal line maven in his career, seen three red zone targets in five games. Gates' season-high in snaps is 42% as well to add ice water to any potential upside or lineup confidence. Gates is a role player with minimal weekly appeal despite his 44% ownership.
*25+ roster spots, more dynasty-focused*
Why: More of a big picture drop recommendation this week with Bridgewater. The Saints have Drew Brees and it would be 2020 before his current deal expires IF the Saints move on. Also, the organization likes Taysom Hill as a developmental option. Bridgewater was good and not great early in his career before injuries pressed the pause button, but is he worth holding a spot for outside of deep QB-premium formats where 60+ quarterbacks are rostered? The short answer is no.
Why: Turbin came back to a minimal role following his suspension and even with Marlon Mack out barely saw the field. His reasons for pessimism are similar to Marlon Mack's in the above section and even more so as Mack would have the upper hand over Turbin when both are healthy.
Why: Patterson is owned in 22% of leagues and, like Phillip Dorsett, is being squeezed for snaps now that the Patriots are at full strength in the passing game. Patterson was already seeing almost exclusively manufactured touches, but now he is sunk to a season-low 12% of snaps in Week 5 with no uptick situational factors in sight. Outside of the deepest of best ball leagues, Patterson is a drop recommendation and may be running out of time in the NFL by 2019 as well.
Why: Kroft was one of the bigger pickup recommendations of last week globally, but it was a gamble. Independent of Kroft's Week 5 foot injury, C.J. Uzomah was running more routes and Kroft was more of the blocker even when Tyler Eifert was healthy. Streaming tight end seekers can move on this week even if spending some of their waiver capital on Kroft a week ago as Uzomah is the Bengals option to roster and foot injuries are tricky to navigate.