As we enter Week 6 of the 2019 season, I want to share some tips, advice, and thoughts on various players, teams and situations. With all of the outlets and resources available in 2019, it is becoming more difficult to separate yourself from the rest of the pack when it comes to knowledge and strategy. To gain that extra edge, you have to make proactive moves that cash in, plan ahead, know your players' schedules, read helpful columns, and above all, execute the game plan for success. In no particular order, here are a few items that can help you gain that edge.
1. Be aware of players returning from injury, as well as players benefiting from an injury
- Sam Darnold, NYJ - Week 6 will be the return of Sam Darnold to the Jets lineup. Darnold has been out since Week 1 after coming down with Mono. Let's not forget, Darnold and the Jets narrowly lost to 4-1 Buffalo in Week 1 by a score of 17-16. Darnold connected with Jamison Crowder 14 times for 99 yards. Crowder becomes a person of interest now, and so does Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon. Don't forget about Herndon's return from a four-game suspension. The entire Jets offense gets a bump with Darnold's presence. Le'Veon Bell, who has stayed afloat thanks to 27 receptions in four games, may now add a few scores to his game logs. Darnold isn't Fantasy Jesus - he's not necessarily going to be the savior of your team or your season, however, he does bring a lift that will help each of the aforementioned players that were sitting on your bench, or on the wire, gathering dust.
- Hunter Henry, LAC - Henry suffered a tibial plateau fracture to his left knee in Week 1 and his return to the field has been unknown. That was until recently when news surfaced that Henry will try to return to practice this week with no clear understanding that he has been ruled out for Week 6. It's doubtful that he plays Week 6, but he'll return soon enough. The Chargers have been hit with injuries, namely Mike Williams (back/knee). Henry's return will be a welcomed addition for Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense.
- Sterling Shepard, NYG - Shepard's second concussion this season has opened the door for Golden Tate and rookie Darius Slayton. Usually, a repeat concussion in such a small time range means a player will be out multiple weeks. That's enough to consider the fantasy effect for Tate and Slayton who had 67% and 65% of the team's offensive snaps last week vs Minnesota (Shepard had 81%). Tate had only 3 catches for 13 yards, but don't forget, Tate has had at least 74 catches and 4 touchdowns in each of the last five seasons. He may not reach those numbers this year, due to the suspension, but that's behind him. All that matters now is what he does Weeks 6-17. As for Slayton, he has 5 targets in two of the last three games and he scored his first touchdown last week in the loss to Minnesota. Slayton has a good blend of speed, quickness, hands, and yards after the catch. He needed an opportunity to have a chance and he's getting it now.
- Tyreek Hill, KC - Patrick Mahomes II has thrown only one touchdown pass in the last 8 quarters. It could be due to a nagging ankle injury that doesn't seem to be going away, or it could be that teams are starting to realize how to defend the Chiefs. The return of a healthy and eager Tyreek Hill should help give the offense a lift.
- Drew Brees, NO - The return of Drew Brees (thumb) looks to be on the shorter end of the 6-8 week time range that he was initially given. He is not expected to play in Week 6, but it is becoming more possible that he'll be able to return before the Saints have their bye in Week 9. Teddy Bridgewater has been solid in Brees' absence winning each of the three games he has started. Bridgewater's success may result in Brees staying shelved through the bye week to be sure he's good and healthy for the stretch run. When Brees does return to the huddle, players like Ted Ginn Jr and Tre'Quan Smith stand to benefit. Ginn had 7-101 with Brees in Week 1, while Smith provided 2-26-1. Both are expected to see a lift in production upon his return, as will the entire Saints offense. Michael Thomas has performed well regardless of who plays quarterback, but he could reach greater heights with a big second half of the season.
- Saquon Barkley, NYG - It's possible that Barkley (right high ankle sprain), may return this week in time for the Thursday night game in New England. If he doesn't return this week, Jon Hilliman, undrafted free agent from Rutgers, will face off against the stingy Patriots defense. Barkley's medical assessment was 4-8 weeks and it's looking like his return may be closer to 4 than 8. If he returns this week, it will only be two games missed. There is a chance for re-injury if the ankle isn't stable enough, so there is some concern over whether or not to activate him. Barkley's return, if healthy, elevates the Giants offense, especially Daniel Jones. Defenses are keying in on Jones knowing the ground game isn't the same without Barkley. His return, even as a decoy, would surely help the offense become more productive. After New England, the Giants play Arizona, at Detroit, Dallas, and at NY Jets.
2. stay active on the waiver wire, but also see who others are dropping and be prepared to claim
- Be active on the waiver wire, targeting players who have a productive future, not just a one-game outing. How do you know the difference? Targets and snap counts will give a clue as to the player's involvement in the offense. You want players who have at least 65-70% of the team's offensive snaps and generally five targets or more, along with a good game to show for it. A.J. Brown has had two productive games this season, but he has not surpassed three receptions or five targets in any game. While those numbers may improve later in the year, you don't want to chase points hoping for the same the following week. Not only did you miss out on the player when he went off, but then you started him the following week and his outing was less than desirable.
- Target players who have risen in the depth chart due to an injury. Wayne Gallman is a good example of this. As is Demarcus Robinson, Auden Tate, Darrel Williams, and Raheem Mostert. This is also true for quarterbacks - Gardner Minshew, Daniel Jones, Teddy Bridgewater, and Kyle Allen have been good pickups for 2-quarterback leagues. Minshew is a borderline starter in 1-quarterback leagues.
- There are several different variations for obtaining players available on the waiver wire - there's your first come first serve waiver, which can be great if you're on the ball and ahead of your league-mates. You get the player you want and you don't have to outbid anyone else to claim that player. There's an order of rankings waiver order, which is not as good as first come first serve (FCFS), but it can still be a beneficial, and perhaps an easy way to get the players you want. When bidding becomes the process for obtaining players, you have to know how much you have to spend, what the maximum budget is for the season, and how important it is to acquire a player at all costs. Generally, spending in the early weeks of the season is the way to acquire coveted players, but saving your free agent budget could prove helpful later on when your starting running back gets hurt and you need his replacement - hopefully he's on the waiver wire.
- Be ready to pounce on players who are dropped. In some leagues, waivers are run after 10:00 pm and possibly later. This is the time to pounce on players when the activity level of your league-mates is lower. Those on the west coast can especially benefit from this. Let's say your league-mate wants to acquire the flavor of the week but he/she has to drop someone to keep the roster legal. That player dropped could be Alexander Mattison, Jamison Crowder, Curtis Samuel, Marvin Jones Jr, or someone even better. Be ready to pounce, especially if your league allows immediate acquisition of players who were recently dropped.
- Generally, fantasy teams only keep one defense on their roster (if your league includes team defenses). Be ready to scoop up a high-performing defense that was dropped due to a bye week, especially if you have the space on your roster to temporarily house two defenses. Buffalo and Chicago are on a bye this week and may be dropped. Buffalo has allowed 16, 14, 17, 16, and 7 points this year, and they play vs Miami Week 7, vs Washington Week 9, at Miami Week 11, among a few other favorable matchups. Chicago boasts one of the better defenses in the league, and while their schedule isn't as favorable as Buffalo's there's still value to be had if they are dropped.
3. Read articles
Footballguys produces a ton of weekly content. If you're reading this article, you also have access to these outstanding weekly must-read pieces, among others that we provide at Footballguys.
- UPGRADES, DOWNGRADES, AND WAIVER WIRE WONDERS - by Sigmund Bloom. This will tell you who you should target on the waiver wire, how much you should spend (if bidding), and a commentary on why players have been upgraded or downgraded. We do the work for you in this weekly piece. Posted weekly Monday late afternoon or early evening. If you're in IDP leagues, Aaron Rudnicki does the same for IDP players - IDP UPGRADES
- TRENDSPOTTING - by Ryan Hester. Ryan puts a lot of time into this weekly piece that showcases statistical and graphical trends that strongly benefit certain matchups for the coming week.
- THE TOP 10 - by Matt Waldman. Each week Matt shares 10 important facets of the game, that can be player-driven, coach-driven, scheme-driven, or just chronicling things he observed in last week's slate of games. Not only does he share his thoughts, but he uses video to explain how or why something caught his attention.
- SECOND OPINION - by Dr. Jene Bramel. Jene is a medical doctor with a great deal of knowledge on sports injuries. He provides updates on player injuries three times a week - Monday, midweek, and Gameday. It's a must-read if you're on the fence about the status of players on your team.
4. Target pre-emptive waiver pickups
What is a pre-emptive waiver pick up? Targeting a player on waivers where you don't have to spend much, if any, of your free agent budget. This generally occurs after waivers have gone through for the week. In some cases, if a player is highly coveted, you can target them using your free agent budget so you ensure you claim them.
These players are usually non-starters who could benefit in the coming weeks due to a matchup, impending coaching decision, increase in usage, or a general hunch that they will rise to fantasy relevance. Usually, these pickups are planned for future use as players that you can stash and wait for them to blossom into fantasy starters. Larger leagues or leagues with high roster spots are best for stashing players. Winning on a pre-emptive waiver claim makes the return on your investment a much sweeter experience, because it was you who decided to roll the dice on a player that turned into a gem. Examples of gems from this season include Will Dissly, D.J. Chark Jr, Marquise Brown, Demarcus Robinson, among others.
Pre-emptive waiver claim rankings Week 6
- Either one of Jamison Crowder, Robby Anderson WR, NYJ - the return of Sam Darnold will elevate their game.
- Hunter Henry TE, LAC - He'll be back soon and Los Angeles could use him on offense.
- DeSean Jackson WR, PHI - Looked great with Wentz in Week 1. Should be back soon from his abdominal injury.
- Devin Singletary RB, BUF - Has bye this week and faces Miami Week 7. Will push Frank Gore for more carries.
- Golden Tate or Darius Slayton WR, NYG - The injury to Sterling Shepard will mean more snaps for both. Tate has the edge in experience and pedigree.
- Buffalo Defense DEF, BUF - The Bills have a bye this week, so someone may drop them. They face Miami Week 7 and 11 and Washington Week 9. Also, look for Chicago Defense (on bye Week 6).
- Chase Edmonds RB, ARI - He plays Atlanta this week and would be a weekly starter with injury to David Johnson. Already has marginal value
- Byron Pringle WR, KC - Pringle played the Sammy Watkins role for the Chiefs in Week 5. Tyreek Hill's return could diminish Pringle's role, but his effort shouldn't be ignored.
- Mark Walton RB, MIA - Miami is looking for any edge they can get, and right now Kalen Ballage isn't the answer. Look for Walton to get a look soon.
- Reggie Bonnafon RB, CAR - Christian McCaffrey is the gold standard, but Bonnafon looks to be the clear backup, if he's ever needed.
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