We're halfway through the fantasy season. If your teams have been wildly successful, it's time to plan ahead for the stretch run. If your teams are struggling, it may be time for desperate measures in order to make every week count.
With this in mind, let's examine what we think about these topics as we head into Week 7.
Potential Midseason Sliders
Matt Waldman: From the list below, explain which THREE players are most likely to suffer a midseason slide from their status as top fantasy producers at their respective positions.
- WR D.J. Chark Jr
- WR Terry McLaurin
- WR Cooper Kupp
- WR Chris Godwin
- QB Patrick Mahomes II
- QB Lamar Jackson
- QB Matt Ryan
- RB Aaron Jones
- RB Derrick Henry
- RB Austin Ekeler
- TE Austin Hooper
- TE Mark Andrews
- TE Evan Engram
Who makes your shortlist?
Aaron Jones will suffer simply because of Jamaal Williams’ return to the offense. Jones won’t enjoy the kind of volume he got with Williams out. This offense continues to be a timeshare, and though that is frustrating for the “Free Aaron Jones” crowd, it’s just how the Packers choose to deploy their personnel.
Derrick Henry’s offense has ground to a halt, so he’s also one to tab for regression after a hot start. He’s a runner who gets stronger with rhythm. The Titans don’t have the luxury of establishing the run on most weeks.
Jeff Pasquino: The biggest constant in the NFL is change. The biggest changes are those that come from players returning to a lineup and impacting the offense and players around them. With that in mind, here are the top choices from the list for me.
Engram jumps off of this list for me, as the Giants have been decimated in their passing attack this season. Across the board, New York has had change after change. Their Week 1 lineup featured Eli Manning and Saquan Barkley, and injuries to Sterling Shepard and Barkley along with Golden Tate's suspension for the first four games of the year left Engram as the top receiving option most weeks.
Engram missed Week 6 (Patriots) but should be back and dominant against the Cardinals this week - and if you have a need at another position (and have depth at tight end), trading Engram at his peak may return you a strong RB or WR option.
Engram will still likely finish as a TE1 for the season, but that speaks more to the lack of depth this year at tight end than as a strong likelihood to remain a Top 5 (or better) tight end. Golden Tate and Barkley will eat into his production, as will tougher opponents.
The Chargers are not playing well right now, as shown by a lackluster performance against Pittsburgh, but the bigger takeaways were how Los Angeles was moving the ball against the Steelers. Tight end Hunter Henry returned to action after starting the season on IR, and Melvin Gordon III had more snaps (37) than Ekeler (28).
Both of these point towards more involvement in the passing game for Henry and more carries for Gordon, both of which impact Ekeler's value in a negative way. Ekeler will still have value, but much more as an RB2 or flex option with Gordon getting more opportunities in the backfield and Henry getting more targets in the passing game.
Green Bay wants to have balance on offense, and that comes from less Aaron Rodgers and the passing game and more from running the ball. With the defense playing well and with Davante Adams and Jamaal Williams knocked out in Week 4 against Philadelphia, the door was wide open for Jones to build on his three touchdown start for the first three weeks and rack up the numbers.
Jones delivered to the tune of five more scores the past two weeks, but Monday Night Football against Detroit told a different story. Sure, Adams was still out, but Williams (14-104-0 rushing, 4-32-1 receiving, 5 targets) had more work than Jones (11-47-0 rushing, 4-13-0 on 7 targets).
I expect both Jones and Williams to split duties in the backfield with both healthy again, as both had nearly the same number of snaps for Green Bay the first three weeks of the season. Jones will move down towards a lower RB1 or high RB2 going forwards as Williams gets more work and establishes himself as an RB3 or flex with upside each week.
Jason Wood: Matt you picked a fascinating group for regression because most of them have actually faced difficult schedules, to date. The easiest schedule among the quarterbacks has been Patrick Mahomes II; his opponents are giving up 10 percent more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the league average. Ryan's schedule has been 4 percent easier than average, and Jackson's schedule has been 6 percent harder than average.
The running backs are a risky bunch, even if they haven't benefited from easy schedules thus far. Derrick Henry is stuck in the miasma of a sputtering Titans offense that made Ryan Tannehill as its starter. Henry is a one-dimensional player and is more beholden to a positive game script than other top-flight fantasy running backs. He's a concern. It's also hard to argue with my colleagues about Ekeler. Ekeler's days atop the fantasy rankings are gone until Melvin Gordon III gets hurt or moves to a new team.
One name worth calling out is Austin Hooper. The Falcons have faced an obscenely easy schedule so far in terms of tight end defense. On average, their opponents have allowed 14 percent more fantasy points per game than the league.
Sean Settle: We have seen some players got off to fast starts this season and are producing at an unsustainable level. There are a few names on this list that will likely suffer a slide for one reason or another. Whether it be another player returning from injury, a tougher schedule, or just performing at a level that the data does not support for a full season.
Ekeler is the first name that jumps off this list and it is easy to see why. With the return of Melvin Gordon III, we have seen a steep decline in recent weeks. Ekeler has just 8 carries in the past 2 games and 21 rushing yards to show for it. He will continue to be valuable in PPR formats but will not see enough work overall to justify an RB1 status. The Chargers have no reason to save Gordon and will most likely run him into the ground before he leaves in free agency.
Engram has produced at a very high level to start this season, but he has had a lot of things working in his favor. With Golden Tate suspended and injuries to Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley Engram has seen a high volume of targets. Engram is also dealing with a knee injury of his own that ruled him out of last week’s game against the Patriots. Expect Engram to feast this week against the Cardinals but then scale back as other players for the Giants eat into his targets. He may still finish as a top 10 tight end in a very weak class this year, but he is in for a slide in production as other skill players come back for the Giants.
McLaurin has benefitted from being the only real option in the Redskins offense to start the season. He has seen at least seven targets in every game he has played this season. He also has two 100-yard games and a touchdown in every game except for against New England.
Washington should have plenty of garbage time opportunities this year, but McLaurin is performing well outside of his norm. He has made the most of his opportunity and cashed in with touchdowns this season but that is not a sustainable stat. As the touchdowns start to dry up, McLaurin is going to fall back down in the rankings.
Bob Henry: Let’s take a closer look at Jones, Ekeler and Engram. All three have outstanding ceilings as they’ve shown already this season. However, each player faces increased competition for touches in the second half of the season.
Jones demonstrated what he can do when the team feeds him the ball in a featured capacity. Without Davante Adams and Jamaal Williams in the fold, Jones carried the Packers offense and produced strong RB1 numbers.
With Williams back to health, the Packers reverted right back to a committee, or hot-hand, approach with Williams slightly out-touching Jones during Monday night’s “win” over the Lions. When Adams returns, the Packers will surely focus a chunk of their offense towards him as their No.1 playmaker. Jones has RB1 talent, but the Packers don’t seem willing to commit to him consistently in that manner.
Ekeler’s touches crashed last week with Melvin Gordon III fully back into the lineup. As long as both backs are healthy, there is no chance for Ekeler to maintain consistent RB1 production.
In fact, both backs will have a difficult time producing consistent RB1 production while either one could have weekly spikes. The return of Hunter Henry further waters down their target share in the passing game putting both of them in the RB2 range, which is a big step back for Ekeler after he produces elite RB1 numbers in the first six weeks while Gordon was away from the team.
For Engram, it’s all about getting/staying healthy and target share. Engram has been an upper-tier TE1 until sitting out Week 6, but that was without Golden Tate and (for a shorter stretch) Saquon Barkley. Both players are either back or expected back quickly, while Engram also has to return to 100 percent.
When Daniel Jones took over for Eli Manning, he brought some new capabilities to the offense, effectively breathing new life into what had become a stagnant unit with Eli. Even so, Jones will endure growing pains and the overall pie that represents the Giants's offensive and fantasy potential may prove to be inconsistent or streak the rest of the way.
It remains to be seen if Engram can sustain his targets, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll take a small hit that could push him down into the lower half of TE1s as Henry rejoins the group, Cook gains momentum and others like T.J. Hockenson improve and add to the TE1 overall depth.
Will Grant: McLaurin seems like an easy choice here because the Washington offense is a pile of question marks and McLaurin is still a rookie wide receiver on a bad offense. Last week against Miami, McLaurin torched the Dolphins, but it was on a week where Paul Richardson Jr didn't have a catch and Trey Quinn had just two receptions. As Washington faces tougher competition, I expect McLaurin to become a much more average fantasy receiver - somewhere in the WR3 / flex option at best.
Hooper has more receptions and receiving yards than Julio Jones? Yeah, we saw that coming. Hooper has 'regression' written all over him and he's a perfect 'sell high' candidate right now. The Falcons are 1-5 for a lot of reasons, but fixing that almost certainly involves seeing more of Jones and Calvin Ridley and less of Hooper.
The Giants are clearly not going to challenge anyone this season, and with Saquan Barkley back in the lineup, his opportunities are going to fall even further. He sat out against the Patriots last week, but he had two very average games the two weeks before that against Washington and Minnesota. Engram finishes as a fantasy TE1 this season, but he'll be at the bottom of the top 10 rather than in the #3-#5 spot that most were hoping for.
Jeff Haseley: The return of Melvin Gordon III hurts both parties here. It's possible that both could thrive with decent to above-average weekly production, but the way the Chargers are playing and their offensive line woes being a concern, it's looking more and more like both Ekeler and Gordon will struggle to be fantasy successes this season.
The presence of Jamaal Williams definitely puts a fly in the ointment for Aaron Jones. From a volume perspective, we should see mixed carry shares, as well as goal line, looks. I don't trust Green Bay with fantasy running backs, to begin with, and now it's looking like a committee approach will keep them both grounded. Unless an injury opens up a single rushing threat, Jones is mired in inconsistency.
Looking at Baltimore's schedule, they have one favorable pass defense opponent for the rest of the year - at Cincinnati Week 10. Plus, can we really expect Jackson to stay healthy with the constant usage he's receiving? He's on pace for 3,500 passing and 1,000 rushing which seems difficult to sustain. He's a sell-high player for me.