Fantasy Overview: Week 5

Get yourself caught up on what's going on in the league as we enter Week 5 of the NFL season. Here's my take on the fantasy landscape around the league and how you can benefit. 

Can you believe that we are a quarter of the way through the season already? In fantasy terms we're even further, considering most league's playoffs start in Week 14. For those of you with a 4-0 record and you have Tom Brady coming back this week - all the power to you.

This week's edition is more for those that are 0-4, 1-3 or 2-2. I'll take a look at some struggling players from each position and let you know what you should do with them. These do not include any players who have have missed multiple games with an injury. 

Quarterback
 

Russell Wilson, SEA

Current rank:19th
Drafted as: QB1. 
Opponents played: MIA, at LA, SF, at NYJ
Record: 3-1
Upcoming schedule: BYE, ATL, at ARI, at NO, BUF 

Russell Wilson has played through a mid grade high ankle sprain and an MCL sprain. He is coming off a 300-yard game with 3 touchdown passes at the Jets. This week he'll have a chance to rest with a Week 5 bye. I'm not that concerned about him at all. He may not reach Top 5 status by the end of the year, but he should jump up in the rankings provided he stays healthy. He's a hold and buy candidate for me. 

Result: Hold & Buy

Eli Manning, NYG

Current rank:21
Drafted as: Late QB1
Opponents played: at DAL, NO, WAS, at MIN
Record: 2-2
Upcoming schedule: at GB, BAL, at LA, BYE, PHI

Eli Manning was a popular draft selection after the Top 7-8 quarterbacks went off the board. Many thought he would have strong numbers by default, simply due to Odell Beckham's presence. He has had three games with 1 touchdown or less this season - one of those was against the Saints. At home! The Giants have struggled to put up points, averaging 18 per game. Losing Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen to injury has hurt their rhythm, but Jennings (thumb) is expected to be back soon enough. I do think Manning will rebound (as will Beckham) but I wouldn't go out of my way to target him in a trade. Hang on to him for now, but if you have a better option to start, consider it. 

Result: Hold

Carson Palmer, ARI

Current rank:16
Drafted as: Late QB1
Opponents played: NE, TB, at BUF, LA
Record: 1-3
Upcoming schedule: at SF, NYJ, SEA, at CAR, BYE

The Cardinals are 1-3 so far and Carson Palmer's play is a big reason why. He suffered a concussion in Week 4 and may not be available for the Thursday night game at San Francisco as a result. Palmer started off with 5 touchdown passes in the first two games, but he has only 1 in the last two. He has struggled with accuracy lately, often underthrowing deep balls, throwing behind receivers and generally being off on his timing. It's possible he could bounce back, but this could also be an indicator that the soon-to-be 37 year old quarterback is wearing down. The needle is pointing more down on Palmer than up. I'd consider selling Palmer or at least benching him for a better option. 

Result: Bench (sell)


Running Back
 

JAMES WHITE, NE

Current rank:40 (PPR)
Drafted as: RB2/RB3
Opponents played: at ARI, MIA, HOU, BUF
Record: 3-1
Upcoming schedule: at CLE, CIN, at PIT, at BUF, BYE

Many people had visions of James White occupying the Dion Lewis role for the Patriots, but New England had other ideas for the offense while Tom Brady served his four-game suspension. LeGarrette Blount became the driving force for the Patriots rushing game, leaving White and his pass-catching abilities in a state of holding - that is until Tom Brady arrives, which is now. It's never a foregone conclusion what New England will do on offense and who will benefit the most. Remember Jonas Gray? Dion Lewis is not eligible to return until Week 7 and we still don't know if and when he'll be back for sure. Now that Tom Brady is returning to the offense, White could see his role increased, which could lead to an every week start in your lineup. 

Result: Hold (buy)

Todd Gurley, LA

Current rank:26 (PPR)
Drafted as: RB1
Opponents played: at SF, SEA, at TB, at ARI
Record: 3-1
Upcoming schedule: BUF at DET, NYG, BYE, CAR

Todd Gurley has only one productive game so far and that was at Tampa Bay where he ran for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries. Every other game he rushed for 47, 51 and 33 yards. The Rams offense has struggled, but optimists would say they struggled last year and Gurley still reached 1,100 yards rushing. On the positive side, through four games last year, Gurley was ranked 59th and he had only 155 yards rushing. His 216 yards rushing so far is ahead of last year's pace. There is definitely the possibility of a turnaround and improvement.  

Result: Buy

Lamar Miller, HOU

Current rank:19 (PPR)
Drafted as: RB1
Opponents played: CHI, KC, at NE, TEN
Record: 3-1
Upcoming schedule: at MIN, IND, at DEN, DET, BYE

Lamar Miller has 93 carries, which is second in the league. He is averaging a less-than-stellar 3.8 yards per carry and he has yet to score a rushing touchdown. Volume is a key ingredient in fantasy success, but in Miller's case, it's not the determining factor. If he had two touchdowns, it would put him in the Top 10, so he's not that far off from being a reliable back. The two matchups at Minnesota and at Denver in the next three weeks will be a challenge, so if you're looking to target him in trades, waiting a few weeks may be the best option. 

Result: Hold, buy in a few weeks

Wide Receiver

 

GOLDEN TATE, DET

Current rank:84 (PPR)
Drafted as: WR2
Opponents played: at IND, TEN, at GB, at CHI
Record: 1-3
Upcoming schedule: PHI, LA, WAS, at HOU, at MIN

Golden Tate was drafted ahead of Marvin Jones Jr in most drafts, despite the Lions coaches in the preseason saying that Jones is looking like the WR1 in the offense. Tate is coming off back to back 90+ catch seasons. to see him struggle like he is, in four good matchups is concerning. He has 14 receptions in four games which is 5th on the team. Interestingly enough, he's tied for 2nd on the team in targets with 26. Detroit is keeping their passing game close to the line of scrimmage, with the exception being Marvin Jones Jr on deep routes. They have lost three straight games with that philosophy, so maybe they will change things up a bit, but until then, Tate is not worthy of being in your lineup. He's not injured which makes it hard to bench him, but in this case it's necessary until/if he turns it around. 

Result: hold

Randall Cobb, GB

Current rank:76 (PPR)
Drafted as: WR2
Opponents played: at JAC, at MIN, DET, BYE
Record: 2-1
Upcoming schedule: NYG, DAL, CHI, at ATL, IND

Randall Cobb has scored only two touchdowns since Week 3 last year. Many thought he would rebound this season, especially with Jordy Nelson coming back and occupying the WR1 role for the team. That would give Cobb more opportunities in the slot, where he has thrived in the past. He thrives when he can run after the catch and so far this season, the Packers haven't utilized him in that capacity. His catches are contested and he's quickly being tackled. Jacksonville and Minnesota did a decent job of keeping him in check. The Detroit game unfolded to a more rush-dominated second half where Cobb was rarely used. He has the talent and the ability to thrive, and we know he has the quarterback who can give him opportunities. As bleak as it looks now for Cobb, I like his chances of turning it around and becoming a relevant fantasy receiver again. 

Result: Hold, buy

DeSean Jackson, WAS

Current rank:40 (PPR)
Drafted as: WR3
Opponents played: PIT, DAL, at NYG, CLE
Record: 2-2
Upcoming schedule: at BAL, PHI, at DET, at CIN

DeSean Jackson is not one to have 75+ receptions in a season, but he is known for his high yards per catch and long touchdowns. In a healthy season, he can reach upwards of 8-9 touchdowns. So far he has avoided the injury bug, but he's still struggling to find consistency. He's had two good games and two bad games this year. Anytime a bad game comes after a good game, it kills your confidence in playing him the following week. A cycle of uncertainty is formed, which is exactly where we are with him now. The emergence of Jamison Crowder has added a new mouth to feed in the offense which is taking away Jackson's target shares. Washington has four top receivers in Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon. All have 25+ targets. At this time, I recommend keeping Jackson, but when he has a big yardage game or two-score game, try to upgrade him at the position. 

Result: Hold (sell after big game)

Alshon Jeffery, CHI

Current rank:34 (PPR)
Drafted as: WR1/WR2
Opponents played: PIT, DAL, at NYG, CLE
Record: 2-2
Upcoming schedule: at BAL, PHI, at DET, at CIN

Alshon Jeffery has been battling knee and hamstring injuires this season, which has limited his abilities as a fantasy producer. Perhaps the biggest reason for his slide down the ranks has been the quarterback situation. After Brian Hoyer took over for Jay Cutler (thumb), the Bears began to focus more on short to intermediate ranged passes and it has affected Jeffery's production. Hoyer isn't the gunslinger that Cutler is, but when Cutler went away, so did the longer plays that made Alshon Jeffery a star in this league. Hoyer isn't incapable of making longer throws, but it's not his strong suit, plus John Fox appreciates a more conservative offense. We may not see Jay Cutler again unless Hoyer gets injured. Hoyer's presence means more shorter passes that will go to Eddie Royal and Zach Miller. Jeffery should still get some target share, but he may not see a lot of big throws, at least not with Hoyer. If the Bears determine to keep Hoyer at quarterback, consider moving Jeffery, preferably after a strong game. Keep in mind, he could still have complications from those lingering injuries.

UPDATE: Kevin White has been placed on IR (ankle) and cannot return until Week 13 at the earliest. This means Jeffery's target share has improved. Until I see how he'll be used, and which quarterback will be the starter, he's in a holding tank for me. The player that interests me the most is Eddie Royal

Result: Hold. Wait and see mode

Jeremy Maclin, KC

Current rank:32 (PPR)
Drafted as: WR2
Opponents played: SD, at HOU, NYJ, at PIT
Record: 2-2
Upcoming schedule: BYE, at OAK, NO, at IND JAC

For Jeremy Maclin, his value is determined by his ability to score touchdowns. He scored 18 touchdowns combined in 2014 and 2015. So far this year he has one score. His 37 targets leads the team by far (next closest is Travis Kelce with 29). The volume is there, but he needs to find the end zone. Looking at the next few games (after this week's bye), the schedule opens up in his favor. Consider sending an offer to the Maclin owner in your league. He may be a bit fed up with his inconsistencies. Now's the time to buy. 

Result: Buy now with a discount, especially on his bye week

brandon marshall (36th) DeAndre Hopkins (30th) Amari Cooper (29th), Odell Beckham (27th)

Buy these guys while you can. All are expected to rebound and jump into the Top 20 or higher. Marshall is going to see an increase in targets with Eric Decker (shoulder) out for an extended period. DeAndre Hopkins is is the one I'm concerned with the most of this group, but he should still rebound. The addition of Will Fuller is taking away from the number of targets he had last year. Let's face it, Fuller is a better receiver than Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts, who were Hopkins' main competition for targets in 2015. Buy him if the price is right. Don't overspend on someone who's outlook doesn't look as appealing as it did last season. Amari Cooper is the future of the Raiders receiving corps, he just needs to make plays in the end zone. I don't expect the team to continue to put up strong numbers and not have him contribute. Michael Crabtree and Cooper can both be fantasy relevant receivers. I expect Cooper to improve in the coming weeks. Odell Beckham will find his groove soon enough, and when he does we will all want to be on board. 

Tight End
 

Dwayne Allen, IND

Current rank:21 (PPR)
Drafted as: Late TE1
Opponents played: DET, at DEN, SD, at JAC
Record: 1-3
Upcoming schedule: CHI, at HOU, at TEN, KC, at GB

The thought process this year was the Dwayne Allen would assume the TE1 role with the Colts and be a major target for Andrew Luck, who loves to utilize his tight ends in the offense. The Colts under Luck, have thrived with a two tight end set. In the past it was Allen and Coby Fleener. Jack Doyle has taken over the Fleener role and put a squash on any dominating opportunities for Allen. You could say Doyle has outplayed Allen at this point, thus making both receivers decent options, but neither strong fantasy plays. Allen has dropped into the TE2 ranks and is not someone you can count on in your weekly lineup. Unless an injury shakes things up, it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. 

Result: bench or drop

Gary Barnidge, CLE

Current rank:17 (PPR)
Drafted as: TE1
Opponents played: at PHI, BAL, at MIA, at WAS
Record: 0-4
Upcoming schedule: NE, at TEN, at CIN, NYJ, DAL

The Browns have been hit hard with injuries and bad luck, which has made it difficult on the offense to produce. If it was not for Terrelle Pryor, where would the Browns be?  Even with his emergence, Cleveland is 0-4 a quarter of the way into the season. Gary Barnidge started off with a goose egg in Week 1, but he has slowly started to climb back into the fold as one of the Browns go-to receivers. Barnidge was the 4th ranked tight end last year and now it's looking like 2016 will be a much lower year for Barnidge, simply because the Browns are struggling to score points. Hopefully Josh McCown can help with that when he returns in another week or so. Hold onto Barnidge for the time being and consider acquiring him if you can get him cheap. 

Result: Bench. Buy if you can stash him

Delanie Walker, TEN

Current rank:15 (PPR)
Drafted as: TE1
Opponents played: MIN, at DET, OAK, at HOU
Record: 1-3
Upcoming schedule: at MIA, CLE, IND, JAC, at SD

Delanie Walker missed a game due to a hamstring injury, but in the three games he was active, he had only one big game. The Titans offense is driven by their running game, while the passing offese take a back seat. Only the Browns, Cowboys and Bengals have fewer passing touchdowns than Tennessee (4) through four games. Tennessee does not have a true WR1 on their team. Tajae Sharpe has yet to rise to the occasion and Rishard Matthews doesn't look like he fits the bill as the primary receiver. That leaves Walker as the default target hog for Marcus Mariota. The upcoming schedule looks appealing for the Titans, thus making Walker someone I would try to go after. Perhaps his owner is less than pleased. Walker has nowhere to go but up. If he can stay healthy, he should finish in the Top 6-8. 

Result: Buy

 

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to haseley@footballguys.com