“What a long strange trip it’s been.”
And the best part? It’s only Week 5.
Undoubtedly, Week 5 was a weird one. This week we saw:
- Colts activating injured players to reach their required 46-man game-day roster
- Giants lose on a game-winning 60+ yard field goal for the second time in two years
- Julio Jones go catch-less through three quarters in a premier matchup
- Odell Beckham Jr.’s first TD of the season come as a throw, not a catch
- Isaiah Crowell goes for 200+ yards on the ground
- The Bills win another game
At the risk of sounding cliché, I guess that’s the beauty of football – that on any given Sunday, anything is possible. We can research and prepare each week for hours on end, only to watch Eric Ebron come out of nowhere to hang 9 for 105 yards and 2 TDs on us [insert a lifetime supply of expletives here].
With that, we continue our analysis of looking at players’ values and forecasting the immediate future. Last week, we concentrated on touchdown regression, and with another week under our belts, we can start to look a little more into strength of schedule.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Allen is consistently averaging nine targets per game on the season (between seven and 11 in every game), and we know from previous seasons he’s capable of games with spiked target totals of even higher. He has only one receiving TD, while the two running backs, Gordon and Ekeler, have a combined six (!). The touchdowns should even out somewhat moving forward. Allen is on pace for a 100+ catch season as no other pass-catcher for the Chargers has emerged to steal a significant share of the targets. And there’s nothing scary about his next four matchups: Cleveland, Tennessee, Seattle and Oakland.
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Cleveland Browns Passing Game: The Browns just battled with a stout Baltimore defense that got Jimmy Smith back from suspension. These “buys” are all about the upcoming schedule: Chargers, Buccaneers, Steelers, Chiefs, Falcons - for a passing game, it doesn’t get much better than that.
- David Njoku - Full disclosure: I went close to "all-in" on Njoku in drafts, so this might simply be me justifying that move. However, with the TE landscape as bleak as it is, Njoku could be an interesting trade target since he seems to be *slowly* heating up. In Mayfield's 2.5 games played, Njoku has seen increasing targets (2 -> 7 -> 11), catches (2 -> 5 -> 6) and yards (36 -> 52 -> 69). Week 5's stat line of six catches for 79 yards is not bad against Baltimore's trio of C.J. Mosely, Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. His upward trend should continue with the upcoming schedule mentioned above. I think he’s worth a look – you shouldn’t have to give up much, and he could have solid weekly upside in a position that is not known for consistency.
- Jarvis Landry - He should also be very productive through the easy upcoming schedule. Albeit inconsistent, Landry has produced respectable numbers thus far - he’s averaging a career-high 13 yards per catch and has seen double digit targets in four of his five weeks. I fully expect his target share and resulting production to continue or increase as the season progresses.
- Baker Mayfield - This is for 2-QB leagues, but Mayfield makes a for a great low-key trade target with the upcoming schedule.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs: Tyreek is best described as the hypothetical fantasy love-child of Wes Welker’s floor and vintage DeSean Jackson’s ceiling. He obviously has the lid-lifting speed that can make his fantasy day in one play, but that reputation allows him to eat up soft coverage underneath all game long if defenses choose to play him that way. These past three weeks, we’ve probably seen Hill’s floor – he’s been quiet (by his standards), so this could be the right time to buy before potential fireworks against New England (which currently has an over/under in the upper 50s). He just did battle the past two weeks with elite corners in Chris Harris and Jalen Ramsey and put up admirable numbers. Also, the KC defense (for once) did a lot of the work against Jacksonville this past week.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: A holdover from last week’s column - if you look up “inexplicable phenomena” in the dictionary right now, the definition would likely be “Julio Jones going three quarters without a catch in Week 5.” Even after this week’s modest stat line, Julio is averaging a very respectable 113 yards per game and is on pace for over 1,800 yards this season, and in my opinion, there’s no reason to believe he can’t hit that mark. The trade window may slam shut soon on Jones, as he’s a premier bounceback candidate for his tasty Week 6 matchup versus the Buccaneers.
Other "buys" to consider
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: I’m doubling down on Boyd - see last week’s article, but for a bigger discount after this week’s surprisingly modest performance. His next three games are versus the Steelers, Chiefs and Buccaneers, so Boyd should be busy.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions: Johnson is easily the most talented RB on Detroit – we just have to hope that Matt Patricia figures that out sooner rather than later. He’s also heading into his bye this week, which could lower his cost to acquire.
John Brown, WR, Ravens: “Smokey” was putting up solid, consistent production but on a modest number of targets. This week, he saw 14 targets but it was his quietest stat line - go figure. The hope is that he can put it all together down the stretch.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets: This one may be fairly obvious, fresh off a 219 (!) yard rushing game, but we can feel confident that the Jets will not be blowing teams out every week. Even with ideal game script for Crowell, he was still out-touched by Bilal Powell 20-16. In the previous three games (all of which were Jets losses), Crowell averaged a paltry 2.16 yards per carry. If other fantasy owners in your league are skeptical, you can try to ride Crowell for one more week as the Jets host the epically banged up Colts in Week 6 before the schedule toughens up significantly against the Vikings, at Bears and at Dolphins, who Crowell totaled just 39 scoreless yards against in Week 2.
Baltimore Ravens running backs: Alex Collins and Javorius Allen are splitting work in a near-even committee. While Collins is averaging a full yard-per-carry more than Allen on the ground, Allen catches more passes and seems to be Harbaugh’s favorite for goal line work (likely due to Collins’ fumbling issues). Perhaps Collins is lucky to have even scored three times in the first five weeks, and Allen will really put a dent in your lineup if he doesn't score a touchdown (like in Weeks 4 and 5). In the next four weeks, the Ravens face the Titans, Saints, Panthers and Steelers - all teams that are top-12 in preventing fantasy points to opposing running backs entering Week 5. If you can, rid yourself of either of these headaches.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: If you’ve been playing fantasy football for the last decade, then you are very familiar with DJax’s boom-or-bust weekly production. DJax eclipsed 100 receiving yards in three out of the four Buccaneers’ games before the bye, so he should have trade value. You can also use the fact that he’s already had his bye as a selling point. DJax is still, at best, the No. 2 option in the Bucs' passing game, as he and Chris Godwin both have 22 targets, while Mike Evans is obviously far ahead as the No. 1 option with 39 targets. DJax hasn’t played more than 62% of snaps in the first four weeks as he rotates with Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries. His big games should become less consistent, especially because it’s unlikely Jameis Winston replicates those first three “Fitzmagical” weeks the Bucs' passing game had.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: You drafted Thomas because the passing game was expected, once again, to flow almost exclusively through him and Emmanuel Sanders, and you were hoping Case Keenum would carry over some of his 2017 success from Minnesota. Keenum has been #notgood, Courtland Sutton has siphoned just over five targets per game, and the running game is better than expected with the duo of Phillip Lindsey and Royce Freeman. Demaryius is coming off a productive game (5-105-1), but a 42-yard touchdown came deep into garbage time. Demaryius does have a good matchup in Week 6 as Denver will likely have to pass a lot to keep up with the Rams, and Sutton did leave Week 5 with an injury. So either ride him out one more week, or use the matchup and Sutton’s injury in your trade negotiations.