After a week of being a Negative Nellie, I am back to my normal, fun-loving self. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and my fantasy teams are finding new and inventive ways to crush my soul. The world is back in order.
All that positivity has bled into this week’s Stock Up, Stock Down. There were still some bad performances that may have cost me a shilling or two – really Michael Crabtree? – but ultimately it was a pretty good week. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts.
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Ben Tate showed no ill effects from the sprained knee that sidelined him for two weeks on Sunday. He rumbled for 123 yards on 22 carries, and at times looked unstoppable. It was an impressive performance, even if it came against the Titans.
The performance was not the real story, though. After some impressive games from rookie fill-ins Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, there was some concern the Cleveland backfield situation would turn into something of a committee. That was not the case on Sunday.
Tate rushed the ball 22 times while West and Crowell only saw seven and six carries respectively, and Tate played 50 snaps to 28 combined for West and Crowell. It was fairly clear Tate was the lead dog in the Browns’ backfield, and it is safe to assume that will remain the case until Tate is hurt again.
The last bit is the problem, though. Despite the strong performance, the sad reality is this is unlikely to last. Tate will almost certainly get hurt again, meaning both West and Crowell are holds in most leagues.
Full disclosure, I love Golden Tate. I think he is the best receiver after the catch in the NFL, and if not for a stern expression from my wife when I floated the idea, there would be a lovely portrait of him hanging in my bedroom.
That said my love for Tate has been vindicated over the last two weeks. With Calvin Johnson hobbled with an ankle injury, Tate has exploded for 15 catches for 250 yards and a touchdown. He has been a YAC monster in those two games, gaining 156 of those 250 yards after the catch. Only nine other players have more than 156 yards after the catch this entire season.
Johnson is likely out at least a week, meaning Tate should be looking at double-digit targets against the Vikings on Sunday. With his catch rate and YAC ability, that could mean big things. He is a borderline WR1 for Week 6, and will stay in that range as long as Megatron is out.
Rashad Jennings was cruising to another big day before a sprained knee sent him to the sidelines early in the third quarter. Enter Andre Williams, who played on 31 of the Giants final 37 plays and rushed 18 times in the final two quarters. He only managed 3.25 yards per carry, but ran angry and consistently got more yards than what was blocked.
The workload after Jennings left was helped by the Giants being in clock-killing mode through most of the fourth quarter, but it is a very promising indication that Williams will be the Giants unquestioned lead back while Rashad Jennings is sidelined, as he is almost certain to be this week.
Williams may only get two starts, but he will be a solid RB2 against the Eagles and Cowboys. He is one of the better waiver wire adds this week.
Montee Ball left the Broncos’ Week 5 games against the Cardinals in the third quarter with a groin injury that will reportedly sideline him at least two weeks. It is a tough blow in what is quickly turning into a bust season for Ball. Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and this particular one will allow us to see what Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson can do in the Denver backfield.
With Anderson inactive against the Cardinals, Hillman got the first crack at the lead-back role and looked pretty good. He rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries (4.3 YPC) against a very impressive Cardinals run defense, with 14 of those carries coming after Ball went down.
It is hard to believe Hillman will just be handed the reins, though. We have already seen the Broncos try to make Hillman the lead dog several times, but he always ends up playing his way out of the job. The Broncos have repeatedly referred to Hillman as a “change-of-pace guy” since drafting him, and it is not inconceivable he falls back into that role even with Ball out.
If that happens, Anderson would step into the void. Anderson is better suited to the lead role than Hillman, and has run well in limited opportunities this season. It is concerning he was inactive against the Cardinals, but I would still bet on Anderson getting a decent share of the carries with Ball out.
Rookie Juwan Thompson is worth a mention, but he will likely play behind Anderson and Hillman.
Branden Oliver had himself a day against the New York Jets. He rushed 19 times for 114 yards and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 68 yards and another score. He saw extensive playing time after Donald Brown left with a concussion in the first half, and made the most of it against a very tough Jets run defense.
With Ryan Mathews due back soon, it would be easy to dismiss Oliver as nothing more than a one-week fantasy play, albeit a very good one with the Raiders next on the schedule. I believe he can be more than that.
It is easy to compare Oliver with Darren Sproles because of the size, San Diego connection and jersey number, but it is not an awful comparison. Sproles never played in this Chargers’ offense, but it is not a stretch to think a similar player could thrive in the role formally occupied by Danny Woodhead. Woodhead had 1,034 total yards and eight total touchdowns in 2013.
I would expect Oliver to at least get some of that work even when Ryan Mathews returns, and that gives him the possibility of fantasy value for the rest of the season. At the very least, he should be a solid starting option this week against the Raiders.
It still is not clear if Kyle Orton will give the Bills a better chance to win than E.J. Manuel, but it is fairly clear he will give rookie Sammy Watkins a much better shot at fantasy relevance. Orton targeted Watkins 12 times against the Lions on Sunday, and was able to get him the ball seven times for 87 yards.
To be fair, Watkins seeing that many targets is not new. Watkins has 40 targets over the last four weeks, and is clearly the No. 1 receiver in Buffalo. The real difference is Orton was able to get Watkins the ball more effectively than Manuel had in previous weeks.
Watkins will be up and down like any rookie wide out, but he looks poised to be a high-volume receiver all year. With Orton under center, he should be a solid WR3 moving forward.
Ahmad Bradshaw scored four receiving touchdowns in the span of three weeks and ranked in the top-five of fantasy backs, but never once made it to this list. Why? Because receiving touchdowns are fluky, and despite his solid play Bradshaw was still being out-touched by Trent Richardson.
That changed this week. For the first time this season Bradshaw saw more work than Richardson, and was on the field for one more snap. Whether that was by design or just a game-flow anomaly is up for debate, but it could be a monumental shift in the Colts’ backfield situation.
Bradshaw is still more of an RB3/FLEX play until we get some clarity, but I am much more hopeful now Bradshaw will become a weekly 15-plus touch back.
Stash and See
These players may not be worthy of a start Week 6, but certainly are worthy of a roster spot.
Zac Stacy is reportedly fine, but Benny Cunningham needs to be owned. … Odell Beckham performed well in his NFL debut, and should see his role increase as he proves his worth. … George Winn looked solid filling in for an injured Joique Bell. With Reggie Bush and Bell both dealing with injuries, Winn could be in line for a start. … Taylor Gabriel has 18 targets through four weeks. … Storm Johnson was much more effective than Toby Gerhart, and saw the same number of carries. … Tim Wright only played 19 snaps, but broke out for 5-85-1. He could play his way into more work. … With Aaron Dobson apparently in the doghouse, Brian Tyms could develop into the go-to outside receiver for New England. He had 118 yards and two touchdowns on 11 preseason catches.
The good news is Doug Martin has improved his YPC in every game this season. The bad news is his 3.2 YPC against the Saints Week 5 was easily his highest of the year, and he is only averaging 2.5 yards a tote this season.
The numbers are bad, but I still have a hard time putting even most of the blame on Martin. Martin has found nowhere to run so far, and is consistently dealing with backfield penetration. 68 of Martin’s 91 rushing yards this season have come after contact. It is the third highest percentage among backs with at least 30 carries.
Wherever the blame lies for Martin’s lack of production, it is still lack of production. I do not see the offensive line markedly improving, and I imagine the coaching staff will try to get Bobby Rainey more involved if Martin continues to struggle. Martin will continue to be a borderline RB2 as the lead back, but his value is fading fast.
I was as high as anyone on Michael Crabtree before the season, but injury after injury have derailed his fantasy season thus far. The latest malady is a foot injury that limited Crabtree to 42 snaps against the Chiefs after he only managed 49 snaps against the Eagles the week before. Crabtree has 59 yards total over that span.
We saw what a healthy Crabtree can do in Weeks 2 and 3, but a healthy Crabtree has been very hard to find as of late. He is nothing more than a WR3 until he proves he is once again back to full strength, and it is fair to question how many games we will see a fully healthy Crabtree this season.
Toby Gerhart only rushed the ball four times and only played 10 snaps against the Steelers Week 5. He reportedly injured his foot on the second play of the game, but the reality is Gerhart has seen his share of the snaps steadily decrease over the first five weeks of the season.
Since seeing 50 snaps the first game of the season, Gerhart has seen his snap total fall by at least six snaps in every game. He was being passed on the depth chart by Denard Robinson even before the “injury,” and likely would have been passed by Storm Johnson eventually as well.
Gerhart may not be finished in this offense, but he is hanging on by a thread. Storm Johnson is a better stash at this point, and I have would have no problem dropping Gerhart in shallower leagues.
These players are unlikely to make any noise this season. They are not must drops, but can be replaced without worry.
Adrian Peterson is not going to play again this season. Drop him in redraft leagues. … Jason Witten is fine, but you could do better streaming. … Donald Brown may not play this week, and will lose any role once Ryan Mathews returns. … Cecil Shorts cannot get healthy, and likely will not be again this season. … Just like every week, please cut Danny Amendola.