Welcome to Week 6 of Lessons Learned! In this article, we break down ten important takeaways from the prior week in fantasy football, and what they could mean for your lineups moving forward.
If you learned anything from Week 6 that you think we should know, send us a comment or shoot me a tweet @FantasySensei! Without further ado, let’s dive into the fantasy classroom.
1. Saquon Good, Eli Bad
In case this one wasn’t already clear, Thursday Night Football was essentially the final straw. Saquon looked liked the generational talent the Giants drafted him to be, running for 130 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and adding 99 yards on 9 receptions. Meanwhile, Manning was 24-of-43, threw an interception, took 4 sacks, and finished with a passer rating of 66.1 and his third straight loss.
The fantasy implications are twofold. First, Saquon is a top 5 fantasy asset at this point (probably No. 1 in dynasty), and I would venture to say he actually outranks Melvin Gordon for No. 2 behind Todd Gurley. Second, Eli’s struggles are bad for Odell Beckham Jr. The only people whose tantrums could drown out OBJ’s are his fantasy owners, who are growing restless with his inconsistent performance and a single receiving touchdown. At this point, Beckham might be hard-pressed to overcome Eli’s struggles and hold elite WR1 value rest of season.
2. Right Now, You and I Could Catch TDs Versus the Falcons
Hey, I’m 6’2″, it could happen! Fine, not really, but the point remains true: this defense is horrifically bad. In the Atlanta defense’s defense (pun intended), much of their putrescence (shout out Princess Bride) comes from a bevy of injuries. But regardless, they are an absolute sieve, as evidenced by Jameis Winston‘s 395 passing yards and 4 TDs on Sunday.
For a good reference on how bad they are, seven Buccaneers position players scored at least 8.5 PPR fantasy points in this game: Peyton Barber, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin, Cameron Brate, and Adam Humphries. Heck, the previously incompetent Peyton Barber racked up 106 yards and 2 touchdowns! Basically, feel free to start anyone and everyone versus the Falcons (including the aforementioned Eli Manning — yes, even him — in Week 7).
3. Tyler Boyd is a Bona Fide Top 20 Wideout
With 7 catches, 62 yards, and two red zone touchdowns in Week 6, we can officially put the WR2 stamp on third-year breakout Tyler Boyd (#NarrativeStreet). Boyd has posted 15.5 half-PPR fantasy points in 4 of the last 5 weeks, leads the Bengals in receptions (4 more than alpha A.J. Green), and is currently the WR13 on the season (ahead of Stefon Diggs, OBJ, Keenan Allen, and others).
And while I do not expect Boyd to surpass Green by any stretch, he is almost becoming, dare I say, the 1B to Green’s 1A, at least for fantasy. We’re talking legitimate Antonio Brown–JuJu Smith-Schuster levels of tandem production. If by some miracle you can still buy Boyd at name value (i.e. shamefully cheap) do it now.
4. Sometimes, Random Receivers Do Good Things
If you’ve looked through the top Week 6 wideouts for juicy waiver or trade targets, you’ve probably had your mind blown by the performances from Marquise Goodwin, Cole Beasley, Albert Wilson, and Tyrell Williams. And you’re probably pretty tempted to chase the points.
Don’t. Except in the case of Marquise Goodwin, who faces a beatable Rams secondary in a potential Week 7 shootout, I’m not starting or even adding any of these guys (and then I’m selling Goodwin). Wilson broke two short passes for massively flukey TDs, Beasley made his once-a-year appearance in a surprise blowout of the Jaguars, and Williams continued to spin the revolving fantasy carousel that is the Williams Bros in Los Angeles. None of them are reliable, and we will see this almost weekly from various names around the league. Rise above the reactionary adds and instead look for volume targets like Jermaine Kearse (see below) or under-the-radar reliable flex plays like Willie Snead.
5. Coming Soon to a Lineup Near You: Deshaun Watson in “Injured Reserve”
It’s typically a fool’s errand trying to predict injuries in fantasy, but it’s awfully hard not to in the case of sophomore QB Deshaun Watson. Coming off an atrocious performance where Watson took 7 sacks and 11 QB hits, — and threw for 177 yards and 2 interceptions with a fumble to boot — I’m legitimately concerned for this young man’s future.
According to fellow writer Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT), Watson is now dealing with a lung contusion — a perfect microcosm of the beating he’s been taking. No QB in football has taken more sacks (25) or QB hits (63) than Watson, and it’s showing in his play. Especially against the Jaguars in Week 7, but very possibly for the rest of the season, Watson is falling to the bottom edge of starter range. If you can still trade him on preseason hype, do it immediately, before a six-week stretch featuring the Jags, Dolphins, Broncos, Redskins, Titans, Browns, and a bye.
6. Tarik Cohen Up, Jordan Howard Down
If the Bears running backs were stocks, Tarik Cohen would be Apple just after the invention of the iPhone and Jordan Howard would be Blockbuster after the arrival of Netflix. In Chicago’s last two games, Cohen has totaled 295 scrimmage yards and 2 touchdowns (plus 14 receptions for all you PPR leaguers) while Howard has plodded his way to 94, zero, and zero in those categories.
This was a risk Howard-drafters took with the arrival of Matt Nagy, who many predicted might prefer Cohen’s versatility in a dynamic offense. Despite Howard’s early attempts at improving his pass-catching, he is simply not the all-around threat that Cohen is, and it’s hurting his fantasy value. Howard has still managed 25 carries over the past two weeks, so he’s not a drop candidate by any means. But moving forward, I would rather have Cohen in any format, and the gap is probably a good 10+ spots in PPR rankings.
7. Stream RBs Against the Broncos and Cardinals
If you thought the Falcons defense was bad, have we got a show for you. The Broncos and Cardinals are setting a new bar for ineffective run defense, creating a whole new concept in fantasy: the streaming running back.
For context, Denver and Arizona are allowing 161 and 151 rushing yards per game, respectively (worst and second-worst in the league). Denver is allowing the most yards per carry (5.6), while the Cardinals encourage offenses to rush a league-leading 34 times per game. The Broncos have allowed a 200-yard rusher in consecutive weeks (Isaiah Crowell and Todd Gurley) and the Cardinals just gave up 155 yards and a touchdown to Latavius Murray. Amusingly, they’re playing each other this week on Thursday Night Football — where I would be willing to start both Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman along with David Johnson. And if you play DFS, look for less notable names playing against either of these teams rest of season to get an inexpensive edge.
8. Jermaine Kearse is Suddenly a Candidate for Must-Start in PPR
No, he’s not Raheem Mostert (the bane of Alfred Morris‘ existence), he’s (almost) a must start. Following a 10 target, 9 reception, 94-yard day against the Colts, Jermaine Kearse suddenly appears to be what Quincy Enunwa was earlier this season: Sam Darnold‘s PPR machine.
We saw Kearse take over the slot role from a snap perspective in Week 5, but the rubber met the road in Week 6, as Enunwa left with an ankle injury. On top of that, Robby Anderson is questionable with a hamstring and Terrelle Pryor was sidelined with a groin injury (gah!). Unless a couple of these guys get healthy real quick, Kearse is a near-lock for double-digit targets in the immediate future. I’ll even give him a go despite a tough on-paper schedule that includes the Vikings, Bears, Dolphins, and Bills, as Darnold will likely need to lean on his quick-pass outlet in those games.
9. The Jaguars Secondary is Faltering
In one of the biggest surprises of the season, the Jaguars were absolutely trounced by Dak Prescott and the receiverless Cowboys, 40-7 in Week 6. You could see it in their body language and hear it in Jalen Ramsey‘s immature postgame interviews: the Jags are confused and unconfident.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still an above-average defense. But they’re not playing like the absolute shutdown, sit-your-studs unit we saw last year. For reference, A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey held opponents to the lowest and sixth-lowest passer ratings in coverage last season respectively (on a minimum 50 targets). This year, Bouye has dropped to 13th and Ramsey is all the way down at 27th. What I’m saying is, don’t hesitate to start DeAndre Hopkins this week (and maybe even consider Keke Coutee), and if this continues, don’t write off guys like Alshon Jeffery in Week 8 or T.Y. Hilton (if healthy) in Week 10 either.
10. Sony Michel is a Locked-and-Loaded RB1
There was a good amount of preseason hubbub surrounding the non-Barkley rookie running backs, and specifically who could join Barkley in the RB1 ranks. We now have our answer, and it’s Sony “My Fitness Consigliere” Michel.
Coming off a 20+ fantasy points performance against the Chiefs in a barn-burner on Sunday Night Football, Michel has now logged three straight weeks with 100+ scrimmage yards and at least one touchdown. He’s one of four RBs riding such a streak — the other three are Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, and Melvin Gordon. Since fully assuming the starting role in Week 4, Michel is the RB6 in non-PPR and the RB9 in PPR. Need I go on? Michel is pretty much a guaranteed top-12 back going forward, take it to the bank — or better yet, the fantasy championship.