Fantasy Football: 10 Lessons Learned in Week 5

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Here are the top six tight ends in fantasy in Week 5: Ed Dickson, Darren Fells, George Kittle, Cameron Brate, Zach Ertz, David Njoku. Of that list, one was drafted as a starter at the start of the season (Ertz). This is a fantasy wasteland like nothing we’ve seen before, and there isn’t much hope for an oasis in the near future.

At running back, the rookies continued to dominate (even without Dalvin Cook), as Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey, and even Wayne Gallman all cracked RB2 territory or better and Leonard Fournette finished behind only Deshaun Watson for highest fantasy total on the week.

It’s been a wild ride through five weeks, and there are undoubtedly more twists, turns, and loops to come. With that in mind, let’s hit the fantasy classroom for ten lessons learned in Week 5.

1. The Muscle Hamster Has Returned

Coming into the year, Doug Martin had three games left on a PED suspension and the Buccaneers’ Week 1 game was canceled by Hurricane Irma. That meant we had to wait until Week 5 to finally see which version of Martin would manifest in 2017 — the 1,400-yard beast or the unreliable letdown. It’s the former. Martin only got 13 carries and three targets, but he looked incredibly dynamic and turned his limited work into 82 total yards and a touchdown. Martin averaged 5.7 yards per carry and it looked like he was picking up at least that on nearly every play. He did drop a couple passes and didn’t get an ideal workhorse workload in a comeback game script against the Patriots, but if those kinks get ironed out in future games, we could be looking at an RB1 lock rest of season. See if you can acquire Martin while you can and don’t be surprised if he is a top eight-or-so option moving forward.

2. Sammy Watkins Is Not the No. 1 WR We Expected

Watkins’ stellar Week 3 performance held the doubters at bay for another couple games, but the case is essentially closed at this point. He is not the No. 1 receiver in LA and is hardly even a WR3 in fantasy. Watkins caught zero of four targets in Sunday’s game, and it wasn’t just the Seahawks secondary or game script. The former first-round pick was completely out of sync with quarterback Jared Goff on multiple passes and even seemed to give up on a well-thrown bomb down the sideline late in the first half. Goff threw for 275 yards and found infinitely better success with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and even Pharoah Cooper. Watkins will have good games down the stretch but they will be impossible to predict, as he is probably Goff’s fourth-look option at best. He’s not quite droppable, but he’s not worth starting anytime soon either.

3. Matt Breida and the New 49ers Brass Are Bad News for Carlos Hyde

There were several odd rumors circulating in the offseason that head coach Mike Shanahan and GM John Lynch were less than sold on Carlos Hyde. They signed undrafted free agent Matt Breida and did little to quell concerns that Hyde was not in their future plans for the RB position in San Francisco. Week 5 saw those rumors turn into reality. Breida out-touched, out-carried, and outperformed Hyde (by a lot), taking 10 carries and three receptions for 71 total yards (Hyde had 18 yards on eight carries and one catch). Worse (for Hyde owners), Shanahan stated after the game that SF would start games with Hyde moving forward but work Breida in and go with the “hot hand” thereafter. Hyde, who was also recovering from a hip injury, expressed distaste for his light workload. Meanwhile, Breida’s hand was clearly hotter in Week 5 and all arrows are pointing down on Hyde at the moment.

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4. Brissett Can Support T.Y. Hilton‘s Fantasy Value While Luck Recovers

Through four games with Jacoby Brissett at the helm in Indy, Hilton has now pulled in 409 yards and a touchdown. He absolutely torched the 49ers secondary in Week 5, with 177 yards on seven catches. Brissett is clearly not afraid to chuck the rock, which bodes well for Hilton’s big-play ability, and Hilton actually dropped another 40-50 yarder and a short touchdown in the game. Hilton has been boom-bust so far but has another juicy matchup against the Titans next week. Moreover, when Andrew Luck does eventually return, Hilton’s stock can only improve. He should probably be considered a very-high-end WR3 but has weekly WR1 upside even with Brissett under center.

5. Keenan Allen Is a Target-Inhaling Buy-Low Candidate

Somehow, Keenan Allen sits third in the NFL in targets (52) behind only Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins, but ranks 11th in PPR fantasy points. Some of that can be attributed to strong cornerback play, as Allen’s three least productive performances have come against Denver, Kansas City, and Sunday against the Giants. This week, some of it can also be attributed to flukey “just-misses” like an overthrow on a would-be touchdown and another where Allen was flagged for illegal touching after narrowly stepping out of bounds on his route. Despite an abnormally low 53.8 catch percentage, Allen is still a WR1 through five weeks. Considering his history of strong hands and chemistry with Philip Rivers, these missteps should correct themselves sooner than later. When they do, Allen could jump into the elite at the position, making him an excellent trade target preceding his upcoming matchup with the Raiders.

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6. Big Ben’s Struggles Are Real

Chances are you’re already aware of Big Ben’s five-interception day against the Jaguars in Week 5, as it was one of the worst in fantasy and in his NFL career. After the game, Roethlisberger topped several “I’m not playing well enough” comments with a shocking “maybe I don’t have it anymore.” While some (including head coach Mike Tomlin) have downplayed these comments, they clearly show a lack of self-confidence in the veteran QB, who reportedly considered retirement in the offseason. So far his struggles have not affected Antonio Brown (mostly thanks to volume), but they have limited the promised upside of Martavis Bryant. Moreover, if the Steelers are smart, they’ll likely lean more on Le’Veon Bell to ease the pressure on Big Ben, which could further reduce his value, as well as that of Bryant and maybe even Brown (but probably not). For now, he is not a QB1 and the passing game as a whole should be monitored.

7. Crabtree Has More Than Buried Cooper in Fantasy

Despite what all the Cooper-truthers and dynasty fanatics will argue, Amari Cooper is a 2017 bust and Michael Crabtree is the WR1 in Oakland. Cooper had one catch for eight yards on two targets on Sunday, bringing his season total to 13-for-118 and one TD. Meanwhile, Crabtree scored again on a 41-yard bomb and now sports 252 yards and four touchdowns … in one less game. According to Pro Football Focus, Cooper has dropped seven of 20 catchable passes, worst in the league for any WR with 10 or more targets. Unless Cooper has some sort of revelation or returns the bricks he’s wearing as receiver’s gloves, Crabtree is the man to own in Oakland and at least a WR2 in fantasy.

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8. Aaron Jones Earned a Role In Green Bay

We’ll have to wait and see exactly what that role looks like upon Ty Montgomery‘s return, but it will certainly be a step up from his previous place at the bottom of the depth chart. Jones looked like straight fire on Sunday, taking 19 carries for 125 yards and a score. He surpassed anything Montgomery’s produced this season with 6.6 yards per carry and absolutely played well enough to leap-frog Jamaal Williams. At the minimum, Jones should earn a handful of carries spelling Montgomery and it’s possible he takes over as the primary early-down back and relegates Montgomery to more of a pass-catching role. Thank your lucky stars (or The Fantasy Footballers) if you were the guy or gal to snatch him on the waiver wire.

9. Will Fuller Is … Something?

Last week we learned that Deshaun Watson is for real as a fantasy QB (Week 5 certainly validated that lesson). This week, we learned that Will Fuller will continue to be a fantasy-relevant piece of Watson’s success, as he snagged two of three targets for 57 yards and another pair of touchdowns. Now, it’s a bit difficult to project exactly what Fuller will be, as he’s currently on pace for 39 catches, 598 yards, and 26 TDs. But we also know that he’s a first-round draft pick with blazing speed and big-play potential that we haven’t even seen yet in 2017. He’s certainly the clear-cut No. 2 in the passing game behind DeAndre Hopkins, which means the volume should improve as well. The touchdowns will regress, but Fuller is likely to improve in the reception and yardage departments and could be a serviceable WR3 moving forward.

10. Jerick McKinnon Is The Better Back in Minnesota

McKinnon has been a dichotomy over the course of his career, mixing lightning-in-a-bottle explosiveness with poor showings as a feature back when called upon. Not so on Monday night. McKinnon out-carried Latavius Murray 16 to 12, brought in six receptions to boot, and vastly outperformed the bigger back with 146 total yards and a touchdown. His 58-yard TD run started through a massive hole, but he was able to burst through that hole in a way Murray potentially could not. Most likely, Murray will still retain a role in short-yardage and even at the goal line, but McKinnon should absorb much more of Dalvin Cook’s fantasy value, especially in the passing game. As with Aaron Jones, props to those of you who landed McKinnon off waivers — he’s an RB2 candidate in PPR as long as he stays healthy.

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