Fantasy Football: 10 Lessons Learned in Week 6

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In a loss for the Packers, the NFL, and fantasy footballers around the world, Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on Sunday and will likely miss the rest of the season. We can add his name to a depressing list of superstars to suffer a similar fate, including David Johnson and Odell Beckham Jr., not to mention the defensive face of the league, J.J. Watt. Plus, Rodgers’ injury is likely the most painful for fantasy, as it will also affect the entire pack of Green Bay fantasy starters. (See what I did there?)

For those of you crying on the floor in the fetal position after losing Rodgers, I’ll give you your space. For the rest of us, Week 6 was chock full of surprises, breakouts, and busts. So let’s dry our tears and wade our way into the fantasy classroom for ten lessons learned in Week 6.

1. “I’m Not Dead Yet!” – Adrian Peterson, c. 2017

After a dismal start to the season in New Orleans, and a sudden trade to Arizona merely a week ago, most of us expected minimal lfantasy flair from AP in his first game as a Cardinal. Apparently, Peterson disagreed. He ran all over the Buccaneers, totaling 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. His first score, which came on the opening drive, was a 27-yard romp on which AP danced behind the line, cut through a hole, broke a couple tackles, and accelerated to the end zone. Favored by an extremely positive-game script All Day long, Peterson may never have a fantasy day this good again, but we’ve learned that he is still a capable runner and that the Cardinals are willing to feature him when possible. He’s a shocking addition to the RB2 conversation for the foreseeable future.

2. Mark Ingram Reasserted His Dominance in New Orleans

Speaking of Peterson’s recent departure to the desert, it had an equally invigorating effect on Mark Ingram. With AP out of the picture, Ingram exploded for 150 total yards and two TDs on 30 touches in the Saints’ rout of the Detroit Lions. He was dynamic on the ground (averaging 4.6 yards per carry) and heavily involved in the passing game — outperforming Alvin Kamara in targets, receptions, and yards. Like with AP, this may have been Ingram’s biggest game of the year. But regardless, he is clearly re-established as the head of the New Orleans backfield and a weekly bet for 20-plus touches.

3. Agholor Is Tough to Ignore

Nelson Agholor has only one game with more than four catches (six in Week 1), so he is clearly not a high-volume receiver. But that hasn’t mattered much. Agholor sprinted a 5-yard slant 24 yards into the end zone on Sunday for his fourth TD in six games, posted 55 yards for a seasonal total of 321, and now has at least 5.8 non-PPR fantasy points in every game but one. You can call him big-play-reliant, or DeSean Jackson Lite, but Agholor has been reasonably consistent for fantasy (and incidentally sits 15th among WRs on a per game basis to D-Jax’s 23rd). He should be owned just about everywhere and can be started in FLEX spots galore.

4. The Final Lesson For the Belichick Backfield

We’ve tried since the influx of offseason signings to nail down this Patriots RB corps. No more. The lesson here is simple: there is no lesson, no reliable takeaway, and no guaranteed fantasy value to be found in Bill Belichick’s backfield. Since Mike Gillislee enticed us with four touchdowns in the first two weeks, Belichick has transitioned much of Gillislee’s work — especially in the red zone — to Dion Lewis. Lewis had 11 carries to Gillislee’s 10 in Week 6, including a goal-line give that translated into Lewis’ second TD in three weeks. Meanwhile, James White is still getting all the passing work and Rex Burkhead figures to return with a fresh batch of confusion shortly. Lewis should be added, but none of these guys can be trusted on a week-to-week basis.

Matthew J Lee/Boston Globe

5. The Dolphins (and Fantasy Owners) Depend On a High-Volume Ajayi

Time for a quick exercise in correlation. Here are Jay Ajayi‘s carry counts by week (starting in Week 2, due to Miami’s rescheduled opening game): 28, 11, 12, 25, 26. His non-PPR fantasy points: 12.2, 1.6, 4.6, 7.7, 13.0. And the Dolphins win-loss breakdown: W, L, L, W, W. In other words, when the Dolphins win, it has been largely on Ajayi’s back. They were able to upset the Falcons this week by pounding the ground and dominating the clock (57.3% time of possession), which makes sense when you consider the alternative of relying on Jay Cutler for W’s. As long as Miami learns this lesson as well, Ajayi should continue to get a heavy workload. Once he starts adding touchdowns — he has zero on the season — Ajayi will cement his place in the high-end RB2 conversation for as long as he stays healthy.

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6. Brate Is Great

What else can I say, really? The guy had six catches for 76 yards on Sunday and scored for the fourth straight week. With rookie O.J. Howard taking over blocking duties at tight end (and little else), Brate has been free to roam the middle of the field and plant his flag in the end zone. Brate caught his Week 6 touchdown from Ryan Fitzpatrick following Jameis Winston‘s shoulder sprain, so whether its Fitz or Winston at QB, Brate should continue his reliable TE production (something we can’t say often in fantasy these days).

7. Orleans Darkwa Is a Giant Slayer

“But … isn’t Darkwa himself a Giant?” Don’t get caught up in the semantics, people! I’m talking about his Sunday night dismantling of the vaunted Broncos run defense, previously a giant roadblock for fantasy RBs. After bottling up Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, and Marshawn Lynch, Denver got trampled by Orleans Darkwa (and the NYG offensive line) to the tune of 117 yards on 21 carries. Now, let’s not get too carried away here. I’m not saying Darkwa is a better back than the four mentioned above, nor is he likely to be an RB1 candidate rest of season. Still, he appears to have earned the job and joined Evan Engram as the only viable offensive weapons left in New York. At the very least, stash Darkwa and monitor his production in the coming weeks.

Dustin Bradford/ Getty Images

8. Christian McCaffrey is Better As a Receiver

Apologies to all the McCaffrey-between-the-tackles truthers out there, but the shifty rookie is clearly meant to be a pass-catching specialist in the NFL. He logged ten catches for 56 yards and his second consecutive game with a receiving TD in Week 6, while compiling less than ten carries and 20 rushing yards for the fifth straight week. McCaffrey’s low yards per reception still has him somewhat limited from a fantasy perspective — unless you play in a PPR league. With 37 catches on the year (a 99-catch pace for the season) McCaffrey is essentially adding a touchdown per week in PPR, making him the No. 10 RB overall.

9. The Chargers Have Passed the TE Torch

Thank goodness. When Hunter Henry went targetless twice in the first three games of the season, his chances of supplanting Antonio Gates seemed in danger. Fortunately, in the three games since, Henry has received 18 targets (double Gates‘ total over that span) and has scored twice. He had his best game as a receiver on Sunday with five catches for 90 yards and we can safely assume that LAC has finally recognized the value of featuring their dynamic youngster over their ancient Hall-of-Fame veteran. Henry should be owned everywhere and has a couple of juicy matchups on the horizon in Denver and New England (28th and 30th against TEs, respectively).

10. Josh Doctson Has Sneaky League-Winning Potential

An odd statement to make for a guy who had a single catch this week, I know. But this more about the intangibles. First, even as the fourth or fifth receiving option on the team, Doctson is getting work in the red zone and his 11-yard score on Sunday has him tied for the team lead in receiving TDs. Second, no one else in the Redskins WR corps has stepped up, leaving a gaping hole in the No. 1 spot. Third, and perhaps most importantly, head coach Jay Gruden said after the game that “[Doctson] didn’t get as many reps as I would like” and that they need to get him more involved and expand his role. If given a legitimate chance as the lead receiver in Washington, Doctson has the talent to capitalize and could be a pleasant late-season fantasy surprise. Stash him if you have the room.

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