Ten Things We Learned in Week Five (Fantasy Football)
Week Five was by far the most fun week of the season so far. It was crazy, it was high scoring, it was anxiety-inducing, and it isn’t even over. I absolutely loved breaking down the games this week, and we learned a lot about how teams want to behave moving forward as they form their offensive identities. A lot of these observations involve individual players, which seems fitting due to how many week winning games we saw from our squads. Let’s get to it.
Russell Wilson Belongs in The Same Breath as Aaron Rodgers
Most of you are aware that Russell Wilson is a great quarterback, but it’s time we start to recognize him in the same conversation as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. If you think that sounds crazy, then you haven’t been watching him play. Rodgers and Wilson have identical touchdown rates, completion percentages, and yards per attempt throughout their career, and they both have one ring (thanks Pete Carroll). Wilson has outplayed Rodgers over the course of their last four full seasons, and they’ve both lit up the record books for as long as we can remember. Rodgers has the best touchdown to interception ratio in the history of the league, and he also leads the NFL in all-time passer rating. In case you were curious about who sits right behind him on the all-time list in both categories….. it’s Russell Wilson.
Last Thursday he found a way to compile 29.9 fantasy points on only 23 attempts, including a gorgeous catch and throw with his best friend Tyler Lockett. A lot of us have gotten so used to Wilson’s efficiency that it’s easy to gloss over games like this as if they were somehow a product of the Seattle running game (they aren’t). Russ is an absolute magician, we’ve just become so accustomed to the sleight of hand that we don’t appreciate it in real-time. The conversation about Russell Wilson’s place in NFL history needs to be expanded, and it needs to happen now.
The Squeaky Wheels Got the Grease (for now)
The two stud pass catchers in Minnesota made headlines this week after they expressed frustration with the offensive gameplan and their lack of involvement in the passing game. This week the team somewhat responded by targeting Thielen eight times and Diggs four times, but Thielen was able to find the end zone twice to have a massive fantasy day. It’s likely that the narrative this week will be about how Thielen got what he hoped for and all is well in Minnesota, but what will be lost on a lot of people is the fact that the Giants secondary couldn’t cover a leftover lasagna. The Vikings pass-catchers were likely going to succeed either way and their usage this week wasn’t anything to be excited about. Now is the time to sell high on Thielen and jump ship on Diggs, before it’s too late.
Lamar Jackson Still has Issues Through the Air
After the first two weeks of the 2019 season, a lot of people (including myself) were jumping for joy about the fact that Lamar Jackson may be the Konami code we’ve all been waiting for. We knew he could run well, but his passing numbers were off the charts and it had originally looked like he had solved the issues that had plagued him in his rookie season. This past Sunday Jackson struggled mightily on his way to a game-sinking fantasy performance since his rushing floor wasn’t high enough to counteract his lack of passing yardage and three interceptions. It’s reasonable to assume that this will be a reality for the rest of the year since he’s not an elite passing quarterback, but his ridiculous ceiling warrants every week status unless his week five performance becomes a habit. Don’t panic if he’s your QB1, but don’t assume his first two weeks can be the expectation unless the matchup is ideal.
Josh Jacobs Needs The Rock
A rookie running back who had been quiet on the fantasy front going up against a historically impressive Bears defense? Not typically the conditions for a monster game.
Apparently, Josh Jacobs isn’t typical. He had the chance to shine against a ridiculously talented front four and took it and ran with it (literally). The Raiders said they wanted to get him more involved in the passing game and they’ve made good on that promise to an extent, but there’s a reason to believe he will see even more work going forward after his week five outing. Jacobs found the end zone twice and accumulated over 140 all-purpose yards in the Raiders victory over the Bears, and he looked great doing it. He was one of the best trade targets in fantasy going into this game, but that window may have just slammed shut. Jon Gruden is well known for building an offense on the backs of his top running backs, so I fully expect this usage to continue. If you have him on your team it’s best to hold him, and if you have a league-mate willing to sell for a solid price, he still makes a great trade target because of his locked-in volume.
The Bears Offense is Ugly
The more I watch the Chiefs and Bears this year, the more I question if Matt Nagy’s success in Kansas City might have been because of Andy Reid, not the other way around (shocker). Nagy was someone who was known for his offensive-minded gameplans, but so far things haven’t translated in the way you would expect them to. Chicago ran the second-fewest amount of plays in the league in 2018, and it doesn’t look like they’ve taken a single step forward in 2019. The injury to Mitch Trubisky was certainly a factor in week five, but the consistency and usage of their skill position players don’t make a lot of sense. David Montgomery has been good but not great, and Allen Robinson is an under the radar top talent in this league, but few people know it because his production hasn’t mirrored his ability. Thankfully he had a chance to shine in week five and those of you who follow me on Twitter know that he was one of my top trade targets going into their matchup with Oakland. It feels like Nagy gets in his own way sometimes and relies too much on an all-world defense, and that came back to bite him this week. Tarik Cohen is the type of player that deserves to have packages built into the playbook specifically for him, but goal-line rushes don’t seem like the best option. The Bears are going to struggle in games where their defense gives up an average amount of points because their offensive play has been abysmal.
Will Fuller isn’t Dead
Going into week five, only two players with 20 or more targets and 350 or more air yards had failed to accumulate 40 or more fantasy points. Those two players were D.K. Metcalf who scored on a long touchdown throw on Thursday night and Will Fuller. If you were in front of any television screen at all on Sunday, then you know what happened with Fuller. He exploded for over 47 fantasy points and was only two yards away from finding the end zone five times. On the Ballers podcast this week, Andy chose Fuller as his start of the week and I can imagine that he will take a very well deserved victory lap for that on Monday. Fuller had a huge opportunity in front of him on an offense that lost Kenny Stills and a matchup with a suspect Falcon secondary, and he didn’t disappoint. Deshaun Watson targeted him a ridiculous 16 times for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Fuller won a lot of people weeks if they took Andy’s advice.
Even though his week five performance warrants all the praise I can give, the more important (and likely overlooked) aspect of this scenario is how regression is undefeated. Air yards, targets, and opportunity typically lead to massive outputs, and we can use the weekly matchups to predict when those outputs might happen. If you want to use these types of trends to find trade targets this week, I’m happy to assist. Go out and trade for Allen Robinson and Courtland Sutton. Even though their price tags will be deservedly fair, their usage indicates their value is only going to increase.
Kyler Murray Could be a Fantasy Monster
Murray is one of the fastest players in the league, regardless of position. That may be an obvious statement, but Kliff Kingsbury didn’t seem to realize it until very recently. The Cardinals rookie only had six rushing attempts total through the first two weeks of the season, and his fantasy numbers were suffering because of it. Thankfully Kingsbury must have seen him running sprints in practice in week three because Murray finally started to take off and the Cardinals began to design runs to get him into advantageous matchups with linebackers and defensive ends that can’t keep up. In the past three weeks, he’s rushed 8, 4, and 10 times and the Cardinals have benefited because of it. If this trend continues and the Cardinals can figure out their mysteriously terrible red-zone woes, Murray could be a back half QB1 that wins people leagues.
Chris Godwin, WR1
There’s not much I can say that you didn’t see. Chris Godwin and Cooper Kupp appear to be legitimate league winning draft picks at the receiver position, and I’m here for it. Godwin was one of the most obvious breakout candidates I’ve seen in years, but I had no idea that he would be putting up numbers like this. He found the end zone twice on Sunday and has now found the end zone six times in five games, and sits at the top of the wide receiver rankings overall. The title of this section is Chris Godwin, WR1; but it should say: Chris Godwin, the overall WR1. If you own Godwin you have no reason at all to consider trading him away, and if you own Mike Evans it’s reasonable to be concerned but not panicked. Both of the receivers in Tampa Bay play like alphas, so it’s reasonable to think they will trade off who has the biggest game that week. I couldn’t ever defend a donut, but Mike Evans will be fine. If it makes you feel any better, he leads the league in air yards.
Austin Ekeler Needs to Stay Involved (but that doesn’t mean he will)
Melvin Gordon returned to the Chargers lineup for the first time this week, and it was very clear he had some rust to kick off. He rushed 12 times for 31 yards and caught 4 passes for 7 yards, and it was obvious he wasn’t back to being his old self just yet. Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler tied a Chargers franchise record with 15 receptions for 86 yards and maintained the high level of play we saw from him in Gordon’s absence. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Ekeler deserves to be on the field, but it’s important to remember that coaches don’t care about our fantasy teams. If Melvin Gordon is going to be a free agent in 2020, then the Chargers have zero reasons to limit his touches this year. There’s a solid chance they give Gordon a full workload more times than not, and that will limit Ekeler’s weekly ceiling no matter how impressive he looks. I’m sure a lot of people will be wondering how to handle the Chargers backfield, and my advice is this: trade for Gordon, and shop Austin Ekeler. If someone who didn’t watch the game thinks that Ekeler is keeping the 1A role going forward, then you need to give in to that thought process and send him their way.
Week Five Was a Blast
One of the biggest reasons that PPR leagues took off in the last few years is because people wanted to see more scoring. No one wants to watch a game where there’s little fantasy output, and this week reminded us just how glorious things can be when our guys decide to ball out. I have a good feeling that when Monday Night Football is all finished up we will find out that this was one of the highest-scoring weeks in fantasy history, and it was a true joy to watch. Per Field Yates, this was the first week in history where five players scored 40+ PPR points in the same week, and there were a number of 30+ point performances alongside them. Football is a beautiful sport, and this week fantasy football did its best to put on just as much of a show.