The Unexpected: Week 5

Updated: October 5th 2017

There are always surprises at the start of the NFL season, some of which may be sustainable through the year while others likely are not.  Determining if your player’s good start is something which will continue may be the difference in figuring out if your team is a true contender or possibly making a poor trade.  With four weeks of the NFL season already in the books, we can start to look at trends and get some idea of different players’ usage going forward.

Quarterbacks

Alex Smith QB2 – Smith rocketed out of the gates with a 4-touchdown thrashing of New England in week 1.  The Kansas City starter made few mistakes since.  Smith leads the NFL in passer rating and completion percentage while pacing the Chiefs to the only undefeated record remaining.  He has been nothing short of great so far throwing for 8 touchdowns with 0 interceptions.

Moving forward – While I foresee continued solid play from Smith, do not expect this production to remain.  The usage is very much in line with recent history, currently tied for 18th in attempts, but his rates are not.  His current 76% completion rate leads the all-time NFL season mark (Sam Bradford 2016) by more than 4 points.  The 8.8 yards per attempt is 1.4 more than any Smith season in Kansas City.  Look for solid QB2 numbers going forward and a quality weekly streaming option.

Jared Goff QB10 – What a difference environment can make.  The second year starter went from a historically bad rookie season to the current leading passer in yards per attempt and third ranked quarterback in passer rating. The additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan transformed one of the worst lines in football last year benefitting both the run and pass game.  The Rams also brought in a host of new receiving options for Goff including Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods in free agency plus Cooper Kupp in the draft.  Most importantly Los Angeles brought in 30 year old head coach Sean McVay to completely revamp the offensive scheme.  Goff’s throws became far more manageable this season including increased check downs to Todd Gurley out of the backfield and more open throws throughout the field.

Moving forward – The schedule could become much more difficult over the rest of season with few matchups for which I would be thrilled about for Goff and the Rams.  Goff only ranks 22nd in passing attempts over the season and provides nothing as a rusher to fall back on.  I would not count on Goff as my starter in RSO leagues.  I am more likely to try and capitalize on the hot start with a trade or continue stashing Goff if I drafted him as a cheap backup/streaming option.

Running Backs

Kareem Hunt RB2 – No rookie started out hotter than Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt.  Hunt leads the NFL in rushing yards by nearly 40% over the next player (Todd Gurley) thanks to an enormous 7.4 yards per attempt to start the season.  The rookie also displayed significant receiving ability catching 13 balls for a robust 12.1 yards per reception.

Moving forward – Hunt should remain a locked in RB1 throughout the year.  Kansas City should be competitive throughout the season, he shows off impressive lower body strength to power through tacklers, and enough burst to turn open lanes and bad tackling angles into big plays.  He is also heavily involved in the passing game.  The KC offensive line has consistently opened up huge holes for Hunt this season as well.  He is a set and forget player at this point.

Chris Thompson RB6 – Perhaps no player has done more with less than Washington running back Chris Thompson.  Thompson owns a hefty 7.1 rushing yards per attempt over 20 carries in addition to a huge 16.8 yards per reception for 14 catches which combine to a massive 11 yards per touch.  The Washington passing down back also contributed four touchdowns so far.

Moving forward – Thompson is a really good player but anywhere near this level of production is unsustainable.  He averages less than 9 touches per game and that is unlikely to improve much with a load of offensive weapons to choose from in Washington and a quarterback who generally spreads the ball around.  Thompson is nothing more than a flex play in deeper leagues.  Sell if you can get anything of significance for him.

Wide Receivers

Stephon Diggs WR1 / Adam Thielen WR13 – The Minnesota receivers find themselves ranked well above preseason expectations so far.  Each is top-3 in receiving yardage and Diggs has scored four times already.  Case Keenum has been surprisingly solid in Sam Bradford’s absence and the two Vikings own a very large target share of the offense.  Both accumulated 32 targets, double the next most targeted player on the team.  Tight end Kyle Rudolph has reverted to the low volume, low yardage receiver we saw most of his career without Bradford and with an improved offensive line.

Moving forward – There are a lot of questions going forward for two high volume players.  It is fair to wonder how the loss of rookie sensation Dalvin Cook will affect these receivers and the offense as a whole.  Will the Latavius Murray/Jerrick McKinnon combo provide enough in the run game to open up deeper route combinations?  Will Rudolph gain a larger target share with the return of Bradford?  What does Michael Floyd, who reportedly had a superb training camp and likely replaces inconsequential former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, bring to the table? The questions have me downgrading both slightly going forward.  Diggs remains a must-start player for me but I am looking at Thielen as more of a flex play going forward.

Chris Hogan WR10 – The former Bill performed well so far in his time in New England providing a nice downfield threat with reliable hands.  Hogan has been on the plus side of the touchdown equation scoring four times this season in the high powered New England offense and is tied for second in targets on the team.  He remains a reliable target for Tom Brady on a team with many injuries at wide receiver.

Moving forward – Hogan will have a big role in the offense but will be a volatile weekly play with likely touchdown regression coming.  With plenty of quality receiving options available for the Patriots including Gronkowski, Cooks, Amendola, and White; consider Hogan more of a borderline WR2/WR3 going forward.

Tight Ends

Charles Clay TE4 – Clay was one of my featured streaming options going into the season.  Buffalo ended up trading away the talented Sammy Watkins to the Rams and trading for Jordan Matthews before the season started.  With speedster Marquise Goodwin moving on Clay became Tyrod Taylor’s only significant returning target left outside of running back Lesean McCoy.  Matthews immediately suffered a chest injury further delaying his familiarity with Taylor which focused more of the offense through Clay early in the season.

Moving forward – Matthews suffered another injury last week, this time resulting in thumb surgery which could keep him out for a month.  The low volume Buffalo passing attack is not a fantasy player’s dream, but Clay owns a large 25% market share so far and Matthew’s time off should ensure a continued big role.  Consider Clay a weekly starter with the number of significant injuries at the position.

Evan Engram TE7 – One of the golden rules in fantasy football is not relying on rookie tight ends.  They rarely have big passing roles the first season taking time to learn all the nuances of the position.  Engram is proving the exception to the rule.  I wrote an entire article this offseason detailing the virtues of Engram but even I was not counting on immediate starting fantasy value.  The rookie is currently tied for second in targets, tied for fourth in receptions, and ranks sixth in yardage among all tight ends.

Moving forward – The Giants have virtually no run game to speak of, thanks in large part to a struggling offensive line, which likely means a continued short pass-happy offense from coach Ben McAdoo for the rest of season.  The athletic tight end has at least four receptions each game so far and his targets have trended upward throughout the season.  Engram should be a locked-in weekly starter given his consistent heavy usage and lack of quality options at the position.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Week 2 Waiver Report

Updated: September 12th 2017

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

Add of the Week

Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI (owned 45%) 5 Car/66 yards, 8 Rec/47 yards, 1 TD

Surely the biggest surprise of the week 1 was how much rookie runner Tarik Cohen was involved in the Bears’ offense. Yes, he did have 40% of his total yards on one big reverse field run play but overall he was heavily involved in the passing game with 8 catches on 12 targets (led team) and almost led the Bears to an upset win over the reigning NFC Champs. It’s not like Jordan Howard wasn’t involved (13-51-1) as he also had 3 catches but this could definitely decrease Howard’s role on passing downs. The Bears look like they could be joining the rest of the NFL on the RBBC bus now. For owners that think the Bears will be down in games and forced into passing formations, Cohen should see his share of targets each week, especially with news that Kevin White is being placed on IR now with a scapula injury. Give a bump in PPR leagues.

Suggested Bid: $1,00,000 – $4,000,000

RB Replacements

Shane Vereen, RB – NYG (owned 45%) 9 Rec/51 yards

Javorius Allen, RB – BAL (owned 19%) 21 Car/71 yards

Both of these running backs benefited from positive game script in week 1 but they did showcase what their role is in their respective offenses. For Vereen, he had 9 catches (5 on the final meaningless drive) but he was clearly the Giants passing down back. Perkins and Darkwa couldn’t get any run game going (36 yards) and the offensive line looked mediocre at best. If the Giants offense is unable to open holes for the running game they will be forced to use the dump passes as a substitute. This was the role Vereen had in New England and as long as he stays healthy it’s the role he will have this season in New York. With games against the AFC and NFC West, it’s probable that the Giants find themselves behind in games, unable to run the ball and relying on Vereen with screens and dump passes to keep the offense moving.

Javorius “Buck” Allen had 21 carries, 4th most in the opening week against the Bengals which should symbolize a bell cow role in an offense. Unfortunately, fellow back Terrance West also had 19 carries (7th most) and Joe Flacco only had 17 pass attempts in a total defensive domination by the Ravens. With Danny Woodhead going out with a hamstring injury early it did show, however, that Allen will be the secondary runner in case of a West injury or regression. This makes him an add if you have either of the other two Raven runners or a lack of depth at the position. Depending on the severity of the injury to Woodhead the Ravens do need to show which of West or Allen would be the pass catching back when games are closer. This could be Allen’s role with the upside of increased carries should West falter.

Suggested Bids: $500,000 – $1,000,000

WR Replacements

Jermaine Kearse, WR – NYJ (owned 26%) 7 Rec/59 yards

Danny Amendola, WR – NE (owned 26%) 6 Rec/ 100 yards

Many were shocked when the Jets shipped Sheldon Richardson to Seattle for some picks and Jermaine Kearse but to everyone’s surprise, Kearse led the Jets in both catches (7) and yards (59) in week 1. Sometimes volume trumps talent and despite previous reservations against Kearse’s talent when he is being fed #1 target numbers he has to be rostered. If Kearse maintains the target volume that he saw in week 1 and can offer a touchdown every 2 or 3 games he will be a nice option to have for bye weeks or when injuries start piling up.

The Patriots looked like a 16-0 team for the first half and a 0-16 team for the second half. It showed that they missed having Julian Edelman as a reliable target for crossing routes, bubble screens and 3rd down quick slants. Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan were used more on the play action and deeper routes which leaves Danny Amendola and the RBs to be the underneath pass catchers. It’s unlikely that any of the backs are available but Amendola is available in 74% of RSO leagues which needs to be changed. The Patriots are changing offensive schemes weekly but the one constant for Tom Brady is to find the quick-hit routes to move the chains. Despite Bill Belichick saying that everyone will be picking up Edelman’s contributions, it is likely Amendola who will most replicate his usage.

Suggested Bids: $1,000,000 – $2,000,000

TE Substitute

Charles Clay, TE – BUF (owned 40%) 4 Rec/53 yards, 1 TD

Similar to my Jermaine Kearse analysis sometimes a guy just needs to be rostered for his volume alone. The Bills lost Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins to the Rams this offseason and Jordan Matthews hasn’t been a spectacular fantasy option since his rookie season. While they do have Shady McCoy to run the ball someone still needs to catch passes and touchdowns. Clay should be averaging a touchdown at least every other game this season and be a reliable target for Tyrod Taylor to have between the 20s and on 3rd down. While he’s not as sexy a name as Gronk or Kelce, Clay should be a low-end TE1 for most matchups this season.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,500,000

Sleeper Add (<10%)

Kerwynn Williams, RB – ARZ (Owned 9.7%) 5 Car/10 yards, 1 Rec/2 yards, 1 TD

This is pure speculation and may have no use by the end of the week but anytime a bell cow is injured you have to take a shot in the dark. When David Johnson went out after a big hit in the 3rd quarter it was Williams who took the goal line carry for a touchdown. After Johnson went out indefinitely with a wrist injury later in the game it was Williams who played the bulk of the snaps behind Carson Palmer. If Johnson’s injury is anything that keeps him out of next week’s game and beyond (which is a real possibility if reports are true) Williams will see his share of touches and targets. If you are playing the David Johnson owner and his RB depth is thin Williams is worth a minimum bid just to limit your opponent’s options heading into week 2.

Suggested Bid: $500,000