Week 5 is when you really know what you have with your fantasy teams, so if you have made it this far and have a shot at a championship, I commend you. But for those that may not be in contention, maybe I can give you some hope.
If we’re being completely honest, even for teams that have started off 1-4 and to a lesser extent 1-5, things may not be over for you just yet. I’m also completely aware of how absolutely absurd that sounds, but hear me out.
1. This Season Has Been A Nightmare, So Keep The Faith
If I listed the names of players that have already missed time with injury and those that are already done for the season, it would make your head spin. My editor would be cursing me about the length of this article and I would need to shorten it.
This is the world we live in, so buckle up.
What I’m getting at here is that there is still room for optimism even if your team hasn’t performed up to your pre-season expectations or you have had a star player go down. You don’t win a championship at the draft — you win it in-season, every single time.
Be shrewd on the waiver wire.
For example, if you are in a league where the team who has Dak Prescott is a contender but is now in dire straits because of the injury, use that to your advantage. Go out and use your FAAB budget to get Andy Dalton and then trade him to that team to improve your roster. As you know if you’ve been continuing to read these articles, my favourite saying is, “Channel your inner Mike Tolbert — be a vulture.”
If you’re nearing the bottom of the standings and want to try to stay relevant, why not make some speculative adds that could provide some value that you could extract via trade? Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny (3% rostered in Yahoo leagues) is slated to return in the coming weeks from the PUP list, Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (18% rostered in Yahoo leagues) should be back next week for the Eagles and Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims (3% rostered in Yahoo leagues) could make an impact when he returns.
2. What to do with Cowboys’ playmakers after Prescott injury?
Andy Dalton was welcomed back to life as an NFL starter by getting sacked on his first play, but he rebounded pretty well after that, going 9 for 11 with 111 yards, including a couple of pretty good throws (and even better catches by Michael Gallup) late in the game.
Dalton has shown in the past that he can be fantasy relevant and we can honestly say that Dalton has never had weapons like he does now in Dallas.
What does this mean for all these playmakers?
In my opinion, I don’t think much changes in terms of the overall offence. Dalton has a completion percentage of 62% over the course of his career, and Prescott is currently at 66% for his career. Yes, to some that may be significant, but there remains one constant in this situation — the Dallas defence sucks. There’s no way to sugar coat this one. With that being said, the Cowboys are going to be in passing situations all season long.
Ezekiel Elliott’s value remains unchanged as he will always be an RB1. He’s just too talented to not be. CeeDee Lamb is looking like he’s going to be the WR1 by season’s end for Dallas (and I told you to get on that train once Blake Jarwin went down!). Amari Cooper’s snap count is concerning for me as he has seen it diminish every week since Week 1 from 94% to 63% this past week. And Michael Gallup is a buy candidate for me, based on his snap count dipping no lower than 82% and seeing immediate chemistry with Dalton.
3. Chase Claypool put on a show, but we should temper expectations
It’s easy to jump on the Chase Claypool bandwagon, especially because here in Canada we like to celebrate our own in the NFL. But we might need to curtail our expectations for the man they are calling “Mapletron.”
His performance was absolutely amazing, but we can’t anoint him the No. 1 wideout in Pittsburgh just yet. Claypool saw a mixed bag of coverage from cornerbacks Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox to linebacker Nathan Gerry (I can already hear Eagles fans screaming), and none of them had great days.
His target share was also determined by the fact that Diontae Johnson left the game with a back injury. He has five touchdowns thus far (four receiving and one rushing) without one end zone target, and for a wide receiver who won’t have a large target share if all receivers are healthy, that’s not a great sign. Touchdowns are already a “fluke” stat, so trying to rely on a that from a fantasy perspective is just not a good way to go about business.
Don’t get me wrong here — this guy is an athletic freak and will have a great career, and if Diontae Johnson misses time he is a guy that you can start comfortably. But if Johnson returns to the lineup, Claypool is no better than a flex play in a crowded wide receiver room.
4. Try to acquire Le’Veon Bell
His tenure as a New York Jet fell well below expectation, but I think we can put a lot of that blame on the supporting cast around him and Adam Gase as a head coach, especially since he didn’t want him there to begin with by all accounts. Gase is to fantasy success what jorts are to the fashion world — not great.
Bell’s release is an opportunity for him to land somewhere where they will actually utilize his skill set properly. Some people may get fed up and just drop Bell (in which case you should absolutely be on him as a waiver pickup), while others will look to unload him via trade. The cost to acquire shouldn’t be all that much at this point, but an acquisition like that could pay dividends for you down the stretch. In dynasty leagues, he shouldn’t cost anything more than a second-round pick, and if you’re lucky you might be able to get him for a third.
If he can rekindle even a small portion of the success he had when he was in Pittsburgh, especially with all the injuries this season, he could be a solid add for any playoff team.
5. Myles Gaskin is a sneaky-good potential trade pickup
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if you can trade for Myles Gaskin, it might be the best bit of cheap business that you can do heading down the stretch. Let’s take a deeper look at what the second-year running back has been able to accomplish thus far.
He has 249 rushing yards on 64 attempts (a not-so-great 3.9 yards per carry) to go along with 23 catches for 147 yards, and has added a touchdown. He is also getting 66% of his teams snaps and 62% of his team’s running back touches (averaging 17.4 touches per game).
These are very good, unexpected numbers, but the best part about all of this is now there may be some room for added fantasy points if Jordan Howard continues to be a healthy scratch like he was this past weekend. Howard was clearly the inside-the-five back for Miami and now that job may belong to Gaskin, who scored his first touchdown of the season on a rushing attempt inside the five-yard line. If Gaskin had Howard’s three touchdowns, he would be a top-10 back in PPR scoring.
Now go out and get your guy!
6. Justin Herbert is the real deal
There has been a lot of talk about Joe Burrow this season and for good reason, but Justin Herbert might finish higher than the first-overall pick in terms of fantasy production this season. After a four-touchdown performance against the Saints on Monday Night Football, Herbert has moved into the conversation of must-start in all formats.
If we took Herbert’s fantasy points per game and added one more start (which in hindsight he clearly should have gotten over Tyrod Taylor), he would be QB6, just ahead of Aaron Rodgers. His fantasy points per game rank him 8th among quarterbacks, slightly behind Cam Newton.
He’s doing all this with a makeshift offensive line after injuries to Brian Bulaga and Mike Pouncey, wide receiver Mike Williams in and out of the lineup, and Austin Ekeler on the shelf. That’s nothing to scoff at.
Let’s remember that if Herbert had come out of college a year earlier that he would have likely been the first-overall pick instead of this year where he was the third quarterback off the board, so the talent was never in question.
It’s also safe to say that the window to acquire Herbert for a lesser cost is likely now slammed shut after what he showed this week.
7. The importance of handcuffing good running back situations
Dalvin Cook coming up hobbled after a run on Sunday night is not something anyone wants to see, but if you had Alexander Mattison already rostered, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
This is why you need to tie yourself to good running back situations at the draft or on the waiver wire.
Mattison and some others — like Chase Edmonds in Arizona and Darrel Williams in Kansas City — will all walk into a heavy workload if the incumbent starter goes down. We’ve already seen this in Carolina with Mike Davis, who has proven to be a great fantasy asset in the absence of Christian McCaffrey. These are your lottery tickets that could help propel you to a championship in short order and, at worst, become a potential trade pieces if you have a deep roster.
Mattison looked very good in relief of Cook and should be a hot commodity on the waiver wire, especially considering how similar his game looks to Cook’s and how the Vikings use their bellcow back. If you can get him and he only starts for a week or two, no problem — I’m sure whoever's rostering Cook might get scared into making a trade for him, so strike when the iron is hot.
8. Mike Davis should have a role when CMC returns
All Mike Davis has done in three starts since Christian McCaffrey went down is accumulate 351 total yards with three touchdowns and 22 catches, making a case to be used in this Carolina offence once McCaffrey returns.
Carolina is a lot better than many of us believed they would be, and it might actually be in their best interest, from a real football perspective, to lessen McCaffrey's workload. This could ultimately mean that Davis still manages to get 12 touches per week, especially given his pass-catching acumen, which means he’s absolutely worth stashing on your roster when CMC returns.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule praised Davis in camp and commented openly about how confident he was in the running back after McCaffrey’s injury. I know that we hear coachspeak all the time, but maybe for once we’re actually getting the truth.
9. Can we trust the Ravens' offence anymore?
If I had said before the season that Lamar Jackson would be QB11, Marquise Brown would be WR29 and Mark Ingram would be RB40 after five weeks, you would have called me every other name in the book except smart.
Well, here we are.
This offence puts up points, but not in the fantasy sense that you would like, and Jackson is at the forefront of this surprise. Mark Andrews has gotten his, but it is largely because of his touchdown numbers and less so because of his receptions or yardage. The running game has been harder to figure out than a New York Times crossword, and the offence has been spreading the ball around to different receivers.
You have to start Jackson because of his big-play ability, Andrews because of his red zone usage (six red zone targets) and Hollywood Brown as a boom-or-bust WR3.
10. Gabriel Davis might be a hidden gem for the Buffalo Bills
Gabriel Davis wasn’t thought of as part of the upper echelon of wide receivers in this year’s draft as evidenced by him being the 16th wide receiver off the board. All he did in his final year at the University of Central Florida was amass 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns, and the Bills took him in the fourth round with the 128th pick.
If John Brown misses time as he did this week, Davis moves into a starting position and has Josh Allen looking his way often, especially in the end zone because of his six-foot-two frame. As a long-term play in dynasty leagues, Davis is a guy you should look to acquire, mainly because Brown has one year remaining on his contract and his dead cap number is $1.6 million.
The Bills love Davis and have spoken about him very highly since they drafted him, all the way through camp and to this day. He can probably be had in dynasty leagues for a third-round pick, and it will pay off in a big way for you this season if Brown isn’t healthy and definitely next year.
Don’t forget to check out my “Love ’Em, Leave ’Em” picks for the weekend games on Twitter @MattSN590 every Friday.