If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my fantasy football career it’s that time is indeed a flat circle and we’re destined to experience the same things over and over again.
For example, we all drafted Saquon Barkley thinking we were getting a bargain and yet again he has missed time with injury (doubtful for Sunday at the time of writing). Once again, Christian McCaffrey is injured as well and – despite Panthers head coach Matt Rhule saying it was “less than a Grade 1 hamstring strain” – his Week 6 status has been up in the air. Once again, the Eagles handcuffed their entire offence by not using Miles Sanders enough even though he averages 6.2 yards per carry.
On a more positive note, a Giants rookie wide receiver once again made a spectacular debut as we all dash to the waiver wire to scoop him up. Odell Beckham Jr., took the league by storm in 2014 and many are hoping Kadarius Toney (who was listed in last week’s article, if I can pat myself on the back) can do the same in 2021. Toney took advantage of injuries to Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton en route to a 13-target, 10-catch, 189-yard breakout game. Now, he does have a nagging injury, and a few of his teammates will return against a formidable Rams defensive unit, but if the Giants do have confidence in Toney (they should considering they drafted him at 24th overall) then you should be adding him to the mix at WR going forward in the weeks to come.
I’ll add one last plug for Toney’s fellow rookie WR Rashod Bateman who was drafted 27th overall by Baltimore. With Lamar Jackson back in the mix for MVP – in large part thanks to his proficiency throwing the ball this season, which is a nice development for fantasy owners – if Bateman comes off the IR in the next week or two, he immediately becomes the best wide receiver on that roster. Sure, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown has been fantastic and Mark Andrews is still effective, but it is one tantalizing option for owners who can afford to wait it out.
(Our weekly picks have been made with 0.5 PPR leagues in mind, with standard rosters of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, and one RB/WR/TE FLEX spot.)
QB start: Matthew Stafford, Rams (@ Giants)
I know, I know. Why even put Stafford in here, you might ask? Well, for one, I’m still seeing some non-believers that have been keeping him on the bench, whereas to me, Stafford has entered the “every week starter” conversation. If you still don’t believe, fantasy-wise, he has been a top-10 QB all season thus far and there’s no reason to imagine he’ll fall off against a Giants defence that gives up the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks through five weeks. Outside of his Week 11 bye, just set it and forget it (barring injury, of course).
QB start: Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos (vs. Raiders)
Despite a tough loss against Pittsburgh last week, Bridgewater played after being cleared by the league’s concussion protocol, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns against a very tough Steelers defence – on the road, no less. He gets an embattled Raiders team led by an interim head coach Sunday and despite Vegas’s ability to rush the quarterback they’ve come back down to Earth after a 3-0 start.
Other starter to consider: Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (vs. Dolphins in London)
QB Sit – Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (@ Jaguars in London)
It’s possible that Tua doesn’t even make the start in England this week, which means that Jacoby Brissett would get the nod in his absence (to much rejoicing from Mike Gesicki owners, I’m sure, should that happen). If he does, however, even against a terrible Jaguars defence, I’m not confident enough in starting him so soon. It’s another wait-and-see situation for me, such is life for the Dolphins this year.
QB Sit – Ryan Tannehill, Titans (vs. Bills)
The days of Tanne-thrill seem to be behind us – or at least on pause – as the Titans have completely leaned into the “give Derrick Henry the ball” playbook. It’s possible he’ll have to notch more than 14 completions against the Bills on Monday night, but with Buffalo giving up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks (look what they did to Patrick Mahomes and company last week), it’s best to stay away until Week 7.
WR Start – Chase Claypool, Steelers (vs. Seahawks)
It’s always nice to have a Canadian in these articles, isn’t it? The funny thing is, Claypool has been somewhat of a disappointment from a fantasy perspective this season, getting into double digit points just twice and missing time with injury as well. However, the good news is he returned from the hamstring tweak for one of those big games last week (six targets, five catches, 130 yards and a score), and now that fellow wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster is done for the year, Claypool is going to be on the field for virtually every passing down. Plus, Seattle gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers – there’s enough for both him and Diontae Johnson to eat going forward.
WR Start – Marquise Brown, Ravens (vs. Chargers)
Even though I did just wax poetic up above about Rashod Bateman, the truth is Brown has been great all season, putting up a dud in just one game. He’s caught at least one TD in four of five games and against Indianapolis he caught two! The Chargers matchup does present more of an issue than the Colts did, so he is still an WR2 this week (they give up the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers), but Brown’s electrifying speed combined with Lamar Jackson throwing the ball very well means it’s hard not to have him in your starting lineup.
Other starter to consider: Robert Woods, Rams (@ Giants)
WR Sit – Allen Robinson, Bears (vs. Packers)
It makes me sad to put Robinson in this conversation. What’s more is depending on the size of your league, he may be droppable altogether. He has not cracked double digit points all season as a result of being a casualty of Justin Fields struggling to adapt to Matt Nagy’s playbook. He’s dealing with an injury on top of it all as well. Staple him to the bench until further notice.
WR Sit – Odell Beckham Jr., Browns (vs. Cardinals)
It’s never a good sign when your team racks up 42 points and 531 yards of total offence, and your final numbers are a whopping two catches for 20 scoreless yards. For reference, Baker Mayfield went 23/32 for 305 yards and two touchdowns. Barely any of that went OBJ’s way. We’ve said this before, but both the floor and ceiling are low at this stage of his career, and we might not see a high-volume passing day from Mayfield for the rest of the season. Keep Odell on the bench.
RB Start – Khalil Herbert, Bears (vs. Packers)
The big news of the day out of Chicago was that running back Damien Williams – himself a backup to the injured David Montgomery – was placed on the COVID-IR list. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll clear the protocols in time for Sunday’s game against the Packers, but either way the good news is Herbert is more than capable of filling in if needed. He grabbed 18 carries to Williams’ 16, so even if they have another timeshare going, Herbert at a minimum a nice FLEX play against a Packers defence that gives up the 16th-most fantasy points to running backs. He gets a nice boost if Williams is out altogether.
RB Start – Myles Gaskin, Dolphins (@ Jaguars in London)
This very well may be me chasing the points here, because Gaskin showed out in a big way against the Buccaneers defence. Truthfully, he was operating more like another wide receiver instead of a running back out there, catching all 10 targets for 74 yards and two touchdowns. He has 22 catches to date in 2021 and fellow running back Malcolm Brown didn’t touch the ball once. Maybe that was because of game script, but it could also point towards Gaskin taking over in Miami backfield. He gets the Jaguars defence, a unit that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs on the year. One little note: if Tua is the starter on Sunday, push Gaskin down your rankings somewhat, but if it’s Brissett again, you should feel good about rolling him out there.
Other starter to consider: J.D. McKissic, WFT (vs. Chiefs)
RB Sit – Damien Harris/Rhamondre Stevenson/JJ Taylor, Patriots (vs. Cowboys)
I’ll refer to the beginning of this article and remind you time is a flat circle. As is tradition, the Patriots backfield is a mess. It seemed like it was Damien Harris’s job to lose, but after a few critical fumbles (including at the goal line against the Texans last week) and a chest injury, the rest of the running back room has been brought in. If Harris is ruled out this weekend, it could mean more carries for Stevenson, but against a Dallas defence that gives up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs – and in a game that could get quickly out of hand for the Patriots – I’d avoid this from top to bottom this week.
RB Sit – Chris Carson/Alex Collins, Seahawks (@ Steelers)
Another partial timeshare to avoid? Carson missed last week’s game with a neck injury and in his absence Collins failed to kick the door down. A somewhat positive take would be if Carson were to miss another game Collins was a workhorse, which is always good for fantasy purposes. However, no matter which of the two go, the Seattle offence is going to be hurt by the absence of Russell Wilson, and they are also taking on a Steelers defence that has largely handled opposing running backs all season long. Stay away from this primetime matchup if you can.
TE Start – Hunter Henry, Patriots (vs. Cowboys)
It’s finally time, people. We’re going to take a chance on a Patriots tight end. I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that we needed to wait to see if either Henry or Jonnu Smith would emerge as the favourite target for Mac Jones, and it looks like we have our answer. Henry has caught a touchdown in two straight weeks, while Smith is being asked to block more for the beleaguered Patriots o-line. It’s tough to gauge, as the Dallas pass DVOA (defence-adjusted value over average) is ranked ninth on the year, but they also give up the ninth-most points to tight ends. The simple answer is with the Patriots receiving options relatively thin, you’ll take a borderline TE1 like Henry whenever you can.
TE Start – Tyler Higbee, Rams (@ Giants)
We’re not quite at the ‘set it and forget it’ level for Higbee just yet, but then again, in a very thin position group, you may not have a choice. It was a slightly scary sight last week, seeing Higbee suffering that shoulder injury, but he did return to the field to salvage his day with a receiving touchdown. The good news is he doesn’t share targets with any other tight end, but the bad news is he’s essentially locked in as the third receiving option (at best) behind both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. He does get a Giants defence that has seen a lot of injuries at linebacker and safety. They give up the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends, so it should be a more generous day for Higbee against New York.
Other starter to consider: Jared Cook, Chargers (@ Ravens)
TE Sit – Tyler Conklin, Vikings (@ Panthers)
Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, Conklin’s Week 3 production has receded with fewer than four points in each of the last two games. He simply is too far down the pecking order (Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison) to be fantasy relevant beyond a dart-throw touchdown.
TE Sit – David Njoku, Browns (vs. Cardinals)
This is going to read very similarly to the C.J. Uzomah blurb from a few weeks ago. After Njoku’s seven catch, 149-yard, one touchdown performance, I need to see even a fraction of that production again before we can rely on him even as a streamer. The Cardinals give up the fewest fantasy points to tight ends and we’re unsure of the passing volume from Baker Mayfield going forward. You can add on a minor knee injury and I’m staying away this week.