• Pat Opperman

NFL Fantasy: Downstream and Unhappy Returns

This article was written for five-fifteen.net and can be read in its entirety at


Fantasy Football Twitter is alive with boastful screenshots of gambles that paid off this weekend. Some owners went with popular advice, and others went against it with similar results in another high-scoring weekend in NFL fantasy.

Will Fuller owners are among the former. Pro Football Focus pointed out Fuller’s place as the top receiver in air yards through Week 4, and every fantasy football prognosticator from ESPN stalwarts to the newest “Mom’s Basement” podcaster jumped on the obvious ceiling implication.

Sure enough, this week Fuller caught and collected 217 of those yards on 14 catches. He would have had more if he didn’t run out of field three times. Those three touchdowns gave Fuller the overall number one PPR fantasy football score of the week of 53.7 (39.7 in standard).

On the other end of the spectrum, Josh Jacobs owners were widely advised to sit the Raiders’ rookie rusher against Chicago’s defense in a game across the pond.

It didn’t work out that way as Jacobs went off for 143 total yards and two touchdowns (RB-3, 29.3 PPR) on his way to setting the record for rushing yards in a player’s first four career games.

On the other hand, David Montgomery truthers predicted this would be the Bears rookie’s breakout game. Instead, Oakland’s defense held Montgomery to 36 yards. A touchdown partially saved his fantasy day.

Not Everybody is Bragging

Fantasy football owners who unapologetically harvest points from the Kansas City Chiefs offense are not among those rejoicing. In fact, some are already tweeting silly questions like whether they should worry about Patrick Mahomes after a second straight week of sub-20 fantasy points.

Mahomes came out looking very Mahomes-like for one quarter. After his ankle got stepped on, he quickly became mortal against the Colts’ defense. Chiefs’ rushers didn’t fare much better.

Green Bays’ final score lifted the hearts of fantasy streamers who gambled on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, considered a “must-start” in the absence of Davonte Adams, or Geronimo Allison, a popular sleeper.

Unfortunately, the Packers’ offense was a one-man show. This week’s RB-1, Aaron Jones, went off for 179 total yards and four touchdowns.

Aaron Rodgers completed 24 passes, but 7 of those went to Jones, too. Allison wound up the WR-61 and MVS is the WR-74 before the Monday night game.

Bengals rookie Auden Tate, widely streamed in face of recent injuries, snagged a touchdown to salvage a WR-29 slot. Owners who gambled on Stephon Diggs’ squeaky wheel act against the Giants are lamenting his WR-49 effort.

Many Unhappy Returns

Melvin Gordon’s 2019 debut was another source of speculation last week, especially in relation to his effect on Austin Ekeler. If you knew Ekeler would collect only 7 yards rushing, you would assume Gordon came up big.

Instead, Ekeler tied a team record with 15 receptions on the way to an RB-7 finish, while Gordon managed less than 3-yards-per-carry and an RB-37 finish with 8.8 PPR points.

We mentioned the Chiefs’ offensive woes and Patrick Mahomes’ subpar performance. Damien Williams’ owners were also left wanting after he managed only 38 total yards and an RB-42 standing.

Golden Tate’s return was supposed to bolster quarterback Daniel Jones’ rookie campaign, but his 3 catches for 13 yards barely registered on fantasy football scoreboards.

So What?

None of this week’s disappointments will stop fantasy football managers from speculating on the next big breakout. In a game desperate for new, game-winning options, they’ll spot Reggie Bonnaton’s RB-18 performance in relief of a banged-up Christian McCaffrey.

Wide receiver Byron Pringle will warrant some attention after catching 6 passes (on 9 targets) for 103 yards and a touchdown in an otherwise dismal day in Kansas City. 

Duke Williams made his NFL debut for Buffalo amid much local hype. He snagged 4 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. Buffalo is on their bye week, but a match against Miami in Week 7 makes Williams a potential sleeper candidate.

Darius Slayton collected double-digit points for the second time in three weeks as the long receiver in the “new” Giants offense. New England’s Brandon Bolden scored a touchdown for the second straight week. Is he now a viable part of Belichick’s game plan?

Circumstances played too big a role to count on any of these Week 5 surprises in Week 6. But their names will pop up on a few streaming or waiver wire discussions.

Well-healed Offense?

Despite the inauspicious returns of Melvin Gordon, Golden Tate, and Damien Williams, fantasy football owners consider players returning from suspension or injury as a more-reliable fill-in or addition to their roster.

Jets tight end Chris Herndon is already rostered in most leagues and will be a popular starter in tight-end needy teams. This is based on last season’s rookie performance without the ball-magnet Le’Veon Bell or trusted slot receiver Jamison Crowder in the mix; not to mention a new head coach.

Saquon Barkley of the Giants thinks he is ready to return from his high ankle sprain. This would be consistent with his two-game absence with the same injury while at Penn State.

The Giants would like to give him another week off, but Wayne Gallman entered the concussion protocol Sunday on a short week. Barkley owners will anxiously watch for updates to see if New York activates the defending Rookie of the Year, or rolls into New England with only rookie John Hilliman and Elijah Penny behind the quarterback.

Where Are They Now?

Fantasy Football Managers are waiting for good news on other injured players, too. Teddy Bridgewater showed he can be streamed against weaker defenses, but all things considered, we’d all like to see Drew Brees leading the Saints’ offense again.

Brees posted a video of himself throwing a football barely three weeks after surgery to repair thumb ligaments. The team expects to go 6-8 weeks without their star. Brees expressed confidence this week that he will be beat those projections.

Nick Foles can’t return to the Jaguars before Week 11. That gives backup Gardner Minshew some time to enhance his legend, or regress to the status of a late-round rookie pushed into a starting role.

Fantasy football fans expected better things from Cam Newton, who didn’t help his uneven fantasy status by trying to play through a Lisfranc (foot) fracture. He admits he tried to cover up how much pain he had, but is resigned now to letting the healing process take place.

Kyle Allen is managing the offense effectively enough, with a big boost from the Panthers defense and Christian McCaffrey. Newton owners can expect him to be out closer to the high end of his 4-8-week recovery period.

Mitch Trubisky could return as early as Week 7 after dislocating his non-throwing shoulder. Chicago is struggling to establish an offensive identity, and Trubisky owners can’t say they know what to expect from the Bears’ youngster.

Sam Darnold is week-to-week as he waits for his spleen to return to normal after a bout of mono. Darnold, Trubisky, Foles, and possibly Newton might find themselves in the quarterback streamer crowd upon return.

The Other Wounded

Tyreek Hill returned to practice with the Chiefs last week but remained inactive. After the performance of Week 5, fantasy managers are optimistic Andy Reid will put Hill back in the lineup for Week 6 if at all possible.

Cincinnati’s AJ Green is officially out rehabbing his torn ankle ligaments, but there is much conjecture this is a holdout. Green deserves a contract extension and unless a team doctor declares him fit to play, he can take his time “rehabbing”. There is only conjecture to offer as a timetable for his return.

Miami doesn’t offer much in the way of fantasy football points, but the one player rostered in more than a few leagues was Albert Wilson. He is expected back from his calf injury in Week 6 and could find himself in the streamer conversation.

DeSean Jackson and Devonte Adams have been tagged with the dreaded “week-to-week” label, but there is optimism they could return as early as Week 6, too.

Antonio Callaway and Tevin Coleman were expected to play in the Week 5 Monday night game. If they did not, Week 6 is the new expectation.

Kareem Hunt can be activated in Week 9 for Cleveland. With Nick Chubb picking up steam in the Browns attack, there is still no clear thought on how much work Hunt will get and how Chubb’s fantasy output will be affected.

Everything is on the table, from Hunt being trade bait to taking over as the RB-1. The more success Chubb has in the weeks ahead, the less likely he is to relinquish too much work to Hunt.

Devin Singletary and Jamaal Williams could return in Week 6, too.

Waiver Considerations

There aren’t too many new injuries from Week 5. Sammy Watkins’ and Phillip Dorsett’s hamstrings bear watching. Wayne Gallman might not have enough time to get through the concussion protocol before Thursday night’s game.

But there are four teams on bye weeks for the first time. Buffalo, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Oakland have the week off. Here are some of the names floating around the early waiver discussions.

Kirk Cousins’ 20-point, top-10 QB performance can be shrugged off as an opportunistic outing against the Giants. But the competition doesn’t get much tougher when Minnesota takes on the Philadelphia Eagles. If Cousins is going to have consecutive top-ten games, this is the time.

Gardner Minshew’s track record is short and the New Orleans defense is a threat. However, Minshew seems to have established a floor of 200 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for a desperation move.

Gus Edwards and Chase Edmonds have seen more touches recently behind Mark Ingram and David Johnson. Both the Ravens and Cardinals have potential game scripts that make their number-twos risky, high upside plays.

Michael Gallup is available in about 30-percent of leagues across all platforms. That is criminal.

Dede Westbrook fell out of favor as DJ Chark established himself as the top dog in Jacksonville. However, as Gardner Minshew gets more comfortable, Westbrook’s target share increases. This week he saw 11 targets, catching 7 for 82 yards.

We’ll Let You Decide – Part 1

Streaming offensive players against the Dolphins or Redskins defense is fashionable this season. So, what do you do when they play each other?

Is it a good week to pick up Paul Richardson and third tight end Jeremy Sprinkle? Does Devonte Parker or the returning Albert Wilson warrant a start? At least one popular site mentioned Case Keenum as a sleeper, although he stopped short of recommending Dwayne Haskins if he starts.

The Redskins DST seems more likely to take advantage of the matchup than Miami’s, but it will still be an ugly game. Washington sacked Tom Brady four times. That might be enough to justify a desperation streaming option. 

My call is that Chris Thompson in flex and Washington’s DST are there if you have no other options. Avoid everyone else until we see the fallout of Jay Gruden’s departure.  

We’ll Let You Decide – Part 2

Strange things happen on Thursday Night football. TNF put together a nice slate of games so far this season. But can the Giants put up a fight on a short week with a third-string rusher and a rookie passer?

What would be stranger than undrafted rookie Jon Hilliman rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown? How about fellow rookie Darius Slayton putting up a 5/90/2 line? Will Daniel Jones rise to the challenge or struggle as he did against Minnesota?

Without Phillip Dorsett, does Josh Gordon go off? Will Belichick let Bolden score again? Is this the week Sony Michel breaks tackles on the way to 200 yards?

It’s hard not to overthink the TNF games, but here goes. I bet New England takes Engram, Shepard, and Tate out of the game and Slayton breaks a long one. Of course, I’d play any Patriot on Thursday, including the water boy.

Future Considerations

Austin Ekeler matched a Chargers’ team record with 15 receptions in their loss to Denver. Los Angeles’ injury situation played a role in Ekeler’s receiving usage, but there were ten other running backs with 5 or more catches this weekend.

Next week, we’ll take a look at running backs who are heavily utilized in the passing game. We’ll discuss the impact on the team’s wide receivers and how some fantasy football leagues are adapting rosters to take advantage.

We’ll see you then.


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