Welcome to the Fantasy Football Rundown: a weekly article written by yours truly in which I give at least one sentence on every single fantasy relevant player for Week 5. Starts, sits, sleepers, busts, you name it, I talk about it here. Be warned, this is a beast of a piece. If you’re looking for a specific player, I recommend using your web browser’s search function to head straight to said player. Otherwise, enjoy reading!
New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons
New York Jets
QB Zach Wilson — Wilson had the most productive outing of his young career against a lackluster Titans’ defense last week whose NEFF pass defense rating (40.2%) ranks 21st in the NFL. He’s got an even juicer match-up on tap with a Falcons’ pass defense that ranks a putrid 31st (31.1%). He’s a mid-tier QB2 with high-end QB2 upside.
WR Corey Davis — The team-leader in targets (29) should have little issue returning WR2 value in this one.
WR Jamison Crowder — Slot receiver Crowder stormed back from his multi-week groin injury last week (7 catches on 9 targets for 61 yards and 1 touchdown), relegating proficient fill-in man Braxton Berrios to the bench. The Falcons’ slot coverage is dreadful. Primary slot CB Isaiah Oliver—who had allowed 7 completions on 13 targets for 70 yards and 1 touchdown this year (per PFF)—was placed on IR with a knee injury this week. This leaves 2021 fifth-round pick Avery Williams as the starter. Crowder is an under-the-radar WR3 this week.
WRs Keelan Cole and Elijah Moore — Both are risky fantasy WR5s. Moore has had a quiet start to his career and missed last week with a concussion. The veteran Cole filled in, turning 4 targets into 3 receptions and 92 yards. There’s no way to be certain who will get the start at Z-receiver this week but Cole made quite the case in Week 4.
TEs Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin — Starting TE Kroft was limited with a rib issue last week and kicked off Week 5 with a DNP due to a back injury. Ignore both.
RBs Michael Carter Jr., Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman — Elements of the Jets’ backfield that turned in Carter’s favor last week: snaps (31/51%), carries (13, next closest was Coleman’s 4), targets (3), and routes run (12, per PFF). He totaled 1 catch, 34 yards from scrimmage, and 1 touchdown. The Falcons’ front-seven is allowing 23.2 .5PPR PPG to opposing backs, 10th most in the NFL. Week 5 is Carter’s breakout week. He’s an RB3. Johnson is an RB5. Coleman is a weak bench stash at best.
QB Matt Ryan — Jets’ SS Lamarcus Joyner is on Injured Reserve and FS Marcus Maye has a number of issues he’s dealing with. It’s a grim situation but Ryan may be able to complete a few long balls because of it. He’s a mid-tier QB2.
WRs Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheus — With Ridley and Gage out this week, Zaccheus is the potential (nominal) No. 1 Falcons WR this week. The diminutive receiver would be a volume-driven WR4 with a modest flex appeal.
TE Kyle Pitts — Pitts’ usage is sublime:
|Routes: % Wide-Slot-Inline
|RZ TGT/EZ TGT
With Ridley out, Pitts will see double-digit targets. He’s a TE1.
WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson — Patterson continues to produce far more than his usage would dictate. While he’s bound for negative regression to the mean, he should stay plenty involved with Ridley out this week. Incredibly, Patterson still has WR and RB eligibility on Yahoo!. Take advantage of that. He’s a back-end RB2/WR2 this week against a New York Jets’ front-seven that’s allowing the most .5PPR PPG to opposing backfields (29.4).
RBs Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman — The Falcons irritatingly gave Gallman 10 snaps last week (13% overall) but Davis was still the primary ball carrier. The blocking around Davis has been bottom-dwelling, but the Jets’ defensive front is as bad as it gets. Davis is an RB3 with RB2 upside. Gallman is an RB6.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
QB Jared Goff — The Vikings have been reliably had in the passing game, averaging 278.5 yards per game allowed, 11th most in the NFL. Goff is a high-floor QB2.
WRs Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, and Amon-Ra St. Brown — The lacking interior coverage of the Lions’ Week 4 foe, the Bears, was highlighted as a possible point of emphasis for Detroit’s passing game. That result came to fruition as inside/outside receiver Raymond finished as the WR8 and St. Brown (WR33) produced the best performance of his young career. Perimeter man Cephus had a decent game as well. All three are quietly on the WR3/4 spectrum this week. Vikings’ perimeter CBs Patrick Peterson and Breshaud Breeland have been gashed for a combined 32 catches, 483 yards, and 6 touchdowns, per PFF. Slot CB Mackensie Alexander has allowed an efficient 9 of 12 targets to be completed for 120 yards while lined up on the inside (PFF).
TE T.J. Hockenson — Best to avoid Hock this week. His knee injury kept him from practicing on Wednesday and he was barely able to get work in on Thursday. Hockenson will also be facing Vikings’ star SS Harrison Smith if the former is able to suit up. Boom/bust back-end TE1.
RBs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams — Lions LT Penei Sewell is battling an ankle injury and will be at far less than 100% even if he’s able to play on Sunday. Fortunately for the Swift and Williams, the Vikings’ front-seven ranks 29th our NEFF run defense rankings (38.3%). Swift is a borderline RB1/2 and Williams is a steady RB3.
QB Kirk Cousins — Cousins flopped against the terrifying Cleveland defense last week after registering QB13, QB6, and QB6 fantasy finishes through the first 3 weeks of the season. Detroit’s injury-ruined secondary is T-29th NEFF pass defense rating (35.2%). Count on Cousins as a back-end QB1 this week.
WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson — Thielen and Jefferson are averaging 8.5 and 9.25 targets per game, respectively. Great numbers for both. While Thielen has efficiently caught 4 of his 6 red zone targets for touchdowns, Jefferson has pulled ahead in total red zone targets with 10 through 4 games (PFF). Both are WR1s against DET.
WR K.J. Osborn and TE Tyler Conklin — Osborn and Conklin are duking it out for No. 4 pass catching duties behind Thielen, Jefferson, and whichever RB is starting. Conklin has maintained an edge in snaps (78.5% to Osborn’s 61%) and targets (14 to 7) over the last two weeks despite Osborn running more routes per PFF (60 to 56). Osborn is a WR4. Conklin a high-end TE2.
RBs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison — Cook is evidently battling a high-ankle sprain yet the Vikings, in conjunction with Cook, have decided that Cook is going to try to play through it. This is a very stupid plan.
This is not good. Syndesmotic sprains are undefeated. https://t.co/XDO5pscx5q
— Edwin Porras, DPT (@FBInjuryDoc) October 6, 2021
Even in a decent match-up, Cook cannot be trusted as more than a zero-floor/high-ceiling RB2. Mattison is a volatile RB4 and needs to be rostered in 100% of fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints at Washington Football Team
New Orleans Saints
QB Jameis Winston — Absolute no-go against Washington’s defensive-front. WAS has indeed been had by mobile QBs this season but Winston is both immobile and bad.
QB Taysom Hill — Bench stash him if you wish. Hill has played on 51.5% of the team’s snaps over the last two weeks, carrying the ball 12 times for a whopping 60 yards and 3 touchdowns. It could get to a point where Sean Payton just opts to start Hill. Winston is not the long term answer.
WRs Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris — Downfield receivers (volatile) who operate on low-volume (even more volatile). Fantasy WR5s.
TEs Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson — Per PFF, Trautman has blocked on 114 of his 164 offensive snaps this season and that isn’t going to change with LT Terron Armstead struggling to play (elbow). He’s seen just 7 targets on 50 routes. Johnson is playing on 23.5% of the team’s snaps and has seen 9 targets on 40 routes. Do not start either player in redraft.
RB Alvin Kamara — Kamara saw zero targets for the first time in his career last week, instead pounding the rock 26 times on the ground for 120 yards. His workload is said to have been altered by backup RB Tony Jones Jr. having suffered an ankle injury. Why that would keep Sean Payton from using their best receiving weapon in the passing game, no one knows. Kamara should continue to see heaps of carries but if he’s not seeing many passes come his way (especially against Washington’s defensive-front), his ceiling is frustratingly lowered. He’s a mid-to-low RB1 this week.
Washington Football Team
QB Tayler Heinicke — The Saints are missing DL Marcus Davenport David Onyemata, and LB Kwon Alexander and Heinicke is hot off of QB10 and QB5 finishes. The cannon-armed scrambler just keeps getting it done and this week should be no different. He’s a fantasy QB1.
WR Terry McLaurin — Absolute baller:
Washington WR Terry McLaurin currently owns the longest streak of targets without a drop. He's seen 190 straight targets and hauled in 128 consecutive catches without a drop. And he routinely makes difficult/absurd catches.
What a player. pic.twitter.com/Ip1KqM923n
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 7, 2021
McLaurin is an every-week WR1.
WRs Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, and Adam Humphries — Brown suffered a knee sprain in last week’s win over Atlanta and has been unable to practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Do not start him this week. Samuel was in on 37% of the snaps last week as The Team eased him back into action (groin) yet his 4 targets were T-3rd. He has not practiced on Wednesday or Thursday but it could just be load management. Monitor his situation closely. The absence of Brown and TE Logan Thomas (hamstring/Injured Reserve) create a major target void for Samuel to fill. Humphries would be WR4 viable in full-point PPR formats should Samuel not be able to play.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones — Seals-Jones was immediately trusted as the team’s No.1 TE once Logan Thomas exited their Week 4 contest and caught 2 of 4 targets for 19 yards. Thomas was a featured member of WAS’s passing attack in Weeks 1-3. Should RSJ take on a similar role, he’d be a viable TE1 streamer. TE Jace Sternberger was signed to the practice squad but is not good enough to steal meaningful reps from Seals-Jones.
RBs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic — Given the state of WAS’ pass catching corps and NOLA’s front-seven, Gibson and McKissic should get all the work they can handle this week. Gibson’s a mid-tier RB1 and McKissic’s a high-end RB3 with easy RB2 upside. JDM’s highest target total of the year (six) came in Week 2. He should beat that mark this week.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
New England Patriots
QB Mac Jones — Jones is a mid-to-high QB2 for the first time this season. The Texans’ defense is as bad as it gets.
WR Jakobi Meyers — Meyers’ Week 4 usage sans RB James White panned out just like we thought—his 12 targets were twice as many as the next closest Patriot. He’s a high-floor WR2 this week with serious upside in full-point PPR formats.
WRs Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne — If there’s a week to bet on downfield receiver Agholor, this is the week. He’s a boom/bust WR5 with a good chance at a boom. Bourne is a high-floor WR5 in full-point PPR. Ignore N’Keal Harry.
TEs Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith — Both scored touchdowns last week but Henry has led Smith in snaps (139 to 87), routes run (92 to 46, per PFF), and receptions (11 to 8). Smith has seen one more target than Henry during that span. The Texans are allowing 16.4 .5PPR PPG to opposing tight ends, 2nd most in the league, making the New England duo a pair of high-end TE2s. Henry is the better one to bet on though.
RB Damien Harris — The Texans are allowing the 12th-most PPR points to backs to start the year. They’re also giving up 113.8 rushing yards (6th most) and 0.8 rushing touchdowns (T-9th most) to opposing running backs. Harris is a locked-in RB2.
RB Brandon Bolden — Bolden held fast to the pass catching RB job last week, catching 6-of-6 passes for 51 yards. J.J. Taylor likely took himself out of the runnings for the job with a costly fumble. There’s a Rhamondre Stevenson takes Taylor’s roster spot this week. The former would not be immediately fantasy relevant though he would be a smart bench stash.
New England Patriots D/ST — D/ST’s typically aren’t listed on here but Bill Belichick is perhaps the most dominant defensive schemer vs. rookie QBs that the league has ever seen. New England’s D/ST fantasy unit could—I’m not being hyperbolic here—score multiple touchdowns this week.
Do not start a single player on the Houston Texans’ roster. Yes, that also means WR Brandin Cooks. Bill Belichick is going to surround him with defensive backs all day.
Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Jacoby Brissett — Brissett’s sporadic pocket behavior should lead to a few Tampa D/ST sacks but the Bucs’ secondary is badly banged up. Already down Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tampa Bay was forced to place top tier lockdown CB Carlton Davis III on IR today and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. failed to practice on Wednesday and Thursday (concussion protocol). Brissett is a volatile QB2.
WR DeVante Parker — With Will Fuller (finger) landing on IR earlier this week, Parker has X-receiver duties all to himself. He’s a low-floor/high-ceiling WR3.
Update 10/8/21, 9:55am PST: DeVante Parker is now experiencing “hamstring soreness” and will be a game-time decision, making him a highly volatile fantasy play. The ceilings of Waddle and Gesicki just went up a notch.
WR Jaylen Waddle and TE Mike Gesicki — Gesicki found pay dirt last week while Waddle flopped but both players continued to hog slot snaps. The overall lack in production from the duo likely came from an Indianapolis-induced game script—MIA’s three-game offensive play total average comes in at a healthy 65.7. They ran just 49 in Week 4 though. Tom Brady and the Bucs are sure to keep the offensive exchanges humming this week though and Waddle should operate as Brissett’s primary safety valve against TB’s fearsome pass rush. Waddle is a WR3 and Gesicki is a TE1.
RBs Malcolm Brown, Myles Gaskin, and Salvon Ahmed — Full blown three-way RB committee facing the best front-seven that the NFL has to offer? Do not start any of them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Tom Brady — Miami’s pass defense is solid but banged up at the moment. Brady remains a mid-tier QB1.
WRs Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown — All three receivers have access to the usage needed for a top-24 WR finish on a given week. X-receiver Evans has seen between 9-12 targets in each game over the last three weeks. He’s a back-end WR1. Brown was eased back into things last week after his bout with COVID-19. He’s sure to see an increase in snaps this week. Slot CB Justin Coleman has not been great this year, surrendering 8 catches on 9 targets for 99 yards when lined up on the interior (PFF). Godwin should be able to get open against him which may lead to a WR3/4 finish for Brown. Godwin is a high-end WR2, Brown a borderline WR2/3. Tyler Johnson is the WR to stash for now.
TE Cam Brate and O.J. Howard — Brate and Howard split snaps at a near-50/50 clip but Brate ran more than twice as many routes (31 to 15, per PFF) and out-targeted Howard 6-to-2. Miami is allowing 12.8 .5PPR PPG, T-9th most in the league. Brate is a TE1 streamer.
RBs Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Gio Bernard — Fournette ran well ahead of Jones last week with Bernard out. Jones converted one of his two red zone intended-touches for a score. Fournette failed to convert any of his three. Bernard is practicing in a limited fashion this week, putting him on track to play, which will hurt Fournette’s passing game prospects. It’s a good match-up but Fournette can’t be trusted as more than a borderline RB3/4. Both Bernard and Jones are borderline RB4/5s.
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals
Green Bay Packers
QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams — The Bengals’ defense has been able to generate some gusto with a handful of standout players but they won’t slow Rodgers and Adams. Rodgers is a back-end QB1. Adams is an elite WR1.
WRs Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard — Marquez Valdes-Scantling missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury and has been placed on Injured Reserve. The fact that Lazard couldn’t beat out Cobb for No. 2 WR duties was a bad sign. He’s a WR5 while Cobb is a high-end WR4.
TE Robert Tonyan — Tonyan is a typical, volatile mid-tier TE1.
RBs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon — Dillon was asked to kill the clock in their blowout win against Pittsburgh last week which led to an inflated box score for him and a slightly underwhelming one for Jones. Things should be more competitive this week though, solidifying Jones’ status as a top-5 RB. Dillon is just a bench stash.
QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase — Burrow’s a QB1 for this one. Green Bay was fielding one of the worst, injury-ruined defenses in the league even before No. 1 CB Jaire Alexander was ruled out with a shoulder injury. WR Chase should have a field day against the Pack and just so happens to have produced the best consistency rating (1.8%) of Paddi’s newly christened NECC metrics. Chase is a locked-in WR1 this week.
Most consistent & efficient fantasy WRs through Week 4 (per @PaddiCooper's NECC rating):
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) October 6, 2021
WRs Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd — With Higgins returning from a two-week absence (shoulder), he and Boyd will be duking it out for No. 2 pass catching honors. In such a strong match-up, both can be deployed as high-floor WR3s though.
TE C.J. Uzomah — As mentioned last week, the stage was set for Uzomah to produce in a sneaky way and he instead did so loudly. Uzomah once again has a good match-up on his hands this week as the Packers are giving up 13.5 .5PPR PPG to the position, 7th most in the league. Uzomah is a solid TE1 streamer, though it’s possible the return of Higgins dampens his outlook.
RBs Samaje Perine and Chris Evans — Head coach Zac Taylor is trying to play coy with lead back Joe Mixon’s ankle injury but it’s clear as day that he’s going to miss this week’s contest. Follow Dr. Edwin Porras’ injury tracker for updates and keep in mind that Adam Schefter reported Mixon is “week-to-week”, not “day-to-day” as Taylor claims. Perine will handle lead back duties this week, likely getting around 15 carries and 3-5 targets. Pass catching specialist Evans is going to be involved though. Consider Perine a high-end RB3 and Evans an RB4 with RB3 upside, especially in full-point PPR.
Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers
QBs Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock — Lock looked awful playing in relief of the concussed Bridgewater last week, who left the contest part way through. Lock’s two preferred targets were TE Noah Fant and WR Courtland Sutton. He was really only able to get things going with Fant though as his scattershot arm failed to find Sutton on a number of deep throws.
|Rec, 11 Yds
|Rec, 11 yds
|Rec, 8 yds
|Rec, 5 yds
|Rec, 13 yds
|Rec, -3 yds
|Rec, 0 yds
|Rec, 9 yds
|Rec, 9 yds
|Rec, 32 yds
|Rec, 3 yds
|Rec, 6 yds
|Rec, 9 yds
Luckily, Bridgewater was able to get in a limited practice participation on Thursday, putting him on track to play. If active, he’s a high-floor QB2. Lock would be a highly volatile QB2 if he’s at the helm.
WR Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick — Sutton is a volatile, if high-end WR3 in this one, whose floor would solidify if Bridgewater is active. Patrick is a high-floor WR4 if Bridgewater plays but would be a WR5 if it’s Lock.
Update 10/9/21, 10:33am PST: Sutton suffered an ankle injury in practice on Friday but it is considered to be “minor” and he should play through it.
WRs Diontae Spencer and Kendall Hinton — Hinton, of emergency QB fame, replaced Spencer as the primary slot receiver after Spencer exited with a chest injury. Neither player should be on redraft radar.
TE Noah Fant — Fellow tight end Albert Okwuegbunam suffered a hamstring injury during Thursday’s practice, putting his Week 5 availability in major doubt. This would be huge for Fant, who’s seen a few would-be-Fant passes head Albert O’s way. Fant’s a TE1 who’s ceiling raises with Lock at QB.
RBs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams — The rookie Williams had the flashy moves last week but Gordon just keeps playing like the professional baller that he is. Williams did take the snap lead for the first time this year, although his 31 snaps hardly tower over Gordon’s 30. Gordon got more carries (9 to 7), targets (4 to 3), but ran two fewer routes (15 to 17, per PFF). To the rookie’s credit, his handled 16 pass blocks to Gordon’s 13 and his 87.5 PFF pass blocking grade leaves Gordon’s 33.3 in the dust. Gordon’s 4.9 YPC ranks T-13th in the league though so the veteran isn’t going anywhere. The Denver duo makes for a pair of rock-solid RB3s.
QB Ben Roethlisberger — Do not start Roethlisberger against the Broncos’ pass rush. He’s going to be sacked into oblivion.
WRs Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster — The PIT WR trio is returning to full health but only Johnson can be started as a WR2. Roethlisberger’s body and mind are completely shot and this offensive line is going to look like the inflatable tube men in car dealership parking lots against edge rusher Von Miller. Claypool is a volatile, borderline WR3/4. JuJu is a high-floor WR5 in full-point PPR.
WR James Washington — Bench stash.
TE Pat Freiermuth — Unstartable with Eric Ebron stealing snaps there.
RB Najee Harris — No. 2 RB Anthony McFarland is coming off of Injured Reserve and may get a little more run behind Harris than No. 3/fill-in No. 2 back Benny Snell did. McFarland is likely just a must-add bench stash though—think Alexander Mattison-esque. Harris should continue his outrageously high-volume ways this week, making him at top-15 RB play this week.
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers
QB Jalen Hurts — The Panthers’s CB depth chart is going to look a lot different in coming weeks with Stephon Gilmore, recently acquired via trade, coming off PUP and A.J. Bouye returning from suspension but we’re not there yet. Hurts’ 56.5 rushing yards per game, as well as his development as a passer, have him locked firmly in the elite fantasy QB1 tier.
WR DeVonta Smith — Philly plays Carolina, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, and Detroit over the next four weeks. Smith is an every-week WR2 during that span.
WRs Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor — Watkins is turning the usage-corner. His Weeks 3 and 4 snaps and routes run have risen significantly and last week he finally out-targeted Reagor seven to two. Add him while you still can. Watkins is a high-end WR4 with WR3 potential. Reagor is just a WR5.
WR Greg Ward — Ward has played well in a limited capacity over the last two weeks. One could speculatively bench-stash him as the team looks like it’s acknowledging that they whiffed on Reagor.
TEs Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz — Hurts loves his big-bodied boys. Both are high-end TE2s at this point. With Goedert blocking at a slightly higher rate than Ertz, the latter is able to get a little more work in the passing game. Rank Ertz 1-2 spots ahead of Goedert.
RBs Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders — New head coach Nick Sirianni has no allegiance to Sanders as he wasn’t around when the front office drafted him. Sirianni did draft Gainwell last fall though. Sanders has maintained a lead in snaps, carries, and routes run (PFF) but Gainwell is close behind in all three categories and has out-targeted Sanders 10 to 6 over the last two weeks. The Eagles’ banged up offensive line is in for a long day against Carolina’s stout front-seven. Gainwell is an RB3 this week in what should be a back-and-forth shootout. Sanders is an RB4.
QB Sam Darnold — Darnold is miraculously the NFL’s No. 1 rushing touchdown scorer (5) and he’s arrived at that mountain top but on designed red zone rushes and opportunistic scrambles. Darnold’s also the No. 5 QB in fantasy scoring right now. Facing a Philly pass defense ranking 24th in NEFF pass defense rating (38.6%) and a run defense unit ranking 27th (40.7%), Darnold is once again a mid-tier QB1.
WR D.J. Moore — An every-week WR1. Moore is a full-on target hog this year.
Teams' concentration of targets based on combined target share of the top three pass-catchers. I have started removing players who will be out an extended time period (i.e., Chark, Jeudy) to show the concentration of the remaining players. pic.twitter.com/XKoW8uDrvX
— Sam Hoppen (@SamHoppen) October 4, 2021
WRs Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall — HC Matt Rhule made clear that he wanted Anderson more involved last week and although the box score results didn’t pan out, the targets were there (11). Anderson’s a speedster and KC Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill just took the Eagles for 11 catches, 186 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Anderson and Hill are, of course, not on the same level but Anderson’s downfield role should pay off this week. He’s a WR3. Marshall has settled in as a role-playing WR5.
TE Tommy Tremble — Tremble flopped last week. He’s just a back-end TE2.
RBs Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard, and Rodney Smith — CMC has logged limited practice participations on both Wednesday and Thursday (hamstring) so this may all be moot but Hubbard and Smith split the backfield work last week. Hubbard operated at the lead back but Smith ran 26 routes to Hubbard’s 15 (PFF) and caught 5-of-5 passes for 48 yards. Hubbard went 2-of-2 for 14 yards through the air. Smith, a six-year collegiate player, came out of nowhere and relegated veteran Royce Freeman in the dust. Should McCaffrey miss Week 5, Hubbard would be a high-end RB3 and Smith would be a high-end RB4 with upside in full-point PPR. If CMC is active, he’s a top-3 RB.
Update 10/8/21, 10:45am PST: Christian McCaffrey is listed as Doubtful to play.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Ryan Tannehill — The only quarterback who failed to throw for over 300 yards vs. Jacksonville was the thoroughly washed up Tyrod Taylor, who just barely missed that mark (291). Tannehill is a top notch QB1 streamer this week.
WRs A.J. Brown and Julio Jones — It’s typically advisable to treat players returning from a hamstring injury with caution but Brown has already logged a limited participation and full participation in Wednesday and Thursday’s respective practices. Julio, meanwhile, has failed to practice at all. With the latter out, Brown is a real candidate for 15+ targets in one of the best match-ups a WR can have. AJB is a high-flying WR1.
WRs Chester Rogers, Josh Reynolds, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine — We nailed the Titans’ expected WR usage last week. As seen below, Rogers remained the primary slot receiver, Reynolds replaced Julio Jones as the receiver most-glued to the perimeter, and NWI filled in for A.J. Brown.
|Wide Snaps/Slot Snaps/Routes Run
|RZ TGT/EZ TGT
With Brown back this week, NWI is likely to be riding the pine while Rogers and Reynolds maintain their roles from last week. It’s possible NWI rotates in so the others can get a breather and Brown doesn’t work his recovering hamstring too hard but the former cannot be started in redraft formats. Rogers is usable as a WR4 this week—Jags’ slot CB Tre Herndon returned to action last week and was promptly roasted for 6 catches on 7 targets, 90 yards and 1 touchdown (per PFF). Reynolds is a boom/bust WR5 whose downfield role could pay off just as easily as it could flop with Brown back in the mix.
TEs Anthony Firkser — Firkser is a deep-league streaming option. Bengals’s TE C.J. Uzomah just went 5-of-6 for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns against a Jags’ defense that’s allowing 13.2 .5PPR PPG, 8th most in the NFL.
RB Derrick Henry — Henry’s performances against the Jaguars are the stuff of legends. Fenrir will rear his head once again — even if Christian McCaffrey returns this week, the Tennessee back is the overall RB1.
RBs Darrynton Evans and Jeremy McNichols — Evans is set to return from IR this week but McNichols is hot off of a passing game performance to remember (8 catches, 12 targets, and 74 yards). Dear readers were warned that he had decent upside in full-point PPR formats last week. Evans may retake the No. 2 RB job but McNichols play would have to drop off a bit for Evans to simply retake the primary backup job.
QB Trevor Lawrence — Head coach Urban Meyer has been a walking train wreck for a week now and the Jags’ brass is reportedly trying to find ways out of his contract. With any luck, OC Darrell Bevell will be tasked with drawing up the offensive game plan this week. Monitor the situation. Tennessee’s injury-eviscerated defense should help Lawrence to a top-15 finish.
WRs Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault — D.J. Chark exited early in Week 4 with a badly broken ankle. He’s unlikely to return this season. As a result, Shenault’s average depth of target (aDot) jumped from 4.13 to 11.8 last week. He’s suddenly a high-end WR3. X-receiver Jones should be considered a back-end WR2. Gadget man Tavon Austin was the first man off the bench after Chark’s exit. He’s no more than a fantasy WR6 though.
TE Dan Arnold — Arnold is just a TE2.
RBs James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, and Dare Ogunbowale — Hyde was not on Week 4’s injury report but was ruled out on game day with a shoulder injury. He’s practicing in full this week but it would be a bad move for Meyer to try to force Hyde back into the lineup after Robinson ran wild for 76 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns. Due to the uncertainty of Hyde’s status, Robinson must be ranked as an elite RB2. If we get any indication that Hyde will be relegated to a pure backup role, Robinson slides up to the RB1 ranks. Ogunbowale is not fantasy relevant. Hyde should not be in any redraft leagues.
Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers
QB Baker Mayfield — Mayfield’s playing hurt (non-throwing shoulder) and now must face the sixth-ranked pass defense per NEFF rating. Mayfield is a low-end QB2 this week.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. — Beckham seemingly ran too fast for Mayfield to connect with him against Minnesota’s hapless secondary. That does not bode well against a much more talented LAC DB group. Beckham is a volatile WR3.
WR Rashard Higgins — Higgins is the only fantasy relevant non-Beckham Browns WR and he’s just a WR5 floor play.
TEs Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant — David Njoku has registered back-to-back DNPs to start the week (knee). If he’s inactive, Hooper could be considered in DFS but a match-up date with SS Derwin James is hardly one to target. Bryant is a TE3.
RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt — Chubb has been out-played by Hunt over the last two weeks but this is a decent get-right spot for him. LAC is allowing 114.2 RB rushing yards per game, 5th most in the NFL, and their 43.5% NEFF run defense rating is T-21st. Both backs are top-15 plays at the position.
Los Angeles Chargers
QB Justin Herbert — The Browns’ defense is playing at an elite level and DE Myles Garrett should be the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year right now. The Chargers’ offense is a force to be reckoned with though. Herbert remains a match-up-proof QB1.
WRs Mike Williams and Keenan Allen — Expectations for the Chargers’ 1-2 WR punch should be dropped some but a finish worse than WR20 is unlikely for either.
WRs Jalen Guyton and Josh Palmer — Guyton is still running as LA’s No. 3 WR but he’s not seeing much action.
TEs Jared Cook and Donald Parham — Both players scored last week but Cook is running well ahead of Parham. Neither is usable in redraft against Cleveland.
RBs Austin Ekeler and Larry Rountree — Ekeler is T-10th in RB touches through four weeks (68). The beastly dual threat is an every-week RB1. Fellow backup RB Justin Jackson went from limited participation to a DNP (groin). Rountree is likely to be the primary backup this week although he does not carry standalone fantasy value.
Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders
QB Justin Fields — Good things on the way for Chicago. Fields is the starter ROS and OC Bill Lazor has taken over play-calling duties.
— Nic Bodiford (@Ginger__Nic) October 6, 2021
Vegas has struggled to contain mobile QBs Lamar Jackson (12 carries for 86 yards) and Jacoby Brissett (7 carries for 37 yards and 1 touchdown), setting up Fields for a high-end QB2 performance.
WRs Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney — Robinson and Mooney separated from the rest of the Bears’ WR corps last week. Robinson went 3-of-3 for 63 yards while Mooney posted team-high marks across the board—5 catches on 7 targets for 125 yards. Raiders’ perimeter CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. is unlikely to play (toe), which should help both Bears’ WRs. Treat Robinson as a high-floor WR2 and Mooney as a high-ceiling WR3.
TE Cole Kmet — Kmet is not seeing enough work for fantasy relevance but he could be bench stashed as this duo is the QB/TE pairing of the future.
RB Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert — Through four contests, Vegas is allowing 24.4 .5PPR PPG to opposing backfields (7th most). Other highlights include an allowance of 1.0 RB rushing TD (T-7th most), 5 RB receptions, 35.2 RB receiving yards, and 0.5 RB receiving TDs (T-3rd most). Vegas’ 42.7% NEFF run defense efficiency score is 24th in the NFL and the Bears have been heartily committed to the run this year. Williams is a high-end RB2, this week and beyond. The Bears’ bye is in Week 10. Depending on the state of the Chicago’ season and the progress Montgomery has made, it’s possible that the team chooses to shut down their stud back for the remainder of the season. Khalil Herbert should be added to benches as the primary backup.
Las Vegas Raiders
QB Derek Carr — Carr was rattled by repeated QB hits early on last week and the Bears’ pass rush 1-2 punch of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn may be able to replicate that outcome again this week. Still the Raiders’ passer is tough to fade, given the year he’s had. Consider him a fringe QB1/2.
WRs Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow — Bears’ cornerbacks, both on the perimeter and in the slot have been shredded by opposing WRs this year, allowing 36.9 .5PPR PPG to the position, 4th most in the NFL. Downfield receiver Ruggs and short-area dynamo Renfrow have put significant distance between themselves and X-receiver Bryan Edwards and can be started as high-floor/high-ceiling WR3s this week. Renfrow has excellent full-point PPR prospects and Renfrow has a great shot at reeling in multiple long balls.
TE Darren Waller — Waller is an every-week elite TE1.
RBs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake — Jacobs (ankle) returned to action in a big way last week and the only real in-house competition for his job, Peyton Barber, suffered a turf toe injury. Although Drake is the designated pass catching back, Jacobs ran 22 routes to Drake’s 15 (PFF) and caught 5-of-5 passes for 17 yards. Drake was not targeted at all. This may be the Josh Jacobs bellcow usage we’ve been waiting for. Against a tough Chicago front-seven he’s a mid-to-low RB2 though. Drake is an RB5.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
QB Trey Lance — Lance replaced Jimmy Garoppolo mid-game last week after Jimmy G exited with a calf injury at half-time. Despite attempting 5 fewer passes, Lance finished just 8 yards short of Garoppolo’s 165 passing yards. The rookie signal caller made his impact immediately felt on the ground (7 carries for 41 yards) and connected with Deebo Samuel for touchdowns of 8 and 76 yards. Arizona’s front-seven is solid, ranking top-10 in both QB hits (18) and sacks (10) but Lance’s play-making ability on the ground should keep him productive. He’s a back-end QB1 this week.
Update 10/8/21, 1:28pm PST: Trey Lance has been confirmed as the starter, George Kittle is Doubtful, and Elijah Mitchell going to play. TE Ross Dwelly can be streamed as a high-end TE2.
WR Deebo Samuel — Seeing Lance look immediately to Samuel was a gift from the Football Gods. Samuel remains a fantasy WR1.
WRs Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, and Mohamed Sanu — All too risky for redraft. Sherfield showed chemistry with Lance in the preseason and caught one of his pre-Week 4 touchdowns. Aiyuk is the most talented.
TE George Kittle — Kittle went DNP, DNP, LP in practice last week (calf) and still played—he even saw 10 targets come his way. Assuming he’s active, Kittle is an elite TE1.
RBs Trey Sermon and Eli Mitchell, and FB Kyle “Juice” Juszczyk — Mitchell was effectively the lead back in Weeks 1 and 2 while Sermon filled that role in Weeks 3 and 4. Juice has become more of a factor in the passing game as time has passed.
|RZ Att/Inside-5 Att
|RZ TGT/EZ TGT
Should Mitchell be active this week, he may see a little more passing game work than Sermon but Juice has been playing well there so it’s anyone’s guess. Both Mitchell and Sermon would be high-end RB3s. If Mitchell is inactive, Sermon would slide up to the RB2 realm and Juice would make for an acceptable RB5 flier in full-point PPR formats.
QB Kyler Murray — Dominant, every-week QB1.
WR DeAnndre Hopkins — The depth of the Cards’ WR corps has dinged Hopkins’ target share a tad. He’s too good to remove from the fantasy WR1 ranks though.
WR A.J. Green — Green emerged from the Mark of the Beast with his fourth consecutive six-target outing last week and his snap share took a big step forward in the process. He’s an every-week WR3 until further notice.
WRs Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore — Kirk and Moore have see-sawed their way in and out of our good graces through four weeks, forming a stellar real-football 1-2 slot receiver punch. For fantasy purposes it’s a bit of a nightmare. Both players are of the boom/bust ilk; Kirk as a WR4 given his stronger snap share, Moore as a WR5.
TE Maxx Williams — The veteran TE has produced a couple of usable weeks but years and years of ineffectiveness loom large. He’s a risky TE2.
RBs Chase Edmonds and James Conner — Opposing backs have ravaged the SF defensive front this year, hanging 23.3 .5PPR PPG on them (9th most). Edmonds, in the middle of a fantastic season, may not get a crack at them though. The dual threat lead back injured his shoulder last week and has been unable to practice on both Thursday and Friday, putting his Sunday availability in doubt. Conner, who’s been a machine in scoring position, would vault from RB3 status into the high-end RB2 range should Edmonds miss. Edmonds is currently ranked as the RB18.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
QB Daniel Jones — Jones got back on track against New Orleans last week and has an even softer match-up against the division rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. The ‘Boys are allowing 25.5 PPG to opposing signal callers, 4th most in the NFL. Jones is back on the QB1 radar again this week.
WRs Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kadarius Toney — With downfield WR Darius Slayton and slot receiver Sterling Shepard unable to practice on Thursday and Friday, Ross and Toney should keep prominent roles in this one. Aside from the goal-line fumble (on his 52-yard score) that he managed to recover, Ross looked alright. Toney was every bit the electric, if raw slot man that the team drafted him to be. Kenny G made sweet music like a jump-ball alpha WR. Golladay will have to duke it out with stud CB Trevon Diggs but he can handle it. Treat the veteran X-receiver as a WR3. Ross is a boom/bust WR4, Toney a high-floor WR4 with upside in full-point PPR.
TE Evan Engram — Engram’s 3.3 air yards per target was the fifth-lowest mark in the league last week. It’s going to be hard for him to produce as a TE1 with that kind of usage.
RB Saquon Barkley — Barkley silenced the doubters with 126 yards from scrimmage, 5 catches, and 2 touchdowns. He’s an elite RB1 from here on out. Devontae Booker is just a bench stash.
QB Dak Prescott — Elite QB1.
WRs Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb — Dallas has run a more balanced offense than expected (54% first-half early-down pass rate) and their tight ends have been eating in the red zone. Variance should swing back in Cooper and Lamb’s favor. They are high-end WR2s at worst.
Cedrick Wilson Jr. — Wilson is just a low-volume slot receiver.
TEs Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin — Both tight ends scored last week but over the last two weeks, Schultz leads Jarwin in snaps (74%-55%), routes (39 to 29, per PFF), targets (14 to 5), and red zone targets (5 to 1, per PFF). Schultz is a fantasy TE1, while Jarwin is a TE2.
RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard — Elliott is dealing with a knee injury but he’s not expected to miss time because of it. He was able to record a limited practice participation on Thursday. He’s an elite RB1 every week. Pollard, meanwhile, has proven to be a capable rotational player who could see a couple more touches per game to help ease the load on Zeke’s knee. He’s a high-end RB4.
Sunday Night Football: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
QB Josh Allen — This could be the highest scoring game of the slate as two powerhouse offenses collide. Allen and Patrick Mahomes should be the top-2 ranked QBs.
WR Stefon Diggs — Elite WR1. Diggs has to be licking his chops at KC’s T-29th ranked pass defense per NEFF pass defense ratings.
WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley — Both are locked in WR3s with easy WR2 upside in what should be a pass-happy affair.
Gabe Davis — Boom/bust WR5 whose number could be called on a few deep shots.
TE Dawson Knox — Knox is officially a fantasy TE1. He’s played no fewer than 78% of the team’s snaps over the last three weeks, running a route 88.2% of the time, per PFF. KC is allowing 13.6 .5PPR PPG to opposing TEs, 6th most in the NFL.
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) October 6, 2021
RBs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary — Moss is technically the lead back but the duo posted identical usage numbers last week; 14 carries and 1 target apiece. Should they see a similar 12-15 touches, each player should be able to produce flex-worthy value against the Chiefs’ 30th ranked run defense in NEFF rating. Moss is an RB3. Singletary is an RB4.
Kansas City Chiefs
QB Patrick Mahomes — Offense vs. offense. Mahomes is a top-2 QB this week.
WR Tyreek Hill — Positive regression hit last week and it was great. Hill will do battle with CB Tre’Davious White on Sunday night but he’s got the talent and the quarterback to finish as a high-flying WR1.
WRs Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson — DFS-only.
WR Josh Gordon — It’s likely they ease him into things but this is the type of shootout environment where a talented receiver should be able to “flash”. If Gordon can’t turn heads in this one, feel free to drop him. He’s a very risky WR5 start this week.
TE Travis Kelce — The overall TE1 every week.
RBs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams — CEH played on just 52% of KC’s snaps last week and Williams shot up to 36%. Edwards-Helaire is also barely involved as a pass catcher and Williams was given two carries inside the opponent’s five-yard line. CEH had zero. The Bills have bottled up opposing backfields this year, limiting them to just 11.5 .5PPR PPG, 4th fewest in the league and their 70.2% run defense NEFF rating is T-2nd best. CEH is an RB3 while Williams is an RB4.