After an injury-filled Week 5, this week's slate of games is primed with fantasy news to track. The Giants are going to roll out practice squad-level players at receiver, while Tyler Eifert is head towards another back surgery, and the Browns have made another quarterback change.
There’s a lot to get to this week. Let’s break it all down in Thursday’s Dose:
The wheels have completely fallen off for the New York Giants. Not only are both Odell Beckham (fractured ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) done for the season, Sterling Shepard (ankle) is not expected to play in Week 6 against Denver. All of the Giants' receiver injuries leave them with a starting three-receiver set of Travis Rudolph (UDFA), Tavarres King (four career receptions), and Roger Lewis (15 career receptions). Evan Engram only ran 18.2% of his routes from the slot (per PFF) in Week 5, but the rookie tight end will be relied on heavily to close out the year. New York may best off just moving him into the slot over 50% of the time from here on out. Meanwhile, with all of the Giants' peril at receiver, stud slot corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team." DRC straight up just walked out of a meeting on Wednesday. What a mess. HC Ben McAdoo has completely lost this team. Without DRC, former-Steeler Ross Cockrell will likely kick into the slot in Week 6 with Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple outside.
At press-time, Ty Montgomery (ribs) is probably 50/50 to play in Week 6. He returned to full practice on Wednesday, but the Packers won’t practice in full pads until Thursday. Packers’ HC Mike McCarthy said he isn’t sure if Montgomery will be available. Aaron Jones dropped a hyper-efficient 19/125/1 rushing line on Dallas in Week 5 in place of Montgomery, dominating snaps (88%), and red-zone opportunities (five). Per PFF, Aaron Jones saw 3.8 yards before first contact vs. Dallas in Week 5, while Ty Montgomery sits at 1.1 YBC/Attempt on the year. The Packers' opened up gaping holes vs. Dallas in Week 5 and Jones crushed through them, looking electric on his 19 carries. Attached to an elite offense, Jones will be a locked-and-loaded high-end RB2 against Minnesota if Montgomery sits even though the Vikes' are allowing the second-fewest rushing fantasy points per tote to enemy backs.
Unfortunately, Tyler Eifert is going in for another back surgery. Eifert's second back surgery in ten months will end his 2017 season. Eifert is in a contract-year, and he is only 27-years-old, but he's appeared in 10 games over the past two calendar years. In the NFL, Eifert has missed time due to shoulder, elbow, neck, head, ankle, and back injuries. At this point, Eifert needs to concern himself with his future as the various ailments across his body pile up. It's hard not to feel bad for him. Without Eifert, Tyler Kroft will continue to start in his place. Kroft has 4, 7, and 5 targets on 98% > 83% > 94% snap rates in three games played.
There’s more tight end news to cover outside of Eifert. Let’s start with the bad news first: Travis Kelce (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday and has to clear through the entire league protocol in the next three days to have a shot at playing in Week 6 vs. the Steelers. Demetrius Harris will pick up Kelce’s snaps if he sits against Pittsburgh, but he has just 32 career receptions across four seasons with Kansas City. Hopefully Kelce’s concussion won’t cause any long-term issues. Tyreek Hill will get a nice target bump if Kelce sits this week.
In the more positive news at the position, Rob Gronkowski (thigh) is expected to return in Week 6 while Jordan Reed (chest) was removed from the Redskins' practice report. Gronk didn't practice on Wednesday, but ESPN's Adam Schefter mentioned over the weekend that he'd likely return for the Pats' road tilt against the Jets. Through four games played, Gronkowski is averaging 79.5 YPG -- which would be the most he's yards per contest he's put up in a season since 2013 (84.6 YPG) and his historic 17 touchdown 2011 season (82.9 YPG). Coming out of the Redskins bye, a healthy Jordan Reed can only help Washington (2-2) attempt to make up ground on the NFC East leaders (Philadelphia, 4-1). Reed hasn't been his usual self all year as he's battled toe and chest injuries, but he finished as the TE1 in PPR points per game in 2015 and 2016. Reed should be a difference-maker down the stretch at a position that is sorely lacking in depth and upside in 2017.
Stefon Diggs (groin) didn't practice on Wednesday, but he mentioned that he plans to play in Week 6. Diggs had to leave Week 5 for a brief stretch dealing with his ailing groin on MNF, and subsequently caught one pass for four yards. This isn't a new trend. It's excellent that Diggs wants to play, but he has massive statistical splits when he is on Minnesota’s injury report. Last year, Diggs showed up on the Vikings injury report in five contests. In those five games, he averaged 3.8 receptions and 34.8 yards per game when he was on the Vikings injury list versus 8.1 receptions and 91.1 yards per contest when he was healthy. At full health in the first four games this year, Diggs dropped 7/93/2, 2/27, 8/173/2, and 5/98. There is a significant sample size of data that suggests Diggs struggles to be effective when he's nicked up, so hopefully, his current groin injury is minor. If he can suit up, Diggs is in an excellent Week 6 matchup vs. a Packers secondary that he lit on fire for 9/182/1 (not on the injury report) last year.
Finally, two young quarterbacks remain questionable for Week 6. Derek Carr (back) and Marcus Mariota (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, and both are questionable for their respective matchups vs. the Chargers and Colts. Right now, Derek Carr is more likely of the two to play in Week 6 as he's made it back from his transverse fracture sooner than even the Raiders anticipated. Carr was given a 2-6 week window to return, but his potential return could potentially spark a slumping Amari Cooper against an LA Chargers' secondary that is surrendering the fifth-most PPR points per target to receivers. Since the Titans play on MNF this week, Mariota will likely trend towards a game-time decision in Week 6. In Mariota's six missed games over the past three years, the Titans offense has failed to generate over 1.0 points per drive while they notch 1.94 offensive points per drive when Mariota is active and healthy. Those are abysmal splits.
Eagles RT Lane Johnson (concussion) is out for Week 6 against the Panthers while Wendell Smallwood (knee) is questionable. … For Carolina, Devin Funchess (knee) returned to practice Wednesday. He's expected to play.
Offensive Quick Hits
Jordy Nelson (back) is practicing in full for Week 6 against the Vikings. … DeVante Parker (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday. … Sam Bradford (knee) didn't practice on Wednesday. … Jets’ RB Bilal Powell (calf) did not practice on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Matt Forte (toe) made his first practice appearance in weeks on Wednesday. … Saints HC Sean Payton said Willie Snead (hamstring) is 100 percent coming out of the bye week. … Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) is likely out for Week 6. … Terrance West (calf) did not practice Wednesday. … Rob Kelley (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. He is a long shot to play in Week 6. … Matthew Stafford (ankle, hamstring) practiced on Wednesday. So did Kenny Golladay (hamstring). … Ravens TE Maxx Williams (ankle) is practicing in full for Week 6 against the Bears. … Corey Davis (hamstring) is out for Week 6 against the Colts.
Defensive Quick Hits
Lions placed DT Haloti Ngata on injured reserve with a biceps injury. … Cowboys released CB Nolan Carroll. Jourdan Lewis will continue to start opposite Anthony Brown. … Cowboys DT Stephen Paea informed the team he is retiring after seven seasons. DT David Irving returned from suspension in Week 5 and started in place of Paea. … The Saints signed LB Gerald Hodges. … Browns OLB Jamie Collins (concussion) is practicing in full for Week 6 against the Texans. … 49ers ILB Reuben Foster (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday.