Fantasy Football is a game ruled by variance, strange bounces, injuries, and unusual occurrences. So it’s nice when we get a few clean results here and there.
The Week 5 receiver board, for the most part, is filled with familiar names. Many of those showed up Sunday.
Start with Antonio Brown, who had a back-in-business torching of the Atlanta secondary (6-101-2) in Pittsburgh’s 41-17 romp. That said, Brown needed 13 targets to get to his 25.10 points; maybe he’s not at peak efficiency yet. Nonetheless, Brown has a spike in four of five games and he’s been targeted 66 times. No matter how good JuJu Smith-Schuster is (and he also scored Sunday), Brown isn’t leaving the top receiver tier.
Odell Beckham finished the day as fantasy’s top receiver, in part because the Giants found a neat Eli Manning hack: let OBJ throw the ball. Beckham chucked a 57-yard touchdown to Saquon Barkley on a gadget play, giving the Giants upset-juice against the Panthers. New York ultimately settled for a 33-31 defeat at Carolina, though no fault of Beckham (8-113-1, 14 targets). Maybe there’s just enough oomph left in Manning’s right arm.
If any Beckham owners were concerned going into this game, this monster number could give you a selling window. But get your shopping done quickly — the Giants host Philadelphia on Thursday.
Those same Eagles need to get some work done in their secondary. Adam Thielen ran past it and around it for a 7-116-1 day — nifty numbers on a tidy 10 targets. Thielen has 100-plus yards in all five games this year; the undrafted free agent has turned into one of the NFL’s star receivers.
The Vikings have one of the league’s tightest usage trees — they don’t waste a lot of time trying to get secondary pieces involved. Stefon Diggs collected 116 total yards (25 on the ground), Kyle Rudolph posted 5-41-0, and that was about it. Latavius Murray was ordinary behind the struggling Vikings offensive line — 11-42-0 rushing, 2-14-0 receiving. Dalvin Cook (knee) didn’t play.
The Packers spotted Detroit a 24-point lead, which put Aaron Rodgers in catch-up mode throughout. Rodgers wound up throwing 52 passes, a bunch of them to the Green Bay scrabble crew (Equanimeous St. Brown had 89 yards, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 68 yards and a score). But when push comes to shove, Davante Adams is the money man. Adams rang up 9-140-1 in Motown, a swanky score on 12 targets. Maybe Green Bay’s overall skill collection is average at best, but it’s not Adams’s fault. He’s the NFL’s top receiving touchdown guy since the beginning of the 2016 season, and a bona fide Pro Bowl candidate.
A possible Aaron Jones breakout game was squashed by the game flow. Jones finished with 7-40 on the ground to go with two short catches (19 yards). He was also outsnapped by blocking legend Jamaal Williams, though Williams didn’t do anything special with the ball (6-33 rushing, 2-10 receiving). What would it take to put Mike McCarthy on the hot seat? The 2-2-1 Packers host San Francisco, then take their Week 7 bye.
While the Lions were happy with their 31-23 victory, the backfield remains a fantasy frustration. Kerryon Johnson continued to jitterbug around defenders (12-70-0, 2-15-0), but it was old warhorse LeGarrette Blount (12-22-2) bogarting a couple of short touchdowns. With Detroit probably satisfied with this result, it’s possible the status quo will carry into Week 7 against Miami. The Lions are off next Sunday.
Raiders With a No-Show
Just when I thought it was safe to trust Jon Gruden and the Raiders offense, an egg was laid in Los Angeles. The Chargers cruised to a 26-10 victory — the score doesn’t do the blowout justice — and the Raiders skill players were mostly invisible.
Start with Amari Cooper, who was targeted just once (a 10-yard connection). I might spend my Monday watching that one grab on endless coaching tape, or perhaps watch Casey Heyward and other Chargers locking him down.
Derek Carr did manage 8.1 YPA and a 94.0 rating, but just one scoring drive. His best success came when throwing to non-fantasy factors; Martavis Bryant (3-91-0) and Jalen Richard (6-53-0) were involved. Jordy Nelson (4-43-1) had the lone touchdown, while Seth Roberts soaked up seven targets and posted 41 obstruction yards.
Just when we wanted to trust Jared Cook, down came the 4-20-0 stinker. Marshawn Lynch had 11 touches, 41 yards, and no real impact on the game. Gruden will try to get things back in order for the Seahawks game next week.
Njoku Getting Last Laugh
Every Browns game is starting to muddle together — they’re always close, often they need overtime, and you run to the shower as soon as they end. Cleveland fans could also run to the beer cooler Sunday afternoon after the wacky 12-9 overtime victory over Baltimore was complete. Perhaps we’ll look at the game as David Njoku’s coming-out party.
Njoku didn’t post video-game stats, but he did lead the team in catches, yards, and targets (a 6-69-0 line, 11 looks). He’s starting to get something going with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield (25-43-342, 1-1). Tyrod Taylor was reluctant to make seam throws — or any throws, really — unless a receiver was clearly running open. Mayfield is far better when it comes to anticipatory throws, and he knows how to throw a receiver open.
Bortles is Bortling again
No current NFL player represents the gap between fantasy and real football as much as Blake Bortles. He’s probably a league-average quarterback at best and on several days he’s far worse than that — consider Sunday’s 30-14 loss at Kansas City. But he’s also a stat-grabber and a stat-padder.
It could take a while to document all the things Bortles did wrong at the Chiefs, and against a defense no one is afraid of. Bortles had a slow release and was consistently inaccurate. His pocket awareness was horrendous. He sold out his receivers on a few misjudged passes. But Bortles also made a few big throws, he ran competitively and without regard to his body, and he played a full game in catch-up mode. When the smoke cleared, Bortles had 430 passing yards, 34 rushing yards, and a couple of touchdowns (one by air, one by ground). Even with a four-interception tax mixed in, it’s a plus day for our purposes.
The Jags obviously don’t want Bortles chucking the ball 61 times, and with their defense, it will seldom be needed. But when Jacksonville faces an opponent that can light up the scoreboard, garbage-time Bortles can be a thing. Perhaps next week’s game at Dallas will be on the lower-scoring side, but after that the Jags play Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Get your popcorn ready.
Donte Moncrief was another Jaguar who posted solid yardage (76 yards) but needed a ton of opportunity to get there (15 targets). Bortles consistently looked for Moncrief on deep and intermediate routes, seldom with success. If you like to consider air yards as a precursor to future success, keep Moncrief on your radar. They’re certainly trying to unlock him on deeper patterns.
T.J. Yeldon isn’t a special back, but the Jaguars can’t be choosy these days. Leonard Fournette remains week-to-week, and Corey Grant is out for the year. Yeldon collected 122 total yards and a score at KC, converting the touchdown a pretty wheel route. He’s a locked-in RB1, on opportunity alone, so long as Fournette isn’t playing.