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Week 6 Fantasy Football Stats: Another statement game for Baker

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Baker Mayfield leads all quarterbacks with 13.2 yards per attempt — on screen passes

To show just how wild that stat is, Dak Prescott is in second with 8.8. Some of Mayfield’s overall efficiency numbers are certainly boosted by screen passes this year and we know he’s been propped up by play-action in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, as well.

That’s not to say Mayfield is at all a bad quarterback. He’s a functional, starting-caliber quarterback who can run an efficient offense. It’s hard to argue with the results the Browns have gotten out of Mayfield since Stefanski took over and it’s a nitpick on a team that’s winning right now and fancies itself a contender.

It just happens to be a nitpick at the game’s most important position.

The situation Cleveland finds itself in with Mayfield set to hit his fifth-year option in 2022 is not too dissimilar to the Rams’ position with Jared Goff after 2018. Even as Goff was putting up huge numbers in Sean McVay’s offense, the world over knew he was an anchor on a roster that was otherwise set to be an annual top-five team.

We all wondered what another — and frankly better — quarterback would do in this system.

Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns
What do the Browns truly have in Baker Mayfield? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

But as I said at the time and have continued to say since then ... no team willingly leaves quarterback purgatory and walks into quarterback wilderness.

The Rams eventually got their upgrade at quarterback but it took two more years, a huge extension for Goff, and multiple draft picks to get there. Were the years lost at sea with Goff all worth it? If the Matthew Stafford era is all it's cracked up to be through the first chapter of the season, probably. Just like Mayfield, Goff is a starting-caliber quarterback who was good enough to keep Los Angeles on the playoff contender fringes until someone better comes along.

I wonder if the Browns will have a similar calculus with Mayfield. He’s just good enough to ask yourself, “What are the alternatives?” and a team like this that is ready to win right now can’t feasibly start over with another rookie in 2022. In addition to the fear of quarterback wilderness, there’s also the Browns' history to consider.

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From a practical standpoint in the present, the Browns will likely find themselves in a Week 6 script where they'll need a bit of spice from Mayfield dashed onto their already tasty offensive serving. The weakness of the Cardinals' defense is without question the run-stop unit. They are the third-best pass defense in DVOA but are 13th against the run. With Nick Chubb already ruled out the ground game for Cleveland won’t be at the height of its usual mega-efficiency. Kareem Hunt is an excellent starting-level back in his own right but not having the Chubb side of the one-two punch is problematic.

The Cardinals have Chandler Jones on the COVID list but the Browns are also dealing with some injuries at tackle. That might cancel itself out too. Mayfield is going to have to carry some of the load.

Every week is going to end up being a referendum on what the Browns do with Mayfield. That’s just the way it is when a team is facing this crossroads. It will be especially pronounced on Sunday when they face a team in the Arizona Cardinals that is soaring because of their quarterback, and not just with him.

It would be nice if the Browns and Mayfield could finally get something out of Odell Beckham Jr. in this week's game. All the optimism brought on by his strong showing in Week 3 has seemingly evaporated after he produced nothing in a shootout with the Chargers. Mayfield missed him on deep patterns consistently the week prior. While there are clear stylistic differences in Beckham's separation-heavy game compared to other receivers Mayfield has gelled with, it's past time the Browns find some way to get this connection clicking.

Mayfield's inability to connect with Beckham, who is getting open and playing error-free outside of one drop last week, is a damning note in the quarterback's portfolio. Even if it's as simple as involving Beckham in the aforementioned vaunted screen game, Cleveland needs to do it. This offense is going to need juice without Chubb. Almost no one else on the roster can provide it to the degree Beckham can. 

Air yards data would tell you Beckham is a buy-low in fantasy. Simple intuition and the experience of the past two years would give you pause. It should not be this hard.

This has gone on long enough. Figure it out — or end the marriage.

Seahawks are 17th in neutral pass rate, 16th in neutral pace

If you’ve rostered a Seahawks wide receiver in fantasy football before, you know that you live off efficiency, not volume. That’s problematic when the driver of the efficiency, Russell Wilson, is out of the mix.

The Seahawks' offense hasn’t changed much from a design perspective. They’re still top half of the league in terms of run-play percentage and middle of the pack in pace of play. Wilson, and therefore the receivers, didn’t get any sort of volume boost.

But there might be one sliver of optimism.

Russell Wilson has ranked 6th, 6th, 17th, and 3rd in yards per completion from 2017 to 2021. The 2020 season was one of his worst in recent memory but as this shows, Wilson is a chunk-yardage quarterback. It’s hard to project pass-catchers who play on an already conservative offense when the quarterback is moving the ball so efficiently via deep shots.

So in a way, I think Lockett and Metcalf are still going to be floor plays. Instead of a high-end WR1 and 2, they’re on the low-end. We could see more of the six-catch, 85-yard type of days instead of the extreme feast games and mild famines we’re used to. At least the consistency fans will be satisfied.

Kadarius Toney lined up outside on 64 percent of his snaps in Week 5

The rookie was primarily used out of the slot in his early showings but enjoyed his massive Week 5 game while playing outside. That is a good sign for him.

The Giants cannot afford to put Toney back on the shelf. He has too much juice. The rookie has averaged over eight yards after the catch per reception in each of the last two weeks. However, there’s almost no chance New York pulls Sterling Shepard out of his slot receiver role because he’s too good, too reliable, and Daniel Jones trusts him too much.

Kadarius Toney #89 of the New York Giants
The Giants need to keep Kadarius Toney involved. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The best solution is for the Giants to minimize Darius Slayton’s snaps when Kenny Golladay gets healthy in order to get Toney on the field. He just looks like a difference-maker right now. There’s no reason he can’t operate in a Deebo-esque flanker role as a guy who moves around the formation pre-snap.

Marquise Brown is seeing 42% of targets from the slot

It’s worth discussing Marquise Brown’s standing as the WR6 in fantasy football now that Rashod Bateman is expected back this week. Brown is top-15 in weighted opportunity so he’s been a focal point in the passing game. Given that he has more history with Lamar Jackson, has been healthy all season, and is delivering, we shouldn’t expect his volume to evaporate.

However, if Bateman does come in and seize an immediate role — which is likely given Sammy Watkins’ injury and the rookie’s pro-level route-running chops — he could siphon some looks from Brown and Mark Andrews. Brown is due for some regression in his catch rate and touchdown-per-target efficiency.

Nevertheless, the fact that Brown is seeing so much volume from the slot makes me feel comfortable continuing to project him as a fantasy starter going forward. It’s the role that suits him best and he’ll get some layup targets as an interior player.

Frankly, I don’t want to bail on any pass-catcher attached to Lamar Jackson with the way he’s playing right now.

Steelers have the third-easiest strength of schedule vs pass def efficiency

One of the more interesting developments to track the rest of the season is how these Steelers wide receivers operate in the wake of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury. There was no way this version of Ben Roethlisberger was going to consistently support three relevant fantasy receivers.

Now that they're down to two — and their best two options, in my opinion — color me intrigued.

Diontae Johnson was already the clear-cut No. 1 of this group and his role as the volume hog should remain intact. He’s a top-20 option the rest of the season. Chase Claypool is more interesting. He has a beefy 36.5% share of the air yards and a 25% target share in Weeks 3 and 5 (with Johnson and Smith-Schuster missing time, respectively).

Getting Claypool as a starter in two-wide sets is huge but I wonder if we’ll see him in the slot more now that JuJu is done. He had two huge plays from the slot in Week 5 and Johnson has just 5% of his targets from the slot this year. Whoever gets that role is a big winner.

Lastly, we should mention James Washington, who had a 24% share of the air yards in Weeks 3 and 5 and led the team in receiving during their miserable 2019 campaign. He is widely available in Yahoo leagues and while the ceiling isn’t high in this offense, he could be worth picking up.

Justin Fields has the lowest expected completion percentage in the league (59%)

Weirdly enough, according to Next Gen Stats, Andy Dalton has the highest expected completion percentage at 73 percent.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this stat other than it perfectly illustrates how different the offense is depending on who is playing quarterback. The fact that Dalton never threw down the field while that’s all Fields has been doing has a huge impact on their gap.

At some point, it would behoove the Bears to close that gap. Fields’ ability to stretch defenses is a plus but if they want to field a steady passing game, he needs some more layups. The Bears have been a painfully conservative team from a run-pass ratio standpoint because they’ve been in a positive game script through each of their last two games. They won’t be able to do that against Green Bay. Hopefully, we see a more steady passing game from Fields and that should trickle down to Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney in a great matchup without Jaire Alexander.

A.J. Brown is the lone player with six-plus deep targets to go catch-less

Brown’s box score wasn’t pretty in his return from a hamstring injury but he did see 27% of the team’s targets. With a matchup against the Bills this week and then the Chiefs, Colts, and Rams upcoming, the Titans won’t be able to sit on the ball as they did against Jacksonville. Given that his role is secure and he’s due for some positive movement in his deep-ball stats, Brown is a buy.

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