Dwight Howard

Fantasy Football Week 5: Reception Lines

Malcolm Brown was supposed to save fantasy football managers around the world Sunday by rattling off a Todd Gurley-type performance while the Rams’ starting running back nursed a damaged quad.

Things started off well enough. Brown already gained 40 yards on 8 opening drive carries when Jared Goff took the next snap from San Francisco’s 16-yard line.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the end zone. Wide receiver Robert Woods came around from the end, took the ball from Goff, and scored the Rams’ touchdown.

Brown ended the day with those 40 yards and nothing more. The 8.6 PPR points Woods stole would become a bitter coffin nail for Brown’s fantasy football managers.

Carolina’s Curtis Samuel also took an end-around in for a score Sunday before Woods became the seventh wide receiver to rush for a touchdown through six weeks.

Not Exactly Evening Things Out

Usually, it is running backs who steal the thunder from their receiving teammates.

In Week 6, 48 running backs gathered in 140 catches for 1185 yards. Prorated over the course of a season, that’s over 20,000 yards taken away from tight ends and wide receivers.

While Brown and Samuel were running in touchdowns Sunday, there were 9 receiving touchdowns racked up by 8 different running backs.  

Nine receiving touchdowns are higher than average. However, the running backs are on a pace to net over 100 receiving scores by season’s end.

Not Exactly a Big Deal?

Damien Williams had a single reception that happened to be a 14-yard touchdown. It saved his fantasy football owners from total disaster on a bad day for most Kansas City players.

Tyreek Hill got his, coming back from injury to score 25 fantasy football points. But how much did DeMarcus Robinson (0), Byron Pringle (2-24-0), and Mecole Hardman (4/45/0) owners need the 8.4 PPR points lost to Williams’ reception?

How much easier would it be to select our second wide receiver each week if we knew every passing touchdown would be thrown in their direction?

Odds are, we’d feel more confident perusing the pool of wide-outs consistently offering us 8-11 points each week.

Not Exactly Nothing, Either

Austin Ekeler leads all running backs with 42 catches for 370 yards. He has three receiving touchdowns so far. The Chargers make good use of their rushers in the receiving game.

In fact, Ekeler would rank fourth in receptions among wide receivers. His 97 PPR receiving points would make him the WR-11, just ahead of Julian Edelman and just behind Tyler Lockett.

The impact might not look so obvious when you realize Ekeler’s teammate, Keenan Allen, also has 40 catches and is the WR-6 in PPR formats. But how many other wide receivers can you name from the Chargers?

Mike Williams gets into some conversations about fantasy football playing time largely on the hope of a prolific passer and how banged up the tight end might be.

I would guess Williams gets less starting roster consideration than Jamison Crowder of the 1-4 Jets and much less than Jarvis Landry, the Browns’ second wide receiver. Early in the season, James Washington versus Donte Moncrief got more podcast time.

Christian McCaffrey has the second-most receptions for a running back. Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore still see their share of receptions. Both are ranked at the tail end of the top-24 wide receivers.

But, if they each had just one-third of McCaffrey’s receiving points, they would rank as the WR-6 and WR-15 in PPR.

Not Exactly Helping Quarterbacks Run, But…

Running backs who regularly sneak out for a pass reception offer quarterbacks a distraction. But how do they use it?

My first thought was passers would have a perpetual option in play, resulting in greater rushing numbers. However, the top five pass-catching running backs play alongside decidedly non-running quarterbacks.

Philip Rivers has just 24 rushing yards on the season despite Ekeler and Melvin Gordon lining up behind him. James White and Alvin Kamara haven’t turned Tom Brady or Drew Brees into dual threats, either.

Christian McCaffrey, the second-most prolific pass catcher, is probably not the reason, but Cam Newton is no longer the runner he was. While youth is on his side, Sam Darnold is not lighting up scoreboards with his rushing prowess, either.

On the other hand, the best pass-catching running backs help their quarterbacks’ passing statistics. This is partially due to the additional receiving option grabbing shorter and safer passes.

Arguably, the threat of a runner taking a short pass forces the defense to adjust and should help the deep game by allowing the wide receivers more one-on-one opportunities. That could provide more yards-per-catch to offset their lost targets.

For example, Ekeler has 2 more receptions than teammate Keenan Allen, but Allen has 200 more receiving yards. Sam Darnold took advantage of the attention Le’Veon Bell garnered to throw for over 300 yards to other receivers in his Week 6 return against Dallas.

Not Exactly New, Is It?

Passing to running backs isn’t a radical concept on its own. Screen passes and coming off blocks as a quarterback’s escape option have been effective offensive tools for decades.

Alvin Kamara streaking past cornerbacks and safeties to take a 50-yard pass in stride is a little different.

Le’Veon Bell taking the corner fade pass is a little different.

Ekeler and McCaffrey as the first option on many plays is a little different.

Top corners lining up opposite running backs is a little different.

Running backs who can’t (or didn’t) catch passes in college are likely to drop down the draft board. Catching passes is as important as juke moves, power, and speed to some coaches.

Adrian Peterson had a successful return to NFL significance this week. But even with a pair of catches, his 118 rushing yards barely made him a top-12 fantasy football running back.

How many people realize Carlos Hyde rushed for 116 yards against Kansas City? Not many, because even in real-life football, running is becoming something teams do in between passing the ball.

How Fantasy Football Might React

Fantasy Football adapted over the years to changing trends and anomalies. We made quarterbacks less dominant with 4-point touchdowns. More recently, we’ve seen extra value given to tight end catches.

There are leagues without kickers and others without defenses to take some of the “luck” factors out.

As we watch running backs evolve into wide receivers who run more than others, perhaps the roster mix will change. There are already leagues experimenting with more wide receivers, no tight ends, one running back, etc.

Maybe rosters with a passer and six assorted skill players will become a thing? Could passing become so prevalent that points-per-reception leagues give way to point-per-carry leagues?

That is a bit extreme, but maybe there is a reason to revert to standard scoring leagues. We could also limit points for receptions to those over 10 yards, so we don’t win or lose games because of 10/15/35/0 lines.

We are not quite at the adjustment trigger yet, but if running backs keep dominating offenses the way they are trending now, we should at least see a quick, merciful end to the “no-running-back” draft model.

Not Exactly the Only Thing Going on This Week

Mid-week injuries, a coaching change, a returning quarterback, and workload rumors led to a flurry of late waiver adds in Week 6. Some were justified more than others.

Todd Gurley’s bruised quad kept him off the field, but as we mentioned, Malcolm Brown did not exactly cover the Gurley point loss. Rookie Darrell Henderson saw only spot duty, but he finished ahead of Brown with 5.8 PPR points.

David Johnson wound up playing a significant role in the Cardinals’ big offensive day. But even though Johnson wound up as the RB-3 with 28.8 points, anyone who started backup Chase Edmonds on news of Johnson’s achy back was rewarded with an RB-14 performance.

Alvin Kamara’s late appearance on the injured list and somewhat limited workload did not pay off as well for Latavius Murray starters. Kamara ended the day with 13.6 FFP, while Murray only put up 10.9 points to finish as the RB-27.

Washington’s not exactly new look

Jay Gruden was (mercifully) released from his duties as the Redskins’ head coach, leaving Bill Callahan to handle things the rest of this season.

Before the change occurred, Callahan was quoted in the local press as saying he “never saw a team that ran less” than Washington. This led to a flurry of Adrian Peterson pick-ups and worried Chris Thompson and Terry McLaurin owners about the changing dynamic in Washington.

Miami provided an opponent worth trying anything against. Sure enough, Peterson ran for over 100 yards and caught two passes. Arguably, this should open the passing game.

McLaurin came through as Case Keenum hit him with two touchdown passes in the first half. He wound up with four receptions on 7 targets. His 100 yards and two touchdowns made him the WR-3 for the week, but can we expect that to continue?

Keenum completed roughly half of his 25 pass attempts against a terrible defense. Thompson left injured after collecting 20 total yards on 6 touches.

With the surprising 49ers defense traveling to Washington this week, it’s hard to think any Redskin is worth more than semi-interested monitoring for Week 8 potential.

Not Exactly What We Expected Elsewhere

Sam Darnold returned to the Jets. Not to judge what New York resorted to behind center, but they cut their Week 4-5 starting quarterback, Luke Falk before the game started.

One working theory was that Darnold’s presence would open things up for Le’Veon Bell. I started Bell in several leagues, only to be disappointed by one reception for 3 yards.

Dallas’ defense homed in on Bell, but the rest of the Jets ran amuck. Robbie Anderson had his best week of the season with 5 catches for 125 yards and a score. He was the WR-7 this week and with a favorable schedule ahead, Anderson becomes a must-start for the foreseeable future.

Jamison Crowder snagged 6 passes for 98 yards and has to be started again in PPR formats. Ryan Griffin was the TE-10 in the absence of Chris Herndon, injured coming off suspension.

Meanwhile, the Chargers announced Melvin Gordon would see more work this time around, prompting managers to fire him up with confidence.

What they failed to consider was that Pittsburgh’s defense would hold Gordon down to an RB-31 fantasy football PPR total of 7.8. Indeed, that was better than Austin Ekeler’s RB-37 total of 5.8.

Rebound performances in Week 7 are not guaranteed as the Chargers travel to Tennessee.

Kansas City waited until the last minute to verify the return of Tyreek Hill. His early leaping and reaching snag in the middle of tight double coverage kicked off a 25-point WR-4 performance.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Chiefs failed to show up. Patrick Mahomes put up mere-mortal numbers, coming up short of 20 fantasy points for the third week in a row. While those of us streaming quarterbacks might be happy with three consecutive QB-11 finishes, Mahomes’ owners are freaking out a little.

Not Exactly Answering the London Bell

Bad Jameis Winston returned this week. The Buccaneers kept things slightly interesting through three quarters despite five interceptions and a lost fumble from their leader.

400 yards and a touchdown managed to salvage 12 fantasy points for Winston, just 3 more than Ryan Fitzpatrick put up in one quarter for Miami after Josh Rosen was benched.

The old Fitzmagic looked like it was rekindled after his second touchdown drive. At least until Dolphins’ coach Brian Flores decided to go for the win instead of forcing overtime against the Redskins.

The 2-point conversion failed, and Miami remains in its favorable 2020 draft position.

Ryan Tannehill was not as successful in relief of the benched Marcus Mariota. He managed to throw for 144 yards in a little more than a quarter, but an interception left Tannehill with 4.26 points.

None of these quarterback shuffles should impact your Week 7 passer lineup.

Not Exactly a Total Wash-out

Matt Ryan (30.94 FFP) continues to put up a quietly effective season. He finished as the QB-1 with 4 touchdowns and no picks. He leads the league in both categories, but they are each trending in the right direction to give Ryan a shot at another title run.

Lamar Jackson used his legs to finish second by only 0.30 points to Ryan. Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson fell just short of 30 fantasy points. Kyler Murray had his second straight QB-5 finish. With the Giants on tap, he could have a third next week.

Stephon Diggs had a couple of really bad drops, but a 3-touchdown, 167-yard day will cover up those ills. Diggs’ 43.50 PPR points easily outdistanced the WR-2 McLaurin (26.00) and WR-3 Chris Godwin (25.10).

Five running backs gained over 100 yards on the ground, but James Connor (30.90) tacked 78 receiving yards and two touchdowns onto his 41 rushing yards to take RB-1 honors for Week 6.

Nick Chubb (28.9) and David Johnson (28.2) rounded out the top three. Devonta Freeman used a balanced workload in a bounce-back RB-4 finish.

Miles Sanders (RB-8) truthers better realize three catches for 86 yards and a touchdown does not mean their favorite rookie took over or broke out from the Eagles’ running back committee.

Speaking of bounce-backs or breaking out, Hunter Henry returned to the field for the Chargers and easily took the TE-1 position with an 8/100/2 line, good for 30 points.

Atlanta’s Austin Hooper had his third straight 20-point performance for the TE-2 spot.

New England’s DST impressed again with 24 points. Denver (23) and Carolina (21) gave them a run for the DST-1 designation.

Not Exactly Healthy After Week 6

It was another light week for injuries. Amari Cooper’s bruised thigh will probably have the highest impact. Owners will have to watch for updates on a vague prognosis.

That’s not to take anything away from the probable loss of Will Dissly (achilles).

Emmanuel Sanders (knee) is not considered serious and the team is optimistic he’ll play Thursday. Tight end Geoff Swaim might enter the concussion protocol. James Connor has an extra week for his quad to heal up, thanks to the Steelers’ bye.

Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland join Pittsburgh in their bye weeks.

Exactly the Waiver Adds You Need

Tight end Hunter Henry is still available in 40-percent of leagues across the board. He is a priority add in any format.

The injury to Will Dissly could make more targets available for Jaron Brown. Brown seems to be one of Pete Carroll’s favorite players. He caught two touchdowns this week as he slowly works his way into Seattle’s limited rotation.

The Jets face the Patriots on Monday night. Once they get past that game, their fantasy schedule is a dream. With Sam Darnold on the field, Robbie Anderson and arguably Jamison Crowder (in PPR especially) should be rostered. Darnold is a worthy streamer starting in Week 8.

Curtis Samuel is the WR-24 in PPR but is widely available. Carolina got him involved in the running game this week. Even without that, you could do worse for a fill-in receiver. DJ Moore has some availability, too. He is the WR-20 and needs a home.

Alexander Mattison handled 14 carries this week as Dalvin Cook’s workload was lightened. Mattison is already the most valuable handcuff, but if he continues to see an increase in touches, he is worth a spot.

Chase Edmonds was picked up by a lot of owners on rumors of David Johnson’s back pain. Edmonds was already seeing some work, but after an RB-14 finish in limited time Sunday, he looks more like a high-upside option.

Miami’s offense doesn’t make for much excitement, but if you’re desperate, former University of Miami rusher Mark Walton technically got the start Sunday and became the third cog in the Dolphins’ running back wheel.

He might be the best pass catcher of the group, which could be worth something in mostly negative game scripts, especially with Fitzpatrick helping out.

Daniel Jones took a lot of heat after the Patriots dismantled the Giants offense last week. Now he gets the Cardinals in what could be a shootout.

Gardner Minshew strikes me as the kind of guy who would take a 5-point fantasy football result and use it as motivation to explode the following week. If only the Bengals didn’t stand in his way…

Not Exactly the End of This Article

Okay… technically it might be the end of this article because now I’m going to talk about next week’s wrap up. We all missed on some of our preseason fantasy football conjecture and draft hunches.

Next week, I’ll look at some of the most blatant miscues based on overall ADP and performance through Week 7.

Then I’ll put on my swami hat and predict whose performance might correct itself in time to save or sabotage the second half of our fantasy football season.

It’s a must-read. I mean, even if you don’t like the information, I’m trying to feed kids here. So, it’s a must-read. Check it out.


Pat Opperman NFL Fantasy Analyst, click here for more.

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