[sc name=”Author Chris Moore”]
Week 5 of the NFL season was, in a target share sense, fairly heavy on the chalk. Only two players owned in less than half of Yahoo leagues had more than eight balls thrown their way, as we see usage stabilize throughout the league and quarterbacks perhaps re-focusing on their proven commodities.
I expect we’ll ordinarily see more surprises than this in virtually any given NFL weekend, but there’s still plenty to learn, or at least reaffirm, from Week 5’s action.
Here’s a look at the players who absorbed the biggest or most surprising target totals from Week 5, as well as some breakout candidates for Week 6.
[sc name=”Google Inline Ad”]
Rising Target Grabbers
Antonio Brown (WR, PIT) – 19 Targets
Despite a five interception game so pitiful that it led to Ben Roethlisberger’s candid commentary about perhaps ‘not having it’ anymore, Antonio Brown still managed to finish as the overall WR3 in PPR with 10 catches for 157 yards, his third game with at least 25 fantasy points in such formats despite a difficult schedule to open the season. There’s nothing really to see here other than to acknowledge that Big Ben can make the big Antonio Brown box score happen whenever he wants to. After being visibly frustrated at recording just 4 catches for 34 yards in Week 4, DFS players who bought into the squeaky wheel narrative for Brown were rewarded handsomely.
Marquise Goodwin (WR, SF) – 11 Targets
Commonly dismissed as merely a sprinter playing the wide receiver position, this was Marquise Goodwin’s first game garnering more than six targets, catching 5 of 11 balls for 116 yards. The surprise performance is only interesting insofar as we’re still in the process of figuring out just what to expect from Brian Hoyer with respect to target distribution on a week to week basis. Goodwin flashed in 2016 as a deep threat for Tyrod Taylor, but to this point has never been more than a desperation flex or DFS punt play. On the other hand, if he’s going to add reliable volume to his big play ability, he could flirt with deep league value.
Ricardo Louis (WR, CLE) – 8 Targets
Through some combination of injury and ineffectiveness the Browns have cycled through apparent #1 WRs quickly so far in 2017, starting with Corey Coleman, then Rashard Higgins, then Kenny Britt, to now Ricardo Louis. One thing that could be working in Louis’s favor, however, is that Kevin Hogan relieved Deshone Kizer in Week 5’s loss to the Jets and looked substantially better than Kizer. Hogan, who has already been named Cleveland’s Week 6 starter, also seemed to have an immediate rapport with Ricardo Louis who has now accumulated 10 catches on 17 targets for 135 yards over his last two games. The ceiling is probably low in this Browns offense, but for the time being, Louis looks like the best bet among Cleveland WRs, faint praise, but nonetheless on the edge of relevance in PPR formats.
Andre Ellington (RB, ARZ) – 10 Targets
With 9 catches for 65 yards in Week 6, Ellington has now racked up 23 catches on 32 targets over his last 3 weeks, essentially lapping the running back field in both categories over that span. It remains to be seen just how effective Adrian Peterson is when he joins the Arizona backfield beginning in Week 6, but Ellington’s role as the pass-catching back should be very secure. With 47.8 PPR fantasy points over his last three games played, Ellington has earned every week RB2 treatment in such formats for the foreseeable future.
Le’Veon Bell 10 (RB, PIT) – 10 Targets
This serves as a reminder that even when Le’Veon Bell is supposed to have a bad game, such as in this contest, in which he only rushed for 47 scoreless yards on 15 carries, he still has a great game. The targets elevate Bell’s floor like no other running back in fantasy football, even when he doesn’t make any big plays. In Week 5’s embarrassing loss to Jacksonville he caught all ten of his targets for 46 yards. That’s how you turn 93 scoreless yards from scrimmage into an RB5 overall performance. He should still be valued as the top player in fantasy football, but you probably already knew that.
Charles Sims (RB TB) – 7 Targets
That he was targeted seven times, catching five balls for 31 yards, serves as a reminder that Sims is still the most skilled pass catcher in the Bucs backfield. Last season Charles Sims was drafted as a borderline RB2/Flex in PPR formats both as the passing down specialist and as a high-upside Doug Martin handcuff. While it will likely take an injury for Sims to make good on the promise of his insane athletic measurables, it looks to already be time to acknowledge that Sims has usurped Jacquizz Rodgers in the fantasy relevance hierarchy within the Tampa backfield. This is a player who has the ability to make a Chris Thompson/Andre Ellington-like impact if given a big enough share of the opportunities. I’d consider him a candidate for a post-hype breakout in the second half, but for now he’s not much more than a name to know.
Embed from Getty Images
Zach Ertz (TE, PHI) – 12 Targets
Ertz caught six balls for 61 yards and a TD in Week 5, and has accumulated a whopping 48 targets over the course of the season’s first 5 games. With 10 more targets than any other player at the tight end position, and with Gronk and Kelce both at least somewhat banged up heading into Week 6, it’s worth considering the hypothesis that Zach Ertz deserves to be treated as the number one tight end in all of fantasy. This is not a ‘sell-high’ situation. Carson Wentz is playing his best football and Zach Ertz is his best weapon, at a position that has been an absolute nightmare for most fantasy owners throughout the season’s first five weeks.
George Kittle (TE, SF) – 9 Targets
Speaking of tight end being an extremely bad position in 2017, even a player with a single breakout performance such as Kittle’s seven catches for 83 yards and a TD in Week 5 against the Colts, warrants streaming consideration at minimum. As I mentioned with Marquise Goodwin, we’re still in the process of learning exactly how San Francisco’s target share is going to be distributed under Brian Hoyer. While Kittle’s Week 6 opponent, the Washington Redskins, have been surprisingly stout on defense to begin 2017, the one area in which they have been especially vulnerable has been to opposing TEs, surrendering big games to at least one TE in all four of their games, as they’ve given up the third most points per game to the position.
Week 6 Potential Breakouts
John Brown (WR, ARZ)
Between preseason hype, and in-season trend chasing, no fewer than four Arizona wide receivers have been treated as reasonable fantasy bets on the young season, even despite limited success from Carson Palmer. John Brown’s sickle cell trait, and the nagging injuries that have come along with it over the past two seasons have left fantasy owners with significant doubts about his durability and have seen him usurped by JJ Nelson and Jaron Brown as fantasy considerations in the season’s first month. These factors shouldn’t, however, affect your assessment of his talent. Brown has garnered 23 total targets in just three games played to start the season, with at least seven in each. With Tampa Bay giving up the most fantasy points to wide receivers, Brown’s talent and target share could translate into a big fantasy boxscore. Healthy and in the right matchup, Brown should be a WR3 consideration in Week 6.
Marvin Jones (WR, DET)
It’s worth checking your waiver wire to see if Marvin Jones’s slow start to the season saw the owner in your league who drafted him lose hope. Matthew Stafford has been capable when called upon in the early part of the season, but has also been reigned in when the gamescript has turned in Detroit’s favor. A road contest against the Saints should be a spot where the Lions figure to have to throw. There’s nothing especially intimidating about the matchup and Kenny Golladay still looks to be on the wrong side of 50/50 to suit up so Marvin Jones, available in roughly half of yahoo leagues, is worth streaming consideration as a high upside play.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, PIT)
Martavis Bryant was the headliner as the wide receiver opposite Antonio Brown that you wanted in the Steelers passing game, but with Big Ben failing to connect on most of his deep balls to begin the season and Martavis’s rust factor coming off of a year-long suspension, Smith-Schuster has actually out-snapped Bryant in each of the last two weeks. The undefeated Chiefs are giving up the fourth most fantasy points to opposing WRs and at this point, JuJu Smith-Schuster is, at the very least, gaining ground on Martavis Bryant as the next most relevant WR in Pittsburgh’s passing game. At just 9% owned, he makes for a reasonable dart throw for desperate deep-league owners or DFS players looking for a good punt play.