Week 6 Busts: In the Weekly Fantasy Unit, there are crimes committed that would shock and appall you: Negative points, underwhelming superstars and outright busts. These are the findings of one man on a mission to expose the NFL’s biggest perpetrators before they strike again.
These are…..the Fantasy Files.
Welcome back to the W.F.U. fantasy fans! With an exciting Week 5 out of the way we’re now officially into the second month of the 2018 NFL season and things aren’t becoming any easier to predict. Sure, patterns have been formed early (namely that the Chiefs/Rams look unstoppable), but the search for busts continues to be a game of cat and mouse.
Overall, we did well this past week, as four of our suspects under-performed as expected. However, there were some outlier performances that must be addressed. Before we do that let’s take a look at how last week’s lineup performed:
- Eli Manning (21 Points)
- Dalvin Cook (0 Points, Did not play)
- Michael Crabtree (6 Points)
- Ben Watson/Josh Hill (3 Points/8 Points)
- Adam Vinatieri (8 Points)
- Detroit D/ST (10 Points)
- Lamar Miller (0 Points, Did not play)
Two of our bust candidates didn’t even suit up for Week 5. The Dalvin Cook redemption story in Minnesota continues to falter as his hamstring struggles seem to be of the Leonard Fournette variety. Lamar Miller, on the other hand, was a surprising scratch from the lineup right around game time. Though it should be noted that Alfred Blue stepped in and energized the Texans backfield (at least in the passing game). Miller is still as risky as ever even after he comes back.
Eli Manning’s fantasy total is misleading. His overall stat line of (22/36, 326 yds, 2 TD/2 INT) was boosted significantly by a second wind he got in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Prior to the fourth quarter, Manning had performed as expected, with the major surprise being that superstar wide-out Odell Beckham Jr. outshined him at the quarterback position. Eli’s garbage time production saved him from being an outright bust this week, but that’s not something fantasy owners can rely on for a regular floor.
Adam Vinatieri overcame his groin ailment to stick it to his former team in Foxboro this past Thursday, and he outperformed what I had projected for him. The legendary kicker gutted out a solid performance against the Patriots, thanks to the late game heroics of Andrew Luck. As long as Vinatieri’s out on the field, he should be a mid-level choice at the position for the rest of the season.
Finally, the biggest surprise of the week was the Detroit Lions defense’s manhandling of Aaron Rodgers. As I stated in my write up last week, Rodgers has owned the Lions at Ford Field throughout his career, but that just wasn’t the case this past Sunday. The Lions D swarmed Rodgers for 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in a game that was incredibly one-sided throughout the entire first half. Rodgers compounded the issue by holding on to the ball far too long (as per usual) while looking for receivers named “Equanimeous St. Brown” & “Marquez Valdes-Scantling”, not necessary household names.
Green Bay attempted a comeback in the second half but Detroit held strong (with some help from Mason Crosby having the worst kicking day in the history of forever). I gotta hand it to Matt Patricia, he gets his team up for the big games. They may only have two wins so far this year, but those two wins are against two of the greatest QBs of all time in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. This was a major divisional win against an opponent that usually pushes them around. Good for the Lions.
Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to dive back into the data to find out who the biggest bust candidates are for Week 6.
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)
Who are the 2018 Tennessee Titans? Their fans would tell you they’re a scrappy bunch of national media underdogs that find ways to win each week. Analysts would likely tell you they’re largely the same team from last year, just with a fresh coat of paint and some castoffs from last years Patriots team. The truth is, they’re both of those things, but the real question mark lies with their leader.
Marcus Mariota has been one of most confusing players to cover since he entered the league in 2015. He rocketed into the national consciousness in his debut game against Tampa Bay with 4 touchdown passes and a dominant 42-14 win. Since then he’s thrown 4 TD passes in a game only twice in almost 4 years. Mariota’s gone through coaching changes, personnel changes and the general scenery changes that an NFL QB usually sees, but he hasn’t adapted to them, he’s regressed.
In his four starts this year Mariota has a TD:INT ratio of 2:4, and both of those TD passes came in one game (Week 4 at Philadelphia). His fantasy totals in that span are (3/0/9/31/5), with that 31-point outing being about as obvious an outlier as you’ll find in the league, and it’s likely to stay that way. Following an embarrassing loss to the Bills this past week I strongly advise against trusting Mariota, as he’s set to face a strong Baltimore defense. Even if you’re streaming QBs, avoid the name value and look elsewhere.
Kenyan Drake (Miami Dolphins)
Keeping with the trend of name value players that try to tempt their way into your starting lineup, I give you exhibit B: Kenyan Drake. You know, the “Breakout” scat-back from the previously undefeated Miami Dolphins that your one friend took in the 2nd round of your fantasy draft. Drake has had a Mariota-esque start to the 2018 campaign that’s included two 1-point fantasy finishes, two above-average games, and being out-snapped by the 35-year-old Frank Gore. To say he’s been a mixed bag would be a disservice to the phrase.
Drake is rivaled only by Dalvin Cook in the “what the hell happened here?” contest as it relates to running backs so far this season. He’s seen his carries dip dramatically from 14 in Week 1 to just 6 this past week, and while he continues to get work in the passing game (11 targets in Week 5) he rarely finds the end zone (2 TDs).
Drake makes the bust watch list this week because of his performance in Week 5 against the Bengals. Fantasy owners will look at that 17-point performance and think: “That’s it! He’s finally clicking in this offense”, and I’m here to be your advisory emergency brake on that idea. Drake may have performed well against a middling Bengals secondary, but this week he faces a legitimate top-10 defense in the Chicago Bears. Forget carrying the ball against that front of Mack/Hicks/Smith, Ryan Tannehill will be lucky to get the ball out of his hands in this one. Stay away from Drake, even at home as this game could get ugly fast.
Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)
Keenan Allen so far this season: (32 Rec/45 Targets, 372 YDs, TD). He’s listed as the Chargers number one wideout on a team that’s averaging almost 30 points per game. How is it possible that he’s scoring this poorly in standard league formats?
Well, it’s largely because of how well the Chargers have played out of the backfield. The tandem of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler has combined for 9 TDs already this year, and with those weapons behind Philip Rivers they haven’t felt the need to air it out downfield to Allen as much as they usually would. Allen’s still getting his targets so his value in PPR is stable, but a lot of standard league fantasy fans are likely tilting on their 2nd/3rd round wideout. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you have every right to be concerned with Allen’s production, especially this week. I think some owners are still in the dark on how good the Cleveland Browns defense is, and that’s a shame because Allen is a high name-value player that will likely disappear off the stat sheet this week because of that oversight.
You see, Allen is more than likely going to be matched against Denzel Ward in this game, and anyone who’s watched Ward play thus far this year can tell you that is bad news. Through five weeks, Ward already has 3 interceptions, a forced fumble and, most recently, a blocked kick that won them the game against Baltimore in Week 5. He’s the bad news Brown you don’t want to tangle with, and for that reason I suggest lowering your expectations of Keenan Allen this week in Cleveland.
Jared Cook (Oakland Raiders)
One thing I’ve learned over the past month of seeking out bust candidates is that the tight end position is the ultimate 50/50 gamble. This year we’ve seen names like Olsen/Eifert/Walker/Howard all go down with various degrees of injuries, and what’s left in their place is a black hole of mediocrity. With the exception of Gronk/Kelce/Ertz, there’s a whole lot of owners just praying for a TD to make their tight end spot relevant. This week I’m highlighting one of the few journeyman options that has proven to be a weekly start, Jared Cook. Cook has one of the highest ceilings, and one of the lowest floors at the position.
His blow-up games are absurd (23 Points in Week 1, 29 Points in Week 4), but his bad games are crippling (a combined 9 points in his other 3 games). This week, I’m urging owners against playing him versus a Seattle defense that’s been surprisingly stingy to the position, allowing the 7th fewest yards on the season to tight ends. Cook is still a target magnet (averaging 8 per game) so he’ll have standalone PPR value, but as a standard play it’s hard to like the Oakland offense in general, let alone in a match up against a unit that plays well against the position.
Dustin Hopkins (Washington Redskins)
This is a classic case of bad offense meets average kicker. Anyone who watched the Saints/Redskins game on Monday will likely refrain from calling it a close one. New Orleans dominated on both sides of the ball in a game that was honestly over by half time. Alex Smith made uncharacteristic mistakes with the ball and nothing seemed to work for Washington. Hopkins did his best with what was available and drilled a 50-yarder to salvage a serviceable fantasy day, but this offense isn’t getting better anytime soon. Facing a Saints defense that had all but been written off as a fluke, they could only muster 17 points. This week they’ll head back to FedEx Field to face off against a legitimately talented Carolina defense that will hold them to even less if they have their way. While Carolina can be leaky against the run, I have little reason to believe this team has the firepower to bounce back against the Panthers, which means Hopkins’ opportunities will once again be limited.
Kansas City Chiefs
Points allowed so far this season by the Chiefs: 28/35/27/23/14. It looks on paper as if the Chiefs defense is coming into it’s own as we waltz into Week 6, but numbers can be deceiving. That outlier performance from last week was against a battered Jacksonville offense with Blake Bortles under center, playing from behind after Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ overpowering offense gave the team a strong lead early. The formula for the Chiefs is similar to that of the Rams, score 30+ points per game so the defensive deficiencies don’t kill them. So far that formula has served them well, as they’ve defeated high-powered offenses like the Chargers and Steelers, and lower-level offenses like Jacksonville, Denver and San Francisco, but this week that formula is put to the ultimate test.
This week the 5-0 Chiefs walk into a familiar locale, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, and they face a Patriots team that now has all of it’s weapons back at full force. Dating back to 1998, the Patriots have scored an average of 32 points per game at home against Kansas City, and that’s even before Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe. Overall, I think this is a must-see game that will write another exciting page in the continuing rivalry between these two teams, but I believe starting the Chiefs defense against Brady and co. would be a major mistake. Sit both defenses and enjoy the fireworks.
PRIMARY SUSPECT: (Avoid at all costs)
Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)
Derrick Henry has officially graduated from standard bust candidate to full-on, red-alert public menace. Fantasy owners that believed they were getting a workhorse stud in the 3rd/4th round have shouldered the burden of drafting Henry’s dead weight since Week 1, and the sad part is that most of those owners still have hope for him. I know it’s painful, but this Titans offense isn’t anywhere near dynamic enough to lead to a Henry breakout anytime soon, and quite frankly he hasn’t shown the talent to make it happen in any of the first five weeks of the season.
Henry’s fantasy totals are basement-level on a weekly basis. Since Week 1, his totals have been (3/5/5/3/5). He’s been the poster child for disappointment. It also doesn’t help that his carry totals are all over the map. He’s carried it 18 times twice, but he’s also carried it 8/10/11 times in other weeks. With Dion Lewis taking any/all work in the passing game, Henry is left with only his work on the ground to bolster his value, and he’s failed consistently all year to provide that for fantasy owners. If you can package Henry on name value and somehow trade him to a team that needs RB help, I’d do that immediately. If you can’t trade him, I’d strongly consider cutting him. He’s a name-value landmine on most fantasy rosters that will only tempt you each week to start him. Henry is a must-avoid against the Ravens 7th ranked run defense in Week 6.
That’s another week in the books! Best of luck in your matchups heading into Week 6, everyone. As the second month of the fantasy season plays out make sure to keep your eyes on the waiver wire as always, but also start to consider the value of your roster. Look at players’ upcoming schedules, look at bye weeks, and don’t be afraid to deal away stud players if you believe their road ahead is perilous. You can turn your season around with just a few trades based on name value and opponent need. Keep that in mind and keep your head in the game. This season’s a long way from being over.