Week 5 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances around the NFL on Sunday and one crushing injury that changes the fantasy football landscape. What should we make of it all? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis.
Chase Claypool flashes star potential
Talk about capitalizing on an opportunity. After Pittsburgh Steelers WR Diontae Johnson exited the game vs. the Eagles early because of injury -- this time to his back, after he had been listed on the injury report with a toe issue -- Claypool stepped in and had one of the best games by any rookie wide receiver in recent memory. His 42.6 PPR fantasy points are already the most that any wide receiver has scored in a game in 2020, and they are the seventh most by any rookie wide receiver since at least 1950, with the most recent greater score dating back 24 years (Eddie Kennison, 43.6 in Week 16 of 1996).
Perhaps more importantly, Claypool paced the Steelers with a 32% target share (11-of-34), while usual WR1 JuJu Smith-Schuster managed only five targets. That signaled Ben Roethlisberger's connection with the youngster, something that is absolutely fantasy-relevant and worthy of making Claypool one of the week's top adds -- he's still available in 91.1% of ESPN leagues -- especially if Johnson continues to struggle with injuries. Remember, the Steelers' bye week is now in the rearview mirror, and they do get the Browns and Titans the next two weeks, which on their own might make Claypool a viable fantasy WR3/flex play for Weeks 6-7 even if he begins those games third on the depth chart. -- Cockcroft
I'm with Tristan here on Claypool, and it starts with the game plan we saw on Sunday for the rookie. The Steelers schemed both targets and touches for Claypool, utilizing his athletic traits on jet sweeps and throwing in-breakers to highlight his movement/size off the ball. Plus, the Steelers also dialed up a quick screen on the doorstep of the goal line to manufacture yet another touch/scoring opportunity for the rook. Remember, those are designed concepts to get the ball in Claypool's hands, and we also know he has the vertical ability to stretch the field. He will be a WR3 in my ranks next week. -- Bowen
Changes coming to Cowboys' offense after Dak Prescott injury
It's an absolute shame that we won't get to see the natural conclusion of what was a potentially record-setting season for Prescott. With his 13.4 fantasy points at the time of his ankle injury late in the third quarter against the Giants, he totaled 135.6 points in five games, fifth most by any quarterback through his team's first five games since at least 1950 (though Russell Wilson and Josh Allen can still pass him). Prescott was on pace, if we credit him for his time lost this week in addition to a possible 11 more games, for 458.5 fantasy points -- and bear in mind that the single-season record is Patrick Mahomes' 417.1, set in 2018. That's how great of a season Prescott was having before the injury. -- Cockcroft
With Prescott now out, what should we expect from this Dallas offense with Andy Dalton at quarterback? I anticipate a bump in run game volume for Ezekiel Elliott here, which would allow Dallas to use more under-center boot schemes and play-action concepts for Dalton. That's how you play to his mobility, along with the scripted deep-ball shots. Add that to the quick-game throws out of three-wide receiver personnel. In short, the Cowboys could shift to a more run-heavy approach while putting Dalton in a position to be a ball distributor. Yes, that could impact both the total volume and vertical targets for receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. However, this offense will be designed around the throwing traits of Dalton moving forward. -- Bowen
Lamar Jackson struggles for second week in a row
With only 13.5 fantasy points against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Jackson ranked only 12th among the 16 starting quarterbacks with completed games through the 1 p.m. ET block. He was the third-most-started quarterback in ESPN leagues (89.9%) during Week 5, but now has two of his three worst single-game fantasy point totals as an NFL starter in his past three games, and this was easily the most disappointing if you weigh it against the matchup. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback attempted only two carries and had 3 rushing yards, both of those his worst totals as an NFL starter, not to mention third worst and second worst in any game in which he has played. He has also seen his completion percentage (63.7%, down from 66.1%) and yards-per-attempt average (7.0, down from 7.8) decline, which are concerns despite some expected regression from him as a passer in 2020. Maybe what might best help Jackson is the bye in two weeks, but he also doesn't have the easiest schedule exiting it -- PIT, @IND, @NE, TEN, @PIT -- and while it's clear you should stay the course and hope he straightens things out, maybe he's no longer as serious a candidate for weekly No. 1 quarterback rankings. -- Cockcroft
What happened to the rhythm of this Baltimore pass game? After throwing for just 180 yards on 19-of-37 passing in the Week 5 win over the Bengals, Jackson has now failed to top the 200-yard mark passing in each of his past three games. In a system that leans on timing, play-action and schemed targets, the Baltimore offense looks disjointed, which has created a drop in efficiency for Jackson. Yes, the Ravens can still create explosive plays in the air -- like we saw on Sunday with Marquise Brown -- but this offense needs to get back on script for Jackson to produce higher-end numbers as a thrower. -- Bowen
In their first game under interim head coach Romeo Crennel, the Houston Texans picked up their first victory of 2020. While it wasn't entirely the prettiest of efforts -- see Watson's mid-third-quarter interception on a throw to Will Fuller V in double coverage -- one major point of encouragement was Watson's chemistry with Cooks, acquired during the offseason from the Rams following the trade of DeAndre Hopkins. Watson completed 8 of 12 targets to Cooks, with the wide receiver totaling 30.1 PPR fantasy points on the day, his best single-game output since Week 3 of the 2017 season (32.1), when he was a member of the Patriots. For Watson, his 24.9 fantasy points represented his most since Week 14 of last season (28.1), though he did manage it against an injury-ravaged Jaguars defense. It's nevertheless a good step forward, and a needed one for the quarterback to retain his QB1 status as he heads into one of the best portions of his 2020 schedule over the next six weeks (@TEN, GB, bye, @JAX, CLE, NE, @DET). Cooks, meanwhile, should be a solid WR3/flex for all of those games except for perhaps the Week 11 assignment against the Patriots. -- Cockcroft
Is now the time to trade Todd Gurley II?
If you're Gurley's manager in your fantasy league, surely you were pleased with his 25.0 PPR fantasy points, his largest single-game total since Week 4 of last season (26.0). Considering his injury history and his more modest production during the past calendar year, might this be the most opportune time to trade the Atlanta Falcons running back? I'm not quite so sure: Consider that, during the next three weeks, Gurley has three of his most favorable matchups of the season (@MIN, DET, @CAR). With that super-attractive Panthers matchup staring at him in Week 8, that has me thinking it's worth rolling the dice, hoping he stays healthy and drops another 25-pointer on that D, again boosting your asking price (perhaps closer to the RB1/2 borderline)? Gurley does have five rushing touchdowns this season as well as 10 of the team's 13 rushing attempts in goal-to-go situations, so he has the advantage of opportunity. I'd peddle him if there's great interest right now, but I think the optimal time might be immediately after his Oct. 29 game on "Thursday Night Football." -- Cockcroft
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders: Carr was decisive as a thrower on Sunday, and we got to see him finally cut it loose in the vertical passing game. The Raiders quarterback completed 22-of-31 passing for 347 yards -- with three touchdown passes -- in the upset win over the Chiefs. And it was pretty clear that he outplayed Patrick Mahomes. Now, the Raiders head into a bye this week and then come back with a tough matchup versus the Tampa Bay defense in Week 7. If Carr can continue to throw the ball aggressively in a Vegas offensive system that will scheme up deep-ball throws, then the veteran has some value here as a matchup-dependent QB2. -- Bowen
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, and Mike Davis, RB, Carolina Panthers: Make that three straight games with at least 22.1 PPR fantasy points for Davis, all of those as a fill-in starter for the injured Christian McCaffrey (ankle), but perhaps more importantly, it's now back-to-back weeks during which Bridgewater has scored 20-plus points. Bridgewater continues to make good use of his receivers and running back, and while he does typically spread the ball around, it's worth noting that during the past three weeks, Davis has a 26% (25-of-98) target share. The Panthers now face a much tougher Week 6 matchup against the Bears, one that'll keep Bridgewater in the low-QB2 rankings tier, but Davis' hefty usage in the passing game makes him a locked-in RB2 for as long as he subs for McCaffrey. That might, however, be only another one to three weeks. -- Cockcroft
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: Until the Falcons get a healthy Julio Jones back into the mix, Ryan needs to stay in the QB2 range. The Falcons quarterback threw for 226 yards with one interception in the Week 5 loss to the Panthers, and he has registered only one touchdown pass over his past three games. Plus, with Ryan's diminished arm talent and mobility, he is struggling to create more second-reaction plays or drive the ball into open coverage voids. -- Bowen
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders: Ruggs reminded us today that he can shift gears and separate instantly over the top on vertical throws. The rookie totaled 118 yards receiving -- and a score -- on just two receptions in the win over the Chiefs. But with that low target volume, Ruggs remains a high-ceiling, low-floor play as a WR3 in deeper, non-PPR leagues. -- Bowen
Travis Fulgham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: He went from catching the game-winning touchdown in Week 4 to posting the second-best PPR fantasy point total overall from the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games (31.2), and his 13 targets were also tops among all players from that game block. That's not bad for a player rostered in only 0.2% of ESPN leagues and started in fewer than one-tenth of a percent during Week 5. -- Cockcroft
Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers: In his past two games, Anderson has caught 16 of 24 targets for 211 yards. Yes, we know Anderson has the vertical juice to stretch the field, but look at how Carolina is scheming for him on in-breakers or crossers. That creates room to get up the field after the catch (on high-percentage throws for Teddy Bridgewater). And with Anderson seeing more target volume than DJ Moore in Carolina, he should be viewed as a WR2. -- Bowen
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins: He has been one of the most productive fantasy quarterbacks of the past year, and you probably don't even realize it. In the past 17 regular-season NFL weeks, Fitzpatrick has 308.2 fantasy points, sixth most at his position, and 10 games of 20-plus points, second only to Lamar Jackson's 11. Fitzpatrick is also one of only three quarterbacks to score 20-plus points in each of the past four weeks (Mahomes, Jackson). And yet ... would you start him, if granted a league-average matchup? The answer probably now should be yes, though I'd argue that both the Jets (Week 6) and Rams (Week 7) rate below-average matchups, so he's unlikely to earn a space in my top 10 for them. Still, make him a clear-cut member of your lineup in those games against weak secondaries or against teams likely to blow the Dolphins out -- I'm looking at you, Cardinals, in Week 9. -- Cockcroft
49ers D/ST: With a really rough stretch of games coming up -- Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Saints -- how do we feel about this San Francisco defense? This unit was lit up by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins on Sunday, and you are seeing the fallout from the injuries up front. Without a consistent pass rush, this 49ers' secondary is now being exposed. To be totally honest, I started the 49ers' defense in one of my home leagues today. But with the injuries, the lack of defensive production and the upcoming matchups, I am going to drop the 49ers' defense and find some streaming options moving forward. -- Bowen