Fantasy football picks, sleepers, busts for Week 7

By now, you’ve probably seen the rant.

I say this because it seems like everyone has seen the rant. If you haven’t, you can watch it right above. But I can’t tell you how many tweets, texts, DMs and emails I got from friends, co-workers and fellow fantasy players about it. They all said some version of the same thing. “Man, I’m sorry for your pain. That’s awful. But I can relate.”

Because they’ve been there.

Story after story poured in. “I feel you. You think that’s bad, listen to this one.”

I often write about the unifying aspect of fantasy football, the universal language it speaks and how it brings people from all parts of life together because of a group of shared experiences. I talk about the joy it brings, the hope and light it can shed, the bonds it creates.

I don’t talk about the pain.

Late Monday night, after the game, I was sunk into my couch with only the glow of the television faintly illuminating the room. The rest of my family was long asleep, Scott Van Pelt and Stanford Steve were on the TV, appropriately talking about bad beats, and I just lay there. Depressed. Why do I do this to myself?

Why do we care so much? I get wanting to win, I get being disappointed when I don’t. I get the frustration that comes from spending an entire week of preparation on a game where, every week, half of all teams will take an L. But at the end of the day — realize this is me saying this, a man who has spent three decades of his life dedicated to fantasy football — it’s still just a make-believe game.

And so, I sat on my couch, just destroyed. Like, legitimately depressed. The night before that intense rant, I was seriously questioning why I play this dumb game.

Make no mistake, logically, I get it. I had some bad luck. I did what you are supposed to do in fantasy football. I did the research, I played the odds that gave me the best chance to win and due to a bunch of unlikely events, I fell just short. It happens. Every week, all the time, to anyone who has ever played the game.

It makes complete and total sense and my brain just nods. While my heart just crumbles. Emotionally, I am just destroyed. Why does this game do this to us? How do we get so wrapped up, so invested in a semi-random group of professional athletes who we’ve never met and have no connection to each other except they were selected, in some order, by some random person, at some point in August?

When I win a game, I am happy, but you know my overriding emotion? Relief. Relief that I didn’t lose. That my make-believe collection of players scored more points than my opponent’s make-believe collection. That I don’t have to feel like crap. And if the reaction I got from that rant is any indication, I’m not alone.

To be clear, I don’t take every loss the way I took this one. In fact, I never have. But I do truly care. That was one reaction I heard a lot. People were surprised that I cared this much about any one league, all these years later.

Oh, I care. I always care. The issue is time. I’m in 12 leagues, plus the two “Vampire” leagues. There’s another 15 or so that I “help” out with and need to keep reasonable track of. There’s DFS of course and smaller games, like Pigskin Pick ’em and Eliminator. All in all, I probably make some sort of decision hundreds of times a week. Some of them fall through the cracks. There’s a league where I’ve known I desperately need to make a trade for three weeks now, and I haven’t found the time to go through rosters to see the team that would make the best potential trade partner and to try to negotiate that deal. But I definitely care about every single league I’m in.

The league is called The Scott Fish Bowl and if you are active on Twitter, you may have seen a bunch of people tweeting about it, especially in the middle of July, when we draft. Some of us, Le’Veon Bell. Yeah, this rant was months in the making.

The league is run by my friend Scott Fish, a fantasy analyst for Fanball. Scott is just an awesome human being and he does the league to support a great cause, and the whole industry has rallied around it. There are 800 teams divided into 12-team leagues with 22-man rosters. It is a “super flex” league, where you can play four flex players, including one QB, so ideally you are starting two quarterbacks with three traditional flex players.

Half-point PPR, half-point per first down, except you get one point for tight end receptions and one point for tight end first downs. Also, no kickers or defense, which I love. If you used ESPN standard roster size and eliminated kickers and defenses, it is basically the equivalent of an 18-team league. Unless you’ve ever played in an 18-team league, you have no concept of how deep it is.

Coming into this week, I have lost five of six. I got a lot of comments from folks about how they couldn’t believe an expert had lost five games, but I didn’t want to lie. I’ll own it. Here’s the team that I started this past week:

QB: Carson Wentz, Alex Smith
RB: Christian McCaffrey, Sony Michel, James White, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris
WR: Julian Edelman, Dede Westbrook, Antonio Callaway
TE: Greg Olsen

I have the aforementioned Le’Veon Bell on my bench and Jack Doyle in my training room. I also had drafted Larry Fitzgerald, which was my biggest miss in the draft. Middle of July, in this format, thought he’d be a star. Just dead wrong. He has been unstartable. But other than Larry Fitz? I think that’s a strong team in that deep a league. A little weak at wide receiver, but given that I’ve gotten zero from my first-round pick and almost nothing from my tight ends in a tight-end heavy format? I’m pretty happy that I’m still able to compete.

I lost the week before by 3.8 points to a guy who got that crazy Monday Night Football performance from Mark Ingram, against my Redskins.

Lost the week before that by 4.8 points to a team that started and got six touchdowns from Mitchell Trubisky. That’s right. He needed a six-touchdown game to beat me by four points.

Prior to that, Callaway had become just the 14th person in NFL history to get 10 targets in a game and fewer than 10 receiving yards (hat tip to Ryan McDowell for that stat).

You can’t make it up.

On and on, it has been like that in that league. Starting with the early draft, Le’Veon Bell deciding his career is more important to him than my fantasy team, and all the close losses … It all led up to Monday night, where I was down 0.9, he was done and I had Alfred Morris needing one tiny little point. Not even 10 yards: a six-inch dive for a first down would have been enough. Morris plays literally just one snap, gets a first down called back because of a holding penalty … and I lose again, 158.64 to 157.74.


So depressed. And then the next morning, when it came up on the podcast, I just snapped. And it was caught on camera and it is now there for you to enjoy my misery whenever you feel like feeling better about your own loss.

I’ve thought a lot about why we care so much, how this game affects us the way it does, and I believe it’s because we have the illusion of control but in reality, we have none. All we can do is watch and hope and pray and yell and use whatever body English we can think of to will the ball into or out of a player’s hands.

I sat on the edge of my couch, watching every single play Monday night like a hawk. Where is Alfred Morris? Is that him lined up in the backfield? I can’t see that guy’s number, is it him? I can’t remember the last time I went through an emotional roller coaster like that. Except maybe the day before. And the Thursday before that. And the Sunday before that. It’s unlike anything else in my life, this relationship I have with fantasy football. After the rant, Scott Van Pelt reached out with some kind words and as we were texting back and forth about it, he wrote this: It’s why fantasy football is so great and terrible. The despair and joy. Side by side. Each can reach out and touch the other.

That they can, Scott. That they can.

And after I got that rant out, I felt better. And I started looking at my Week 7 matchups, I started making waiver claims and what the hell do you know? I’m sucked right back in, ready for Week 7. Bring it on, Fantasy Gods. Because you owe me one.

Let’s get to it. A reminder, this is based on projections for ESPN PPR leagues. “Loves” are players I think meet or exceed their projections, “Hates” are players I feel fall short. Thanks as always to “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe and the Stat-A-Pillar himself, Damian Dabrowski, for their help at various points in this column.

Quarterbacks I love in Week 7

Jameis Winston vs. Browns (ESPN projection: 18.7): Great matchup here, as the Browns have allowed at least 298 passing yards OR multiple TDs in five of six games this season. (The lone exception was Sam Darnold, in Cleveland, on a short week.) The three times QBs have attempted more than 35 passes against the Browns, they’ve averaged 356.7 passing yards. Dating back to 2017, Winston has at least 35 attempts in four of his past five starts. And as a position this season, Tampa Bay QBs are second in fantasy points per game (27.57).

Kirk Cousins at Jets (ESPN projection: 18.4): The Jets blitz at the fifth-highest rate this season (30.3 percent). Cousins ranks fourth in passing yards against the blitz this season and ranks behind only Drew Brees in completion percentage when blitzed. Cousins is averaging 43 pass attempts per game, he is fifth in the NFL in passing yards and third in completion percentage, and now he gets a Jets team that has allowed at least 20 fantasy points to QBs in each of the past three weeks (the Falcons are the only other team that has done that).

Carson Wentz vs. Panthers (ESPN projection: 18.3): The Eagles have had 10 days to prep for a Panthers team that has allowed a touchdown on 81.8 percent of red zone drives this season, second worst in the NFL. Wentz certainly looks healthy, as he has scored at least 20 points in three straight games (matching Andrew Luck for the longest active streak among QBs). In those three weeks, he ranks as QB6 in terms of total points (ahead of Patrick Mahomes). Worth noting: Wentz has more than 275 passing yards and multiple TDs in three straight games, something that, prior to this run, he had never done in his career.

Baker Mayfield at Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 16.7): You know who chucks it deep? Baker Mayfield chucks it deep. Among QBs currently starting, he ranks top five in terms of air yards per target (9.24). Among the many things the Bucs’ defense struggles with is the deep ball. They are tied with the Saints for the highest deep completion percentage against (59 percent; league average: 44.8 percent) and deep completions allowed per game (4.60; league average: 3.24). Mayfield has the fourth-most pass attempts over the past three weeks (trailing only Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco), which makes him my favorite streamer this week.

Others receiving votes: Mitchell Trubisky is the fourth-best QB in fantasy since Week 4. And that includes Week 5, when, you know, he was on a bye. Six touchdowns will do that for you, but he’s also fifth in rushing yards among quarterbacks. That keeps his floor high, especially against a Patriots defense allowing the ninth-most rushing yards to QBs. … It has certainly been ugly, but believe it or not, Eli Manning now has five straight games with 250-plus passing yards. Atlanta will have no issue putting up points on the Giants, which means Eli will keep throwing against a Falcons defense that has allowed at least 21.5 points to a QB in five of six games this season. … I mentioned him in this section last week as well and now C.J. Beathard has at least 17.8 points in three straight games (multiple passing TDs in each). The only QBs who can say that? Tom Brady, Wentz, Luck and Beathard. Junk time still counts, baby.

Quarterbacks I hate in Week 7

Deshaun Watson at Jaguars (ESPN projection: 15.6): Man, he has looked bad from a real-life-football point of view. And now that has caught up to him fantasy wise, with just two TD passes over the past two weeks (once every 34.5 attempts) after throwing multiple TD passes in each of the prior three games (once every 19 attempts). Houston is allowing pressure at the highest rate this season (41.4 percent of dropbacks) and the Jaguars create pressure at the highest rate this season (35.3 percent). For his career, Watson has seven TDs and eight INTs versus pressure (21 and 7 when not pressured). I like the chance of the Jags’ defense bouncing back more than Watson in this one.

Drew Brees at Ravens (ESPN projection: 15.9): Brees has played one outdoor road game this season. That was against the Giants and he scored 8.6 points. He has traditionally struggled on the road outdoors (he scored fewer than 14.5 points in three of six such games last season). Other than the Steelers, the Ravens haven’t played a strong offense in the past four weeks, but still they’ve allowed just two touchdown passes in their past four games.

Dak Prescott at Redskins (ESPN projection: 16.2): There have been 128 instances this season — from 36 quarterbacks — of a QB completing 20 or more passes in a game. None of those 36 QBs are named Dak Prescott. He has a league-high four games this season in which he has thrown at least 25 passes and failed to pass for at least 200 yards. You’re counting on rushing with Dak and the Redskins allow the seventh-fewest rushing yards per carry to QBs this season (3.19). The 42-point over/under is among the lowest in Week 7.

Alex Smith vs. Cowboys (ESPN projection: 15.5): Smith has just one game this season with more than 220 passing yards AND at least one touchdown pass, so his ceiling has been limited thus far. This doesn’t seem like the game he changes that. A slow pace of play has resulted in Dallas being the fifth-least-passed-on team in the league this season. Because the Redskins’ defense has mostly played well this season, Smith hasn’t needed to get into shootouts, and he’s not really running, either, with just one game of more than 15 rushing yards.

Running backs I love in Week 7

Saquon Barkley at Falcons (ESPN projection: 21.9): The best part about doing this new “over or under the projection” way of doing Love/Hate is that I can now talk about “obvious” guys like Barkley. I’m taking the over here against a Falcons team that has allowed more than 20 points to a single running back in all six games this season, including the likes of Jay Ajayi, Giovani Bernard and Peyton Barber. Forget his rushing for a second; Barkley has more catches than Keenan Allen and more receiving yards than Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Ridley, to name a few. The Falcons are giving up more than eight receptions a game to running backs and that’s not changing Monday night. My No. 1 running back this week.

Joe Mixon at Chiefs (ESPN projection: 18.1): Say what you want about Marvin Lewis (seriously, go ahead, what do I care?), but the man commits! One back for him and that’s it. Injuries have something to do with it, of course, but in Mixon’s four games and Giovani Bernard’s two starts, the lead back has gotten at least 20 touches. That volume should work well against a Chiefs defense that is third worst in terms of yards allowed before first contact to RBs this season, gives up 5.32 yards per carry to running backs and gives up the third-highest rate of carries that gain 10 yards or more.

Tarik Cohen vs. Patriots (ESPN projection: 10.1): In the past three weeks, Cohen is the fourth-best RB in fantasy on a points-per-game basis (only Todd Gurley II, Barkley and Melvin Gordon have been better). Of course the Bears had a bye in Week 5, but in the past two games they’ve played, Cohen has out-touched Jordan Howard 32 to 25 and their snaps are almost equal (64 for Howard, 59 for Cohen). He has 18 carries for 84 yards and a TD, 14 catches for 211 yards and a TD in those two games, and I expect that production to continue against a Patriots defense that coughs up the fifth-most receiving yards to opposing running backs.

Phillip Lindsay at Cardinals (ESPN projection: 11.8): The always-risky call of a guy in a committee playing on a Thursday night, but I just lost by one point because of Alfred Morris. What the hell. In the past three games, Lindsay has at least 10 touches in each game, has caught 11 balls and has a 15-6 red zone snap edge over Royce Freeman. The Cardinals are one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, allowing almost 200 total yards a game to opposing backs. They’ve allowed 10 touchdowns to running backs, the second-most fantasy points per game and what are the Broncos gonna do, let Case Keenum throw it? Exactly.

Others receiving votes: Running backs who have gotten 15 or more carries against the Dolphins this season (four instances) have averaged 19.3 points per game. The only question is will Kerryon Johnson get 15 carries? I’m not sure, but I do like his chances of beating his projection of 10.1 points. … With the Chargers more than a touchdown favorite, I like Austin Ekeler and his amazing 3.34 yards per carry after contact to get some nice run in the second half and be flex-play worthy. … If you listened to the podcast this week, you know I am a believer in Ito Smith being top-25-or-so worthy against the Giants. Since his first carry in Week 2, Smith leads the Falcons in rushing attempts inside the opponent’s 10-yard line and leads the Falcons with 13 red zone carries (six more than Tevin Coleman). Giants opponents have cashed in four of eight rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line this season, the third-highest rate in the NFL. … It took a bit, but with Jameis Winston under center last week, Peyton Barber finally got going (17 touches for 106 yards and a TD … RB9 finish), and I like his chances of keeping it going against a Browns team allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per game this season and the third-most yards per carry after first contact. … And you know all those stats I gave in the Phillip Lindsay section about how bad the Cardinals are? They also apply to Royce Freeman, who, while certainly risky, has a decent chance to hit pay dirt in this one. If ever there was a week to use Royce, this is it. How lucky do you feel?

Running backs I hate in Week 7

Jordan Howard vs. Patriots (ESPN projection: 11.8): Howard hasn’t caught a ball since Week 3 and is trending in the wrong direction, as he was averaging 45 snaps the first three games but just 32 in the past two. Of more concern is that, while Howard’s playing time is going down, the Bears’ offense has gotten a lot better. This sets up more as a Cohen game than a Howard one against a New England defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown all season long.

T.J. Yeldon vs. Texans (ESPN projection: 16): For the season, Yeldon ranks as a bottom-10 RB in terms of yards per carry after first contact. That’s an issue, because the Texans allow the fifth-fewest yards per carry before first contact this season. Yeldon has yet to have a game with 60 rushing yards, so he’ll need to be effective catching the ball. However, Houston is allowing the sixth-fewest yards per attempt when targeting RBs this season. You gotta start him if you have him, but gimme the under on 16 points.

Lamar Miller at Jaguars (ESPN projection: 10.8): In his past three games, Miller is averaging just 2.69 yards per carry. And now he gets an embarrassed Jaguars defense in Jacksonville? Yeesh. The Jags are a top-10 defense in terms of limiting red zone drives and limiting the efficiency of drives when opponents do reach the red zone. The odds of Miller scoring his first rushing touchdown of the season are not great.

Dion Lewis vs. Chargers in London (ESPN projection: 11.1): In the past three games for Lewis, he has 21 carries for 43 yards (2.05 YPC). LeSean McCoy is the only RB to rush for more than 70 yards against the Chargers this season … but it took him 24 carries to get there. I don’t see Lewis getting that kind of volume (he averages 10 carries per game this season). He has just two games this season with eight or more fantasy points, and he has been held below 10 rushing yards in two of the past three games. Since Week 2, he is just RB45. After this game, the Titans are on bye, so if you need the roster space, feel free to drop him.

Pass-catchers I love in Week 7

Odell Beckham Jr. at Falcons (ESPN projection: 19.5): Remember 2016, when Beckham was WR4? He was WR22 through 5 weeks in that season before a breakthrough game. Through six weeks this season, he’s WR13. His 30.7 percent target share this season trails only Adam Thielen and Julio Jones, and while, yes, Eli is #notgood, he hasn’t been good for a while. Beckham will be fine and it starts this week against a Falcons team that is allowing the most red zone drives per game, the most touchdowns to opposing wide receivers and the fourth-most fantasy points to wideouts.

Tyreek Hill vs. Bengals (ESPN projection: 17.4): Eight different WRs have scored more than 15.5 points against the Bengals this season. Hill has 32 targets in his past three games and I expect another huge game. The Bengals create pressure at the fourth-lowest rate this season and that’s good, because Patrick Mahomes owns the highest passer rating when not pressured since that crazy Nick Foles season of 2013. With time to throw, you can bet Hill will get open. And if he’s within 80 yards of Mahomes, he’ll get the ball.

Jarvis Landry at Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 16.2): You already know I think Mayfield throws the ball a ton here. Well, a lot of that is going to Landry, who has a team-high 26 percent target share this season with Mayfield under center. Opponents are completing 80 percent of passes when targeting the slot against Tampa this season (second-highest rate in the NFL). That’s where Landry lines up.

Tyler Boyd at Chiefs (ESPN projection: 14.4): Boyd has a touchdown or 100 yards in four of his past five games, and he should keep it going against a Chiefs defense that is a bottom 10 against the slot, in terms of catches, yards and yards after the catch per reception. Can you even tell which stat line belongs to Boyd and which one is A.J. Green‘s?

Player A: 37 catches on 51 targets for 455 yards and 4 TDs, 0 drops, recording a catch on 17.1 percent of routes

Player B: 33 catches on 55 targets for 494 yards and 5 TDs, 3 drops, recording a catch on 15.9 percent of routes.

Player A … is Boyd. Now, Green got a little banged up in one game, but still … I don’t think people fully realize what they’re dealing with here.

George Kittle vs. Rams (ESPN projection: 11.2): In a game I expect the Niners to throw a bunch to keep up with L.A., it’s worth pointing out the Rams allow the ninth-most tight end receptions per game this season (5.33) and here are the teams they’ve faced: Raiders, Cardinals, Chargers, Vikings, Seahawks, Broncos. Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph are the only two real tight ends they’ve faced (sorry, Antonio Gates and Ricky Seals-Jones). Kittle is fifth among tight ends in receptions the past four weeks.

David Njoku at Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 10.6 points): His connection with Mayfield is growing, as evidenced by his 11 targets in each of the past two games. In each of Baker’s three starts, Njoku leads Cleveland in receptions and receiving yards. As we may have mentioned, this is a great matchup; Tampa Bay gives up 7.2 catches, 94.8 yards and the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Others receiving votes: On a per-game basis, the Saints are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing WRs this season (51.86). I like John Brown and Willie Snead IV in this game, as I expect Michael Crabtree to find himself lined up against Marshon Lattimore the most. … Taylor Gabriel has caught all 12 of his targets over the past two games (214 yards and 2 TDs), actually leads the Bears in receptions and yards this season, is second in routes run and has as many slot receptions (11) as any other Bear has targets. The Patriots have allowed six slot TDs this season (second most in the NFL, and four over the past two weeks). … Josh Gordon is coming off a game in which he led the team in routes run, and I’m taking the over on his 11.4-point projection against a Bears defense that has allowed the seventh-most deep TD passes this season. … With Quincy Enunwa out, I expect Jermaine Kearse to play the majority of snaps in the slot against a Vikings team that has given up the fourth-most yards to the slot this season. Heavy target share for Kearse. … Austin Hooper now has at least nine catches and 70 yards in consecutive games (Zach Ertz is the only other tight end who can say that). Hooper has 22 targets in those games and I like him Monday night in a game where a lot of the other receiving options are banged up. … In his first game back from injury, O.J. Howard played 13 more snaps and ran five more routes than Cameron Brate. I expect that gap to widen further this week in a plus matchup. Thirteen of Winston’s past 24 touchdown passes have gone to tight ends.

Pass-catchers I hate in Week 7

Demaryius Thomas at Cardinals (ESPN projection: 11.8): Thomas has seven or fewer targets in four straight games and his fantasy output has been bailed out by some late touchdowns. I much prefer Emmanuel Sanders to DT in a game where I expect Denver to go run heavy. The Cardinals have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing WRs so far this season and Thomas is likely to see the most of Patrick Peterson in this one.

T.Y. Hilton vs. Bills (ESPN projection: 14.7): This game is at home, which helps, but I’m lowering expectations under the idea that he says he’s still not 100 percent and because he’s likely to be shadowed by Buffalo’s terrific young corner Tre’Davious White. The Bills have allowed the third-fewest deep completions and have yet to allow a deep TD pass (one of three defenses that can say that).

Will Fuller V at Jaguars (ESPN projection: 10.6): It’s been a tough two-week stretch for Fuller, and things will get better. But not this week, not against this defense. The Jags have given up zero deep touchdowns and opponents are completing 36.4 percent of deep attempts (tied for second lowest). They will get after Deshaun Watson as well, making it tough for deep plays to develop. Even with a modest projection of 10.6, I’m taking the under.

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, is down to praying for stat corrections. He is the creator of and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and

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Coach Doug Marrone says Jacksonville Jaguars playing ‘a lot of bad football’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone didn’t mince words about the state of his football team after a two-game losing streak in which they were outscored 70-21.

The Jaguars may have been a Super Bowl contender when the season began, but now they’re struggling with basic football fundamentals.

“We have to do a lot of things better,” Marrone said. “I’m more focused on what we have to get done in practice and do those things before we can even go the next step and get out there on the field Sunday.

“We have a lot of time between now and Sunday to correct a lot of bad football that we have been playing.”

The Jaguars (3-3) host streaking Houston (3-3) in a critical AFC South game at TIAA Bank Field. The Jaguars are coming off blowout losses to Kansas City and Dallas, with the supposed elite defense having given up 63 points, 49 first downs, and 802 yards in the two games.

The offense has been even worse. Quarterback Blake Bortles has committed six turnovers — five interceptions — and the offensive line has struggled because four starters are banged up and the fifth is the third-string left tackle. In addition, the team’s wide receivers are having a hard time getting open.

Also not helping is that the team’s best offensive player — running back Leonard Fournette — is out indefinitely with a right hamstring injury.

That’s why Marrone said the team is going back to stressing basic football fundamentals rather than worrying about injuries, scheme and playcalling. The Jaguars can’t just assume the defensive front will have success against a Texans offensive line that has given up the second-most sacks in the NFL (25).

“Well if you think of it like that, I think that’s a pretty good path to probably get your ass kicked,” Marrone said. “Fundamentally, we have gotten away from some things and that is on us as coaches. What I have challenged the coaches and I challenged myself with this week is, ‘Hey listen, we have to get back to fundamentals. We have to stick with something that we can sink our teeth in and this way we can go out there and just perform.’

“This may just be my philosophy that anytime you see football being played as poorly as we have been playing, then that is what it comes down to [fundamentals]. That is my philosophy. You guys may differ, but you have to do things well fundamentally. Usually when you do that, you have a chance to play better.”

Marrone is energized by the challenge of getting the team back on track. It means a lot of extra hours and work, but he’s been in this situation before and responded.

He believes it can turn a team’s season around.

“There is no magic pill or magic moment that you can just snap your fingers and go,” Marrone said. “The only way to start playing better is you have to work your ass off. You have to work hard. You have to go back there. You have to coach better. We have to play better. I have to do a better job. That is how simple it is.

“It is like that with anything in life, whether it is football, family or work or whatever it may be. You eat some s— and you go out there and you get your act in gear. You pull it up. I like it because it is challenging. What’s better than hitting adversity and coming back from it?

“It happens all the time. It happens to me my whole entire life. For me, I like it. I don’t want to be here, make no mistake about it, but the one thing you don’t have to worry about — the one question you are not going to get is are you comfortable? There is no way anyone in this building should be comfortable. We know that. We earned that right to be where we are. We are the ones that put us where we are.”

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Fantasy football RB depth chart for 2018

NOTE: These depth charts will be updated throughout the 2018 regular season.

This is a file I’ve done in the past — previously known as the “Tamme Index” — and it’s important to note it does not necessarily reflect a player’s position on his NFL team’s depth chart.

A player listed in the “starter” column is the most valuable running back on his team in terms of fantasy value.

A player listed under “handcuff” should see increased fantasy value if the starter becomes injured or sees his role diminish.

The “value” column reflects the likely upside that player would have in standard leagues if he becomes a starter: RB1 (top 10), RB2 (11-20), bench (worth a speculative add), waivers (not worth adding as a free agent).

More fantasy depth charts:

Quarterbacks | Wide receivers | Tight ends

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Fantasy football — Fantasy intel for all 32 NFL teams ahead of Week 7

The Fantasy 32 analyzes the NFL from a fantasy perspective, with at least one mention of each of the league’s 32 teams. Though efficiency will be discussed plenty, the column will lean heavily on usage data, as volume is king (by far) in fantasy football. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for the upcoming week and beyond. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.

Note that data from Monday Night Football may not be reflected in charts in the article until Tuesday afternoon.

The infirmary

Falcons WRs Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip) both left Sunday’s game with injuries. Justin Hardy was the biggest benefactor, drawing seven targets on 24 of a possible 42 pass routes in the game. If one of Ridley or Sanu is out this week, Hardy is safe to ignore, but if both are out, Hardy will certainly jump into the flex discussion, especially with Janoris Jenkins likely to shadow Julio Jones.

Jets WR Quincy Enunwa went down with a right ankle injury on Sunday and is expected to miss some time. Enunwa had been handling a hefty target share, but it was starting to dip a bit with Jermaine Kearse healthy and taking over as the team’s primary slot receiver. Kearse led the Jets’ passing attack on Sunday with nine catches and 94 yards on 10 targets (four more than any other Jet). Kearse, fantasy’s No. 26 wideout in 2017, had only registered 71 yards on seven catches during his first four games, but an expanded role — coupled with Enunwa’s absence — puts him in the flex discussion in 12-team leagues. Robby Anderson (five targets on Sunday) and Terrelle Pryor Sr. (six) are too risky to start.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper went down with a concussion after only nine snaps and only hours after trade rumors began to circulate. In Cooper’s absence, Jordy Nelson (36 of 37 possible routes) and Martavis Bryant (29) worked the perimeter with Seth Roberts (31) in the slot. Oakland is headed to its bye, but if Cooper misses time or is traded, Nelson’s stock will rise enough to place him in the WR3 discussion most weeks. Bryant’s playing time would increase significantly and his downfield ability would be enough to land him in the flex discussion. Roberts is only worth a look in deep PPR leagues.

Rams WR Cooper Kupp‘s knee injury doesn’t appear to be serious considering he returned (albeit briefly) to Sunday’s game. However, should he miss time, Josh Reynolds needs to be on your radar in an offense that ranks third in touchdowns per game (3.5) and first in three-plus wide receiver sets when passing (98 percent). Reynolds was held to two targets on Sunday, but was on the field for 20 of the team’s 33 pass plays (Kupp ran 13 routes and was targeted once). Reynolds, a 2017 fourth-round pick, showed flashes as a rookie and Kupp’s absence would bump him into the flex discussion. Gerald Everett — who doubled up Tyler Higbee in pass routes on Sunday — would join the TE2 mix.

Jaguars TE Niles Paul went down with a leg injury on Sunday just one week after Jacksonville lost Austin Seferian-Jenkins for the season. Paul went down on his fourth snap, which led to James O’Shaughnessy running 24 of 29 possible routes. Unless the Jaguars make an impact acquisition, this is a situation to ignore except in the deepest of two tight end leagues.

Opportunity alert

Throughout this piece, I’ll be referencing “OFP” and “OTD.” OFP stands for opportunity-adjusted fantasy points. Imagine a league in which players are created equal. “OFP” is a statistic that weighs every pass/carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s opportunity to score fantasy points, or his “expected” fantasy point total. For example, if a player has an OFP of 14.5, it means that a league average player who saw the same workload in the same area of the field would have scored 14.5 fantasy points. “OTD” works the same way, except instead of fantasy points, it’s touchdowns.

That said, here is the Week 6 OFP Leaderboard:

*Complete positional leaderboards will be posted at ESPN+ this week

Vikings WR Adam Thielen‘s record-setting early-season pace is likely unsustainable, but OFP tells us that he can afford a drop-off in efficiency and still manage elite numbers. Thielen’s full-season FORP sits at 31, meaning his 31 fantasy points above his expected total. Still, his 123 OFP is second highest, behind only DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver. Thielen is a legitimate top-5 fantasy wide receiver moving forward and you shouldn’t feel the need to try and trade him at his ceiling.

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston entered his first 2018 start as a solid QB1 play and that’s how you should view him moving forward. Granted it was a light matchup against Atlanta’s injury-plagued defense, but Winston delivered … and then some. He completed 30 of 41 passes for 395 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 31 yards with his legs. Remember, Winston posted a top-10 fantasy week in 46 percent of his starts last season, which was ninth best at the position. Surrounded by a terrific group of skill position players, Winston should be in lineups against Cleveland on Sunday and most weeks going forward.

Falcons WR Julio Jones has yet to score a touchdown this season, but his 116 fantasy points are actually higher than his 113 OFP. Jones is no longer getting much work near the goal line (one end zone target during his past five games), but he’s still seeing so much volume that he’s fantasy’s No. 5 scoring wide receiver.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco sits 20th at quarterback with 100 fantasy points, but his 111 OFP ranks fifth at the position and suggests better days could be ahead. Flacco hasn’t posted a top-10 fantasy outing since Week 1, but the Ravens’ offense is averaging 75.8 plays per game (most) and 2.8 touchdowns per game (10th). An abnormal number of those scores have been of the rushing variety (47 percent, which is fifth highest), so we should expect more passing touchdowns from Flacco going forward. Flacco is an outstanding streaming option at home against the Saints this week and is a strong QB2 going forward.


FORP is the difference between a player’s actual fantasy point total and his OFP (or expected fantasy point total).

First, here are the players who have fallen short of their OFP by the largest margin and are thus candidates to see a rise in fantasy production moving forward, assuming they see a similar workload:

Browns WR Jarvis Landry is handling a career-high 29.2 percent target share, which is impressive considering he’s cleared 27.5 percent each of the past three seasons. He’s averaging a career-best 12.6 yards per reception, but a 47 percent catch rate and one touchdown have him sitting 27th at wide receiver in fantasy points. Landry ranks eighth at the position in OFP, which tells us better days are likely ahead. Teammate Antonio Callaway‘s inefficiencies seem to have him destined for a demotion, but as long as he’s in his current situation, a big play or three is inevitable.

Texans TE Ryan Griffin has flirted with occasional fantasy value during his career, which makes his brutal 2018 efficiency a bit surprising. Griffin has been targeted 25 times, but has only 10 catches for 140 yards and zero scores to show. He’s 37th at the position in fantasy points, but 10th (seriously) in OFP. The gap between his touchdown total (0) and 3.3 OTD is largest in the league. Houston’s offense has underachieved against some tough defenses the past two weeks, but an upcoming slate including Jacksonville, Miami and Denver means it may be a bit before we see a major rebound. Nonetheless, FORP suggests Griffin and his quarterback are headed for better days. Both Griffin and Broncos TE Jeff Heuerman, who is handling a 15 percent target share over the past three weeks, are TE2 options.

Jaguars WR Donte Moncrief sits 26th at wide receiver in OFP, but is 58th in fantasy points. Moncrief’s 2.5 OTD ranks 18th at the position and he’s seen four end zone targets. He’s too risky to throw into lineups right now, but Moncrief’s role should allow more production going forward, especially in the Jaguars’ pass-heavy offense.

And these players have exceeded their OFP by the largest margin and are thus candidates to see a dip in fantasy production moving forward:

Will Falcons QB Matt Ryan repeat his incredible 2016 season? He’s certainly well on his way. In 2016, Ryan posted a ridiculous 124 FORP (430 fantasy points, 306 OFP). Through Week 6 this season, he’s “on pace” for a 120 FORP (403 points, 283 FORP). Obviously we can’t count on this level of efficiency moving forward, but even with a return to earth statistically, Ryan’s OFP ranks sixth at the position. Fantasy’s No. 2 scoring quarterback can afford some regression to the mean and will still carry QB1 value.

Dolphins WR Albert Wilson is fantasy’s No. 20 scoring wide receiver despite seeing the field on only 61 percent of the Dolphins’ pass plays this season. His OFP ranks 52nd at the position. As boom or bust as they come, Wilson has finished 37th or worse in four of six outings (50th or worse in three), but top-10 in the other two games. He has four touchdowns, but a 0.7 OTD (that 3.3 gap is fourth-largest in the league). Wilson’s receiving touchdowns have required post-catch runs of 24, 43, 72 and 78 yards, which is as hard to believe as it is unsustainable. The total OTD on those three plays was … 0.03. Incredibly, he’s seen one target inside the opponent’s 13-yard line. This is one of the easiest regression-to-the-mean calls in a decade, though Wilson will be on the flex radar if the Dolphins trade DeVante Parker.

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett is another wide receiver unlikely to come close to sustaining his current production. Lockett sits 56th at wide receiver in OFP, but five touchdowns have him sitting 19th in fantasy points. The 3.4 gap between his touchdown total and OTD (1.6) is third largest in the league. Lockett has hauled in all three of his end zone targets, but has seen only one additional target inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. His other scores required runs of 10 and 25 yards. Lockett entered 2018 with a grand total of 10 offensive touchdowns in three NFL seasons, including four the past two seasons. The No. 2 target in an extremely run-heavy offense who is limited to a 19 percent target share, Lockett is a player to try to trade this week.

Deep dive

Bears WR Taylor Gabriel was discussed in this column prior to Chicago’s Week 5 bye, but this past Sunday is yet further evidence that he’s arguably the most underrated asset in fantasy. Gabriel cleared 100 receiving yards for the second consecutive game and is now handling a 22 percent target share for the season (7.0 per game). Mitchell Trubisky‘s No. 2 target has at least five targets and four receptions in each of Chicago’s five games. Available in nearly two-thirds of ESPN leagues, he should be scooped up and considered a fringe WR3 option against New England.

Colts RB Marlon Mack was finally healthy for a full game on Sunday and that was enough to allow him to easily lead the Indianapolis backfield in carries (and efficiency). Mack carried the rock 12 times for 89 yards and was targeted twice. Mack’s strong effort figures to solidify his role as the top ball carrier in an offense averaging a very strong 3.0 touchdowns per game this season. Note that while Nyheim Hines was limited to three carries and three targets, he did out-snap Mack 29 to 23 and will continue to play a sizable role in passing situations. Mack is available in 74 percent of ESPN leagues. Scoop him up and consider him a flex option against the Bills this week and going forward.

Cowboys WR Cole Beasley broke out for nine catches, 101 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets against Jacksonville in Week 6. QB Dak Prescott admitted after the game that the team planned to attack Jaguars’ slot CB Tyler Patmon and the plan obviously worked. Despite the strong effort, Beasley shouldn’t be considered a reliable weekly starter just yet. He totaled 17 catches for 193 yards and no scores on 24 targets during Weeks 1-5, which was barely off a 2017 target pace that led to 36 catches on 62 targets for 314 yards and four scores in 15 games.

Needless to say, the Redskins’ passing game has been a disappointment. Alex Smith posted an 11th-place fantasy outing in Week 1, but hasn’t notched a finish better than 16th in four games since. Paul Richardson (best weekly finish is 38th), Jamison Crowder (33rd) and Josh Doctson (67th) have all been busts. Backs Chris Thompson and Adrian Peterson and tight end Jordan Reed are the only players from this offense worth considering for your lineup most weeks.

Snap attack

Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny registered nine carries and two targets on Sunday, but only played 13 snaps. His upside makes him a worthwhile bench stash, but nothing more with Chris Carson (24 snaps) and Mike Davis (23 snaps) more involved.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen was on the field for 58 of the Panthers’ 59 offensive snaps against Washington in Week 6. It was Olsen’s first action since he went down with a leg injury on his 14th snap of the season back in Week 1. Olsen’s massive role and his seven-target effort put him right back in the mix as a midpack TE1.

Browns WR Damion Ratley stepped up with six catches and 82 yards on eight targets on Sunday. Injuries ahead of him on the depth chart helped the 2018 sixth-round pick to a career-high 62 snaps against the Chargers. He was on the field for 45 of the team’s 50 pass plays. With Rashard Higgins expected to miss more time and Rod Streater done for the year, Ratley is expected to work as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver against a struggling Tampa Bay secondary this week. He’s a sneaky play in deep leagues.

Patriots WR Josh Gordon has been unleashed. The former Brown (they could really use him these days) was on the field for 35 of New England’s 37 pass plays on Sunday night, registering nine targets in the game. The production wasn’t great (five catches, 42 yards), but better days are ahead with Gordon now playing a full complement of snaps in one of the league’s best offenses. He’s a WR3 against Chicago this week.

Eagles running backs: Week 6 marked the Eagles first game with Jay Ajayi on injured reserve. Corey Clement was limited but still played 25 snaps, handling 11 carries and three targets. Wendell Smallwood led the unit with 42 snaps and 18 carries, adding a pair of targets. Josh Adams was active but did not play a snap. We should expect a similar dynamic moving forward, though Clement figures to take on more work when healthy and Darren Sproles will chip in significantly in passing situations once he returns from a hamstring injury. Smallwood and Clement are flex options against Carolina this week.

Bengals WR Tyler Boyd has been on the field for 84 percent of the Bengals’ snaps, including 88 percent of the pass plays this season. He’s handling a 23 percent target share and sits 19th at the wide receiver position in OFP (79) and 12th in actual fantasy points (107). Boyd is enjoying a third-year breakout and should be locked into weekly lineups.

Lions RB Kerryon Johnson has been on the field for 40 percent of Detroit’s snaps, has run a route on 29 percent of the team’s pass plays, is handling 45 percent of the carries and has accrued a seven percent target share. Johnson entered the Week 6 bye 35th at the position in OFP. The rookie remains in a rotation in Detroit and is no more than a shaky flex until he takes on a larger role.

Saints WR Cameron Meredith was on the field for a season-high 59 percent of the Saints’ pass plays and also hit a season-best with five targets when the Saints were last on the field against Washington in Week 5. Meredith has emerged as the team’s top slot target, but needs a bit more playing time and target volume to make him a consistent flex option. Nonetheless, he should be on benches.

Burning questions

Can I start either Titans’ running back with confidence right now? No — the Titans’ offense is a mess. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for an atrocious 40 scrimmage yards on 15 touches against Baltimore on Sunday. Henry has yet to produce a top-40 fantasy week and Lewis has two in six tries. Lewis’ 15 percent target share keeps him in the flex discussion, but he’s a shaky play with the Titans’ offense averaging an almost-unbelievable and league-worst 1.0 touchdowns per game. Henry is trailing Lewis in carries and is a non-factor as a receiver, which means he’s barely worth a roster spot in 10-team leagues.

Is 49ers WR Marquise Goodwin a weekly fantasy starter? I’d consider the matchup, but yes. QB C.J. Beathard is an obvious downgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo, but the second-year passer has been better than expected. The Packers’ secondary has struggled, but Goodwin proved healthy on Monday night, seeing the field on 95 percent of the team’s snaps while also using his world-class speed to break loose for several big gains, including a pair of touchdowns. His big-play ability and Beathard’s competent play position Goodwin as a weekly flex option.

Is Falcons TE Austin Hooper now a TE1? If not, he’s close. Hooper has caught nine passes in back-to-back games, handling 22 targets during the span. He’s turned the heavy workload into a pair of 70-plus receiving yard efforts and one touchdown. Granted, both Ridley and Sanu were injured in Sunday’s game, but considering how injury-plagued the tight end position has been, Hooper is on a short list of players you can feel somewhat confident in right now. He’s a fringe top-10 play against the Giants in Week 7.

Has Cardinals WR Christian Kirk worked his way into the WR3 discussion? Despite some strong efforts as of late, I wouldn’t go that far. Kirk has cleared 76 receiving yards during three of his past four games and is fantasy’s No. 31 scoring wideout during the span. The problem is that the Arizona offense is struggling badly and Kirk’s average of 6.0 targets per game isn’t enough to allow consistent fantasy numbers when touchdown opportunities are so far and few between.

Is Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling worth rostering through the bye? Outside of dynasty leagues, no. The fifth-round rookie has been impressive, but Packers NFL Nation reporter Rob Demovsky agrees that he will return to fourth on the depth chart once Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison return from injury (likely in Week 8). Valdes-Scantling has 10 catches for 171 yards and a score on 16 targets over the past two games, but is no more than the rare notable handcuff at the wide receiver position.

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Fantasy football – NFL Week 6 inactive players

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Fantasy football picks, sleepers, busts for Week 6

I was in the moment I saw the tweet. Easiest call I’ve ever made.

On July 21, Tom Kislingbury, who goes by the handle @TomDegenerate, tweeted the following:

“New league idea: vampire. Normal start-up draft except one team does not get to pick at all. They just have to make a lineup from waivers. This team is the Vampire.”

Tom continued in follow-up tweets.

“Every time the Vampire team wins a weekly matchup, they have to swap one of their starting line-up with one of their opponent’s at the same position. So they’ll start out weak but with each win get a bit stronger. If they manage to beat a good team, they’ll grow much more powerful.”

“So when facing the Vampire, you need to make a choice: Play at full strength and risk losing a good player? Or try to beat a bad Vampire team without risking your stars?”

“Needless to say that if the Vampire wins the league, it’s over. Their reign of dark power is complete.”


As soon as I saw the tweet, I quote-tweeted it and said, “I would totally do this.”

I have been playing fantasy sports for 34 years now. And in that time, I have played every fantasy game imaginable. Every sport … NASCAR, golf, college football and basketball … I’ve played fantasy fishing, fantasy sumo wrestling, hell, I’ve even played fantasy hockey once. I’ve always said if you can find a way to keep score, you can play a fantasy version of anything. So I have done a bunch of fantasy games around entertainment. I have played fantasy “Big Brother” (Tyler got robbed). As you might know, ESPN has a fantasy “The Bachelor” game, which I enjoy way more than I should. And my friends and I even created a game called, which is exactly what you think it is: A fantasy game where you program your fantasy movie theater with real-life movies in a salary-cap format, and based on how much the movie makes at the box office is how much your theater makes. Easy to play, hard to master, it’s hella fun, as I am told the kids once, and possibly still, say.

Not surprisingly, I have played tons of different versions of fantasy football. Dynasty to keeper to best ball to start-up, 2QB, super flex, IDP, high stakes, low stakes, no stakes, enhanced TE scoring. I once did a Punt, Pass and Kick league where you rostered only quarterbacks, kickers and punters. Don’t laugh. I’ve actually played in two different punter leagues. I’ve played in four-person leagues and 20-person leagues. I’m in a league right now with 800 players. I’ve played in leagues where every week is a doubleheader, leagues that are a season-long and DFS hybrid, where you play every team in the league every week, and relegation leagues where the bottom two teams get kicked out to a “lesser” league. I’ve played in expert leagues, work leagues, charity leagues, celebrity leagues, leagues with 12-year-olds, leagues with lifelong friends, leagues with strangers, leagues with my wife and kids.

You name the format, the scoring, the league size and I’ve played them all.

Or so I thought.

Because I’ve never played a Vampire league.

I thought I had heard every idea ever. But this one was new, even to me. I loved the idea and loved the challenge of being the Vampire.

I originally had the idea of trying to auction off spots in the league for charity, but setting that up proved too problematic this time. So I just posted in my FantasyLife app about the league and asked who wanted to play. I got so many responses, I decided to do two leagues. I had Stacy Sailer, who is one the executives running the app, choose the participants so no one could accuse me of cherry-picking my competition.

I basically stuck to Tom’s premise with a few wrinkles of my own. When I got on a conference call with everyone, I laid out the rules for these leagues:

• Nine people would take part in a re-draft league using ESPN standard scoring. That is to say one point per reception with a starting lineup of one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, one flex (RB/WR/TE), one kicker and one D/ST.

• The nine drafting teams must play with the team they draft, meaning they could not make any waiver claims. Because of that, I asked them to think about whether they would want to draft two kickers, two defenses, two QBs, etc.

• After they drafted, I would go and build my team from whomever was left. In addition, I could make unlimited waiver claims during the season. We held the draft on the night of Labor Day, just a few days before the start of the season, so that everyone had the best possible information heading into the season.

• There are no trades allowed in the league, except if I, as the Vampire, beat a team. In that case, I would initiate a trade of one of my players for a player on the team I just beat. And there are rules around that: The player I trade for has to have been in my opponent’s starting lineup. So, if you don’t want to risk losing Todd Gurley II, you can bench him against me and I cannot trade for him. In turn, the player I trade away also has to be someone I started — so I can’t use my bench scrubs to trade for a star — and play the same position. This way, I can’t trade a kicker for a quarterback, for example.

• Teams are NOT required to start a full lineup against me. If they want to bench all of their stars to protect themselves, they can. Out of the 10-team league, four will make the playoffs and we will use ESPN standard playoff settings: two-week semifinals (Weeks 14-15) and two-week finals (Weeks 16-17). Once we hit the playoffs, the four qualifying teams will be allowed to make waiver moves. If I make the playoffs, I get the first waiver move. Otherwise, reverse order of standings prevails.

And that’s it. It’s obviously skewed toward the teams that drafted, but because they can’t make waiver claims at all, it gives me a fighting chance.

I can’t tell you how much fun it has been doing these leagues this year. It’s a very different exercise, and I have to think about my teams in a different way than I run any of my other teams. Yes, I don’t have any superstars, but I do have the entire waiver pool as my bench, in essence, since I can make any adds/drops whenever I want to set my lineup … which is both a blessing and a curse.

While you have all these fill-in guys available … they are all fill-in guys. Calvin Ridley wasn’t drafted in either league, but I’d be lying if I said I started him during his three-touchdown game. Deciding between similar upside plays that I have projected about the same is a challenge. When you play normal fantasy football, there are certain starters that are sort of locked in for you every week, either due to their consistency/star power or just your own lack of roster depth. But when you have infinite possibilities, it’s interesting. Yes, there are available QBs who will score high every week, but you’re deciding between guys like Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles and Andy Dalton. It definitely makes it more challenging.

Not surprisingly, just as Tom predicted in his original post, it has been a slow start for me. But not as slow as you might think. In League 1 (The “Fantasy” Vampire League), I just won my first game. I’ve had a bit of bad luck in that league, as coming into Week 5 I had the second-most points against, but that will even out.

I bet if you thought hard about it, you could probably guess most of my team. Understand, of course, that with the rest of the league drafting, in essence, a nine-man league and at least some of the league using bench spots for extra Ks/DSTs/QBs because of the no-waiver rule, there are some decent players who didn’t get drafted.

I mix and match every week, given specific players and opportunity (Giovani Bernard was a starter for a few weeks there, for example), but my core that I am choosing from every week is this:

And then I stream D/STs and kickers. So after my victory this week, I had my choice of a pretty good team. Aaron Rodgers, Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon and Stefon Diggs were among the players available to me.

As much as I like Rodgers and Diggs, of course, I thought running back was my weakest position, as (in theory at least) Leonard Fournette will be back soon, which would push Yeldon back to the Jaguars’ bench. My other running backs are decent players in platoons, whereas my wide receiver depth is actually pretty decent and QB will be easy to figure out from week to week, especially assuming Goff gets all his wideouts back soon (plus Jameis Winston is out there). So I vampired Gordon for Yeldon. Basically a coin flip, but I chose Gordon because I like him (and the Chargers) slightly more than Barkley the rest of the season, and because Gordon’s teammate, Austin Ekeler, is available as well. If something happens to Gordon, Ekeler is a clear alternative who would be productive, while I don’t have as much confidence in the options behind Barkley. So even though I am 1-4 in this league, I like my team and it grows stronger.

League 2 (The “Life” Vampire League), is going even better. I am riding a two-game win streak and just finished Week 5 with the highest point total in the league. I am currently 2-3 in that league and my roster is fairly similar:

And then I stream all the D/STs and kickers. Two weeks ago, I had Bernard in the lineup, so after beating that opponent, I was able to vampire Ezekiel Elliott in exchange for Gio. My victory this week was against a team that chose to hide all of its good players, fearful of the Vampire. He played me with a bench that included Tom Brady, Kareem Hunt, Antonio Brown and Diggs.

Of the useful players he actually did play were Carlos Hyde, Marvin Jones Jr. and Alex Collins. I chose a swap of Hyde for Yeldon, which will be pretty close until Fournette comes back. But I love the Browns’ upcoming schedule and, again, I like my WR depth.

So Team 2 will have starting RBs of Hyde and Zeke (heh heh) with White or a third WR as my flex. Lots of work to do, of course, but I like where this is headed. It has been a really fun challenge. I will definitely do more of these next year, and probably expand to 12-team leagues in at least some of them. But in the meantime, I have more games to win and more players to vampire until my reign of dark power is complete. Let’s get to it.

For those who missed last week, Love/Hate is now very simple. Next to every player is a number — the official ESPN projected total for that player in Week 6 (as of that week’s publish time). If they are a “Love,” I expect them to meet or exceed that projection. If they are a “Hate,” I expect them to fall short. Easy peasy.

Quarterbacks I love in Week 6

Matt Ryan vs. Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 20.1 points): I know. Last week was brutal in what should have been an awesome matchup, but I’m back on him this week as a top-five play. Since the beginning of last season, Ryan is averaging 2.8 more points at home than on the road. To that end, he has scored more than 29 points in all three home games this season. I like him to beat his current projection against a Tampa Bay defense that has given up a league-high 28.6 fantasy points per game to QBs, along with a 77.1 percent completion rate and a league-high 8.3 percent of passes resulting in a touchdown. Giddy up.

Jameis Winston at Falcons (ESPN projection: 19.2 points): It’s pretty easy to see why Ryan Fitzpatrick (and Winston for a half or so) combined to lead the NFL in fantasy points before their bye week. The Bucs can’t run the ball, bad defense puts them in constant passing situations and they have one of the best groups of pass-catchers in the NFL. Now Winston, who is still available in about 60 percent of ESPN leagues, gets a Falcons team that has allowed the fifth-highest completion rate (69.8 percent), 10th-best TD-INT ratio (3.0) and the fourth-most fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.

Kirk Cousins vs. Cardinals (ESPN projection: 19.1 points): The Cardinals blitz on a league-high 38.9 percent of opponents’ dropbacks. Cousins is completing a league-high 77.3 percent of passes against the blitz this season (also, he ranks third in completion percentage against the blitz from 2015-17). Also, you know, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

Andrew Luck at Jets (ESPN projection: 16.9 points): Weeks 1 to 3: 5.42 air yards per target. Weeks 4 and 5: 8.40 air yards per target (for reference, 2016: 8.25). Luck already has three games of 38-plus completions this season. For comparison, from 2014-17, Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL with three total games of 38-plus completions. There have been three QBs this season who have thrown at least 35 passes against the Jets and they’ve combined for 1,051 passing yards. Those QBs? Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Matthew Stafford.

Others receiving votes: Carson Wentz has three straight games of at least 35 pass attempts, and the injury to Jay Ajayi certainly doesn’t mean he’ll throw less. Wentz is one of only two QBs to have 300-plus passing yards and multiple passing TDs in each of the past two weeks, which makes him a low-end QB1 on Thursday night. … For those looking for QB2 streaming options, Baker Mayfield should be usable against a Chargers defense that allows the fourth-most yards per catch after the reception this season (6.48). In Mayfield’s two starts this season, Cleveland is sixth in yards after the catch. He’s just one of four QBs with at least 40 pass attempts, 295 passing yards and one passing TD in each of the past two weeks: Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers and Luck are the others. … The truly desperate could look at C.J. Beathard, who should be chucking it a ton against a Packers team that has allowed multiple TD passes in three of the past four weeks (Josh Allen being the lone exception).

Quarterbacks I hate in Week 6

Russell Wilson vs. Raiders in London (ESPN projection: 17.6 points): Under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this season, Seattle has the lowest percentage of pass plays in the league (54.4 percent). Last season, the Seahawks had the third-highest rate. Wilson has less than 200 yards passing in each of his past three games, he’s averaging just 24.3 pass attempts per game in that stretch and has only 42 rushing yards this entire season (last season, he averaged 36.6 rushing yards PER GAME). Seattle will not need to play catch-up in this game.

Andy Dalton vs. Steelers (ESPN projection: 19.1 points): Hey, 19.1 is a big number and I get it with the matchup, but the Steelers’ defense did play better last week against Atlanta. In the games this season in which Joe Mixon has been active, Dalton is averaging just 252 passing yards (versus 345 in the two games Mixon missed). Dalton has 16.5 points or fewer in three of five games this season and even with a high over/under in this game, I think this is more of a divisional slugfest featuring a lot of running from both teams. He’s a borderline QB1, but with a projection of more than 19 points, I’m taking the under, making him a “hate” under our new format.

Joe Flacco at Titans (ESPN projection: 14.6 points): Very quietly, the Titans own a top-10 pass defense this season in each of the following (all per-game stats): completions, passing yards, yards per dropback, sacks per dropback and TD-INT rate. Since Flacco threw for three touchdowns in 34 attempts in that Week 1 beatdown of Buffalo, he has just five TD passes in 193 attempts.

Blake Bortles at Cowboys (ESPN projection: 16.8 points): In what should be a low-scoring game (the over/under is 40.5, lowest total on the slate), Bortles faces a Cowboys squad that is a top-10 defense in terms of QB rushing yards per carry allowed this season, despite having already faced Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. That matters because, since that awesome Patriots game, nearly 28 percent of his points have come from his legs.

Running backs I love in Week 6

Joe Mixon vs. Steelers (ESPN projection: 18.3 points): As I said in the Dalton section, I expect this to be a slugfest and a heavy dosage of Mixon, who had 25 touches in his first game back from injury (a game Marvin Lewis said he would limit Mixon’s workload). Yeah, right. A volume-driven day is in play here on Sunday against a Steelers defense that has given up an average of 18.3 points to RBs in the four games aside from the Buccaneers game (Tampa can’t run). Loves are about meeting or exceeding projections, and I have him as a top-six play this week.

Sony Michel (ESPN projection: 14.8) and James White (12.9) vs. Chiefs: Great matchup for both guys against a Chiefs team that is a bottom-10 red zone defense this season. They allow a league-high 4.44 yards per carry BEFORE first contact this season. Michel is averaging 2.28 yards per carry AFTER first contact this season, fourth most in the NFL. And White now has consecutive games with at least eight catches, 65 receiving yards and a receiving TD. Here’s the list of RBs who can say they’ve done that: LaDainian Tomlinson (2003), David Johnson (2016) and White. Running backs as pass-catchers have given the Chiefs problems this season. Against the position, the Chiefs have allowed the second-most completions and tied for the most receiving touchdowns this season.

Chris Carson vs. Raiders in London (ESPN projection: 13.8 points): See Wilson, Russell. The Seahawks are gonna run in this one against a Raiders defense that ranks as a bottom-10 unit in both yards per carry before AND after first contact (one of only three teams to do so). Game flow should favor Seattle here, especially as Oakland has allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns this season (six) and the eighth-most red zone drives.

Alfred Morris at Packers (ESPN projection: 11.9 points): Morris has at least 12 carries in four of five games this season, and that was with Matt Breida healthy (Breida is highly unlikely to play this week). Morris should get the majority of early-down work against a Packers team allowing the seventh-most yards per carry AFTER first contact this season. He caught three passes last week, so there’s a little action to be had there as well, given that RBs own a 32.7 percent career target share from C.J. Beathard.

Others receiving votes: I’m not the biggest Lamar Miller fan by any stretch, but he should find success against a Bills team that has allowed a touchdown on 12 of 15 red zone drives this season, making them the fourth-least-efficient red zone defense. … We’ll see what kind of impact Marlon Mack has on this Colts offense, but regardless, I expect the pass-catching Nyheim Hines to continue his touch trend from the past few weeks (5, 10, 13, 22), especially against a Jets squad that allows opponents to complete 85 percent of passes to RBs this season (fourth highest). … In a game that should have some bad weather, I like both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman against a Rams defense that has allowed 5.0 yards per carry and has given up at least 24 fantasy points to running backs in three of five games. The exceptions being the Vikings game in Week 4 when Dalvin Cook played very little and the anemic Cardinals in Week 2. … Javorius Allen has set a season high in touches in consecutive weeks. He’s a goal-line back who also has at least 6.5 points as a pass-catcher in four of five weeks this season.

Running backs I hate in Week 6

Devonta Freeman vs. Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 16.8 points): Freeman showed up on the injury report Wednesday (again), and this is turning into a three-headed monster, as Ito Smith got four touches last week (compared with 10 for Freeman and nine for Tevin Coleman). Since Week 5 of last season, Freeman has just two games with 15-plus carries. It’s a great matchup, but this is a 40/40/20 split and I believe it’s unlikely he reaches 16.8 points, even if he plays.

LeSean McCoy at Texans (ESPN projection: 12.4 points): As trade rumors continue to swirl, McCoy faces a Texans team that is allowing just 3.44 yards per carry this season (fourth fewest). Playing on a Bills team that is averaging the second-fewest red zone drives per game this season (2.00), he’s going to need to score to get past 12.4, and I think that’s unlikely.

Kenyan Drake vs. Bears (ESPN projection: 10.8 points): Last week was good, I guess, if you have Drake. There were signs of life. But still — just six carries. Six. And one fewer touch than Frank Gore. Being in a committee on a low-scoring, poor offense will continue to depress his fantasy value, especially against a Bears team allowing the second-fewest YPC to RBs this season (2.93) and a league-low 1.75 red zone drives per game. No player has rushed for 50 yards against the Bears and I don’t believe Drake, with a single-game high of 53 rushing yards, will change that.

Pass-catchers I love in Week 6

Julio Jones vs. Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 19.6 points): 19.6 is a big number and I’m taking the over? Yeah, I am. See everything I wrote about Ryan, Matt. Jones has exceeded 19.6 twice this season and Sunday will make it three, as Tampa Bay’s corners are no match for Julio. Also, I am playing against him in the ESPN War Room League, so I assure you he is going off. I would be very excited to be wrong on this one, but I don’t think I will be. Another blow-up spot coming.

Tyler Boyd vs. Steelers (ESPN projection: 13.4 points): Boyd played fewer snaps in the slot last week against the Dolphins (57.1 percent compared with 66.2 percent the previous weeks), as A.J. Green spent more time there (48.1 percent compared with 27.2 percent entering the game). I assume that was due, at least in part, to trying to get Green free from Xavien Howard. They may do that some this week to try to get Green free from Joe Haden, but Boyd will play enough slot snaps to beat his projection here. The Steelers allow 11.6 slot completions per game this season (second most), while seeing the slot targeted more than any other team (17 times per game). Boyd has at least seven targets in four straight games and is top 15 in the NFL in total targets during that stretch.

Mohamed Sanu vs. Buccaneers (ESPN projection: 11.1 points): Very quietly, Mo Sanu has 15.5 or more points in each of the past three weeks, one of only six wideouts to say that. He leads Atlanta in receptions (12), yards (151), targets (20) and touchdowns (two) from the slot this season, which is important when you consider the Bucs have coughed up a league high in yards (745) and touchdowns (seven) to go along with the second-most completions (55) and completion percentage (82.1) to the slot this season.

Jimmy Graham vs. 49ers (ESPN projection: 10.6 points): As of this writing (Wednesday night), we don’t know the health status of Randall Cobb or Geronimo Allison, but we do know this: The 49ers have given up the most touchdowns to opposing tight ends. They also have allowed the fifth-most red zone drives this season. Since Week 2, Graham is fourth among tight ends in targets (behind only Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron). Those three, incidentally, are the top three tight ends in fantasy this season.

Others receiving votes: I whiffed last week on Quincy Enunwa, although in fairness he came within six inches of a long touchdown and would have had it had Chris Harris Jr. not grabbed his jersey (a bad pass interference that wasn’t called). Either way, it allowed for Robby Anderson to wake up and I’m in on both of them this week as flex plays against a Colts secondary that has given up 516 yards and four touchdowns in just the past two games to opposing wide receivers. … In the same game, Chester Rogers faces a Jets secondary that has given up the third-most receptions and yards to the slot. A cheap DFS option, Rogers has run 95 percent of his routes from the slot. … Speaking of the slot, 67 percent of Keke Coutee‘s snaps and 76 percent of his catches this season have come from the slot. With Tre’Davious White having his hands full against DeAndre Hopkins, Coutee should find success against a Bills group that has given up the seventh-most slot receptions this season. … I know it has been tough recently, but I expect Jordan Reed to have one of his better days Sunday against a Panthers team that is allowing opponents to complete a league-high 87 percent of passes when targeting the TE this season (20-for-23). … If O.J. Howard doesn’t play this week, I like Cameron Brate to be a top-10 guy, especially considering his past connection with Jameis Winston.

Pass-catchers I hate in Week 6

Allen Robinson at Dolphins (ESPN projection: 12.3 points): Quietly, the Dolphins are giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing WRs and my expectation is that underrated Xavien Howard will shadow Robinson. Howard is turning into a shutdown corner and it’s worth noting the Dolphins have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season. I believe this is a heavy Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen game, so Robinson should be OK, but I feel he will fall short of his projected 12.3 points.

Corey Davis vs. Ravens (ESPN projection: 12.7 points): I get the talent and the target share argument, but among starting quarterbacks, only Josh Allen is throwing fewer passes per game than Marcus Mariota. Only one wide receiver has gotten more than 70 receiving yards against Baltimore this season (Tyler Boyd) and that was from the slot. Davis is a perimeter player and I don’t love his chances against a Ravens defense that is allowing opponents to complete just 54.8 percent of passes this season, which, if it holds, would be the lowest rate in the past six years.

David Njoku vs. Chargers (ESPN projection: 9.3 points): Njoku has shown some improved chemistry with Baker Mayfield under center, but this is a tough matchup against the Chargers. The Bolts have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends and just one score, and that includes games against Travis Kelce, Jared Cook and George Kittle. Yes, Kittle went off, but that was basically one big play. Opponents are completing just 57.6 percent of passes when targeting the TE against the Chargers this season (third lowest in the NFL) and for all his size, Njoku has yet to see a red zone target this season.

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, once heard of a fantasy league that was all about predicting which Phish songs would be played at an upcoming concert. There’s a league for everything. He is the creator of and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and

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Fantasy football — Jameis Winston, Nyheim Hines among top fantasy football free-agent finds for Week 6

It has been said that timing is everything in life; it can apply to fantasy football, too. As we cruise into Week 6 of the NFL season, another notable saying comes to mind: it’s never too soon to plan ahead. In this case, these two thoughts tie together. Though there are just two teams on a bye in Week 6, there will be four in Week 7, four more in Week 8 and six in Week 9. Nearly half the league will be on a bye during a three-week stretch, meaning you’re going to need all sorts of contingency plans for your fantasy lineup.

In Week 7, a team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and Antonio Brown at receiver — an enviable duo — will be on the hunt for replacements. But here’s the thing: it’s hard to find them when you absolutely need them. In the same week that you are looking for a Rodgers replacement, someone else might be looking for a Ben Roethlisberger replacement; in the same week you are looking for a Brown replacement, someone else may be seeking Davante Adams reinforcement.

The takeaway? Don’t be afraid of planning ahead. Rather than waiting for the week in which you have no choice but to add a player, get ahead of the curve. It’s sound roster management.

To help you do that and more, here’s the fantasy waiver-wire adds for this week.

Reminder: players must be available in more than 50 percent of leagues on to be eligible for this column.

Teams on a bye this week: Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12.5 percent rostered): The Bucs return from a bye this week and Winston will take over under center, equipped with a ridiculous cast of pass catchers. In five of his past 11 starts, Winston has finished as a top-eight quarterback in fantasy and he’s completed nearly 69 percent of his passes during his past six games, up from 60 percent during his first 40 games. His upside? It’s top-10 quarterback for the rest of the season.

Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts (47.2 percent): It’s nearly impossible to find quality running backs at this juncture of the season, so don’t bypass your chance to snag Hines. Amidst a crowded Indy backfield, my belief is that Hines has separated himself from the pack. While Marlon Mack‘s health has limited him of late, Hines has emerged as by far the team’s best pass-catching back who can play a lot of snaps when the team is pressed to go up-tempo. A porous defense and offensive line has led Indy to throw the ball an astonishing 121 times in its past two games. Hines has possible top-25-back upside in PPR scoring.

Alfred Morris, RB, San Francisco 49ers (49.7 percent): With Matt Breida now nursing an ankle injury, it’s at least possible that Morris will have the starting gig for a few weeks. While not a big-play threat, Morris should see favorable volume (perhaps close to 20 touches a game) if Breida misses any contests. Morris is not typically a factor in the passing game, but he had three catches in Week 5. A likely top-25 running back for the period that Breida misses.

Corey Clement (28.2 percent) and Wendell Smallwood (7.5 percent), RBs, Philadelphia Eagles: The surprising news of Jay Ajayi heading to injured reserve after tearing an ACL leaves a void of significance in the Eagles’ backfield. How it will be filled is a massive question, and the truth is that we could make a case that Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Josh Adams will all have a role going forward. We’ll turn to Clement to start, though, because of his talent and previously seeing him handle a reasonable workload (including 16 carries in Week 3). He’s an adept pass-catcher, too. Smallwood also merits consideration as a pickup to use sooner rather than later, as Sproles is currently hurt, not having played since Week 1. Smallwood has 18 carries in his past three games, but should see a steady uptick in usage on Thursday against the Giants. If Clement does return (he’s missed two straight games), he’ll be ranked highest amongst Eagles backs in Week 6.

Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans (19.5 percent): After a scintillating Week 4 performance with 11 catches on 15 targets, Coutee showed in Week 5 that his role in an offense led by a red-hot quarterback could continue to flourish. He made good on six of his seven targets for 65 yards and a short touchdown reception, flashing quickness out of the slot and a rapport with Deshaun Watson. He won’t be the top wideout in Houston — that’s DeAndre Hopkins — but the early returns are really promising.

Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans (14.9 percent): The first of back-to-back running backs we’ll mention whose value is tied to the health of the starter on their roster, Blue actually caught the ball very effectively in Week 5, hauling in eight passes for 73 yards. While he chewed up just 46 yards on 20 carries, volume and overall involvement make him a viable flex play if Lamar Miller sits again (though he was active in Week 5, he did not play in the game). A note: Second-year player D’Onta Foreman is eligible to be back on the field in Week 7. He’s another name to consider rostering for those eyeing a young, upside runner.

Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings (45.5 percent): It’s yet to be determined if Dalvin Cook will play for the Vikings in Week 6, but at this point, Murray needs to be rostered in all leagues. He filled in as the starter for Cook in Week 5, handling a total of 13 touches for 56 yards. While Murray has been less effective this season than he was while filling in for Cook last season, there are so few available running back options that Murray is a worthwhile snag in your league.

Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16.6 percent): Chemistry isn’t always quantifiable on the football field, but for Brate and Jameis Winston … it is. With Winston under center in 2017 and with O.J. Howard in the mix, Brate saw 61 targets for 41 catches, 517 yards and 5 touchdowns, compared to 19 catches on 29 targets for 322 yards and 5 touchdowns for Howard. Howard is now out for what could be another one to three weeks, making Brate a legitimate top-12 tight end option in that time.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers (2.2 percent): It’s totally possible that either Randall Cobb or Geronimo Allison (or both) return next week for the Packers after missing Week 5 due to injury. But, should they be unable to suit up, MVS has a legit chance to remain a factor in the Green Bay passing offense after posting 7 catches, 68 yards and 1 touchdown (and nearly 2 touchdowns!) on Sunday. A deep-league add for someone looking for an upside play.

Josh Reynolds, WR, Los Angeles Rams (0.1 percent): Reynolds, a promising second-year player out of Texas A&M, plays behind a star trio of receivers in Los Angeles. But when Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp left Week 5 due to concussions, it was Reynolds who saw an amplified role within the Rams’ offense, catching two passes for 39 yards and adding another 10 yards via a rushing attempt. Should Kupp and Cooks miss Week 6, there is immediate value for Reynolds in one of the game’s best passing attacks. A smart add in any size league.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (38.7 percent): We’ve written about Mayfield before and he’s been a popular add since becoming the Browns’ starter. But let’s reframe the context this time, as Mayfield — coming off on 18-point outing against an excellent Ravens defense — has an awesome schedule to be mindful of in Weeks 7 through 10. During that stretch, he faces the Buccaneers, Steelers, Chiefs and Falcons, all of whom profile as very favorable matchups for passing offenses. A good quarterback to add for those keeping an early eye on bye week fill-ins or streamers.

Ryan Grant, WR, Indianapolis Colts (23.8 percent): It sounds at least possible that T.Y. Hilton will not return to the Colts’ lineup by Week 6, leaving them without their top wideout. Grant has been busy all season for the Colts, as he’s on pace for more than 100 targets this season. Game script has helped the Colts’ offense of late, with Andrew Luck attempting 121 passes over the past two games, the most in any two-game stretch by a quarterback in league history.

Chester Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts (7.5 percent): Speaking of Colts receivers, Rogers has been hot during the past two weeks, racking up eight catches in each game. The reality for Rogers is that his role is likely dependent upon the availability of Hilton. But should Hilton be out again and you’re playing in a deeper league, keep an eye on Rogers as a flex play.

Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks (14.5 percent): We now have two weeks of evidence on Davis, who was one of our top adds last week. The mitigating circumstance for Davis is apparent: he’s the backup to Chris Carson, but he handled 14 carries in Week 5 and appears to be a fixed part of the offense. He’s an add in deeper leagues, though Carson is clearly the top Seahawks back.

Kyle Juszczyk, RB, San Francisco 49ers (0.8 percent): This might be the first time we’ve listed a player whose roster position is fullback (he’s a running back in our ESPN Fantasy system, of course), but Juszcyzk is a unique player. He’s an excellent pass catcher whose role might stay robust after a Matt Breida injury in Week 5. He posted 6 catches for 75 yards on 7 targets on Sunday. A deeper-league flex to consider? In PPR leagues of 14 or 16 teams, I’d say so.

Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets (42.3 percent): If you were among those who dropped Anderson, we don’t blame you after his slow start to the season. Sunday of Week 5 brought a pair of Anderson touchdowns and more than 120 receiving yards, albeit on just three catches. The reality for Anderson is that he is big-play dependent, but he remains a useful bench piece in leagues of 12 teams or more in case the Jets show a stronger dependence upon him going forward.

Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (0.9 percent): Smith was a part of history on Monday night as the recipient of the pass that pushed Drew Brees into first all-time for most career passing yards. His two touchdowns and 100-plus yards were encouraging, as was the fact that he played the second-most snaps of all Saints wideouts in this game. New Orleans heads to a bye this week, but Smith is an upside add to the end of your bench.

Trent Taylor, WR, San Francisco 49ers (0.3 percent): The 49ers’ wide receiver depth has been severely thinned due to injuries, and Pierre Garcon was banged up in Week 5. Taylor cashed in with 7 catches for 61 yards and 1 touchdown, albeit while playing fewer snaps than a player such as Victor Bolden. A deeper-league flier to consider, particularly if Garçon’s injury lingers going into Week 6.

Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (18.2 percent): We’re the hopeful types here, so allow this to be our wildcard add of the week. Is Jones definitely going to be the starter in Tampa Bay? No. Is he going to produce if that becomes the case? That’s no sure thing, either. But after seeing his first action in Week 4 and with Peyton Barber largely sputtering as the starter, the Bucs ought to at least consider more work for Jones. And if you’re desperate for running back depth, the add of Jones is on the hope that he gets a chance and makes good on it. He was the 38th pick in this year’s draft and stranger things have happened than a player with such pedigree finding his way after a forgettable start to his career.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals (11.1 percent): The talent of Kirk is hard to miss when you catch a glimpse of the Arizona offense. He scored on a 75-yard strike from Josh Rosen to open Arizona’s Week 5 scoring, and while he added just 10 more receiving yards in that game, Kirk is the kind of end-of-the-bench player who fits on your roster. He’s got enough ability that if Rosen makes strides, Kirk could eventually fly onto the flex radar.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (12.8 percent): Disclaimer: There have been multiple wideouts from the Jaguars to make this list this season, but let’s add another in the mix in Moncrief. He has 11 catches over the past two games and saw an astounding 15 targets in Week 5 against the Chiefs. A starter in your lineup each week? Nope. But a name to keep on the radar in a deeper league, with enviable size and some red zone upside.

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Watch: JuJu Smith-Schuster scores, celebrates by cradling football – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog

PITTSBURGH — It was a big day for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who scored an 18-yard touchdown and welcomed his first football into the world.

With 37 seconds left in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons, Smith-Schuster went high in the back of the end zone to corral a pass from Ben Roethlisberger, keeping two feet in bounds. Upon landing, Smith-Schuster laid down on the Heinz Field turf while pretending to give birth. Running back James Conner delivered “The Duke” and gave it to Smith-Schuster, who cradled the pigskin with care.

Smith-Schuster became known for his celebrations as a rookie, and on a Week 2 score he simulated The Rasengan spinning ball throw from Dragon Ball Z.

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Fantasy football – NFL Week 5 inactive players

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Fantasy football fallout: Any hope for Kenyan Drake, Larry Fitzgerald? – NFL Nation

Kenyan Drake and Larry Fitzgerald might have been the two most frustrating fantasy players in September. Not just because they underachieved so much — but because they came with enough potential that you probably kept trotting them out there in your starting lineup every week, hoping for a breakthrough that never came.

If you’re in a deep enough league, you still might be doing it.

So, is there any hope? Our NFL Nation reporters broke down the expectations for Drake, Fitzgerald and a handful of other early fantasy disappointments:

Miami Dolphins‘ Drake: The running back’s stat lines over the past two weeks have been stunners — a total of eight carries for 6 yards in those two games, plus three catches for 20 yards and zero touchdowns.

“The hope with Drake,” said ESPN Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe, “is the Dolphins will start running more than the 44 and 45 plays they’ve run over the past two weeks, which will inevitably raise his touches.”

Unfortunately, though, the concerns are many — starting with the injury-ravaged Dolphins offensive line that is making life difficult for Drake, veteran running back Frank Gore and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami already has lost top free-agent guard Josh Sitton, team captain and center Daniel Kilgore and veteran reserve guard/center Jake Brendel to injured reserve.

The timeshare with Gore is also a concern. Wolfe said Drake will remain the No. 1 back, even though Gore wound up with more touches last week (a lot of those came late in a blowout loss to the New England Patriots). But Wolfe said coach Adam Gase does love Gore, so he will remain involved.

Gase — who suggested in the preseason that Drake could see 20 to 25 touches per game — vowed this week to get both running backs more involved. But for now, proceed with caution.

“He shouldn’t be in your starting lineup until Miami’s offense shows it can have success with an injured makeshift offensive line,” Wolfe said. “But keep him on your roster and maybe even buy low, because there should eventually be some bounce-back.”

Arizona Cardinals‘ Fitzgerald: What a bummer. After catching at least 107 passes in each of the past three years, the Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer is on pace for only 60 this season. The wide receiver ranks 66th among receivers in ESPN fantasy scoring.

But ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss believes most of that is because of the nagging hamstring injury Fitzgerald has been fighting through each week, and Weinfuss remains confident Fitzgerald will get closer to his usual self once he’s healthy.

Of course, the Cardinals’ woeful offense is a big part of the problem, too (they rank dead last in the NFL with 9.3 points and 208.5 yards per game). But coach Steve Wilks still believes the switch from veteran quarterback Sam Bradford to rookie Josh Rosen can give the offense a spark. And Weinfuss didn’t even list Fitzgerald among his top four priorities for fixing the 0-4 Cardinals (though making better use of RB David Johnson — another fantasy disappointment — is prominent on the list).

Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy: The warning signs were there heading into the season with the Bills’ depleted offensive line and question marks at the quarterback position. But it still has been disappointing to see McCoy with just 85 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards and zero touchdowns through three games played (he missed Week 3 with a rib injury).

ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak wrote this week that Buffalo should actually consider trading McCoy and receiver Kelvin Benjamin while going all-in to rebuild. But that strategy probably won’t net you much in your fantasy leagues.

“There seem to be too many factors working against McCoy from a fantasy perspective,” Rodak said. “He hasn’t been making his trademark explosive plays when the ball is in his hands, which should be concerning for a running back who turned 30 in July. He is playing behind most likely the NFL’s worst offensive line and with a rookie quarterback who has looked lost through parts of his three starts. Coach Sean McDermott wants offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to get McCoy the ball more, but it is hard for Daboll to justify doing that when the Bills are falling [very] behind early in games.”

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook: Part of the issue with Cook is a hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 3 and limited him in Week 4 — so that will get better. But the other problem is the Vikings’ struggles across the injury-depleted offensive line, which might not get better.



Matthew Berry and Field Yates discuss expectations for LeSean McCoy in Week 5.

As ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin broke it down, Minnesota ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 29th in yards per attempt. And that has prevented new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo from running the ball as much as he had hoped.

Cook, who has 98 rushing yards, 107 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in three games this season, was limited in practice this week and could be limited Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. So temper your expectations for Week 5.

Baltimore Ravens RB Alex Collins: The good news? ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley wrote that coach Jim Harbaugh continued to give Collins a vote of confidence despite his second lost fumble of the season (and NFL-leading fourth in two years). Harbaugh is confident Collins can overcome the issue like he did last season.

The bad news? Collins popped up on the injury report with a knee injury this week, which will make it even more difficult for fantasy owners to start him with confidence.

Collins has run for 158 yards and two touchdowns this season for one of the NFL’s best offenses. But he has split time more than expected with fellow RB Javorius Allen. As Hensley wrote, each has played exactly 136 snaps through four games.

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: The veteran signal-caller hasn’t been a total flop, but he is ranked 20th among quarterbacks in ESPN fantasy scoring after being drafted fourth among QBs. He is averaging 222 passing yards and 10.5 rushing yards per game, with a total of seven TD passes, three interceptions and zero TD runs.

“Wilson’s fantasy production is very much tied to Seattle’s run game,” ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson wrote. “Part of the reason for his underwhelming fantasy start is the Seahawks have been running the ball a lot over the past two weeks and thus haven’t needed him to carry their offense like he did for pretty much all of last season.

“The Seahawks would prefer Wilson have to throw the ball only 26 times a game like he did in their recent wins over Dallas and Arizona. But there will be games where they need to rely more on Wilson’s arm.”

Maybe even this week, Henderson suggested, if they have to play catch-up against the Los Angeles Rams.

Quick hits

New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram is back from his four-game suspension, which is a great boost for fantasy owners who had the patience to draft him (especially if they have someone such as Drake, Cook or Collins on their roster).

But as ESPN’s Saints reporter, I expect Kamara to be more of a “1A” and Ingram more of a “1B” after Kamara’s MVP-caliber start to the season while averaging 23 touches per game. Last year over their final 10 full games together, Ingram averaged 15.6 touches and Kamara 15.0. I would expect that to lean more toward 18/12 or 17/13 in Kamara’s favor — with an equal split near the goal line. A lot of the touches could depend on game script, though, with Ingram benefiting when the Saints are trying to run out the clock on a big lead or Kamara benefiting when they have to pass.

Houston Texans: Just because you never heard of rookie receiver Keke Coutee before he caught 11 passes for 109 yards in his NFL debut on Sunday doesn’t mean you should ignore him for fantasy purposes. Coutee, a speedy fourth-round draft pick from Texas Tech, didn’t play in the first three games because he was recovering from a hamstring injury. Then he played a bigger role than expected in Week 4 because Texans receiver Will Fuller V suffered his own hamstring injury.

Fuller could be back this week, so ESPN Texans reporter Sarah Barshop said you can’t expect Coutee to approach the 15 targets he saw last week behind starters DeAndre Hopkins and Fuller. But she wrote about how coach Bill O’Brien and quarterback Deshaun Watson like Coutee as a “playmaker” who brings an “electric” element to their offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Vance McDonald has been one of the NFL’s hottest tight ends with nine catches for 174 yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks. And ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler said he is a “fairly safe bet” for continued fantasy production, “since Ben Roethlisberger clearly looks for him often, the Steelers are dropping back to pass more than 70 percent of the time and he’s a solid yards-after-catch guy.” But Fowler said the wild card is the Steelers like going with the “hot hand” at tight end. So Jesse James, who is productive at finding soft spots in zone coverage, could have the occasional “go-off day” himself.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans have been scheming to get 2017 first-round pick Corey Davis more targets — and ESPN Titans reporter Turron Davenport wrote about how their work paid off in grand fashion in Week 4.

Baltimore Ravens: Hensley broke down the three biggest reasons Ravens QB Joe Flacco is off to his best start since his 2012 Super Bowl season.

Denver Broncos: Fantasy owners of running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman will agree with ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, who wrote that Denver needs to run more if it wants to win more. The Broncos rank second in the NFL with 148.3 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry. But they rank only 11th in rushing attempts.

Detroit Lions: Likewise, ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein makes a case for why rookie running back Kerryon Johnson should be Detroit’s featured back after making the most of his limited touches so far.

Cincinnati Bengals: ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell wrote about how breakout receiver Tyler Boyd‘s patience has paid off after a “roller-coaster” 2017 season.

Carolina Panthers: Deep sleeper alert: ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton said receiver Curtis Samuel‘s return from a medical issue could provide a speed boost to Carolina’s offense.

New York Jets: ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini wrote that rookie quarterback Sam Darnold might not be at “Showtime” Patrick Mahomes’ level — but the Jets do see hidden progress in his play.

Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants: Julio Jones is on pace for more than 2,000 receiving yards. Odell Beckham Jr. is on pace for more than 1,300. But neither megastar receiver has a touchdown yet. ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure wrote about how Jones isn’t concerned with the TD stats — he just wants more wins. But at least the Falcons are making big plays with fellow receiver Calvin Ridley as a result. ESPN Giants reporter Jordan Raanan wrote about how the Giants need to get the ball downfield more to all of their receivers, starting with Beckham.

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