Below are notes covering each of the NFL's 32 teams from a fantasy perspective. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for Week 5. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.
Throughout this piece, I'll be referencing "OTD." OTD stands for opportunity-adjusted touchdowns. It is a statistic that weighs every carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player's scoring opportunity. For example, if a player has an OTD of 3.0, it means that a league-average player who saw the same number of carries/targets in the same area of the field would have scored three touchdowns.
Jaron Brown caught 8 of 12 targets for 105 yards against the 49ers on Sunday. The big day comes after Brown registered 11 targets in Week 2 and six in Week 3. That total of 29 targets ranks seventh in the NFL over the past three weeks. He ranks 22nd among wide receivers in fantasy points during the span. Granted his production has been boosted by John Brown's injury struggles, but Jaron has now been on the field for 86 percent of the team's pass plays this year. It's clear he's no lower than third on the target totem pole. Brown should be owned in most formats and is in the WR3 discussion this week against an Eagles defense that is by far the worst in the league at stopping perimeter wide receivers.
Last season, Devonta Freeman registered a 13.2 OTD, which was third-highest in the NFL and helped him to 13 touchdowns. Through Week 4 this season, Freeman again sits third with a 4.5 OTD. The usage has allowed him five touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points among running backs. Freeman's usage in the passing game is down slightly this year, but he has been on the field more and his carries per game is up to 17.5 from last year's 14.2. There's not much actionable here, but let this serve as a reminder that Freeman is a stud fantasy back for the third straight year.
It appears Terrance West has lost his job in Baltimore. Former Seahawk Alex Collins played only 17 snaps (Baltimore trailed throughout) but handled nine of the team's 15 carries in Week 4. He impressed with 82 rushing yards, though he failed to catch either of his two targets. Javorius Allen, meanwhile, played 40 snaps and caught all six of his targets for 37 yards. He carried the ball only twice. West was relegated to four carries for negative-7 yards on 10 snaps. Moving forward, Collins should be viewed as a fringe flex with added value in PPR leagues. Considering his fumbling issues, his lack of work in the passing game and the Ravens' low-scoring offense, don't overspend on waivers. Allen remains the top fantasy play from this backfield in PPR formats.
Charles Clay hauled in 5 of 7 targets for 112 yards against Atlanta in Week 4. He has now compiled 18 catches for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 25 targets and sits third among tight ends in fantasy points this season. Clay is handling a career-high 26 percent of the Bills' targets, though he averaged a share over 20 percent when active in both 2015 and 2016. Clay is an every-down player (he has run a route on 87 percent of the team's pass plays this season), and Jordan Matthews' injury only further locks him into a huge offensive role. Clay also sports elite ratings in my "last name" metric. He's a quality TE1 play.
The Panthers have stuck to their plans to utilize a committee in the backfield this season. Rookie Christian McCaffrey has handled 60 looks (carries plus targets) and veteran Jonathan Stewart has 65. The backs have combined for one touchdown, but their usage suggests they should be close to three or four. Stewart sports a 2.1 OTD, and McCaffrey sits at 1.3. Carolina has called pass on 66 percent of McCaffrey's snaps and 31 percent of Stewart's plays. It's clear each back has a defined role on the team, and that's unlikely to change moving forward. McCaffrey is a back-end RB2, and Stewart a flex option.
The Bears will make the switch from Mike Glennon to rookie Mitch Trubisky in Week 5. This might be good news for tight end Zach Miller. The veteran tight end has caught only 13 passes for 143 yards this season, but he has been on the field for 77 percent of the team's pass plays. That's down only slightly from 79 percent during the weeks he was active last year. The narrative that rookie quarterbacks lean on their tight end more than veterans is false, but Miller's usage combined with Chicago's weak wide receiver unit suggests Miller shouldn't be short a consistent target load. He's a solid TE2 and could push for TE1 numbers if Trubisky proves legit.
After opening the season with a combined zero touchdowns and four interceptions against tough Baltimore and Houston defenses, Andy Dalton has a 6:0 TD:INT mark against Green Bay and Cleveland during his past two games. Dalton was 33rd among quarterbacks in fantasy points after Week 2, but he's seventh over the past two weeks. It's easy to be distracted by a poor first impression, but remember that Dalton has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback four of the past five seasons (if we include a 2015 campaign in which he was fifth prior to a late-season injury). Dalton might have his hands full with Buffalo's pleasant surprise of a defense this week, but his schedule is manageable moving forward. He's back in the streaming conversation.
Isaiah Crowell is averaging 33.5 rushing and 12.5 receiving yards per game through four outings this season. He has yet to score a touchdown. Crowell's usage has been pretty close to where it was last year, though he was on the field for only 36 percent of the team's snaps against the Bengals in Week 4. That's his lowest mark since Week 12 in 2015. Crowell's shaky efficiency isn't a surprise when you look at his production during his first three seasons, but he had a lot of perceived fantasy value thanks to a hefty projected role behind a good offensive line. If the team continues to play from behind and shifts more work to Duke Johnson Jr. and Matt Dayes, Crowell will fall off the fantasy radar. He has a shot to get on track this week against a Jets defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs.
Dez Bryant was targeted 13 times against the Rams in Week 4. He caught five of those passes for 98 yards and no touchdowns in the game. It was yet another brutally inefficient game for a player who has faced -- and will continue to face -- a tough cornerback slate. Bryant ranks fourth in the league in targets (40) and first in end zone targets (8) but sits 21st among wideouts in fantasy points. On the plus side, Bryant is handling a massive 29 percent target share and has been on the field for 94 percent of the team's pass plays. As long as he continues seeing this volume, poor efficiency won't be enough to block him from producing WR2 numbers. Bryant has a rare great matchup this week against the Packers' weak cornerback group.
Demaryius Thomas has yet to score a touchdown this season and was limited to 11 receiving yards against Oakland on Sunday. That's Thomas' lowest yardage total since he was held to 8 yards in Super Bowl 50. Thomas sits 36th among wide receivers in fantasy points, but there's plenty of reason to expect a rebound. Thomas has been on the field for 87 percent of the Broncos' offensive plays, including 91 percent of the pass plays. Both are his highest totals since 2014. He has handled a generous 25 percent target share and ranks 16th among wideouts with 247 receiving yards. Thomas will return to the WR2 ranks once Denver returns from its Week 5 bye.
The Lions said all offseason that Ameer Abdullah would be their feature back. They weren't kidding. Abdullah delivered 109 yards and a touchdown on 23 touches against a tough Minnesota defense on Sunday. Abdullah has been on the field for 46 percent of the Lions snaps this season, which has allowed him 16.5 carries and 2.5 targets per game. The volume has helped him to only one touchdown and the 22nd-most fantasy points at the position. Abdullah sports a 1.4 OTD, which suggests his touchdown production is about where it should be. He has carried the ball only three times inside the opponent's 13-yard line, though he's responsible for both of the team's attempts inside the 5. Abdullah's ceiling is limited (as expected), but he's seeing enough work to allow RB2 production.
Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams both suffered injuries during the Packers' Week 4 win over Chicago. Both are dicey for this weekend's game, which opens the door for rookies Aaron Jones and Devante Mays to lead the Packers' backfield against a Dallas defense that just allowed Todd Gurley 215 scrimmage yards. With Mays inactive, Jones racked up 13 carries on 29 snaps last Thursday. The UTEP product crushed it at April's combine, though he struggled badly after initial contact during his final FBS season and projects as more of a change-of-pace back. Nonetheless, if Montgomery and Williams are out, Jones will be in the mix for 15-plus touches and in the RB2 discussion. Scoop him up on waivers, but don't overspend, as he's only a short-term replacement.
Deshaun Watson exploded for five touchdowns against Tennessee on Sunday and has now posted 300-plus yards of total offensive in back-to-back games. Despite sitting out during the first half of the opener, Watson has thrown seven touchdowns and run for two more in four games. He sits sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Inaccuracy (off-target on 23 percent of his throws, second-worst) and turnovers (four interceptions) have been problem areas, but both are expected for a rookie, and Watson has made up for it with big plays and high-end rushing production (position-high 148 rushing yards). It's impossible to ignore the fact that Houston put up 90 points over the past two games, so Watson is a viable fantasy starter even in a tougher matchup against Kansas City this week.
Frank Gore remains the workhorse in Indianapolis, but his efficiency woes have carried over from last season. Gore is averaging 3.1 yards per carry, including 1.6 after contact. He's 13th in the league in carries, but 30th in fantasy points. Gore will have some flex appeal as long as he's handling 15-plus carries per game, but there's very little fantasy upside here. Especially as the 1-3 Colts fall out of the playoff race, rookie Marlon Mack figures to progressively see more work down the stretch.
Leonard Fournette is who we thought he'd be. The fourth-overall pick in April's draft paced the Jaguars in both rushing (24 carries, 86 yards) and receiving (4 catches, 59 yards, TD) on Sunday. The rookie has been on the field for only 55 percent of the team's snaps but is still handling 20.3 carries and 3.8 targets per game. Extremely busy near the goal line, Fournette sports a 3.8 OTD (which legitimizes his touchdown total of four) and has handled six carries inside the opponent's 5 yard line. Fournette is a solid RB1 play.
Is Alex Smith in the midst of a breakout fantasy season ... in his 13th year? The veteran passer has never finished a season better than 14th among quarterbacks in fantasy points and has averaged a 20th-place finish over the past eight years. Smith put up 293 passing yards, 56 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns against Washington on Monday night. That's good enough for a sixth-place fantasy finish this week, his third top-10 week of the season (he had five all of last year). The Chiefs have now scored three-plus touchdowns in every game this year. Smith has been impressive, but his lengthy career resume suggests a return to earth is on tap. He's certainly a viable streaming option going forward, especially with bye weeks on tap, and Smith is a good play this week with a trip to Houston on tap.
Tyrell Williams posted his best game of the season in Week 5. The 6-foot-4 receiver caught 5 of 6 targets for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles' struggling cornerback unit. Williams entered the game with 123 yards and no scores during Weeks 1-3, but he has now seen six-plus targets in three of four outings. He sits 32nd among wide receivers in fantasy points. He's a in the flex mix against the Giants this week, but keep in mind that Mike Williams' return is imminent. If the rookie is legit, it's only a matter of time until he's chipping away at Tyrell's targets.
Gurley put up 215 scrimmage yards and scored a touchdown against Dallas on Sunday. The third-year back is now on pace for 28 offensive scores and a whopping 80 catches. Despite the absurdly strong fantasy production, this is a good week to explore sell-high opportunities. Though the fact that he's at the top of his game is enough to at least explore a trade, Gurley's schedule the rest of the season is the primary factor here. The next six defenses on his slate are Seattle, Jacksonville, Arizona, NY Giants, Houston and Minnesota. During Weeks 14-16 (the fantasy playoffs for most), he faces Philadelphia, Seattle and Tennessee. Gurley's usage and production (albeit against the Colts, Redskins, 49ers and Cowboys) has been exceptional, so it's important to get another stud player back in return, but the Rams' offense is certainly going to have its hands full moving forward.
It's been a miserable start to the 2017 season for Jay Ajayi, but the good news is that volume has not been an issue. Ajayi is averaging 18.7 touches per game after handling 19.1 per game last season. Ajayi has yet to score a touchdown as a product of Miami's dismal offensive showings. He hasn't carried the ball inside the opponent's 6-yard line and sports a 0.6 OTD (183rd). A low-volume, low-scoring offense that has scored only two touchdowns in three games is a giant concern for Ajayi, but his high volume and the high-end efficiency we saw from him in 2016 should lead to increased fantasy production moving forward. He's an intriguing buy-low this week, especially since his bye week is over with.
This might be the understatement of the column, but Sam Bradford's absence has been bad news for Kyle Rudolph's production. Rudolph paced all tight ends with 128 targets and finished second at the position in fantasy points with Bradford under center last season. Bradford also hit Rudolph for a score in Week 1 this season. During three games with Case Keenum, however, Rudolph has totaled seven receptions for 83 yards and no touchdowns on 12 targets. Bradford might be back this week, which should launch Rudolph back into a consistent role in the passing game. If the veteran tight end is cut in your league, scoop him up.
Chris Hogan caught 5 of 9 targets for 60 yards and a touchdown against Carolina on Sunday. He has now caught 15 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns on the season and is up to ninth among receivers in fantasy points. Hogan is averaging only 6.5 targets per game, but he has been on the field for 95 percent of the pass plays in one of the league's highest-scoring offenses. Not short on scoring opportunities, Hogan is tied for second in the NFL with five end zone targets and his 2.6 OTD ranks 12th. Hogan has finished as a top-15 fantasy wideout each of the past three weeks and is a good bet to make it four in a row this week against a Buccaneers defense that has allowed the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season.
The Saints have all but phased Adrian Peterson out of the offense, instead using Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara as a two-man committee. Ingram has racked up 42 carries and 20 targets on 132 snaps this season. Kamara sits at 15 carries and 27 targets on 87 snaps. Peterson has managed 27 carries and two targets on 42 snaps and was on the field for only six plays in Week 4. He's well off the fantasy radar. Kamara has been the flashiest of the group, but Ingram is getting a lot more volume and remains the top fantasy play here. Both are top-25 fantasy backs so far this season and that should continue moving forward. Both are RB2 options in PPR and Kamara should be downgraded to flex territory in non-PPR.
Evan Engram was best-positioned among rookie tight ends to defy history and put together a solid statistical season in his first year. So far, he's right on track. Engram caught 6 of 10 targets for 62 yards against the Buccaneers on Sunday. That brings him to 19 catches on 29 targets for 200 yards and a score through four games. Engram sits sixth among tight ends in fantasy points. Engram has been on the field for 83 percent of the Giants' pass plays and is handling a generous 18 percent of the targets. Especially considering the team can't run the ball and Brandon Marshall hasn't brought much to the table, Engram is well on his way to a top-10 finish at the position. Make sure he's owned.
The Jets running game exploded with Matt Forte out of the mix against Jacksonville on Sunday. Bilal Powell shined on 45 snaps as the feature back with 190 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches. Rookie Elijah McGuire played 19 snaps and posted 131 yards and a score on 12 touches. Both players had a touchdown run of at least 69 yards. Granted Jacksonville has been sliced up by running backs so far this season, but considering how nicely the duo preformed, it's fair to wonder if Forte's role will be reduced once he returns. Powell has been criminally underused throughout his career, but had entered this season top-10 in targets among running backs each of the past two years. Powell should be viewed as a quality RB2 play if Forte remains out this week. McGuire isn't yet seeing enough work to warrant flex consideration.
What to do with Marshawn Lynch? Following a promising Raiders debut in which he put up 92 yards on 19 touches in Tennessee, Lynch has totaled 87 yards on 29 touches during his past three games. He's scored one touchdown on the year. He sits 39th among backs in fantasy points. Lynch is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, though 2.1 of that has come after contact. That's eighth-best among 30 backs with 40-plus carries. Though that's a sign Lynch's efficiency might improve, his volume is still a problem. He's been on the field for 41 percent of the Raiders' offensive snaps and has been targeted six times in four games. After playing from behind a lot the past two weeks, game script figures to improve for Lynch and the Raiders offense going forward. That will allow his carry totals to rebound behind one of the game's top offensive lines. Lynch's fantasy upside is capped by his limited workload in the passing game, but he remains a fringe top-20 play against Baltimore this week.
In their first full game without Darren Sproles, the Eagles rolled with a three-man committee at running back on Sunday. LeGarrette Blount played 25 snaps and posted 156 yards on 17 touches. Wendell Smallwood touched the ball on 14 of his position-high 31 snaps and posted 79 yards. Rookie Corey Clement managed 10 carries for 30 yards on 19 snaps. Blount has the size and ability to handle early-down and goal line duties, whereas Smallwood is the most well-rounded back on the team, so it's fair to expect this dynamic to continue going forward. Smallwood is the best play in PPR leagues, but Blount gets the nod in non-PPR and should get a boost in value in games in which the Eagles are favored.
Ben Roethlisberger is off to a very slow start at the quarter point of the 2017 season. His passing yardage has trended down each week since he threw for 263 yards at Cleveland in Week 1 and he has totaled six touchdowns in four games. Of course, considering that three of the four games were on the road, we shouldn't be surprised. Roethlisberger has been terrific at home and poor on the road tracing back three seasons. He'll back at home this week and will be at Heinz Field for five of the team's final seven games this season. Roethlisberger should be on benches this week against a Jaguars defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, but he'll be a strong streaming option when Pittsburgh is at home moving forward.
With four weeks in the book, the 49ers' 0-4 record hasn't slowed Carlos Hyde from producing strong fantasy numbers. Hyde is up to 409 yards and two touchdowns on 82 touches and sits eighth at the position in fantasy points. He's been on the field for 75 percent of the offensive snaps, including 75 percent of the pass plays, and is handling 70 percent of the carries and 14 percent of the targets. All are career highs. With a 5.1 OTD, Hyde trails only Gurley in the category this season and should have more touchdowns than the two already on the board. Hyde has carried the ball seven times inside the opponent's 5-yard line (second-most). Hyde is a fringe top-10 fantasy back moving forward.
Chris Carson went down with a gruesome leg injury on Sunday night, which means we've reverted back to a competition between Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls for early-down duties in Seattle. Rawls was inactive on Sunday, which allowed Lacy 11 carries for 52 yards (4.7 YPC) on 23 snaps. With C.J. Prosise also out, J.D. McKissic flashed in his change-of-pace role with 65 yards and two touchdowns on five touches (10 snaps). Moving forward, expect Lacy and Rawls to battle for first- and second-down work, with Prosise handling a generous chunk of the receiving work. McKissic is unlikely to see enough work to find his way into fantasy relevance, but he's a good bet to steal a few touches following his impressive game against Indianapolis. Entering Week 5, Lacy should be on the flex radar, whereas Rawls and Prosise should be on benches for now.
Jacquizz Rodgers exploded for 108 yards on 18 touches against the Giants on Sunday. His best game of the year came at an interesting time, as Doug Martin will return from suspension this week. The Buccaneers have called run on 47 percent of Rodgers' 92 snaps, which has allowed him 40 carries and three targets. That's the role Martin figures to take over. Charles Sims, meanwhile, has registered only five carries and five targets, but the Bucs have called pass on 93 percent of his 67 snaps. Moving forward, we should expect to see Martin on early downs and at the goal line, with Sims continuing to work as the passing-down specialist. Rodgers might get occasional touches, but he's well off the fantasy radar. Martin is a fringe RB2 option this week against a New England defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season.
Delanie Walker has flown under the radar throughout his 12-year NFL career, and that's the case in fantasy again this season. Walker has been targeted 26 times in four games, which trails only Rishard Matthews by six for the team lead. Walker has yet to find the end zone, but still sits fifth at the position in fantasy points. Walker is well on his way to his fifth consecutive top-12 fantasy campaign and very well could post his third straight top five.
Last week, we discussed Chris Thompson, then the No. 3 scoring fantasy running back, as about an obvious a regression-to-the-mean lock as you'll find. That prediction proved true as the Redskins' passing-down specialist was limited to 27 yards on seven touches on Monday night. Thompson was targeted only twice, though Washington attempted 24 passes in the game (they averaged 32.3 per game during Weeks 1-3). Thompson will certainly bounce back, so don't cut him just yet, but this is a simple reminder that he's no more than a flex option in PPR formats.