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Biggest fantasy surprise for every NFL team through Week 5

Amari Cooper is taking extra passes from EJ Manuel before and after practice this week to adjust to his new QB. Rich Gabrielson/Icon Sportswire

NFL Nation reporters break down the biggest fantasy surprise for every team through Week 5, from rookies who are producing at high levels to usual stars who have fallen short of expectations.

Note: The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears play Monday night.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Held to 279 rushing yards and no touchdowns through five games, LeSean McCoy has fallen short of his expected production. McCoy was top-10 draft selection in most fantasy drafts but ranked 15th among running backs entering Sunday in ESPN's PPR scoring. McCoy said Sunday he is "angry" with his performance but sees defenses' keying on him as a sign of respect. There is not much for opponents to worry about with the Bills' passing attack.

Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi has been a fantasy bust so far with 261 rushing yards and zero touchdowns. Miami's offense is in shambles and Ajayi's numbers have taken a major hit. He is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and isn't getting good blocking from his offensive line.

James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer

New England Patriots

If you had Chris Hogan outscoring Brandin Cooks after five weeks of fantasy football, you are worthy of Fantasy GM of the Year consideration. This has been one of the surprises of the Patriots' opening five games, as Hogan (5 TDs) has already eclipsed his total TDs from all of last season.

Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer

New York Jets

The Jets' top scorer among non-kickers is a player who didn't arrive until the first week of the regular season -- WR Jermaine Kearse (three touchdowns). He's the biggest fantasy surprise because of how quickly he acclimated to the Jets' offense, becoming Josh McCown's go-to receiver.

Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Many thought Buck Allen might not make this year's Ravens team, much less be their most reliable fantasy option at running back. Allen ran for 73 yards rushing and scored one touchdown Sunday in Oakland. More importantly, he has taken over the role as red-zone back after Terrance West injured his calf. With West's uncertain status, Allen has intriguing value going forward.

Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer

Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Eifert's back injury this year shouldn't come as a total surprise considering his history. He has never played a full season and had surgery last year. Still, Eifert has been a disappointment to fantasy owners after catching only four passes in the first two games and getting a touchdown called back. Eifert hasn't played in the last three games, but the bye week could be coming at the right time for him.

Katherine Terrell, ESPN Staff Writer

Cleveland Browns

TE David Njoku should be gaining attention in fantasy leagues. Njoku has three touchdown receptions in five games, including one Sunday against the Jets. Njoku's three TD catches match a rookie high for the Browns. He also is the first rookie to have three touchdown receptions in the NFL this season.

Pat McManamon, ESPN Staff Writer

Pittsburgh Steelers

That Martavis Bryant has 43.4 fantasy points through five games - less than tight end Jesse James (45.1) -- is easily the Steelers' most surprising fantasy storyline. Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger have just been off despite several attempts at creativity. Pittsburgh used Bryant in several ways Sunday against Jacksonville, but a mix of screens and crossing routes and a reverse produced 33 total yards on eight targets and a carry.

Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Staff Writer

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Will Fuller has been a pleasant surprise for the Texans in his return from a broken collarbone. Fuller only had two catches on Sunday against the Chiefs, but both were touchdowns, including a 48-yard pass from rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson in the fourth quarter. Fuller now has four touchdowns in two games.

Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer

Indianapolis Colts

Colts receiver Donte Moncrief must not realize this is a contract year for him. The fourth-year receiver has the talent to be the team's best all-around receiver, but he's failed to live up to those expectations this season. Moncrief only has eight receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown through the first five weeks of the season. He began the year as the Colts' No. 2 receiver behind T.Y. Hilton, but you can say he's been passed by Kamar Aiken on the depth chart. The drop off by Moncrief comes a season after he had a team-high seven touchdown receptions in just seven games in 2016.

Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer

Jacksonville Jaguars

Hard for any player to be more consistent as far as reaching the end zone than Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette. He has scored at least one touchdown every week and had a career-best performance against Pittsburgh on Sunday: 181 yards and two TDs rushing. According to the NFL, Fournette is only the fifth rookie in NFL history to score a TD in each of his team's first five games of a season.

Michael DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer

Tennessee Titans

The Titans offense has struggled to find consistency, and their offensive playmakers haven't made much of a splash for fantasy owners too. DeMarco Murray may be the biggest disappointment for owners as he's only had one game - Week 3 vs SEA - with more than 9 fantasy points. He's also not receiving a true workhorse back load as he hasn't seen more than 14 carries in a game this season.

Cameron Wolfe, ESPN Staff Writer

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

As the Broncos exit it their bye week Monday one of the biggest items on their to-do list on offense, beyond getting ready for the Giants, will be to get wide receiver Demaryius Thomas more involved in the red zone. Opposing defenses have consistently tilted their coverages toward Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. And as a result Thomas does not have a touchdown catch yet this season and the Broncos have been content to pound the ball in the running game as defenses have sent the extra players into coverage rather than toward the line of scrimmage. Asked this past week if defenses will eventually take some of the double coverages away if the Broncos keep running the ball with success, coach Vance Joseph said: "They will."

Jeff Legwold, ESPN Senior Writer

Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith is on pace to easily shatter his personal season bests for touchdowns (23 in 2013) and yards (3,502 in 2016). Smith is on course for 35 touchdowns and more than 4,400 yards after throwing for three TDs and more than 300 yards in Sunday night’s win over the Texans. Given the relatively narrow range in which Smith resided for both touchdown passes (15-23) and yards (3,265-3,502) in Smith’s first four seasons with the Chiefs, who saw this coming?

Adam Teicher, ESPN Staff Writer

Los Angeles Chargers

After going without a target in two of his team's first four games, Chargers TE Hunter Henry was productive against the New York Giants, finishing with three catches for 42 yards on eight targets, including a 25-yard touchdown for a score. It's Henry's second touchdown in as many games. NFL observers projected the second-year pro out of Arkansas as a breakout performer this season, but he has yet to get into a rhythm with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer

Oakland Raiders

If you had Amari Cooper as your No. 1 receiver in your fantasy league, yeah, well...Cooper's relative absence from the Raiders offense in this three-game losing streak has been nothing short of mystifying. In Sunday's loss to the Ravens, Cooper was targeted just two times and had an eight-yard catch. In the losing streak, Cooper has four catches for 23 yards. Yikes. That hurts not only in fantasy, but in real life, too, for the Raiders.

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant is still looking for that big breakout game of 2017. Through five games he has 21 catches on 48 targets for 264 yards and three touchdowns, including a score Sunday against Green Bay. With the way Bryant and Dak Prescott closed last season with six of his eight touchdown catches in the last eight games and six games with at least 70 yards receiving, their connection has been off to start the season. With the bye week, it could be a good time for Bryant and Prescott to reset and get ready for an 11-game push in which they will have to put up numbers if the Cowboys want to get back to the playoffs.

Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer

New York Giants

Paul Perkins didn't help any fantasy teams in the first five weeks of the season. He averaged less than two yards per carry and hasn't found his way into the end zone. Perkins' season high is 22 yards rushing and he missed Sunday's game with a rib injury. It has been tough sledding early this season. Tight end Evan Engram, even though he was shut out by the Chargers, has been a pleasant surprise. Even though rookie tight ends usually struggle early, Engram had at least four catches in every game prior to Week 5.

Jordan Raanan, ESPN Staff Writer

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz continues to take the 2017 season by storm. He entered Week 5 as the leading TE in receptions and yards, and added to his strong start with 6 catches, 61 yards and a TD against Arizona. Expect him to remain Carson Wentz's go-to target.

Tim McManus, ESPN Staff Writer

Washington Redskins

It's not surprising that Chris Thompson has been a big weapon for Washington through Week 5. He's an underrated, but always improving third-down back. But he's still been their most surprising player from a fantasy perspective, with a team-best 73.7 points so far. It helps that TE Jordan Reed hasn't been healthy and that neither Terrelle Pryor nor Josh Doctson has been consistent. Still, credit Thompson for emerging as a big-play guy.

John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer

NFC NORTH

Detroit Lions

The most surprising fantasy element for the Lions this year has been their defense. They have scored touchdowns, forced turnovers, and for the most part have held teams to reasonable point totals. On a team where Detroit's offensive fantasy options are inconsistent for scoring, it's defense has actually produced well.

Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer

Green Bay Packers

If fantasy football owners thought Jordy Nelson would slow down at age 32, they were wrong. After 14 touchdowns last season, Nelson has six through five games this season. He may not have as many big plays down the field, but in the red zone he's been as productive as ever.

Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Based on how new Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian talked preseason about getting Julio Jones more involved in the red zone, it is surprising that Jones has no touchdowns yet this season, in the red zone or outside of it. Jones has one target in the red zone with no catches despite running 11 routes down there. Jones leads the team with 19 receptions for 295 yards, but he's not one of the five Falcons with a TD reception. Maybe that will change next time out vs. the Miami Dolphins, if a hip flexor injury doesn't hold Jones back.

Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

Carolina Panthers

If you thought Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was on a roll, how about wide receiver Devin Funchess. Has 14 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games. He had only 23 catches all of last season.

David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer

New Orleans Saints

Rookie Alvin Kamara actually leads the Saints’ running backs in fantasy scoring through the first four games, even though he has 22 fewer touches than Mark Ingram (35 vs. 57). That’s because Kamara has scored two touchdowns, while Ingram hasn’t scored yet. That will likely change going forward, since Ingram is more likely to get goal-line carries. And Ingram’s volume as a runner/receiver still makes him the smarter fantasy bet. But obviously Kamara’s big-play ability gives him the chance to score from anywhere on the field – and will continue to earn him a larger role in the offense.

Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I had said earlier this season that I thought the Bucs' defense/special teams was worth grabbing in fantasy. They currently have 15 points through four games though (3.75 average). Last year, they were averaging 6.75 per game. This is the result of only having four sacks total this year (they had just one going into Week 5). Through four games last year, they had nine.

Jenna Laine, ESPN Staff Writer

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

J.J. Nelson continued his tear through fantasy football Sunday with four catches for 80 yards in Arizona's loss to the Eagles. His fantasy production heading into the season was a major question mark because of how much emphasis the offense was going to put on David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. But without Johnson and with John Brown's health still impacting his play, Nelson has established himself as Arizona's No. 2 receiver with 17 catches for 277 yards and two touchdowns.

Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer

Los Angeles Rams

Sammy Watkins has been targeted only 20 times through the Rams' first five games. He didn't get a pass thrown to him for the game's first 50 minutes against the Cowboys in Week 4, then caught zero passes -- for the second time in 42 career games -- against the Seahawks in Week 5. Watkins joined the Rams as a vertical threat and primary receiver, but Jared Goff is committed to taking what the defense gives him and not force-feeding receivers.

Alden Gonzalez, ESPN Staff Writer

San Francisco 49ers

It's not really a surprise that 49ers kicker Robbie Gould has made all 14 of his field goal tries this season, given that Gould has now made 31 straight, dating to 2015. What makes Gould a pleasant fantasy surprise is the same thing that makes the other 49ers something of a disappointment: there are few who would expect a Kyle Shanahan coached offense to struggle to score in other ways. Alas, Gould has been the team's most consistent producer of points and a solid add in any fantasy league.

Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer

Seattle Seahawks

No one expected rookie seventh-round pick Chris Carson to grab hold of the Seahawks' running back job, but he beat out free-agent addition Eddie Lacy and incumbent Thomas Rawls to start the first four games. With Carson now on IR and recovering from ankle surgery, it's not clear who will be the Seahawks' primary back. Rawls and Lacy split work Sunday against the Rams, and that situation could remain fluid.

Brady Henderson, ESPN