<
>

Fantasy fallout: Keep training wheels on RB Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles has instructed the Kansas City Chiefs to take off the training wheels and “let me ride.”

But will they? And should you let the running back ride in your fantasy starting lineup this week?

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher preaches caution, because he said that’s what the Chiefs have done so far throughout Charles’ return from an ACL tear which he suffered one year ago this week. The Chiefs waited until the end of training camp for Charles to return to practice, then they had him practice on a limited basis for about a month and a half, then they gave him only two carries in his return two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It would go against every cautious move the Chiefs have made with Charles in his rehab to put him on the field against Oakland for a whole game’s worth of snaps,” Teicher wrote.

Eventually, Teicher thinks the plan is for Charles to return to the type of RB1 role he was playing in years past. The Chiefs need him to be that type of player, with their offense off to such a sluggish start. But fantasy owners should be prepared for a gradual return.

Unfortunately, Charles’ excellent understudy, Spencer Ware, is no longer a surefire fantasy start either.

Ware still might be useful for another week or two while Charles is getting back up to speed. But Teicher’s advice on both backs is the same: “Sit them if you have a strong alternative, play them if you don’t.”

Here is more Week 6 fantasy advice from ESPN’s NFL Nation crew:

Believe in T.Y. Hilton’s breakout over the past three games (25 catches, 387 yards, three TDs). Anyone who has owned Hilton in the past knows he is capable of extreme highs and lows (like 150 yards followed by 15 yards in back-to-back games last season). But ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter Mike Wells said he expects more consistency this year, mainly because Hilton has developed so much continuity with quarterback Andrew Luck in five seasons together. Hilton ranked third in the NFL in targets heading into this week.

Wells wrote this week about how much confidence Hilton exudes -- and how much confidence the Colts have in him as he has become the leader of the wide receivers room. “He’s a premier, marquee player in this football league and a pleasure to play with and practice with,” Luck said.

Buy into Randall Cobb’s big game too. ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky said Cobb’s slow start this season was nothing new -- like in 2014, when he started with 126 yards through the first three games and finished with 1,287. And Demovsky thinks that going forward we will see more games like what Cobb did in Week 5 (nine catches, 108 yards).

Cobb had a disappointing 2015 season when many expected him to rise up as a No. 1 receiver in the wake of Jordy Nelson’s knee injury. But Demovsky thinks Nelson’s dynamic return will keep opening things up for Cobb going forward, since he won’t have to face teams’ No. 1 cornerbacks like he did last year.

Hang on to Cameron Meredith. ESPN Chicago Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson has stressed the need for the Bears to get star receiver Alshon Jeffery more involved in the offense. But Dickerson still believes there will be ample opportunities for Meredith, the second-year receiver who stepped up last week with a monster game in the wake of Kevin White’s foot injury (nine catches, 130 yards and a touchdown).

At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Meredith is a natural replacement for White, who was placed on injured reserve. And Dickerson said Meredith “has clear chemistry" with current Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer since they took reps together on the second team throughout training camp and the preseason. Dickerson thinks Hoyer will take some deep shots to Jeffery, but he thinks Hoyer’s No. 1 goal is to run the offense in a smart, efficient manner.

Jeremy Kerley should still have value, even though the San Francisco 49ers switched QBs from Blaine Gabbert to Colin Kaepernick. Kerley was the second-most added player in ESPN fantasy leagues this week after catching a total of 14 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns over the past two weeks. However, there is a chemistry question mark now, since Kerley had developed such an easy rapport with Gabbert.

ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner said it might be best to wait and see how the 49ers’ offense looks with Kaepernick, rather than benching another quality receiver in favor of Kerley. But Wagoner stressed that Kerley’s role won’t change.

“Slot receivers have traditionally been a focal point of Chip Kelly's offense, and many of the Niners' route concepts are intended to free that position up,” Wagoner said. “So Kerley should still be a primary option.”

Quick hitters: Cincinnati Bengals receiver Brandon LaFell might not be starter-worthy all year long. But ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell thinks he could be a good bye-week replacement Sunday against his former team, the New England Patriots. LaFell caught two TD passes last week, and Terrell said if the Patriots focus on stopping A.J. Green, as expected, then LaFell is really the only other viable receiving option the Bengals have while tight end Tyler Eifert remains sidelined.

You don’t have to buy into every breakout performance from last week. ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter Ben Goessling said you shouldn’t rush to pick up receiver Adam Thielen after his seven-catch, 127-yard performance, because No. 1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs should return soon from a groin injury, and the Vikings spread the ball around too much to expect those types of numbers from Thielen consistently.

C.J. Anderson owners shouldn’t panic after Denver Broncos backup running back Devontae Booker outshined Anderson Thursday night with 46 yards on five carries. Booker played only 15 snaps, compared to 57 by Anderson. However, ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold did write that Booker is worth “keeping an eye on” for fantasy owners. He said Denver has been trying to kick-start its running game, and Booker showed the kind of effort and burst the team has wanted to see. He also has ability as a receiver out of the backfield.