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.
Rams WRs Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks: Both receivers suffered concussions on Sunday. Josh Reynolds stepped into a larger role and handled three targets on 17 pass routes in the game. KhaDarel Hodge was targeted on one of nine routes. Tight ends Tyler Higbee (four targets) and Gerald Everett (three) both hit a season high in targets, though note that Higbee ran 17 routes to only seven for Everett. Neither needs to be rostered. Reynolds is worth WR3 consideration if both receivers are out against Denver this week and will be in the flex mix if one of them misses the game.
49ers RB Matt Breida: Breida hurt his ankle and, though X-rays were negative, he appears doubtful for Week 6 and questionable for Week 7. With Breida limited to 13 snaps, Alfred Morris carried the ball 18 times and was targeted on five occasions on 41 snaps. Raheem Mostert handled five carries and one target on 12 snaps and fullback Kyle Juszczyk played a career-high 66 snaps en route to one carry and seven targets. As the primary runner of the group, Morris has flex appeal at Green Bay this week. Juszczyk should be viewed in a similar light to Theo Riddick, in that he's doubtful for more than one carry, but he could push for seven or eight targets. That's enough to make him a sneaky flex option in a game San Francisco figures to trail throughout.
Jaguars RB Corey Grant and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins: Both players were placed on injured reserve. Grant's injury may not seem to affect the fantasy world much, but it's notable with Leonard Fournette unlikely to return in Week 6. Grant's injury solidifies a huge role for T.J. Yeldon -- he played 77 of a possible 83 snaps in Week 5 -- against Dallas this week. Yeldon is a fringe RB1 in that matchup. With Seferian-Jenkins on the shelf (and the tight end position ravaged with injuries), Niles Paul is a smart add in two-tight end leagues. Paul was targeted on nine of 31 routes in Week 5 and is a TE2 option moving forward.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen: On the positive side of things, Olsen is expected to return from his foot injury in Week 6. Because his injury appeared to be of the long-term variety, it's possible he was cut loose in your league and is thus available on waivers. Especially with tight end such a mess, be sure to scoop him up (as an added bonus, Carolina already had its bye week).
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 OFP leaderboard from Week 5:
*Complete positional leaderboards will be posted on ESPN+ this week
Watson continues to rack up an absurd amount of volume, which has helped him to the sixth-most fantasy points at the position. OFP suggests that not only should he be even higher, he should easily be the top point-scorer at the position. That's saying something for a guy who has been a top-10 scorer at the position four consecutive weeks. Watson (league-low minus-24 FORP) ranks fifth in the league in passing yardage (1,621) and first among quarterbacks in rushing yards (201), but has only nine touchdowns to show for it. Watson's usage suggests he's on the verge of a major breakout and, thus, is a player to consider trading for.
Beathard is QB11 and has scored five touchdowns during his two starts. Of course, he's also thrown four interceptions and has lost a pair of fumbles. Beathard figures to benefit from the 49ers playing from behind often and adds value with his legs (35 carries for 162 yards and four touchdowns in 10 career appearances), which keeps him in the QB2 discussion.
Jaguars wide receivers Moncrief (25th), Keelan Cole (36th) and Dede Westbrook (43rd) each rank in the top 45 at wide receiver in OFP. They've handled 37, 34 and 33 targets, respectively, essentially forming a three-headed committee atop the depth chart. None are reliable weekly plays, but all are potential bye-week options with a decent amount of opportunity.
Now for our weekly FORP update. FORP is the difference between a player's actual fantasy point total and his OFP (expected fantasy point total).
First, here are the players who have fallen short of their OFP by the largest margin and, therefore, are candidates to see a rise in fantasy production moving forward, assuming they see a similar workload:
Eagles TE Zach Ertz and Steelers WR Antonio Brown were two players on this list last week who enjoyed breakthrough games in Week 5. However, a few players still haven't turned the corner, including Buffalo's Allen and Benjamin (Foster, too, but he's barely seeing the field now). The battery failed to deliver against struggling Malcolm Butler in Week 5 and it's fair to think this unit will continue to underperform throughout most of the 2018 season. Allen is well on his way to a rookie campaign that resembles that of 2017 DeShone Kizer (league-worst minus-79 FORP). Benjamin should be on waivers.
Crabtree has struggled, but it can't be ignored that both he (16th) and teammate John Brown (11th) are both top 20 at wide receiver in OFP. Both have massively underperformed relative to their usage. Crabtree's seven drops have led to a 52 percent catch rate despite a low 8.8 average depth of target. Brown (minus-16 FORP) just missed our top 10 and sits 27th at the position in fantasy points. A 42 percent catch rate is the primary culprit. The volume here has been great, so if Crabtree and Brown can manage even average efficiency, there's clear rebound potential.
And these players have exceeded their OFP by the largest margin and are thus candidates to see a dip in fantasy production moving forward:
Ridley, Goff, Ryan, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, Lions WR Golden Tate and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes were all on this list last week and predictably took a step back in Week 5. Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders had a solid week, but his FORP actually dropped. Kupp and Lockett both defied the odds with good performances.
Crowell is a player you should be looking to deal this week. The former Brown ran for a franchise-record 219 yards on only 15 carries against Denver on Sunday. Crowell now has a pair of 100-plus-yard games and five touchdowns in as many outings this season. That's great, but there are major reasons to believe his production is about to dip. The primary one being that Crowell is not even his team's top back. Bilal Powell has played more snaps in four consecutive games and, believe it or not, actually had five more carries than Crowell on Sunday. Crowell has played a minimal role as a receiver (six receptions) and his game-script-dependent role has led to three games with 35 or fewer rushing yards. Currently 12th at the position in fantasy points, but 36th in OFP, Crowell is no more than a flex moving forward.
Game script is one of the most underrated and important aspects of fantasy football. Why? Nothing drives playcalling more than the score and time remaining on the clock. A team with a high pass percentage may be a pass-heavy team ... or it could be a run-first team that isn't very good and is forced to throw from behind often in the second half of games. In order to generate the best weekly prognostication, it's important to adjust a team's playcalling for game script.
These are the game-script-adjusted pass-heaviest teams during Weeks 1-5:
1. Minnesota Vikings, +9.6 percent (above expected pass rate based on game script)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers, +8.1 percent
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, +7.3 percent
4. Green Bay Packers, +7.1 percent
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, +6.9 percent
The quarterback for all five of these teams currently ranks as a top-11 fantasy quarterback. We know Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are weekly starters, but Blake Bortles is on pace for his fourth consecutive top-13 fantasy season. We'll need to monitor Jacksonville's playcalling once Leonard Fournette returns from injury. Jameis Winston was a top-10 fantasy quarterback when active last season and will replace Ryan Fitzpatrick under center in Week 6. It's a terrific matchup against the Falcons' struggling defense and positions Winston as a solid QB1 option.
These are the game-script-adjusted run-heaviest teams during Weeks 1-5:
Of the quarterbacks for these five teams, Wilson is the highest at the position in fantasy points at 19th.
Wilson tossed three touchdowns in Week 5 ... and still wasn't a top-10 fantasy quarterback. In fact, he entered the Rams game having posted weekly finishes of ninth, 22nd, 17th and 25th and now sits 20th at the position in fantasy points. Seattle's run-heavy offense and Wilson's lack of rushing production (11 carries, 42 yards) leaves him as no more than a fringe QB1, even against Oakland in Week 6.
It has been a good run, but it's time to trade Steelers RB James Conner. The second-year back is fresh off a 185-yard, two-score performance against Atlanta, but he very well could be down to his final start of the season in Week 6. Following the showdown with the Bengals, the Steelers head to their bye week and Le'Veon Bell is expected back in Week 7. As we learned in both 2015 (when DeAngelo Williams was fantasy's top scoring running back while Bell was out) and 2016 (when DeAngelo Williams was fantasy's top scoring running back while Bell was out), Bell tends to remain the workhorse when he returns to action. Of course, even if Conner maintains a role, there's no question Bell will handle a substantial share of the workload. Aim for a top-15 RB or WR in a trade (think Rams wide receivers, Dalvin Cook, Jarvis Landry) and throw a lesser player into a package if need be.
Who said the Giants couldn't support three fantasy starters without Eli Manning being a fantasy starter himself? So far, even with Evan Engram hurt, that has been exactly the case. Manning sits 21st at quarterback in fantasy points, whereas Saquon Barkley is fourth at running back, Odell Beckham Jr. is ninth at wide receiver and Sterling Shepard is up to 25th at wideout. Engram, by the way, had an underwhelming Week 1, but was TE4 in Week 2 before suffering an injury early in Week 3. He's due back in a few weeks.
Seahawks WR David Moore: Moore scored a pair of touchdowns against the Rams on Sunday. The small-school receiver was a seventh-round flier in last season's draft, but has worked his way past Brandon Marshall on the Seattle depth chart. Moore has good size (6-foot-2) and speed (ran a 4.4 40-yard dash), and is suddenly behind only Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett in terms of target priority. Moore is available in 99.9 percent of leagues and certainly should be scooped up in deeper formats and is an intriguing speculative add in most formats.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman: Edelman ran 38 of 44 possible pass routes and was targeted eight times in his first game back since the Super Bowl win over Atlanta. He's right back in the WR2 mix and should be locked into lineups.
Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah: With Tyler Eifert done for the season, Uzomah stepped in and played 53 of 58 possible snaps against Miami. Uzomah was limited to two targets, but ran 24 of 31 possible routes. He remains in the TE2 mix.
Falcons running backs: Devonta Freeman returned from injury and played 28 of 62 snaps in Week 5. Tevin Coleman played 26 snaps and rookie Ito Smith racked up 11, though a chunk of that came in garbage time. Freeman's return to the top of the depth chart puts him right back in the RB2 mix, but he'll need more separation in order to get back in the top-10 discussion.
Packers RB Aaron Jones: Jones was an overrated fantasy darling entering Week 5 and, though he was racking up carries early, he was quickly "game-scripted" out of the lineup. The team prefers Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery in passing and perhaps even neutral situations, which puts a massive lid on Jones' ceiling. That said, there is somewhat of a silver lining to his nine-touch effort. Jones kept up his good efficiency (40 yards on seven carries) and his usage suggests he could push for 15-plus carries when the Packers are ahead. That should be the case at Lambeau Field against San Francisco in Week 6. Of course, with minimal receiving work, it's not much of an exaggeration to say Jones is essentially playing the same role as Royce Freeman or LeGarrette Blount. Jones should still be rostered (and is a flex option this week), but he'll be a risky play most weeks.
Should I drop Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald? No ... but he shouldn't be in lineups right now. Fitzgerald's weekly finishes are as follows: 30th, 81st, 93rd, 78th, 72nd. Setting aside his Week 2 injury, Fitzgerald has been on the field for 114 of the team's 120 pass plays and is handling a 22 percent target share. That suggests a bounce-back could be coming, but even his 46 OFP (48th at the position) is underwhelming. Stash him on your bench for now.
Should I bench Redskins TE Jordan Reed following his one-catch effort on Monday Night Football? No. That was a disastrous effort from the Washington offense, but Reed had seen five-plus targets in three straight games to open the season prior to Monday's debacle. Reed hasn't been quite as dominant as in years past, but his 20 percent target share is enough to allow him top-10 production at the position.
Is it time to panic about Saints RB Alvin Kamara? Absolutely not! As noted in previous columns, Kamara was handling what was not only a league-high volume, but in fact, the largest workload in the entire NFL (as shown by his league-high OFP). Put another way, the Saints overworked Kamara during Mark Ingram II's suspension. Ingram (18 touches, 73 yards, two touchdowns) returned on Monday Night Football, which allowed the Saints to give Kamara (nine touches, 39 yards) some rest. As was the case last season, these two will share backfield duties going forward, but Kamara will be the better play. Perhaps more concerning for Kamara was the usage of Taysom Hill (five carries, 23 yards, one touchdown) near the goal line. Hill is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 12 attempts over the past three weeks and figures to vulture the occasional touchdown. Kamara is, at worst, a midpack RB1 and Ingram an RB2 option.
Can I now feel confident starting Bills RB LeSean McCoy? Yes. McCoy was finally healthy for a full game on Sunday and delivered 24 carries for 85 yards and two catches for a team-high 23 yards. McCoy won't score much in Buffalo's abysmal offense, but he shouldn't struggle for 15-plus touches each week. That's enough to keep him in the RB2/flex mix.
Who is the real Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake? The truth is, Drake's Week 5 usage (six carries, 10 targets) was more than usual, but wasn't far off the way he has been utilized this season. Drake has been running behind Frank Gore in rushing situations (Gore holds a 47 to 39 edge in carries), but was quietly handling a generous 14 percent target share (up to 18 percent after Sunday). Against Cincinnati, Drake was efficient throughout and benefited from Miami's fourth-quarter deficit. He's a flex option in PPR leagues.
Should Bears WR Allen Robinson be locked into weekly lineups? Yes. Folks seem to be down on Robinson these days, but he entered the team's Week 5 bye ranked 26th in OFP (minus-7 FORP) and is the top target in an offense that took a gigantic step forward with a huge game against Tampa Bay during its last outing. Robinson is in the WR2 discussion against the Dolphins in Week 6.
Is Raiders WR Jordy Nelson Oakland's top fantasy wide receiver? I'd say it's a wash with Amari Cooper. Both have 29 targets, but Cooper has played five more snaps and run seven more routes. Nelson has a slight edge in OFP (53 to 50) and has been more efficient (19 to 7 in FORP). The fact is, the two are seeing very similar usage and Nelson is playing better. Both are flex options against Seattle's shaky cornerbacks this week.