Welcome to Week 6 of the 2020 Footballguys' Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate players who could crash the starter tier of fantasy rankings in the coming weeks, advice on injury-ridden depth charts, the sustainability of certain breakout performers from Week 4, and the continued debate on Clyde Edwards-Helaire's fantasy value.
- Andy Dalton's First Start in Dallas
- Injury impact
- Buy-Sell: Receiver Edition
- Either-Or...the Stretch-Run Edition
Andy Dalton's First Start in Dallas
- Does this change the target distribution of the receiving corps? If so, who are you favoring and/or is there a loser from this injury?
- Does Prescott's injury change the run/pass balance that the team has been using?
- Where do you rank Dalton as a fantasy QB for the ROS? How much do you bid on him in 1 QB leagues? What about Super-Flex formats?
Andy Hicks: It is hard to base anything on the 11 pass attempts Andy Dalton threw against the Giants. Three each to Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper and two to Tony Pollard. Doesn’t look good for Dalton Schultz. Seriously though, Dalton has a good arm and the lack of cohesion on the Dallas defense will see that all receivers will continue to get their share of targets. Any favoring of targets doesn’t change from my preseason impressions and I really do not see a loser here.
Despite the reputation of Dak Prescott being a running threat, he averages well under 20 yards a game. It’s running the ball into the endzone where he excels. Dalton isn’t bad at this himself averaging almost three rushing touchdowns a year. On the whole the run/pass balance won’t change much unless the Cowboys can establish leads. Dalton complements Prescott surprisingly well.
I rate Dalton very highly, a definite starting option. Unlike the mess in San Francisco, Dalton will be the starter for the rest of the year and by virtue of the situation will score heavily......if he can limit the turnovers. In one QB leagues it is worth throwing a good portion of your pot on grabbing Dalton, if your starting situation is weak. In Super-Flex, he is not all or nothing, but I would place a premium on his services. I doubt there was a backup quarterback in a better situation heading into the season and the worst has happened.
My only concern with Dalton is that he won’t be able to keep drives alive with legs and is likely to turn the ball over more frequently than Prescott. In reality Dalton wanting to be in Dallas is a blessing for the team. There are very few backups with his quality and while the offense won’t be as good as if Prescott were under center, the drop won’t be as bad as most franchises losing their star.
Daniel Simpkins: I am not sure it changes the target distribution, but I am certain that Andy Dalton’s limitations in terms of athleticism, arm talent, and off-platform throwing will lead to a passing offense that’s less explosive than the one Prescott managed.
It should cause the team to turn more to Zeke Elliott in the running game, but that assumes rational coaching. Mike McCarthy has not always proven to be rational with his usage of players.
I see Dalton as a top-twenty option on most weeks. I said in Waivers of the Future that Dalton is likely the best dynasty waiver wire quarterback you’ll have access to this year. That speaks more to the truth that it’s hard to find starting quarterbacks in dynasty formats than to a ringing endorsement for Dalton.
In superflex, I think you spend up to 75% of your budget on Dalton if you need quarterback help. Like in dynasty, quarterbacks are hard to come by in these leagues. Andy had a good point about the fact that Dalton will be the starter for better or for worse. You won’t have to worry about him getting yanked as you do in a lot of other quarterback situations across the league.
In redraft formats, I’m a little more tepid on his outlook and what you need to spend to acquire him. I’m seeing better or equal options still on the waiver wire, such as Teddy Bridgewater and Justin Herbert in my more causal redraft leagues. In a redraft league where you’ve lost Dak and don’t have a good backup option available; you should be willing to drop up to 20% of your budget to secure Dalton, but you should exhaust trade possibilities first.
Mark Schofield: I also don't think this dynamic changes much in terms of target distribution. We're talking about a former starting quarterback who can still do everything asked of him in an NFL offense. This is not a situation where the coaching staff is going to need to shrink the playbook to a core set of concepts to ease the transition to a rookie or an inexperienced player.
The balance between run and pass won't change in any noticeable manner, I think. Part of their run/pass ratio has been due to game script situations, so if they're in closer contests and don't have to throw to get back into games, that might change things more than having to insert Dalton into the starting lineup. .
Regardless of format, if you have concerns about your rostered quarterbacks, Dalton is worth making a move. He still has a great wide receiver room/great weapons around him, and he is in a situation where Mike McCarthy will trust him to put the ball in the air.
This won't be a situation where the coaching staff is wary of entrusting him with the entire playbook. Plus, outside of their game against Pittsburgh in a few weeks, the Cowboys have a pretty favorable schedule. They get Washington twice, a team that has struggled on the defensive side of the ball, as well as Philadelphia, another team with defensive woes. This is a good opportunity and those with quarterback issues should take advantage.
Dan Hindery: Dalton’s passing tendencies are not likely to be significantly different than Prescott’s, so we probably do not see a big change in the target distribution. The Cowboys absurd passing numbers were due to fall off at some point even with Prescott and that will almost certainly be the case now that Dalton is the starter.
The run/pass mix is going to be heavily influenced by outside factors. Dallas is giving up 36.0 PPG so the offense has been forced to be aggressive. If the defense continues to get smashed, the offense should remain fairly pass-heavy regardless of who is throwing the passes.
With the weapons at his disposal, we could easily see Dalton put up low-end QB1 numbers. He is a capable passer and there are probably going to be a lot of games where the Cowboys need to keep pace with the opposing offense (we just saw the Giants put 34 points on the board against them).
As far as free agency budget, in one-quarterback leagues there are almost always decent options on the waiver wire so it does not make sense to be too aggressive. In Superflex leagues, this is a spot where teams should be extremely aggressive. Odds are there will not be a more impactful free agent the rest of the way in that format.
Will Grant: I personally think everyone takes a hit to their receiving stats, because I don't think Dalton is a guy who could throw for 5,000 yards for the year like I expected Prescott to do. That being said, the Dallas defense will give Dalton plenty of games where he's going to need to throw for 300 yards and they'll be playing from behind a lot.
Dalton focused almost exclusively on wide receivers when he came into the game, and Dalton Schultz finished with just 1 catch for 6 yards. I'm benching Schultz in my fantasy leagues until I see where he fits in the new offense. Expect check-downs to go to Ezekiel Elliott more which should give him a bump.
Dallas has been playing from behind a lot this season, and that was more due to the defense than Prescott. So the run/pass ratio is going to be similar to what we've seen so far. Maybe the Cowboys lean on Elliott if they can get out early, but unless that happens, Dalton is going to have to keep them in the games with his arm. Dalton won't run as much as Prescott did, so Elliott and Pollard may be handing a few more carries, but the total rushes per game should be somewhere around 25 each game.
Volume alone makes him a starter in a Super-Flex league. As I said above, Dalton isn't a 5,000-yard-per-year passer, but the Cowboys are still going to have to throw. Dalton is certainly a top-20 fantasy quarterback the rest of the way and might even be a top-10 fantasy quarterback as well. Dallas still has a great stable of pass-catchers and that along makes Dalton compelling. I think he finishes near the bottom of the top 10 for fantasy quarterbacks for the rest of the season, and will have a few big games against the weaker NFC East teams.
Andrew Garda: Like many of the other guys, I don’t think Dalton changes target distribution all that much. Other Andy (Hicks) put it best when saying it’s hard to gauge off 11 passes. I don’t love Dalton, but he’s serviceable and so I don’t expect a dip in anyone’s production, but I don’t think there will be a huge shift in targets.
I do think we may see a little more Elliott with Dalton under center, but not a ton. If we break apart last season’s numbers, Elliott is about at the same level of carries this season that he was last season. Of course, Dak was there last season, and had he stayed healthy, he was on track to get more yard this year (around 297) than last year (277). Prescott still threw the ball way more than he ran – and I think that was a scheme thing. They knew he could run if need be, but they wanted him to throw.
His absence is something that will impact Elliott to an extent because Dalton can’t but I think, philosophically, this offense was always about passing in terms of quarterback play – so ultimately while the needle will move, it will move by a nudge, not a wild swing.
If you happened to grab Dalton at some point during your draft or in the early waiver wire weeks – or even this week – you are in luck. While I am not a huge believer in him and never have been, I do think he’s a quarterback who will perform among the top 15-20 options, which makes him a great get for a fantasy GM.
If you don’t have a good backup for Prescott, Dalton is worth a look – but if you have a decent backup, I don’t think he will be a difference maker. Save him for your bye week or barring an injury to your other quarterback.
It’s a little different in Super-flex, where you have more flexibility and the quarterback pool is always thin after the draft. Having a guy who could be top 15 – even top 20, is huge and worth your time. Quarterbacks in superflex are good, reliable sources of consistent fantasy points and while I don’t love Dalton, he will produce just that.
Sean Settle: Dalton certainly showed some rust when he was thrust into the starting position, but it did not show with his wide receivers. He threw 3 targets to CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup respectively. The final 2 of his 11 attempts went to Tony Pollard. The only person I would be concerned for would be concerned about was Dalton Schultz who did not have a single target with the game on the line. We cannot jump to any real conclusions after just 11 pass attempts, but right now it looks like the big 3 of the receiving core is going to be just fine.
There was no way Dallas could continue to throw at the rate they were before Prescott went down. Their defense kept putting them in a hole and the offense was not doing any favors with turnovers, but they were on a historic pace. Dalton under center should even out the run/pass balance and we should see Ezekiel Elliott get more carries going forward. The offensive line and the running back has been the strength of this team for years and we should see that come back as they do not want to rely on Dalton to win games. I expect him to be much more of a game manager going forward.
Dalton should fall in the top 14-18 quarterbacks over the rest of the season. He is surrounded by weapons, has led Cincinnati to the playoffs in the past, and is playing on a team with a defense that is giving up a lot of points. I still think Elliott sees the biggest boost in this group as they try to run the ball more, but Dalton has proven he can be a capable quarterback.
I would stash his as a bye-week filler with the right matchup in a 1 QB league, and in a Super flex it all depends on who you already have. I had Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kirk Cousins and just bid the house on Dalton in my personal Super flex league. Unless Drew Brees went down and Jameis Winston gets the chance in New Orleans, you are not going to find a better back up quarter back situation right now.
Waldman: PICK TWO of the following injured players and tells us which of his teammates with fantasy value the injury will impact the most and if you suggest taking action based on it.
- Chiefs G Kelechi Osemele
- Browns G Wyatt Teller
- Bengals WR A.J. Green
- Eagles T Lane Johnson
Simpkins: I think I inadvertently found a way to get around Matt’s requirement to pick only two of these players. I talked about Kelechi Osemele and Lane Johnson’s injury impact in Big Play Payday, so I’ll take Wyatt Teller and A.J. Green in this discussion.
Teller has been excellent for Cleveland. He has arguably been playing the best of any of their linemen and is a large reason their gap-based run game has been successful. The good news is that they have Chris Hubbard to fill in, who has played right tackle for the Browns in the past. Guard is a different position, but Hubbard held up well against an aggressive pass rush, despite his inexperience playing this spot.
As for A.J. Green, I’m not 100 percent sure we’re dealing with an injury here. There’s buzz that Green is unhappy with his lack of involvement in the offense. He does have a history of requesting to be traded when perturbed, so this isn’t shocking. That said, I like Auden Tate to see increased opportunities if Green is out of the picture. Tate is not everyone’s cup of tea. He’s not a nuanced route-runner, but I appreciate what he offers as a big-bodied red zone threat.
There was also talk among camp observers about him being the most improved Bengals player from 2019 to now. I’m curious to see if the transformation is real or if it was just inexperienced beat writers not understanding what they were seeing.
Hicks: A.J. Green had a magnificent seven-and-a-half years to start his career. He was so consistent and one of the first receivers you would target in fantasy football. The last three years however, have been a disaster. One injury after another.
With the Bengals drafting Tee Higgins they were kind of hoping the 32-year-old Green would return to his best, but had a plan in case it didn’t work out. Higgins is working out well opposite Tyler Boyd and the team will move on from Green sooner rather than later. Higgins is already performing to the level of a Fantasy WR3, but that is all upside. Fellow rookie Joe Burrow is locking onto Higgins often and Higgins could be anything with some touchdowns in the coming weeks.
I’m far from an expert on offensive line play, so my take is somewhat limited on the other options. That said, Wyatt Teller is a big reason for the success of the Browns running game this year.
His absence doesn’t appear to be long term at this stage, but after losing Nick Chubb last week any further losses to the strength of the offense will place pressure on Baker Mayfield to make up for any issues. Kareem Hunt’s limited success against the Colts needs to be measured against the Colts ability to stop the run. The Steelers are next up for the Browns and they have been successful too at defending the run. Any long-term absence from Teller will be more telling once the schedule eases up.
Schofield: The Philadelphia Eagles offense has been a roller-coaster of sorts. They seemed to get things on track last week against a tough Pittsburgh defense, but the Lane Johnson injury might have an impact on Carson Wentz. The quarterback is dealing with some mechanical issues and inconsistencies that have hampered him this season, and while that showed signs of working out last week, he has historically performed poorly when Johnson is out of the lineup.
- With Johnson: 65.3 %, 2,766 yds., 20 TD, 5 INT, 99.9 rating; 9-2 record.
- Without Johnson: 61.2%, 2,378 yds., 6 TD, 12 INT, 70.7 rating; 2-8 record.
These numbers are a bit dated, but back when Johnson missed time during Wentz's rookie season it gives us some context worth considering.
The worm seems to be turning on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. As a proponent of his over the past few weeks, I'm certainly starting to see more and more analysts question his fit in the Kansas City offense, and with reason. The injury to Osemele is not going to ease those growing concerns.
Osemele had been a true road grader for the Chiefs' offense this season, allowing them to have more of a physical presence up front in the running game than they did a season ago. Without that, we might see more and more of the Mahomes Show, which is certainly fun to watch, but might impact CEH's production even more.
Hindery: A.J. Green never looked fully recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered in camp. You could see him pull up at times and he did not have that extra gear we saw in his prime to go get it when the ball was up in the air.
His ineffectiveness has opened the door for rookie Tee Higgins to emerge as the WR2. Over the past three weeks, Higgins has averaged 8.0 targets per game and 14.8 PPG in the PPR format (WR24 over this stretch). Higgins should be a starting caliber fantasy wide receiver going forward because Joe Burrow is going to have to throw a lot given the defensive woes.
The three OL injuries are bad news for each of the offenses involved and we probably tend to underestimate just how negative an impact losing a top lineman can have on skill player production. Ewards-Helaire is probably the most negatively impacted of the group, however. The Chiefs were doing most of their damage between the tackles behind Osemele. Plus, this is an offense that can beat teams in a lot of ways. The injury should push more touches to the perimeter players.
Garda: Losing Kelechi Osemele is brutal for the offensive line, and it’s going to make it hard on preseason darling Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was already seeing his role in the offense leaking away. His eight targets for three catches last week is a contributing factor to that. Six of his ten carries were three yards or less, and after Osemele went down, he (along with several other players to be fair) struggled to find space. He had just two runs for four or more yards after the left guard went down. That is a trend that will continue to happen.
Staying on the line because I so rarely get to do OL analysis, and Lane Johnson’s injury is really not great for a struggling Eagles offensive line that has already had to deal with issues. As if Carson Wentz didn’t have enough to worry about, in all likelihood rookie Jack Driscoll will fill in at right tackle and while he is serviceable in pass protection, expect the Ravens to assault him and put that too the test.
Settle: Kareem Hunt already got a major boost after Nick Chubb went down. The injury to Teller will not change that, and I would continue to start Hunt as a RB1 going forward. This team is committed to running the ball and protecting Baker Mayfield from having to win the game with his arm. Hunt was always the better pass catcher out of the back field and the injury to Teller will not make his stock take a hit.
Unfortunately, the writing already seemed to be on the wall for Green. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins have already taken over in this offense. The bigger concern in Cincinnati is that Joe Burrow has been sacked 23 times already this season.
The Bengals could look to trade Green to a competing team looking for veteran receiver help. Tyler Boyd gets the bump to WR2 and Higgins emerges as a flex option with Green down. This offense still has a lot of weapons and Green would be better served on a different roster going forward.
Grant: A.J. Green was not a guy I was excited about, even before the injury. His biggest game of the season was just 5 receptions for 36 yards back in week 3. Some of that might be due to drawing the better defenders to his side of the field, but more likely I think it's the case of Green really showing the milage and injury risk that has plagued him the last three seasons.
His 14 receptions had just an 8.5 yards per catch average, making him a guy you probably dropped from your fantasy roster already. This was despite being the second-most targeted receiver on the team. Look for Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins to see slight bumps in targets (and receptions) per game, but the rest of Cincinnati's receivers won't have any fantasy relevance.
The injury to Johnson shouldn't sideline him for the season, but he could miss a game or two for the Eagles while he rests up. Even when he was 'healthy', Johnson was only playing about 67% of the snaps for the Eagles this season. Given the Ravens defense, it may be tough to count on anyone from Philadelphia this week, with or without Johnson, but the next two games are division games against the Giants and the Cowboys - two teams who have trouble stopping anyone. Assuming Johnson's injury isn't long term and he can get the rest he needs over the next few weeks, I don't see his loss as changing much for the Philadelphia offense.
Buy-Sell: Receiver Edition
Waldman: Pick one receiver you're buying and one you're selling for a PPR format that starts 3-4 options.
Schofield: The Las Vegas Raiders are a more explosive offense when Henry Ruggs III III is on the field. Derek Carr, known for being a bit of a "Check-Down Charlie," averaged 9.0 Intended Air Yards last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, well above his 2019 average of just 6.2. The Raiders were more dangerous in the downfield passing game, and Ruggs is a huge reason why. I'm buying Ruggs any chance I get.
Then there is Travis Fulgham. I think he has earned his way into the Carson Wentz Circle of Trust - which is a thing, just ask J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - and the quarterback certainly needs someone to throw to. While Fulgham might see a big share of targets for now, that Eagles offense just scares me all around. Sell.
Simpkins: I’ve always believed in Ruggs as a talent and like some aspects of his game better than those of Jerry Jeudy. What I was skeptical of was Carr’s ability to land deep shots to Ruggs. I’ve seen it enough now that I’m starting to believe.
Of the available options, Patrick is the least likely to sustain his level of production. Denver has some tough matchups ahead and I’m not certain that the offensive line will protect Lock or whoever is at quarterback long enough to maximize Patrick’s abilities. I doubt you are getting a lot in return for dealing Patrick, but if you can use him as a throw-in with another piece to upgrade at a position, I’m all for it.
Hicks: Denver have gone through three quarterbacks already and Patrick is taking advantage of all the injuries ahead of him at wide receiver. If he continues to see that target share when the Broncos have better options, then I’m happy to re-evaluate. Right now, I choose other options, so I'm selling him.
I am also buying Mecole Hardman. He is averaging 8.9 fantasy PPG this season despite playing less than half of the snaps. With Sammy Watkins expected to miss “a couple weeks” with a hamstring injury, the door is cracked for Hardman to take on a larger role in the Chiefs offense.
Garda: If Ruggs can stay healthy, I am buying – and frankly I am willing to roll the dice on that anyway. The difference in the offense without him is obvious to me, and while in the first game back (and last game before) from the injury he saw just three targets, as he gets settled (and comes back from the bye) he will see more of the five-target day from Week 1 than not. I love his prospects the rest of this year.
Michael Thomas comes back after the bye and then we will see Sanders’ target share drop pretty quickly. Assuming Thomas isn’t a complete knuckle head – which until this week I didn’t have any thought he was – Thomas and Brees have too much chemistry. Of course, Thomas has also been hurt, but I think the two extra weeks off (one because he’s starting nonsense in practice and one for a bye) will help him get right physically. After that, Sanders’ value is going to dip – so sell him now while he is hot.
Grant: Ruggs is on a bye this week, making him a great candidate to drop for one of the hotter waiver-wire picks this week. Through the first five games of the season, Ruggs has only played in three of them. In his two best games, despite being on the field for more than 45 snaps in each, he has just 6 targets and 3 receptions total. His two big plays against the Chiefs were impressive, but they don't provide much evidence to have Ruggs on your roster with virtually no fantasy value outside of those two catches. I think he's very droppable and would not be looking to add him if he's a Waiver Wire option in your league.
Fulgham is the next receiver you've never heard of from the Eagles who is making noise, but he's also seen a ton of targets over the last two weeks and showed some impressive skills in finding the open spot and making plays after the catch. The Eagles receivers are a revolving door this year, but Fulgham seems to have staying power and his performance over the last two weeks should make him a hot fantasy pick up this week. While the Ravens may give the Eagles a hard time this week, the Giants and Cowboys are great teams pay against from a fantasy perspective and Fulgham would be a great guy to have in your lineup against those teams.
Settle: The Raiders have surprised everyone so far after they knocked off the Saints and the Chiefs. Josh Jacobs has had an up and down season and Derek Carr has had an inconsistent cast of receivers to throw to. Ruggs is back from his injury and should emerge as the top receiver on that team. Darren Waller will continue to get his targets from the TE position, but Ruggs will easily eclipse Hunter Renfrow and take control of that offense
It was a fun story with Patrick, but this offense is going to level out. The Broncos went out and got weapons to try and compete with the Chiefs, and that is where the bulk share of the targets are going to go. Melvin Gordon III (DUI pending) will carry the ball, Noah Fant is coming back, Drew Lock is coming back, and they drafted two talented WRs who will be leaned on with Courtland Sutton out for the year with injury. Patrick had his week, but there are just too many mouths to feed in this offense and he is the easiest one to push out.
Either-Or...the Stretch-Run Edition
Matt Waldman: We're already nearing the halfway point of the regular season in fantasy leagues. For the sake of jogging our addled minds about planning for a stretch run, I'm going to list pairs of players. You have to choose which one you would prefer to have for a stretch run (Weeks 7-13) to reach the playoffs.
I'm sharing five pairs of players. Pick two of those pairs to discuss the player from each you prefer...
- Josh Jacobs/Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- Christian McCaffrey/Nick Chubb
- Odell Beckham Jr/Terry McLaurin
- Daniel Jones/Tua Tagovailoa
- Brandin Cooks/JuJu Smith-Schuster
Where do you stand?
Hindery: Give me Christian McCaffrey over Nick Chubb by a good margin. First, he seems to be further along in his recovery than Chubb. There is even some speculation McCaffrey has a chance to be cleared in time for Sunday’s game against the Bears.
Chubb is likely a couple weeks behind him. Plus, McCaffrey is the better option when both are healthy. He rarely leaves the field. He played at least 99 percent of the snaps in half of the Panthers games last season and the plan looks to be the same in 2020. His only full game, he played 97% of the snaps and we know his receiving role will be huge. McCaffrey and his replacement, Mike Davis, have combined to average 7.4 receptions per game this season. Chubb was averaging less than one catch per game when injured.
I would rather roster Daniel Jones than Tua Tagovailoa. Jones has been throwing a good amount and doing well with his legs but has somehow gone four straight weeks without a touchdown. I wouldn’t want to have him in my starting lineup but he is at least a “break glass in case of emergency” fantasy option in a season where that has added value.
Tua Tagovailoa may not even see the field this season. Miami has won two of three (including a road demolition of the 49ers last week) and can get back to .500 with a win over the Jets on Sunday. The Dolphins are actually the 12th best team in the NFL according to DVOA and Ryan Fitzpatrick ranks 5th in QBR according to ESPN. This is a team focused on winning games led by a popular veteran quarterback playing very well. Unless things really take a turn for the worse, 2020 will be a redshirt season for Tagovailoa..
Grant: Ooof - Jacobs or Edwards-Helaire is a tough one. While I have been sticking with Edwards-Helaire due to his impressive yards per touch in recent weeks, his downward trend in touches per game is very troubling.
With 19 against the Patriots in week 4 and just 13 against the Raiders last week, Edwards-Helaire is looking more like a '3rd down/Change of Pace' guy more than an every down ball carrier. Josh Jacobs is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, but he had 25 touches this week against the Chiefs and 25 more rushing attempts than Edwards-Helaire this season. Jacobs also has five rushing touchdowns, although they have been in only two games.
If the number of touches per game were similar, I'd say Edwards-Helaire was the guy I'd want. However, on pure volume alone, I would rather own Jacobs over the next six weeks. Yes Edwards-Helaire is going to get more touchdowns this season, but if his opportunities stay below 20, it could be weeks before that happens. I'd much rather have a guy like Jacobs who will see the ball 5 or 6 more times a game, even if he isn't as impressive when he touches it.
McLaurin would be my choice here over Beckham, and not because I just traded for him in my dynasty league. Washington quarterback Josh Allen should be back under center this week and McLaurin is Allen's clear favorite.
Through the first four games of the season, McLaurin was targeted an average of almost 10 times per game. His 29 receptions are more than double any other wide receiver or tight end on the team and he's clearly the go-to guy on a bad team that will throw a lot.
Beckham has just 21 receptions over that same span, and the bulk of his fantasy points this season came against a poor Dallas defense which McLaurin will face twice this season. McLaurin's next six games include two against Dallas and the Giants, and one each against Detroit and Cincinnati - teams that have just 4 wins between them. I'll happily take McLaurin during the stretch this season over Beckham.
Simpkins: Between Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Josh Jacobs, it's Jacobs hands-down. Edwards-Helaire has some work to do between this season and the next before he’s ready to ascend to the top-five status many pegged him for this year. Meanwhile, Josh Jacobs is already sitting just outside top-five status at RB6. Jacobs is a more complete player than Edwards-Helaire right now, and it’s his time to shine.
I’ll take Juju Smith-Schuster over Brandin Cooks. I’m chalking up Chase Claypool’s big day to Ben Roethlisberger’s understanding that there was a mismatch between Claypool and the replacement-level corners that were assigned to cover him. Juju Smith-Schuster will have his fair share of productive outings as well, and has proven he can do it even when faced with competent slot corners.
As for Cooks, I’m distrustful that Cooks will have sustained offensive success when they aren’t playing bottom-dweller defenses. Looking even at the short-term picture, three of their next six opponents rank among the top half of the league in pass defense.
Settle: The Chiefs do not seem to trust Edwards-Helaire right now. That offense has a lot of weapons and it is easy to spread the ball around and go through Mahommes. Jacobs is on a team that wants to pound the ball and then attack the middle of the field with their big tight end. The Raiders showed they are not afraid to use him and run him into a wall 25 times a game and that has continued this year. With the Browns, Broncos, and Falcons upcoming on the schedule, Jacobs has some big games coming.
I will always take the established receiver on a team that is not having quarterback issues. McLaurin may get the Cowboys and Giants secondaries, but Beckham is the proven commodity. Baker Mayfield has taken huge strides under Kevin Stefanski and they are finding creative ways to get him the ball. WR passes and jet sweeps have helped to revitalize OBJ in Cleveland. Also with Chubb out they are going to throw the ball more to take some pressure off Kareem Hunt. Look for OBJ to have a big finish to the season.
Schofield: I would much rather have Beckham than McLaurin in this situation. With the benching of Dwayne Haskins, the Washington Football Team is turning to either Kyle Allen or Alex Smith in the passing game. We saw the immediate impact last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Nearly every throw attempted by that pair of quarterbacks was at or near the line of scrimmage. I would not expect that to change anytime soon..
So far, only one of these quarterbacks has seen the field. While Daniel Jones and the Giants offense has struggled, he at least is a viable option. Brian Flores has been more than patient with Tua Tagovailoa's recovery from his hip injury, and with how Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing, there is no real reason for Flores to rush him back. We might not even see Tagovailoa during that Week 7-13 stretch, so I'd be wary.
Garda: Building off what Mark said, I won’t throw a rookie we’ve never seen in my lineup during Weeks 7 through 13 – weeks that are critical in many fantasy races.
We don’t know what Tua will do and I have always been leery of seeing him this year after the hip injury. Don’t get me wrong – there is precious little to like about Daniel Jones right now. He turns the ball over a lot, he has few weapons and a struggling offensive line – but he is the devil we know. We know what he can do and what he cannot.
Tagovailoa is a complete non-entity as far as projection in the NFL goes right now. If you are choosing here, Football Gods help you – but if you have to, go with Jones.
As I said in the Injury Impact section, losing Kelechi Osemele is going to be super-bad for Edwards-Helaire. He’s already struggling a bit, and you could see the issues really come to the front once Osemele was out.
Meanwhile with the offense opening up in Las Vegas, Jacobs is getting more opportunity to score. He’s topped 70 yards on the ground in four of the first five games and has been adding some nice receiving yards too, which him at least flirt with – and occasionally surpass – the 100 yard mark.
Hicks: I will start with Brandin Cooks and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Both are very near and dear to my heart this offseason. If this question was asked after the week four games, I would have gone with JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s amazing how one week can change all that.
If I’m looking for a higher floor, then it’s still Smith-Schuster, but Cooks showed us his higher ceiling against the Jaguars. Heading into 2020, I was clearly favoring Cooks. My gut feeling about the Steelers receivers was that there was absolutely no need to add Chase Claypool. They saw something special and with Smith-Schuster heading into free agency the latter was always going to be a risk at his draft price.
It has taken five weeks for all that to take shape, but thankfully for my prognostications Smith-Schuster is not a true number one receiver. Cooks on the other hand has been for his three previous franchises. The removal of Bill O’Brien may be the spark that sets Cooks on the right path for his Houston career.