As we enter Week 6 of the 2021 season, I want to share some tips, advice, and thoughts on various players, teams, and situations. With all of the outlets and resources available now, it is becoming more difficult to separate yourself from the rest of the pack when it comes to knowledge and strategy. To gain that extra edge, you have to make proactive moves that cash in, plan ahead, know your players' schedules, read helpful columns, and above all, execute the game plan for success. In no particular order, here are a few items that can help you gain that edge.
1. BE AWARE OF PLAYERS RETURNING FROM INJURY, AS WELL AS PLAYERS BENEFITING FROM AN INJURY
- Michael Thomas WR, NO - Thomas is a big one, but chances are, he is not going to be on the waiver wire. Just because he's a big name doesn't necessarily mean he'll be right back in the saddle again when he returns. We've seen players at all positions struggle with recovery from high-ankle sprains, especially those that require surgery. The Saints will welcome him back and he could see decent volume even in his first game back. The offense has struggled to find an identity outside of Alvin Kamara. Thomas's return should change that.
- Geno Smith QB, SEA - Russell Wilson may be out of the lineup for several weeks while he recovers from his hand/finger injury. Taking his place is Geno Smith who performed better than expected when he took over for Wilson in Thursday's primetime showing. You can be sure your league-mates saw his performance and they may be interested in targeting him on the waiver wire, especially if the league allows multiple quarterbacks in the lineup.
- Andy Dalton QB, CHI - Justin Fields has not had a smooth first two games as the Bears starting quarterback, and now he is dealing with a knee sprain. It would not be that big of a surprise if Matt Nagy and the Bears shift to Andy Dalton in Week 6 vs Green Bay. Dalton is recovering from his own knee injury but he may be healthy enough to play this week while Fields heals. If he does, and he plays well, he could be named the starter in a brewing quarterback controversy in Chicago.
- Darrel Williams RB, KC - The Chiefs are going to lose Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee) for a few games, which is much better than what was expected. From an injury stance, Kansas City and Edwards-Helaire got lucky. He'll be back, but in the meantime, Williams will now have a chance to get a piece of the Chiefs offensive production. Before the injury, Williams had the 40 end of a 40-60 carry share in the Chiefs backfield. Now he'll see a greater percentage of those snaps with Jerick McKinnon getting some as well. The Chiefs use their running backs as receivers, so look for Williams to have double-duty as a dual-threat back. He had the 4th-most targets on the team in Sunday night's loss to Buffalo and should continue to see upwards of 4+ targets moving forward while Edwards-Helaire recovers.
- Alex Collins RB, SEA - Chris Carson is dealing with a herniated disc in his neck which could give him trouble as an ordinary human, let alone a professional football player. Carson could miss another game, or several games. If that happens, Collins becomes the top running back option moving forward and he has shown that he can be an adequate receiver.
- Khalil Herbert RB, CHI - David Montgomery (knee) was placed on IR and is not able to return until Week 9 at the earliest. The Bears used a committee approach to fill the void at running back that saw rookie Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams in a full-blown 50/50 carry-share. Williams may have scored a touchdown, but Herbert was sharp and productive in his own right. He's someone to consider if you're weak at the position.
- Kadarius Toney, NYG - Kadarius Toney can stick his foot in the ground and make a play, and he is capable of having sound production any given week. Will he be consistent? That's debatable. Keep in mind, the Giants were without Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kenny Golladay, and some of Saquon Barkley in Toney's big game in Week 5. He could be the next big thing in New York if Week 5 was a stepping stone to increased volume.
- Devontae Booker RB, NYG - Saquon Barkley (ankle) is likely going to be out Week 6 and possibly longer. Booker is the replacement at running back and he has shown the ability to be a decent receiver as well.
2. STAY ACTIVE ON THE WAIVER WIRE, BUT ALSO SEE WHO OTHERS ARE DROPPING AND BE PREPARED TO CLAIM
- Rondale Moore, ARI - 21% target share in Week 5.
- Zack Moss, BUF - 74% snaps, 17% team target % in Week 5
- Cole Kmet, CHI - three straight weeks of 17+% team target share (17%, 19%, 20%)
- Samaje Perine, CIN - 61% snaps, 14% team targets - could be a decent play if Mixon (ankle) takes longer than expected to return to form. Be aware though, he entered the COVID protocol this week.
- David Njoku, CLE - Team target % was 27% in Week 5. Could be a one-week boon, or it could be the start of something good in Cleveland.
- Amon Ra-St.Brown, DET - Two straight weeks of 8 targets with 13 total receptions in that span has him moving up in the Lions pecking order.
- David Johnson, HOU - He is being used more as a receiver lately, 8 receptions in the last two weeks is tied with Brandin Cooks for the team lead in that span.
- Rhamondre Stevenson, NE - Damien Harris is having ball security issues and Stevenson is seeing increased snaps and carries. He's someone to watch.
- Michael Carter, NYJ - Carter has more snaps and carries over Ty Johnson in each of the last two games. His needle is pointing up in terms of usage.
- Target players who have risen in the depth chart due to an injury or performance. Rickey Seals-Jones is a good example of this. As is Alex Collins, Tim Patrick, Kadarius Toney. This is also true for quarterbacks. While it hasn't been a big year for backup quarterback success stories, Taylor Heinicke and Geno Smith are examples of quarterbacks who could yield value in multiple-quarterback leagues.
- There are several different variations for obtaining players available on the waiver wire - there's your first come first serve waiver, which can be great if you're on the ball and ahead of your league-mates. You get the player you want and you don't have to outbid anyone else to claim that player. There's an order of rankings waiver order, which is not as good as first come first serve (FCFS), but it can still be a beneficial, and perhaps an easy way to get the players you want. When bidding becomes the process for obtaining players, you have to know how much you have to spend, what the maximum budget is for the season, and how important it is to acquire a player at all costs. Generally, spending in the early weeks of the season is the way to acquire coveted players, but saving your free agent budget could prove helpful later on when your starting running back gets hurt and you need his replacement - hopefully he's on the waiver wire.
- Be ready to pounce on players who are dropped. In some leagues, waivers are run after 10:00 pm and possibly later. This is the time to pounce on players when the activity level of your league-mates is lower. Those on the west coast can especially benefit from this. Let's say your league-mate wants to acquire the flavor of the week but he/she has to drop someone to keep their roster legal. Be ready to make a move, especially if your league allows immediate acquisition of players who were recently dropped.
- Generally, fantasy teams only keep one defense on their roster (if your league includes team defenses). Be ready to scoop up a high-performing defense that was dropped due to a bye week, especially if you have the space on your roster to temporarily house two defenses. Buffalo and Dallas have a bye Week 7 coming up. A team may elect to drop them which would be a nice pickup. Buffalo and Dallas are #1 and #2 in team defense The Bills have 14 sacks and have forced 15 turnovers and the Cowboys have 10 interceptions alone with two defensive scores.
3. READ OTHER FOOTBALLGUYS ARTICLES
Footballguys produces a ton of weekly content. If you're reading this article, you also have access to these outstanding weekly must-read pieces, among others that we provide at Footballguys.
- UPGRADES AND DOWNGRADES - by Sigmund Bloom. This will tell you who you should target on the waiver wire, how much you should spend (if bidding), and a commentary on why players have been upgraded or downgraded. We do the work for you in this weekly piece. Posted weekly Monday late afternoon or early evening. If you're in IDP leagues, Aaron Rudnicki does the same for IDP players - IDP UPGRADES
- TRENDSPOTTING - by Ryan Zamichieli. Ryan puts a lot of time into this weekly piece that showcases statistical and graphical trends that strongly benefit certain matchups for the coming week.
- THE TOP 10 - by Matt Waldman. Each week Matt shares 10 important facets of the game, that can be player-driven, coach-driven, scheme-driven, or just chronicling things he observed in last week's slate of games. Not only does he share his thoughts, but he uses video to explain how or why something caught his attention.
- REST OF SEASON RANKINGS - Both Bob Henry and Ryan Sitzmann (IDP rankings) do a great job of updating their spreadsheets to factor in recent success that updates their rest of season rankings. This can be helpful when evaluating trade offers or if you're on the fence about a player to pick up or drop.
- MONDAY INJURY ROUNDS, INJURY EXPECTATIONS MIDWEEK, *SUNDAY INJURY EXPECTATIONS *avail Sun - by Dr. Jene Bramel. Jene is a medical doctor with a great deal of knowledge on sports injuries. He provides updates on player injuries three times a week - Monday, midweek, and Gameday. It's a must-read if you're on the fence about the status of players on your team.
4. TARGET PRE-EMPTIVE WAIVER PICKUPS
What is a pre-emptive waiver pick-up? Targeting a player on waivers where you don't have to spend much, if any, of your free agent budget. This generally occurs after waivers have gone through for the week. In some cases, if a player is highly coveted, you can target them using your free agent budget so you ensure you claim them.
These players are usually non-starters who could benefit in the coming weeks due to a matchup, impending coaching decision, increase in usage, or a general hunch that they will rise to fantasy relevance. Usually, these pickups are planned for future use as players that you can stash and wait for them to blossom into fantasy starters. Larger leagues or leagues with high roster spots are best for stashing players. Winning on a pre-emptive waiver claim makes the return on your investment a much sweeter experience because it was you who decided to roll the dice on a player that turned into a gem. Examples of gems from this season include Cordarrelle Patterson, Alex Collins, Dalton Schultz, Alexander Mattison, Hunter Renfrow, among others.
PRE-EMPTIVE WAIVER CLAIM Targets (deeper leagues)
- Gabriel Davis, BUF - He has not been featured much in Buffalo's offense this season, but he has 8 touchdowns in 20 games and he's on the highest-scoring offense in the league.
- Terrace Marshall Jr, CAR - A skilled rookie who is earning his stripes. Sometimes it takes a few games to get going. Marshall could have fantasy relevance later this season.
- Elijah Moore, NYJ (see Marshall above).
- Khalil Herbert, CHI - In a committee approach with Damien Williams while David Montgomery (knee) is out, and he looked sharp in Week 5.
- Jerick McKinnon, KC - Also saw action when Clyde Edwards-Helaire went out. Could share duties with Darrel Williams.
- Rhamondre Stevenson, NE - Could earn more carries if Damien Harris continues to turn over the ball.
- Chris Evans, CIN - Joe Mixon is on the mend and Samaje Perine is on the COVID list. Evans could get some action in Week 6.
- Kylen Granson, IND - Rookie receiving tight end who saw a jump in snaps (42%) in Week 5.
- Josh Gordon, KC - Perhaps the ultimate waiver gem? He needs to see more volume, but he's a good fit in the Chiefs offense.
- Donald Parham Jr, LAC - He has 2 touchdowns with 5 receptions. If he sees an increase in playing time, he could be a decent producer on a high-scoring offense.
- Kenyan Drake, LSV - Peyton Barber is dealing with turf toe and his biggest supporter for playing time, Jon Gruden, is no longer calling the shots. Could Drake see some more action? Maybe.
- Preston Williams, MIA - With DeVante Parker out, Williams saw an increase in snaps (74% in Week 5) and his team target share was 14% in Week 5.
- Giovani Bernard, TB - Bernard overtook Ronald Jones II in snap % in Week 5 and he's a much better receiver. He could start to see an increase in involvement in the coming weeks and he's on a high-scoring offense.
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