We’re deep enough into the NFL season to take stock of the big picture and see if we can identify some interesting patterns.
Here are six numbers that help explain some of the early season fantasy football trends, starting with the top overall player in PPR points through five weeks.
That’s how many touches (carries and receptions) Derrick Henry has received so far. To put that in perspective, he has more touches than the entire running back position from… 27 other teams!
Spelled out another way, if you combined all the touches from Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard, Royce Freeman and Rodney Smith, the Carolina Panthers running backs have 154.
It’s a shocking number. It also explains exactly why Henry is the No. 1 fantasy player to this point. Henry is only averaging 0.86 fantasy points per touch. Austin Ekeler, the No. 2 PPR running back, is averaging 1.33 fantasy points per touch. Henry will only remain the top guy in fantasy footall if he continues to receive a stunning amount of volume.
That’s how many passing yards Tom Brady was on pace for through five weeks. How does a quarterback with limited mobility begin Week 6 as QB1? How about by throwing for 350 yards per game and not having an interception since Week 1.
Yes, this would be an NFL record for passing yards. By a lot. It’s not going to continue. Brady threw for 297 yards in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, and now he is on pace for 5,848. He also threw an interception. Unless Brady continues to throw for an outrageous number of yards, he will likely be overtaken for QB1 at the end of the year by…
That’s how many more passing yards Lamar Jackson has than… Patrick Mahomes. That total is in addition to Jackson being on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards for the third straight season. The overall yardage output is so overwhelming that Jackson is QB3 on the year despite only accounting for 10 touchdowns.
Mahomes is QB2 on the back of 17 touchdowns. If Jackson’s touchdowns ever pick up, watch out. He could challenge his stunning fantasy output from 2019.
Loyal readers might guess that this number is here to depict Jakobi Meyers’ career touchdowns. While that’s unfortunately still accurate, in this case, we’re highlighting the total number of touchdowns this season from Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds.
Despite being 18th in the NFL rushing yards and fourth among running backs in receptions, he’s the only RB in the top 25 in PPR fantasy points without a touchdown. Edmonds just needs a few touchdowns the rest of the way to potentially challenge a top-10 finish this season in an extremely fantasy friendly offense.
That’s how many PPR points the Cleveland Browns running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have combined for. If we just pretended this player was Nick Hunt or Kareem Chubb, not only would they be the top overall player in fantasy this season, they’d have 41.7 points more than Henry.
Well this week, Hunt gets that opportunity. Chubb has been ruled out with a calf injury, making Hunt the solo act in the Cleveland backfield. And seeing as Hunt is first in the NFL in yards after contact per rush (Chubb is sixth – fifth among running backs), he is a strong candidate to finish among the top three running backs in Week 6.
Last year, they combined for 426.2 fantasy points. They finished as RBs 10 and 11. This year, Hunt is sixth and Chubb is 12th. This is two straight years of special production from the Cleveland backfield. No reason to think this won’t continue. They’re both in the running for a top-10 finish this year.
That’s how many targets Davante Adams is seeing per game. It’s the most since Julio Jones’ absurd 2015 season, when he finished with 136 receptions and 1,871 receiving yards on 12.7 targets per game.
Adams is WR4 because he’s only scored two touchdowns through five games. But he’s scored at least 10 touchdowns in four of his last five seasons. The touchdowns will come and with this type of opportunity, Adams is the best bet to finish as the top non-QB in fantasy this season.
As always, let’s jump around and evaluate some Week 6 projections gathered from some of the top data-driven projections available using several of our AI-powered models. We’ll get into some yays and nays before highlighting a few DFS value plays.
Note: The ranking to which we compare ours in this piece is the expert consensus ranking (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Friday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB (PIT) vs. SEA (ECR: 22, Our Rank: 7): Roethlisberger? Really? Look, we get it. He scored 16.02 points against the Denver Broncos last week and it was his highest output of the season. As a result, he finished as QB18 in Week 5, which also happened to be his best weekly finish on the season. It’s been a real struggle.
But this is the week he gets to turn it around. He gets to play the Seattle Seahawks, who are one of three teams allowing 300 passing yards per game (305.6). Seattle has allowed at least 345 passing yards or three passing touchdowns in each of its last four weeks. And that works well for a Pittsburgh team that likes to throw the ball.
Big Ben ranks sixth in the NFL in passing attempts (195). With wide receivers who should be able to take advantage of a weak crop of Seahawks cornerbacks, look for Roethlisberger to finally score 20 points. He’s a top-10 play this week.
Josh Jacobs, RB (LV) vs. DEN (ECR: 16, Our Rank: 12): Last week, we said that even though Denver’s defense is strong, Najee Harris was likely to have a good week because of the volume he was going to get. Rinse and repeat, but substitute Jacobs for Harris.
In his first two games back from injury, Jacobs received 18 and 19 touches. In his last eight games in which he’s received at least 15 touches, Jacobs has averaged 17 fantasy points per game (16.99). And in his two games against the Vic-Fangio led Broncos defense last year, Jacobs notched 50.5 fantasy points.
He’s projected for 19 touches. In this AFC West showdown, Jacobs looks like a good bet to outperform his ECR. He’s a solid RB2 for this week.
Alex Collins, RB (SEA) vs. PIT (ECR: 31, Our Rank: 25): As of now, Chris Carson is questionable to play. Assuming he can’t suit up, Collins immediately enters the low-end RB2 discussion.
Unfortunately, with Russell Wilson injured, the Seahawks are likely to attempt to run the ball more in an effort to shorten the game. Last week, Collins received 15 carries. His two catches on top of that were in the fourth quarter when Geno Smith was leading the offense. Even though he was only able to produce 4.23 yards per touch, that sort of volume alone is enough to carry him to fantasy relevance.
It’s not an eye-opening or sexy play. But if Carson remains out, Collins has a proven track record of being able to produce out of the backfield. Collins plays in the Sunday night game, so make sure you have a backup option either from this game or the Monday night game to play in case Carson is healthy enough to go and it’s not announced until game time.
UPDATE: The Seahawks have placed Carson on the IR, so Collins is officially a go as a low-end RB2 in fantasy lineups.
Diontae Johnson, WR (PIT) vs. SEA (ECR: 11, Our Rank: 3): Our model likes Roethlisberger this week because of the advantage the Steelers have on the outside. Which means it also likes his top target. Johnson is eighth in the NFL in receptions per game (6.3) as a byproduct of being the recipient of 9.3 targets per game.
He’s scored at least 14 points in every game he’s played and now with JuJu Smith-Schuster injured, Johnson is likely to see an uptick in targets. Meanwhile, Seattle has allowed an average of 246.7 receiving yards and four total touchdowns to wide receivers over the last three weeks.
Our model projects Johnson to finish with the second most targets of any player this week. He has a strong chance of finishing with at least 20 points and ending as a top five play of the week.
Kyler Murray, QB (ARI) vs. CLE (ECR: 4, Our Rank: 11): Look, Murray has been great in leading his Cardinals to the only unbeaten record remaining in the NFL. But from a fantasy perspective, he’s only averaged 18.27 fantasy points over the last three weeks after recording 33-point outings in the first two weeks.
This week, he heads on the road to face a Browns defense that, despite getting torched by Justin Herbert and the Chargers last week, still ranks in the top 10 in yards allowed per pass play (6.13). And critically, since much of Murray’s value comes from his running, the Browns have yet to allow 30 rushing yards to a quarterback this season despite facing mobile quarterbacks like Justin Herbert, Justin Fields and Patrick Mahomes.
There’s no question, this is our model’s most shocking call of the week. We are projecting Roethlisberger, who has yet to even score 18.27 fantasy points in a single week, to outscore Murray. Let’s see how it plays out.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB (DAL) vs. NE (ECR: 3, Our Rank: 14): Something interesting has happened as Elliott has powered his way to an excellent start on the season as RB5 through five weeks. He has become nearly non-existent in the passing game.
He has recorded at least 50 catches in each of his last three seasons, including a career-high 77 in 2018. With only nine through five games, Elliott isn’t close to matching that pace. His start has been solely predicated on production on the ground, which may be tougher to come by against a stout New England Patriots front seven. Its 3.80 average yards allowed per carry ranks sixth in the NFL, and New England has only allowed one running back to finish a week in the top 10 in points (Alvin Kamara was 10th in Week 3).
Zeke is one of those players that fantasy managers are starting no matter the matchup. But with an ECR projecting him to finish in the top three, our models find it more likely he finishes outside the top 10.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR (CIN) vs. DET (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 21): Chase can’t catch a football. Can’t be a wide receiver in the NFL and not be able to catch the ball. Drop him and pick up someone else.
Remember, when that was a thing, in the preseason? A funny thing happened. Turns out, it wasn’t smart to judge a rookie who didn’t play football last year, again, in the preseason. Chase is WR8 through five weeks. And he may be one of the frontrunners for offensive rookie of the year.
However, there are some signs that elements of this start may be unsustainable. Only 12 players over the last five years have finished the season with more than five 20-yard touchdown receptions. Of Chase’s five touchdowns overall, four have been 20 or more yards. Furthermore, of the 12 wide receivers with at least four touchdowns, Chase’s 23 receptions are second fewest.
Relying on big play touchdowns isn’t a recipe for fantasy success. With Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins around as well, Chase doesn’t receive the number of targets usually reserved for a player in the top 10. Even against the porous Detroit Lions defense, Chase is a WR2 this week.
Best DFS Value Plays
Chuba Hubbard, RB (CAR) vs. MIN (DK Price: 4,500): Hubbard got 29 touches last week. Don’t overthink this, folks. With McCaffrey out for one more week, Hubbard is once again a great DFS play.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR (BUF) vs. TEN (DK Price: 4,000): Another player who’s appeared on this list before, Sanders is priced like a player who hasn’t yet had a good week. In fact, he costs 200 less than Darnell Mooney this week. On the year, Sanders is WR21. Mooney is WR55. And in case you hadn’t heard, Sanders’ quarterback is Josh Allen. Sanders is once again a top-three value play.
Michael Pittman Jr, WR (IND) vs. HOU (DK Price: 4,300): Kind of quietly, Pittman has begun the year with real consistency, resulting in being WR25 through five weeks. He’s recorded at least six catches in his last four outings and his lowest PPR output during that stretch is 11.9. Facing the Houston Texans this week, our projections suggest Pittman’s chances of making it five straight weeks are strong. He’s a solid DFS option this week.
Design by Matt Sisneros.