Fantasy Football Quick Hits
- Week 6 Yays: Russell Wilson (QB9), Najee Harris (RB12), Rondale Moore (WR17), Russell Gage (WR21)
- Week 6 Nays: Joe Burrow (QB16), Jeff Wilson Jr. (RB24), A.J. Brown (WR10), Tyreek Hill (WR22)
- Key Data Point: Jalen Hurts is averaging 12.52 fantasy points per game…rushing the ball.
Let’s do an exercise we did last year.
Carson Wentz, Brian Robinson, Terry McLaurin and the Washington Commanders kicked off Week 6 with a win over the Chicago Bears after Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney couldn’t connect at the goal line with 30 seconds remaining.
Meaning that at the conclusion of this week, we’ll be a third of the way through the season, so it’s a good time to take a step back and look at the big picture.
Here are six numbers that have defined the fantasy football season, beginning with the No. 1 PPR running back.
That’s how many receptions Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers has recorded through five weeks, pacing the running back position.
In 2019, he finished second among running backs in receptions. Ditto in 2021 when he finished just behind Najee Harris. 2020 was an injury-plagued year for Ekeler, but he still finished second in receptions per game.
What he’s doing this season is nothing new and clearly sustainable. Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are RBs 2, 3, and 4, respectively, and that trio also leads the NFL in rushing yards – in that same order.
Of those four and because of his pass catching prowess, Ekeler is the most likely to remain a top-four running back.
That’s how many fantasy points Jalen Hurts is accumulating this season…on the ground! For comparison sakes, Lamar Jackson averages over 2.5 points per game less than that running the rock.
He’s essentially RB19 and oh yeah, he’s still a quarterback who ranks second in the NFL in yards per attempt.
The Philadelphia Eagles are 5-0 thanks in large part to Hurts, who has four top-four weekly finishes through five weeks despite not having a passing touchdown in two of those performances. This week, playing an extremely stingy Dallas Cowboys defense, Hurts’ escapability facing Micah Parsons and that excellent pass rush will be key to putting up enough points to hand Cooper Rush his first NFL loss.
That’s how many passing yards Josh Allen is averaging this season. Only two quarterbacks have ever managed to surpass that total over the course of the entire season and they did it in two of the most iconic quarterback seasons in recent history – Peyton Manning in 2011 and Drew Brees in 2013.
The Buffalo Bills have been a juggernaut this season, ranking second in both points scored and points allowed. Allen is the ringleader. The Bills play five of the top 12 scoring teams in the next six weeks, so there’s going to be increased opportunity for Allen to rack up even more passing yards. He has usurped Patrick Mahomes and is clearly the No. 1 fantasy quarterback for the rest of the season, beginning this week against Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s how many targets Marquise Brown has through five games. Only Cooper Kupp has more. With his massive workload, Brown has seriously outperformed his average draft position, entering this week as WR6.
Even more essentially, he’s provided elite consistency. Brown’s worst performance this season is 12.8 points and his average of 19.8 is more than Justin Jefferson averaged last season. And speaking of Jefferson, only the five best-of-the-best wide receivers (Cooper Kupp, Jefferson, Stefon Diggs, Ja’Marr Chase and Davante Adams) and Tyreek Hill have more burns, which measure how often a targeted receiver does his part to achieve a successful play, than Brown.
The question is going to be, upon DeAndre Hopkins’ return, can Brown continue to provide elite wide receiver value? With four straight games with double-digit targets, until the Arizona Cardinals offense re-distributes its targets, Brown is a must start.
That’s how many points the San Francisco 49ers defense has allowed in the first half of games this season. That’s 12 points in 10 quarters! The Niners have only allowed two offensive touchdowns in their last four games and they’re first in the NFL in yards allowed per play.
The only good fantasy performances that have come against the Niners have been because of extreme volume. Kupp averaged only 8.7 yards per catch but had 14 receptions offsetting the need for a touchdown. Christian McCaffrey averaged less than five yards per touch, but scored a touchdown and had 21 total touches, including seven receptions, which was three more than D.J. Moore.
The Niners defense is a ferocious unit that’s mostly been carrying Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense. If you have any Atlanta Falcons on your roster, including quarterback Marcus Mariota, they probably belong on your bench.
That’s how many times a tight end (not including whatever Taysom Hill is) has scored more than 20 points in a week. Six of those have come from either Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews.
There is no doubt about it, those two remain the class of the position, leaps and bounds above any other tight end. Andrews holds a 26-point lead over the third-highest scoring tight end, T.J Hockenson, which is the same as the gap between Hockenson and TE14.
Kyle Pitts was supposed to enter this elite tier. But just like last year, it’s a tier of two. And if you have Andrews or Kelce, you enter every matchup with a significant weekly advantage.
As always, let’s jump around and evaluate some Week 6 projections gathered from some of the top data-driven projections available using our AI-powered model. Refer back to our fantasy football rankings for any questionable waiver wire or lineup decisions.
Week 6 Yays
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from FantasyPros. These rankings update throughout the week (We pulled these numbers from Friday.). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Russell Wilson, QB (DEN) vs. LAC (ECR: 13, Our Rank: 9, Projected Points: 17.78)
There is no sugarcoating it, Wilson has had a miserable start to his Denver Broncos tenure. Not only in real life, where his Broncos offense has scored the third-fewest points this season, but also in fantasy where he has more games scoring fewer than 12 points than games in which he has surpassed that number.
It’s barely believable, but his numbers are even worse than that. Wilson’s 59.4% completion rate ranks 28th among qualified quarterbacks and his touchdown percentage of 2.4 is 29th. His career quarterback rating of 101.1 is fourth all time, higher than quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. His passer rating in a Broncos uniform? 82.8.
But that changes this week against a compromised Los Angeles Chargers defense without star defensive end Joey Bosa that’s allowing the third-most points. It’s the same defense that gave up 38 points to Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and the Jacksonville Jaguars in its last home game.
Expect Melvin Gordon to have a big day on the ground against a weak Chargers rushing defense and look for that to open things up for Wilson and the passing game. Our model likes Wilson’s chances of finishing in the top 10 for just a second time this season, directly ahead of quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and Justin Herbert.
Najee Harris, RB (PIT) vs. TB (ECR: 20, Our Rank: 12, PP: 13.90)
If Ekeler is RB1 because of his pass catching prowess, then Harris is RB27 because he’s gone from leading NFL running backs in catches to averaging less than three receptions per game with Kenny Pickett now at the helm.
And while Harris received so much volume that he stormed his way to an RB3 finish last year, he’s yet to have a game this season with more than 20 touches. That’s a major problem because when he’s had the ball in his hands, the results have been dreadful. Among all qualified players, Harris ranks third to last in yards per carry.
Harris also ranks 138th out of 141 qualified players in yards per reception and because he’s only scored two touchdowns, he’s yet to score 15 points in a single game this season.
But our model likes his chances of nearing, or exceeding, that total against a defense that without Ndamukong Suh has gone from dominant against the run to merely average. Fifteen carries and a few receptions should be enough of a floor to start Harris, and a touchdown would vault him to low-end RB1 status.
He hasn’t been good, but he’s worthy of a start this week.
Rondale Moore, WR (ARI) vs. SEA (ECR: 38, Our Rank: 17, PP: 13.70)
If he looks familiar, it’s because he was a Yay last week. If he doesn’t look familiar in this spot, you’re missing out. His ECR was 69 last week, but we highlighted him as the player our model thought the industry was most wrong about. And even though our model had Moore aggressively placed as WR29, he even surpassed that against a strong Philadelphia Eagles defense on his way to a WR24 finish.
That’s caused the industry to recalibrate Moore’s chances for this week, resulting in his ECR moving up more than 30 spots. But even that’s still not high enough. Moore checks in as our WR17 because the Cardinals make a concerted effort to get him the ball each week. Expect more of the same this week. With starting running back James Conner out and backup Eno Benjamin likely getting the start, look for Arizona to use Moore on quick throws to be an extension of its running game.
Of course, he also gets to play a team who has allowed at least 27 points in four straight games in the Seattle Seahawks. Due to the suddenly exciting quarterback matchup between Geno Smith and Kyler Murray, this game has one of the highest over/unders in Vegas and Moore is on track to be a primary recipient.
He’s a strong candidate to start this week.
Russell Gage, WR (TB) vs. PIT (ECR: 51, Our Rank: 21, PP: 13.10)
The model is going out on a limb on this one as Gage has produced two straight games with only two receptions. But there are some underlying numbers that indicate a positive regression to the mean is upcoming.
For starters, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in percentage of pass snaps played and actually had the same number of targets as Chris Godwin last week. He just wasn’t able to convert his opportunities. And just as meaningful, this week he gets a Pittsburgh Steelers team that’s been horrendous against wide receivers and and will be without their top three cornerbacks and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The Steelers have already allowed nine receivers to surpass 50 yards receiving in a game, including five that have exploded for at least 100 yards and a touchdown. They’ve also allowed nine touchdowns to wideouts. Tom Brady and his host of receivers are set to take advantage and as long as Julio Jones is out for this game, Gage should be in consideration for your Flex spot this week.
Week 6 Nays
Joe Burrow, QB (CIN) vs. NO (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 16, PP: 15.50)
Burrow – one of six quarterbacks to score 100 fantasy points through five weeks – has had a strong start despite not having Tee Higgins, one of his most trusted targets for stretches of the season.
One of the main reasons for early success is the Cincinnati Bengals’ success on third down. Burrow and the offense have successfully converted 45.8% of their third down attempts this season, managing to stay on the field and turn that production into points at the end of drives. Well, the New Orleans Saints have been even stingier as a defensive unit. They’re getting off the field at the second-best rate in football, in part because they’ve allowed the fewest passing first downs through five weeks.
With fewer opportunities, Burrow will likely need at least two touchdowns to come close to a top-10 finish. But he’s only scored more than two touchdowns in one game this season. You’re probably playing him, but it would be wise to temper expectations.
Burrow is just a mid-QB2 this week according to our projections, with the 4-1 New York Giants’ Daniel Jones – coming off a scintillating London win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers – and Jacoby Brissett of the Cleveland Browns against the New England Patriots among the better options and Matt Ryan of the Indianapolis Colts being right on his heels.
Jeff Wilson Jr., RB (SF) vs. ATL (ECR: 13, Our Rank: 24, PP: 10.01)
The theme for running backs this week has been receptions and Wilson only has one in his last two games despite also having 35 total carries.
When dealing with running backs of that ilk (backs who rely almost entirely on the ground game to produce fantasy points), touchdowns become essential. Chubb is RB2 so far because he leads the NFL in touchdowns. Joe Mixon is RB15 because despite ranking fourth in the NFL in rush attempts, he only has one rushing touchdown.
Essentially, your decision about starting Wilson comes down to whether you think he’s going to score a touchdown. Our model is skeptical, as the Falcons have only allowed three rushing touchdowns to running backs all season.
A.J. Brown, WR (PHI) vs. DAL (ECR: 7, Our Rank: 10, PP: 14.70)
The first of two excellent wide receivers to make our Nay list, Brown has been an essential component of the Eagles’ 5-0 start. He’s also been mostly boom or bust.
Due to a combination of focusing on the run and getting other weapons like Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert involved, Brown has not had more than five receptions in a game since Week 1. Brown has only scored one touchdown and only put together one 100-yard effort. As a result, his best finish since Week 1 was WR13 and that Week 3 performance was his only time finishing in the top 20.
And as a cherry on top, he’s likely to be matched up with Trevon Diggs quite a bit, facing a Cowboys defense that has yet to allow more than one passing touchdown in a game this season. We’re projecting him to finish on the edge of the top 10, but our model is slowly becoming less enamored with Brown.
Tyreek Hill, WR (MIA) vs. MIN (ECR: 9, Our Rank: 22, PP: 13.00)
Hill is on this list because his quarterback is a guy most people outside of Manhattan, Kansas, have never heard of before he had to replace Teddy Bridgewater last week – seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson.
“The Cheetah” has three games this season with at least 12 targets. In those games, Hill has averaged 28.6 points per game. In his two games with fewer than 12 targets, he’s averaged 9.15 points. Now, you may think otherwise, but our model thinks Hill is unlikely to receive even close to 12 targets in this game.
It’s hard to bench a player literally nicknamed after the fastest land animal in the world. But with the Miami Dolphins on their third-string quarterback and a run game that produced lofty numbers with Thompson under center last week (despite losing to Zach Wilson’s New York Jets), Hill is a relatively risky WR2 play against the Minnesota Vikings.