15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 5
It's unfortunate, but one of these intros happens every single year within this column. Without fail.
It's the injury intro.
This is the week I tell you that injuries are awful, and that this part of the game is always obnoxious. This is where I say fantasy football is a game of probability, and there are factors that you can't control. Like an ACL tear.
This is where I tell you that your team can bounce back after losing a starting running back. That you're still not out of it.
And all of that is true. Things change in an instant in fantasy football, and there are always ways to improve your team.
But, man. Injuries really do suck.
Add Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon
With Dalvin Cook sidelined with a torn ACL, the Vikings are going to look to Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray for relief. McKinnon's been used as a change-of-pace back this season, finding the field on a little over 22% of the team's snaps in 2017. Entering Week 4, McKinnon was averaging 2.67 attempts and 3.33 targets per game -- something you'd expect from a back in that type of change-it-up role.
Murray, on the other hand, hasn't seen the field much. Going into their game against the Lions on Sunday, his highest snap rate in a single contest was just 11%. He'd seen no more than three attempts in a game, and he wasn't targeted through the air over Minnesota's first three games.
With that being said, Murray carried the ball seven times on Sunday in relief -- all seven of his touches came after Dalvin Cook's injury. Meanwhile, in a negative script, McKinnon had just two targets and zero carries post-injury. McKinnon did leave the game late for a bit with an ankle injury, but the initial signs point to Murray being, at least, the early-down back in this Cook-less backfield.
That makes sense intuitively as well. Murray has a pedigree -- albeit a very average one -- of being an early-down back, having carried the ball 461 times in 2015 and 2016 with the Raiders. (But be aware that he's still dealing with his ankle injury.)
McKinnon's had just one season of his three in the NFL with a league-average Success Rate, or the percentage of runs that positively impact his team's expected point total. And in a decent-sized role last year (he had 159 carries), he was unable to really do much damage from a fantasy perspective, finishing worse than RB37 (PPR) in four of his seven games with double-digit carries.
There's a different offensive line this year, sure, but McKinnon's unequivocally better suited as a pass-catching back rather than an early-down bruiser.
So how should you handle this off your waiver wire? In standard leagues, you should be aiming for Murray over McKinnon. The bigger-bodied back who ranked sixth in goal line touches last year in just 14 games will almost definitely be getting goal line touches for the Vikings now. McKinnon's a little more attractive in PPR formats, though, and may end up being the better value play in that format if you're using a free agent auction budget system.
This is a mess.
Add Aaron Jones
When comparing Aaron Jones' college production to Jamaal Williams', the former wins in a landslide. In their final collegiate seasons, Jones trumped Williams in rushing and receiving market share in all categories. While it definitely doesn't tell the whole story, college production is still a big deal when prospecting players.
The biggest problem for Jones is that he doesn't profile as an early-down bruiser. Williams runs like he's a bigger-bodied back (even though he kind of isn't), and the Packers saw that, making him the number-two runner in the offense. So when Ty Montgomery left last Thursday night's tilt with a rib injury, Williams was the one who entered the game. Not Jones.
Williams got hurt though, too. And he could miss Week 5.
Now, I'm all about data when it comes to analyzing football and fantasy football, and Jones was better than Williams on that front in Week 4. Jones finished with a 46.15% Success Rate while failing to have a run for negative yardage.
But if you watched the game, it was also pretty clear who the more electric back was -- Williams has been running like he's trapped in mashed potatoes, while Jones looked like he was being shot from a cannon at times.
That's why I'm not convinced a healthy Jamaal Williams is all of a sudden the lead handcuff for Ty Montgomery.
Regardless, it also sounds like Ty Mont's injury isn't all that serious. So even if Williams misses Week 5, and even if Jones is now the better backup in Green Bay, you're more than likely to get just a week or two out of him at best. Don't blow your free agent auction budget on him.
Buy Dez Bryant
Entering the season, Week 5 was always "Buy Dez Bryant" week. The Cowboys' first four games for their top wideout were brutal, going up against the Giants, Broncos, Cardinals, and Rams. Each of those teams has at least one upper-tiered cornerback.
Bryant has still been decent enough in fantasy football with the tough schedule -- in PPR formats, he's a top-20 wide receiver. Most importantly, Dez is seeing close to 29% of the team's targets this year, which is the sixth-best number in football.
He's a buy right now because things finally start to open up. Dallas gets Green Bay and San Francisco over the next two weeks, and a matchup against the Eagles' porous secondary down the road. He'll always see tighter coverage, but arguably the toughest part of his schedule is done. If you can snag him off an owner, go for it. He's a WR1.
Add Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara may be out on your waiver wire still, and he's worth an add if so. He carried the ball just 5 times in New Orleans' win over Miami in London on Sunday morning, but the bigger story is that he totaled 10 targets. Anytime you're getting that type of love from Drew Brees, you've got to pay attention.
Not to be a downer, but I do want to provide a word of caution: if you're relying on Kamara week in and week out, it may be a roller coaster. He played only 35% of the Saints' snaps in Week 4, which is fewer than more than 35 running backs. Mark Ingram still dominated the backfield work with 62% of the team's snaps.
The main reason Kamara was able to do what he did is because he ranked in the top 10 in utilization percentage, or the percentage of snaps played where a back touches the ball on the ground or through the air. Sustaining that type of use is going to be difficult in an offense that's constantly changing personnel.
He's worth an add, but be fair with expectations.
Sell Deshaun Watson
No, no -- I'm not a hater. I'm just an analyst.
Deshaun Watson has balled out, and it's been a thrill to watch. But there are two pieces to this particular transaction this week. The first is game theory-related. Quarterbacks don't really matter a whole lot in fantasy football since most leagues start just one, and there are a ton of usable ones each week. If you have a chance to sell one in exchange for a useful running back or wide receiving asset, for the most part, you should do it. And given Watson's last two performances, it's worth a shot to see how your leaguemates feel about it.
The other side to this is strength of opponent. The goal here isn't to diminish what Watson's done over the last two weeks, because regardless of opponent, he's looked like a brand new quarterback. But we've got to be objective here and realize he faced a New England secondary that's now surrendered at least 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns to every quarterback faced, and a Tennessee pass defense that's given up eight touchdown passes in two games.
Is there a chance Deshaun Watson is a plug-and-play option for the rest of the season thanks to his running game prowess? Sure, that's in his range of outcomes. But is it possible that facing the Chiefs, Seahawks, Rams, Cardinals, and Ravens in five of his next seven games could make him more of a streaming option? Of course.
Remember, it's a game of probability.
Add Devin Funchess
Devin Funchess -- a name casual football fans probably don't think is real -- has a 23.73% target market share and 216 receiving yards on the season. Those are both numbers you see out of a WR2 in fantasy football. And Funchess is a WR2 in fantasy football, silently ranking just outside the top 20 at the position in PPR leagues this year.
He was mentioned in this column two weeks ago as someone who'd benefit from Greg Olsen's injury, and so far, so good. In two games without Olsen, Funchess has 128 yards, a pair of scores, and a hefty 30.65% target market share. He's worth an add off the waiver wire.
Add Wayne Gallman
The Giants' run game is a known disaster, and the troubles start with the offensive line. So any running back trotting behind it is going to more than likely have inefficient days.
Still, rookie Wayne Gallman made his debut on Sunday, and he ran the ball 11 times for 42 yards, adding a pair of catches for 8 more yards and a score. Not bad for the kid's first game of his career.
Gallman didn't pop as a prospect analytically, coming into the league as a below-average athlete with below-average market share numbers. But Paul Perkins has shown us very little this year -- on 32 rushes, he has a 12.50% Success Rate. I can't even begin to tell you how horrendous that is.
The G-Men ran the ball 25 times with their running backs against the Buccaneers, so Gallman had a 44.00% rushing attempt share in the offense. And he played the most snaps of any back (39%). Things should only improve from here.
Buy Wendell Smallwood
You could consider this one of the funkier transactions of this week's column, but I'm kind of intrigued by Wendell Smallwood's usage in Week 4. It was the first game the Eagles started this year without Darren Sproles, and Smallwood ended it playing 44% of the team's snaps and carrying the ball 10 times. He also saw six targets from quarterback Carson Wentz.
And this was in a game where the Eagles held the lead. In Eagles' wins, we should expect a little more LeGarrette Blount. Yes, Blount carried the ball 16 times, but he played 9 fewer snaps.
If you were unsure heading into this past weekend, Week 4 showed us that Smallwood is indeed going to play the Sproles role in this offense. That brought a really nice floor to PPR formats last year -- Sproles had 8 top-24 performances, which was hit by only 15 other fantasy running backs in 2016.
To buy Smallwood, approach the owner in your league who has him, and sell the Blount narrative. Blount, after all, carried the ball more than Smallwood did. And then send off some of your bench depth for what could be a usable running back this year.
Add Andre Ellington
Like the Giants, the Cardinals have real offensive line issues. Carson Palmer was hit 16 times on Sunday, which was the highest number of hits a quarterback took in football in Week 4. It's been a constant trend.
One way to mask a poor offensive line is through quick dump-offs and shorter passes. This doesn't fit the MO of a Bruce Arians offense, but Palmer's going to need a security blanket out of the backfield this season without David Johnson there, and that could end up being Andre Ellington.
To be fair, Ellington's been lining up all over the field, not just in the backfield. Regardless, among all NFL backs since Week 2 -- the week after David Johnson's big injury -- Ellington's run the second-most passing routes, per Pro Football Focus. And he played 54% of Arizona's snaps on Sunday, leading the Cardinals' backfield.
Carson Palmer is currently pacing to break the NFL's passing attempt record, meaning there are plenty of looks to go around in that offense. Another 14-target game probably won't happen for Ellington again this year, but he could be a nice flex option in PPR leagues from here on out.
Add Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy
Another sad injury that occurred this weekend happened on Sunday night, as Chris Carson went down in a brutal way against the Colts. Just when Carson grabbed hold of the early-down gig in the Seattle backfield, bad luck hits. Such a shame.
They're going to replace said early-down work with a combination of Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls. While it'll be a split backfield, I know anyone reading this right now is wondering which one of the two they should target more heavily. My answer to that is not a confident one, but I'd go with Rawls. We've seen him work in this system -- albeit in a small sample size -- and Pete Carroll had an interesting quote about Rawls, who was a healthy scratch in Week 4, after Sunday's game, saying, "With Chris being banged up, we’re so fortunate to have Thomas ready to jump back out there... We’re just lucky that we have a guy like that who’s ready to go and is healthy and all that.”
You can take that in a million different ways, but some reporters are thinking that it's a hint that Rawls will see the most work in the backfield. It shouldn't shock anyone if it's completely split up, though, making both Rawls and Lacy less enticing off the waiver wire this week.
Hold Jay Ajayi
While Jay Cutler is playing like he should've stayed off the football field, a big portion of the team's offensive woes can be blamed on the line. Because it's a line that suffered multiple injuries leading up to the start of the season. It's a mess.
In turn, the hope with Ajayi is that the group can start to gel together since it's sort of a makeshift one. And over the next two weeks, the Dolphins get plus offensive matchups against the Titans and Falcons while finally getting a true home game in Miami. Ajayi's also still seeing over 82% of the team's rushing attempts, which is the best market share in the league.
It wouldn't make much sense to sell him low.
Add Jacoby Brissett
Quarterback streaming is a dumpster fire this week, but Jacoby Brissett's in an interesting spot against the 49ers in Indianapolis. Brissett's averaging five deep ball tosses (15-plus air yard throws) per game this year, and on those throws, he's got a 107.9 quarterback rating. That's a top-10 number in the league.
San Francisco not only ranks below average in terms of fantasy points against to quarterbacks, but they're top-10 in deep balls allowed and touchdowns thrown via the big play.
In Brissett's lone plus matchup (at home against Cleveland in Week 3), he was able to throw for 259 yards and a score while also finding the end zone on the ground twice with his legs. We shouldn't predict that again, but it shows that there is production to be had from him. And maybe he connects with deep-ball specialist T.Y. Hilton in this one given the matchup?
Like I said, it's a rough week for quarterback streaming. There could be more traditional options on your waiver wire, but if you want to dig deeper, Brissett's not in a bad place.
Buy DeSean Jackson
The Buccaneers have played just three games, but DeSean Jackson has nine deep ball targets. Only 11 wide receivers have more. That's only translated to one useful fantasy football performance since he's connected on just three of those passes this year.
The good news is that things could change over the next two weeks. Week 5 features DJax at home against a Patriots defense that's allowed the most passing yards in the league. They've also given up the fifth-most yards per play on throws that travel 15 or more yards through the air.
Then, in Week 6, Tampa Bay will face the Cardinals. The matchup may not look good on paper, but Jackson will undoubtedly be matched up a lot against Justin Bethel. Competent number-two wide receivers have done work against Bethel this year, as we watched Kenny Golladay post a WR5 performance in Week 1 and Brice Butler with a WR23 game in Week 3.
You shouldn't have to give up a lot to acquire Jackson. And the payoff could be big over the next two weeks. Sometimes that's how you have to play -- and win -- in fantasy football.
Add Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Since returning to the football field this year, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has 10 targets, 9 catches, and 77 yards in two games. That's nothing to write home about, but he's seeing 18.52% of New York's targets over this time, which is noteworthy at the tight end position.
And in Week 5, ASJ has the matchup you dream of for tight ends. Cleveland allowed the top tight end performance in the league to Jesse James in Week 1, the fourth-best one to Benjamin Watson in Week 2, and, this past week, Tyler Kroft scored a pair of touchdowns against them. It's clearly a weakness for a, well, weak defense, and ASJ has a chance to take advantage of it as a streaming tight end this weekend.
Add the New York Jets Defense
I don't love streaming a road defense, and I definitely don't love streaming a below-average road defense. But it's tough to ignore the New York Jets against a Cleveland Browns squad that's allowed at least one sack, eight quarterback hits, and one interception in each game this season. The over-under in the game in Cleveland is set at just 39, giving the Jets a floor that'll be much more reliable than normal.