Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 5
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart owners learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward.
Rookie Wide Receiver Boom Continues
CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson unlocked the doors and turned on the lights at the rookie wide receiver party a few weeks ago, but several other rookies have showed up fashionably late the past couple weeks to make sure the party doesn't slow down anytime soon.
In Week 5, Lamb, Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool, and Laviska Shenault all ranked in the top 25 wide receivers for half-point per reception scoring, assuring there would be at least seven rookie pass-catchers in the top 50 fantasy scorers through five weeks of the season.
The rookie class explosion doesn't just extend to fantasy points, as six of Pro Football Focus' 50 highest graded receivers -- at least a 70.0 grade -- are rookies, with three others (Brandon Aiyuk (69.8), Tee Higgins (68.8), and Jerry Jeudy (68.8)) just missing the cut.
As the season began, there were high levels of doubt that rookie receivers would be able to make immediate impact with limited off-season reps, no preseason games, and little time to develop rapports with their quarterbacks. We knew the class was talented, but the transition to game-ready NFL status is not always an easy one.
Those concerns are now out the window as this draft class is proving to be the most talented since at least 2017.
In terms of actionable info, the FAB wallet will have to be opened wide for Claypool this week after his four-touchdown week. With his recent play, he should overtake James Washington as a starting wide receiver in the very near future. But there are still plenty of strong options widely available.
The following players are all rostered in less than 60% of Yahoo leagues: Higgins (53%), Ruggs (44%), Shenault (34%), Claypool (17%), Bryan Edwards (4%), and Gabriel Davis (at least a touchdown or 85 yards in three straight games - 2%).
Go get 'em.
Tight Ends, However, Continue to Torture Us
Based on where tight ends were drafted back in August and September, there are only a handful of managers who are feeling good about a tight end selection made in the top 10 rounds.
Here are the top 15 tight ends by 2020 average draft position (ADP) and where they rank through Week 5 in half-point per reception fantasy scoring:
|Tight End||ADP||TE Fantasy Points|
|Jonnu Smith||12.12||7th (plays Tuesday)|
Even players like Tyler Higbee whose fantasy output aligns well with draft position have reason for concern. Higbee's aggregate fantasy points are propped up by one three-touchdown game, and he saw his target share drop to under 7% on Sunday while Gerald Everett's number grew to 14%.
Similarly, Jared Cook's target share has fallen each week this year, and he saw less than 7% of targets as well in Week 5.
Of the top 10 fantasy producers at the position this season, three went undrafted: Robert Tonyan, Jimmy Graham, and Dalton Schultz. It seems as though the reliable number of solid tight end options continues to shrink, and the position screams out to be drafted late or go with a streaming strategy.
Tight ends who are widely available and might provide future production include: Trey Burton (18% target share since Jack Doyle injury), Austin Hooper (26% target share each of the last two weeks), and Cameron Brate (saw a 15% target share with O.J. Howard out for the year).
And by all means, if the GOAT Robert Tonyan is available (first in fantasy points this year), go acquire his services.
No Clear Answers in Rams Backfield
In Week 5, each of the three running backs for the Rams (Akers, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson) received at least eight rush attempts, and none was able to muster even 14% target share on the week. This is shaping up to be a constant headache for fantasy managers by way of an unpredictable backfield -- which is exactly how Sean McVey wants it.
Through five games, only once has a running back who led the team in rushing attempts the prior week also led them in their next game.
Just when you thought it might be clear who would be catching passes out of the backfield (Brown had a 19% target share in Week 4), Henderson led the running backs with 14% of targets against the Washington Football Team. Maddening.
The snap count also doesn't shed any more light on the subject.
Rams RB snaps in Week 5:
Darrell Henderson 29
Malcolm Brown 26
Cam Akers 13
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) October 12, 2020
Akers returned from injury this week and did have the highest rush attempts per snap count of the group (9 carries in only 13 snaps), so perhaps they are bringing him back slowly in hopes that he turns out to be the dominant rusher they drafted him to be.
The Rams have turned into a much heavier run team this year, rushing on 51% of their offensive plays, so how this sorts out is something to monitor. But until it does, it's a mess fantasy managers should avoid.