Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 5
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Derrick Henry was the RB1 in all of fantasy in 0.5 PPR in 2020, but Henry himself only had three weeks as the top fantasy scorer. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may lead the league in fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's NFL games.
(All predictions are for half-PPR and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks.)
1. Leonard Fournette Finishes as a Top-10 Running Back
"Playoff Lenny", meet "Bellcow Lenny".
Leonard Fournette was a crucial cog to Tampa Bay's Super Bowl win last season, but he entered this season in a crowded backfield with Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard. Unfortunately, Bernard now has a knee injury he suffered in Week 3, and he has yet to practice with it to this point.
In Bernard's absence, Fournette shined as a solo act. He played 81% of snaps and saw 77% of the team's carries in Week 4 against New England, and that workload immediately thrusts him into top-tier running back consideration in an offense this efficient. He totaled 30 adjusted opportunities (carries plus double targets) overall.
Jones scored the lone rushing touchdown in that contest, which still allows for a buy-low on Fournette in terms of overall fantasy points. His Week 5 date is with the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed the third-most Adjusted Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play this season (0.11). The soft matchup in combination with Fournette's best workload as Tom Brady's right-hand man should boon him into the top-10 running backs overall, and he is a must-start in just about every format.
2. Trevor Lawrence Posts His First Career Top-15 Week at Quarterback
Trevor Lawrence has lost more games in the NFL than his entire high school and collegiate career combined, and he just lost one of his top receiving options to a broken ankle. What better time to buy?
The 0-4 Jaguars now use the extra rest from their Week 4 game on Thursday to prepare for the Tennessee Titans. Luckily for Lawrence, the blueprint on how to grab his first career win was just laid by Zach Wilson and the Jets, and it revolves around pummeling Tennesee's terrible defense.
The Titans are now the worst defensive unit in the NFL according to numberFire, as they have allowed 0.27 Adjusted NEP per play. Coming off a week where Lawrence put together his best week in terms of Passing NEP per drop back (0.27), the timing seems right for the talented rookie.
Lawrence scoring his first top-15 standing is not that bold of a prediction if he continues his rushing. He carried it 8 times for 36 yards and a score against the Bengals. He was only 2.54 fantasy points away from Matthew Stafford in 15th this week, and the Titans' defense should not limit Lawrence through the air nearly as much as Cincinnati did. The Titans are giving up 293.5 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, which would not even exceed Lawrence's high-water mark on the season.
3. Alvin Kamara Scores a Rushing Touchdown
Predicting a score for talented Saints running back appears bolder than ever, even though this prediction is clearly tongue-in-cheek.
Kamara has yet to find the end zone despite a career-high 78 carries through the first four weeks in one of the strangest first-round running back seasons in recent memory. Kamara was drafted on his pass-catching upside, but only has 14 targets in four games. That has significantly capped his ability to score fantasy points without touchdowns and has his drafters likely nervous.
The problem is, Kamara should be finding the end zone far more than he is. And, surprisingly, that does not have as much to do with Taysom Hill as one might think. Kamara has received 13 red-zone carries but has zero scores. In 2020, Kamara had 42 total red-zone carries and turned them into 15 touchdowns. One of the league's most efficient red-zone rushers has had his production come to a standstill.
Is it Kamara's fleeting ability? His -0.08 Rushing NEP per carry (ranks 41st amongst running backs with 10+ carries) and 43.75% rushing success rate (33rd) is not optimal, but there are still backs like Dalvin Cook and Najee Harris behind him in both marks still finding the endzone.
In a forgiving matchup with Washington, who has allowed the fourth-most Adjusted Defensive NEP per play (0.19), the bet is that New Orleans makes a concerted effort to get the ball in Kamara's hands at the goal line and get him a confidence boost.
4. Evan Engram and Dalton Schultz Finish as Top-10 Tight Ends
Tight end is somewhat of an abyss, so any resemblance of a solid third option at tight end in that player's offense feels like finding a twenty-dollar bill on the ground.
The Giants/Cowboys game might be a missing wallet with a pair of twenties inside. Dalton Schultz and Evan Engram had great Week 4 roles that should translate to a solid Week 5 in this high-scoring matchup.
Schultz is particularly obvious because he is the TE4 in half-PPR formats thus far. Still, his peripherals of a 23.0% target share the past three games (tied with CeeDee Lamb) in combination with an 81.8% route rate on Sunday indicate his role is here to stay while Michael Gallup recovers from his calf injury. The Giants allow the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends, so the matchup here is not brutal, and it is hard to imagine the subtraction of Jaylon Smith helps.
Engram is much harder to see inside the top-10 spots at this moment. He just made his season debut in Week 3, but New York needs him now. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton have matching hamstring injuries that have them questionable at best entering Sunday. Truly, that affects Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney more than Engram, who ran 62.5% of routes from the tight end spot in Week 4. Engram's six targets were fine, but the red-zone carry he earned was particularly intriguing because the coaching staff clearly wants to get him the ball close.
Dallas has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends as well, so with comfortable matchups on both sides and a tremendous game environment, the speculation is both tight ends find the top-10 in half-PPR scoring -- a far lower bar than it used to be.
5. The Panthers Record 4+ Sacks Against the Eagles
If the Panthers DST have slid to Wednesday in your league's waiver wire, they are one of the best defensive options this weekend.
Despite Nick Sirianni's affinity for pens, his offensive line hasn't put pen to paper this season. They have allowed a league-high 29% pressure rate this season, and it could be getting worse. The Eagles are still waiting on the return of both starting tackles, as Jordan Mailata remains out after a setback with his knee injury, and Lane Johnson was also a surprise inactive in Week 4 due to a personal matter, and his status is uncertain for Week 5.
Even at full strength, this Panthers' front seven is a bear to deal with. Carolina had at least four sacks in each of their first three games, and their 32% pressure rate as a defense is the sixth-best mark in the NFL.
Predicting four sacks in an NFL game is quite a hefty number, but this is as rough a matchup for the Eagles as possible with their current injury situation. Carolina is also at home for this contest. Expect Brian Burns and company to get after Jalen Hurts early and often, and any Philadelphia fantasy players could be in a poor environment come Sunday.