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Week 5 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Trey Lance (@ ARI)

From a real-life perspective—and as someone who really liked Lance coming out of North Dakota State—I’m not sure the rookie is ready to be an NFL starter; however, that doesn’t matter for fantasy purposes, and Lance’s rushing upside makes him an immediate QB1 option for Week 5. Arizona’s defense is fast and aggressive to potentially create havoc, but Lance should still be able to finish with standout fantasy numbers for his first career start.


Thumbs Up: Trevor Lawrence (v TEN)

Jacksonville has been disappointing this year (for a variety of reasons), but Lawrence has at least been used more as a runner with 14 carries for 66 yards and a score over the past two games, and that should remain a part of the playbook moving forward. Even without D.J. Chark (ankle), the Jaguars can get contributions from a variety of players, and Tennessee just allowed a breakout game to Zack Wilson (297 yards and two touchdowns). I have Lawrence as a top-20 option.


Thumbs Up: Zach Wilson (@ ATL)

Sticking with the rookies, Wilson gets a great draw versus an Atlanta defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks—including at least three touchdown passes allowed in three-of-four weeks. A healthy Jamison Crowder adds another playmaker to contend with for opponents, and Wilson’s confidence should be high after getting his first career win. London games can get weird, but perhaps that will mean an offensive explosion for the Jets.


Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (v CHI)

Monday night was a disappointment for Las Vegas, but they showed life in the third quarter, and Carr has thrown for multiple scores in all four games to begin 2021. Especially at home, the Bears won’t be as difficult of a matchup as Brandon Staley’s defense was, and the weaknesses in the Chicago secondary will be tested by all the weapons in Jon Gruden’s offense. Carr remains a top-15 play for me, and I’m assuming the offensive line will hold up.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Justin Fields (@ LV)

Fields played well in a win over Detroit last week, but from a numbers perspective, that resulted in 11 completions, zero touchdowns, and nine rushing yards, so it’s tough to count on the upside suddenly being unleashed a week later. Also, Las Vegas will have a much more ferocious pass rush than the Lions did, and Fields’ floor isn’t worth the risk with other capable options out there.


Thumbs Down: Ben Roethlisberger (v DEN)

It’s basically impossible to trust Roethlisberger at this point, as he has a 4:4 touchdown-interception ratio with just 6.1 yards per attempt (down from a career-low 6.3 yards per attempt in 2020; both easily the worst marks of his career), and now a hip injury is something else to deal with. Being at home isn’t enough to strongly consider Big Ben until we see a return to form out of him—which might never happen.


Thumbs Down: Jameis Winston (@ WAS)

Washington has bled points to opposing quarterbacks, but Winston continues to operate a conservative offense, and Taysom Hill is coming off his most involved game yet with six carries, three pass attempts, and two receptions last week. It wouldn’t be a surprise if New Orleans turned into more of a two-quarterback system to provide a spark until Michael Thomas (ankle) and Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring) return.


Thumbs Down: Russell Wilson (v LAR)

Wilson remains a QB1 option for Week 5 because there aren’t many candidates to move up, but the Rams have given him more trouble than anyone throughout his career. Just looking at the three matchups last year, Los Angeles limited Wilson to 215.7 passing yards per game and a 3:3 touchdown-interception ratio—plus was able to get to him for 16 sacks. It may take rushing production and/or a couple of chunk plays connecting for Wilson to pay dividends as a low-end QB1.


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Damien Harris (@ HOU)

A quiet day was expected for Harris last week against the stingy Tampa Bay defense, but now is the perfect time to buy low ahead of a great matchup versus the Texans. For as good as Mac Jones has been, New England will want to get back to running the ball like they did over the first two weeks, and I don’t see the defense allowing Davis Mills to jump on them for an early lead that would negatively flip the game script. Harris should be viewed as a borderline RB1/RB2 with the hope that Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu are cleared from COVID protocols to open holes on the left side.


Thumbs Up: Damien Williams (@ LV)

David Montgomery (knee) will fortunately be back by next month, but Williams is one of the NFL’s most underrated running backs, and he’s immediately on the RB2 map as the starter. In extended action last week, the veteran turned ten touches into 70 yards and a touchdown, so roll with him against a Las Vegas defense that allowed Austin Ekeler to go off as a runner and receiver on Monday night.


Thumbs Up: Kenneth Gainwell (@ CAR)

Gainwell has looked like Philadelphia’s best running back through four games, and he should be leaned on more for a matchup against an aggressive Carolina defense this week. He only had four touches in the blowout loss to the Cowboys, but the rookie has had at least nine combined carries and targets in the other three outings, and he’s simply a more decisive player than Miles Sanders. The gap between the two is narrowing in all formats.


Thumbs Up: Trey Sermon (@ ARI)

Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) is set to return this week and will be the preferred play, but I doubt the 49ers completely go away from Sermon like they did early in the season—especially with Trey Lance at quarterback. With a full week to prepare for Lance being under center (assuming Jimmy Garoppolo is indeed out), San Francisco could come out with an offense similar to the one in Baltimore with Sermon as the between-the-tackles pounder to complement Lance and Mitchell. He’s still on the FLEX radar.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Miles Sanders (@ CAR)

I hit on this already with the write-up for Kenneth Gainwell, but Sanders has been in a 60-40 split, and it could soon flip the other way as the Eagles try to get back in the win column. On the offensive line, Brandon Brooks (pectoral) is obviously out, and Jordan Mailata (knee) and Lane Johnson (personal) are highly questionable, so I’m not sure how much space Sanders will be able to find in a difficult matchup. He’s firmly more of a FLEX than RB2.


Thumbs Down: Mike Davis (v NYJ)

Davis had his Week 4 saved by a short receiving touchdown, but he rushed for just 14 yards on 13 attempts, and Cordarrelle Patterson continues to make plays for Atlanta. New York remains fairly stout against the run (4.1 yards per carry allowed), and the Falcons probably won’t have too much of an emphasis on the ground game with Matt Ryan averaging 39.8 passing attempts through four weeks.


Thumbs Down: Javonte Williams (@ PIT)

Pittsburgh is struggling at 1-3, but defense will be what gets them out of their slump, and I expect the group will be flying around against a Denver offense that is done Jerry Jeudy (ankle) and K.J. Hamler (knee). Williams hasn’t seen much of a change in terms of role with between 40% and 51% of the snaps played in all four games, so I think some might be getting too eager by ranking him over Melvin Gordon for a playoff-hopeful team.


Thumbs Down: Myles Gaskin (@ TB)

Fears of a full-blown committee for Miami have come to fruition with Malcolm Brown being the lead back in Week 4—and Gaskin handled just two carries on 12 snaps. The Dolphins are going to have little-to-no success running the ball against the Bucs this weekend, so Gaskin falls all the way outside the top 50 for me. In deeper leagues, I’d rather gamble on a big-play option such as Tevin Coleman.


Wide Receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Jaylen Waddle (@ TB)

Waddle has been used in an underneath role to begin his career, but he couldn’t ask for a better matchup to breakout in, and I expect Miami will get him matched up on Richard Sherman to see if the veteran corner can stick the electric wideout. Plus, no Will Fuller (finger) might lead to expanded downfield opportunities for the rookie, and the Dolphins will have to score points to have a shot versus Tom Brady and company. I have Waddle as a top-25 option in 0.5 PPR leagues.


Thumbs Up: Odell Beckham Jr. (@ LAC)

For anyone that didn’t watch the Browns-Vikings game last week, Beckham Jr. was missed for multiple monster gains and a would-be deep touchdown, but I’m confident Baker Mayfield will be able to hit layups in the future, and Cleveland’s top wideout has looked good through two weeks. Odell probably won’t be the focus for Los Angeles as they try to stop the run, so he should be able to get loose similar to Henry Ruggs III a couple of times on Monday night.


Thumbs Up: Emmanuel Sanders (@ KC)

Sanders had another strong showing for Buffalo in Week 4, and it’s encouraging that targets have been there despite blowout wins over the past three games. Now, the Bills enter a possible shootout in Kansas City with future No. 1 seed implications on the line, and Sanders should be able to take advantage of single coverage. Consider him an upside WR3 on Sunday Night Football.


Thumbs Up: Tyler Boyd (v GB)

Whether or not Tee Higgins (shoulder) is back, Boyd’s increasing usage should remain high with lines of 7/73, 4/36/1, and 9/118 on 26 combined targets since a quiet opener, and Cincinnati should pass quite a bit with Joe Mixon (ankle) looking unlikely to play. In general, I’d expect the Bengals will begin to open up the passing attack some with Joe Burrow averaging 26.8 pass attempts per game (compared to 40.4 attempts per game as a rookie).


Others: Corey Davis (@ ATL), Marvin Jones (v TEN)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Amari Cooper (v NYG)

Cooper was able to get loose for a 35-yard touchdown last week, but he’s seen target totals of five, four, and three since going off in Week 1, and balance for Dallas has been a winning formula. Furthermore, Cooper struggled in matchups versus the Giants in 2020 with a combined eight receptions for 64 scoreless yards, and I’m not sure having Dak Prescott under center will lead to a big game.


Thumbs Down: Mike Evans (v MIA)

Increasing target totals for Evans have been a positive (he had a season-high 12 last week), but he projects to draw coverage from Xavien Howard on Sunday, and I think Tampa Bay will get Chris Godwin and the tight ends more involved versus Miami. While he is difficult to bench because of the touchdown upside, Evans is more of a low-end WR2 for Week 5.


Thumbs Down: Brandon Aiyuk (@ ARI)

Aiyuk is unlikely to be in lineups as one of the more disappointing players of 2021, but Trey Lance being at quarterback clouds his outlook even further with Deebo Samuel being the clear top wideout for a run-heavy attack. Last week, Aiyuk saw zero targets from the rookie on 18 attempts, and he reverted back to a split with Mohamed Sanu and Trent Sherfield. You need a big-play connection before feeling comfortable with the second-year receiver.


Thumbs Down: Brandin Cooks (v NE)

Cooks had a respectable game last week in a shutout loss—catching five-of-seven targets for 47 yards—but who do you think Bill Belichick will try to eliminate from the Houston offense on Sunday? My money is on one of his former players in Cooks, and I wouldn’t want to count on Davis Mills to try to overcome a difficult matchup. I’d recommend any of the “Thumbs Up” options over Cooks.


Others: Kenny Golladay (@ DAL), Michael Pittman Jr. (@ BAL)


Tight End


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Gesicki (@ TB)

I might be putting too much stock in the Miami offense this week (Jacoby Brissett is also a decent streaming option), but coverage has been a definite issue for the Buccaneers due to injury, and Gesicki gets a great chance to stay hot after Tampa Bay allowed touchdowns to Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in Week 4. Overall, tight ends have scored 14.0 fantasy points per game against the Bucs to begin 2021, and Gesicki is a top-five play for me.


Thumbs Up: Robert Tonyan (@ CIN)

This is more about feel than anything, as Cincinnati isn’t a favorable on-paper matchup with their impressive cover guys at linebacker and safety; but Tonyan only has one touchdown this season, and he’s had seven targets last week (though it resulted in only eight yards). Green Bay will be the biggest challenge yet for the Bengals, and I have Tonyan as a low-end TE1.


Thumbs Up: Cameron Brate (v MIA)

As stated, I think Tampa Bay could attack more in the middle of the field with Chris Godwin and the tight ends on Sunday, and Brate has been the clear top option over O.J. Howard with Rob Gronkowski (ribs) out. With 11 targets over the past two games, Brate is worthy of streaming consideration catching passes from Tom Brady.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Evan Engram (@ DAL)

Engram didn’t do much against Dallas last season (three receptions for 33 yards in two matchups) or Dan Quinn when he was coaching the Falcons (two receptions for 16 yards in one matchup), so there is little reason to believe he will emerge on Sunday—especially with Kadarius Toney and John Ross both stepping up for New York in Week 4. Depending on your league size, it might be a better idea to scour the waiver wire.


Thumbs Down: Gerald Everett (v LAR)

The expectation is that Everett will return from the COVID-19 list in time to face his former team on Thursday night, but Seattle will want to keep Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson (68% snaps played in season debut) involved, too, so the floor is low. Also, the Rams might be prepared to erase any play-action opportunities for Everett considering how well the defense knows Seattle’s offensive system.


Thumbs Down: Ricky Seals-Jones (v NO)

Seals-Jones being in line to start for Logan Thomas (hamstring) puts him squarely on the radar, but there are better options to target for streamers. Once again, New Orleans is one of the toughest draws for opposing tight ends, and they have yet to allow a touchdown to the position in 2021.


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