Cover 7 | Saturday A daily NFL destination that provides in-depth analysis of football’s biggest stories. Each Saturday, Jacob Robinson offers 13 insights to help fantasy football managers get set for the week ahead.
Jake Robinson is Editor at the Morning Huddle, where they find the best insights from fantasy football experts and package them into a free, 3x weekly newsletter. In this weekly column, he shares 13 insights that might change your perspective on players.
A few comments on last week’s article were particularly noteworthy:
- I wasn’t alone in looking for a support group after starting the Commanders D/ST against the Bears.
- I shouldn’t assume everyone knows who Demario Douglas is or what team he plays for.
- Many people wish this was posted on Wednesday. If helpful, I write detailed waiver wire breakdowns each Tuesday morning in my free newsletter, The Morning Huddle.
One comment in particular caught my eye. Adam G. said he’d love to see the follow up on this article. I’m with you, Adam. I want to ensure this is useful for you and improves each week. Thankfully, fantasy football is a game of
pain numbers, so it is measurable. The hard part is that these aren’t one-week notes, but at least 3-4 week timelines. But we’ll give it a go. See the chart at the bottom of each article highlighting last week’s notes.
Now, 13 insights I think you should know for Week 6:
1/13 Tony Pollard should be this year’s Austin Ekeler. When Ezekiel Elliott left Dallas, many compared Pollard to Austin Ekeler post-Melvin Gordon. Prior to Gordon’s departure in 2020, Ekeler had averaged 20.8 FPPG in seven career games without Gordon but just 11.3 PPG with Gordon. Of course, Zeke helped Pollard be more efficient, and efficiency declines when a player takes on lower-expectation rush attempts and overall touches. But Pollard has struggled.
- Pollard entered the season ranking third in yards per carry (5.13) among all NFL RBs since he was drafted.
- This year? He’s averaging just 4.2 YPC.
- In 2022, he averaged an avoided tackle rate of 21.2%.
- This year? He’s last at 7.4% (behind Miles Sanders and Joshua Kelley).
He hasn’t scored a TD since Week 1, despite seeing the best red zone usage of any RB. And based on his usage, he should have four more TDs this season.
The real question: Can he handle the heavier workload?
Prior to 2023, Pollard had just one game in his career with more than 20 carries (including college). Pollard also underwent surgery on an ankle injury this offseason. But he hasn’t been bad — in his two games with 20+ touches, Pollard has averaged 97 yards per game. If he reverts to just 80% of his prior efficiency and starts scoring TDs, he’ll be a no-brainer Top 5 RB with this workload.
Pollard has more than our fantasy teams to play for — he’s playing for a contract (much like Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs were last season). I included Pollard in last week’s article as a buy. I’m back again, expecting a big game against the Chargers’ run-funnel defense.
2/13 DeVonta Smith needs Dallas Goedert gone. In 2022, both Smith (WR9) and A.J. Brown finished among the Top 10 WRs. But Dallas Goedert missed five games that year, leading to an even smaller target distribution than typical in Philadelphia. That matters more than I realized. Since 2022, Smith averages over 20 yards less per game (62.7 vs 84.0) with Goedert in the lineup. And over the past four weeks, Goedert has a higher target share than Smith. Smith will have his spike weeks, but a Top 15 WR finish is looking less likely.
3/13 If there’s a get-right game for Rhamondre Stevenson, this is it. Stevenson was one of the best RBs in the league last season, ranking first in yards after contact. This year, Stevenson ranks 55th out of 58 eligible RBs in that stat. He’s also on pace for just 40.8 receptions, a steep decline after he ranked fourth among RBs in that category in 2022. But if there’s a get-right game for Stevenson, it’s this week’s Raiders matchup.
Bill O’Brien is employing a man/gap rushing scheme at one of the highest rates in the NFL (60% per Fantasy Points Data). The Raiders defense is allowing 129.4 rushing yards per game and the third-most rushing yards from man/gap schemes (4.6 YPC), despite facing the Joshua Kelley-led Chargers and A.J. Dillon-led Packers. When the Raiders faced the Bills, who use man/gap rushes as often as the Patriots, James Cook totaled 159 yards — his best performance this season.
Stevenson’s best performance of the season (15 fantasy points) came against the Dolphins, who have struggled to stop man/gap rushing schemes.
4/13 DeAndre Hopkins should have another big game. Week 5 was Hopkins’ first above 80% of snaps, which coincided with a WR7 finish. The Titans receiver has over 38 targets and six red zone targets, but has yet to score a TD, joining Zay Flowers as an obvious TDs-are-incoming candidate. Hopkins was inches from cashing his first TD last week.
Watching every target and catch Hopkins made in Week 5 (video) shows two things: (1) Hopkins looks better than last season and (2) Tannehill trusts him, much like he trusted A.J. Brown.
5/13 Sell DJ Moore for a ransom. Moore is coming off a 230-yard, three-TD performance. He might’ve had a fourth TD if not for a questionable out of bounds call. He looked amazing in Week 5 (watch every target) and has now posted at least a 24% target share in four straight games.
It’s not easy to sell someone whose value is this high, right? That’s the point. Sell at peaks. Get as much value as possible. Need ideas? Check out The Athletic’s trade chart.
Of course, there’s a good chance Moore finishes the season as a Top 12 WR. But he’s currently WR4 in PPR leagues and his best two weeks have come against the Commanders and Broncos, both bottom-half ranked passing defenses. If you can turn Moore + an RB stash into a Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs or Cooper Kupp-type WR, you do it.
6/13 The Zay Flowers breakout is coming. This week. Flowers is the undisputed WR1 in Baltimore. Even better news is that his route tree is diversifying:
- Week 1 average depth of target (ADOT): 2.6
- Week 5 ADOT:16.7
Despite running deeper routes, Flowers is maintaining his volume (10 targets in Week 5), proving he’s not just a gadget player. He hasn’t scored yet, but Flowers should have had a 75-yard TD last week (video).
This week, the Ravens face the Titans’ pass funnel defense allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to WRs. Trade for him. Now.
7/13 George Pickens might be the perfect player to trade for Zay Flowers. Pickens is coming off a WR5 finish (26.6 PPR FP), making him an ideal sell high. Pickens has seen an impressive target share (25.8%), but with Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth expected to return in Week 7 (after Pittsburgh’s bye), this will decrease. Get the best value you can.
If you watch the tape, it’s obvious Pickens doesn’t separate (to be fair, he often doesn’t need to). The stats tell a similar story. Pickens ranks…
- 83rd among WRs in separate per target
- 95th in route win percentage (just 36.4%) (both per Player Profile)
He sure can catch, though
8/13 Christian Kirk is sneaky good, but Zay Jones worries me. Over the past month, Kirk quietly leads the Jags in target share (27%) and averages a 30% first-read target share, per Fantasy Points Data. Kirk is WR13 in that time span. But his best three weeks came without Zay Jones, who Kirk played behind in 2WR sets in Week 1. Jones (knee) was hurt again last week, meaning Kirk should see another heavy dose of looks in Week 6.
9/13 Tyjae Spears is probably the best RB stash. Spears had a Alvin-Kamara-in-2017-esque preseason, leading all RBs with 4.73 yards after contact per rush. This year, he sports a 13.2% target share, showing the Titans trust him as both a rusher and receiver, making him a likely workhorse if Henry misses time.
10/13 Evan Engram is a sneaky-good TE. He’s quietly second among TEs in receiving yards, behind only Sam LaPorta. Engram ranks third in targets (35), second in receptions (29) and first among TEs in yards after the catch (175). Engram is currently the TE7 and one of four players with 8 targets in each of the past four weeks:
Engram dropped a sure TD vs. the Bills last week (video). TDs are coming, along with Top 5 finishes.
11/13 Acquire Dameon Pierce, later. It’s easy to forget that Pierce was tied with Nick Chubb for the most missed tackles forced per attempt last season. This year, Pierce ranks just 18th in missed tackles forced per attempt.
He’s still seeing volume (58 rushes over the past three weeks, third among RBs), but Pierce’s -20.8 PPR points below expectation trail only Tony Pollard (-21.6) and Josh Jacobs (-27.7), per Fantasy Life’s Ian Hartitz.
This week, the Texans face a Saints defense allowing the second-lowest yards per carry to zone runs, which is the Texans preferred scheme (66.7%). Wait and see.
12/13 Josh Downs is a strong WR3. In 91 Gardner Minshew dropbacks, per @TruMediaSports:
- 30.4% — Michael Pittman
- 25.3% — Josh Downs
Average depth of target:
- 5.7 yards — Pittman
- 5.5 yards — Downs
Downs has the fifth-most yards in the NFL without a TD and is pacing for over 75 receptions and 850+ yards as a rookie. He’s still too cheap.
Josh Downs demonstrates his nuance with zone routes.#ColtsNation
Pre-draft https://t.co/TVSDK9tcAa pic.twitter.com/aRxbBXGzg1
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 9, 2023
13/13 Jeff Wilson Jr. is the perfect streamer RB. Or maybe it’s Salvon Ahmed? Wilson is expected to fill the void left by De’Von Achane in an elite rushing attack. HC Mike McDaniel traded for Wilson in November of 2022, after which Wilson parlayed his role (splitting snaps with Raheem Mostert) into 209 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games with the team.
He’s only 27 and still a strong runner:
Jeff Wilson Jr. still got some juice 👀 pic.twitter.com/77FzPb14Rc
— Ryan Mohler (@MohlerNFL) October 10, 2023
Bonus/14 The Dolphins take on a Panthers defense struggling against the run (5.2 YPC and 8 TDs allowed in 5 games) without one of their best run defenders in LB Shaq Thompson (finished 2022 with a 90.2 run-defense grade). Wilson is dealing with a rib injury after returning from a finger/groin issue and the Dolphins are around 13.5-point favorites, making Salvon Ahmed and Chris Brooks worth considering in deep leagues.
As a final note, please remind me to look at Tom Brady’s pre-draft photo whenever I feel down. If this guy can transform into a Super Bowl MVP, and Matt Patricia can make millions calling offensive plays, there’s nothing we can’t do!
Good luck this weekend, and go get some wins.
Accountability: Week 5
What I said then: Najee Harris is too cheap to not acquire.
Verdict: He’s even cheaper (but still not good).
What I said then: If Tony Pollard’s volume keeps up, he could challenge Christian McCaffrey for RB1.
Verdict: Hard to say given 49ers’ blowout win.
What I said then: Lions WR Jameson Williams is someone I’d sell this week.
Verdict: If you sold before Week 5, you likely got better value than this week after 2 catches for 2 yards.
What I said then: Breece Hall’s volume should increase. Will fantasy points follow suit? I think so.
Verdict: Volume came and fantasy points followed. RB3 finish.
What I said then: Buy Calvin Ridley
Verdict: WR37 in Week 5’s lopsided win.
What I said then: Sell Brandon Aiyuk at a premium.
Verdict: Volume came and fantasy points followed. RB3 finish.
What I said then: Buy Dalton Kincaid before his price skyrockets.
Verdict: Concussed but struggled before injury.
What I said then: Anthony Richardson will win leagues. We all should’ve seen this coming.
Verdict: Injured but looks so good.
What I said then: Jaleel McLaughlin is a stash.
Verdict: 15+ points in Week 5.
(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)