Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Now that’s what fantasy owners expected out of Aaron Rodgers when they drafted him as the first quarterback in their fantasy draft. After averaging 24.8 completions for 282.5 passing yards from Weeks 1 to 4, Rodgers lit up the stat sheet against the Lions in Week 5, completing 32-of-52 passing for 442 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. He also had ten rushing yards and ended up finishing with 30+ fantasy points on the day. Yes, the Lions defense is nothing to write home about, but this is the type of performance we’ve come to expect out of Rodgers since he took over for Brett Favre in 2008. He was without two of his most reliable wide receivers (Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison), but still managed to have a successful fantasy day thanks to the help of Davante Adams and rookie wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. The quarterback position is mostly a “they’re all a dime-a-dozen” position, but having Rodgers gives your team a reliable, high-floor/high-ceiling option on a week-to-week basis. He gets to face a porous San Francisco 49ers defense in Week 6, which is a highly favorable matchup for the Green Bay offense.
I also wanted to mention that if you drafted a backup quarterback (like Jared Goff or Patrick Mahomes, for example) after taking Rodgers, then shame on you. It makes your decision at quarterback that much more difficult every week considering those two quarterbacks (for example) have been incredible thus far. If you draft Rodgers as your quarterback, there’s no need to draft a backup quarterback at the end of your fantasy draft, especially when you could have selected a player such as Kenny Golladay, Calvin Ridley, James Conner (for example) in the late rounds of fantasy drafts this past summer.
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Mr. Consistency. That is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of Philip Rivers. Rivers is drafted outside the Top-12 at the quarterback position almost on a yearly basis, but he continues to produce Top-12 fantasy numbers week-in and week-out. He entered Week 5 having the ninth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks and churned out another 20+ fantasy point performance, totaling 23.2 fantasy points in the Los Angeles Chargers 26-10 win over the Oakland Raiders. He’s had at least 20 fantasy points in four of five games. He’s had at least 225 passing yards, two passing touchdowns in all five games and will continue to produce Top-12 numbers in what is an above-average Chargers passing attack. A Week 6 matchup vs. the Cleveland Browns and then a Week 7 matchup vs. the Tennessee Titans are two favorable matchups, so be sure to keep rolling out Rivers as your fantasy quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Heading into the 2018 season, there was one player I was targeting in all of my drafts and did not shy away from drafting a round or two earlier than his average draft position. That player was Sony Michel. I have him in three leagues and couldn’t be happier with how he’s performed these last two weeks. Michel has carried the ball 43 times for 210 rushing yards (an average of 4.9 yards-per-carry) the last two weeks and has also scored two 20+yard rushing touchdowns. He clearly showed more burst and quickness in Week 5 vs. the Colts than he did in Week 4 vs. the Dolphins. Some people in the media here in Boston aren’t overly impressed with how Michel has looked and like to believe that Michel has done most of his damage against weak defensive teams. What they don’t realize is Michel did not play at all in the preseason, and as a rookie running back, he’s still getting acclimated to the intricacies of an NFL offense and has yet to reach his peak potential. However, the Patriots offense is an elite unit that has always been friendly to running backs. In the past, it was a nightmare predicting which Patriot running back was going to hold the most fantasy value in any given week. This year, though, it’s evident that Michel is going to be a significant contributor on the ground, with James White also serving as a highly reliable pass-catching option out of the backfield. Michel should be viewed as a mid-level RB2 with low-end RB1 upside for the rest of the season and should be locked into your starting lineup every week.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets – Isaiah Crowell had the performance of his career in Week 5, totaling 219 rushing yards on 15 carries, including a 77-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter of the Jets 34-16 win over the Denver Broncos. Crowell’s 219 rushing yards were an all-time high for the Jets organization, which was previously held by Thomas Jones (210 rushing yards in 2009). His 14.6 yards-per-carry on 15 rushing attempts set an NFL-record for the highest yards-per-carry average with a minimum of 15 rushing attempts.
The question now is, should we expect this fifth-year player out of Alabama State (yes, that’s a real college) to produce RB1 fantasy numbers on a consistent basis? Well, no, but he definitely is capable of producing at a low-end RB2 level for the rest of the season as the primary (for the most part) running back on his team. Crowell entered Week 5 23rd among running backs in PPR fantasy points and now enters Week 6 10th in fantasy points among running backs. He’s had at least 19 PPR fantasy points in three-of-five games and gets to run against an Indianapolis Colts defense in Week 6 that just allowed an average of 5.4 yards-per-carry to Sony Michel this past week. The Colts also may or may not be without their stud rookie linebacker, Darius Leonard. The Jets offense is not as bad as they are perceived and Sam Darnold is going to continue to improve as the season goes on. Crowell is a solid complementary running back to have on your fantasy team that can be relied upon as a low-end RB2/Flex play if one of your top two or three running backs are injured or on a bye.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants – It was Monday, October 1st. The New York Giants had just been defeated at home by the New Orleans Saints the previous day. Odell Beckham Jr. had seven receptions for 60 receiving yards on 11 targets, which was an ordinary performance in what was a highly favorable matchup. I’m scrolling through Twitter while having my morning cup of coffee and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. There were actually a few people in the fantasy community (I won’t name names) that were already labeling Odell Beckham Jr. as a bust and questioning whether or not he was a “start-able” fantasy wide receiver. I’ve seen some bad and misguided takes in my life, but that one is easily one of the top five worst takes I’ve ever seen.
Yes, Beckham Jr. entered Week 5 22nd in PPR fantasy points among wide receivers, and yes, he had yet to score a touchdown. However, just like Keenan Allen and Jarvis Landry (both of whom also entered Week 5 outside the top twenty in fantasy points among wide receivers), he was still receiving a sizeable target share as Eli Manning’s number-one wide receivers and just had not capitalized on any of those opportunities. He ranked sixth in the NFL among wide receivers with 45 targets heading into Week 5. It was only a matter of time, which now brings me to his Week 5 performance.
The fifth-year player out of Louisiana State University put on a show on Sunday, tallying eight receptions on a team-high 14 targets for 131 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Giants devastating 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers. His 14 targets were double the amount of targets Sterling Shepard received (seven). Shame on you if you ever doubted the abilities of this all-world wide receiver. He is a bona fide stud in every sense of the word that will provide high-floor/high-ceiling fantasy numbers on a week to week basis for the rest of the season. The Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night Football this week, so expect Beckham Jr. to yield high-end fantasy numbers in a prime-time game against an Eagles secondary that allowed 344 passing yards to the Titans in Week 4 and 301 passing yards to the Vikings this past week. Keep him locked into your starting lineup and enjoy the elite production you’ll get from him for the rest of the season.
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings – I cannot continue to avoid writing about a player that has had at least 100 receiving yards in each of his first five games in 2018. Adam Thielen is on a record-breaking pace, and after his seven receptions (on ten targets) for 116 receiving yards, with one touchdown, he is officially the only wide receiver in NFL history to have at least 100 receiving yards in each of the first five games of a season. The dude is ballin’, plain and simple. He’s seen at least ten targets from Kirk Cousins in every game and has recorded at least 18 PPR fantasy points in every game.
His 66 targets through five games are tied for first (with Antonio Brown) in the NFL among all players. He is second in the entire NFL with 589 receiving yards and is arguably the most valuable fantasy wide receiver on the planet right now. If one of your league mates tries to offer you a deal for Thielen, you should say, “Thanks, but no thanks. He’s not going anywhere.” I mean, sure, if someone offers you Melvin Gordon and Golden Tate and you’re thin at running back, then you should consider that. My point is, his value is at an all-time high, and it would take a King’s ransom for you to agree to trade him.
The question now is whether or not he can keep up this scorching-hot pace for the duration of the season. The answer lies somewhere between probably and yes. Look, it’s unlikely Thielen records at least 100 receiving yards in every game. However, considering the Vikings are struggling to effectively run the ball (looking at you, Dalvin Cook), expect this undrafted wide receiver out of Minnesota State University – Monkata (I’m killing it with the random colleges today!) to continue to receive a substantial number of targets in what is a phenomenal passing attack led by Cousins. A high number of targets results in a high number of receptions which turns into a high number of receiving yards which translates to high-end WR1 fantasy production. Keep Thielen locked into your WR1 spot and enjoy watching him continue to produce at a record-breaking pace.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles – I’ve spoken at length about how volatile and inconsistent the tight end position has been in fantasy football this season. However, there’s been one specific tight end that has consistently performed up to his high expectations through the first five weeks of the season. That tight end is Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ertz’ 58 targets through five weeks are tops in the NFL among tight ends and fourth among all pass-catchers. He has seen at least ten targets in every game this season, a feat that only three other players (Adam Thielen, Odell Beckham Jr., Deandre Hopkins) have accomplished up to this point in the season. He is averaging 18.9 PPR fantasy points per game this season, and averaging 21.2 PPR points per game in the last four games.
Jay Ajayi, the Eagles starting running back, was placed on Injured Reserve on Monday with a torn ACL. The loss of Ajayi could translate to even more work in the passing game for Ertz. Theoretically, the running game could falter a bit after losing Ajayi, resulting in the Eagles turning to a pass-first/pass-often approach on offense. Ertz has been as consistent and dominant as it gets up to this point in the season and should continue to produce high-end fantasy numbers at the tight end position. Having him in your lineup gives you a significant advantage at the tight end position, so keep rolling him out there and reap the benefits of having an elite, high-floor/high-ceiling type of player.
Other players to like:
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans
George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers