San Francisco and Buffalo – Torrey Smith
Up until this point, the only option that the 49ers have offered for fantasy purposes has been Carlos Hyde. The quarterback situation has been garbage and all the receiving options have suffered for it. We’ve believed since Blaine Gabbert was drafted by the Jaguars that he was unfit to run a pro-style offense. His play in 2016 has done nothing to shake our pessimistic view of him. Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick‘s political stance (or literal lack of stance) you can’t disagree with the fact that when he was healthy, and his head was on straight, that he was one of the most dynamic, young quarterbacks in the league. Kaepernick is not only far more mobile, and thusly, more fit for Chip Kelly’s option offense. But his arm strength is Schwarzenegger-like compared to Gabbert’s marshmallow gun. With his new structured deal, Kaepernick is playing for his NFL livelihood and we know all too well that money motivates all. His arm with added motivation could mean that the one-trick pony named Torrey Smith will finally be let out of the stable.
There is no where to go but up for Smith as he was completely useless running deep routes when Gabbert had zero chance of connecting with him. Take a flier on Smith this week and add him as a free agent addition and stash him. A breakout game sparked by the return of Kaepernick could have Smith return to fantasy relevance. We know that San Fran will be playing from behind often so let’s see how things play out starting here in Buffalo.
Baltimore and New York Giants – Eli Manning
Manning has five touchdowns through five games. His play has turned Odell Beckham into more of a WR2 and has made Sterling Shepard one of the hardest receivers to project. He let a healthy Victor Cruz go four quarters without a catch last week against the Packers. He has two capable tight ends in Larry Donnell and Will Tye, both of whom he overlooks each week. He has all of these options at his disposal and yet, he’s averaging a single touchdown per game. That’s vomit-enducing. Either the offensive line is incapable of providing their quarterback the trust needed to stay in the pocket or the loss of Shane Vereen to a triceps injury was far more impactful than anyone had anticipated. Regardless of the reason, Manning has to do something big now in order to salvage his fantasy outlook. The Baltimore defense has played very well against the passing game but they are far from impervious. Manning has to step up and produce a 250-yard game with multiple touchdowns in order to even be considered against a lowly team like the Redskins later this season
Carolina and New Orleans – Brandin Cooks
Cooks came out Week 1 and set the fantasy world on fire. Right out of the gate, Cooks went off for over 150 total yards with 2 touchdowns. Since then, Cooks has been unable to reach the 100-yard mark and has failed to find end zone as well. We knew that Cooks would be an up and down kind of receiver, but a 1 out of 4 game clip is far more inconsistent than anyone forecast. As long as the Panthers’ Cam Newton is able to play, this figures to be a high-scoring contest. After letting Julio Jones go off in Week 4 for an insane 300 yards, any WR1 facing Carolina has to be viewed as a high-end option. We fully expect Cooks to beat coverage more than once over the top for at least one long score on the day. If our expectations aren’t met, and Cooks goes for another quiet day, he’ll lose his hold on a WR1 billing and start to be viewed as more of a WR2, borderline WR3. That may sound extreme but Cooks was drafted as our teams’ first receiver in most cases. A WR1 doesn’t put up numbers once every six or seven games.
Jacksonville and Chicago – Julius Thomas
Much like every other season since Thomas has entered the league, we have waited out missed time due to injury in the hopes of seeing a payoff when he’s available. Having missed a week already and using the bye week to rest up even more, it’s time for Thomas to cash in on our patience. With the exception of Greg Olsen, every single tight end in the league to this point has been wishy-washy. By that we mean there has been tremendous flux in the tight end rankings on a week to week basis. We’ve seen Rob Gronkowski, Coby Fleener, Martellus Bennett, Travis Kelce, and Jimmy Graham to name a few ebb and flow up and down through the rankings. That means that there is room at the top of the rankings list for someone to plant their flag. Could Thomas re-establish himself and become a permanent fixture atop the weekly rankings or will he join the rest of the unpredictable tight ends? A statement game from Thomas here would not only help out owners who saved a roster spot for him for two weeks but for his own personal standings moving forward. Thomas should have a good game against the weakened Bears defense. A letdown could permanently push Thomas outside the top ten at his position. He’ll leave Week 6 as either an unquestioned, weekly TE1 or an everyday run of the mill TE2.
New York Jets and Arizona – Michael Floyd
Oh where, oh where has our Michael Floyd gone? Oh where, oh where can he be? As if things weren’t bad enough with Floyd struggling to stay on the field and hold off Jaron Brown, he went catchless in Week 5 against the 49ers of all teams. Floyd was already on pace for a letdown season and the zeroes across the board last week did nothing but make matters that much worse. Owners are mulling over dropping him and moving on if they haven’t already. Can Floyd do something against the Jets this week to jump start his fantasy heart beat? The Jets’ secondary has struggled all season as Darrelle Revis has been a shell of himself on the outside. This is the end of the road here for Floyd. If the Cardinals and quarterback Carson Palmer don’t make a focused effort to get Floyd involved and active then that’ll be all she wrote for him in 2016.