It’s make-or-break season when it comes to realizing the future of your 2021 fantasy football team. Now is the time to solidify your reads of offenses and know when to buy high on some sleeper studs and when to fade the dudes that ruin all the fun. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.
In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).
We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.
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Week 5 Review
My Week 5 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses. Admittedly, this was a rough week for me. Whether it be via misreading narratives or simply whiffing on the productivity of a player, there are no excuses to make so many incorrect calls in a love/hate focus column. Instead, we seek to improve in our game by learning from mistakes, adjusting to the league and its fantasy narratives, and continuing the grind with humility. With the process comes preparation and maturity that then leads to improvement. That’s what we hope to do in Week 6.
My quarterback love of the week was a quick shot at the reeling secondary of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I thought it could be a sneaky way Jacoby Brissett could tally some touchdowns and perform in garbage time. Indeed, despite being banged up during the game, Brissett put up a season-high 275 passing yards and had his second 2-touchdown game in the air. However, the Buccaneers capped it at just that “serviceable” performance as Brissett threw an interception, lost a fumble, and was shut out in the rushing department, and finished outside the top 20 at the quarterback position in Week 5. Expectation-matcher here, but not the streaming steal we were hoping for. Instead, rookie Davis Mills would have likely been the best value streamer at quarterback in Week 5 with his eye-popping 312 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns.
On the other hand, my hate pick was an acknowledgment of what I thought would have been a stout performance from the passing defense of the Los Angeles Chargers. Instead, Baker Mayfield did not turn the ball over and threw for 305 passing yards on his usual volume of 32 passing attempts. He threw multiple touchdowns for the first time on the season as the Browns dropped the 47-42 thriller. Mayfield finished as a top-10 quarterback at the position but there’s perhaps a lesson to be taken out of this game by Cleveland—even when Kevin Stefanski’s offense is at its absolute best, Mayfield doesn’t put up close to generational numbers as that rushing unit of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt usually steals the show on the ground.
Running Back (C-)
I dug deep on this one—while several fantasy managers were somewhat desperate at the running back position, I put my pride at stake and used my running back love of the week on a backup running back for Bill Belichick. While I do applaud my own attempt at finding Week 5’s shocker, it didn’t quite pan out. I thought Bolden’s receiving game would come in handy as the Patriots “manage” a full four quarters against a putrid Houston Texans. Instead, the Patriots were down big early and partially due to a touchdown-deducting fumble by Damien Harris.
Bolden did not receive a touch in the game until Harris’ fumble and when he did check in, he was inefficient in the receiving game as he caught 4 passes for 6 yards. In fact, his only talking points came on his two rushes, which totalled 25 yards. Every New England running back was fantasy-irrelevant in their come-from-behind reputation-saving win against Houston. Big swing and a bad miss for me on this pick.
This is unfortunate. Our running back hate pick was Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is now on injured reserve after suffering a sprained MCL in the Sunday Night Football matchup against the AFC-dominating Buffalo Bills. Of course, after receiving only 26% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps, Edwards-Helaire was a dud fantasy start but it’s tough to grade due to the injury. Indeed, this was his most inefficient game of the year when he was in as his 7 rushes went for only 13 yards and he caught only 1 pass (which did turn into 11 yards). Nothing much else to say about that performance; it’s possible a touchdown would have made him relevant in the fantasy game if he stayed in but it wasn’t trending that way. Darrel Williams is next on the Chiefs’ depth chart at running back.
I’m mostly basing my grade this week off of Bolden’s stinker.
Wide Receiver (F)
Well, we’ve got a case on our hands here. My love pick of the week was Marvin Jones Jr., a veteran who has had his fair share of fantasy explosions in his career. My intent was to target the secondary of the Titans, who had been one of the league’s worst at allowing exploding pass plays. I was hoping for some deep shots for Jones to create big plays in the air. Indeed, Jones caught a 25-yard pass on a leap early in the second quarter. The disappointing part—despite drawing four other targets, he never caught another pass. He finished the week being a complete fantasy bust as the Titans held up well against the Jaguars pass-catchers. Instead, Laviksa Shenault Jr. was the beneficiary of the biggest pass play of the day for the Jaguars, recording a 58-yard reception. The most productive producer in the air was newly acquired tight end Dan Arnold, who led the team with 64 receiving yards on 6 receptions.
As for my hate pick, this is just awkward—I was under the impression that elite cornerback Jaire Alexander would power through any injury concerns and suit up Week 5 against the Bengals’ dynamic receiving core. Instead, Alexander missed the contest and the Bengals were set to face the new-look Packers secondary that is simply untrustworthy. It was at that moment I knew—I messed up and the door was open for the rookie stud Ja’Marr Chase.
Jaire Alexander (#GoPackGo) is OUT Week 5.
My WR Hate of the Week is now one I want back. Ja'Marr Chase (#RuleTheJungle) is an elite deep threat (14.24y aDOT).
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) October 9, 2021
Indeed, Chase drew a career-high 10 targets and tied a career-high 6 receptions for a new career-high of 159 receiving yards. That display included a 70-yard touchdown and the big body out of LSU finished as a top 10 fantasy wide receiver of Week 5. I wouldn’t have counted this surprise fade against my grade as the change in situation voids the initial pick, but my love pick took care of the F grade anyway. This is my first F grade of the season at wide receiver and my second overall—just something we have to shake off and work harder with next time.
Tight End (B)
Who wouldn’t have thought, my best pick of the week comes at the seesaw position of fantasy football—tight end. For my love pick, I simply made a realization that some of you are still catching up to: Dawson Knox is for real. He’s effective and athletic and this season, he could continue to be heavily involved in the passing game of MVP candidate Josh Allen. It was very difficult to find a pick better than this one at the tight end position this week as Knox was simply explosive. While he got his fairly mundane volume of 4 targets, he made the most of them as his 3 receptions amassed a career-high 117 yards including a touchdown. Knox was a top 5 tight end in fantasy football in Week 5 and has proven that he is a must-start tight end in most league formats.
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) October 11, 2021
On the other hand, my tight end hate of the week was a play geared towards watching the top two receivers of Dallas have their way against the Giants secondary. Indeed, second-year wideout CeeDee Lamb paced the receiving attack of the Cowboys with 84 yards and a touchdown. But Dalton Schultz had no issue entering the fantasy storylines as well as he hauled in 6 receptions for 79 yards as he was a top 10 fantasy tight end of Week 5. It should now be clear that Schultz is a mainstay in the Dallas offense, with three straight weeks of over 10 fantasy points. Even in a game where Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 110 yards and the top 2 Dallas wide receivers got theirs, Schultz was a strong start at the tight end position.
Week 6 Loves & Hates
We simply have to be better this week. Lessons learned, grades need to be earned.
Love: Mac Jones (NE)
If there’s anything we’ve learned from making picks in 2021, it’s that Dan Quinn is really good and has turned the Cowboys’ defense around. They are no longer a punching bag for teams to have their way on offense. But this week’s sleeper pick under center is a narrative play. The rookie out of Alabama Mac Jones has been the most impressive rookie quarterback so far from what we’ve seen. However, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been puzzling on several occasions so far, mixing up runs and passes in an awkward fashion and using gameplans early that many agree would be holding the young quarterback behind in development.
I expect the high-powered Cowboys to go up early but for the Patriots to be a little more conservative at allowing explosive pass plays given how Davis Mills just opened their eyes and tore up their secondary. That means Mac Jones will have another opportunity to come from behind and attempt some passes. Indeed, only one team allows more passing attempts by quarterbacks than the Cowboys and no team allows more passing yards to quarterbacks than the Cowboys in 2021. Furthermore, the one thing Jones has struggled with so far is quick decision-making when pressured behind his weak offensive line. But he’ll have less to worry about in that department in Week 6 as the Cowboys defense only have a 24.0% pressure rate, good for #20 in the NFL.
Hate: Derek Carr (LV)
This one’s a narrative plus matchup play. The Raiders might really just be frauds and Derek Carr’s inconsistent play is one of the reasons. After so much going on off-the-field with the Raiders, it’ll be a true test to see how Carr responds in game action against a Broncos team that ranks #2 in the NFL in fantasy points allowed against quarterbacks. The Broncos are coming off a tough loss against Pittsburgh and will likely be more prepared on defense. They’ll clean up their act against the Raiders offense and Carr won’t have it easy in finding the end zone. These projections are simply a bit too generous.
Love: Kenneth Gainwell (PHI)
In back-to-back weeks, I am digging deep and going with the backup back route here. This time, I’m trying out an underrated running back playing against what should be a tough rushing defense in the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. Indeed, Tampa Bay still plays the rush tough. Through five weeks this season, their defense ranks #3 in the NFL in rush DVOA. What they don’t restrict very well? Pass-catching by those running backs. This season, no team has allowed more receptions to running backs than the Buccaneers and only two teams have allowed more receiving touchdowns to running backs than the Buccaneers.
The beneficiary for Philadelphia? On short rest for their primary back Miles Sanders, I expect the narrative of careful work for starting running backs to continue, giving way to the guy who is often more involved receiving anyway, namely Kenneth Gainwell, a PPR potential play in Week 6. This season, Gainwell has had at least as many targets as Sanders in 3/5 games and is often involved in red-zone production for the Philadelphia offense. Take a shot at RB2 if you’re desperate for some ceiling points and smash this play in DFS on Thursday Night Football.
Most red zone targets (#NFL RB) this season ⬇️
1️⃣ Cordarrelle Patterson: 7
2️⃣ Aaron Jones: 6
2️⃣ Najee Harris: 6
4️⃣ Kenneth Gainwell: 5 🔦
4️⃣ Leonard Fournette: 5 🔦
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) October 13, 2021
Hate: Mark Ingram II (HOU)
To some of you, this might be an obvious fade. To others, you might be scrambling at running back but are still wary about whether Mark Ingram’s lack of productivity in the last few weeks is really a storyteller. Let’s cut to the chase: Ingram is not on this team to produce efficiently and lead an efficient offense. Against good rushing defenses, he’s even worse (e.g., Week 2 vs. Cleveland: only 2.9 yards per carry). This week, he faces a Colts defense that ranks second in rush DVOA as a defense. With David Johnson now handling an increasing number of pass-catching opportunities, Ingram provides no value to fantasy football teams against matchups like these and in shallow leagues, is near drop-worthy. I have no idea where the projections are coming from because he isn’t matching them.
Love: Jaylen Waddle (MIA)
We’re going international on this take. In Week 5’s London Game, rookie Kyle Pitts broke out with his first 100-yard game and touchdown in the NFL. This week, I’m going with the wideout Jaylen Waddle, who is the only Dolphin this season with at least four targets in each of the first five weeks.
Most yards gained after the catch among rookie WRs through Week 5 since 2007:
1. Amari Cooper, DAL (2015) – 239
2. Rondale Moore, ARI (2021) – 230
3. Julio Jones, ATL (2011) – 155
4. Kadarius Toney, NYG (2021) – 166
5. Jaylen Waddle, MIA (2021) – 137 https://t.co/IwYJ6aV5mh
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) October 13, 2021
His season-high in volume came in Jacoby Brissett‘s first start of the season (12 receptions on 13 targets in Week 3) and his only touchdown came with Tua Tagovailoa under center (Week 1). Regardless of who starts at quarterback on Sunday, Waddle should eat against a Jaguars defense that ranks dead last in the NFL in pass DVOA. With Will Fuller V on the injured reserve and DeVante Parker dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, Waddle is the clear head honcho of the Dolphins pass catchers and if it were not for a penalty calling back a wide-open score in Week 5, Waddle would have already had his second career touchdown.
Hate: A.J. Brown (TEN)
Athletically, A.J. Brown is built like one of the game’s elite receivers. He’s the type of player that can turn a game on its head and drop a 100-yard game at will. In fact, in his NFL debut in 2019, he put up 100 yards and he had four such games in 2020. So far in 2021 though, with the emergence of Julio Jones in the Tennessee mix, some off-and-on injury concerns, and the added involvement of Derrick Henry in the Titans passing game, Brown hasn’t quite found his groove. That streak should continue against the Buffalo Bills, who allow fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than any other defense. Brown will likely be matched up against elite cornerback Tre’Davious White, who we have feared on the love/hate column before, rightfully so. With the veteran athletic freakshow Jones likely back as well in Week 6, fade the Ole Miss product Brown in DFS formats and consider benching him in shallow leagues ahead of this Monday Night Football matchup.
Love: Noah Fant (DEN)
Raiders fans are probably sick of me but I’ll still bring this up again—this team has too many flaws. I already mentioned their inconsistent veteran quarterback. Now, I’ll point out that they are a mediocre pass defense and specifically poor at restricting fantasy points to tight ends. This season, the Raiders have allowed the seventh-most targets to tight ends and the tenth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Denver’s big-bodied tight end Noah Fant fits the bill perfectly for the job here—there’s simply nobody in the Raiders secondary that can keep up with his athletic prowess and prevent him from being a massive producer with Jerry Jeudy still sidelined due to injury.
Hate: David Njoku (CLE)
This is a warning paragraph. Just a few days ago, David Njoku didn’t even seem relevant enough to consider starting in fantasy football. With the other offensive weapons in Cleveland and the tight end splits essentially serving as an unpredictable platoon, Njoku was simply a wild card until he popped up in a Week 5 shootout against the Chargers. After exploding for 149 yards and a touchdown, he became one of the most popular waiver wire adds of Week 6. But I’m here to remind you that the narratives I just mentioned haven’t changed. He’s still part of a group of talented pass-catchers on a team that still primarily establishes their offensive rhythm via the run.
To make matters worse for him, he did not participate in practice on Wednesday so even if he suits up on Sunday, there’s concern surrounding his true involvement in the pass-catching play of the Browns. And the final straw—he faces the Cardinals, who are the second-best fantasy defense against tight ends in 2021. If you’re streaming tight ends, go with someone with upside instead of getting carried away by a one-week wonder.
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