Oftentimes, a player with injury questions may find himself as a sleeper or bust in a given week. Last week, I listed Justin Jackson and Rashaad Penny as sleepers because I believed that if they played, they would produce big numbers. Unfortunately, neither was able to suit up in Week 4. The good news is that their status was revealed early enough that you had plenty of time to remove them from your lineups. I have a trio of wide receivers among my Week 5 sleepers who also have injury concerns. As always, stay tuned to the latest news before setting those lineups. I will also update my weekly rankings on Sunday morning before kickoff which should assist with any last-minute decisions you may have. Let’s see which players make my Week 5 Sleepers and Busts lists.
Week 5 Sleepers and Busts
Kirk Cousins (My rank: QB13; Expert Consensus Rankings: QB18)
If you have watched Kirk Cousins play this season, I cannot blame you for wanting to bench him this week. But there are some narratives at play here that suggest this could be the week Minnesota gets their passing game in order. First, Adam Thielen vocalized his frustrations following last week’s loss. The implication was that the team needs to pass more often and more effectively. His words hit so hard that Kirk Cousins felt the need to publicly apologize to Thielen. Then Stefon Diggs reportedly sat out practice on Wednesday amidst rumors that he is unhappy and seeking a trade. Choose your idiom – “closed mouths don’t get fed”, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, and so on. I think this is a case where Minnesota makes a point to feed their receivers on Sunday in a prime matchup against the New York Giants.
The Giants have given up 9.31 yards per passing attempt this season. That is a staggering number, as the league average is 7.38. Their cornerbacks may be the worst in the league. Out of the 106 cornerbacks ranked by Pro Football Focus, Janoris Jenkins is tied for 84th with a 55.0 overall grade. DeAndre Baker is dead last with a 30.0 grade. Their coverage grades are even worse than their overall grades. Baker has allowed a 155.8 passer rating on balls thrown his way. Mind you, a perfect passer rating is 158.3. If ever there was a perfect storm to make everything right in Minnesota, this would be it. It is only because of how bad Cousins has looked this season that he is not a slam dunk this week. If he is even simply competent, he should enjoy a big week in this matchup.
Philip Rivers (My rank: QB15; ECR: QB 13)
I do not dislike Philip Rivers per se, but a couple of factors went into his relatively low ranking on my part. First was my ranking of Kirk Cousins, as just mentioned. Most have Rivers ranked ahead of Cousins. Based on the way each has played so far this season, it is hard to blame them. I just think this has to be the week Cousins gets it going. That means somebody had to drop a bit. For me it was Rivers. I think both teams are going to run the football quite a bit in this game. The Chargers would be wise to do so now that Melvin Gordon is back. Denver has allowed the third-most rushing yards in the NFL. I think that both Gordon and Austin Ekeler can see 10-15 carries each. That would likely mean less volume for Rivers and the passing game.
Sleeper Running Backs
Jaylen Samuels (My rank: RB15 in PPR; ECR: RB33)
Jaylen Samuels did it all in Week 4 for the Steelers. He ran the ball 10 times, caught all eight of his targets, and even completed three passes. Sure, pop passes are plays any of us can complete, which is why they should be considered running plays, but I digress. Samuels finished as an RB1 and the Steelers easily defeated Cincinnati. The Steelers would be wise to employ a similar strategy this week against Baltimore. Pittsburgh can limit exposing Mason Rudolph by focusing on the running game as they did last week. Because of this, I would expect Samuels to be heavily involved once again. Also, James Conner is very much a question mark heading into this game. I think Samuels will get at least 12 touches with the potential for twice that number if Conner is out. He is an easy RB2 for me in all formats.
Royce Freeman (My rank: RB23 in Standard; ECR: RB28)
Truth be told, I do not consider myself abnormally high on Royce Freeman. What I do believe is that he and Phillip Lindsay are virtually interchangeable. Freeman has played four more snaps than Lindsay has. Lindsay has 11 more touches and 36 more total yards this season. I would say they are on even footing. Yet the consensus has Lindsay several spots ahead of Freeman. This does not make sense to me. Lindsay may finish ahead of Freeman. But I would argue that there is just as good a chance that Freeman outproduces Lindsay this week. The matchup itself is not one to shy away from. The Chargers have been decimated by injuries to their defense and have allowed 4.43 yards per rush to enemy running backs. I think there is plenty of value in starting Royce Freeman in this matchup.
Chris Thompson (My rank: RB24 in PPR; ECR: RB30)
I am usually among the highest rankers on Chris Thompson each week, and this week is no different. I have been talking him up for a while and said back in August that I would not be surprised to see Thompson vie for the team lead in receptions. Sure enough, Thompson currently leads Washington with 20 grabs. Thompson enters Week 5 as an RB2 in PPR leagues despite having not yet scored and having just 46 total rushing yards. This week Washington will face the New England Patriots. New England has played stellar defense all season long, but they do give up a decent amount of receiving production to running backs. In fact, 64.9 percent of the fantasy points they have allowed this year have come via receiving production. That is right in Thompson’s wheelhouse and is the primary reason he can reach double-digits for the fifth consecutive week.
Bust Running Backs
Wayne Gallman (My rank: RB29 in Standard: ECR: RB23)
Wayne Gallman acquitted himself quite nicely in place of Saquon Barkley in Week 4. Gallman finished as the overall RB5 with 118 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. He should get enough touches to remain relevant and perhaps even startable. But his matchup is far from ideal. He will square off with a Vikings defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown and the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this year. If Minnesota can score early on New York’s suspect defense, it may force the Giants to become one dimensional. The return of wide receiver Golden Tate may also lead to fewer touches for Gallman. Gallman has been limited in practice this week due to a neck injury. All told, I do not see Gallman getting the necessary volume to make him a must-start this week.
Sony Michel (My rank: RB31 in PPR; ECR: RB26)
It is certainly possible that Sony Michel exceeds expectations this week. The Patriots are huge favorites against Washington and Michel may be in line for a rather heavy workload. Except that Michel has had 15-plus touches in three games this season, and in only one of the three did he finish as a top-40 fantasy running back in PPR leagues. And even in that game, he finished as the RB22 against a Dolphins defense that has allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL. Michel is averaging just 2.8 yards per rush this season and has forced a total of three missed tackles on 62 carries. I just cannot start Michel with any real sense of confidence given how he has performed this year. Washington’s run defense has been halfway decent, so I do not think Michel is a must-start despite what should be plenty of positive game script.
Sleeper Wide Receivers
T.Y. Hilton (My rank: WR29 in Standard; ECR: WR47)
Michael Gallup (My rank: WR38 in Standard; ECR: WR74)
Mike Williams (My rank: WR44 in Standard; ECR: WR67)
I suspect that my relatively high ranking of these three wide receivers compared to the consensus is simply that I believe they are more likely to play than many others. All three took part in limited practice sessions on Thursday which hopefully means they will see the field on Sunday. They may not fit the traditional mold of sleepers, but I wanted to list them here to emphasize that I would not shy away from using any or all if they are available in Week 5.
If T.Y. Hilton is active, he must be inserted into starting lineups. There is certainly a risk for re-injury. But the reward is too great. A meeting with Kansas City has massive shootout potential, and their coverage unit is nothing to write home about. I’m less bullish on Michael Gallup and Mike Williams. I believe Gallup, in particular, would benefit from another week of rest, and his Week 5 matchup is not ideal. Green Bay has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers thus far in 2019. As for Williams, he could theoretically get a lot of looks if Chris Harris shadows Keenan Allen. Then again, Allen has played so well this season that he may see his normal complement of targets regardless. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to start Gallup and Williams will depend on your other options at the position.
Bust Wide Receivers
Courtland Sutton (My rank: WR38 in PPR; ECR: WR33)
Courtland Sutton has put together a very efficient start to the 2019 season, highlighted by his two-touchdown performance against Jacksonville last week. I believe he will have trouble repeating that effort this week against the Los Angeles Chargers. First, as I mentioned when discussing Royce Freeman, I think both he and Phillip Lindsay will produce this week, as Denver can use both to control the tempo of the game and keep the Chargers offense off the field. Because of this, I do not see as many attempts for Sutton to make plays. I also think there is a good chance Sutton sees plenty of shutdown corner Casey Hayward in coverage. I do not expect Hayward to exclusively shadow Emmanuel Sanders. If Hayward does shadow Sanders, I may be way off here. But I think there is enough risk to consider sitting Sutton depending on your wide receivers.
Jarvis Landry (My rank: WR41 in Standard; ECR: WR34)
Putting Jarvis Landry here is tough because I do like his outlook if he plays. But we do not know if Landry will suit up after he suffered a concussion last week. As of Thursday, he was still in the league’s concussion protocol. That does not bode well for his Week 5 status. He does not play until Monday, which means an extra day to recover may enhance his chances of playing. However, that also causes a problem for fantasy purposes. Dedicating a starting roster spot for Landry may prove disastrous if he cannot clear the concussion protocol in time for kickoff. You do not want to be left holding the bag and being forced to start a lesser wide receiver on Monday night if Landry does not play. I would prefer to avoid the potential headache (no pun intended) and leave Landry on the bench this week.
Sleeper Tight Ends
Eric Ebron (My rank: TE10 in PPR; ECR: TE13)
Jack Doyle (My rank: TE13 in PPR; ECR: TE15)
(Full disclosure – I have both ranked ahead of Gerald Everett, and there is a zero percent chance they outscore Everett this week.)
Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle have, to some degree, canceled each other out a bit, which was the concern before the season. Ebron has just eight catches so far, and neither he nor Doyle has had as many as 50 yards in any game this year. However, I expect the pair to have the chance to hit that magic number when Indianapolis travels to Kansas City. No team in the NFL has allowed more receptions to opposing tight ends than Kansas City. This game has the potential to be a high-scoring affair, which means we should try to attach ourselves to this game where possible. Gravitating towards the Colts’ tight ends seems like a relatively cost-effective place to start, especially with the Colts likely playing from behind and T.Y. Hilton potentially playing at less than 100 percent.
Bust Tight End
Greg Olsen (My rank: TE14 in PPR; ECR: TE8)
I do not think you have to go out of your way to avoid Greg Olsen this week. However, I also would not consider the veteran a no-brainer start. Last week, Carolina almost exclusively featured Christian McCaffrey. They won the game, so it is hard to fault the strategy. The Panthers may ride the star running back once again when they face Jacksonville. That could lead to fewer targets for Olsen. The other issue is that star cornerback Jalen Ramsey may once again sit to an ailing back. If he does not make the trip, I would expect receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel to be targeted a fair amount. That may limit the opportunities Olsen would see. It may be worth it to start Olsen regardless of the question marks. But we should not pretend those question marks do not exist, either.
Got a few Week 5 Sleepers of your own? Don’t be greedy! Drop them in the comments below. You can’t say, “I told you so,” if you didn’t tell us so.
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