By: Madeleine Hudak (Twitter: MaddyHudak_94)
For lack of a better term, fantasy football kind of blows this year, overall. The amount of acute early-season injuries is staggering; while somewhat alleviated, early-season sloppy play has continued much farther into the season than to be expected. NFL teams were averaging 25.7 points per game through Week 4 – on pace to shatter the highest season record, 26.3, that was set in 1948.
In fantasy football world, however, this sentiment should be great – Unless your players have not played up to potential and are no longer receiving targets in the record-high scoring. In some cases, it can be chalked up to scheme changes to compensate for other injuries; their offense in general may just be off, their quarterback is failing to gel with receivers, or, your quarterback is the one in the hot seat himself. Now that we’ve hit Week 7 and are nearly at the halfway point, it’s no longer feasible to chalk underperformance up to sloppy early season jitters. It’s officially time to sound the alarm, and best-case, they prove you wrong.
Let’s take a look at 10 players, in particular, to be officially concerned about fielding on your team roster the remainder of this season. We’ll break down their expected trajectory, analyze their underperformance through Week 7, and, ultimately, whether it’s fixable, is due to extraneous team issues, or if it’s time to just cut them. Roster stats are from ESPN.com.
QB Jared Goff (LAR)
The Philadelphia Eagles were able to generate an offense against a horrendously depleted 49ers pass rush. In a matchup where San Francisco was without its top two edge rushers (one being the 2019 Defensive ROTY), and both starting corners, Jared Goff was wholly able to capitalize on a primetime stage. He went 19-for-38, amassed only 198 yards, and threw two touchdowns and an interception in Sunday’s loss. At least he gave us something to look back at and laugh at for the next decade:
It wasn’t as if the third string pass rush was in his face; he wasn’t sacked once and barely faced pressure on the blitz, so his failure of a performance is a bit bewildering. If there was a flow chart depicting Goff’s fantasy production this year, it would look like someone dying repeatedly and then springing out of bed a week later. Since Week 1, his trajectory went as follows: 10.5 pts (Wk 1), 23.98 pts (Wk 2), 27.24 (Wk 3), 11.7 (Wk 4), 24.36 (Wk 5), and this week’s 14.92. Not particularly the most trustworthy as a QB1. And I’m never a proponent of rostering a QB2 most of the time; a waiver week replacement usually does good enough in a bye, and frankly, it’s not worth a roster spot in case of injury in my opinion.
QB is the most carousel-like position with the highest discrepancy based on matchups. So if he’s on your bench, just get rid of him – I’m sure your team is hurting much worse in other position slots. If he’s your QB1, get over to the waiver wire, because if this was Goff’s showing against debatably the most injured NFL team (Eagles are close contenders), he assuredly will blow it against the Bears defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs this season.
Verdict: Drop outright at QB2, otherwise sit through Week 7, and shop around for other options. Too inconsistent to trust as QB1 for the entire season.
QB Gardner Minshew (JAX)
If there’s any indication that you should take pause moving forward with the high-risk, high-reward QB, per ESPN’s Michael DiRocco, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has not ruled out benching Gardner Minshew should his inconsistencies continue. Surprisingly on a staggering 71% of rosters, Minshew is the fun mystery you pick up on waivers for a bye week, not a reliable QB1 whatsoever. The issue with players like Minshew is that they are exciting to watch, yet are horribly inconsiderate to fantasy owners. Minshew is an aggressive quarterback that oftentimes wins games a bit wildly; the downside of this player type is the amount of bad decisions that come along with risky play.
With a team typically down multiple scores, a scrappy QB like Minshew will do his damndest to try to salvage a deep deficit. While that’s a great personality to have instilled in your franchise quarterback, it leads to a lot of risky throws, risky scrambles, and at best, horrible completion rates. At worst, it leads to a lot of turnovers; Minshew committed two turnovers via an interception and fumble in his attempt to muster a comeback against the Lions. His efforts are commendable, but his fantasy points are not. A QB who constantly is coming from behind and flailing in all directions to win his team’s game is just too risky and inconsistent to justify potential payoffs.
Verdict: Get off the Minshew Mania fantasy train, drop him, and pick up inexplicably available Ryan Tannehill (why he isn’t rostered in 33.8% of leagues is truly beyond me).
RB Mark Ingram (BAL)
While Mark Ingram was a sensation in his first season as Baltimore’s lead back, he’s failed to replicate even a modicum of that production this season. Despite high season hopes, he’s failed to surpass 40 yards from scrimmage for five out of six games and has rushed in a mere two touchdowns. He was a concerning player prior to his recent injury; per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Ingram has been diagnosed with a mid-to-high ankle sprain. Luckily, they have a Week 7 bye, but as seen in the cases of Garoppolo in San Francisco and Michael Thomas in New Orleans, high ankle sprains decidedly linger.
Unlike Henderson, Ingram has no upside as a receiving threat and has failed to perform as leader of the backfield. Even if he’s back right after the bye, he’s a flex option at best. Failing to post less than 6-PPR fantasy points in four games is a roster killer and ultimately, the timely injury is an easy out to drop the likely-liability of many starting lineups.
Verdict: Drop him for frankly next best up on waiver wires, full stop. Even if his production increases, his performance thus far doesn’t justify a two week “What if” wait.
RB Devin Singletary (BUF)
Devin Singletary’s 2020 campaign is nothing short of wholly underwhelming. The Bills lead back has averaged 3.2 yards per game with 270 yards total and one singular TD. He’s frankly been more successful as a receiver; his one reception in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City was for 13 yards and the week prior was an 8 yard reception. So if you have him in a PPR league, his 18 receptions are a bit of an upside. The solo touchdown, however, is very much not.
Ultimately, he’s performed well below expectations and is in serious need of a spark after averaging just 2.7 yards per carry and totaling a mere 78 yards from scrimmage in Buffalo’s last two losses. Moreover, Zack Moss’ return from injury could be a bit of a production/carries issue, though the rookie didn’t make much of a case with 10 total rushing yards on Monday. If this is a bit of a mental blip, the Bills Week 7 matchup against the hapless Jets may be the easy rebound game Singletary needs. He falls decidedly in the mediocre category thus far, but, particularly with the level of injury, he’s not worth giving up on at this point in the season. Especially the week before playing the dead-last ranked offense in both pass yards and total points per game.
Verdict: RB2 slot against the most woeful team in the league. At minimum, worth starting in your flex slot most games this season.
RB Darrell Henderson Jr. (LAR)
Henderson is the clear RB1 in the Los Angeles Rams backfield. With that said, what good has that done for fantasy owners? Henderson has been heavily involved in the Rams offense with at least 12 carries in four games this season and at least 80 yards in three of those games; he’s additionally a receiving threat, averaging 13.7 yards per reception with 11 targets this season and a touchdown catch in Week 5. However, he’s averaging a mere 4.8 yards per rush attempt, has only ran for 3 touchdowns, and failed to record double-digit points in the Rams last two matchups.
When you look at the average yards per game, his inconsistency issues stand out. Henderson has had three good games; the other three he averaged 2.4 yards per carry. Moreover, the Rams used their second-round draft pick on another running back this year in Cam Akers, and he ultimately has more upshot; Henderson likely won’t remain at the helm of the Rams backfield, longterm. Akers and Henderson are further crowded by Malcolm Brown, who is the best receiving threat out of the three, meaning Akers and Henderson are likely to split the backfield.
Regardless, Chicago’s complete shutdown on Mike Davis last week bodes horrible for Henderson this week either way. At the same time, don’t use this week as a barometer to make your decision, should you be toying with the idea of a drop or trade.
Verdict: Worth keeping as a flex option, but expect his workload to decrease with Akers’ continual work into the offensive flow. Either way, likely worth seeing play out. But, should you be so inclined, sell him off now while his value is highest before Akers has the chance to breakout.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT)
After going 6-for-6 targets and scoring 2 TDs in Week 1, Juju Smith-Schuster has since disappeared from the conversation. He went from averaging 11.5 yards per catch in the season opener to 7.0 in Week 5 and just 3.0 yds in last week’s win against the Cleveland Browns. His yardage has decreased per game, his targets accordingly, and as someone with Smith-Schuster on their roster, he provided a whopping 1.60 points.
Smith-Schuster was seen as the face of the receiving corp following the departure of Antonio Brown; he has thus far failed to amass more than 69 yards this season, and that was in Week 1. It’s worth noting that Smith-Schuster matched Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron in Roethlisberger’s 22 allocated targets; the concern is the failure to amount any of these receptions to an opportunity. His longest reception was recorded at five yards. Moreover, rookie Chase Claypool is outshining him entirely, and has emerged as a huge playmaker averaging 19.7 yards per reception; there’s no reason to assume he won’t continue to surge in Pittsburgh’s offense, while Smith-Schuster quickly becomes invincible.
Verdict: Try to pick up Chase Claypool, bench Smith-Schuster for the week, and if he continues at this current rate, drop him entirely (which is exactly what I just submitted a waiver for).
WR Mecole Hardman (KC)
Projected to be a breakout candidate in 2020, the only breakout Mecole Hardman has provided to fans is one covered in hives. The narrative early-season was that he was working to get involved in the offense as WR2 behind Sammy Watkins; when Watkins was sidelined, Hardman was now seen as the next man up. He was given the opportunity, and promptly blew it, along with further season hopes, on Monday night. Hardman is another point of personal irritant, as I started him on inevitable targets alone over Tee Higgins against the Colts secondary. Higgins put up over 18 points on my bench, while Hardman recorded a big ole’ 0 points in his 0-for-1 targets.
Instead, fifth-year receiver Demarcus Robinson led the receiving corp with 95% of snaps played, received six targets, and amassed 69 yards while averaging 13.8 yards per catch. We can continue harping on “getting Hardman involved” in Week by Week matchups, but it’s beating around the bush at this point. Robinson has assumed his role in the offense, and with Watkins out for the Week 7 matchup vs. the Denver Broncos, this is a make-or-break week for Hardman’s season entirely. He just ultimately has not lived up to a bit of hype, and has thus far done nothing but underperform and disappoint.
Verdict: Bench him for the week and see if he sees more than 5 targets. Cut him accordingly.
WR Michael Gallup (DAL)
Prior to the season, Michael Gallup was clearly slotted as WR2 behind Amari Cooper. The season has not really transpired accordingly. Instead, 17th overall pick CeeDee Lamb has outshined him and was way more in the mix than Gallup when Dak Prescott was at the helm of the offense; Lamb has recorded 497 yards and 13.8 yards per carry. However, when Prescott suffered his ankle injury in their win against the Giants, backup Andy Dalton took quickly to Gallup as his go-to guy. His trajectory became suddenly more positive, with the consensus that he might be more productive under a Dalton-led offense.
The trend from Prescott’s reign promptly transferred to Dalton as he locked in on Lamb for 10 targets and 64 yards in the 38-10 loss to the Cardinals. Gallup, conversely, secured just two of six targets for 23 yards. Dalton targeted Ezekiel Elliot (11), Amari Cooper and Lamb (10) before even getting around to Michael Gallup. If Monday is a barometer for Dalton’s offense moving forward, Lamb slips by as a flex player and Gallup just doesn’t have any upside to justify a roster spot.
Verdict: Just drop him. Same as I just did (I swear, these genuinely are not just Maddy’s personal qualms).
TE Zach Ertz (PHI)
Quite frankly, these may only be a discussion worth having if you have an IR bench. Much like the Eagles, Zach Ertz has been a disappointment all season, and is now injured. Philadelphia has lost Miles Sanders (RB1), Alshon Jeffery (WR1), Jalen Reagor (WR3), Dallas Goedert (TE2), several offensive linemen, and now their TE1 in Ertz. He’s slated to miss at least 3 to 4 weeks; given his underwhelming production this season, if you don’t have an IR spot on your roster, Ertz might be an outright drop.
The injuries amassed by the Philadelphia offense have made gameday production near impossible; this greatly affected Zach Ertz’s performance quite poorly. His highest yardage came in Week 2 when he was targeted 10 times for 70 yards; otherwise, he’s been incredibly unreliable with two games under 10 yards and others ranging from 30-40 yards. Ultimately, he’s recorded 1 touchdown total, and it came in Week 1. Comparatively, he hadn’t ranked lower than fourth in touchdowns in the position since 2017.
Logic would surmise that the devastating level of injuries would ostensibly lead to obscene production by Ertz. Instead, he’s a blinking neon sign that teams simply triple cover him and as a result, he’s been released entirely. The TE role is one of the most difficult to manage, but it’s certainly not worth keeping a player around on name alone.
Verdict: If you have an IR bench, slot him and tentatively retain hope. If you don’t, he’s frankly an outright drop.
TE Evan Engram (PHI)
Much like Zach Ertz, Evan Engram’s downside isn’t so much related to his own performance so much as the overall team inability to generate an offense. The Giants rank 30th in pass yards per game, 31st in both total points and total yards per game, and are dead-last ranked in passing touchdowns per game with a whopping total of three. When your quarterback cannot throw touchdowns, it’s hard to strategize with his supporting cast whatsoever.
Engram caught a mere two of three targets for 30 total yards in Sunday’s win, racking up just 20 receptions in total for 177 yards this season. He’s failed to surpass 35 receiving yards in five of six games, and his sole touchdown this season was a 3-yard run against the Cowboy’s hapless red zone defense. Zero touchdowns in the air; understandable when you consider his team’s total of three touchdowns entirely. The Giants are going nowhere fast, and it’s quickly becoming a simple debate whether to trade him, bench him, or just drop him entirely. Engram is the perfect example for why a player’s personal value cannot be relied upon for any position but running back; when his production requires a quarterback who isn’t completely inept, there’s really only much he can do. It’s not as if their 1-5 record is particularly inspiring at that.
Verdict: You’re better off picking up Noah Fant or Anthony Firsker off waivers at this point, but must you field Engram, this week’s matchup against the Eagles is a make or break. If he can’t produce off a team desperately susceptible to tight ends, cut your losses and move on.