From a fantasy lens, dozens and dozens of players being sidelined is already greatly impacting the depth of your league and roster. Starting stars is as justifiable as ever, but I am still here to take a flamethrower to your optimism on a weekly basis, highlighting a handful of upcoming fantasy busts for the forthcoming slate of games. Let me be clear - I like fun, I prefer to focus on positives and, most of all, do not hate any of these players. I simply believe they will perform below their normal output.
49ers WR Deebo Samuel vs Rams (-3.5)
Total: o/u 50.5 | 30% Started
Abysmal does not begin to cover Jimmy Garoppolo’s return to the field last Sunday against the Dolphins. Valid skepticism has always existed regarding Garoppolo’s viability as a top quarterback in the NFL; namely questioning if he has the talent to drag his team out of a hole in pivotal situations. Yet at a minimum, his ability to execute a beautifully designed Kyle Shanahan offense has locked him in as a starter - that vanished in Week 5, as Garoppolo sailed numerous passes without the ability to drive on his plant foot.
That has been the focus when analyzing the team’s most recent performance, but equally as concerning is the 49ers’ offensive line dropping to bottom half status in terms of pass blocking. The formula simply is not working as well for the 49ers in 2020 compared to 2019 for a variety of reasons - injuries, a drop in player performance and expected defensive regression, just to name a few. Each of these factors limited Deebo Samuel’s output since his return to the lineup, and Sunday’s matchup against the Rams is unlikely to help. Los Angeles' defense has limited opposing receivers to a combined 133 yards this year, despite playing great passing offenses like the Bills and Cowboys, while ranking as the No. 3 pass defense DVOA. Samuel did receive eight targets last week, totaling just 18 yards with 19 via yards after the catch.
With Aaron Donald disrupting a declining offensive line and collective talent in the secondary to stick with opposing receivers, Samuel’s path to success hinges on big plays. How likely is that to happen for a player in his third game back from foot surgery?
Prediction: 7 targets, 4 receptions and 51 yards
Cowboys WR Michael Gallup vs Cardinals (-2.5)
Total: o/u 54.5 | 55% Started
The wealth of skill position talent on the Cowboys should elevate Andy Dalton to winning quarterback levels. The question is if Dalton’s talent can keep all three receivers afloat on a weekly basis, to the point we can play each with confidence. This question will likely be answered by matchups, and Michael Gallup’s is not favorable in Week 6. Even with Dak Prescott as his quarterback, Gallup’s lone game over 8.5 fantasy points arrived against the abysmal Seahawks’ defense in Week 3. The downfield star hauled in two miraculous passes from Dalton last week to secure the win, an area where Gallup is among the NFL’s best. As Rich Hribar points out, Arizona is shockingly outstanding at defending those vertical shots, allowing just seven completions of 15-plus yards through five games. Of the Cowboys’ WR trio, Gallup is the one to avoid this week.
Prediction: 5 targets, 3 receptions and 49 yards
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Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater vs Bears (+2.5)
Total: o/u 44.5 | 38% Started
On the heels of two straight 20-plus point games, Teddy Bridgewater runs into one of his more difficult matchups of the season. Chicago has not allowed a top 12 scoring QB this season despite facing Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. Bridgewater currently ranks as the QB20 in fantasy points per game. Yes, the Panthers are home favorites, but a total of just 44.5, the second lowest on the slate this week, does not fit the formula for a streaming option. In fact, Bears games this season have averaged a total of 41 points per contest.
That is not to say Bridgewater is unusable this season. He and Joe Brady are totally in sync, and the offense’s play supports two top-24 options at WR (Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore) and a top 10 weekly scorer at RB (Mike Davis, and later Christian McCaffrey once he returns). Just make sure the formula fits prior to the game. The Bears are among the best in the NFL at preventing opponents from scoring touchdowns in the red zone, so if Brady and Bridgewater can locate the key to open that lock then the Panthers’ offensive potential is much higher than I am giving them credit for.
Prediction: 22 of 28 for 220 yards and 1 touchdown - 12 rushing yards
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Browns TE Austin Hooper @ Steelers (-3.5)
Total: o/u 51 | 26% Started
Baker Mayfield attempted 37 passes last week against the Colts, seven more than he registered in any other win this season. This helped support a season high target total (10), reception total (5) and yardage total (57) for Austin Hooper. I highly doubt Kevin Stefanski wants Mayfield attempting more than 30 passes in a game this season, as the Browns rank in the bottom half of the league in Neutral Pass Rate and bottom four in Pass Rate above/below expectation. The tight end position absolutely stinks this year (despite our optimism for it heading into the season), so I do not blame you if Hooper is your best option this week. Roll with it in the hopes that the Browns find themselves in negative gamescript and are forced to throw more often, breaking their comfort zone. Unfortunately, the Steelers allow just over three receptions per game to the position this season.
Prediction: 7 targets, 4 receptions for 40 yards
Eagles WR Travis Fulgham vs Ravens (-7.5)
Total: o/u 47.5 | 2% Started
Witnessing random players emerge for monster performances out of nowhere is an underappreciated aspect of every NFL season. Fulgham’s 10 reception - 152 yard - 1 TD game on 13 targets against a respected Steelers Defense absolutely qualifies. Now he runs into a potentially better Ravens’ secondary, a group that has only allowed two receiving touchdowns to WRs this season. Marlon Humphrey is one of the best slot corners in the game, an area where Fulgham attacked last week, plus Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters are waiting on the outside. Fulgham should be viewed as a WR4 option this week after nearly posting the top overall score at his position in Week 5.
Prediction: 6 targets, 3 receptions for 37 yards