Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): A few weeks ago, we talked about slow starters. Today, let’s flip the script and talk about guys who are scorching hot. Kareem Hunt can do no wrong while teammate Alex Smith has been equally impressive for Kansas City. I wasn’t a believer in Deshaun Watson at first, but after seeing him throw for five touchdowns against the current best team in football on Sunday night, I’m officially a convert. Who else do we have? Oh yeah, Leonard Fournette is running through people (quite literally), Chris Hogan is turning water into wine (and by wine, I mean touchdowns) and Minnesota’s receiving duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen may quietly be the league’s best.
Notice I failed to mention names like Antonio Brown and Tom Brady. That’s because those two are expected to put up monster numbers. If Brown has an off game, nobody panics. We know he’ll bounce back. But for players tasting success for the first time like Hunt and Fournette, we don’t know what’s in store. So, of the hot starters I just mentioned (and feel free to add any other names I may have missed), who will stand the test of the time, and which players will fade down the stretch?
Evan Silva (@evansilva): Keep your studs. Maybe entertain the idea of selling an in-the-moment stud if they're producing well above expectation relative to volume/opportunity. But in pretty much every case with very few exceptions, keep your studs.
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): The hot starter you may still be able to sell high is Chris Thompson, who lived on big plays the first three weeks but came back to earth against the Chiefs before the bye. Perhaps his workload increases with Rob Kelley out this week, but it feels like the time to sell Thompson is now. Duke Johnson may also be on that list, but I have to imagine the Browns come to the realization he is clearly their best back at some point, so I am willing to hold onto him for a little while longer.
Hogan is an interesting discussion because he has already topped his career high in touchdowns, but it is not like they are fluky scores. He is tied for third in the league with five targets inside the 10 and he has nine red-zone targets in the last four games. He also is seeing more targets in general. After topping seven targets just once last year—against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game—Hogan has nine and 11 targets the last two games. All of that points to this being sustainable, which means I am holding onto him short of a Godfather offer.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): Any of those PPR receiving types that have found touchdown fortune are definite sells if you can acquire something tangible for them. Tarik Cohen passed the baton to Chris Thompson who passed it to Duke Johnson. Thompson’s early-season production (at least to the levels of RB1 output that he was having) was totally unsustainable on his workload. Thompson was averaging 17.2 percent of the team touches through three weeks, but was the RB13, RB5 and RB3 those weeks because he scored four touchdowns on 27 touches. He scored touchdowns of 29, 61 and 22 yards during that span while adding another reception of 74 yards on top of that. In Week 4, you know what percent of the Washington touches Thompson had? 17.5 percent, almost his exact seasonal rate. And he was the RB55.
Now Duke Johnson is the RB4 over the past three weeks on just 21.7 percent of the Cleveland touches, scoring once every 10 touches during that span. Duke has scored in three straight games after scoring three TDs in the first 34 games of his career on 300 touches. His last two touchdowns have come with under two minutes left in the game and Cleveland trailing by multiple touchdowns. None of those things are sustainable and he also takes a hit with DeShone Kizer going to the bench. New starter Kevin Hogan is more apt to take off and run and is far more effective completing passes to actual wide receivers than Kizer was.
I find it hard to believe your league-mates are paying for Chris Thompson, but Johnson has some #brand name recognition. And no matter how much we want to buy it based on his workload at the University of Miami, guys who fit Johnson’s mold rarely become feature backs in the NFL. If something were to happen to Isaiah Crowell, I would wager a good amount that Matt Dayes would be involved to a certain degree. Johnson is the perfect type of fringe guy to shop for an underachiever or as spice in a 2-for-1 where you're accruing the better player.
Usually at this time of year, we have an obvious sell wide receiver or two, but at this moment, I don't see much out there because the position has been very volatile so far. There are only two receivers entering Week 6 with 500 receiving yards and only four with 400 yards. This is an ongoing trend now in the league as third and fourth wide receivers on teams are receiving more opportunities and we've also had some significant injuries at the top of the position. Last year through five weeks, we had nine wideouts at 400 yards and in 2015, there were 14. There are far more buy-low guys at wide receiver than sell-high ones right now.
(Allows time for audience groans.)
I might also try to get out while you still can on Marshawn Lynch. He looks like what he is, a 31-year-old back who spent 2016 globe trekking. Meanwhile Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington continue to stay involved.
I agree that I wouldn't flip Chris Hogan. He's second in the league in red-zone looks and basically doing exactly what we all expected. And he's not just a touchdown guy, either. Hogan is more than capable of busting big plays.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): I like the idea of trying to move more volatile backs like Chris Thompson or Tarik Cohen if you can get a nibble. These players are perfect for package deals when targeting teams with bye week issues.
I might give T.Y. Hilton a look as a sell in some spots. Coming off a monster Week 5 performance, he may fetch a nice return and he’s really only produced in two of five games this season. If your team is fighting for a playoff spot, you may not have time to wait for Andrew Luck to see the field again, so snagging a more consistent player in return might be helpful.
Pantuosco: It looks like we’re all sharing a brain on Chris Hogan, so let’s move onto the Vikings’ wide receivers because I have a few thoughts on them. Diggs has been phenomenal in spurts since arriving in the league two years ago, so it’s no fluke that he’s sixth in the league in receiving yards. I’d say the bigger surprise has been Adam Thielen, who burst onto the fantasy scene with a 200-yard game against Green Bay late last season and has kept the engine running through the early part of 2017. What’s impressive about these guys is that the bulk of their production has come with Case Keenum at quarterback, which would seem to be a downgrade from Sam Bradford.
Looking at their ROS schedule, the only shutdown corner I see Minnesota running into is Josh Norman in Week 10. Norman doesn’t always shadow guys either, so even that matchup can be overcome with a good game plan. Thielen has yet to visit the end zone this year while Diggs already has more touchdowns than he did all of last season, so I’d expect those numbers to straighten themselves out as the year goes on. That said, the groin injury Diggs suffered on Monday night is certainly one to monitor. Diggs was ineffective while playing through a similar issue last season (though he claims his current injury isn’t as bad as that one) and if that situation repeats itself, I think it would be a big boost to Thielen’s fantasy stock.
Diggs and Thielen have both been getting plenty of work, though I wonder if Minnesota will air it out more now that workhorse running back Dalvin Cook is out for the season. That wasn’t the case against the Bears in Week 5, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings go that route, which, at least from a volume standpoint, can only stand to help both players.
Silva: Not a ton to add here beyond Stefon Diggs' groin injury would scare the crap out of me after how badly it hindered him for about 80% of last season.