Welcome to Week 5. Leonard Fournette is injured again, T.Y. Hilton is out, and both Julian Edelman and Mark Ingram are back from their respective suspensions. Injuries are cropping up and owners may need a proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver-wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections. And now that we have three weeks under our proverbial belts, our aFPA has been updated with 2018 data.
Last week, I discussed Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Sony Michel, James White, Matt Breida, Austin Ekeler, Nyheim Hines, Sterling Shepard, Tyler Boyd, Calvin Ridley and Eric Ebron in this space. Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 5.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars (at Chiefs, 30th in QB aFPA)
Leonard Fournette has missed five games in his career, and in those games Bortles has stepped it up to the tune of 288 yards, 1.8 touchdowns and a very un-Bortles-like 0.2 interceptions per contest. The Chiefs contained the Denver passing game on Monday night, but gave up an average of 376 yards and 2.7 touchdowns to Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Jimmy Garoppolo in the first three weeks of the season.
Alex Smith, Redskins (at Saints, 31st in QB aFPA)
Smith’s season is off to a good start in the real-world (2-1 record and a 102.2 QB Rating), but his fantasy production has left a little to be desired. He’s 18th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game, but he has shown a high floor with a low week of 13.1 points. With Washington coming off its bye, head coach Jay Gruden has had a chance to make a few adjustments, and the matchup against the Saints looks great. New Orleans gave up a combined 791 total yards and nine touchdowns to Matt Ryan and Ryan Fitzpatrick in recent weeks.
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars (at Chiefs, 29th in RB aFPA)
Yeldon is currently the No. 10 running back in PPR formats, and with Leonard Fournette out (again) he’s slated for a big workload against the Chiefs, which have been quite friendly to running backs. In the 22 career games where he’s seen at least 13 touches, Yeldon has averaged 82 total yards and 0.36 touchdowns, which works out to 14.1 points per game in PPR formats. In the two games that Fournette has missed altogether, the Jaguars did make an effort to get Corey Grant involved. In Week 2 he turned 10 touches into 69 total yards, and in Week 3 he had seven touches for 10 yards. In those games, Yeldon handled 12 touches and 13 touches , respectively. Last week, with Fournette only playing around a third of the snaps, Yeldon saw 21 touches to Grant’s three, so we’re expecting RB1-type workload for Yeldon against the Chiefs.
Nyheim Hines, Colts (at Patriots, 27th in RB aFPA)
In the three games that Marlon Mack has missed—and he’s out again for Thursday night—Hines has averaged 11.7 touches (7.0 catches) for 56 yards and 0.67 touchdowns for a 16.6 per-game average in PPR formats. The Colts are without T.Y. Hilton, so Hines figures to play a big role in the Indianapolis passing game against the Patriots, who are likely to jump out to a lead on Thursday night.
Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook, Jaguars (at Chiefs, 19th in WR aFPA)
As I mentioned earlier, Blake Bortles has averaged 288 yards passing in the five games that Leonard Fournette has missed in his career, so there should be more to go around for this trio of receivers. It’s nearly impossible to predict which one will be best on a weekly basis, but all are worth starting, unless you own more than one of them. At least two of the three should post productive fantasy lines against the Chiefs’ terrible defense. For what it’s worth, Westbrook is leading in PPR point production, but Moncrief is leading the team in air yards by a wide margin.
Keke Coutee, Texans vs. Cowboys, 10th in WR aFPA)
Keep an eye on Will Fuller's status this week. If he's out, Coutee will shoot up the rankings and probably land as a WR4 against the Cowboys. He had 11 catches for 109 yards on 15 targets with Fuller absent most of Week 4.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals (vs. Dolphins, 7th in TE aFPA)
When Tyler Eifert went down, the initial response from fantasy owners was to pick up Tyler Kroft. Uzomah, however, has run ahead of Kroft this season. His snaps spiked (70%) in Eifert’s injury game and he has run three times as many pass routes as Kroft has this season, so indications are that he’ll step in as the starter. The matchup isn’t great, but Cincinnati’s offense is rolling, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Uzomah posts 50 to 60 yards and a touchdown.
Geoff Swaim, Cowboys (at Texans, 28th in TE aFPA)
It seems that Swaim has carved out a role in the Cowboys’ (woeful) passing attack. He has played 90% or more of the snaps in all four games, and over the last week he’s been pretty involved as a receiver. He posted five catches for 47 yards on seven targets against the Seahawks, before grabbing three passes for 39 yards and score on five targets against the Lions. That’s a 19.7% target share over the last two weeks. The matchup is nice, too—the Texans gave up 5-40-1 to Eric Ebron, 3-39-1 to Rhett Ellison and 7-123-1 to Rob Gronkowski.