Each week, above our full fantasy rankings, SI.com fantasy writer Michael Beller and 4for4 writer John Paulsen will have a brief debate about some players they view differently. Scroll down for our full rankings at every position.
Michael Beller: There are a few interesting rankings conundrums I want to get into this week, John. First, let's start at receiver. Are we sure Julio Jones is still a top-10 receiver? In other words, are we sure Julio Jones is still JULIO JONES?
Julio is still a great receiver, someone we'll always refer to by one name, but are his days as a slam-dunk elite fantasy player over. He still hasn't scored a touchdown this season, and 342 of his 564 yards have come in two games. Elite fantasy players don't just have high ceilings, but are also consistent, and Julio has been outside the top-30 receivers in half-PPR scoring three times this season. In the meantime, the top of the position has only gotten deeper, with players like Adam Thielen, Michael Thomas, Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams all on pace for career years. So, I ask again, is Julio definitely a top-10 receiver?
Moving to the backfield, what do we make of the Eagles in a post-Jay Ajayi world? I've written quite a bit about this situation already this week, so I'll defer to you in this space. Do you prefer Corey Clement or Wendell Smallwood? Do you think this will be effectively a 50/50 split, or do you think one will emerge as the leader in, say, a 70/30 breakdown?
Finally, Jameis Winston makes his first start of the season this week, and he does it against an Atlanta defense ranked 27th in 4for4's schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric. We knew the magic of Ryan Fitzpatrick eventually had to run out, but he did show us how explosive the Buccaneers offense can be with the right quarterback at the helm. Can Winston be that guy?
John Paulsen: Julio is still Julio. That is, he’s still a top 10 receiver. Sure, he’s sitting at No. 14 in half-PPR scoring, but he’s literally one touchdown catch out of the No. 9 spot and two touchdowns out of the No. 5 spot. His touchdown percentage from 2015 through 2017 was 5.5%, so on his 34 catches this season he should have caught 1.9 touchdowns by now. He’s No. 3 in air yards (per airyards.com), so at some point he should regress to the mean and catch a few touchdowns. In fact, there’s a good chance he scores at least once this week against the Buccaneers, who are last in the league in wide receiver aFPA. The Bucs have allowed 13 pass touchdowns in four games, the highest rate in the league.
The Eagles backfield is a little murky as there are positives for both Clement and Smallwood heading into Week 6. Clement started the season as the primary backup to Ajayi, though in Week 1 the Eagles gave Darren Sproles nine touches and Clement only five. In Week 2, with Ajayi only playing 28% of the snaps (and Sproles injured), Clement saw 11 touches for 85 yards and a touchdown, while Smallwood turned eight touches into 30 yards. The following week, with Ajayi sidelined, Clement saw 19 touches for 75 yards and Smallwood converted 13 touches into 91 yards and a touchdown. So, after Week 3, Clement was still ahead of Smallwood, but Smallwood had been more productive in his touches, especially in the running game where he was averaging 4.94 yards per carry compared to Clement’s 3.91. Clement was out for Week 4 and active but not playing in Week 5. In those two games, Smallwood racked up 125 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and six catches. On the season, Smallwood has averaged 6.0 YPC, so I think he’s staked his claim for a substantial role in this backfield.
Doug Pederson is not one to lean on a bellcow back, so I think you’re right to look at this in terms of what sort of split we’ll see between Smallwood and Clement, once Clement is fully healthy. I think Smallwood holds more value right now because he’s healthy and playing well, but Clement is set to return this week and is back to 100%, per Pederson. I think we’re looking at a 55/45 or 60/40 split between the two, but I’m not entirely sure which back will end up in a lead role.
Now watch Darren Sproles come back and throw a wrench into our best-laid plans! Better yet, watch the Eagles trade for Shady!
I think Winston can be that guy, and I was drafting him regularly in the final rounds of my best ball leagues with the idea that he’d come out of the gates hot in Week 4. It took an extra couple of weeks, and I had to sweat out the rise and decline of Fitzmagic, but I believe Winston is definitely going to be in the QB1 mix regularly over the next three months.
In the 11 games last season where he played 90% or more of the snaps, he averaged 307 yards, 1.7 touchdowns and 1.0 interception, for 18.9 fantasy points per game. That would have been the fifth-highest per-game average at his position last year. He has one of the most talented receiving corps in the league in Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin, along with O.J. Howard and Winston-favorite Cameron Brate at tight end. Throw in a suspect defense (34.8 points allowed, the most in the league) and we have all the ingredients for a good fantasy run. I’m really eager to see this offense against a banged-up Falcons defense.
Beller: I'm interested to see that game, too. It’ll probably take 35 to win it, and it could take 40. During a week where the Saints and Lions are on bye, and the Chiefs, Patriots and Packers aren’t on the DFS main slate, I have to believe we’re going to see some high ownership rates in Buccaneers-Falcons.