Are we having fun yet? I sure am! The most dedicated and passionate managers are as well, since they, too, find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While there are times your roster may allow for snoozing on sleepers, it’s always beneficial to keep tabs on emerging trends and players.
This weekly column is for those who understand the satisfaction of digging deep.
All of the listed players below are rostered in under 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily game. They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks … but that’s what makes them so intriguing.
In Week 5, Teddy Bridgewater passed for over 300 yards and 2 TDs, managing low-end QB1 fantasy numbers. Devonta Freeman emerged as the top dog in the G-Men’s backfield, logging 87 scrimmage yards and a score. Also at RB, Justin Jackson proved to be the back to start in LA, posting top-25 FF stats. Kirk Cousins, Curtis Samuel, and Eric Ebron, however, largely underwhelmed. Let’s see what fantasy damage we can do in Week 6!
Andy Dalton, QB, Dallas Cowboys (4% rostered — $27)
Going from Dak Prescott to Andy Dalton is like substituting Grade #1 Toro with Chicken of the Sea. If you add enough mayo and some pickles, though, that tuna tastes all right. Back in 2012 and 2013 — with a young A.J. Green and a late-career BenJarvus Green-Ellis — Dalton posted top-12 fantasy numbers. In 2016, he cleared 4,000 passing yards and managed 25 TDs the following year. Those efforts were good enough to land him inside of the top-16 FF players at the position.
It may not be exciting or inspiring, but the Red Rifle has shown that he’s a competent enough signal caller to produce for managers when surrounded by above-average pass-catchers. There’s no denying that the Cowboys’ other skill position players are a massive upgrade from who Dalton was working with in Cincy. The offense certainly figures to reprioritize the running game, but Dallas’ defense will keep Dalton passing. Thankfully, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard are all more than capable receivers.
Last Sunday, in relief of Dak, Dalton demonstrated his fill-in ability. Completing 9 of 11 passes for 111 yards, he managed a YPA of over 10. He’s a low-end QB1 heading into Week 6 when he faces Arizona in a potential shootout (O/U 55).
Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots (54% rostered — $17)
The Patriots RB situation has long frustrated fantasy managers because of its unpredictability. That’s partially because the backfield included a number of specialists who could be rotated situationally. Harris is exciting from an FF point of view because, while he doesn’t excel at any one skill, he is adept at all of them. This multiplicity is what led the team to select him in the third round of the 2019 draft.
In Week 4 — after being activated from IR (hand) and with Sony Michel sidelined (quad) — Harris received the first start of his sophomore campaign. Carrying the ball 17 times, Harris not only managed more totes than any other NE RB on the season but also posted 100 yards. The Alabama product wasn’t involved in the passing game, but it’s possible he was used sparingly in his first game back from injury. In Week 6, he’ll face a Broncos squad that, while talented, figures to be gassed given the state of the team’s offense. Cam should take care of Denver, leaving plenty of rushing opportunities for Harris. He’s on the RB2/RB3 bubble for this weekend’s rescheduled game.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills (4% rostered - $10)
At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Davis is a well-built red-zone target for Josh Allen. Praised for his strong hands and contested-catch ability, the fourth-round pick has emerged as a legitimate downfield weapon. In fact, per PFF, the UCF product is the only rookie receiver to record a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when targeted so far in 2020.
In Week 5, with John Brown (calf) missing time, Davis logged his highest number of snaps (all 72!!!) and targets (9). While he only managed a stat line of 5-58-0, it’s worth noting that he hauled in a wow-worthy first-quarter score that was wiped away by an offensive penalty. He’s also flashed previous to last Tuesday’s game, scoring in Weeks 2 and 4 and clearing 80 yards in Week 3. Brown’s absence absolutely elevates Davis’ profile, but in a matchup versus the Chiefs — which currently boasts the highest over/under of the week (57.5) — there figure to be some high-value opportunities for the explosive rookie. He’ll be a high-ceiling flex come Monday night.
Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (35% rostered - $17)
Shenault’s YAC ability and versatility were widely showcased during his tenure at Colorado. Those skills have transferred to the next level, as he’s already totaled 136 yards after the catch (WR9) while additionally receiving regular touches out of the backfield (an average of nearly two per week). Shenault — who has already accrued the third-most catches over 15 yards among qualifying rookies (tied with Jerry Jeudy) — continued to raise his profile via his Week 5 showing.
With DJ Chark exiting the contest, the 22-year-old logged a career-high 52 snaps and 8 looks, closing out the week as fantasy’s WR27 (7-79-0). In Week 6 he’ll take on a Lions defense that’s allowing an average of nearly 250 receiving yards and over 2 scores per contest. If Chark (ankle) were to miss more time, and assuming Shenault can keep his hammy issue at bay, the rookie could produce WR3 fantasy numbers for a third consecutive outing.
Irv Smith, TE, Minnesota Vikings (6% rostered - $10)
The Vikings second-round pick from a year ago, Smith came into the league with plus athleticism and versatility. He saw his first meaningful action of 2020 in Week 5 as a pass-catcher, recording a career-high 64 receiving yards. Second in team targets (tied with Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook), Smith converted 4 of 5 looks, snagging two key grabs over 20 yards. While he was out-snapped by Kyle Rudolph, it’s worth noting that he ran 31 routes to the vet’s 23.
The Vikings certainly want to be a run-first operation, but with Vegas setting a projected point total of 55 on this contest, there should be sufficient opportunities for Smith to produce. The matchup is undeniably juicy, as he’ll face a Falcons defense that’s giving up an average of over 340 receiving yards per week and has allowed the second-most fantasy points (and the most TDs at 7) to opposing TEs. Fire up Smith as a solid stream in TE12-14 range.
Desperation Damage: Frank Gore, RB, New York Jets (13% rostered - $11)
Le’Veon Bell found freedom, leaving Gore to man the Jets backfield. Obviously, there isn’t any upside here, but Gore averaged 17 touches per contest when Bell was sidelined earlier in 2020. That kind of consistent volume versus a Dolphins run defense that’s allowing a YPC of 5.0 and has given up 8 total scores to opposing RBs could garner top-35 fantasy numbers.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF.