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The 15: A Trio of Unheralded Receivers Explode, Melvin Gordon Closes on Superstar Status

Shawn Siegele combs the RotoViz apps and breaks down 15 of the most fantasy-relevant developments from Week 6. Why 15? That’s the jersey number of ultimate quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes suffered his first loss as an NFL starter on Sunday night against the New England Patriots. It was a wildly entertaining affair that featured 17 scores, four turnovers (one on downs), and a single punt. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they began the game with three field goals and two interceptions on their first five drives, a stretch they weren’t able to overcome with a late flurry of Tyreek Hill heroics.

Of course, if you were interested in Kansas City or Tom Brady and the Patriots, you watched 2018’s best game on Sunday Night Football. Let’s dive into a few of the contests you might not have witnessed.

1. Washington’s win was quintessential Alex Smith versus Cam Newton. The Panthers running game sputtered in Week 6 as Christian McCaffrey carried eight times for 20 yards. A bad Newton interception and a D.J. Moore fumble put Carolina in a deep first-half hole before Smith added to the pressure with two plodding third-quarter drives that sucked up the entire stanza. Those 21 plays led to only three points, so the margin didn’t grow even though Carolina touched the ball only once in the third and only three times total in the second half.

Newton led the Panthers back, completing four or more passes to each of his main targets – Devin Funchess (5-74-1), Torrey Smith (5-43-1), Greg Olsen (4-48-0), McCaffrey (7-46-0), and Moore (4-59-0) – but he melted down on the final three plays. After missing McCaffrey behind the defense for a TD, he threw wildly to Funchess and Jarius Wright on his last two attempts. Newton remains the ultimate weapon, but his Achilles’ heel is significant. Exempting rookie signal-callers finding their sea legs, you’ll rarely see an NFL quarterback make three consecutive throws of such low quality.

2. Alex Smith is back to being Alex Smith, but it was encouraging to see him get the big win. Without Tyreek Hill and Andy Reid, Smith has fallen back to game manager status. The AYA app helps to illustrate the difference between his breakout 2017 season and what he’s accomplished with a more limited cast of 2018 characters.

Smith 2017

Smith was the QB3 on a per game basis a year ago,1 averaging over 23 points a game. He’s fallen below 20 PPG this season, in part due to the lack of health from his receivers. Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson, and Jamison Crowder have been less than 100 percent when they’ve played at all.

 

Smith 2018

 

3. Peyton Barber needed a breakout game … and got one. We’ve given the Bucs a lot of grief for their RB decisions, but Barber came through against an Atlanta defense that NFL runners have to scorch. He carried 13 times for 82 yards and caught four passes, including a key five-yard TD late in the fourth that almost capped a furious Buccaneers rally. Granted, the Falcons often appear to be playing with fewer than 11 men, but Barber repeatedly showed the lateral explosion that led Jon Moore to label him a sleeper years ago.

4. Julio Jones continues one of the strangest streaks in sports history. Jones finished the week second in receptions (10) and second in yards (143) but only eighth in points (24.3) because he once again failed to find the end zone. It only gets more frustrating when you consider that Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu left early. If your Jones team lost the way mine did, you’re certainly lamenting the missed opportunity for one of his patented 200-yard games. The regular season TD-less streak now stretches to 11 games, and things weren’t much better before it began. Jones has only scored four times in his last 27 contests. Matt Ryan has thrown 18 TD passes since he last found Jones in the end zone.

5. The Steelers dynamic receiving duo helps pull off the upset. In last week’s Wrong Read that gave us Rest-of-Season WR Rankings, Blair Andrews noted that Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster were among the league leaders in expected points, but their efficiency levels were not what we’ve come to expect from receiving stars attached to Ben Roethlisberger. Smith-Schuster was the target hog in this one and would have blitzed his EP if he hadn’t been ruled down at the one-foot line on a 29-yard head-over-heels reception where he wrestled the ball away from Darqueze Dennard.2 Brown was again frustrated for most of the day as it looked like his season-long mini-slump would continue, but he came up big when it mattered most, taking a short pass and sprinting 31 yards for the game-winning TD.

JuJu and Brown 6

6. Tyler Boyd continues to solidify his breakout season. When I argued for Boyd as your last round pick in every league, I noted that his three closest comps according to the Box Score Scout were Randall Cobb, Stefon Diggs, and Antonio Brown. While you could hardly offer higher praise, Boyd reminds me even more of Keenan Allen. Such a comparison was blasphemy a month ago, but the current WR11 has outscored Allen by 17 so far this season. The trend continued on Sunday as he picked up two more TDs. His 2018 breakout has occurred with a balanced portfolio that includes top-15 rankings in targets (52), receptions (37), and yards (455). He’s not quite in the top 15 for expected points, but he’s made that up by scoring 24.2 points over expectation, the 10th-best mark in the league.

tyler boyd AYABoyd has been fantastic in the short area as you would expect, but he’s also made the most of his targets to the deep left and deep right.

7. Baker Mayfield’s Week 3 heroics continue to fade in the memory. After Mayfield came on against the Jets and rallied Cleveland to their first victory since before Julio Jones last caught a TD pass, it looked like he might begin his career in the same comic book fashion as Deshaun Watson a year ago. The results since have been less appetizing. Mayfield completed 22 of 46 passes in this one, but that hardly tells the story. There were bright spots – Damion Ratley and David Njoku both looked good, especially the sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M – but Mayfield managed to connect with Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway on four of 19 targets.

Mayfield AYA

This continues a disturbing seasonal trend where Mayfield has been his least efficient when targeting his core pieces. To be sure, this doesn’t entirely go on the young QB. It’s hard to imagine just how awful Corey Coleman must have been in camp, because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone make worse efforts to catch the football than Callaway. By the end of this one, Landry was so disgruntled with the off-target nature of his chances that he started trying to make one-handed catches just to entertain himself. It was a bad look all the way around.

8. Speaking of a bad look, if you’ve read any of Hasan Rahim this season – and if you haven’t, he’s an absolute must – you know what he thinks of young QBs having to learn under the tutelage of Todd Haley and Mike McCoy. But the best examples of Haley’s anti-genius always come in the running game.Browns RB in 6

Perhaps on a different team, with a different coaching staff that didn’t include Haley and Hue Jackson, it would have worked, but the Carlos Hyde signing has been an abject disaster. Johnson finally got a little run in this one – he gained 109 yards on six touches – and Nick Chubb looked shot out of a cannon on his trio of touches.

9. For a brief moment, Melvin Gordon looked not just like a plus-receiver and fantasy force, he looked like the runner we remember from Wisconsin. Gordon’s career 3.9 yard per carry average may be Trent Richardson-esque, but he’s now over 5.0 for 2018 after rushing for 132 yards on 18 carries against the Browns. While much of the football world again marveled at the explosions from Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley this week – and the full repertoire was on display from both, improbable feints followed by acceleration that ranged from the uncanny to the unnatural – Gordon slashed through the Cleveland defense with a flurry of cuts that seemed impossible for a back of his size.

10. Josh Allen looks a lot like Blake Bortles. Or he would if Bortles had a more compact motion and less wobble on his spiral. This doesn’t mean Allen is better, just that his throws are more aesthetically pleasing. Allen’s AYA numbers are similar to Bortles’ rookie campaign, and while Allen’s more physically impressive as a runner as well, it’s easy to forget that he has a long way to go to reach Bortles’ 419 rookie rushing yards. That may be difficult with the beating he’s taking. After he left with an elbow injury with a pedestrian line of 84 yards on 17 attempts, Nathan Peterman entered and threw a 16-yard TD to Zay Jones before back-to-back late INTs sealed the victory for Houston.

11. Deshaun Watson didn’t look 100 percent against the Bills. After suffering a chest injury on one of several ill-advised designed runs last week, Watson appeared befuddled by the tough Buffalo defense. He was held below 200 yards passing, threw two INTs, and took a whopping seven sacks. Will Fuller and Keke Coutee were taken out of the game, although Fuller drew a 41-yard PI in the end zone that set up a field goal.3 Despite this setback, the big difference between 2017 Watson and 2018 Watson comes in the TD department. From the Game Splits app:

Watson splits

12. Nobody throws a prettier pass than Josh Rosen. That’s not the goal, of course. Accuracy and anticipation are what make an NFL QB successful, but in the interim, Cardinals fans can take some comfort in how easily Rosen lofts a perfect spiral and how softly it floats into the arms of his receivers 50 yards down the field. Although Rosen was sacked four times and threw an INT without a TD, he generally looked composed in the face of Minnesota’s defense. Having watched all four rookie QBs yesterday, he appeared to make the most relaxed throws within the offense.4

13. Rosen’s connection with Christian Kirk offers a glimpse at a bright future. Kirk caught six of seven targets for 77 yards in this one and continues to be the No. 1 option in Arizona. He now leads an undervalued rookie WR class in receptions.  rookie wr 6

14. Never too late – or too early – to target these rookies, and you should consider the leaders in FPOE. I have a strong preference for Kirk, Ridley, Moore, and Tre’Quan Smith out of this group, which reminded me of The Wrong Read No. 49, a must-read among must reads. Blair points out that rookie year WR efficiency carries over into subsequent seasons.

Does Rookie Year Efficiency Persist_

There’s plenty of time for intriguing players like Courtland Sutton to turn things around, but keep an eye on these early top performers.

15. Relevant, perhaps:

  • After another injury to Cooper Kupp and that quiet game you can occasionally expect from Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods now leads the Rams with 115 fantasy points and sits at WR7 overall.
  • Nyheim Hines lost the rushing work to Marlon Mack and dropped what would have been a tricky TD catch.
  • If you don’t like Emmanuel Sanders, it was entertaining to see his early TD catch overturned and ruled down at the 1, changing his gratuitous taunting penalty from “not great” to “backbreaking” as it quickly cost the Broncos what little chance they had to be competitive with the Rams juggernaut. If you do like Sanders, you can gloat about his status as WR8 and fume about the overturn without any reality repercussions.
  • Few Sundays have ever witnessed so many top scores on the bench. Albert Wilson (33), Cole Beasley (31), and Tyrell Williams (27) all finished in the top-six scorers. Wilson rockets to WR24. Perhaps you had the guts to play him with Brock Osweiler?
  • Oh, and Adam Thielen continued to look unstoppable. Of course, the Cardinals appeared to spend the whole game taking away Stefon Diggs. On his TD, Thielen beat a linebacker while Diggs was double-covered. There is only one person who has a higher opinion of Stefon Diggs than I do, and that’s Diggs himself (and probably by a wide margin). But if I’m prepping defensive coordinators going forward, here’s my advanced scouting report: Adam Thielen is pretty good. He’s the guy I’d try to stop. Or at least slow, a little.
  • It was another very bad day for teams with new coaches in 2018. But take heart, at least none of you retained Hue Jackson.

Good luck to everyone tonight. If you need a big game from Kyle Juszczyk or Marquez Valdes-Scantling, I hope you get it, I’d just request they not combine for more than 54. Let me know what you saw as the biggest developments of the week in the forums.

 

  1. Among players with at least 10 starts.  (back)
  2. As a Smith-Schuster owner, I would probably argue that he didn’t have full possession on this sensational play until he was in the end zone, but these are biased eyes watching.  (back)
  3. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually count myself an Alfred Blue fan, but maybe a different play call on 1st-and-goal from the 1.  (back)
  4. Sam Darnold also looked good in victory.  (back)

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