Week 5 of the 2019 fantasy football season was one for the ages. Shawn Siegele investigates the impact of heroic performances from Will Fuller, Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, and Michael Thomas. He places these 40-point performances in historical perspective and discusses how a shootout Sunday may change the entire season.
When I go through my high stakes, dynasty, and best ball rosters, there are a few players who show up all over the place – McCaffrey, David Johnson, Austin Ekeler, Tyler Boyd, D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley, Stefon Diggs,1 Courtland Sutton.
But one name stands out as being on almost every team. My FFPC Main Event team with Curtis Patrick. Check. A main event I co-own with former RotoViz star and current friend of the site Ben Gretch. Check. Two other main events. Check. The MFL10 of Death. Check. The Scott Fish Bowl. Check. Myriad dynasty teams including the Iron Throne. Check.
That player is, of course, Will Fuller. This summer I argued that Fuller would join the NFL’s elite in 2019. The results through Week 4 were anything but.
Using the excellent Fantasy Points Summary to check on his progress through the first month of the season, we see that he ranked No. 65 at WR. This was behind Michael Gallup and DeSean Jackson, two players who had logged barely more than four quarters, behind Diggs who’d been targeted so infrequently that he’s well on his way down the Antonio Brown path, behind Deebo Samuel, a rookie who’s already had his bye, and behind Randall Cobb and DeVante Parker, two players you could be excused for thinking were no longer in the league.
The NFL Weekly Explorer tells us that over the first month of the season Fuller was tied with Odell Beckham for fourth overall among receivers with a 96% snap rate, but his target rate lagged at 19%. His blazing speed had been on display,2 but Deshaun Watson was alternating between over- and underthrowing him deep. Watson’s pass quality in the intermediate range was even more dispiriting.
Will Fuller and the Buy Low Report
Perhaps extenuating circumstances played a role as Jack Miller pointed out in his must-read Buy Low Report.
Over the first four weeks of the season, the Houston Texans had the fourth-hardest schedule for wide receivers. Over the next month, they have the 10th-easiest.
At the birth of RotoViz, the Fantasy Douche built the Buy Low Machine as an in-season trade wizard, and it’s been one of the most popular apps ever since. Dave Caban’s Strength of Schedule Streaming tool is our current version, updated with an advanced schedule strength algorithm. It was this combination of schedule and opportunity that Jack urged you to acquire in trade.
Fuller was inches away from a 75-yard touchdown last Sunday, but a slight overthrow by Deshaun Watson kept his value down for at least one more week. The long touchdowns will come for the Notre Dame product; over the last two seasons, he has six touchdowns of 20 yards or more. There’s no reason to panic after four weeks, especially now that it looks like Kenny Stills will miss some time with a hamstring injury. With Fuller, it’s a question of when — not if — he’ll break a long touchdown. His average target comes 17.3 yards down the field and he’s had some close misses over the last few weeks, so I’m betting on him hooking up with Watson for a house call sooner rather than later.
Or three of them.
If you took Jack’s advice and plugged Fuller into your lineup, you received the top Week 5 score this century. He wasn’t alone in generating fantasy fireworks.
From 2000 to 2018, there were 72 instances of a player scoring 30 or more points in Week 5, but only 11 scored 40 or more during that entire window. Priest Holmes joined a flotilla of WRs in posting monster scores.
The epic performances from Fuller, Jones, and McCaffrey rank 1-2-3 for Week 5 scoring, and Thomas’ big game gives the 2019 cadre four of the top 10 results.
A Roller Coaster Sunday
Plenty of players didn’t score particularly well on Sunday — Ben and I took the double goose egg from Mike Evans and Greg Olsen — but everywhere I looked my Fuller teams were matching up with the other big scorers. In fact, my one main event without Fuller, and perhaps not coincidentally the one that had performed the best through the first month, was facing him.
Official RotoViz Main Event: If you had told Curtis and me that our opponent would get more than 110 points from the trio of McCaffrey, Adam Thielen, and Russell Wilson, we wouldn’t have liked our chances. Luckily, our Fuller-Cooper Kupp–Calvin Ridley trio put up 100 of their own and led us to a 186-174 advantage. Monty Phan detailed some of the massive 200-plus scores in High Staked: Fuller Throttle. We hope to have our first 200-point score after George Kittle plays tonight.
Kupp has now put together a three-game stretch where’s he’s scored at least 26 points. His profile is impressive not just for the peaks but the limited number of valleys. Check out Mike Evans’ profile after his 40-point game in Week 33 and look at the contrast between Kupp and Evans in WR3 finishes.
Zero RB Main Event: My JuJu Smith-Schuster–Odell Beckham roster has struggled, to put it mildly, and I wouldn’t have expected a matchup with the Thomas-Amari Cooper-Kupp juggernaut to turn it around. My 3-1 opponent has to be angry with his luck in this one as he leads 192-187 but needs a terrible game from Beckham to withstand the Fuller-Ridley-Sutton firepower. Beckham was Jack’s other main buy-low pick last week. I certainly wouldn’t mind a similar result.
The McCaffrey Main Event: Even owning the most electric runner since Barry Sanders didn’t guarantee victory this week. Another squad with an Olsen doughnut and I trail 166-165. The Fuller owner gets to pad his stats with Kittle, and I answer with … Dante Pettis. More on him in a moment.
The Mahomes Team Faces the World’s Top Fantasy Player: When you’re facing the world’s top fantasy player, you certainly hope he doesn’t get 46 points from his kicker (Justin Tucker) and defense (Philadelphia), because you can more or less guarantee he’ll be throwing guys like McCaffrey and Thielen at you. Fortunately, I answered with Fuller and won the Broncos receiver battle 19-2. So I trail 191-178 with Pettis left to play. Looking at his snap percentage in the Player Usage app does not suggest that I’m the favorite in this matchup.
49ers WR Snap Percentages 2019
It took Pettis a while to get going as a rookie. He averaged a 39% snap share through Week 9, and that translated into a lowly 5% target share. From Week 10 to Week 16, his snap share jumped to 76% and target share to 18%.4 That stretch fueled hopes for a second-year breakout, but Samuel has eclipsed him in 2019. Hopefully the 16% target share in Week 3 is a positive sign.
Ben and I Take On the World: There actually were a few lower-scoring contests this week, and we were the beneficiaries in this league where we faced the current second-place team. We lead 154-139 with Jarvis Landry offering a chance to gain more ground in the points race.
The Chark $350 Team: In this league I opted for an RB-RB start, but selected only three RBs total (a move that created quite a stir in the draft chat). This construction allowed for McCaffrey, Fuller, and D.J. Chark to fit on the same roster with Zach Ertz. The benefits hadn’t come to fruition in the first month, but Week 5 resulted in a 213-174 victory with Landry still alive to claw back value in the total points chase. While McCaffrey and Fuller were the headliners, Chark has been the revelation.
D.J. Chark and the Fantasy Points Over Expectation Leaders
Chark continues to look like the next superstar WR. I drafted him as part of the ideal lineup in Reverse Engineering a Monster, and certainly wish I’d replicated the ownership percentage of Boyd from a season ago.
Each week I’ve been profiling the most explosive receiving performances, and this is already the third time Chark has appeared on the fantasy points over expectation (reFOE) leaderboard.
Week 5 – Receiving Fantasy Points Over Expectation Leaders
Going back to the Weekly Explorer, Chark slots in behind only Chris Godwin for full season reFPOE.
While we always want to be skeptical of sky-high efficiency, it’s encouraging to see those big plays result in increased volume for breakout players. Elite reFPOE performances from Chark in Week 1 and Week 3 each led to jumps in usage.
Chark’s targets were worth 18.2 Expected Points in Week 5, and he managed that volume even though Dede Westbrook recorded a season-high 11 targets. As the season progresses, the improving volume landscape for Chark should balance some of the unsustainable efficiency elements.
Good luck, tonight. Hopefully we’ll get some clarity at RB for the 49ers while Kittle and Pettis put up big numbers. On the Browns side, we could use a little more Beckham and a little less Nick Chubb. Unless, of course, you’re Matt Jones.
Image Credit: Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Aaron Jones.
- When you’re a Minnesota Vikings WR after Week 4 and your choices are a) Call your coaches and quarterback out publicly, or b) Keep your mouth shut (sort of) and skip practice, what do you do? (back)
- He ranked No. 11 in air yards but only Marquise Brown and Curtis Samuel were doing a worse job of converting them into actual yardage. (back)
- And before this week’s goose egg. (back)
- He didn’t play in Week 17. (back)