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AAF Week 5 Fantasy Football Recap (Saturday)


It is incredible how much better the games become once the correct players are inserted into the starting lineup. The Memphis Express and Atlanta Legends were slow out of the gates to figure out who their best quarterback was this season, even if the rest of the world seemed to know that Christian Hackenberg and Matt Simms weren't the right answers for their respective teams. However, a simple change has changed the landscape of the league and offenses are starting to click and score points finally.

Seven of the eight organizations appear to have figured out who their field general will be this year, and it is showing with some offensive explosions. Garrett Gilbert continues to be the cream of the crop, but John Wolford, Josh Woodrum, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, Mike Bercovici and Logan Woodside are beginning to form a supremely competitive range of QBs 2-7.

It is important to not overreact to every single game played because there is still volatility to be had for these units, but offensive schemes are helping to shape narratives of what we can expect certain players to be ranked for the rest of the season. As far as the QBs are concerned, if I didn't own Gilbert or Wolford, I'd prefer to have two of the other five players mentioned above to rotate weekly. There isn't enough consistency to warrant having one signal caller and alternating based on matchups seems to be the best way to go. Our fantasy recap from Sunday is still to come, which will include my top-10 players from each position, but lets first dive into what we learned from a fantasy perspective from the first set of games. If you want to read Sunday's article, click here.

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Orlando Apollos 31, Birmingham Iron 14

The Orlando Apollos continued their quest for perfection with a 31-14 road victory against the Birmingham Iron. The game was touted as the best offensive attack against the most stout defense in the league, but Orlando quickly showed that a good offense is perhaps the key to success in the AAF.

QB Garrett Gilbert threw for 286 yards on 23 of 35 attempts, adding two touchdowns and two two-point conversions. Gilbert has now recorded 10 total scores without throwing an interception and leads the league with 1,357 yards passing on a 62.8 percent completion percentage. The former sixth-round pick of the 2014 draft has looked better than some back-end starting quarterback in the NFL, and it appears likely that Gilbert, at the very least, will get a shot to earn a backup role on one of the 32 teams and conceivably could compete for a starting job.

Notable Performances For Orlando

De'Veon Smith (RB)

De'Veon Smith has been one of my favorite RBs this season. The 24-year-old isn't overly fast, but he seems to take what is given to him and is a bruising back to bring down. Through the first five weeks, Smith has seen his workload increase practically every game, starting the season as the goal-line back before growing into one of the primary weapons on the best offense in the league.

On Saturday, Smith carried the ball 14 times for 119 yards en route to nearly matching his season-long output of 120 yards entering the day. It didn't hurt that Akeem Hunt was inactive due to a foot injury, but Smith has seen his total touches stay put or rise every game this season. It is slightly alarming that he hasn't caught a pass in three weeks, but he also hasn't scored a touchdown or converted a two-point play either, which is where he will garner the majority of his value. While Smith has performed as an RB2 without the scores, he should still only be considered an RB2 that will sprinkle in some quality RB1 weeks when he finds the endzone.

D'Ernest Johnson (RB)

It has been a roller-coaster ride with the Orlando RBs this year, but D'Ernest Johnson and De'Veon Smith seem to have put a tiny nail into Akeem Hunt's playing time going forward. Head coach Steve Spurrier discussed how pleased he was with the duo's productivity on Saturday, saying "those two are really good backs." Spurrier isn't one to heap praise when it is unwarranted, and Smith and Johnson happened to be the first two offensive players that Spurrier mentioned during his press conference after the game.

Johnson only had 49 yards on nine attempts against Birmingham, but he was able to bring in five of six attempts through the air for 73 yards. Johnson will have a slightly more stable all-around workload than Smith and will be able to provide a steadier display of production weekly because of it. Johnson is a back-end RB1 in Orlando's offense, and I think it is likely that we see Hunt play the change-of-pace role that Ryan Green saw on the day, amounting anywhere between four to eight touches on most weeks.

Charles Johnson (WR)

Charles Johnson is the premier overall WR1 in my opinion. I have touted him like that since Week 1, and his six catches for 83 yards, one touchdown and one two-point conversion only further amplifies that belief. If you are starting a league midway through the season, Johnson should be one of the first flex players you consider and could be the favorite to lead the AAF in PPR production from the RB and WR positions.

Jalin Marshall (WR)

Jalin Marshall continues to be affected by a reduced target share in the offense. Marshall has only averaged four throws in his direction per game over the first five weeks and has not received over 50 air yards in the previous three games. The combination of short attempts and decreased opportunities has resulted in three consecutive poor showings.

The 23-year-old is a supremely talented speedster that might get another chance in the NFL before long, but his fantasy upside is diminished with the way the Apollos are using him. Consider him a WR2 because of his big-game potential but expect some inconsistency from a weekly perspective.

Scott Orndoff (TE)

Scott Orndoff had his best game of the season with three catches for 61 yards and a score on Saturday. Orndoff has only been targeted eight times on the year but has managed to haul in six of those catches for 105 yards.

It is hard to argue against anyone at TE with the limited offensive potency that the position has shown, so I have no problem in giving Orndoff a chance. Playing for the Apollos doesn't hurt, and the 25-year-old is worth a waiver add for those that don't have Gavin Escobar or Wes Saxton Jr.

Notable Performances From Birmingham

Luis Perez (QB)

Where do I start with this situation? I know this won't be a popular opinion given Luis Perez's start to the season, but I never thought Perez was the problem for Birmingham. Keith Price helps to provide the unit with a more mobile QB that benefits the injury-riddled offensive line, but Perez is the more well-equipped passer.

The team started 3-0 with him looking like one of the better NFL prospects at the QB position in the league, and I know that he wasn't putting up statistical numbers that appeased fantasy owners, but a lot of his issues have stemmed from drops, not to mention playing in an offensive system that looks like it belongs in 1920. Perez and Price should be avoided from a fantasy perspective, but I do think Perez gives the team their best chance to win. It will be interesting to see who head coach Tim Lewis turns to next weekend, but it wouldn't shock me if Perez eventually finds his way back into the starting lineup.

Trent Richardson (RB)

Trent Richardson's season can be summed up by Saturday's showing. He rendered his fifth straight game of under 2.8 yards a carry, recorded a season-low eight carries but still managed to score 15.8 fantasy points. Richardson is the football version of Houdini, magically turning dud like performances into great escapes.

Richardson's production can no longer be logically explained. A switch to QB Keith Price could hurt the former Bama products value because he might lose some of the passing game work that he became accustomed to under Luis Perez, but no other RB is presenting the same output as Richardson is in the league, meaning even if you wanted to trade him, good luck finding similar production.

Brandon Ross (RB)

Brandon Ross only had four total touches on the day, but he did manage to catch a 30-yard touchdown for Birmingham's first ever passing touchdown. Ross doesn't have a great understanding when it comes to finding running lanes, but he does possess some impressive measurables, including a 4.44 40-yard dash during his Maryland Pro Day in 2016.

Ross isn't a natural pass-catcher, so I am not sure that we see him consistently siphon work away from Trent Richardson and Ladarius Perkins through the air, but Ross is going to be used as a change-of-pace back to Richardson on the ground. I wouldn't expect much out of him, but he could begin to steal some valuable work from Richardson, decreasing some of the value from the former Bama back. Ross is more of a handcuff RB to Richardson and RB4 in fantasy leagues.

Quinton Patton (WR)

Quinton Patton's four catches for 26 yards could be viewed as a negative, but his 11 targets and 107 air yards more than neutralizes his quiet performance.

After all the discussion that L'Damian Washington might be the team's new go-to option, Patton's 11 target effort should put an end to those rumors for at least a week. The 28-year-old leads the AAF with 583 air yards, but his 44 percent catch rate leaves a lot to be desired. Birmingham's offensive woes have Patton looking like a back-end WR2, but if you believe the offense will see some progression, he has a decent buy-low window.

Wes Saxton Jr. (TE)

Wes Saxton Jr. caught three of four targets for 75 yards against the Orlando Apollos. The performance gives Saxton three straight games of three catches and his second contest with four pass attempts in his direction.

Saxton Jr. is beginning to transform into an elite AAF TE, showing steady speed in and out of his routes. He should have been picked up on the waiver wire last week, but if he is still available, he holds overall TE1 sort of possibility and is a must-add.

 

San Diego Fleet 27, Salt Lake Stallions 25

You won't find a better finish in the AAF this season than the San Diego Fleet and Salt Lake Stallions provided. After trailing for much of the second half, the Stallions scored two touchdowns during the final four minutes of the game, which included a go-ahead two-point conversion to Kenny Bell with 57 seconds left, but QB Mike Bercovici kept the Fleet poised and converted a 45-yard completion to Dontez Ford to set up a 44-yard game-winning field goal for Donny Hageman.

The Stallions have been one of the unluckier teams to begin the season. They started 0-2 after losing QB Josh Woodrum midway through the opening game and have struggled to find cohesion with their offense. However, their 1-4 start could just as quickly have been 4-1 if things played out slightly differently. Salt Lake is far from out of the playoff race, but the groin injury that RB Branden Oliver suffered in Week 4 against the Orlando Apollos might loom large when it comes to how the team will approach each game.

Notable Performances From San Diego

Mike Bercovici (QB)

Mike Bercovici made his return to the starting lineup after exiting Week 1 against the San Antonio Commanders with a concussion. The play that injured Bercovici came from a blindsided hit from Shaan Washington and immediately turned the 26-year-old QB into an internet GIF. It has arguably been the most infamous image of the AAF so far and is a highlight that will be shown forever when the league gets discussed, but Bercovici is more than just a viral sensation, and he put a lot of great qualities on display on Saturday night.

Bercovici only completed 22 passes on 43 attempts, but his 304 yards passing yards and one touchdown is a good indicator that head coach Mike Martz is going to allow the former Arizona State quarterback to be a gunslinger for them. Bercovici doesn't always make the correct read and lacks the arm strength to challenge defenses down the field, but he has good accuracy and can keep the Fleet as a high-tempo offense. Bercovici is my QB6 on the season, but the range of Josh Woodrum, Zach Mettenberger, Logan Woodside and Aaron Murray could all be interchanged for one another. If Bercovici is somehow still on your waiver wire, he becomes no worse than a sensible backup to own and could be as valuable as a weekly starter.

San Diego RBs

We could be here all day if we individually discussed all three running backs for the Fleet, so it seems the most sensible to break them down together.

Bishop Sankey was activated from the IR in Week 5, and it is clear that Mike Martz is going to figure out different schemes to get the former Tennessee Titan involved. Sankey only managed to rush for 11 yards on five carries and catch two passes for nine yards. But If Sankey was dropped in your league, he is worth an add because I don't believe the offense has a depth chart that is set in stone. We could see the 26-year-old work his way into a much more significant role, which includes being the primary pass-catching back for the Fleet.

Terrell Watson led the backfield with five carries for 14 yards, adding two catches for seven yards. Watson is the most unique runner out of the trio, and his hard-nosed style isn't as easily replaced. The 25-year-old should play a lot of the short package situations, including most two-point conversions. Mike Bercovici's nature of dumping passes off to RBs will give Watson an increase in value, but there is still no certainty how much work he will get weekly.

And then we have Ja'quan Gardner, who has been a head-scratcher the previous two weeks. The 5'7" RB entered Week 5 as the leading rusher in the AAF but has only contributed nine yards on 18 carries in his last two contests. Gardner added three catches for 16 yards to help somewhat salvage his poor outing, but I do believe there are concerns that the small-statured RB could end up being the odd-man out. He is still working as the teams lead back, but the next few weeks will be very telling to how this situation will shake out.

San Diego WRs

The San Diego wideouts made different headlines than the running backs did on Saturday night. Dontez Ford, Nelson Spruce and Brian Brown all accumulated eight targets, and the team looked much closer to how a Mike Martz led offense should play against the Salt Lake Stallions.

For the second straight week, Dontez Ford led the way with three catches for 94 yards, and the return of Bercovici appears to transcend him into WR1 territory. The duo connected 11 times for 114 yards and a score during a preseason game, and Bercovici isn't shy when it comes to forcing throws to his wideouts. There is enough volume to go around, and Ford should be targeted heavily. The one concern is that Ford keeps doing most of his work early in the game and fading throughout, but the 25-year-old is a sure-handed WR that will begin to increase his catch percentage. His 45-yard reception late in the fourth quarter salvaged the day, but the volume is there for success.

Nelson Spruce had a nice bounce-back game on Saturday night, catching four passes for 47 yards. There is a possibility that Spruce is still the preferred option to own for the Fleet, and both Spruce and Ford should be viewed as top-12 WRs.

Brian Brown has been confusing to me all year. He is a good sized WR that runs solid routes, but I never expected him to work his way this far up the depth chart. However, as things stand, Brown and Bercovici have formed a regular partnership, and the Arizona State gunslinger seems to trust the 24-year-old. Brown is still more of a WR3 for me, but it is becoming quite clear that all three will have their moments to shine.

Marcus Baugh (TE)

Marcus Baugh outplayed Gavin Escobar for the second straight week, catching two passes on four targets for 65 yards. Escobar was held without a catch on three looks, and Ben Johnson hauled in two passes for 22 yards and a score.

San Diego has consistently been turning in some of the better TE performances in the league, but there has been no guarantee of who will be the one to shine on a given day. Escobar remains a top-two play in the entire league, but Baugh is beginning to enter top-six territory himself. If he is still available on your waiver wire, you could do much worse at the position.

Notable Performances From Salt Lake

Josh Woodrum (QB)

I received a few remarks regarding my comment that Josh Woodrum was my QB3 after last week's article. And while I still wholeheartedly stand by that statement, I want to preface one thing. A solid argument could be made for Woodrum, John Wolford, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, Logan Woodside and Mike Bercovici for QB 2-7. Gilbert is tier-one by himself, but the other six QBs mentioned could easily be arranged differently than I would rank them. If you like one more than the other, you would have no arguments from me.

On Saturday night, Woodrum threw for 380 yards on 31 of 48 attempts, adding one touchdown and three interceptions. The three INTs were surprising, but his 48 throws go right in line with the point I was trying to make last week. Woodrum is a game-manager, and Salt Lake is conservative in the red zone, but the 26-year-old has been much more aggressive than most realize. He was on pace for 44 attempts before getting hurt in Week 1, and if you exclude his 22 pass attempts in the snow game against the Apollos, Woodrum has been on pace or attempted over 30 throws in every contest. The injury to RB Branden Oliver and 1-4 start should open up the passing game even more, and the former Liberty QB is more poised and athletic than many think.

Joel Bouagnon (RB)

Joel Bouagnon is an efficient Trent Richardson that receives less work in the passing game. I owned Branden Oliver in the RotoBaller AAF fantasy league and was crushed when the team placed him on IR Friday night. Thin at RB, I made what could be considered an overpayment by trading away Dontez Ford and Terrell Watson for Bouagnon. I was more than ok with doing it because Richard Mullaney was incorrectly placed on waivers and felt like I was getting a virtual swap as it was with Ford. While I am happy to upgrade Watson to Bouagnon and avoid the potential headache at RB in San Diego, I was not left thrilled with how Bouagnon was used on Saturday night.

Bouagnon took 11 carries for 36 yards, adding two touchdowns on the ground, but the 23-year-old was used as if he was a goal-line specialist and nothing else. Terrell Newby played ahead of Bouagnon on most series, and the only reason Bouagnon received as much work as he did came from Newby leaving the game with a concussion. Bouagnon's touchdown upside will give him a built-in floor, but he needs to get more work if he wants to become one of the elite RB1s.

De'Mornay Pierson-El (WR)

This comparison might not be 100 percent accurate, but De'Mornay Pierson-El reminds me of the AAFs version of Jarvis Landry when he was on the Miami Dolphins. Pierson-El doesn't receive a lot of air yards but gets peppered with short distance targets, amounting in a high catch rate but low aDOT (average depth of target).

The 23-year-old caught eight of nine targets against the Fleet for 130 yards on Saturday night, managing to go for 130 yards because he had 45 yards come after the catch, but the Salt Lake wideout is quickly transforming into one of the better PPR options at the position. His 23 catches on 30 targets this season is superb, and he has a high floor given his target share and ability to catch a plethora of easy throws.

Nick Truesdell (TE)

Nick Truesdell is a specimen at the TE position and has slowly worked his way past Anthony Denham on the depth chart. Both looked good on Saturday night, but it was Truesdell that had a better effort with six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Truesdell has caught every attempt thrown his direction this season, hauling in 13 catches for 114 yards and has mouth-watering measurables. He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds during his 2017 NFL Pro Player Combine (also known as veteran combine for players that aren't incoming rookies) and measured in at 6'6" and 252 pounds. Truesdell could receive another NFL chance given his ridiculous measurables and is a must-add if available on the waiver wire.

 

More AAF Fantasy Analysis