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Flex Heroes and Zeroes - Week 5 Fantasy Football Picks

So close yet so far. I was ready to do a full victory lap on last week's calls in this column after Aaron Jones and Sterling Shepard had big games while Kenyan Drake and Keelan Cole proved to be duds. Then I looked at my QB picks. In retrospect, relying on Case Keenum to be a Hero while picking against Andrew Luck doesn't seem like a good idea, but I can assure you it will never happen again because I simply will never mention Luck for the rest of the season. Easy enough.

Quarterback seems to be the toughest spot to predict, with players who weren't drafted in many leagues putting up Madden-like numbers (looking at you again Blake Bortles) while the top three quarterbacks selected aren't even within the top-15 QBs fantasy-wise. Strange times these are... In an effort to be proactive, I will be selecting the QB most likely to lose his starting job after 2017 as my Hero each week and my Zero will be the QB with the largest contract, going in reverse order. Aaron Rodgers, you've been served. (That would have been hilarious back in Week 1, but it's actually kind of true).

Now, here are my fantasy flex-spot "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position for Week 5 of the NFL season. These are less obvious players that I believe will perform unexpectedly well, or bigger names that might fare poorly relative to expectations in this week's matchups. To see how our staff feels about all the players you might possibly care about, look no further than our very own RotoBaller consensus weekly rankings.

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Week 5 Lineup Heroes


Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Not getting too cute here, given my recent success at QB. Bortles is pretty much a must-start this week. I'm not kidding - this may be the week where you consider benching Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson to pickup Bortles and start him instead. In the past, we might think the stars would need to be misaligned in the worst way for this to happen. (Trust me, when Mercury is in retrograde, we all suffer). Nowadays, it's simple enough as looking at the stat sheet. Bortles was the fantasy QB4 in Week 2 and QB10 last week, ahead of even Pat Mahomes. With Leonard Fournette out, the Jags are now confident enough to throw the ball regularly. Bortles is averaging 37 pass attempts per game already and Fournette is out for this game and at least one more. The Chiefs, meanwhile, allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game to QBs. In the old days, you would say a good defense overrules a good offense, but they didn't have eight roughing the passer penalties per game in those days either. Offense should rule the day in KC and Bortles may soon rule the fantasy world!


Adrian Peterson Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins

Forget the revenge-game narrative, Peterson was only a Saint for four games. I'm going a bit contrarian here, since Chris Thompson is the obvious play with the Redskins likely playing from behind much of the afternoon and having more success passing than running. Plus, AD has been wildly inconsistent in his three-game tenure with the Skins, just as he was last year with the Cards. But he's gotten a week of rest plus an extra day to prepare for Monday Night's matchup with the Saints. Now, the Saints are terrible on pass defense but remain stout against the run. They're allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, which is tops in the league, and just held Saquon Barkley to 44 yards. It won't be easy but trusting the Saints on defense is tough to do and Washington will surely try to slow the game down and keep Drew Brees off the field. This call requires a bit of faith in Washington's defense too but I think they can keep it close. I wouldn't be shocked to see 25+ touches from Peterson if the Saints don't bring their best in Week 5. If it turns ugly quick, then it could be a long day for All Day but when it comes to flex plays you're probably looking for upside more than safety. Unless you have a pretty good team, in which you just want the sure points and you know Thompson will get several points from receptions. You know what, maybe just start Chris Thompson instead. But if Peterson goes off, I called it!

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers

After successfully identifying Aaron Jones in Week 4, I'm going an unexpected route and picking TyMont this time. It's a rotating backfield, literally, as all three Packer backs take turns on each offensive series. Last week, Jones saw 38% of the snap share, Williams had 37% and Montgomery 26%. Jones is still the most dynamic back they have but there is still some flex appeal in the other two, depending on the situation. The gameplan may be flipped this week with Randall Cobb out, Geronimo Allison questionable and Davante Adams banged up. Let's not forget Aaron Rodgers isn't 100% himself. The Lions are susceptible to the run and have more question marks on their D-line than in the secondary so this could turn into an atypical run-heavy game for the Packers. That aside, Montgomery may turn back into a receiver for stretches of this game and will surely be utilized on screens and slants more often than usual. It's been a slow start for the former starter at RB but this week he figures to be a sneaky flex play in PPR leagues.


Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

The Colonel got off to a fast start, posting games of 135 and 96 receiving yards in the first two weeks. He and the Broncos passing game have seen diminishing returns since, with 38 and 45 yards in the last two, while the Broncos have managed 173 and 226 passing yards in those games. Here come the Jets! Sanders remained involved, with 15 targets in those two games and he'll have an easier time facing Buster Skrine and the Jets secondary. Despite seeing an even target share with Demaryius Thomas (22%-21%), Sanders has double the RACR (Receiver Air Conversion Ratio - think YAC and catch rate rolled together). He should be plenty productive in this game with the targets he's given and figures to be a solid WR3 in all formats.


Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens

I'm not really starting him this week (maybe one place) but I'm intrigued to see how much the rookie plays and how frequently he's targeted. There are pros and cons to a tight end-friendly offense like the Ravens throwing Hurst out there. The good thing is that you know he'll get targeted, since that's the reason they drafted him in the first round. The bad thing is they seem to love collecting tight ends and target them all equally. On the season, Nick Boyle has 17 targets, Mark Andrews has 14, and Maxx Williams has 12. Boyle leads the team with five red zone targets, more than Michael Crabtree or any other receiver. You can imagine what happens if Hurst displays his athleticism and inherits a share of those looks but how long will it take? If you don't have the stones to throw him in your redraft lineup, at least stash him on your bench. There's no shame in having two tight ends after all. 


Week 5 Lineup Zeroes


Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

So, Russ has been a slight disappointment this year. After finishing as the top fantasy QB in 2017, he's not even in the top 15 after a quarter of the season. Before we go blaming Doug Baldwin's injury, let's look at the bigger issue. Wilson came into this season averaging over 30 rushing YPG every year but one. he has just 42 rushing yards total over four games and is pulling the ball down to run 2.8 times per contest. That's a significant part of his game that is missing especially since he has no touchdowns on the ground either. For God's sake, even Tom Brady has a rushing touchdown and Josh Allen has two! The theory that the Hawks will be in catch-up mode and throwing the ball a ton against the Rams may have some merit but that doesn't mean automatic points when the opposing defense is really good too. Wilson hasn't reached the 300-yard mark this season yet and fared poorly against L.A. last year. There are too many good options at QB to keep plugging him in and hoping for a return to form.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

It's been a nice stretch for the Red Rocket but it may be on hold this week. Nobody's fearing the Dolphins defense but game script may not favor the passing game in Cincy. After some shootouts with Baltimore, Carolina, and Atlanta, the Bengals face a far less dynamic offense in Miami. The Fins are trying to right the ship after getting rolled by the Patriots and look to get Kenyan Drake and the running game going. The Bengals get Joe Mixon back and will go back to a more balanced attack. While Gio Bernard served fantasy owners well, he only saw 12 and 15 carries in his two starts while backup Mark Walton was barely involved. Mixon took 17 and 21 handoffs as the starter the previous two weeks. It doesn't help that the Bengals are without Tyler Eifert (IR - ankle) and John Ross (groin). Look for a more conservative approach in a lower-scoring game. Dalton will be fine but has limited appeal as a QB streamer this week relative to his peers.


Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles

The rematch of last year's NFC championship figures to be a high-scoring affair. The Eagles finally have their full complement of skill players back, other than Darren Sproles who wasn't a factor in last year's terrific run. The Vikings defense has been terrible, especially against the pass. While this may seem like a good spot to trust Ajayi, he may be depending on a fortunate red zone carry to make his day. The Eagles will have to lean more on the passing game based on how the Vikings have responded this year philosophically, running the ball less than any other team. Ajayi has never been treated like a true feature back in Philly anyway, having never taken more than 15 carries in a game as an Eagle. Even without his lingering back issue, Ajayi is just hard to trust when we aren't sure the game flow will favor him so you may want to replace him with someone who is more involved in the passing game if you have a Phillip Lindsay or T.J. Yeldon on hand.


Antonio Callaway, Cleveland Browns

He's the No. 2 receiver in Cleveland, which suddenly doesn't seem like a bad thing anymore. Callaway has seen 19 targets the last two weeks with Baker Mayfield behind center. For the season he's seen 387 Air Yards, 17th in the league and higher than Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, and TY Hilton. What's to hate? Drops, that's what. He has a 41.7% catch rate and dropped some easy passes that could have gone for big plays the last couple of weeks. Head Coach and sage Hue Jackson's take: "Maybe not playing as many plays as he plays in a game will help him get to step back, take a look, take a blow, come back and do it again." Callaway retorted, “Drops gonna happen. I ain’t [worrying about them].” Good to know. Maybe we should worry a little. There's also the minor knee injury, the not guilty plea for possession he entered two days ago and the Ravens defense on the road this week, but other than that things are looking up for the rookie!


Ben Watson, New Orleans Saints

Remember when the 37-year-old was looking like a sexy sleeper pick in the preseason? Even with free agent addition Cam Meredith sitting out the first two games to learn the playbook, rookie Tre'Quan Smith barely seeing the field, and Mark Ingram serving time for the first four games, Watson couldn't find the end zone in one of the most dynamic offenses in football. He is averaging 3.3 receptions and 39.3 yards per game while splitting snaps with Josh Hill, who is on the field 56% of the time to Watson's 67% snap share. He is averaging almost five targets per game and that's about to go down. Despite the bleak outlook on the tight end scene this week, Watson isn't just a must-sit, he's a drop candidate all over.

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