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Players Sending Out Warning Signals Heading Into NFL Week 5

With Week 5 on deck, it's safe to say that players are starting to settle into their year-long fantasy value. There are always going to be exceptions due to injuries and suspensions but Weeks 5-8 are typically the crux of the fantasy season when it comes to hammering down player outlooks. That means we're getting close to having to bail on high-end draft picks so get ready for some full-blown panic in the next few weeks.

Fortunately, this particular edition of Warning Signals isn't quite the "abandon ship" edition just yet. Trust me, that issue is coming sooner than any of us would like but for right now, it could certainly be worse for these five players.

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out FantasyAces DFS contests. New users that sign up on Fantasy Aces and make a $20 deposit will receive RotoBaller's full season NFL Premium Pass for free (including Premium DFS), normally a $59.99 value. Expert DFS research, sample lineups, matchup ratings and lots more!

Heed the Warning Signs

As always, we'll revisit players from last week's piece after we've analyzed the fresh faces. You should also keep in mind that a player can't appear on Warning Signals more than three times barring an injury, trade, or suspension related circumstance.

Odell Beckham Jr - (WR, NYG)

With the New York Giants set to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Sunday night, now is as good a time as any to tell you to R-E-L-A-X when it comes to Odell Beckham Jr. Considering his on the field antics and his recent post-game whining, you're going to hear a lot about OBJ ahead of Sunday's matchup. Yes, it's annoying to hear players say things like "I'm not having fun anymore" but to be perfectly honest, tidbits like this typically turn out to be a positive for fantasy purposes. When it comes to wide receivers in the NFL, the phrase "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" couldn't possibly be more true. When superstar wideouts complain, they get force-fed the ball until they throw up on their shoes. The breakout for OBJ is coming, there is absolutely nothing to worry about here.

If you want even more reassurance that everything is going to be just fine for Odell, look no further than his stat line through three games each of the last two seasons. Through the first three games in 2016, OBJ has 22 receptions for 303 yards and zero touchdowns. Over the first three weeks of 2015, he had 24 receptions, 307 yards and two touchdowns. Literally the only difference is he found the endzone earlier in 2015 than he has so far this year. Those are numbers you're going to see frequently by any fantasy analyst telling you not to fret about Beckham and rightfully so.


Amari Cooper - (WR, OAK)

Considering the fact that the Oakland Raiders are off to an impressive 3-1 start, Amari Cooper has managed to fly under the radar somewhat. After a big 137-yard week one outing in New Orleans, Cooper has been rather quiet. In fact, Cooper's been especially silent compared to his teammate Michael Crabtree. The main difference between the two is that Crabtree has been Derek Carr's preferred target toward the endzone with three touchdowns compared to Cooper's zero. Granted, Crabtree did just reel in three such scores in one game against the Ravens but that doesn't make it any easier to ignore Cooper's touchdown drought.

For me, the reason this is concerning is that Cooper is essentially being outplayed by an older, less talented receiver. Many expected him to be one of those second-year receivers who breaks out in their sophomore campaign and it just hasn't happened yet. Instead of Cooper catapulting up into borderline WR1 territory, it's looking like he's going to be floating around as a low-end WR2. That's fine for fantasy since you likely drafted him as a WR2 anyway and this is still a potent offense with Derek Carr under center. That's likely the best advice I can give you in regard to his season-long outlook; he's not going to finish the year among the likes of Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks but he's still a usable WR2 who can and will put up numbers on a strong offensive team.


Latavius Murray - (RB, OAK)

Unfortunately, Cooper's running back teammate Latavius Murray doesn't yield as much positivity going forward. There were always rumblings that rookie DeAndre Washington would eat into Murray's workload but what we didn't anticipate was that Jalen Richard would be getting a decent amount of touches as well. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the Raiders are utilizing a three-man running back by committee. That being said, anyone using Latavius as an RB2 has been bailed out by his knack for the endzone with three touchdowns through the first three weeks. It was in Week 4, however, where we saw him held scoreless on eight carries for 19 yards.

Latavius Murray's season-long outlook boils down to this: he's a touchdown dependent RB2 who is stuck in a timeshare. There will be weeks where he produces enough where starting him his justified but there are also going to be games where was straight up useless. You can think of this situation similar to that of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati. Latavius Murray is the Jeremy Hill of this backfield since he's the one most likely to find the endzone yet neither player hoards enough of the workload to have considerable upside. This isn't too much of a worrisome situation as long as you realize Murray isn't going to be a stud of a fantasy running back in 2016. If you happen to be particularly deep at RB, there's always the chance you could package him for an upgrade at a different position. You should never sell for the sake of it, though. Either get something of extreme value to you or stay put with Latavius Murray. Just remember what his role in the offense is.


Matt Forte - (RB, NYJ)

If you recall last week's edition of Warning Signals, you'd remember that there weren't any running backs on the list entering week four. That was obviously a short-lived pipe dream since we're right back to our second RB heading into Week 5 with Matt Forte. Forte actually almost ended up exempt from the list this week once it was revealed he was heading for an x-ray but it appears the injury concern was nothing more than a precaution. What's interesting about Forte's last two games with the Jets is that Bilal Powell is being featured in the passing game more than the previous two weeks. This was an inevitable crash back down to reality since Forte's ridiculous workload pace was never sustainable for a player his age.

The most important takeaway regarding Forte is that anyone who owns him absolutely needs to get their hands on Powell for handcuff purposes. This isn't going to be a full timeshare or a time to worry about Forte's season long outlook, it's just a reminder that these last two weeks represent a more realistic example of what his workload is going to be like. I still believe in him as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 but consider this wouldn't be Warning Signals if I did not in fact warn of you of what's to come.


Carson Palmer - (QB, ARI)

I typically try to steer clear of players dealing with injuries for the upcoming week but to be perfectly honest this was looking like a rather thin list without making somewhat of a minor exception. Realistically speaking, Carson Palmer was healthy for the three weeks prior to suffering a concussion in week four anyway so he qualifies just enough. So far this season, Palmer is looking at a 6:5 touchdown to interception ratio and has less fantasy points than Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, and Ryan Tannehill. That's not exactly a murderer's row of fantasy studs. Palmer is struggling to start the season and anyone who was counting on him as a mid-to-late round fantasy starter should be concerned the rest of the way.

The Arizona Cardinals as a whole have been on the most disappointing teams of the season with their 1-3 record so perhaps this team just isn't as good as we expected them to be. Whatever the case may be, Palmer isn't producing as a fantasy asset and anyone who does not own a backup needs to acquire one immediately. That's especially true for Thursday night's matchup against the San Francisco 49ers since it's still unclear whether or not Palmer will pass through the concussion protocol. If Palmer sits, we'll revisit him once he's fully healthy.


Updates From Last Week

Blake Bortles - (QB, JAX)

Despite the solid outing in London I still stand by what I said about Blake Bortles in last week's piece. I don't view him as an automatic starter and I did say he would have strong games here and there, much like any other quarterback in the NFL. Throw in a matchup against a Colts team that is just flat out bad and I'm sorry to say that it's going to take more than one big game for me to change my mind about him going forward.

Julian Edelman - (WR, NE)

Sunday's nightmare against the Buffalo Bills was a throwaway game for the New England Patriots. In fact, with Tom Brady set to return in week five, you can safely throwaway everything Julian Edelman has done to this point. It's time for the New England offense to right the ship so get ready for Edelman to bounce right back into reality, especially in PPR leagues.

Jeremy Maclin - (WR, KC)

This was another throwaway game of sorts albeit for entirely different reasons with the Chiefs getting shellacked by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jeremy Maclin's production actually improved in this game, finishing with his highest yardage total of the year with 78. He's still a great buy-low target who gets a ton of targets and has a favorable schedule coming up. Go get him while you still can.

Jordan Reed - (TE, WAS)

I pretty much nailed this one last week when I said the big breakout game for Jordan Reed was coming soon. He came, he saw, he conquered the Cleveland Browns for 73 yards and two touchdowns. All is right in the world with Jordan Reed.


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