Players Sending Out Warning Signals: Heading Into NFL Week 7

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Another week, another round of devastating and serious long-term injuries to some of the game's top fantasy names. That means that depth during hellish bye weeks will continue to be an issue, and you might find yourself yet again hanging on longer than expected to some of the more frustrating players out of pure necessity.

This week, we will take a look at a few of the players that you have held on to that you might be ready to make a decision on, and check back on some of the players who were struggling in previous weeks

To see where these players fall in our expert rankings for Week 7, check our Overall Player Rankings lists for Standard, PPR, and Half-PPR.

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Heed the Warning Signs

Tyrod Taylor (QB, BUF) -  Low - Medium Warning Level

Any time a coach has to open multiple press conferences reaffirming his confidence in his starting quarterback, things probably aren't going too well. Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has had to do just that on more than one occasion this year when speaking about QB Tyrod Taylor, who has wavered between a serviceable starting NFL quarterback, and a player who possibly sunk your week if you rolled him out. In two games at home Taylor has been over 200 yards passing with two touchdowns in each contest, while in his three road games he has only thrown two total touchdowns and averaged 150 passing yards.

Last year Taylor's floor was solidified with his above average scramble ability, but he just hasn't been able to shake off defenders this season and has been sacked 18 times. After rushing for a season-high 55 yards in week 2, his rushing totals in the three following weeks have been on the decline and have fallen to 13, 12, and 3 yards. The most concerning factor for Taylor's future production though is his team's lack of viable pass-catchers. Through five games this year, the Bills receiving corps is only averaging 63.2 yards per game. The Bills lost maybe their best true receiver in Jordan Matthews with a thumb injury in Week 4, and although he has resumed practicing he might not be ready for game action just yet. A continued lack of chemistry has hindered any meaningful connections with rookie receiver Zay Jones, who has only reeled in 5-of-23 targets on the year for a grand total of 66 yards. Taylor's top pass-catcher tight end Charles Clay also went down with a knee injury in the team's Week 5 loss against the Bengals, and a specific time line has yet to be assigned to his recovery after surgery. While Taylor' s schedule does become progressively more favorable, Taylor has very few trustworthy targets on the field right now making it tough to start him even in the best of matchups. Before all the injuries Taylor was a decent start at home, but with very few reliable pass-catching options left and the offensive line struggling, Taylor's production will likely continue to be capped.

Mike Gillislee (RB, NE) - High Warning Level

Since scoring three times in his Patriots' debut, Mike Gillislee has cooled off considerably. After rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown in Week 2, Gillislee has averaged just 44 rushing ypg with no touchdowns in four games, and has eclipsed 50 yards just once. With the plethora of pass catching backs ahead of him, he also offers absolutely zero utility in the passing game, and he hasn't caught a single pass all year. To make matters worse, he fumbled in the first quarter of the Week 6 win over the Jets and ended up playing only 13 snaps as a result. How long that could keep him in ill-favor with head coach Bill Belichick no one knows.

One of Gillislee's major limitations is that the Patriots' have not been nearly as dominant as they have been in seasons past. Everyone knew that in the New England backfield Gillislee's usage would be unpredictable and based largely upon each week's game plan. It still seemed like a pretty safe bet though, that at a bare minimum he would retain goal line work on a week-to-week basis coming off a season in Buffalo in which he scored six times from within the three-yard line. There are only a handful of offenses that can comfortably support touchdown dependent running backs for fantasy, but New England was definitely one of them. But this year so far, the story has been different. The Patriots' largest margin of victory this year is 16 points, which coincidentally was the last time Gillislee had a rushing touchdown four weeks ago. With the Patriots defense in shambles, the offense has found themselves in matchups that have remained close well into the fourth quarter and they have even had to play from behind a couple of times. Without the Patriots living in the red zone and frequently shifting to clock-killing mode late in games like everyone has grown accustomed, Gillislee has become a frustrating roster piece over the past few weeks. With the Patriots rushing percentage down from 62% last year to 56% this season, Gillislee will continue to be a very dicey, unreliable boom or bust flex play.

Martavis Bryant (WR, PIT) - High Warning Level

Between being out of football for a year, and the painfully sluggish start of his quarterback, Martavis Bryant has not been able to find the formula for success this year. Outside of one 27-yard touchdown catch and another 50-yard bomb in Week 2, Bryant has caught just 15-of-32 targets for 153 yards through six games. His snap counts have also continued to fall, culminating in a season low 33 snaps in Week 6, as rookie Juju Smith-Schuster quietly continues to push for more work. Now that there are rumblings coming out of Pittsburgh that Bryant may or not want to be traded, the situation gets even trickier for fantasy owners.

The big play threat is always there, and if Ben Roethlisberger and Bryant were in better sync and could have connected on at least two of their deep shots, Bryant's fantasy season would look a lot different. But as it stands, Bryant is a tough start no matter what the matchup, and will be very boom/bust as the team's deep threat without offering much else in between. The upside is so large for Bryant that it will be extremely difficult to flat out part ways with him, and if you have the roster space you might still be inclined to ride it out if you can, but if he isn't able to put something together before his bye it might become too hard to hang on.

Jordan Reed (TE, WAS) - High Warning Level

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson is having an incredible start to his season, but his advancement has had a disparaging effect on the fantasy production of the team's other skill players. In addition to nullifying slot receiver Jamison Crowder's effectiveness, Jordan Reed's volume has suffered greatly as well. In his first four games last year Reed had 35 targets, with double digit targets in two of those games. This year through four games played he has only netted 24 targets, and after opening the year with a season-high 8 targets he has seen only ten in the last two matchups combined. He also has yet to catch a touchdown pass, despite the inconsistencies of Terrelle Pryor and the departure of both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.

What's even more concerning is that it is hard to determine just what the problem is here. For the first time in a long time, Reed managed to stay off the injury report for an entire week and was actually on the field for 72% of the Redskins' snaps in Week 6, his second highest percentage of the year. So even though he is probably just as nicked up as everyone else is, it doesn't seem like an injury is holding him back at this point in the season. Whatever the issue may be, Reed has become a very difficult player to start week in and week out, and owners will probably want to shy away from him for a couple of weeks until his fantasy production sees a positive uptick.

 

Updates From Last Week

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL) - Same Warning Level as Last Week

Matt Ryan again struggled and had a fantasy day that didn't do owners many favors, as he threw for 248 yards, an interception, and just one touchdown. Ryan's schedule will ease up a bit, but it is clear that his elite fantasy production left town with Kyle Shanahan. With the Falcons' offense taking a step back and Ryan unable to effectively get in sync with top receiver Julio Jones, Ryan is in danger of not coming anywhere close to living up to his draft position from this summer.

DeMarco Murray (RB, TEN) - Same Warning Level as Last Week

A second half touchdown saved the day for DeMarco Murray's fantasy owners, as he was again on his way to another disappointing day with only 40 yards on 12 carries. It is encouraging that Murray will still be used heavily in the passing game and around the goal line, but with both the head coach and offensive coordinator coming out in the past week saying that Derrick Henry needs a bigger role, that daunted takeover may be closer than we think after all. The Titans' offense seems like it is on the verge of putting it all together with Mariota getting healthier, so there should still be enough volume to go around for both players, but Murray owners will have to pay close attention to the snap counts and usage of both backs over the next couple of weeks to get an idea of what to expect going forward.

Terrelle Pryor (WR, WAS) - Higher Warning Level Than Last Week

After catching his first touchdown to go along with 70 receiving yards in Week 4, many owners were hopeful that Terrelle Pryor was ready to turn the corner coming out of the Redskins bye and build upon that performance. What actually happened was Pryor reverting back to the form that he has shown for most of the season so far, catching only three balls for 23 yards on five targets in a game that was competitive for most of the second half. Pryor will continue to be a dicey, touchdown dependent play going forward, and is another player that will struggle to have value this year that comes anywhere near his draft position.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG) - Lower Warning Level Than Last Week

Evan Engram easily had his best game of the season against the Broncos D on Sunday night, catching 5-of-7 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown. With the Giants down three of their top receivers, Engram responded very well as the team's primary passing target. He indeed lined up out wide against the Broncos corners on more than one occasion throughout the game, and proved that relying on his speed and surprisingly precise route running, he will still be able to get open even when matched up with top defenders. Even with Sterling Shepard returning soon, his volume should remain intact and he will continue to make his case as a solid weekly start.

 

More Week 7 Lineup Prep