Players Sending Out Warning Signals: Heading Into Week 6

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The injury bug bit down hard on many NFL players in Week 5. With so many injuries to some of the biggest fantasy studs through five weeks, you might have to hold on to some of the underperforming players you were sure you would be rid of by now to provide depth for your roster, if nothing else.

This week, we will take a look at a few of the players that you might still be on the fence about, as well as check back on the players from last week to see if their outlooks for the rest of the season have gotten any better.

To see where these players fall in our expert rankings for Week 6, check our Overall Player Rankings lists for Standard, PPR, and Half-PPR.

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Heed the Warning Signs

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL) - Low Concern

Fantasy owners that drafted Matt Ryan relatively early in drafts were probably expecting some regression from his MVP season a year ago, but Ryan’s struggles with turnovers this year have been alarming. Last season he had a total of seven interceptions through sixteen regular season games and three postseason matchups, and this season he already has five through four games along with a lost fumble. Ryan has thrown for over 300 yards just once, and that was due in large part to an 88-yard catch and run by tight end Austin Hooper late in the game. To make matters worse, both his number one and number two receivers were injured in the Falcons’ week 4 matchup against the Bills, and Julio Jones has opened the practice week limited, while Mohamed Sanu logged a DNP.

There are still some positives for Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons though. The team’s bye week couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, and hopefully offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian can right the ship heading in to Week 6. The bye also gave Jones a chance to rest and recover, presenting some optimism that he won’t miss much time if any with a hip injury. If Ryan has gone back to the player he was before his record breaking 2016 season, he will still be serviceable and can be used as a fill-in, but his ADP reflects the fact that many owners anticipated using him in their starting slot all year which he has had a hard time living up to thus far.

DeMarco Murray (RB, TEN) - Medium Concern

Outside of an inspired effort against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3, DeMarco Murray has done very little through five weeks of football so far. If quarterback Marcus Mariota misses any more time, defenses will continue to force Matt Cassel to beat them, which could make it even harder for Murray to get his season going. With the entire Titans offense not as consistently dominant as they were at times last year, they haven’t been able to get the ground and pound game going, which has ultimately hurt Murray’s volume. His volume has actually shrunk significantly; through five games last year he had 93 carries, while this year he has had only 56 with very little passing game work to boost his production.

There have actually been quite a few bright spots for Murray this year though. The Derrick Henry overtake that many were sure would happen this season hasn’t really been close to coming true yet. Although Henry could certainly work his way into a legitimate timeshare at some point this season, this is without a doubt Murray’s backfield when he is healthy. His YPC hasn’t been awful either, as he has actually been averaging nearly five yards per tote so far this season, good for ninth best in the league. Murray’s numbers against Seattle showed that he can and will put up big games, but if the Titans offense can’t begin to impose their will, Murray will continue to be mediocre at best.

Terrelle Pryor (WR, WAS) - Medium/High Concern

It might still be too early to say that Terrelle Pryor is not at all the receiver that many thought he was, but his production through four games has been disappointing nonetheless. There was a lot of preseason talk that Pryor had taken all of the steps necessary to be the top guy in Washington. So far though, he has had some bad drops, and hasn’t been able to get separation from defenders on his routes as evidenced by an average of just over four targets per game in three out of four contests this year. He did show up in a Monday night loss to the Chiefs with his first touchdown of the season, but for the most part Pryor looks like he might have been a product of being one of the only viable pass catchers on a bad football team last year.

His lack of true wide receiver skills could play a factor in the long run this season, so there is a moderate amount of concern around just what type of numbers Pryor will be able to put up. On the bright side, he is still an insanely athletic player that presents a huge target for his quarterback Kirk Cousins. Hopefully Pryor and Cousins can establish a better rapport and start consistently connecting on the deep ball to give fantasy owners consistent week-to-week production. Many were hoping for solid WR2 numbers from Pryor this year, but for now he should be relegated to your flex position at best with your fingers crossed that he can get into the end zone again soon.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG) – Low Concern

If you started Evan Engram last week, you got a big fat zero from your tight end position. This was likely a throwaway game, and the chances of it happening again are very low as the Giants will be forced to feature Engram as one of their main receivers with the losses of both Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for the season. Outside of his Week 5 disappearing act, Engram hasn’t garnered much cause for concern at all; he has been top five in targets, top 10 in yardage, and is currently the TE12 overall.

Believe it or not, Engram’s presence on this list actually has nothing to do with that goose-egg he laid last Sunday. His owners should rightfully be excited that he will have an increased opportunity to build upon his stellar start to the season, as a devastating injury to one player means additional volume for others. But any time a team loses its top weapon, especially one of Beckham’s caliber, it makes it that much harder for the offense as a whole. Unlike the loss of a running back, the loss of a receiver isn’t always a one-to-one situation in terms of replacing production, because Engram will now see a lot more defensive focus shifted his way and he will have to prove that he has the skill to get open against a team’s best defenders. If he lines up for multiple snaps out wide each game, he could even be going up against an opponent’s top cornerback, as opposed to the slower linebackers he has been seeing across the middle. Engram will still produce; he obviously has the talent and his volume will be on the rise. But owners will now have to pay much closer attention to his specific matchups as the chances of him getting shut down and taken out of games are higher with fewer weapons in the Giants’ offense.

 

Updates From Last Week

Ben Roethlisberger (QB, PIT)Higher Warning Level Than Last Week

There’s just no way around it, Ben Roethlisberger is playing quite possibly the worst football of his career right now. He looked exceptionally bad in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Jaguars last Sunday, throwing five picks and no touchdowns. You have to think that at some point the Steelers will wake up and find their stride, but to this point in the season only Brown and Bell have proved to be every week fantasy starters in this offense. It appears that Roethlisberger can’t even be trusted at home so far this year, which means it will be tough to play him with any faith for a while. If you drafted Roethlisberger to be your starter for the year, it has become quite clear that you will have to make a move right now to bridge the gap between now and whenever the Steelers offense gets back on track.

Jay Ajayi (RB, MIA) – Same Warning Level as Last Week

Jay Ajayi again had another tough day in the Miami backfield, being held out of the end zone for a fifth straight game while managing only 77 yards with a fumble. Despite not seeing much third down work, Ajayi did still field a healthy workload and saw 20+ carries for the second time this season. In the Dolphins’ two wins, Ajayi has had 22 and 25 carries, and was over 70 yards in both matchups. While these numbers aren’t necessarily great, a clear trend on when Ajayi can safely be used is developing, which is worth something. He will need the Dolphins to keep the score close so they can continue to feed him making Ajayi strictly a matchup based play at this point in the season, far from the every week starter many owners were hoping for. As for next week, he might be better off on the bench in a matchup where the chances of the Falcons jumping on top of the Dolphins early are legitimate, quickly making Ajayi and the rushing game an afterthought.

Amari Cooper (WR, OAK) – Higher Warning Level Than Last Week

Amari Cooper again struggled mightily, and it looks like the loss of quarterback Derek Carr is going to sink his fantasy production even further into oblivion. Early indications have Carr potentially returning to play in Week 6 against the Chargers, but regardless of his quarterback Cooper has shown that he is very hard to start in any matchup. With only four catches for 23 yards over his last three games, he should probably hold down a spot on your bench for a couple more weeks until he can show even a little something that makes you believe that he can turn his fantasy season around.

Hunter Henry (TE, LAC) – Lower Warning Level Than Last Week

Finding the end zone for the second straight week, Hunter Henry looks like he might be on the verge of something as his volume appears to be slowly creeping in the right direction. After being blanked in Weeks 1 and 3, and netting a total of 10 targets in Weeks 2 and 4, Henry saw eight targets in Week 5 against the Giants. More importantly, fellow tight end Antonio Gates saw only three in the matchup, and the shift towards the youth movement could finally be underway. If this is the case, Henry could become a valuable fantasy asset, and if nothing else it appears he could be worth the stash as you wait to see what happens.

 

More Week 6 Lineup Prep