Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy 5: Which Dallas RB to target with Elliott out?

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 19: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys jokes with Darren McFadden #20 of the Dallas Cowboys before the preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(The Fantasy 5 is a quick-hit wrap-up of some of the biggest news topics of the day for fantasy football players, giving you advice you need to set your lineup or pick your DFS roster.)

The vagaries of the NFL and fantasy football schedule, where the NFL regular season goes all 17 weeks and the fantasy regular season typically goes 13, means that we have different checkpoints. A week ago, we were checking numbers at the quarter mark of the NFL season. But after Week 6’s games, we will more-or-less be examining where things stand at the halfway point of the fantasy season.

That means that we have to approach things differently. A year ago, the Vikings were 5-0 through five weeks, went 3-8 the rest of the way, and missed the playoffs (and finished third in their division). In fantasy, though, a team that starts 5-0 is about as much of a playoff lock as it’s possible to be, because there is simply less time for opponents to catch up.

If your NFL team is 1-4, 2-3 right now, you can squint and see a way for it to make the playoffs with a hot stretch. If your fantasy team is 1-4? It’s not panic-button time, but it’s getting there.

Here’s a look at the fantasy news to know heading into Week 6 for help setting your lineup this week and for the rest of the season.

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1. Ezekiel Elliott re-suspended, again, one more time … probably

Word came down Thursday that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Dallas Cowboys RB’s temporary injunction, which in effect means his six-game suspension starts immediately. Considering Dallas is on its bye week now, that means Elliott is out through Week 12, eligible to return around the start of the fantasy playoffs. Of course, that all assumes Elliott’s legal team’s fight fall upon deaf ears, but at this point, it seems fairly clear the star back will be out for the next while.

The question immediately becomes what Cowboys RB fantasy owners should look to add. The team has Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, and Rod Smith on the roster. Morris has been active as Elliott’s backup so far this year, but only has eight carries for 87 yards. Smith has two carries of his own for eight yards, while McFadden has been a healthy scratch all season. That said, for starters at least, McFadden might be the back to target — he had 1,089 yards in 2015 and offers more pass-catching ability than Morris. Either way, none of these options is likely to offer anything like Elliott’s upside. This will be a fantasy muddle, and whichever back rises above the field still won’t likely be much more than an upside RB2/flex play.

2. Chargers-Raiders game staying in Oakland

This is (very, very obviously) a much bigger real-life storyline than a football one, let alone a fantasy football one, but the NFL has decided not to relocate Sunday’s Los Angeles Chargers-Oakland Raiders game despite Northern California wildfires seriously impacting the air quality over the Raiders stadium. Some Raiders have taken to wearing masks to filter the fumes of the smoke in practice this week. We have no idea how this situation might affect the players in Sunday’s game, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where it really dings players from a stamina perspective. Just a guess, but from here, expect more work for backups (like Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Branden Oliver, and Austin Ekeler), and more shuffling in and out of options as teams look to keep their players from running out of energy. You don’t downgrade the big-name fantasy options in this game too much, but the situation is a totally fair tiebreaker if a decision is close.

3. Good luck with any part of the Giants offense

The Giants could have been facing the Patriots or Eagles or other amenable pass defense in Week 6, and it would have been hard to count on anyone in that offense because of the rash of injuries (Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris out for the year; Sterling Shepard out Sunday) and general ineffectiveness (every part of the running game). Facing the Broncos? This is the stay-away-iest stay-away in a long time. Even TE Evan Engram, who is tied for eighth in tight end PPR fantasy scoring through Week 5, against a Broncos defense allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends, is basically a fade, with little else for the Denver defense to focus on and Engram likely to spend at least some time lined up out wide as a receiver. Maybe there will come a time down the stretch as the Giants get healthy, the new options get into the groove, and the opponent is more favorable that you can justify a New York skill player, but for Week 6, it is hard-core “no” across the board.

4. Mike Williams, Willie Snead set for debuts

Chargers first-round rookie Williams missed the first five games of the season with a back injury, but he’s expected to finally play in Week 6 against Oakland. Don’t expect Williams to hit the ground running at full use — Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams will both be ahead of him in the WR pecking order for now — but assuming he stays healthy and develops as expected, Mike Williams should rise above Tyrell Williams on the depth chart in due time. It might be a good idea to look to sell Tyrell Williams before his value nosedives.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Snead missed the first three games of the season to a suspension, sat out Week 4 with a hamstring issue, and then had a bye. He’s ready to return in Week 6 and is officially questionable but expected to play. The team is likely to ease Snead into action, so while he might cede time to Brandon Coleman right away, Snead should be the Saints’ No. 2 receiver before long.

5. Players getting healthier

Jordy Nelson, Ty Montgomery, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, seemingly half the Patriots … We’ve been worried about injury concerns up and down the fantasy-relevant positions, and a lot of those worries are fading. All the above players (including Patriots Tom Brady, Rex Burkhead, and Rob Gronkowski) are expected to be in action in Week 6, though Mariota and Montgomery are still not guaranteed. Still, with bye weeks in full swing, big names getting over injuries is some of the best news fantasy owners could be asking for. There are obviously still major concerns, but at least some of them are easing up.

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