Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Time to panic or Week 5 antic?

2T0T0GY Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Dak Prescott’s fantasy performance is concerning: Those concerns go far beyond his three-interception performance on Sunday Night Football.

Tennessee Titans RB Tyjae Spears outscores Derrick Henry again: Though Henry leads the backfield in total touches, he’s lost 

Washington Commanders WR Terry McLaurin notches his third week of eight or fewer fantasy points: A decrease in production after the catch and a drop in speed through five weeks in the season could indicate he’s not as healthy as fantasy managers hoped he’d be to start the year.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Through five weeks of the NFL season, we continue to be inundated with surprises – both good and bad – that have fantasy managers on full tilt. Even when those disappointments are difficult to face, evaluating them on a weekly basis to temper overreactions and ensure you’re making proper adjustments to your lineups is key to success. That’s why we’re here to help with five stats highlighting various fantasy disappointments from Week 5 and a temperature check; is it time to panic, or just a Week 5 antic?

WR:CB Matchup Chart


Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is still seeking his first top-15 finish in fantasy

Prescott is coming off of what might be the worst game of his career. He threw for the sixth-lowest passer rating of his career against the San Francisco 49ers, and it marked the third time in his eight-year career that he threw for three or more interceptions, but it’s not just this one game that should have fantasy managers worried about his season-long prospects.

Through the first five weeks of the season, Prescott has yet to finish among the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks, averaging career lows in PFF passing grade (64.0), yards per attempt (6.6) and average depth of target (7.1). After tying for a league-high 17 interceptions in just 14 games played in 2022, there was a renewed emphasis on ball security that seems to be significantly hindering his upside. Prescott is averaging 58.1% of pass attempts short of the sticks – the third-highest rate among quarterbacks – and it’s translating to less production on offense and less production for fantasy managers. Prescott continues to be rostered in 76% of ESPN leagues and 89% of Yahoo! Leagues, but what we’ve seen so far this season tells us he’d be better off on waivers.

Temperature check: Time to panic


Tennessee Titans RB Tyjae Spears outscores Derrick Henry for the second time this season

There weren’t many questions about which running back in the Titans offense would see the bulk of the touches in this offense. Of course, we all knew it’d be “King” Derrick Henry. Despite the fact that he is leading the Titans in rushing by a margin of 59 attempts, the gap between Henry and rookie RB Tyjae Spears hasn’t been as significant as one would have thought. While Henry ranks sixth among running backs with 95 scrimmage touches this season, he sits as the RB18 in fantasy points per game in half-PPR scoring formats. A big part of this has been due to inefficiency, averaging a career-low 3.81 yards per rush attempt and the lowest explosive run rate throughout his time as a starter.

Despite all of this, and the fact that he’s been outsnapped by Spears in several games this season, Henry’s still averaged over 17 rush attempts per game. There’s not much concern that he’ll “lose his job” to Spears, but fantasy managers can expect him to maintain a workhorse role, even if those touches are less efficient than they’ve been in previous seasons. Continue to fire up Henry as an RB2 with RB1 upside on a weekly basis.

Temperature check: Week 5 antic


Carolina Panthers RB Miles Sanders splits work with Chuba Hubbard and WR Laviska Shenault.

The  Panthers signed Sanders to a four-year, $25.4 million contract in free agency this offseason, signaling to fantasy managers that he’d likely be “the guy” moving forward. However, despite leading the Panthers backfield with 61 touches, his inefficiency seems to have the coaching staff gravitating toward their other options, including backup Chuba Hubbard and WR/gadget guy Laviska Shenault

Through five weeks, Sanders has posted a league-low 48.8 PFF rushing grade, ranking bottom 10 at the position in missed forced tackle rate (8%), yards per attempt (3.1) and yards after contact per attempt (2.1). Though Hubbard hasn’t played lights out this season (let’s be honest – no one has in this Panthers offense), he’s undoubtedly outperforming Sanders by a mile – including in each of the metrics noted above. The Panthers offensive line is in part to blame, sitting with a 52.0 PFF run-blocking grade through the first five weeks of the season. However, Hubbard’s ability to outperform him behind the same line is a huge indictment. Consider Sanders an RB3 or worse if this usage trend continues (and by all accounts, the data tells us it should).

Temperature check: Time to panic


Washington Commanders WR Terry McLaurin fails to exceed 8 fantasy points for the third time this season.

Ahead of Monday Night Football, Commanders QB Sam Howell ranks sixth among quarterbacks with 1,349 passing yards, fourth in attempts and second in completions. So, you’d think that the opportunity for his top WR Terry McLaurin to perform as a top fantasy asset should be there. However, averaging a career-low 6.2 targets per game has stifled some of that upside fantasy managers were hoping to see under new Commanders OC Eric Bienemy. Despite the disappointing fantasy production and lack of volume, there are some reasons to be hopeful that McLaurin might bounce back for a strong second half of the season.

Through five weeks, McLaurin leads the team with 340 intended air yards this season, as well as fantasy points above expectation. However, he’s seen a drop in production after the catch, averaging a career-low 2.5 yards after the catch per reception, which might just be contributing to the lack of fantasy upside. It’s an interesting note, especially considering the toe injury he’d suffered in the preseason. Though McLaurin didn’t miss time with the injury, it’s worth wondering if it could be partly to blame for his slow start. In 2023, just under 24% of his yards have come after the catch, in comparison to 30-plus-percent of yardage in each of the last two seasons. Meanwhile, it also seems that his speed has been impacted, averaging 13.63 MPH on routes compared to 14.3-plus MPH in each of the last seasons. It’s not a certainty that this turf toe injury is to blame, but fantasy managers do have reasons for optimism moving forward.

Temperature check: Week 5 antic


Dalton Kincaid finishes as a TE3 or worse for the third consecutive week.

Fantasy football managers entered the 2023 season hopeful that Buffalo Bills TE Dalton Kincaid would be the guy to buck the notion that rookie tight ends can't produce for fantasy. It seems, however, that the one bucking that notion is actually Detroit Lions TE Sam LaPorta, who leads the position in scoring through the first five weeks of the season. It’s not as though Kincaid hasn’t had the opportunity, either ranking third in routes run for the Bills this season, tied with teammate Dawson Knox for the third-most targets. 

Unfortunately, despite his talent as a receiver, his 4.2-yard average depth of target (aDOT) is the second-lowest among tight ends, which hasn’t been ideal for his usage. While he continues to split receiving work with Knox and short-yardage targets, the ceiling for this young and talented tight end is capped for fantasy. Prior to Week 6 waivers running, Kincaid is rostered in 50% of ESPN leagues and 63% of Yahoo! leagues. It’s time to move on.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Subscriptions

Unlock the 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit, with League Sync, Live Draft Assistant, PFF Grades & Data Platform that powers all 32 Pro Teams

$31 Draft Kit Fee + $8.99/mo
OR
$89.88/yr + FREE Draft Kit