Believe it or not, but we’re more than halfway through the fantasy regular season.
And it’s time – past time, really – to make a determination on what to do with the disappointing draft picks, underperforming players and less-than-scintillating studs on your roster.
There’s the usual number of underwhelming players to choose from, but we’ll focus this week on five of the highest-drafted disappointments, covering all four of the main fantasy positions, summarize what’s gone wrong and give a color-coded second-half recommendation on what to do with each, ranging from:
- Green (keep rolling with them as a turnaround is near) to …
- Yellow (keep as bench depth) to …
- Orange (sell for whatever value you can still get) to …
- Red (cut your losses)
The only requirement for our list is that each must have played in at least five games so far to eliminate the injury-induced disappointments and outliers (i.e. Antonio Browns) from the discussion.
Note that the average draft positions are courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com and the current rankings are Huddle Performance (standard scoring) average points per game ranks (through Week 7 play Sunday) at each of their respective positions.
Here goes, starting with …
QB Baker Mayfield (Browns)
Rank: 26 (17.4 fantasy points per game)
After a sizzling finish to his rookie season, last fall and the offseason addition of wideout Odell Beckham Jr., a massive sophomore leap was expected for Mayfield who was drafted (on average) only behind Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers among fantasy QBs. But what fantasy owners have received is no multi-TD games, three contests of 249 yards or fewer, six total TDs and a league-most 11 interceptions as the Browns’ offense has struggled mightily to find its footing in a 2-4 start. Fantasy-wise, that ranks Mayfield behind the likes of Kyle Allen (18.4 points per game), Teddy Bridgewater (18.1), David Carr (17.6) and Daniel Jones (17.6), the Giants’ rookie Mayfield infamously took a shot at in a preseason interview published in GQ magazine.
Second-half recommendation: Yellow (in two-QB leagues) or Red (in 12-team or smaller standard leagues). Mayfield and the Browns’ offense figures to improve over their final 10 games, but the three defensive matchups (vs. the Patriots, Broncos, and Bills) coming out of the team’s Week 6 bye are less than ideal so hopefully, most of Mayfield’s one-QB league owners had cut him loose before the bye. One thing to file away, though, is that Mayfield’s fantasy postseason schedule is one of the best in the league with plus matchups against the Bengals (Week 14), Cardinals (Week 15), Ravens (Week 16) and Bengals, again (Week 17) in case you run into a late-season quarterback conundrum.
RB Joe Mixon (Bengals)
Rank: 41 (6.8 points)
Mixon found his way into the end zone (on a 2-yard reception) Sunday for only the second time this season but still only wound up with a grand total of 6.4 points, finishing with just the one catch and adding only two yards rushing on 10 carries. That would be acceptable if it were a one-game blip, but Sunday’s 6.4-point day stunningly stands as Mixon’s third-best fantasy outing in seven games this season. By comparison, Mixon only had one worse fantasy outing in 14 games a season ago, when he finished as the ninth highest-scoring running back overall. Mixon’s 84 total rushes so far this year are tied for 19th most in the league, but he ranks 33rd among running backs with 254 rushing yards, averaging an abysmal 3.02 yards per carry, thanks in no small part to running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines on one of the NFL’s two winless teams. Meanwhile, Mixon hasn’t been heavily involved in the Cincy passing game, either, ranking sixth on the team with 21 targets and 15 receptions with those going for 99 yards and his two scores.
Second-half recommendation: Orange. Unless you’re set with four better backs (you can never really have too many), keep Mixon on the bench based strictly on his volume, averaging 15 touches per game) as the lead back on an NFL team. Still, his fantasy owners are strongly advised to see if an RB-desperate fellow owner will at least give you something of starting value in return for what’s left of Mixon’s name value from 2018.
RB Damien Williams (Chiefs)
Rank: 50 (5.4 points)
Now, sure, Williams has essentially sat out two full games (Weeks 3 and 4) due to a knee contusion, but he’s only totaled 203 yards and two TDs on 59 touches in his other five contests and has only one game all season – 12.5 points in Week 1 – with more than eight fantasy points. The rushing numbers have been especially brutal with Williams averaging a paltry 1.6 yards per carry on 42 attempts. Williams ripped it up down the stretch last season, totaling 10 TDs and averaging 20 fantasy points per outing over K.C.’s last six contests of 2018 – including two in the AFC playoffs. But despite Williams entering the season as the presumed No. 1 running back on what again figured to be one of the league’s best offenses, there were concerns with the sixth-year back, considering last season’s 73 touches marked a career season-high. And, so far, those concerns seem completely justified.
Second-half recommendation: Yellow. You’re likely not going to get much of anything in return in a trade, so hang on to Williams, if you can spare the bench spot, to see what develops with one of top two backs on what should be a high-powered attack when injured QB Patrick Mahomes returns, likely at some point next month.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers)
Rank: 44 (7.7 points)
On the fantasy disappointment list, JJSS is preceded by an asterisk given the quarterback health issues in the Steel City. First, veteran Ben Roethlisberger went down for the season with an elbow injury in the first half of Pittsburgh’s Week 2 contest, and then second-year backup Mason Rudolph was unable to finish the Week 5 contest with a concussion and missed the team’s ensuing game. In between, Smith-Shuster has posted two games with at least 13.5 fantasy points but has totaled 8.4 or fewer in the other four, including a season-worst outing in his most recent contest (one catch for seven yards on four targets) playing with third-string QB Devlin Hodges in Week 6.
Second-half recommendation: Green. As long as Rudolph is back at the helm as expected in Week 8 after the Steelers’ bye, feel free to start Smith-Shuster as a WR3 or flex option. JJSS leads the Steelers with 38 targets and a healthy 20.3-percent team target share, and he has definite big-play ability as demonstrated on his 76-yard catch and run-scoring reception against a stingy 49ers defense in Week 3. Consider him a buy-low trade target as well.
TE O.J. Howard (Buccaneers)
Rank: 34 (2.9 points)
The third-year tight end’s best catch this season came as a spectator at a Tampa Bay Rays postseason game earlier this month when he snagged a foul ball with one hand. Meanwhile, on the gridiron, Howard has only 13 receptions for 176 scoreless yards on 18 targets for a grand total of 17.6 fantasy points in six games. His best outing so far in 2019 was 6.6 points in Week 3 (three catches for 66 yards), but he bettered that mark in seven of the 10 games he played a year ago when he finished fifth at the position with an average of 8.7 points per outing. This season, though, he’s averaging only three targets per game for an 8.5 percent team target share and has seen both of Jameis Winston’s non-Chris Godwin/Mike Evans TD passes go to fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who has reeled in 12 of his 14 targets for 119 yards.
Second-half recommendation: Red. Unless you’re playing in a deep or tight end-premium league, you’ve probably already moved on and sent Howard packing. But given the scarcity of the position and the 24-year-old’s talent that surely hasn’t vanished in one offseason, keep him near the top of your waiver-wire watch list. Perhaps the Bucs and still-adjusting new head coach Bruce Arians will have figured out how to get Howard more involved during their Week 7 bye, or even more intriguing, perhaps a tight end-needy team such as the Seahawks or Patriots will swing a deal for Howard before the NFL’s Oct. 29 trade deadline, suddenly casting the disappointing tight end in a whole new light.
- The Vikings’ Kirk Cousins extended his midseason outburst Sunday, completing 24-of-34 passes for 337 yards and four TDs in a 42-30 road win over the Lions. Over the last three weeks, only the Texans’ Watson has totaled more QB fantasy points than Cousins, who has thrown a league-most 10 scoring passes during that span while ranking third with 976 passing yards. And he’s done it all while completing 75.6 percent of his passes and averaging 30 attempts per game – up from his 24.8 average over his first four contests.
- To the surprise of no one, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson currently leads all QBs in attempts (83) and rushing yards (576) and is in a six-way tie for second with three rushing TDs. He has 34 more rushes and 310 more yards than the next-closest QB (rookie Kyler Murray in both cases). On the strength of three 100-yard games, Jackson’s 576 rushing yards rank fifth overall in the league, and he’s on pace for 1,316 yards, which would shatter Michael Vick’s 2006 single-season QB record of 1,039. Since rushing for a career-low six yards on three attempts in Week 1, Jackson’s rushing has accounted for a whopping 55.4 percent of his total fantasy points over the last six games.
- It didn’t take long for wideouts Corey Davis and J. Brown to gain relevance in the Titans’ passing game as both Davis (seven) and Brown (eight) hit season highs in targets Sunday in QB Ryan Tannehill’s first start. Davis caught six of the seven passes thrown his way for 80 yards and a TD while Brown reeled in six of his eight targets for 64 yards. Meanwhile, WR Adam Humphries caught all four of his targets for 40 yards and Tajae Sharpe snared two of his three for 19 yards, meaning that wide receivers accounted for 22 of Tannehill’s 29 targets, 18 of his 24 completions, 203 of 323 yards and both of his TDs.
- On the subject of emerging AFC wideouts, take note of Colts second-year WR Zach Pascal, who has caught 13 of his 19 targets for 239 yards and three TDs while adding a 12-yard rush over his last four games. He ranks third in the team in targets during that span and is tops in receiving yards and TDs.
- It’s become a two-player tight end timeshare in Philly. Since returning to close to full strength from an early-season calf injury in Week 3, second-year TE Dallas Goedert has 12 receptions for 144 yards, a pair of TDs and 24.4 standard-scoring fantasy points on 18 targets. Mainstay Zach Ertz, meanwhile, has posted an 18-214-1 receiving line with 25.4 fantasy points on 29 targets during the same four-game span.