Week 5 Fantasy Football Booms and Busts: Chase Claypool proof Steelers develop receivers like no team in NFL
The NFL draft is one of the greatest events ever. It is common for early picks to pop and stars often come out of nowhere.
But when the Pittsburgh Steelers pick a broad receiver, be careful. Your conversion rate in this position is amazing.
And with rookie Chase Claypool, it looks like we're adding a different name to the hit list.
Claypool was the undeniable star of Sunday's early fantasy window, scoring four touchdowns when the Steelers overtook the Eagles 38-29. Claypool switched to a short touchdown run in the first quarter and then added a touchdown catch in each subsequent quarter. It was a brilliant afternoon for the Notre Dame rookie with seven catches and 110 yards. The final touchdown salted the game - and the cover - for the undefeated Steelers.
If you didn't see this outbreak coming, don't kick yourself - after all, Claypool was reportedly Pittsburgh's No. 4 recipient on the depth map in Week 5. But when Diontae Johnson injured his back early Sunday, the opportunity arose. And Claypool, who had shown great playing skills in spurts for the first month, took full advantage.
Whatever special sauce Pittsburgh brings to its broad recipient scouting, it definitely works. Consider some of the final click tips, all outside of the first round: Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Wallace, and Martavis Bryant. Johnson was a good find in round three last year (he led all rookie receivers by catches), and James Washington was a solid pick in 2018. A couple of mistakes aside (see you Sammie Coates) it's amazing how Pittsburgh is consistently finding affordable playmakers.
Chase Claypool appears to be the latest gem the Steelers found outside of the first round of the NFL draft. (AP Photo / Don Wright)
Provided the Johnson injury isn't serious, Pittsburgh has one of those practical problems - too many good players. For most of the summer, Johnson was touted as one of the busiest sophomores on the Fantasy Draft board. Smith-Schuster was a pro bowler only two years ago. Washington could be the weird man out here. Both Smith-Schuster (4-28-0) and Washington (3-25-0) were calm in their win on Sunday.
Some draft pundits wondered if Claypool might make more sense for the NFL at the narrow end, not the receiver. If the Steelers finally see him as a hybrid player, it might not be a big deal. Eric Ebron had five catches against a weak Philadelphia cover group, but they only covered 43 yards. He lost a fumble and dropped another catchable pass.
One thing we know for sure: Claypool's fantasy stocks are rising. He's currently represented in 15 percent of the Yahoo leagues, but that will be on the roof for the next few days. It even has a funny nickname: Mapletron. Prepare these FAB dollars in whatever currency you use. Pittsburgh welcomes Cleveland in week 6.
Unknown Fulgham starts for Eagles
If you want your sleepers a little more hidden, then how about Philadelphia in Travis Fulgham? He had a nifty 42-yard touchdown catch in San Francisco last week, then took off on Heinz Field Sunday, grabbing 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. Carson Wentz pounded Fulgham with 13 goals and no one else on the roster made it to 40 reception yards.
Detroit selected Fulgham as a project last year, a selection from Old Dominion in the sixth round. He spent most of the season on the training team. The Lions cut Fulgham this summer, followed by Green Bay and Philadelphia - but eventually the Eagles hid him in the practice group. And in light of Philly's cluster injuries on the receiver, Fulgham's go-time is now.
Fulgham's Yahoo roster tag is essentially zero right now. Heck, I'm in a 20-team cutthroat league and he wasn't offered anything in week 5. But the cat is out of the pocket now; Opportunity here and Fulgham flashed two games in a row. Baltimore will be a sixth week challenge, but after that Philly gets the Giants wrapped around the Cowboys twice. Wentz is desperate for playmakers; Maybe he found one.
Is it time for a backfield change in Arizona?
The Jets are everyone's opponent, 0-5 a year and 0-5 against the spread. One has to wonder how long head coach Adam Gase will stay. Sooner or later there will be a full house cleaning.
Kyler Murray (380 yards, two touchdowns) and DeAndre Hopkins (6-131-1) hit the Jets, no surprises. But the intrigue lies in the Arizona background. Kenyan Drake (18-60 rushing, 1-2 receiving) looked sluggish and indecisive in New York, though his fantasy line was saved by a 2-yard touchdown fall. Meanwhile, Chase Edmonds amassed five catches for a total of 92 yards, and one of his three runs was a touchdown breakout of 29 yards.
Yahoo executives were clever at hiding Edmonds, pushing him to 64 percent this week. The holdouts may want to trade in the next few days. Arizona may be hesitant to make changes to usage after a win, but Drake hasn't played well all year. Nobody would be surprised if Edmonds stepped into a time streak or took over the job entirely. And even if Kliff Kingsbury maintains the status quo, note that Edmonds shines at passing (18 catches a year) but Drake doesn't (six receptions, 22 yards).
Arizona faces a leaky defense in Dallas next week. The beleaguered jets will be outsiders with the Dolphins following the changes to the NFL schedule announced on Sunday.
The running back of Chase Edmonds pushes for a bigger role with the Arizona Cardinals. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
• Dak Prescott won me over immediately in his rookie year. Always loved his game on and off the field. An imperfect team, of course, but this offense had a chance to set records. It's a shame we'll never find out. And of course it's bad that he couldn't sign the contract beforehand.
How ironic that on a day when Alex Smith makes his glorious and astounding return to the arena, Prescott should encounter this gruesome outcome. Hopefully, given Prescott's age and the wonders of modern science, he can make a full recovery.
• I have to marinate over Andy Dalton's situation. We won't solve that tonight. Can he be 60 percent Prescott? Maybe 70 percent? The skills are exceptional, even though the Dallas line has fallen apart. Dalton's style in the latter half of his career seems to fit CeeDee Lamb's slot routes, though it was Dalton and Michael Gallup who saved Sunday's game against the Giants.
• Don't let the points throw you off, the Colts are training for Philip Rivers and the Browns are doing the same with Baker Mayfield. A week after graduating as WR1, Odell Beckham will likely be WR40 or higher by the end of this week (though the league lost one surprising extra game). Fantasy managers were over Rivers a while ago, but if he gets compromised like this, it could wreak havoc on the entire offense. Name me one Indianapolis passport catcher that you look forward to.
• When we saw Daniel Jones (Steelers, Bears, Niners, Rams) opening schedule, we thought a slow start was likely. But an 8 point fantasy stone against Dallas is breathtaking. There's nothing to test Jones for - Colt McCoy isn't the answer, and the Giants have to develop and evaluate Jones anyway. But he remains a walking turnover and sack, and while some of the guilt lies at the feet of a terrible offensive line, there is no question that Jones went down in year two.
• No matter where Jones goes, Darius Slayton is well worth a spin as the weekly WR3. And when Jones steps forward, Slayton goes up one step. Slayton had a breakout game in Dallas despite losing a touchdown to a spotty penalty.
• Jamison Crowder now has three starts this year: 115 yards, 104 yards, 116 yards. He has scored two touchdowns. He has ordered double-digit goals in every game. He produced despite gases, despite Sam Darnold's fights, despite Joe Flacco on Sunday. If you rate the league wideouts in half PPR points per game, Crowder is rated as WR3. None of the WR3s, the third overall. Miami is next.
• Gardner Minshew distributes the ball and gives at least two catches to nine different teammates. It's a smart way to play since nobody is a superstar here, but it limits the scope of the targets we like the most, DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault. Chark also battled an ankle injury on Sunday.
• Conversely, Deshaun Watson knew where his bread was buttered and put 26 of his 35 goals on his three primary wideouts. Maybe it's time to stop waiting for Duke Johnson to show up. Like the Browns, the Texans don't seem interested in making it a priority. But no complaints about how Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks clenched on Sunday. Maybe you'll run off your back faster with Bill O’Brien.
I have not been proactive with Cooks in the DFS, which may indicate that I have not properly applied Jacksonville's defensive injuries, especially in secondary school. Or maybe in week 4 (or calendar year 2019 if you prefer) I was still inclined to cooks who did absolutely nothing. We trudge forward.
• The dolphins are a team of common talent, but they always play hard. This is a clear sign that Miami has hired the right coaching team. Myles Gaskin doesn't look good in the efficiency numbers, but the blockage was awful. He passes the eye test, and if Jordan Howard stays in the kennel, Gaskin will have weekly touchdown equity in addition to a study day for touch.
• It may be unfair to criticize a player who is not quite healthy, but Jimmy Garoppolo looked like a backup quarterback against Miami. Jimmy G will quietly turn 29 next month. Maybe he's meant to never get out of the good, not great, level, even if one of the game's best designers is in charge. To be fair, Garoppolo's ankle was an obvious problem in the ugly Miami loss.
Apples and oranges, but Raheem Mostert didn't show a single piece of rust on his return. He is also capable as a recipient when you ask. Jerick McKinnon had only three touches now.
• It was refreshing to watch Derek Carr make it crack in Kansas City, and it's ironic that his most impressive day of the year came in a game where he threw a rare interception. If your listening ratio is close to 0.0, you are playing with too many internal restrictions.
• It's only five weeks, we're so far from judgment. But so far, Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks like a good player, not a special player. If we were to redesign a new fantasy league, I certainly wouldn't consider him in the first round.
• We love to see DJ Moore back in the end zone, even if the Atlanta Defense have practically given him a police escort on the left sideline. But the Robby Anderson Show (8-112-0) isn't slowing down and note that Anderson had 13 goals for Moore's five. Perhaps this is evidence of the connection Anderson has with Matt Rhule, his college coach. Or maybe Anderson's skills are a better match for Teddy Bridgewater's strengths (not that Moore is in any way lacking in polish).
• A duplicate from last week, but I'm blown away with the work Rhule and Joe Brady have done and quickly put together a strong team despite a new quarterback, a new broad receiver, and a returning star injury. I feel like I need to recalibrate Bridgewater too. Mike Davis has three consecutive top 10 finishes and is the accumulated RB1 for the past three weeks. Basically he was Christian McCaffrey, ridiculous as that sounds.
Carolina's young defense, on the other hand, was surprisingly competent. Sure, it's being trampled on while the game is in progress, and you may want to plug this leak. But pass defense is far more important in the current form of the NFL, and the Panthers have respectable ranks in this area: seventh lowest permitted permit, third lowest permitted YPA.
• Two bars of touchdown deodorant saved Darrell Henderson, despite a 2.5 YPC alerting him. Malcolm Brown was ordinary. Cam Akers did nothing until a 46-yard run in garbage time. Henderson moves to the head of a shaky committee, but Sean McVay remains the Rams to be seen back.
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