Welcome to the latest edition of Fantasy Football Fallout, where we dive into the most significant fantasy football headlines from Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season. As we navigate the ever-changing fantasy landscape, we’ll explore standout performances, unexpected disappointments, and key player developments that can influence your fantasy football strategies. Whether you’re an avid fantasy manager seeking insights or looking to stay competitive in your office league, join us as we explore the biggest headlines from Week 5 of the NFL season.
Fantasy Football Week 5 Fallout
Justin Jefferson Joins Injured Reserve List
After suffering a hamstring injury against the Kansas City Chiefs, Justin Jefferson has been placed on Injured Reserve. He will miss at least the next four weeks, which will be a devastating blow to fantasy football managers. The Vikings won’t rush him back either, considering this is a lost season in Minnesota with a 1-4 record.
As a result, there will be a large hole left in the Vikings’ passing game. Jefferson ran a route on every pass play this season and accounted for 28.7-percent of Kirk Cousins‘ targets. Cousins is also No.1 in the NFL in pass attempts, and the Vikings will continue to play from behind. This sets up T.J. Hockenson, K.J. Osborn, and Jordan Addison as the main beneficiaries who will be must-starts going forward.
If K.J. Osborn is on the waiver wire in your fantasy league, that should change this week. Although he hasn’t been as productive in fantasy football as Jordan Addison, he has continued to operate as the player in two-wide receiver sets alongside Jefferson with a 96.8-percent Route Participation in 2023. Osborn moves into flex consideration on a weekly basis and is a solid WR3 when the Vikings take on Chicago in Week 6.
If there was a buy window for Jordan Addison following scoring zero points in Week 4, that has quickly closed. He has been productive with three touchdowns. However, he is only No. 64 in target share and No. 35 in fantasy points per game. He should be primed for a major role in this offense and moves into borderline WR2 conversation until Jefferson’s return.
Justin Fields Fantasy Star or Fool’s Gold?
After failing to finish as a top 12 quarterback through the first three weeks of the season, Justin Fields has exploded in the last two weeks. He has scored nearly 31 fantasy points per game in that span and has thrown eight touchdown passes. Furthermore, after averaging 5.87 yards per attempt to start the season, that number has increased to 9.7 yards over the last two weeks.
The fantasy community rarely takes production like this in stride, and the narrative around Justin Fields has completely changed. Surprisingly, his fantasy production hasn’t been saved by an increase in rushing production either. Instead, he is finding success downfield and getting it done in the passing game. After averaging 4.61 Air Yards per Attempt those first three weeks, Fields threw for 11.44 Air Yards per Attempt against the Broncos and Commanders.
Therein lies the problem with Fields’ improvement over the last two weeks. Denver and Washington rank No. 32 and No. 31 in points given up a game to opposing offenses. They are arguably the two worst defenses in the NFL, and they haven’t slowed an opposing quarterback the whole season. The schedule will continue to be favorable for Fields as well, with matchups against the Vikings, Raiders, and Chargers.
For redraft purposes, Fields is a must-start going forward and a top 8 fantasy quarterback. Particularly over the next three weeks, he can be relied upon as he doesn’t face many tough defensive matchups the rest of the season. Something else fantasy managers should monitor is Fields’ rushing production. After averaging 76.2 rush yards per game last season, he is only running for 38.2 yards in 2023. As teams have to respect his arm more, this could open up more running lanes as well.
Fields’ Future Outlook
However, my long-term concerns remain for Fields. Against two poor defenses, he has elevated his play, but concerns about his consistency as a passer will remain until he does it against better defenses. Furthermore, the Bears remain strong contenders for the No. 1 pick in the draft with the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2024 and their own. The prospects of Caleb Williams on a rookie contract will likely be too hard for the Bears to resist. Even if Fields continues this torrid pace, he could still find himself in a new uniform next season.
There lies the positive though, as Fields is certainly making a case to be someone’s starting quarterback in 2024.
For dynasty purposes, Fields remains a top 12 fantasy quarterback given his upside but still carries a lot of risk as a long-term asset. He’s more for contending teams as a result, and someone I would look to sell high on a rebuilding team. This is relative, as this is still a player you’re holding unless you receive a top 3 2024 first-round pick or multiple first-round picks. However, a young wide receiver such as CeeDee Lamb or Garrett Wilson would certainly be a more secure asset, and they are more likely to hold their value into next season.
Lamar’s Lackluster Offensive Situation
Lamar Jackson had begun to string together a streak of impressive fantasy outings. However, the Baltimore offense struggled against Pittsburgh, only scoring ten points. Jackson didn’t have very much success, only scoring 10.9 fantasy points. He also committed a fumble in the 4th quarter that cost the Ravens an opportunity to win the game. Through five games, Jackson leads the NFL in fumbles and is the QB9 in fantasy football leagues.
However, fantasy managers shouldn’t blame Jackson. He has been the victim of bad luck this season and lackluster production from his receivers. Jackson is still No. 3 in fantasy points per dropback, but a number of factors have contributed to some lackluster fantasy outings.
First, despite a lot of offseason hype, the Ravens’ pass catchers haven’t taken a step forward in 2023. Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham Jr. rank No. 49 and No. 106 in target separation, neither making an impact. Zay Flowers, on the other hand, flashes a lot of talent, but has failed to generate plays downfield. He is No. 94 in average depth of target and No. 68 in yards per reception. A high proportion of his plays have been manufactured plays near the line of scrimmage as well. The Ravens have had little success downfield this season as a result. This was highlighted this past weekend with eight drops yesterday, resulting in several missed big-play opportunities.
This has contributed to the passing game not taking the step forward that many anticipated under Todd Monken. However, the change in offensive philosophy that many anticipated hasn’t happened either. The Ravens rank No. 32 in pass plays per game and No. 29 in pace of play. Combined with the turnovers this season, the Ravens have run a fraction of the plays that some other offenses have.
Jackson’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook
Jackson clearly isn’t getting enough help around him, but that never mattered in his career so far. The problem is this also coincides with a significant drop in rushing production this season compared to previous years too. From a high of over 80 rush yards a game in 2019, his totals have decreased every following season. He still ranks No. 1 in the NFL with 53.0 yards per game. However, as Jackson continues to get older, his rushing totals will continue to decrease.
What this means for fantasy is that Jackson is more dependent on the offense around him than he ever has been before. The running back room is decimated, and their only productive pass catchers (Zay Flowers and Mark Andrews) are underneath threats who aren’t generating any big plays downfield. This offense is lacking a second gear, and that may not change in 2023. Given Jackson’s rushing upside, he will continue to rank as a top 5 fantasy option every week. However, major passing improvement isn’t a possibility given the state of the offense. Fantasy managers waiting on the 2019 version of Jackson who won an MVP will be disappointed.