Few times in a season does a player emerge that’s truly worthy of a high priority pickup. The league-winning move may be one that doesn’t require any FAAB dollars to be spent. A key to winning consistently in fantasy football is using advanced stats and metrics to identify breakouts before they happen. Stashing these players before our opponents get the chance to is a winning strategy in any format. Of course, this is much easier said than done.
When it comes to picking up, and sometimes starting, players that no one else in the fantasy community wants, pinpointing hits with any consistent success is inherently difficult. Entering any given week, these widely available players have enough obstacles to overcome on the path to consistent fantasy relevancy to keep the general public off of them. Still, this early in the season, there’s plenty of free meat to pick from the proverbial fantasy football bone.
James Robinson Watch
A new weekly section mainly added to keep track of a very, very, very bold prediction made before the season started that James Robinson, the one true smash to this point in this year’s series, would finish as an RB1 in Fantasy Points per Game. After four weeks, he ranks No. 9 among qualified running backs with a 19.1 average.
–Dalton Schultz: Currently No. 8 among qualified tight ends with a 12.5 Fantasy Points per Game average, Dallas’ offense has Schultz in line to have the breakout that Blake Jarwin was set to experience.
–Tre’Quan Smith: Michael Thomas is due back but we’ve said it before, there’s no telling whether he’ll return to his usual target-hogging form or whether he’ll be as effective as fantasy gamers expect. Smith is aided by a projected matchup against Desmond King, PlayerProfiler’s No. 94-ranked cornerback, while Thomas will draw No. 39-ranked Casey Hayward.
–Chris Hogan: Per usual, Hogan has seen lots of empty opportunity, but he is aided by Breshad Perriman‘s likely absence and his own matchup against PlayerProfiler’s No. 131-ranked cornerback in Dre Kirkpatrick. If he can’t produce this week, it may be time to extinguish the flame.
–Tee Higgins: We figured Higgins had already usurped John Ross. It’s fair to wonder if A.J. Green is next. Though Green has superior Snap Share and Air Yards numbers, Higgins has a higher Hog Rate and more Red Zone Receptions, and that includes his Week 1 goose-egg. He’s a volatile Week 5 play, but is one or two more big games from entering the weekly starter discussion.
–Brandon Aiyuk: Logging a 98.5-percent Snap Share against the Eagles in Week 4 with Deebo Samuel on the field is great for Aiyuk’s future outlook. Jimmy Garoppolo‘s likely return to the starting lineup will boost the players around him. It will also help Aiyuk take advantage of a matchup with PlayerProfiler’s No. 76-ranked cornerback in Byron Jones.
–Drew Sample: Will be a viable rest-of-season streamer in the right matchups. This week’s game against Baltimore qualifies, with the Ravens being the No. 10-most favorable matchup for opposing tight ends per PlayerProfiler’s strength of schedule metrics. Sample has the size we like, functional enough athleticism, and his QB currently ranks No. 2 in the league with 177 pass attempts.
–Brian Hill: Deserves to be held in case Todd Gurley continues to struggle in his every-down role and/or Atlanta begins to enter Tank Mode.
–Mo Alie-Cox: Jack Doyle and Trey Burton damper his upside, but we can never recommend dropping a player who ranks so highly in so many efficiency metrics. Cleveland provides the fourth-most favorable matchup for opposing tight ends according to PlayerProfiler’s strength of schedule metrics. Still, Alie-Cox is hard to trust in starting lineups outside the deepest of leagues.
–Chase Claypool: Don’t forget about the Steelers players that had an early bye last week. Monitor the usage here.
–Andy Isabella: Once he usurps Larry Fitzgerald and/or Christian Kirk in Arizona’s WR pecking order, the wheel will be all the way up for Isabella and for the Cardinals offense in general. They need him on the field more often to truly unlock Kyler Murray‘s full potential.
–Darnell Mooney: Don’t be discouraged by the 2-15 stat line from Thursday Night Football. It would’ve looked a whole lot different had he not been egregiously overthrown by Nick Foles on a wide open Deep Target. He has much more bench stash upside than Anthony Miller, who Mooney again drew more targets and played more snaps than.
–Jimmy Graham: A recommended drop candidate two weeks ago, Graham has been surprisingly efficient in averaging 11.4 (No. 10) Fantasy Points per Game before his 3-33-1 performance on Thursday Night Football against the Bucs.
THE PRE-WEEK 5 STASHES
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa should already be stashed in 2QB/Superflex leagues, but isn’t a bad bench stash in single QB leagues either. The magic has already begun to run out on Ryan Fitzpatrick by virtue of the fact that there’s already speculation regarding when, not if, the rookie takes over. If Fitzpatrick has another dud this week and the Dolphins drop to 1-4, Tua Time may come sooner than anticipated.
Two years ago, we recommended stashing Lamar Jackson before Baltimore’s final pre-bye week game. Joe Flacco struggled, the Ravens lost to the Steelers, Jackson was inserted as the starter after the bye week and the team never looked back. If they keep losing games, Miami won’t have time to wait for their Week 11 bye to make a switch. Newly-minted starting QBs always make for priority waiver wire targets. Especially when they have Konami Code upside and are among the most efficient college QBs of all time. Skip the middle man. Get Tua on your roster now to avoid the inevitable rush to acquire him when he becomes the starter.
Profile 2 Runners
Shawn Siegele’s work in bringing the Zero RB theory to fantasy football has shown us that it’s in our best interests to target what he calls Profile 2 runners. These kinds of backs generally fall into the 200 to 220-pound range and have demonstrated good speed and agility for their size. They don’t always start their careers receiving the chance to be every-down NFL workhorses, but if they receive that chance, they usually turn into Christian McCaffrey and Aaron Jones, becoming early-round fantasy draft picks in the process. While DeAndre Washington and Dontrell Hilliard won’t become early-round fantasy draft picks anytime soon, they both fit the Profile 2 description and should be stashed at the end of benches.
Check out Dontrell Hilliard on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:
Remember when we all though Washington had an outside chance to begin this year as Kansas City’s starting running back? Those were, in fact, good times. Washington isn’t a big threat to eat significantly into Clyde Edwards-Helaire‘s workload, but he’s certainly a higher-upside bench stash than Darrel Williams or Darwin Thompson. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to stash players on prolific offenses just in case. Especially when said player helped fantasy gamers win championships last year. While Washington is more of a bet on the Chiefs as a team, Hilliard is a bet on talent shining through and helping him earn a bigger role in the Browns offense.
looking for this year’s boston scott? pic.twitter.com/6i5HfzpXJ1
— the podfather (@Fantasy_Mansion) October 6, 2020
Hilliard combines 66th-percentile agility with well-above average pass catching acumen, evidenced by a 10.2-percent (75th-percentile among qualified running backs) College Target Share. He translated this ability to the pro level in his rookie year, catching nine of 10 targets for 105 yards. D’Ernest Johnson isn’t anywhere near as athletic, but showed similar pass-catching chops at USF with an 11.0-percent (80th-percentile) College Target Share. However, he failed to break 1,000 rushing yards in any of his four seasons, which Hilliard accomplished in his senior year at Tulane. Johnson projects to take some of Nick Chubb‘s workload while he’s out, but Hilliard has the potential to emerge as this year’s Boston Scott. Especially if Hunt goes down and/or Johnson proves to be ineffective in a game where the opposing defense has time to prepare for him.
Olamide Zaccheaus, WR, Falcons
This week alone, we’ve written about Olamide Zaccheaus here, here, here, here, and here. There’s nothing else that I can possibly add to convince you that stashing him is a good idea, and you’re obviously playing him in DFS, seasonal leagues, and everywhere you can if Julio Jones is ruled out. Our boy Ryan Markle-Klapp has been on him since May. You know what to do.
David Moore, WR, Seahawks
Upside is the name ofthe game when it comes to bench stashes in the Tomorrow’s Newspaper series. With Russell Wilson finally being allowed to play at an MVP-caliber level, it makes sense to target pieces of his passing offense. That includes David Moore, who comes off his best statistical and fantasy outing of the young season. The Snap Share and routes have trended downwards, but Moore still went 3-95-1 on four Week 4 targets, also logging 81 Air Yards despite a season-low 13 routes run. Despite a 7.6 (No. 31) Weekly Volatility mark, it shows that we want to have him stashed to play in deeper leagues in the right matchups. Last week’s game against Miami qualified, as does this week’s game against Minnesota. An individual projected matchup against PlayerProfiler’s No. 123-ranked cornerback in Jeff Gladney also helps his case.
Moore ranking so highly in a number of PlayerProfiler’s most important efficiency metrics is exciting. It shows that he needs to be stashed, if for no other reason, in the event of an injury to Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf. The Seahawks already run 3-WR sets at a 68.8-percent clip, the seventh-highest mark in the league. For Moore, it’s about capitalizing on last week’s big game and seeing the field enough to become a regular fantasy difference-maker.
Rookie WR Roulette
Two weeks ago, we talked about a number of rookie WRs that were set to come into potentially massive opportunity spikes, experiencing mixed results with that particular group to this point. This week, our game of Rookie WR Roulette continues. The most obvious of these plays, and the one who is likely most widely-rostered but must be acquired if available, is Henry Ruggs. For that reason, I won’t bold his name and officially add him to our player pool regardless of what happens this week. Just a reminder to snag him if someone dropped him in your league.
The Bills run 4-5 WR sets at a 21.7-percent clip, which leads the league by a wide margin. Even as Buffalo’s No. 4 wide receiver, Gabriel Davis can provide boom weeks with room for much more upside should injury befall this WR group. With John Brown limited in practice this week with a calf injury, Davis will have a chance to make some noise this week against the Titans.
While Travis Fulgham is intriguing and had a good fantasy outing in Week 4, John Hightower and Quez Watkins make for higher-upside stashes. The raw Hightower has yet to make any noise despite cresting an 80.0-percent Snap Share in consecutive weeks, but owns a 2.44 (No. 6) Target Separation mark and has only run five fewer routes than Greg Ward (104 to 99) despite playing in one less game. Watkins, with his 4.35 (98th-percentile) wheels, makes his professional debut after coming off IR. Over the summer, I argued that either of these guys can be this year’s Darius Slayton. One of them will hit. Right now it’s a coin flip as to who it will be.
eagles starting wrs sunday night usage:
*hightower: 31 routes, 2 targets
*ward: 28 routes, 7 targets
*fulgham: 23 routes, 4 targets (13.7 fantasy points) pic.twitter.com/5Djd8Q3hRA
— the podfather (@Fantasy_Mansion) October 5, 2020
Jeff Smith‘s Week 4 emergence of sorts won’t stop me from stashing Denzel Mims where possible. This may feel early, but he’s walking into a massive opportunity if his hamstrings can cooperate.
Jordan Akins, TE, Texans
The entire Houston Texans franchise has theoretically been thrown into disarray with Bill O’Brien’s recent canning. The offense isn’t likely to look completely different with Romeo Crennel filling in as head coach. Still, it makes sense to stash the best Houston players regardless of role while everything shakes out. Looking at his efficiency metrics to this point in the season, Jordan Akins qualifies as one such player.
Akins bests Darren Fells in most of PlayerProfiler’s opportunity and production metrics, while also being the more efficient player to this point in the season. Provided he can suit up after suffering a concussion last week, he draws a Jacksonville team that represents the eighth-most favorable matchup for opposing tight ends per PlayerProfiler’s strength of schedule metrics. Fells is always a bet to vulture a touchdown or two in any given week. Still, the overall upside is what we chase with our bench stash players. While he may need an injury to a fellow pass-catcher to be fully unlocked, Akins has the upside to be a weekly fantasy difference-maker.