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In our inevitable techno-nightmare future, maybe, just maybe, fantasy football scoring will be based on the results of a hundred thousand simulations of Sunday's games.
Until then, we only have the one.
And in that one, anything -- unfortunately -- can happen. Some of it will be decidedly positive for our fantasy teams and some of it will make us grind our molars into dust. Some of it will be oh-so-close to what we had predicted or projected or imagined, and some of it will be a vast and terrible departure from our best-laid plans.
What I'm saying -- and yes, this is a pep talk to myself -- is that one or two weeks in which you were miserably, catastrophically wrong about everything do not a season decide. Injuries happen, weather happens, big play-killing penalties happen, players are tackled at the one inch line, likely game scripts go sideways in a hurry: These are guarantees in our little game. In ten thousand or a hundred thousand simulations of an NFL Sunday, that player does cross the goal line on a long catch and the game script goes just as we planned and the first quarter injury doesn't sink the prospects of our fantasy squad.
The plans -- the process -- of knowledgeable, sober-minded fantasy players might always come to fruition in a world of endless simulations, where the rough edges of the unknown unknowns are trimmed away and we're left with what was always likely to happen.
Until then, we only have the one.
Below are my Week 5 waiver wire priorities. I'm once again reminding you that the needs of your fantasy teams should determine how you prioritize the below players. If you're set at receiver, there's vanishingly little reason to use a waiver pick-up on a much sought-after wideout. Those feeling decent about their running backs (if such people exist) likewise should not go in on the waiver wire's top RB options.
Kenny Pickett (PIT)
Rostership: 5 percent
That Kenny Pickett ended his pro debut with no touchdowns and three interceptions shouldn't obscure his otherwise solid play, and the giant upgrade he represents for every fantasy-relevant player in the Pittsburgh offense.
First, the picks: Both of Pickett's non-Hail Mary interceptions hit his receiver in the hands. That happens. There's nothing to be done about that. And really, the rookie was excellent against the Jets. No quarterback had a higher completion rate over expected in Week 4, and only six QBs had a better EPA per play than Pickett. The rookie's 9.3 adjusted yards per attempt -- dwarfing Trubisky's pathetic AY/A of 5.7 -- demonstrates a willingness to make downfield throws that should benefit Chase Claypool and George Pickens (more on that later in this column).
Pickett's willingness to scramble and flee the pocket -- perhaps a necessity for a rookie signal caller who isn't quite comfortable making all his reads from the pocket -- adds a lot to his fantasy appeal. Against the Jets, Pickett rushed six times for 15 yards and two touchdowns. Fleeing the pocket, especially near the end zone, could be tremendous for Pickett's fantasy usefulness.
Pickett has something of a nightmare matchup in Week 5 against a Bills defense that does not blitz yet constantly pressures the quarterback. Maybe Pickett can get there for fantasy purposes on volume alone against Buffalo. In any case, Pickett should be a priority for those in Superflex leagues in need of a QB2 option.
Geno Smith (SEA)
Rostership: 13 percent
Geno is cooking in a Seahawks offense that is way more fun for fantasy purposes than it was during the Russell Wilson era. Maybe the Broncos should have simply signed Geno instead of paying Wilson the GDP of Italy.
Smith is a top-10 fantasy quarterback after the season's first month thanks to a stretch of highly efficient play. No QB has a higher completion rate over expected and only four quarterbacks have a higher adjusted EPA per play. To his credit, Smith is feeding DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at every opportunity. He may be bound for regression, but Smith has proven himself a reliable floor option with an occasional ceiling against bottom-tier pass defenses (like Detroit).
Teddy Bridgewater (MIA)
Rostership: 2 percent
Lost in the Dolphins' disastrous handling of Tua Tagovailoa's brain injury was Bridgewater's competence against the Bengals last Thursday. Teddy completed 60 percent of his throws for 193 yards (8.4 adjusted yards per attempt), one touchdown, and an interception that wasn't his fault.
Bridgewater in Week 4 had the league's 11th highest completion rate over expected and the seventh highest air yards per attempt. He understood the job of Miami's quarterback: Force feeding Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Bridgewater should be a top streaming option for Week 5 against the Jets.
Other quarterbacks to roster
Andy Dalton (2 percent): Dalton did Dalton things in Week 4 against the Vikings on his way to 236 yards and a touchdown. He was fifth in completion rate over expected against Minnesota, game managing as well as the Saints could have hoped. If Jameis Winston (back) is sidelined for Week 5, Dalton will square off against the horrendous Seahawks secondary, which has allowed the seventh highest EPA against the pass this season.
Bailey Zappe (0 percent): The rookie acquitted himself quite well in three and a half quarters against the Packers in Week 4, completing two-thirds of his passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. I'm not sure how NFL-viable Zappe's lollipop throws will be, but could have the matchup of a lifetime against the dead-on-arrival Lions defense in Week 5. Zappe is a Superflex waiver option who would still profile as a floor play against Detroit (if Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer remain sidelined).
Desmond Ridder (1 percent): Falcons head coach Arthur Smith sent a message in Week 4 when he called 16 straight running plays following a bad Marcus Mariota interception against the Browns. Smith, who worked closely with Ridder in training camp, appears ready to pull the ripcord and plunge his rookie quarterback into regular season football. Ridder completed 60.3 percent of his preseason attempts for three touchdowns and two picks. He would only be an option in Superflex formats.
Rachaad White (TB)
Rostership: 27 percent
Leonard Fournette's death grip on the Tampa backfield finally loosened on Sunday night against Kansas City. With every single one of his efficiency metrics down from 2020 and 2021, Lombardi Lenny watched rookie Rachaad White take two drives to himself in the first half and two in the second half. White didn't just spell Fournette. He replaced him for chunks of the game. White matched Fournette with three rushes and scored a touchdown on the ground.
White also encroached on Fournette's all-important route-running role in Week 4, logging a 34 percent route participation rate to Lenny's 52.8 percent. Fournette maintained the receiving production edge -- catching all seven of his targets for 57 yards and a late touchdown -- but White showed his potential with five grabs on five targets for 50 yards. The Bucs are clearly ready and willing to explore a post-Lenny offense. Tom Brady, meanwhile, seems very much done with the ineffective balanced offense the Bucs ran for the season's opening three games. Tampa went wild through the air against the Chiefs, as no offense had a higher pass rate over expected in Week 4.
I've gone door to door for thirty days now, begging the good Rotoworld readers to snatch White off their local waiver wires. You need to do it this week or you're not going to land the electric playmaking back who could be on the verge of taking over Tom Brady's fantasy points-rich backfield.
Tyler Allgeier (ATL)
Rostership: 18 percent
Allgeier took over as Atlanta's primary back in Week 4 against the Browns as Cordarrelle Patterson struggled through a lingering knee injury that on Monday landed him on injured reserve. Allgeier, a rookie and former workhorse back at BYU, led the Falcons backfield in snaps, routes, and was tied with Caleb Huntley with ten carries. Allgeier ran for 84 yards, 44 of which came after contact.
Against good teams, the Falcons won't be able to establish the run to Arthur Smith's heart's content. That limits the appeal of whoever takes over as Atlanta's primary early-down back. Allgeier will suffice as a decent RB2 fill-in for now.
Nyheim Hines (IND)
Rostership: 61 percent
Jonathan Taylor (ankle) has almost no chance of suiting up Thursday night against the Broncos. Hines, by every indication, will slot in as the Colts' No. 1 back -- a role with which he has had much success. In Week 12 of the 2020 season, Hines turned ten carries and eight catches into 95 yards against the Titans. He would be a lead back on a bunch of NFL rosters.
Fantasy managers shouldn't expect the Colts to lean on Hines with a Taylor-like rushing workload. Phillip Lindsay is expected to rotate with Hines and would seem to be in line for a chunk of the team's rushing attempts if Taylor is sidelined for Thursday Night Football. Hines, who has a 40.5 percent route participation rate, should still be more than useful in PPR formats. Just last week, Raiders running backs totaled seven receptions against Denver's defense.
Mike Boone (DEN)
Rostership: 2 percent
Denver's backfield apocalypse could leave Boone as the lead back, depending on Melvin Gordon's health. Gordon entered Week 4 with a neck issue and he missed significant snaps in the second half of the team's loss to the Raiders. He also has a fumbling problem that in the 1990s might be called fumbleitis.
Javonte Williams, of course, is done for the year with a torn ACL. It's a heart-wrenching turn for one of the game's emerging stars just as he hit his stride as the Broncos' lead back. As a football fan, I am sad.
Back to Boone, who played 19 snaps to 10 for Gordon in Week 4 against Vegas. Boone led the Denver backfield with a 38.8 percent route participation rate (and one target) while turning three carries into 20 yards -- posting a gleaming 5.33 yards after contact per rush along the way. A freak athlete who has long been a fascination of the football analytics community, Boone last saw significant run in 2019 for the Vikings. He rushed for 260 yards and three touchdowns on 49 carries in the final three games of that season; only seven backs had a higher yards after contact per carry than Boone over that span. And he was seventh in average yards before contact over those three games.
Boone should be a priority add for managers thirsty for a viable RB2. Sure, Gordon will probably start as the Broncos' top back in the post-Javonte era, but Boone has the sort of talent profile to usurp Gordon should the 29-year-old back struggle in his new role. The newly-signed Latavius Murray could also play a role in the post-Javonte Denver backfield.
Brian Robinson (WAS)
Rostership: 54 percent
Robinson on Monday was designated to return from the NFI list, meaning the Commanders now have three weeks to activate him. Fantasy managers shouldn't be shocked if Robinson -- who was shot twice in the lower body in late August -- suits up in Week 5 against the Titans, one of the league's most generous run defenses.
Ron Rivera and the Commanders have been dead set on using Robinson as the team's primary back since the start of training camp. The team's disenchantment with Antonio Gibson culminated in Week 4 when Jonathan Williams saw five carries on six snaps to Gibson's 13 carries. Gibson's run as the lead early-down runner in Washington has come to a close.
Perhaps the team will ease in Robinson after a lengthy layoff. Even so, he should be added in all 12-team leagues, mostly as a weekly floor option in a pass-heavy Commanders offense. J.D. McKissic will maintain passing down duties in the Washington backfield.
Raheem Mostert (MIA)
Rostership: 50 percent
Mostert dominated snaps -- 46 to Chase Edmonds' 19 -- and rushes -- 15 to five for Edmonds -- in Week 4 against the Bengals. It was Edmonds, of course, who got the touchdown against the Bengals. Mostert, however, saw two touches inside the five yard line -- usage that should eventually lead to touchdowns for the veteran of the Shanahan system. Mostert, who in Week 4 saw two minute drill snaps for the first time this season, is the superior fantasy option for now.
Other running backs to roster
Isiah Pacheco (19 percent): Kansas City's offensive line is bludgeoning opponents nearly every week. They humiliated a strong Tampa Bay front seven on Sunday night and sprung Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco for 92 and 63 rushing yards, respectively. Pacheco is purely a contingency option in the pass-first KC offense but should be stashed in the case of a CEH injury.
Latavius Murray (1 percent): The Broncos snatched Murray off the Saints practice squad one day after Murray stepped in for Mark Ingram and ran effectively against the Vikings, gaining 57 yards on 11 totes. He could complicate things for Mike Boone and Melvin Gordon in Denver. Managers in 14-team formats can add Murray just in case.
Caleb Huntley (1 percent): Huntley saw a carry on ten of his 12 snaps in Week 4 against the Browns and scored a five-yard touchdown. Allgeier is undoubtedly the priority pick-up this week. Huntley could be in for a massive workload should Allgeier struggle or miss time during Patterson's stint on IR. In his final 15 games at Ball State, Huntley ran for 1,713 yards and 18 touchdowns. The human bowling ball has some Maurice Jones-Drew vibes, per the zoomers.
Ken Walker (47 percent): It's all Rashaad Penny all the time right now in the Seahawks backfield, and for good reason: Penny is an elite NFL ball carrier. He's once again dominating all comers as Seattle's lead back (his ridiculous 4.57 yards after contact per carry leads the NFL). Walker -- who logged eight carries for 29 yards in Week 4 -- is a great contingency option who would be in store for 15-20 weekly touches should Penny suffer an injury.
Phillip Lindsay (0 percent): Colts head coach Frank Reich said Monday that Lindsay, who could be called up from the practice squad if Jonathan Taylor (ankle) can't play Thursday night, will mix into Indy's backfield rotation. One of the least effective backs in the NFL over the past two seasons, Lindsay could still fall into some rushing volume. Nyheim Hines does not profile as a workhorse by any definition.
Kenneth Gainwell (32 percent): I'm not prioritizing Gainwell by any means. Miles Sanders has seized the Eagles' early-down role and has run more routes than Gainwell in recent weeks. Gainwell would probably split the backfield with Boston Scott should Sanders get hurt this season. His ceiling is firmly capped.
Craig Reynolds (4 percent): Reynolds led the Lions backfield with a 42.5 percent route participation rate (and saw one target) in the team's Week 4 loss to Seattle. He's clearly the insurance option behind Jamaal Williams for as long as D'Andre Swift is out with a shoulder issue.
Samaje Perine (11 percent): Perine would certainly be the lead back for Cincinnati if Joe Mixon were to miss games in 2022. Perine has 20 carries and eight receptions through four games as Mixon's backup.
James Cook (34 percent): Devin Singletary has returned to the role he enjoyed in the final month of the 2021 season, playing the vast majority of early-down snaps and leading the Buffalo backfield in pass routes and targets. I would bet on Cook being next up if Singletary were to miss any time in 2022. Zack Moss has been mostly terrible in the season's first month and Cook has flashed in limited opportunity -- mostly as a pass catcher.
Trestan Ebner (0 percent): Ebner in Week 4 against the Giants split two-minute drill snaps with lead back Khalil Herbert. He had six rushes for 20 yards and caught two passes for eight yards while running a route on 17.3 percent of the Bears' dropbacks. Ebner would be Chicago's RB1 if Herbert joins David Montgomery (ankle) on the sideline at any point in 2022.
George Pickens (PIT)
Rostership: 38 percent
Pickens, who has the dawg in him (per the analytics), has new fantasy life with the ghost of Mitchell Trubisky finally banished to the bench in favor of rookie Kenny Pickett. Pickens in the second half against New York in Week 4 caught four of five targets from Pickett, who was much more willing to attack downfield with the dawg facing single coverage. Pickens was targeted on a tremendous 33 percent of his second half routes against the Jets. Diontae Johnson, meanwhile, was targeted on 12 percent of his Week 4 routes. He finished with two grabs for 11 yards.
Importantly, Pickens' yards per target jumped from 8.4 in the season's first three games to 12.75 in Week 4 against the Jets. He had more receptions in Week 4 than he did combined over the season's first three games and led the team with a 42.5 percent air yards share -- the 12th highest among all wideouts in Week 4.
I don't think I'm overstating it when I say a more aggressive quarterback could give Pickens WR2 upside, and his downfield prowess offers Pickens -- who has the profile of an alpha receiver -- as much weekly upside as any receiver outside the game's elite. He needs to be rostered in all formats.
Devin Duvernay (BAL)
Rostership: 63 percent
I must say Duvernay's rostership percentage sent me into convulsions. I didn't expect him to be rostered in more than 5 percent of leagues. Folks really chase those touchdowns, and Duvernay has his share (4) on (very) limited routes and targets through Week 4.
Rashod Bateman, who was running a full complement of routes in the Baltimore offense, could miss a week or two with a foot injury he picked up against Buffalo in Week 4. That should lead to a bump in routes -- and possibly targets -- for Duvernay and Demarcus Robinson. Duvernay has the second most routes among Ravens wideouts; his 15 percent target per route run rate is actually slightly worse than Robinson's.
Despite his speed, Duvernay is third among Baltimore wideouts in air yards. He doesn't have much upside as the presumed No. 2 pass-catching option with Bateman out, but he should be picked up in 12-team leagues with multiple flex spots.
Corey Davis (NYJ)
Rostership: 25 percent
Davis led all Jets pass catchers in targets, catches, and receiving yards in Zach Wilson's 2021 starts, so it's hardly surprising to see him reassert himself as the team's top wideout in Wilson's first 2022 start. Davis caught five of six targets for 74 yards and a score in Week 4. He had the team's highest yards per route run (2.55) and average depth of target (13.3).
Garrett Wilson remains the Jets' primary slot receiver and led the offense with seven targets against the Steelers. Davis' appeal is therefore limited even if he is among Wilson's favorite targets. He's only an add for managers in need of viable wideouts.
Mack Hollins (LV)
Rostership: 31 percent
Hollins' role in three-receiver sets is locked in. Following his monster Week 3 performance, Hollins had a 100 percent route rate in Week 4 against the Broncos, catching three passes for 33 yards in what was a relatively balanced Vegas offense. The Raiders should usually be more pass heavy, however.
Only 11 teams have a higher pass rate over expected through four weeks. Hollins has the highest average depth of target among Vegas pass catchers and should continue seeing high-value downfield looks from Derek Carr.
Josh Reynolds (DET)
Rostership: 20 percent
Reynolds in Week 4 was the primary beneficiary of Detroit's receiver armageddon, catching all seven of his targets for 81 yards and a touchdown in a shootout against Seattle. The return of Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) or D.J. Chark (knee) in Week 5 would make Reynolds all but unplayable in 12-team formats. He would have sneaky appeal as the WR1 for the pass-heavy Lions if both Chark and St. Brown are sidelined this week. Against the Seahawks, Reynolds had by far the highest yards per route run among Detroit receivers.
Other wide receivers to roster
DeVante Parker (28 percent): With seven receptions and a touchdown on 12 targets over the past couple of weeks, Parker has operated as the Patriots' No. 1 wideout while Jakobi Meyers (knee) is sidelined. No New England pass catcher has much fantasy appeal with Bailey Zappe at the helm. Parker, with the league's fourth highest YAC over expected, would have some deep league utility in Week 5 against a miserable Lions defense.
Rondale Moore (18 percent): Kliff Kingsbury infuriatingly used Moore on the outside in Week 4 against the Panthers, leaving the immortal Greg Dortch in the slot. Moore is never going to thrive as an outside receiver. The hope is that DeAndre Hopkins' Week 7 return will bump Moore into the slot, where he should see better matchups and more targets from Kyler Murray.
Jameson Williams (27 percent): Williams, the 12th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is now eligible to come off the reserve/NFI list as he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered last January. Williams in 2021 became college football's premiere deep threat, finishing the season with 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games. Williams accounted for 31 percent of Alabama's receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He'll add a needed downfield element to the Lions offense. Managers in 14-team leagues could do worse than stashing Williams, who could be back in late October or early November.
Jamal Agnew (1 percent): With Zay Jones sidelined in Week 4, Agnew -- or Swagnew, as the zoomers call him -- did what he always does and made plays. He was targeted on 40 percent of his routes against the Eagles and scored two touchdowns on five receptions. Maybe Jones will be back for Week 5 and Agnew will return to returning kicks. But he's an intriguing deep league addition if Jones can't return against Houston.
Khalil Shakir (0 percent): Shakir took over as Buffalo's main slot guy after injuries to Isaiah McKenzie (brain) and Jamison Crowder (ankle). Crowder is out indefinitely; if McKenzie is sidelined this week against the Steelers, Shakir should see the vast majority of slot routes. Josh Allen has completed 39 passes to pass catchers lining up in the slot through four games.
Tyler Conklin (NYJ)
Rostership: 42 percent
The Jets continued with their ample offensive snaps even with Zach Wilson in the saddle last week against the Steelers. They ran 70 plays, right around their season average. Forty-two of those were Wilson dropbacks. Conklin, leading all tight ends in pass routes headed into Week 4, continued posting a solid route participation (72 percent) against the Steelers. Conk Daddy (my wife left) caught three of five targets for 52 yards.
Meanwhile, CJ Uzomah had a 36 percent route rate but did not see a target against Pittsburgh. In Week 5 the Jets take on a Dolphins team allowing the ninth most offensive snaps per game. We could have another high-volume outing for Wilson and the Jets. Conklin is certainly in play as a top-12 tight end option who's still available in more than half of leagues.
Hayden Hurst (CIN)
Rostership: 21 percent
Hurst is top-five in tight end pass routes through the season's first month. In other words, he's out there on nearly every Joe Burrow dropback. With the Bengals leaning more toward the pass over the past couple of weeks, Hurst's opportunity has and could continue to grow.
Though his dismal targets per route rate (16 percent) isn't likely to spike without injuries to other Bengals pass catchers, Hurst -- second on the team in targets inside the ten -- should suffice as a solid PPR option in 12-team leagues. Hurst might look mighty tempting to Kyle Pitts drafters in this, the winter of their discontent.
Robert Tonyan (GB)
Rostership: 31 percent
The Packers are slowly but surely ramping up Tonyan, who suffered an ACL tear in 2021 and wasn't ready for a full workload when the season kicked off. Tonyan in Week 4 against the Patriots ran a route on nearly 60 percent of the team's dropbacks and caught both of his targets for 22 yards and a touchdown.
Like almost every tight end in fantasy football, Tonyan will continue to be touchdown dependent. But Aaron Rodgers has regularly looked to his massive tight end in the red zone over the past couple of years, making him a decent bet for touchdown production. The main obstacle for Tonyan (and most Packers pass catchers) is Green Bay's commitment to the run. They have the sixth lowest pass rate over expected (-4 percent) through Week 4.
Other tight ends to roster
Greg Dulcich (1 percent): The rookie could finally be back this week from his severe hamstring injury. The uber-athletic Dulcich impressed Broncos coaches and beat writers in offseason practices before the hamstring injury that shelved him for the regular season's first month. Albert O being completely phased out of the Denver offense means Dulcich could step into a solid route-running role as soon as this week against the Colts. He should certainly be rostered in tight end premium leagues and has a path to 12-team relevance.
Eric Saubert (0 percent): Yes, we have not one but two Broncos tight ends in this section. If Dulcich can't return in Week 5, Saubert appears to be the team's primary route-running tight end. Against the Raiders in Week 4, Saubert ran a route on 87 percent of Russell Wilson's dropbacks. He saw two targets. Saubert, naturally, is a desperation deep-league option.
Riley Patterson (JAC) vs. HOU
Rostership: 8 percent
Patterson was predictably useless in Jacksonville's Week 4 slaughter at the hands of the Eagles in which he made all three of his extra points but did not attempt a field goal while the Jaguars chased points in the second half.
He had seen solid opportunity before the team's Week 4 catastrophe though. Patterson had made seven of his eight field goal tries in the Jags' first three games, all of which featured plenty of neutral and positive game script. This week the Jaguars are 7.5-point home favorites against the hapless Texans (they are completely without hap). Patterson fits the kicker process perfectly. Houston has allowed the sixth most (11) field goal attempts through Week 4.
Other kickers to roster
Mason Crosby (5 percent): The Croz, silver hair and all, has been all over the place through four weeks. He's had two field goal attempts in two games and zero in the other two. Nevertheless, he's a good Week 5 process play against the Giants, who have allowed the second most field goal attempts (14) this season. Green Bay enters as a 7.5-point favorite. New York has precious little chance of stopping the Packers' rushing attack. Aaron Rodgers and company should matriculate the ball easily here.
Randy Bullock (9 percent): The Big Boy kicker faces off this week against a Washington team allowing the fourth most field goal tries in the league because, see, they stink, and opponents always have positive game script against the Commanders. The Titans are 2.5-point favorites in this one.
For the week's best streaming defenses, check out Gary Davenport's excellent Getting Defensive column.