In the first half of my Week 5 Risers and Fallers series, we will look at players who’s value is rising throughout the league and whether you should Buy, Sell or Hold them at their current value.
Eli Manning, NYG:
Is Eli starting to figure out Ben McAdoo’s new system? If the last three weeks are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. Eli has increased his fantasy production in every week this year, culminating in his FIVE touchdown performance Thursday night including a *GASP* rushing touchdown. I would not get used to seeing Eli plod his way into the endzone on the ground with regularity for the rest of the year (it was only his fifth ever rushing TD); however, the continued improvement of his passing statistics may be here to say. With Larry Donnell emerging as Eli’s new security blanket, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle have more time and space to get open and make plays, giving Eli more options to throw to while defenses are being kept honest by Rashad Jennings’ presence in the ground game. Don’t expect Eli to put up elite numbers every game like he did against the Redskins’ porous defense, but I’m BUYING him as a high-end QB2 with QB1 upside in the right matchups.
Tony Romo, DAL:
Just like Eli, Romo has improved each week of the year so far after a dreadful start against the 49ers. The back seems to be less of an issue week to week and he has completed over 75% of his passes in each of the last two weeks with five touchdowns and only one pick. The yardage is still something fantasy owners would like to see improve, but it may in fact be a blessing in disguise. Under new play-caller Scott Linehan, the Cowboys have shown a commitment to run the ball and they have had been able to do so at will with DeMarco Murray leading the league in rushing by a ridiculous 156 yards. With that newfound commitment to the running game, opposing defenses cannot key on Romo as much as they have in years past, allowing him to be much more efficient at the expense of the volume we have come to know and love over the years. The benefit of this is that Romo should be less volatile in his weekly scoring than he has in the past, moving his weekly floor up but his ceiling down in most games. Im BUYING Romo as a safe, low-end QB1 who we all know has the ability to throw for 400 yards and four scores if he is ever asked to do that.
Jerick McKinnon, MIN:
McKinnon was FINALLY given a chance to touch the ball more than 5 times and he certainly made the most of it. McKinnon ran 18 times for 135 yards including an explosive 55-yard run while adding a catch for 17 yards. If not for Asiata getting the three touchdowns, we could be talking about McKinnon as an RB1 already. Alas, he still has to deal with Asiata taking away touches and valuable goal line looks. Mike Zimmer would be foolish to not give McKinnon an expanded role going forward on a team deprived of game breakers in the absence of Adrian Peterson. I don’t really need to say anything else besides BUY BUY BUY.
Bishop Sankey, TEN:
Another running back that has been shamefully underutilized this season, Sankey has led the Titans backfield in yardage the past two weeks despite getting less than 30 snaps in each game (29 in Week 3, 24 in Week 4). Coach Whisenhunt has been unwilling to forgive Sankey’s “footwork” issues so far this year, but news out of Tennessee is that that issue is finally improving. Whisenhunt also expects Sankey to be more involved this week (and going forward hopefully) as well as getting him involved earlier in the game. It has been clear since the onset of the season that Sankey is far above the most talented runner in Tennessee, hopefully now he will be given the opportunity to prove that and take over as the feature back for a struggling Titans team. BUY, his usage will continue to increase into RB2 numbers and possibly more.
Jarius Wright, MIN:
The theme for this week’s wide receivers is players whose relevance is due to quarterback changes. First up is Teddy Bridgewater’s new BFF, Jarius Wright. Wright had a grand total of three catches for 37 yards before Week 4 and then exploded to the tune of eight catches for 132 yards on ten targets. With Bridgewater under center, Wright had more targets, receptions and yards than the consensus top 2 receivers (Jennings and Patterson) COMBINED against the Falcons. Teddy B clearly has established some great rapport with Wright working with the second teamers in practice most of this year and it showed in a big way. With the uncertainty surrounding Bridgewater’s playing status against the Packers, we may have to wait an extra week to see how real their connection is, but if he has another big day in Teddy B’s next game, you can BUY him as a WR3 with upside for more in PPR leagues.
Louis Murphy, TB:
Another wide receiver who has benefitted from second team reps with the new starting quarterback, Louis Murphy showed instant chemistry with Mike Glennon on Sunday. Murphy hauled in six of his ten targets for 99 yards. With Mike Evans expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a groin injury, Murphy will be given an opportunity to prove to Lovie Smith and the Bucs coaching staff that he deserves a role going forward. He’s off to a good start and should continue to see plenty of targets with Glennon under center. I’m BUYING him as a WR4/5 with upside for more with Evans on the shelf.
Travis Kelce, KC:
Remember when I wrote about Kelce two weeks ago and told you to BUY before he explodes? Well I hope you listened because exploded all over the Patriots and finished as a top-3 tight end this week in both standard and PPR leagues. The scary thing is that he is STILL barely playing over 50% of the Chiefs offensive snaps and led all Chiefs pass catchers in targets and receptions. He had a Gronk-esque game against Gronk himself and outshined him all night long. I won’t say it again, BUY.
Clay Harbor, JAX:
With Mercedes Lewis on the shelf for the forseeable future, Harbor will be given a chance to run with the starting tight end job as Bortles’ safety valve. After missing the beginning of the year with an injury of his own, Harbor got healthy at just the right time as the Jags are having trouble getting reliable hands on the field each and every week. Harbor led the team with eight catches on eight targets for 69 yards and should continue to see a plenty of targets from Bortles as he grows under center. Harbor is not a freakish athlete, but he has reliable hands and has been presented with an outstanding opportunity to grow with one of the best quarterback prospects in the NFL. BUY as a reliable back-up TE that you can feel comfortable playing on bye weeks or in case of injury.