Fantasy Football: Biggest surprises, flops and stars a month into season

·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
·6-min read

You can’t buy much for a quarter anymore. In the 1950s you could get a loaf of bread, a ballpoint pen, a gallon of gas, and even a frothy milkshake. Comic fans could indulge in two books while the fast-food lovers walked away with a McDonald’s burger and fries.

What we can do now quarter-wise though, is assess the fantasy football landscape after a quarter of the season has gone by, noting the surprise producers, flops, and in-betweens, and what it all means going forward.

All Hail King Henry

Many drafters passed on Derrick Henry in the early draft spots, particularly in PPR formats, based on his perceived lack of passing-game usage. Not only does Henry lead all RBs in both total fantasy points and half-PPR points per contest, but his 15 targets have him on pace for three times the receptions he’s ever seen in a single NFL season.

Whether it’s because Ryan Tannehill is getting crushed at the line and he’s forced to dump off more, or the fact that the WR room is a triage unit in Tennessee, or that game script has led to this escalation in passing usage, it’s been a wonderful sight to see. Those fantasy managers who stood by Henry despite his lack of perceived receiving prowess have been handsomely rewarded thus far in 2021.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 03: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans runs the ball during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 03, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Any concerns about Derrick Henry taking a step back after such a heavy workload the past few years have quickly been disproven. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mike Williams and other Charger relevancy

The Chargers were an up-and-coming team heading into this season, and Justin Herbert was being drafted as QB8 in the sixth round. Drafters were high on the young QB, but dismissed his WR2. Mike Williams boasted an ADP of WR46, leaving Yahoo draft boards in the 12th round. He’s crushing his draft spot, currently posting the fifth-most half-PPR points among wideouts.

Despite an off Week 4, Williams is tied for second at WR with Diontae Johnson in targets per game with 11.7, and his four touchdowns sit second behind only Cooper Kupp’s five scores. I did draft my share of Williams with the thought process that Hunter Henry was gone and he was the clear WR2 with a big-armed QB, but I don’t think anyone expected such a huge fantasy performance out of the gate, since Williams has been somewhat inconsistent since entering the league in 2017. This Chargers offense has surprisingly featured several fantasy-relevant pass-catchers beyond Keenan Allen, too. Not only is Williams outproducing expectations, but both Jared Cook and Donald Parham are carving out roles for themselves which really helps in a weak TE market.

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No startable pieces in New Orleans not named Alvin Kamara (and even he’s struggling)

It’s been a rough road for the Saints when it comes to fantasy football so far in 2021. Injuries plagued the WR corps before the season even began, and we thought there was a savior in Marquez Callaway based on preseason output. However, after four weeks the highest-ranked WR in half-PPR points per game in this offense is Deonte Harris as WR67, followed by Callaway at WR79. TE is no better as Juwan Johnson’s 6.9 half-PPR points per contest puts him as TE19 on the season thus far.

Even Alvin Kamara, who’s usually situation proof, hasn’t been able to produce as he normally does and sits as RB14 (he's averaging just 13.2 half-PPR points per game). New Orleans has a difficult road ahead of them with two division battles against the Buccaneers still to come, along with another Carolina contest, plus the Saints face the Bills and Cowboys in the coming weeks, who are both playing very good defense. The Saints do get Tre-Quan Smith and Michael Thomas back in the near future, but for now, this offense is one to avoid.

Are Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones now Konami-Code QBs?

Drafting rushing quarterbacks is advantageous for fantasy purposes, which is part of the reason we saw Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts all among the first signal-callers to leave draft boards. What we didn’t see coming was the surge in ground game from both Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones this season.

Through four weeks, Jones has rushed for 188 yards which is third among QBs, while Darnold only has 52 ground yards, but leads all QBs in rushing touchdowns with a whopping five in four contests. Both players were drafted in fantasy QB3 territory, and are sitting as QB5 (Darnold) and QB6 (Jones) in total fantasy points. It’s tough to tell if they can both keep this up, but with Christian McCaffrey sidelined we could see more of the same from Darnold. Saquon Barkley started out a bit sluggish but has come on in the past two weeks which could limit those goal-line carries for Jones.

[Week 5 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

Drop, or hang onto the flops?

There have been some large names tied to high draft capital who have faltered so far in 2021, and it’s tough to decide what to do with them. Calvin Ridley, Allen Robinson and Robert Woods come to mind, along with Kyle Pitts. The only one of these that I believe is droppable is Pitts, but at this point you are pretty much stuck with him, unless you can find a trade partner. The TE position is sparse as far as options to add, and with so much invested in Pitts you just have to hope that the Atlanta offense gets going.

Speaking of the Falcons, Ridley is sinking teams across fantasy land, posting just 7.9 half-PPR points per contest so far as WR39. He’s seventh in targets per game with 10.5 which is encouraging, so we just have to hope he can get it together sooner rather than later. Robinson and Woods are also way underperforming expectations, which is actually rare for both. Robinson has always been QB proof but it appears he may not be coach proof?

Woods is behind Cooper Kupp in targets 46-25 on the season which is something none of us saw coming. I feel like their usage should even out some more as the season progresses but if it continues to be so lopsided, Woods could find himself as a drop candidate in favor of a WR with more juice.

Let’s hope we see fewer injuries around the league in the next quarter of the fantasy season, along with more production out of the underperformers. If not, some of our fantasy winnings won’t equate to more than 25 cents.

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