Fantasy Football Week 5 Booms/Busts: Tom Brady has all the toys

·7-min read

The breakup between the New England Patriots and Tom Brady was a news event that launched 1,000 ships. Books have been published, countless articles written, podcasts tape on and on.

But for all the talk of how the marriage could have been saved, maybe the parting made sense for everyone. Perhaps Brady privately knew how difficult New England’s skill-position deficit would be, and how badly he needed to land somewhere where he could still thrive.

Brady’s not the first New Englander to find salvation down south in his later years. After trying to steer the Patriots' go-cart offense during a disappointing 2019 season, he’s been treated to limousine life with the loaded Buccaneers offense.

Last year’s Super Bowl season speaks to that, but Brady’s been much more fantasy-friendly in 2021. Sunday was another case in point, as the Buccaneers pasted the Dolphins, 45-17. Although we live in a fantasy era dominated by mobile quarterbacks, Brady raced to the top of the quarterback board in the early window. Five touchdown passes will do that, along with 411 passing yards (shockingly, the first 400 & 5 game of his career). The game was so lopsided, Brady didn’t play half of the fourth quarter.

It’s rare that every major fantasy angle pays off in a specific game, but the Buccaneers took care of just about everybody Sunday. Antonio Brown (7-124-2) had the best of the wide receiver production, but Mike Evans (6-113-2) wasn’t far behind, and Chris Godwin (7-70-0) at least made a par for PPR managers. And Leonard Fournette was sturdy as the featured back, collecting 110 total yards and a rushing score.

Antonio Brown #81 and Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers' stars shined in Week 5. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Fournette’s become a sneaky-underrated fantasy back. He handed 16 touches against six for Ronald Jones and five for Giovani Bernard, and Fournette’s share likely would have been larger had the Dolphins kept the game competitive. I’m willing to consider Leo a locked-in RB2 until further notice, and maybe even a lower-end RB1 in specific matchups. Next week’s road game at Philadelphia should be Fournette-favorable, depending on how much production Brady doesn't grab himself.

The only fantasy winner on Miami’s side was Myles Gaskin, who posted a shocking 10-74-2 receiving line, catching every one of his targets. We say it’s shocking because Gaskin had modest receiving work through four weeks, and only saw 12 snaps in the Week 4 loss to the Colts. It’s not that Gaskin can’t catch the ball — he actually had the league’s highest yards per target number last year among qualified running backs.

In theory, you’d like to think Gaskin’s blowup receiving game is a genie out of the bottle, and he’ll be back in RB2 graces for the foreseeable future. Alas, Miami’s offense has shown little week-to-week continuity, and the Dolphins are on a four-game losing streak. We also might see Tua Tagovailoa next week against Jacksonville. Add it all up and Gaskin is a tricky call for fantasy managers moving forward.

Someone is going to eat here, we know that. Jacksonville and Atlanta are the next two Miami draws, and the Dolphins also have Houston in Week 9.

New paradigm for the Pokes 

The Dallas passing game continues to be all about efficiency, not volume. No one can criticize Dak Prescott after a 44-20 romp over the Giants; he now has a four-game winning streak, and 10 touchdown passes in his last three games. But after airing the ball out 58 times in the opening loss at Tampa Bay, Prescott has thrown just 27, 26, 22, and 32 passes the last four weeks.

The Dallas defense plays into this. Not that the Cowboys have a shutdown unit, but it’s far from the sieve we saw last year. Maybe it’s league average, but with a couple of dynamic playmakers. You don’t need these guys to get all the stops, but they at least get some of the stops. They’ll unplug the pinball machine sometimes.

And the Dallas running game looks unstoppable. Ezekiel Elliott (21-110-1) and Tony Pollard (14-75-0) did their Thunder and Lightning bit again Sunday (Pollard also threw in four catches), working behind a powerful offensive line. Prescott has been a handy scrambler for most of his career, but he has just 60 rushing yards — and no rushing touchdowns — in 2021.

We’re not going to feel sorry for CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper managers, as both players had a touchdown Sunday. But they collected a modest six targets each, in part because of the running game, and in part because of the emergence of tight end Dalton Schultz (6-79-0, eight targets). Prescott doesn’t need to chase the game like he once did, and he’s smart enough to take Schultz over the middle if the more explosive options are not available.

Lamb and Cooper remain electric talents, Pro Bowl candidates at their best. But the current setup in Dallas is going to drain their fantasy value. Balance is great for the real-life Cowboys, but it’s a harsh fact of life in fantasy right now.

Dallas visits New England next week, then takes a Week 7 bye.

Speed Round

• I don’t know when Pittsburgh will fix its offensive line or even its offense, but Najee Harris can’t fail with this volume. He’s touched the ball 74 times in three weeks (even with some late-game cramps Sunday), and his pass-catching skills make him valuable regardless of game flow. If we redrafted tomorrow, Harris is an easy first-round pick and probably a top-half selection.

• Consider Kyle Pitts unlocked and unleashed. He was the obvious threat for the Jets to worry about and still, they couldn’t defend him.

• Even when Miles Sanders nudges Kenneth Gainwell out of the way, he still can’t win (16 touches, 51 yards). The Philadelphia offensive line is going to be a mess all year, and Jalen Hurts carries all the touchdown equity here.

• Whatever Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson had working in New York, it didn’t travel to Carolina. They look like they met five minutes before the game.

• No one throws a parade when you beat the Texans, but Mac Jones getting 7.7 YPA with a substandard receiving group is impressive. What sort of allergic reaction would Jakobi Meyers suffer in the end zone?

• Davis Mills showed nothing in three weeks before stuffing it against the Patriots defense. Given how Bill Belichick typically schools rookie quarterbacks, we should be impressed. Chris Moore also did nothing for a month before his unlikely explosion (5-109-1); there should be room for a second fantasy option here after Brandin Cooks (who New England, predictably, erased).

• There are 100 things wrong with the Jaguars, but at least they’ve steered into James Robinson, their best back. But five carries are still too many for Carlos Hyde.

• The Detroit circle of trust probably is limited to its two excellent running backs. T.J. Hockenson is talented, but the type of player most defenses can contain if they so prioritize. Three good-not-great receivers — Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cephus, and Kalif Raymond — have been alternating useful weeks. Cephus was injured in the first half Sunday (shoulder), did not return. 

• Even with a trimmed usage tree, Odell Beckham was a non-factor in a shootout against the Chargers. He’s nothing past a WR4 at the moment. Keep in mind, Cleveland's defense will be able to keep most opponents in check; the Browns won't have many pinball weeks. 

• If Jared Cook ever gets hurt, I'd pick up Donald Parham immediately. 

• I didn’t see a big difference between Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams, who both had a reasonable success rate in the upset at Vegas. Meanwhile, the Bears kept Justin Fields under wraps, allowing him just 20 pass attempts and three runs. So long as the Bears want to play 1975 football, there’s fantasy juice for both of the backs. Meanwhile, Allen Robinson remains in Beckham limbo. 

• Trey Lance looked talented enough to be a lottery pick, and raw enough to be a 21-year-old rookie who hardly played last season. A few bad decisions, and several off-target throws. But surely the Niners don’t want to end a close game with their backs getting just 11 carries (meanwhile, Lance had 16). If the Niners season can be saved, they need to take care of post-bye business in two weeks, when they host Indianapolis. 

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