In this article we are targeting players that have matchups to exploit, most being lesser priced options that will allow you to load your roster elsewhere. We have an understanding of what defenses are doing to defend the pass and how they’ll scheme to stop offenses, and that helps to inform us as to how games can likely play out.
Last week we hit on positive plays like Panther wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr, Bills tight end Charles Clay and Bears wide receiver Eddie Royal. We also targeted negative plays like Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry and Lions wide receiver Golden Tate.
With the help of our defensive guru Aaron Rudnicki, let’s take a look at players that we both like and a few that we would avoid this week.
Eddie Royal, WR, Chicago @ Kansas City, $3,700
Bischoff: I expect Cutler to see a fair bit of pressure this week on the road and Royal is the safety valve here. He is a quick and decisive route runner that gets open quickly which plays to the game script, and I see Royal getting to value this week at this price.
Rudnicki: The Chiefs corners have been victimized with regularity this year, having given up 10 touchdowns to WRs through 4 games. While the return of Sean Smith last week provides a clear upgrade, he figures to lock up with Alshon Jeffery on the outside. Thus, Royal should remain a great target for Jay Cutler and build on his strong outing last week.
Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland @ Baltimore, $4,500
Bischoff: The Travis Benjamin train keeps rolling and we best pay attention to him quickly becoming a clear No. 1 target in the Browns passing game. There will be points scored in this one and the Ravens have been susceptible to the pass. He is a vertical threat and can make defenses pay in a flash, and that can get him to value quickly this week.
Rudnicki: The Ravens expected their corners to be strength, but all three players have struggled at times. While the Steelers receivers were held in check last week, it had more to do with the conservative game plan they used with Vick under center. In the two weeks prior, the Ravens allowed up an average of 300+ receiving yards and 3 TDs to opposing WRs. Meanwhile, Benjamin has emerged as the primary target for Cleveland and has the speed to break a big play or two.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver at Oakland, $7,400
Bischoff: The soft underbelly of the Raiders defense is a giant weakness and I’d expect to see a lot of volume go to Sanders this week with quarterback Peyton Manning dissecting the defense. Sanders is a candidate to generate a lot of yards after the catch which significantly helps his value.
Rudnicki: The Raiders were so desperate for help at corner that they have been starting waiver pickup David Amerson opposite 1st round bust D.J. Hayden. Neither player is likely to have much success slowing down the Broncos receivers. Peyton Manning may not have the arm to test them deep, but Sanders will likely find little resistance in the intermediate passing game.
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego vs. Pittsburgh, $7,100
Bischoff: Quarterback Phillip Rivers and Allen have a great rapport going and it isn’t going away this week. Tight end Antonio Gates returns, but Allen will be spread all over to exploit the weak Steelers secondary.
Rudnicki: The Steelers have given up big games to Kamar Aiken, Kenny Britt, and Torrey Smith in the past three weeks. The Chargers could be without Malcolm Floyd and Stevie Johnson, which figures to make Allen an even bigger focal point than usual. He’s already posted games with 15 and 12 receptions this year, and could be headed for another huge outing.
John Brown, WR, Arizona @ Detroit, $5,100
Bischoff: The Lions might be without both starting defensive tackles this week. They lost Tyrunn Walker to a broken leg last week, and Haloti Ngata hasn’t practiced this week with a calf injury. This defense wasn’t playing very well with these players in the lineup, and it makes the situation dire for the Lions this week. Without pressure from the interior of the defense, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is going to have a little more time than usual and that means a few more shots down the field to Brown.
Rudnicki: The Lions secondary has played poorly this year, but they also haven’t gotten much help from the players in front of them. The Cardinals had a surprising loss to the Rams last week, but they were still plenty capable of moving the ball against a tougher defense. Fitzgerald’s great play has deservedly gotten all the attention, but Brown is just as capable of putting up big numbers here.
Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville @ Tampa Bay, $4,500
Bischoff: Hurns and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles have tremendous rapport going back to last year and it has paid dividends in 2015. That looks to continue in Week 5 as the Jaguars travel to face the Buccaneers on the road. Tampa Bay has surrendered eight scores via the pass and they’ve surrendered a passer rating of 100.6 through four weeks.
Rudnicki: Hurns is coming off his best game of the year, and now he gets to face a Tampa secondary that has been pretty generous to opposing WRs this year. Carolina didn't have the weapons to test them much last week, but Jacksonville does. Tampa has been moving making some shifts in their lineup to try and find answers in the secondary, but it’s still a work in progress and a matchup that Hurns should be able to exploit.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo @ Tennessee, $4,100
Bischoff: Clay is emerging as a go-to weapon for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He has been targeted more each week (four in Week 1, six in Week 2, seven in Week 3 and 13 in Week 4) and with their other skill position players injured, it has been Clay as the beneficiary. He went for 11 catches and 113 yards last week, and he scored a touchdown that was negated by penalty. At this price, Clay looks like a good bet to get to value.
Rudnicki: The Titans haven’t faced a tough schedule thus far, but should have their hands full with the Bills this week. Injuries to Sammy Watkins and several RBs have left Clay as the clear go-to weapon on offense, and it’s hard to see the Titans defense slowing him down even with the extra bye week to prepare.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego vs. Pittsburgh, $4,200
Bischoff: Gates comes back at a great time for the Chargers with a bunch of their offensive weapons banged up, and he should quickly re-establish himself as one of the better red zone players in the game. This is a nice matchup for him and he is one of the few to trust after a prolonged absence in an offense because of his long history with Rivers.
Rudnicki: The Steelers have improved since giving up 3 touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski in the opener, but they are still vulnerable over the middle. Gates returns to action this week from a 4-game suspension, and should be a solid bet to get into the end zone after posting 12 touchdowns in 2014.
Owen Daniels, TE, Denver @ Oakland, $2,700
Bischoff: The Raiders have been dreadful covering tight ends this year and this week gives us another shot at a big game from an inexpensive tight end. I don’t expect Daniels to go bananas in this one, but he’ll be a big presence in the red zone against a vulnerable Raiders pass defense. At this price he should get to four-times fairly easily.
Rudnicki: There hasn’t been a more favorable matchup for opposing tight ends than the Raiders defense this year. They have given up 6 touchdowns and nearly 400 yards, with players like Crockett Gilmore and Gary Barnidge having just as much success as Tyler Eifert and Martellus Bennett. This is a great spot for Daniels who has scored in two straight games.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland vs. Denver, $6,600
Bischoff: One of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s biggest weaknesses coming out of Fresno State was his inability to deal with pressure, specifically if he thought he was getting hit. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a tough man, it just means pressure makes him erratic. Expect a full dose of pressure this week and then throw in the cornerbacks that will be locking up Cooper, and it’s not a good mix.
Rudnicki: The Broncos corners should make things quite difficult for the rookie this week. He’s obviously a special player, but much of his success the past few weeks has come against much weaker competition. Chris Harris Jr figures to be matched up the most against him, and he’s earned a reputation as one of the best cover corners in the league.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland vs. Denver, $4,600
Bischoff: The situation is the same here as it is for Cooper, but Crabtree’s lack of athletic explosiveness makes him even lesser a play than Cooper this week. He won’t run away from corners and his quarterback will be facing pressure all day.
Rudnicki: The Vikings WRs had some surprising success against the Broncos last week, but this isn’t a defense that is likely to have two down games in a row. The pass rush alone should make things tough on Derek Carr, and facing off against Aqib Talib won’t do Crabtree any favors either.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit vs. Arizona, $7,400
The Detroit Lions host the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, but they come into this game befuddled on offense. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford needs to stay in an up-tempo rhythm on offense, and to this point in the season, that is not happening. The Lions substitute personnel constantly and simply put; they stay true to the scheme at the expense of the offense. This week they get a very good Cardinals defense which confused Stafford last year and a team that has the personnel to limit Johnson in this game.
Rudnicki: Johnson looks very good with 25 catches over his last 3 games, but he’s only reached the end zone once through 4 games. The Cardinals secondary struggled to contain Tavon Austin last week, but figure to use Patrick Peterson and some safety help to slow down Johnson here. He’s good enough to produce against anyone, but this looks like one of the tougher matchups he’ll face.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle @ Cincinnati, $6,100
Bischoff: The Cincinnati Bengals have given up a moderate amount to catches and yards to opposing tight ends but they have not given up a score to date. The Seahawks are not targeting Graham as much as we all thought they would (22 targets through four games) and this week isn’t great from a script perspective. Combine the difficulty that opposing tight ends have had versus Cincinnati, the fact that Seattle is on the road and Graham’s usage and this looks like a matchup to avoid.
Rudnicki: The Bengals had some injury issues in the secondary last week, but they are expected to have everybody available on Sunday. They have yet to allow an opposing TE to reach the end zone this year, and held Travis Kelce to just 49 yards on 5 catches last week. Graham has yet to become a reliable part of the Seattle passing game, and their offensive line issues are making it tough for him to contribute much.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago @ Kansas City, $5,000
Bischoff: The Chiefs have done a very nice job versus opposing tight ends this year, surrendering only one touchdown in 2015, to Virgil Green in Week 2. While they have been torched in the passing game, it has been to wide receivers and not tight ends. Bennett looks like a fade this week even as an elite player.
Rudnicki: With Jay Cutler at QB, Bennett clearly looks like an elite fantasy TE. But, the 11 catches he posted a week ago came at home against the Raiders who have defended tight ends worse than anyone this year. Things should get much tougher on the road in Kansas City this week, as they have not allowed any opposing TE to hit double digit points through 4 games.