For several unfortunate fantasy football managers, their flex position is already a mess entering Week 5.
Anyone who drafted a running back early but outside the top five likely regrets the choice. Wide receivers aren’t immune to disappointment, either. Just ask anyone who snagged the injured Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery or Mike Evans.
Lineup management only gets tougher as more teams take their mandatory bye. Fake squads must trek into the weekend without Adrian Peterson, Jarvis Landry and an assortment of surprisingly useful New York Jets. Locating enough high-quality players to rank suddenly becomes a chore.
With 13 more NFL games on the horizon, here’s a look at Week 5’s flex rankings for standard and point-per-reception (PPR) scoring.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
From a fantasy perspective, Jeremy Hill cleaned up last Sunday. The struggling running back took three of his nine touches to his house, giving him five touchdowns through four otherwise underwhelming games.
Before celebrating, look at the “nine touches” part of that equation. That’s not a lot for a supposed stud, especially one averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season. For the third straight week, Giovani Bernard received more handoffs.
After stomping the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cincinnati Bengals face another difficult adversary in the Seattle Seahawks. Despite their uneven start, the Seahawks have limited opponents to 3.5 yards per carry and zero rushing scores.
Given his lack of touches and efficiency, Hill is entirely touchdown-dependent, which is concerning against a stingy defense. When it works, as it did in Weeks 1 and 4, great. When he doesn’t score—see Weeks 2 and 3—his owners leave the weekend grumpy.
This isn’t exactly the year of the running back, so many standard-scoring gamers will have to take those chances. In PPR formats, he’s more of a low-end No. 2 back or flex option.
Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Cleveland Browns
Through two weeks, Duke Johnson Jr. didn’t record a single reception. In the Cleveland Browns’ last pair of bouts, however, the rookie running back delivered on his preseason PPR hype.
In Weeks 3 and 4, Johnson collected 15 combined catches for 117 and a touchdown. Most of the damage came last Sunday, when he spotted a 9-85-1 line on the San Diego Chargers in addition to amassing 31 rushing yards.
Both Johnson and Isaiah Crowell exceeded 100 total yards against San Diego, but the newcomer saw more playing time. NFL Fantasy Football broke down Cleveland’s backfield workload:
Per the Plain Dealer‘s Mary Kay Cabot, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo credited the rookie’s progress to time, both healing an injured hamstring and acclimating to the NFL:
Before labeling Johnson a must-start, consider that San Diego has allowed the second-most ESPN.com fantasy points to running backs this season. On the other hand, the Baltimore Ravens have relinquished the sixth-fewest, but they’ve also allowed 19 receptions on 25 targets.
In standard leagues, Johnson remains a borderline flex play with a high ceiling but low floor. Given his recent activity in the passing game, PPR owners can feel more confident sliding him into the starting lineup.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper owners must grapple with a tough question this weekend: Is the rookie wide receiver already matchup-proof?
Behind the prolific cornerback tandem of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, the Denver Broncos have surrendered an NFL-low 185.3 passing yards per game. Opponents have mustered two touchdowns through the air while averaging a paltry 6.0 yards per pass attempt.
While Harris complemented Cooper to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, he also warned fantasy players not to expect a huge performance:
It’s a terrible matchup for the Oakland Raiders wideout. Bad enough to bench him? Anyone doing so had better be stacked with depth.
The neophyte is averaging 10 targets per game, receiving at least nine looks every contest. He also leads all wide receivers with 178 yards after the catch, so he’s capable of rattling off a big play to forsake anyone sitting the premier talent.
Although Cooper isn’t a recommended Week 5 daily fantasy play, seasonal managers should roll with the rising star.
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