In an age where every organization has dozens of beat reporters live-tweeting every step, it seems impossible for a squad to catch anyone off guard. Yet the Green Bay Packers pulled a fast one on everyone, turning to James Starks when everyone expected a bounce-back outing from Eddie Lacy.
Lacy received four touches to Starks’ 11, including a 65-yard touchdown run during Green Bay’s 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Had the Packers shared their plans to switch up their starting running back, fantasy managers would have adapted accordingly. Instead, they spent Monday in agony over playing (and drafting) Lacy.
Considering the difficulty of setting a lineup on Sunday morning, finalizing those plans early is nearly impossible. Not every team will keep their secrets sealed behind closed doors, and injury developments will especially alter these early rankings. Entering Week 7, here’s a look at the top 50 players for standard and point-per-reception (PPR) formats.
Antonio Brown occupied the No. 1 wide receiver spot until Ben Roethlisberger‘s injury placed him in purgatory. Then Julio Jones spent a few weeks in the top position, only to cool down from a scorching-hot start while battling a toe and hamstring injuries.
Throw in Odell Beckham Jr.’s hobbling hamstring, and there’s a new name sitting on the wideout throne. Congratulations to DeAndre Hopkins, who is putting up monster numbers despite the Houston Texans’ quarterback quandary.
Hopkins submitted his fourth straight 100-yard performance on Sunday, giving him an NFL-best 726 receiving yards this season. He’s on pace for a cool 138 receptions and 1,936 yards. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien realizes the playmaker he has at his disposal.
“He’s a force in this league,” O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle‘s Aaron Wilson. “Anytime you have a guy like that on the perimeter, who can make plays like that, and you have the confidence that no matter what kind of coverage there is, you can throw it up there to him and he’s going to make a play. He’s a great competitor.”
Whether Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer is playing under center, Houston’s offense revolves around the star receiver, who has already seen an incredible 90 targets. According to Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson, that rate would shatter a league record since the stat’s inception:
These video game numbers will prove difficult to sustain, but Hopkins has risen into the top tier of pass-catching studs. Entering a solid matchup with the Miami Dolphins, he’s the best receiving option out there.
After waiting three weeks for Todd Gurley‘s arrival, the scheduling gods cruelly placed the St. Louis Rams’ bye on the heels of two breakout games. Giddy owners who watched him gain 305 rushing yards through two weeks had to sit him again, but their patience will pay off this Sunday.
The Cleveland Browns have relinquished an NFL-worst 149.8 rushing yards per contest on 5.0 yards per run. They let a bumbling Denver Broncos offense tally 152 yards through the ground last Sunday, and now they’ll have to deal with a tougher quarterback in Nick Foles. (Kidding. Probably. Maybe not.)
In those dominating two games, Gurley rattled off five 20-yard runs on 49 handoffs. Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus noted his heavy workload, surprising out of the gate for a rookie returning from a torn ACL:
He’s a rare running back carrying the full load, and he brings breakaway ability on every play to the table. Somebody with such an elite combination of opportunity and talent will eventually find the end zone. Cleveland’s porous run defense is the perfect opponent for him to record his first career touchdown with another 100-yard afternoon.
Welcome to the 2015 season, Jonathan Stewart. Perhaps he mistakenly thought he had to leave alongside The Daily Show host. While the Carolina Panthers’ 4-0 start would seemingly benefit their starting running back, he entered Week 6 with 220 rushing yards on 59 carries alongside a goose egg in the touchdown column.
He snapped the drought against an unlikely opponent, storming into the end zone twice against the Seattle Seahawks. The 28-year-old rusher recorded 78 rushing yards on a season-high 20 carries. No scores against the Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a pair at Seattle. Fantasy football will test the calmest person’s sanity at times.
He’ll get another tough adversary in the Philadelphia Eagles, who have limited the opposition to one rushing score. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has also poached three rushing touchdowns, so Stewart is hardly a stud play now.
Stewart isn’t the flashiest option, but there’s safety in a starting running back who has recorded at least 50 rushing yards on 10 carries in every game this season. He’s not going to disappear (why do the Arizona Cardinals hate David Johnson?) and leave onlookers asking if he’s even playing.
Those standards seem low, but his floor is high enough to keep him perched in the flex or low-end No. 2 rusher discussion.
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