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Fantasy Fix: A Case Of Bad Reception

We've been paying so much attention to the fact that the ranks of fantasy football running banks have been turned upside down this season that we've hardly even discussed how something similar is happening among wide receivers.

Try finding the pre-season No.1 at WR - Calvin Johnson, DET - among the current top 10 fantasy receivers. He isn't there. Until last week, you would not have found the pre-season No. 2 - Demaryius Thomas, DEN - among the top 10 either, and it took a historic output in Week 5 to get him into the top 10. Then there's Brandon Marshall - well I won't repeat what every sportscaster in town has been talking about, but you get the gist.

The list of top five receivers by fantasy points in ESPN PPR leagues after the first five weeks contains some recognizable - but still surprising - names:

1. Antonio Brown, PIT.

2. Jordy Nelson, GB.

3. Julio Jones, ATL.

4. Steve Smith, BAL.

5. Jeremy Maclin, PHI.

Nothing against these high scorers, but coming into this season, we had reason to doubt every single one of them. Brown's breakthrough 2013 was largely due to two or three outstanding weeks, rather than consistent performance; Nelson has been inconsistent the last two years after a 15 TD output in 2011; Jones is coming back from a devastating injury that cut his 2013 season short; Smith is 105 years old (well, not really, but seriously, he's ancient for the NFL and even more for the position he plays); and Maclin, despite eternal promise, has never had more than 964 yards receiving in a season (he currently has 429).

I'm not sold on the potential for most of these guys to end up in the top five at the end of the season, but if we've learned anything this year, it's that everything we thought we know about fantasy football is wrong.

More WR tidbits in our Week 5 recap:

* Calvin Johnson, otherwise known as Megatron, re-aggravated a nagging ankle injury in Week 5, and could be out for Week 6, possibly longer. (He's currently questionable for Week 6.) After two TDs in Week 1, he's been on the decline, totaling only three receptions and 19 yards combined the last two weeks. It's a bad situation for Megatron owners, who feel compelled to start him when the Lions declare him active. Time for Detroit to do us all a favor.

* Demaryius Thomas' big week - a franchise record 226 yards receiving and two TDs - comes after he had looked very pedestrian this season, averaging fewer than 50 yards receiving up to last week. Something tells me Thomas's numbers will jump again this week against the Jets, though he has not-so-great match-ups in the following two games against San Francisco and San Diego, so we'll see how quickly he can get back into the top five.

* Brandon Marshall's days as a fantasy dud (and an overall downer for Bears fans) might be over if the team makes good this week on Coach Marc Trestman's pledge to give Marshall more opportunities. There's still reason to be concerned, though. There has been talk he's run a couple wrong routes in recent weeks that have led to INTs, and then there's that pesky ankle injury. He could still be a risky fantasy bet in Week 6, but like Megatron, you've got to start him if he's active.

* Chargers RB Brandon Oliver might have been the biggest find of Week 5. He replaced Donald Brown, who got knocked out of last week's game, and went on to rush for 114 yards, collect 68 yards receiving and score two TDs. Most interesting thing here is that one of the league's most crowded backfields at the beginning of the season is now counting on a rookie, who could be the clear RB-1, or at least a very viable RB-3, going forward.

Expert Wire
* Bleacher Report notes that Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman should be a hot waiver wire pick-up after starter Montee Ball went down with an injury in Week 5.

* CBS Sports looks at fatherhood as the possible cause of a middling season for Drew Brees.

* Sporting News sees the defenses of both the Bears and the Falcons as having terrible match-ups this week. They are playing each other. Sounds like Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan will be must-starts.


Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Oct 11, 2021