We’re five weeks into the NFL season and it really feels like it’s flying by. We didn’t escape this past weekend without significant injuries, most notably a likely season-ending ankle injury for Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott. As fantasy players navigate the uncertain waters of weekly start-sit decisions, use this column as a boost of confidence in specific players for your flex spot. The Raiders, Patriots, Saints, and Seahawks are on bye this week, keeping some elite fantasy players out of lineups, so flex decisions are even more important than ever.
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You may be nervous to start rookie running back Antonio Gibson after his paltry 5 fantasy points last week, but I still see him as a very strong flex option. Things took a turn for the worse for Gibson when Alex Smith came into the game to replace Kyle Allen after a helmet-to-helmet hit. Gibson had caught all five of his targets from Allen for 24 yards before Smith came in, and J.D. McKissic surprisingly became much more involved. McKissic wound up leading the team with 6 catches on 8 targets for 46 yards. I’m still willing to start Gibson this week against the Giants’ defense that is allowing the 12th-most fantasy points to RBs this year. Gibson had double-digit fantasy points in his prior three games and with Kyle Allen expected to return as the starter this week, I’ll be starting Gibson in most situations.
Fantasy owners of Cowboys players will be nervous to continue to roll with their guys after the season-ending ankle injury to Dak Prescott, but I’m very confident in CeeDee Lamb’s ability to stay extremely fantasy-relevant. Lamb was targeted on 3 of Andy Dalton’s 11 targets in the game and benefits from playing against softer coverage in the slot while Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup stretch the field. This week, Lamb faces a Cardinals defense that may give owners some pause due to their fourth-fewest fantasy points allowed to WRs. However, the Cardinals have faced the 49ers, Washington Football Team, Lions, Panthers, and Jets, none of whom have nearly the elite level of receiving talent found on the Cowboys. Lamb is going to soak up targets in the slot for Andy Dalton – Tyler Boyd had 148 targets as the primary slot receiver for Cincinnati last season. Start Lamb with confidence this week in what should be a high-scoring game.
This is starting to become an all-rookie list, but I have to bring up Justin Jefferson. I spoke about Jefferson’s elite matchup against a Seattle defense that came in allowing the most passing yards in the NFL. After his two-straight 100-yard weeks, including a 175-yard and 1-touchdown outburst in Week 3, I was confident in Jefferson’s ability to take advantage of the matchup. However, the Vikings took more of a run-heavy approach and went with more of a conservative offense as they led for most of the game and held the Seahawks to zero points in the first half. The Falcons’ offense has completely stalled since Julio Jones’s hamstring injury, but they’ll be hoping he can return for this game. Even if he doesn’t and the Falcons struggle to make this a high-scoring affair, I’m confident in Jefferson’s ability to have an improved game against a Falcons team that has allowed the 7th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. The process was sound last week and while he didn’t come through, I’ll back Jefferson’s talent and opportunity again.
Fantasy players have not gotten what they were hoping for when they spent a 3rd or 4th-round pick on Kenny Golladay as he’s only played in two games this season. Coming off the Lions’ bye week, Golladay should be the healthiest he’s been all year and should be primed to take advantage of a Jaguars defense that brought Brandin Cooks right out of hibernation last week to the tune of 8 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. After a strong start to the year for the Jacksonville pass defense, things have faltered as of late. Rookie C.J. Henderson is dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of last week’s game and Chris Claybrooks has been picked apart in coverage all season. This is the week that Golladay reminds everyone why he was a consensus top-15 receiver before the season and he won’t need to be in the flex discussion moving forward – start him.
One of the Packers’ best-kept secrets this season is how poor their run defense has been. Green Bay has allowed the 8th-highest yards per carry and the 9th-most rushing touchdowns per game this season on their way to allowing the 2nd-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Ronald Jones seems to have a stranglehold on the Tampa backfield with his 37 carries and 14 targets over the last two weeks – that usage would put him in Christian McCaffrey territory over the course of a full season. The Buccaneers also have an offense that can keep up with the Packers’ top-scoring team, especially with the hopeful return of Chris Godwin this week. Jones appears to have finally earned the trust of Tampa head coach Bruce Arians and he should have your trust in fantasy lineups as well.
In a few of my fantasy leagues, I scooped up Myles Gaskin off the waiver wire after the first couple of weeks in hopes he would land a high-usage role for the duration of the season. After scoring his first touchdown of the season and finishing as a top-ten RB on the week for the first time this season, he’s approaching must-start territory. With 4+ targets in every game this season and double-digit carries each of the past three weeks, it’s hard to find much more consistent usage in his tier of flex plays. Usage is king in fantasy football, especially when that usage comes against a Jets defense that surrendered 3 rushing touchdowns to the Cardinals last week and has allowed the 6th-most fantasy points to running backs. With the Dolphins firing on all cylinders, they should blow out the Jets and present a run-heavy scheme for Gaskin to dominate in. If not, and it’s a closer game than we expect, Gaskin has the receiving production to still have great fantasy numbers. He’s a strong flex play this week, especially with teams on bye and injuries stacking up around the week.
Deep League Special – Olamide Zaccheaus
Olamide Zaccheaus was a popular DFS punt play last week but the Falcons’ receiver only wound up with 1 catch for 13 yards. However, he was on the field for all 39 of Matt Ryan’s dropbacks and played 63 snaps total. The opportunity was there in spades for him last week, but Zaccheaus couldn’t put it all together. With Julio Jones potentially out for another week and Russell Gage playing underwhelmingly, Zaccheaus has a strong path to replicating his 8-catch, 86-yard performance, especially in a matchup against the Vikings who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Zaccheaus can be picked up for free in most leagues and with so many injuries and question marks on the docket, he presents a higher upside than several other options you may be considering. There’s a wide range of outcomes for him, but if you’re looking for a dart throw, Zaccheaus has the potential for a great game in a strong matchup.