Last week, we took a closer look at a group of borderline starting running backs who may have lost your fantasy trust.
But we shouldn’t shortchange the wide receiver group, which boasts plenty of underachievers as well. Here’s the lowdown from ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters:
Amari Cooper: Cooper’s stat line has been one of the biggest stunners of the season. Just 12 catches for 110 yards and 1 touchdown, plus an issue with dropped passes. The Oakland Raiders know it’s vital that they get Cooper “rolling” -- especially with EJ Manuel poised to replace Derek Carr at quarterback for at least a week or two. But ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez thinks there’s too much uncertainty in Oakland’s offense right now to trust Cooper in your starting lineup.
As Gutierrez pointed out, Cooper has been just as hurt by the absence of fellow receiver Michael Crabtree, who suffered a chest injury in Week 3 before finally returning to a full practice workload this Thursday. “It seems like for Cooper to be a No. 1 receiver, he needs a 1A receiver next to him,” Gutierrez said.
Terrelle Pryor: ESPN Washington Redskins reporter John Keim has been warning since the preseason that the chemistry hasn’t consistently developed yet between QB Kirk Cousins and Pryor. And that has remained the case all year, despite some glimpses such as Pryor’s 44-yard TD catch in Week 4 (his first of the season).
“I see him as capable of some big games ... but I don’t view him as someone who will consistently perform for them. I see him as someone who needs the right matchups to excel,” Keim said. “Also, they keep waiting for second-year receiver Josh Doctson to become more of a guy, and I think his presence will cut into what Pryor does.
“From a fantasy perspective, I’d view Pryor as a No. 2 receiver. Pay attention to the matchups and use him accordingly. The hard part with him is that he’s capable of 150-yard games. But when?”
Brandon Marshall: Whether it's the new offense, the shoulder he dinged in the preseason, a lack of confidence or all of the above, Marshall and the ball simply aren't on friendly terms. ESPN New York Giants reporter Jordan Raanan said Marshall's production may increase at some point, but for now it's hard to buy him as a significant fantasy option -- especially since he's behind Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and rookie TE Evan Engram in the pecking order at this point.
Dez Bryant: Bryant doesn’t really belong in this group, since his midlevel stats (16 catches, 212 yards, 2 TDs) are easily explained by the elite level of cornerbacks he has faced so far (including Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson and Trumaine Johnson). ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer said he expects Bryant to have a bigger game Sunday against Green Bay. But if he doesn't, then Archer said it will be fair to start asking questions about whether Bryant remains a high-end option at receiver.
DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry: The Miami Dolphins duo has been decent (18 catches, 230 yards, 1 TD for Parker in three games; 25 catches, 166 yards, no TDs for Landry). But Miami’s offense overall has been dreadful, with a total of six points over the past two weeks and a combined 2-of-20 third-down conversions. ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker said he’s not confident that either receiver will regain fantasy relevance in the short term because of the way quarterback Jay Cutler and the offensive line are struggling. But they do have a decent Week 5 matchup in their first real home game of the season against Tennessee. If he had to choose one for his fantasy lineup, Walker said he would lean toward Parker.
Martavis Bryant: Only 10 catches this year for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ big-play threat. But one of them was a touchdown, another was a 51-yarder, and he and Ben Roethlisberger just missed out on at least two other deep TDs. ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler said Bryant is still worthy of being a WR2, and he thinks that breakout game could come as early as Sunday at home against Jacksonville. “Ben’s going to keep targeting him deep, and he’s getting more comfortable after a year off,” Fowler said, though he pointed out that defenses have paid a lot of attention to both Bryant and Antonio Brown so far.
Sammy Watkins: The Los Angeles Rams’ offense has been way more dynamic than expected, but Watkins has been just as frustrating to own as predicted when he got traded to L.A. He had that fantastic Week 3 game with 106 yards and two TDs. But it was sandwiched between a two-catch game and a one-catch game. ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez wrote about how Watkins has accepted his role -- and admits that wouldn’t have been the case earlier in his career.
Mike Wallace: Wallace finally ended his string of three consecutive one-catch games in Week 4 with six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. But the Baltimore Ravens’ downfield passing offense remains woefully out of whack. According to ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley, Joe Flacco has completed twice as many passes to opposing defenses (four) as he has to his own receivers (two) on throws of 15 or more yards down the field.
Replacing injured runners:
Seattle Seahawks: Just when rookie Chris Carson had emerged out of nowhere to provide some clarity in Seattle’s overcrowded backfield, he lands on injured reserve with a broken leg and high ankle sprain. So now it’s back to the Eddie Lacy/Thomas Rawls/C.J. Prosise time-share.
Contrary to ESPN’s expert rankings this week, ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson believes Rawls is the one to own -- even though he was a surprise inactive last week while Lacy ran for 52 yards on 11 carries. As Henderson wrote, Seattle coach Pete Carroll has been dropping hints all week that Rawls could be the leading man. And if you go back to the summer, Rawls was consistently working ahead of Lacy before he suffered an ankle injury. But the touches should be close among all three, which means none of them is a particularly good option.
Minnesota Vikings: As ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin wrote, with rookie star Dalvin Cook sidelined by a torn ACL, Latavius Murray will finally get a shot at doing what he signed up for in free agency. Cronin said Murray should be the leading man in Minnesota’s backfield, especially since he’s so good as a pass protector. But she doesn’t expect him to play the same kind of do-everything role that Cook was playing as a runner and receiver. Jerick McKinnon should be a bigger threat in the receiving game.
Green Bay Packers: Ty Montgomery is listed as doubtful with his rib injury, meaning it will likely be a time-share between rookies Jamaal Williams (returning from his own knee injury) and Aaron Jones on Sunday. Even if Montgomery is surprisingly active, this is probably a backfield you want to avoid this week.
Worth a click:
Cam Newton blames himself for Christian McCaffrey’s zero TDs so far this season, since he missed a wide-open McCaffrey at the goal line in Week 2. But Newton can thank the Panthers rookie for his improved completion percentage.