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Fantasy Friday: Re-evaluating Chase Claypool’s fantasy prospects for 2020

Photo by Pittsburgh Steelers: Chase Claypool

Our Fantasy Friday column will appear each Friday throughout the NFL season. It will focus primarily on Penn State alums in the NFL, Steelers players and other players of interest to fans in central PA.

By Jason Dambach

If you are a season-long fantasy football player, you probably did the same thing I did at some point last Sunday during Chase Claypool’s once-a-generation, four-TD performance in the Steelers’ win over the Eagles.

You logged on to Yahoo, ESPN or whatever service hosts your fantasy league(s) and checked to see if Claypool was available in your free agent pool.

Unless you play in a super-deep, 14- or 16-team format, or in a dynasty league where rookies are a premium commodity, you likely discovered that he was indeed available (he was owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues in Week 5).

Predictably, Claypool’s ownership percentage shot up considerably this week — perhaps even you yourself landed the promising rookie via waivers.

If you play in a league that uses a blind-bid FAAB process (Free Agent Acquisition Budget), you might have been forced to spend as much as 40 or 50% of your remaining budget.

So now what? How reliable can we expect Claypool to be for our fantasy teams moving forward?

First, there is a very important fundamental that we have to keep in mind: The key to playing winning season-long fantasy football is making sure that our team is stacked with consistency at each position.

While a 40-plus fantasy point outburst like Claypool’s probably leads to a head-to-head matchup victory 80-85% of the time, it is also an anomaly that will likely never be duplicated the rest of the season — heck, maybe even the rest of his career.

We also can’t ignore the fact that in his first three games of the season, Claypool caught just six passes on nine targets. That includes a one-catch outing in the Steelers’ previous game against the Texans.

Oh and there is also the important matter that Claypool’s outburst coincided with the absence of starting receiver Diontae Johnson, who exited the game early with a back injury.

Johnson has a chance to return to action in Week 6 against Cleveland, and even if not, I believe he will be the Steelers’ most fantasy relevant receiver the rest of the season — even ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The decision to go after Claypool in leagues was still the right one, but personally when I set my weekly lineups I still prefer high-floor, high-target (8-10 per week) options like the Jets’ Jamison Crowder, Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry or Cincinnati’s Tyler Boyd.

Yeah, those guys might sound boring, but in head-to-head matchup leagues I will always take the surefire target floor over a low-floor, high upside rookie.

Personally, if I own Claypool on my team, I am still in a wait-and-see mode.

Perhaps you are dealing with a key injury to one of your starting wide receivers (Chris Godwin, perhaps), or you need some receiver depth to weather bye weeks or COVID re-scheduling uncertainty.

If that is the case, Claypool is a worthy WR3 or flex option most weeks, but with the continued presence of the other Steeler pass catchers, and the volatility we see out of even the most elite rookie receivers, I would not be comfortable rolling with Claypool as a starter on my teams anytime soon.

Week 6 Penn State Alumni Fantasy Report

NOTE: Players are ranked by fantasy points per game through Week 5; Fantasy points are shown using ESPN Standard/PPR scoring

1. Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

Year-to-Date Fantasy Rank: WR11 (17.8 fantasy points/game)

Last Week: WR9; 19.0 points vs. Tampa Bay (10-90-0 TD rec)

Robinson saw a whopping 16 targets, catching 10 passes for 90 yards in the Bears’ win over Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football. Despite the quarterback change from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles, and the lack of a true secondary receiving option in Chicago, Robinson remains as consistent and productive as any NFL wide receiver through five weeks of the season. He is the most targeted pass catcher in fantasy football, receiving 57 passes his way in five games.

This Week: Robinson and the Bears visit the surprising Carolina Panthers and their new head coach, State High grad and former Penn Stater, Matt Rhule. Robinson has 27 catches on 39 targets over the last three weeks. Expect more of the same against the Panthers.

Projection: 8 rec, 84 yards, 1 TD

2. Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles

Year-to-Date Fantasy Rank: RB17 (17.1 fantasy points/game)

Last Week: 23.9 points vs. Pittsburgh (11-80-2 TD rush; 2-19 rec)

Thanks mostly to his second-quarter, 74-yard touchdown run against the Steelers, Sanders turned in the second-best scoring total among all running backs in Week 5. The week could have been so much more glorious for his fantasy owners considering that he managed only 6 yards on his other 10 carries (though he did find the end zone a second time among those 10 rushes). All in all, it was a surprisingly solid fantasy performance against a stout Pittsburgh run defense.

This Week: Sanders and the Eagles draw another difficult matchup against the Ravens in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, Sanders is a weekly starter in fantasy lineups.

Projection: 11 car, 44 yards; 5 rec, 30 yards, 0 TD

3. Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins

Year-to-Date Fantasy Rank: TE 12 (11.6 fantasy points/game)

Last Week: 14.1 points vs. San Francisco (5-91 rec)

Gesicki bounced back from consecutive one-catch outings and grabbed five balls on six targets for 91 yards in the Dolphins’ shocking blowout win at San Francisco. The final numbers are a bit deceiving, considering the majority of his yardage came on a 70-yard reception.

This Week: Gesicki and the Fins host the New York Jets. For the first time in his career, the third-year tight end should be owned in all fantasy formats, though he’s still hard to trust as a weekly starter due to his boom-or-bust performances. Absent a more obvious option on your roster, such as Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews or George Kittle, start Gesicki this week and keep your fingers crossed.

Projection: 4 rec, 44 yards, 0 TD

Other PSU Alumni Fantasy Notes: 

**Chris Godwin (Buccaneers) will be a game-time decision for Week 6 against Green Bay. Fantasy owners invested a high draft pick in him this year so hopefully this is the week their patience is rewarded. He is a high-end WR1 every week when healthy.

**The Giants have not confirmed whether or not Saquon Barkley has undergone surgery to repair his torn ACL, which is irrelevant considering we already know he is out for the season. We will be watching the reports of his rehab throughout the offseason, and assuming he recovers as expected, I have absolutely no reservation drafting Barkley with a high first round pick in 2021 fantasy drafts — likely in the 4 to 7 range behind only Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott.

**DaeSean Hamilton and KJ Hamler return to action in Week 6 against New England after the Broncos’ unexpected bye week. Hamler is questionable to play due to a hamstring injury. Hamilton is not rosterable even in the deepest of leagues, but I would recommend grabbing Hamler and stashing him on your bench for later in the season. Denver’s receiving corps does not have a clear-cut top option and Hamler could emerge as a useful slot receiver before season’s end.

**Penn State lacrosse star-turned NFL wide receiver Chris Hogan landed on Injured Reserve with a high-ankle sprain suffered in his Jets’ loss to Arizona in Week 5. Even as thin as the Jets’ receiving corps is this season, Hogan’s days of fantasy relevance are in the past.

NFL Week 6 Fantasy Plays and Fades

(Note: These picks come from the week’s consensus Top 12 rankings at each position)

Top Plays

QB Kyler Murray (Arizona at Dallas)

RB Alexander Mattison (Minnesota vs. Atlanta)

WR Kenny Golladay (Detroit at Jacksonville)

TE Mark Andrews (Baltimore at Philadelphia)

DEF New England (vs. Denver)

Top Fades

QB Aaron Rodgers (at Tampa Bay)

RB Joe Mixon (at Indianapolis)

WR Mike Evans (vs. Green Bay)

TE Zach Ertz (vs. Baltimore)

DEF San Francisco (vs. LA Rams)

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