Hunter Henry stepped into the Chargers starting lineup for an ailing Antonio Gates in Week 3, and immediately made an impact. His fourth-quarter fumble may have ended the game, but the Chargers wouldn’t have been in striking distance of the Colts without his contributions. In the first real action of his career, he caught five passes for 72 yards, bringing a vertical element to the interior of the Chargers passing attack.
Henry had one more game with the tight end position all to himself, and in that one he hauled in four balls for 61 yards and his first career touchdown. Gates returned the following week, but that hasn’t slowed down the rookie out of Arkansas. He has scored both of the last two weeks, and is up to 19 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He also has cemented himself a role in the San Diego offense.
The Chargers selected Henry with the 35th overall pick in this year’s draft with an eye on him taking the torch from Gates next season. The changing of the guard is happening sooner than anyone believed it would, or even could. The list of tight ends who struggled as rookies is long and littered with stars. Tony Gonzalez had 33 receptions for 368 yards and two scores as a rookie with the Chiefs in 1997. Shannon Sharpe barely played his rookie year, and then put up 22 catches, 322 yards and one score in his second season. Gates, Henry’s mentor, caught 24 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns in his inaugural season. The narrative exists largely because it’s been proved true time and time again.
Henry’s numbers through six games put him on pace for 50 catches, 826 yards and eight touchdowns, with each stat rounded down to the nearest whole number. Exactly one tight end in NFL history cleared all of those thresholds as a rookie. Way back in 1961, Mike Ditka hauled in 56 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bears. Henry has a chance to join a legend in the record books this season.
Let’s forget about checking all three of those boxes for a second. Few tight ends have hit even one of those marks. Eight rookie tight ends in the history of the league have had 50 receptions, four have racked up 800 yards, and three have scored at least eight touchdowns. Remember, too, that Henry barely played in San Diego’s first two games. If you include just the four weeks in which he has been on the field for at least two-thirds of the team’s snaps, Henry is on pace for 76 catches, 1,240 yards and 12 touchdowns.
All of this is to say that anyone who bought into the Henry hype already this season has a locked-in TE1 on their hands. He should be in your lineup this week, next week and every week for the rest of the season.
Eli Manning (vs. Los Angeles in London)
I see that many of my fellow rankers on the Internet aren’t buying Manning after his big game against the Ravens last week. He checks in with a FantasyPros consensus rank of QB16, which is far too low for a player who has significantly outperformed his surface stats this season. Manning has 1,788 yards, 7.67 yards per attempt and a completion percentage just shy of 65%. He has had more than 8.7 YPA in three starts this year. The touchdowns are going to come in bunches, starting last week when he threw three against the Ravens.
Marcus Mariota (vs. Indianapolis)
Mariota is seventh among quarterbacks in total points and ninth in points per game (minimum five starts) in standard-scoring fantasy leagues. He’s running more than he has previously in his career, and is getting it done through the air despite substandard weapons at receiver. Mariota is one of nine quarterbacks with at least 10 passing touchdowns this year. The others are Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers. Meanwhile, the Colts have surrendered the ninth-most points per game to quarterbacks this year.
Andy Dalton (vs. Cleveland)
Dalton has had poor touchdown luck this season, but he might be having a better overall year than his breakout 2015 campaign. He has racked up 1,757 yards and 8.06 YPA in six games, ranking fifth in the league in YPA, but second among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts (Matt Ryan is first). The Browns have allowed the second-most points per game to quarterbacks, and have yet to hold a passer to fewer than 18.2 standard-league points.
Kirk Cousins (at Detroit)
We discussed just how bad Detroit’s pass defense has been this season in the Week 6 fantasy takeaways. The Browns get more negative attention, but it’s the Lions who have allowed the most points per game to quarterbacks, providing that same safe floor while surrendering two 30-point games, one of which came from the right arm of Case Keenum. Cousins has been steady all year, and is a safe bet to be among the top-10 quarterbacks in Week 6.
Colin Kaepernick (vs. Tampa Bay)
Kaepernick’s first start wasn’t necessarily all that special from a real-life perspective, but he delivered in the fantasy world. Kaepernick threw for 187 yards and one touchdown while running for 66 yards on eight carries, totaling 18.08 points in standard-scoring leagues. That’ll play in most superflex formats as a solid QB2 number. The Buccaneers are just about league average in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but they’ve fattened up on matchups with Paxton Lynch and Derek Anderson in their last two games. Kaepernick projects as a top-20 quarterback this week.
Russell Wilson (at Arizona)
The leg injuries that have plagued Wilson this year have robbed him of his must-start status in fantasy leagues. Wilson is a great dropback passer, but the threat of the run puts him over the top. Without that, he falls down to the low-end QB1 range, and a matchup with the Cardinals pushes him to just the other side of the QB1/2 borderline. He’s not a terrible play—I have him as my No. 15 quarterback this week—but, in addition to the players above, I’d start Derek Carr, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston over him.
Tyrod Taylor (at Miami)
Taylor has made a few big plays this season and his rushing production is as stable as it gets, but he can’t live on those two facets of his game alone. He has thrown for fewer than 180 yards in four of his six games this season, making him dependent on getting at least five or six points from his legs. He’s perfectly capable of doing that, but fantasy owners don’t necessarily want to bet on that outcome.
Carson Palmer (vs. Seattle)
Before Matt Ryan carved up the Seahawks in the third quarter last week, they had shut down every passing game that came calling this season. Now, to be fair, the first four quarterbacks they faced were Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but don’t let that discredit the Seahawks. Add in Palmer’s relative struggles this season, and it’s hard to have much confidence in him in this matchup.
Mike Gillislee (at Miami)
This assumes that the hamstring injury LeSean McCoy suffered in practice this week keeps him out of action Sunday. If he’s active, this is going to be a real headache for fantasy owners. If he isn’t, though, Gillislee should thrive in a great matchup. He has excelled this season, albeit in limited duty. He has 117 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and three receptions for 27 yards and another score. You can also go back to last season, when he tramped for 267 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries, good for 5.68 yards per carry. The Dolphins have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards to backs, but somehow have surrendered just one score on the ground. That’s bound to even out.
Duke Johnson (at Cincinnati)
Johnson has been a disappointment this year and I have recommended him as a droppable player the last two weeks. If you still have him on your team, however, this should set up as a positive game for him. The Browns aren’t going to slow down the Bengals. It’s really that simple. That sort of script should result in Johnson netting 15 or so carries plus targets. He can do damage with that workload, especially against a Cincinnati defense that has allowed 29 receptions for 303 yards and three touchdowns to running backs.
Jay Ajayi (vs. Buffalo)
I hate to break it to you, Ajayi owners, but he’s not going to run for 204 yards and two touchdowns this week. I know, it’s shocking, but true. But there’s good news here. He’s still well worth starting, even in a matchup with a stout Buffalo defense. The Dolphins owe it to themselves and Ajayi to see what he can do as a feature back week after week. Assuming this game stays close, I think we see Ajayi push back up toward or beyond 20 touches. Arian Foster is an afterthought in the offense at this point.
Jeremy Hill (vs. Cleveland)
Hill has been a painfully frustrating player to own this season, but this matchup sets up well for him. The Bengals are favored by 10 points at home against a Browns team that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Hill is still dealing with a slightly ailing shoulder, but the Bengals didn’t limit his workload at all last week. If they’re running out the clock in the second half, he will be their back of choice.
Jerick McKinnon (at Philadelphia)
McKinnon hasn’t exactly taken off as some projected after Adrian Peterson’s season-ending injury. What is encouraging, though, is that he has had at least 17 touches in all three of his games as Minnesota’s starter. The Vikings’ defense regularly creates favorable game scripts for runners, and that shouldn’t be any different in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Eagles have allowed 5.09 yards per carry this season against teams that started Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Langford, DeAngelo Williams, Theo Riddick and Matt Jones. McKinnon is a solid RB2 choice.
James White (at Pittsburgh)
In two games with Tom Brady at the helm, White has 12 catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He also has 12 carries, the same number of totes he had in New England’s first four games. That’s a direct reflection of him being on the field more with his skill set better suited for a Brady-led offense than LeGarrette Blount’s. You’re not even thinking twice about White in PPR leagues, but there’s enough juice here for him to be an RB2 in standard formats, as well.
Jamaal Charles (vs. New Orleans)
Charles looked good in his true return to action last week, but it apparently came at a price. He popped up as questionable on Friday’s injury report due to swelling in his surgically repaired knee. Even if he plays, he’ll likely have a limited role. It’s going to be the Spencer Ware show against the Saints, pushing Charles to all fantasy benches.
Ryan Mathews (vs. Minnesota)
Philadelphia’s backfield is too fractured to trust Mathews most weeks, regardless of matchup. That is doubly true when he’s going up against the Vikings, a defense that has allowed the eighth-fewest points to running backs and has yet to let a back run for more than 50 yards in a game this season. DeMarco Murray’s receiving numbers in Week 1 account for more than 20% of the running back points the Vikings have surrendered this season. This is a terrible spot for Mathews.
Matt Forte (vs. Baltimore)
Over the last four weeks, Forte has rushed for 164 yards on 50 carries, which comes out to 3.28 yards per rush. He has seven catches for 25 yards in that same span, a dramatic reversal for a player who has long been one of the best receiving backs in the league. Bilal Powell is playing more snaps than him on a regular basis, and the Jets’ offense as a whole is in shambles. Forte should be on fantasy benches until further notice.
Chris Ivory (vs. Oakland)
Ivory has two factors working in his favor. First, in games where he has been fully healthy, he has out-touched T.J. Yeldon 26 to 15. Second, he’s the team’s goal-line back, hogging any short-yardage scores that might result in the Jacksonville offense. This week, he also has a great matchup with an Oakland defense that has allowed the fourth-most points per game to running backs. So why is he a sit? Have you seen the Jaguars’ run blocking this season? Walter Payton would struggle to run for more than 3.5 yards per carry behind this line. That makes it nearly impossible to trust Ivory.
Rashad Jennings (vs. Los Angeles in London)
With all due respect to the Jaguars, the Giants might have the worst running game in the league. At the same time, Manning is second in the NFL in passing yards, and Odell Beckham Jr. is back on track after a 222-yard, two-touchdown game last week. The Giants are going to bring that aerial show to London on Sunday. Jennings may be back in the starter’s chair, but he’s barely on the fantasy radar.
Julian Edelman (at Pittsburgh)
Somehow, starting Edelman has become a controversial position to take in the fantasy community. I know he has missed out on the bonanza the last two weeks with Tom Brady in the lineup, but how long can that realistically endure? Rob Gronkowski is always going to get his, but Edelman remains a prized weapon in one of the league’s most potent offenses. He has had 17 targets over the last two weeks, so he’s getting plenty of opportunity. It’s just a matter of time before he breaks through.
Jamison Crowder (at Detroit)
Crowder has been a quiet source of production for Washington all year, catching 24 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He took advantage of Jordan Reed’s absence last week, hauling in three of his four targets for 52 yards and a score. The Redskins have a few calls in the playbook specifically for him, and he has delivered on those more often than not. He’s also Kirk Cousins’s favorite receiver in the red zone, especially with Reed out. The Lions have allowed the fifth-most points per game to receivers and were burned by Eddie Royal, who has a skill set similar to Crowder’s, in Week 4.
Kenny Britt (vs. New York Giants in London)
Britt finally emerged for the Rams last week, catching seven passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Lions. Britt had been hinting at a breakout game like that for a few weeks, and he should be able to take advantage of another good matchup in London. Rank has its privileges, even when that rank is being the No. 1 receiver on the Rams. With Case Keenum looking at least competent, Britt has top-30 upside at the position.
Cameron Meredith (at Green Bay)
Meredith has been so good the last two weeks that he earned the coveted spot as the intro subject in this week’s Target and Snap Report. The second-year receiver out of Illinois State has 20 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks, quickly turning himself into a must-start receiver. If he and Kevin White were one player, that player would lead the NFL in targets. The Packers, meanwhile, have surrendered the most fantasy points per game to receivers. Fire up Meredith with a ton of confidence this week.
Travis Benjamin (at Atlanta)
Benjamin has had a slow couple of games over the last three weeks and hasn’t found the end zone since Week 2, but he has a nice setup this week. The over-under on Chargers-Falcons is a robust 53, and with the Falcons favored by a touchdown, Philip Rivers is likely going to be slinging the ball a whole lot on Sunday. Benjamin is dealing with a minor leg injury, but it’s not expected to slow him down. He should post, at worst, WR3 numbers.
Mike Wallace (at New York Jets)
Steve Smith has not practiced all week because of the ankle injury that caused him to miss the Ravens’ Week 6 loss to the Giants. It’s likely he’ll be inactive again on Sunday, opening the door for Wallace atop the depth chart. He caught four balls for 97 yards last week and is a matchup nightmare for a Jets team that has struggled covering the deep ball this season. The Jets have allowed the second-most points to receivers on the year, helping make Wallace a top-30 receiver in Week 7.
Michael Thomas (at Kansas City)
Thomas has found the end zone in each of the last three weeks, with all of his touchdowns coming from inside the 10-yard line. He has quickly become Drew Brees’s favorite target in the red zone, and that puts him on the start radar in all fantasy formats every week. Even with a tough matchup and the reality of Brees’s home/road splits, Thomas’s allure is too great to be ignored. Consider him a safe WR3 with WR2 upside.
John Brown (vs. Seattle)
Julio Jones torched the Seahawks for 139 yards and a touchdown last week. Kenny Britt caught six balls for 94 yards against them in Week 2, and Brandon Marshall had 89 yards and a score on four catches when the Jets hosted the Seahawks in Week 4. That’s the full list of receivers who had a good day against Seattle thus far this season. Brown isn’t likely to add his name to that list.
DeVante Parker (vs. Buffalo)
What has happened to Parker this year? Since catching eight balls for 106 yards in his season debut, he has 12 receptions for 168 yards across four games. He did hit the end zone once, but that still comes out to just 5.7 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. Outside of their terrible showing against the Jets in Week 2, the Bills have been tough on receivers this year, holding everyone at the position not named Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa or Jalin Marshall to 58 catches, 772 yards and two touchdowns. That comes out to 17.84 points per game per receiving corps.
Jordan Matthews (vs. Minnesota)
The Vikings have allowed two touchdowns to receivers this year, with Jordy Nelson and DeAndre Hopkins achieving what has turned into one of the toughest feats in football. They’ve yet to allow a receiver more than 76 yards, shutting out Kelvin Benjamin and limiting Beckham to 23 yards. It’s hard to trust the best receivers in the league against the Vikings, let alone a solid, though unspectacular, fantasy player like Matthews. He’s my No. 37 receiver, so I’m not avoiding him at all costs, but I’d be hunting for better options.
Will Fuller (at Denver)
You can basically cut and paste the above paragraph, changing just the names to make sure everything is accurate. The Vikings have allowed the second-fewest points per game to receivers this year, and the only stingier defense is in Denver. They Broncos have surrendered a shockingly low 10.2 standard-league fantasy points per game to receivers this year. That’s not just to the top-scoring receiver in every game. That’s to a team’s entire receiving corps. Fuller is likely in for a long day.
Golden Tate (vs. Washington)
Let’s cool it on the “Golden Tate is back” storylines. He may have had a great game last week, but it should take more than one performance to earn your trust after Tate’s opening month. Also, note that Washington has been better than league average against receivers this year and hasn’t allowed a top-16 quarterback since Week 1.
Kyle Rudolph (at Philadelphia)
The Eagles have great numbers against tight ends this season, but they haven’t faced one who’s as integral to his team’s offense as Rudolph. Rudolph has had at least 65 yards or a touchdown in four of his five games this season, providing a reliable floor for owners at the low end of the TE1 class. It’s possible Stefon Diggs still isn’t 100%, which would likely result in a larger share of the passing game for Rudolph on Sunday.
Gary Barnidge (at Cincinnati)
Barnidge has a low ceiling because of the Cleveland offense as a whole, but he’s not going to put up a complete dud. He’s insulated against that thanks to the lack of weapons in the offense, and the likelihood that the Browns will be trailing for most of this game. He has at least 57 yards in each of his last four games and should fall on the right side of the TE1/2 borderline this week.
Dennis Pitta (at New York Jets)
Joe Flacco didn’t practice earlier this week, and if he’s unable to play, thus giving way to Ryan Mallett, this becomes a much easier call. Even with Flacco under center, Pitta is no more than a high-end TE2. Since his 102-yard game against the lowly Browns, who have allowed the most points per game to tight ends this season, he has 22 catches for 154 yards in four games. That translates to 3.85 points per game in standard-scoring leagues.
Zach Ertz (vs. Minnesota)
At some point, you have to accept that something just isn’t going to happen. The fantasy community seems wiling to give Ertz a pass every season—and every week of every season—consistently ranking him as a safe TE1. I’m struggling mightily to figure out why that’s the case. He has 10 catches for 117 yards in three games this season. Sure, he’s better than the Jesse James/Clive Walford set, but he’s not even close to a TE1, especially in a matchup with the Vikings.
Defenses to stream
Baltimore Ravens (at New York Jets)
Geno Smith is getting his first start of the season this week, and while he can’t be any worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick has been, you shouldn’t need any further inducement to stream the Ravens. The Ravens have also been a quietly effective fantasy defense, totaling 11 sacks, 11 takeaways and two blocked kicks on the year.
Tennessee Titans (vs. Indianapolis)
No offensive line has been friendlier to the pass rush than the Colts, surrendering a league-high 23 sacks in six games. The Titans, meanwhile, have 18 sacks, which is good for fifth in the league, trailing only the Broncos, Bills, Cardinals and Vikings. While we’ve all been paying attention to Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray, the Titans have been playing an effective brand of defense. They’ll bring that to bear against the Colts on Sunday.