NFL Real or Not Real: Week 5

Welcome to the second edition of the “Real or Not Real” article for the 2016 NFL season. In this piece, Ricky Sanders will examine whether the hype and/or recent production surrounding certain players warrants deeming them as “for real” or remaining skeptical and considering them “not for real.”

Here are Ricky’s thoughts surrounding players who opened some eyeballs with their Week 4 performances one way or another:

Brian Hoyer, Bears – With Jay Cutler out for a second consecutive week, Brian Hoyer drew the start once again. For the second game in a row, Hoyer threw for 300-plus yards and multiple touchdowns (TDs), except this time it came against the league’s most susceptible defense against opposing quarterbacks (QBs). Does this officially mean Hoyer is for real? Well, facing the defense allowing the most fantasy points to opposing QBs was the first obvious knock on Hoyer but certainly not the last. In nine starts last season for the Texans, he averaged 229.1 passing yards and 1.67 passing TDs. As if that weren’t enough, Kevin White suffered what appears to be a high ankle sprain on Sunday so he should miss 1-2 weeks at the very least. At this point, the Bears aren’t going to bring back Cutler until he’s 100-percent and the team’s schedule over the next few weeks is enticing. In Weeks 5 and 6, the Bears will travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts (allowed ninth most fantasy points to opposing QBs) and then the Jaguars will head to Solider Field (allowed seventh most fantasy points to opposing QBs). Even so, last year’s numbers with DeAndre Hopkins at his disposal suggest his recent success is unsustainable and the offensive line has graded as one of the worst. He can still be relied upon as a punt as long as his price tag remains near-minimum but there’s not enough here to think Hoyer is morphing into a reliable fantasy QB on a weekly basis due to two solid games. Verdict: Not For Real

Terrance West, Ravens – Justin Forsett was deemed a surprise inactive which left Terrance West as the default back to carry the load in Week 4 against the Raiders. To his credit, he carried the ball 21 times for 113 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and a TD en route to 20.30 DraftKings/FantasyDraft (DK/FDr) fantasy points. However, he played 39 snaps to Javarious Allen’s 24 which isn’t quite a giant enough advantage to deem him a bell cow. By comparison, Jordan Howard played 63 snaps to Joique Bell’s six in Week 4. Now, rookie Kenneth Dixon is set to return in Week 5 and he is generally considered the most talented back in this backfield by those close the team (beat writers, etc.). Had the team not believed in his talent, they wouldn’t have taken the shot on him in the fourth round of this year’s draft. So just when this situation appeared to be clarifying itself, it’s about to get muddy once again. It’s very possible Week 4 will prove to be West’s best game all season and he’ll have to battle with Dixon for touches each week in the foreseeable future. Essentially, this situation is about to quickly revert back to unusable. Verdict: Not For Real

Bilal Powell, Jets – After a nine target, six catch performance against the Seahawks this week, Bilal Powell has now been targeted seven-plus times and caught six-plus passes in consecutive weeks. Following Sunday’s game, it was reported Matt Forte left on a cart and was headed for X-Rays (of which the results have not been released). Additionally, Forte’s workload has been way down the last two weeks after touching the ball 27 and 32 times respectively over the course of the first two weeks. Since then, he has touched the ball 17 and 16 times including just 1.9 yards per carry (YPC) against the Seahawks in Week 4. It was apparent a 30-year old Forte who had been breaking down over the past few seasons wasn’t going to be able to touch the ball 400-plus times this year so Powell should have been on the radar from the get-go. Over the past two games, Powell has been working in as the passing down back and that’s absolutely noteworthy in PPR formats. If Forte’s injury were to prove significant, he would step in as the workhorse and immediately morph into a solid RB2. For what it’s worth, Ralph Vacchiano posted on Twitter that Forte wasn’t listed on the postgame injury report. Regardless, a cheap back averaging 8.0 targets per game over the last few games is eye-opening because backs such as Danny Woodhead, Theo Riddick, etc. consistently finish in the top 20 of PPR scoring. Since his role should only expand as Forte continues to have his workload ramped down, there is a strong case to be made for continuing to target him in DFS at a bargain price tag. Verdict: For Real

Dontrelle Inman, Chargers – On the surface, Dontrelle Inman’s 2.1 yards per target (YPT) heading into Week 4 were absolutely ugly and made him seem like a player who could safely be avoided. Sure he led the receiving core in snaps Week 3 (53) but his average depth of target (aDOT) ranked just 59th in the league amongst receivers who had played at least 25-percent of their team’s offensive snaps. In other words, there didn’t appear to be much upside to rostering him because he was mostly targeted on short routes (0.10 fantasy points per opportunity during that span). In Week 4, things changed drastically for him: his aDOT remained virtually the same (10.4 versus 10.2) but his points per opportunity increased to 0.56 and his YPT increased to a whopping 12.0. This led to seven receptions (RECs) on 10 targets for 120 yards and a TD against the porous Saints defense…and he led the receivers in snap counts once again. With such a small talent disparity between the group of healthy weapons in the passing game remaining (with Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen hurt), the smart move may to simply be to use the guy seeing the most time on the field. Due to the fact that none of them are upper-echelon talents, the production is likely to change on weekly basis based on matchups. With that being said, Philip Rivers has transformed mediocre talents into studs before (Danario Alexander for instance) and he really has no option but to keep spreading the ball around amongst his trio of receivers. While Inman isn’t a WR1 by any means, he’s going to continue to see volume on most weeks. As long as expectations are reasonable (possession, high-upside WR3), he’s looking like the receiver to own of the bunch. Verdict: For Real (as long as expectations are reasonable).

Martellus Bennett, Patriots – I expect Martellus Bennett’s five REC, 109 yard performance to go mostly overlooked next week because Tom Brady will be back in Week 5 and the masses will flock to Rob Gronkowski. This past week, Gronkowski only ran five routes and that’s a concerning number to me especially considering the offense definitely could have used him (they scored zero points). Once upon a time, Aaron Hernandez caught 175 passes and 18 TDs in three seasons with Brady (just 38 games) as the second tight end (TE) in the offense. Virtually all of the receivers on this team are undersized so Bennett should immediately emerge as one of Brady’s top two options in the red zone. Bennett led the position in RECs just two seasons ago so he should not be written off so easily especially due to Gronkowski’s extensive injury history. Brady has proven before he can sustain two TEs and Bennett’s performance last week signifies just how important he could be in this passing game moving forward. Verdict: For Real