There’s no right or wrong way to use this weekly fade column. Sometimes it’s a start-sit tool, but as we navigate Week 7 — with a ton of injuries and six notable teams on bye — it’s difficult to tell you to rest any solid player who’s actually in uniform this week. Maybe you’ll take some of these fade recommendations and apply them to a player prop. Perhaps you’ll push the ideas into the framework of a trade.
And, of course, perhaps you’ll disagree with them completely. That’s what the game is, and that’s why we have a game. You know your team and your league better than any outsider ever could. And while you should consider any reasonable viewpoint you come across, at the end of the day, you need to make your own decisions.
So use these fades, or fade these fades. The final call is always yours.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Texans
Nobody is going to fade Hopkins in the Houston start, that’s clear. His lowest industry rank is WR7. Surely he has this game circled on his personal calendar, a chance to smash against his former team. And no one is worried about the spotty Texans defense.
But when you examine Hopkins’ seasonal profile, you notice some interesting shifts.
He’s currently WR14 in half-point PPR scoring; not what you drafted him to be, but not bad. But that ranking is mostly because of glorious touchdown deodorant (six touchdown catches, second-most in the league). Hopkins currently ranks a mediocre 38th in wide receiver targets (despite playing six games), and he doesn’t have a single game with double-digit opportunities.
This reduced usage doesn’t jibe with the rest of his career. Hopkins has 64 double-digit target games since turning pro. He logged nine of them last year, including the last five starts of the year. And we all know how important volume is in fantasy football.
Kyler Murray is maturing as a passer, and the Cardinals have surrounded him with a deep group of pass-catchers. And while Hopkins is still the chairman of the board on the outside, there’s no need for Murray to force the ball to him. In previous seasons, teams recognized that any pass to Hopkins — covered or not — was the best plan of attack. The 2021 Cardinals don’t have to play that way.
Perhaps Hopkins’s target column will start to perk up, but the current touchdown rate is probably unsustainable, too. It’s a great time to quietly shop him in the market, see if someone will miss the nuance of his season. Don’t send out a “trade Hopkins” email blast; instead, let it be known that you like your receiver depth and see if your opponent will come up with Hopkins. This could be the right moment to time a trade (and if you want to wait a week, after the Houston game, that’s fine, too).
Joe Burrow at Ravens
I take no joy in offering a Burrow fade, as I’m enjoying Cincinnati’s breakout year. It’s fun to watch a Bengals team that isn’t a punching bag, for once. Ja’Marr Chase arrived as an instant star, and the Cincinnati offensive line is starting to jell. The Bengals also have a plus defense.
But Burrow’s quick start has tinges of good fortune. His touchdown rate (eight percent) is second-best in the league, and likely unsustainable. The schedule has also lined up nicely. The Bengals have faced the sixth-easiest defensive schedule to this point (per Football Outsiders), but they draw the seventh-hardest schedule for the remainder of the season.
It doesn’t mean Burrow instantly turns into a pumpkin, it just means he’s a little over his skis right now. If you drafted Burrow as a backup quarterback or have him tied to another plausible starter, it might be a perfect moment to shop Burrow to a quarterback-desperate team, given how many good passers are currently hurt or on their bye week.
Corey Davis at Patriots
Maybe this isn’t the most ambitious fade to use, but we go all over the map in this column. I want to outline that my expectations for Davis are considerably lower than the industry’s. I’ll be an interested investor when the Davis props get released.
New England’s defense has been hit and miss this year — the Cowboys did anything they wanted last week — but the Patriots have mostly excelled when it comes to marking No. 1 receivers. They rank second in No. 1 receiver coverage (per DVOA), and there are some notable hits here. The Buccaneers didn’t manage a single touchdown pass at New England — Tom Brady has 17 scoring tosses in his other five games. Brandin Cooks was erased by the Patriots. And Davis was Mr. Invisible when these teams met in September — five targets, two catches, eight yards.
Even in a week riddled with bye teams, I’m ranking Davis outside the top 40 on my receiver board. I’m about 15 slots lower than consensus with that opinion.
Khalil Herbert at Tampa Bay
Herbert is one of my favorite surprise stories of the year. I suspect he might be more talented than Damien Williams, and I’ve been impressed by Herbert’s vision, speed, and ability to finish runs. He has a future in this league.
But the Buccaneers defense is a stone wall against the run, and most teams junk the running game quickly against Tampa Bay. I suspect Chicago will do the same, despite the presence of inexperienced rookie QB Justin Fields. The Buccaneers have too much beef on the defensive front, while the Tampa secondary has been obliterated by injuries. When you attack the Bucs, you do it through the air.
Maybe Herbert will pick up receiving chops someday, but we haven’t seen them yet. He had just 34 college catches over five different seasons, and the Bears have targeted him a scant three times this year. His bread needs to be buttered on the ground, and this is the wrong opponent for that. We also assume Williams will be back in uniform, forcing Herbert to share touches after having run of the backfield last week. I can’t recommend Herbert as a proactive Week 7 play.