It wasn’t supposed to be San Francisco. Though there were large pockets of the football-loving community that had a quiet confidence about Kyle Shanahan’s team coming off a 2018 campaign ravaged by injuries, they weren’t even supposed to be the focal point of tonight’s matchup, let alone the last remaining undefeated squad in the NFC. If anything, that sort of fate was to be reserved for Cleveland, after an offseason where they traded for Odell Beckham Jr. ($10,400) and shotgunned enough beers to earn the sentiment of America’s Team North. Still, it’s not like the Browns are irrelevant. Cleveland is coming off a massive win over Baltimore last Sunday, one that momentarily tied it atop the standings in its division. On the heels of that, we’re actually left with one of the more intriguing contests of Week 5 featuring two of the league’s more appealing teams.
Let’s dig in and break it all down from a Showdown perspective.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
San Francisco 49ersThere might be no roster in the league more frustrating to figure out from a fantasy perspective than the 49ers. Three games into their season and eight different players have caught at least five passes. They don’t have a focal point wide receiver and, to make matters even more muddled, they signed veteran Jordan Matthews ($600) to a contract earlier this week. Honestly, the only player who we can be confident will play more than 90% of San Francisco’s offensive snaps is Jimmy Garoppolo ($9,800). The former Patriots’ backup hasn’t been asked to do a lot in his first three starts of 2019, but he does sit in the upper-third of the league in completion rate (69.0%) and passing yards gained per completion (12.7). Garoppolo will get the opportunity to face a Browns’ secondary that will once again seemingly be without its top two corners in Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, as neither of the pair practiced at all this week. Garoppolo also has the benefit of playing behind the statistically best offensive line in football, a unit that has surrendered a league-low 2.5% adjusted sack rate across their QB’s 88 drop backs. It’s hard to put too much faith in the quarterback of a team that’s run the ball on an NFL-high 56.7% of plays; however, as one of the lone constants in the 49ers’ system, Garoppolo has to be considered viable.
As for which of Garoppolo’s receivers you could feasibly stack him with, it’s really anyone’s guess. Simply put, it just feels like the strategy here is to save salary with San Francisco’s WRs. For instance, Deebo Samuel ($6,600) is the highest priced option of the group, yet he’s seen exactly as many snaps as Dante Pettis ($3,400) has in their past two contests (68). Additionally, Pettis was targeted on more occasions than Samuel in Week 3’s win over the Steelers and it was Pettis who eventually found the end zone. Now, this isn’t necessarily an endorsement of Pettis, rather an illustration of the sporadic nature of this positional grouping. Marquise Goodwin ($6,400) has been the most efficient wideout, averaging 15.6 yards per target; while Richie James Jr. ($1,000) and Kendrick Bourne ($200) have both caught a pass in every 49ers’ game this season. I do believe that Pettis represents the best value of the corps, especially when you factor in that he’s had the extra week to recover from some nagging injuries, however each and every one of these players can lay claim to an exceedingly shallow floor.
Even George Kittle ($9,000) isn’t a reliable source of fantasy production anymore. At least that’s how its appeared so far. While there’s little doubt that the tight end remains the No. 1 target in this passing attack – he leads San Francisco in targets (21), receptions (17) and target share (24.7%) – his role in Shanahan’s system has been altered through the first three weeks of 2019. Maybe it’s due in part to Garoppolo returning from such a major knee ailment, but Kittle’s been asked to block more than almost any TE in the league. Kittle’s run a route on only 34.8% of his snaps entering Week 5, with Kyle Rudolph checking in as the lone man at a lower rate among qualified tight ends. Still, some of this can be blamed on the 49ers running the ball as often as they do, and its possible we see a more pass-heavy game script this evening. I mean, do we really believe that San Francisco is going to maintain their NFC-leading 14-point average scoring margin against a very capable Cleveland squad? The Browns have also been exposed by TEs when facing teams that actually prominently feature the position, with both Delanie Walker and Mark Andrews producing within the matchup. I think we see Kittle break out tonight and, as one of just two players in the 49ers offense with a set in stone snap volume, Kittle is nice mix of safety and ceiling.
Finally, we come to San Francisco’s backfield, which, as you might expect, is just as confusing as the rest of the team’s skill-positions. There’s simply no way to feel confident in using any of these running backs this evening, especially with the expected return of Tevin Coleman ($5,600) from an ankle issue that’s sidelined him since Week 1. Matt Breida ($6,800) and Raheem Mostert ($5,400) have been incredibly efficient running behind an offensive line that’s created an NFL-best 5.54 adjusted line yards per carry, but both have lost goal line work to Jeff Wilson Jr. ($5,200) the past two weeks. However, Wilson wasn’t even on the 53-man roster until Coleman went down and there’s a chance that he won’t be active if the free agent addition is ready to go on Monday night. Here’s how I would proceed from a DFS standpoint. If all four are active, I’m avoiding the position entirely. If Coleman continues to sit, I don’t mind getting a piece of Wilson, who is clearly Shanahan’s preferred option in short-yardage situations. If Wilson doesn’t dress, Mostert becomes the viable RB, as he and Breida have shared an almost identical role and Coleman’s health would make him a stay-away. Get all that? Good.
Editor’s Note: Coleman will be active for tonight’s game. Wilson wll be inactive.
Cleveland BrownsIf there’s some concern over how snaps and carries will be doled out for the 49ers this evening, there is no such issue when it comes to the Browns. Back before the beginning of Week 3, Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens mentioned that, despite already averaging 20.5 touches per game, he’d love to get Nick Chubb ($10,200) more involved in the offense. Well, Kitchens has been a man of his word in the Browns’ past two contests. The Georgia product has racked up 43 rushing attempts and 11 targets in matchups versus the Rams and the Ravens, with Chubb registering a whopping 59.4 DKFP in that span of time. In fact, entering Week 5, the lone running back to accumulate more carries than Chubb’s 78 is Christian McCaffrey. Not to simply things too much, but that’s the exact class of player you want your RB to be associated with. San Francisco has been the least generous defense in football to opposing backfields to begin 2019, yet I think it’s justified to argue the legitimacy of that title. Not only are we dealing with a small three-game sample, but the 49ers’ schedule has been kind to say the least. Tampa Bay’s struggled to formulate a rushing attack for years, Cincinnati has the worst offensive line in the league, and Pittsburgh lost their starting QB in the middle of their eventual loss to San Francisco back in Week 3. On a slate with so much uncertainty, give me the consistency of Chubb every time.
There’s also a particular level of structure among Cleveland’s wideouts. Really, its quite a simple hierarchy: above all else, there’s Beckham and Jarvis Landry ($7,200). The duo have combined to be on the receiving end of a massive 52.6% of Baker Mayfield’s ($9,600) targeted passes so far this season, with each already having exceeded 300 yards through the air. To put that last bit in perspective, the only other person on the Browns’ roster with over even 100 yards receiving is Damion Ratley ($1,400), who’s mustered a mere 103 yards on 13 targets. Both Beckham and Landry find themselves in alluring spots this evening as the 49ers find themselves down corner Ahkello Witherspoon. Landry, who primarily operates out of the slot, doesn’t exactly have an easy draw with K’waun Williams – PFF’s highest graded NFC slot CB – but he will be able to mostly avoid contact with Richard Sherman. Considering Sherman doesn’t shadow, as will Beckham. Still, regardless of in-game matchups, both LSU products are always viable due to their huge target shares. Finding a third Cleveland target with some fantasy juice is a different matter. The Browns will get the services of Antonio Callaway ($6,200) back from suspension tonight, yet his salary appears way to expensive to be legitimately considered. Ricky Seals-Jones ($2,800) is a possibility, however, San Francisco’s been stout versus TEs. Honestly, a healthy Rashard Higgins ($2,400) might be the way to go to find some value, just understand his low price-point is attached to a low floor.
As for Mayfield’s own viability, I’m still a bit skeptical. The sophomore did play easily his best game of the season in the Browns’ 40-25 victory over the Ravens, but he scored fewer than 20.0 DKFP for the fourth straight week. The biggest reason for this underwhelming trend? A lack of touchdown down expectancy in part created by Cleveland’s reliance on Chubb, but also a product of Mayfield’s own terrible performance in the red zone. The 24-year-old’s connected on just five of his 20 attempts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line so far in 2019 – easily the lowest completion rate of any qualified QB. Knowing that, it’s not difficult to understand why Mayfield entered Week 5 averaging the fewest fantasy points per drop back of any quarterback with four full games under their belt this season (0.37). If I’m choosing between him and Chubb, there’s really no debate.
THE OUTCOMEI see this as a competitive game, one that should go all the way down to the wire with both teams heavily featuring their rushing attack. However, when it comes to selecting a Captain’s Pick, there’s really only one team that provides any options. The balanced nature of the 49ers’ approach makes it unappealing to trust any singular member of the team’s roster. Therefore, I’d recommend focusing 1.5x value on the pillars of Cleveland’s game plan: Nick Chubb ($15,300 CP), Jarvis Landry ($10,800 CP) and Odell Beckham Jr. ($15,600 CP); with the RB representing the slate’s top play.
Final Score: San Francisco 24, Cleveland 21
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