Brain Games: Kadarius Toney and Zach Evans are worth the risk, Michael Wilson has a great fantasy matchup and more

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Brain Games: Kadarius Toney and Zach Evans are worth the risk, Michael Wilson has a great fantasy matchup and more

Week 6 was a weird one; congrats if you escaped with the W. I won’t rehash all the ups and downs and injuries — you’ll find that here. I will take a moment and acknowledge that the uncertainty in our game of fantasy football drives us crazy, yes, but is also what keeps us coming back. In one of my classes at UR I teach about addiction. The main focus is substance use disorders, but many of the underlying brain mechanisms are shared — whether it’s opiates, food, sex or gambling that a person is hooked on. When I was learning about this field, I assumed that the key feature people were addicted to was the win, the high, the sugar, the result.

It was shocking to find that the dopamine reward pathways in the brain were not most active upon achieving the desired outcome, but during the period of uncertainty. The anticipation of the result and the possibility of achieving what we want are the addicting factors, not the result itself. While sweating out three really close fantasy finishes Monday night (one win, two losses by a combined 2.46 fantasy points) I was reminded that this would be no fun if we knew how it was going to end up every week. We tell ourselves that it’s the win — the final score — that matters, and of course it does to some extent. But we need to be able to recognize that it’s the inherent unpredictability that keeps us engaged.

On that note, let’s do our best to prepare for Week 7. With six teams on bye and most games carrying a point total under 45, it’s a rocky landscape. A lot will depend on how you do on the waiver wire and what the end of week practice reports look like. Even with less wiggle room than usual, some people will overthink it and bench the wrong guy. Others are bored — or more likely, desperate — enough to take on a pure risk/reward guy in the flex.

Don’t Overthink

Mike Evans

Turning 10 targets into just four catches for 49 yards is a sure way for Evans to have tanked your Week 6 fantasy lineup. In Week 4 it was three catches for 40 yards. At least you knew to bench him during his Week 5 bye! So, after three great games to start the season with new QB Baker Mayfield, what is going on with him? Detroit is no juggernaut pass defense, though they clearly pressured Mayfield enough to affect his connection with Evans, who averaged just 4.9 yards per target in the loss.

Evans suffered a hamstring strain earlier in the month but was not on the injury report for this game. It’s possible he was still somewhat hampered or that the injury flared up during the game, I don’t know. I do know that the 10 targets are a sign of what Mayfield and the Bucs want to see happen, and it’s the same thing we want. Lots of Mike Evans catches. Atlanta has been surprisingly stout on defense this year, but they have faced only two teams with winning records. Tampa will be the third.

Davante Adams

This one is personal. Adams’ five targets in Week 5 and four targets in Week 6 are alarming; and his lack of production (four catches combined) does have me worried. He dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the month but ultimately didn’t miss any time. It’s possible the team has intentionally limited him in the past two games to allow him more time to heal, but that’s pure speculation. Here’s why I’m still starting him:

  1. another week to get fully right,
  2. 13 targets with Aidan O’Connell in Week 4,
  3. eight red zone targets in the last three games (T-Garrett Wilson for most in the league) and
  4. the Bears give up the third-most overall fantasy points to opponents.

Raheem Mostert

Mostert gets the dreaded Eagles run defense this weekend, but the Dolphins have yet to find a team they can’t run through. Miami leads the league by a wide margin in rushing touchdowns (2.5) and rushing yards (181) per game despite not being in the Top 5 of rushing play percentage or rushing yards percentage. That’s how good their overall offense is. So, although Philadelphia gives up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs, there is no way Mostert leaves your starting lineup.

Tinker With

Zach Evans

The Rams are down to rookie Evans and Royce Freeman for a Week 7 game vs. the Steelers. Pittsburgh is coming off its bye, ranking as the seventh-best overall fantasy matchup (eighth-best for RBs). Though Evans only had four carries in Week 6, and didn’t do much with them (10 RuYds), he’ll get a week of first team practice reps. Part of me wonders if the Rams’ golden touch drafting rookies Kyren Williams last year and Puka Nacua this year could run out on Evans’ watch, but I’m going to find out.

Kadarius Toney

When in doubt, go with the player on the team likely to score a ton of points this week. The Chiefs vs. Chargers bout is the game of the week for fantasy — I have Toney highlighted here, but any of Rashee Rice, Trey Palmer, Gerald Everett, Donald Parham Jr. or even Skyy Moore could be usable. My expectation is that Rice is starting in 12-team leagues, plus he appeared here a couple weeks ago. Toney has been the next-most utilized receiver in KC with 25 targets, 12 of which came in Weeks 5 and 6, when he scored his first touchdown of the year. The Chiefs seem more committed, not less, to getting the ball in his hands, so in the league’s best WR matchup for fantasy, and second-best overall fantasy matchup, Toney is worth a spot if you’re desperate.

Michael Wilson

Wilson is a shockingly small amount behind Marquise Brown this season, though neither is exactly lighting the fantasy world on fire. Wilson boasts an 81.8 percent catch rate with 317 yards and two touchdowns. Brown leads the team in targets with 53, but his abysmal 54.7 catch percentage has yielded only 334 yards and three scores. His 10.3 fantasy points per game put him in the neighborhood of DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas, but with a game against the second-best WR matchup in Seattle on tap, he could put up big numbers this week.

(Photo: Perry Knotts/Getty Images)