By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


Terry McLaurin needs a hug.

Despite playing with an assemblage of quarterbacks for which "below average" would be the kindest possible assessment, in a season and change McLaurin has gone from a relatively unheralded Day 2 pick from Ohio State To one of the most prolific wide receivers in the NFL. His 387 receiving yards through four games ranks fifth in the league. He's tied for eighth in receptions with 26, is sixth in targets and 10th at his position in PPR fantasy points.

Other than that, meh.

As Ethan Cadeaux reported for Yahoo Sports, McLaurin's stats are that much more impressive when you look at who has faced in coverage so far this year.

"In Week 1," he said, "No. 17 was shadowed by All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay. In Week 2, he drew the assignment of future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson. In Week 3, he squared off against Pro Bowler Denzel Ward before facing a pair of All-Pro DBs this past Sunday in Baltimore's Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. What happened? McLaurin produced against them all."

This week brings with it another stiff test when Jalen Ramsey and the Rams come to town. Last week's post-game dust-up with his ex-girlfriend's brother (Golden Tate of the New York Giants-it's a long story) notwithstanding, as Matthew Freedman wrote for the Action Network, Ramsey's playing as well in 2020 as he ever has.

"Ramsey is in peak "I'm Jalen Ramsey, and you're a punk" form right now," Freedman said. For the year, Ramsey has allowed just 5.1 yards per target. That number will almost certainly be higher after Ramsey's Week 5 matchup with McLaurin - but McLaurin's per-game yardage total will almost certainly be lower. This is the hardest matchup of McLaurin's career to date."

As if that's not enough of a drag, for reasons known only to God and Ron Rivera (and when reached for comment, even God said, "Wait, what?"), the Washington Football Team will start Kyle Allen at quarterback Sunday instead of Dwayne Haskins.

Granted, Haskins hasn't been great as Washington's starter. But Kyle Allen? Was Rivera not watching when Allen started all those games in Carolina last year?

Going from bad to worse is a bold strategy, Cotton.

None of this is to say you should sit McLaurin-given all the injuries at wide receiver already this year there's just no way.

But the deck is stacked that much more against F1 in Week 5.

Really? Kyle Allen?


Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (A.J. Green vs. Marcus Peters)

Over the first four games of the 2020 season, A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals has been in full milk carton mode-14 catches for 149 yards. However, head coach Zac Taylor said that he's not concerned in the least about the 32-year-old.

"A.J. is doing the right things. We got a lot of really good receivers," Taylor said. "There's times when A.J. is open and the ball is going elsewhere for explosive plays. I think that's the key to our success is not forcing the ball to any weapon. Just let it play out naturally. His time will come. There is going to be moments where he has unbelievable games and he's going to help us win here. It's tremendous to have that guy as a captain and a part of this offense and this team."

The reason this matchup is included here really isn't even about Green-you all but have to fade him unless there's just no other viable option available. It's more to point out that the Ravens have put the clamps on three of four opponents this season. Joe Burrow has been impressive, but he hasn't been Patrick Mahomes.

Burrow might produce enough passing-game volume to keep Tyler Boyd in WR2 territory. But Peters and Marlon Humphrey are maybe the best tandem at the cornerback position in the league. Green and rookie Tee Higgins are likely headed toward down weeks.





New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys (James Bradberry vs. Amari Cooper)

Not much has gone right for the 1-3 Cowboys this season, but from a fantasy perspective the passing game has been a bonanza. Dak Prescott has all the passing yards ever, and thanks to his league-leading 51 targets, Amari Cooper is second among all wideouts in PPR fantasy points. However, Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros warned this week that Cooper could be due to cool off a bit Sunday against the Giants and offseason acquisition James Bradberry.

"The Giants have been using James Bradberry in a shadow role, which should be expected for Cooper, though it does leave them exposed in other areas of the field," Tagliere wrote. "Bradberry has done a good job to this point with the Giants, as he's allowed just 145 yards on 23 targets in coverage. He did allow two touchdowns, though both of them came in Week 1 against the Steelers on pick plays that he was not necessarily to blame for. If there's a week Cooper might take a backseat to Gallup and/or Lamb, it could be this one. You're still starting him as a low-end WR1, but temper those No. 1 wide receiver expectations, as he has the toughest matchup on the field."

Bradberry is an underrated cornerback who has been stuck on bad teams (Although he picked the Giants, so maybe sticked?), but during his career in Carolina he had more success with bigger receivers than a quick, shifty player like Cooper. With over 20 more targets than any other player on the league's most prolific passing game, right now it doesn't matter who Cooper's opponent is.




Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (D.J. Chark Jr. vs. Bradley Roby)

If things have gone poorly for the Cowboys, then they have gone terribly for the other team in Texas. The Houston Texans are 0-4 and the head coach and general manager was just fired-reportedly after a huge dust-up with the face of the franchise on defense. Still, veteran cornerback Bradley Roby told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that he and his teammates haven't lost hope.

"I think we're very optimistic," veteran corner Bradley Roby said. "It's been done before in the past here going 0-3 and winning nine straight, I believe. Heads are not down at all. We've realized that we had a tough schedule coming out. Short offseason, not making any excuses, but played some teams that kind of had everybody already set in place from the year before. Slow start, but we're optimistic that we can get back on track this week."

No, really Bradley-go ahead and lose hope.

The Texans are a mess. The offense is a mess. The defense is a mess. The now-vacant front office is a mess. Roby, for his part, has mostly been roasted this year in coverage-he's already surrendered two scores and has a passer rating against of 112.7.

Coming off an 8/95/2 line (on nine targets) last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, D.J. Chark should be fine.





Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (Xavien Howard vs. Brandon Aiyuk)

The San Francisco 49ers have endured as many injuries as any team west of Philadelphia this year. But in the opinion of Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report, there's one way on offense that the Niners can compensate for personnel losses-get the ball to rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk more.

"Aiyuk has an aspect of his skill set comparable to Deebo Samuel's capabilities," Moton said. "He can turn short completions into big plays with breakaway speed. The rookie wideout averages 12.1 yards per reception. Whoever starts under center should look to feed him on quick throws to combat poor pass protection or overcome lapses in the ground attack."

Facing off with a cornerback of Howard's talent level will be Aiyuk's biggest test in that regard so far this year. But it's all the questions on the San Francisco offense that are the larger fantasy concern. Will quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo play against Miami? What about running back Raheem Mostert? How healthy is Samuel?

Aiyuk has the natural gifts to score for a third straight game. But I wouldn't bet the rent on it.




Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints (Keenan Allen vs. Marshon Lattimore)

Keenan Allen of the Chargers leads the entire National Football League in target share, because he's Keenan Allen and of course he does. Marson Lattimore is one of the best young corners in the game and a former Defensive Player of the Year. Watching the two battle all day would be a treat for some football fans-like me.

Alas, that's not going to happen most likely. Neither will Casey Hayward covering Michael Thomas, which also would have rated inclusion here.

But this is 2020. So, there's no guarantee that Thomas (ankle), Lattimore (Shoulder) or Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) will play. Even if they all do, the Saints have been mostly content this year to just let Lattimore and Jenkins play their sides of the field while Chauncey Gardner-Johnson mans the slot. Whoever lines up opposite them lines up opposite them.

Allen's a start even against a full-strength Saints secondary-although said secondary is giving up the fifth-fewest PPR points per game to wide receivers in 2020. If Lattimore and/or Jenkins sit out?