Will Fuller had a career performance across the board Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, finishing with 16 targets, 14 catches, 217 receiving yards and three receiving TDs. I don't want to take anything away from the talented Texans receiver, but Fuller can thank his teammate DeAndre Hopkins for his final two touchdowns.
Hopkins is the top coverage dictator in the league at the wide receiver position. Even Jalen Ramsey, one of the NFL's best cover corners, acknowledged prior to their Week 2 matchup that Hopkins is "pretty much" unguardable. He's right. Hopkins can win one-on-one matchups against any cornerback in the league, so defenses must double-team him. Even then, Hopkins will win more often than not. Texans coach Bill O'Brien has done a great job moving Hopkins around. This makes things especially hard for defensive coordinators, as aligning the wideout in different spots messes with the structure of the defense.
Hopkins' skill set dictates coverage both pre-snap and in how defenders react during the play. Look at Fuller's second touchdown of the day. First, the Falcons had Hopkins doubled out wide. Then, when the receiver worked his way down the field on a crossing route, Hopkins pulled the corner, who should have passed the WR off to the safety, out of his zone. In the end, Hopkins drew three defenders on the play, and by the time the safety realized no one was covering the top third of the field, Fuller was wide open in the end zone. On Fuller's third TD, Hopkins lined up in the slot and drew two defenders to the middle of the field, which left Fuller one-on-one with the cornerback. The 2016 first-round draft pick made a move on Desmond Trufant, using his speed to turn a perfect throw from Deshaun Watson into his third trip to the paint.
Hopkins isn't the only receiver who dictates coverage to allow others to feast, but he is the biggest receiving threat right now. Below are two other players who are potent coverage dictators at their respective positions.
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys running back: Zeke demands an extra defender in the box for run support every time he lines up, automatically giving the Cowboys' receivers one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. There are a handful of running backs who demand extra attention -- the Saints' Alvin Kamara being another -- but no one has been as productive out of the backfield as Zeke. Let me be clear, though, that just because Zeke's presence gives his teammates favorable matchups outside, Dallas shouldn't necessarily rely on Dak Prescott's arm to beat opponents. We saw in Sunday's loss to the Packers that that strategy will not work.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs tight end: To no one's surprise, Andy Reid lines Kelce up all over the place, but the mismatch nightmare often begins games in a normal tight end set (in the slot or next to the tackle), to see which defender is lining up across from him. Once man or zone coverage is declared, Kelce will demand extra defenders no matter how he's used, whether they're trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage or he's drawing safety help. Either way, Kelce's ability as a physical pass catcher opens the field for the rest of Patrick Mahomes' weapons.
Each week in the 2019 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. Now, let's get to it -- the Week 6 pecking order is below.
The Seahawks QB1 continues to prove why he should be considered for 2019 MVP honors. After Week 5, in which Seattle earned a big-time divisional win over the Rams, Wilson leads the league in completion percentage (73.1), TD-to-INT ratio (12:0) and passer rating (126.3), and sits second in pass yards per attempt (9.0) among 35 qualifying quarterbacks, per NFL Research. His ability to extend plays and evade pressure from the Rams' defensive front was impressive, to say the least. I mean, he looked like Houdini out there. When throwing on the run (8.0-plus miles per hour), Wilson was eight of 12 for 130 pass yards and two pass TDs, according to Next Gen Stats. He's so fun to watch right now.
While Kyle Allen has fit the bill at quarterback, McCaffrey is the reason the Panthers' offense has outdueled its last three opponents. In Sunday's win over Jacksonville, the MVP candidate tied his own franchise record for scrimmage yards in a game with 237 -- and added three touchdowns for good measure. McCaffrey ranks in the top two in rush yards, rush TDs, scrimmage yards and scrimmage TDs heading into Week 6.
Mahomes' production has dropped off the last two weeks, with only one passing TD and an 86.2 passer rating. The difference between his last two games? He orchestrated a game-winning drive against the Lions, but floundered against the Colts Sunday night, in part, due to tweaking his ankle in the second half. That injury took away Mahomes' mobility and the threat he becomes when escaping the pocket -- like this insane TD pass to Byron Pringle in the second quarter. I'm interested to see how Mahomes responds against the red-hot Texans this weekend.
It feels like Kamara has stepped off the gas a little as Teddy Bridgewater gets more reps and becomes more comfortable in the Saints' offense. But that doesn't mean the RB1 isn't producing. Against the Bucs, Kamara logged 104 scrimmage yards (his 18th career game with 100-plus yards) and came up with some big plays when needed, including a completed 13-yard pass to Josh Hill on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
While Kirk Cousins was getting back on the same page as his receivers, Cook was busy having a career day with 218 scrimmage yards against the New York Giants. And although it was the first game in which Cook didn't see the end zone, he performed in crucial situations to keep drives going and help get the Vikings' offense back on track.
The Cowboys were in such a big hole by halftime that Zeke's usage was minimal. His 14 touches in Sunday's loss to the Packers were his second-fewest in a game in his career. It's crazy to me that Dallas' winning formula with Zeke is so obvious, yet it still fails at times to give him the ball. Yes, the Cowboys played from behind for a majority of the game, but abandoning the run game with Elliott should never be in the cards.
Despite being sacked more times in Week 5 than in the first four games combined, Brady improved across the board from his shaky performance against the Bills in Week 4. He was able to put Sunday's game away with a good second-half performance by throwing for 12.9 yards per attempt (up from 6.6 in the first half), two TDs and having a 158.3 passer rating. I'm afraid we are done seeing Brady at his absolute best but his defense is making up for it.
Despite hauling in just four of his 10 targets for 70 yards Sunday night, Kelce leads all tight ends with 439 receiving yards through five weeks. That's the most yards through five games in his career.
Thomas must have noticed his drop in my rankings because he responded with 11 catches for 182 receiving yards and a pair of TDs. He now leads the league in receptions (45) and receiving yards (543) through five weeks. Touché.
Jared Goff's favorite target, Kupp was targeted 17 times against the Seahawks for nine receptions, 117 receiving yards and a TD. The Rams' slot receiver is the engine in this passing attack, and if Kupp continues to produce at his current pace, he'll finish the season with 131 receptions, 1,616 receiving yards and 12 rec. TDs. Every one of these numbers would be career highs by a mile.
Bruce Arians praised Godwin all offseason and we're seeing why. Godwin had himself a day vs. the Saints, with seven catches for 125 receiving yards and two touchdowns -- 46 receiving yards more than the rest of the Bucs' pass catchers combined. With the impressive start to 2019, Godwin became the first player in Bucs franchise history to score six receiving TDs in the first five games of the season.
Kittle got in the end zone for the first time this season on Monday night to help the 49ers jump out to a big first-half lead. I constantly talk about Kittle's willingness to block, so I wasn't surprised to see him play a big part in Matt Breida's 83-yard touchdown run on the 49ers' first play from scrimmage. Kittle plays just as big a role in the ground attack as he does in the pass game.
Against the Jets, Wentz and the Eagles' offense didn't replicate the high-level play we saw in Week 4. Yet with the help of an improved ground attack, Wentz has avoided making mistakes and stepped up in big moments over the last several weeks to have the Eagles tied with Dallas at the top of the division. Wentz must play well in the Eagles' three-game road stretch (at Minnesota in Week 6, at Dallas in Week 7, at Buffalo in Week 8) to keep his spot in this space.
Rodgers didn't do a whole lot against the Cowboys, but he didn't have to. Not when running back Aaron Jones has a four-touchdown day. Rodgers, who was playing without his favorite target in Davante Adams on Sunday, did a good job managing the offense and protecting the ball, while the Packers' run game and defense stuck it to the Cowboys.
Cooper has been outstanding for Dallas in 2019, and did all he could to help the Cowboys claw back into Sunday's game. Cooper had a career-high 226 receiving yards and one TD on 11 receptions. He's one of the most dangerous receivers in the league right now, and his connection with Dak Prescott on deep throws rivals some of the league's best.
JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 15
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: The Broncos' defense kept the Chargers' passing attack at bay in this past weekend's AFC West clash. Allen has the goods to lift his team out of a funk with big plays, but he couldn't get it done Sunday. His four catches for 18 receiving yards was his fewest yards in a game with a reception since Week 2 of 2015, according to NFL Research.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: It's tough to watch the Falcons falter with such a talented offensive group. Jones' production has dropped over the last two games, having zero TDs after putting up four in the first three games this season. Next week's contest with the Cardinals is a must-win game for Atlanta before an extremely difficult middle of the season.
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers: Evans couldn't get anything going against the New Orleans Saints, as he had zero catches on three targets. His only other game with zero receptions also came against the Saints in Week 2 on 2015. In meaningful divisional bouts, Evans must find a way to get the ball and make an impact.