We're five weeks into the 2015 season, and while we don't know everything, some trends are starting to emerge. One of the more troubling is the number of big-name fantasy players struggling to produce week-in, and week-out. Is it time to give up on some of these former fantasy studs? We broached the subject on Tuesday morning's edition of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast, with some mixed results. Some of us were ready to pull a Bill Belichick and completely cut these players loose, while others were holding onto a hope and a prayer that things could turn around. Below, I'll discuss several of these players more at length, as with five weeks in the books, plenty of fantasy owners are in need of a roster shakeup to get their team on track before it's too late.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Let's get the big one out of the way first. Peyton Manning may very well be the single-greatest fantasy quarterback of all-time. He's undoubtedly carried countless teams to championships over his remarkable 17 seasons under center. However, this is 2015, not 2005, and I'm of the mind that it's time to trade away or even cut the Sheriff. Just look at the numbers. Manning has more interceptions than touchdown passes this year. In fact, Devonta Freeman has more touchdowns than the entireBroncos offense. Manning has posted single-digit fantasy points in three of his five games this season, something he did only three times in the previous two years. Manning's inability to push the ball downfield or target his receivers accurately has caused Demaryius Thomas' efficiency to plummet. In his last 25 games prior to this season with Manning, Thomas had a 1.41 fantasy point per target average. In 2015? He boasts a 0.79 FPPT average, lowest among the top 30 fantasy scoring wide receivers. The troubling news for Manning and this offense is that things aren't likely to get better. We have seen Manning's arm-strength diminish when the weather turns cold in the latter parts of the season in back-to-back years, and that should be the case again in 2015. He's on pace to attempt over 600 passes, and with no running game to rely on or keep defenses honest, that number could grow even higher. To make matters worse, his limited mobility has him on pace to be sacked almost 38.5 times, which would be roughly 10 more than his previous career-high -- back in 2001. If you're able to trade him on name value alone, even if it's for an RB3 or WR3, do it. Look, I know it'll be hard, but it's time to let the Sheriff ride off into the sunset.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Few players have lived as glorious of a fantasy career off the merits of one season like Matthew Stafford. Annually, he's pushed up the QB rankings across various expert lists, with people believing "this is the year" he recaptures his 2011 form, when he threw 41 touchdowns with just 16 interceptions and had over 5,000 passing yards. However, as I've long argued, that year was an anomaly thanks to the lockout that stripped much of the offseason preparation from teams, hindering defenses more than offenses. It inflated a ton of numbers across the board, none more egregiously than Stafford's. Take out that 2011 season, and Stafford's totals over the other 66 games he's started average out to 23 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and 4,335 passing yards per season. That's a total of 229.4 fantasy points, which over the last five years would have been good enough on average for about the QB18 in fantasy. All of his faults have been magnified this year as he's been effectively neutered in the Joe Lombardi/Jim Caldwell offense behind a struggling offensive line. I wasn't high on Stafford entering this season, and I'm even less high on him now. With young up-and-comers like Blake Bortles and Derek Carr on the waiver wire in plenty of leagues, there's no reason to keep Stafford rostered given his past production, and what he's put on game tape thus far in 2015.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
When C.J. Anderson was brought up on the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast, the discussion was more split. I was on a little more on the side of cutting the struggling runner, while my colleagues Michael Fabiano and Marcas Grant were hanging on. While I was high on Anderson based on his 2014 tape and the situation he was heading into, I had no idea the situation would turn so dire. Anderson has been nicked up, but more importantly is suffering behind a patchwork offensive line and a quarterback who is a shell of his former self. I wouldn't be surprised if the Denver running game turns the corner later in the season, as head coach Gary Kubiak has a history of being able to churn out productive fantasy running backs. I just don't want to waste a crucial roster spot waiting around for that to happen. I wouldn't outright drop Anderson and Hillman, but if there's a highly-coveted or high-upside player out there on the waiver wire (like Charcandrick West, for instance), I'd seriously consider cutting my losses with the Denver backfield and look to gain help elsewhere.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
Oh, Jonathan Stewart. I wish I could quit you. Prior to Week 5 (when he was on a bye), he was 60th out of 64 running backs with 20 or more touches in fantasy scoring, and among RBs with at least 10 touches, he ranked 74th in the NFL with .375 fantasy points per touch. That hurts my soul to write. However, I'm not quite ready to jump ship on Stewart yet (although I'm very, very close). I guess it's simply the fact that there isn't a serviceable option behind him, and he finally looked good in Week 4, averaging five yards per carry ... on just 10 attempts. He did look a little knicked up in the early weeks, so perhaps the bye will cure him of those ills. However, if he's unable to produce in either of the next two weeks, it's time to put the "Daily Show" to bed.
Andre Johnson, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Don't rush out to the waiver wire to pick up Andre Johnson this week, or suddenly think you have a starting-caliber receiver after his two-touchdown "revenge game" outburst last week on Thursday Night Football. Even on his touchdowns, Johnson still looked slow, and he's at least the third option in this passing attack behind Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton. Prior to his Week 5 game, Johnson had been averaging an abysmal .255 fantasy points per target. Regressions back to the norm should be expected for Johnson, and thus far in 2015 that norm has not been good. Keep him on the bench or the waiver wire and let him be someone else's headache.