NFL Fantasy: Is Charles Clay a Week 5 must-start?

Tight end Charles Clay caught five passes for 112 yards against Atlanta. Does that make him a must-start in Week 5?

Charles Clay’s career has been a story of inconsistency. In NFL fantasy, he got into waiver wire discussions several times, only to put up zeroes for those who took the bait. After four weeks, it’s hard to definitively state that this year will be different, but early on in the season, it looks like he may finally be putting together a consistent campaign.

Buffalo’s new coaching staff spent considerable time this offseason reviewing Clay’s performances and showing him what worked in good weeks and what didn’t. The result has been double-digit NFL fantasy scores in three of the first four games. The only game he did not come up with the big points was a 9-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers, who shut down the entire Bills offense.

Clay appears to have a better understanding of his role and how to get into position for his quarterback to target. Tyrod Taylor has thrown over 25% of his passes to Clay.

How is Clay doing it?

When Buffalo traded star wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams, it made little sense to most Bills fans. Rumors of tanking the season were widely discussed. After four weeks, it appears that trade was made because Watkins didn’t fit the style of play new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison wanted to see.

The tight end is a weapon in a typical Dennison offense and this year’s Buffalo squad is no exception. Running back LeSean McCoy also sees a good number of targets while the wide receivers split what is left among them. The Bills are no longer the top-rated rushing team they were last year, but they are changing a few things to get closer. That and the tight-end dominant passing game are aimed at controlling the ball. It also might make more sense than trying to fling the ball deep all game when snow and freezing rain show up in Buffalo.

Can he keep this up?

By all accounts, Clay’s heavy usage is part of the basic Buffalo offensive scheme. There is no reason to think it will change as long as the Bills’ unexpected success continues. With primary receiver Jordan Matthews about to miss a few weeks with a broken thumb, Clay’s targets could increase.

In the Bills’ opening game, Clay caught five of nine targets for 53 yards and a touchdown. In the three games that followed, he has caught 14 of 16 balls thrown his way for 174 yards. He tacked on a second touchdown in Week 3 and enjoyed the second 100-yard receiving game of his career in Week 4. He leads the team in receiving yards and is third in the AFC with 18 total receptions.

Many NFL fantasy owners are wary of Clay’s history. We remember being excited about his production before only to have the bottom fall out. Buffalo’s new regime seems to have a plan for him. A bad game will not be enough for the coaches or quarterback to move away from their tight end. He is in a much better situation as far as coaches and game plan go than previous seasons.

So, you’re saying…

The Bills face the Cincinnati Bengals’ third-ranked defense this week. But they had a good defense in 2015, too. That was the last time the Bills played in Cincy. In that game, Clay caught a personal-best nine passes.

Charles Clay is a must-start Sunday in Ohio. He is also a must-start every week after that until something changes in Buffalo. These are heady days in New York State and Charles Clay is a big part of that.

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