Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 4
You may still be hearing “we’ve only just begun” tunes in your head, but we’re approaching the quarter pole point of the 2018 season already. You’re still starting your studs, but there are several hot/cold starts to the season where your start/sit decisions could be quite cloudy. That’s where I come in!
Catering to all formats is impossible, I’ll do my best to provide context as I go. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on against the consensus within a reasonable start/sit range from 10- to 14-teamers, or so. Let’s get to it.
Andy Dalton (at ATL): Mariano Rank: 9, ECR: 12
My love for Dalton this week does hinge a bit on A.J. Green’s being available, but the emergence of Tyler Boyd, the receiving chops of Giovani Bernard and my faith in John Ross to get it together give me enough to make Dalton a top-10 QB as of now. Cincy is traveling into a domed Atlanta venue that hosts a Falcons defense which has lost three starters already, which means even Tyler Eifert could be a decent play! The Vegas total has already been bet up to 51.5 from a 48 open, so don’t be afraid to follow the points with the Red Rifle.
Others I’m higher on: Ryan Fitzpatrick (at CHI): MR: 12, ECR: 15
Carson Wentz (at TEN): MR: 17, ECR: 13
Wentz and the Eagles are four-point favorites in a game that features a lowly 41-point total. He went 25-for-37 for 255 yards, a touchdown and an interception with 10 rushing yards scattered in his return from a torn ACL last week. That was against the Colts at home, and now he and the Eagles hit the road against a Titans defense that forced Deshaun Watson to bail from the pocket constantly in Week 2 and limited the Jaguars to 232 yards of total offense. Tennessee’s 16.7 points against per game is fourth in the NFL and their beleaguered offense may hand points over to the Eagles defense. Look elsewhere in Week 4.
Others I’m lower on: Kirk Cousins (at LAR): MR: 14, ECR: 11
Chris Carson (at ARI): MR: 18, ECR: 23
Carson just saw 32 carries in Week 3 in an impressive turn of usage given the early trepidation of Seattle to truly give him a load to handle. The Seahawks spent a first-rounder on Rashaad Penny and Carson fought apparent fatigue in Week 2, so I get the uphill battle toward trust here.
However, the Seahawks are currently three-point road favorites against a porous Cardinals run defense that has allowed a collective 578 yards, six touchdowns and even three two-point conversions to opposing RBs over the first three weeks. Combine that with an RB who is seeing the majority of carries in a favored matchup and I am in.
Aaron Jones (vs. BUF): MR: 25, ECR: 30
Jones is understandably not in the circle of trust yet — it’s been just one active week for him — but the Packers get to face a Bills team that stands as one of just four that have surrendered 4+ rush TDs to opponents. We know that’s more like two games, cough, Minnesota, cough, but I’m willing to buy the Packers as 10-point home favorites over Buffalo as well as Jones being much better than Jamaal Williams, who has 135 scoreless yards on 36 carries (3.75 YPC) over three weeks. Williams didn’t protect Rodgers that well and there’s no other reason to play him above Jones, who collected 42 yards on just six carries in Week 3.
Isaiah Crowell (at JAX): MR: 33, ECR: 28
Crowell fell into two rushing TDs to salvage an otherwise bad Week 3 against Cleveland, which he’ll need to replicate in Week 4 against Jacksonville to be startable. Given how Vegas pegs the Jets for roughly 14 points (it’s a game total of 38 with Jacksonville roughly eight-point favorites) and to be trailing, the TDs are more likely to come via Bilal Powell or Quincy Enunwa in catch-up mode.
Royce Freeman (vs. KC): MR: 29, ECR: 24
With Phillip Lindsay deciding it’d be awesome to throw punches and get ejected from Week 3’s game with the Chiefs, Freeman wound up with 53 ground yards and a touchdown to re-enter most of our good graces. Unfortunately, Lindsay’s ejection didn’t lead to much additional work. Freeman’s snap counts over three weeks have been 39%, 24%, and 43%.
Devontae Booker wound up playing 38% of the snaps with Lindsay out and Freeman only saw one target in Week 3. While Denver’s MNF showdown with Kansas City is set with a whopping 56 point total right now, the Broncos being five-point underdogs indicates more passing work rather than Freeman’s more traditional two-down mold.
Jordan Wilkins (vs. HOU): MR: 50, ECR: 41
Even with Marlon Mack out and Christine Michael invisible (and shortly thereafter, released), Wilkins played only 17 of Indy’s 59 snaps (29%) in a close affair with Philly. Nyheim Hines shouldered 43 snaps (73%) and has more versatility to offer with the passing game. I liked Wilkins’ opportunity early on, but he appears to have squandered his chance to gain a feature role in this offense.
Others I’m lower on: Matt Breida (at LAC): MR: 23, ECR: 20.
John Brown (at PIT): MR: 20, ECR: 25
This for those of you in 10-teamers or 12-teamers that only start two wideouts, as Brown quietly sits with the third-most air yards (457) this season. Only Julio Jones (548) and DeAndre Hopkins (487) have more, and the two behind him are Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. Air yards are only one part of the recipe, but it does warm my heart to see Brown’s 19.9 average depth of target (aDOT) leading the league for all receivers with at least 10 targets. The Steelers secondary is burnable with 649 yards allowed, which trails only the Saints’ awful defense so far.
Tyler Boyd (at ATL): MR: 30, ECR: 37
There’s no way to know whether Boyd would’ve played 51-of-65 snaps on Sunday had A.J. Green not gotten hurt, but the results are still strong and look even better relative to John Ross’ 31 snaps (though both saw seven targets). The Bengals are basically using just one running back with Joe Mixon out, as Mark Walton barely subs in for Giovani Bernard. The Falcons have allowed at least seven receptions or a TD to eight receivers in their first three games and Boyd has commanded a target share between 15-21% in each of the Bengals’ first three contests.
Quincy Enunwa (at JAX): MR: 46, ECR: 40
As I said last week, I don’t love speaking ill of Enunwa, but this is another terrible matchup against a Jacksonville secondary that swarms opposing receivers. Their 210 yards after contact allowed is lowest in the NFL, as is the two air TDs yielded, so unless you want to lean on Enunwa getting 10 catches for a disappointing tally and pray against the stats for a TD, I’d suggest you look elsewhere.
Marquise Goodwin (at LAC): MR: 58, ECR: 48
Goodwin ascended to glory with the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, and so he falls in step with Jimmy G out for the year with a torn ACL. While everyone hangs onto hope with George Kittle thanks to the college roommate connection with C.J. Beathard, Goodwin could really use a strong arm in the pocket. Even Pierre Garcon is more of a safety blanket that a less-talented QB could pepper.
Benjamin Watson (at NYG): MR: 9, ECR: 13
The New York Giants have actually performed well against opposing TEs thus far, yielding a combined 8-140-0 line on 17 targets. That’s encouraging, right? Well, yes, but they’ve yet to face a real tight end on a team that’s willing to use them. NYG has faced Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Rico Gathers, Jordan Thomas, and Ryan Griffin so far (JAX, DAL, HOU) — and actually let both Thomas and Griffin top 40 yards last week. Watson is coming off of a 5-71-0 line against the Falcons and has seen a slow uptick in targets with each progressive week.
George Kittle (at LAC): MR: 13, ECR: 9
Don’t get me wrong, I do think Kittle is the “safest” of the 49ers but he still shouldn’t be in the TE1 conversation. The Chargers have only faced one threatening tight end thus far, and they held Mr. Travis Kelce to a lone six-yard catch. Part of that had to do with Tyreek Hill gobbling up all the yardage for himself, but they still bottled up Kelce well before limiting Charles Clay to a 2-29-0 line and Tyler Higbee to 2-35-0. San Francisco and Kittle owners are relying on a backup QB delivering on the road in a tough matchup, but I can’t do it.