QB Tiers & Rankings: Week 4 (Fantasy Football)
Usually before jumping into the tiers I have something insightful and/or borderline funny for you to scroll past. Last night’s game left me speechless. All I can say is: Jared Goff.
The last time Drew Brees went into New York/Jersey to face the Giants we expected a shootout. Instead, we got an ugly 16-13 field goal contest. I’m still bitter. Hopefully, things go to plan this week.
So this may finally be the end for Tom Bra…come on guys! We do this every year. He’ll be fine. The biggest problem so far has been volume. After running the second most plays in the league last season, the Patriots have run just 180 plays through three games (fifth fewest). Their 28.6% conversion rate on third downs (fourth worst) has been a massive anchor on the offense, cutting drives short and keeping them off the field. I don’t think the Pats stay down there all season, especially with Josh Gordon entering the mix this week and Julian Edelman right behind him. I think the turnaround starts Sunday, with Brady a big home favorite against the Dolphins. While Miami ranks third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, that’s an early-season mirage — they’ve played the Titans, Jets, and Raiders.
Every week as I’m slotting Deshaun Watson into the elite tier, I think of that scene from Rounders with a frustrated Teddy KGB unable to get rid of Matt Damon: “Hanging around. Hanging around.” It doesn’t feel right, but at the end of the day the stats are there for Watson. It’s the same formula from a season ago, hitting on enough deep balls (13.8 yards per completion, third best), rushing (at least five carries and 36 yards in each game) and playing from behind. Hanging around.
Philip Rivers stands out as a great play at home against a San Francisco team that hasn’t been very good on defense and is about to be very bad on offense.
The Seahawks looked much better in their first home game, but that translated to just 15.6 fantasy points (QB17) for Russell Wilson. What jumps out to me is that, though he’s constantly running for his life, Wilson hasn’t done much actual rushing. He’s at just 2.3 rushing attempts per game this year (career average: six attempts per game). Brian Schottenheimer’s overly conservative play-calling, while a touching tribute to his father, isn’t helping. Seattle ran 37 times in Sunday’s win, compared to just 26 pass attempts. If Seattle gets a lead again — and Arizona isn’t likely to get in their way — they’re going to hammer the run. Seattle’s pass protection (14 sacks allowed, most in the league) against a Cardinals defense that’s top eight in QB hits and tackles for loss also makes me nervous. Wilson remains a starter — the Cardinals are allowing 7.5 net yards per attempt (fifth most), and Doug Baldwin may be back — but not a must-start.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was by far the hardest player to rank this week. His performance on Monday Night Football was like one of those pictures that’s either a beautiful woman or a cup depending on which part you focus on. The haters and losers (of which there are many) see his three interceptions as a sign the magic has worn off. Supporters say even in a bad performance he had a great fantasy day (25.1 points, QB8). I’d be nervous starting him on the road against the Bears, who have emerged as the top defense according to DVOA. You can consider any of the streamers over him. At the end of the day, I know the risks, but I’m inclined to roll with the guy averaging 32.5 fantasy points per game and sitting at QB1 on the year.
Everyone knows you can’t stream a rookie quarterback traveling cross-country for his first start. But let me counter that point with this…BAKER REAGAN BUSH CLINTON BUSH ETC. MAYFIELD! He was electric in relief duty on Thursday Night Football — the ball came out quickly, he threw into tight windows, and he showed great pocket presence. The Browns have good weapons even without Josh Gordon, and the Raiders pass defense doesn’t exist (31st in net yards/attempt, last in sacks and QB hits). Plus, BAKER MAYFIELD!
(I’m a Browns fan. It’s been a long time. I’m excited.)
Last week I asked whether Andy Dalton was a sneaky-good QB1. Dalton answered that no, no he is not. The turnovers were killer, but Dalton still threw for 352 yards and managed a QB19 finish. That’s not a bad floor. This week offers intriguing ceiling as well. Dalton may be without A.J. Green, but the Falcons will be without their two starting safeties. Injuries have turned the Falcons into a mini-Chiefs, with a good offense and bad defense spurring fantasy-friendly shootouts. Sure enough, this game has the highest over/under of the week and should see lots of scoring on both sides.
Eli Manning, not dead yet? 25 for 29, 297 yards, and two touchdowns on Sunday. He still took four sacks, but the Giants at least looked like a professional offense again. The Saints, on the other hand, do not look like a professional defense. After I defended them last week (“I don’t think the Saints have regressed all the way back to the Rob Ryan era”), they gave up nearly 400 yards to Matt Ryan. On the season the Saints have allowed 10.2 net yards per attempt, 10 passing touchdowns, 32.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, a 74.2% completion rate, and are 32nd in pass defense DVOA. That ranks last, last, last, second last, and last. So, yeah, I guess we’re back to the Rob Ryan era.
Matthew Stafford (DET): @ Dallas
Carson Wentz (PHI): @ Tennessee
Joe Flacco (BAL): @ Pittsburgh
Andrew Luck (IND): vs. Houston
Case Keenum (DEN): vs. Kansas City
Blake Bortles (JAC): vs. New York Jets
Ryan Tannehill (MIA): @ New England
Dak Prescott (DAL): vs. Detroit
Mitch Trubisky (CHI): vs. Tampa Bay
Derek Carr (OAK): vs. Cleveland
Josh Allen (BUF): @ Green Bay
Matthew Stafford could be in the QB1 tier, but I’m probably using a streamer in the league where I own him, so here we are. This just feels like a letdown spot after last week’s big win on Sunday Night Football. He’s on the road against an underrated Cowboys defense (albeit without Sean Lee), the game has a low over/under, and Detroit has the sixth lowest implied team total of the week. Dallas has allowed QB14, QB26, and QB17 finishes thus far, so high-end QB2 sounds about right.
Ravens/Steelers feels like it should be a 9-6 game. In fact, the Ravens are averaging 32.3 points per game (fifth best), the Steelers are allowing 30.0 points per game (fifth worst), and this game has the second highest over/under of the week (51). Joe Flacco was much worse in his one road start this year, but in a potential shootout he’s a strong QB2 play. Some would even say an elite one.
Andrew Luck ranks 30th in air yards per attempt, 21st in deep ball attempts, and he can’t throw his own Hail Marys. To be fair, he would’ve had a better day on Sunday if Eric Ebron hadn’t dropped two touchdowns. Then again, maybe part of the problem is Eric Ebron is his top red zone threat and second-best receiving option? I like what Frank Reich is doing with this offense, I like Luck’s volume (41.3 attempts/game, sixth most in the league), and I’m cautiously optimistic this gets better as the season goes on. Right now, with Luck currently QB22, it’s hard to justify having him in your lineup. Even against a Texans defense that just revived Eli Manning.
Dak Prescott started his career averaging 19.9 fantasy points per game and finishing as a top-12 quarterback in 17 of 23 starts. Since then, he’s scored only 9.8 fantasy points per game. If we’re apportioning blame amongst the supporting cast, the coach, the idiot owner, and Dak himself…I’m honestly not sure what that pie chart looks like. But I don’t see a fix this season.
Westworld is one of the most brilliant or frustrating shows on television, depending on the week. Josh Allen is going to be the NFL’s Westworld. The arm and athleticism will lead to some monster games. The inaccuracy and decision-making will lead to some duds. He’s absolutely the type of player that can carve up a stout defense like the Vikings for 27.7 points and follow it up with a dud against a weak Packers defense. There’s upside, especially if he keeps running, but in a road game I can’t get Allen any higher than my last usable quarterback.
Marcus Mariota’s play seemed to improve since he lost feeling in the fingers on his throwing hand, which is…not good?
C.J. Beathard was quietly not a terrible fantasy quarterback last season, scoring double-digits in five of six starts, including weeks as the QB14 and QB4. With that said, I think he’ll be a terrible fantasy quarterback, and quite loudly, on the road against the Chargers. Los Angeles is giving up 22.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (8th most), but two of those games were against the Chiefs and Rams. My belief in/fear of the Chargers D is reaching Waiting for Godot levels of absurdity, but I still think this unit will be a top defense when all is said and done.