By the Numbers: Week 4 (2020 Fantasy Football)
As Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles broke the huddle on Sunday for a final kneel to seal the Atlanta Falcons’ second consecutive collapse, Falcons fans on social media engaged in their weekly lambasting of head coach Dan Quinn, who has been on the hot seat for much of the past two seasons.
Lost in the frustration of Quinn’s dubious clock management was the Atlanta front office’s role in the poor on-field product, which has as much to do with flawed roster construction as it does bad coaching.
Although general manager Thomas Dimitroff hails from the New England Patriots’ “next man up” culture, he’s failed to sign and draft serviceable backups throughout his tenure in Atlanta, which has hurt the Falcons any time major players have missed games due to injury.
Fantasy managers can learn a lesson from the top-heavy structure of Atlanta’s roster, especially with COVID-19 ready to infect teams the way it apparently has the Tennessee Titans, whose Week 4 game against the Steelers is in jeopardy after eight Titans tested positive for the coronavirus this week.
I mentioned in Week 1’s column that the coronavirus would be the biggest hurdle to a fantasy championship this season, and I still believe that despite the alarming amount of significant injuries that have occurred through three weeks of the 2020 campaign.
With under-the-radar players being vaulted into significant roles seemingly every week, I’ve crafted this “By the Numbers” piece to identify five guys who could become the next fantasy breakout players but are currently available for cheap on the waiver wire or in free agency.
Tee Higgins is tied with tight end Drew Sample for the Bengals’ team lead with four red-zone targets through three games. With Week 3’s healthy scratch of former first-round pick John Ross, Higgins saw his role grow in the Bengals offense, evidenced by an 18.5-point half-PPR performance against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The rookie connection.
— NFL (@NFL) September 27, 2020
While Justin Jefferson will likely blow past the 50-percent roster mark after this week’s waivers, Higgins should still be available in a majority of leagues, which makes him a great buy-low candidate, especially considering the Bengals could move on from veteran A.J. Green sometime in the coming weeks.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Ravens running back Gus Edwards ranks second in the league with 2.83 rush yards above expected per attempt this season.
GUS BUS ROLLIN
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 29, 2020
If something were to happen to Mark Ingram, the expectation is that rookie J.K. Dobbins would get the majority of work in Baltimore’s backfield, but Edwards has actually out-carried Dobbins, 18-10, which makes think there would be more of a timeshare than most fans realize.
I mentioned last week that Dobbins would be more hype than production in his rookie season, and Edwards’ continued usage backs that up. Now is the time to sell high on Dobbins while the perception of him as a potential league-winner is still alive.
Washington tight end Logan Thomas has 24 targets through three games, which ranks fourth in the NFL at his position.
Although Thomas has yet to capitalize on his opportunity — his 7.8 yards per reception is the least among the top-15 targeted tight ends — his usage is extremely promising, especially considering he’s rostered in only 26 percent of leagues.
While he may not be a top-tier tight end, he’s potentially worth a speculative add in deeper leagues for managers concerned about games postponed due to COVID.
The San Francisco 49ers traded up to draft rookie Brandon Aiyuk with the 25th overall selection in April’s NFL draft, which signaled how highly head coach Kyle Shanahan valued the former Arizona State receiver, who was lauded for his after-the-catch ability coming out of college.
With George Kittle and Deebo Samuel still working their way back to 100 percent in potential returns from injury in Week 4, Aiyuk should have ample opportunity to continue carving out his role as he did in San Francisco’s 36-9 Week 3 win against the Giants, in which he totaled 18.6 half-PPR points.
It’s taken a couple seasons, but Patriots running back Sony Michel is starting to look like the guy Bill Belichick thought he was getting when he took him out of the University of Georgia in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Through three games, Michel leads all NFL running backs with 4.8 yards after contact per carry, and his success rate (tied for fifth) and DVOA (second) both rank among the league’s top backs.
While I wouldn’t suggest counting on any New England running back from a fantasy standpoint, Michel is a name to monitor, especially if he is traded or if he can secure anything close to LeGarrette Blount-like usage for New England in the red zone.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.