Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 4
Take a deep breath in. Now take a deep breath out.
The last few days have been crazy due to the coronavirus pandemic — the virus endangered four different games this week, and things are going to remain unpredictable over the rest of the season.
It’s going to add a new layer of complexity to fantasy football. But for as long as we’ve got a season, I’ll be here on Sundays to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. I try to focus on the numbers, but I’ll also break down some of the significant injuries of the day as well.
And as always, come back on Monday morning for the fallout from Week 4’s late afternoon games and Sunday Night Football!
Story #1: Odell Beckham scored three touchdowns.
The day that OBJ drafters were waiting for finally came, and of course, it came against the Dallas Cowboys. Beckham caught two touchdown passes — one from Baker Mayfield, the other from Jarvis Landry, and he scampered for another score on the ground.
ODELL TO THE HOUSE ???
3RD TOUCHDOWN ON THE DAY ?
— Overtime (@overtime) October 4, 2020
Crazy stuff. Given the state of Dallas’ defense, his big day wasn’t exactly surprising. But OBJ drafters shouldn’t take this as a sign that he’s turned the corner. Instead, it’s probably the best time to sell high.
Beckham touched the ball just seven times. That’s in line with his limited production every week this season — he is still averaging only 4.5 touches per week after today’s game. Not even Beckham can consistently turn such a low workload into viable fantasy numbers.
The Browns are a run-first team. They’re attempting just 28.75 passes per game, and Kevin Stefanski will keep the ball on the ground even if star running back Nick Chubb has to miss time with a knee injury. The Browns still have Hunt, and as we saw on Sunday, they have a lot of trust in backups D’Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard. More on them later.
Story #2: Joe Mixon also scored three touchdowns.
Oof. I called Mixon a must-sell after Week 3, and well, that might not have been the right call. Not only did he see an above-average number of carries on Sunday, but he also more than doubled his total receptions. He earned 181 all-purpose yards and three scores. He had just 222 all-purpose yards and no touchdowns entering today’s game.
While selling Mixon after Week 3 would’ve been a mistake, hindsight is 20/20, and he’s still a smart player to move on from ASAP. The Bengals’ offensive line isn’t blocking well, and even though Mixon was able to light up the Jaguars, he won’t be able to do that every week.
Mixon is a fantastic football player, and he reminded us of that on Sunday. However, he doesn’t play for a football team that can stay in games, and he doesn’t have the blockers necessary to be a reliable RB1.
Use his strong performance this week to land a high-usage, higher-upside asset. For instance, if Chubb’s injury is serious, you could try flipping Mixon for Kareem Hunt.
Story #3: Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, and Donald Parham combined for three touchdowns from Justin Herbert.
I’ll stay in-theme here with the three-touchdown performances. Herbert threw three scores to no-name receivers this week, and all but one of them went for 50-plus yards. Here’s Johnson:
Justin Herbert has the launch codes
— PFF (@PFF) October 4, 2020
And here’s Guyton:
HOLY CHARGERS ?⚡️
Justin Herbert drops in a DIME to Jalen Guyton for a long TD
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 4, 2020
These receivers aren’t the story, as none of them earned more than one target this week. Instead, let’s talk about Herbert’s absolute cannon for an arm. The dude can throw incredibly far downfield with accuracy, and that gives him a ton of upside at quarterback.
Herbert did this against what was the league’s fourth-best defense against opposing signal-callers. With Ekeler down (we’ll get to that in a second), the Chargers may end up passing more often, and he could be in for some substantial fantasy performances. If Herbert is still on waivers, add him; if not, consider making a trade to get him. He plays the Saints, Jets, Dolphins, and Jaguars over the next four weeks.
Stories #4-6: Injuries.
The football gods are cruel, and they did not spare fantasy managers in Week 4. After the 1:00 games, we’re already down a handful of fantasy-relevant players: Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler, and (less-fantasy relevant) O.J. Howard. Let me quickly break each of these down:
#4. Chubb left early with a knee injury, and he’ll get an MRI on Monday. When asked about the injury’s severity, head coach Kevin Stefanski replied, “we just don’t know.” If Chubb can’t go, Kareem Hunt becomes a locked-in RB1.
Cleveland’s run-blocking has improved dramatically this season, as they ranked fourth through three games, and that inflates the value of any back taking snaps here. Since Kevin Stefanski is unlikely to overload Hunt as a workhorse back, we can expect third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson to get some carries in this run-first offense, and Stefanski was impressed with his work on Sunday.
Johnson is a great speculative pickup in dynasty leagues, and in redraft, he’ll be a great Week 5 pickup if Chubb has to miss serious time.
#5. Ekeler left very early in Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Mario Pilato of ProFootballFocus has speculated that it’s either a serious hamstring injury or a torn ACL, but we won’t know for sure until he gets it looked at. Head coach Anthony Lynn said that he’s unsure of its severity, but he added that it “looked pretty bad.”
Since Ekeler was gone for most of the day (and since Justin Jackson played in his first game since Week 1), we have a pretty good picture of what this backfield will look like post-Ekeler.
Chargers final HB snap count
Joshua Kelley 30
Justin Jackson 21
Austin Ekeler 3(injured)
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 4, 2020
It’s worth noting that Jackson is technically listed above Kelley on the team’s official depth chart. Neither back was particularly effective against Tampa Bay’s elite front seven (Kelley: 9 carries, 7 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 26 receiving yards, 1 fumble; Jackson: 6 carries, 9 yards, 2 receptions, 12 yards). Jackson is a smart waiver-wire pickup heading into Week 5 if Ekeler can’t play, as it looks like we should see a balanced split between the two backs.
#6. Howard left late in Tampa Bay’s game against Los Angeles. He suffered a serious Achilles injury and will be out for the year.
Howard had caught three passes for 50 yards and a score before going down. He had also led Tampa Bay’s tight ends in targets in the game (6) and on the season (19). Without him, Rob Gronkowski will have an easier path to fantasy relevance, and he’s worth a pickup if he found himself back on waivers in your league.
Story #7: Tee Higgins out-played A.J. Green again.
Let’s jump back to the Bengals game for this one. There was some speculation that Higgins would start to see more work than Green last week, and that’s what we saw in Week 4. Joe Burrow attempted 36 passes, and Green got out-targeted by multiple players: Tyler Boyd (8), Tee Higgins (7), and Joe Mixon (6). He tied with Drew Sample (5).
It’s too early to pronounce Green as a dead fantasy asset. He still earned five targets, but it’s very concerning that he only caught one of them for three yards.
To be fair to Green, he left briefly with a wrist injury, but he’s failed to look like himself for four weeks. He’s someone to leave on your bench moving forward, and I would consider trading him for whatever you can get.
Story #8: Kenyan Drake disappeared against a terrible rushing defense.
This one is tough. In Week 1, the Panthers let Josh Jacobs run for 93 yards and three touchdowns. In Week 2, they allowed Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones to total 126 yards and three scores. And in Week 3, they let Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley combine for 102 rushing yards and a touchdown (Ekeler also added 84 receiving yards).
Safe to say, they aren’t good against running backs. Yet Drake ran for just 35 yards on 13 carries. He also failed to log a target. He was out-scored by teammate Chase Edmonds, who ran for 16 yards on four carries and added 24 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.
He can’t blame any of this on an injury; Drake was fine up until a late fourth-quarter hit knocked him out of the game. I left him out of the injury section because there’s been no indication that he’s seriously hurt.
If you can’t trust Drake against the Panthers, then you can’t trust him at all. If you’re a Drake manager, you should plan to move on from him — but hold him until you can sell a bit higher. In contrast, Chase Edmonds looks like a great player to trade for or get off waivers.
Story #9: Antonio Gibson broke out against the Ravens.
Gibson had been seeing plenty of usage through the first three weeks, but he was yet to put together a compelling fantasy performance. But he did just that against the Ravens on Sunday, as he ran 13 times for 46 yards and a score. He added 82 yards on four receptions as well.
Although Gibson led the Football Team’s backfield in carries, he did not lead them in targets or snaps. That honor belongs to J.D. McKissic, who is still the official starter on the team’s depth chart.
Football Team final HB snap count
J.D. McKissic 39
Antonio Gibson 31
Peyon Barber 5
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 4, 2020
McKissic hasn’t done much in his role as the starter. He ran the ball twice for six yards against the Ravens, but he added seven catches for 40 yards. He’s not quite fantasy-relevant even in PPR formats, but he has too low of a ceiling to be worth adding. He also lost a fumble on Sunday.
The Football Team is probably leaving McKissic out there so frequently to help block on passing downs. While Gibson is still a viable low-end RB2 in most formats because of his athleticism, McKissic’s presence hurts his ceiling.
Story #10: Robby Anderson out-targeted D.J. Moore.
Anderson logged 11 targets to D.J. Moore’s six this week. That’s the largest gap between the two receivers we’ve seen so far this season — Moore (9, 13, 4) had only once been out-targeted by Anderson (8, 10, 5), and he had been leading him on the season (26 to 23), but the advantage has flipped in Anderson’s direction.
Moore may still have an advantage in air yards after this week, as he came into Week 4 with the ninth-most air yards (332) on the season to Anderson’s 208. That’s not enough, though, and it’s seriously starting to look like Anderson is the better weekly play in this offense. He even burned Patrick Peterson this week.
You might tired of hearing this, but I don’t
— Edgar Salmingo, Jr. ✌️ (@PanthersAnalyst) October 4, 2020
You may not be able to add Anderson off waivers now, but he’s certainly worth looking into as a trade target. The Panthers have remained a run-first team even with Christian McCaffrey sidelined, but there are still enough targets to go around to make Anderson a high-upside play at WR3 or a low-end WR2.
Story #11: Isaiah Ford looked good. Preston Williams did not.
Do you know how Jordan Howard has almost as many carries as he has yards? Over the last two weeks, Preston Williams has four catches for 24 yards. Those numbers include a one-yard touchdown catch and a two-point conversion. He’s been Howard’s equivalent at receiver along the goal line, and he hasn’t seen much usage other than that.
In contrast, slot receiver Isaiah Ford has seen plenty of volume. Through the last three weeks, he has 13 receptions on 21 targets, and he has turned them into 138 yards. That’s a great high-volume role, and he’s not a bad low-end WR3 play in PPR formats. Consider adding him off waivers if you need a spot starter at flex or receiver.
Story #12: Tom Brady threw five touchdowns (and another pick-six).
The narrative around Brady gave me whiplash this week. He threw a pick-six early against the Chargers, and he caught flak for his recent cold streak on Twitter.
Tom Brady throws his fourth pick-six in the last six games ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 4, 2020
Yet no one was talking about that by the end of the game — Brady threw for 369 yards and five total touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ victory. So instead, we saw Tweets like this:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 4, 2020
Brady looked like his old self again on Sunday. He was able to air it out the same way that Jameis Winston did in this offense last year, and he might be turning things around. He has a tough matchup with the Bears’ defense this Thursday, but afterward, he’s got dates with the Packers, Raiders, and Giants. After a shaky start to 2020, It’s looking like he won’t be a bad play at QB1 this year.
Story #13: Zach Pascal led the Colts in receiving.
Pascal caught three of eight targets for 58 yards, while Hilton caught three of five targets for 29 yards. Philip Rivers only passed for 190 total yards in the victory, as Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins combined for 107 rushing yards as the Colts ground out a win.
None of the Colts’ receivers posted fantasy-relevant numbers. Mo Alie-Cox had arguably the best day, and he only caught one of his two targets for 13 yards and a touchdown. The recently activated Trey Burton out-targeted Alie-Cox, two-to-five.
The Bears are a tough matchup, and we can expect some better performances from Colts receivers in subsequent weeks. They play the Browns and Bengals over the next two weeks, and both teams have beatable secondaries.
Pascal is a solid high-floor add in PPR formats, but he doesn’t have much upside. Hilton is a bench-and-hold, and the next two weeks will be critical to see if he can turn his season around. Also, I would recommend benching Alie-Cox next week, as it looks like Rivers and the Colts may prefer Burton.
Story #14: Jerick McKinnon out-worked Jeff Wilson. By a lot.
Last week, it looked like McKinnon and Wilson would form a committee. But most of Wilson’s snaps came when the 49ers had a large lead over the Giants, so it’s not shocking that McKinnon out-snapped him in a close game. What is surprising is the extent to which McKinnon out-played him.
Let’s look at the breakdown before halftime:
49ers halftime HB snap count
Jerick McKinnon 29
Jeff Wilson Jr. 0
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 5, 2020
And after halftime:
49ers final HB snap count
Jerick McKinnon 67
Jeff Wilson Jr. 6
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 5, 2020
Yikes. Not a good day for the Wilson truthers. While Wilson got some red-zone work, McKinnon still saw work near the goal line, too, and he scored a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown. In case there were any doubts, he’s a locked-in RB2 until Raheem Mostert gets back, while Wilson’s usage will depend on the game script.
Story #15: Hear me out — the Bills have a predictable backfield.
The Bills have given their running backs between 16 and 18 carries every week. While their passing attempts have ranged from between 33 in Week 3 to 46 in Week 2, Buffalo’s running backs have carried the ball at a very consistent rate.
The Bills have run the ball with their running backs between 16 to 18 times every week.
Despite changes in personnel and game script.
Seems oddly predictable, no? pic.twitter.com/xQAnal4mNb
— Isaiah Sirois (@is_sirois) October 5, 2020
That’s odd, isn’t it? If these trends hold, then we can expect Singletary’s workload to drop back to around a 50/50 split with Moss once he gets back, and his lack of carries will significantly cap his upside.
Moving forward, Singletary will depend on passing-down work to remain a fantasy-reliable asset. Moss, unless he can re-assert himself in the passing game, will probably be droppable. There’s just not a lot of work to go around in Buffalo.
Story #16: The New York Giants are incredibly inefficient.
The Giants are hilariously terrible. They have scored just three touchdowns on the season, and they haven’t scored one since Week 2, when they lost Saquon Barkley. That’s embarrassing.
Not only that, but their two leading receivers (Darius Slayton and Evan Engram) have abysmal catch rates. Slayton has reeled in just 51.7% of his targets, while Engram has caught only 56.7%. Yikes. For some perspective, Slayton caught 57.8% of his targets last year. Engram caught 64.7%.
We can blame Daniel Jones for some of their inefficiency. Before Week 4, only 72.7% of Slayton’s targets were deemed catchable by PlayerProfiler, and just 70% of Engram’s targets were. Jones has been inefficient in other ways, too — he’s thrown six interceptions, fumbled three times, and taken 14 sacks.
The Giants will play Dallas, Washington, and Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington again, and Philadelphia again in the next six weeks. Those teams will make excellent streamers at defense.
Oh, and maybe try to sell whatever Giants assets you have. Sure, both Slayton and Engram get tons of volume, but inefficiency means that they may still struggle to post fantasy-relevant numbers.
Story #17: Zach Ertz caught four passes for nine yards.
Truly inspiring stuff, Ertz. The Eagles didn’t need him to do much to beat the 49ers this week, and their third-string tight end, Richard Rodgers, actually out-produced him. Rodgers caught three passes for 35 yards.
That’s not what you want to see out of your TE1.
All the signs pointed to a big day for Ertz. His co-TE1, Dallas Goedert, fractured his ankle in Week 3, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson wasn’t able to play. It should’ve been the Ertz, Greg Ward, and Miles Sanders show, but it wasn’t.
Instead, Travis Fulgham, Ward, Rodgers, and Sanders paced the team in receiving yards. You should expect a rebound out of Ertz in Week 5, but with the way he’s played this season, it’s hard to get excited about his upside. I would wait for Ertz to have another big day before you try to sell him, but you should start gauging interest now.
Story #18: The Rams stuck with a committee approach.
Great. After getting hyped up by fantasy analysts and Sean McVay, Henderson ran the ball fewer times and played fewer snaps than Malcolm Brown. Lovely stuff.
Rams Week 4 RB usage (PFF, ugh)
Malcolm Brown: 61% snaps, 9 carries, 6 targets
Darrell Henderson: 39% snaps, 8 carries, 1 target
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 5, 2020
Let’s recap some of the things that McVay has said about his backfield. In July, he said that Los Angeles would employ a committee approach; Jared Goff even called it a three-headed monster. Since then, Brown has been the “starter” on the depth chart, and Akers has gone down. When asked if Henderson would start in Week 4, McVay responded “I think so.” Well, the starting role didn’t amount to much.
So what should you do with Henderson? Cam Akers’ return looms, and it’d behoove you to move on from Henderson before his value depreciates much more. I would either move him this week or wait to see what he does against the Football Team in Week 5. Either way, I would not advise leaving Henderson on your roster, as this backfield will cause fantasy managers lots of headaches this season.
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