Fantasy Football Week 4 Takeaways: Surprises & Disappointments (2022)
If you have Alvin Kamara on your fantasy team and live on the West Coast, you may have experienced a rude awakening on Sunday morning. Kamara, who was officially listed as questionable but considered likely to play heading into the weekend, was a surprise inactive for the Saints’ matchup with the Vikings in London, which kicked off at 6:30 am Pacific time. He ended up being started in 38% of CBS leagues, and likely a similar number of leagues at other sites.
This most unfortunate occurrence sparked a lot of debate on social media about whether fantasy managers should be able to take Kamara out of their lineups after the fact. Well, I’m here to tell you that no, they should not, unless the league already had a rule in place allowing for it.
This was a bad beat for Kamara managers who didn’t check their lineups, but that’s just part of playing fantasy football. It’s really no different than not noticing a player in a late game is a surprise scratch. At the end of the day, we’re all responsible for setting our own lineups, no matter what time zone we’re in. And if we slip up, we just have to live with it.
That said, the whole Kamara controversy does make a pretty good case for FantasyPros’ auto-pilot feature, which can automatically sub-out your inactive players. And no, they’re not paying me to say that!
Despite Kamara’s absence, the London game ended up being full of drama — ending on a double-doink — and was the start of an action-packed day of football. Here are the top fantasy-related takeaways from the week that was.
Top 5 Surprises
T.J. Hockenson and Josh Jacobs remind us that they still matter
You probably didn’t draw a ton of praise from your leaguemates when you selected Hockenson or Jacobs in your fantasy draft. But these are two proven producers who reminded us that they are still capable of week-winning fantasy performances.
Hockenson did manage to find the end zone last week, but he had yet to top four catches or 40 receiving yards entering Sunday. That changed in a big way against Seattle, as Hockenson posted a career-high 179 yards and his first-ever two touchdown game. No, you can’t expect Hock to regularly match Sunday’s 12 targets once Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift are back, but would it be that big a surprise if he emerged as the third option in one of the league’s most prolific passing attacks? This one big game vaulted him up to second in receiving yards among tight ends, one yard ahead of Mark Andrews and behind only Travis Kelce, so a top-five finish at the position is certainly within reach.
As for Jacobs, there was a steady drumbeat of reports over the summer that he would lose touches while serving in a three- or even four-man running back committee under new head coach Josh McDaniels. It was widely-held that hotshot rookie Zamir White would quickly seize early-down duties, and Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden would team up to steal any pass-catching role that Jacobs could hope to have. Instead, White has barely seen the field, while Abdullah and Bolden have combined to catch six passes in four games. Jacobs has been dominating snaps and touches from the get-go, but this week if finally translated to a huge fantasy performance: 33 touches, 175 scrimmage yards and two scores.
Austin Ekeler gets back on track
Ekeler is playing fewer snaps than he did last season, but his three-touchdown performance against the Texans is a good reminder that he is still very much an every-week RB1 in all formats. Managers in PPR leagues likely didn’t need that reminder, considering he collected 17 catches over the previous two games, but managers in non-PPR formats had certainly been wondering where the TDs went after he scored 20 of them last year. Ekeler is still not the Chargers’ primary red zone back — and he’s highly unlikely to approach last year’s TD count. But he’ll still score his fair share of TDs while playing in one of the league’s best offenses, and he’s hardly a touchdown-dependent player considering his ability to rack up yardage as both a rusher and receiver.
J.K. Dobbins regains his rightful place atop Ravens backfield
Dobbins played a majority of the snaps for the first time this season after playing behind Justice Hill in his season debut last week. He made the most of the increased opportunities, finding the end zone twice against a tough Buffalo defense. While Dobbins averaged just 3.3 yards per carry against the Bills, he averaged a healthy 6.0 yards per carry during his rookie season and should find the sledding easier in softer matchups. His 14.3 percent target share was also highly encouraging on an offense that isn’t known for featuring its running backs in the passing game. Baltimore has become increasingly pass-heavy in recent seasons, so it only makes sense that the Ravens would want to throw the ball to Dobbins, one of their most dynamic playmakers. He’s firmly back in every-week RB2 territory after this performance, and a potential path to RB1 numbers is there.
Dameon Pierce delivers despite negative game-script
Pierce’s usage in Weeks 2 and 3 was encouraging, but those games were both played against struggling offenses (Denver and Chicago) that failed to put the Texans in a big hole. It was an open question entering Week 4 as to whether the rookie would be able to fend off Rex Burkhead if the Texans fell behind in a game by double digits, as they are projected to do fairly often this season. Sunday’s contest with the Chargers provided some much-needed answers.
Houston fell behind 21-0 in the second quarter, but Pierce remained an integral part of the offense, handling every single rushing attempt and running four more pass routes than Burkhead. Burkhead was the more productive receiver, catching five passes for 39 yards and a score, but Pierce ended up with 139 scrimmage yards, including a 75-yard touchdown scamper. The fact that Pierce played 68% of the snaps in a game like this is very good news for his fantasy prospects.
DK Metcalf enjoys his visit to Okudah island
Recently, much has been made of the job Lions corner Jeff Okudah has done defending DeVonta Smith, Terry McLaurin and Justin Jefferson to begin the year. Asked about it heading into their Week 4 battle, Metcalf acknowledged that Okudah is a “good corner,” but made it a point to say that Okudah has had safety help and hasn’t truly been “locking down” receivers.
An incredible talent and physical specimen, Metcalf has a long track record of beating man coverage, which the Lions feature more than any other team. That’s exactly what he did against Okudah and Co. on Sunday, hauling in seven of his 10 targets for 149 yards. Really, the only thing that could slow him down was a trip on the cart for a bathroom break. Metcalf is always going to be capable of big games like this, and with Geno Smith now coming off back-to-back 300-yard passing games, Metcalf’s WR2 arrow is pointing up.
Top 5 Disappointments
Javonte Williams hurts knee, leaves locker room on crutches
If fantasy managers thought it was frustrating watching Williams spend a second straight year splitting snaps with Melvin Gordon, an extended injury absence for the popular breakout candidate is undoubtedly worse. But that’s precisely what could be facing Williams after he suffered what is believed to be a serious knee injury against Las Vegas. Williams was carted off the field and left the locker room on crutches.
With Williams likely to miss multiple games, at minimum, Gordon would seemingly be next in line. But Gordon committed a costly fumble on Sunday — his fourth of the season — and ended up playing fewer snaps than third-stringer Mike Boone. It’s anyone’s guess how long it will take Gordon to escape Nathaniel Hackett’s doghouse, so Boone should be a priority waiver pickup this week.
Jonathan Taylor bottled up again — and now he’s banged up, too
The Colts’ offense has really struggled through the first four weeks, failing to top 20 points in any game, and it’s taken a big bite out of the consensus number one pick in fantasy drafts. After piling up 161 rushing yards against the Texans in Week 1, Taylor has rushed 50 times for just 167 yards over the last three weeks, a 3.34 yards per carry average. Unlike someone like Austin Ekeler, who can make up for unimpressive rushing numbers with receiving yards and TDs, Taylor has a limited role in the passing game and is stuck in an offense that is not creating a lot of scoring opportunities.
Now, things could be about to get worse for JT managers. The Colts reportedly fear that Taylor is dealing with a high ankle sprain, an injury that could cost him multiple weeks and limit his effectiveness even once he returns. At this point, the hope has to be that Taylor can get it going in the second half of the season, because his first half is quickly becoming a lost cause.
Trevor Lawrence and James Robinson come crashing back to Earth
Lately, it’s been an exciting time to be a Jags fan — and to have Jacksonville’s key skill position players on your fantasy team. But the progress of a young team often isn’t linear, and the Jaguars’ trip to Philadelphia set up as a perfect storm for Lawrence and Robinson to take a step backwards.
Playing in Philadelphia is never easy, but that’s especially true when you’re dealing with heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ian. The Eagles defense also happened to enter Week 4 allowing the fewest adjusted fantasy points to quarterbacks. So while Lawrence’s five combined turnovers (one INT, four fumbles) was positively Wentz-esque, we really shouldn’t be surprised that he had a rough day at the office. He’ll have better days in better weather — and against softer defenses.
As for Robinson, this game was a little more instructive, namely of the fact that he is somewhat dependent on positive game-script. While the Jaguars jumped out to an early 14-0 lead against Philadelphia, they were trailing by halftime and throughout the second half. Travis Etienne ended up playing two more snaps than Robinson, and while the carries were divided eight apiece, Etienne ran almost twice as many pass routes.
Gabe Davis remains a bit player in the Buffalo offensive parade
Davis is fast shaping up as one of the most boom-or-bust players in fantasy football. He demonstrated his upside for all to see when he went for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Chiefs in the playoffs last year, but that was one of just four games in which he’s surpassed 50 receiving yards since the start of the 2021 season.
Davis has been dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to miss Week 2 and could have affected his usage over the last two weeks, but it is at least mildly concerning that he has had target shares of just 16.1%, 10.5% and 8.8% in his three games played so far. Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder both left Buffalo’s Week 4 contest with injuries, which could open the door to more targets for Davis, especially once he’s over his ankle injury. But he’s going to be a risk-reward proposition until we see him get more consistent looks from Josh Allen.
Albert O. rides the pine
Albert Okwuegbunam entered the 2022 season as a trendy sleeper, thanks to his impressive speed and expected improvement in Denver’s offense under Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson. But the Broncos’ passing attack has been painfully slow out of the gates, and while it finally took a small step forward on Sunday, it did so with Okwuegbunam playing just a single snap. If Albert O. can’t get on the field ahead of fellow tight ends Eric Saubert and Eric Tomlinson, he has little chance of holding off rookie third-round pick Greg Dulcich, who is due back soon.
Christian McCaffrey has at least 100 yards or a TD in 26 straight games he hasn’t left w/injury. McCaffrey’s statistical upside is being held back by Baker Mayfield’s ineptitude, but there is still no player in fantasy football with a higher weekly floor.
Damien Harris has scored a TD (or more) in 17 of his last 20 games. The Patriots’ backfield is notorious for being unpredictable, but Harris has actually been a remarkably consistent producer since the beginning of last season.
Devin Singletary played 87% of the snaps against Baltimore. Singletary didn’t have a huge fantasy day, but his usage was extremely encouraging. He operated as the Bills’ lead back in all situations, including short-yardage, long down-and-distance, and the two minute drill.
Breece Hall topped the 60% mark in snaps, rush attempts and route participation. Hall got twice as many targets and almost twice as many carries as backfield mate Michael Carter. The talented rookie put up 78 scrimmage yards and a score, but with that kind of usage, even bigger games could be coming soon.
Kyle Pitts had a season-low 60% route participation this week. If you thought things were looking up for Pitts after last week’s five catch, 87-yard performance, think again. Falcons coach Arthur Smith doesn’t look particularly likely to start featuring Pitts anytime soon.
Kenny Pickett takes the reins in Pittsburgh. Mitch Trubisky never seemed like a great bet to remain the Steelers’ starter all year, despite Mike Tomlin’s preseason pledge that he planned to sit Pickett for the entire season. As it turned out, Trubisky was barely able to hold onto the job for a month.
Upon entering the game with the Steelers trailing the Jets 10-6 at halftime, Pickett led Pittsburgh on two second half scoring drives, both of which ended on short touchdown runs by the QB himself. He also threw three interceptions, which points to the learning curve that lies ahead for him. From a fantasy perspective, Pickett’s willingness to use his legs and throw the deep ball gives him some upside, sort of like we were hoping for from Justin Fields. It’s unlikely he provides top-12 fantasy QB value, but there’s no harm in rostering him for a few weeks to find out.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine that Pickett will be a big downgrade for the Steelers’ pass-catchers. If anything, he could be a slight improvement, even if he continues to turn the ball over frequently. One player in particular who could benefit from Pickett under center is fellow rookie George Pickens, who was peppered with targets from Pickett on his way to a six-catch, 102-yard afternoon.
The Motor City should be renamed Shootout City. Detroit’s 281 combined points + points allowed is the most through four games in NFL history. The Lions are averaging 35.0 points per game, and they’re giving up 35.3 points per game. That trend did not slow down on Sunday, even though Detroit was missing top playmakers Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift and D.J. Chark. If you are looking for a tiebreaker in your lineup decisions in the coming weeks, go with a player that either plays for the Lions or is playing against them.
Alright, that’s it for this week. If you like what you see here, you can get more of my thoughts on waiver wire pickups, buy-low/sell-high candidates, rest-of-season player values, and more by subscribing to the Rest of Season Rankings Podcast and going to ROSrankings.com. I’m also always happy to talk about anything fantasy-related on Twitter @andrew_seifter.