The numbers you need to know for Week Four
I’m old enough to remember (seriously, I am) when drafting quarterbacks early was the foundation to winning a Fantasy Football title. My first Fantasy title came in 1994 when I gambled my second-round pick on a then-unproven Brett Favre and teamed him up with Jerry Rice (first round), Tim Brown (third) and Carl Pickens (fifth) and went Air Raid ‘94 on the rest of the league. How I won with a backfield duo of Natrone Means and Mario Bates remains a feat of mythical proportions.
Three weeks into this season, quarterbacks (or pivots, as my friends in Canada call them) have gone straight boss on the leaderboards. Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton have put up elite numbers, with Mahomes and Brees lighting defenses up like a “Madden” veteran going against a preschooler. Translation: at least in the early going, running backs not named Alvin Kamara or Todd Gurley aren’t breaking the upper crust in total points.
Expect that trend to continue. The best way to partake in that feast is to make sure you’ve got players with hungry bellies waiting to be fed a buffet table of targets.
Josh Gordon may suit up against the Dolphins on Sunday. Julian Edelman has one game left on his suspension. Neither can’t come soon enough for a Patriots receiving corps that has all of 230 total yards in the first three games. Only 40 percent of Tom Brady’s passes have been targeted to wideouts, with just one of the 24 completions going for more than 20 yards.
Man can’t live on bread alone, nor can Brady live on Rob Gronkowski and James White alone. The word “alone” is a good way to leave New England’s receivers this week. Gronk will get his high-end TE1 love, while White makes for a good RB2 in PPR formats. Unless Gino Cappelletti, Stanley Morgan or Irving Fryar suits up on Sunday, I’d put a restraining order on Pats wideouts.
“Hello, Dez. This is Jerry…”
The Patriots’ receiving corps looks like the 1999 Rams compared to the Cowboys, who have just two receptions of better than 20 yards from their wideouts. Ezekiel Elliott leads the team with 18 targets, followed by Cole Beasley’s 16. Free agent signee Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup have a combined seven catches on 16 targets, and while Tavon Austin has averaged 14.3 yards per scrimmage touch, the Cowboys have only given him the ball eight times.
It’s best not to get stuck on stupid and play Dallas’ version of Wheel ‘O Wideouts this week. The Lions are fourth in fewest Fantasy points per game allowed to opposing receivers and are eighth in Fantasy points per game allowed to opposing QBs. You’d have to be in a very deep league if you’re seriously choosing Cowboys receivers.
That Part When Rhett Became a Yankee
Giants tight end Rhett Ellison will have sneaky good value against the Saints. Ellison filled in for injured Evan Engram in last week’s win over the Texans, catching all three of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown. Big Blue is reliant on two-TE sets, which means Ellison will be in almost every down. New Orleans is eighth in Fantasy stinginess toward opposing tight ends but considering they’re also dead last in against opposing wide receivers, the bet here is that Ellison — especially in the red zone — will be involved in what could be a shootout.
Yes, No, Maybe (Subtitled: Is There Rain in the Forecast This Weekend?)
Yes: Mike Williams, WR, Chargers: A strong Flex and I can also justify using him as a WR2. The 49ers are 24th in Fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers and with Williams averaging 17.2 yards per catch, the makings of a Sunday Funday in Los Angeles are ready-made.
No: All Eagles RBs: The Titans are fourth in fewest Fantasy points per game allowed to opposing backs. Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are expected back, effectively squashing the value of Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. I’d venture no Eagles back gets more than 12 touches.
Maybe: Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos: I can buy him as a third-down/change of pace back but can’t see him as the lead runner in Denver. Only the Cardinals allow more Fantasy points to opposing running backs than the Chiefs, which is part of the reason I’d lean more toward Royce Freeman, especially in non-PPR formats.
Come On, Come On, Come On, Come On Now Touch (and Target) Me, Baby
John Brown, WR, Ravens: His catch rate barely hovers over 50 percent, but Brown is averaging 18.5 yards per catch and has four receptions of better than 20 yards. The Steelers have allowed 15 such plays and is one of only three teams (Saints, Raiders) that allow more than 200 yards per game to opposing wide receivers.
Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins: He only has nine catches, yet Stills has three touchdowns and three catches of 20-plus yards. The Pats are 27th in Fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts, and Stills is the type of receiver who can put up big numbers on only 3-5 targets.
Trey Burton, TE, Bears: This would be a good time to catch a disappointed Burton owner and pry him loose. The Eagles and Steelers used their TEs to maul the Buccaneers’ defense each of the past two weeks and, sooner or later, Matt Nagy will realize QBs that average 5.7 yards per attempt won’t take you far, no matter how good your defense is.
Mark Walton, RB, Bengals: I’d make him my “Gimme a Sleeper!” play, but I have a better and deeper sleeper. Joe Mixon is expected to miss one more game and Gio Bernard is questionable. Should Walton get the chance at some touches, they would come against a Falcons defense ranked 29th in Fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: He averaged seven yards per carry in his 2018 debut last week against the Redskins. Jamaal Williams is averaging under four yards a tote and the Pack would welcome a runner who can defenses from going all-in for the Battle of Aaron Rodgers’ Wounded Knee. Even after an impressive effort last week, the Bills are still 28th in Fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. Jones could do some damage with 12-15 touches.
Sony Michel, RB, Patriots: Rex Burkhead’s trip to injured reserve opens the chance for Michel to exceed the 15 total touches he had in last week’s loss to the Lions. James White is the back of choice in NE, but Michel wasn’t the 31st overall pick because of his charm and dashing good looks. Miami is 26th in Fantasy points allowed to RBs and I would venture he’ll get some touches near the goal line.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: In Houston, the T.Y. stands for Tortured Yearly. In 12 games against Houston, Hilton has 63 catches for 1,131 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also recorded five games of at least 111 yards versus the Texans, highlighted by a 223-yard performance in 2014. Yeah, you’re going to find room for him.
Gimme a Sleeper!
The Texans put receiver Bruce Ellington on IR and while rookie Keke Coutee will see time in the slot, it’s fellow rookie Vyncint Smith worth keeping an eye on. The German-born Smith is a 6’3 target who has been impressive in practice this week and could get a few targets against a Colts pass defense that has handled opposing wide receivers well in the early going but will have to contend with Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.