While you’re sweating out Monday Night Football, it is already time to start thinking about next week’s lineups, while all the action from yesterday is still fresh in your mind. With the bye weeks starting up and unexpected performances all over the place, there is a lot to consider. In an attempt to help you organize those early thoughts, here are a few players at every position and why I think he may or may not be worth the price for Week 4. Good luck!
Aaron Rodgers @ SF ($7,900) – I know we haven’t seen him play this week yet, and I would love to see how Cobb and/or Adams look out there tonight, as each are fighting through some nagging injuries. At this point, though, I think we have learned that the weapons Rodgers has around him are made better by the QB, not the other way around. And with the way the Niners played yesterday, combined with how close all the other top options are to Rodgers in price, there just doesn’t seem to be a point in spending up for anyone else. You really want to save $100 and pick up Luck, just because Brady just torched the Jaguars? By most metrics, Luck is currently between the 19th and 22nd highest scoring fantasy QB in the league through three games. I’ll take Rodgers.
Matt Ryan vs. HOU ($6,900) – With Carson Palmer facing the Rams, Ryan is definitely the mid-priced QB I am targeting for Week 4. However, I think that he is a much better choice in a 50/50 or similar contest, rather than a large GPP. You would think that with a weapon like Julio Jones on the outside, his upside would be basically limitless, but so far this season he has scored between 18-23 fantasy points in every game. Good, and consistent – but not winning you any tournaments. And that is while Julio has been having one of the most dominant three game stretches of his (or anyone else’s) career. In other words, Julio is not going to get any better, we don’t think, so for Ryan to improve you’d need the additional production to come from somewhere else. As evidenced by the one target and zero catches for Roddy White over the past two weeks, the Falcons right now are content to let Ryan throw to his backs, occasionally to Hankerson, and to Julio, and that’s about it. He’ll return value for the price, but that’s about it.
Tyrod Taylor vs. NYG ($5,800) – Taylor has been outperforming his price tag for all three of his starts so far, so this might not seem like breaking news. But this is the first time I’ve recommended him, and it is because I think he is the single best QB on the board for the price. He is facing off against a Giants team that has given up only 224 rushing yards through three games, while also giving up over 1,000 yards through the air. As much as the Bills do want to run it this season, they’ve also shown a willingness to take the reins off Taylor when he is giving them the best chance to win. And next weekend, that’s exactly what he will be doing. Even if Watkins is out, or less than 100%, he has the weapons and the rushing ability to put up 20+ again, which counts as big upside for this price.
Brandon Weeden @ NO ($5,100) – Weeden will likely be a popular choice after his 85% completion percentage on Sunday – I mean, they can’t run them all in every week, can they? But this pick is not for me – he got his completion percentage with exactly the kind of safe throws that don’t end up in the end zone, and as bad as the Saints have been against the pass, they’ve only been slightly better against the run. There really is no reason to think the Cowboys can’t actually just keep running it in every time. Weeden’s performance yesterday should have made Cowboys fans happy, because it certainly makes their prospects of winning a few games over the next two months more promising, but I need to see more before I am trusting him with my fantasy lineup. In this price range, I’d much prefer Derek Carr @ CHI ($5,300).
Adrian Peterson @ DEN ($7,800) – Last week I recommended AP, saying the yards were a gimme, and the question is whether he’d score zero touchdowns or four. The two he did notch helped out plenty of fantasy owners. But the real reason I am listing him here is this: we haven’t seen what Charles is going to do in Week 3 yet, but with everything going on with the top RBs on the list right now, AP is the choice is you want to spend big on, for me, until further notice. After AP and Charles, you have Marshawn, Forte, Foster, Lacy and DeMarco. Which one of them are you going to trust over AP, when you’re not really saving all that much room in your budget? Yeah, me either.
Latavius Murray @ CHI ($6,300) – Last week I recommended him because he “was trending in the right direction.” He still is, although I don’t know if he can keep getting better from here… just more expensive. But here’s the thing with Murray: he’s the only running back, and the best skill player, on his team. No matter what the game turns out like, he will be involved, and producing. They got blown out in week 1 – he had seven catches. They played a tight, high-scoring game in week 2 – he had 3 catches, 15 carries and a TD. Then last week, they romped on the Browns (it wasn’t as close as the final score), and he was dominant, toting the ball 26 times for 136 times and a TD. Early in drives, in the redzone, out of the backfield or in garbage time, he’s their man.
Melvin Gordon vs. CLE ($4,900) – Speaking of getting romped, let me present to you… the Browns week 4 opponent! You’ll also remember the Browns from some of their other recent highlights, such as giving up 90+ rushing yards to Chris Ivory in Week 1, or Dexter McCluster in Week 2. In fact, they have given up at least 140 yards rushing for each of the last three weeks, and Gordon is going to look to make it 4. Averaging 15 carries a game so far, that’s a number that will keep going up if he finds success, because the Chargers desperately need playmakers, and he could be it.
Alfred Blue @ ATL ($3,900) – Arian Foster has been hurt before. He missed two games last year, and returned against Tennessee to the tune of 19 carries. The year before, we thought there was a chance he’d be coming back, and he never did. All of which is to say, this isn’t going to be a scenario where Blue keeps some value while they ease the starter back into things. Once Foster is back out there, you can trust him, and Blue fades to near-complete obscurity. But, that history also tells me that, even if Foster is looking good or getting better or whatever the latest vague report out of Houston is, there is a good chance he continues not playing, because they want him back at 100% when he is on the field. If that’s the case, Blue is a good value against Atlanta’s porous (putting it nicely) run defense.
A.J. Green vs. KC ($7,600) – I have a hard time imagining KC’s pass defense numbers are going to look a ton better after facing Rodgers tonight. Which means, on paper, this is a good matchup. But on paper doesn’t mean much this early in the year – consider that after tonight, their last two games will have been against Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, while some other defenses with better numbers have certainly faced lesser opponents. So let’s look instead at week 1, and the 236 yards and a score Brian Hoyer hung on them. DeAndre Hopkins, their clear #1, had six catches, 98 yards and that aforementioned touchdown. A.J. Green – another clear #1 – certainly looked healthy yesterday, and that is the only concern with him – Dalton is going to keep looking for him, and he can beat even excellent coverage. He had a down season last year, which depressed his value relative to some of these other stud receivers, but there is nothing about his skill-set that makes him any worse than Demaryius or even Beckham.
T.Y. Hilton vs. JAX ($6,700) – Finally, we saw some of his big-play potential on the field Sunday, even if it didn’t exactly translate into a monster game. A 20+ yard per catch average is exactly the kind of sign we like to see with a receiver like this, showing that he is healthy, and Luck is still looking for him to be his gamebreaker. He’s never going to be that 12-catch guy on a regular basis, depressing his PPR value, but four catches can still be valuable as long as he gets in the end zone, something the Jaguars’ defense from yeterday seemed prone to allow once or twice. Moncrief isn’t going to outscore him every week – at the end of the day, Hilton is the better receiver when he’s fully healthy.
Amari Cooper @ CHI ($6,300) – I mentioned above that I like Carr in this game, which makes these two an interesting stack. With back-to-back 100 yard games and 15 catches over the last two weeks, I expect his price to keep creeping upwards, so get on board while you still can. Yesterday, Chicago didn’t look like a team willing to compete – which should be obvious, since I now have mentioned THREE Raiders by name already. When was the last time there were three fantasy-relevant Raiders on the field at the same time? Let’s put it this way – I think one of them might have been Rich Gannon.
Vincent Jackson vs. CAR ($4,900) – Even in his prime, Jackson has never been the kind of receiver you could trust for week-in and week-out production, instead getting his fantasy point totals with huge games that win you weeks mixed in with some duds. You always just hoped the big weeks came when you needed them. This season, I don’t expect anything different, and they could be looking for just his brand of big play next weekend. Carolina’s defense has been just solid enough that you don’t expect Tampa Bay to be able to run or dink and dunk it down the field, but not SO good you’re afraid of the shutout. Perfect.
Jimmy Graham vs. DET ($6,000) – With the Pats on bye, Graham is the most expensive TE on the board, and I can now say, with good reason. The nice thing is that he no longer costs what Gronk does, because he doesn’t have that every-week consistency anymore, but he does have upside. Graham makes a lot of sense for me as a tourney play this week, because his floor is still somewhere right around 8-10 points, which you can get a lot cheaper if all you’re looking to do is double your money. But with Marshawn still banged up, and facing a Detroit defense better against the run than the pass, he could definitely see multiple red zone looks in this one.
Jordan Reed vs. PHI ($4,500) – The Redskins are not the kind of team that are going to be running away with a lot of games this year, which means they are going to be looking for points late into games every single week. This game in particular could be real ugly, but it should be close. And, quite frankly, Reed is their best receiver. That’s not necessarily saying a lot, and ideally you do want a QB out there who is able to get him the ball, but he – when healthy – creates his own opportunities. He has a burst away from the line and cuts in the open field to gain separation from linebackers and safties, and the size and strength to dominate corners.
Martellus Bennett vs. OAK ($4,500) – In this one, you could see a strange convergence of terrible QB play and terrible play in the secondary that could lead to good things for big target like Bennett. There is something to be said for a big, sure-handed target over the middle when you are a QB just hoping not to screw anything up too bad. That TE standing right in front of you is comforting, reassuring even. We’re still not sure if Alshon is going to be back next week, but even if he is, I like the odds of him getting targeted much better when Cutler is also playing. I would likely take Reed over Bennett personally, but it is really close – they both could do well for the price.
Eric Ebron @ SEA ($3,500) – Ebron’s price just isn’t catching up. I’m not saying he should be expensive, but after double-digit points from the TE slot for three straight weeks, you have to love getting a guy at near the minimum. As good as Seattle’s defense is, they have struggled against TE’s, maybe in part because of their focus on stopping vertical passing games. But the Lions DO have a guy named Calvin Johnson on the outside – I think he might draw some attention in this one. 4-6 catches and 60-80 yards seems like a given, and a TD would put him over the top. For me, a great choice if you’re looking for someone cheap for a cash lineup.
Seattle vs. DET ($3,700) – It’s expensive, but to me, Seattle at home is the way to go if you’re going to spend big on a D. I might prefer to go in the other direction, and let the Raiders D give me a few turnovers against a backup QB, but still, it’s a comforting feeling rostering one of those top defensive units, so if you have some cash to spare, why not? They are at home, with Chancellor, and the Lions have been unable to run the ball or effectively get it in the hands of their best player. It all adds up to a game without a lot of Detroit scoring, and if Seattle can put the pressure on with a big offensive day, Stafford is just the kind of guy to hand over a slew of turnovers trying to play keep-up.
Packers @ SF ($2,700) – Sometimes, it’s not about the defense. Actually, pretty often, it’s not about the defense. If you stream defenses in your yearly league, you know what I am talking about. And then you get to DFS and you have all these choices, and you think it must be important, this could decide everything – I have to put way more thought into this than when I just grabbed a D in the last round of my draft back in August. And it is important, but it is also just as hard to predict. And so a defense who saves you a few hundred bucks and still scores you a handful of points is still worthwhile – just make sure you spend that money you saved wisely.