Before we have even gotten to the end of the Week 4 contests, or the beginning of those fun Monday-Thursday contests, it is already time to start thinking about next Sunday. While all of yesterday’s action is still fresh in your mind, start considering matchups, bye weeks and which players jumped off the screen at you yesterday afternoon and evening – there is a lot to consider. For my attempt at helping you organize those 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!
Tom Brady @ DAL ($7,800) – For a savings of only $100, this is basically my way of saying I like Brady more than Rodgers this week. I know the Pack is at home, but I expect this one to be a heavier than normal dosage of Eddie Lacy (see Running Backs, below). As for Brady, he is facing a Cowboys defense that hasn’t been terrible against the pass, but they are one of many defenses who make up for shortcomings in the secondary by attempting to apply a ton of pressure up front. Brady, with his ability to read a defense and adjust protections, and with weapons like Edelman and Gronk, is the perfect weapon to combat that kind of strategy. He lost to the Giants in the superbowl one too many times and now he has mastered the art of getting rid of the ball in two seconds flat. That’s bad news for the Cowboys.
Carson Palmer @ DET ($6,600) – I’ll be honest, I expected his price to go up faster. Sure, he is an injury risk – it’s why you could draft him late in your yearly league. But so far this year, his lowest point total has been 19.98, yesterday against the Rams. He has done exactly what you want your QB to do: put up points against bad defenses and limit mistakes against the good ones. Against the Lions next Sunday, it’ll be “put up points” mode against a defense currently ranked 28th against opposing fantasy QBs, and coming off a game where they gave up 300+ and two TDs to a diminished Peyton Manning (we’ll see what they do against Wilson tonight).
Marcus Mariota vs. BUF ($6,000) – Mariota is coming off the bye, so he has had time to prepare. He has scored at least 18 fantasy points per game in every game this year, and he is playing a defense currently ranked 29th against opposing fantasy QBs. All of which is my way of saying that you can use stats to defend any position you feel like taking, because there is no way Mariota finds his way into any of my lineups this weekend. The Bills being 29th is the best advertisement ever for my “small sample size” ranting, considering they have held Luck, Eli and Tannehill all under 300 yards, only to have a 466 day from Brady skew the whole picture when you’re considering a guy like Mariota. Mariota is not Brady. He might stumble into some production by default after Buffalo stifles their running game and he’s left with no other options, but that is not the kind of narrative I want my fantasy hopes resting on.
Tyrod Taylor @ TEN ($5,800) – Taylor isn’t really getting any more expensive, because the upside isn’t there. But he is starting to look like someone who can be trusted on a somewhat consistent basis, if only because he is being allowed some leeway to try to make plays for this offense right now. He can buy time, find players downfield, and do what he can to get points on the board. All of this is because the offense isn’t very efficient right now, which is going to lead to some bad weeks. Just probably not against the Titans.
Jamaal Charles vs. CHI ($7,800) – The problem with the Bears is that it’s so hard to decide every week if they are going to get killed through the air or on the ground. The good thing about the Chiefs, then, is that they narrow it down for you – they don’t kill anyone through the air. So, ground it is, I guess. Because make no mistake, on paper the Bears might be the 12th best defense in the league against running backs, but that is on paper only. They did a decent job against Latavius Murray yesterday, but did we really think the Raiders were turning into some juggernaut? Back in week 2, The Cardinals had just lost their starting back, and then Carson Palmer and the Cardinals defense went out and had so much funscoring touchdowns themselves that they refused to let the running backs have any fun. And in their other two games, Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls were both more than productive. I expect at least that out of Charles.
Eddie Lacy vs. St. Louis ($6,700) – The Rams’ best quality on defense is their front seven, and here are two indisputable facts about that group: they are fast, and, relatively speaking, they are small. They use their speed to get after the passer, but the problem with that strategy is that the best way to defeat a pass rush is to run right at it. The Packers have the line and the massive RB to accomplish just that. Coming off the injury, Lacy had 18 carries for 90 yards yesterday, but that was after the consensus being that he wouldn’t even play, as late as Sunday morning. And you can thank that (false) news for this value play, because $6,700 is about as cheap as you will see Lacy all year long.
Karlos Williams @ TEN ($5,700) – It’s an obvious pick, and compared to yesterday, it’s not all that cheap. But thankfully, that likely means that you won’t see ownership percentages quite so high, either. And with McCoy still out, this guy is going to get another opportunity to gash a mediocre-at-best run defense. They might be listed as 4th against running backs in terms of fantasy points allowed, but they haven’t faced so much as a halfway decent running game yet. That changes on Sunday.
Dion Lewis @ DAL ($4,800) – If “running right at it” is one way to defeat a pass rush, the other way is a series of short passes, tiring those rushers out and driving them insane (see Brady, Tom). Those short passes can include screens, and bubble routes and slants, and Dion Lewis is just the back to take advantage of that kind of game plan. On the road, against a backup QB, I just can’t see the Patriots game plan calling for Brady to hand the ball off a lot, at least early on. They might have wanted to take pains to slow down a Tony Romo-led offense, but against Weeden I think they will want to just take an early lead and build a cushion against any late-game missteps costing them a win. If their offense gets rolling early, I wouldn’t be surprised if LeGarrette Blount had enough second-half opportunities to create some value, but that is harder to count on.
Keenan Allen vs. PIT ($7,200) – I am feeling a weekend to go inexpensive on wide receivers, and you start to find values right around this price range. This also happens to be the kind of price range I find myself in when I am “upgrading” a position for no reason other than I had some money left over. But I don’t want Allen to end up in my lineup this weekend, if only because it’s so hard to know. Yes, he has huge upside, which makes him interesting in a GPP, but he relies on a ton of volume to reach those heights and that volume just is not guaranteed every week (4 catches yesterday, only 2 in week 2). It’s always a crapshoot, and for me, it’s hard to trust, especially in the week Gates returns to the lineup. Who knows how that will impact Allen’s involvement? I at least need to see if before getting either of them active.
Vincent Jackson vs. JAX ($5,000) – Vincent Jackson is a really, really good receiver. Who knows how he would be remembered if his career had unfolded a bit differently. But he got targeted 15 times in week 3 after the coaching staff basically coming out and saying that had to happen, and he responded in a big way. With the Jaguars on the schedule, Evans not yet doing his thing like he did last year, ASF still out, and a terrible running game, I expect to see at least a couple of jump balls coming his way from Winston. And winning jump balls is kind of his thing. Ten catches maybe not so much, but for $5,000 you don’t need another 30+ point performance for this pick to be returning great value.
Travis Benjamin @ BAL ($4,500) – The Browns are kind of hard to watch sometimes. But they aren’t going out there and getting shut out every week, which means there IS fantasy value to be had. And most of that right now, unbelievably, is coming in the form of Travis Benjamin. He has emerged as their clear #1 threat in the passing game, which – while admittedly problematic – is light years ahead of their running game. With ten targets in each of the last two weeks, the speed for big plays and the size to be a red zone threat, he is the perfect package in terms of fantasy wide receivers, except for that whole quarterback thing.
Leonard Hankerson vs. WAS ($4,000) – Washington’s run defense has actually not been terrible, but they have been vulnerable (to put it mildly) against the pass. This might be the weekend that Freeman finally slows down some, and, of course, you love Julio Jones in this game. But Jones is expensive – prohibitively so – and Hankerson is not. And the way the Falcons have been playing, it is entirely possible more than one guy has a good game in this one. And after four weeks, it has become pretty obvious that if a second receiver is going to produce in Atlanta, it’s Hankerson. With an average of 17.5 fantasy points per game over his last three, and fifteen total catches, he has become a legitimate consideration in any format, but especially in PPR.
Rob Gronkowski @ DAL ($7,500) – He’s back, and it makes you reevaluate how you think about the whole position. It’s not just “what TE do I start?” It’s “do I start Gronk, or someone else?” And then once you decide “someone else,” you can’t stop thinking about all the people you’ll be playing who have Gronk in there. The whole thing is really stressful.
Travis Kelce vs. CHI ($5,200) – Kelce has been disappointing for the past couple of weeks, but all that makes him is a second-tier TE. After the top couple of guys, no one at this position is a reliable week to week performer, but Kelce has as much upside as anyone. In a game where I expect the Chiefs to feature Charles and to stay on the field for long stretches of time, Kelce could be the kind of chain-mover who ends up with close to double-digit receptions in this one. If he gets in the end zone, he’ll be a monster.
Tyler Eifert vs. SEA ($4,600) – Eifert has seemed to suffer from the emergence of Jones as a receiving threat, but Seattle has the secondary AND the pass rush to keep Dalton from being able to rely on the deep ball in this one. Dalton needing to be patient and drive down the field as efficiently as possible probably isn’t great news for the Bengals, but it could definitely be good news for Eifert.
Charles Clay @ TEN ($4,100) – Clay had a big game yesterday, going for over 100 yards, and he is just another example of the fact that the Bills have a prety decent assortment of offensive weapons on their roster, with or without McCoy. With three consecutive double-digit games at this position, he is giving you great production and proving that he has become a trusted target for Taylor, which is all you need to know. Oh, other than the whole “Tennessee can’t play defense” thing. That’s good to know, too.
Packers vs. STL ($3,100) – I like defenses at home, who are likely going to win. I also really like the Broncos, the Patriots, and the Cardinals this week, but they will all cost you more, and none of them are playing against Nick Foles.
Chiefs vs. CHI ($2,800) – If you also like defenses at home who are going to have a good shot at winning, the Chiefs are the last team on the list that qualifies this week. They are probably not going to shut anyone out anytime soon, but Cutler likes handing out fantasy points to opposing defenses. As far as long shots go, I actually like the Chiefs to get a defensive score in this one, which never hurts your bottom line (and neither will this price).