Fantasy football Week 4 picks, sleepers, busts and rankings
Perhaps the only thing more unpredictable than fantasy football is fantasy football during a worldwide pandemic.
Right now, we don’t know when the Steelers-Titans game will be played, only that it will not be played in Week 4. However, for a while, Tuesday was being bandied about as a possibility, and that could be a possibility in the future should more teams experience positive COVID-19 tests. It’s a good time to remind every league commissioner out there that you need to set up rules NOW to address a situation like this.
What happens if the game had been postponed after the Sunday games had kicked off? Or what if, out of the blue, another game was canceled? Using this week as an example, it wouldn’t have been fair to the person in your league with, say, Derrick Henry, if the game had been canceled at the last minute without the opportunity to react with roster moves. My suggestion is to allow players to declare a sub before 1 p.m. ET Sunday. And if any game is unexpectedly canceled or postponed to another week, the designated backup is placed in the player’s spot retroactively by the league manager. Or decide that in the case of no backup (in a scenario where the games gets canceled with no warning and a player loses a kicker, D/ST or maybe QB — a position with no backup) then I would retroactively assign the ESPN projection. Those are just suggestions, but whatever you decide, you need to have a plan and communicate it with your league.
The more you can plan and think ahead, the better it is to deal with the unknown.
Which many of you are dealing with now at 1-2 or 0-3. You didn’t expect Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Kenny Golladay, George Kittle, Chris Godwin, Courtland Sutton, Jamison Crowder, Le’Veon Bell, A.J. Brown, Christian McCaffrey, Raheem Mostert, Julio Jones and Davante Adams to miss significant time so early in the season.
You didn’t expect to run into some team that rolled you with Calvin Ridley in Week 1 and then while your guys were all leaving hurt, you ran into Alvin Kamara in Week 2. Then last week, when finally all your guys hit, you got Mahomesed on Monday Night.
You didn’t expect to be 1-2 or even worse 0-3.
But you are, and you need to do something.
You need to win. #analysis
Now, some of it is bad luck and nothing you can do about running into the highest-scoring team every week. But more often than not, that evens out over the year. And you’re obviously hitting the waiver wire. Fine.
But in a year with so many massive injuries (and you know even more are unfortunately coming), the most obvious way to improve your team is by trading.
And it’s fine for me (or others, like my colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft) to say … Yeah, buy Deshaun Watson low!
But how? Assuming you aren’t playing with idiots, they know you are desperate and they also know that Watson’s first three games were against the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers and that his schedule lightens up starting this week. They also might know the Texans are second in pass percentage and fifth in red zone pass percentage, and Watson is going to be fine. So I have some names to target at the end of this (and, on the whole, I like the entire Texans offense as a potential buy low, including Will Fuller V, David Johnson and Brandin Cooks, who should be basically free), but before we talk names, let’s talk the skill of trading in general.
There are a zillion reasons I hate vetoes and think they shouldn’t be allowed or used except when there is clear and provable collusion, but here’s the biggest: Trading in fantasy is a skill. It’s PART of the SKILL of being a winning fantasy manager.
Every year I do at least one column around trades, and last year I decided to put them all together in the definitive Matthew Berry Guide to Trading. And the plan had been to just point to that this year. But then, you know, wild injuries in an already unpredictable season hit, so now I’m updating it.
May I humbly present the 2020 Edition of The Definitive Matthew Berry Guide to Trading in Fantasy Football:
Assess your team
So you’ve decided to make a trade. Great.
Well, before you can acquire someone, you need to know what you can offer. What positions do you have depth at; where are you weak?
“I have no depth!” you yell at the screen. “That’s why I need to trade,” you say. Because everyone is hurt. Fine. Then let’s create some depth.
Let’s say you have no running backs and only one decent WR, but you do have Kyler Murray. So let’s look at the waiver wire. Jared Goff (currently QB9 on the year) is available in 55% of ESPN leagues. Joe Burrow (currently QB10) is available in 40%. Ryan Fitzpatrick (you heard me) is QB14 and available in 88% of leagues, despite the brutal first game against New England. The idea here is you can grab a usable QB off the waiver wire and now you have Murray to deal. That’s not ideal, of course, but you can live with Goff, Burrow, Fitz, stream of the week a lot more than you can with having to roll Devonta Freeman out there as a starter, you know? This year, QB, TE and WR, in that order, are the easiest places on the waiver wire to create “depth” for yourself. No one is going to trade for a waiver-wire QB, but they’ll definitely deal for Kyler Murray.
Once your “trading roster” is set, you should rank (at least mentally) the players on your team, by position and overall, so that you truly understand how you value everyone.
Assess everyone else’s teams
Don’t target one specific player. Yes, you’d like to have Alvin Kamara. Everyone would. That’s too narrow a window. It’s much better to find teams that might have an extra running back to deal. Or conversely, a team that needs what you have a surplus of — good tight ends or a quarterback, for example. Ideally you’ll identify a few teams that are potential trade partners. Maybe there’s a 3-0 team in your league that is willing to part with a star for Christian McCaffrey. You hate to deal him, but if you’re 0-3 you don’t have the luxury of waiting until he’s back. You need to win now, and a 3-0 team can afford a hit for a few more weeks.
Understanding your objective is crucial before trying to trade. Are you in must-win-this-week mode? Or maybe you have massive RB injuries and just need to plug that hole for the rest of the season. Or you’re just trying to take a surplus and improve an area you see as needy. Are you 3-0 and looking down the road? Understand the objective because, for a simplistic example from above, CMC makes sense for the 3-0 team but obviously doesn’t for the must-win-this-week team.
Establish the market
Don’t just send a bunch of cold trade offers out of the blue via the league website or app. This has a high probability to just get turned down. Just seeing two players in an email usually gets rejected ASAP with no counter.
You need to start a conversation, and there are many ways to do that: via the site messaging system, social media or email; or if it happens to be your significant other, taking them to dinner and, over dessert, casually bringing up the fact that their team is one good tight end short of unbeatable …
In general, I also don’t like the trade block or announcing to the league so-and-so is on the block. I always feel that devalues the player, like you’ve already announced you’re getting rid of him. The exception to that is if the player is truly elite and there are no questions about him. And even in that scenario,
you need to be selective. The message is “I hate to do this but my RBs have been ravaged by injury and I gotta do something. Russell Wilson is on the block. Make your best offer.”
I would not send that leaguewide. Send it just to the top three or four teams in the league, all copied on the same Snap or text. This creates a competition where the league leaders might or might not want Wilson, but they sure don’t want their rival to get him. So you can play people off one another.
One final small marketing trick: Set the lineup on your team so that the player you hope to deal is listed as a starter. Makes him seem more valuable than if he’s on your bench as surplus rather than a valued member of your starting lineup.
Connect with your potential trading partner(s)
So now your interest in doing something is out in the open, and it’s time to talk to specific teams to see if there’s mutual interest. If they responded to your feelers, great — you have a good starting point. If it’s a colder approach, make it loose and casual at first. “You open to talking trade?” or some such. You can be specific about your motive if you want. “I need a running back — you open to a deal?” Because if they aren’t, why waste your time?
Embracing the fun spirit of fantasy sports, ESPN senior fantasy analyst Matthew Berry and his unconventional cast of characters aim to make fantasy football players smarter and help them win their leagues. Watch the latest episode
Let’s say Kamara is on one of the teams you think has RBs to spare. Play it cool. Ask if they are open to dealing one of their running backs, rather than asking straight up for their top pick and best player. Work up to Alvin in the negotiation. Now, if you are on the receiving end of a query like that, you are welcome to say no, of course. But answer. Ignoring a reasonable and polite inquiry is rude. And also, what are you doing? You in this league or not? Say yes or no — just say something.
I am perfectly fine with multiple negotiations going on just so long as everyone is up front. If, when you make an offer you say, “FYI, I sent offers to two other teams tonight,” no issue. Or, “I’m only talking to you about this, but I need to do a deal by Saturday, so if we can’t agree tonight I’m reaching out to others.” Whatever it is, just be clear about whom else you’re talking to.
I sometimes like making it an offer that could go either way so as to open up negotiations. Earlier this week I sent a text saying, “You open to dealing Mike Davis? Or are you interested in Christian McCaffrey? We should get these wacky kids together.” We’ll see if a deal gets done. (That’s unlikely now that I’ve written this article. One downside of doing this job is it makes playing in leagues with people who can read or listen or watch TV much tougher.)
Look at the schedule as well. Let’s say you are in win-now mode. Can you trade Kenny Golladay this week (shadowed by Marshon Lattimore this week, then a bye in Week 5) for someone worse, but with great matchups the next two weeks like maybe Tyler Boyd, who has great matchups with Jacksonville and Houston the next two weeks, plus a usable piece? In a vacuum I’m obviously not dealing Golladay for Boyd, but if you’re 0-3 with tough matchups it might make sense.
Anyway, the idea was to open a dialogue where he had a choice of giving someone up or acquiring someone of mine who, in theory, would have helped his team down the road. You never know what will pique someone’s interest. Your goal at this point is to get them to talk to you with an open mind about trading. Then you can negotiate.
Now that you’ve got a potential trade partner talking, your first question should be, “What do you need?” You already know what he/she can do for you. Let’s find out what you need to do for them so you can craft a deal that helps them.
It’s important to phrase that request as a way to help you help them. As a guy named Crosby Spencer put it on Twitter last year: “Someone says, ‘I’m interested in Player X, what do you want for him?’ Great. So now you want me to research your team to find a POTENTIAL match that MIGHT make you interested in acquiring a player I wasn’t looking to trade, all so you can turn me down if it’s not a Godfather deal?”
Make it as easy as possible for your potential trade partner. Not everyone has the same amount of time to obsess over it the way we do.
Listen to what the other player needs. Really listen. The only way this will work is if it’s a two-way conversation about what you both need and want. Hearing their concern and enthusiasm about players is the best way to get something done and give you an advantage in negotiation.
Ask the potential trade partner to rank their players at the position you’re considering. This allows you to do two important things: (A) Get a sense of how they value certain players, which might be different from how you value them and (B) has inherently put them in a position where they have subconsciously devalued some of their players (whomever they rank lowest). Be prepared to reveal your rankings as well. Ideally, line up your players to match the player you want to trade to “equal” the player you want from them.
When negotiating, don’t treat your potential partner as if they are stupid. They are not interested in trading their underperforming Week 1 star for Frisman Jackson.
I hear a voice. “Berry! I’m mad at you!” He’s smiling. Me: Yeah? 1 of my calls kill you? “Nah,” he said. “I’m Frisman Jackson. And every time a guy has only 1 good week my name gets brought up.” And he laughs again. He’s w/CAR now. Here’s a fun convo w/ a Fantasy Football Legend. pic.twitter.com/cBYZTCBiMI
— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) September 18, 2020
Don’t try to talk down the player you want to acquire, and don’t oversell the guy you are dealing. Don’t lie about injuries or changes in value. Better to be honest, because they already know it (or will soon enough) and they will trust you more in negotiating.
Don’t be afraid to lay out why you want to make a deal. Help them understand what’s in it for you. “Yes, this player is in a RBBC, but he’ll get the majority of goal-line work. However, he’ll never play for me because I have this backup that popped. And the difference between him and your top-15 WR is clearly someone, so how can I fill in the gap?”
Except in rare circumstances where I desperately need depth, I want to be the one getting the best player in a deal. I try not to do 2-for-1 deals unless I am getting the one. But not all 2-for-1 deals need to actually be 2-for-1. If I am the one offering the two players, I will ask for a throw-in. These two guys for your stud and whomever you want to throw in. Or the worst WR you have, etc., etc. The 2-for-2 is weirdly more palatable than a 2-for-1, because there is a perception that they are “getting” something for their worst player.
You obviously want to accentuate the positive, but don’t sell it as a steak if it’s a hamburger. Better to sell it as the best hamburger available for the price.
Everyone is available. That must be your mindset, regardless of if you are initiating or getting the trade offer. Never say, “Sorry, Kamara is untradable.” Because look, if someone offered you Josh Allen, Dalvin Cook, Julio Jones and Travis Kelce for him and some roster depth, you’re obviously doing that deal. You can say it would take quite a lot to get Kamara, you value him highly, but everyone is tradable in the right deal.
Being willing to talk about your best player has the added benefit of getting them to talk about theirs. If they think they can get Kamara (“So what would you give me for Kamara?”) and get them talking out loud about the idea of dealing, say, Kelce, Cook and Julio, they’ve started to accept the idea of trading those players and you can dial the deal back to a way where you keep Kamara but still acquire Kelce. “That’s not enough for Kamara, but what about X and Y for Kelce?” And now you’re discussing Kelce, not Kamara. Make sense?
Put a time limit on it. “OK, well let me know by 10 tonight.” Otherwise too many trades sit in limbo. It puts some urgency on the deal and lets the other person know you mean business. Also, the longer a deal takes, the less likely it is that it gets done. Doubt sets in and the excitement is lost.
No is no. If you make an offer and the other person says no, you’re allowed one follow-up to say, “Well, is there something else you’d consider for so-and-so? Could we keep talking?” But if the answer is still no, then you gotta move on.
If the other person says they are negotiating with someone else, it’s fair to ask, “Well, before you agree to a deal for Zeke, will you give me a chance to beat it? Maybe I can, maybe I can’t, but this way you know you’ll get maximum value.” Gives you one last chance, gives you info on what others in the league are offering, and if it’s a no, at least you know you gave it your best shot.
There comes a point in the negotiation where it’s time to make a solid offer, or you have received one you need to accept or reject.
First, understand your goal is to improve your team with a focus on your starting lineup. You don’t need to “win” the trade for it to be valuable to you. You might deal a top-10 quarterback for a decent flex running back which, on the surface, means you “lost” the trade. But if that quarterback was never playing for
you, and this was the best available player to you, and your starting lineup is better for it, then you “won,” too.
In addition to thinking about how the deal works for you if everything goes well, you also need to evaluate the floor. If everything turns horrible, how does the trade affect you? Did you deal too much depth? Are you now one random injury away from disaster? Everyone sees the upside; not enough people think about the downside.
As my late, great Uncle Lester used to say, “If you’re in a poker game with five other guys and each guy has $100 and you’ve won $400, it’s time to leave. You’ve already won most of the money.” He would also say, “If you can get 80% of what you want in a deal, take it. Most guys screw it up trying to get the last 20%.” My uncle was one of the truly great negotiators who ever lived. Don’t get greedy. And remember, it’s only a good deal if both parties are satisfied. And if both people are happy but didn’t get everything they wanted, it’s probably as close to a perfect deal as you can get.
A deal is a deal as soon as both parties agree to it. I have been in negotiations where the person and I have verbally agreed to a deal, then I’ve gone to put it through the website/app, and they turned it down. “I had second thoughts.” No, man … we agreed. We’ve been negotiating for two days. A deal is a deal. A person’s word needs to mean something, and whether a deal was agreed to verbally, via text or email or through the website/app, it’s still a deal. Don’t weasel out on some technicality. All you have is your rep and your word.
A few parting thoughts:
1. Understand people are often dazzled by name value. Which often is different than actual production. Try to sell names. Try to acquire production.
2. You should begin preparing for trades well before you need to make one. Take notes during the draft or auction. Who expressed disappointment or had the last bid on a player you acquired? That should be your first call if you are dealing that player.
Everything you need this week:
• Full schedule » | Standings »
• Depth charts for every team »
• Transactions » | Injuries »
• Football Power Index rankings »
More NFL coverage »
3. Don’t gloat. Even if you completely got the better of someone, say you think it was a fair deal. Assuming you are in a league with the same people year after year, the better you make someone feel about trading with you — and that includes after the deal is done — the easier the next negotiation will be. Plus, you never know when a deal will blow up in your face. Don’t make it worse for yourself by having been a jerk about it.
4. Never veto. I mentioned it above, and I’m going to repeat it now. NEVER VETO unless there is provable collusion; every trade MUST be allowed to stand.
Everyone should be able to run their team the way the way they want to.
Even if it’s not how you would do it.
Even if it’s badly.
Especially if it’s badly.
I’ve written extensively about being anti-veto for years, but seriously, the veto is the coward’s way out.
I got an email literally an hour ago from a guy named Mac Wake who tells me he spent a week negotiating and was able to make a multiplayer deal to acquire Patrick Mahomes in his two-QB league. And it was vetoed by his league because, “We want to create a market so others can make offers for Mahomes.” I’m like … what? There was no market. Mac created it by negotiating it for a week. Just like anyone else could have done. So because Mac beat them and created an opportunity for himself to acquire Mahomes, they take the lazy, cowardly and pathetic way out. I don’t know any of them, but I hate everyone in Mac’s league who voted for that veto. You guys are everything that’s wrong with fantasy football.
NEVER VETO. FULL STOP.
5. I’ve also written about how words matter. Some people use some truly horrific and repugnant phrases when describing getting the better of a trade, and it is beyond tone-deaf. Seriously. I don’t get on my soapbox often, but I’m adamant about this.
6. One last Uncle Lesterism. “The best way to double your money is to fold it up and put it in your pocket,” he would often say. Sometimes the best trades are the ones we don’t make. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
With that, let’s get to it. As always, “Love/Hate” is not a start/sit column but rather players I believe will fall short or exceed expectations. Always check my ranks for where I have players relative others in terms of who I would start or sit. They are updated until kickoff at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Two guys I could never trade away — The Stat-a-Pillar from “The Fantasy Show” on ESPN+, Damian Dabrowski, and “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the “Fantasy Focus 06010” podcast for their help at various points here.
Here we go:
Quarterbacks I love in Week 4
In case you’re one of the TL;DR folks who are like, ugh, Berry just get to the players, Watson is a buy low, and his rise back into the guy you drafted begins this week. The Vikings have allowed the third-most passing yards this season and, while Watson’s protection issues are well-known, I’m not expecting that to be an issue: Minnesota is 22nd in pressure rate on the season and dead last in quarterback contact percentage. Considering Watson actually hasn’t been that bad so far this season (17.5 FPPG despite opening vs Ravens, Chiefs and Steelers) an easier matchup should bring big numbers in Week 4. Make your trade for Watson right now … just make sure the manager you’re trading with doesn’t read this column first.
A year ago last Saturday, Burrow threw six touchdowns and completed 73.5% of his passes in a 66-38 blowout of Vanderbilt. I’m not saying to expect the same against the Jaguars. but Burrow just might have a better completion percentage Sunday. The Jaguars give up a league-worst 80% completion rate — a big reason they’ve also given up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. By the way, in that Vanderbilt game, Burrow had 34 pass attempts; in the NFL, he has had more than that in every game so far. In fact, he’s second in the NFL in pass attempts (and completions) this season. That volume against the Jacksonville defense suggests a big Week 4. Here’s a wild stat: Since 2014, only two QBs have scored at least 60-plus fantasy points total in their first three starts. Patrick Mahomes and … Joe Burrow. Burrow is a strong Love for me against the Jaguars or the Commodores.
Matthew Berry explains that despite the Bengals’ recent struggles on offense, he likes Joe Burrow in the Week 4 matchup against the Jaguars.
You should start any fantasy defense facing the Giants. At this point, you should also consider starting any quarterback facing them, too. I mean, last week the Giants gave up 327 passing yards and 9.5 yards per attempt to Nick Mullens. Goff has a 10.0 YPA and five TD passes in his past two games and, on the season, the second-highest completion percentage on deep passes. Still available in over 50% of ESPN leagues, Goff was a preseason “Love” for me, as we pointed out his pass attempts and completions were still high, he had just gotten wildly unlucky with touchdowns. A top 10 fantasy QB in 2018, he’s back inside my top 12 for this week. No need to get too deep on this one: Goff will have a lot of success Sunday.
Others receiving votes
If this is the Seattle secondary with Jamal Adams, just imagine what it would be without him. The Seahawks are giving up 430.7 passing yards per game this season and the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, which puts Ryan Fitzpatrick on the streaming radar. Don’t look now, but from Week 10 on last year, Fitz is the sixth-best QB in total fantasy points. Who knows when Tua Tagovailoa takes over, but for now, Fitz is very viable. … Speaking of Florida QBs with interesting facial hair, I’m back in on Gardner Minshew II despite last week’s debacle. Ten days to prepare for a Bengals defense that scares no one, and I don’t think Chris Conley can play any worse than he did last week (famous last words). Minshew has at least 40 passing attempts the past two games.
Quarterback I hate in Week 4
Are you ready for some football? Play for FREE and answer questions on the Monday night game every week. Make Your Picks
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Not when Wentz has been under center this year, with multiple interceptions every game. It’s hard to put it all on him considering Philly’s line and his lack of weapons … but it’s also hard to see how it improves anytime soon. With Dallas Goedert now out, too, and DeSean Jackson iffy, Wentz will take the field Sunday with even fewer weapons than he normally has. He’ll also take the field against a 49ers pass defense that, despite being banged up, gives up the lowest yards per attempt, is tied for the fewest touchdown passes allowed and is second best in fewest passing yards allowed. In a game with one of the lowest over/unders on the slate, Wentz is gonna start for Philly, but that doesn’t mean he has to start for you.
Running backs I love in Week 4
Bill Belichick always takes away one of his opponent’s best players. We know it won’t be Patrick Mahomes. Even Dark Lord Belichick doesn’t have those kinds of powers. (We think). That leaves Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and CEH and it feels far more likely Belichick focuses on neutralizing one of those established vets over a rookie. Plus, maybe New England couldn’t stop Edwards-Helaire even if they wanted to: The Patriots have given up a league-worst 94.7% catch rate to backs this season. It’s one thing to take the dump-off away from Derek Carr the way they did last week but that ain’t working against Mahomes. Meanwhile, CEH has 14 targets and 11 catches in his past two games, a big reason he’s fourth among all running backs this season in touches.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry reflect on Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s preseason fantasy ranking and how it was appropriate given his production so far.
Drake has been the Deshaun Watson of running backs this season: not bad by any means, just not what most fantasy managers hoped for or expected. He’s also like Watson in that this is the week he should pay off for patient managers. Or, rather, the week the window to acquire his services below market value vanishes. Carolina has allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs this year and the most rushing touchdowns to backs. The challenge this year has been with Drake’s lack of passing-game usage, but 33.3% of targets against the Panthers have gone to RBs, most in NFL, so I expect that issue to be resolved Sunday. Add to that Drake’s consistent volume — averaging 19.7 touches per game this year — and he should be the latest back to abuse that Panthers D.
Scott Spratt and Matthew Berry break down why they like Kenyan Drake’s matchup vs. the Panthers, with Berry believing the window is quickly closing to buy low on Drake in a trade.
Undrafted by the NFL in April — and by almost all of us in August — Robinson would probably go by the end of the second round in every fantasy draft if we picked again today. He’s the rare back who is his team’s clear RB1, getting 78% of Jacksonville’s TB touches this season and 86% of the red zone touches. And he’s producing like an RB1, too: 26.0 FPPG over his past two games. That number might go up Sunday thanks to a Bengals defense that has given up the second-most running back rushing yards so far this season.
Others receiving votes
Thirty-five touches, 241 scrimmage yards, two touchdowns and 6.1 yards per carry in his past two games for Darrell Henderson Jr. Cam Akers is unlikely to play this week, and even if he does I’m not sure it matters, especially against a Giants team that, you might have heard, is #notgood. … My co-host on “The Fantasy Show” on ESPN+, Daniel Dopp, can do one impression: old-timey prospector. When he tries anything else, it’s just awful. Thankfully, awful comedy is a staple of the show. But I still do appreciate a good impression. Like the Christian McCaffrey one Mike Davis did last week: 13 carries, 46 yards; eight receptions, 45 yards and a touchdown; 23.1 fantasy points on 91.3% of Carolina’s running back touches. Not a perfect impression, but we definitely recognized the production. I’m excited for his next performance Sunday. … Just as the matchups the first three weeks were brutal for Deshaun Watson, they were for David Johnson, too. But now he gets a Vikings defense that has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to running backs this season. … Kareem Hunt‘s fantasy stock continues to rise: 10-plus carries in every game, 15.7 touches per game and 11 red zone caries and three goal-to-go carries on the season. In a game that Caesars SportsBook by William Hill has with an over/under of 56 and the Browns as an underdog, Cleveland is likely to be throwing quite a bit. … Ronald Jones II played 11 more snaps than Leonard Fournette, out-touched him 15-9 and got twice as many red zone and goal-to-go rushes, and now Fournette is hurt, leaving even more work for Jones against a Chargers defense traveling east for a 1 p.m. game with five defensive starters out.
Running backs I hate in Week 4
If you have three good running backs, you don’t have one … at least not one good fantasy running back. This Ravens backfield is as committee as committee can get:
Ingram: 9.3 touches per game, 20.6 snaps per game
Gus Edwards: 6.0 touches per game, 15.7 snaps per game
Dobbins: 5.0 touches per game, 22.0 snaps per game
One of them very possibly has a strong performance against a beat-up Washington defense in a game that Baltimore is likely to be winning big, but the Ravens spread it around too much for me to feel comfortable picking which RB gets the red zone work here.
Matthew Berry is taking a W for his Mark Ingram fantasy stance while also taking an L on J.K. Dobbins as he and Field Yates ponder the state of the Ravens’ running game.
Kelley’s usage dropped in Week 3, playing 20 snaps to Austin Ekeler’s 54. I’m still a long-term believer in Kelley, but not this week. The Bucs have allowed just 2.6 yards per carry to backs this year and only once in their past 20 games have they allowed an RB to crack 75 yards on the ground. With Ekeler getting lead-back touches, Kelley is a low-end, touchdown-dependent flex.
A funny thing happened on the way to D’Andre Swift splitting touches with Kerryon Johnson. Peterson was released by Washington and signed by Detroit, becoming their lead running back in the process. That said, he’s not a big part of the passing game, and game flow in this one might not present many opportunities to run. In Week 2, when the Lions were blown out by the Packers, Peterson had only seven touches. The risk of that happening Sunday makes Peterson a risky play, especially considering the Saints have the sixth-best rushing defense through the first three weeks and should get Michael Thomas back for a game in which they are favored.
Did you go out and grab Gaskin off the waiver wire? Great! Well done. He’s going to have a nice year. Starting next week. Seattle’s pass D is so bad that no one is running against them. Opponents have run the ball with backs a league-low 46 times this season. Seattle also gives up the fourth-fewest yards before first contact and the second-fewest yards after first contact. That’s a long way to say: It’s hard to run on the Seattle Seahawks. And we expect Fitz to have to throw a bunch, and while it’s possible Gaskin is heavily involved in the passing game, I don’t want to count on it. Gaskin is a low-floor, not that high flex play on Sunday. That’s a long way to say Gaskin is a Hate.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 4
Jacksonville has allowed four touchdowns to the slot so far this season, tied for most in the NFL, and Jaguars opponents are also completing 75% of their passes to the slot. That’s where Boyd does his work. And he has had a lot of work lately, too: 21 targets in the past two games. You know I’m in on Burrow this week as well, so gimme the Burrow/Boyd stack, which sounds like a pancake special at a bad country diner.
Another main guy whose QB I like this week, Parker has had moderate success in both full games he has played this season, scoring at least 11 fantasy points in both. He might get 11 in the first quarter on Sunday against a Seahawks team that allows 73.2 FPPG to wide receivers so far this season. Yes, you read that right: 73.2. They’ve allowed at least one 100-yard receiver in every game this year and six total in three games. Seattle has also given up 27 more receptions and 400 more yards to receivers than the next-closest team.
Matthew Berry says the Dolphins will need to pass a lot in order to keep up with the Seahawks, which could result in solid fantasy production out of DeVante Parker.
If Baker Mayfield can get it to him — no guarantee, unfortunately — Beckham should score Sunday thanks to a Cowboys defense that has allowed a league-high six touchdowns to perimeter receivers. Dallas is also bottom five in yards allowed to perimeter receivers. Yes, Beckham is off to another slow start in fantasy, but he won’t have a better opportunity to get on track than he does in Week 4.
As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And where there’s a Vikings pass defense, there’s an opposing receiver lighting it up. Minnesota has allowed a player to go over 110 receiving yards in all three of its games this season. I see no way this Will isn’t the next to do it.
Teams facing Cleveland average 17 slot targets per game, second most in the league. The Browns also allow the most touchdowns to the slot and the second-most receptions and yards. Do you see where this is going? To the slot. Where we meet Lamb, the Cowboys receiver who runs 87% of his routes from … you guessed it … the slot.
Others receiving votes
Even when Davante Adams returns, Allen Lazard has played his way into fantasy relevance. And there’s little more relevant in fantasy than a receiver getting to play the Falcons. … Buffalo is bottom five in yards and receptions allowed to the slot, which means Hunter Renfrow has a chance to follow up his breakout performance from Week 3, especially given the health (or lack thereof) of the rest of the Raiders’ pass-catchers. … New Orleans allows the most fantasy points to tight ends this season and T.J. Hockenson continues to carve out a bigger role in Detroit’s passing game with at least four catches and 50 yards in every game and a season-high seven targets in Week 3. … Not Amari Cooper, not Michael Gallup, not CeeDee Lamb, not even Ezekiel Elliott … it’s Dalton Schultz who leads the Cowboys in red zone targets this season. … Deeper league or DFS tight end need? Give me Robert Tonyan of the Packers. Atlanta has allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this year and Tonyan is coming off the best game of his career.
After Hunter Renfrow’s strong Week 3 vs. the Patriots, Field Yates and Matthew Berry evaluate his fantasy value.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 4
Hilton managers hoped he might see an increase in production when Parris Campbell went down. That hasn’t happened. What has happened is now three games with four catches or fewer and only
one red zone target all season. Meanwhile, the Bears are the only team yet to allow a wide receiver touchdown and they’ve also given up a league-low 54.1% catch rate to opposing wide receivers. T.Y. will remain MIA in Week 4.
Arizona gives up the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers and is tied for the fewest deep receptions surrendered on the season. This matchup sets up well for Mike Davis to continue his Christian McCaffrey impression, but not for Anderson to try out a Randy Moss one.
Yes, Graham had a breakout in Week 3. But the reason it’s called a “breakout” is because him having a good fantasy performance is not the norm. Week 3 was his first game with 50-plus yards since Week 10 of last season. He’s more likely to break back into being regular old Jimmy Graham this week against a Colts D that has yielded only six catches for 32 yards to opposing TEs.
Matthew Berry, the Talented Mr. Roto, wants you to know that defenses facing the Jets this year average 15 FPPG (most in the NFL) and defenses facing the Broncos this year are averaging 11 FPPG (second in the NFL). Just in case, you know, anyone feels like streaming.