Week 4 Risers and Fallers
October 8, 2015 | Chet
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We’ve reached the quarter watermark of the season and hopefully you’re .500 or better in the early going. There’s always improvement to be made for your team no matter how great or terrible you’re doing and we all need to take a step back and evaluate who’s stock is rising and falling. Here are some guys who have made strides in one direction or the other over the last week. If you have any questions or comments about specific players feel free to drop something in the comments box below or hit me up on Twitter!
The ownership percentages are a median between Yahoo! and ESPN own%.
Todd Gurley (92.3%) began the game with his first career reception just seconds after David Johnson fumbled the opening kickoff for the Cardinals. The rest of his first half was completely uneventful, rushing four times for a total of 2 yards. The first play of the second half was another 4 yard loss for the rookie, and from that point on he absolutely turned it on. He finished the game with 146 yards – simple math will tell you that 144 of that came after halftime – and a 7.7 YPC against what we assumed was a top-3 NFL team in Arizona’s home stadium. The Cards had been allowing 3.5 YPC while Tre Mason/Benny Cunningham/whomever were averaging 3.8 YPC through the first three weeks for the Rams. Green Bay’s rush defense is nowhere near as stout and Gurley quickly becomes an RB2 for your redraft league, not to mention an enticing cheap play across DFS games.
TJ Yeldon (91.2%) wouldn’t let Gurley be the only rook with a breakout performance as he took 22 carries 105 yards while adding on 2 catches for 4 more yards against the Colts. Even though he hasn’t been consistently tearing around the field for big plays he has been consistently touching the ball which is arguably the most important stat in fantasy football; his 70 carries are third highest in the league. Not just among rookies (Melvin Gordon is 2nd among rookies w/ 54), but the entire league. There is absolutely no competition behind him in Jacksonville and he will end up in the end zone sooner rather than later with a goal line carry; he already has 11 red zone carries on the year. With at least 3 targets in each week thus far we can hope that he’ll end up being more involved in the passing game as he gets more playing time with Blake Bortles.
Doug Martin (85.1%) had his first big game in what feels like forever against a Carolina defense that was allowing a lowly 3.3 YPC up until this past weekend. Dougie Fresh pounded the rock 20 times, accumulating 106 yards and playing a part in the passing game for once; he caught 5 balls on 5 targets for 37 yards. Martin found the end zone once and out-touched Charles Sims 25-9 on the day. Carolina was missing defensive pieces Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly so he was facing a bit of an injured group, but it’s hard to scoff at 143 yards of total offense. After Jacksonville and a bye week Tampa Bay will move on to face the entire NFC East. He should be able to consistently out-snap and out-touch Charles Sims until he puts up a terrible performance.
Andy Dalton (77.3%) is out there doing his best Aaron Redgers impersonation, trailing Rodgers in fantasy points by only 6 (92-86) over the first four weeks of this young season. Dalton is sniffing the leaderboard in almost every important statistical category for a quarterback; he’s 1st in YPA (10.2), 3rd in TDs (9), 3rd in passing yards (1187) and 2nd in INTs (1). This streak of incredible play could come to a screeching halt as the next two weeks he faces tough defenses with Seattle at home and then the Bills in Buffalo. But hey, maybe not. Football Outsiders ranks the Bengals’ offensive pass protection as tippy-tops in the league, allowing a 2.2% Adjusted Sack Rate. To go along with that great offensive line and their lowly 2 sacks allowed this season, Andy is red rocketing the ball out at 2.18 seconds after the snap on average, ranking 4th in the NFL. With a two-headed beast of ball carriers behind him this weekend will surely be the test to see if 2015 can put to rest #BadAndy.
Charles Clay (72.4%) led the Buffalo offense in targets (13) by a wide margin against the Giants, beating out Percy Harvin (8), Robert Woods (5), and Chris Hogan (5). He translated that into 9 catches for 111 yards and sadly went scoreless when a 32-yard TD was called back on a penalty. This followed a week in which he went 5-82-1 on 7 targets; he’s becoming a solid option in Tyrod Taylor’s progressions as both Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy figure to miss a good bit more time. Clay should continue to ascend the ranks to the Gronks and Kelces and Olsens as the year progresses, including a matchup this week against a Titans team allowing the 6th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Sam Bradford (60.3%) came into Week 4 with the worst yards per completion in the NFL and he certainly made strides to fix it, completing four pass plays of over 30 yards en route to 270 yards on 15-of-28 passing with three touchdowns. The deep passes are great to see from a fantasy perspective, but it seems pretty obvious that the Eagles offense and Bradford in general are going to be very matchup-centric. Week 3 against a good Jets defense saw Sam throw a very similar 14-of-28 but garnered only 118 yards. Week 5 will be the exact plus-plus matchup Philly wants as the Saints are 32nd in DVOA in pass defense and 31st in overall D; they’re allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to quarterbacks AND they’re allowing a ridiculous 15.0 yards per completion to opposing teams. We could see some more fireworks in Philadelphia this week.
Duke Johnson (52.8%) had 8 rushes for all of 31 yards against the Chargers, but what we’re more concerned about here is a possible burgeoning PPR machine. Dookie caught 9 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets while Isaiah Crowell managed only 13 touches altogether. Johnson now has 15 catches on 17 targets over his last two games. From Graham Barfield:
Isaiah Crowell’s snap percentage by week: 49.3%, 49%, 40%, and 36.5%.
Duke Johnson’s snap percentage through four games: 43.7%, 53.1%, 44%, and 60.8%.
If the rookie can take over ~10 rushes a game while being targeted ~7-10 times a game, we’ll have some fantasy gold here. Go check your waiver wires, he could still be out there on the $free.
Kamar Aiken (14.4%) was the beneficiary of an already depleted Ravens’ wide receiver corps losing the duties of no. 1 WR Steve Smith. On TNF he tied his week 2 target total of 7 to catch 5 balls for 77 yards, including a 15-yard score in the 3rd quarter. With Smith Sr. likely missing this weekend’s game and Michael Campanaro and Breshad Perriman not set to return for the next couple of months, Kamar Aiken will be the pseudo no. 1 guy. The offense will likely struggle having to lean on him and Marlon Brown but that doesn’t mean Joe Flacco is going to throw for 110 yards against a mediocre Cleveland defense. Joe Haden is likely to play this weekend, but he was probable last week too. That’s another story for another time.
Bottom line; Aiken is worth a look if you’re desperate for a receiver and is at least worth a thought in DFS.
Carlos Hyde (97.3%) mashed the Vikings in week 1 with a 26-168-2 line, flipping the switch on overreactions before compiling a 36-114-0 line over the next three weeks combined, including an 8-20 game against the Packers last week. Green Bay stacked the box and elected to play without a safety over the top because, ya know, Colin Kaepernick sucks at throwing the football. As long as that is the case and Hyde is fighting Reggie Bush for passing downs (pretty much the entirety of these 49ers games) Carlos can’t even be considered an RB2. I’m deeply sorry if he’s a part of your team with how high you probably had to draft him.
Lamar Miller (92.1%) and his owners are welcoming this bye week with a sigh of relief. Things have not been looking good for this offense or this running back in particular. The no. 1 RB for Miami barely broke 50 yards in week 1 and hasn’t come close to the mark since, failing to reach 8 fantasy points in standard leagues thus far. A week after allowing 100+ yards to Ryan Mathews behind Football Outsiders’ 32nd ranked run blocking O-Line, the Jets limited Lamar to 26 yards on 7 carries. It’s not as if he was losing totes to other running backs as Jarvis Landry had 2 and Jonas Gray had only 1. Out of 64 offensive plays. Joe Philbin has been booted from Miami after this pitiful start so hopefully Dan Campbell and his Ed Hochuli-style Baby Gap shirts can light a fire in the rushing game. We won’t know until Week 6 against the Tennessee Titans.
Golden Tate (88.8%) is lodged square in the middle of one of the most disappointing offenses in the league. After Monday night’s fourth straight loss to bring the Lions to 0-4, Tate is now sitting on 18 receptions for 190 yards after eclipsing 100 catches and 1,400 yards last season. His 3 targets were beat out by two running backs in Ameer Abdullah (5) and Theo Riddick (5) and likely would have been beaten out by TE Eric Ebron if he hadn’t left the game after being rolled from behind. Tate might need to ride your bench against the Cardinals this week, but we’ll all get some relief in week 6 when he plays the Bears.
Andre Johnson (65.6%) has now racked up 7 catches for 51 yards after four entire NFL games. If those numbers look familiar to you, it’s the exact same numbers he had after two entire NFL games. The Indianapolis Colts have scored 51 points over the last two weeks and the veteran wide receiver has been involved in exactly none of it; being targeted 3 times and catching zero of them. Andrew Luck started two weeks ago while Matt Hasselbeck started last week’s game so it would seem not to make a difference whether or not Luck is healthy; Johnson is still not going to get the ball. If you like to stroll down narrative street then maybe you’d like to glance at Andre this week to see if he gets some action against his former Houston Texans team. The best scenario here would be some explosion of a game that helps you sell him to a blind league mate.
Matt Jones’ (55.6%) fantasy value is falling off of a cliff right now. After another lowly output he has 18 rushes for 49 yards over the last two weeks. Alfred Morris got the start and touched the ball 19 times (2 catches, 17 rushes), Chris Thompson busted a 43-yard run on 3rd and 19 to convert the first 3rd & 10+ yards of the year for the Redskins (0-for-14 before the run). Thompson ended up with 8 touches on the day for 77 total yards just one week removed from catching 8 passes for 57 yards and a TD. This backfield is a fantasy mess right now and the only viable option might end up being Chris Thompson in a PPR league, especially with their rotating cast of oft-injured tight ends.
Heath Miller (52.4%) turned in possibly the most pathetic possible stat line last Thursday night, catching just one pass on two targets for a single yard. He is now the TE17 on the year, propped up by 117 yards, a touchdown and a 2pt conversion. If you’re not playing in a three tight end league he won’t be a streamable option until Big Ben comes back and he’ll be a nailbiter of a play even then. Go ahead and cut ties and hop on the stream train.
Jameis Winston (22.2%) outdid his week 1 performance, managing to throw a pick six on his first pass attempt yet again before throwing three more picks and losing a fumble. In good (or bad news) it seems as if Winston picks a guy and throws it to him over and over and over again, giving Mike Evans 17 targets in week 3 and Vincent Jackson 15 targets in week 4. It’ll be a rough go of it all season long trying to figure out which of these guys you should consistently start.