Upgrades

Recent news and/or performance has made us more optimistic about these particular players for fantasy purposes.

Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan (Atl) - It is completely fair to say that Ryan has proved all of his 2016 doubters wrong. He and Julio Jones (12/300/1) completely annihilated a respectable Panthers’ secondary in Week 4. Matt Ryan threw for a career-high 503 yards (with 4 touchdowns) against Carolina and has now thrown for multiple passing touchdowns in each of the Falcons’ first four games. Ryan threw for two or more scores just six times in 2015. Ryan and the Falcons’ offense play Denver on the road in Week 5 and then travel to Seattle the following week, but it has become abundantly clear Ryan is much better this year than in 2016. Anytime you can “sell high” on a quarterback in fantasy football you have to take it, but Ryan’s start to the year has been both unpredictable and amazing.

Russell Wilson (Sea) – Wilson’s just a really, really good player. He may not always put up big numbers, and sometimes he’s frustrating for fantasy, but denying he’s a damn good player is just hating. In a matchup in which we thought he’d struggle, on the road at the Jets, Wilson carved up Todd Bowles’ boys for 23/32 passing for 309 yards and 3 TDs. Wilson was playing on two bad legs against a pretty damn good defense, in an early start on the road. He shut up a lot of doubters – including us – with his best game of the season. One of the keys for Wilson’s fantasy value, in addition to his rushing (which he didn’t have in this game), has been the emergence of TE Jimmy Graham, who has been amazing in two consecutive games. Wilson’s clearly capable of playing through injuries that may sideline other players, and playing well through those injuries. What is scarier is that Wilson now gets a full week of rest as the Seahawks head into their bye. Seattle still has a lot of questions, especially along the offensive line, but Wilson isn’t one of ‘em.

Ben Roethlisberger (Pit) – NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecast reminded us multiple times that it was “Redemption Sunday” for the Steelers, and Big Ben took it to heart more than any other Steeler. He completed 22/27 passes for 300 yards and 5 TDs for 34.9 FP (2nd) against the Chiefs in Week 4. He threw as many incompletions as he did INTs, he five passes go for 20+ yards. He got everyone involved in this one, and he continues to show great downfield timing with second-year WR Sammie Coates, who has provided the offense a real vertical threat with Martavis Bryant out. He also got RB Le’Veon Bell back in the mix, and he looked exactly the same as he did last year before his knee injury. Big Ben is capable of disappearing from time to time like he did in Week 3, but you have to keep plugging him in every week because of performances like Week 4.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire

  • None.

 

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott (Dal) – The Cowboys’ offensive line, even without Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, absolutely shredded the 49ers’ defense in an overall competitive game in Week 4, especially once LB NaVorro Bowman went down with an Achilles injury. Elliott was the beneficiary, carrying 23 times for 138 yards and a short TD. Elliott played 63.2% of Dallas’ offensive snaps, as both Lance Dunbar (22.8%) and Alfred Morris (15.8%) worked into the action, but Elliott’s snap share is dominant enough to consider him an easy bell cow. Through four games, Elliott’s 412 rushing yards lead the NFL, and at 17.4 FPG, he’s the #8 overall RB. At this stage, it’s hard to feel much better about any RBs rest of season, sans maybe David Johnson, than Elliott.

Le’Veon Bell (Pit) – Bell, in his first game back, looked like the same old explosive back that we’ve become accustomed to seeing the last three years. He finished with 18/144/0 rushing and 5/34 receiving on 6 targets for 22.8 FP (t-3rd) in Week 4 against the Chiefs. He showed no ill-effects from 2015’s season-ending knee injury, as he showed his typical patience in the hole before exploding for big gains – he averaged 8.0 YPC and had a long gain of 44 yards. The Steelers didn’t do it much Sunday night, but they’ve also talked about using Bell out of the slot, which will only boost his value. Bell is easily locked in as an elite play going forward with a game under his belt, and it doesn’t look like DeAngelo Williams will suck to many touches away from him.

Isaiah Crowell (Cle) – We were incredibly high on Crowell this summer, so we know that many of our subscribers have been enjoying the fruits of Crow’s labor so far this season. He finished with 15/112/1 rushing and 3/22 receiving on 4 targets for 22.4 FP (7th) in Week 4 against the Redskins. His 386 rushing yards puts him behind Ezekiel Elliott in the league, and he’s currently tied for 8th in FPG (17.0) with Tevin Coleman. What makes Crow’s start even more impressive is that he’s getting it done every week with game scripts that are working against him, as the Browns have yet to win and are playing from behind every week. He played on 47% of the snaps this week, behind Duke Johnson at 57%. It’s clear that HC Hue Jackson is hell bent on giving Crowell his 15+ carries every week no matter what the circumstances are, which is great for Crow’s owners.

Jordan Howard (Chi) – Howard is quickly making Bears fans forget about Jeremy Langford (ankle), as the rookie impressed in his first start as the lead back. He finished with 23/111 rushing and 3/21 receiving on 4 targets for 16.2 FP (15th) while playing a whopping 91% of the snaps. We’ve been impressed with his way to pick up extra yardage after contact, and he’s been surprisingly competent as receiver with 9 catches so far, which is a nice little bonus. The Bears have only Joique Bell as a backup to Howard at this point with Ka’Deem Carey battling a hamstring injury, so they will continue to ride Howard for the foreseeable future, and HC John Fox said as much in his post-game press conference.

LeSean McCoy (Buf) – The Bills placed Sammy Watkins (foot) on the injured reserve prior to their Week 4 showdown with the Patriots, so it’s even more clear that this is McCoy’s offense going forward. He finished with 19/70 rushing and 6/38/1 receiving on 6 targets for 22.8 FP (t-3rd), scoring the only TD of the game on a 7-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor. The Patriots did sell out to slow him down, which is a major concern going forward, and they held him to a 3.7 YPC average. Still, McCoy looks as slippery as ever, and you can now just pencil him in for 20+ carries every week with Watkins out, so he’s a must-start the rest of the way.

Christine Michael (Sea) – In Week 4’s win over the Jets, Michael played a 73.3% snap share, his highest of the season, and he turned in yet another notable performance with 18/58 rushing and 5/32/1 receiving on 6 targets. Through four games, he’s the #11 RB with 16.5 FPG, and a nice bonus from this game against a tough Jet defense is the fact that he continues to produce a little bit as a receiver, which can be critical for a back to maintain fantasy value. Right now, Michael is the clear #1 back on a team that loves to run the football. With GM John Schneider revealing that Thomas Rawls (leg) is expected to miss another month of action, Michael now leads a backfield that has street pickup C.J. Spiller as its #2 back. Spiller looked pretty good in his Seattle debut, also scoring a TD, but this job is Michael’s for sure, and he’s a weekly starter for fantasy once Seattle gets back from bye.

Jerick McKinnon (RB, Min) – Yes, Matt Asiata will remain an annoying vulture, but make no mistake about who the Vikings’ top back is with Adrian Peterson down. Against the Giants on Monday night, McKinnon played 62.2% of the Vikings’ offensive snaps, compared to only 39.2% for Asiata, and handled 21 offensive touches. He posted 18/85/1 rushing and 3/10 receiving, and looked downright explosive on multiple touches. It was a huge positive for the Vikings, who had seemed incapable of running to this point. The offensive line played its best game of the year, and it came against one of the most improved defensive fronts in all of football. It makes the Vikings a lot more dangerous if McKinnon looks this good constantly, and also keep in mind they schemed the ball into his hands – OC Norv Turner ran some Wildcat with the former option QB. McKinnon is currently a solid flex play, but has the athleticism to be more than that.

T.J. Yeldon (Jac) - After ripping the Colts in London for 117 all-purpose yards (14/71 rushing; 4/46 receiving), due to his pass game involvement, its clear Yeldon’s weekly floor is higher than teammate Chris Ivory’s (8/27 rushing; 0/0 receiving). Once more, the Jags’ let Yeldon salt the game away versus Indianapolis. Yeldon was on the field for 75% of Jacksonville’s offensive plays while Ivory played just 25%. While Yeldon is clearly the floor play out of Jacksonville’s backfield duo, Ivory should be involved enough to post low-end RB3 stats. Yeldon is upgraded into the low-RB2 category after Week 4.

Matt Jones (Was) – While the Browns likely gave Washington a little bit more of a game than coach Jay Gruden may have hoped, it was still a game that set up well for Jones on paper than any other matchup this year. He took advantage, posting a season-high 22/117/1 rushing and 2/21 receiving, while playing another season-high 66.1% of the offensive snaps. At 267 yards, he’s currently 13th in the NFL in rushing, and his solid-but-not-spectacular 12.4 FPG ties him for 24th at the RB position. Jones is looking better than he did early in the season, and at least we’ve been able to come away with a couple decent reads on his situation. When the game flow sets up positively, he’ll play a lot, even though scatback Chris Thompson will remain heavily involved as well. In other words, Jones has played up to expectations given his draft slot, and as plenty of players have shown, it could be way worse than that all things considered.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire

  • Bilal Powell (NYJ)
  • Terrance West (Bal)
  • Fozzy Whittaker (Car)

 

Wide Receivers

John Brown (Ari) – This is the game we were looking for. Last week against the Bills, Brown had finally started showing signs of life as a target, but his snaps were still low relative to expectations. But in Week 4 against the Rams, Brown’s snaps and targets were way up. Playing 90.9% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps, by far a season high (Brown had not topped 60% all year), Brown posted 10/144 receiving on a ridiculous 16 targets. This is obviously a great sign, but there are still some concerns. First and foremost, the concussion to QB Carson Palmer could keep Palmer out of Week 5’s game against San Francisco, especially considering it’s a short week (Thursday game). Second of all, Brown’s role seemed to flip with Michael Floyd’s this week – Floyd spent some time last week in the league’s concussion protocol, and with a dropped pass early, he fell behind Brown in 2-WR sets, which had not been the case in the first three weeks of the season (Floyd played 45.5% of the offensive snaps this weeks). Thirdly, the Cardinals essentially rotate four WRs into their 3-WR sets – Jaron Brown (58.4% snap share, a season-high) is not going anywhere. Nonetheless, Brown is quick and explosive, and is a player the Cardinals need if they’re going to explode out of their depressing 1-3 hole.

A.J. Green (Cin) – Andy Dalton played it smart against an overmatched Dolphins secondary in Week 4, as he repeatedly fed his guy Green the rock. Dalton completed 22/31 passes for 296 yards and 1 TD, with 12 of his passes going toward Green for 10/173/1. Green finished with a 38.7% target share and 58.4% of the Bengals passing yards. He already has two 10-catch games this season, and he’s leading the league in receptions (32) despite a two-catch game to his name, so he’s a slam-dunk WR1 right now.

Antonio Brown (Pit) – AB actually had a quieter game than usual, with just 5 targets, but he did the most with them by scoring 2 TDs in the first half. He finished with 4/64/2 receiving on 5 targets for 22.4 FP (9th) in Week 4 against the Chiefs, schooling rookie D.J. White and the Chiefs safeties for his scores. Le’Veon Bell looked dynamic in his return, and WR Sammie Coates has made some progress in the early going, which aren’t bad develops for Brown, who seems to thrive when the Steelers are playing at max potential.

Brandon Marshall (NYJ) – The Jets are in a tough spot with Eric Decker dealing with a torn rotator cuff, which could cost him major time. Marshall better be ready to be heavily used going forward, like he was going against top CB Richard Sherman in Week 4. Marshall finished with 4/89/1 receiving on 12 targets, beating Sherman for a 17-yard score and 41-yard pass. He saw a 29.2% target share playing beside the likes of Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and Charone Peake. If Decker misses significant time or plays impaired with his shoulder injury, we’d expect Marshall to be around a 25% target share of higher going forward.

Michael Crabtree (Oak) – We keep feeling like Amari Cooper will get his soon, and we still feel that way, but damn, Crabtree has been really good these last few weeks. Crabtree posted 7/88/3 receiving on 12 targets against the Ravens in Week 4, in a very impressive win for Derek Carr and Oakland. Crabtree has now out-targeted Cooper in two consecutive games, and has out-produced him for fantasy in three consecutive games. Perhaps most importantly, he has 4 TDs to Cooper’s 0, which will always majorly skew fantasy scoring over a small sample of a month. Nonetheless, he has seemed to make more high-impact catches than Cooper has to this point in big situations, and Carr is a “feel” QB who will likely keep feeding Crabtree in those spots. At 20.2 FPG, Crabtree is currently 6th among all WRs, so even if his production fades, as it did last season, he’s helped his owners bank a few wins to this point, so he’s already provided massive return on investment. The fact that he’s in a pretty damn good offense only helps.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire

  • Steve Smith (Bal)
  • Quincy Enunwa (NYJ)
  • Sammie Coates (Pit)
  • Robert Woods (Buf)
  • Eddie Royal (Chi)

 

Tight Ends

Kyle Rudolph (TE, Min) – Rudolph has always been a player who tantalized with his potential, but ultimately frustrated because of injuries, mistakes, or simply a lack of involvement in the offense. Well, apparently all he needed to reach that potential was Sam Bradford. Against the Giants on Monday night, Rudolph posted 5/55/1 receiving on 7 targets, and another one of his targets was a fade pattern in the end zone. He now has a TD in three straight games, which also coincides with Bradford’s timeline as Minnesota’s starter. In other words, we’re witnessing the triumphant return of “Rudolph the Red-Zone Reindeer.” The scary part is that Rudolph can actually improve in this area – while his 6 targets inside the 20 are tied for 4th among TEs, He has only 1 target inside the 5, which was the fade pattern that fell incomplete prior to a Matt Asiata TD early against the Giants. We know he’s been tough to trust, but it’s hard to deny that Bradford looks for Rudolph in critical situations. He’s an every-week starter at TE.

Jimmy Graham (Sea) – After yet another big game in Week 4, a lot more people are talking about Graham’s amazing return to the field, but we still don’t think enough people are truly appreciating it. A patellar tendon injury can derail careers, and despite Graham suffering one last November, he’s playing his best football in a Seahawk uniform. Against the Jets in Week 4, Graham posted 6/113 receiving on 8 targets. It’s Graham’s second consecutive 100-yard game, as he becomes the first TE of the season to accomplish such a feat, and he’s now done that two weeks in a row despite playing fewer than 70% of the Seahawks’ snaps in each. Moreover, he missed practice time this week with his knee pain/recovery. At this point, the Seahawks’ Week 5 bye can only help both him and QB Russell Wilson. Against all odds, Graham is a locked-in TE1 until further notice.  

Zach Ertz (Phi) – Ertz told reporters on Monday that an MRI on his displaced rib have come back good, and that should clear him for Week 5’s showdown with the Lions. The Eagles have gotten a ton of production out of the TE spot even without Ertz this year, but he was heavily involved in Week 1, and we’d project Ertz to be back on the TE1 radar immediately in a good matchup against the hapless Lions defense.

Upgrades from the Waiver Wire

  • Hunter Henry (SD)
  • Zach Miller (Chi)

 

Downgrades

Recent news and/or performance has made us less optimistic about these particular players for fantasy purposes.

Quarterbacks

Carson Palmer (Ari) – Palmer’s an obvious downgrade – he suffered a concussion late in Week 4’s loss to Los Angeles, and with the Cardinals having to turn around and play on Thursday against San Francisco makes Palmer getting cleared even more unlikely. On top of that, Palmer didn’t play terribly well anyway, going 23/36 for 288 yards with a TD and a pick. Again, Palmer’s numbers weren’t awful, but there seems to be something missing in his game, and even though WR John Brown had his first truly impactful performance of the season, the Cardinals just can’t seem to get in sync. Even if Palmer is able to play on Thursday against San Francisco, which seems unlikely, he’ll be very difficult to trust for fantasy.

Cam Newton (Car) - After posting an otherworldly 7.1% touchdown rate in 2015, Newton’s TD rate this year has fallen back down to earth to a respectable 4.5% through four games. Touchdown regression was always going to hit Newton -- no one can sustain a 7-plus percent touchdown rate in back-to-back years -- but fantasy owners need to realize that Newton’s passing upside is not what it was in 2015. He may have Kelvin Benjamin back, but that doesn’t mean his 2015 output (35 passing touchdowns) is repeatable. Once more, as of Monday morning, Newton is in the league’s concussion protocol after absorbing a big hit on an odd two-point conversion play in Atlanta. We’ll know more about Cam Newton’s Week 5 status versus the Bucs’ later this week.

Jameis Winston (TB) - We’ll continue to wear this out in this space until it gets old: Winston’s weekly floor and ceiling is entirely dependent on matchup. Against two tough secondaries to start the year (Arizona and Denver), Winston has thrown for 243 (vs. Ari) and 179 (vs. Den) passing yards with a combined six interceptions and just one passing touchdown. On the other hand, Winston has shredded Atlanta and Los Angeles for seven total passing scores (just 2 interceptions) in Week 1 and 3. He is only usable in predictably good matchups and can safely be left on fantasy benches against strong secondaries.

 

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings (RB, NYG) – Jennings missed Week 4 with his thumb injury, the second consecutive game he missed, and in his stead, Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins each proved to be more than capable of making plays. Darkwa got a short TD, and Perkins set the TD up with a 67-yard reception. What’s more, neither Darkwa nor Perkins played the most snaps in the Giant backfield – that was Bobby Rainey. Ultimately, this downgrade is more of an acknowledgement that we don’t think the Giants will be capable of taking Perkins off the field in a very short time. He’s their most explosive back with Shane Vereen injured.

Latavius Murray (Oak) – We’d be lying if we said this game wasn’t coming. In the Raiders’ Week 4 win over the Ravens, Murray was an afterthought. Murray carried just 8 times for 19 yards, and added 2/5 receiving in his first game this season without a TD run. Murray’s opportunities have fallen in every game this year, and for the second time in four games, he had fewer than 10 carries. Despite playing 56.7% of the Raiders’ offensive snaps, his second-highest share of the season thus far, Murray was wholly ineffective. So far this year, Murray is #20 in total fantasy points in PPR with 51.5, but 35% of his scoring has come from TDs alone. Five players in the top 20 – Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde, Tevin Coleman, C.J. Anderson, and LeGarrette Blount – have had a higher percentage of their fantasy scoring come from TDs, but it’s also worth pointing out that each of those players has significantly more opportunities and yards from scrimmage than does Murray. Moreover, with the loss of blocking TE Lee Smith to a broken leg, the Raiders’ run blocking takes a huge hit. Things are looking up for Oakland overall, but not for Murray.

Chris Ivory (Jac) - After barely being involved in London vs. the Colts in Week 4 (8/29 rushing; 0/0 receiving), Ivory is relegated to just low-end RB3 status until further notice. Teammate T.J. Yeldon gobbled up all of the receiving work on 75% of the Jags’ snaps, all while Jacksonville had the lead. Because Ivory doesn’t even get looks in Jacksonville’s check-down game, we simply can’t trust him on a weekly level. Big games will come eventually for Ivory -- and he will probably be more involved moving forward -- but we won’t know when to predict him. Yeldon has clearly separated himself as the superior fantasy asset.

Matt Forte (NYJ) – We knew Forte’s two-game run to start the year wouldn’t last, but he’s come crashing back to earth in the last two weeks. He finished with 14/27 rushing and 2/16 receiving on 3 targets for 6.3 FP (t-37th) against the Seahawks in Week 4. Backup RB Bilal Powell actually out-snapped him this week 37-34 and Powell has out-played him as well. He’s averaged 13.6 FPG the last two weeks compared to Forte’s 7.4. What’s most disconcerting for Forte owners is that he was spotted heading toward the X-ray room after the game, so we’ll need to see if he’s dealing with an injury issue this week.

Giovani Bernard (Cin) – Bernard was a victim of game flow in Week 4, with the Bengals jumping out to a big lead against the Dolphins and feeding Jeremy Hill with carries in the second half. Bernard also got some carries and did nothing with them, finishing with 10/18 rushing and 3/24 receiving on 4 targets for 7.2 FP (34th). Bernard is now averaging a dreadful 2.7 YPC, and he’s only been spared a by a 9-catch performance in Week 2, which has propelled him to second-most catches (19) for an RB. He still played on 49% of the snaps – slightly behind Hill’s 51% - but it looks like he needs to be playing in a shootout or from behind to make his full impact felt as a receiver.

DeAngelo Williams (Pit) – The Steelers talked about using Le’Veon Bell out of the slot and Williams in the backfield before Week 4. And while they did deploy that look a few times, it doesn’t appear that it will become a staple of the offense. Williams finished with 4/7/1 rushing and 1/2 receiving on 1 targets for 7.9 FP (32nd) against the Chiefs, scoring a late TD with the game in hand. Williams will get some touches each week, but this is clearly Bell’s backfield, and Williams is nothing more than a handcuff for now.

 

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins (Hou) - What a weird start to Hopkins’ 2016 campaign. After posting two top-24 finishes (WR21, WR6) in Week 1-2, Hopkins laid a WR46 egg against the Patriots on a short week and only caught one pass for four yards against a Titans’ team he has historically shredded. Hopkins is bound to have big performances, but with Will Fuller’s (11, 7, 7, 9 targets in Week 1-4) active involvement, Hopkins’ 180-plus-target upside from 2015 is likely shattered. Fuller is just too good not to be routinely targeted. Hopkins’ weekly target should still hover in the 7-11 range, but that is a far cry from his double-digit target floor of last season. Hopkins is likely best viewed as a low-end WR1 from here on out as opposed to a top-6 option.

Brandin Cooks (NO) - After two very tough defensive draws (vs. Desmond Trufant in Week 3; Jason Verrett in Week 4), Cooks’ stat sheet has suffered immensely (2/13 vs. Atl; 3/31 vs. SD). While the Saints have their Week 5 bye on the horizon, we need to note Cooks is extremely dependent on home/road splits. In fact, Cooks’ PPR per game output dips by -33.8 percent when the Saints are on the road. At the same time (2014-16), Drew Brees’ per game fantasy stats dips by -24.5 percent when the Saints are away from the Superdome. While he will have his monster games (mostly at home), Brandin Cooks is best used as a No. 3 fantasy wideout instead of a bankable No. 2 every week.

Eric Decker (NYJ) – Decker could miss an extended amount of time with torn rotator cuff, and if he does play again this year, it will likely be through a great deal of pain. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the team considered placing Decker on the injured reserve last week, and we’re guessing that’s still on the table if he doesn’t show any progress the next couple weeks. We’d still prefer to see where he is in the next week or two, but he’s probably worth dropping if you need immediate help at WR.

Mike Wallace (Bal) – After teasing everybody the first two weeks, Mike Wallace still appears to be Mike Wallace. A week after dropping a TD pass from Joe Flacco, Wallace finished with a 40% catch rate, posting 4/44 receiving on 10 targets for 8.7 FPG (51st). He’s now clearly behind Steve Smith as the top receiver in this passing game, but they both saw an increase in playing time this – 83% and 82% respectively. Wallace is still likely to disappoint you most weeks, but at least Flacco threw 4 deep balls to him, so he’s going to go off a couple times this year.

Golden Tate (Det) – We can’t imagine a worse start than Tate is having to begin the 2016 season. He was completely non-existent in the passing game once again in Week 4, and he earned a benching in the second half after he cost the Lions points and a potential victory by running the wrong route on an interception in scoring position at the end of the first half. He went on to finish with just 1/1 receiving on 4 targets for 1.1 FP (t-99th), with his biggest contribution coming on a 2-point conversion. He ended up playing 57% of the snaps, with Anquan Boldin (86%) and Andre Roberts (43%) earning more time. HC Jim Caldwell said after the game that Tate is still an “integral part” of the offense, but he’s clearly unusable for fantasy and even droppable at this point.

Alshon Jeffery (Chi) – Opposing defenses seem content not to let Jeffery beat them, especially the last two weeks since Brian Hoyer took over. Jeffery finished with 3/46 receiving on 5 targets for 7.6 FP (t-56th) in Week 4 against the Lions. Hoyer has been content to throw to his other weapons the last two weeks, and struggling second-year WR Kevin White has out-targeted Jeffery 23-12 in that time. White did suffer an ankle injury in Week 4, so he could be headed toward missing some time. It appears that Jeffery needs Cutler’s more reckless approach at QB to get back to being a WR1, but the team has played better under Hoyer the last two weeks, so we could be headed toward a little QB controversy.

Travis Benjamin (SD) – In a massive matchup against the Saints, Benjamin was a huge disappointment, both for fantasy and in reality. He posted 4/48 receiving on 7 targets, but essentially contributed single-handedly to yet another incredibly awful Charger loss, by fumbling in the fourth quarter despite not being touched by a defender. It just seems like there’s something rotten in San Diego, whether it be the coaching, the offensive line, or (most likely) a combination of factors. QB Philip Rivers is still playing pretty well overall, though he can’t control a game in the same way he used to, especially with how many of his weapons are banged up. Benjamin also has more competition for targets than we expected overall, given the emergence of Tyrell Williams, Hunter Henry, and Week 4 star Dontrelle Inman.

Tyler Lockett (Sea) – Lockett’s role is basically nil – against the Jets in a big Week 4 win, he played just 23.3% of Seattle’s offensive snaps, a season-low (his snaps have fallen every week). We got some insight into why, though, when WR Doug Baldwin told ESPN.com that Lockett has a torn PCL, and his currently playing through the injury. It’s weird that the Seahawks would play Lockett in punt-return situations through that injury, but other than that it absolutely makes sense that he’s dealing with an injury more serious than we initially thought. Lockett is obviously droppable for a player who may make an impact now, but it’d be wrong to miss pointing out that he should now have a shot to heal up over Seattle’s Week 5 bye. We’ll monitor his progress, but the Seahawks are typically tough to trust with the injury declarations they make in public.


Tight Ends

Antonio Gates (SD) – Gates missed his second consecutive game in Week 4, and for the second consecutive week, rookie TE Hunter Henry made a big impact in his stead. Henry posted 4/61/1 receiving on 7 targets against the Saints in yet another terrible loss for the Chargers. Henry had a fumble in Week 3 that helped cost the Chargers the game against Indianapolis, but the fact is that he’s moving way better at this point than Gates has moved in years. How can the Chargers take him off the field?

Dennis Pitta (Bal) – QB Joe Flacco really needed to get his fullback Kyle Juszczyk involved in Week 4, giving him 7 targets against the Raiders. Meanwhile, Pitta finished with just 3/17 receiving on 5 targets for 4.7 FP (23rd), as he couldn’t shake free in the middle of the field. Juszczyk also had 3 targets in the red-zone, including 2 at the goal line. Pitta and Gary Barnidge are the only TEs to see 20+ targets this year without seeing a single red-zone target. Perhaps the most disconcerting takeaway from Pitta’s lack of usage was his playing time, as he saw just 66% of the snaps while Crockett Gillmore saw 47%. If Pitta is going to continue to lose playing time to Gillmore and targets to a fullback, he’ll no longer be in the TE1 conversation.

Eric Ebron (Det) – The Lions clearly want and need Ebron to be a big part of this passing game this season, but the talented young TE’s body isn’t cooperating at this point. He still appears to be hindered by his preseason ankle injury, and he’s dealt with knee and back issues as well, and we’re just four weeks into the season. Ebron finished with 4/42 receiving on 5 targets for 8.2 FP, playing on just 84% of the snaps because of an ankle/knee injury that forced him to miss a chunk of time. WR Golden Tate has at least been a disaster, but Ebron is still battling with plenty of other receiver here for targets.He’s still has at least 4 catches per game so far, but you need to have an alternative behind him because it looks like he’s breaking down early in the year.

 

Holding Steady

These players have been in the news in one way or another, but we think their fantasy stock remains largely unchanged. 

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins (Was) – Cousins wasn’t great against the Browns in Week 4 – he went 21/27 for 183 yards with 3 TDs and a terrible pick. However, he was good enough to get a win, and most importantly, he had 3 passing TDs in the red zone, where he had struggled miserably badly early in the season. He also could have had more yards, but a couple deep DPIs drawn by DeSean Jackson moved the ball down the field without adding to the club’s passing yardage. With his low-yardage week, Cousins went from second to fifth in the NFL in passing yards, but he’s still got one of the league’s most interesting sets of weapons. Cousins’ level of play is still shaky, but he’s definitely improved the last two weeks, looking more like the solid player he was in 2015, rather than the poor player he resembled in Weeks 1 and 2.

Derek Carr (Oak) – Carr is absolutely ballin’ right now. In a road game against Baltimore, the third early West-to-East start the Raiders have had already, Carr posted 25/35 passing for just 199 yards, but he threw 4 TDs and brought the Raiders from behind late to win the game. He has one of the NFL’s best 1-2 punches at WR in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (or should that be reversed?), and he’s also gotten role player Seth Roberts involved in big situations. Carr is occasionally an erratic thrower, but there’s enough Brett Favre gunslinger in his game to make up for it, without him being a needless risk-taker. All in all, he’s a QB who’s worth rostering in just about every format, even if his numbers haven’t totally exploded to this point.

Philip Rivers (SD) – Aside from Week 3 against Indianapolis, Rivers has generally played very well this year. And overall, the Chargers have had moments good enough for their team to be 4-0. Well, they’re 1-3, because they’ve choked away three games this year. In fact, in two of those three games, the Chargers had a fourth-quarter lead of 13 or more points. According to Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune San Diego, no other NFL team has blown a 13-point fourth-quarter lead this year – they’re 25-0 combined – and the Chargers have blown two. But the Chargers penchant for choking away massive leads keeps Rivers throwing. Against the Saints, Rivers went 28/43 for 321 yards with 2 TDs and a pick. But RB Melvin Gordon and WR Travis Benjamin each lost a critical fumble in the fourth quarter, while Dontrelle Inman dropped a critical pass late. Things have to even out eventually, and it’s good news that Rivers has had some young receivers step up, including rookie TE Hunter Henry (who had a critical fumble himself in Week 3). Rivers is still worth starting for fantasy, but this team has been so bad late in games.

Andy Dalton (Cin) – Dalton played it smart against an overmatched Dolphins secondary in Week 4, as he repeatedly fed his guy A.J. Green the rock. Dalton completed 22/31 passes for 296 yards and 1 TD for 17.6 FP (t-18th), with 12 of his passes going toward Green for 10/173/1. Dalton looked sharp all night but the Bengals repeatedly bogged down in scoring range because of a non-existent running game. Dalton has a very disappointing 3 TD passes through four games, but it’s looking like he could get his favorite red-zone weapon back this week in Tyler Eifert, who scored a whopping 13 times in 13 games last season. At this point, Dalton desperately needs another weapon in this passing game and in scoring territory.

Matthew Stafford (Det) – We don’t know what has happened between Stafford and Golden Tate this season, as they clearly aren’t on the same page right now after showing plenty of chemistry the last two years. Tate earned a benching in the second half after he cost the Lions points and a potential victory by running the wrong route on a Stafford interception in scoring position at the end of the first half. The INT deflated Stafford and the entire offense as they were just showing life for the first time all game. He ended up completing 23/36 passes for 213 yards and 2 INTs for 12.4 FP (27th) against the Bears. Outside of our concerns with Tate, we also have to worry about TE Eric Ebron who continues to deal with his preseason ankle injury. Stafford will be in the QB1 conversation almost every week, but we do have to worry about this situation heading south and getting toxic.

Tyrod Taylor (Buf) – We haven’t liked Taylor’s prospects since the summer, and he now has an even tougher road to maintain fantasy relevance with Sammy Watkins (foot) landing on the injured reserve. Taylor did a good job of staying afloat in Week 4 against the Patriots, completing 27/39 passes for 246 yards and 1 TD and adding 5/28 rushing for 19.1 FP (15th). Taylor’s situation is still bleak with Robert Woods and Charles Clay left as his top receiving options, and he’s going to be tough to trust for fantasy going forward. He’ll likely need to do a little more with his feet going forward to be in the streaming conversation.

 

Running Backs

Melvin Gordon (SD) – Well, Gordon has volume. That’s what we can say about him. In Week 4’s loss to the Saints and their awful defense, he posted 19/36 rushing, with two gift TDs, and 6/43 receiving on 7 targets. At 20.6 FPG, Gordon ranks 4th among all RBs, but among the top 20 average scorers at the position, only Theo Riddick has a worse YPC average than Gordon’s 3.15. Nonetheless, Gordon played 89% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps, as Dexter McCluster’s snap share actually went down. This is the perfect example of volume making a fantasy asset. Gordon could barely get anything going against a Saint defense that got absolutely shredded for 300 yards from scrimmage by Falcon RBs in Week 3. But he scored two short TDs, and caught a bunch of checkdowns. However, his late-game fumble likely doesn’t endear him to this coaching staff, especially since he doesn’t gain the type of “grind-it-out” yardage the Chargers need to close out big leads late (and heck, even if he did, can they trust him with the fumbles?). His usage is RB1 level, his play is not anywhere close to that, despite 6 TDs thus far (mostly short). Which element will give first? If the TDs dry up, so will Gordon – a whopping 43.7% of his fantasy scoring has come from TDs, the highest among any RB in the top 30 in PPR fantasy scoring.

David Johnson (Ari) – The Cardinals may stink, but DJ doesn’t. Against the Rams in an ugly Week 4 loss, DJ posted 17/83 rushing and 4/41 receiving, though a lost fumble really put a damper on his day, especially since the Rams scored the game-winning TD soon after. Nonetheless, he still played 72.7% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps, and his volume isn’t likely to go anywhere if Chris Johnson (groin) isn’t able to play against the 49ers on a short week. The Cardinals are bad right now, especially if Carson Palmer misses any time with his concussion, but if Palmer is down for any length of time, the offense will revolve around DJ’s versatility even more than it already does.

Carlos Hyde (SF) – The 49ers continue to show they’re one of the worst teams in professional football, but at the least Hyde has been reliable for fantasy. Against Dallas in Week 4, Hyde posted 15/74/1 rushing and 1/5 receiving, while playing a whopping 83% of the offensive snaps. That said, keep in mind that over 40% of his yardage came on his first carry of the game, and at 42.9%, he’s second to only Melvin Gordon among top-30 RBs in percentage earned of total fantasy points coming from TDs. It suggests that while Hyde is getting TD opportunities and converting them, he’s likely to disappoint for fantasy if he doesn’t get in the end zone. And because the 49ers are so damn bad overall, Hyde isn’t going to get as many chances to score as someone like Gordon might. He’s still worth rolling out as an every-week starter because RB is so weak in general, but there are some bad games on the way.

Frank Gore (Ind) - What do you know? Another week is past, and Frank Gore once again finds himself on the “holding steady” list. With weekly PPR finishes of RB26, RB12, RB17 and RB10, Gore is by far and away the exact player we expected him to be. Every single week, we can count on 12-18 touches, 55-90 yards of total offense and a better than 50% chance of a touchdown. He is the perfect RB2. Once more, Gore has a fairly light schedule upcoming (vs. Bears, at Texans, at Titans).

Mark Ingram (NO) - After seeing just 14 and 13 in Week 1-2, Ingram is back up to his usual workload. In Week 3-4 (vs. Falcons, vs. Chargers), Mark Ingram has touch totals of 19 and 24 along with a combined 13 total targets. This is the type of usage we’re accustomed to seeing from the Saints. John Kuhn’s three fluky short touchdowns robbed Ingram of a spectacular game (he still finished with 18/56/1 rushing; 6/49 receiving), we feel very confident about Ingram holding as a low-end RB1 for the rest of the season. When the Saints return from their Week 5 bye, Ingram will face the Panthers (home), the Chiefs (road), and the Seahawks (home).  

Duke Johnson (Cle) – With his lack of weapons at WR and his dire QB situation, it appears that HC Hue Jackson realizes that he needs to get Duke his weekly share of touches. Duke’s usage the last two weeks has been much more promising with Cody Kessler at QB, as he has 15+ touches the last two games. He finished with 9/53 rushing and 6/31 receiving on 8 targets for 14.4 FP (t-18th) against the Browns in Week 4. He now has the fourth-most receptions (18) among RBs, and he played a promising 57% of the snaps last week – more than Isaiah Crowell 47%. The Browns have yet to win a game and are playing from behind most weeks, so he’s going to have game scripts in his favor, including this week against the Patriots.

Jeremy Hill (Cin) – The Bengals sure did commit to running the ball with Hill in Week 4, but he simply couldn’t find any kind of room to operate against a pretty good Dolphins defensive line. He finished with 21/71 rushing and no catches for 7.1 FP (35th), as he couldn’t get the edge or find room between the tackles. He also failed on two chances to score inside the 5-yard line, an area where he normally dominates. He at least played on 51% of the snaps ahead of Giovani Bernard’s 49%. At least OC Ken Zampese has committed more to the run the last two weeks, which is something they should continue to do with limited weapons at receiver outside of A.J. Green.

LeGarrette Blount (NE) – The game script for the Patriots finally didn’t work in Blount’s favor in Week 4, as the Patriots were forced to go with Jacoby Brissett, who actually looked like a rookie QB in over his head. Blount finished with 13/54 rushing and 3/4 receiving on 3 targets for 8.8 FP (31st). The Patriots will get Tom Brady back starting this week, which will hurt Blount’s value some as Brady will obviously want to throw it more than Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo did the first four weeks. Still, the Patriots will have some leads late in games, including this week against the Browns, so Blount will have his chances to keep his RB2 status.

 

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (WE, NYG) – Look, we completely understand that Beckham has not done what you “paid” for him to do in your drafts, and the spotlight is on that fact after he disappointed on Monday night against the Vikings, as CB Xavier Rhodes and company held him to 3/23 receiving on 9 targets. We also understand that he’s drawing unneeded attention to himself with his on-field tantrums, and that defensive backs are clearly being coached to get in his head (it’s working, by the way). But we are simply not concerned about his usage. As our Graham Barfield notes, Beckham is on pace for virtually the same target share as last year – he had 158 in 2015, and is on pace for 156 in 2016. In fact, if OBJ had 2 TDs with the same exact catches and receptions as he does this year – 22 catches, 303 yards – his stats would look remarkably similar to his line through four games a season ago. The point is, while OBJ has been disappointing, if you’re selling on him because you’re frustrated, you’re almost certain to regret it in due time, perhaps as early as next week when OBJ takes on Green Bay.

Stefon Diggs (WR, Min) – The issue with Diggs the last two weeks? The Vikings simply haven’t needed to throw the ball downfield a ton. He posted 5/47 receiving on 7 targets against the Giants on Monday night, in a game the Vikings controlled virtually from start to finish. All in all, QB Sam Bradford played well against the Giants, but took the more conservative route en route to a 262-yard game against New York, and the deep shots actually went to Charles Johnson. This may continue to be an issue for Diggs, because through four weeks, the Vikings’ suffocating defense may well be the best in football. There is nothing wrong with Diggs, who is climbing the list of the best route runners in football, but the offense’s methodical nature will limit his upside.

Jeremy Maclin (KC) – Maclin had a solid bottom line against Pittsburgh on Sunday night, posting 5/78 receiving on 8 targets, but if the Chiefs had decided to show up in the game, his line might well have been better (most of his catches came with the game well out of reach). The 78 yards were Maclin’s most of the season. At 37 targets, he’s actually tied for 10th in the NFL, but among those top 10, only Brandon Marshall (46.9) has fewer total fantasy points than does Maclin (50.3). Obviously, the restricted offense and QB Alex Smith’s conservative nature are limiting Maclin, but it also doesn’t help him that the Chiefs actually have legitimate weapons elsewhere at the WR position, in Chris Conley and Tyreek Hill. Nonetheless, Maclin continues to get peppered with targets, he’s just not converting them into a ton of production.

Amari Cooper (Oak) – Cooper had yet another OK game in Week 4 against Baltimore, as he posted 5/48 receiving on 6 targets. The issue is that, at least in terms of fantasy, he’s playing the solid but complementary role we expected for Michael Crabtree, while Crabtree is playing the fantasy stud role we expected from Cooper. Crabtree has now outscored Cooper for fantasy in three consecutive games, while seeing more targets than Cooper in two consecutive. Cooper’s had struggles with drops, and it just seems like young QB Derek Carr is more willing to pull the trigger to Crabtree in big spots – Crabtree had 3 TDs in Week 4, all of them big-time plays in the red zone. With the Raider offense playing well, especially Carr, Cooper will get his, but he’s more high-end WR3 now than the low-end WR1 you likely drafted him as.

DeSean Jackson (Was) – DeSean posted just 1/5 receiving in Week 4 against the Browns, on only 2 targets, as Washington played an uneven game and appeared to regress a bit from an overall strong showing in Week 3. Nonetheless, it was enough to win the game. DeSean entered the game with ankle and knee injuries, and he didn’t produce a ton, though he drew two deep DPIs, which helped move the ball without actually earning fantasy points. He was also open deep for another potential long gain, but QB Kirk Cousins didn’t see him. As we’ve mentioned all year, he’s a high-ceiling, low-floor player, especially with Cousins’ play being so shaky, but the upside is typically enough to stick him in your lineups and risk a line like this.

Julian Edelman (NE) – Edelman and the Patriots could’ve had a much different day if his 90-yard run to start the game wasn’t called back by a Chris Hogan holding call. He instead finished with 1/16 receiving and added a 1-yard carry 4 targets for 2.7 FP (83rd) in Week 4 against the Bills. Edelman had no chance at success once the team announced that Jacoby Brissett would start instead of Jimmy Garoppolo. The good news is that success should start coming his way with the return of Tom Brady this week against a bad Browns defense.

Marvin Jones (Det) – The Lions added Jones to the injury report last Thursday, but he played just fine in Week 4 and was in no real danger of missing. He finished with 5/74/0 receiving on 7 targets for 12.4 FP (34th) against the Bears, playing on 97% of the snaps. He’s still the clear #1 WR here, especially after Golden Tate earned a benching in the second half after he cost the Lions points and a potential victory by running the wrong route on an interception in scoring position at the end of the first half. Jones should continue to see heavy targets from Matthew Stafford going forward, especially with some issues beside him.

Terrelle Pryor (Cle) – Josh Gordon’s off-the-field issues and Corey Coleman’s broken hand has opened the door for Pryor for the foreseeable future. Pryor certainly isn’t a refined receiver at this point after playing most of his career at quarterback, so there were some worries that he could get locked down by a top CB like Josh Norman in Week 4. Pryor survived the matchup, finishing with 5/46/1 receiving on 9 targets for 15.0 FP (20th) against the Redskins, beating Norman for his 8-yard score. We had hopes that HC Hue Jackson would continue to use Pryor as a Kordell Stewart type, with some snaps at QB, but that didn’t happen this week. Still, Pryor is clearly their top WR until Coleman returns to the lineup, so he’s going to be involved every week.

 

Tight Ends

Coby Fleener (NO) - “Thanks a lot, John Kuhn.” With three fluky short scores -- and one “stolen” touchdown from Fleener near the goal-line -- Fleener owners can take solstice in the fact that he still saw five targets in a game where Drew Brees played rather poorly against San Diego (207 passing yards on 36 attempts; 2 TDs/2 INTs). While Fleener did not have a big game in San Diego, he still flashed his ceiling in Week 3 vs. Atlanta (7/109/1) and will likely remain up-and-down throughout the course of the season. Keep in mind Brees owns dramatic home/road splits, too. When the Saints are away from the Superdome, Brees 45 fewer passing yards per game (2014-16). Fleener will be on the low-TE1 radar against Carolina when the Saints return from their Week 5 bye.

Rob Gronkowski (NE) – Oh man, we feel bad for you if you used a top-20 pick on Gronk this summer, and then you used him for fantasy the last two weeks. Even with a much bigger workload (39 snaps, 70%) in Week 4, he finished with just 1/11 receiving on 2 targets for 2.1 FP (36th) against the Bills. ESPN’s Mike Reiss broke down Gronk’s usage in Week 4 and found that he released as a receiver on only 13 plays. Gronk doesn’t appear to be still hurt, it’s just that the team is still breaking him into action and building him up for the rest of the year. It also doesn’t help that the Pats have a capable receiver at TE in Martellus Bennett, so they don’t need to rush Gronk as a receiver. He should fare much better in the coming weeks with Tom Brady back under center, but his days as the no-doubt #1 fantasy TE might be over.

Martellus Bennett (NE) – Rob Gronkowski saw a huge uptick in his playing time (70% of the snaps in Week 4), but Bennett still played more (79%) and was actually used as a receiver. Marty B finished with 5/109 receiving on 6 targets for 15.9 FP (5th) against the Bills, as he was easily Jacoby Brissett’s best weapon. ESPN’s Mike Reiss broke down Gronk’s usage in Week 4 and found that he released as a receiver on only 13 plays. That’s not likely to continue going forward with Tom Brady back at QB, but it’s also clear that Bennett isn’t going away himself. He’s likely to be a volatile fantasy asset going forward like he has been through four weeks, with two “boom” performances and two “bust” performances.

Gary Barnidge (Cle) – Barnidge is surviving without his buddy Josh McCown, as third-round QB Cody Kessler has surprisingly kept the boat afloat for the Browns offense. Barnidge finished with 7/57 receiving for 12.7 FP (9th) against the Redskins in Week 4. He might not be the fantasy difference-maker that he was last season, but he’s work his way back to the low-end TE1 conversation. He’s also another week closer to McCown’s eventual return, which will give him a little more fantasy juice.

Travis Kelce (KC) – Kelce had a great matchup in Week 4 against the Steelers, going up against a defense that had surrendered the most targets to TEs to that point in the NFL season, and was missing both LB Ryan Shazier and SS Robert Golden. Well, Kelce got 8 targets, actually his most of the year, but he managed just 5/23 receiving on them, as Steeler CB Justin Gilbert shadowed him for much of the game. Fortunately, Kelce managed to convert his final target into a short TD to salvage a solid fantasy day, a nice little redemption for fantasy after he dropped an easy TD earlier on in the game. It wasn’t nearly as productive as it could or should have been, but it’s also a good sign that in an awful game for the Chiefs overall, Kelce still managed to put up 13.3 FP in a PPR. He remains an every-week starter.

Jason Witten (Dal) – Witten’s both an easy player to write about every week, and a difficult player to write about every week. It’s because his role is the same – he gets open often in the underneath area, and he has to catch a ton of passes or score a TD to really make starting him worth it in fantasy. Against the 49ers in Week 4, he was the recipient of plenty of Dak Prescott short passes, posting 7/47 receiving on 9 targets. He’ll continue to have a high catch rate – he currently has hauled in 21 of 29 targets (72.4%). But while his floor is decent if he’s averaging 7 targets per game, his ceiling is just really low if he doesn’t score, and he hasn’t yet this year. Fortunately, Prescott has been more than willing to take the easy route rather than risky throws, and that’s benefitted Witten more often than not.

 

Watch List

Keep an eye on these players and situations. It may be too early to make a call one way or the other on them, but they are situations worth watching.

Quarterbacks

None of note.

 

Running Backs

Todd Gurley (LA) – The Rams are 3-1… but you wouldn’t know it by Gurley’s numbers. In Week 4 against the Cardinals, he managed just 33 yards on 19 carries, playing behind arguably the league’s worst offensive line. However, he also helped in at least one area with 5/49 receiving on 5 targets, more than doubling his reception total entering the game. The line is bad and defenses don’t respect Los Angeles’ passing game, but Gurley eventually is going to have to bust one – on his 63 carries, he has only 2.9 YPC. Nonetheless, he’s playing a ton. Gurley’s 86.4% snap share in Week 4 was his highest of the season thus far, likely in large part due to the fact that passing game back Benny Cunningham suffered a hamstring injury and played only 5 snaps. Eventually, Gurley needs to run it better, because all the excuses can’t fall to the offensive line. If his passing game work increases, that will at least help to create a manageable floor for him.

Jamaal Charles (KC) – Charles played just 10 snaps in Week 4 against Pittsburgh, his first appearance of the year, and managed only 2/7 rushing. The Chiefs wanted to just get his footing under him before the Week 5 bye, but it’s also possible that coach Andy Reid decided to pull back on him given the sloppy conditions in rainy Pittsburgh. Spencer Ware lost a fumble in each of the last three games, and the Chiefs come out of the bye with a huge run, perhaps not seeing a truly tough matchup until Week 12 at Denver. At the very least, he should immediately be in the mix for some flex work.

Lamar Miller (Hou) - At some point, Miller has to score a touchdown, right? While Miller is still working on that elusive touchdown, his fantasy floor is unreal right now. Through Week 1-4, Lamar Miller has 117, 97, 107, 108 total yards in on touch counts of: 32, 27, 25, and 22. Excluding Minnesota (who has yet to play in Week 4 on Monday Night Football), Houston is tied with Cleveland for the fewest plays inside of opponents' 10-yard line through Week 1-4 (12). We can reasonably expect positive touchdown regression to strike Miller in the near future. Miller is simply seeing too many touches to not breakout very soon.

Theo Riddick (Det) – It’s pretty clear that Riddick isn’t between-the-tackles runner, but the Lions simply don’t have a choice right now. Rookie RB Dwayne Washington suffered a foot/ankle injury early in Week 4, and we’ll see if it costs him this week against the Eagles. Washington was expected to take over the lead back role from Riddick against the Bears, but Riddick was obviously forced back into role. He finished with 11/31 rushing and 4/27 receiving on 7 targets for 9.8 FP (29th), getting stuffed twice on goal-line carries. The Lions could be anxious about giving Zach Zenner lead-back carries this week if Washington can’t play, so Riddick could once again see the majority of touches in this backfield.

 

Wide Receivers

Kelvin Benjamin (Car) - With Week 3’s donut behind him, Benjamin rebounded slightly in Week 4. Albeit in garbage time -- the Panthers were trailing 34-10 to Atlanta -- Kelvin Benjamin (3/39/1 on 7 targets) salvaged his day with a touchdown in the 4th quarter. As Cam Newton goes through the league’s concussion protocol heading into Week 5, we’re simply noting Benjamin’s ups-and-downs through the start of the season. After a red-hot start (6/91/1, 7/108/2), Benjamin has slowed down a bit (0/0, 3/39/1). If Newton plays in Week 5, Benjamin will be a low-end WR1 vs. the hapless Bucs’ secondary in Week 5 on Monday Night Football.

Willie Snead (NO) - After he missed Week 3 (toe), Snead returned in Week 4 to post a 1/23 (one target) receiving line on just 67% of the Saints’ snaps. Snead was averaging an 82% snap-share in Week 1-2. Frankly, we’re writing this poor outing off for the most part. Snead was likely playing at less than 100% while Drew Brees played poorly on the road. Willie Snead will be in the top-24 wideout discussion at home in Week 6 vs. Carolina.

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (Den) – The Broncos went on the road and easily handled the Bucs in Week 4, with both DT and Sanders producing big numbers for the second consecutive game. Thomas managed 6/94/1 receiving on 7 targets, while Sanders posted 8/88/1 receiving on 13 targets. But on the year, note that Sanders has 41 targets to DT’s 27, while also out-targeting Thomas in every game. The real reason we’re “watching” both guys here, though, is the health of QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian left in Week 4 with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, and is officially day-to-day – Paxton Lynch filled in pretty well in the interim. Coach Gary Kubiak told reporters that Siemian remains his starter when healthy, and though Lynch has more ability, the steady Siemian is likely the better bet for fantasy value at this point for both receivers.

Michael Floyd (Ari) – Floyd spent the early part of this past week in the concussion protocol, and was mostly a bit player in the Cardinals’ Week 4 loss to Los Angeles. Playing a season-low 45.5% of the snaps as he fell behind both John Brown and Jaron Brown in the WR rotation, Floyd managed to still post 3/36/1 receiving, though it came on 7 targets (he dropped 2 passes). The drops are a huge issue right now, and so is the health of QB Carson Palmer (concussion). It’s hard to trust Floyd in Week 5 against San Francisco, especially if Palmer doesn’t play. It’s now been John Brown’s time to shine, and he doesn’t appear to be relinquishing his grip on the #2 role.

DeVante Parker (Mia) – Parker looked prime for a big performance with CB Dre Kirkpatrick out and some shaky CB play from the Bengals heading into Week 4. However, Ryan Tannehill came out and played flat as flat as a pancake, and fellow outside WR Kenny Stills had the only impact play for the Dolphins on a 74-yard TD to start the game. Parker finished with only 2/20 receiving on 3 targets for 4.1 FP (72nd) against the Bengals, as Tannehill threw for only 189 yards on just 15 completions. Parker was fantastic in his first two games of the year with 16+ FP, but he showed us that he’s still more of a boom-or-bust WR3 going forward.

 

Tight Ends

None of note.