The Best of Week 4 - Footballguys

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles.

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week.

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.

1. Footballguy Steve Buzzard wins fanduel's Sunday million

Every week, this series profiles at least one Daily Fantasy feature from Footballguys' excellent DFS team of analysts. So it would be ridiculous not to begin this week's Best Of with a look back at Steve Buzzard's winning lineup for Fanduel's Sunday Million.

Buzzard breaks down his strategy for building the winning lineup of Matt Ryan, Giovani Bernard, Albert Collins, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Robert Woods, Travis Kelce, Alvin Kamara, and the Buffalo Bills defense into four keys:

  1. Research the percent rostered data (Which Steve delivers weekly at Footballguys and has already been profiled here).
  2. Building a lineup.
  3. How to consider less-rostered players.
  4. How to consider highly-rostered players.

You should give this piece a read but here are some important insights from each key:

  1. "You will hear arguments from both sides questioning how important it is to know who your opponents have on their rosters. Some will say it only matters how many points your team scores. I am on the complete opposite side. For me, knowing how my opponents are playing is more important than the point projections themselves."
  2. "When I build my lineups I try to think of them as a portfolio of players where I want more exposure than the public on the guys I like and less on those that I don’t. I rarely completely fade or go all in on a player."
  3. (When selecting less-rostered players) "The thing you need to ask yourself when selecting a player is, 'Do they have a chance to score enough to be on the winning roster more or less than how many of your opponents are rostering them?'"
  4. "Playing contrarian isn’t playing recklessly. You don’t just pile your whole team full of guys like Collins and the Bills Defense and hope things go your way. You put together your roster with a plan and ask yourself if that plan comes to fruition can you see it winning you the tournament. If the answer is yes then it is a good lineup. If not then it probably doesn’t have the upside or uniqueness that you need to win a GPP. If you work towards this goal you will continue to make better and better lineups."

Matt's Verdict: I'm not a DFS expert. Writers like Steve and the rest of the highly active DFS players on our staff are the ones you want to read about when it comes to the strategy away from the field. For whatever it's worth, I played for a season three years ago with a $25 investment and won $700 over the course of the season from that initial seed money.

It's the last time I've played. Still, what Steve wrote resonates with my modest experience with this format:

  1. Because DFS strategy includes a budget, you definitely must consider who your opponents are using. Every week, there are players at each position with similar ceilings of potential but different floors and price points. Figuring out a balance between differentiating your team from the herd while still delivering points is a massive part of the game.
  2. In my limited experience playing DFS, I often went all in on 1-2 players and it was often what caused me to be 1-2 choices away from much bigger paydays. I also didn't play a high enough volume of teams to enter a large portfolio of lineups. Even so, I still noticed with my 4-6 lineups a week that going all-in on 1-2 choices didn't help.
  3. Ted Ginn Jr was my personal example of Steve's third point about less-rostered players and it was why I often went to the well with him that year.
  4. Steve's contrarian point is also true in season-long fantasy leagues and it's one I've built a career on. I spent all summer touting Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff as your QB1, championing Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, and touting players like Keelan Cole and even Jordy Nelson. Some of these options will fade, but enough of them will be the reason some teams could make other winning choices that helped them build a champion.

Congratulations to Steve for an amazing victory and congratulations to Footballguys subscribers for having his weekly expertise.

2. Waivers of the future

Daniel Simpkins found an important niche of fantasy football that helps every re-draft and dynasty player: forward-thinking waiver wire analysis. As a former editor and author of Footballguys' Upgrades-Downgrades-Waiver Wire, I can attest that there's a ton of information to consider just for the existing week.

Having a separate feature that solely examines the potential options for the week ahead is an excellent resource for staying one step ahead of the weekly onslaught of "who's hot now," because you're preemptively picking up players at a much cheaper cost. This is Daniel's mission with his weekly feature.

Here are some of Daniel's selections that caught my eye. First some of his plug-and-play options who are more "in-the-now" investments:

  • Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Albert Wilson, MIA- Adam Gase is finding all sorts of ways for Wilson to get involved. He scored both a passing touchdown on a trick play and a receiving touchdown against the Raiders. The lacking Patriots defense is up next for Wilson and company.
  • Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Jaron Brown, SEA- Brown has been more of a factor with Doug Baldwin out of the lineup. He caught a touchdown against the Cowboys. Seattle will face a very vulnerable Cardinals defense next week and Brown is a fine play if you are hurting at the position.
  • Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Terrelle Pryor, NYJ- Pryor’s usage continues to trend upward-- he played 70 percent of the snaps in Week 3. While the Jaguars’ defense is a tough draw in Week 4, he won’t draw the best coverage, which may mean Sam Darnold looks his way more often.
  • Contending 15-30%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Ben Watson, NO- If Watson is still out there, this is likely your last chance to snag him after going 5 for 71 in the track meet against the Falcons. The Saints will face the Giants in Week 4, who have been quite generous against opposing tight ends.

It's the pre-emptive recommendations that are often the most fascinating part of his weekly piece:

  • Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Malcolm Brown, LAR- For the time being, Brown, not John Kelly, is the primary backup to Todd Gurley. We saw this play out when Gurley left the game in Week 2 to get fluids for cramps. While I expect both would see work if Gurley were to miss significant time, it would be Brown who would lead that committee. Brown hasn’t gotten many chances because Gurley has been very healthy in his NFL career. However, when he has gotten an opportunity, Brown has flashed. He may have value after this year if he can go to another team in the restricted free agency process, but that’s tough to project at this time.
  • Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 5%-20%| Chad Kelly, DEN- Case Keenum’s doomsday clock ticked much closer to midnight after the way he played against the Ravens. We may see Chad Kelly this year after all. In superflex formats, be willing to put a 40-50% bid up for him if he’s still on waivers.
  • Watch List| Justin Jackson, LAC- He spent most of the offseason nursing an injury. Despite not getting to show much in preseason, he did make the 53 before being cut and put on the practice squad to make a roster move. Jackson has some very impressive college tape and if Melvin Gordon III III III III were to go down, it’s doubtful that Austin Ekeler would carry the load alone. They would likely ask Jackson to split time with Ekeler in that scenario and he could surprise.

Matt's Verdict: These are seven of many strong recommendations in Daniel's piece that earn my stamp of approval in various scenarios that he described above. I've added Wilson, Jackson, Kelly, and Brown in several leagues where my teams are healthy and I have the luxury for a skilled reserve to cuff one of my foundational starters.

3. IDP Upgrades and Downgrades

Two-thirds of my fantasy leagues have a full IDP (individual defensive player) component. Aaron Rudnicki, who pens this weekly feature, is in all but one of them. Whether you're new to IDP or want a second set of eyes and expertise to help guide you to strong waiver wire acquisitions, Rudnicki's article is a vital one for the week.

Here are some key upgrades from this week's IDP Upgrades And Downgrades for Week 4:

  • CB Terrance Mitchell, CLE (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
    The Browns rebuilt their secondary this offseason and the drafting of Denzel Ward 4th overall got most of the attention, but Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise. He started 9 games for the Chiefs last year but didn’t really stand out. Through 3 games this year, however, he’s been credited with 15 solo stops plus an interception and 2 forced fumbles. Given that Ward has shutdown potential, it’s reasonable to expect that Mitchell will continue to be heavily targeted despite playing across from a rookie corner.
  • CB Brian Poole, ATL (10 solos, 1 PD)
    Poole is the type of corner that gives up plenty of receptions but makes the tackle soon afterward. He doesn’t make many big plays (in coverage) which keeps quarterbacks throwing in his direction but that also leads to above-average tackle numbers. Through 3 games this season, he is already up to 22 solo tackles and added a pair of sacks, making him a strong CB1 option.
  • DE Calais Campbell, JAX (5 solos, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
    Campbell took his game to a new level last year as he set a career-high with 14.5 sacks. There may have been some concern about whether he could replicate that performance but he helped put those fears to rest this week. He came into the game with an eye injury but apparently was not bothered by it as he dominated the Titans with 5 solo tackles and a pair of sacks.
  • LB Fred Warner, SF (9 solos, 2 asst, 2 TFL, 1 PD)
    Despite the return of Reuben Foster this week, the 49ers decided to keep the rookie Warner at middle linebacker. While the Chiefs did pick up two rush touchdowns this week, the 49ers were able to limit them to just 2.8 yards per carry and Warner has looked reliable enough in coverage to play all 76 snaps.
  • LB Jerome Baker, MIA (7 solos, 2 asst)
    The rookie still ranked 3rd on the team in snaps among linebackers this week but saw a significant increase in workload from the first two games. He was on the field for 46 snaps (61%) as the Raiders nearly doubled the Dolphins in time of possession and offensive plays. Raekwon McMillan continues to struggle in coverage which may create an opening for Baker to take over the nickel snaps in the near future.
  • DT Kenny Clark, GB (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
    We got a glimpse of what Clark could do late last season when he posted 5 sacks over a 4-game stretch. The former 1stround pick appears ready to join the ranks of the elite now as he picked up a sack last week and then tied with Blake Martinez for the team lead in tackles this week including a game-high 6 solo stops.

Matt's Verdict: Aaron nails Poole's style of play and he's a player I've added in many leagues. Although a common response for the average fan to Jordy Nelson's first 60-yard reception in last week's game was "he got chased down by a linebacker." However, that linebacker, Jerome Baker, ran a 4.53-second, 40-yard dash and had about 60 yards to make up ground on Nelson, whose short-area quickness always been better than his long-speed (4.51-second, 40-yard dash — several years ago). Baker is your attention.

The fact that Warner remained at middle linebacker with Reuben Foster back in action is a huge statement in Warner's favor. I also love the rationale for Terrance Mitchell. It's a similar reason why I chose Chidobe Awuzie in Dallas with Byron Jones earning a lot of praise opposite him.

4. The Fantasy Rent-A-Center Franchises

Can't you imagine Sigmund Bloom as a Rent-A-Center salesman? Bloom and his man-bun and five o'clock shadow tucked into a baby blue, short-sleeve button-down that does a poor job of hiding the tie-dye tee he's wearing underneath it? You know he'd have a clip-on tie or at least a few "pre-tied" numbers that his lady hung from his rear-view mirror.

You came in to look at a television and after a 45-minute conversation that bounced from lighting for seasonal affective disorder to Rajneeshpuram to Ishmael Reed's "Mumbo Jumbo," you're so comfortable on that sofa across from the flat screen that you're applying for credit on a living room combo. Did Bloom tell you that he aspires to be a cult leader?

Probably not, but if you listen to his religiously you already know that aspiration has been achieved.

Cult-of-Bloom lieutenants Ryan Hester (Rent-A-Quarterback) and Adam Harstad (Rent-A-Kicker) have opened their own branches at Footballguys. Let's examine some of the top deals Bloom, Hester, and Harstad are touting for Week 4:

Rent-A-Defense:

Cleveland (at Oakland)

This isn’t that outlandish of a call with the Browns D/ST dwelling in the top five after three weeks. Derek Carr has had too many lapses and the Raiders could be on the verge of collapse, while the Browns are clearly going in the other direction.

A Look Ahead: BAL LAC @TB - If they put up a good score this week, we’ll stick with the Browns against Flacco.

Kansas City (at Denver)

The Chiefs didn’t have a D/ST bonanza in Week 3, but it’s coming eventually if Justin Houston continues to round into form and Patrick Mahomes stakes the defense to big leads. Case Keenum is not among the most careful quarterbacks...

A Look Ahead: JAX @NE CIN - Neither is Blake Bortles...

Matt's Verdict: Cleveland is an excellent call despite the fact that Oakland is getting whitewashed as a bad offense when they really aren't that far away from some big games. If your league is point-heavy for turnovers, I like Cleveland more than if it's weighted more to points and yardage allowed. The same is true of the Chiefs.

Rent-A-Quarterback

ANDY DALTON - AT ATLANTA

Dalton is on his way to being a staple in this space for the next few weeks. But savvy fantasy GMs should pick him up as a plug-and-play option for the next month. In fact, Dalton should be rostered in enough leagues by next week that he won't qualify for this space. Look at this schedule, with each opponent's fantasy points against ranking in parentheses:

  • at Atlanta (29 - 4th-most)
  • vs. Miami (7)
  • vs. Pittsburgh (31)
  • at Kansas City (30)
  • vs. Tampa Bay (27)
  • Bye Week
  • vs. New Orleans (32)

Further aiding Dalton is the injury to Joe Mixon. The team showed Sunday that they will lean more on the pass with only two healthy running backs, especially when the most accomplished of that duo is a small pass-catcher in Giovani Bernard.

Monitor A.J. Green's groin injury, though, as that could limit Dalton's ceiling. Regardless of Green, though, Dalton has a solid floor at Atlanta this week. The Falcons have allowed the most receptions to running backs for three straight years and are yielding 12 per game to backs this season. Their scheme puts an emphasis on shutting down the perimeter

JOE FLACCO - AT PITTSBURGH

Flacco's weekly finishes this season are QB10, QB11, and QB17. The ceiling is limited, but the floor is there. Pittsburgh's defense lacks talent, though, which increases the ceiling of any opposing quarterback.

DEEP LEAGUES ONLY

These selections are best saved for deeper leagues and/or 2QB/Superflex leagues.

  • Eli Manning - vs. New Orleans: It doesn't matter for this game, but back in 2015 when these teams met, an Arena League game broke out. This season's Saints team is allowing plenty of production to opposing passers.
  • Baker Mayfield - at Oakland: The fact that this is his first start and it's on the road is scary, but Oakland was sliced and diced by Miami last week. And Mayfield showed plenty of flash on a short week with no reps.

Matt's Verdict: If A.J. Green's injury isn't a significant issue — and as of Thursday night's Live Audible podcast, Jene Bramel doesn't think it is — Dalton is an excellent call. Flacco is a safe bet based on the data, but I prefer Ryan's calls on Manning and Mayfield more than Flacco. I know Bloom recommends Cleveland as a good defense this week, but I have a feeling the Cleveland-Oakland game might be higher scoring than we expect. It could be the surprise game in terms of prolific offensive outputs.

Rent-A-Kicker

**Since streaming kickers is so popular and ownership can vary, here is a list of how favorable every kicker's situation is based on Vegas projected totals and stadium. Quality plays who are especially likely to be on waivers based on NFL.com ownership percentages are italicized and will be highlighted in next week's column.**

Great Plays:
Harrison Butker, KC
Matt Bryant, Atl
**Caleb Sturgis, LAC
Stephen Gostkowski, NE
**Sam Ficken, LAR

Avoid at All Costs:
Robbie Gould, SF
Steve Hauschka, Buf
Jason Myers, NYJ

Matt's Verdict: You can see how Adam rates every kicker between these two spectrums at the link above.

5. Calvin Ridley is emerging

Footballguys has two features that are always solely film-based: Game Recaps and The Top 10. While Sigmund Bloom watches the games, the staff-compiled recaps are a relied-upon resource that informs a lot of his views in Upgrades, Downgrades, and Waiver Wire feature.

I've been the staff recapper for Atlanta for several years. Although I spent the second half of my childhood in Atlanta, I have never been a Falcons fan. My view of them is a neutral one — they're simply an interesting team to watch because I'm interested in football.

There are teams where I'll catch myself cheering when something happens in their favor during a pivotal moment. The list includes the Browns, the Seahawks, the Rams, the Chiefs, and any team playing the Steelers and Broncos that isn't the Ravens (because I sometimes catch myself cheering for the Ravens and feel sick to my stomach).

I have no emotional interest in the Falcons. So when I tell you that Calvin Ridley is emerging, it's after I spent this offseason profiling the different ways he could drop a football. Here are my recap summaries on Ridley for the first three weeks of the year.

GAME RECAPS

2018 Week 1 vs PHI (2 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

Ridley dropped his first target on a hitch in the middle of the field when the Eagles defense hit him in the back. Ryan didn't go back to him for the rest of the contest.

2018 Week 2 vs CAR (5 / 4 / 64 / 1 rec, 1 / 3 / 0 rush)

He earned his first catch of the season on a short out route as an outside receiver during the first drive. Ridley forced a defensive pass interference penalty from a stacked set with Austin Hooper but it shouldn't have been called; Ridley fell and there was nothing but incidental contact. Ridley scored on an easy one-on-one singled up against a defender with outside shade for a slant. Ridley earned a strong game during the final two minutes working with Austin Hooper on a rub route and gained another 17 after the catch. Atlanta found Ridley on another route dragging under Hooper and gained another 15 yards after the catch. Ridley dropped an in-cut of a pivot route trying to run after the catch in the third quarter.

2018 Week 3 vs NO (8 / 7 / 146 / 3 rec, 1 / 9 / 0 rush)

Ridley got open over the middle for a first down from the slot on a trips set during the second drive. Ridley followed with an end around for nine yards. Ridley converted a third down during his drive on a dig route, juggling the ball after a good route and managing to hang on. On the next play, he ran a stutter-go for the touchdown. Ridley began the next drive with curl for a first down. Ryan overshot Ridley on a deep post in the middle of the second quarter and two Saints defenders committed uncalled fouls on Ridley during the route. Ridley then beat two defensive backs on a deep post on the first drive of the third quarter and forced a 45-yard defensive pass interference foul that put Atlanta in the Saints red zone. Saints defensive back Patrick Robinson was carted off after the play. Ridley then worked back to the football along the end line for his third touchdown. He earned a first down with Jones working deeper on a third down and opening up the flat for Ridley on the crossing route in the late third quarter.

You can find these on every player page at Footballguys, simply type a player's name in the search bar on the home page and the link to the recaps will be on that player's page. These recaps can be excellent tools for fantasy players who want a more meaningful dive into what happened beyond the box score and play-by-play info.

And if you want to see how the evaluation matches the film, you get that opportunity this week because I also showed Ridley's work in The Top 10.

Good luck this week! If you don't win a million dollars like Steve Buzzard, may you at least feel like a million bucks on Monday.