Let's examine what we think about these topics as we head into Week 5.
Potential Fantasy Party Crashers
Matt Waldman: In 12-team, PPR formats...
- Name a quarterback outside the top 15 who will finish as a QB1.
- Name a running back outside the top 36 who will finish as at least an RB2.
- Name a wide receiver outside the top 48 who will finish as at least a WR3.
- Name a tight end outside the top 15 who will finish as at least a TE1.
Sean Settle: This is definitely a hot take, but Kirk Cousins will turn things around and finish as a QB1. The talent in Minnesota is just too good for these struggles to continue the rest of the season. Cousins has a history of racking up yards and touchdowns in garbage time, but he also has several great matchups coming up against teams like the Giants and Redskins. Adam Thielen can’t throw the ball to himself and Cousins has to be the one to do it. Expect a turnaround in Minnesota.
Waldman: I agree and I think Cousins is a below-average NFL starting quarterback.
Settle: Ito Smith has a real chance to take over the lead role in the Atlanta backfield. The offense is a mess and Devonta Freeman is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and has yet to find the end zone. Smith saw his role increase in week 4 when Atlanta was playing from behind and was even given carries in the red zone. Look for Atlanta to move off Freeman and onto Smith if the struggles continue.
There are two receivers sitting on the outside looking in that will easily finish in the top 48. Stefon Diggs has taken a hit due to an ineffective Kirk Cousins and having lost two fumbles and Alshon Jeffrey has missed time due to injury. Expect both guys to be much better for the rest of the season and return to their normal spots in the rankings.
O.J Howard is currently sitting outside the top 15 and has a chance to get back into the TE1 conversation. Tampa Bay has been airing it out so far this season and Howard has caught 10 of his 12 targets so far. As teams move their coverage to Mike Evans on the outside and Chris Godwin it should open things up down the middle for Howard. Look for a quick turnaround for him if the offense continues to trend in its current direction.
Jason Wood: Quarterbacks outside the top 15 are usually there for a reason, but there are a few options to consider. Believe it or not, Aaron Rodgers is only QB17 through four games, and he's certainly a good bet for positive mean regression. He gets an attacking Dallas defense on the road, but Rodgers is capable of a top-5 finish any week.
I'll also mention Jimmy Garoppolo. The Browns secondary is decimated by injury, and Garoppolo is starting to play better. Coming off a bye week, I like the chances for the 49ers to score some points as Kyle Shanahan is a good planner and will feast on the Browns broken defensive backfield with two weeks of game-scripting.
Yes, I know Austin Ekeler has been one of the best players in football and it would be silly to bench him completely. But the Chargers receiving corps is beaten up as are the tight ends, so why not have Ekeler out there as a slot receiver and Melvin Gordon III in the backfield?
If Gordon doesn't count here, give Nyheim Hines a consideration. Marlon Mack got hurt last week, and if he's out this week Hines is a must-start in a game against the Chiefs. The Colts will need to be aggressive offensively and are probably going to be playing catch up, which is a recipe for success for Hines. He's been dynamic in games where Indianapolis trails, and has been a solid RB2 in PPR formats whenever Mack is out of the lineup.
The receiving landscape is as deep as we've ever seen it, and a lot of the guys outside the top 48 are there mainly because they've missed time. Guys like Michael Gallup (WR59), DeSean Jackson (WR60), and Alshon Jeffery (WR62) all fit the bill.
If you're looking for someone that hasn't missed time but is just off to a slow start, I'll nominate Stefon Diggs. I know the Vikings offense is toxic right now, but it gets the New York Giants secondary this week. The natives are getting restless in Minnesota, and if there's ever going to be a course correction, it should be this week. Expect the Vikings to throw more against New York, and in turn, try to placate Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs after woeful Septembers.
The tight end landscape is as shallow as the wide receiver position is deep. It's rough out there when Jordan Akins is TE12 and James O'Shaughnessy is TE15.
The Cardinals are historically bad against opposing tight ends, so either Tyler Eifert or C.J. Uzomah is a solid dart throw if your desperate this week.
Bob Henry: The easiest one to pluck here is Aaron Rodgers since the main thing keeping him out of the QB1 discussion is volume. However, three of his first four games came against teams built to play defense and run the ball thereby limiting Rodgers’ upside via game script that limited his pass attempts and played to the Packers much-improved defense and a renewed focus on their running attack.
Going forward, the Packers will probably need to throw more (like they did against the Eagles) with games on the schedule against the Chiefs, Chargers, and 49ers. Rodgers remains an extremely efficient quarterback who should finish within the QB1 discussion barring injury. This is a buy-low opportunity if his owner is ready to bail.
Andy Hicks: As Jason and Bob mentioned, the obvious answer is Aaron Rodgers. Offenses will start winning battles as the season moves on and Rodgers is too good to not be a starting fantasy option. He won’t go as high as he normally does, thanks in part to better defense, but he still should be a top 10 finisher.
If I had to pick a nonobvious one, I would choose Andy Dalton. That offensive line is playing poorly and the run game is suffering as a result. As the Bengals are likely to be playing from behind as well, and with the imminent return of A.J. Green, it all points to the passing game performing better than expected. Or they throw in the rookie.
I like a pair of rookies to come on strong as the season progresses. Miles Sanders is not quite there as a player yet but looks a much higher upside option than Jordan Howard. Once he fixes his ball security and blocking he should take over the backfield. He has had at least 10 rushing attempts in every game and is doing more with them every week. Once he gets a bit more involved in the passing game, RB2 is his downside.
The other one I like is Devin Singletary. Provided he returns from his hamstring strain soon. Singletary has only had 15 touches in his first two games, but he did a lot with them. Frank Gore has been magnificent in his absence, but the dude is 36 years old. Expect Gores touches to fall as Singletary returns, as the rookie has been explosive.
Saying Stefon Diggs is obvious and boring at this point in the conversation. Jason mentioned Michael Gallup, also an excellent choice. He looks like an elite player moving forward, the only question is opportunities. WR3 is a low bar to set given how he performed in his first two games.
Looking elsewhere and I have to hone in on Jamison Crowder. Once Sam Darnold returns, we are going to see a lot more 10+ target games than what we are seeing with the bottom of the barrel quarterback play from the replacements.
The talent pool is so diluted at this position, one good game and a player becomes a starting consideration. Honestly, I can’t get involved with O.J. Howard. The Bruce Arians' appointment had me concerned from the beginning and nothing I've seen to date is changing my mind there.
Because the difference between starting and not even top 30 tight end is about targets and opportunities, I am going with Hunter Henry if he returns in week 9 or a better option would be Vance McDonald. Basically, we are looking for players, expected to do well who have short term injuries and will return shortly.
I'll go with D.K. Metcalf here. Seattle wants to be a vertical-based passing offense, and their numbers on throws downfield have been off the charts over the past season-plus. When you look at how the Seahawks are using Metcalf, they are playing to his strengths as a vertical threat. His route chart from Week 4 along signaled almost exclusively routes. When you use players in a way tailored to their skill-set, you can expect success. The Seahawks seem to be doing that with their rookie receiver.
He was a tough evaluation coming out of college given his offensive system, but over the past few weeks, Dawson Knox has shown me he can be a featured part of the Bills' offense. His game against Cincinnati was very impressive, and last week against the Patriots he was one of the few weapons for Josh Allen/Matt Barkley to do anything in the passing game. He'll get more options going forward and his numbers will continue to rise.
Drew Davenport: I think Josh Allen has a very good chance to jump up there. After leaving the game on Sunday it is likely he'll sit this week in a tough matchup, use the Week 7 bye to get right and be back ready to go in Week 8. His schedule from that point forward looks very favorable for the Bills offense, and the passing game in particular.
Matt Breida is my pick here. Currently sitting at RB43, he is as talented a back as there is sitting down in that territory. He had a poor Week 1 against a very good Tampa Bay run defense, but otherwise has been very good. He hasn't scored yet and is coming off his bye week to face quite a few lower-tier run defenses. Once he puts a couple in the end zone coupled with his excellent rushing numbers he'll jump up into the solid RB2 neighborhood.
This would be a big leap from his current WR82 position, but Robby Anderson has had his bye, his quarterback is coming back soon, and the Jets' schedule is an absolute dream the rest of the way. Once Sam Darnold is cleared to return, I expect we'll see a very solid WR3 who can possibly put up WR2 numbers as well.
I agree with what Andy had to say. I'm looking at Vance McDonald and Hunter Henry. It all depends on when Henry returns, but if it's soon he'll easily get into the top 15 because the position is so thin. McDonald is, unfortunately, doing his injury thing too, but it doesn't look long term for him. He's going to be valuable as a top 15 guy once he returns to the field.
Honorable mention goes to A.J. Green. His injury appears to be more extensive than originally expected and he could close to half the season before he's back to full strength. But when he comes back, he's going to see plenty of action - especially in garbage time and his PPG should be at least to the level of a WR3 in a PPR format.
My go-to answer here would have been James O'Shaughnessy but since he's No.15 right now, I'll go with Trey Burton...sort of. Burton missed a couple of games due to injury and it's still unclear what role he plays in the Chicago offense. With Mitchell Trubisky set to miss time, this is even more of a question mark. But Chase Daniel presents an interesting option for Chicago in that he doesn't make a lot of the mistakes that Trubisky does when throwing the ball (like locking onto his primary receiver). Maybe Daniel is a better option for Chicago—maybe he's not. But Burton is a lot better than a 'top-60' fantasy tight end and if Chicago gets their offense back on track, I think Burton's going to see a good chunk of it.