We are four weeks into the season and the waiver wire is getting thin. We have more clarity on which players are going to be fantasy relevant for the long haul, which ones are beginning to blossom and which ones are safe to drop. Players are returning from suspension and bye week decisions are forthcoming. Where do you go from here? What should you do if your team is 4-0, 0-4 or somewhere in between? Is your starting lineup ravaged with injuries and uncertainties or have you crafted a championship team from proactive decision-making and some good old fashioned luck? Let's move on to Week 5 where you forget about the negatives and focus on the positives.
We are a quarter of the way through the season and Andy Dalton and Aaron Rodgers are separated by only a few mere fantasy points. Both teams are 4-0 and the needle is pointing up regarding their longevity as relevant every week starters. Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan and Tyrod Taylor are also in the mix. Most of those quarterbacks have one thing in common - wins. Throw in Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and even Blake Bortles and you have the Top 10 fantasy quarterbacks. If your starting quarterback is among that group, you're future looks bright. Marcus Mariota is not far behind, due to the bye week and Andrew Luck may be a healthy shoulder away from making a difference.
Teams to start your quarterback against include
- Chiefs - 11 passing touchdowns against and 106.5 QB rating against
- Bears - 10 passing touchdowns against and 111.1 QB rating against
- Bills - 10 passing touchdowns against and 295.5 passing yards against
- Giants - allowed the most passing yards against per game (316.5)
- Saints - NFL worst 116.3 QB rating against and 32nd ranked 15.6 yards per completion against
The running back rankings are miles away from the preseason rankings and it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon. Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson are the only preseason Top 10 running backs to still be in the Top 10. It's becoming more and more clear that drafting a running back in the first round may be poor decision. The Atlanta Falcons are knocking down the door four weeks in thanks in large part to second year pro Devonta Freeman and his huge statement of six rushing touchdowns and 342 total yards in the last two weeks. There was the thought that Atlanta would be a committee approach at running back once Tevin Coleman returns from his rib injury, but not anymore. This is Freeman's job - he's earned it. Kyle Shanahan has his back. If you were lucky enough to land Freeman in the draft or via free agency, congratulations, he looks like the real deal. The Top 10 is currently Devonta Freeman, Jamaal Charles, Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Latavius Murray, Danny Woodhead, Joseph Randle, Dion Lewis and Karlos Williams. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. LeVeon Bell is not far away, despite missing the first two games. Bell will likely replace someone in the mix, my gut says Latavius Murray and/or Joseph Randle. Karlos Williams is also dealing with a concussion, but if he can return quickly, he'll have a chance to sustain his Top 10 status. LeSean McCoy is looking like he might be out until after the Bills Week 8 bye to let his injured hamstring heal. His absence opens the door for Williams. Keep an eye on his status this week.
Who's next? Duke Johnson had his breakout game last week. I normally like to see at least solid production for two games in a row, but it looks like Johnson can enter the mix as a running back on the rise. Chris Ivory continues to be a threat for the Jets offense. I expect to see his value stay relatively high. Giovani Bernard has carved out a role for himself and should put up at least RB2 numbers going forward. Chris Johnson, David Johnson and Andre Ellington will likely split the load for the Cardinals in the next four weeks. Perhaps one back will stand out, but I see another committee approach in Arizona. Eddie Lacy is strangely outside of the Top 20 right now. I expect that to change as his ankle becomes less of an issue. Keep an eye out for Titans running back Antonio Andrews. The Titans are fresh off their bye and no back has solidifed the role yet. Andrews has as good a chance as any of the Tennessee backs. Don't forget about David Cobb also, who's coming back from a calf injury sometime around Week 9 or 10. This position is wide open for the taking. My gut says one back will emerge in the coming weeks between Bishop Sankey, Terrance West or Antonio Andrews. If not, Cobb could get his chance.
One last mention - Arian Foster is back. He played sparingly in Week 4 against Atlanta. The game was quickly out of hand, so Houston kept Foster in check and let him continue to rest up while getting a few reps to get his feet wet. I expect to see more from Foster in the coming weeks and it could be as early as this Thursday night when the Texans host the Colts. It's a slight risk to start him without having an idea of how effective he'll be, but history has indicated that when healthy, Foster is more than capable of performing well. If you have him, it will be hard to keep him on your bench, especially against the Colts who have allowed 478 yards on the ground including four rushing touchdowns. They are a bottom 10 run defense, which makes the decision to play Foster a bit easier.
The receiving corps at the top of the rankings is a list of familiar names and some surprises. Julio Jones leads the way with Larry Fitzgerald close behind thanks to a consistent effort all four weeks so far. Antonio Brown is currently third and holding despite Michael Vick taking over for Ben Roethlisberger for the next few weeks. Many are expecting Roethlisberger to return sometime in late October. If that's the case, Brown's decline for a few weeks won't be that difficult to weather. Keep in mind, in his only game with Vick, he dropped a would be touchdown catch and perhaps we wouldn't even be talking about a decline in his numbers. If you have Brown, hang in there. He'll have some big moments with Vick and then he'll turn it on once again with Ben's return. DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green are the top receivers on their repsective teams. The target shares are huge and are not expected to change anytime soon. That foursome should stay intact in the Top 10. Randall Cobb and Steve Smith are 8th and 9th respectively. Smith is expected to miss some time with an injured back/ribs, so he will drop out of the race. Randall Cobb still doesn't look 100% yet, but he's playing through it. Will that affect his production? It might. I wouldn't be surprised to see his numbers drop off some, as a result. Demaryius Thomas is 10th and probably will be moving up to replace Smith and or Cobb. He is Peyton Manning's go-to target, however after only four games, he has only one score. Once the touchdowns come, he should vault further into the Top 10.
Who's coming up? Julian Edelman is clearly Tom Brady's main possession receiver. He would be in the Top 10 if not for the Patriots early bye week. Donte Moncrief is on the outside looking in right now, but if Andrew Luck returns to form and health, look for Moncrief to make some noise in the Top 10. The same goes for T.Y. Hilton, who could explode up the ranks with a big game any given week. Don't give up on Hilton yet. Amari Cooper has yet to have a big breakout game, but he is showing consistent effort each week. It should be a matter when, not if. Odell Beckham has been relatively quiet so far this year, but I find it hard to believe that will stay that way. Allen Hurns is someone you need to be paying attention to. He is 1b to Allen Robinson's 1a in Jacksonville. Last week he enjoyed the fruits of labor while Robinson was blanketed by cover corner Vontae Davis. Hurns should continue to see team's weaker corner while Robinson gets the elite treatment. As a result, Hurns has entered every week starter territory until he proves otherwise. Jarvis Landry may be the only bright spot on the Dolphins offense. Maybe the coaching change will spark the offense to get him more red zone chances, but he's thriving despite being on an offense in the doldrums. He won't face Darrelle Revis every week. Landry should rebound.
One quick mention - I'm coming around to Washington receivers, especially with the news of Jordan Reed being out with multiple injuries, including a concussion. Look for Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder to see more action in the coming weeks, especially if DeSean Jackson is still out. Crowder is this week's proactive waiver pick up if any of the afforementioned players in this piece are already taken. (Unless Leonard Hankerson is somehow still available). Crowder could see upwards of 6-7 catches this week at Atlanta, especially if the Falcons come out of the gates strong. As for Hankerson - play him. He's taking over Roddy White's role and opponents are so concerned with Julio Jones (and now Devonta Freeman), Hankerson is left to scoop up all of the targets. His window is closing, so get him while he's still relatively cheap.
Rob Gronkowski, despite a bye week is still 8 points higher than the second ranked tight end, Travis Kelce. The tight rankings are wide open for the taking. Jordan Reed looks to be out for a few weeks, if not longer. Charles Clay is making his move as Tyrod Taylor's go-to receiving threat, especially while Sammy Watkins is out. Tyler Eifert, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen and Jason Witten will battle each other for the Top 5. Note the absence of Jimmy Graham, who is relegated to spot duty here and there. The Seahawks are using the same offense as last year, which means limited usage of the tight end. They aren't running enough plays to cater to Graham. He's merely a piece of their offensive game plan. Unfortunately I don't see much of a change going forward. Gone are the days we've come accustomed to seeing with Graham. He's just another receiver in the offense now. He might see red zone looks here and there, but he's not Wilson's main target like he was for Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Antonio Gates is back this week and with injuries to several pieces of the Chargers receiving corps, look for him to be a big part of the offense. Gary Barnidge is doing his best to be a relevant tight end on the Browns. He's had two good games in a row, which should catch your attention. Crockett Gillmore could see an increase in targets with Steve Smith out, but he's recovering from a calf injury that sidelined him in Week 4. If he's healthy enough to play this week, consider him for your lineup against a Browns team that has givien up three touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Delanie Walker has been somewhat quiet, but a bye week has helped his injured hand heal and he should be 100% this week. I have a feeling that his production is on the incline and despite a tough match up against the Bills, he could be a key target for Marcus Mariota this week.
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