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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores Week 4

Ted takes a look at some key fantasy football trends that may have gone under the radar in Week 4.

We are four weeks deep in the fantasy football season. At this point, current fantasy rankings are just as predictive of rest-of-year scoring as preseason rankings. This doesn’t mean to throw away your preseason takes (a combination of both is more predictive than either alone), but it’s time to put some real stock into what we’ve seen so far.

One administrative update before we get into things: I was thinking to myself, “Why don’t I cover Thursday or Monday Night Football in this?” and the answer was, “Everyone has already either watched those themselves or seen more than enough analysis of them,” … which I then realized also applied to Sunday Night Football. So  Sunday Night Football will no longer be featured here, although I will still cover the London game for West Coast folks and/or those of you with lives. Let’s get into it!

Note: All fantasy scores and rankings will be for Half-PPR formats. Data courtesy of PFR, Next Gen Stats, FantasyLife, and PFF (among other places). 

Atlanta Falcons @ Jacksonville Jaguars
  • ​​If it weren’t for a busted-coverage TD, Calvin Ridley would have scored just 1.3 fantasy points this week. He saw just two targets, and he has caught three or fewer passes in each of the last three games. His Week 1 explosion and preseason hype are doing a lot of heavy lifting for his current fantasy value. On the other hand, this week was his first week with fewer than seven targets. Given this offense in general hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, I lean towards selling Ridley, but you can also easily make a case to hold and expect more boom weeks.
  • I’m officially ready to give up on Kyle Pitts. The type of usage he gets is still everything we want in a fantasy tight end, but he’s simply not seeing enough of it. A 64% snap share, 83% route rate, and only four targets isn’t going to get it done. The problem also isn’t just his usage: I noted both last week and last year that Pitts himself sometimes seems to either give up on routes or be in the wrong place. We also learned this weekend that he is not 100% healthy following last year’s knee injury. Maybe that means he improves as the season goes on, but for now, he belongs on benches … or waiver wires.
  • It’s time to panic if you drafted Trevor Lawrence to be your QB1 in fantasy football leagues. Despite having relatively favorable matchups and game scripts, he has yet to crack 20 fantasy points and is the QB17 at just 14.5 points per game. He is in the top 10 at the position in both dropbacks and designed runs, but has simply been inefficient. With that volume (and better TD luck), he will likely move closer to his 2022 17.9 PPG, but the third-year breakout that was baked into his ADP doesn’t seem to be materializing.
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
  • In Week 3, James Cook had his first career carry within the five. This week, he had his second, immediately followed by his third, and even converted this time for his first touchdown of the season! However, both of these plays came with the Bills going no-huddle; if they slowed down, I expect Damien Harris or Latavius Murray would have been inserted to punch it in. Especially given his yardage total and efficiency fell in this one, I’m still going to consider Cook an RB2 going forward.
  • With two minutes remaining in the first half, Raheem Mostert recorded his ninth opportunity (targets + carries) and second fumble of the game. At that point, De’Von Achane had seen five opportunities, but had already scored two touchdowns. From then on, Achane saw nine looks to Mostert’s four, finishing with 120 total yards and 25.5 fantasy points. He won’t keep scoring on a fifth of his touches, and Mostert will remain involved, but Achane has gone from a non-factor to a fringe RB1 in just two weeks.
  • Last week, I noted that Dalton Kincaid’s usage was trending in the wrong direction. This week, he flipped that on its head, posting new career highs in route share (79%) and target share (17%). He did still only play 52% of snaps, but the 79% route share indicates he mostly came off the field for run plays, especially late in the game as the Bills milked the clock. The first-round rookie is yet to make much of a fantasy impact, but this week was encouraging, and I wouldn’t drop him just yet.
Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers
  • Don’t overreact to Chuba Hubbard outsnapping Miles Sanders for the first time this season. Sanders was limited in practice all week with a groin injury and almost didn’t suit up on Sunday; this seems more like Sanders remaining limited than Hubbard overtaking him going forward.
  • Cam Akers made his debut for the Vikings on Sunday, and while he only saw five carries, he clearly cut into Alexander Mattison’s workload. Mattison posted season lows in snap share (66%), route participation (48%), and targets (one, while Akers saw two). He also saw a 74% rush share, down from his previous average of 82%. While these are still mostly fine numbers, Mattison’s inefficiency means his fantasy value hinges on maintaining a true workhorse role. Especially if Akers’ role continues to expand, Mattison will quickly become a risky flex play more than a weekly RB2.
  • Terrace Marshall led the Panthers with 10 targets this week, catching nine of them for 56 yards. I have spent my fair share of time conducting the Terrace Marshall hype train in this space before, but I just don’t see it this year. Even with Jonathan Mingo sidelined, Marshall played just 62% of snaps, and this offense is not looking anywhere near good enough to support a fantasy option in a part-time role.
Denver Broncos @ Chicago Bears
  • Justin Fields had by far his best outing of the season, torching the Broncos’ secondary for 335 yards and four touchdowns and finishing with 27.9 fantasy points. While this is encouraging for Bears fans, from a fantasy perspective, I would have preferred more of his production came on the ground. This may seem counterintuitive, but my reasoning is simple: Fields has proven that, with the right usage, he can be a consistent fantasy producer thanks to his legs. With his arm, it’s a different story. Given that his designed runs number fell back to just three after a Week 3 increase to seven, I’m looking at this game as more of a sell-high opportunity than a reason for optimism going forward. After all, he won’t get to play the Broncos every week.
  • With Javonte Williams exiting early with a hip injury, UDFA rookie Jaleel McLaughlin stole headlines for the Broncos, averaging over 10 yards on his seven carries and adding a receiving TD on one of three receptions. McLaughlin clearly has more juice than Samaje Perine, but don’t expect the veteran to disappear completely. On his only pass-block rep of the game, McLaughlin allowed a free rusher straight at Russell Wilson, resulting in a hilariously low 5.1 PFF pass-blocking grade. He’s still worth adding, but his lack of pass-blocking chops makes him very unlikely to truly take control of this backfield for more than flex production.
  • In their first competitive game of the season, Khalil Herbert was far and away the Bears’ RB1, playing 79% of snaps and seeing 18 carries and five targets to Roschon Johnson’s five and one. Herbert is also leading the rookie in PFF grade, yards per attempt, yards after contact per attempt, rushing yards over expected per attempt, success rate … you get the picture. He also has better receiving metrics, and grades much better as a pass-blocker. The only thing keeping Herbert from consistent RB2 production is the Bears’ offensive ineptitude, while Johnson is looking like a glorified handcuff more than anything else.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns
  • I’m starting to get deja vu giving weekly updates on the Ravens’ backfield, which has seemingly been in a constant state of flux for over a year now. Gus Edwards was the clear top option this week, posting a 71% mark in both snaps and RB rush share. He also saw three targets, although he managed only one yard on his two catches. But do I trust any of this to last and make Edwards more than a flex play? Not really, especially given Justice Hill was limited in practice all week, 30-year-old Melvin Gordon averaged nearly four more yards per carry than Edwards, and rookie Keaton Mitchell (who has a hype train of his own and is a stash option in deep leagues) is nearing a return.
  • Pierre Strong led the Browns in rushing yards, but all five of his carries came with the Browns down 25 in the fourth quarter. If we exclude those final two garbage-time drives, Jerome Ford posted a 72% snap share, and he saw nine carries to Kareem Hunt’s five, as well as six targets on 63% route participation. Assuming the Browns can get back on track, Ford is in the RB2 conversation going forward.
  • Four weeks in, let’s take a look at the much-anticipated Todd Monken change to the Ravens’ usage of Lamar Jackson. In 2022, Lamar averaged 31.5 dropbacks, 7.2 designed runs, and 2.0 scramble attempts per game, while posting a 9.7 ADOT and 6.88 yards per attempt. So far in 2023, he’s averaged 33.2 dropbacks, 6.25 designed runs, and 4.0 scrambles, with a 7.8 ADOT and 7.56 YPA. Jackson is dropping back (and therefore scrambling) slightly more often, with a corresponding decrease in designed runs, while also throwing more short passes and being more efficient when he does throw. However, all these differences are small, and Lamar is basically the same fantasy player he has always been: a top-tier fantasy QB1 with an unparalleled ceiling but a lower weekly floor than more pass-happy options.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans
  • I would like to briefly take a victory lap about my take last week that Tank Dell would be difficult to trust weekly … and make a similar point about Nico Collins this week. However, of the two, I expect Collins to be more reliable. Collins’ 23% season target share is the highest on the Texans, and his 32 targets tie him for 16th in the NFL. Even better, he is more of a deep weapon than Dell, with a 34% air yards share that ties him for 21st in the league. I think you can happily trust Collins as a flex or even WR2.
  • Kenny Pickett is likely to miss time with a bone bruise in his knee, leaving the Steelers to turn to Mitchell Trubisky as their quarterback. In the five games in which Trubisky played over 55% of snaps in 2022, the Steelers averaged 18.4 points on 340 yards per game. So far this season, those numbers are 15.5 points on 263 yards per game. I’m not saying Trubisky will make them better, but they can’t exactly get worse, so I wouldn’t overreact even if Pickett is set to miss extended time.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the Texans’ WRs, but haven’t really taken a look at the man getting them the ball. C.J. Stroud is dealing to start his NFL career, and he’s currently the QB10 in fantasy. His attempt numbers, which started absurdly, have come back to earth over the last two weeks, and he has still had back-to-back 20-point outings. He’s very much on the fantasy radar, even in 1-QB leagues, and worth adding everywhere.
Los Angeles Rams @ Indianapolis Colts
  • Michael Pittman’s 28% target share is the 12th-highest in the league. However, he lands as just the fantasy WR23, thanks to a combination of low team pass volume and a lack of efficiency. Of those stats, I expect his target share to be the stickiest (he already just missed a big TD in this one thanks to what was arguably an uncalled facemask), so Pittman is an intriguing buy-low target as a high-upside WR2.
  • Kyren Williams had another huge outing, rushing for over 100 yards and two TDs. However, he played “only” 73% of snaps after playing 100% and 97% over the last two weeks, and his route, rush attempt, and target shares all dropped accordingly. Meanwhile, he posted a league-worst 2.04 rush yards below attempt, as well as an abysmal 18.2% success rate. His workload and goal-line equity make him a must-start for now, but this is exactly the kind of profile we would all scream “dead-zone RB” at in draft season … so be careful.
  • Jonathan Taylor is reportedly set to return to practice for the Colts on Thursday (it was Wednesday, but they canceled that practice) and subsequently rejoin the team from the PUP list. There’s still a chance he gets traded (perhaps to these very same Rams), but it’s looking likely he suits up for the Colts. If he does, he will be an immediate RB1 in this offense, and Zack Moss will return to handcuff status.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
  • With just one catch for four yards, Chris Olave is now the WR29. However, he has yet to score a touchdown despite seeing three end zone targets, and ranks ninth in targets and fifth in air yards. Big weeks are coming, and you should absolutely buy low if a manager is disappointed in his relatively slow start.
  • Sean Tucker did not play a single snap on Sunday, as Ke’Shawn Vaughn served as the RB2 behind Rachaad White. This is not too surprising, as Tucker had averaged a putrid 1.5 yards per attempt on his 15 carries. Vaughn wasn’t much better in his chance at the job, with 16 yards on nine carries. Given this, White is locked into the top job in Tampa … if only by default, as he himself has been one of the league’s least efficient backs with 1.1 yards below attempt per carry. Still, he should be able to maintain at least flex value, although it might not be pretty.
  • Alvin Kamara absolutely obliterated a record in his return from suspension, as his 33 yards on 13 receptions was less than half of the previous receiving low (71 yards) for a player with 13 receptions. He also played a very solid 75% of snaps, and was more efficient on the ground, totalling 51 yards on 11 carries. In any sort of PPR format, he’s a locked-in RB2, at least, although we can’t expect this kind of record-breaking outing every week.
Washington Commanders @ Philadelphia Eagles
  • After posting the league’s fifth-best tight end PPG at 9.5 in 2022, Dallas Goedert is averaging less than four fantasy points per week so far this season, and it’s not at all clear why. He is actually running routes at a higher clip than last year (91% to 88%), as well as lining up in-line less often (36.8% vs. 44.0%). He’s not even seeing that many fewer targets, at 4.75 per game this year compared to 5.5 last year. These numbers point to bigger weeks coming up, so I wouldn’t drop him, but his actual production has been so awful I don’t blame anyone looking for other options in Week 5.
  • Outside of an absolute stinker against the threshing machine they call a defense in Buffalo, Sam Howell has at least 15 fantasy points in every game this season. Like many fantasy QBs, he adds value with his legs, but he is unique in that his rushing is entirely improvisational: His 11 scrambles are tied with Jalen Hurts for the fifth-most in the league, but he has zero designed runs. Among other QBs with zero designed runs, Gardner Minshew has the most scrambles … two. If the Commanders start adding QB runs into the game plan to take advantage of his mobility, Howell could find himself as a fringe 1-QB option; until then, he’s only on the Superflex radar.
  • D’Andre Swift is obviously a must-start at this point as the lead back behind the league’s best offensive line. However, he may slow down going forward, as the Eagles have an absolutely brutal schedule coming up … but then it gets easier again as they face the Seahawks, Giants, and Cardinals in the fantasy playoffs. Matchup difficulty is always hard to gauge, especially this far in advance, but Swift may see his production (and value) decline over the rest of the season, and then win some fantasy leagues when it matters most.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee Titans
  • If he can’t get it done against this Titans secondary, Joe Burrow is an absolute must-bench until he has proven himself to be healthy and/or productive. It’s that simple.
  • I’m not that worried about DeAndre Hopkins playing just 53% of snaps this week, as this game was out of hand early. The problem with the Titans’ offense is that it either runs through Derrick Henry, in which case there’s not much passing volume to go around, or it doesn’t run at all. Hopkins is still startable thanks to his 28% target share and 37% air yards share, but nobody else in the Titans’ receiving game is except for in the deepest of leagues.
  • Joe Mixon leads all running backs with a 78% rush share. Even on a terrible offense, which the Bengals shockingly are, that kind of workload makes him a must-start every week.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
  • Josh Palmer only caught three passes in his debut as the Chargers’ WR2, but he led the team with eight targets for a very impressive 35% target share. Rookie Quentin Johnston has more upside and may eventually leapfrog him, but for now Palmer is a perfectly viable flex option.
  • Jakobi Meyers didn’t do much in his return from a concussion, but I still love him as a trade target, especially in PPR leagues. He, Josh Jacobs, and Davante Adams are essentially the Raiders’ entire offense, and he saw 22 targets in two games with Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
  • I mentioned last week that Donald Parham Jr. and Gerald Everett were each playing half of a fantasy-relevant role. Parham Jr. has now suffered a wrist injury, which Brandon Staley is refusing to elaborate on. In this case, no news is likely bad news, so we can expect Parham to miss some time, although more recent reports suggest he avoided a broken wrist. This opens the door for Everett to be a fantasy-relevant option, although he will have to further improve on his Week 4 58% route participation. If he does, and especially if he sees some of the red zone work that was going to Parham (who was tied for the most among TEs with four end zone targets), the hyper-athletic Everett could be a weekly fantasy play.
New England Patriots @ Dallas Cowboys
  • The Cowboys have reached a 90%+ win probability in the first half of three of their four games. In the one where they didn’t, Tony Pollard played 87% of snaps and saw 23 carries (an 87% share) and three targets. Assuming their defense doesn’t keep having two-TD days, Pollard is a top-five RB. If you can get him for a cheaper price, do it.
  • There was a report going around Twitter before this game that Ezekiel Elliott would get “starter reps” against his old team. Instead, he still topped out at 40% of snaps and had six carries to Rhamondre Stevenson’s 14. Zeke is a handcuff, and not a very good one at that, given Stevenson is currently struggling to produce much with the starter role.
  • Just like with Pollard, I think you can more or less throw away this week’s usage for Dallas’ receivers. Instead, I want to again look at their only competitive game: Week 3 against the Cardinals. In that one, CeeDee Lamb was the clear WR1, while Brandin Cooks played nine more snaps than Michael Gallup but ran just one more route. All three saw seven targets, while Jalen Tolbert was an afterthought. Expect Lamb to be his usual stud self, while Cooks and Gallup can both be boom-or-bust flex options depending on who gets the volume each week, with a slight lean towards Cook.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
  • Former Stanford Cardinal Michael Wilson had a huge game back in the Bay Area, catching all seven of his targets for 76 yards and two touchdowns. He has still yet to match his Week 1 debut 90% snap share, but he is trending back upwards, with a 70% share in this one. He has the talent, and Joshua Dobbs continues to impress. Don’t start Wilson just yet (he is still behind Rondale Moore in snaps and routes), but he’s a great stash in deeper leagues.
  • Don’t worry too much about Deebo Samuel’s complete dud. This is just the nature of the 49ers’ stacked offense; every player will have some off weeks (except Christian McCaffrey, apparently). On the converse, despite his obvious immense talent, I would consider selling Brandon Aiyuk if you can convince someone he is a true WR1 who won’t also have his share of down weeks.
  • Another week, another 10 targets for Zach Ertz. He has yet to score a touchdown and is averaging just 4.5 yards a target, but he’s also tied for the TE lead with 30 targets and second (behind Kyle Pitts, lol) at the position in air yards. Especially in PPR, but likely in all leagues given how few TEs are seeing consistent volume, he’s a weekly starter.