Welcome to Week 5 of the 2021 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate players who potentially revealed their season-long value in Week 4, the 49ers-Cardinals tilt, recently unreliable options worth the risk, and emerging player candidates.
Week 4's TRue Reveal
Matt Waldman: Which players showed their true 2021 self in Week 4? Which player's Week 4 was an aberration? Pick three.
Chris Allen: Darnold was more himself in Week 4 compared to what we saw in Weeks 1-3. It’s not to say he hasn’t improved this year. However, he’s still developing with a better coaching staff and personnel. Last week actually set up similarly to his final game in New York. The game was competitive through the first half until Darnold’s inaccuracy got the best of him at the worst moment. Afterward, the game got out of control. He’s been more accurate and efficient (-0.16 vs 0.46 EPA per play) out of clean pockets than in years past with a higher neutral passing rate. But, if he’s asked to throw his way back into games, buckle up. Luckily, his schedule over the next month doesn’t necessarily translate into similar situations.
I’m having a tough time believing this is the best of Justin Fields. Mark Schofield did an excellent job in breaking down Fields’ second start but the overall volume is confusing (17 attempts). His passing chart lacks planning. Unless sending his receivers after Bobby Price (Lions’ CB) was the plan. We’re still not seeing enough of the elements that made Fields one of the top prospects in the draft (designed rollouts, RPOs, etc.). Bill Lazor did dial up more play-action for Fields (36.9% of his dropbacks), but the team still leaned on the running game. Chicago’s upcoming schedule (LV, GB, and TB) won’t allow a similarly conservative approach. Whether it be the coaching staff or Fields himself, something has to give.
Jordan McNamara: Leonard Fournette is ideally situated in the Tampa Offense between an ineffective run centric back (Ronald Jones II) and an injured receiving centric back in Giovani Bernard. Tampa is amongst the most pass-centric offenses in the league, but Fournette will continue to run a lot of routes when Bernard is injured, and put himself squarely in the RB2 discussion in any week Bernard or Jones are injured.
Daniel Jones was a laughing stock early in his career but has taken a consistent step forward each year of his career. His turnover habits are way down, and he is growing year over year as a passer. Add in the fact Jones is QB8 with only four touchdown passes on 144 passing attempts and Jones is a positive regression candidate to grow in fantasy production.
Jeff Haseley: In the rainy conditions of Sunday night's game, the Bucs primarily ran the ball when they were ahead and passed when they were behind. Leonard Fournette was the obvious preference at running back and with Giovani Bernard dealing with an MCL sprain, he was also relied upon as a receiving back. In the next few weeks, when Rob Gronkowski returns, it may have a negative effect on Fournette's utilization, but he's looking more and more like the back Tom Brady and the Bucs will rely on moving forward.
Sean Settle: It was great seeing Brady back in New England and all of the pageantry that went this that. However, Fournette seeing 20 carries is not something we should expect to see again this season. First, we have to note that Rob Gronkowski was out due to injury, it was Ronald Jones II that scored the touchdown on the ground, and the weather was absolutely atrocious and made throwing the ball very difficult. This receiving group is too good and there are too many weapons to expect Fournette to touch the ball so many times later this season. It may have finally looked like a lead back emerged for Tampa Bay in Week 4, but they are going to keep the league guessing all season with the weapons they have on offense.
I talked about it a few weeks ago and it continues to prove to be true. It was never a Sam Darnold problem it was always a New York Jets problem. While the Panthers ran into a hot Cowboys team last week, Darnold continued to impress with his connection with D.J. Moore and using his legs on the ground. He is finding continued success even without Christian McCaffrey in the backfield. We cannot expect this rate of rushing touchdowns to continue, but the rate of scoring should far outpace the turnovers. Look for Darnold to continue to impress and fall somewhere in the top 10-12 QBs overall this season.
Ryan Weisse: Back-to-back 100-yard games have me feeling pretty good about Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I noted in this article a few weeks ago that the great thing about him was that he was not ceding work to anyone. While Darrell Williams has gotten more involved over the last two weeks, Edwards-Helaire has played even better. He is handling almost 70% of all running back opportunities on one of the best offenses in football. He is the real deal.
Settle: It is finally time to start believing in Edwards-Helaire this season. I was very bullish on him during his rookie campaign last season and did not believe he would live up to the hype. However, he has finally started to put it together and is getting the workload of a lead back on one of the best offenses in the league. Edwards-Helair has seen 70% of the work and could see that number rise if he continues to perform. He is coming off back-to-back 100-yard performances and has the ability to score on the ground and through the air. Even with Darrell Williams taking some goal-line work, CEH is here to stay and is finally flashing the potential that led him to be drafted by the Chiefs. Look for much bigger things to come to the rest of the season.
McNamara: Edwards-Helaire was written off too quickly after a slow start. He is a firm 13-17 touch per game player, in a Kansas City offense that defenses should funnel toward running the ball. He is a solid player if he stays healthy in Kansas City.
Haseley: The luster on Edwards-Helaire's is getting brighter by the game. He is starting to develop into a quality dual-purpose back for the Chiefs, which we know is a huge boon for fantasy rosters. He may not be a great goal-line back, but he's doing a lot of good in other areas. He has some multi-touchdown games in his future with 70-plus yards from scrimmage. His needle is pointing up and he's on a potent offense.
Weisse: I like Daniel Jones and Taylor Heinicke, but I'll hitch my wagon to Sam Darnold. While nobody expected five rushing touchdowns in four weeks, he's always had a little rushing upside. He's also thrown five touchdowns in those games, putting him on face for 20+ passing touchdowns, which would be a career-high. Further cementing his true self, he is still going to turn the ball over, throwing two interceptions against the Cowboys in Week 4. Fantasy managers will be okay with those turnovers as long as the touchdowns continue, and I believe they will.
I still don't think we've seen anything close to the actual Justin Fields, but we may see it soon. Over the last two weeks, he's rushed just three times in each game, for a whopping 21 yards on six carries. Fields rushed for over 1000 yards and 19 touchdowns in college, and that part of his game needs to return for fantasy relevance. With David Montgomery likely to miss some time, this could be the week we see the true Justin Fields because that is not what we've gotten thus far.
Dave Kluge: Trying my hardest to leave my Bears’ fan bias aside, I believe that Justin Fields’ performance in Week 4 is much more indicative of what to expect than what we saw in Week 3’s beatdown. A lot of Week 3’s struggles were due to a lousy game plan that failed to bring in extra protection against a stout Cleveland defense. Although the Detroit defense isn’t spectacular, much of the success Fields was able to find was due to spare time in the pocket. With tight ends and running backs being used as additional blockers, Fields patiently surveyed the field, found open receivers, and consistently hit them. With Bill Lazor expected to be the play-caller moving forward, expect a gameplan more suited to Fields’ strengths.
Taylor Heinicke also had a breakout game that many of us have anticipated since his exhilarating playoff performance last season. Heinicke had his first three-touchdown performance while securing a road win over Atlanta. His output was primarily due to force-feeding the team’s best weapon, Terry McLaurin, with 13 targets. Inexperienced quarterbacks will often shy away from throwing contested balls, but Heinicke has shown faith in McLaurin to make those tough grabs, which should help both players excel. The Falcons defense isn’t a huge test, but it’s great to see the quarterback pick apart a sub-par defense in his fourth career start.
Joe Brady seems to have found the trick to unlocking Sam Darnold, who is putting up career numbers across the board on this new offense. Even though Darnold is an underrated athlete, I don’t expect him to keep up his current pace on the ground. Four rushing touchdowns over the last two weeks is entirely unsustainable. The fact that he could do it on just 46 yards shows that he is due for regression. In 42 career starts, Darnold has only eclipsed 35 yards on the ground once. It’s great to see him passing for more yards and protecting the football better, but don’t expect Darnold to continue this season as a “rushing quarterback.”
Victoria Geary: Sam Darnold is the latest player to come out of the dark shadows of abysmal head coach Adam Gase, and he has proven he is much better than the product he put on the field over his first three seasons. He is currently the QB5 on the season on the back of five rushing touchdowns, which leads the entire league. His 68% completion rate is the best of his career by far, and he is already more than halfway to his total passing yards from his 2020 campaign through only four starts! The numbers are real, and so is Darnold. You can feel comfortable streaming or starting him the rest of the season with the Panthers' fairly easy schedule.
Edwards-Helaire was declared a bust once again after the first two weeks of the season, but I think he may have heard all the chatter. He's averaging 6.6 yards per carry during the past two weeks. And the craziest part is that he’s playing 10% fewer snaps in his last two contests than he did in Weeks 1 and 2. Managing his workload seems to be his path to fantasy greatness. Although I still believe we will see a few bust games sprinkled into his 2021 campaign, you can start him with much more confidence going forward.
Heinicke has been more than serviceable for the Washington Football Team in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s absence. He put up 28 points in Week 4 against Atlanta and lead Washington to a come-from-behind win on the road. Atlanta has arguably the worst defense in the league right now, so this seems to be an aberration. With New Orleans, Green Bay, Denver, Tampa Bay, and Carolina on deck in the next five out of six games, it’s best to temper expectations for Heinicke’s future fantasy performances.
Allen: Week 4 was the best-case scenario for Taylor Heinicke to show us his true self. Or, at least the best version of it. He saw the second-lowest pressure of the season (26.8%) and was caught in a close matchup the entire game. Heinicke was asked to do it all and he excelled. He was primarily efficient on short and intermediate throws but connected on 3 of his deep attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. He’s Top 10 in efficiency amongst all quarterbacks with Curtis Samuel still working his way back into the offense. The schedule ahead looks tough, but Heinicke has shown he’s capable of meeting the challenge.
Haseley: Like others have shared, the rushing touchdowns are a nice bonus to Sam Darnold's rise to relevance but they probably won't be sustained to the level they are now. He has three 300-yard games in four weeks and he's doing a good job of finding his favorite downfield target, D.J. Moore. Once Christian McCaffrey returns, it will only help Darnold's game.
Waldman: An early divisional game with weight and a lot of fantasy potential, answer the following.
- Trey Lance played a half and delivered 189 total yards and 2 scores without practice reps. What do you expect (qualitative and quantitative) with a full week of practice against the Cardinals?
- Who are two players who benefit from Lance's start from a fantasy perspective?
- It's likely that Kyler Murray will continue his strong streak of performances. The difficult projection is his receiving corps. Who will be the two most productive receivers on the Cardinals this week and why?
- James Connor or Chase Edmonds?
What are your thoughts?.
Haseley: If Lance plays this week, it may be his only audition to earn the quarterback role over Jimmy Garoppolo because the 49ers have a bye in Week 6, and Garoppolo (calf) could be back for Week 7. Lance showed the ability to produce as a passer and rusher in his limited opportunity last week. If he starts and performs well, perhaps even knocking off 4-0 Arizona, it will be difficult for Kyle Shanahan to insert Garoppolo back into the lineup. But as we all know, we have no idea what Shanahan is going to do. If Lance plays, look for him to target Deebo Samuel often with shorter passes to Kyle Juszczyk and whichever running back is deemed starter (Elijah Mitchell or Trey Sermon). Logic suggests Mitchell if he's able to return from his shoulder injury.
Weisse: I really hate to say this, but I expect a letdown from Lance this week. The Cardinals allow the 9th fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks, and Lance does not have to the element of surprise he had against Seattle. I'm no NFL coach, but I imagine there is very different preparation for Jimmy Garoppolo than for Trey Lance. Lance looked great in Week 3 and has a bright future, but the Cardinals will be ready for and cap his rushing upside, thus limiting his fantasy output.
Overall, you have to like Deebo Samuel and George Kittle better. In Week 3, they were targeted more than ten times, which is likely to continue. Coming out of college, Lance had a penchant for finding his tight end in the endzone, and that is music to the ear of many frustrated George Kittle fantasy managers.
We should expect a big DeAndre Hopkins bounceback this week. The 49ers have been pretty good against fantasy wide receivers, but one guy absolutely torched them: Davante Adams. Hopkins, like Adams, is a true alpha-WR and is primed for a big game after two quiet weeks. Choosing a 2nd WR is a dart throw. The Niners have given up some big plays to Quez Watkins and Marques Valdez-Scantling, so let's see if Rondale Moore can pop a big one as he did in Week 2 against Minnesota.
I hate being wrong, so I'm going to hedge! If you need a safe floor, take Edmonds. He's hit double-digit PPR points in every game this season but never more than 18 in a game. But, if you need that big ceiling, Conner is a vulture. He's scored two touchdowns in each of the last two weeks and, if he starts to cut into Edmonds volume, he could easily be an RB1 in fantasy again.
Haseley: Murray is playing well and the Cardinals' ground game has been above-average. If that continues to be the case, the success of the passing game may continue to drop off. The next two opponents (SF, CLE) could pose a challenge for the Cardinals, but the first and best target has and will continue to be Hopkins who appears to be over any difficulties in dealing with his rib injury. After Hopkins, the next best productive wide receiver has been A.J. Green with some Christian Kirk sprinkled in. It wouldn't be surprising to see Edmonds see an increase in targets, especially in the next two games against the defenses of San Francisco and Cleveland. Conner has been a great goal-line option for Arizona, but Edmonds is the one who has the opportunity to be a strong dual-threat fantasy starter in the near future. The injury that seems to plague Conner every year has yet to happen. When it does, Edmonds stock will climb even higher.
Geary: Of Lance's 157 total yards passing in Week 4, 76 of them came on broken coverage when he hit a wide-open Deebo Samuel for a long touchdown. Lance struggled to move the ball otherwise against a not-so-scary Seattle defense, but he should be much more prepared this week taking all or most of the quarterback practice reps while Jimmy Garrapolo nurses a calf injury. The Cardinals' defense has been fairly stout through four weeks though, and just gave fits to an otherwise hot offense in Matthew Stafford and the Rams last week. My expectations are fairly low for Lance's performance against the Cardinals, but he will likely provide a safe floor with his rushing abilities. I would avoid starting him this week.
Kittle and Samuel are most likely to benefit with Lance at the helm. Lance should be using Kittle as his safety net and Samuel has had three games with 100 yards or more. Lance should laser focus on his two best offensive weapons if he wants to be successful this week and potentially the rest of the season if he can pry the starting job from Garrapolo.
Production from the Arizona Cardinals receiving corps is going to be a headache to predict on a weekly basis. Green seems to be coming into his own though, garnering at least 6 targets and 13 or more PPR points per game over the last three weeks. And we know Hopkins isn't going to stay quiet for long because he's Hopkins. Between the four, Christian Kirk and rookie Rondale Moore will be boom-or-bust most weeks for fantasy, even though all of these receivers could have a huge game on any given Sunday.
Allen: I’d expect to see a wider range of plays called for Lance against Arizona. In Week 4, over half of his passes (55.6%) were less than 10 air yards. Only one attempt went to the perimeter of the field which resulted in Deebo Samuel’s first touchdown. San Francisco used play-action on just 16.7%, no RPOs, and jet motion on just 2 attempts. Coincidentally, a play-action pass is what sucked the defense in for Samuel’s long touchdown. The threat of Lance’s legs should at least be there against a defense registering a 32.3% pressure rate along with a quick passing game to keep the offense moving.
Samuel and Kittle are the players that benefit most with Lance under center. Not just from Lance’s start, but from the game environment as a whole. Outside of Mohamed Sanu, Samuel has spent the most time in the slot and has seen nearly a quarter of his targets at or behind the line of scrimmage. Again, if Arizona continues to bring the pressure, then Samuel becomes the reliable target for Lance.
Kittle’s pass-catching ability is what we want for fantasy but we forget about his utility as a blocker. San Francisco’s offensive line is 10th in adjusted sack rate but yet to be truly tested upfront. A chip block with a quick release upfield would be an effective way for Lance to keep the offense moving.
Kluge: A whole week of practice for Lance will benefit the Cardinals just as it will benefit the 49ers. The Seahawks' pass defense hasn’t been great this year. They prepped for Week 4 based on what we’ve seen from the 49ers this season: Jimmy Garappolo under center with a few Lance sightings sprinkled in.
When Garappolo was knocked out of the game, it changed the Seahawks’ plan of attack. With the threat of Lance’s rushing ability looming, the defense was forced to play closer to the line, which allowed for more yards after the catch. The Cardinals will have a full week to prep for Lance’s rushing by practicing against an even better mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray.
Although Lance has shown his capabilities as a passer, I expect a run-heavy approach from the 49ers’ offense this week which will benefit Trey Sermon. George Kittle managers could be disappointed again as he may be asked to stay on the line and block more to protect Lance, who holds the ball a bit longer than Garoppolo.
However, Lance showed a willingness to get the ball to Deebo Samuel, who could continue his hot streak in Week 5. As for the James Conner/Chase Edmonds debate, it’s tough to pick one. Edmonds is getting the targets that translate to big weeks, but Conner sees the goal-line work. Both of these backs are capping each other’s upside, but I’d be more likely to bet on Edmonds to have a more significant week. He’s currently third amongst all running backs in scrimmage yards.
Settle: It would be easy to assume that Lance will look better after a full week of practice heading into the game against the Cardinals. However, we cannot so quickly forget about how well that defense held the high-powered Rams in check last week. Matthew Stafford was looking like a lock as the early season MVP with Cooper Kupp leading the way. Enter the Cardinals defense and everything is up for grabs again. Look for the 49ers to lean heavily on the run game after the early success of Darrell Henderson against that defense last week and to limit relying on Lance to push the ball down the field. With George Kittle questionable and not playing like himself so far this year, we should expect a similar stat line across an entire game with a turnover or two mixed in.
Waldman: I think I'll stick with that assumption in favor of Lance, considering Lance has legitimate top-end rushing skills and Stafford is a pocket quarterback with some mobility. The ground game will be used to set up the vertical passing game, so while I think Lance is likely prone to mistakes that you'll see from a rookie in his first start, I expect Lance to have a top-15 fantasy week at his position due to the rushing yardage baked into his gameplan.
Settle: Hopefully so. And considering the second half of last week's game, we should see the connection with Samuel continue to blossom. The second player who will benefit the most is whoever is playing tight end. George Kittle is the likely answer but he has been dealing with injuries early this season and has been a letdown compared to his ADP. Lance loved to target his tight end in the red zone while in college and we could see that continue in the NFL. Look for a combination of the tight end and Samuel to benefit the most from his start this week.
For the sake of many fantasy owners, DeAndre Hopkins will get back into their good graces this week with a great matchup against this SF defense. This is the same defense the was absolutely destroyed by Davante Adams in week 3 to the tune of 12 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Hopkins has been dealing with a rib injury but has the matchup that should put him in the conversation for a top receiver this week. From there it is very difficult to predict. Christian Kirk has had a big week, Rondale Moore has had a big week, and we just never know who Murray is going to find while scrambling. Look for Kirk to emerge again this week as he has been more consistent and a bigger part of this offense. He can blow the top off of a defense and make plays on quick slants and screens. Look for at least 1 big play this week for Kirk.
If you have to choose a Cardinals runner, go with Conner. He is the back that is getting the goal line carries and has back-to-back two-touchdown performances. He has been a non-factor in the passing game but the touchdown reigns supreme in fantasy football. This offense is going to have goal-line opportunities this week and I want the guy who has shown he can punch it in for six.
McNamara: Cautious optimism on the Lance front. Arizona's defense has done well against the pass and has pressured the quarterback on a near-neutral rate. A week of preparation for Kyle Shanahan should scheme a better system for Lance than the Garoppolo game plan in Week 4. I think he is on the QB1/2 fringe.
Lance's threat as a runner should help Trey Sermon. Quarterbacks with mobility have the ability to create room for the running backs in the offense, which should benefit Sermon. I am also hopeful that Brandon Aiyuk will take a step forward in the coming weeks to look more like his 2020 production. This may not necessarily be a result of Lance, but if it happens with Lance as the quarterback, I'm fine giving him the credit.
I'll always bet on volume at wide receiver. DeAndre Hopkins has a 19.75% target share and a 27.5% share of air yards through four weeks while A.J. Green has a 19% target share and 26.5% share of air yards. Rondale Moore and Christian Kirk are interesting to watch players but always bet on the volume at wide receiver. Honorable mention to Maxx Williams who is a late-career breakout and should be near lineups for the tight end position.
Chase Edmonds is leading the backfield in carries and has 17.25% of the offense's targets compared to only 5% for Connor. Connor must score touchdowns to be a fantasy-viable when Edmonds is healthy, so Edmonds is the clear answer.
Waldman: If you're desperate for a flex-play at running back or need a bye-week option, Conner's role at the goal line makes him a viable answer. However, I'm with Ryan that the utilization overall favors Edmonds when seeking weekly production.
Geary: When it comes to Arizona's backfield, I would still take Edmonds after four weeks. He currently sits at the PPR RB12 overall without scoring a touchdown, averaging 15 points per game. He has been the definition of consistency and is a solid RB2 you can trust on a weekly basis. James Conner has scored four touchdowns in his last two games for the Cardinals and has had an impressive box score.
But if we dig a bit deeper, Conner has only played on an average of 42% snaps per game, is being out-touched by Edmonds 65 to 56, and only averaging 3.2 yards per carry compared to 5.9. for Edmonds. It’s worth noting too that even with his hot streak over the last two weeks, Conner’s average snap percentage actually decreased by 4%. Until he begins to pull away from Edmonds a bit further, both Edmonds and Conner will continue to eat into each other’s fantasy output.
Allen: On the Arizona side, I’m looking at the two primary slot receivers in Kirk and Moore. Moore is a wildcard with his targets and snaps oscillating each week. Regardless, both receivers have a chance to attack a key weakness within the 49ers’ defense. According to Sports Info Solutions, DJ Chark is the only perimeter receiver to score a touchdown on San Francisco through four weeks. He’s also accumulated the most yards. Meanwhile, the 49ers have been constantly beaten in the slot.
From K.J. Osborn to Cooper Kupp, interior receivers have had their way. Of the 7 passing touchdowns allowed by San Francisco, 6 have come from the slot. Between Moore and Kirk, Kirk’s nearly doubled Moore’s routes with a similar overall target share. A.J. Green has moved to the inside as well, but I’d expect more attempts to the interior in Week 5.
Chase Edmonds has out-touched James Conner 63 to 56 with a 14.9% target share. Conner’s been the beneficiary of four short-yardage touchdowns with three coming from the 1-yard line. However, Edmonds has earned a similar number of touches in the red zone (14 to 10). Edmonds would be the preferred choice here.
Waldman: The following players were once awesome (or had awesome weeks) but have been wholly unreliable in recent years.
Which one of these players would you risk a roster spot on and why?
Kluge: It’s got to be James Conner for me. First of all, he’s a Chase Edmonds injury away from a massive workload on an explosive offense. But even without an injury to Edmonds, Conner has been the goal-line back in Arizona and is very efficient at it. He currently has five carries inside the five-yard line, second-most of any running back. And he’s converted four of those five carries into touchdowns! If you want to secure your role as a goal-line back, that’s how you do it. He’s on pace for the most carries of his career since his breakout 2018 campaign. During bye weeks, he’s someone you should be comfortable starting, and he has the most upside of anyone else on this list if Edmonds were to go down.
Weisse: There is no question to me that it is James Conner. Let's start with the most obvious reason: running backs are far more valuable than wide receivers in fantasy football. Why waste a roster spot on a WR3 when the waiver wire is full of them? The biggest frustration with Kenyan Drake in Arizona last season was his inability to capitalize on short-yardage situations. Conner has stepped in and done exactly that in his first four games as a Cardinal. He has 14 red-zone rushes for 36 yards and four touchdowns. That is the 6th best production inside the 20 among all NFL running backs.
His role is limited right now, but there is every bit the chance that he starts to steal work from Chase Edmonds and becomes the three-down back we saw in Pittsburgh. In this offense, that is a top-12 fantasy running back.
McNamara: If the 2021 version of Cordarelle Patterson has taught me anything, it is never giving up hope on a player you like that never broke out. You may have to wait a decade for them to find a good fit, but there is always hope.
Waldman: You may have to wait a decade...Jordan, you are a Fantasy Football Romantic.
McNamara: What can I say? I also hope that Will Fuller V will be healthy and unsuspended for a year before he turns 30. I'll be holding a roster spot for him beyond what is probably reasonable into the future.
Allen: I’ll keep the light on for Aiyuk this week. His routes run per dropback have remained above what he saw in Week 2 after getting out of the proverbial doghouse (57.6%) in Week 1. His target share took a step back in Week 4, but I’d chalk that up to the change at quarterback. Prior to Garoppolo’s departure, Aiyuk held a 13.0% share with targets at each level of the field. Trey Lance hasn’t practiced much with Aiyuk in game-prep situations. As a result, the pair have a chance to improve on their chemistry as they plan for the Cardinals in Week 5.
Settle: Even with a rookie 2nd string quarterback set to play, I still want Aiyuk on my team. He was way too talented last season as a rookie to not be seeing the ball more. The 49ers have been dealing with injuries to all of their running backs, their starting quarterback, and have lost much of their identity. George Kittle has not been the same impact player and Deebo Samuel is not going to see veery target. Whatever issue Aiyuk and the 49ers had to begin the season should have passed and he is the guy I want on my roster. By the end of the season, he will still be top 2 in targets, catches, and yards for this receiving group.
Haseley: The landing spot for Gordon is what piques my interest. The Chiefs could use a player of his skill set and the offense with Andy Reid in control may be the ideal setting for Gordon. We saw in 2019 that he is still able to make plays. The fact that he is still hungry to make this "NFL thing" work is remarkable. Gordon is the only one from that group who has the potential to be fantasy-relevant. If he hits in his return back on Sunday Night Football against Buffalo, I can see him taking off from there and being a quality fantasy option. If not, then perhaps it wasn't meant to be. He may have a one-game audition to turn heads. What's a better stage than a nationally broadcast game to make a statement?
Geary: I put in a few waiver claims on James Conner this week for all of the reasons myself and Ryan listed above. He is an injury away from being the sole lead back in the NFL’s most potent offense. Taking a shot on a waiver RB over a WR is worth it almost every time, as serviceable wide receivers will always be there for you on the waiver wire to grab.
Emerging Player Candidates
Matt Waldman: No rookies allowed. Name a player who has never been a top-15 QB, top 24 RB, top 36 WR, or top 15 TE who has a shot to become one this year?
Weisse: I'll do you one better...what about ONE guy who has never been a top-24 running back or a top-36 wide receiver and is going to do both this season? I'm, of course, talking about the human flex position, Cordarrelle Patterson. I had to check some stats on this, but his best fantasy season to date was his 2013 rookie year with 149 fantasy points. That was good enough for a WR44 finish, he was a wideout back then, and those points made him the RB29. He is on pace to beat that production by Week 8 this year.
No, you can't expect three touchdowns every week, but the touches aren't going anywhere. Patterson is averaging over 11 opportunities per week and has scored five touchdowns. He is currently the RB3 and would be the WR5. It's okay to overpay for him because of his dual-eligibility on almost all platforms (looking at you, MFL). He can fill in for you at either position and with injuries plaguing fantasy managers right now, that might be his best asset...that and scoring five touchdowns.
McNamara: Ryan is right on with the Cordarelle Patterson take. Patterson is bound for some regression, but he has banked so many points at this point, he will be a top-36 wide receiver if he is healthy the rest of the season.
Haseley: Patterson definitely fits the bill for this and I agree with what the others have said. He may not be a top-10 finisher but the top 36 is within his reach. I'll say, Sam Darnold. Not only does he have the weapons to finish in the top 15, but he also is showing the ability to put up strong passing numbers with surprising rushing totals as well. He is fitting in well in Carolina's shallow cross offense finding the open man and not necessarily latching onto the same target. The offensive line has somewhat held up for him, minus the Dallas game. If he is not rattled or pressured, he is finding the open receiver and throwing an accurate pass. His path to the top 15 is within reach, especially if Christian McCaffrey's hamstring injury will soon be behind him.
Allen: I’ll pile on with Patterson. We might be playing with fire as he saw his snaps and touches drop in Week 4, but there’s no denying what he offers Atlanta’s offense. Patterson has been more efficient on his runs as compared to Mike Davis (33.3% to 28.6% success rate). Plus, at least after Sunday, he needs to be accounted for by opposing defenses as a receiver. The goal should be to make Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts the focal points of the offense, but Patterson may be the piece to get them to that point.
Geary: Back in March, I planted my flag on a guy who finished his 2020 season with a 52% completion percentage, an offensive line in shambles, and a non-existent receiving corps. Jalen Hurts currently sits at the QB3 overall, averaging 292 passing yards, 57 rushing yards, and two touchdowns per game through four weeks (25.3 points per game). Even his worst performance to date against Dallas in Week 3 yielded us over 22 fantasy points. It’s early, but he appears to be this year’s late-round quarterback value we hope to hit on every fantasy season — providing a very safe floor and a high ceiling in your lineup every week. He should finish among the top-5 quarterbacks on the season, barring injury.
Settle: The tight end position has always been very top-heavy. If you miss out on the top 5 guys it can be difficult to recover as you try and chase touchdowns. Dawson Knox has been playing a bigger role for the Bills than any of his previous seasons. He already has 4 touchdowns which are a single season-high for him and it has only been 4 weeks. He is on pace to break every 1 of his single-season marks and is on one of the best offenses in football. The only issue here could be the target share with Stefon Diggs commanding the biggest portion, but Knox is averaging nearly 80% of offensive snaps so far this season and has a shot to score every week.
Waldman: The second week in a row Knox has earned a mention here, folks. Get on board.