The early season small sample size theater is over, and trends are starting to emerge. We know Mac Jones will not throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. The Dallas Cowboys will not be the top fantasy scorer in the season. The Miami Dolphins will not be undefeated. We can react week to week with a more level-headed approach. That is unless you have a Twitter account and roster Jahmyr Gibbs.
NFL teams and fantasy managers need to identify and assess their situation. The Chicago Bears did; they sat Chase Claypool, focused targets on DJ Moore and Cole Kmet, and helped Justin Fields to one of his best days as a pro. The Jacksonville Jaguars did as well, featuring Christian Kirk and Evan Engram as their primary receivers, despite the angle of Calvin Ridley playing his former team.
Week 4 saw the damn break on some touchdown regression. James Cook has been excellent as the Bills featured back and cracked the endzone for the first time in a massive 48-20 win over the Dolphins. Puka Nacua also continued his torrid career start and broke the endzone for his first touchdown.
In many cases, it is getting late early.
Cincinnati's 1-3 start is weighing heavily following a blowout loss to the Titans. The Giants need a win on Monday night, or they could be in a similar position.
Dynasty managers have to be decisive at this point in the season. In leagues with 13-week regular seasons, 30% of the schedule is now gone. 0-4 and even many 1-3 teams need to capitalize on short-term player values and work towards building draft capital. Contenders waiting on production from players like Jordan Addison or Tee Higgins must give themselves backup options. Week 1 showed players like DeAndre Hopkins, Calvin Ridley, or even Kendrick Bourne could be significant contributors. Their production since has provided a different picture, with all of them falling outside of season-long top-36 WR3 status.
Injuries give some windows to capitalize on value. Samaje Perine is disappointing as a change of pace back. However, with Javonte Williams expected to leave the lineup, a window to capitalize on any value left from preseason expectations could open. If Pat Freiermuth leaves the Steelers lineup, George Pickens needs to take a significant step to help right the offense, potentially without Kenny Pickett.
Trends are also showing closing windows on some early breakouts. Kyren Williams ceded work to Ronnie Rivers, the first time he showed hints toward a workshare in three weeks. Zack Moss still controlled running back opportunities, but there are reports of Jonathan Taylor's practice window opening. Cam Akers had his first game with the Vikings. It was still primarily the Alexander Mattison show, but goal-line work already went to Akers.
Our Cecil Lammey frequently talks about four-game windows. The end of Week 4 closed the first window. Fantasy managers must make blunt assessments and move forward into the next window.
|Yards Per Touch
Featured backs dominated Week 4. Can you place this production?
Deep Dynasty Watch List
Identifying players rostered in less than 50% of Sleeper dynasty leagues.
- RB Jaleel McLaughlin, Denver (51% Sleeper rostered) - McLaughlin sits just over our 50% threshold, but he bears mention following the injury to Javonte Williams. McLaughlin is a priority add. He has already earned high-value goal-line opportunities, and this is an opportunity to take a significant role and run with it. The Broncos broke their winless season with a 21-point comeback, but it is easy to see where this season's path is. McLaughlin is part of the future; that future is now.
- QB Mitch Trubisky, Pittsburgh (15% Sleeper rostered) - Pittsburgh's offense struggled severely against the Texans, and with Diontae Johnson still out, Trubisky is likely not the answer. In deep Superflex leagues, every starting quarterback hits rosters.
- WR Charlie Jones (44%) / WR Andrei Iosivas (15%), Cincinnati - Tee Higgins suffered a rib injury, and his outlook for Week 5 looks doubtful. In the short term, Ja'Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd have shown to be enough in the past. But the bigger conversation is a 1-3 Bengals team that said they would not negotiate an extension with Higgins in the offseason. There are avenues to keep Higgins with the team, but with Joe Burrow becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL and Chase the top option to retain, Higgins's days in Cincinnati could end earlier than expected. Jones and Iosivas have shown themselves capable of making plays, and the opportunity to earn more significant roles could come sooner than expected.
- WR Derius Davis, LA Chargers (18% Sleeper rostered) - With a stalled run game and Austin Ekeler still out of the lineup, the Chargers looked for creative solutions to generate offense. Davis was one. He gained 51 yards on three rush opportunities and 16 yards on two receptions. Davis ran a 4.36 40 at the combine and quickly locked down the Chargers' return job. Given the disappointing performance by Josh Kelley while Ekeler was out of the lineup and hesitation in overloading Ekeler, Davis could emerge as a versatile weapon.
- TE Jonnu Smith, Atlanta (19% Sleeper rostered) - I do not want to talk about it any more than you do. But in an offense already squeezing out two young receivers, Smith looks like a thorn in fantasy managers' sides. Arthur Smith schemed touches for him, utilizing him in the screen game, and it is no secret the Smiths appreciate each other. A six-reception, 95-yard day shows Smith has TE1 weeks in his range of outcomes.
- RB Pierre Strong Jr, Cleveland (54% Sleeper rostered) - Strong Jr. has led the Browns in rushing each of the last two weeks. The situations have been strange, and the production has been primarily on end-game situations, but he has been the most efficient Browns running back. The "remove this play" game is dangerous, but with 49 carries beyond Jerome Ford's 69-yard run and 117 rush yards with that play removed, Ford's efficiency has been a terrible 2.38 yards per carry. Ford must improve, or the team has to allocate his carries elsewhere.
Stats Of The Week
- QB Josh Allen, Buffalo - 320 yards, four touchdowns - Allen owns the Dolphins. He has 3,004 career yards against them, 727 more yards than his second most against one team, the Jets. His 31 career touchdowns are 15 more than the Patriots, second on that list. This performance was the 31st game in NFL history with 320+ passing yards, four passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown, last accomplished by Justin Herbert in Week 5 of 2021. Since his Week 1 Monday night meltdown, Allen has hit 77% of his passes, averaged 272 yards, and posted an eight-to-one TD-to-INT ratio.
- WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo - 120 yards, three touchdowns - Diggs posted the sixth game in Bills history of at least 120 yards and three touchdowns. He now has three of those games. He is climbing the franchise receiving record book, sitting 51 yards away from passing Frank Lewis for fifth in team history and three touchdowns away from Elbert Dubenion for fourth in team history. And now, this is the only fantasy football column that will reference Elbert Dubenion in 2023.
- QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore -two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns - Jackson posted his first game, hitting two touchdowns of each category. Double-up touchdown games have happened 78 times in NFL history, with Daniel Jones recording the last one in Week 17 of 2022. The Ravens move to sole possession of first place in the AFC North at 3-1 and hold head-to-head wins over the Browns and Bengals.
- WR Puka Nacua, LA Rams - nine receptions, 163 yards, one touchdown - Hat tip to Ryan McDowell. Nacua's 39 receptions are the most in a player's first five games. Nacua has accomplished that in four games. We are in uncharted territory with Nacua, and he has produced enough early enough that we can not immediately write him off with a return by Cooper Kupp.
- WR A.J. Brown, Philadelphia - nine receptions, 175 yards, two touchdowns - Brown's outburst in Week 2 of Thursday Night Football is well in the rearview. He recorded his second nine-reception game in six days. Jeremy Maclin was the last Eagle to hit these statistical thresholds in 2014. If it ever existed, the buy-low window slammed shut on Brown.
- QB Justin Fields, Chicago - 335 passing yards, four touchdowns - Fields set career highs in yards and touchdowns as the Bears' offense showed their first signs of life. It was his first 300-yard game. It was the ninth game in franchise history with at least that many yards and touchdowns; the last was Trubisky 2018.
- RB Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco - 106 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, 71 receiving yards, one touchdown - Four touchdown games are becoming a trend. A week after De'Von Achane and Raheem Mostert posted four touchdown games, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel's former employer posted a four-touchdown game. The four touchdowns set a career-high for McCaffrey. He is good at football.
Splitting backfields into key categories based upon snaps and opportunities (rushes plus targets). While carries may be similar, backfields that fall into a Committee with a Lead over a straight Committee saw wide disparities in snap counts.
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
An ELITE subscription is required to access content for Dynasty leagues. If this league is not a Dynasty league, you can edit your leagues here.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE