5 Fantasy Football Players You Must Start or Sit for Week 4
Somebody at the main NFL headquarters is getting fired. No, it doesn't have the do with that whole ref thing; that was over a whole 12 hours ago man, keep up with the times. Instead, I'm talking about the slate of Thursday night games the next three weeks. How many people are going to be frantically calling their cable companies for the incredible slate of games that are Baltimore/Cleveland, Arizona/St. Louis, and Pittsburgh/Tennessee? Only somebody who has a lot of money in a survivor pool would be my guess. And to make matters worse, the Browns have exactly one player that anybody should start on their fantasy team, and Trent Richardson is already a starter for most teams (he's numberFire's #19 Ranked RB).
So with very few players from tonight's game on the bubble, I decided to take a look at the few Ravens you may be undecided on for tonight, then get a head start on Sunday's biggest start/sit concerns. As always, the numbers here are brought to you courtesy of the super-fantastic numberFire projections system, the fourth-most accurate in the entire wide world of the Internets in week 3 according to Fantasy Pros. (As a note, Fantasy Pros did not rank numberFire's week 1, so we're not on the big leaderboard. But numberFire has been in the top 30% each of the past two weeks.) With the pleasantries and introductions out of the way, let's get it started.
Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 4
Dennis Pitta - Baltimore Ravens
Week 4: 7.28 Projected Points (#6 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 36.5%
Verdict: Start Him
Hey, want to see something that doesn't make any sense? As it stands, Pitta is only started in less than two-fifths of ESPN leagues, and he's owned in less than three-fifths of leagues. Not picking up on why that's so weird? Pitta is currently tied for the league-lead in tight end targets with 31, only matched by Jimmy Graham. Those 31 targets are the most on the Ravens' team by a long shot as well - Ray Rice is second with 20 looks. Pitta's catch rate isn't great, sitting at 60% on the season, but team leader Rice only sits at 70%, so Joe Flacco isn't about to start throwing elsewhere. Pitta is sixth in TE fantasy points on the season, but that's only because every single tight end ahead of him at least three touchdowns. Poor old Pitta only has two - which ohbytheway is 33% of all TD passes Joe Flacco has thrown on the season. Against a Cleveland defense that numberFire has ranked in the bottom half of the league, Pitta is not only a great pickup if he's not already owned, but he's a must-start this week as well.
Torrey Smith - Baltimore Ravens
Week 4: 8.24 Projected Points (#25 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 43.5%
Verdict: Sit Him
Yeah sure, you'll feel like a jerk after watching what he did on Sunday night. But fantasy football is cold-blooded. Did you read all that up there about how Pitta is Flacco's favorite target? For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction - if Pitta is Flacco's favorite target, then Torrey Smith is not Flacco's favorite target. Congrats, you could still pass high school geometry (maybe). Sure, Smith led the team with 10 targets against New England on Sunday night, but he did not lead by much. Only 26% of Flacco's passes went Smith's way, while Boldin and Pitta each received 18% of his passes. By comparison, 36% of Flacco's passes went Pitta's way in week 2 and 28% went his way in week 1, a much larger discrepancy between himself and the rest of the team. You may consider the Sunday night game the start of a trend, but I'm not yet sold - Smith only received five looks (third on the team) in week 2 and three looks (fourth on the team) in week 1. I see Smith as a boom or bust candidate still, even after his big week. If he breaks one deep for a TD, then you're fine; just be warned that numberFire has him projected at only 0.37 TDs this week.
Eric Decker - Denver Broncos
Week 4: 9.31 Projected Points (#17 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 37.8%
Verdict: Start Him
So if you're not starting the year's feel-good story, who starts in his place? Why not try the quietest breakout player from last week, Eric Decker? I probably don't need to tell you this, but that Houston defense is good; only one receiver has gone for more than 80 yards against them this entire season. That receiver is Eric Decker. His fantasy points number doesn't look solid; at #31, he's behind such great names as Jeremy Kerley, Cecil Shorts III, and Kevin Ogletree. But that's from a lack of getting into the endzone; Decker has the fourth-most fantasy points of any receiver without a touchdown, behind only Percy Harvin, Steve Smith (Carolina), and Wes Welker. That's not bad company to have. Decker tied with Demaryius Thomas for the team lead in targets last week with 11, and he's only three targets behind Thomas for the team season lead entering week 4. The Oakland defense has been exceptionally poor this season - three different players in the Steelers' passing attack were in the top five of their position last week and Antonio Brown would have been a top-ten receiver if not for a fumble. If you're going to use Decker for one game this season, this is it.
Doug Martin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 4: 11.44 Projected Points (#17 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 56.1%
Verdict: Start Him
He's not a must start in every single league by this point? The most impressive and tantalizing aspect of Martin's game is just how committed the Buccaneers are to getting him the ball. Martin's 63 rushing attempts are the third-most in the entire league, only behind two players you wouldn't ever dream of sitting in Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch. When you take his 214 rushing yards and tack on his six catches for 44 yards on the season, he's Tampa Bay's main yards-eating option; the Bucs' leading receiver is Vincent Jackson with 204 yards. He's not a player who will bust one deep - his longest rush of the season is only 17 yards - but I would much rather have his consistency over a boom or bust candidate. The Washington Redskins have been a mixed bag stopping the run; the Rams bowled through their defense, while the Bengals and Saints just passed all day. But I expect the Bucs to attempt to follow the Rams' formula, and I see a lot of carries in Martin's future.
Michael Turner - Atlanta Falcons
Week 4: 11.44 Projected Points (#25 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 89.2%
Verdict: Flex Him, at best
So at this point, I have advocated starting Doug Martin as well as Alfred Morris and Cedric Benson yesterday. Is there anybody that I would actually bench? How about a guy that is being started in nine out of every ten ESPN leagues? The case for leaving Turner in is simple: the Falcons face the same Carolina defense that Andre Brown tore apart last week, and he's coming off a season-high 14 fantasy points in a standard league against the Chargers. But let's take a closer look at Turner's stats when that game was still close. In the first quarter, he had four rushes for nine yards (that's OK, he was just getting going). In the second quarter, he had four rushes for six yards, giving him a staggering eight carry, 15 yard total at halftime (umm...). In the third quarter, Turner had two rushes for eight yards, making his total 10 rushes for 23 yards entering the third quarter (mercy! I give!). Those 23 yards were only three more than backup Jaquizz Rodgers had at that point, and Rodgers is slowly creeping on Turner's playing time. I'd be very wary of starting Turner this week and don't trust him as anything more than a flex.