15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 4
If you've ever hit a golf ball into the woods and then found it, then you know the feeling. You know what it's like to get in front of a line of trees, make some practice swings, and then pray your ball can make it through the cluster of trunks that sit between you and the green.
Sometimes the "hope and pray" approach works, and you can punch the ball out onto the fairway, maybe even onto the green. But, sometimes, the sucker comes flying back at your forehead after being deflected off a tree 15 feet in front of you.
The ball didn't make it through.
Sell Latavius Murray
Murray was a "hold" in this column a week ago. It wasn't because he was performing poorly -- our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric listed him with the highest Rushing NEP total and Success Rate (percentage of positive runs) in the entire NFL -- but because he wasn't seeing the workload he saw a season ago.
The thought heading into Week 3 was that negative to neutral game scripts could have been playing a role in his lack of overall usage. In Week 1, the Raiders had to come back to beat the Saints. In Week 2, Oakland lost at home to Atlanta.
But this past weekend, Oakland won. And the Raiders saw a positive game script throughout the entire game.
Latavius Murray ended with just 10 attempts, while Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington each had 6. And Murray, who played 64% of Oakland's snaps last year, played just 48% of them against Tennessee on Sunday. He was below the 50% mark just twice last year.
Fortunately, Murray has salvaged his timeshare with a touchdown in every game this season. That's a good selling point because he's not going to score each week. And when he doesn't, it could get ugly.
Buy Eddie Lacy
Murray's scored three times on 32 rushes this season. Eddie Lacy's found the end zone zero times on 43 attempts.
Week 3 was a good one for Lacy owners, even if he didn't score. Lacy was on the field for 70% of Green Bay's snaps, which is up from the 56% he saw Week 1 against Jacksonville, and the 49% rate from the Packers' Week 2 loss in Minnesota.
The only reason Lacy hasn't been likable from a fantasy standpoint is touchdowns. And those will come. Through the first three weeks of the season, he's top-10 in the league in rushes from within the opponents' 10-yard line, and among the players with 5 or more rushes from this part of the field, he's the only one without a score.
The Packers' offense also looked like the machine it used to be in yesterday's contest, which is just another reason to feel optimistic about Lacy moving forward.
Add Kenneth Dixon
The Ravens backfield and offense is kind of a low-key mess. Yeah, I understand they're 3-0. But they've also faced the Bills, Browns, and Jaguars, and scored more than 20 points in just one of those contests.
Part of the reason the team hasn't been getting things rolling offensively is because the backfield has been inefficient. So far this year, Terrance West and Justin Forsett are averaging 3.6 and 3.2 yards per carry, respectively, all while failing to find the end zone. According to our schedule-adjusted Rushing NEP metric, the Ravens have the seventh-worst rushing offense to start the year.
Perhaps the boost the team needs will come from Kenneth Dixon, who's been sidelined with a knee injury. He was arguably the team's best back in the preseason, and there's a chance he's back in Week 4. Even if he's not, he's a worthwhile stash in a backfield that lacks any sort of usable fantasy assets.
Drop Kamar Aiken
Speaking of the Ravens' offense, why are they not using Kamar Aiken more? Opting for a 37-year-old coming off an Achilles injury seems not ideal. But as long as they're winning, they're probably not going to be changing a whole lot. And that's why Aiken needs to be gone off your roster -- he's owned in 15% of ESPN.com leagues, but he's seen his snap percentage drop in each game this year, going from 53% to 41% to 34%. As a result, he's seen four freaking targets this year. No thanks.
Add Terrelle Pryor
Whew, boy. If you want an Aiken replacement, go ahead and snag Terrelle Pryor -- yes, that Terrelle Pryor -- off waivers. Because he's balling out.
Pryor saw 14 targets in a Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon-less offense in Week 3, easily leading the Browns in the category. He turned those looks -- along with some passes and rushes -- into 31.9 PPR points, a top-five performance of the week.
While we shouldn't expect that type of volume each week -- Gordon and Coleman were out, and the Browns went to overtime -- Cleveland should see themselves in plenty of negative game scripts this season. That means more volume for the passing game, which means Pryor should see some looks. At the very least, he should with Corey Coleman sidelined.
Add Jordan Howard
It sounds like Jeremy Langford has a sprained ankle, which is good news for folks who might've thought his Achilles was all jacked up. But that means, at least in the interim (and quite possibly even longer), Jordan Howard will be the lead dog in the Bears' backfield.
Let's not pretend this is a super great situation to be in, though. Chicago's now led by Brian Hoyer, and the defense -- which ranks 25th according to our numbers -- won't be helping put the Bears in many favorable situations. The running game should suffer, but nevertheless, someone like Howard could still benefit in the receiving game.
With Ka'Deem Carey sidelined and with Langford missing part of the Bears' game against Dallas on Sunday night, Howard ended up seeing a healthy 75% of the team's snaps. That was the second-highest total in three games for Chicago, as Langford saw 96% in Week 1.
How this all translates to fantasy success is still up in the air because the Bears are in disarray. Being on the field and potentially being a three-down back in today's NFL, no matter the team, is a good thing, though. Howard should be a top waiver priority this week.
Sell John Brown
John Brown is back!
Eh, maybe not.
It's true that Brown saw 11 targets, turning them into a relatively productive 6 receptions for 70 yards. But he's just not seeing the field still, and that's a massive red flag.
In Sunday's horrible loss against the Bills, Brown ended up seeing just 57% of Arizona's snaps. For some context, both Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald were above 80%, while over 75 wide receivers saw a higher snap percentage than Brown.
Really, the main reason he saw the volume he did was because the team was trailing the entire game and were super pass-heavy in the third and fourth quarters. Quarterback Carson Palmer ended up throwing 50 passes in the game, a number he failed to reach all of last year.
There's certainly a chance Brown turns the corner and starts to play more snaps. And maybe Week 3 will give the Cardinals more confidence in using him. Overall, though, I'd be looking to get rid of him, as long as you can sell this performance and not the first two weeks. In other words, don't give him up for a loaf of bread.
Add Jamison Crowder
After a big Week 3, Crowder makes 15 Transactions for the second week in a row. He now is tied for the league lead in red zone targets at the wide receiver position and has more targets than both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. He's not playing as many snaps as they are, but he's not far off on the year -- he's at 71% of the team's snaps, while Garcon's at 72% and Jackson's at 77%. Simply put, he needs to be owned in more than 11.1% of ESPN.com leagues.
Buy Jerick McKinnon
There was some ambiguity surrounding the Vikings' backfield entering Week 3 but, exiting, things are looking good for Jerick McKinnon moving forward.
Adrian Peterson is on injured reserve, which makes the Minnesota backfield a two-headed monster between McKinnon and Matt Asiata. But, as we saw on Sunday, McKinnon certainly has the edge, as he should. He's far better and more athletic.
Against the Panthers, McKinnon had 16 attempts and 2 targets to Asiata's 6 and 1. McKinnon also outsnapped his plodding teammate 65% to 35% in a game where the Vikings played with the lead. Considering McKinnon has been the primary receiving back in the Vikings offense with a healthy Peterson, it appears as though he'll be on the field no matter the game script.
And speaking of game script, the Vikings are 3-0 and very good at football. The defense is the third-best one in the NFL according to our numbers, which means the Vikings could be leading in a lot of their contests. That translates to more work for their running backs.
If the McKinnon owner in your league simply saw the end-of-game stat line against a good Panthers defense and isn't bullish on him, go ahead and try to snatch him away.
Sell LeGarrette Blount
So, uh, LeGarrette Blount is on pace to run the ball 400 times this year. We like quantitative research here at numberFire, but I'm going to just guess and say that's not happening.
There's no doubt Blount has been a monster from a fantasy perspective -- he leads the league in rushing.
But the Patriots have also started the season with three positive game scripts, funneling in a 0.86 drop back-to-run ratio, the lowest number in the league. The Patriots haven't had that low of a ratio since 2004, and they've been above 1.40 in four of the last five seasons.
Once Tom Brady comes back, this offense will change. There will be more passes, which isn't good for a back who's seen zero targets through three weeks, as Blount has. And once Dion Lewis comes back, Blount may lose even more looks in the offense.
The time to sell is now.
Buy Dwayne Washington
After being an "add" last week in this column, Dwayne Washington becomes a "buy" entering Week 4. Though, to be fair, he's still ridiculously underowned in ESPN.com leagues, with about 80% of leagues having him on the waiver wire.
Why buy? Because, as we saw in Week 3, Theo Riddick isn't a between-the-tackles runner, totaling 9 rushing yards on 10 attempts against a good Green Bay Packers defense. Riddick played wide receiver in college, and entered 2016 with just 72 carries in three NFL seasons. He actually had 46 more receptions than rushes coming into the season.
This early-down job isn't Riddick's. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. It belongs to Washington, who looked much more fit for the role in Sunday's game, as he out-rushed Riddick by 22 yards on one fewer carry.
The Lions also get the Bears this week, who rank third-worst against the run according to our numbers. If he goes off, the Washington owner won't be letting him go as easily entering Week 5.
Add Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins
Out of seemingly nowhere yesterday, it was announced that Shane Vereen has a tricep injury and will be sidelined for the season. Newer reports are saying that he'll be sidelined at least eight weeks, which, regardless, is a long time for fantasy purposes.
That's certainly a good thing for Rashad Jennings owners. Jennings was out in Week 3 with a wrist injury, but there's optimism that he'll be back in action in Week 4. If he's not -- and, to be honest, even if he is -- adding Orleans Darkwa or Paul Perkins isn't a bad idea. Darkwa saw touches in Week 3's game with Jennings sidelined, and he actually scored a touchdown on 10 carries. From a short-term perspective -- maybe if Jennings misses Week 4 -- Darkwa would be the add. But, longer-term, the rookie Perkins isn't a bad look, as Darkwa doesn't have the professional resume, and Jennings has had issues staying off the injury report. Do note, though, that these situations are largely a guessing game.
Drop Vincent Jackson
If you drafted Vincent Jackson thinking you were going to get flex-worthy performances, my condolences.
On the year, V-Jax has played 84% of Tampa Bay's snaps, close to Mike Evans' 87% mark. While Evans has turned his opportunity into overall WR2 numbers, Jackson has taken 22 targets and created 9 catches for 99 yards and no scores. And, this past week, he was out-targeted by Adam Humphries in a game where Jameis Winston attempted 58 passes.
If Jackson turns things around, it'd be shocking if he becomes predictable week to week. That, combined with what's above, is why he doesn't need to be on your roster anymore.
Add Alex Smith
There are a lot of fringe quarterback streamers this week in good situations, whether it's Andy Dalton against the Dolphins, Dak Prescott against the 49ers, or maybe even Kirk Cousins against the Browns. If those guys are on your wire, I'd be playing them over the lesser-owned Alex Smith, but Smith is still a decent play in Pittsburgh this week.
The Steelers' defense has been below average to start the year, ranking 24th overall and 23rd against the pass, per our schedule-adjusted numbers. But injuries to Ryan Shazier, Robert Golden, Mike Mitchell, and Lawrence Timmons in Week 3 give the Steelers a weaker defensive group, which could create opportunity for Smith. In what could be a fairly high-scoring matchup, you could do worse with a quarterback streamer. He at least provides a reasonable floor.
Add the Washington Defense
Cleveland's offense looked better than expected with Cody Kessler under center last week, but they still surrendered four sacks and six quarterback hits to the Dolphins. They'll get to play on the road this week against an admittedly mediocre (bottom five according to our numbers) Washington defense, but as 9.5-point favorites at home, Washington still makes for a great streaming play. Remember, with streaming defenses, it's more about the matchup than the defense itself.