Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 4
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another.
We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Update: The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots game has been postponed and is expected to be played on Monday or Tuesday. Cam Newton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play this week.
Joe Burrow (vs. Jacksonville) - Burrow is the QB10 through three weeks, and he should be moving up after Week 4's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags have surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, but they've done that despite facing the second-fewest passes attempted against them. In fact, Jacksonville ranks dead last in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play this season. Those who roster Burrow should be licking their chops. But wait, there's more... the Jags also rank fifth-best in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play -- they are the ultimate pass-funnel defense. This is a perfect matchup for the quarterback who's attempted the second-most passes in the league. Start Burrow as a QB1 this week.
Jared Goff (vs. NYG) - Goff has feasted in his last two contests, and I don't expect that streak to end against the New York Giants. New York has only given the 23rd-most fantasy points to the opposition's signal-callers, though the advanced metrics tell a different story entirely. The Giants second-to-last in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play through three weeks, and they actually grade out as above-average against the run. The Los Angeles Rams have the second-highest implied total on Week 4's slate, and Goff is bound to be a big part of that.
Matthew Stafford (vs. New Orleans) - Stafford hasn't exactly lit the world on fire this season -- he's just the QB20 through three games. However, this week's matchup could be the cure to that. To date, the New Orleans Saints have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing passers. Tom Brady, Derek Carr, and Rodgers have all scored between 22.5 and 24.5 fantasy points against them. As underdogs in a game with a 54.0 total, Stafford should be tasked to throw a lot. In four home games last year, Stafford averaged 23.7 fantasy points.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. Seattle) - Fitzmagic gets the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Seattle has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing passers to date, allowing their opposition to finish as the QB7, QB2, and QB4 through three weeks -- Fitzpatrick has been a top-12 fantasy quarterback in each of the last two weeks. With the Miami Dolphins coming in as 6.5-point 'dogs in a game with 54.0 total, the Bearded Man should get all the volume he can handle -- it's the only way they'll keep up with the high-powered offense of the Seahawks.
Cam Newton (at Kansas City) - The raw stats might not show it, but the Kansas City Chiefs have sported one of the league's passing defenses to date. While they have allowed the 16th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, that's actually remarkable considering that they've already faced Watson and Lamar Jackson. After shutting down Watson in Week 1 until garbage time, the Chiefs held Jackson to his lowest fantasy output in 27 career starts (including playoffs). Through three weeks, the Chiefs rank fifth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Newton will have to his damage with his legs -- 42% of the fantasy points Kansas City has allowed to the position have come on the ground. Unless Cam has a monster rushing game, he could be in for an underwhelming performance in Week 4.
Carson Wentz (at San Francisco) - The temptation to start Wentz these days is likely not very high, but this week it should be nonexistent. For all the injuries they've suffered, the San Francisco 49ers are still a tough matchup for passers. Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold, and Daniel Jones have all struggled to throw on this defense -- I know those aren't the best arm talents in the league, but Wentz is not much better right now...at all. Among the 36 quarterbacks with at least 20 drop backs, Wentz ranks 35th in Passing NEP per drop back... yikes. Meanwhile, San Francisco ranks second-best in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Nick Foles (vs. Indianapolis) - Foles is the second most-added quarterback in Yahoo leagues, which means a lot of managers will be trotting him into their lineups. I'd like to offer a word of caution. The Indianapolis Colts currently ranks first in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play -- they've only faced Gardner Minshew, Cousins, and Darnold, but let's not pretend that Foles is Patrick Mahomes. Only two Week 4 games have a lower total than this contest, which is far from encouraging for Foles' fantasy outlook.
Kenyan Drake (at Carolina) - In half-PPR leagues, Drake is just the RB24 through three weeks, but for the second week in a row, I'm predicting a breakout performance for the Arizona Cardinals running back (that went very well last week). In the first three contests, Drake has received 18, 22, and 19 touches, respectively. At some point, those touches are going to turn into fantasy production. Through three weeks, the Carolina Panthers have surrendered 33.9 half-PPR points to Josh Jacobs, 25.6 to Leonard Fournette, and 25.8 to Austin Ekeler. Last season, Carolina allowed 10 different backs to record at least 17.1 fantasy points against them. The Cardinals have the ninth-highest implied total on the slate and are 3.5-point favorites, making this an ideal game script for Drake.
Devin Singletary (at Las Vegas) - While Zack Moss looks likely to return for the Buffalo Bills, I would still consider Singletary to be a solid start. To date, no team has fared worse in terms of Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play than the Las Vegas Raiders, as they've allowed the most fantasy points to opposing backs this season. Christian McCaffrey pegged Vegas for 26.9 fantasy points in Week 1. Alvin Kamara said, "hold my beer," and dropped 33.9 in Week 2. And then Rex Burkhead of all people, finished with 31.3 in Week 3 -- oh, and Sony Michel posted 15.0 fantasy points in that same game. The Bills are 3.0-point favorites with an implied total of 27.25, so there should be plenty of room for fantasy production from Singletary.
Darrell Henderson (vs. NYG) - Among the 56 backs with at least 15 carries, Henderson ranks 5th in Rushing NEP per carry and 4th in Rushing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of carries that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense). The New York Giants have been right around league-average at defending the run, but they've faced the fifth-most rushes thus far. Game script is a large factor in that, and that's unlikely to change with the Rams favored by 12.5. Henderson, who has posted 19.1 and 18.5 half-PPR points in his last two games, is a mid-range RB2 for Week 4.
Carlos Hyde (at Miami) - If Chris Carson were to indeed miss this week's game against the Miami Dolphins, Hyde could benefit in a huge way. The Dolphins rank seventh-worst in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play -- the first non-committee back Miami faced, James Robinson, dropped 27.9 fantasy points on them in Week 3. Hyde could have similar success this week.
Joe Mixon (vs. Jacksonville) - Mixon has yet to top 10.6 fantasy points this season, and while this might seem like a get-right matchup, it probably isn't that. Through three weeks, the Jags rank fifth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and 48.2% of the fantasy production they've allowed to backs have come through the air -- unfortunately, the Cincinnati Bengals are one of those teams that would prefer to keep one of their best players off the field on passing downs, despite the fact that he's a more than a capable receiver.
Antonio Gibson (vs. Baltimore) - Another team that likes to play keep-away from their more talented players are the Washington Football Team. Gibson -- who ranks 21st in Rushing NEP per carry among the 56 backs with at least 15 totes -- has seen just 31 carries through three games, while J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber -- who rank 40th and 41st, respectively -- have garnered 37 combined rushes. Even if Gibson was getting a full workload, he'd be a fade this week due to his matchup -- he faces the Baltimore Ravens, who ranked second in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and have surrendered the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position.
Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones (vs. LAC) - Whose backfield is this? In Week 1, Jones saw a 47% snap share and 19 touches. In Week 2, Fournette had a 43% snap share and 16 touches. And in Week 3, it was Jones once again -- as he saw 51% of the snaps and 15 touches. Is it possible that Bruce Arians is doing this just to mess with fantasy players? I wouldn't put it past him, but I also wouldn't rush to start any of these two in Week 4. The Los Angeles Chargers come in tied for fifth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position.
DeVante Parker (vs. Seattle) - Through three games, the Seahawks have surrendered 1,136 receiving yards to opposing wideouts. Let that sink in. Oh, and they've also given up five scores. Nine receivers have topped 70 receiving yards against them -- that's three per game. Six wideouts have exceeded 100 yards -- that's two per game. They've surrendered at least 130 yards to four different receivers. Now, back to Parker. Among the 56 wideouts to garner at least 15 targets, Parker ranks 8th in Target Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of targets leading to increases in NEP). In a game with a 54.0 total where Seattle is favored by 6.5-points, Parker should get plenty of opportunities to post a huge fantasy day.
Odell Beckham (at Dallas) - Were it not for Seattle's abysmal numbers against wideouts, we'd be focusing more on how back the Dallas Cowboys have been against the position. Four wideouts have totaled 100-plus receiving yards against Dallas, four receivers have reached the end zone, and two have done so multiple times. In fact, the Cowboys have allowed 19.0-plus half-PPR points to a wideout three times in the last two games. Picking up right where he left off last year, OBJ has been wildly inconsistent -- he recorded 74 yards and a score in Week 2, but has managed just 81 total yards and no scores in his other two contests. This could be a week where Beckham goes off. The Cowboys have the fifth-worst pass defense, per numberFire's metrics, along with the ninth-best rush defense -- they should funnel to the pass in a game where the Cleveland Browns are expected to be trailing.
Hunter Renfrow (vs. Buffalo) - Until further notice, target slot wideouts against the Buffalo Bills. Through three games, Buffalo has surrendered 115 yards a score to Jamison Crowder, 7 receptions for 76 yards to Isaiah Ford, 130 yards and a touchdown to "tight end" Mike Gesicki, and 107 yards and a score to Cooper Kupp. Up next is Renfrow, who caught 6 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. Among 65 wideouts with at least 14 targets, Renfrow ranks 14 in Reception NEP per Target and 6th in Target Success Rate. He's an excellent streamer for Week 4.
Justin Jefferson (at Houston) - Two of the three wideouts to eclipse 12.0 fantasy points against the Houston Texans this season are primarily slot receivers. So far this season, Jefferson has lined up in the slot on 60% of his snaps. Don't expect a repeat of his 175-yard performance, but Jefferson is a solid streaming option this week.
Terry McLaurin (vs. Baltimore) - McLaurin's quickly developing into one of the game's best wideouts, but he could have a tough time producing in Week 4. The Ravens struggled against the speed of Kansas City in Week 3, but they should be able to bounce back against Washington. I'd consider McLaurin to be a low-end WR2 for this matchup.
Greg Ward (at San Francisco) - Ward was one of the most-added wideouts on Yahoo after his 72-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 3, though this would not be the week to stream him. Ward has lined up in the slot 83% of the time this season -- defending the slot just so happens to be the biggest strength of the 49ers' secondary right now. San Francisco slot corner K'Waun Williams has been one of the game's stingiest inside corners this season.
(Update: With Ward being the only healthy receiver in Philly, he should be a top-30 fantasy option this week.)
Jerry Jeudy (at NYJ) - Though he's the de facto number one wideout, I'd avoid starting Jeudy is Thursday's snoozefest. Hard as it is to believe, the New York Jets have actually been "decent" at limiting receivers, allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position. The Denver Broncos will be starting undrafted quarterback Brett Rypien in their quest to tank for Trevor Lawrence, which doesn't help matters for the rookie Jeudy.
T.J. Hockenson (vs. NO) - Through three weeks, no team has allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Saints. New Orleans has given up at least 11.6 half-PPR points to a tight end in each contest. Hockenson is currently third on the Lions in targets and leads the team in both receptions and receiving yards. He should be a big part of Detroit's game plan and is an excellent way to get exposure to the 54.0-point total for this contest.
Dalton Schultz (vs. Cleveland) - Schultz will likely be an afterthought for fantasy managers in this game, but he's a fantastic streaming option. The Browns have allowed the fourth-most points to the position, as they continue their annual tradition of not defending tight ends. Schultz currently ranks seventh among tight ends in targets (6.7 per game), and that should be enough to have him finish as a top-10 option.
Robert Tonyan (vs. Atlanta) - Only the Saints have allowed more points to tight ends than the Atlanta Falcons. After allowing 24 yards and a score to the corpse of Greg Olsen, the Falcons have allowed 19.3 and 21.0 half-PPR points to Schultz and the corpse of Jimmy Graham, respectively. Though he didn't see any targets in Week 1, Tonyan has recorded 75 yards and 2 scores over his last two games. There are worse streaming options out there.
Jimmy Graham (vs. Indianapolis) - As if they've forgotten what he's been the last few years, fantasy managers have gone out and claimed Graham in abundance -- he's the most-added tight end on Yahoo. Thinking about starting him this week? You might want to reconsider. Though they have yet to face any studs, the Colts have surrendered just 6 receptions for 32 yards to tight ends this season...in total. And need I remind you, Graham is not a stud tight end. Indianapolis ranks first in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and I'd like to avoid them if I can.
Evan Engram (at LAR) - The Los Angeles Rams just surrendered three touchdowns to Buffalo tight ends in Week 3 -- does that mean I'm going to immediately insert Engram into my lineup? Nope. In half-PPR formats, Engram has failed to reach double-digit points in 8 of his last 11 games. He has scored fewer than 4.0 fantasy points in two of his three games this season. Prior to Week 3, the Rams held the Philly and Dallas tight ends in check, and I expect them to do the same with Engram.