The first lesson we learned in Week 4 is that injuries are just no fun. They’re no fun for fantasy, and more importantly (as pointed out by Richard Sherman and others) they’re no fun for the players who worked their tails off only to have weeks or even seasons derailed by injury.
This week, the heartbreaking list included Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Julio Jones, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Ty Montgomery, and Davante Adams — and that’s just the consistent fantasy starters. Owners are scrambling to the waiver wire to find value amongst the rubble and we can expect to see a lot of FAAB budget blown on guys like Latavius Murray, Aaron Jones, Thomas Rawls, and others.
Fortunately, there are a few less painful lessons to learn from Week 4 as well. Without further ado, let’s hit the fantasy classroom once again.
1. The Patriots Defense Is Straight DooDoo
Ya, I went there (and as a Patriots fan, it doesn’t feel good). Simply put, this defense has more holes than the flat earth theory and just might be the 2017 version of the classic Saints. They can’t stop anyone or anything and served as excellent fantasy medicine for Cam Newton and Co. in Week 4 (456 yards of offense and 33 points). Plus, Tom Brady‘s superhuman ability to keep these games competitive is turning every Patriot contest into a shootout. The lesson here: start everyone playing against New England until further notice. I add “until further notice” because Belichick should get this unit functional at some point. But at least for next week, that means activating Winston, Evans, DJax, possibly Martin and Rodgers, and even Brate and Howard.
2. Charles Clay Is In the Near-Elite Tier at This Point
This is partially a function of the complete lack of healthy fantasy TEs, but largely a result of Clay’s stellar play as well. He caught five of seven targets on Sunday for 112 yards. Clay’s stat line over the past eight games (stretching back into the end of 2016) is 39 catches for 456 yards and six touchdowns. Projected over a full season, that’s 78-812-12, which is absolutely mind-boggling. Clay is undoubtedly the No. 1 receiver on the Bills, and that was evident before the loss of Jordan Matthews for at least a month. Moving forward, unless you have Gronkowski, Kelce, or Ertz, Clay is in legitimate consideration for the best available tight end. Don’t be afraid to pay up for him, with just about everything else at the position smelling an awful lot like the Patriots defense (see above).
3. Deshaun Watson Is the Cream of the Rookie Crop (In Fantasy)
It’s important to note that we haven’t yet learned who the best NFL quarterback from the 2017 draft will be. We haven’t even seen Mitchell Trubisky or Patrick Mahomes yet (both of whom were drafted higher). But all that matters in fantasy is points, and in that category, Watson is clearly king. He absolutely annihilated the Titans on Sunday, throwing for 283 yards and four touchdowns while adding 24 and a score on the ground. While his recent matchups against Tennessee and New England were admittedly soft (again, see above), Watson’s rushing floor and growing list of weapons (Will Fuller returned in Week 4 and Lamar Miller showed up in the passing game) has him right on the border of QB1 territory. He is 100% streamable in any decent matchup (including Week 5 against Kansas City) and should be owned in most leagues regardless.
4. The Arizona Browns are Both Worth Owning
No, the Cleveland Browns did not move to Arizona. I’m talking about wide receivers Jaron and John Brown (no known relation). Starting with Jaron, the 6’2″ fifth-year WR has been heavily targeted over the past three weeks and came down with eight catches for 105 yards on Sunday night. Depending on how the snap count situation proceeds for Lil’ John (see below), Jaron’s targets should stay at productive volumes, especially considering the Cardinals’ need to throw 40-plus passes every week. Meanwhile, Lil’ John Brown’s 3-for-47 stat line looks pretty disappointing, but he was on a restricted snap count (53, to Jaron and Larry Fitzgerald‘s 82), and looked healthy in his limited action — he honestly should have been credited with a 25-yard TD in overtime that the refs refused to overturn. All told, both guys should be rostered, Jaron for his weekly startability and John for his extremely high upside if he can stay on the field.
5. Ameer Abdullah Finally Poses a 100-Yard Threat Out Of the Detroit Backfield
This has got to be one of the most underrated curses in sports: the Detroit Lions have not had a 100-yard rusher in 56 straight games (dating back to 2013). Ameer Abdullah came pretty darn close in Week 4, racking up 94 yards and a touchdown, along with three catches for 15 yards. Against a tough Vikings defense, Abdullah finally showed what he can do with the volume he’s been given this year, and it could be a sign of more to come. The third-year pro is electric in open space and has not had less than 14 carries in a game so far. Volume plus talent equals fantasy gold, making Abdullah one of the higher upside RB2s after a quarter of a season.
6. Le’Veon Bell is Le’Veon Bell
Shocker, right? If you sold Bell at a devalued price after three “meh” weeks, shame on you. Against what has been a staunch Ravens defense, Bell took an astronomical 35 carries for 144 rushing yards and two TDs and added 44 through the air as well. He edged out Todd Gurley for high-scorer on the week in PPR leagues (spoiler alert: see more on Gurley below) and reminded us all why he was a consensus top-three pick. All contract-holdout-rust has been shaken off and Bell is back to business as a top-tier fantasy commodity. This was a lesson none of us should have needed, but one we are grateful to receive.
7. Speaking of Top-Tier Fantasy Commodities … Meet Todd Gurley
The Gurley camps were heavily divided coming into 2017: those who believed in his rookie showing and those who subscribed to his sophomore slump. For those of you who were brave enough to join me on the In-Gurley-We-Trust train, congratulations. Sean McVay and the Rams have absolutely exploded out of the shadow of Jeff Fisher‘s reign, and Gurley has been the largest beneficiary. He torched the Cowboys for 215 total yards and a receiving touchdown in an upset victory on Sunday and is currently the No. 1 RB in fantasy. Best of all, his heavy involvement in the passing game (20 receptions on 25 targets so far) make him essentially matchup-proof. In my humble opinion, the analysts preaching to “sell Gurley high” should be ignored. This guy is elite.
8. The Jets Can Jet, Without Forte
With Matt Forte sidelined by a toe injury in Week 4, Bilal Powell and rookie Elijah McGuire were called upon to carry the load (literally). And boy, did they ever. The pair combined for 321 total yards and two touchdowns. No, that’s not a typo — 321 yards. True, 144 of those came on two massive runs by Powell and McGuire, but anyway you slice it, these guys scorched the field. The vaunted Jaguars defense had been only average against the run coming in, so we may not see this against Arizona or Houston, but both RBs clearly have the ability to put up points given the opportunity. Powell is a low-end RB2 with Forte out, McGuire is worth a stash in deeper leagues or dynasty, and both might have increased value if Forte misses more time.
9. Melvin Gordon and Jay Ajayi Are Inching Towards Bust Territory
Both make some time to get there considering their sub-4.0 yards per carry (ha, see what I did there), but both Gordon and Ajayi have underperformed expectations in 2017. Gordon had 29 total yards in Week 4, while Ajayi posted 54 but failed to score for the third straight week. Gordon currently sits as the No. 14 RB in fantasy, but his 42 rushing yards per game is simply not going to cut it for his draft price. Meanwhile, Ajayi has basically already busted, currently down at RB35 (by points per game) on the back of 205 total yards and zero touchdowns. Both seem to be struggling with banged up knees and neither is playing for a very good offense. You may be stuck with these guys unless someone will pay up for name value, so hopefully, they can turn it around ASAP.
10. Sound the Fantasy Alarm in Oakland
Things were looking less than ideal for your Raiders fantasy assets coming into Week 4, but Derek Carr’s back injury brings a whole new level of worry. Carr will be out 2-6 weeks, which will likely torpedo the already sinking value of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Marshawn Lynch over that span. After a two-catch, nine-yard performance on Sunday, Cooper has 16 less PPR points than Cooper Kupp, for heaven’s sake. Lynch’s rushing totals have decreased weekly (to 12 yards in Week 4). Crabtree’s bruised lung kept him from participating in Week 4 entirely. With E.J. Manuel under center until Carr’s return, these guys have fallen to borderline starter status in typical fantasy leagues.