Ten Things We Learned in Week Four (Fantasy Football)
Through four weeks we’ve seen some crazy things. We saw Mike Evans light the world on fire last week, Keenan Allen was on pace for a career year, and a handful of the top twenty picks in fantasy were letting us down. This past week was a little different since we didn’t have as many insane performances, and a few players had their opportunities taken by players not even on our radar. This weeks recap is a little less stat-heavy since nothing that eye-popping came to light that truly matters that much. As usual, we will cover ten things that you can take from this week going forward:
Nick Chubb is Special
This may be cheating because we already knew it, but it’s good to remember this when we discuss Chubb’s outlook. A lot of people shy away from him because of Kareem Hunt’s impending return and the lack of an elite offensive line in Cleveland. Even though both of these obstacles are realistic, someone as talented as Chubb can overcome them. There’s truly no way to know what the Browns will do with the backfield when Kareem Hunt returns, but if Freddie Kitchens wants to survive in the NFL, he needs to realize the team is better with Chubb on the field. He’s now seeing almost 100% of the snaps and he’s a true workhorse back, in an offense that is improving. As far as fantasy statistics go, it’s very difficult to explain why Chubb’s explosion was against the Ravens who ranked second in the league against the run going into the Week 4 contest, so I won’t try to. It’s best to just enjoy the show if he was in your lineup, and come to terms with the fact that no one is trading him to you after this week.
The Patriots Defense is Elite
I want to preface this by saying that I prefer to avoid D/ST spots in fantasy football. They’re unpredictable, confusing, and predominantly decided by defensive touchdowns that are nearly impossible to project. With that being said, the New England defense is an absolute cheat code through four weeks this season. Pending Monday Night Football, the Patriots D/ST would rank as the QB6, RB4, WR1, and the TE1. They’ve scored more fantasy points through four weeks than Julio Jones, OBJ, Alvin Kamara, Mike Evans, and Todd Gurley. The advantage they are giving fantasy owners right now is more drastic than any player we’ve seen before, including Travis Kelce. The defensive unit is due for some touchdown regression, but their on-field play matches their fantasy output so they should continue to produce at a very high level.
Volume is King
Talent is important in projecting fantasy success, but opportunity trumps everything. We could make a list as long as a football field that cited players that were underwhelming talents but still produced for fantasy purposes. If you give a running back enough chances, more times than not they will provide a decent fantasy game. We saw this in action during the Jaguars week three stinker when Leonard Fournette managed to make his final stat line look a lot better than it was thanks to a huge run late into the fourth. Since the Jags stuck with him, he found a way to produce. This week we finally saw Nick Chubb give us a top-five running back performance, and Fournette had another huge game on the back of 29 touches. If you chase opportunity while still being aware of talent, you will have success in your fantasy leagues. If there’s a single thing you take from this article into your week five plans, it’s this: go trade for Le’Veon Bell.
A Bad Pat Mahomes is Still Better than Most Quarterbacks
Patrick Mahomes lights up the stat book on a weekly basis, we all know this. We’ve also seen him perform at a high level in a couple of primetime spots during his young career. I’m sure many of you remember the insane Monday night contest between the Chiefs and the Rams in 2018, and the playoff matchup with the Patriots last year was a great one. The most important difference between someone like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady isn’t talent, it’s their career accolades and ability to perform in the clutch (not that Rodgers can’t, he just hasn’t had as many chances to). We’ve seen Mahomes dominate enough NFL defenses to confirm his status as a generational talent, but his performance against Detroit this week was another opportunity for us to see him play well under pressure when it isn’t his best day. It was arguably his worst performance as a pro from a statistical standpoint, but he looked the part when he really needed to and lead the Chiefs to a win. If Pat Mahomes turns out to be a hybrid between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, we might just have to reconsider the early-round quarterback strategies in fantasy drafts next year.
The Cardinals Have Issues
In previous articles, I was sounding the alarm in a good way for the Arizona offense, and I have no regrets about that. They’re playing at a higher pace than any team we’ve seen in years and they have plenty of talented skill position players that can give opposing defenses problems. We’ve now seen the Kingsbury experiment for four full weeks and I feel confident in the future of the offense, but it may be a longer climb than I expected. The primary issue right now isn’t their pace, it’s their protection. Kyler Murray has no interest in driving the ball down the field right now and it’s primarily because he’s running for his life. An air raid attack is much less effective when you keep everything short and sweet, especially for fantasy purposes. I still believe in them this year and the fact that Murray has started to run the ball more is a good sign, but I don’t think it will explode in the way I initially expected. I don’t think you should intentionally sell off your Cardinal players, but I would temper expectations for the time being.
Football is Violent
We already knew this one too, but I wanted to include it for a few reasons. On Thursday night there were two players carted off the field and on Sunday we saw T.J Hockenson take a nasty fall and Vontaze Burfict ejected for what feels like his 200th dirty play (seriously, get that guy out of the league). These things are going to happen in today’s NFL, and there’s very little we can do about it from our couch. What we can do about it though, is try and change the way we view these players in the midst of fantasy chaos. If your mind instantly jumps to the fantasy impact of an injury, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person, it just means we’re conditioned to feel that way sometimes because we focus so much on fantasy football. Since I have a very tiny voice in the fantasy industry, I want to ask that anyone who reads this avoids celebrating injuries, or rushing to say “told you so!” if an injury-prone player goes down. There’s nothing positive about an injury, so we shouldn’t make it seem that way.
It’s Almost Cuffing Season
I don’t personally love handcuffing players because it takes up one of your bench spots in order to keep a player that isn’t fantasy relevant on a weekly basis. With that being said, it’s a terrifying situation to be in when your top back goes down and you don’t have his backup on your bench. I’ve always been a fan of grabbing a handcuff if there’s a very clear choice about who the handcuff would be if the starter went down. I have a lot of Chase Edmonds, Jaylen Samuels, Alexander Mattison, and Rashaad Penny, but so far they’ve just rotted on my bench. Going back to my last point, that’s not a bad thing since it means the guy ahead of them stayed healthy. Wayne Gallman was the first handcuff that truly mattered this season, and if you’re a Saquon Barkley owner who has him then you should feel relieved. As the season chugs along, the top handcuffs become more and more important since the starting backs wear down and the fantasy landscape is more clear. If you own any of the top running backs this year, you might want to grab your handcuffs this week in place of a mediocre player you rarely start. It might be the difference between making the playoffs and a complete disaster.
The Cardinals Don’t Realize Tight Ends Exist
Through three weeks, the Cardinals had given up almost 65 fantasy points to opposing tight ends, which was essentially double the Chargers total who ranks second. It was clear that for some reason the Cardinals refuse to cover opposing tight ends, and on Sunday Will Dissly got his turn and made the most of it just like all those that came before him. Even though the group of pass-catchers that have torched Arizona is a good one, it’s pretty obvious that something is wrong with the defensive game plan. From here on out we can safely start every tight end playing the Cardinals, even if the player isn’t typically a startable asset. Until the defensive coaching staff improves their strategy, we need to exploit it.
Not Even OBJ Can Avoid Early Growing Pains
I have a very clear cut strategy when it comes to wide receivers changing teams: I don’t draft them. Whether it was Jarvis Landry, Golden Tate, Josh Gordon, or Allen Robinson, I do my best to avoid the situation altogether. Historically speaking receivers that produced at a high level and change teams don’t continue the same type of production in their first season with their new offense. It takes guys a lot of time to build rapport with their quarterbacks and learn the new playbook, so there’s always growing pains that slow their early production. I finally gave in this year and drafted OBJ in a ton of leagues, but I was kicking myself for that after the first few weeks. After week four, consider me fully tilted. The Browns offense lit up the scoreboard against one of the best defenses in the league, but OBJ wasn’t even a part of the plan. He had the dreaded fantasy donut through most of the game, and his final stat line made him look like a bench player who got to see some reps in garbage time. There will be brighter days ahead for OBJ given his incredible talent, but the strategy of avoiding receivers that change teams is undefeated.
Fantasy Football Will Drive You Crazy
Ito Smith, TroyMaine Pope, Foster Moreau, C.J Prosise, Ryquell Armstead, Branden Bolden, Ricky Seals-Jones. These are just a few of the guys that raised the collective blood pressure of the fantasy community on Sunday when they vultured touchdowns from every week fantasy starters. There will always be vultures, and there will always be frustrating goal-line decisions by the coaching staff, but this particular week was brutal. It was a humbling reminder that fantasy football is a game that requires both skill and luck to win. Don’t worry about it, and don’t read too much into it. Get to a place where you can laugh it off since it’s unavoidable, and your Sundays will be much happier. As a matter of fact, just stop looking at your fantasy scores altogether, and you will be able to enjoy the games again.