Editor’s Note: This guest post looking at Week 4 GPP pivot plays on Fantasy Aces was written by Steve Repsold. Follow him on Twitter @SteveRepsold. …
With the Jags and Colts playing in London, the main Week 4 slate is down a game from a week ago. We’re not missing too many thrilling plays from that game anyway though. With yet another RB lost to injury (Jeremy Langford), another promising backup has been thrust into the lead role (Jordan Howard), which as skewed ownership in the process. Looking at the slate, running back has the most obvious chalk plays. The trouble is that it is pretty compelling chalk, making the RB chalk plays hard (or at least uncomfortable) to fade. The other positions have a couple popular options, but in general the ownership is spread out over a core group of players. With that in mind, let’s dissect the chalk and highlight some pivot options.
Highest owned: Phillip Rivers $6,800 vs. NO (28%), Cam Newton $7,300 @ ATL (25%), Matthew Stafford $6,850 @ CHI (19%), Kirk Cousins $6,750 vs. CLE (17%)
Kirk Cousins’ ownership was somewhat surprising to me. The best thing he has going for him is a matchup with the Browns. It’s definitely a plus matchup, but it’s far from the best. With not much separating him from the group above, salary wise, he’s an easy fade for me.
I thought Cam might be a little lower owned, but only because his price is so high. However, there’s so much value at other positions it makes sense. In a vacuum, I love Cam vs. the Falcons this weekend and expect him to come out with something to prove after a demoralizing loss to Minnesota last week. Each of the three quarterbacks to face the Falcons so far this season (Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Drew Brees) have thrown at least three TDs; they’re hemorrhaging fantasy points to the QB spot. It’s a good enough spot that I don’t mind playing Cam and differentiating elsewhere.
I was really hoping Stafford would be a bit lower owned than this, but after his and Marvin Jones’ massive game last week that wasn’t happening. The Bears are terrible. I’m not even sure what’s worst: their offense or defense. The defense keeps losing key players to injury each week. If you are playing Stafford in a GPP, I would suggest pairing him with someone other than Marvin Jones to help differentiate yourself. If Eric Ebron plays he makes for an interesting player to stack with the Lions QB, otherwise consider Anquan Boldin, who seems locked into a Red Zone threat role.
Rivers has the most tantalizing matchup on paper with the Saints and it’s definitely a good one, but possibly not as good as you want it to be for a guy who’s owned by nearly a third of the field. Through the first three weeks, only Derek Carr has had a real standout performance against this Saints D, and even that was only 319 yards and one TD. Eli Manning threw for 368, but no TDs. Matt Ryan went for 240 yards and two last week, but the real story of that game was both Falcons backs having huge days. Rivers is the fourth-most expensive QB on the slate, and with that massive of an ownership percentage I feel okay fading him, especially given the very nice pivot options we have…
Pivots: Joe Flacco $6,100 vs. OAK (11%), Ben Roethlisberger $6,800 vs. KC (4%), Carson Palmer $6,800 vs. LA (1%)
Don’t look now, but Joe Flacco is playing his best football in years. He set the Ravens’ franchise record for most consecutive completions last week and he’s doing it with old man Steve Smith, dad-runner Dennis Pitta, and a seemingly rejuvenated Mike Wallace as his primary pass catchers. Oh, and no running game. The Raiders pass defense is not very good and Flacco is simply underpriced, making him a very attractive QB2 option.
Big Ben is getting a big boost to his offense this week: the return of Le’Veon Bell. The team said he’s in great shape and told us we can expect to see lots of Bell. Normally, I’m skeptical of such a statement and a returning start RB, lowering my enthusiasm for his QB in fantasy. Neither is the case with Bell.
For one thing, DeAngelo Williams has been doing a pretty good job of filling Bell’s shoes and Ben has had no trouble putting up fantasy points. For another, Ben’s got this guy to throw to named Antonio Brown, who I’m told is kinda good at football. And finally, the Steelers have indicated they intend to use Bell a certain amount at WR. Ben+Bell+Brown makes for an intriguing stack. Or just stack Ben and Brown — that also works.
Carson Palmer looked absolutely awful last week. Am I doing a good job selling? Seriously though, his dreadful game is a boon to us because it undoubtedly contributed to his 1% ownership. Take this #NarrativeStreet for what you will, but I’m pretty sure Bruce Arians has been rather forceful with his team in the week since their embarrassment. I’m equally sure Carson & Co. want to come out guns blazing in front of their home crowd and apologize for last week. We know all the tools are there. The Rams aren’t the easiest matchup for opposing offenses, but not the toughest either. The Rams’ offense shouldn’t find much success, leading to their defense being out there constantly and getting exhausted.
Highest Owned: Melvin Gordon $5,100 vs. NO (44%), Jordan Howard $4,300 vs. DET (37%), and Lamar Miller $5,150 vs. TEN (21%)
Lamar Miller is always on my radar because he gets an absurd amount of touches, and opportunity is the first step to fantasy success. This week he’s barely a blip for me. He’s priced right there with Melvin Gordon, more expensive than everybody except David Johnson and Le’Veon, doesn’t have a particularly appealing matchup, and is highly owned. Sorry, Lamar.
Fading Lamar was the easy part. Deciding what to do with Melvin Gordon and Jordan Howard (and their massive opportunities) will be crucial to lineup building this week.
Gordon is locked into a workhorse role, with only Dexter McCluster offering “competition” for backfield touches. Howard is in a similar spot, as he will surely dominate touches over free agent signing Joique Bell and practice squad call-up Raheem Mostert. Howard is cheaper, but Gordon has the dream matchup that saw both Falcons RBs go crazy last week. The best move might be to lock both of these guys in your lineup and move on. It’s almost easy on Aces since we have two flexes to use — and that’s what concerns me. The de facto GPP strategy could be to use Gordon, Howard, and one or two more RBs in the flex spots. One possible way to avoid following the crowd is to use Gordon and Howard, but four WRs and no additional RBs.
Pivots: Spencer Ware $4,900 @ PIT (7%), Dwayne Washington $3,700 @ CHI (11%)
I’m a fan of Jordan Howard’s game, but he could disappoint. The game script sets up negatively for him. The Bears have been awful on both sides of the ball and will likely be trailing, which could lead to fewer opportunities for Howard. If he does disappoint, it probably means good things for Dwayne Washington on the other side of the field. He’s made an impact through the first three games as a between-the-tackles runner, but the Lions have been woefully committed to using Theo Riddick. I hope they paid attention watching the tape this week, because Riddick took his first six carries for -11 yards, while Washington ran for 28 yards on his first six totes. You don’t need any advanced stats to break that down — Washington ran circles around Riddick. He’s definitely getting the goal line work and hopefully he’ll get more early down work this week. That would make him an attractive, but risky, pivot option from Howard.
Jamaal Charles has been a week away from making his debut all season. It’s fair to wonder at what point this season he’ll be ready to make real contributions. Spencer Ware has been good, showing his skills as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. Opportunity has not been a problem for him, but it’s set to get even better this week. Charcandrick West has been ruled out this weekend. Ware might be locked into a three-down role. He hasn’t put up tons of fantasy points the past two weeks, but the touches have been there; he’s just faced two of the better defensive fronts in the NFL. Now he gets to face the Steelers, who’ll be without Ryan Shazier, leaving the middle of their defense vulnerable.
Highest Owned: Marvin Jones $5,200 @ CHI (27%), Terrelle Pryor $4,600 @ WAS (23%), Tyrell Williams $4,350 vs. NO (20%)
Can we take a moment and to appreciate how amazing last week was for Terrelle Pryor (and his truthers)? Mmm. It felt so good being 100 percent in on him. With my bias out of the way, let me say I doubt I’ll fade him 100 percent this week, but I won’t have as much exposure as I did last week. He did everything shy of kicking the field goals (perhaps he should have) and made it pretty clear he’s the best football player on his whole team (maybe the best athlete, too). The Browns just got the wonderful news Josh Gordon won’t be returning in a couple weeks, but instead will be checking himself into rehab. Now they have extra incentive to find out what kind of an offensive weapon they have in Pryor.
Tyrell Williams is a very promising young rookie, who’s quickly earned the trust of Phillip Rivers, and he’s one of the few remaining bright spots on the Chargers. But everything I wrote above about why I’m lukewarm on Rivers applies to Tyrell. He’s cheap enough to be in consideration anyway, but I think there are more appealing pivots.
Marvin Jones did his very best Megatron imitation last week and actually pulled it off: 6-205-2 on eight targets. Unlike last week though, when the Lions were forced to throw (and throw deep) to have a chance, this week they’re projected to lead, which should result in a few more runs and a few less bombs.
Pivots: Will Fuller $4,450 vs. TEN (8%), Jeremy Maclin $4,800 @ PIT (5%), DeSean Jackson $4,850 vs. CLE (4%)
After starting his NFL career with lines of 5-107-1 (11 targets) and 4-104 (7 targets), rookie Will Fuller plummeted back to earth on national TV last Thursday against the Patriots, posting 3-31 (7 targets). The important thing to take away is he still had seven targets in an all-around putrid performance from his team. It’s hard to blame anyone for being stymied by a Belichick defense, much less a rookie in his first Thursday night action. The Texans could use a nice bounce-back game against their divisional rivals and I expect Fuller to be a big part of that. DeAndre Hopkins will likely see a majority of Jason McCourty’s coverage, leaving Fuller on the other side against the very beatable Perrish Cox, who has been offering the resistance of a greased turnstile to opposing receivers so far this season.
Maclin is grossly underpriced. He’s averaging nearly ten targets a game, and this week faces the very beatable Steelers secondary. He hasn’t turned those targets into tons of fantasy points yet, but he’s had some tough defenses to deal with the past two weeks. His best game came in Week 1, but that was a tough matchup, too. Even though the Chargers aren’t an imposing defense as a whole, top cover corner Jason Verrett is very good. In Week 1, the Steelers’ secondary got torched by Maclin’s former Eagles teammate, DeSean Jackson, for 6-106 (10 targets).
Speaking of DeSean… he gets another nice matchup this week against Cleveland and is almost always an underrated tournament play. The Browns have given up a TD to a perimeter receiver each of the first three weeks. DJax runs mainly deep routes, which gives him the ability to take a bomb to the house on any given play. He gets plenty of targets — no less than five/game so far this season, with his average close to eight. Nobody (except me) likes to play him, making him that much more appealing.
Highest Owned: Zach Miller $4,000 vs. DET (26%), Coby Fleener $4,200 @ SD (16%), Hunter Henry $3,950 vs. NO (14%)
Fleener is my least favorite of the bunch, but to be honest, my bias is at play here, as I don’t think he’s good at football. He’s not as bad as we saw the first two weeks of this season when he managed only a 25 percent catch rate and 12 targets combined, but it’s foolish to think he’s going to keep putting up games like he did last week. Look at some of the factors that went into last week’s game: natural positive regression of his catch rate, Willie Snead being out, Atlanta being terrible at defending TEs but good against WR1s, being at home in the Superdome (Brees has strong home/road splits). Of those, his catch rate could stay near where it was (only a little above his career average). Willie Snead is trending towards playing and I think Fleener’s chances of a huge game die when Snead plays.
Zach Miller gets a matchup with Detroit, who have given up tons of points to the TE position. He’s definitely more interesting than Fleener. He was targeted nine times last week with Hoyer at QB. He saw nine targets combined in two games playing with Cutler. If Cutler returns, I’m far less interested in Miller. Either way, I’m not sure Detroit will continue to be a sieve in the middle of the field, or that it won’t be a slot receiver or running back who does damage in the middle. Those concerns leave me fading a 25+ percent owned player at a volatile position.
I thought Henry would be much higher owner than this. I suppose it’s because Miller is so similarly priced and a better-known name, but when accounting for ownership I’d rather roster Henry. He had a nice debut, catching all five of his targets for 76 yards. If he had added a score he would be higher owned this week, even though touchdowns are one of the flukiest parts of football. I expect Henry gets a few more targets this week.
Pivots: Kyle Rudolph $4,550 vs. NYG (5%), Cameron Brate $4,100 vs. DEN (1%)
I’ll forgive you if you said “who?” to Cameron Brate. If Austin Seferian-Jenkins had his life together, we might never have heard his name. ASJ’s loss is Brate’s gain. In his first game after ASJ’s release, Brate was targeted ten times; his previous season high was four. He caught five passes, including two touchdowns. That last part is definitely somewhat fluky, but it tells us Winston looked for Brate in the Red Zone, and Tampa desperately needs a second Red Zone target after Mike Evans. Vincent Jackson has had a nice career, but he looks done, and seems to be nothing more than a decoy. Denver is obviously a very tough defense, but the way to attack them through the air is via the tight end. I would not be surprised at all to see Brate catch a TD this Sunday.
Fun fact: no TE has a greater market share of his team’s targets than Kyle Rudolph. He’s seen 8, 8, and 10 targets his first three games. He’s caught TDs in two straight games (since Sam Bradford took over) and last week posted a very respectable 7-70-1 line on ten targets. Now he gets the Giants, who focus on perimeter defense at the expense of giving up catches over the middle of the field. I was on Jamison Crowder last week for this reason and he didn’t disappoint. I don’t expect Rudolph to disappoint either.
Highest Owned: WAS D/ST $2,700 vs. CLE (18%), MIN D/ST $3,200 vs. NYG (13%)
This might actually be the easiest spot for me to fade the chalk. Yes, the Browns are really bad, but so is the Washington defense. The Vikings defense is at least a good unit, but with the increased price and a matchup against an offense that has the ability to put up points, I’m inclined to fade there too. I could see MIN getting an interception and enough sacks to make up for giving up some points, but I don’t know I see tournament-winning upside there.
Pivots: DET D/ST $2,700 @ CHI (2%), HOU D/ST $3,100 vs. TEN (7%)
Recommending the Lions D/ST is not so much about their defensive unit as it is about the Bears’ offensive unit. Down a starting QB and RB, the Bears offense seems unlikely to get rolling this week.
JJ Watt’s absence will likely keep people from playing the Texans D in a great matchup against the Titans, who have been truly abysmal on offense. Chances are Watt was never fully healthy to begin the season because he never looked himself. I don’t think the unit as a whole suffers much from his absence. The Titans have been friendly to every defense they’ve faced so far and I don’t expect that to change this week.
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