These are news and notes coming out of Week 4 of the fantasy football season, along with a few predictions and insights which might help you going into Week 5.
This is system-neutral when it comes to daily fantasy football on FanDuel or DraftKings, or your conventional yearly league. In a few cases, I give free agent tips for those dealing with the waiver wire. In those cases, DFS contestants should view those recommendations as cheap one-day starter options.
In no particular order, let’s discuss several of the key news notes for the first week in October.
Devonta Freeman Is a Star
After his first two NFL starts, Devonta Freeman has the most touchdowns in the NFL this season (6). Anyone who has started Freeman on FanDuel and DraftKings these past two weeks should be pleased. He has been one of the top stars in Week 3 and Week 4. Whether this is a short-term phenomenon or the making of a star is left to be determined. The numbers came in wins over the injury-plagued Dallas Cowboys and the lousy Houston Texans. The Falcons have run out of the mediocre Texas teams to play.
Also, the eventual return of Tevin Coleman could once again cloud the picture. Devonta Freeman has shown enough he’s likely the starter moving forward, but the rookie could take enough carries to make Freeman inconsistent–Coleman was the team’s original starter. Finally, Freeman has had injury issues in the past, so beware depending too much on the small RB making it through a punishing NFL schedule. In one-day fantasy leagues, you should ride him while he’s hot.
Doug Martin Flashes
Out of nowhere in Week 4, Doug Martin had 20 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown, along with 5 catches for 37 yards in the passing game. I was one of the legion of fantasy owners who took the sage advice of experts and benched Doug Martin (dynasty league–chained to the guy) against a tough Carolina Panthers Defense. That was the sensible thing to do, given the fact he had trouble getting on the field at times this year (and didn’t look so good when he did). Then he flashed in a losing cause on Sunday. Even weirder, Charles Sims also had big numbers.
To be honest, I don’t know what to make of it. The tout services are going to tell you to start Doug Martin against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5, especially with their best defender out. It makes a lot of sense, coming off his big game against the Panthers. But if you have Doug Martin on your team, then you’ve been disappointed with him enough that you don’t trust him. All I can say is start him, if you have no obvious other choices. The whole idea of fantasy football is making the sensible decisions and hoping for the best. It would seem sensible for Doug Martin to have another big game against the Jags next week, but I also wouldn’t be surprised with 13 carries for 44 yards and 0 receptions. You know what I’m talking about.
The Jets Offense Is Competent
If you’re like me, you began to view the New York Jets as a fantasy wasteland in the latter stages of the Rex Ryan Era. I’m giving you the wakeup call and saying those days are over: it’s safe to add New York Jets to your fantasy team again. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Chris Ivory all had big numbers on Sunday. Marshall and Decker have been solid most of the season. Even Ryan Fitzpatrick is a viable fantays quarterback these days. While I would only add Fitzpatrick as a backup, he’s a better backup QB than many of the options on fantasy rosters out there. He’s also a cost-effective DFS quarterback, if you don’t spend on the top guys.
Tavon Austin Is Relevant
Tavon Austin had 100+ yards and two touchdowns again. While Austin had been showing signs of life early in the 2015 season, this was the first time it translated into significant fantasy numbers. Target the form #7 overall pick in the draft on the waiver wire this week. If it looks like he gets some talk from Jeff Fischer, consider him a possible low-end starter on FanDuel and DraftKings next week.
Overall, keep in mind that talented players sometimes flash for one week, then are relegated to irrelevance by the gameplan the next game. Tavon Austin has blazing speed, but has not always shown the precision in route running to be a consistent player.
Marshawn Lynch Is “Out”
Marshawn Lynch was declared out for Week 4, which automatically puts in doubt whether he’ll be able to play in Week 5. Beast Mode had made 60 straight starts, so this is a significant injury. Pete Carroll earlier said Lynch had sustained “damage” to his hamstring, whatever that means.
Keep an eye on the number of carries/plays Thomas Rawls and Fred Jackson each get tonight. The Monday night game versus the Detroit Lions should be instructive to how the RB situation plays out when Lynch is out the rest of the year. Also, check to see how the Seahawks play without Marshawn Lynch. It could have a role in how quickly he is rushed back to play.
Buy Stock in Willie Snead
Willie Snead is becoming a key and consistent option in the New Orleans Saints Offense. Snead is a rookie free agent wide receiver who had a sparkling training camp and preseason, then added to it once the season started. He is the #3 wide receiver with the Saints (not Brandon Coleman) and has been Drew Brees’ most consistent target. Snead is on a pace for 60 catches and 900 yards, though he’s gone under the radar because he only has 1 touchdown.
Before you think this is a no-name nobody, let me give a few facts about Willie Snead. He is the son of a high school football coach known for his football smarts. Willie Snead and his father have been teachers at the Peyton Manning and Eli Manning football camps before. When he came into the Saints franchise, Sean Payton and Drew Brees were quick to recognize his smarts–both being the sons of high school football coaches. They believe in such guys and it’s noticeable on the football field.
Willie Snead will never be confused for a burner. He might never be more than the possession receiver on the Saints. But Drew Brees is looking for reliable receivers to target with the absence of Jimmy Graham. Remarkably, Willie Snead has been the man to pick up a significant portion of that slack.
Leonard Hankerson Is Viable
One of the less-reported stories of 2015 is the fact Leonard Hankerson has essentially taken Roddy White’s spot as the Falcons’ #2 option at wide receiver. Roddy White already has two 0s, while Leonard Hankerson continues to put up solid numbers most weeks. If you want to ride the Falcons wave for cheap, depend on Hankerson and not White.
Andre Johnson Is Cooked
Andre Johnson appears to be finished in the Indianapolis Colts’ Offense. For the second straight week, he put up a 0. Donte Moncrief is the wideout opposite T.Y. Hilton, putting up solid fantasy numbers. He did so with Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck.
Keep Andre Johnson on your radar screen for much later in the season. The fact is, he looks old and slow right now. If he stands on the sidelines the next 6 weeks while defensive backs get ground down by the season, then Andre Johnson could become a viable option later in the season. That depends on injuries, but if Hilton or Moncrief were to get hurt in the second half of 2015, don’t be surprised if Andre Johnson suddenly looks spry again. It’s the C.J. Anderson Effect, which fools fantasy owners every single year.
You probably don’t have to keep Andre Johnson on the roster to do that. I dropped him in one of my leagues. But I’m also keeping in mind everything I wrote above, if an injury happens.
Gary Barnidge Is Pretty Okay, After All
The Gary Barnidge Renaissance continues, as the Browns tight end had a second good week in a row. Brian Hoyer seems to be focusing in on the 30-year old tight end. He’s gotten about half as many receptions and fantasy points in Week 3 and Week 4 as he did in the previous 7 seasons combined. I guess you can’t call it a renaissance if he never had much life to begin with, but it’s something. After two weeks of production, consider Barnidge a viable option at tight end…for now.
Start Owen Daniels in Week 5
As I predicted, Martellus Bennett was one of the best tight ends of Week 4, because he played the Oakland Raiders. Next week, Owen Daniels will be the recipient of the Raiders blessing for tight ends. Every other player this season starting against them have had season highs, and in most cases, career highs.
Also, if you are decimated by injuries and need desperate help at tight end, consider starting Virgil Green. He’s a backup, but he’s probably the best backup to start at TE in Week 5, given the same effect.
Thurston Armbrister: IDP Sleeper of the Week
Thurston Armbrister is a sleeper pick at IDP. Yes, you read that correctly: I’m recommending you add some guy named Thurston Armbrister. Here’s why,
Paul Posluszny went out of Sunday’s game in the late stages with a high-ankle sprain. While players sometimes play through such injuries (with bad results), they usually put a player out of action for a month. Thurston Armbrister is Poz’s backup. He came in and collected a couple of tackles late in the Colts game on Sunday.
Anyone tracking IDP stats knows how potent Paul Posluszny is in these formats. In most scoring systems, he was the #1 linebacker in fantasy football. While Poz is a special player and no one is going to put up stats as consistently as he is, Poz’s backups have posted good numbers before. At the very least, Thurston Armbrister is going to be the middle linebacker on a defense which is likely to be behind most of the time–and on the field most of the day. Those translate to solid, if not great, IDP stats.
Looking Ahead to NFL Week 5
Keep in mind that the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, and Minnesota Vikings are on bye in Week 5. Joe Philbin is out as the Dolphins coach, so I’ll be predicting a big bounce-back game for the Dolphins coming off their bye in Week 6 (teams traditionally get a one-game boost after a coaching change). For the most part, most teams without Adrian Peterson or Greg Olsen aren’t going to be too affected. Hopefully, something I’ve written above helps you in your preparation for Week 5. Good luck.