Melvin Gordon was back Sunday, returning from his non-productive holdout.
He was on the Los Angeles Chargers’ active roster for Sunday’s game in Miami but didn’t play a snap in the Bolts’ 30-10 win.
In his stead, Austin Ekeler continued to shine, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and adding 62 additional yards and a TD on five receptions to rank as Week 4’s fourth-best running back (29.2 fantasy points in point-per-reception formats) through action Sunday.
On the season, Ekeler trails only Panthers stud Christian McCaffrey among fantasy RBs in both standard (85 total points) and PPR formats (109) with 490 total yards and six TDs on 80 touches. Ekeler’s six scores are tops in the league and his 270 receiving yards pace all running backs.
Not too shabby for a 5-foot-10, 200-pound back once thought to be strictly change-of-pace material.
However, more than a few inquiring fantasy minds want to know what happens when Gordon plays in an actual game?
After all, Gordon ranked as fantasy’s fifth-best back in 2018 with his average of 22.6 PPR points per contest and averaged 18.8 touches per outing during his 12 games while totaling 1,375 yards and 14 TDs.
If 18.8 touches per contest sounds about right for the lead back in the Chargers’ offense, it’s because it is as Ekeler has averaged 18.9 in the seven games (three last year and the four this season) he’s played without Gordon in the lineup since the start of last season. And in those seven contests, Ekeler has averaged 21.07 fantasy points – again nearly mirroring Gordon’s figures.
But in the 12 games in which both Ekeler and Gordon played last season, Ekeler’s averages dipped to 9.2 touches, 68.4 total yards and 11.84 points – still usable in fantasy, but we’re talking flex territory and not RB1 or 2 material.
Ekeler, though, has demonstrated he can handle (and deserves) more than just a 33 percent share of the Bolts’ backfield touches going forward.
That being the case, a 60-40, 55-45 or (gulp) near-50-50 split could very well be in the offing going forward with the Gordon-Ekeler pairing in L.A., and if that’s the case, we could wind up with two middling, up-and-down RB2s instead of one locked-in, sure-fire RB1 weekly starter heading the Chargers’ backfield.
And, in the end, that would be a lose-lose situation for both the Ekeler owners who have come to rely upon his unfettered RB1 start in 2019 and for those rostering Gordon who were hoping his return meant an automatic return to his unquestioned RB1 status of a season ago.
Of course, if you drafted either Chargers back in the middle rounds and are set otherwise at the position with a reliable RB1 and/or RB2, then fine, temper expectations for your Chargers RB and stay the course.
But if you were banking on Ekeler or Gordon as your locked-in RB1 for the rest of the season, perhaps the best move now is to sell high and convince one of your fellow league owners that they’re getting a no-doubt RB1 on their end of a trade.
Hooping it up in Atlanta
Things really aren’t going so hot in Hotlanta these days with the Falcons off to a 1-3 start and bringing up the rear in the NFC South.
But Atlanta is home to one of the best players at a fantasy position of scarcity as tight end Austin Hooper ranks second at the position with 70.1 PPR points, trailing only the Giants’ Evan Engram (72.1) through four games.
Hooper’s 33 targets are only four fewer than WR teammate Julio Jones has received this season and are tied for fourth among tight ends behind Zach Ertz (38), Engram (37) and the Raiders’ Darren Waller (37). Hooper’s 28 catches rank only behind Waller’s 33 at the position, and his 307 yards rank fourth following a career-best 130-yard receiving game (on 11 targets and nine catches) Sunday in a 24-10 loss to the visiting Titans.
It isn’t just strictly a 2019 surge for Hooper, either as he ranks fifth in targets (121), fourth in receptions (99), fifth in yards (967), sixth in TDs (six) and fifth in PPR points (233.7) among tight ends since the start of the 2018 season.
Hooper’s not big tight end name like a (Travis) Kelce, Ertz or (George) Kittle but he’s definitely packing a TE1 game and he should locked into your lineup on a weekly basis.
Twin Cities aerial woes
The good news: the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins had his highest volume fantasy day of the season Sunday, completing 27-of-36 attempts for 233 yards.
The bad news: It only resulted in 11.7 fantasy points (Huddle Performance scoring) as Cousins checks in at 24th among QBs so far in Week 4.
The ugly news: Cousins failed to throw a TD pass Sunday for the first time in 20 games, ending what was the league’s longest streak entering Week 4, and his 233-yard outing was the 11th time in his last 15 starts that he has failed to even throw for 250 yards. He’s only eclipsed 20 fantasy points in six of those 15 games, and he leads all players with six fumbles this season.
The carryover news: Overall, Cousins ranks 25th among QBs in total fantasy points this season, and he also ranks 25th in attempts (99), completions (64) and yards (735). And, of course, his low-volume, inefficient passing is affecting his pass-catchers as once-borderline WR1s Adam Thielen (22 targets-13 receptions-179 yards-2 TDs) and Stefon Diggs (19-13-209-1) currently rank 27th and 50th, respectively, among wideouts with a total of 62.9 standard-scoring fantasy points between them – or roughly what the Bucs’ Chris Godwin (62.6) has totaled by himself so far in 2019. Minnesota tight ends Kyle Rudolph and rookie Irv Smith Jr. have 10 catches for 96 scoreless yards between them on 13 combined targets.
Downgrade your hopes and expectations for all parts of the Vikings’ aerial attack until further notice.
- We just mentioned Cousins’ run with a TD pass ending at 19 games Sunday. The league’s second-longest (Matt Ryan at 18 games) and fifth-longest streaks (Patrick Mahomes at 14) entering Week 4 also were snapped Sunday, leaving Ohio QBs Baker Mayfield (17 games) and Andy Dalton (16 entering Monday night) with the longest current runs. The 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo (10 games) is the only other QB with a current scoring-pass streak numbering in double-digit games.
- The Saints are 2-1 in the last three games finished by QB Teddy Bridgewater, but it hasn’t been going nearly as swimmingly in fantasy for the New Orleans offense as Teddy B. has only presided over three offensive touchdown drives (all in Week 3 vs. Seattle) in the three contests and has thrown for 535 yards and two TDs. The Saints’ 12-10 win over the Cowboys on Sunday night was the franchise’s first victory without a TD since the Billy Joe Tolliver-quarterbacked Saints did so in 1998. Bridgewater’s 6.1 yards per attempt ranks 30th among the 33 qualified QBs in the league. Naturally, 35 of his 59 completions, 341 of his 535 yards and both of TDs have been caught by WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara.
- Second-year Browns RB Nick Chubb trampled the rival Ravens on Sunday to the tune of 165 yards and a career-high three TDs Sunday, moving him up to fourth among fantasy backs with 73.7 standard-scoring points on the season. Over his last 16 games dating back to his rookie season of 2018, Chubb has gained 1,496 total yards, including 1,248 rushing, and totaled 12 TDs and 221.6 fantasy points (255.6 PPR) on 294 touches. He’s by the far the best fantasy option currently on the Browns’ offense, and it’s going to create quite the interesting dilemma when Kareem Hunt is eligible to return from suspension in November.
- The Jags’ Leonard Fournette absolutely gashed the Broncos on Sunday for a career- and 2019 NFL season-high 225 rushing yards (more on that later). That eclipsed his three-game season total entering Week 4 by a full 46 yards, and it was his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 14 of his rookie season of 2017. Fournette, though, still didn’t notch his first TD of the season and currently has the most touches (88) of any player who hasn’t found his way into the end zone so far in 2019.
- Another game, another milestone for 2019 top fantasy running back, Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for a TD and caught 10 passes for 86 yards in the Panthers’ 16-10 road win over the Texans. It was McCaffrey’s sixth career game with at least 10 receptions matching Larry Centers and LaDainian Tomlinson for the most such games all-time by a running back. Centers and Tomlinson played 198 and 170 career games, respectively. McCaffrey played in contest No. 36 Sunday.
- The Raiders’ Tyrell Williams is the only player to have caught a touchdown pass in all four weeks so far. Williams ranks 11th among all fantasy wideouts with 45.6 points (standard scoring), reeling in 17 of 24 targets for 216 yards and the four scores.
- DeAndre Hopkins fantasy owners don’t have to be reminded that the wide receiver has been in a relative slump of late, catching 16 of 23 targets for 148 scoreless yards since posting a 13-8-111-2 stat line in Week 1. Moreover, Hopkins’ Week 2 and Week 4 PPR PPR point totals (9 and 7.1, respectively) have been the two worst games since the start of the 2017 season for the usually uber-dependent wideout. And Sunday’s 7.1-point outing oddly even included two points deducted for an interception on ill-fated pass attempt. Hopkins owners needn’t fret too much though as a breakout/return-to-normalcy should be coming soon with Hopkins currently tied for the ninth-most targets (36) among wide receivers and owning the fourth-best team target share at an even 29 percent.
- Another emerging fantasy force at tight end is second-year Seahawk Will Dissly who notched his third straight 18-point plus (PPR) game Sunday with seven catches for 57 yards and a TD against the Cardinals. Dissly’s four scoring grabs on the season are tops among tight ends (the Ravens’ Mark Andrews has three), and he has been on the receiving end for half of Russell Wilson’s eight scoring passes in 2019. If you’ve been taking a loss at the position with the struggling Jimmy Graham (16th among TEs with 21.1 standard-scoring fantasy points), J. Howard (27th with 13.1) or Jared Cook (35th with 9.0), add Dissly ASAP.
- With Fournette’s 225-yard outburst Sunday, four running backs have eclipsed 200 rushing yards in a game since the start of 2017. A startling three of those four performances have come against the Broncos with the Jets’ Isaiah Crowell (219 yards) and Todd Gurley (208) accomplishing the feat last season. Not surprisingly, the now Bradley Chubb-less Broncos have surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs on the season and next up are the aforementioned Chargers’ duo and the Titans’ Derrick Henry.
- Speaking of one-sided defense-vs.-position matchups, it doesn’t get any worse than the Cardinals floundering against opposing tight ends this season. With the Seahawks’ Dissly scoring Sunday, the Cards have yielded a TD pass to an opposing tight end in all four games this season, and for the year total, tight ends have posted a monster combined 32-285-6 receiving stat line on 40 targets vs. Arizona, easily ranking the Cards as the most TE-favorable matchup on the fantasy board. That’s awesome news for owners of Tyler Eifert, Hooper, Engram, Kittle (twice) and the Bucs’ Howard and Cameron Brate – all of whom get their shots at the Cards’ D in the next seven games.