The start of week 4 is typically where you need to look at making some changes. 3 bad games in a row and a losing record usually means that you need to adjust your lineup. Vontaze Burfict, Chad Greenway, Jon Beason, Mychal Kendricks and Mason Foster owners need to find other options due to injury. Quite franking, there are a handful of LBs (and other IDPs) that simply aren’t delivering to their draft slot. Going down 1-3 or 0-4 can be a hold too big to dig of so those teams that are struggling might look to the waiver wire to shake up their team. Also of note, week 4 sees the first bye weeks of the year. Grab some replacements for your regular starters if you need to. Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver St. Louis and Seattle all have the week off this week.
Injuries hurt the waiver wire report this week. Both Rolando McClain and David Hawthorne failed to start in week 3 due to injuries. Anthony Hitchens, McClain’s replacement, scored very well against the Rams, amassing 13 total tackles and 1 PD. McClain looks to draw back into the lineup in week 4 against the Saints but watch the injury report to make sure. The Cowboys MLB is a fantasy goldmine so continue to plug in whoever gets the start. Jelani Jenkins was an absolute stud in week 3, scoring as the top LB in fantasy with 15 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He remains a solid play as long as he starts. Preston Brown is proving himself as a reliable start going forward with 11 total tackles against the Chargers. Zaviar Gooden disappointed as he gave way to Avery Williamson in terms of snap counts. Both LBs cannibalized each other’s stats.
Jameel McClain/Jon Beason NYG LB – MLB 4-3
Jameel McClain moves inside in the Giants’ defense to replace injured starter Jon Beason. McClain piled up 11 total tackles and a half sack against the Eagles in week 3. The former Raven doesn’t offer elite athleticism but he can blitz and is a solid play against the run. Nobody else is really a threat to score points for the Giants from the linebacker position. Beason is a threat to take his job back if he can play and may have be written off already by the owner that drafted him due to his aggravation of a pre-existing toe injury. New York plays the Redskins on Thursday night football so you can wait on the decision and go with the starter. The short week leads me to believe that McClain has a better shot to start at Mike than Beason but don’t start him unless Beason is out.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
DeAndre Levy/Tahir Whitehead DET LB – OLB/MLB 4-3
Shades of Bill Gramatica, Stephen Tulloch was lost to the Lions for the year after tearing his ACL during a sack celebration that mocked Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers’ “Discount Doublecheck”. 2012 5th round pick, Tahir Whitehead is the next man up to replace him but DeAndre Levy is the man to own in Detroit if given the choice. Levy is coming off of a 110+ tackle season where he also had 6 INT yet he seemed to take a backside to Tulloch at times. If Levy is free, you need to get him. Deeper leagues can look at Whitehead as a defensive flex until his snap count is fleshed out.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB1 to Mid LB2 (Levy); High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3 (Whitehead)
Jamari Lattimore GBP LB – ILB 3-4
Brad Jones is out with an injured quadriceps but likely would have seen his snaps wane anyway as his play was weak in the Seahawks game. Lattimore posted 7 total tackles (2 solo) game in week 2 against the Jets but came through with a 9 total tackle (7 solo) performance against the Lions in week 3. The undrafted 4th year LB has shown some burst in shallow coverage and run support. Lattimore scored 4 of his tackles on receptions in week 3 whereas fellow LB Hawk only scored tackles on running plays. With a week 4 grudge match against the Bears, I think Lattimore is keyed up for big game.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Jon Bostic CHI LB – SLB 4-3
Bostic wasn’t startable early in the season due to his snaps being in the subpackage defense only. But with the injury to Shea McClellin (starting SLB), Bostic is now an every-down LB and seems to be a solid play going forward until McClellin returns from his hand injury. With 13 total tackles and a forced fumble against the Jets, tackle opportunity seems to be plentiful as long as the former Gator gets high snap counts.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Sean Spence PIT LB – With this year’s 1st round pick Ryan Shazier out with a sprained MCL, Sean Spence received ILB snaps beside every down starter Lawrence Timmons. The 3rd round pick from 2012 out of Miami has struggled with injuries in his first two years but is the most qualified to take significant snaps. He’s a risk but has potential reward behind him for deeper leagues.
Defensive Linemen Plays
It was a slim week for high scores of the defensive line with only 9 DL scoring double digits. Along the same lines, only one DL, Dontari Poe, had more than one sack with 1.5. In fact, only 24.5 sacks were produced from all defensive linemen NFL-wide. No touchdowns for defensive linemen either which was the first time this year. Top scoring DLs needed to score with tackles in order to produce for their fantasy teams.
It was a tough week for the free agent report as all three DL recommendations were less than stellar. Sneaky play Mario Addison was the lone sack artist but only managed an assist to go with it. Willie Young scored 3 assists and William Gholston put up 2 solo tackles. Rough week in general.
Corey Peters ATL DT – DT 3-4
Corey Peters had maybe one of the best games out of all the Atlanta Falcons defense in their blowout of the Buccaneers. Peters offers some upside after not playing in week 1 and taking week 2 to get his feet as the Falcons get the struggling Vikings in week 3. The Vikings have been sacked 8 times in their last 2 games. I like Peters’ chances to produce with some tackling floor.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Jonathan Hankins NYG DT – DT 4-3
I was a big fan of Hankins as a big space-eating, run-stuffing DT when he came out last year. I thought that the former Buckeye would be late 1st round material but the Giants were fortunate to grab him in the 2nd. This year, Hankins hasn’t put up less than 4 total tackles in a game and has 1.5 sacks through 3 games so far. With the Redskins up in week 4, I think that Hankins has some tackle potential to keep his floor high but possesses some sack potential for upside.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Steve McClendon PIT DT – Replacing a stud nose tackle Casey Hampton, Steve McClendon has big shoes to fill but has proven to be a solid, if unspectacular, replacement. He is more than adequate in run support, scoring 11 tackles through 3 games with 4 going for loss. The undrafted 6 year man also has some pass rush chops. The Steelers get the Buccaneers in week 4 who are certain to feature a backup QB and have struggled mightily across the board. Pittsburgh may be smelling blood already.
Defensive Back Plays
I think that a few matchups can be exploited in week 4 for defensive backs; NOS v DAL, PHI v SFO and certainly GBP v CHI. Look for a few free safeties or cornerback that can be started simply because of the amount of throwing that is likely to happen.
Week 3 was a rough week in terms of picks with the exception of one rising star. Those who were able to nab Kyle Fuller, especially in CB-required leagues were treated to a DB1 performance again by the rookie. He logged 7 total tackles, 2 PDs, 1 INT and 2 forced fumbles. The kid looks like the second coming of Charles Tillman which is good for the Bears because the original Charles Tillman is done for the season with a triceps injury. Mark Fuller down as my early pick for defensive rookie of the year if he can stay healthy. Josh Evans and Winston Guy’s stats were both hamstrung by the return of Jonathan Cyprien from a concussion and a quick blowout by the Colts. Corey Graham’s day was solid yet unspectacular with 5 total tackles and a PD against the Chargers whereas Mike Adams disappointed as the Jaguars game got out of hand early.
Danny McCray CHI S – 4-3 SS/FS
Watch the injury report here as both starting safeties (Ryan Mundy and Chris Conte) for the Bears went down to injury in their week 3 games against the Jets. Danny McCray appears in relief for both of them as different times. McCray didn’t show very well in coverage but managed to clean up 10 total tackles all over the field as the Jets were throwing to try to get back into the game. Green Bay is up next for the Bears in week 4. With a struggling running game, the Packers may opt to exploit the Bears weak secondary with Aaron Rodgers that could lead to a big game for the safeties. It should be noted that McCray himself didn’t finish the Jets game but his injury did not look as severe as the starting safeties’ respective injuries did.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sam Shields GBP CB – 3-4 CB
Another DB from the same game, I like Sam Shields to get matched up on Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall for a large portion of the game. CBs playing against the Bears have had monster games; Leodis McKelvin and Antonio Allen both produced DB1 games matched up against either of the big Bear wideouts. Jeffery and Marshall have combined for 51 targets over 3 games. That spells opportunity more than any matchup in the league. I am assuming that Tramon Williams is owned for the purposes of this recommendation but he is also a great option this week.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Robert Blanton MIN S – 4-3 SS
Robert Blanton has quietly put up solid tackle numbers over the first 3 weeks despite little to no fantasy attention. The 3rd year man out of Notre Dame has amassed 23 total tackles over 3 weeks including 10 against New Orleans in week 3. He’s not a threat for splash plays but the high-flying Atlanta Falcons passing attack should provide more than enough tackle opportunity for him and the rest of Vikings secondary. Top scoring safeties have scored no worse than 14 points against the Falcons this year whereas the second ranked safety in that same game has scored no worse than 11 points. Blanton has a high floor coming into week 4.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Kendrick Lewis HOU S – 3-4 FS
Kendrick Lewis has been a surprise for fantasy owners as most (myself included) believed that hard-hitter DJ Swearinger would be the tackle boon of the defensive backs for Houston. However Swearinger’s elbow injury seemed to limit him at times during week 3. Kendrick Lewis was on the field for all but one defensive snap in week 3 and responded with 12 total tackles and a forced fumble. If those numbers aren’t enough to pique your interest, how about the fact that Kendrick Lewis has had a splash play in every game he’s played in so far this season? The Texans seem to be getting around poor depth at linebacker by playing a lot of big nickel and the safeties tackle numbers have seen a boon because of it. 9 of Lewis’ tackles in week 3 were in run support.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Nate Allen PHI S – I like Nate Allen is perform well in terms of stacking tackles against a 49er team that is going to be desperate for a win in week 4. Mychal Kendrick is likely not going to be available again so it likely will fall to the safeties to support in the short passing game again as it was against the Redskins. I think that 8 tackles is possible here in a week 4 tilt against San Francisco. The 49ers offered 26 tackles to Arizona safeties in week 3 and the Eagles have yet to play in a game that wasn’t considered a shootout.