“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
That famous line from Jaws spoke to the ominous times ahead when Chief Brody got his first actual glimpse of the shark that had been terrorizing Amityville. For fantasy owners, that time has arrived and, despite most people doing pre-draft and in-draft preparation to prevent being hurt by it, the bye weeks are upon us.
Where the difference comes is that when fantasy owners were compiling their rosters a month ago, they weren’t factoring in the numerous injuries and roster moves that have taken place in the month since their drafts and auctions took place.
We’re only three weeks into the season, but the combination of waiver pickups and trades that have taken place have changed most rosters from the ones they started with – in some cases significantly. The reality of league play is that you can’t knowingly just give up one week by having too many of your key players on bye at the same time. Some owners will allow that to happen, but those are the ones usually on the outside looking in during the fantasy playoffs.
For the purpose of informing those who may not be aware, here is the schedule of teams on bye over the next nine weeks of the season.
Week 4 – New York Jets, San Francisco
Week 5 – Detroit, Miami
Week 6 – Buffalo, Chicago, Indianapolis, Oakland
Week 7 – Carolina, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay
Week 8 – Baltimore, Dallas
Week 9 – Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans
Week 10 – Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, New England, Philadelphia, Washington
Week 11 – Green Bay, New York Giants, Seattle, Tennessee
Week 12 – Arizona, Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota
Fortunately, the bye weeks start slow without having the tsunami week that can wipe out a critical portion of a roster by taking away too much talent. Being without Jets or 49ers players this week won’t be a death blow, but, when you get into the stretch between Week 9 and Week 12 – when fantasy owners need wins the most – it is brutal.
The good news for fantasy owners is that there is still time to make adjustments to your roster, whether it’s to make a trade to lessen the burden of one particularly devastating week or plan pickups that can help cushion the blow by looking at the matchups in the week in which an owner is the most vulnerable and prepare for what is coming ahead time, because, while some weeks are worse than others, you’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Here is the Week 4 Fantasy Market Report:
Nick Chubb – Last year, the Browns had the running back with the most carries in the league over the first six weeks of the season. That guy was Carlos Hyde. The Browns front office stunned many by trading Hyde to Jacksonville in Week 7. But, they knew they had Chubb and he took over that workhorse role, rushing 18 or more times in seven of his next nine games. He has picked up where he left off this season, averaging almost 20 carries a game when that doesn’t happen much anymore. More importantly, after catching just 20 passes in 16 games, he already has 11 receptions (one more than Jarvis Landry) and is being used as a complete back. He only has one TD, but after the debacle at the end of Sunday night’s game, that may change. You need to have the ball in your hands to score fantasy points and few people touch it as often as Chubb.
Tyler Lockett – In Week 1, Lockett was targeted just twice, but his one catch was a 44-yard touchdown. It was the “old Lockett” – a home run hitter who wasn’t getting Doug Baldwin’s volume with any consistency. In the last two games – hard-fought games against perennial contenders Pittsburgh and New Orleans – Lockett was targeted 26 times, catching 21 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. He is the main man in Seattle’s offense and has earned the right to be an every-week starter.
Greg Olsen – Fantasy owners weren’t showing a lot of love for Olsen on draft day, where he went very late (if at all) – even in tight end-mandatory leagues. His saving grace was that he had a long history in Carolina as one of the Panthers’ top receivers. But, he has been consistently targeted in each of the Panthers’ three games (9-9-7) and, in his last two games, he caught six passes for 110 yards in his last game with Cam Newton and six passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns with backup Kyle Allen on Sunday. At a time when tight end production is sporadic, Olsen looks like he is back to his old self.
Kenny Stills – This one is kind of a deep dive. He’s the third receiver behind superstar DeAndre Hopkins and steady No. 2 guy Will Fuller. He has caught just nine passes in the first three games, but has four receptions of more than 30 yards (31, 37, 37 and 38). He is still new to working with Deshaun Watson, but given the defensive attention Hopkins and Fuller get, Stills is doing what Stills does – taking a single defender deep down the field. For those who have bye week/injury problems and need a home run hitter to roll the dice with, Stills is getting more attention from Watson and the coaching staff. Don’t sleep on him as a back-of-the-roster guy who can plugged into the lineup.
Evan Engram – With tight ends like Darren Waller blowing up and making a name for themselves, Engram has emerged (with two QBs, no less) as a dominant force in the Giants offense. In three games, he has a pair of games with more than 110 yards (and a touchdown in both) has been targeted 30 times, catching 23 passes for 277 yards. The Giants are undergoing a fundamental change, but Engram looks like a player that can’t be benched anymore. With Saquon Barkley out, Engram may be the star of this offense.
Stefon Diggs – Mike Zimmer’s mantra is if you run the ball, you win games with a defense-dominant team. Last year, Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins were putting up eye-popping numbers, but the Vikings were a middle-of-the-road team. That changed with the arrival of Gary Kubiak and a new-look, run-first approach that got John DeFilippo fired late in the season last year. The Vikings are using a fullback and two tight end sets with regularity, which often means one wide receiver in a formation. In their Week 2 loss to Green Bay after falling behind 21-0 early, Thielen was on the field for 64 of 65 plays. Diggs was there for 58. In their two wins – both dominant where the points they allowed came in garbage time – it was a different story. In Week 1, of 53 snaps, Thielen played on 47 and Diggs played 32 (60 percent). In Sunday’s win, Thielen was on the field for 55 of 63 plays. Diggs was there for just 44 (70 percent of snaps). You only score when you’re on the field and Diggs isn’t on the field enough when his team is doing what it’s designed to do and looking good doing it.
Le’Veon Bell – The last of the fabled Steelers 3-B still standing just three weeks into 2019, Bell is getting the type of volume that fantasy owners have come to know from him. He has 56 carries and 20 receptions in three games. That translates over a full season to 299 carries and 107 receptions. But, those massive numbers would translate into just 869 rushing yards, 645 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Can most fantasy owners continue to start someone who puts up those kind of numbers? Only those who have Bell in their starting lineups every week can answer that question.
George Kittle – One of the accepted realities of the 2019 fantasy drafts/auctions was that three owners were going to invest heavily in tight end and everyone else was going to lay back. Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and Kittle were all major investments. The Niners are 3-0 and Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown for 739 yards and five touchdowns. Kittle is the team’s leading receiver (17 catches), but his yardage totals have been 54, 54 and 57 yards with no TDs. Those who invested in Kittle won’t bench him, but, to date, he hasn’t provided the giant days that he did with such regularity in his breakout 2018 season. But, what made him valuable was averaging 15.6 yards per reception – unheard of for tight ends with the volume he had. He is averaging just 9.7 yards per reception as others have taken on the mantle of being deep targets.
Kerryon Johnson – Much like David Johnson most of last season, his only fantasy saving grace this season has been that he has scored a touchdown in each of the last two games – a Band-Aid on frighteningly bad production. He has yet to rush for 50 yards in a game, despite averaging 16 carries a game. He has averaged just 2.6 yards a carry with a long run of 11 yards. He has just five receptions after averaging 3.2 receptions a game last year on a team that had a lot more competition with Theo Riddick hogging most RB receptions. The Lions cleared the decks in the offseason and did it again by cutting C.J. Anderson after Week 2. The Lions are committed to Johnson being their primary rushing threat and they haven’t lost a game yet. But, until Johnson starts producing better numbers, the best fantasy owners can hope is a D.J. of 2018 vintage scoring a TD to save the day.
Denver running backs – This may come as a surprise given that Phillip Lindsay scored two touchdowns Sunday, but Lindsay and Royce Freeman are in a near-identical time-share split. Through three games, Lindsay has had more carries in every game (11-13-21) than Freeman (10-11-15), but as long as that sort of parity exists, it’s hard to count on either one of them if they’re both healthy. They have combined to rush 81 times for 333 yards, but Freeman has more rushing yards (173) than Lindsay (160). The reality was that, after rushing 24 times for 79 yards and no TDs in his first two games, Lindsay’s solid Sunday happened on a lot of owner’s benches. Until a bigger disparity in workload comes, Lindsay will remain a risky lineup choice by design.