Week 4 beings a couple issues to the fantasy forefront. First, NFL bye weeks begin this week. The Jets and 49ers get the week off so if you have some starters from either of those teams, make arrangements to get replacements into your lineup. Second, and probably more abstract, is that after week 3 is where I tend to draw trends from both a positive and negative standpoint. As an owner, you can’t continue to allow that under-performing player to hurt your lineup while you chase the stats you expected when you drafted that player. Remember that your window to earn your way into the fantasy postseason is usually 13 games. Waiting too long to make a needed adjustment can hurt your chances for success in a season. Three games tend to be my test on whether to trust a guy who is performing out of nowhere as well as cutting bait on those that I missed on for draft targets. Take an honest points per game look at your roster, especially if you are 0-3 or 1-2. You need to ensure that you don’t give away games on pure hope.
It wasn’t a bad week for recommendations last week with Preston Brown continuing where we left off in week 2 with another strong showing of tackles; this time against the Bills. Brown scored 6 solo tackles (2 on special teams) and a fumble recovery on 74% usage. While it is concerning that the Bengals won’t commit to having Brown on the field for every down, he is the main tackler and hasn’t had usage lower than 70% so far this year. Josey Jewell led the way for Broncos defenders with 6 total tackles to lead the team. Todd Davis‘ return to the field from a knee injury was underwhelming with only 3 total tackles to his name however. The usage story suggests that Davis’ production should improve though as he logged every snap but one compared to Jewell’s 74% usage. Interestingly enough, every player that I named as potential pickups in shallow leagues with impatient owner logged over 10 fantasy points, some as high as 19. Hopefully one of those players are available for you to grab prior to your matchup.
Shaq Barrett TBB LB – 3-4 OLB Value: LB1 (big play); LB2 (balanced)
By all accounts, Shaq Barrett is a guy that probably should have been on the free agent report last year after a monster 3 sack effort against the Panthers. I chalked that one up to Cam Newton struggling within the pocket and an overall stagnation of the Panthers at times. The lack of non-sack production struck me as something that would hurt you on weeks that he didn’t log a sack. Cue week 3 against the Giants. Shaq Barrett went off of 6 solo tackles, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles on 92% usage. With that performance, Barrett equaled the record for most sacks through the first three weeks in NFL history. The guy Barrett is tied with went on to own the single-season sack record for 17 years. His name is Mark Gastineau. Pretty good company if you ask me. Barrett is a high usage 3-4 rush OLB that is still going to live or die on the sack for the most part but his early-season success cannot be ignored. The Rams and Saints in weeks 4 and 5 respectively are not going to be the cupcake matchup that the Panthers and Giants were but if I’m in need of help for a big play league, I’m grabbing the former Bronco if I can.
Anthony Walker/Bobby Okereke IND LB – 4-3 MLB/WLB Value: LB1 – LB3
Prior to week 3, Anthony Walker had seen his usage drop into the 50-60% range in 2019. A far cry from his 70-80% usage in 2018. After a one tackle effort on 58% usage against the Titans, Walker may have been dropped in many leagues. However, after week 2, Darius Leonard entered concussion protocol. It caused him to miss his week 3 games against the Falcons. The Colts made adjustments by playing Walker for every snap and third-round rookie Bobby Okereke at a career-high 90% usage. Walker scored a monster 14 total tackles (11 solo) and Okereke scored 8 total tackles (6 solo). Watch the injury report to see if Leonard gets back into the lineup. If not, look to get Walker and Okereke into your lineup against the Raiders who utilize a ton of tight end offense that could equate to more tackle production.
Jarrad Davis DET LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB2
With Jarrad Davis missing the first two weeks of the season with a knee injury and limited in practice prior to week 3, I figured that the Lions might hold him out a week until he could practice without limits. However, that was not the case as Detroit rolled him out against the Eagles to lead their defense. Davis played 88% of the snaps, missing a few plays due to a leg issue that is being described as a “scare”. He scored well with 6 total tackles and a forced fumble in that time. Davis’ availability is as high as it is going to be for an every-down MLB given his early-season injury so if the late news last week didn’t lead to a pickup, now’s the time to grab him. The Chiefs host the Lions in week 4 and their high-octane offense has offered up an average of 14 fantasy points per game to the defensive signal-caller in the past two weeks.
Eric Wilson MIN LB – 4-3 OLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Late-breaking news last week was a groin injury suffered by Anthony Barr that sidelined him for the Vikings week 3 games against the Raiders. Eric Wilson played every down for the Vikings in Barr’s stead and turned in an 11 tackle, 2 sack effort to lead both teams in both stats. Wilson has proven himself as a reliable spot start when Eric Kendricks or Anthony Barr has been unavailable. The Bears’ run-heavy attack might be a recipe for continued success if Barr continues to miss time. Wilson should be virtually unowned in all but the deepest dynasties. Watch the injury report and plug Wilson in if Barr misses time again.
Denzel Perryman LAC LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB3 – flex
Denzel Perryman returned to action after missing the first two weeks of the season with a knee injury. The Chargers coaching staff wasted little time in getting Perryman on the field as he logged 6 total tackles on 63% usage. His snaps came largely at the expense of Kyzir White as Thomas Davis remains at 100% usage. Look for Perryman to increase his usage to ~80-100% as he gets healthier. ILBs have averaged over 20 points per game against the Dolphins this year. I personally like the matchup better for Davis than Perryman but I’d nab Perryman for LB3-flex options.
Defensive Lineman Plays
Stephon Tuitt was a rock-solid addition to any IDP lineup with 7 total tackles (6 solo) and a sack on 66% usage against the 49ers. The Bengals in week 4 are a decent pass rush matchup for Tuitt this week but a below average tackle opportunity. Benson Mayowa didn’t follow up his excellent past two weeks production with much as he only scored a single solo tackle on 26% usage.
Calais Campbell/Josh Allen JAC DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL3
Josh Allen, the 2019 seventh overall pick, drew some rave reviews from his coaches during the offseason. Those same coaches promised to find ways to get he, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue all on the field with significant usage. For the most part, that appears to be the case with usages no less than 68%. Allen’s production has also been steadily increasing early in the season, culminating with a 4 total tackle, 2 sack effort on 68% usage. Calais Campbell also did what owners hoping that he’d do with a likely DL1 draft slot in week 3. He logged a massive 7 solo, 3 sack effort on the same 68% usage. Jacksonville won’t face a Tennessee squad that will offer up 9 sacks every week but a reeling Denver Broncos squad that gave up 6 sacks to the Packers last week is a decent substitute. The recommendation is basically based on how large your league is. Campbell’s weak start to the season has him open in a handful of shallow leagues whereas Allen is the option for deeper leagues.
Brian Burns/Mario Addison CAR DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Another rookie for recommendations this week, 16th overall pick Brian Burns is equalling veteran Mario Addison in snaps with 66% so far in the year. Addison broke out in a big way with 3 sacks against the Cardinals. Burns scored 4 solo tackles and a sack. That production is great but I really like the matchup in week 4. The Houston Texans are third-most sacked team in the NFL behind the Titans and Cardinals. Addison is the higher upside play but is also more likely to be owned. Don’t scoff at Burns as an option in deeper leagues.
Defensive Back Plays
Minkah Fitzpatrick wasted little time acquainting himself with his new team. The Steelers’ newest addition scored 5 total tackles, an interception and a forced fumble on 100% usage. I honestly didn’t expect 100% usage but it does make sense with Sean Davis hitting IR. He is a solid option going forward. Ronnie Harrison led the way in tackle heavy scoring for recommendations with 10 total tackles (6 solo) and a PD against the Titans on 100% usage. Jarrod Wilson also logged every defensive snap but only scored 4 total tackles.
Kemal Ishmael ATL LB/S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2
Keanu Neal is likely out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Kemal Ishmael is the in-house option to replace him. Ishmael scored 6 solo tackles on 55% of the snaps after Neal went down. Ishmael has linebacker eligibility on many platforms as well. Ishmael isn’t going to offer nearly as much in big-play ability as Neal did but he has a history of scoring well in tackle heavy leagues when given the snaps. As long as Atlanta doesn’t add another note-worthy safety through free agency or trade, I’d be comfortable rolling Ishmael as a DB2.
Roderick Teamer LAC S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
The Chargers safeties corps is becoming rapidly depleted. Derwin James remains out with a foot injury and Adrian Phillips is on injured reserve with a broken arm. I had wondered if second-round rookie Nasir Adderley would get the call to replace Phillips but in week3 it was undrafted free agent rookie Roderick Teamer who played every down for the Chargers, logging 7 total tackles along the way. Teamer is unowned in almost every format and should go cheap but offers should decent tackle upside as long as he holds a starting job. The Dolphins in week 4 aren’t the greatest matchup for opposing safeties but I’d hang onto him for subsequent weeks.
Jordan Whitehead/Mike Edwards TBB S – 4-3 SS/FS Value: DB2 – DB3
Mike Edwards and Jordan Whitehead are high volume play safeties on what I’m considering a below average defense as a whole. So when I see matchups like the Rams in Los Angeles for week 4, it makes sense to project some tackle opportunity. I might even throw in Vernon Hargreaves as well given his tackle numbers early in the season. Whitehead would be the safety of preference over Edwards who is a replacement-level talent filling in for Justin Evans and Darian Stewart.