It’s never too early to be a step ahead of the rest of the owners in your fantasy football leagues. We’re heading into Week 4, which is the penultimate week before fantasy teams start crumbling and having their bench strength tested.
Thanks to an 18-week, 17-game schedule, bye weeks start in Week 6 and extend all the way to Week 14 – a record nine weeks with anywhere between two and six teams sidelined.
While some fantasy owners made a point to keep an eye on the bye weeks on the night of their auction or draft — in most cases, that was a month and a half ago. A lot of has changed on rosters since.
The NFL is going to get rid of 10 teams for a week in Weeks 6 and 7 – the Falcons, Saints, 49ers and Jets in Week 6 and Bills, Cowboys, Chargers, Vikings, Steelers and Jaguars in Week 7. It’s an annual grind, but one not all owners in a fantasy league are aware of at this point.
You have two tasks as you head into Week 4, accomplished by quietly tipping away from the herd unnoticed. First is make sure you haven’t morphed into a roster that can get killed during a week or two of bye week season. Wins are hard enough to come by. You don’t give them away.
Second is to look at other teams that have owners who are too heavily invested in the 10 teams that are opening up the bye week period. Now is the time to see if you can swing a deal to “help them out” of their predicament.
A lot of times better positioning yourself comes with advanced scouting. Nobody else is talking about bye weeks now. By the time Week 4 is over, it’s going to be all the chatter heading into Week 5, because once Week 6 comes, there won’t be a week without byes until the weekend before Christmas.
Do your homework while others are oblivious.
Here is the Week 4 Fantasy Football Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
Chase was a controversial franchise pick when OT Penei Sewell was on the board to be a decade-long anchor for Chase’s former college QB, Joe Burrow. However, through three games, he is making it impossible not to start him in fantasy lineups. He isn’t running the route trees of Tyler Boyd or Tee Higgins but is averaging 20 yards per receptions and has four touchdown catches – including on passes of 34, 42 and 50 yards. He is kind of a one-trick pony, but it’s a great trick. He can only get better as more routes are designed to make him the first option instead of the streaking deep threat. If you don’t have him, make a trade to get him. If you have him, the return offers may be crazy.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
I’ve never been a fan of Cousins. He has tended to choke on the biggest stages at critical times of games and seasons. Every year, it’s difficult to endorse him as a full-time fantasy starter, but he has become a more polished field general. This season, he has thrown for 918 yards with eight touchdowns and a passer rating of 118.3. If you want a consistent option, Cousins is your guy. He has gone 17 straight games with a passer rating of 90.0 or above – only one player in NFL history under the passer rating standard has done that. That would be Peyton Manning (23). Name every great QB in the history of the game and, aside from Peyton, nobody other than Cousins can make that claim.
WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
The Texans are a hot mess, but they are forcing the ball to Cooks – their only viable offensive weapon. Everyone has suffered without Deshaun Watson in Houston’s offense. Cooks dominating the team’s target share (35.6 percent) is on par with that of Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams (35.8) over the first three weeks of the season. The Texans have thrown 90 passes – 32 to Cooks. They have completed 58 – 23 of them to Cooks. Nobody has more than nine targets or six receptions. It’s difficult to endorse anyone from the Texans. Given these numbers, some defenses may make it a mission to bracket him, but his value at the moment is as high as it may ever be.
QB Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
I will be the first to admit that I’ve never been a “Darnold guy.” I thought he was overhyped coming into the draft and the Jets’ willingness to cut bait with him lent to that argument. However, in his first three games in Carolina, he has accounted for two touchdowns in each outing (three passing and three rushing), topping 300 passing yards twice and reaching 279 in the other. While he’s not getting a hearty endorsement, with bye week season coming up, it’s nice to have a replacement – even if just for a week – who has shown consistency in scoring points.
WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Typically we don’t put players who are obvious weekly fantasy starters, unless they’re playing so light’s out for your team, someone might come to you with a crazy trade offer to include him. Kupp is having that kind of start with Matthew Stafford. Through three games, Kupp has been targeted 33 times, caught 25 passes for 367 yards and scored five touchdowns. Robert Woods, on the other hand, has numbers of 19-11-124-1 through three games. Kupp has three more receptions than the next two Rams combined and has almost 100 more receiving yards than the next two teammates combined. It’s hard to imagine many fantasy owners with Kupp aren’t 3-0, because this is rarely seen dominance, especially with a new quarterback.
Fantasy Football Fallers
New England Patriots tight ends
Through three games, if a fantasy receiver had 20 catches for 184 yards and no touchdowns, he would be no great shakes. Unfortunately, those are the combined numbers of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith (10-109-0 for Henry, 10-74-0 for Smith). Then there is the matter of their contracts (three years, $37.4 million for Henry, four years, $50 million for Smith). You kind of get the idea the front office thought Cam Newton was going to the be the QB when free agency opened. While both were likely brought onto fantasy rosters to be regular starters, they’re killing owners who have them.
WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Diggs was the league leader in targets, receptions and yards in the league last year. This season, he has 19 receptions for 191 yards – never hitting 70 in any game – and one touchdown. He’s second on the team in receptions, third in receiving yards, and third in touchdowns on his own team, much less the league. With Josh Allen at the wheel, the big days will come along. But, for now, if fantasy owners have options, it won’t take long before they start looking elsewhere, if they have viable options and Diggs has an unfavorable matchup.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Taylor was an investment in most leagues to be RB1 and a cornerstone player. Granted, his first three games were against Seattle, the Rams and Tennessee – all playoff teams last year – but still, the numbers are pretty brutal. He hasn’t hit 65 rushing yards in a game, his number of carries has dropped in each contest (17-15-10), he has just eight receptions (six in Week 1 and two since), and he hasn’t scored a touchdown. For a Colts team that hasn’t won yet and has its season swirling like a toilet bowl, those forced to keep riding Taylor can’t wait for the Texans and Jags to show up.
TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
The fourth overall pick was expected to be an impact player right out of the gate. While he has flashed the ability to be a downfield threat, the reality is that he is fourth on the team in receptions – behind retread Cordarrelle Patterson for receptions, yards and touchdowns. In three games, he has caught just 11 passes for 139 yards and no TDs – with 35 or fewer yards in two of them. He’s going to be an immense talent, but, for now, he’s an anchor tied to a fantasy owner’s leg, and the Falcons don’t have the look of an offensive juggernaut anytime soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running backs
Both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones were viewed not necessarily as starters, because they were slated to split time. But few could have expected how little they would have to split up. Fournette is the lead dog by default but has just 24 carries for 92 yards. Jones has just 15 carries for 52 yards. The only rushing touchdowns the Bucs have are from Tom Brady and Chris Godwin. Brady has thrown the ball almost six times as often as Fournette and Jones have run the ball. At this point, both are too poisonous to play, unless you’re forced into it.