A weekly insight into whose fantasy stock rises and falls based on Week 4’s performances and Week 5 projections.
Already a quarter of the way through the 2017 season and what have we learned? Some teams are good, some teams are bad. Some teams grind it out and find ways to win. Some teams look like things are going their way and find ways to lose. Fantasy football is no different. My own fantasy team was primed to have a huge week and dominate. Well, once it was all said and done, guess what? Yep, you guessed it, handed my worst loss of the season. Even last week’s risers and fallers had some hits and misses and a couple of big time misses. On to this week’s insights.
RISER OF THE WEEK:
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DeShaun Watson, QB, Houston
For the second time this season a rookie tops our list. Watson’s Week four performance was just what Houston needed. Going up against a Tennessee squad that many had predicted to take the AFC South at the beginning of the year, this divisional matchup had all the markings of a classic in the making. Watson made sure that it was exactly that, at least on his side of the ball. Watson had a career-defining game as he threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns, adding another score on the ground, as the Texans set a franchise record for points in the 57-14 blowout of the Titans. As bad as the Texans’ offense was the first two weeks of the season, they have been that good since Watson took over. Watson has the ship righted but will face a daunting task against the Chiefs in Week 5. However, Kansas City has allowed an average of 279 pass yards per game to this point.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston
As mentioned above, Houston’s offense is firing on all cylinders and Miller’s fantasy value jumps right alongside that of Watson’s. The passing game’s success has opened up new avenues for Miller to attack as defenses are forced to stay honest in defending the pass and can’t commit as much to the run defense. Miller rushed 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee and added four catches for another 56 yards and another score. Over the last two weeks, Miller has repaid fantasy owners who spent a high draft pick on him. Kansas City, Miller’s Week 5 opponent, has allowed an average of 111 rush yards per game this season, so the potential is there for Miller to have another big game.
Bills D/ST, Buffalo
Buffalo’s defense has quietly gathered the attention of many pundits around the league so far this season. While the offense’s struggles were very well documented, the defense has flown under the radar and caused a lot of headache for opposing offenses. Last week against Denver and again on Sunday against the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, the Bills have stifled two of the top receivers in the league and the defense is a big reason Buffalo currently sits atop the AFC East. The Bills sacked Matt Ryan once and intercepted two passes in the 23-17 win. The Bills travel to Cincinnati next week to take on a Bengals team that beat up the hapless Cleveland Browns this week, but have struggled mightily against everyone else this season. Buffalo’s defense may have another big week lined up.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
Sunday’s matchup against New England wasn’t the flashiest of the day as far as fantasy production, but Newton has to be mentioned this week. Through the first three weeks of the 2017 season, Panthers’ fans and fantasy owners alike were waiting for Newton to break out and prove he belongs in the upper echelon of NFL signal callers. They got their wish Sunday in Foxborough as Newton threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns against a porous New England defense. In the fourth quarter, Newton also rushed for another touchdown, scoring his 50th rushing TD, extending his own NFL record for quarterbacks. Newton also benefited from the return of one of his favorite targets in Kelvin Benjamin and led the team on the last minute drive to beat the Patriots. Speaking of Benjamin…
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina
While fantasy owners were cautioned last week due to Benjamin exiting the loss to New Orleans due to injury, those concerns were unfounded as Benjamin was in the starting lineup for Sunday’s contest. He took advantage of favorable matchups all over the field as he caught all four targets for 104 yards giving fantasy owners a coveted double digit production day. Both Newton and Benjamin take on Detroit next week as the Lions’ defense is improving but hasn’t faced a team with the potency of Carolina’s offense.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
Finally. That has to be what fantasy owners were thinking after Bell’s performance on Sunday. Bell put up 186 total yards and two touchdowns against what many consider to be the league’s toughest defense. Bell finally rewarded owners who took him early in fantasy drafts (top three picks in most leagues.) Baltimore couldn’t stop the Steelers’ back as the Pittsburgh took control of the AFC North with a 26-9 win. Bell put out the fourth-best fantasy effort of his career and is rounding into the form that owners expect of him. Pittsburgh heads to Jacksonville next week to take on a Jaguars’ defense that gave up 471 yards of total offense to the New York Jets of all teams, including 256 yards on the ground. Bell could have another monster game in Week 5.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
While we’re on the subject of those New York Jets, Powell makes the list because of his monster game on Sunday. With Matt Forte sidelined with a toe injury, Powell took the opportunity and ran with it, so to speak. Powell carried the load for New York as he rushed 21 times for 163 yards and a touchdown. Powell also was targeted five times in the passing game catching four passes for another 27 yards. Fantasy owners will be clamoring for the Jets’ coaching staff to give a bigger chunk of the workload to Powell even if Forte returns from injury next week. The Jets take on the Cleveland Browns next Sunday and while Cleveland has stifled the run for the most part this season, Powell could still be in line for big production, depending on if Forte returns.
Tyler Kroft, TE, Cincinnati
With Tyler Eifert sidelined for at least another couple weeks with an injury, Kroft has seen more of the field and made the most of his opportunity on Sunday. Kroft tied for the team lead in targets with A.J. Green and caught six passes for 68 yards in the Bengals’ 31-7 win on Sunday. Kroft also added two touchdowns against one of the worst defenses in the league against Tight Ends. Going forward, Eifert will be sidelined for “multiple weeks” with the same injury that cost him the last two weeks of the season in 2016. In Week 5, Cincinnati will face a stingy Buffalo defense that gave up 50 yards to Atlanta’s A.J. Hooper this week. In a pinch, Kroft will do as a bye week or injury replacement and as this week shows, he does have big game capability.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE, New York Jets
Sefarian-Jenkins makes the list based on the fact of his Week 5 matchup against the above mentioned Cleveland Browns. Given what Tyler Kroft did to the Browns’ defense on Sunday, Sefarian-Jenkins has the definite potential to produce impressive numbers next week. While he didn’t have a terrible game against the Jaguars on Sunday, it wasn’t anything spectacular. Sefarian-Jenkins caught all four of his targets for 46 yards in Week 4 against Jacksonville. As it was mentioned, however, Cleveland’s defense has struggled against opposing tight ends and Sefarian-Jenkins may benefit greatly.
Phillip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
While it’s unusual for a quarterback of an 0-4 team to be considered “on the rise,” if there’s a quarterback to do it, it is Rivers. While the Chargers did drop a 26-24 heartbreaker to the Eagles on Sunday, Rivers did his part and has had Los Angeles in position to win three of its four losses early this season. Rivers threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, pushing him over 1,000 yards at the quarter mark of the year. Rivers is a legitimate option at quarterback for fantasy owners as he has shown the ability to put up decent numbers. Once the Chargers are able to finish off these close games that they have the chance to win, Rivers will start seeing the recognition he deserves.
FALLER OF THE WEEK:
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Derek Carr, QB, Oakland
While Carr did make the “fallers” list last week, he tops it this week following another rough outing, this time against the division rival Denver Broncos. Carr struggled against Denver’s vaunted pass defense only throwing for 143 total yards before exiting the game late in the third quarter with a back injury. Carr did add a 64-yard touchdown pass to his total in the second quarter as he completed three passes on that drive for 95 yards. Aside from that lone drive, Oakland’s offense struggled to move the ball on a Broncos’ defense that leads the league in rush yards allowed in 2017. Carr’s injury propels him to the top of the list as he did not return to the game following the third quarter sack that put him out. Owners will want to watch his status carefully in the coming days as Oakland takes on one of the league’s toughest pass defenses next week when Baltimore comes to town. Even if healthy, the Ravens secondary has been brutal on opposing quarterbacks this year.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans
Ingram’s fantasy value has all but disappeared over the first four weeks of the season. With the Saints moving to a “running back by committee” approach, Ingram has seen his touch count drop. While Ingram did see more carries, it was the passing game that made the difference today. Ingram carried 14 times compared to Kamara’s five carries and Peterson’s four. But Kamara was targeted ten times by Drew Brees and caught all 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Ingram amassed 45 yards on his carries and caught four passes for only 17 yards. With Kamara producing as he is out of the backfield, Ingram’s value continues to diminish as the touches are split.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota
From a productivity standpoint, Rudolph was projected to be one of the top Tight Ends for fantasy owners in 2017. So far, it hasn’t happened and Rudolph hasn’t rewarded owners for taking him in fantasy drafts. Going into Sunday’s matchup against Detroit, Rudolph had only been targeted 11 times in three games, catching eight passes for only 75 yards. By comparison, New England’s Rob Gronkowski had caught 16 passes for 238 yards going into Week 4. While Rudolph is far from the level of “Gronk,” fantasy owners had higher expectations. Rudolph managed two catches for another 34 yards on Sunday, pushing him farther down the list. The Vikings take on Chicago in Week 5 and owners have to hope that Rudolph can pick up the pace going forward.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota
Cook ranks so high on this list because his value is almost non-existent at this point, whereas he has produced pretty decent numbers for owners this year. Cook suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. Vikings’ management fear the worst as Cook will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Cook had accumulated 290 total yards and two touchdowns prior to his injury on Sunday. This will be a definite blow to the Vikings’ offense and fantasy owners alike.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
With Denver’s offense struggling, Thomas’ value has understandably diminished. The Broncos had a rough time with a stingy Bills’ defense in Week 3 and Sunday’s game against the Raiders saw Thomas struggle again. Thomas was targeted by Trevor Siemian five times but caught only the one pass for 11 yards. The catch pushes Thomas’ season long total to only 247 yards and the eighth year pro is still without a touchdown catch in 2017. Denver has an early season bye next week so Thomas will need replacing for Week 5. Following the bye, Denver welcomes the New York Giants to town for a Sunday night clash and Thomas will hope to rebound and provide fantasy owners some hope.
Jacquizz Rodgers/Chris Sims, RB, Tampa Bay
While the two backs have performed well, especially Rodgers, through the first three games of Tampa Bay’s season, their fantasy value takes a serious hit this week with the return of Doug Martin from suspension. While they will still see some work out of the backfield, Martin will be the number one back going forward, pushing them back down the list for fantasy owners.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee
In an eerily similar situation to Week 16 from last year, Mariota went down with an injury the same week as Oakland’s Derek Carr. Mariota suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of Tennessee’s dismal outing at Houston on Sunday. Mariota only managed 96 yards in the first half and threw two interceptions while on the field. He was replaced to start the third quarter and will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. Fantasy owners will want to keep a close eye on the situation. If healthy, Mariota is a viable start against the Dolphins in Miami next week.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
Sunday seemed to be a day for fantasy owners to suffer injuries to high draft picks. Along with Mariota and Carr, as mentioned above, Jones went down with an injury in the second quarter in the Falcons’ 23-17 loss to the Bills. Jones didn’t appear to be injured due to contact but it was reported he suffered a hip flexor sometime during the quarter. The Falcons’ schedule does seem to be in Jones’ favor however as they have a bye in Week 5, which would need Jones replaced in any case. The bye comes at an opportune time as Jones might not miss any further games with the injury, but his status is worth monitoring going forward.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams
It’s been an up and down 2017 for Watkins. Following his huge performance in Week 3 against San Francisco, he was started in the majority of fantasy leagues this week, despite injury concerns after leaving the 49ers game early. Watkins failed to produce as he only managed one catch on two targets on Sunday, totaling 17 yards. Watkins wasn’t even targeted until late in the fourth quarter, giving fantasy owners a very meager score for starting him this week. Los Angeles faces off against a brutal Seahawks defense next week and Watkins could struggle against the heralded secondary of Seattle.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami
Landry has been arguably the biggest loser in Miami’s offensive ineptitude. While he was second on the team in targets Sunday morning in London, Landry only managed 40 yards on six catches and was held without a score to continue his scoring drought this season. While Landry doesn’t seem to be losing ground or favoritism to Davante Parker, the Dolphins have simply struggled to move the ball and find the end zone. Miami faces Tennessee in Week 5 and the Titans are allowing 286 pass yards per game, so the potential is there, it’s just a matter of if Miami can get things moving in the right direction.