I love it when we have 4 games in the books in the NFL season. At this point there is plenty of information to see what preseason projections are coming true – Justin Herbert stepping forward among the elite QBs – and which ones may have been overblown – Kyle Pitts breaking the long-held narrative that rookie TEs don’t excel from the jump.
It’s also the close of the regular season of MLB, with the playoffs bringing the best baseball of the year that will give us plenty of distraction between NFL games. Especially when it’s World Series time.
Quick aside to do a post-mortem paragraph on the Jorgeous Jorges, my fantasy baseball team in the incredibly competitive VURBL. I was in first place for much of the second half of the season, even as the race tightened in the final days to where 4 teams all traded first place. Well, I went into first place on Friday night, only to get passed because some nondescript pitcher for Washington (who shall not be named) gave up 3 runs in the 7th inning of the final game of the season to drop me a point in ERA and WHIP, and drop me into 2nd place for good. So my drought since 1994 continues for at least another year. Ay Dios Mio, this one is going to sting for a while, but hail to the victor Dark Side of the Mound.
That said, now it’s full focus to fantasy football analysis to help you win your leagues. Now that we have almost 30% of the fantasy football regular season in the books, it’s time to make some moves that will either reaffirm your spot high in the standings or to get you out of the cellar. Here are some players to target for this week and beyond. As usual, the players have to be rostered in no more than 50% of Yahoo leagues to be eligible. Salud!
TREY LANCE @ AZ
I never like to see someone get their break because of an injury, but that’s just how it goes. And Lance is the fifth rookie QB to get his first start in 2021, and while the others have tempered enthusiasm with some rookie growing pains, there’s still excitement for Lance after he went 9 for 18 for 157 passing yards and 2 scores after taking over for Jimmy G against Seattle. Always be careful when anointing the next QB savior – how we’ve learned that again this year – and the Cardinals have a defense that just went into SoFi Stadium and befuddled the previously bullet-proof Matthew Stafford. This is a long-term play, where Lance could be a contributor with his great rushing ability against subpar defenses. The 49ers have a bye in Week 6, so in single-QB leagues the first real start may be the following game.
SAM DARNOLD vs PHI
Personal aside, I followed my own recommendation last week in one of my home leagues, where our team already had D.J. Moore. Picked up Darnold off the waiver wire and plugged him into the lineup. Victory, even if a good chunk of his 301 passing yards was in garbage time. Darnold is the QB5 on the season, surprisingly. The Eagles have given up 8 TDs combined to Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes the past two games. Darnold also has a home date next week against the Vikings, who showed up defensively against the Browns, but have been below average otherwise this season. He’s not Josh Allen 2020, but a breakout is certainly happening for Darnold in Carolina.
MAC JONES @ HOU
Jones stared down a national TV game against his predecessor – the GOAT, Tom Brady – in the rain, and answered by going 31 of 48 for 275 yards and 2 TDs. Rain won’t be an issue this week in Houston’s dome. The Texans got lit, 40-0, in Buffalo, so pride will play a part in them wanting to come back stronger next time. Jones is a good streamer, and needs to be rostered on all 2-QB and super flex formats.
TAYLOR HEINICKE vs NO
Washington keeps giving up yards in big chunks in the passing game, so Heinicke has to keep throwing to keep up. He’s been up to the task, passing for 7 TDs in the past 3 games. In the last game he even added 5 rushes for 43 yards, so there’s a little Konami Code. The Saints are #6 against the QB position, so this pick might be good for other weeks in super flex formats.
DAMIEN WILLIAMS @ LV
Next man up, as starting RB David Montgomery is going to miss 4-5 weeks. That’s a similar timeframe as Nick Chubb missed last year. Williams is a good backup who almost was the Super Bowl MVP in February 2020. He may not get all the volume that Montgomery was getting, but Williams should get the bulk of it and be worthy of spending a good amount of FAAB or using waiver priority. The Raiders just got gouged by Austin Ekeler for 117 yards, though the Bears don’t have the O-line that the Chargers do. That said, you chase volume anytime an RB getting opportunities is on the waiver wire.
BRANDEN BOLDEN @ HOU
So much for J.J. Taylor being the guy to get James White’s targets. Bolden led the Patriots’ RBs with 39 snaps in Week 4, and caught all 6 targets for 51 yards. This offense traditionally likes to check down to the RB, and at least for now Bolden looks like White’s successor for this season. The Texans haven’t given up more than 3 receptions to any RB this season, but that may be more because they’ve been getting torched against WRs. Bolden, at the very least, may be a stash in deeper leagues for when the bye weeks come.
SAMAJE PERINE vs GB
This is similar to the recommendation a couple weeks ago to get Alexander Mattison. How’d that work out? Fantasy managers will need to monitor Joe Mixon’s progress from his ankle injury, and grabbing Perine as a speculative pick is a good start. If he starts against Green Bay’s #15 defense in Fantasy PPG allowed to RBs, Perine could be a factor this week.
KENNETH GAINWELL @ CAR
Telling stat: Gainwell received 100% of the snaps during the 2-minute drill in Week 4. He also tied for 2nd among all pass catchers in targets with 8, catching 6 for 58 yards and 1 TD. Gainwell’s targets are increasing, while MIles Sanders’ are going down. The Eagles are also abandoning the run for the pass, as they threw 48 times versus 19 runs against the Chiefs, after they had the historically low total of 3 RB carries in Week 3. Even with Carolina being #3 against RBs in Fantasy PPG, Gainwell needs to be rostered in time for the bye weeks ahead.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
DARNELL MOONEY @ LV
Follow the volume, as Mooney caught 5 of 7 targets for 125 yards. Even more intersante is that both Mooney and Allen Robinson ran a similar number of routes – 85% to 89%, respectively – and Mooney out targeted Robinson 7-3. Because of the name, Robinson may get the attention of Casey Hayward, who has been terrific this year for the Raiders. Receivers like Sammy Watkins and Diontae Johnson have had good games against the Raiders, yet a Mooney pickup is good for down the road to see if his role as the top target for the Bears remains week to week.
DEVANTE PARKER @ TB
These are the numbers to keep in mind: 7, 9, 7 and 9. Those are the targets, week by week, for Parker. He’s at a 22% target share, just ahead of Jaylen Waddle at 21% for the Dolphins. Parker is getting the volume, and with Will Fuller nursing a broken finger, the targets should be more narrowly funneled to him, Waddle and Mike Gesicki. The Bucs lost another member of their secondary when Carlton Davis hurt his quadriceps. Tampa Bay is dead last in the league in Fantasy PPG allowed to WRs, and is surrendering 19.8 receptions and 229 yards per game on average to the position.
HUNTER RENFROW vs CHI
Renfrow has yet to see fewer than 6 targets in a game, and has no fewer than 5 receptions in a game. He’s very much falling into a role like Cole Beasley in Buffalo. The Bears have gotten beaten by slot receivers like Cooper Kupp and Tyler Boyd. Look for Renfrow to continue to get consistent looks on the season.
JAMISON CROWDER @ ATL
In his first game of the season, Crowder had 7 receptions on 9 targets for 61 yards and 1 TD. Zach Wilson does like the slot, and the Falcons are getting beaten up in the secondary to the point of being #24 in Fantasy PPG allowed to WRs.
VAN JEFFERSON @ SEA
What’s very telling in Jefferson’s usage is that he’s received 6 targets in each of the past 2 games, as has Robert Woods. Jefferson’s ADOT is 3 yards more than Woods’ – 12.7 to 9.7. Jefferson appears to be getting more important targets, though I would expect these numbers to even out by end of season. The Seahawks have been lit up by #1 WRs in Julio Jones, Justin Jefferson and Deebo Samuel. Van has a ways to go to catch up with those guys, though this week he’s plenty startable against the porous Seattle defense on a short week.
DAWSON KNOX @ KC
Who says there are no streamable TEs out there? Quick aside, if you can convince your league mate who may have grown frustrated with Pitts to make a trade, you might reap some rewards later in the season (the targets and routes are there for him to start cashing in with more catches later). Knox is a fallback, and he’s certainly growing as a player. His targets topped out last week at 8, and his target percentage has grown to 24% from 11% a couple weeks earlier. The Bills are going to throw – A LOT. If you don’t have a piece of this high-powered offense, grabbing the TE coming off 13 targets in the last 2 games is a smart move. The Chiefs are #29 against TEs in fantasy, and with there beckoning a potential shootout on Sunday night, grab Knox if you need help at TE.
DALTON SCHULTZ vs NYG
35%Remember how in August 2020 Blake Jarwin was all the rage? The past two weeks have shown who is el hombre when it comes to the TE position in Dallas. Schultz has 15 targets for 12 receptions, 138 yards and 3 TDs in those past 2 games. Jarwin has just 5 targets. The Giants are #29 in Fantasy PPG given up to the TE position. This is a rivalry game, and Schultz could be a difference maker for the Cowboys and your fantasy team.
SOURCES: PFF / Pro Football Reference / Football Guys / Lineups.com / Football Outsiders