The ranks get a bit tougher with six teams on bye this week, making every ranking that much more important. Here are my Week 4 ranks with a little rationale behind some of the more surprising choices.
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Week 4 Quarterbacks
Drew Brees is my top ranked quarterback this weekend, a trend that is not changing any time in the near future. He gets the benefit of playing indoors despite being on the road and should have a field day against a Cowboys defense that was, statistically speaking, the worst blitzing unit in the history of football last season (117.5 QB Rating against). The Saints signal caller is on pace for his fourth straight elite season when opponents don’t blitz, putting Dallas in a no win situation: blitz and get burned or don’t blitz and get burned. I liked what I saw from Colin Kaepernick last week without the crutch that is Vernon Davis, and with the Pro Bowl tight end likely to return against an Eagles defense that allowed the Redskins to total 427 passing yards, he’s a good bet to continue his progression. Subtract an outlier performance against the Bears and Kaep has completed nearly two-thirds of his passes with a shockingly high 13:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his last eight regular season games. The Eagles are going to force tempo and that means more opportunities for this 49ers offense (Kaepernick ranks ahead of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Peyton Manning in percentage of aimed passes completed this season). The Bills have allowed the seventh most passing yards through three weeks … and that includes games against the potentially soon-to-be-benched Ryan Tannehill and a Chargers team that handed Donald Brown the rock 31 times. Ryan Fitzpatrick makes for an interesting play in a revenge game against his former employer for those struggling to replace Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson. A dinged up Arian Foster and an emerging DeAndre Hopkins certainly don’t hurt his upside. Eli Manning has been on a roll over the last two weeks (completing 70.1 percent of his passes) … that’s not going to continue: not on a Thursday and not against this ‘Skins aggressive defense.
Week 4 Running Backs
When it comes to ranking my running backs, I want an offense committed to the run and I want a hardnosed running back. Alfred Morris not only satisfies both of those requirements, but he also has an inexperienced quarterback facing a talented secondary in a short week. Sure, Kirk Cousins looked great last week against an Eagles defense whose job was to get off the field as soon as possible (either via the turnover or touchdown), but this New York defense is a little different. Despite declining efficiency, Morris has seen more carries with each passing week, and I think that trend continues in a big way if he finds room to run in the early going. Stevan Ridley is similar to Alfred Morris in that he is his teams only between the tackles back, and with the combination of an increased snap count, Tommy Terrific’s struggles, and the Chiefs struggles against the run (5.0 yards per carry), the Pats back is in store for another solid outing. Lamar Miller accounted for 83.3 percent of carries by Miami running backs last week, and with a game in typically less than ideal conditions in London, that could mean 20-plus rushing attempts. With Ryan Tannehill under fire, don’t be surprised if the Fins look to take some pressure off him by pounding a Raiders defense that has been run on as much as any team in the league. I expect Jamaal Charles to suit up for prime time, but I don’t think he waltzes into his traditional workload. Knile Davis been carrying the mail and the Chiefs have been a better team because of it (a seven point loss in Denver and a physically dominating win against the Dolphins). Kansas City will want to get Charles some game action, but with a Week 6 bye, I wouldn’t expect him to produce anywhere near the RB1 you drafted him as. Speaking of names that will have more value than production this week: Chris Johnson. No, I don’t think many people are expecting big things from the artist formerly known as CJ2K, but I’m talking unrosterable production this week. He ranks outside of my Top 30 at the position … and only 26 teams are in action.
Week 4 Wide Receivers
How good did Alshon Jeffery look last week? I’m driving the bandwagon and still have room for passengers. Speaking of the Bears, their defense has had some issues with giving up the deep pass, making Jordy Nelson more likely to look like he did in Week 2 (16 targets, nine catches, 209 yards, and a touchdown) than in Week 3 (seven targets, five catches, and 59 yards). I actually think the Packers can establish a reasonable run game and give Aaron Rodgers license to take shots down the field. Michael Crabtree is a stud and has all the trust of his quarterback. Colin Kaepernick tends to count on Crabtree or Vernon Davis, and with the tight end battling an ankle injury, you do the math. He has never been targeted more than five times and scored a touchdown in three straight games; a trend I think ends this weekend at home against the Eagles. Vincent Jackson is a sleeper? Well, I’ve spent all week on Twitter talking people off the ledge when it comes to the Buccaneers play-maker and I think he makes me look smart this week. Mike Glennon targeted him with 31 percent of his passes last season, and when you consider that opponents are completing 68 percent of passes against the Steelers and have yet to throw an interception against them this year, he could well be the WR1 in Week 4 that you were expecting to see with regularity when you drafted him. A different Jackson made Fantasy owners happy last week, and that would be DeSean in Washington. He had an explosive game against the Eagles, but he is still battling a balky shoulder and doesn’t have much time to recover for this week. He is no guarantee to suit up for this one and even if he does, I think the G-men have enough talent in their secondary to limit the boom-or-bust receiver.
Week 4 Tight Ends
No real surprises here; the elite are that much better than the field and are the best options until otherwise noted. Owen Daniels could be the tight end version of Knile Davis in that he assumes an identical workload to the starter he is replacing. Joe Flacco has been unable to find Torrey Smith down the field and I simply don’t trust this running game/offensive line combination, thus making a chain-moving tight end a valuable commodity. With the injury to Danny Woodhead, there is an opening in the Chargers short passing game and I think that void is filled by a combination of players. Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates are great players, but defenses are going to focus on them and look to force other options to move the ball down the field. I like Donald Brown to handle some of those responsibilities, but don’t be surprised if we see the emergence of Ladarius Green. At 6’6”, 240 pounds, Green is a tough matchup that only required a handful of targets to do damage last season. As a general rule, I target underrated veterans that constantly produce. I don’t care if it’s baseball, football, or basketball. I’d rather know what I have than rely on an unknown quantity. That train of thought is why I am remaining patient with Jason Witten. He is on the field for every play this offense runs, so if Vegas is right (the over/under for this game is 53.5) and this is a shootout, he’s going to have a chance to make some plays. Dallas has a chance to win this game if they limit their turnovers, and throwing to Witten is a good way to do just that.