Fantasy Football Week 4: Savvy Pickups & Long-term Strategy

By Gerry Love - SPM Fantasy Staff Photo

We’re heading into Week 4 of this crazy National Football League season, which just got a little crazier this week with a COVID-19 outbreak among Tennessee Titans’ players and staff. So, how’s it going of you and your fantasy teams?

It’s already been pretty nuts on the field with a rash of injuries to big-name players, amazing comebacks, fantastic finishes, lots of missed field goals and PATs and out-of-nowhere surprise performances by little-known players. And then there are the underachievers, but we’ll save them for another discussion.

And as if it wasn’t hard enough to keep up with all the injuries and roster moves, this week’s Titans-Pittsburgh Steelers game has been postponed in reaction to the COVID situation in Tennessee. So, if you were waiting a few weeks to find a backup for Jonnu Smith or Eric Ebron or if your starting quarterback for this week was going to be Ryan Tannehill or Ben Roethlisberger or one of your starting running backs is named Henry or Conner, things just got a little bit more interesting for you.

This is one of those emergency situations that shows us firsthand why what was written here last week in regards to keeping up with the waiver wire every week no matter how your team is doing is so important. Hopefully over the past few weeks you’ve been able to get rid of some of the leftover dead weight from your draft and replace it with some of the early season surprises who can at least fill in and give you a fighting chance for a week or two until this situation sorts itself out.

Clearly you’re not going to get a stud off the waiver wire or free-agent list four weeks into the season, so as you search to fill these emergency holes you want to look for someone who is guaranteed to get a decent volume of touches or targets and who has a good matchup. Developing players with high upside also can be brought in, but they are more likely to pay off later in the seadon.

Some players at key positions who seem to still be available – even after the wavier period has passed – even in bigger, very competitive leagues, include:

Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB – Not a permanent solution, but he has a great matchup against a Seattle team that has given up more yards through the air than anyone – by a lot – and has allowed opposing QBs to total 25, 35 and 39 points in three games.

Nick Mullens – QB – He gets Kittle back, threw for over 340 yards last week and goes against a beat-up Eagles team that has given up multiple TD passes in each of the last two games.

Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Arizona has been giving up almost 8 yards per pass attempt and the Panthers figure to pass more with McCaffery out. And he can get points with his legs, too.

Other QBs to consider who might be available in a pinch include Derek Carr, Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo for when he returns.

Latavius Murray – RB – He may not be available in every league, but he’s averaging 40 yards per game, which includes one game in which he only had 14 yards. He’s had about 15 touches in the other two contests and the Saints just can’t keep running Kamara into the ground. They might start seeing some time together, with Kamara split out wide, and the matchup this week is against a porous Lions defense.

Brian Hill – RB – Atlanta’s Todd Gurley doesn’t appear to be returning to his old form anytime soon, and hill showed flashes of brilliance last week. It’s possible he will continue to get more of the workload if he continues to produce.

J.D. McKissic – RB – He has run the ball well in the second half of Washington’s last two games and also started to get targeted in the passing game last week. Tough matchup this week vs. the Ravens, so this would be future insurance.

Randall Cobb – WR – He has emerged as the No. 2 threat for an offense that had three tough matchups to open the season but will face one of the easiest schedules in the league the rest of the way.

Braxton Berrios – WR – Sam Darnold has to throw to somebody, and Berrios has stepped up and is staking a claim to a big role even when Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman are at full strength. The Jets have a winnable game this week against a Broncos team that has been stout against the run.

Andy Isabella – WR – He’s a legitimate threat and is getting enough targets for now while Christian Kirk seems to be a weekly question mark.

Greg Ward – WR – See Braxton Berrios and change Sam Darnold to Carson Wentz. He’s WR1 for the Eagles right now.

Scott Miller – WR – Brady loves his type and he’s made some big plays. Chris Godwin is out, so Miller is worth at least a short-term look.

Tee Higgins & Cedrick Wilson – WR – We need more proof, but if you have a player you don’t need right now it might be worth grabbing these guys in hopes they continue to develop at a quick rate.

Mo Alie-Cox – TE – He seems to be the Colts’ No. 1 TE even with Jack Doyle back, and he’s a physical freak who presents major red-zone matchup issues.

Robert Tonyan – TE – He’s in the lineup, and if he gets open Aaron Rodgers will find him. A solid play on a week your top TE has a bye. He won’t put up a donut, and has some upside playing with a smart and able QB.

Dalton Schultz – TE – Tight ends are always a big part of the Dallas offense, and he’s the top guy there right now, averaging better than 10 points per game in PPR.

Logan Thomas – TE – He’s been getting high-volume targets in Washington’s simplistic offense, and that figures to continue as long as Dwayne Haskins is the QB there. Thomas is starting to get picked up in many leagues, so get him now if you only have one TE.

Any of these players should be able to fill in and provide steady production if you are in a bind but could have higher upsides and may continue to see their roles expand depending on the injury situations on their own teams and their level of production.

In the meantime, what is the best way to analyze your team after an unusual first three weeks? The most important thing is to not get worked up over wins and losses right now. The inordinate number of injuries has skewed some early results along with some God-awful coaching and a lack of penalty calls. There are some things you just can’t control, but one solid approach is to always give players who play on well-coached teams and have defined roles the first crack at playing when you are struggling to make up your mind.

So, instead of using wins and losses as the ultimate measuring stick – remember there are always early season surprises who fizzle out and owners who feed off the waiver wire early to build a record that isn’t indicative of their team’s true ability – take a look at your total points to date as well as your weekly points. Even if you are 1-2 or 0-3, as long as you rank in the middle of our league in terms of overall points the luck should even out at some point and your team should be a playoff contender. And if you had one really crappy week that cost you a winnable game, don’t stress about that. It happens.

If that’s the case and all indications are that you have a solid core of players on your roster, the players you add from waivers or bring in via trade can make or break your season. Trying to build your team throughout the year so that you can get into the playoffs and by that point be a threat to win the championship is what makes fantasy football so much fun. It’s not time to get rid of proven veterans who may be off to a slow start as long as they continue to get a good volume of touches or targets.

It may be a good time, however, to consider moving an inconsistent high-upside player who possibly was over-hyped and can’t be counted on for consistency on a weekly basis. Waiting for a player like that to have a big week and then selling high for a couple of players who can help your team consistently is always a smart move.

If your team’s record isn’t good because you matched up against teams that went crazy one week, do not panic. Those things tend to even out over the course of the season, and if you can get back to a game or two over .500 late in the campaign, you should be in contention. And if your team is 0-3 and has been crushed by injuries, consider trading any injured high-end players to teams with depth who might want to pick up guys who can help them down the stretch in return for players who can help make you competitive right now.

Teams that have 0-3 records mainly because of multiple injuries to key players need to find a way to stay in contention. They also need to find production. Even though the season is long, if your top guys are out for a few more weeks and you end up staring at an 0-6 start, you’ll almost need to run the table to earn a playoff berth. There is too much luck involved every week to count on that no matter how stacked your team is, so look to move your injured stars to teams that have gotten off to fast starts and think they need that one big pickup for the stretch run to win them a title.

If you can pick up a couple of productive players right now and put in the time each week doing your homework, scouring the waiver wire and making savvy picks, there’s no reason you can’t turn that 0-3 team into a championship contender by season’s end.

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