We aren’t yet completely done with week 4 but fantasy owners looking for a good waiver claim can’t get a jump on the competition too soon.
In week 5 these teams are on bye and some prominent players drop off the board:
Minnesota – A. Peterson, G. Jennings, J. Simpson, K. Rudolph, B. Walsh
Pittsburgh – L. Bell, B. Roethlisberger, A. Brown, E. Sanders, H. Miller
Tampa Bay – D. Martin, M. Williams, V. Jackson
Washington – P. Garcon, A. Morris, RGIII
The heavy bye weeks are coming up soon and now is the time to start planning.
LeVeon Bell – this is an obvious point by now but Bell is not yet 100% owned and if you’ve got a top waiver claim or a bunch of FAB to drop, grab him immediately going into his bye week. If you had Bell on your bench last night, don’t feel too bad about it. The risk associated with a rookie coming off an injury was enough to justify caution. Actually, don’t feel bad at all since you’ve got a shiny new weekly starter. In last night’s game Bell played pretty much every down except a handful for Dwyer and Jones. Obviously Mike Tomlin is in win now mode and had to see what Bell can do for the Pitt offense. After one game Bell has the only 2 rushing TDs and is now second on the team in both rushing yards and attempts. Even though he had 8 attempts that ended up with fewer than 2 yards (one of those was a goal line TD that he converted) the rest of his attempts notched gains of 6, 8 (TD number 2), 11,3,4,5,4, and 9. He also caught 4 passes for 27 yards and saw his largest gain of the night go for 19 yards on a 3rd quarter pass, which is great news in PPR leagues. The Steelers have to establish a consistent run game through Bell to take some of the pressure off of Big Ben and Tomlin will certainly call Bell up for goal line situations. The Steeler offensive line is still shaky due to injury so there is a good chance that Bell will continue to notch a lot of short gains in between a few good bursts but ultimately Bell looks like he’s going to get a lot of work in the weeks to come and will hopefully come out even stronger after the bye.
Danny Woodhead – If Phillip Rivers is going to keep up this level of play, Woodhead should be owned in all PPR leagues and deep leagues. Woodhead’s first target of the night (and only target of the first quarter) came lined up as a receiver on a seam route that was fairly defended by a much larger LB in Bruce Carter but Woodhead pulled in a well-placed 26 yard pass from Rivers for the score. In the 3rd quarter Woodhead had another TD, this time on a wheel route out of the backfield, again defended by Carter. Woodhead is fast and elusive and on both scores benefited from extra defensive attention on a resurgent Antonio Gates. What Woodhead is not, is an every down lead back, mostly checking in on passing plays – though Mike McCoy calls a couple of rushing attempts for Woodhead in every game (19 total for and efficient 90 yards) just to keep the defense honest. In a timeshare with lead runner Ryan Mathews, Woodhead received all 5 of his carries (his first two going for 9 and 3-yards to set up his own 13-yard TD catch) in the 3rd quarter, had most of his targets in the 2nd quarter and basically disappeared in the 4th. If his current use continues at the same rate, Woodhead seems good for 80 total yards and 5 catches on a weekly basis with surprise TDs peppered in. Were Mathews to go down, I expect that Woodhead might see a slight bump in carries but would likely continue to split time with Ronnie Brown. In a best case scenario Rivers can maintain accuracy and arm strength through the season and uses Woodhead in a Darren Sproles type role, something Mike McCoy is hopefully bringing back to San Diego.
Brian Hoyer – In my mind, two weeks of decent quarterbacking makes Hoyer a worthy pick up. His passer rating rose from 68.5 to 103.9 against a tough Cincinnati defense and the Browns have now won two games in a row. Presumably because the Browns like to win, Hoyer has already been given the start for week 5. He’s got two stud weapons in Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, a competent RB in Willis McGahee and a clever coaching staff that likes to throw. There are some grains of salt to consider with Hoyer. First, Cincinnati was missing a bunch of their starting defensive backs on the road. Second, the Browns are on a short week (which is probably a major reason why Hoyer is starting) and third, the Bills are also missing a chunk of key defensive backs but that really didn’t seem to matter against the Ravens on Sunday. On a short week Hoyer is a risky start since he might meet a janky Bills secondary or he might run into the same unit that picked Joe Flacco off five times. In the long term, Hoyer has a couple good matchups with the Packers, Ravens and Jaguars but also runs into the Chiefs, Jets, Steelers and Bears. Due to a small sample size, I still think Hoyer will be best played in favorable matchups and deserves a pickup in 2QB leagues or if you’re like me, a sad Eli Manning owner looking for relief.
Robert Woods – Woods has played on pretty much every snap in his first four games and his offensive impact has slowly increased week by week. He now leads the Bills in targets after getting 10 (only caught 2) in week 3 and 8 (caught 4) in week 4. Woods burned CB Corey Graham for a deep 42-yard TD in the second quarter and almost had another TD in the 3rd but didn’t exhibit enough possession for the referees. Rookie QB E.J. Manuel isn’t the most accurate dude so a good number of the passes going to Woods are uncatchable, but the steady flow of targets is certainly valuable as a top outside receiver in Buffalo and Woods has done well so far with what he’s been given. Unfortunately the Bills have a short week against a tough Cleveland defense and these Thursday games tend to produce stunted offensives. Woods will probably get some of the Joe Haden experience throughout the game, though Stevie Johnson will probably see the vast majority of that void and Woods might actually see increased targets against Buster Skrine or Chris Owens. I don’t expect Woods to put up double digit points every week but I’d rather have him for depth than other low end WR fliers like Rod Streater, Harry Douglas, Jeremy Kerley or Kenny Stills.
Marlon Brown – The Ravens really want Joe Flacco to earn that contract and are thus dedicated to the pass. The clear top Raven receiver is Torrey Smith with roughly 40 targets but the next two down the list are the aging Dallas Clark and our man Marlon Brown with 23. The snap counts between him and the next WR aren’t even close and this has paid off so far with 3 TDs in 4 games but only 150 yards on 14 catches. On Sunday the 6’5 receiver got matched up against 5’10 corner Justin Rogers and pulled in two catches for 19 yards to convert a 2nd and 18 into a first down and a third grab came later for a TD. Brown can exploit his size in CB mismatches and I like the sheer volume of targets bound to come his way through the year.
Heath Miller – Miller played about half the time in his week 3 return but played nearly all of them in week 4, blocking well and also catching 6 passes on 8 targets for 70 yards. The return of Miller and Bell might open up a struggling Pittsburgh offense and if Miller is back to form, Big Ben will naturally gravitate back to one of his favorite targets from 2012. I like Miller as a rotational TE for now but might rise to weekly status with additional proof that his knee is healthy. Miller might be a sneaky claim this week since the Steelers are on bye but he returns to face a stiff Jets defense before two easier matchups against the Ravens and Raiders.
Kendall Hunter – I mostly like Hunter for his handcuff value since I believe he’d become a true lead back if Frank Gore missed time. Gore is still the main man in San Fran but Hunter is the first guy off the pine and saw a season high snap count against St. Louis. Most of Hunter’s yardage against the Rams came on a nice 29-yard TD run well after the game was out of reach. Hunter looked quick and has evidentially healed well from his late 2012 Achilles tear. For those in deep leagues, he’s had a TD in each of the last two games, one in the first quarter against the Colts and the second in garbage time against the Rams. I don’t think the TDs will show up very often but Hunter will probably see 5-10 carries a game and has increased value in games that are potential blowouts.
Andre Ellington – I suppose Ellington is worth a stash at the bottom of a bench in case the Arians administration decides to shake up their game plan. Rashard Mendenhall had a bad game on Sunday and Bruce Arians publicly acknowledged that as a problem. In limited snaps on mostly passing plays, Ellington has averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 11 carries and 8.6 yards per reception on 9 catches (he does have 4 drops) and had receiving TD against the Lions in week 2. Don’t expect Ellington to suddenly run away with the Arizona job. Alfonso Smith has actually received more carries than Ellington (though the majority of them in the first week and none in the past game) and both Stepfan Taylor and Ryan Williams are still waiting in the wings to muddle up any competition. Ellington gets a bump in PPR since Arians like to call his number for passing downs.
List of young players to keep an eye on, presented without comment: