My last Risers and Fallers article hit some speed bumps. Phillip Lindsey got ejected early, leaving Royce Freeman with the workload, and Matt Breida got hurt, although he came back to post a solid fantasy week. Ryan Fitzpatrick erred on the side of Mike Evans rather than DeSean Jackson. Well, we’re back for week 4 and I’m here to deliver!
Tyler Boyd – WR (CIN)
Tyler Boyd enters week 4 as the WR 13 in standard leagues. So far he’s finished as the WR 60, 13, and 4. Pretty good progression. He’s just 8 fantasy points behind A.J. Green and has a higher catch percentage, YAC, aDOT (average depth of target), and YPR than Green according to Pro Football Focus. He has played 80% of snaps, remaining steady week-to-week from 87.5% to 76.3% to 78.5%.
Although A.J. Green missed some of the week 3 game against the Panthers, Boyd has proven to be the clear number 2 for Andy Dalton and has been more than reliable when asked to step in as the number 1. In PPR formats, Boyd finished higher than Michael Thomas in week 3 and higher than Devante Adams and Tyreek Hill in week 2. He is averaging 6.6 targets per game, more than Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, and Will Fuller. Safe to say, he is a safe play, and during weeks like this one, he is a borderline must-start.
The Bengals travel to Atlanta to face the decimated Falcons defense. With Miami, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City after that, he’s a very favorable play. And the best part? He is currently owned in just 51% of ESPN leagues.
Matt Ryan – QB (ATL)
I wrote an article during the preseason giving my reasons for a rejuvenated Falcons offense, and more specifically why Austin Hooper wouldn’t break out. Since the Falcons and Matt Ryan left Philidelphia to start the year, they have been on fire, and Ryan has played like an MVP again.
Entering week 3, Pro Football Focus ranked the Falcons’ opposing defenses as 7, 11, and 23, going in order of schedule. After finishing as the QB 24 in week 1, Ryan finished QB 5, and QB 2. When writing last month about opening this offense up, I said that Calvin Ridley and the duo of Freeman (or Ito Smith) and Coleman would be the key. Gone are the days of defenses predicting the Atlanta play call when Taylor Gabriel was on the field and the running backs are creeping back to the 20% target share they had in 2016. Calvin Ridley has been able to slip in between zone schemes while defenses double-team Julio. Ryan has supported a WR 6 or better in 2 of 3 games, threw multiple TDs in week 2 and 3, and has rushed for 2 TDs. On top of that, the Falcons have lost both starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen for the season, as well as Deion Jones for the next several weeks. Expect a negative game script often for this Atlanta team. Ryan is in a rhythm right now, and until defenses can scheme for 2 deep threats and multiple pass-catching backs, he’s a must-start.
Robert Woods – WR (LAR)
I’ve thought about this one for a week or so now. How do you determine the most valuable WR in the leagues best offense? Cooks, Woods and even Cooper Kupp are catching balls and scoring points on the field and in your lineup. While Robert Woods is statistically leading the group, the bottom line is they are all rising. Together they average 7.6 targets per game, and Woods leads this category with 9 targets/gm. Per PFF, Woods has a 70% reception percentage along with 2 scores.
When looking at the % share of the Rams air yards, Woods also leads with 44.8%, followed by Cooks at 31.5%, then Kupp at 17.6%. He is boasting an average 12.8 air-yard-target per NFL Next Gen Stats. Although Cooks is the speedster in the offense, Woods seems like the higher floor and safest weekly play, especially if he gets his reception percentage closer to 80 like Cooks (79.2) and Kupp (83.3).
With targets and efficiency, I dub him the most valuable WR for fantasy purposes in this offense. Currently, the WR 13 in PPR leagues, look for Woods to rise further due to the Rams defense losing starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters for some time. Peters could play in the Thursday night game, but Talib has been placed on the IR with an ankle injury as of Wednesday afternoon. This could tilt the game script in favor of the receiving corps and away from Todd Gurley.
Tarik Cohen – RB (CHI)
The year is 2017. Week 1 of the NFL season. A Chicago Bears rookie RB sends owners across the globe to the waiver wire after rushing 5 times for 66 yards and catching 8 balls for 47 yards and a TD. What a time to be alive. Well, this season it’s been a different story. Through 3 games he has 14 attempts for 86 yards and 7 catches for 48 yards. No scores. He is averaging 6.8 fantasy PPG and spends 71% of his snaps on pass plays where he is only targeted 14.2% of the time, per PFF. There was a lot of coaches speak from Matt Nagy this offseason about Jordan Howard. Howard was said to have caught some 300 balls from the JUGS machine after each practice, and Nagy said he could be a 3 down back. Well, he was right. Howard is on the field for 69% of all plays, and 44% of his snaps come on passing plays leading to the 4th highest targeted Bear. Cohen has watched all this from the sidelines. Cohen is currently owned in 66% of ESPN leagues and owners should be frustrated. If you own Cohen it’s time to cut him loose or package him in a trade, because this is the Jordan Howard show. So long 2017 week 1.
Kenyan Drake – RB (MIA)
From weeks 13 through 17 last season Kenyan Drake averaged 18 carries/gm, 3 receptions/gm, 118 yards from scrimmage, and scored twice. That was good enough for the RB 8 over those 5 weeks. Needless to say, he was high on draft boards entering 2018, with an average draft position (ADP) of 33 or the 3.09 for 12 team leagues. What he has returned since then hasn’t been pretty: The RB 31 (PPR) through 3 weeks, averaging just 10 fantasy PPG, 10 carries/gm for just 34.6 Y/G. The main issue is the opportunity. Drake has just 30 carries, dropping each week from 14 to 11 to just 5 in week 3’s matchups against Oakland. 5 carries!
The odd thing is that he’s played on 67% of snaps. He just isn’t getting the chance to run. He’s averaging the same 3 receptions/gm as he did to end 2017, which is the only positive to take away here. Frank Gore is playing 35% of snaps and has 24 rush attempts, just 6 fewer than Drake on nearly half the snaps. With the exception of the second half against Oakland, the 3-0 Dolphins have been game script positive, leading us to believe Drake would have had plenty of rush attempts. This has not been the case, and none of this is good news. Crazier things have happened, but the 3-0 Dolphins may stick to what’s working, and Drake could continue to see low volume.
Thanks for reading Risers and Fallers again this week! For more on target shares to help you out with week 4 lineups, read this article by my colleague Katie!