It is always hard to draft a guy you know won't play for the first few games of the season, so when we took Le'Veon Bell, Tom Brady, and Josh Gordon, we knew we were going to have to wait with anticipation for them to produce. Well, that wait is over for Bell as he returns from his 3-game suspension in Week 4 to face the Chiefs. Fantasy owners couldn't be happier given the sheer number of injuries we've already seen this season.
Remember back in Week 2 when I told you to go grab Bears RB Jordan Howard off the waiver wire? I know a lot of you listened, from the feedback I got via emails and social media comments. That is why you come here instead of going to Yahoo or ESPN; because they are telling you to now fight over guys like Howard, Jerick McKinnon, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Tyrel Williams. You, however, already know all about them and have already decided if they are worth adding to your team.
Now that the bye weeks officially kick off, depth is an important factor in winning games. Injuries have ravaged the NFL and fantasy rosters alike, and the waiver wire will become a barren wasteland in no time. Let's take a look at a few guys you will want to target this week to help fill out those rosters.
Tyler Eifert – Bengals: Eifert is still available in 27 percent of Yahoo leagues, 24.4 percent of ESPN leagues, but just 13.4 percent of NFL.com leagues. The first two numbers are crazy to me because Eifert is targeting Week 5 for his return, which makes him a must-own player right now! Go grab him wherever he is available.
Jamison Crowder – Redskins: Crowder is quickly becoming an important part of the Redskins passing game, catching touchdowns in back-to-back games and racking up 16 receptions in 3 games as their No. 3 WR. Because his yards haven't eclipsed 80 yards in a single game, he is much more of a PPR than standard league player to target. And, with Josh Doctson taking a step backwards with his Achilles injury, Crowder is a fixture in the passing game for the foreseeable future.
Cole Beasley – Cowboys: Dez Bryant suffered a hairline fracture of the tibial plateau in his right knee in Week 3. The Cowboys put on a strong face Wednesday and said they are hopeful he can play in Week 4, but this type of injury normally takes multiple weeks to heal. Enter Cole Beasley, the Cowboys' #1-targeted player (25) this season. Even when Bryant was healthy, Dak Prescott looked to Beasley more often. With Bryant out, that number is sure to go up. Go get him before others catch on.
Wendell Smallwood – Eagles: With Ryan Mathews banged up and averaging just 3.2 YPC so far, Smallwood is going to see an increased workload going forward for the Eagles. Darren Sproles will handle the pass-catching duties, but Smallwood should be added in case he takes the early-down job and runs with it.
Dwayne Washington – Lions: Well, the Theo Riddick plan doesn't seem to be working quite how we had all hoped, making Washington as a serious sleeper to add this week. Riddick is much more of a pass-catching RB, whereas Washington averaged 5.8 YPC in college as a one-cut type of running back. He's more of a grab-and-stash for now, but could be worth it.
Adam Humphries – Buccaneers: Of the 142 passes Jameis Winston has thrown this season, Humphries has been targeted 25 times, which is 2nd on the team behind Mike Evans. The Bucs' 2nd-year WR has Winston's trust, but is more of a PPR play than a standard league play due to his 5'11" size, making him a non-factor in the redzone.
Cameron Brate – Buccaneers: When it comes to tight ends in fantasy football, even the smallest bump in value could be huge if you missed out on the top 5-6 TEs in your draft. Brate was thrust into a starting role when the Bucs cut ties with Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and responded by catching 5 of 10 targets for 46 yards and 2 TDs in Week 3. Brate is a solid TE for those needing help in bye weeks.
Matthew Stafford – Lions: Stafford blew up for a 385/3/1 line in Week 3 against the Packers, and he has found a new No. 1 WR in Marvin Jones. This week he gets a choice matchup against a Bears defense that has been absolutely decimated by injuries. I fully expect Stafford & Co. to put up similar numbers to last week, if not better numbers given the downgrade in the defense they are facing. He's a top-end QB1 this week.
Philip Rivers – Chargers: On paper you would think Rivers would struggle to maintain fantasy value after losing Keenan Allen and Danny Woodward for the season, but that hasn't been the case as he is currently tied for 4th in QB passes thrown (5), and has yet to toss an interception. His yardage totals are lacking, but TE Hunter Henry should help that with his pass-catching ability.
This week he takes on the deficient Saints defense at home, making him a great QB1 play.
Le'Veon Bell – Steelers: As I mentioned above, Bell is back and just in the nick of time for fantasy purposes. Coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday said, "rest assured, you're going to see Le'Veon Bell and a lot of him Sunday." He does knock DeAngelo Williams out of fantasy consideration for the time being, so there is a downside to him being back.
Lock and load Bell into a top-3 ranking for the rest of the season.
LeGarrette Blount – Patriots: With both the Patriots QBs one injury away from landing on the season-ending IR, you can be sure the gameplan for Week 4 will be run, run, and… you guessed it… run. Last week Blount ran the ball 24 times for 105 yards and 2 TDs, numbers that he could very well reproduce this week.
The Bills are sure to stack the box, but Blount is a powerful runner who can pound out the yards. He's a good low-end RB1/high-end RB2 this week.
Allen Robinson – Jaguars: The Packers and Chargers were able to keep Robinson out of the endzone, but he was having no more of that in Week 3 against the Ravens when he beat their secondary for 2 TDs. This week he draws a Colts secondary that is banged up.
In Week 1 Marvin Jones put up 85 yards against the Colts, in Week 2 Demaryius Thomas put up 90, and in Week 3 Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams combined for 151 yards receiving. Looking at the trend, I'm looking for Robinson and Allen Hurns to do some damage this weekend, with Blake Bortles back in the QB1 rankings.
Kelvin Benjamin – Panthers: Benjamin has seen rock bottom this season after drawing just one target in Week 3, and failing to reel it in. A zero for fantasy purposes is sure to make his owners wonder if they can trust him in Week 4. Well, you can!
The Falcons secondary gives up the 13th-most fantasy points to WRs this season, and you can be sure OC Mike Shula will pepper Benjamin with as many targets as he can handle. I would consider him as a WR2 with legitimate upside into the WR1 category.
Eric Ebron – Lions: I love all things Detroit this weekend because of how bad the Bears defense is. The Bears are now without CB Kyle Fuller, OLB Lamarr Houston, ILB Danny Trevathan, NT Eddie Goldman, and OLB Pernell McPhee, leaving their defensive depth chart full of replacement-level players.
Ebron is a big redzone target for Stafford, and I would recommend him as a must-start option at a thin fantasy TE position.
Buffalo Bills defense: So people who played the Texans defense against the Patriots offense last week were disappointed after they gave up 27 points to the Patriots, and only got 1 sack on the night. The Bills, however, are coming off a performance in which they held the Cardinals to 16 points while getting 5 sacks, 4 INTs, 1 recovered fumble, and 1 defensive touchdown.
With the passing game in shambles due to injury, the running game is all the Patriots have to rely on. I know I said to start Blount above, and I stand by that, but he can have a productive fantasy day while the Bills also put up great fantasy numbers on defense since defensive stats are all about points allowed and INTs (both QBs have arm/hand issues).
Jameis Winston – Buccaneers: Winston has been running either hot or cold this season, and with the Broncos coming to town I am betting on cold for Week 4. Through three games this season, the Broncos are giving up 17.2 PPG to fantasy QBs; that's the 10th-fewest in the NFL. What's more, the Bucs are without Doug Martin, which drastically changes what they are able to do on the ground.
If it were me, I'd sit Winston until after his Week 6 bye. With the Broncos in town this week, and the Bucs traveling to Carolina next week, the next two games are not pretty.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills: Taylor and the Bills travel to Foxboro this week to take on a Patriots defense that made even hard-core Texans fans admit that Brock Osweiler is overrated and overpaid. To make it worse, No. 1 WR Sammy Watkins is dealing with a foot injury that caused him to miss practice on Wednesday, which isn't a good way to start the week. Marquise Goodwin is a straight-line runner who is TD-or-bust for Taylor. While Robert Woods is a solid WR, he isn't going to strike fear into a defense.
Taylor is a dual-threat QB, which is an easy way to rack up fantasy numbers. But even if Watkins plays this week, he will be limited. The Cardinals had no problems limiting Taylor to 119 passing yards last week with Woods and Goodwin as the Bills' No. 1 & 2 receivers. Consider him a QB2 with better options likely on your waiver wire.
DeAngelo Williams – Steelers: With Bell back, Williams heads to the bench for a breather role once again. It's a hard pill to swallow for fantasy owners who've been starting Williams for 3 weeks now, leaving them wondering what to do with him.
I wouldn't drop him just yet because Bell hasn't exactly been the picture of health in the past. With that said, he isn't worth playing even in the flex.
Orleans Darkwa – Giants: With Rashad Jennings questionable to play this week, and Shane Vereen out for the rest of the year, Darkwa is a hot name on the waiver wire list for those big-box websites. I'm going to tell you not to fall for the hype, though, given the Giants' brutal run defense over the next six games.
Let someone else make this mistake.
Quincy Enunwa – Jets: Enunwa is another one of those big-box names that I am not fond of at all. I will grant you that he is 2nd on the team for targets with 25, just 2 behind Brandon Marshall and 4 ahead of Eric Decker. However, the Jets take on Seattle this weekend and their Legion of Boom is going to shut down Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing attack.
Enunwa can be added in most formats, but not played until Week 5 when they take on the Steelers.
Willie Snead – Saints: Snead missed Week 3 with a toe injury, making him questionable for Week 4. What concerns me more is that the Chargers have been reasonably successful defending WRs, ranking 17th with 23.5 PPG allowed to them.
The general "toe injury" statement means he could be dealing with turf toe, which typically takes around 3 weeks to fully heal. If he tries to come back too soon he could risk making the injury worse. He did practice on Wednesday, but was listed as limited. It's a move in the right direction to play, but I think people are expecting WR1/2 numbers from him, where he will be more of a WR3/Flex play.
Rob Gronkowski – Patriots: Gronk was limited to just 14 snaps against Houston last week, something I knew was going to happen when they announced he would be playing. While I think he sees more time on the field this week, the Patriots QBs aren't healthy enough to make me want to risk playing him and getting another goose egg. I'm sitting him for one more week until Brady gets back, then it is all systems go for Gronkowski!
Houston Texans defense: The Texans defense was a bust in Week 3 against rookie QB Jacoby Brissett in New England. The offense, or lack of, shares a lot of the blame for keeping them on the field the whole night. But they just couldn't get to the QB and looked defeated most of the night. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, news broke on Tuesday night that DE J.J. Watt reinjured his back, and he was placed on IR Wednesday.
The Texans are already without ILB Brian Cushing, so the Watt injury hurts more than it might normally (if that is even possible). The Titans passing game is not up to par, but they have a dangerous 1-2 punch at RB with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.