Here are the guys I like or dislike in week 4 compared to the other experts on FantasyPros.com. I focus on guys that are actually on that start/sit bubble. There’s no need to tell you I’m quite a bit lower on Pierre Garcon when I have him ranked #15 and the expert consensus rank (ECR) has him ranked #9. Both rankings tell you to start him. Some of the names discussed below are Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn, Giovani Bernard, Josh Gordon, Heath Miller, and several others.
If you have additional start/sit questions, feel free to ask in the comments below or ask me on Twitter @TheRealTAL.
Joe Flacco / @ Buffalo / ECR: 20 / My rank: 12
The Bills secondary is struggling. It’s true that they kept Tom Brady and Cam Newton reasonably in check in the first two weeks, but Brady had two rookie receivers playing their first game and a decent slot guy as his weapons in that game. But the Bills didn’t keep rookie Geno Smith in check last week when he threw for 331 yards and a couple of scores. Without Jairus Byrd, their coverage has been poor. They have the sixth worst coverage rating according to ProFootballFocus, and only one of their six most used defensive backs has an individual rating that is above average. Justin Rogers, the corner who has played the most snaps for the Bills, has the worst rating in the league of any corner who has played 25%+ of their team’s snaps. With Byrd unlikely to play this week, the matchup should continue to be good for Flacco.
Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor / vs. Washington
Washington’s pass defense is horrendous. Both ProFootballFocus and Football Outsiders have them rated as the worst pass defense in the league. None of their six most used defensive backs have an above average individual grade on ProFootballFocus. And they’ve allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
If you’ve got Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton on bye this week, whoever starts for Oakland is going to be the best guy you can add off the waiver wire for the week. Pryor was not cleared to practice on Wednesday, so Flynn took the first team reps. If Pryor starts, I’ll have him ranked #12 (bumping Flacco down a spot), and if Flynn starts I’ll have him ranked #14.
Matthew Stafford / vs. Chicago / ECR: 7 / My rank: 11
I don’t dislike Stafford to the point where you’re starting Flacco or the Oakland QB over him. Those are just the guys you should use if your QB is on bye. But if you drafted Stafford along with another one of the back end QB1s like Romo, Luck, Griffin, Vick or Wilson, you’re starting the other guy this week. The Bears may not be as tough of a matchup as they have been in years past. They’re a little weak at safety, and Charles Tillman is off to a slow start. But they’re still an above average pass defense according to ProFootballFocus and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
Pierre Thomas / vs. Miami / ECR: 35 / My rank: 25
With Mark Ingram out last week, Thomas got 17 touches. Ingram ‘hopes’ to play on Monday night, but if he misses the game or is limited because of injury concern, Thomas will be useful as a flex if he can get 15+ touches again. He averages 5.9 yards per touch at home compared to 5.3 yards per touch on the road. And the matchup is good; you can run on Miami. Football Outsiders has Miami rated as the second worst run defense, and Football Outsiders has them rated as the third worst. I’m guessing Cameron Wake won’t be back this week as he was only doing individual drills as of Wednesday.
Giovani Bernard / @ Cleveland / ECR: 21 / My rank: 33
Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are still splitting carries (each had ten last week). They’re still splitting goal line carries (they each got a score from in tight last week). Bernard is clearly more valuable because of his involvement in the passing game. And his touches have gone from five to nine to fourteen so far. But until I know that Bernard is going to consistently get 15+ touches and that the goal line carries are going to continue to at least be split evenly, I can’t rank him as a starter. The expert consensus rank of 21 is almost a starter ranking for those who play in ten-team leagues and is a starter ranking in 12-team leagues. I’m not there yet. I’ll get there, I just want to see Bernard get there first.
You also have to consider that this is not a great matchup. The Brown are a top ten run defense according to fantasy points allowed to RBs and the ratings of ProFootballFocus and Football Outsiders.
For further reading on Bernard, check out Adam Ganeles’ excellent GIF-filed piece.
Dwayne Bowe / vs. New York Giants / ECR: 26 / My rank: 19
My reason for starting Bowe is devoid of analytics. I’m not talking about matchup data or any of Bowe’s numbers. I’m simply banking on the fact that the Chiefs will have to get Bowe more involved at some point. They’re paying him a lot of money, and he is their second best offensive player and their best down field weapon. Again, the reasoning behind this call is a little flimsy, but I’m going with my gut.
Denarius Moore / vs. Washington / ECR: 35 / My rank: 21
See Flynn, Matt and Pryor, Terrelle
Josh Gordon / vs. Cincinnati / ECR: 18 / My rank: 26
I wrote about Gordon earlier this week as a sell high candidate. It’s not that I don’t like him, I just don’t like him as much as most others, which is apparent because of the difference between my ranking and the ECR this week. The two reasons I don’t like him as much this week in particular are his matchup and the guys ranked behind him by the other experts. The Bengals are top ten pass defense according to Football Outsiders and ProFootballFocus, and they’ve only been burned by Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson. Gordon isn’t Marshall, and Gordon doesn’t have Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, And to have Gordon in your top 20, that means you have to leave guys like Bowe, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Mike Wallace out of your top 20. One big game from Gordon isn’t enough for me to put him ahead of those guys in a week where Gordon has a tough matchup.
Heath Miller / @ Minnesota / ECR: 14 / My rank: 9
Miller is obviously going to be worked back into the offense somewhat slowly as he played only 39 snaps and caught only three balls last week. But presumably his workload will increase a little this week. Even if he only played about 40 snaps again, he’s got a good chance of finding the end zone against a Vikings team that has allowed six touchdowns to tight ends this year. Only one other team in the league has allowed more than three.
Jared Cook / vs. San Francisco / ECR: 10 / My rank: 14
Too many people, myself included, made the mistake of thinking Cook had joined that group of seven tight ends that you run out there every week after his big first week. But with just one and four fantasy points in the next two weeks, it’s obvious that Cook remains in the group of tight ends that will hit it big when they find the end zone but who can’t be counted on week-to-week because of inconsistent yardage totals. This week Cook will face the Niners who have allowed less than 100 yards total to tight ends in three weeks. He’ll be a better play next week against the Jaguars.