We had a fairly productive Week 3 out here on the fringe with Cam Newton and Robert Woods (I’m giving C- grades to Kareem Hunt and Adam Thielen, as both were just OK). Ian Thomas ran plenty of routes and dropped a touchdown pass, ultimately doing no better than the mediocre effort that chalk Eric Ebron gave owners. We’re back again for another week of trying to see just a little bit farther past the looking glass.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
The second-best quarterback in football is a 10-point home favorite, and he is not among the top-five quarterbacks in our ownership projections. Obviously, the quarterback is a position that has flatter projections, and it’s rare for any quarterback to make up more than 15% of an ownership pool.
Generally speaking, users typically take a quarterback from a game they like and match him with his wide receivers whom they like. This week, that means Eli Manning–Odell Beckham, Drew Brees–Michael Thomas–Alvin Kamara, Andy Dalton–A.J. Green/Tyler Boyd, Philip Rivers–Keenan Allen, Matt Ryan–Julio Jones (or if you don’t believe in Air Yards, Calvin Ridley), and Deshaun Watson–DeAndre Hopkins.
That does not leave a ton of room for Rodgers, who has had only mediocre efforts so far this season. Rodgers is not Kirk Cousins: He isn’t going to fumble the ball or give away careless interceptions. He brings underrated safety, and with the fourth-highest team total of the week, he also brings underrated upside.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
Here are Howard’s opportunities per game this year: 20, 19, and 26. Those are RB1, uncontested backfield numbers. He is seeing an average of 3.5 targets per game and actually out-targeted Tarik Cohen in Weeks 1 and 2.
Howard has only one touchdown on the season but is clearly the Bears’ only goal-line back. While this matchup seems even on paper, Bears -3 seems like the correct lean to me. As we all know, game script plays a huge part in running back fantasy points, and the Bears’ amazing pass defense (1st in total DVOA of all 32 teams) gets to face turnover-prone Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Buccaneers should be able to score some points against Chicago, but Fitz’s career 3.4% interception rate (he has previously led the league in interceptions) should give Chicago a short field several times and give the Bears a good script to try to give Howard 20-plus rushes again. The path for a GPP-winning day from Howard is 22 carries, four-plus targets and several attempts at the goal line.
This is well within the range of outcomes, and given Howard’s high ceiling projections, along with his four Pro Trends, he’s going to be in my group of GPP running backs after Kamara, Gio Bernard, Melvin Gordon and Sony Michel.
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Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers
It is a well-worn meme by this point that Carlos Hyde averaged 8.4 targets per game while C.J. Beathard was the 49ers quarterback last season. The short-area accuracy of Beathard is what drove Kyle Shanahan to trade up for the former Iowa quarterback in the first place.
Breida will have more competition for carries than Hyde did last year (ironically from Breida), and Kyle Juszczyk will still get 2-4 targets on third downs. But for this game against the Chargers (and the rest of the season), I expect Breida to see between 14 and 20 opportunities per game. The 49ers run a fast-paced offense (sixth-fastest in seconds/play in neutral situations), they’re 10.5-point underdogs on the road, and Breida is averaging more than eight yards per carry this season.
He’s a fantastically athletic player who, provided his hyper-extended knee isn’t a big deal, has 10-target, multi-touchdown upside on any week given the nature of the 49ers offense. Hyde found himself being very valuable in DFS last year despite the fact that he cannot dream of the efficiency that Breida possesses.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Wherever you are reading this, you are probably thinking, “Not again, NEVER JULIO.”
And I get it. He didn’t work out last week. Or the week before. Matt Ryan had maybe his best game of the season in Week 3, and Julio couldn’t even crack 100 yards receiving. You’re mad; you’re frustrated.
All of that can be true while Julio leads the NFL in air yards and market share of air yards for his team. Jones will be lined up against Dre Kirkpatrick, who has allowed a touchdown in two of his three games this season, and this Falcons-Bengals game has the second-highest total of the week.
There is a massive edge in fading the public’s emotional reaction when we know that Jones’ opportunity is more or less the same as it’s always been. Take advantage of this moment and get Jones in your tournament lineups.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay Packers
The degree to which Randall Cobb has become washed up is almost alarming. Davante Adams has a very difficult matchup against Tre’Davious White, who has allowed completions on only 10% of his routes defended.
Allison is playing in what football historians would call the James Jones role — it is not a high-volume role, but it is a high-value role. Allison has eight, six and four targets in the three Packers game this year. He has 64- and 39-yard touchdowns from Rodgers, indicating why he is a play on a week in which I am recommending Rodgers.
Adams will be owned, and perhaps even Cobbs’ exhumed corpse will be as well, so there is good leverage in taking the Packers’ second-leading receiver in terms of air yards. Allison is the classic GPP wide receiver in the sense that his range of outcomes is anywhere from three to 28 points. But the context of the week makes him an exciting option for me.
David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns
The way that the public will likely choose to attack the Browns’ new starting quarterback situation is to take Baker Mayfield with Jarvis Landry. And for good reason: Landry is a fantastic play with high target and air yards market shares.
But Njoku is also in a great spot here. His routes and playing time have both improved from last season; he just hasn’t had the results. He is 11th in air yards among all tight ends and third on the Browns in total air yards. Antonio Callaway drew 10 targets on Thursday night in Week 3 against the Jets but had a truly horrible performance with those opportunities.
With 10 days to game plan — this is admittedly venturing into #NarrativeStreet a little bit — my presumption would be that Cleveland gives an expanded role to Njoku with a wider and more aggressive playbook now that Mayfield is under center.
Tight end has been so hideously bad that when venturing away from the chalk, I am purely looking for upside. Njoku has that.
Photo credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured: David Njoku