The Bengals enter Week 4 undefeated, and atop the AFC North standings. The Steelers lost their franchise QB; the Browns are… well… the Browns; and the Ravens are 0-3 and looking around the NFL to see where they went wrong.
Turning to fantasy football, the nation can no longer ignore Andy Dalton as a legit QB1 in all formats now that he is the #3 ranked fantasy QB. Everyone knows A.J. Green is a stud, and Marvin Jones is quickly becoming someone fantasy owners are having to debate putting into their line-ups. Then you have the dreaded fantasy problem of the Bengals having two starting caliber RBs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
Both can put up monster fantasy numbers, but both have been swapping back and forth with those numbers through the first 3 games of the season. The short answer is you have to play both as a starting fantasy RB because they can both produce starting numbers. Until one officially leaps the other on the depth chart, you have to just roll with the punches like the rest of us.
The waiver wire is where leagues are won and lost, not the draft. Yes, the draft is important to get the foundation of a team. But, the NFL season is full of injuries, promotions, and demotions. Once the draft is over, your skills are put to the test to know who to add, who to drop, who to trade, and who to trade for. Let's take a look at the hot waiver wire adds for Week 4.
Lance Dunbar: With Dez Bryant and Tony Romo out, the Cowboys are forced to turn to Brandon Weeden at QB, and Terrance Williams as their No. 1 WR. Weeden checked down to Dunbar 10 times in Week 3, which resulted in 100 receiving yards for the RB. There is a warning that comes with him in that he is a game-flow dependent fantasy player, but one that will offer flex value in the right match-up.
Karlos Williams: Williams has been a beast in his limited action this season, totaling 186 yards and 3 TDs on 24 carries. The problem I have with that is the 7.8 YPC average he has. That is obviously a number he can't possibly keep up, but that doesn't mean his numbers are more fiction than fact. Williams should be picked up in all leagues.
Thomas Rawls: Lynch is said to have a 50-50 chance to play Monday night, which means his owners are going to be in a tricky spot when setting line-ups on Sunday. Rawls is a must-own player if you own Lynch, but a risky player if you don't. I'd grab him if he is available to keep the Lynch owner from getting him, but I'd almost certainly not play him unless Lynch is 100 percent out before Sunday.
Michael Vick: Vick is a shell of his former self, and the Steelers have to know that better than anyone. While he is the undisputed starter with Big Ben out, and still has Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to throw to, I'd bet the Steelers lean on Bell and use Vick to throw only when they have to. Vick is a weak QB2 option even in 2-QB leagues. I'd look to grab Derek Carr from the Raiders if you owned Roethlisberger.
Carson Palmer – Cardinals: Palmer has been nothing short of amazing through the first 3 games of the season, throwing for 803 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, and taking just 1 sack. It's anyone's guess if he can keep this pace up, but we will ride the wagon until the wheels fall off! This week he takes on the Rams, who have allowed the 3rd lowest fantasy points to QBs this season at 14.4 PPG. With that said, you have to take that number with a grain of salt as those QBs have been Russell Wilson (poor game), Kirk Cousins, and half Roethlisberger and half Vick.
Derek Carr – Raiders: Carr has looked like a legitimate QB (726 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT) now that he has Amari Cooper to pepper with targets, and fantasy owners are starting to take notice. This week the now 2-1 Raiders get to face the Bears, who are in full-blown fire-sale mode. I wouldn't be shocked at all if Carr finished Week 4 as a top 5 fantasy QB, and you should play him as such.
Devonta Freeman – Falcons: Freeman took over the No. 1 spot on the RB depth chart with a single good game, which kind of shows you the faith the Falcons truly have in rookie Tevin Coleman. The Falcons take on a Texans defense this week that has allowed 326 rushing yards this season, 14th most in the NFL. Even if Coleman plays, I am looking at Freeman as a solid RB2 option this weekend.
Karlos Williams – Bills: Word is there is little chance of McCoy playing this week, putting Williams in the lead dog role for a run-first offense. The Giants defense is far from stellar, and Williams knows a good follow-up performance on last week's 110 yard game will create quiet the RB controversy in Buffalo with McCoy averaging just 3.4 YPC. I'm looking for low-end RB1 numbers from Williams here.
James Jones – Packers: I have officially given up on Devante Adams, and put all my chips into Jones' corner. Aaron Rodgers is an elite QB in his prime, and outside of Randal Cobb, Jones is the only person on this offense he can trust enough to throw to. Through the first 3 games, Jones has secured 12-of-15 targets for 219 yards and 4 TDs.
Allen Hurns – Jaguars: Everyone is always looking for a cheap play in daily leagues, or a sneaky play in traditional leagues, and Hurns fits both to a tee. So far he has a per-game average of 5 targets for 66 yards. While that may not sound like fantasy gold, consider that the Jaguars take on a Colts offense that is surely looking to prove Andrew Luck is still elite. They will undoubtedly throw, throw, throw, which in turn will force Blake Bortles to throw. Allen Robinson is his go-to guy, but Hurns is No. 2 on the WR pecking order. I see sneaky WR3 stats from him if I am correct.
Maxx Williams – Ravens: With Gillmore officially ruled out, the rookie steps into the TE1 role for an offense desperate to move the ball and win a game. I'm looking for OC Marc Trestman to use Williams in the same role he did with Martellus Bennett in Chicago. Williams is on the TE1 map this week, especially for those looking to replace Rob Gronkowski on his bye week.
Philadelphia Eagles defense: With the fantasy world running away from the Eagles, I am running toward them… this week anyway. The Redskins are just as bad, if not worse, than the Eagles this year (both are 1-2), and without DeSean Jackson, the Redskins offense under Kirk Cousins is less than intimidating. I don't see the Eagles shutting them out, but they should get enough sacks, fumble recoveries, or INTs to make them worth playing in Week 4 if you need a streaming defense.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: From a fantasy standpoint, Tannehill has had two sub-par performances and one above-par performance so far this season. The problem is the one good game weighted the fantasy points to make him a top 10-12 fantasy QB heading into Week 4. The Dolphins host the a Jets defense that's ranked 4th in passing YPG allowed (191.7), opposing QB rating (66.5), and total YPG allowed (298.3), and tied for 4th in INTs (3). Someone tell me why the Jets are owned in just 70 percent of leagues again!
Matthew Stafford – Lions: Speaking of QBs total fantasy performance this season, did you know Stafford is ranked just outside the top 20 fantasy QBs, despite being owned in 92.8 percent of NFL.com leagues? Calvin Johnson is not the WR he used to be (currently ranked 27th for fantasy WRs on NFL.com), and Golden Tate is scaring no defense into single coverage on Johnson. What this adds up to is a disappointing fantasy season for a QB that was drafted far too high in most drafts.
Todd Gurley – Rams: Gurley is owned in 88 percent of leagues out there, and his owners are chomping at the bit to put him into their line-ups now that he has officially made his NFL debut. The problem with playing him this week is the Rams very underwhelming offense takes on a Cardinals defense that is ranked either 1st or 2nd for fantasy defenses, depending on what fantasy game you are playing. Even if Gurley were the bell-cow for the Rams (which he isn't yet), the chips are stacked against him in Week 4.
Andre Ellington – Cardinals: Chris Johnson threw a monkey wrench into the Cardinals backfield mix in Week 3 when he turned back the clock and rattled off 110 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving, and 2 TDs against the 49ers. This week Ellington is expected back, but Coach Bruce Arians said he expects Chris Johnson to get 15-20 touches per game, even with Ellington back. It's not safe to assume that Ellington is still No. 1 on the RB depth chart upon his return.
Leonard Hankerson – Falcons: I think people got a little overzealous when it came to Hank-Time. While he is the No. 2 WR in Atlanta, he isn't a clear-cut plug-and-play option in fantasy football. Hankerson is more of a WR4 than the WR3/Flex player people are treating him like. His season high for targets was 11 in Week 2, which normally signifies fantasy gold. But, Hankerson was only able to convert those 11 targets into 6 catches for 77 yards and a TD. His other two games saw a line of 4/2/16/0 (Tgts/Rec/Yds/TD) and 6/3/45/0. His production just isn't near what it needs to be to justify playing him right now.
Rueben Randle – Giants: Randle finally had the breakout game we had all been waiting for in Week 3 when he hauled in 7-of-7 targets for 116 yards and a TD against the Redskins leaky defense. Then Randle's owners got some added good news this week when Victor Cruz suffered yet another setback with his calf injury. The problem with Randle is he is not, and has never been, a difference maker at WR. His usage is as erratic as his play, and my guess is his owners will play the guessing game all season long as to when to play him and when to sit him.
Ladarius Green – Chargers: Green had the perfect chance this season to showcase his talents as Antonio Gates' successor after Gates was suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Green came out firing in his first game, finishing with 5 receptions, 74 yards, and 1 TD. In game two he again hauled in 5 receptions, but this time for 47 yards and no TD. After the game it was discovered that he suffered a concussion, which forced him to miss game 3. As of Wednesday practice he had not been cleared from the NFL's concussion protocol, and nobody really knows if he will play or not. For me it is better to go with Maxx Williams and leave Green on the bench.
Baltimore Ravens defense: The Steelers offensive game plan this week is likely to be ride Le'Veon Bell until his wheels fall off, and throw to Antonio Brown until they put 11 men on him. With Vick at QB, the Steelers offense becomes much narrower than that of what it was with Roethlisberger. The Ravens secondary is a mess, and they are searching for a leader with Terrell Suggs out for the season, but this team needs to win in the worst way. The defense is likely to crush a few Monster energy drinks before every play to ensure they control this game and keep Bell/Brown in check.
Q: I read your columns on bengals.com. I'm 3-0 in one of my leagues and had Ben starting with Rivers on the bench. Should I drop Ben or hold on to him for the playoff run? Carr and Taylor are currently available to pick up in my league.
Who Dey! (Michael from Maineville, OH)
A: Thank you for reading. WHODEY!
Big Ben's injury timetable is 4-6 weeks, with the more likely number being 6. If you can afford to hold on to him, I would do so. Vick is nowhere near the QB he once was, and the Steelers are going to kiss the ground he walks on after seeing Vick under center.
Now, Carr and Taylor are interesting for sure. I'd take Taylor over all 3 this week because of the Giants leaky D. Carr is very good too, but growing up in San Diego I tend to side with whoever is against a Raider.