Following the pack at the tight end (TE) position this way paid off in a big way. Whether you spent up for the two highest-owned expensive options (Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen) or decided to save money for one of the two most popular cheap options (Hunter Henry, Zach Miller), they inevitably came through. There are no hard-and-fast rules in daily fantasy football but straying from the pack at TE is a risky proposition because there are so few reliable players at the position. Only seven TEs manage to eclipse 14 fantasy points in Week 4 and three of them garnered exactly zero-percent ownership between cash games and GPPs combined on FantasyDraft. By comparison, five running backs (RBs) and six WRs exceeded the 20 fantasy point plateau at one percent ownership or less. In other words, if differentiating, there are so many more options at the other positions because most teams will have multiple backs touch the ball at least 8-10 times. On the other hand, it’s a rarity for TEs to either score TDs or catch six-plus passes so the production is a lot more concentrated. If there’s a lesson to be learned from Week 4, it’s to only stray from the pack at the TE position in tournaments…and only in special situations. Otherwise, you’re missing out on the guys likeliest to lead you to victory on a consistent basis.
Here are some of my other DFS-relevant observations from Week 4 of the 2016 NFL season:
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – All Ben Roethlisberger needed was a game against a banged up secondary at home to right the ship. Although Roethlisberger hadn’t eclipsed 22 fantasy points in back-to-back games, he put those concerns to rest with 36.90 fantasy points and five touchdowns (TDs) in Le’Veon Bell’s return to the lineup. Any worry of Roethlisberger’s demise was vastly overrated but a noticeable trend developed last season: all of Roethlisberger’s three-plus TD games came at home other than against the Browns in Week 17 (so four out of five occasions). Additionally, Roethlisberger is tied for the fifth most five-TD games in NFL history with five and all five have come at home. Once again yesterday, “Big Ben” showed his affinity for Heinz Field this week and this split is certainly seeming worthy of consideration. Antonio Brown and Bell are playable anywhere but Roethlisberger just seems like a better bet for cash games when playing at home. The same holds true for Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, etc., so it’s not like Roethlisberger is alone here. Either way, it was a fresh of breath air to see the Steelers look like a dominant offense once again.
Matt Jones, Redskins – On Sunday, Matt Jones carried the ball a season-high 22 times for 117 yards and a TD. In fact, he even added in two receptions (RECs) on two targets for 21 yards. Heading into the week, Jones was averaging less than 10.00 fantasy points per game and his only score came against the stoutest defense of the three versus the RB position this year (Cowboys). Jones pretty much proved he still possesses upside and should simply be considered a matchup-dependent, TD-dependent and game script-dependent pure runner. Additionally, his team’s QB (Kirk Cousins) had attempted the fourth most passes heading into this game and the run game has disappeared at times (especially when the Redskins get down). Jones is somewhere in between LeGarrette Blount and Melvin Gordon on the scale of backs who are rarely targeted and rely on TDs to meet value every single week. Also, he split the snaps with Chris Thompson dangerously close to 50/50 this week: Jones played 39 snaps to Thompson’s 28 in a game they were winning. The Browns had allowed the 14th most fantasy points to opposing RBs heading into Week 4 but are just an overall terrible defense/team and Jones dominated them. Next week, the Redskins will square off against a Ravens team that ranks in the bottom 11 of fantasy points allowed to the position. In a game on the road against a formidable opponent, Jones can safely be avoided in DFS. Moving forward, Jones should only deployed in certain situations as a RB2 because he’ll be virtually unusable in plenty of other games when the team abandons the runs.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Was rostering Mark Ingram this week the most frustrating 20 fantasy point output of all time? In all honesty, it probably was and without a close second. While Ingram remained involved in the passing game much to his owner’s delight, he has vultured on three separate occasions by John Kuhn at the goal line (one receiving and two rushing). Sure Ingram scored his TD early but he was a few play calls away from 35-plus fantasy points. Moving forward, there is no reason to expect this situation to get any better as Travaris Cadet was stealing snaps at the goal line in the first few games. In the first three games, Ingram had only been given 33.3-percent of the team’s red zone carries and been targeted on 10.0-percent of the red zone targets. By comparison, Todd Gurley has received 88.9-percent of his team’s red zone rushes to this point. Ingram will catch passes, carry the ball 12-plus times and receive the occasional goal line touch but nothing else is guaranteed on the Saints. This will make him a frustrating proposition moving forward and one that is difficult to trust in cash game formats. Still, when all said and done he will still finish on pace for 1,000-plus rushing yards and close to double-digit TDs (similarly to last year). Why “on pace”? He hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2012.
Julio Jones, Falcons – It’s amazing how things can change in the NFL from one week to another. One prime example is how the Chiefs go from intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick six times to getting absolutely lit up by the Steelers offense. Another is Julio Jones catching just one pass against a porous defense in Week 3 to catching 12 passes for a ridiculous 300 yards and a TD against the Panthers in Week 4. The lesson to be learned here is elite players, especially receivers, can get it done in virtually any matchup. If setting multiple lineups in tournaments, or even just a single lineup, it’s worthwhile to just start the top receiver who will garner the lowest ownership (assuming they aren’t facing an elite corner). When looking back on the week, Jones was such an obvious play for that reason; he was only 14-percent owned in the $25 Run and Gun Contest. Even after reports of the team “continuing to spread the ball around” amongst the WRs last week, the fantasy community should know better. Jones is true WR1 and one of the best three receivers in the game. The next time the community as a whole is letting a top receiver fly under the radar will be the time to pounce…regardless of whether it’s Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., etc.
Dontrelle Inman, Chargers – Most people were on the Chargers offense because they were implied to score the most points of any team this weekend but even those with 10-plus lineups probably didn’t include Dontrelle Inman. When all said and done last week, Inman actually led the Chargers receivers in snaps played (53), slightly edging out Tyrell Williams (52) and Travis Benjamin (44) so this probably haven’t been such a surprise. Yet again on Sunday, Inman led the receiving core in snaps played with 67 compared to 65 for Williams and 53 for Benjamin. At this point, the talent disparity between the healthy receivers is minimal enough that stock needs to start being put into the player seeing the field the most. Interestingly, Inman ranked drastically below the other two in terms of yards per target heading into this week: Inman 2.1, Williams 7.2 and Benjamin 8.2. This is a difficult situation to project moving forward because none are special sort of talents. Right now, Inman looks like the top dog in the receiving core but this is the first week in which his production has exceeded the others. Next week, it could be a whole different ballgame. Until this situation clarifies itself, it’s worth avoiding in cash games. On the other hand, Philip Rivers finds ways to get it done regardless of who is catching passes and the defense is bad. With his team constantly playing catch up, he is worthy of rostering as a true QB1 almost always.
Jimmy Graham, Seahawks – According to the National Football Post, recovering from a ruptured patellar tendon is often worse than an ACL tear, and for every success story there is a player who never returns to being quite the same. The article states “the grueling rehab takes a minimum of 6-9 months: however, the struggle to regain explosiveness and full power goes well beyond that.” For that reason, I worried about Jimmy Graham heading into this season and beyond and have yet to roster him in DFS. Going forward, that’s likely to change as Graham registered his second consecutive 100-plus yard receiving game. With Russell Wilson immobile at the moment due to ankle concerns, he has only rushed for negative two yards on six carries the past few games. Therefore, he’s had to rely more on his arm than ever and a healthy Graham is a nice safety blanket. Apparently, Graham is one of the success stories along with Victor Cruz, even though he may not be quite as explosive. Treat him as a TE1 moving forward because producing two weeks in a row should be enough to make a believer out of you.