Man do I wish Leonard Fournette would’ve played last week. More about that in the quick recap below. Shoutout to @lecroy84, who easily took down the Week 3 Charch Chase with 218.96 points, finishing 20.7 points clear of second place @JRees13. My paltry 134.2 was nowhere near the money, but the good news is that I, like 926 of you, finished ahead of Charch’s 93.56 to earn another entry into the Week 17 finale with a $5,000 prize. Onward!
I noted in my Week 3 column that I loved Matt Ryan at quarterback, but couldn’t pass up a dirt-cheap Blake Bortles if Fournette was out. Sure enough, Fournette was inactive, and I swapped out Ryan for Bortles. That move also led me to replacing Julio Jones and Alvin Kamara with Zach Ertz and Todd Gurley, losing the huge correlations and many, MANY points.
So yeah, basically the second straight week where following my own advice would’ve been a good idea, but why would I listen to me? Hey, you shut up! No, YOU shut up.
As the week went on I got more and more confident in Will Fuller, who I didn’t note in my story but wish I would have. Kenny Golladay was another must in my lineup, as I did in fact note in last week’s write-up. He was solid, but not Tyler Boyd/Robert Woods solid—two guys I had my eye on but ultimately didn’t have hardly any of this weekend, which was the difference between a profitable and losing weekend. The other guys I mentioned last week—Kenny Stills and Marquise Goodwin—had decent days, each finding the end zone. At running back I went chalk and cheap, which didn’t work out on the cheap end with Corey Clement and Latavius Murray, but I don’t regret all that much because they were just so inexpensive with high ceilings. Plus, they let me spend money at the TE position, where I settled on Kelce before adding Ertz to the WR/TE position later.
The Vikings defense—well, what can you say. I knew they’d be highly owned, and paying up for defenses is almost always a bad idea, but I’m a glutton for punishment.
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Percentages continue to climb through three weeks, with injuries and data leading more and more people towards the chalk. Latavius Murray was 43% owned. Corey Clement was 39% owned. Golladay was 38% owned. The Vikings defense was 32% owned. Meanwhile, week winners like Boyd and Calvin Ridley were both at 6%. There was reason to like both players (and the aforementioned Woods) but it required ignoring the urge to plug and play the cheap guys at running back, which I noted above that I couldn’t.
But consider: You could’ve rostered Fuller, Woods, Ridley and Boyd, then fit in Kamara, Gurley and Ryan, and had a nice little day for yourself with a unique lineup because everyone else was playing Murray, Clement and Giovani Bernard (who had a nice day). That’s why it’s important to note these ownership trends: When the chalk hits, your tournament teams are sunk—but that’s why you play the chalk in cash games like head-to-heads and double-ups. If you have the right mix, you’ll break even or better on those days. When the chalk fails, if you have a contrarian tournament lineup, you take home all the money. Keep that in mind this week.
Speaking of this week…
Andy Dalton’s off to a pretty solid start, and his schedule in the coming weeks makes me think he’s going to keep it up. He’s got plenty of ceiling this week going against a Falcons team allowing the fourth most fantasy points in the league and now with three Week 1 starters on IR. It is a road game and the Bengals have just the 9th highest Vegas implied point total, but that doesn’t give me enough pause given Dalton’s low $6,700 price tag.
I’m not a fan of Charch’s Austin Ekeler pick at running back—not because he isn’t a solid player or because he can’t have a big game against San Francisco or even because he’s expensive (he’s only $5,600). It’s just risky. Ekeler’s averaging 10 touches a game and coming off a season-low seven. Sure, I can tell a story where the Garappolo-less 49ers get down big and the Chargers decide to rest Melvin Gordon and give Ekeler all kinds of work. But I can just as easily tell a story where the game is close and Ekeler gets seven touches again. If you want to spend down at RB this week, why not instead take Sony Michel for $400 less in a get-right spot for the Pats without Rex Burkhead against a Miami squad that’s faced the league’s easiest schedule and is down two starters on the defensive line? Or bump it up to $6,00 and pay for James White.
Hard to argue with JuJu Smith-Schuster at $8,000 at home against the Ravens matched up against Tavon Young—in fact, there are only five matchups this Sunday that Pro Football Focus likes better in its matchup advantage chart. I don’t think Smith-Schuster is a stone-cold lock, but if you’re at that price point filling out your lineup, there isn’t a receiver I like more.
At tight end Charch is taking a gamble that Mitch Trubisky rights the ship against the lowly Bucs and gets Trey Burton his first big game as a Bear. This is another positive matchup on paper, as Tampa Bay has allowed the most fantasy points and devastating stiff-arms per game against the position. Given the $5,200 price tag, this is a good time to bet on Burton—though if Jack Doyle sits again, Eric Ebron for just $100 more is just as viable (I can’t go a week without talking about Doyle and Ebron. It’s literally not possibly. I’m sorry.)
As for my picks…
There are some nice values at all price ranges this week. If Smith-Schuster has a big game, his quarterback likely will as well. And with Ben Roethlisberger a relative value at $7,700, I like him if I can’t afford the extra $500 to pay up for Brees. If Roethlisberger is too much and you’re not into Dalton, DeShaun Watson at Indy for $7,300 looks to be a great value. Eli Manning at $6,500 shouldn’t be low owned, but should have to throw plenty to keep up with Brees. Joe Flacco at $5,900 against the terrible Pittsburgh secondary is in play, and Trubisky is dirt cheap at $5,600 against a terrible Tampa Bay defense. On the other side of the ball, I think the Fitzmagic runs out in Soldier Field, so am fading Ryan Fitzpatrick despite his $6,700 price tag.
At this point you almost have to get Alvin Kamara in your lineup no matter the cost. I’m not shying away despite the $9,300 price tag. Outside of the still AWOL Le’Veon Bell, the rest of the top end guys are more or less fairly priced. The real value lies in the second tier, where Tevin Coleman is $7,600 and Giovani Bernard is $300 less. Assuming Devonta Freeman and Joe Mixon, respectively, continue to miss time with knee injuries, both are in great spots. A Kamara/Coleman/Bernard lineup is very much in play for my squad this week. Carlos Hyde is a solid under-the-radar option at $6,800 if you’re looking for low ownership, low price and top 10 upside, with LeSean McCoy also fitting that bill for $100 less. If you’re really penny-pinching at RB, the aforementioned Michel and White work, as might Kerryon Johnson at $6,100 against a Sean Lee-less Cowboys defense. Definite fades for me include Chris Carson at $6,800 (I’m not betting on last week’s workload carrying over) and Jay Ajayi at $6,700 (I don’t trust a running back with a broken back until I see it).
JuJu’s huge role makes it tough for me to pay $9,200 for Antonio Brown, though sooner or later he’s having a blow-up game. But I’d rather play Thomas at $9,100 or Beckham at $9,000. Both would be nice, but that’s a spendy game stack. I could make a case for any of the next dozen or so receivers, with TY Hilton and Amari Cooper the notable exceptions. Not that either can’t have big games, but Andrew Luck’s shoulder and Derek Carr’s miniscule average depth of target present too much risk for the cost. Allen Robinson is interesting because of his target share, but with Anthony Miller’s shoulder to keep him out this week, I almost prefer taking a shot on Taylor Gabriel and his presumed increased workload at $4,200. I’m really liking Sterling Shepard’s $6,100 price tag with his matchup and Evan Engram’s injury, and John Brown at $5,900 is a sterling value as well. Throw in Tyler Boyd at a criminally low $4,700 and you can afford to pay up at RB and TE while still getting a ton of target potential.
It’s rare to see Rob Gronkowski NOT in the top salary position, but here we are. And frankly, Zach Ertz at $7,300 ($400 more than Gronk) is plenty reasonable, too. There are reasons to be bullish on Jared Cook at $5,900, George Kittle at $5,700, and the aforementioned Ebron and Burton. Heck, Tyler Eifert at $4,300 and David Njoku and $4,200 are in nice spots, too. In tournaments where I’m making multiple lineups I’ll have exposure to many of these guys. But in a single-entry tourney like this one, I’ll likely start with Gronk and work my way down the salary list only if I need to.
I will NOT pay up for defense. I will NOT pay up for defense. If I say it enough times maybe it’ll come true. But man, those top six options are all tempting for various reasons. If I happen to build a lineup that has extra dollars available, sure. I’ll bite. But I’m starting with the Arizona defense at home for just $3,100 against that awful Seattle offensive line. Dallas struggled against the Seahawks last week, but the Cardinals have better pieces. I also like the Packers for $100 more against Buffalo despite the Vikings defense having all sorts of problems against the Bills a week ago.
OK, Week 4 is when I get back in the money. That’s the plan, anyway. And, of course, let’s all beat Charch, too. Good luck to you all, and if I don’t take down this week’s tourney, I hope you do!
Anthony Maggio (@MplsMaggio) once threw a chair at a bar and is co-host of The Fantasy Football Party at ZoneCoverage.com. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher or anywhere Android podcasts are given away for free. He is a freelance contributor for the SportsHub Games Network, Inc., Fanball’s parent company. Any advice or strategies provided by SportsHub contributors represent their personal opinions; they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of SportsHub Games Network and are not necessarily reflective of the strategies they may employ in their own lineups.
Each week, as we prepare to make some difficult lineup decisions, our team, which includes Rob Willette, Ryan McDowell, and Sal Leto, will bring you a few sleepers and landmines for each position. Our sleeper picks could be on your waiver wire or a low-priced DFS target or could simply be going overlooked this week. On the other hand, our landmine players are getting attention, too much attention. These are players we feel are being overvalued and overpriced and would avoid for this week.
Kerryon Johnson $6,100
This is perhaps the final week Lions rookie Kerryon Johnson could fall into the “sleeper” category. A week after breaking the long streak of Lions backs failing to exceed 100 rushing yards, Johnson faces the weak Cowboys defense that has been hit hard by opposing backs already this season. Also encouraging is Johnson’s opportunity, which has increased each game. After playing just 23% of the snaps in the season opener, Johnson saw nearly 50% of the snaps the past two games. – Ryan McDowell
Chris Carson $6,800
Well ok then, after feeding us the line all through preseason and then for two weeks of real games Pete Carroll finally came through. To the tune of 32 carries in week three Chris Carson is the lead back in Seattle. The Cardinals are next up with their league worst five rushing touchdowns (6 overall) surrendered to running backs. Giving up nearly 37 points a game to running backs through three weeks lines this up as a juicy matchup for Carson while the Seahawks continue to look for a balance that will keep Russell Wilson upright for 16 games. – Sal Leto
Austin Ekeler $5,600
Perhaps best known for his receiving prowess, Austin Ekeler has also routinely impressed as a runner. It is important note when discussing a player attached to a heavy favorite at home. Even as the Chargers dismantled the Bills Week 2, Ekeler piled up 14 touches, including three receptions. He appears to be immune to game script-related ailments and has placed himself on the weekly FLEX map. San Francisco’s undrerrated front has done a good job stifling running games but has given up the eighth most yards through the air (183) to running backs. Ekeler has become an essential part of the offense, yet has not been given his due as a weekly option. – Rob Willette
Dalvin Cook $7,500
At this point, there is still uncertainty if the Vikings will even have starting RB Dalvin Cook active for their huge Thursday night showdown with the Rams. If he is, fantasy players should be avoiding Cook. Coming off a hamstring injury that cost him Week Three, Cook will face off against the Rams defense which is among the best in the league, limiting opposing backfields to under 100 yards per game. Conversely, the Vikings have struggled to get their running game going early, currently ranking next to last in the league. – Ryan McDowell
Isaiah Crowell $5,400
After three weeks Crowell is actually the RB 12 in full PPR scoring. That’s of course thanks to two 2 touchdown games. His yardage over the last two weeks is 90… total. Most think you can’t pass on the Jaguars so running on them is the way to attack. Wrong! In fact Saquon Barkley broke a 68 yard run in week one and with that only finished with 38 more on 17 carries. No other running back has gone over 57 yards and it took Derrick Henry 18 carries to do that a week ago. Remove that Barkley run and the Jags are giving up just 2.9 yards a carry. Oh and that was also the last time a running back found the end zone both rush and receiving. – Sal Leto
Jay Ajayi $6,700
Expected back this weekend, Ajayi is always a touchdown threat for an Eagles offense which figures to keep improving as it gets healthier. His floor ir he fails to reach paydirt, however, is bottomless. Wendell Smallwood was effective against the Colts, and even Josh Adams got in the mix with 30 yards rushing. Given Ajayi’s well-known knee condition along with his latest back ailment, we could see this Eagles’ backfield become a committee mess as they try to keep everyone healthy. The Titans are a middling rush defense thus far in 2018 but their one of four teams to not allow a rushing touchdown to a running back and figure to slow the game down given their offensive woes. Volume is a major concern for Ajayi in Week 4. – Rob Willette
Sal Leto (@LetoSal), Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23), and Rob Willette (@RobWillette24) are freelance contributors for the SportsHub Games Network, Inc., Fanball’s parent company. Any advice or strategies provided by SportsHub contributors represent their personal opinions; they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of SportsHub Games Network and are not necessarily reflective of the strategies they may employ in their own lineups.