Fantasy football is far from an exact science. The best we can do is play the odds and try to roster as many players as possible that are talented, have consistent volume/ opportunities, and have a good enough supporting cast to help them reach their ceiling. We could also combine those basic principles with advanced stats, which are already commonplace in fantasy baseball analysis and will continue to become more prevalent in the fantasy football community as well. Some prefer to break down game film and use the “eye test” as their voice of truth.
While each of these methods serve a purpose in different ways, there is no analytical tool more fitting of Week 4 than one that sprang into our hearts back in 1993: the NBA Jam “He’s on fire!” rule. Make two shots in a row: heating up. Make three shot in a row: on fire. With three weeks of the NFL season now in the books, it’s time to take a look at a few players who are heating up and primed to catch fire.
* Players marked with an asterisk below can be found in the priority waiver wire adds article referenced below and will have more limited streaming analysis so that additional options can be covered.
Wayne Gallman* (RB, New York Giants)
Surprise, surprise, Wayne Gallman’s name is included in yet another fantasy football article this week. Gallman has to be mentioned as he will now slot in as the Giants RB1 while Saquon Barkley nurses a high-ankle sprain that could potentially keep him out through the Giants’ Week 11 bye. Gallman averaged a pedestrian four yards-per-carry in his first two seasons (652 yards on 162 attempts) but opportunity is everything and I expect him to get 15+ touches every week as the lead back. You may have also heard that Daniel Jones, King of New York, has arrived to give the Giants the threat of a passing attack which could prevent defenses from loading up aggressively against the run. Gallman does not have the immense ceiling that some of the top RB handcuffs^ around the league might have, but I expect him to be a steady FLEX with RB2 upside that can move the needle for you during the midseason grind.
^ My elite RB handcuffs/ players capable of being a top-12 RB if the starter went down include: Rashaad Penny, Alexander Mattison, Justin Jackson, and Tony Pollard. In a close second tier, Malcolm Brown and Jaylen Samuels.
Rex Burkhead (RB, New England Patriots)
The natural reaction to “Patriots RBs” is typically a groan and a gripe about how impossible it is to predict who will get enough touches to produce a valuable fantasy week. We figured Sony Michel would dominate the early-down rushing work while James White handled the bulk of receiving duties. Why choose when you can pick up the widely-available Burkhead and get a little bit of both? Michel (and his dismal 2.4 yards-per-carry) has gotten the most carries but Burkhead is actually the Patriots’ leading rusher (24 attempts for 112 yards, one touchdown). I realize White missed Week 3 but Burkhead is also the Patriots’ leading receiver among RBs (13 catches on 17 targets for 110 yards). The bottom line is that Bill Belichick trusts Burkhead in all situations and you don’t need me to tell you that the Patriots offense is going to generate several scoring opportunities per game.
Justin Jackson (RB, Los Angeles Chargers)
I do my best to discuss a variety of players so that I’m not talking about the same guys every week but I’m going back to the well with Jackson in Week 4. He’s not a starter, he hasn’t scored a touchdown this season, and he doesn’t have double-digit touches in any of the Chargers’ first three games— so why am I president of the Justin Jackson Fan Club? Jackson has been extremely efficient with nearly eight (!) yards-per-carry, has had multiple touchdowns called back that won’t show up in the box score, and has the privilege of taking on the woeful Dolphins defense in Week 4. If the Chargers enter the second half with a commanding lead, as expected (they are 17-point favorites), I can envision them giving Jackson more work to grind down the clock. Garbage points are points, too, and Jackson has a good chance at giving us a few.
Phillip Dorsett* (WR, New England Patriots)
The Antonio Brown storm ripped through New England and Dorsett continued to go about his business. In “non-AB” weeks (aka Weeks 1 and 3), Dorsett hauled in 10 catches on 11 targets for 148 yards and three touchdowns, showing the value he can provide when he’s a regular in the Patriots offense. Even with Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and James White to contend with for targets, Dorsett figures to see enough weekly volume to make him worthy of FLEX consideration. He has shown excellent rapport with Tom Brady so far with the highest catch percentage in the league (13 catches on 14 targets, 93%) and has the top-end speed necessary to bust open a big play at any time.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR, Green Bay Packers)
It’s possible that fantasy owners let go of MVS after his two catch, 19-yard performance against a tough Vikings defense in Week 2. It’s also possible that they had second-thoughts about dropping him when he broke out in Week 3 with six catches on 10 targets for 99 yards and a score. Make sure to pick him up if he’s available in your league and don’t be afraid to plug him straight into your lineup against the Eagles on Thursday. Philadelphia is fourth-worst against opposing WRs this season and MVS is currently tied with Davante Adams for the team lead in targets (21). This combination of opponent, opportunity, and supporting cast make MVS a worthy FLEX/WR2 for Week 4.
Bonus – Getting Ahead: Golden Tate (WR, New York Giants)
Tate will wrap up his four-game suspension this week and should be ready to hit the ground running in Week 5. The Giants will be searching for playmakers during Barkley’s extended absence and Tate has proven to be a reliable option when provided a decent target-share. If newly-anointed Giants QB Daniel Jones looks anything like he did in Week 3, Tate could realistically offer weekly FLEX/ WR2 value due to the increased quality of targets from Jones with an added boost in PPR formats.
Eric Ebron (TE, Indianapolis Colts)
Ebron was a popular “bust” pick among experts heading into 2019 due in large part to his unsustainable 13 touchdowns last season (for reference, the most he caught during his first four seasons was five). Then he lost Andrew Luck, Jack Doyle and other young skill players came in to take away a chunk of snaps, and no one could fathom Ebron having anything close to a repeat of last year. I get it, but let’s not forget the skills that shot him up the preseason tight end rankings to begin with. Ebron has increased his yardage total each of the first three weeks (three catches for 47 yards on four targets in Week 3) and also had a TD catch overturned in Week 1. If T.Y. Hilton (quad) can’t go this week, upgrade Ebron even more to produce between the 20s. He’s not a long-term hold, but in the streaming game it’s all about what a player can do for you now, and Ebron has shown the ability to find the end zone when his number is called.
Accountability is everything so here’s a quick look back at last week’s recommendations
Frank Gore (RB, Buffalo Bills): Gore was everything you could ask for out of a streaming option in Week 3. He was surprisingly efficient with 14 carries for 76 yards (5.4ypc), got in the end zone, and even caught two balls for 13 yards. His outlook this week and beyond doesn’t look as rosy with the Bills facing New England in Week 4 and Devin Singletary not far off from his return from a hamstring ailment.
Carlos Hyde (RB, Houston Texans): Hyde came out of Week 3 with a pretty nauseating stat line on the ground (10 carries for 19 yards) but salvaged some fantasy points with a touchdown. He’s not the most exciting option to own but also not someone I would recommend dropping outright. Hyde should continue to get consistent touches on a Texans offense that looks more than capable of sustaining drives as long as Deshaun Watson is in command.
D.J. Chark (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars): I’m not sure what else Charknado needs to do to be more owned, but he is worth a roster spot in leagues of all sizes if he’s available. Chark has scored touchdowns in each of the first three games and is seventh in catch percentage (15 receptions on 18 targets, 83%) among players with at least 10 receptions. He had a modest four catches on five targets in Week 3 but showed his big-play ability once again with 76 yards and a touchdown.
James Washington (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers): While I still think Washington can develop into a solid weekly option at WR, we haven’t seen it come to fruition so far (two catches on four targets for 14 yards in Week 3). The good news [at least for fantasy owners, not Steelers fans] is that the 0-3 Steelers will continue searching for a #2 receiver to complement JuJu Smith-Schuster and see what they have in their young talent. If you need the roster spot and have to cut him loose, make sure to keep Washington on waiver wire speed dial in the event he picks things up.
Nelson Agholor (WR, Philadelphia Eagles): Not everyone was impressed with Agholor’s Week 3 performance, but fantasy owners will surely take eight catches on 12 targets for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Agholor may return to being an afterthought in the Eagles passing game once their receiving corps is fully healthy, but continue to roll with him while DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are out.
Will Dissly (TE, Seattle Seahawks): Alright, Uncle Will! Haters will say Dissly achieved peak garbage time luck in Week 3 after catching a meaningless touchdown on the final play of the game. To that I say all points are beautiful whether it’s the first or last play of the game and Dissly still posted solid overall numbers, finishing with six catches on seven targets for 62 yards and a touchdown. I consider Dissly a fringe TE1/ high-end TE2 moving forward so start him against the Cardinals unless you have one of the elite TEs.
Jason Witten (TE, Dallas Cowboys): Witten’s recent shtick consists of finishing with low yardage totals while sneaking loose in the end zone for touchdowns every couple weeks to keep his fantasy relevance afloat. He had it backwards in Week 3 as he didn’t score any touchdowns but finished with an efficient 54 yards on three catches (four targets). Witten is not a must-own but someone to keep in mind if you need a tight end with weekly touchdown upside.
Make sure to check out Matt Dean’s priority waiver wire adds article and/or podcast every Tuesday for more insight on who you should be submitting claims for heading into each Wednesday. Happy streaming and good luck in Week 4!
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)