[sc name=”Author Chris Moore”]
If you play in as many leagues as I do, chances are at least one of your teams was ravaged by injuries in Week 4. Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Julio Jones, Rob Kelley, and Jordan Matthews all exited their team’s games early, and in some cases, won’t return this season. We can’t control what happens on game days, but we can prepare to the best of our ability and hope for the best outcome.
Bad times create strong fantasy owners. The least we can do by way of picking up the pieces and forging ahead into Week 5 is to take a closer look at which players received significant opportunity in the passing game in the hope of finding a useful commodity or two from the rubble.
This week’s target article looks at the biggest and/or most surprising target totals from Week 4 of the NFL season, as well as some breakout candidates for Week 5.
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Rising Target Grabbers
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, NYG) – 15 Targets
He missed Week 1 and was limited in Week 2. Between those two games, he candidly told the media that the injury he sustained in the third week of the preseason was “a six to eight week injury.” Some fantasy owners panicked. Some analysts speculated that the high ankle sprain would be an issue all season long. After catching 9 of 13 balls for 79 yards and two scores in Week 3, Beckham followed it up by catching 7 of 15 targets for 90 yards in Week 4. At 28 targets over the last two weeks, the Giants are giving him all the work he can handle. Sure he got banged up a few times even in this week’s game, but there’s no concern that any of his injuries will hold him out of Week 5, and I think we can safely say that the preseason injury is in the rearview mirror.
Dez Bryant (WR, DAL) – 13 Targets
Dez was pegged as a candidate to avoid in fantasy drafts due to the widely circulated narrative that he had an absolutely brutal schedule, particularly in the early part of the season. While you could fairly attribute his relatively pedestrian numbers in September to some tough matchups early on, Dak Prescott really only wavered on Dez’s featured role in a Week 3 date against Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 4, Dez caught just five balls for 98 yards despite the lofty target total, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t maintain his huge target share. The Dez owner in your league probably already knows that Bryant’s stock is only going to go up from here, but it might be worth sending out a feeler to see if they really know what they have. Bryant should be considered a locked in WR1 going forward.
Jaron Brown (WR, ARZ) – 12 Targets
JJ Nelson was the early season headliner, but Jaron Brown is the guy who has had a bigger target share this season with John Brown missing two full games during September. It remains to be seen whether Brown can maintain his consistency now that John Brown looks healthy, but our first sample with the full complement of WRs available saw Jaron Brown catch 8 of 12 targets for 105 yards. In all Jaron has 29 targets in the last 3 weeks, and double digit fantasy points in three straight in PPR formats.
Mike Wallace (WR, BAL) – 10 Targets
Preseason buyers on the Baltimore passing game sold us on volume, with the Ravens throwing the ball more than any other NFL team in 2016. Fast forward to 2017 and the Ravens offense as a whole has been an absolute dumpster fire. While logging his only game in 2017 with more than a single catch is nothing to write home about, Mike Wallace did catch 72 balls for 1,017 yards in 2016 and his first fantasy relevant day of 2017, with six catches for 55 yards and a TD, could be the start of a rebound. Keep him on your radar for the time being.
Devin Funchess (WR, CAR) – 9 Targets
Even with Kelvin Benjamin surprisingly back, after not missing a single game with what looked like a potentially serious knee injury, Devin Funchess caught 7 of 9 targets for 70 yards and his first career 2 TD game. Funchess didn’t record a single game in 2016 in which he caught more than three balls, but has three straight with four or more catches in 2017. With 19 targets over his last two contests, Funchess might finally be experiencing a post-hype breakout. He’s one of the top waiver adds at the wide receiver position this week at just 26% owned in Yahoo leagues.
Andre Ellington (RB, ARZ) – 14 Targets
With Chris Johnson lumbering to under 2.6 yards per carry, Andre Ellington seems to be the next guy to splash like Chris Thompson did in the season’s first 3 weeks. Like Chris Thompson, Ellington plays for a coach in Bruce Arians who seems to want to limit his workload for fear of injury, but with David Johnson on the shelf for at least another month, the Cardinals may have no choice but to give Ellington more touches. In a pass heavy game plan, Ellington caught 9 of 14 targets for 86 yards and added 5 carries for 18 yards in a Week 4 overtime win against the 49ers. In this running back economy, 104 yards from scrimmage is extremely intriguing.
James White (RB, NE) – 12 Targets
New England backfield is always dicey, but James White appears to be the most trusted, all-around back at the moment, stealing plenty of red zone work from Mike Gillislee in Week 4 as the Patriots preferred to play more up tempo to keep up with Panthers scoring barrage. He bounced back nicely from Week 3’s one target, one catch game that marked only the second time White didn’t catch at least three passes in his last 14 games played. White only managed 47 yards on 10 catches, chipping in a single carry for seven more in Week 4, but that’s RB2 material in PPR formats.
Alvin Kamara (RB, NO) – 10 Targets
The only bummer is that the Saints are on a bye in Week 5. You’d still like to see more snaps out of the rookie, but it’s worth noting that he has more than doubled Adrian Peterson’s total at 91-44 for the month of September. Kamara’s workload only figures to increase as the season progresses. Week 4’s breakout game saw Kamara catch all ten of his targets for 71 yards and a TD, and chip in five carries for 25 yards on the ground. He’s an absolute must add.
Duke Johnson Jr (RB, CLE) – 10 Targets
After Isaiah Crowell played just 22 snaps in Week 4, Duke Johnson has currently gotten on the field for a greater share of the Browns plays than the Crow through the season’s first month. With at least five targets in every game, a touchdown in each of his last two, and plenty of expectation for negative game script going forward, Duke has surpassed Crowell as the back to own in Cleveland, even in standard formats. This week Duke only managed 47 yards on his nine catches, but PPR owners will certainly take it.
Evan Engram (TE, NYG) – 11 Targets
The rookie has fully arrived. With the ups and downs of all of the name TEs throughout September, Engram has been the model of consistency, with at least five targets, at least four catches, and at least 44 yards in all four games. There are only a handful of TEs I’d rather have going forward, and Engram is only going to get better. Engram caught six balls for 62 yards in Week 4 and should be cemented in starting lineups for the foreseeable future as potentially the number two option for Eli Manning.
Jared Cook (TE, OAK) – 8 Targets
He might not be a special talent, but Jared Cook just barely cracks the overall top ten among TEs in targets (9th), receptions (10th), and yards (8th). He’s emerged as a surprisingly high floor option, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain his production with the Raiders turning to EJ Manuel after Derek Carr’s back injury. It wasn’t an efficient day for Cook as he caught just three of eight targets for 46 yards in Week 4, but he has been too consistent to ignore to this point.
Tyler Kroft (TE, CIN) – 7 Targets
There’s a new Tyler in Cincinnati as Kroft caught 6 of 7 targets for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns en route to an improbable TE1 overall performance in Week 4. Dalton loves throwing to his tight end in the red zone and with no other Bengals TE garnering more than a single target, the Red Rifle seemed to use Kroft as a one-for-one replacement for Eifert in the battle of Ohio this past Sunday. In a TE wasteland that is seeing Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Coby Fleener, and Austin Hooper going on bye in Week 5, there are definitely worse streamers out there.
Week 5 Potential Breakouts
Donte Moncrief (WR, IND)
There’s no volume to be had here with Brissett under center, but Moncrief is still a prolific TD scorer and deep threat going against a 49ers team that has allowed three 100 yard receivers and three TDs to wide receivers over the last two weeks. As a bonus, Moncrief also has stash appeal for when Luck hopefully returns soon, as the star signal caller is expected to practice for the first time this week.
Will Fuller V (WR, HOU)
The 2016 season started off with a bang for then-rookie Will Fuller as he caught 19 of 34 targets for 322 yards and a pair of TDs and returned a punt for a 67 yard TD in the season’s first four games. Injuries and inconsistency both from Fuller’s hands, and his quarterback’s arm, derailed the rookie season that had begun with so much promise. Fast forward to this preseason and Fuller was generating a lot of hype in camp prior to suffering a broken collarbone that kept him off the field until Week 4. When Fuller finally got on the field in 2017, he made the most of his opportunities, catching four of six targets for 35 yards and a pair of TDs. The Chiefs defense is up next for Fuller in Week 5 and they’ve already surrendered four games of at least 88 yards receiving to WRs, as well as four TDs to the position.
Jerick McKinnon (RB, MIN)
At the running back position, I wanted to avoid writing about the players who are certain to be gobbled up in the mad dash to the crowded Week 5 waiver wire. Jerick McKinnon is the presumptive backup to Latavius Murray after Dalvin Cook’s season ending ACL tear, but he will likely be the main passing down back going forward. McKinnon has received his fair share of hype over the last two seasons as he has some of the best athletic measurables of any player in the NFL, but has yet to see them translate to on-field production. McKinnon is a guy who is likely to go unnoticed or for a small percentage of FAAB money, but with Cook’s 16 targets out of the backfield through four games suddenly up for grabs, McKinnon could have an opportunity to showcase his athleticism in space going forward, including in Week 5 against the Bears. Chicago’s defense has been sneaky good, but has surrendered 16 receptions to running backs despite their opponents facing a lot of positive game script throughout the month of September.