Another week come and gone in fantasy football. Another week for us to adjust. As always seems to be the case, we have another major injury situation to navigate. This time, it's Mike Williams. That is going to cause a scramble within the Chargers' receiver room and on fantasy rosters everywhere. Zach Wilson is healthy ... and it's hurting the rest of his Jets teammates.
Then there are the things we can't understand. What's going on with the Jaguars? Is Najee Harris actually bad? And that old chestnut -- why doesn't Arthur Smith like Kyle Pitts? Some things, it seems, are just unknowable. That is why we must continually seek sleepers. Once again, I'm here to scour the schedule, look at the numbers, and try to decipher which guys could exceed expectations.
Without further ado ... here are some names.
This is how bad things have been for Justin Fields and the Bears in fantasy. A guy who was drafted as a top-five quarterback has yet to have a weekly finish better than 15th. It seemed there was nothing but turmoil around Halas Hall last week, concluding with a 41-10 rinsing against the Chiefs. Believe it or not, there was a positive takeaway from that contest for fantasy folks. After a combined five designed runs in Weeks 1 and 2, Fields took off on seven designed runs in Week 3. The talk of him getting back to a more comfortable playing style seems true.
That should continue this week against Denver. The Broncos are still licking their wounds from a historic beating, but you shouldn’t ignore the 122 rushing yards they surrendered to the Commanders in Week 2. That’s encouraging when you note that Fields has had more designed runs every week. It’s getting harder to imagine the young quarterback being the long-term answer in Chicago. But if the Bears want to win games now, it behooves them to play to Fields’ strength. That’s what made him a fantasy darling. And it’s what gives him QB1 upside in Week 4.
We all hoped Desmond Ridder would be an upgrade over Marcus Mariota for the Falcons’ offense. The jury is still very much out on that after the first three weeks of the season. Ridder is averaging just 184 passing yards per game with two touchdown throws. There’s a reason Kyle Pitts and Drake London managers constantly look like they’ve eaten gas station sushi.
So why would I lean on him in Week 4? Maybe it’s because I like pain. Or maybe it’s because he’s facing a Jaguars defense that hasn’t offered much resistance to opposing passing games so far. Besides Josh Allen, Jacksonville hasn’t generated much pressure on quarterbacks. Things haven’t been much better on the back end. The Jags have surrendered more than 260 passing yards per game with five touchdown passes allowed to just two interceptions. Even if the Falcons want to run (and they certainly do), Ridder is going to get his throws -- he has 70 attempts over the past two games. He won’t be much more than a QB2 with value in multiple-QB formats, but there is reason to believe in him.
After the first two weeks, it was hard to suggest starting Pierce. The Texans were among the pass-heaviest teams in the league. Even when Pierce was getting chances to touch the football, he wasn’t doing much with it. It didn’t make sense to start him against the Jaguars if you had other options. The 14.9 PPR points he posted in Week 3 won’t make him an RB1, but it was a sign of life.
That’s something to build on this week against the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s run defense tightened up against the Raiders last week. But that might have had more to do with the Raiders. (We need to have a talk about Josh Jacobs.) Pierce hasn’t been great this season, but if the Texans can get healthy along the offensive line, it will help. You’ll have to temper your expectations, but you can slide Pierce back into your flex spot for Week 4.
The only thing anyone will remember from Week 3 is that the Broncos gave up 70 points to the Dolphins. (I think Miami scored again as I typed that sentence.) Among the many things that will get lost is that Javonte Williams was having an efficient game until things got out of hand. The third-year back had seven touches for 43 yards in the first half. Unfortunately, Miami had turned it into a boat race, which meant Williams’ opportunities were going to be limited the rest of the day.
Game script won’t be an issue this week. The Bears haven’t scored 70 points combined through their first three games. Williams will get to line up against a run defense that’s been gashed the past two weeks. He is still a lower-end RB2, but there’s a touch more upside this week. Oh, by the way, Chicago has given up a ton of receiving yards to running backs as well, so Samaje Perine is also in play for deeper league managers.
I spent much of last week saying that Week 3 was probably your last chance to start Mattison with Cam Akers looming. Then Mattison had his best performance of the season with 17.5 PPR points. That’s not enough to keep Akers from having a role in the offense, but it might have restored some faith in the incumbent.
The Vikings are still looking for their first win and they’ll chase it against the Panthers, who are also winless. Part of the reason Carolina is 0-3 is a run defense that has been awful. Five different players have already run for at least 45 yards against Carolina. One was Taysom Hill. Another was Zach Charbonnet, whose nine carries helped close out the game for Seattle in Week 3. Mattison will split touches with Akers in Week 4, but he should still have enough upside to be a flex option.
As someone who is heavily invested in Rhamondre Stevenson, I wasn’t too troubled when the Patriots signed Ezekiel Elliott last month. Through the first two weeks, nothing I saw from the New England offense changed my mind. In the grand scheme of things, Stevenson is still the lead back for Bill Belichick’s offense. But it’s time to acknowledge that Zeke is carving out a role. Elliott played less than 40 percent of the snaps in Week 3, but he handled 40 percent of the rushing attempts.
At first glance, a matchup against the Cowboys doesn’t feel like anything you’d want to mess around with. Especially with a running back who is playing second fiddle on his own roster. But Dallas has given up some yards on the ground this season. The Giants averaged nearly four yards per carry against the Cowboys in Week 1 but were game scripted out of running more. Then the Cardinals posted a gaudy 7.4 yards per attempt in Week 3. New England’s defense should keep the game close enough to allow the offense to run the ball. Zeke will see opportunities. And if that’s not enough for you, it’s a #revenge game for him. So, there’s that.
I was a touch more confident in this one before getting the news that Jimmy Garoppolo was in concussion protocol. Now Josh McDaniels must consider whether Brian Hoyer or Aidan O’Connell will start if Jimmy G. can’t go. O’Connell looked good during the preseason. He also wasn’t facing pass rushers the caliber of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.
Why, then, am I sticking with Meyers this week? Because the Raiders’ passing game is one of the most narrowly funneled in the league. More than 60 percent of the pass attempts have been directed at Meyers and Davante Adams. No one else on the roster has shown an ability to consistently earn targets. Which is a weird thing to say about a team that employs Hunter Renfrow. Nonetheless, I expect Las Vegas to be in a pass-heavy game script against the Chargers and Meyers should see plenty of work because of it. Start him as a strong WR2 candidate this week.
We were hoping for bigger things for Elijah Moore through the first three weeks. It’s been a struggle for the Browns’ passing game. Fantasy managers should usually focus on process over results, but Week 3’s results reignited the hope that Moore can be a viable fantasy receiver. Moore has had at least seven targets in every game. Last week, he and Deshaun Watson finally appeared to be on the same page. Moore’s nine targets turned into nine receptions. The next step is turning that into a decent chunk of yardage, as he was held to 49 last week.
The outlook is positive against a beat-up Baltimore secondary in Week 4. The Ravens were without Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Williams in Week 3. In turn, they gave up 20 catches for 177 yards to the Colts’ trio of Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs and Alec Pierce. With Cleveland’s passing game being heavily funneled through its two main receivers, there’s breakout potential for Moore. Consider starting him in formats that allow for three or more receivers.
One of the big questions coming from the Giants’ loss to San Francisco were the whereabouts of Jalin Hyatt and Wan’Dale Robinson. The two played 15 and 10 snaps, respectively. They were either targeted sparingly or not at all. In Robinson’s case, it seemed prudent in his first game back from an ACL tear. Hyatt and I having the same number of targets in Week 3 seems like a concern.
Nonetheless, Robinson is the Giant with the most upside. He was targeted five times on nine routes. That kind of rate is unsustainable. However, it shows New York’s desire to get the ball in his hands. Seattle ranks second to last in passing yards allowed. Hyatt is a WR4 with big-play potential. Robinson is a WR3 or flex option in deeper leagues.
Okonkwo was every fantasy analyst’s favorite sleeper tight end this offseason. Until the Titans added DeAndre Hopkins. Then we worried that there wouldn’t be enough targets to go around. That has mostly held true. Tennessee continues to be a run-heavy offense. They’ve been remarkably unproductive, as well. A date with a ferocious Bengals defense wouldn’t seem to be a great situation on paper.
The upside here is that because of a bad offensive line, Ryan Tannehill has had to prioritize short, quick throws. The Bengals wrecked the Rams’ offensive front last Monday, which led to Tyler Higbee having a decent fantasy week. Look for the same thing for Okonkwo this week. Add in that the Titans’ secondary could be in for a long day trying to cover the Bengals’ receivers, and Tannehill could be forced to the air to try to keep Tennessee within shouting distance. This could be the week Okonkwo lives up to his low-TE1 upside.
Coming into the season, I believed Gerald Everett could be a good mid-level tight end option for fantasy managers. It hasn’t worked out that way. Through three games, Everett isn’t’ seeing much work (11 total targets). He’s yet to sniff the end zone and has a whopping 21 PPR points. A big reason is that Donald Parham is taking food off Everett’s plate. Parham has seven targets and a higher average depth of target. More importantly, Parham has three end zone targets that he’s turned into three touchdowns.
So why should we believe in Everett this week? Recent history, for one. Last season, Everett scored at least 13 fantasy points in both meetings with Las Vegas. Even more recent history shows that Everett is the tight end doing most of the work in L.A.’s passing game. He has a higher route total and overall target share than Parham. And with Joshua Kelley struggling to fill the void left by Austin Ekeler as a pass-catcher, more of those short targets could go Everett’s way, although Ekeler did return to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. Everett has low-end TE1 vibes this week.
This is simple. If you’re streaming defenses, you want to target the worst offenses. Right now, there aren’t many offenses worse than that of the Jets. Over the past two weeks, Gang Green has compiled a grand total of 386 yards. Or roughly what the Dolphins did in the second half last week. Zach Wilson looks lost. The offensive line is a sieve. The running game is stuck in neutral -- or maybe even reverse. And for the foreseeable future, this is Robert Saleh’s life.
That makes New York a soft target for any fantasy managers shuffling through multiple defenses. Kansas City took advantage of another down-bad offensive unit by scoring 11 fantasy points versus the Bears in Week 3. They should have another measure of success this week against the Jets.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who still hasn't figured out the right ratios for his new coffee maker. Send him your kitchen appliance dilemmas or fantasy football questions on X @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.