Sunday, Feb 2nd — Early
Bye Week:
49ers
Bears
Bengals
Bills
Broncos
Browns
Buccaneers
Cardinals
Chargers
Chiefs
Colts
Cowboys
Dolphins
Eagles
Falcons
Giants
Jaguars
Jets
Lions
Packers
Panthers
Patriots
Raiders
Rams
Ravens
Redskins
Saints
Seahawks
Steelers
Texans
Titans
Vikings

Week 4 Player Grid

______________

This Player Grid will hold little value for you without first reading this.

Note: Players in a given tier are not listed in any particular order.

FantasyDraft Players :: I’ve added a FantasyDraft Addendum to the bottom

______________

TIER 1

Quarterback

The quarterback position has been pretty straightforward early in the year, and this week is no different, with a few guys who really stand out to me as “favorite plays,” and with a few guys in Tier 3 who could easily replace any of these guys. (As always — and as you are fully aware if you have read the important link at the top of this page — this is my personal player pool, and is NOT a list of “all the best plays on the slate.” This is especially worth noting here, as I try to narrow things down for myself to the sharpest possible point, for building a limited number of optimized rosters. So, again: this is my list. And this week, you could easily replace any of my Tier 1 guys with the guys in Tier 3 and feel just as good. There isn’t a ton separating the top handful of guys this week.)

  • Andy Dalton :: While it’s fair to have fears about “Dalton regressing to his norm,” this is a more powerful offense than this team has had in a while. Bill Lazor is a really good play-caller and play designer, and Dalton has a healthy Eifert for the first time in a couple years, to go with a bonafide number two weapon in Boyd, with a running back (Gio) who sets up perfectly in this matchup and will also elevate Dalton’s box score. Lots to like here in what should be one of the higher-scoring games on the slate.
  • Drew Brees :: Brees draws a great matchup vs a Giants team that can be attacked both short and deep, and that should be able to keep up on the scoreboard with the weapons they have on offense. The Saints should remain a pass-heavy offense for at least one more week, giving Brees a clear shot at a top score on the slate.
  • Philip Rivers :: The 49ers are a pass funnel, and Ken Wisenhunt is a smart enough coach to go with what is working — which should lead to solid volume from Rivers even if the Chargers blow San Francisco out of the building. His ceiling may be slightly capped by blowout concerns, but it’s going to be difficult for him to fail in this spot, and there is absolutely still ceiling to be had.
  • Baker Mayfield :: Mayfield sits funny on the Tier 1 list, and should really be moved down to Tier 3 — especially as I won’t actually be playing him in any high-dollar stuff or on any cash game teams. But if the quarterback position set up differently, in terms of pricing or available areas to like, I would feel completely comfortable playing Mayfield in high-dollar or single-entry or cash game play, so I’m keeping him up here. This guy is going to have some big games this year, and I like this as a strong spot for him to get started on his path to what I think is going to be a really great career.

Running Back

This is the smallest Tier 1 pool we’ve had so far, but no matter how much I have tried to find other guys I like as true Tier 1 plays, I haven’t been able to get settled with anything beyond these two. There are plenty of strong plays on the slate; but these two are simply in a different class for me this week, from a floor/ceiling perspective.

  • Giovani Bernard :: I actually have Gio’s floor/ceiling range pegged as high as (and in some cases, higher than) any running back on the slate outside of Kamara. In other words: if all these running backs were priced the same, Gio would still be my second-favorite back on the weekend. That’s not to say he is “a lock to outscore all those guys.” But if we played out this slate a hundred times, Gio would come out as the second-best play on the weekend, behind only Kamara. The fact that he is underpriced is a big, added bonus. This game sets up magnificently for him.
  • Alvin Kamara :: I mean…what’s left to say? He has been held below 20 touches twice in two games so far…and he has still done enough this year to be the highest-priced player on the slate. We can never guarantee that we’ll get more than 20 touches from this guy, but given his talent and the way these touches shape up, he retains the highest floor/ceiling combo on the slate this weekend. As always, there is a strategy case in tourneys for fading a guy who is so high-priced and is seeing a sub-optimal number of guaranteed touches, as it wouldn’t be shocking if Kamara ends up at 15 FanDuel points and 20 DraftKings points (still a great game — but you could get a higher score, for less money, elsewhere). But since I like a lot at running back this week, but don’t love anything outside of these two guys, I’m comfortable betting on the upside of Kamara and hoping this turns into yet another weekend in which he hits.

Wide Receiver

We have a much larger list at wide receiver, and there are some Tier 2 and Tier 3 guys you could argue for on this list as well. In cash games and smaller-field stuff, I’ll be playing the guys I feel best about. But since there are really a lot of good wide receiver plays this week, without a ton separating some of them from the others, I’ll also probably build some extra tourney teams this week that mix and match some of the guys who are not on the Tier 1 list — hoping to take advantage of the elevated variance inherent at this position.

  • Tyler Boyd :: He was the first read on the first play of the game last week for the Bengals. That tells you a lot about the way they are viewing him, as they literally went into the game with a plan to get the ball to him on the first play of the game. Boyd should be priced at about $6k on DraftKings, $12k on FantasyDraft, and $6.5k on FanDuel. We’re still getting really good savings on this guy given his role — and his 82% slot rate sets up perfectly in this matchup vs an Atlanta defense that is far more attackable over the middle of the field.
  • Jarvis Landry :: He has 15 targets in two of three games this year, and the only reason there is not more hype over his role is because Tyrod Taylor did a poor job getting good passes into his hands. Mayfield should be a clear upgrade for Landry, and if he sees 15 targets again, something like a 10-130-1 line would not be unsurprising. He has an aDOT of 11.0, so even 10 “catch and fall” receptions would put him in the range of about 110 yards, and we know what Landry can do with the ball in his hands. This is a quietly great spot.
  • Mike Williams :: “San Francisco has a bad pass defense.” Incredibly, that’s the extent of the thinking most of our competition continues to do when breaking down games. But taking things a step further: San Francisco has been atrocious on the outside “away from Richard Sherman”; and with Richard Sherman out, this sets them up to be atrocious down both sidelines. San Fran is also slightly above-average at defending the short middle of the field — and while they don’t quite have the personnel to do it, this is the area they focus on trying to take away. San Fran has also allowed eight passing touchdowns this year. Add it all up, and a guy like Mike Williams — with a perimeter and end zone role in this offense — is the best way for the Chargers to attack. Expect six to nine high-value targets in this spot.
  • Sterling Shepard :: I was hoping he would go overlooked, but unfortunately, we weren’t so fortunate. Still: shootout environment; injuries on the Giants; Beckham matched up on Lattimore; everything sets up perfectly for Shepard to push for double-digit targets, and he has huge upside on those looks. There are very few ways for Shepard to fail this week. This is not “industry hype” chalk (as in: he’s not chalky because “some people started talking about him, and others hopped on board, and all of a sudden everyone thinks he’s a must-play”). I’ll be significantly overexposed to Shepard this week compared to the field — even assuming the field’s ownership is high.
  • Odell Beckham :: Let’s not be too concerned with what OBJ has to deal with in Lattimore. Heck, he beat up the Jags in Week 1. Lattimore is very good, but he’s better at covering big receivers downfield (i.e., Julio Jones last week) than he is at taking away the short slants that Beckham makes us money on. You can confidently line up OBJ this week as a high-floor, high-ceiling play; and he and Shepard can be comfortably played together, in a likely shootout, with very little for Eli to throw to outside these two.
  • Michael Thomas :: Thomas has the same aDOT as Randall Cobb, which just makes it scary to pay this much. He also has a legitimately impossible catch rate. In other words: there are a lot of “regression indicators” out there; but in the vacuum of a single week — not worrying about things like “regression” — he’s still a fantastic play. I’m not certain he’s the top raw wide receiver play, so the price tag is tough for me. I’m not “moving around salary to fit him,” but if the salary works, I’ll be thrilled to have him. You can’t really find a higher floor than this right now.
  • Mike Evans :: Wow! Talk about a guy going overlooked. Adam and I didn’t even bring up Evans on the Square Table last night. “The Bears have a good defense” seems to be what people are getting hung up on; but they have been mediocre, at best, vs wide receivers, and they are going to be without Prince Amukamara this week, who has had a great start to the year. Evans is going to be peppered with nine or more downfield targets. And sure, the Bears might rack up some sacks, and might force a turnover or two, but that doesn’t prevent Evans from having a big game. He’s an honest-to-goodness Tier 1 play — and from a floor/ceiling perspective, I legitimately have him ranked higher than any of the Tier 3 guys.

Tight End

  • Rob Gronkowski :: This is a spot for Gronkowski to get rolling. Too many things line up for him to NOT see his customary eight or nine targets this week, and it seems likely he adds a touchdown in this spot to whatever yardage he is able to rack up. If you can fit him without weakening your roster in other spots, it makes a ton of sense to get up to Gronk this week.
  • Zach Ertz :: I have Gronk above Ertz, but I still wanted to put Ertz into the Tier 1 plays, as these two are head and shoulders above the other options. With Wentz back, Ertz is locked into so many targets and so much upside. I’ll be looking to Gronk first on “main team” stuff, but both guys work; and Ertz will be on my radar on secondary teams, for sure.

DST

  • Seahawks :: By the numbers, the Seahawks don’t really belong in Tier 1, and should instead be down with the rest of the defenses in Tier 3 — primarily because they are playing on the road. But the Cardinals’ offense has fed points to DSTs this year, and while Josh Rosen is an upgrade on Bradford from a talent perspective, he’s still a raw rookie in his first start, with a bad offense, a bad offensive line, and limited weapons. The Seahawks should be able to get four or five sacks and at least one turnover, with upside for big plays from there. I don’t know if salary will work just right for me to have them this week, but I keep coming back to them as a favorite option.
  • Jaguars :: The Jags are always in Tier 1, honestly. The fact that they are playing a turnover-prone rookie, at home, only strengthens their case. If the salary works without sacrificing elsewhere, you can lock in points with the Jags this week.

TIER 2

Running Back

  • Lamar Miller :: Always so unsexy; but the Colts have taken away downfield routes this year, and this has led to them facing the second-most RB receptions in the league, behind only the Falcons. Miller would need a lot of things to go right in order to hit for big upside, but his floor makes him a strong piece this week, and there is reasonable ceiling here.
  • Austin Ekeler — DraftKings :: A bit of guesswork here, in calling Ekeler a “cash game play,” but at his salary, in PPR scoring, I honestly would not argue against going here. Ekeler’s role is very secure, with the Chargers proactively scheming him the ball and looking for ways to get Gordon and Ekeler onto the field together. If the 49ers successfully clog up the middle and hold Keenan Allen to something like 8-70-0, Gordon and Ekeler will get some extra pass game work underneath while Williams/Williams/Benjamin attack deep. Ekeler is a surprisingly intriguing play this week.

Wide Receiver

  • T.Y. Hilton :: The low aDOT is an obvious concern for “upside,” but the floor is awesome with all the targets Hilton is guaranteed, and “Hilton with the ball in his hands on the turf in Indy” still carries plenty of room for upside. Hilton is going overlooked this week for how secure his role-driven floor is, and for how much upside he still has the ability to post. Another guy we failed to bring up on the Square Table who is a much better play than most will give it credit for.
  • Taylor Gabriel (and Allen Robinson) :: On the Square Table, I likened “playing Gabriel in cash” to “high-stepping on the way to the end zone”: there is a slim chance you end up like Leon Lett and don’t score at all; the (overwhelming) likeliest scenario is that you look like a bit of an idiot, but who cares, because it’ll get the job done; and there is also a slim chance you end up looking like Deion Sanders with a flashy 25-yard-high-step that gets played on highlight reels for years to come. Value is strong enough this week that I don’t see the need to “high-step” in cash. But I’ll be high-stepping with Gabriel on some tourney rosters this week. On the same team: Robinson is clearly a high-floor, high-ceiling play on paper, with quarterback concerns being the only drawback. Outside of recency bias: there are plenty of reasons to like Robinson this week, and I may yet pull the trigger on him on my main team once again (may God have mercy on me).

Tight End

  • Jimmy Graham :: Talented, role-secure tight end taking on a defense that filters passes to the middle of the field. Plenty to like here.
  • Tyler Eifert // Eric Ebron :: Eifert is a talented, role-secure tight end in a good matchup against Atlanta. There is fear about overloading a roster with Bengals players, but you could make a strong case that Gio, Boyd, and Eifert can all hit together. Ebron is athletically talented and his role is secure…but he’s bad at football, which hurts. Expect another seven to nine targets, which theoretically provides big floor and ceiling. For the price on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, he makes so much sense, and he won’t “fail.” But he still feels illogically scary for a guy we know will get a ton of work.

TIER 3

Quarterback

  • Matt Ryan :: Okay, so…I guess it’s really only Matt Ryan who could also belong on the Tier 1 list — and I toyed around with the idea of just putting him up there; but he’s not a main piece for me this week, so I don’t want to imply otherwise with Tier 1 placement. Still: the fact that this whole writeup is about how Ryan “really should be in Tier 1” tells you everything you need to know. The game environment sets up well for another strong game. The good times will eventually end here, and the red zone woes will return, which is — I guess — the main thing keeping him off Tier 1 for me. But, again: you could easily put him up there and feel great about what you are getting..
  • Deshaun Watson :: I think the Colts’ defense will do well here (more on this in a moment), in terms of sacks and forced turnovers; but I also think Watson will post a strong box score, as this guy has great weapons and he attacks relentlessly. His tourney upside remains enormous.
  • Russell Wilson :: Baldwin is not 100%, and this offensive line is awful, and this offense is poorly designed, and…the list goes on, but you know the deal by now. Still, Russ always carries week-winning upside. I’ll have some tourney exposure to him this week.

Running Back

  • Melvin Gordon :: He’s the clearest candidate for Tier 1, and there are some roster builds I’m toying around with that would have him on my main team. But he still needs touchdowns in order to truly hit — and while he has the red zone role locked in, his price has climbed to a point where the floor is a little lower this week than I want to take on. I like Gordon a ton this week; I just don’t quite love him.
  • Saquon Barkley :: An argument could be made that Saquon is the better play than Gordon, with the strongest counterargument being that we still, honestly, know so little about this Giants offense. Will Pat Shurmur abandon the run against the pass-funnel Saints? — which could lead to double-digit targets for Saquon. Or will he instead do what he did last week against the pass-funnel Texans, and slam Saquon into brick walls 20 times? — which would lessen his chances of hitting. This is truly the big question here, and we are guessing on the answer. Saquon is my number four running back this week, so I like him a lot; but the questions keep him shy of Tier 1 for me.
  • Leonard Fournette :: Now being called a “game-time decision” again, with Yeldon healthy. Plenty of question marks; but if he does see his 24 to 27 touches, he’ll have a chance to smash.
  • Ezekiel Elliott :: The matchup is great, and Zeke can get you 150 rushing yards and multiple touchdowns. The upside here is tremendous; but this offense is so bad right now that the floor on Zeke is too low for him to be a solid Tier 1 play.
  • David Johnson :: All upside, no floor. But boy — that upside is there at the price. One of these weeks, DJ is going to hit.

Wide Receiver

  • Doug Baldwin :: This guy tore his MCL a couple weeks ago, and was already dealing with issues in his other knee — and it seems the Seahawks are rushing him back before he is fully healthy because they need someone with NFL-level talent on the field. But if we’re wrong on this — if he actually plays most of the snaps, and is actually healthy — he has awesome upside. Worth a shot in tourneys.
  • All the rest: Elite :: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller all have week-winning upside; but all of them have a lower floor than the Tier 1 guys, which keeps them down here for me. To put that another way: same upside on these four as the guys listed in Tier 1; but a “bad game” from the Tier 1 guys would outscore a “bad game” from these, which makes these guys more tourney plays for me, while the others are fine for cash games and tourneys.
  • All the rest: Upside :: Geronimo Allison might genuinely belong in Tier 1; and if Randall Cobb misses, I think I’ll bump him up there for myself; also, Antonio Callaway has the toughest matchup on the Browns, running his routes on the outside, but he has big upside with Mayfield likely to attack with him, and with Callaway carrying explosive talent; Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson will continue to be fed high-value targets, though their chances of a dud are far too high to be considered “safe”; Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor will see plenty of targets, and each has a ton of talent; the only concern is whether or not Mariota can make those targets valuable; Ted Ginn should see another six or seven targets, with a few of them coming deep against a Giants defense that is most susceptible deep; and Christian Kirk has lots of question marks with a rookie at QB and a difficult matchup on the outside, but Rosen clearly likes to throw to him, and this guy is talented. By next year, the Rosen-to-Kirk connection will cost a lot more than it does now, and it could become a legitimate money-maker. Kirk is at least worth betting on this week with a lower-dollar tourney team or two.

Tight End

  • David Njoku :: Njoku has monster, talent-driven upside, and if Mayfield gets this offense in gear this week, Njoku could explode. (I also like Austin Hooper on DraftKings as a salary-saver with upside in a possible shootout — but I mention him less because I like him in a vacuum, and more because I like some of the things the little bit of extra savings enable me to do. I’ll have him on some teams as well.)

DST

  • All the rest :: The Chargers are in a good rebound spot this week vs C.J. Beathard. The Packers are in a good spot at home against Josh Allen. The Cowboys are a home defense with a good pass rush and a good coverage scheme, against a pass-happy Lions offense. The Bears should be able to rack up another four or five sacks and a turnover or two vs the downfield passing attack of the Bucs. The Colts should be able to rack up three or four sacks and a turnover or two against the downfield passing attack of the Texans. The Jets have had one of the best pass defenses in the NFL this year, and they are playing Blake Bortles; no one will be on them, and they stood out to me when I read the NFL Edge on Thursday as an upside DST play to consider in large-field tourneys.

 

Hopefully this gives you a great opportunity to compare your thoughts against my own.

I’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards this weekend; and I’ll see you on the site next Thursday morning for the Week 4 edition of the NFL Edge!

______________

FantasyDraft Players:

If playing the Full-Sunday slate on FantasyDraft:

The matchup is still a little scary on the Steelers players, against the Ravens, so I’m not necessarily moving things around to make sure I have those guys in small-field and single-entry stuff; but realistically, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger all slide into Tier 1 this week, right alongside the guys listed above.

James Conner is a little tougher for me, as his usage has become more sporadic, and — as noted in the NFL Edge — we may find that this is simply a pass-heavy team at the moment. I’ll call him a Tier 3 play, as he has Tier 1 upside, with lower-than-Tier-1 floor.

Vance McDonald is playable — but he’s below the Eifert/Ebron/Graham guys in terms of usage certainty, which makes him more tourney-play than cash play. He obviously has as much upside as any tight end on the slate.

On the Ravens, I like the offense, but not more than the stuff earlier in the day. As such, John Brown is the only guy I would strongly consider. He’s a Tier 3 play for me, with obvious Tier 1 upside.