All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA), which was updated for the first time this week to include 2017 data. Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
In Week 3, Sammy Watkins (concussion), Doug Baldwin (groin) and Melvin Gordon (knee) suffered injuries that may affect their availability for Week 4, while Darren Sproles (ACL, broken arm) and Matt Forte (toe) will be out. Injuries cause fantasy owners headaches, but they can also create opportunity. With that in mind, let’s dive into several Sneaky Starts for Week 4:
Trevor Siemian, Broncos (vs. Raiders)
Siemian had a rough outing in Buffalo in Week 3, but is primed to bounce back at home against the Raiders (No. 30 in quarterback aFPA). Siemian has thrown for an average of 225 yards and 3.0 touchdowns while adding another 16.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns in the running game at home this season. The Raiders have yielded five touchdowns to Kirk Cousins and Josh McCown over the past two weeks, and if the Oakland offense can get in gear, this game has sneaky shootout potential.
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Bilal Powell, Jets (vs. Jaguars)
Matt Forte is going to miss this game with a toe injury, so that should leave Powell as the lead back against the Jaguars. The Jaguars are 12th in running back aFPA, but have given up sizable yardage games to Alex Collins (82 yards), Derrick Henry (92 yards, touchdown), and Lamar Miller (65 yards) over the first three weeks. As the lead back in the final four games of last season, Powell averaged 23.7 PPR fantasy points, second only to Le’Veon Bell at his position in that span. When 4for4’s Joe Holka studied Powell for his Rushing Expectation series, he noted that Powell has “rare finishing ability,” “attacks defenses and runs with authority,” and described himself as “a fan of Powell’s talent.” Powell hasn’t run the ball as well this year, but Week 4 should be his chance to get into a rhythm.
Marqise Lee & Allen Hurns (at Jets)
Over the past two weeks, Lee has posted 11 catches for 141 yards on 19 targets. Hurns has checked in with 9 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets. Lee has the higher floor, especially in PPR formats, while Hurns is a serious threat to find the end zone in any given week. Despite a good showing against the Dolphins in Week 3, the Jets own the No. 30 wide receiver aFPA, so Lee and Hurns can be used with some confidence.
Ryan Griffin, Texans (vs. TEN)
With C.J. Fiedorowicz on injured reserve with a concussion, there’s some opportunity for a tight end to step up in the Houston passing game. Heading into Week 3, it looked like Stephen Anderson might be first in line for the extra playing time since he out-snapped Griffin 57 to 10 in the first game, but after both players missed Week 2 (concussions), Griffin out-snapped Anderson 61 to 31 against the Patriots. He capitalized on all those snaps, showing a nice rapport with Deshaun Watson en route to five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown on six targets. The matchup this week is good, too—the Titans yielded 10 catches for 125 yards and a score to Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson in Week 3, two weeks after surrendering 56 yards on five catches to Jared Cook.