Every Sunday, the combined SI.com and 4for4 Football team will answer a question about the day that is to unfold before our eyes. The question will change every week. Some weeks, it will be quite specific, and others it will be broader in nature. No matter what the question is, though, we’ll strive to give you a last few pieces of wisdom before you officially set your lineups for the week, kick up your feet, and enjoy the football. Let’s get to it.
We know progress is not necessarily linear, in the short or long term. Give us a player who has struggled to this point but will break out and be a productive lineup mainstay for the rest of the season.
Michael Beller: I know I’ve already written about David Njoku a few times this week, but I think he’s on the cusp of a special season. As I detailed in this week’s Target and Snap Report, Njoku’s skill set is a perfect fit with Baker Mayfield’s. The quarterback is going to take shots down the seam with Njoku, and the tight end is capable of making the most of them. With Josh Gordon gone, Njoku is the most dangerous pass-catcher in Cleveland, this side of Jarvis Landry. Antonio Callaway is going to make his fair share of splash plays down the field, but Njoku is likelier to be a consistent presence, with a more predictable, bankable target share. With Callaway occupying so much attention deep, and Landry a player that defenses have to scheme for, Njoku is going to have plenty of room to operate in the middle of the field. He hasn’t done much to this point of the season, but he has 16 targets and an 81.6% snap rate. He’s getting plenty of opportunity, and now has the right quarterback to take advantage of his athleticism and receiving ability. Njoku is about to explode.
T.J. Hernandez: Allen Robinson ranks 42nd in PPR scoring among wide receivers, but that number isn’t indicative of his usage. Robinson is one of 19 players that has seen at least seven targets in every game and he ranks in the top 20 in total targets, accounting for more than 27% of the Bears targets. Just as—if not more—important than his targets is the fact that A-Rob ranks in the top 15 in the league in total air yards, and the top five in share of team air yards. Deep passes are generally more efficient than shorter passes in terms of fantasy points, and Robinson is the best downfield target in Chicago.
One thing that Matt Nagy has done effectively is move Robinson around the field, giving him virtually equal snaps to the left and right sides of the formation, and in the slot. Using your best player to exploit matchups is a technique that will pay off for any player, Robinson included, especially when the Bears’ offense finds consistency. Recall that going into the season, Robinson ranked first in touchdown rate inside the red zone since entering the league. That touchdown upside could start to be recognized as soon as this week against a Tampa Bay defense that 4for4 ranks 29th against wide receivers.
Follow the volume and the points will come.
Stephen Andress: Sony Michel. Rex Burkhead is now on IR, leaving just Michel and James White in this Patriots backfield. It has not been pretty through three weeks, but Michel’s usage shows a lot of promise. He has touched the ball a whopping 26 times in his 36 snaps. Bill Belichick is going to give his first-round pick every opportunity to prove he can be this team’s primary running back. This backfield had 48 total touchdowns over the past two seasons, but has two scores through three weeks this season, and we know that the Patriots are going to generate the positive game scripts that typically play to the running game’s advantage. Michel has faced eight or more men in the box just 8.33% of the time, and that's not changing with Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon joining the offense. Positive regression is coming for the Patriots offense, and Michel's is poised to return at least RB2 numbers moving forward.
Jennifer Eakins: It’s been feast or famine at the tight end position, but I'm with Beller on this one: David Njoku is someone owners will be able to count on as we move through the season. Volume is desirable in a regular starter, and Njoku’s 16 targets have him ninth among tight ends, and second to Jarvis Landry in Cleveland. The Bronws' schedule from Week 7 through the fantasy playoffs is shaping up to be a juicy one for tight ends, as they only play one team that’s ranked in the top 10 in tight end aFPA. After the Browns’ bye in Week 11, Njoku gets the 30th-ranked Bengals' defense twice, including a Week 16 meeting, the fantasy championship in almost all leagues. Njoku also gets the Panthers in Week 14, the squad that’s currently dead-last in tight end aFPA. If Baker Mayfield and Njoku can develop game chemistry, the second-year tight end can easily crack the top 10 in PPR fantasy points at his position by season's end, up about 17 spots from where he currently resides.