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 great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). 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. And now that we have three weeks under our proverbial belts, our aFPA has been updated with 2018 data.
Last week, I discussed Ryan Fizpatrick, Jared Goff, Ryan Tannehill, Isaiah Crowell, Giovani Bernard, James White, Matt Breida, Will Fuller, Chris Godwin, John Brown and Tyler Boyd in this space. Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 4.
Case Keenum, Broncos (vs. Chiefs)
Keenum opened the season with 329 yards and three touchdowns against the Seahawks before a poor outing against the Raiders, which he saved with a rushing touchdown, and another bad game against the Ravens. He should bounce back against a Chiefs defense that ranks last in the league in quarterback aFPA and has yielded 8.0 yards per attempt and eight passing touchdowns through three weeks.
Eli Manning, Giants (vs. Saints)
After a poor Week 1 against a very good Jacksonville defense, Manning posted a reasonable 279 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys in Week 2, and 297 yards and two scores against the Texans last week. The Saints come to town this week, and Eli and the Giants’ passing attack should be salivating. New Orleans gave up 374 yards and five touchdowns to Matt Ryan last week after yielding 417 yards and four scores to Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1.
Sony Michel and James White, Patriots (vs. Dolphins)
The Patriots put Rex Burkhead (neck) on IR, so he’s out for a while, maybe for the entire season. This likely turns into a thunder-and-lightning committee with Michel and White. Michel should see the vast majority of carries while White will continue to play a big role as a receiver. The Dolphins are 24th in running back aFPA, so New England should be able to get its running game going in Week 4.
Sterling Shepard, Giants (vs. Saints)
Shepard is coming off of his first big game of the season (six catches, 80 yards, one touchdown on seven targets against the Texans), has a great matchup with the Saints (No. 32 in WR aFPA) and should benefit from the absence of Evan Engram. In 23 career games where Shepard has seen at least five targets, he has averaged 5.3 catches for 59 yards and 0.39 touchdowns on of 8.0 targets per game. I think this is his floor for Week 4, given the matchup and Engram’s absence.
Courtland Sutton, Broncos (vs. Chiefs)
The rookie only has six catches for 89 yards on the season, but according to Josh Hermsmeyer’s site, he leads the team in total air yards. Air yards indicate intent and the Broncos are trying to get him the ball down the field. Eventually, those air yards are going to turn into receptions and he’s going to have a big game. This week’s matchup with the Chiefs (No. 24 in WR aFPA) looks like it could be the one.
David Njoku, Browns (at Raiders)
The Baker Mayfield Era should be good for Njoku. He was only targeted twice by Mayfield in his debut, but caught both for 36 yards. Mayfield is going to attempt and should complete more passes than Tyrod Taylor, so the whole passing attack should be better. And let’s not forget that the Josh Gordon trade didn’t only benefit Antonio Callaway. Njoku should benefit as well.