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Mon Oct 5th 2020

2020 Week Four Review

COVID Strikes The NFL

We finally had to battle with COVID in week four of the season. It made for a stressful week for sure, but overall the NFL handled things well, and all but one game was played (as of Sunday night). It's frustrating to see COVID affect the game we love, but at least we had football this weekend.
It's early but headed into Monday Night Football; it looks like I'll finish this week 4-4 in my dynasty leagues. I could finish better if Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Travis Kelce go off tonight. As I say every week, win or lose; it's a joy to watch football all weekend. I have to keep that in mind for weeks like this.

After following all of the games this week, here are my thoughts on what we learned after week four and its impact on our dynasty teams.

Week Four Observations

COVID's Impact

  • COVID finally reared its ugly head on the NFL this week. The Tennessee/Pittsburg game was postponed, the Kansas City/New England game was moved to Monday (so far), and the first fantasy star, Cam Newton, contracted COVID. It could be a more challenging season that it appeared after three weeks, but the NFL seems committed to playing out the season. Commissioners finally need to enact the COVID rules they set in place before the season kicked off. In my leagues, at least everything has worked out. We were already naming COVID replacement players for Sunday and Monday night games. We just added this second Monday night game to the field. What happened this week is likely to happen again this season, but the season, I believe, will be played in its entirety. There will be increased randomness this year, which is disappointing if you're in high-stakes leagues, but at least we have football, and don't we need it?

Taking A Victory Lap

  • We're a quarter of the way through the dynasty season, making it safe for me to take a victory lap on a few players I had been touting all offseason. 
  • I pumped up Robby Anderson this offseason, believing that he landed on the perfect team with a head coach and offensive coordinator who could maximize his talent. Headed into this week, he was the seventh-highest scoring wide receiver and the WR-1 on Carolina, which he was again today, nearly doubling the targets and yardage of D.J. Moore. I did not expect him to pass Moore but fully expected him to surpass Curtis Samuel. He's exceeded them both.
  • I loved that Melvin Gordon landed in Denver and knew that he'd become their lead back over Lindsay. Granted, Lindsay was injured, so I could be proven wrong later this season, but for now, I've been proven right in saying that Gordon has not lost a step and is still capable of being an every-week starter. He had an incredible game this Thursday and proved that he was worth the first-round pick I traded to get him last week.
  • Jonnu Smith is the second-ranked tight end after week three. While COVID prevented him from adding to his season totals this week, he's still proven to be a top-tier tight end in dynasty. He's been touchdown reliant but has had seven, five, and eight targets in his first three games. I doubt he will finish the season as high as number 2, but he will finish in the top twelve and prove to be a tight end to start every week.
  • On the negative side, this offseason, I said that I did not believe in Kenyan Drake. He's never been a bell-cow back and never will be. I've suggested that Chase Edmonds is a valuable back-up who could be better than Drake. As a back-up, Edmonds has scored only four fewer points than Drake this year, after scoring another touchdown this week. Drake had a fantasy super-bowl-winning end to last season, but that's the best stretch he will ever play. 

Old Takes Exposed

  • We're a quarter of the way through the dynasty season, making it safe for me to admit mistakes on players I touted all offseason. 
  • I believed that Jordan Howard would be the lead running back in Miami, but he's turned into a short-yardage specialist, much to my surprise. I could have seen a path to Howard losing that role to Matt Breida, but never would have thought Myles Gaskins would become the lead back in Miami. I traded for Howard in two leagues this offseason and have not started him since week one. I don't imagine starting him at all this season, and perhaps never again.
  • I pumped up Jack Doyle all offseason, believing he would become Philip Rivers' favorite target. Mo Alie-Cox, however, has completely outplayed Doyle, even this week, when both of them were healthy. Cox was targeted twice in the red zone this week, and this has become commonplace. I was right on the Colts and Rivers targeting tight ends in the red-zone. I was just wrong on which tight end it would be.
  • I bought the hype on Chris Herndon too, believing he could live up to his outstanding play his rookie year after missing all of his second year due to injury. Instead, he has become a blocking tight end on an anemic offense. He's not even been a part of the passing attack while the entire wide receiver corps in New York is injured. If he couldn't prove himself under these circumstances, he can't under any circumstances.
  • Like Herndon, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has had every opportunity to prove himself while other wide receivers were injured, but he has done nothing with it. I gave him a pass last year when the same thing happened, giving him an excuse for being a rookie. This year, however, he's lost every benefit of the doubt. I called him a bounce-back second-year player, but now I deem him a droppable dynasty player.

Bounce-Back Superstars

  • Joe Mixon and D.J. Chark have been relatively silenced this year, but both superstars broke out this week. Mixon went utterly nuts, scoring three touchdowns and 181 total yards. Mixon's tipping point, based on the end of last year, is 20 carries. For the first time this season, he got more than 20 carries, gaining 151 yards rushing on 25 carries. Hopefully, Zac Taylor will realize that this is what he needs to do to win games. Similarly, D.J. Chark finally received more than four targets this game, and he turned his nine targets into eight receptions, 95 yards, and two touchdowns. Both of these players need to be fed for these bad teams to compete. While on bad teams, both Mixon and Chark can be fantasy superstars this season if only they get fed.

Over The Hill

  • A.J. Green and T.Y. Hilton are 32 and 30 years old, respectively. Usually, stud receivers can play well into their mid-thirties, but I believe these players may be over the hill. Green has been replaced by young stars like Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Hilton has not been replaced by the likes of Parris Campbell, who was lost for the season, or Michael Pittman, who has not played to well so far, but he's just not been able to get open and make a difference on the Colt's offense. I'm afraid to say that I believe Green and Hilton are no longer every-week starters and are unstartable and untradeable in dynasty leagues. Hopefully, you sold them before the season started.

Week Four Injuries

Nick Chubb

  • Chubb appeared to injure his knee in the first quarter. The way he walked off the field made me believe he will be okay, but he did miss the rest of the game. Cleveland has the best back-up running back in the league, Kareem Hunt. He was already an every-week starter in PPR leagues. I have been starting Chubb and Hunt every week in a league where I am thin at running back. Hunt's value for this year will rise tremendously if Chubb is lost for long. Both players maintain their dynasty value, even if Chubb was lost for the season. They are two of the best running backs in the NFL on a run-first team. D'Ernest Johnson will be worth a waiver wire pick up if Chubb misses a lot of time. He had more carries than Hunt after Chubb headed to the locker room.

Austin Ekeler

  • Ekeler was carted off the field early on Sunday. It's likely a serious injury if they needed to bring out the cart. Joshua Kelley's dynasty value was already on the rise as he received significant play-time from the season's first game. If Ekeler's injury is substantial, Kelley will have the RB-1 role on lockdown this season and could steal the job away from Ekeler next year. If I were a competitive team in need of running back, I would consider giving up a 2021 first-round pick for Kelley if Ekeler is lost for the season. Justin Jackson played for the first time this week, and he will share touches with Kelley, but Kelley is far ahead of Jackson already. Jackson's dynasty value does not move much, even if Ekeler is lost for the season.

O.J. Howard

  • The Buccaneers fear that Howard tore his Achilles and will be lost for the season. He was finally starting to show some promise this season too, after being a bust his first few years, scoring another touchdown Sunday. Gronkowski does not look like his old self, so I do not see him capitalizing on Howard's absence. Instead, I believe Cameron Brate will become the most targeted tight end in Tampa Bay for the rest of the season. Brate's dynasty value won't jump up, but he should be a top waiver wire addition this week.

Week Four Waiver Wire

As a reminder, I play in 27 to 30-man roster leagues (true dynasty leagues), so the players I list here are for deep leagues only. If you play in shallower leagues, there are certainly better players than these to pick up off the waiver wire. That said, for those of you in true dynasty leagues, here is who I would be looking to pick up this week. I list them in the order that I would prioritize them.

It's another very thin week on the waiver wire.

Cameron Brate

  • With Howard out for the season, I fully expect Brate to get more looks than Gronkowski. Brate is not a long-term dynasty addition, but he could become a streamable tight end this season for teams that don't own one of the every-week starters. Brady loves his tight ends, and Brate is a smart player who will connect well with Brady.

D'Ernest Johnson

  • I will only aim to pick up Johnson if Chubb's injury looks severe enough for him to miss the season. He could help this year if that's the case, but he does not hold much dynasty value beyond this year if Chubb is injured.

Chargers Wide Receivers

  • While Mike Williams was out with an injury, Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson each caught touchdown passes, but they were the only targets they received during the game while Keenan Allen was targeted 12 times. I only bring these players up here to say that I will not try to pick up either of them even though their fantasy points make them appear viable targets on the waiver wire.

Week Four Trades

Trades are hard to grade in a vacuum since scoring systems are different in each league, and every team has a diverse roster construction. That's why I write about trades made in my leagues and give context for why the dynasty owners made the trades. I grade the trade, but in the context of what each team was attempting to accomplish with the trade.

That said, here are my thoughts on trades that were made in my leagues this week. I hope these trades give you an idea of how other active owners value these players and future picks.

Tee Higgins, Cole Kmet, and a 2021 4th round pick <-----> Evan Engram and a 2021 3rd round pick

  • This trade took place in my 12-team, superflex, weighted PPR league. This weighted PPR league awards 1.75 PPR for tight ends, which is why Engram is so valuable. Still, I like the Higgins side of this trade. He had the most snaps among Cincinnati wide receivers last week and is already a tremendous red-zone target in his rookie year. The sky is the limit for Higgins, while Engram is injured too often. I was not high on Kmet in rookie drafts this year, but he's a great prospect to hold - a bonus in this trade that I would make Higgins over Engram, even in a tight end premium league.

Cam Newton and a 2021 3rd round pick <-----> Hunter Henry and a 2021 1st round pick

  • This trade took place in my 12-team, superflex, weighted PPR league. The team that gave up Newton in this super-flex league is 100% rebuilding. They made a significant move in getting a top-tier tight end in this tight end premium league alongside a first-round pick to rebuild. The team that acquired Newton rostered several middle-tier quarterbacks and was looking to pay up for a top-tier quarterback. Cam's COVID news is a wet blanket on this trade, but I understand what each team was aiming to do. Given the team constructs, I like the Henry and a first-round pick side of this trade.

James Conner <-----> 2021 1st round pick

  • This trade took place in my 12-team, superflex, weighted PPR league. The team that acquired Conner looks to be rebuilding. The team that acquired Conner is trying to get another piece to help him contend, and he had two first-round draft picks, so he felt freer to give one away. This trade is an even trade for me, but I wanted to write about it to show how active dynasty owners value Conner. He's currently worth a first-round pick. If sometime this season or offseason, he re-signs with Pittsburg, he's worth way more than a first-round pick. He may or may not do so. That's the gamble on which these two owners were betting.

Calvin Ridley <-----> Steven Sims and two 2021 1st round picks

  • This trade took place in my 12-team, half PPR, hyperactive league. The team that traded for Ridley is the reigning champion though he never had more than one or two reliable starting wide receivers. He finally paid up to purchase one from an owner that loves draft picks and has a team with many young up-and-coming wide receivers. Last week I wrote about how I finally moved Ridley above Julio Jones in my dynasty rankings. This trade proves that others feel the same about Ridley. I traded two first-round picks for Alvin Kamara in this league last year. Now Ridley is going for the same price. Last week, the new Ridley owner traded Miles Sanders for James Robinson, and the same two first-round picks he traded this week. So he lost Sanders but ended up with Robinson and Ridley. I think that's good work for him.

Brian Hill <-----> Sony Michel

  • This trade took place in my 10-team standard scoring league. The team that moved Michel had been trying to trade him all season long. He finally found a buyer after his first decent game. I do believe Sony is not the future lead running back in New England (as if they ever have one), but I also don't think Hill is the future lead back in Atlanta. The team that acquired Hill has Todd Gurley, so he thought Michel was the price of a handcuff to shore up the Atlanta backfield. I value Michel above Hill in a vacuum, but if I owned Gurley, I think I would make this trade.

Sam Darnold and Robert Woods <-----> Jimmy Garoppolo and DeVante Parker

  • This trade took place in my 14-team, superflex, tight end premium, all-flex league. It took place shortly after Darnold's horrible performance last Sunday (before the Thursday night game). The owner was fed up with starting Darnold as his second quarterback in this league and wanted to find another quarterback in a trade. It's a pretty even trade. I currently have Darnold ranked two spots behind Garoppolo and Woods ranked eight spots ahead of Parker, so each team took a downgrade at one position and an upgrade at one position. I slightly favor the Garoppolo and Parker side of this trade because it's not within the realm of possibility that the Jets are the worst team in the league and in position to draft a top rookie quarterback next year.

Carson Wentz, D.J. Chark, A.J. Dillon and a 2021 1st round pick <-----> Drew Lock, Mike Evans, David Johnson, and a 2021 2nd round pick

  • This big trade was made in my 10-team standard scoring league. Both teams were looking for a change. The team that acquired the Wentz side is a perpetual contender and Super Bowl winner, but his team is growing older. He aimed to get younger at wide receiver moving from Evans to Chark and wanted to buy low on Wentz after his disastrous start to this season. The team that traded Wentz has Russell Wilson, so he was easy to trade away in this one-quarterback league. I believe Aaron Jones will play well enough to get re-signed in Green Bay, which makes the A.J. Dillon side of this trade less desirable, but I like that he was able to add a first-round pick for what he gave away.

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