Week 4 Fantasy Football Recap: COVID-19, Rookies, and Injuries
Heading into Week 4 of the 2020 season, the NFL had its first major in-season COVID-19 outbreak and several lingering injuries from Week 3 and Week 4 practices causing fantasy football owners to bite their nails while setting their lineups at the final moments. The storylines were aplenty and rookie wide receivers tattooed the highlights. Today, we break down the most important ones in the Week 4 recap.
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Week 4 Fantasy Football Recap
It was a matter of time but COVID-19 finally hit the NFL and fantasy football owners in a big way in Week 4. Positive tests out of the Tennessee Titans locker room triggered tests for their Week 3 opponents — the Minnesota Vikings. After straight negatives from the Vikings, they were cleared to play in Houston but Sunday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans was the first to be reschedule. As a consequence, the Steelers and Titans both treated Week 4 as a bye, for fantasy football purposes, and will instead play during Week 7. Scheduling for Weeks 7 and 8 has now been affected.
On Saturday, it was reported that New England Patriots starting QB Cam Newton and Kansas City Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta’amu tested positive for COVID-19, pushing the highly-anticipated matchup back and creating havoc in the fantasy football scope for both the teams. After the remainder of Patriots tested straight-negatives multiple times, the game was eventually set as one of, now, two Monday Night Football matchups, avoiding a possible Week 4 bye for both teams.
Tests given to the Chiefs this morning came back negative this afternoon, per source.
Pats-Chiefs now scheduled for Monday night, 7:05 pm ET.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 4, 2020
The COVID-19 situation and the NFL’s procedures to handle positive tests is noteworthy going forward for fantasy football leagues. Owners should keep an eye on the news but not expect to always know immediately when the rescheduled gametime is, a testament to focusing on depth at each position to ensure you aren’t constantly relying on free agent scrubs as emergencies during the pandemic. Perhaps owners can also take into account the dangers of owning multiple players on the same team.
Beaten-up Booms & Busts
The regularly scheduled Monday Night Football matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers will be a nail-biting fantasy football lineup headliner, with Davante Adams and Julio Jones still being game-time decisions after missing Week 3 due to hamstring injuries. There were also several dealing with injuries headed into Week 4 that ended up playing on Sunday; we take a look at how they fared on the field.
- After missing 2 games with a hamstring injury, Jamison Crowder repeated his Week 1 reception performance with 7 catches. He hit the 100-yard mark as well and put up a solid fantasy game without even scoring a touchdown. Crowder is clearly the go-to man for Sam Darnold, who has targeted the Duke product a double-digit number of times in both healthy games.
- A running back from the Seattle Seahawks was inactive for their Week 4 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. It was the guy many pounced the waiver wire for, Carlos Hyde. Instead, Chris Carson, who was limited in practice due to a Week 3 knee sprain, got the nod for Seattle and showed up big-time. Despite missing a small part of the game due to a concussion scare, Carson finished the game with 16 carries, 3 receptions, and 100 scrimmage yards. He also tossed in his first two rushing touchdowns of the season for a total of 25 PPR points. While many thought Carson was in line to miss multiple weeks, he bounced back quickly to take advantage of the Dolphins matchup that entered the week as the 9th worst fantasy defense against running backs. Carson’s 5.0 yards per carry was his best of the young season.
- After DeAndre Hopkins completely missed out on practice due to a Week 3 ankle injury, he suited up anyway after a cheeky Twitter tease. The NFL leader in receiving yards through 3 weeks had his worst showing of the season against the Carolina Panthers, who pulled off the upset against the Arizona Cardinals. Murray seeking other resources wasn’t the issue, however. Despite the 9 targets being tied for a season-low, it did account for 29% of Murray’s passing attempts. Hopkins couldn’t get the deep ball going against the Panthers secondary as he was held to 7 receptions for 41 yards and no touchdowns, all season lows. His average reception was also a measly 5.9 yards per catch, by far also a season-low.
Fantasy players wondering if I’m playing tomorrow… pic.twitter.com/fCxiruh4jk
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) October 3, 2020
- Hopkins’ teammate, Christian Kirk, hadn’t come close to living up to his ADP through the first week of the season but in Week 4, he returned from his groin injury by scoring for the first time this season. With the Cardinals playing from behind, Kirk still didn’t see a boost in his volume numbers, however, as Kirk made only 3 receptions for 19 yards on 5 targets and needed the touchdown to present a serviceable performance. Keep an eye on the matchups though, as the Cardinals are in line to face several defenses that don’t play the WR position well. In deep leagues, Kirk may have some short-term touchdown potential going forward.
- You might have been too busy worried about Odell Beckham Jr.’s cryptic tweets to notice that a back injury held the wide receiver back in practice. He responded to it by suiting up and feasting off a Dallas Cowboys defense that has allowed a disconcerting number of huge plays this season. OBJ did it all by finding the endzone twice early off passes from Jarvis Landry and Baker Mayfield, and icing the game with a 50-yard touchdown carry, also his first career rushing TD. The targets have been steady for OBJ but he finally found the endzone in bulk as he scored 3 of his 4 touchdowns on the season in Dallas.
- After Raheem Mostert went down with a knee injury, Jerick McKinnon was in line to take over lead back duties for the San Francisco 49ers. After a rib contusion hindered practice for McKinnon, he still suited up, reportedly to split the workload with Jeff Wilson. The 49ers ended up getting carries from 6 different men, but McKinnon was responsible for 70% of them. He wasn’t exactly ultra-efficient with his 54 rushing yards on 14 carries but he did catch 7 passes for 43 yards to add PPR value and in the attempted fourth quarter San Francisco comeback, McKinnon snuck into the endzone to give his fantasy owners some relief on the night. McKinnon could be a nice stash but don’t expect him to be the lead back after the comeback of Raheem Mostert, who went off for 92 rushing yards on just 8 carries in his most recent game in Week 2. McKinnon does have talent though, so don’t sell short on him either. You can never have enough depth at running back.
Rising Rookie Receivers
Several rookies caught the eyes of fantasy owners in Week 4. Here’s everything that Week 4 taught us about offensive rookies to turn to for your fantasy football squad.
- After Courtland Sutton went down for the season and Drew Lock was set to miss at least a few weeks, the Denver Broncos offense took hits that made fantasy owners jump to evaluate the running game as a heavy-volume option for the team. But they still have an insane athlete at wide receiver in Alabama first-rounder Jerry Jeudy. With immaculate route-running and athletic versatility, Jeudy is likely the most talented pass-catcher on the team. With his first test as the WR1 for Brett Rypien on Thursday Night Football, he took advantage of the lax matchup against the New York Jets to score his first career NFL touchdown en route to his best fantasy game thus far.
Note, however, that Jeudy only made 2 catches on 4 targets so the volume poses floor concern. Furthermore, he will likely get the Stephon Gilmore matchup against New England in Week 5. However, at 15.6 yards per catch, his talent should earn the trust of Vic Fangio’s offense, especially when Drew Lock makes his return as the clear starter under center.
- The Dallas Cowboys played from behind for the majority of their shootout game but former Oklahoma Sooner and 2020 first-rounder CeeDee Lamb showed out from the very beginning. The volume has been consistent for Lamb, who caught exactly 5 passes for the third time in four weeks (caught 6 in Week 2). But in Week 4, with Ezekiel Elliott’s continued habits of fumbles and inefficiency, Lamb reached the endzone twice in a game where Dak Prescott passed for over 500 yards.
The touchdowns were Lamb’s first two of his NFL career and he continues to pose a high floor with his 14 yards per reception in a potent Cowboys offense. Even more notably, Lamb nearly had 3 touchdown catches if not for Amari Cooper leaping to tip a pass that was likely meant for Lamb on a slant at the back of the endzone. Continue playing Lamb because there aren’t too many matchups that heavily threaten the productivity of the possible Offensive Rookie of the Year.
- After scoring his first two career touchdowns in Week 3, despite a Joe Mixon explosion, Tee Higgins put up another solid fantasy game in Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, this time without reaching the endzone. He did so via the big play, tallying 90 yards and catching 4 of his 7 targets. His 19.3 yards per catch shows he has a ceiling worth keeping against enticing matchups.
The second-rounder for Clemson did drop a fairly simple catch but his improvement week-to-week has earned him the trust of fellow rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. With A.J. Green’s injury history and recent busts, Higgins could prove to be a viable FLEX play in the midst of a Bengals team that is offense-oriented.
- LSU product and Minnesota Vikings first-rounder Justin Jefferson used Week 3 to break out big in the NFL but he produced again in Week 4 and put up a 100-yard game via four catches on five targets, a very nice fantasy performance for someone who didn’t even score. With the loss of Stefon Diggs in the Vikings offense, Jefferson has emerged as the WR2 behind Adam Thielen. Set to face the Seattle Seahawks, notorious for allowing big WR days, in Week 5, Jefferson should deserve serious consideration if you are in need of a WR start. The Vikings need to bounce back to have a chance at making a playoff run and after 278 yards on 25.3 yards per catch in the last two games, Jefferson is gaining quite the rapport with Kirk Cousins.
- After injuries hit the 49ers big, it was no secret that their offense was going to look interesting. Part of the puzzle was figuring out the role of Brandon Aiyuk, the tough YAC first-rounder from Arizona State. Aiyuk said hello to the fantasy world in Week 3 against the New York Giants and visited relevance again during Sunday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. But don’t get too excited because the resources on that offense suggest a mysterious spread, even more so with the 49ers not yet knowing for sure who will be at quarterback in Week 5. In Week 4, Aiyuk caught only 2 of his 5 targets for 18 yards and need a 38-yard run into the endzone to provide his fantasy value for the week. You have a couple of options with this 49er, but trusting him to start every week for you shouldn’t be at the top of your list.
We’re a quarter of the way through the pandemic-imposed fantasy football season — which of these rookies are you buying into or selling high on? Which of the tough guys who played through injury concerns impressed you the most? What do you expect off Week 5 and who earns their mention in next week’s recap? How has COVID-19 affected you?
Ready to put all this Week 4 news into play? Keep an eye on our NFL Analysis as we ramp up for Week 5 and beyond!
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