Fantasy Football: Baker Mayfield, Stefon Diggs Among Risky Plays in Week 4
If you drafted wisely and have a strong bench, you will likely face lineup decisions on a weekly basis. Those decisions can often make or break fantasy seasons. For example, owners who started Jameis Winston over Aaron Rodgers likely won his or her fantasy matchup in Week 3. However, if you decided to play Stefon Diggs or Kenny Golladay over Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Nelson Agholor, the decision may have cost you a win. It’s small lineup decisions like those that can leave fantasy owners saying the dreaded words, “my bench outscored my starters.”
Well in order for that not to happen, it’s vital to be aware of players drawing tough matchups who pose a significant risk to your fantasy success. Let’s take a look at several players who check that box in Week 4.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (at BAL)
Through three weeks, Mayfield has failed to live up to the lofty expectations the industry had for the second-year quarterback and the Cleveland Browns. Even with arguably the best collection of offensive weapons at his disposal, Mayfield (owned in 95% of leagues) has struggled to perform at an elite level. Playing behind a bad offensive line, he has yet to throw for multiple scores in a game this season, and actually has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (three). Things won’t get any easier in Week 4, as the Browns go on the road to take on the Ravens. Most sportsbooks have notable ‘futures’ liability on Cleveland at short odds—a team they strongly respected in the offseason. A strong indication of how far the Browns have fallen in the oddsmakers’ power rankings is portrayed by the fact that the Browns are full-touchdown underdogs against Baltimore. When the Vegas experts make this kind of downgrade, all fantasy owners need to pay attention. Mayfield has significant bust potential in Week 4.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at LAR)
Nearly every model in the fantasy football industry recommended starting Winston in Week 3 against the Giants. He did not disappoint, passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns. However, the challenge is much greater in Week 4 as Winston leads the Bucs to take on a strong Rams’ defense on the road. This is why Winston (owned in 90% of leagues) is among the riskiest starts of the week. The Rams have recorded eight sacks and five turnovers through three games and have only surrendered 22 points in the past two contests. Aaron Donald and the boys from L.A. rank third in total defense and have held both the Saints and Browns to under 200 yards passing in the past two weeks. The Rams are double-digit favorites in this matchup and the sharp action has been on the ‘under’ (49) total points. If the sharp action is any indication, fantasy owners expecting a shootout should perhaps temper those expectations.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (vs. MIN)
The Bears’ use of Montgomery to start the season is beyond puzzling, to say the least. Head coach Matt Nagy continues to give Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson carries in the run game. Montgomery has failed to top 67 rushing yards in any game this season and has fallen to an RB3/flex play at best. With questionable usage and a road date with the Vikings, Montgomery has bust potential written all over him in Week 4. For a player rostered in over 75% of leagues, owners need to know the risk when starting the rookie against one of the best defensive units in the NFL. The Vikings have held both the Falcons and Raiders to less than 90 rushing yards this season.
Sony Michel, New England Patriots (at BUF)
Many fantasy owners invested high draft capital in Michel, expecting the Patriots to continue to lean on the player who carried the club on their run to a sixth Super Bowl late last season. However, the start of the 2019 season has been a huge disappointment for a player owned in 99% of leagues. Michel has failed to top 14 rushing yards in two games this season and has been invisible in the passing game with zero targets. Michel’s ceiling has become handcuffed by the Patriots’ committee approach and the reemergence of Rex Burkhead. The Bills already held both the Jets and Bengals to under 70 yards on the ground this season. Don’t be surprised if Michel fails to top that number in Week 4.
Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns (at BAL)
This may be perhaps the boldest risk suggestion of the week for a player owned in 100% of leagues. However, if you dive deeper into the numbers, things may not be as solid as they appear on the surface. If you take away the 89-yard touchdown Beckham scored against a short-handed Jets defense that blew their pre-snap lineup assignments in Week 2, Beckham would have less than 71 receiving yards in each game this season. He would also still be searching for his first trip to the end zone as a member of the Browns. The target share alone suggests owners cannot afford to bench the star wide receiver. However, with the offensive line issues we highlighted above, the model suggests Beckham owners will struggle to attain the 20-point plus expectancy normally associated with first-round fantasy investments.
John Brown, Buffalo Bills (vs. NE)
The speedy Brown is currently owned in over 90% of leagues as the Bills true WR1. However, even though Brown is averaging 13.7 yards per reception on 23 targets in Buffalo’s three games this season, he now faces a red-hot Patriots defense with a head coach known for taking away the opponent’s best player. With Devin Singletary once again expected to sit nursing a hamstring, the Bills will not have any threat out of the backfield to draw the attention of the Patriots safeties. It will be hard for Brown to get behind the New England defense, an area of the field where he is most accustomed to wreaking havoc. The risk of employing Brown into starting lineups in Week 4, even at the flex position, outweighs the potential upside.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (vs. CHI)
Many fantasy owners invested in Diggs (owned in over 90% of leagues) as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 over the summer. This came as no surprise after his 2018 season when he posted 102 receptions for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. However, Diggs has massively let down his owners this season and is among the leaders for biggest fantasy bust in 2019. He has just six total receptions on the season and has posted less than six PPR points in two of his first three outings. Don’t look now, but things will not get any easier in Week 4 with a road matchup against the Bears. Chicago came into the season as the undisputed top defensive unit in fantasy football. The Bears are third in the NFL in points allowed per game (13) and have allowed just four passing touchdowns in three games. Especially with the Vikings committing to a run-first approach with stud back Dalvin Cook, Diggs is one of the riskiest players to start at his position.
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at LAR)
Howard (owned in nearly 95% of leagues) was drafted among the top five tight ends off the board in every league this summer. After getting zero targets in Week 2, Howard was targeted four times and produced three receptions for 66 yards in a favorable matchup against the Giants in Week 3. The Rams have totally shut down opposing tight ends this season, only allowing an average of 25.3 receiving yards per game and zero touchdowns. The model sees major risk potential for Howard in Week 4, downgrading him outside of the top 12 tight ends.
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints (vs. DAL)
Cook (owned in 85% of leagues) has been a major disappointment in fantasy so far in 2019. He has just five receptions for a total of 69 yards and no touchdowns this season. After a breakout season last year with Oakland, fantasy owners expected big things from Cook upon joining the Saints. The experts in Vegas have posted the Saints as 2.5-point home underdogs in their Sunday night affair with the Cowboys. With backup QB Teddy Bridgewater locking on to WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara in the passing game, Cook can no longer be trusted in risky matchups, even at fantasy’s weakest position.