We're now three weeks into the NFL season and that should mean all of the rust that offenses and veteran players carried in with them through the preseason and started to shake off in the early weeks, is now gone. From here on out, the true landscape of the 2017 football season and a clear picture of the fantasy football difference makes, value plays and matchups to target, come into play for us.
Week 4 is the first quarter mark for 30 of the 32 NFL teams, with the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers the exception given their Week 1 bye, so the numbers should help us even more as the weeks unfold. This week's slate presents some intriguing options across the board and some real value can be found at quarterback, but here we build the optimal lineup for Week 4 on DraftKings.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets - $5,300
Bortles isn't a great quarterback by any stretch of the imagination and he is almost always someone to avoid in DFS. But this week he finds himself in a quality matchup, yet he is priced as the 27th quarterback on the slate. There are not 26 quarterbacks with better fantasy factors in his favor than Bortles, in fact there might not be 15 quarterbacks with a better opportunity for fantasy success. So yes, we're going to roll with some Bortles shares and take full advantage of this price.
A factor in Bortles price is New York's rank defensively. Through the first three games of the season, the Jets allowed the ninth-fewest DraftKings points to opposing quarterbacks. On its face-Priced 27th amongst QBs, but the blame for that should go on Jay Cutler. In Week 1, Tyrod Taylor exploited the Jets' defense for 224 yards and two touchdowns and completed 16-of-28 pass attempts. The following week, Derek Carr burned them for three scores and 230 yards.
We're not expecting Bortles to turn in an MVP-caliber performance with four touchdowns or 400-plus passing yards. But if he gives owners who start him 250-plus yards and two passing touchdowns, that could secure his spot as a top-12 quarterback on the slate. Given what he'll cost you and what the savings can do for you, that makes him someone to absolutely play in some of your lineups this week.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys v. Los Angeles Rams - $8,200
Elliott's ownership on DraftKings might be slightly higher after he followed an ugly showing against the Denver Broncos with a big performance against the Arizona Cardinals. While it hurts us in some ways with a higher ownership percentage making lineups more common, it shows that concerns over Elliott can be put away and he is ready to return as an elite running back.
Week 4 could provide Dallas with a great chance to build on its success last week, especially on offense, against a Rams defense that surrendered 113 rushing yards and three touchdowns to the San Francisco 49ers. Dallas possesses a significantly better offensive line than San Francisco, which could pose even greater problems for Los Angeles in its efforts to stop Elliott. Dallas should also get its passing attack working, which would help take pressure off Elliott and open a few more running lanes for him and let him get to the second level. The matchup should make for a high-scoring contest and neither tam demonstrated thus far in 2017 that they can limit opposing teams from moving the ball down the field.
In terms of price, Elliott comes in at an acceptable rate that makes an elite running back worth playing. We've also seen Dallas ready to use the second-year workhorse back in the passing game, which could add an additional two to four points onto his numbers. As our RB1, Elliott is a highly-recommended option in Week 4's slate for some of your lineups.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets - $6,700
While Fournette's last two weeks of action didn't light up the scoreboards and carry DFS lineups that rostered him into the high-end cash tiers, it could also be a positive outcome. After two tough matchups, Fournette now faces a Jets defense that has allowed 4.8 yards per carry and 133 rushing yards per game this season. It's a matchup any running back could take advantage of, but especially one made for Fournette.
Jacksonville built its offense around the fourth-overall selection and that includes his involvement in the passing game. Fournette record two-plus receptions and 20-plus receiving yards in each of the Jaguars' first three games, an additional four points per contest on DraftKings for those scoring at home. Meanwhile, Fournette became the first rookie running back in Jacksonville's history to score a rushing touchdown in his first three NFL games.
This offense focused on feeding the ball to Fournette and in a very winnable game against the Jets, the projected game script should fall in Fournette's favor. He'll likely see 20-plus touches in a contest where the Jaguars should control the game and the scoreboard throughout, though not to the severity of their game in London where the team eventually brought the backups in. 18-plus touches against New York could lead to the second 100-plus yard game of Fournette's career and it's a reasonable bet he finds the end zone in this one.
Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams @ Dallas Cowboys - $5.900
It appears not only can Jared Goff not be considered a bust, but Head Coach Sean McVay might have transformed him into a reliable quarterback in an explosive, high-scoring offense. This is more than just a one-game sample. Goff started the season with a 306-yard performance against the Indianapolis Colts, then encountered a bump in a loss to Washington, before he thrashed San Francisco's secondary.
This all bodes extremely well Watkins, who if he clears the concussion protocol, is presented with a beautiful matchup against a Cowboys' secondary that coughed up a huge night to Larry Fitzgerald and made Carson Palmer look like a good NFL quarterback again. Watkins' two-touchdown performance against San Francisco showed the chemistry with Goff is close after his late arrival to Los Angeles. So, if healthy, he should take full advantage of this matchup and could post a top-10 performance in Week 4.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans v. Tennessee Titans - $6,400
Again, we start with a focus on the quarterback. In Week 3, Deshaun Watson showed why he belongs in the NFL with a bounce back performance against the New England Patriots. Watson finished Sunday's game with 301 passing yards and two touchdowns, though the rookie also threw two interceptions. More importantly, he continued to pepper Hopkins with targets and now put the 25-year-old wide receiver at 37 on the year.
Given the price, Hopkins is a strong value as a top-10 wide receiver. In Week 4, he'll face a Titans' secondary that continues to face issues versus opposing wide receivers and especially opposing team's No.1 receiving threats. This all bodes very well for Nuk with the opportunity, potential for surplus targets and the DraftKings cost all playing into his favor. While he sits on our listed lineup as the WR3, reality is you could make an easy argument that Hopkins deserves to be a WR1 in many lineups this week. We're loading up at the wide receiver position and it won't stop with Hopkins and Watkins either.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers v. Philadelphia Eagles - $7,200
While it won't be a trio of Clemson alumni, Allen does round our three-receiver set with another potential top play. A monster in points per reception scoring, Allen already holds an advantage for us. A lock for 10-plus targets each time he takes the field, Allen will look to Week 4 as an opportunity to bounce back from a five-reception, 61-yard performance against Kansas City.
Even in a letdown week though, Allen still gave owners 11 points. But Allen posted great numbers in the previous two weeks with 14 DraftKings points in Week 1 and 19 points the next week against the Miami Dolphins. Allen's matchup against the Eagles should present him the opportunity to post bigger numbers, with a 20-plus point outing within the realm of possibilities in PPR scoring. Last week showed Philadelphia's cornerbacks issues from last season are exposed when Fletcher Cox and Ronald Darby are out.
If Cox joins Darby on the inactive list in Week 4, issues creating pressure will further burden a suspect secondary that allowed Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr to combine for 278 yards and three touchdowns. A quick look at those numbers and knowing how much Philip Rivers loves to sling the football to Allen, make it easy to paint a picture of a very productive day for the 25-year-old.
Sterling Shepard - New York Giants @ Buccaneers - $5,000
It appears we could be nearing the verge of Shepard's second-year breakout. After he saw 12 targets and 67 yards combined in his first two games, Shepard exploded against the Eagles' secondary for 133 yards and a touchdown. While half of it came on a 77-yard touchdown, it shows his big play ability and gives another reason as to why Eli Manning targeted him 10 times.
The return of a healthy OBJ might have further opened the field up for Shepard. While opposing teams send double coverage or safety help to try and contain OBJ, Shepard is left on one-on-one coverage and exploits matchups for chunks of yards. He found matchups to take advantage of versus the Eagles and he should find similar opportunities that Minnesota Vikings slot receiver Adam Thielen exploited the previous week.
Shepard obviously comes with some risk, but a $5,000 price tag and his slot as our flex option tips the scales in our favor. He might have jumped ahead of Marshall in line for targets and Eli should target him plenty of times as the second read when Tampa Bay is focused on OBJ. We might not get the same stat line he posted in Week 3, but Shepard could contribute 10-plus fantasy points and make for a quality play.
Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals v. Cleveland Browns - $2,600
Kroft is near the bottom on the tight end sheet, but he'll start for the Bengals once again this week. With Tyler Eifert sidelined for several weeks, it presents an opportunity for Kroft to step up and establish himself as a capable NFL tight end. A 2015 third-round selection, Kroft saw four targets last week against the Green Bay Packers and finished with three receptions for 28 yards. It's certainly not an ideal line, but tight end is a position you gamble at when not spending up for an elite option.
He might only see five or six targets in this game, but Cincinnati will have an opportunity to pick up its first win of the season this week. Kroft might play a minor role in this offense, but we can take a gamble on him for the chance at a touchdown or maybe a six-point performance. If it allows us to spend big at wide receiver and running back with potential top-five plays at both running back spot and three top-10 receivers, it's easily worth it.
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings - $2,700