Fantasy Football: What We Learned in Week 4

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer

Sep 29, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 showed us that there are a few ways left to save your fantasy football season, even if they’re not for the faint of heart, and might require mortgaging fantasy assets that you never considered expendable.

The emergence of a few players over the past couple weeks should give you a shot to acquire those guys, get some semblance of value for your under-performing superstars, and salvage your season.

This approach will test the limits of your ability to part with players you coveted all summer. You may have thrown an internal party when you secured these guys on draft day — a simpler time, when fantasy football in the abstract was bursting with possibilities. Four weeks of statistics presents a much colder reality.

  • Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland Browns offense, beyond winning games without first-round plodder Trent Richardson, are fast becoming one of the most important teams in fantasy. Hoyer ripped the Bengals’ banged-up secondary for 269 yards and two scores, continuing to target Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, trusting that their size, speed, and body control would pay dividends. Hoyer threw 38 passes a a week after chucking is 54 times against Minnesota, making him a reliable volume thrower in Norval Turner’s famously vertical offense. Hoyer’s emergence (and availability) represents a prime opportunity for owners of any elite quarterback to sell their early-round signal caller for a top-flight wide receiver, for example. Don’t hesitate to make that move this week, and be sure to scoop up Hoyer before others acquire him as a bye-week fill in.
  • Sell Tom Brady, fantasy’s 21st highest scoring quarterback. And no, I didn’t miss his 296-yard, two-touchdown domination of the Falcons’ horrendous secondary. That, in fact, is the key: Brady looked like the Brady of old, even with his group of pass-catching misfits. He was outside the top-20 quarterbacks in Weeks 1-2, and finished as fantasy’s 14th highest scoring signal caller in Week 3. This is your chance to take advantage of a fellow owner — perhaps the owner who drafted Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson — longing for the comfort of an apparent every-week starter.
  • The Detroit Lions are being shredded weekly by No. 2 wide receivers. Alshon Jeffrey’s sparkling stat line (five receptions, 107 yards and a score on 11 targets) was just the latest by a secondary pass catcher against Detroit this season. Washington-based senior citizen Santana Moss caught seven balls for 77 yards last week against the Lions, and Jerome Simpson reeled in seven passes for 140 yards in Week 1. The reason has a name: Darius Slay, the Detroit cornerback who has been benched for parts of the past few weeks. Pro Football Focus has graded five cornerbacks lower than Slay, for good reason. This is the sort of observation that could make start-sit quandaries a whole lot easier. James Jones (and maybe Jordy Nelson) gets his shot at Slay in Week 5.
  • Dwayne Bowe has given you the perfect — and perhaps only — opportunity to sell high. Bowe, who collected 54 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City’s Week 4 destruction of the Giants, is still not in fantasy’s top-30 receivers. The most troubling part of Bowe’s young 2013 season is the lack of pigskins flying his way. Alex Smith, keeping his ultra-conservative throws mostly between the hashes, has targeted Bowe 23 times (5.7 targets per game). That’s about half the targets most elite pass catchers have seen through four weeks. No receiver is going to thrive in Smith’s offense unless and until they’re running a glut of pas routes from the slot, and since Bowe has run 88 percent of his routes lined up on the outside of the formation, he’s not going to approach consistent fantasy production. Trade Bowe this week, before he logs another clunker in Week 5.
  • David Wilson is emerging from the darkest depths of the fantasy football abyss. Wilson has swam furiously against the tide of those nightmarish duo of opening day fumbles against Dallas, and has now gone fumble free for three weeks. He’s still relegated to the sidelines on third downs, but Wilson — who is Pro Football Focus’s sixth most elusive runner — played in most of New York’s base formations against Kansas City in Week 4. He carried the ball 13 times for 55 yards and caught two passes for eight yards a week after he had a touchdown taken off the board by an illegal formation penalty. Wilson has seen his snap count inch upward, from 24 in Weeks 1-2, to 26 in Week 3, to 29 in Week 4. This could be the last week to secure Wilson at his rock-bottom fantasy price, as the Giants get set to take on the epic disaster known as Philadelphia’s defense. Owners of C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, and Chris Johnson should consider trading their lackluster commodities for Wilson and a solid top-20 wide receiver. That, of course, is contingent on an owner believing Rice, Spiller, and CJ?K are still buy-low opportunities, and not washouts.
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
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