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Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 4

(Each week, the Sunday Study Session will feature a quick-hit look at our top fantasy football advice of the week to help you prepare for that week’s fantasy slate, as well as links to our full writeups. For last-minute research and prep, this is the place.)

There are exceptions to every rule. Example: You should never carry two defenses on your roster. They are too unpredictable and too low-ceiling to invest any more resources than you must in the position.

But you also want to plan ahead. In my long-time home league, I have the Jaguars as my starting defense for Week 4. They play the Panthers next week, which means I’m probably going to move on from them. I made a 3-for-2 trade this week, leaving me with an open roster spot, and 95% of the time, I’m using that roster spot on a flyer for the week. But this week, I used that roster spot Wednesday night to pick up the Eagles defense. The reason? Next week, they face the Jets. And with the Dolphins on a bye, there’s every chance that Luke Falk or a back-from-mono Sam Darnold makes the Eagles the week’s top defense.

Even with that justification, I feel a little squirrelly about the decision. There are a few lottery tickets on the wire that I feel like I should have considered (because Philadelphia played Thursday, the decision is now locked and moot. But if there were ever a time to stash a defense you weren’t using that week, it’s “decent defense against the Jets.”

The rule is not to carry two defenses. The rule can have some exceptions. I think I found one.

Season-long league advice

These are the pieces that will help you build your roster and set your lineup each week. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week, while Scott Barrett breaks down the streaming defense candidates and Lee Sifford picks out streaming quarterbacks. Daniel Kelley looks at the players rising and falling in the weekly rankings. Wednesday is Jeff’s top 150 flex rankings, Daniel’s peek at the best and worst matchups of the week, and Scott’s Expected Fantasy Points metric. There’s also the indispensable trade value chart. Thursday, Daniel returns with his weekly sleepers and busts, while Scott Barrett breaks down the key start and the sits of the week. And finally, Jeff is back Friday with his weekly focus, taking a full look at the whole weekly slate from every angle.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

For most of these pieces, we’ll pull a blurb to highlight and offer up a key takeaway. For this piece, though? It’s worth a full read. Beginning to end, Jeff brings the crucial info.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

25. Chris Carson, SEA @ ARI (RB13) — Carson is trending down after a lackluster performance last week, but he’s still in play as an RB2.
26. Sammy Watkins, KC @ DET (WR12) — Watkins enters the week third in the league in targets. A blow-up game is coming.
27. Kenny Golladay, DET vs KC (WR13) — Don’t worry about last week. Golladay bounces back in this one.
28. Todd Gurley, LAR vs TB (RB14) — Believe it or not, the Bucs have been very good against the run this season.

Two starts, two sits

START Curtis Samuel in medium-sized leagues: Samuel led the team in targets last week with seven, catching five for 53 yards and a score. Kyle Allen, starting in place of Cam Newton, might actually be an upgrade for Samuel, who is already one of the league’s elite separators.
START Preston Williams in deep leagues: Among all wide receivers, Williams ranks 16th in XFP per game (10.8), 10th in air yards per game (114.3), and first in end-zone targets per game (1.67). He’s been woefully inefficient, and will likely continue to be inefficient all year, but volume should remain strong with Josh Rosen now under center.
SIT Allen Robinson in shallow leagues: Like Watkins, Robinson also has a brutal matchup, against Xavier Rhodes in shadow coverage. Rhodes has held Julio Jones and Davante Adams to a combined 85 yards in shadow coverage this year.
SIT Josh Allen in medium-sized leagues: Allen was held to just 13.7 fantasy points in his only other game against New England and will likely post a similarly underwhelming score this week. New England ranks as our No. 1-graded defense, ranking best in pass coverage grade and eighth-best in pass-rush grade.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Mike Gesicki: Gesicki is obviously a deep dive, but Derwin James’ absence has left the Chargers vulnerable to tight ends, as Jordan Akins and Darren Fells showed to the tune of three touchdowns in Week 3.
BUST: Mike Evans: The Rams haven’t allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver this year, and have only allowed one to hit the 20-PPR-point threshold since Week 11 of last year. The best games against the Rams this year have come from Michael Thomas (8.5-yard average depth of target) and D.J. Moore (10.3 yards). Evans’ aDOT is 17.4 yards, firmly in Aqib Talib/Marcus Peters territory.

The best and worst matchups of the week

BEST: Will Dissly: Sometimes there’s just nothing for it, and you throw up your hands and just agree with the results. In Week 1, the Cardinals allowed the TE2 performance to T.J. Hockenson, who has all of 8 yards in his other two games. In Week 2, they allowed the TE1 performance to Mark Andrews, who followed it up with 15 yards in Week 3. In Week 3, they allowed the TE2 performance to Greg Olsen. They’ve allowed 11.0 more points per game to tight ends than any other defense.
WORST: Deshaun Watson: The Panthers have faced Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, and Kyler Murray so far. Despite that, they’ve allowed only 16.8 points per game to the position (sixth-fewest) and 189.0 yards per game (second-fewest).

Waiver claims to make

ADD Daniel Jones in shallow leagues: That was quite a debut for the rookie signal-caller. Don’t expect those numbers every week, but Jones does offer fantasy upside with both his arm and his ability to scramble.
ADD Tevin Coleman in medium-sized leagues: Coleman won’t be back this week, but he is worth adding if he was dropped. He’ll be the lead when he returns.
ADD Jakobi Meyers in deep leagues: He was the talk of the preseason and is now the No. 4 wideout in New England. Meyers is one injury away from a prominent role.

Rankings risers and fallers

RISER: Cole Beasley: Josh Allen has improved as a short passer so far this year, leading to Beasley catching 18 of 23 targets through three weeks. He’s a PPR asset.
FALLER: Darwin Thompson: Even with Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy hurt, Thompson was barely involved Sunday, with four carries and 8 yards. He can be dropped.

DST streamers

Seattle Seahawks: Arizona ranks bottom-six in yards per pass attempt (6.05), passer rating (79.0), and sacks per game (4.0), while Seattle ranks top-12 in pressure rate over expectation. As 5.0-point favorites, Seattle is a safe bet to finish top-10 at the position.

QB streamers

Philip Rivers: So far this year, quarterbacks playing against the Dolphins have posted the most yards per passing attempt and the most passing touchdowns through three games. In what could be an ugly matchup for Miami, Rivers and company should feast. While Rivers may not be available in your league, if you’ve been benching him waiting for the right matchup, this is it.

Expected Fantasy Points

Kenny Golladay: Golladay only ranks 32nd among wide receivers in fantasy points per game (14.5), but his volume has been much better production implies, ranking sixth in XFP per game (16.8), 11th in targets per game (9.0), third in air yards per game (150.0), first in deep targets per game (3.3), and 10th in expected touchdowns per game (0.67).

Player prop bets (from BetMGM)

Sony Michel OVER 48.5 rushing yards: Really? After last week’s performance? Yes. Gamescript should yet again be favorable for another healthy dose of Michel. In his last meeting against the Bills, Michel racked up 116 rushing yards on 18 carries.

DFS advice

Scott Barrett’s DFS Focus piece will highlight all the key daily fantasy tips and tricks from one of the industry’s best, but that isn’t all, as our team tackles the main DFS slate from every angle.

DFS weekly preview

SALARY FALLER: Josh Jacobs: Jacobs’ usage in the receiving game has been a major red flag so far. He has only been targeted three times and has a single reception for 28 yards. Jon Gruden seems to have come to his senses with how anemic the offense has been the past two games and realized that he needs to get Jacobs more involved.

DFS facts to know

Buccaneers vs. Rams: Tampa Bay’s run defense continues to surprise, as they have a league-high 21 tackles for loss/no-gain with a 2.90 average depth of tackle (second), while living in the backfield with just 0.3 rushing yards before contact per attempt (second). Offenses are starting to take note — the Bucs defense has seen a combined 38 rush attempts over the last two weeks, third-fewest in the league.

Bargains

Chris Thompson, RB, Washington: Thompson is the extremely budget-friendly recommendation this week. To this point, he has turned 20 targets into 16 receptions for 195 yards. While only getting 12 rush attempts, he has established himself as yet again the primary receiving back in Washington and this week he faces the Giants, who are 32nd in coverage and 25th against the run.
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: Robinson has been remarkably efficient, catching 10 of his 11 targets and turning that into 215 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson definitely regressed back to the mean last week after his monster performance two weeks ago, but this a guy who brings the boom potential in one of the league’s best offenses.

Locks

Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams: Since the start of last year, Goff has a 116.4 passer rating in home games, 80.8 on the road. So he basically is half Brady, half Trubisky. Add in a matchup against the Buccaneers, who have a good run defense but are suspect against the pass, and this could be a great Goff week.
Paul Richardson, WR, Washington: Richardson has scored in back-to-back weeks and just had his best game in Washington in Week 3, catching 8-of-9 targets for 83 yards and a score against Chicago. The Giants’ defense is a few miles shy of the Bears’. And with Terry McLaurin popping up with a hamstring injury late in the week and promising massive Week 4 ownership, Richardson makes for a savvy pivot.

Fades

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans is going to primarily see Marcus Peters in coverage Sunday. And when he doesn’t, he’ll see … Aqib Talib. That’s rough. Those are two of the top 10 cornerbacks so far this year in coverage snaps per reception (Peters is fourth at 29.8, Talib is ninth at 19.5).
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Don’t get me wrong, Andrews has been fantastic this year. He leads the position in fantasy points per snap, and he leads it by a lot. But betting on strict efficiency without massive playing time is asking for it, and Andrews is playing barely half the snaps that the leaders at the position are playing.

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