Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 4: Start Khalil Herbert, Brandon Aiyuk; Sit Tom Brady, Michael Carter
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Khalil Herbert.
A number of shocking things have happened in the first three weeks of the NFL season, and setting fantasy lineups might be a serious chore with the sheer number of injuries and befuddling situations.
Keep this in mind: Even if you are 0-3 like the Raiders, do not count yourself out. There is a lot of football left. Stay diligent on the waiver wire, send trade offers and make savvy start/sit decisions.
Below are some players at each position you should start in Week 4, as well as some players you should consider sitting based on matchups, injuries and trends.
Week 4 Start ‘Em
Quarterbacks to Start
After starting the season hot, Goff had a bit of a down game in Week 3 against the Vikings. He completed 25-of-41 attempts for 277 yards, one touchdown, one interception and finished as the QB18. Goff has yet to score fewer than 15 fantasy points in a game — not a statement I can make about a bunch of quarterbacks drafted ahead of him (Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Kyler Murray or Aaron Rodgers).
The reality is that the quarterback position isn’t nearly as deep as we thought entering the season. Goff is an acceptable streaming option in a game tied for the second-highest point total of the week (48).
It hasn’t been the prettiest season for Denver’s $245 million signal-caller thus far. The Broncos’ play-calling has been questionable at best, though I expected there to be some adjustment period/learning curve amid major coaching and personnel changes.
Wilson has to bear some of this blame: The nine-time Pro Bowler has logged just two touchdowns through three games and is completing a career-low 59.4% of passes. He is currently the QB25, but does have a nice “get-right” opportunity this week on the road. Las Vegas has allowed the seventh-most passing yards and fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Wilson is a borderline QB1 in Week 4.
Wide Receivers to Start
London is on the fast track to fantasy stardom. The 2022 No. 8 overall pick has shined and is the WR11 in half PPR through three games.
London stands at a towering 6-foot-4, 219 pounds and is a favorite red-zone target of Marcus Mariota. Last week was the rookie’s second straight game with a touchdown; in contrast, tight end Kyle Pitts has just one target inside the 20-yard-line all season.
The USC product is a must-start WR2 this week against the Browns, who have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to receivers this year and could be without both star edge rushers due to injury.
Cooper is absolutely red-hot and has tallied 16 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks. He is the WR12 overall and seems to be adjusting well to the change of scenery in Cleveland despite playing with backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
He gets a mouthwatering matchup this week as Atlanta has allowed the sixth-most passing yards and fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Cooper should be considered a WR2 with upside.
Overall, I thought the switch from Trey Lance to Jimmy Garoppolo would actually help Aiyuk, who had a bit of a slow start to the year. Aiyuk and Garoppolo clearly have a strong rapport, as the 2020 first-round pick had been the WR13 from Week 9 onwards last year.
I admittedly had reservations about starting him last week against the Broncos’ defense, which turned out to be unfounded: Aiyuk hauled in 3-of-8 targets for 39 yards and found the end zone for the first time. He has WR3/flex value this week against the Rams, who have given up the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year.
Dortch was a nice waiver wire add this week after his third consecutive double-digit fantasy performance in half-PPR scoring. The Year 3 wideout was targeted heavily and caught 9-of-10 targets for 80 yards — good enough to finish as the WR27.
I expect Dortch to be peppered with targets as the Cardinals’ slot man as long as Rondale Moore remains sidelined with a hamstring injury and Kyler Murray continues to chuck the ball gratuitously. The depth of the Panthers secondary falls off a cliff after Jaycee Horn, who probably won’t follow Dortch into the slot with Marquise Brown to deal with as well. Dortch is a deeper league flex option with a lot of upside.
Running Backs to Start
Williams has been a shockingly good value pick for fantasy managers who likely drafted him as a fourth or fifth running back. He finished top two at the position last week after tallying 87 rushing yards (on 20 carries) and two touchdowns to go along with two receptions for 20 yards.
Williams was already seeing the lion’s share of the work and had out-touched lead back D’Andre Swift 47 to 35 this year. Swift could sit out until after the team’s Week 6 bye, which opens up a massive opportunity for Williams.
He now faces the Seahawks’ run defense, which has allowed the eighth most fantasy points to running backs, and is must-start, low-end RB1 — pretty good for a guy you could have snagged off waivers.
Herbert was a very popular waiver pickup this cycle. His rostership jumped from 49% to 80% day-over-day on the heels of a massive Week 3 performance in which he was the RB1 by a significant margin.
Herbert stepped up with David Montgomery exiting the game in the first quarter and carved up the Texans‘ run defense for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He is slated to be the Bears’ lead back this week if Montgomery is a no-go due to his ankle injury.
Even if Montgomery, who was a non-participant in practice on Thursday, were to miraculously play, Herbert would have standalone value on a team that has the most lopsided run-to-pass play percentage in the NFL (65% to 35%). He is a high-end RB2 with upside this week against a below-average Giants run defense that was just torched by Tony Pollard.
Pollard has been out-snapped in every game this season by Ezekiel Elliott (122 to 90). He has been the better back for fantasy, however, and is the RB22 through three games while Elliott is the RB36.
Pollard is fresh off racking up 105 rushing yards against the Giants — his first triple-digit rushing game since Week 2 against the Chargers last year. This backfield is frustrating for fantasy managers, but Pollard should see enough work against Washington’s porous defense to warrant RB3/flex consideration.
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (at Lions)
I like the running backs on both sides of the ball in this game, which has the third-highest point total of the week (48). Both run defense are bad, but the Lions are extra bad, ranking last in fantasy points allowed to the position all season.
Penny has admittedly been frustrating this year, though he remains the clear alpha, even with Kenneth Walker III joining the team. Penny out-snapped Walker 49 to 9 and tallied 11 more touches than the rookie last week against the Falcons. Penny is a solid RB3/flex start this week in a plush matchup.
Tight Ends to Start
Freiermuth was a risky start last Thursday against the Browns with 20 mph winds in the forecast. He was barely involved and caught just two passes for 41 yards and finished as the TE21 in half PPR.
Overall, the Year 2 tight end has been solid and is the TE9 on the season. This should be a nice bounce-back spot, as the Steelers take on the Jets with extra rest. Freiermuth is a low-end TE1 in Week 4.
David Njoku, Browns (at Falcons)
Njoku came out of nowhere with a fantastic Week 3 performance against the Steelers. He tallied nine catches on a career-high 10 targets for 89 yards and a touchdown; he finished as the TE2 behind only Mark Andrews.
This is a huge development, as Njoku averaged just 2.4 targets per game in 2021. Hopefully that usage will continue in Week 4 with a dreamy matchup on deck. Atlanta has allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this year, vaulting Njoku into the low-end TE1 tier.
Defenses to Start
Minnesota’s defense hasn’t been anything to write home about of late. Last week, the unit allowed 24 points and did not record a sack against the Lions, finishing as the DST29 in fantasy.
The matchup this week against the Saints is attractive based on the number of major injuries New Orleans is currently dealing with: Quarterback Jameis Winston was a non-participant in practice for the second day in a row due to back and ankle injures and is doubtful to play. Wideout Michael Thomas was also a non-participant with a foot injury and Jarvis Landry was limited with an ankle issue.
Vegas thinks this game could be a low-scoring affair with a paltry point total of 43. The Vikings D/ST could be a nice streaming option given the time change and the Saints’ hefty injury report.
* Not a true away game, as this game will be played in London.
Week 3 Sit ‘Em
Quarterbacks to Sit
Stafford was drafted as a fringe-QB1 heading into the season on the heels of the Rams’ Super Bowl championship. He has only delivered one top-12 performance all year — against the hapless Falcons in Week 2 — and was the QB29 and QB27 in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively.
He gets another tough matchup against the 49ers, who have been brutal against the quarterbacks this year. They have allowed a league-low 148.3 passing yards per game and the second fewest fantasy points to the position. Stafford is a QB2 this week and firm sit in standard, one-quarterback leagues.
Last week, I suggested sitting four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. This week, I am going with an equally spicy sit with seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
Through three weeks, the 45-year-old Brady — who was the passing yards leader (5,316) and fantasy QB3 in 2021 — has been shockingly ineffective in fantasy. He is the aggregate QB28 so far with just three passing touchdowns.
In theory, this should be a nice bounce-back spot against the Chiefs, who have been permeable against the pass and have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the quarterback position. Brady still cannot be trusted and falls outside of the QB1 tier in Week 4.
Wide Receivers to Sit
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs (at Buccaneers)
Smith-Schuster has yet to seize the opportunity as the Chiefs’ No. 1 wideout and No. 2 option behind Travis Kelce. The former Steeler had his best game of the season in Week 3, reeling in five of eight targets for 89 yards against Indianapolis.
He was the WR34 in half PPR for Week 3, which unfortunately, seems like his absolute ceiling in this tough road matchup. Tampa Bay’s defense has been extremely stingy all year and ranks No. 1 in pass DVOA. Smith-Schuster is a risky, low-end flex option in Week 4.
Allen Robinson II, Rams at 49ers
Robinson briefly flashed signs of life in Week 2 when he found the end zone against the Falcons. He has otherwise been unremarkable, finishing as the WR106 and WR75 in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively.
I am worried about the Rams’ passing game against the 49ers, who rank third in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers this year. Robinson has a near-zero floor in Week 4 and falls outside of the WR3 tier for me.
Dotson — and the entire Commanders offense — came crashing back down to earth after starting the season red-hot. He was the WR13 and WR17 in Weeks 1 and 2, but caught just two passes for 10 yards in Week 3 against the Eagles.
Washington gets another tough divisional matchup on the road with the Cowboys. Dallas has been solid against the pass this year and have allowed just 176.3 passing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL. Dotson is a risky dart throw at best.
Corey Davis, Jets (at Steelers)
Davis started the season hot, but he seems to have taken a backseat to Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Breece Hall and even Tyler Conklin on the Jets’ pass-catching depth chart.
His targets have been dwindling since Week 1, as has his production. Davis reeled in just 2-of-5 targets for 27 yards in Week 3 against the Bengals and finished as the WR74 in half PPR. I anticipate this trend to continue with Year 2 quarterback Zach Wilson taking over for Joe Flacco. Davis is a low-upside play this week on the road in Pittsburgh.
Running Backs to Sit
Darrell Henderson Jr., Rams (at 49ers)
Henderson’s snap counts are trending in the wrong direction. He saw 55 snaps in Week 1, 35 in Week 2 and 24 in Week 3. It appears the Rams want to get Cam Akers more involved, with Akers seeing 12 carries to Henderson’s four last week in Arizona.
They get another rough road matchup against the 49ers, who have allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (78.7). The opponent and timeshare with Akers are enough to scare me away. Henderson is a low-floor, low-upside flex in Week 4.
Harris has been the lone start-worthy Patriot this season and has scored in back-to-back games. He is the RB15 in half PPR through three weeks and has out-touched Rhamondre Stevenson (RB30) 41 to 36.
However, I am fading Harris big time this week with backup Brian Hoyer expected to start. I don’t expect the Patriots to find themselves in a lot of positive game scripts that would favor the run with Mac Jones sidelined.
The Packers are favored by nearly ten points and I expect their defense to stack the box against the Patriots. Harris is a low-upside RB3 this week, especially with his limited involvement in the passing game.
Michael Carter, Jets (at Steelers)
Carter had a solid Week 1 against the Ravens, though he has seen his role dwindle since. He logged 17 touches in Week 1, 13 in Week 2 and 12 in Week 3. Carter’s snap counts aren’t encouraging either, going from 50 to 43 to 38 in three weeks.
Rookie Breece Hall out-snapped Carter last week and saw significantly more involvement in the passing game with 11 targets to Carter’s 2. This is important, as I expect the Jets to be in a lot of negative game scripts this year. Carter is a low-end RB3 with downside in Pittsburgh.
Even with Dobbins making his long-awaited return to action last week, it was Justice Hill — not Dobbins — who ended up with the superior fantasy game.
Hill rushed six times for 60 yards, while Dobbins rushed seven times for 23 yards and caught two passes for 17 yards. There was optimism for Dobbins — who had not played since 2020 after suffering a torn ACL in training camp — especially with Kenyan Drake a healthy scratch.
The fact that Hill was in the mix so often muddies the waters and could be the beginnings of a running back by committee situation, which wouldn’t be the worst idea for the Ravens’ long term given Dobbins’ injury risk. Dobbins cannot be trusted facing off against the Bills’ run defense, which ranks fourth-best in the NFL against running backs in fantasy.
Tight Ends to Sit
Dawson Knox, Bills at Ravens
As impressive as the Bills have been this year, Knox has shockingly done next to nothing. He caught all four of his targets for just 25 yards against the Dolphins last week and is the aggregate TE27 in half PPR.
Knox isn’t seeing many targets and isn’t doing much with them when he does. He falls outside of the top 12 for me this week, even in a positive matchup against a hapless Ravens defense.
Cole Kmet, Bears at Giants
Frankly, I am shocked anyone would still be starting Kmet at this point. He laid consecutive goose eggs in Weeks 1 and 2 and should have been dropped then.
He finally broke the streak in Week 3 with two catches for 40 yards, which still doesn’t inspire much faith. I am fading the entire Bears passing game until I see some major changes from quarterback Justin Fields, the coaching staff and the offensive line.
Kmet is a firm sit against a Giants defense that has been above average against tight ends — and he is an obvious drop candidate at this point.
Defenses to Sit
Bills D/ST at Ravens
The Bills have the DST2 through three weeks thanks in large part to strong performances in Weeks 1 and 2. They looked shaky against Miami in Week 3 without safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, the latter of which will miss the remainder of the 2022 season with a neck injury.
I expect the Bills to be startable in most matchups, but they are a firm sit on the road against the Ravens. Baltimore’s offense has been on fire with quarterback Lamar Jackson making a very convincing bid for MVP. The team has tallied the fourth most total yards and has scored a league-leading 33 points per game through three weeks. Look for better options on the waiver wire for Week 4.