NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Start or Sit Mailbag: RB Matchups, Trade Bait and NFL Rules Changes

NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Start or Sit Mailbag: RB Matchups, Trade Bait and NFL Rules Changes article feature image

Photos via USAToday Sports. Pictured: Kenyan Drake and Alex Collins

  • Each week we crowdsource Start or Sit questions on Twitter @ActionNetworkHQ and @ActionNetNFL and by email at
  • Ryan Collinsworth answers a variety of questions, including whether to fade Kenyan Drake and when to sell high on Tevin Coleman.

The Panthers and Redskins are on byes this week, which should result in roster shuffling for plenty of teams in redraft leagues. So, the question many of us face for our deeper bench players is…

Start or Sit?

Each week we crowdsource start or sit questions on Twitter @ActionNetworkHQ and @ActionNetNFL and by email at Remember to include your league settings (standard, PPR, superflex, etc.) in your question.

Thanks to everyone who reached out with Week 4 start or sit questions for this week’s mailbag. Let’s jump into it.

Rich Taylor – Send Me a Co-Manager Request, Bro

Rich Taylor (@The_D_Panther) sent in three different requests this week. As a man of the people, I’ll hit all of them — I’ll just ask in return that you cut me in on your season-long earnings as a co-manager. In all seriousness, much love for sending in so many questions. Keep ’em coming.

Question: Half-PPR: With Engram out, is it wise to start OBJ (WR1) and Sterling Shepard (FLEX) in the same lineup and in a dream matchup?

Absolutely. The Giants-Saints game has the second-highest total this week, and there’s heavy action on the over. This game could turn into a shootout, and stacking the Giants receivers exposes you to that scoring upside. The Saints defense is allowing more than 300 passing yards per game this season, and it will be without slot cornerback Patrick Robinson in this game. Everything points to a big game from the Giants offense, so start Beckham and Shepard with confidence this week.

Question: Half-PPR: Is it OK to use Alex Collins with Buck Allen in the same lineup as a #waitnsee with Kenyan Drake to get right?

Don’t give up on Kenyan Drake just yet. He has a favorable matchup this week against the Patriots, and he has the 17th-highest median projection among running backs for Week 4. I know the past three weeks have been frustrating, but ride with Drake a little longer.

Javorius Allen has been one of my waiver recommendations  for two straight weeks, so good job rostering him. He’s a nice FLEX option, but he doesn’t have the upside Drake does. Buck’s role for the Ravens is based on his receiving and red-zone upside — it’s not a steady diet of touches. Leave him stashed on your bench, ready to stream him when you start dealing with byes in the coming weeks.

Question: Half-PPR: Do you think it’s still wise to stash Ronald Jones III?

Move on. Jones failed to secure a steady role during the preseason, and he’s dealt with injuries off and on for about two months. I’m not saying he’s a career bust, but in redraft leagues, he’s dead weight on your bench right now. Drop him for someone such as Geronimo Allison or John Brown, but continue to monitor his health.

FLEX Appeal

Question: PPR FLEX: Start 2: Kerryon Johnson, Austin Ekeler, Doug Baldwin, Corey Davis or Amari Cooper?

  • pgall @pgall8

I like Kerryon Johnson and Austin Ekeler this week, both of whom benefit from nice defensive matchups. Corey Davis and Amari Cooper are both more talented, with better upside, but I dislike their team situations.

Davis is by far the Titans’ No. 1 receiving option, but their game against Philly has a low 41-point total, and their quarterback situation is a mess. For Cooper, I haven’t loved what I’ve seen from the Raiders offense so far this season.

Meanwhile, Johnson draws the Cowboys defense without LB Sean Lee, and the Cowboys are probably one of the worst teams in football judging by the eye test. After Johnson’s 100-yard game last week, Detroit would be wise to continue to get him the rock.

Ekeler and the Chargers host the 49ers without Jimmy Garoppolo, and I have little faith that C.J. Beathard and the rest of the offense will put up much of a fight in this game. The Chargers have the second-highest implied team total of the weekend. If LA gets up early, game script may favor the run, enhancing the fantasy floor for both Ekeler and Melvin Gordon.

Question: PPR RB: James White or Alex Collins?

— TommyTM @TMo52_

I’ll take Collins this week. I get the upside with White now that Rex Burkhead is headed to Injured Reserve, but White remains game-flow dependent. His 20 targets this season is top five among running backs, which is excellent. But with White’s limited rushing upside, I prefer him at the FLEX rather than as my RB2. Collins, on the other hand, has a much higher rushing floor and touchdown upside. Although Collins hasn’t seen a full RB1 workload so far this season, I believe that’s mostly been due to game script rather than an indictment of his ability.

Question: PPR WR: Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs? Also, which Rams receiver will Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes shadow Thursday night?

— Lord Guian @knight007_ph

Go with Adam Thielen if you can’t start both of them. Thielen boasts top-10 median and floor projections among wide receivers this week and leads the NFL in targets (44). The Rams might be without both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters tonight, which creates better matchups everywhere for the Vikings. Still, the Rams’ pass rush is one of the best in the NFL, which should likely funnel more passing in the short-to-intermediate range. Thielen is the Vikings’ dedicated slot receiver, which makes him primed for another huge volume game against the Rams.

On the other side of the ball, it looks like star corner Xavier Rhodes will likely shadow Brandin Cooks. For perspective on just how oppressive Rhodes is in coverage, look no further than this gem from Action Network analyst Ian Hartitz:

Fantasy Football Rankings

PPR: Flex | QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST | K
Standard: Flex | QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST | K
Half-Point PPR: Flex | QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST | K

Trade Bait

This is a Start or Sit column, people. But, I’ll still welcome the trade questions, too.

Question: Would you trade Sony Michel and Chris Carson for Le’Veon Bell if you have James Conner?

— Joel Porter @Jdp227

Heck yes. Both the Seahawks and Patriots are dealing with serious injuries or suspensions to their offensive lines and receiving corps, which makes it hard for me to trust Carson or Michel for the rest of the season. If you can parlay those two into a deal for Bell, you should absolutely do it. Even if you get only eight games out of Bell on a new team (assuming he’s indeed traded), he is one of the top-three running backs in fantasy football. To me, this one is a no-brainer.

Question: Would trading away Tevin Coleman for Doug Baldwin in a vacuum right now be a good idea?

— Winning Raven @WinningRaven1

This is not a horrible idea. But, it completely depends on your roster construction. If you can stomach the loss of guaranteed FLEX running back with lead back upside, then you should consider this.

Baldwin carries ample downside risk — he’s suffered injuries to both his knees in the past two months. Still, that Seahawks offense has looked anemic, and Baldwin should command a huge target market share once he’s healthy.

I would normally say you could sell high on Coleman, but he hasn’t had an explosion game quite yet. I’m not certain you’ll get fair value out of a deal if you trade him right now. My best advice would be to wait for Coleman to pop (hopefully this week, for your sake), then sell high to obtain Baldwin — or any other borderline WR1 — before Devonta Freeman returns for the Falcons.

Season-Long Considerations

Question: 16-team PPR: I have James Washington and Christian Kirk as bench stashes. Need to drop 1 to make room for kicker or defense. Would you prefer Cameron Meredith over either (not just Week 4)?

— JC @JC02408953

Meredith has started to find his way in the Saints offense, but Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas own too much of the Saints’ target market share for me to recommend him.

With Josh Rosen now at the helm for the Cardinals, I prefer the upside of Christian Kirk. The rookie tandem saw ample second-team snaps together in the offseason and preseason. Their rapport may pay off by season’s end for savvy owners such as yourself.

Question: Do you think the QB contact rule changed the game to be more pass heavy due to the lack of ability to pressure the QB without drawing a penalty? How do you think this will change the fantasy landscape? Weeks 1-3 seem to have been higher scoring than usual.

— ethan @ent5021

Here’s my short answer: Yes, I think we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift in NFL offensive philosophy and game flow.

Here’s the longer version: The NFL had the opportunity years ago to install penalties for quarterbacks who left their receivers in vulnerable positions against waiting linebackers and safeties. In my opinion, when a quarterback leads a slot receiver high and to the inside on a slant route against zone coverage, he’s asking for his receiver to get blown up. It’s an unsafe way to play the game — it puts offensive players in jeopardy and leaves them defenseless. There’s been a big movement to penalize defensive players when they hit a defenseless receiver, but why hasn’t there been any motivation to ensure receivers are never put in these defenseless positions to begin with?

Instead, the league chose to hamstring defenses, and now it’s trying to stifle pass rushers. Even if the NFL tempers the enforcement of its rules against leading with the helmet or falling on the quarterback with your full weight, this rules trend does not seem easily reversible. And yes, we’ve already begun to see the effects of these decisions in the fantasy world.

This offseason, I did a lengthy study on fantasy football trends, analyzing changes in offensive production from a macro perspective. My research showed that there has been a drastic shift in fantasy points distribution among the different skill positions. You can check out my article here for the full analysis, but I’ll leave you with this graph showing the rise in quarterback market share of fantasy points over the past 10 years. As we’ve seen already this season, this quarterback trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down:

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