The Primer: Week 4 Edition (2022 Fantasy Football)

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Derek Brown, normally the sole author of the Primer, wrote up the first five games of this week’s edition per usual — and then he came down with Covid.

So the final 11 games were written by Andrew Erickson, Pat Fitzmaurice, and Matthew Freedman.

We hope your Week 4 is better than Derek’s — and we (selfishly) hope he feels better next week.

Check out all of our Week 4 fantasy football content >>

MIN vs. NO | CLE vs. ATL | WAS vs. DAL | SEA vs. DET | TEN vs. IND | CHI vs. NYG | JAC vs. PHI | NYJ vs. PIT | BUF vs. BAL | LAC vs. HOU | ARI vs. CAR | NE vs. GB | DEN vs. LV | KC vs. TB | LAR vs. SF |

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Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints

By: Derek Brown

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins: Cousins might currently be the QB14 in fantasy, but he’s easily a top-12 option this week. The on-paper matchup looks difficult for Cousins at first as New Orleans has held quarterbacks to the sixth-lowest success rate and 13th-lowest EPA per dropback. When we dig deeper, this is a plus matchup for Cousins. New Orleans has converted into a zone-heavy defense, preferring to drop back and keep everything in front of them. Their starting corners have been deployed in zone coverage on 59-64% of their snaps. They have also given up on rushing the passer with extra defenders. New Orleans has the fourth-lowest blitz rate and ranks 30th in pressure rate. Cousins will have ample time to dice up the Saints’ zone. Over the last two seasons, he’s ranked top 14 (14th, seventh) in completion rate and top-ten in passer rating (third, 10th) against zone coverage.

Jameis Winston: Winston has been performing as a solid QB2 (QB17 in fantasy points per game) through the first three weeks, but is doubtful for this contest. Andy Dalton will start in his place. The Red Rifle ranked 29th in aDOT and yards per attempt (6.4) in 2021 as a member of the Chicago Bears. Although it’s worth noting that he faced the Vikings defense in his last start in Week 18, 2021— throwing for 325 passing yards, one TD and two interceptions. The Vikings are a middle-of-the-road defense this year against the pass at first glance, but that’s paper thin. They are 16th in success rate and 15th in EPA per dropback, which don’t look woeful. However, they are 29th in DVOA against short passing and have yet to be tested extensively by a good deep ball thrower. Aaron Rodgers only attempt two deep balls against them (zero completions), while Jalen Hurts completed one of his two deep attempts for a 53-yard touchdown. The Vikings were 24th in DVOA against deep passing last year. Considering Dalton’s drastic difference as a deep-ball passer compared to Winston, I’d imagine you’ll see more targets underneath to the running backs and wide receivers. Dalton should be on your radar if you’re looking for a QB in 2QB/Superflex formats for Week 4. 

Running Backs

Dalvin Cook: Cook left last week’s game with a dislocated shoulder. He has a long history of shoulder injuries, but early reports indicate he’ll wear a harness in Week 4 and play. He’s practiced in full Thurs-Fri. Cook has averaged 16.6 touches and 80 total yards this year. Before last week’s abbreviated showing, he had seen a 14.5% target share with a 65.1% route run rate. Excluding his abysmal showing in Week 2, he’s racked up 3.38 yards after contact per attempt and an 84.5 elusive rating. This season, those marks would rank 22nd and 16th among rushers with at least ten carries. New Orleans isn’t the brick wall run defense of old. While they have allowed the ninth-lowest rushing success rate, they have also bled out the 11th-highest explosive run rate and are 15th in rushing yards per game. Cook will have to do most of his damage on the ground as the Saints are fourth in DVOA against receiving backs. If Cook plays, it’s simple. You play him as a top-12 running back.

Alexander Mattison: If Cook is active, Mattison is not playable. Through three games as his backup, he’s averaged seven touches, 31.3 total yards, and 31% of the snaps played. Cook practiced in full on Thursday, making it likely he plays. 

Alvin Kamara: After missing a week, Kamara returned with 17 touches and 73 total yards while playing a season-high 70% of the snaps. He handled 68.2% of the team’s carries and saw a 17.9% target share (61.9% route per dropback rate). Kamara is in a smash spot this week. Minnesota has been swiss cheese against the run with the fifth-highest success rate and ninth-highest EPA allowed. They are also fourth-highest in explosive run rate and seventh in receptions allowed to running backs. Kamara is a strong RB1 in Week 4 with additional receiving upside to boot because of injuries to both Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston. 

Mark Ingram: Ingram returned to his strict backup role in Week 3. With only five touches and 33% of the snaps played, he isn’t startable despite the touchdown. Ingram split the red zone work with Kamara in Week 3, which isn’t something to gravitate to as each player only received one carry inside the 20. In the two games they’ve played together, Kamara leads Ingram in red zone work (three touches vs. one).

Wide Receivers

Justin Jefferson: Since his monster Week 1 performance, Jefferson has struggled. Over his last two games, he’s seen a 22% target share with 22.5% of the team’s air yards. Among the 58 wide receivers with ten or more targets over that span, he ranks 54th in yards per route run and 57th in PFF receiving grade. He’ll run about 71% of his routes against Marshon Lattimore and Justin Evans. Lattimore has allowed a 42.9% catch rate and 51.5 passer rating. Evans has been more pliable with a 64.3% catch rate and 84.2 passer rating in coverage. Despite the tough corner matchups, Jefferson is set to crush in Week 4. The Saints’ move to zone will be their undoing. Among all wide receivers with five or more zone targets, Jefferson is the 4th-highest grade receiver per PFF. He ranks third in yards per route run against zone coverage with 48.1% of his target volume against zone. Jefferson is a top-five receiver this week.

Adam Thielen: Over the last two weeks Thielen has shown signs of life as the WR31 in fantasy with an 18.3% target share (30.2% of the team’s air yards). His usage has increased with Jefferson flopping, but his efficiency is still blah. In those two games he’s only 47th in weighted opportunity with a 1.27 yards per route run. Thielen is a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 this week running about 63% of his routes against Lattimore and Bradley Roby. Roby has allowed a 45.5% catch rate and 62.9 passer rating.

K.J. Osborn: Despite his clutch touchdown and the big game last week, Osborn is only a low-end flex or WR5/6. Even with the big game last week, he’s still only seen 12.4% of the targets and a 22.4% air yard share as the WR63 in fantasy. He’ll run about 55% of his routes against Evans in the slot.

Michael Thomas: Thomas has been ruled out of Sunday’s game in London against the Vikings.

Tre’Quan Smith: Smith projects to take over the majority of snaps/routes in Thomas’ absence after running a route on 57% of dropbacks in Week 3. He also went over 100 receiving yards, but the majority of the production came on a few deep shots late in the game. It’s worth noting that Smith ran with the backups all summer during training camp — including projected Week 4 starter Andy Dalton — so there’s a chance we see that chemistry translate on the field this Sunday. 

Jarvis Landry: Landry also left last week’s game with an injury (foot/ankle). He’s questionable for Week 4. Obvious appeal with Landry as a candidate to lead the Saints in targets as the team’s primary slot receiver with Thomas out. 

Chris Olave: With Thomas and Landry exiting Week 4’s game, Olave went nuts. He saw a 33.3% target share (eighth-highest for the week) while finishing fifth in air yards and 11th in weighted opportunity. Olave ranks fifth in aDOT among wide receivers (minimum five targets) while leading the NFL in deep targets. He’s 20th in PFF receiving grade and 13th in yards per route run (minimum ten targets). He’ll run about 79% of his routes against Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler. Peterson has allowed a 42.9% catch rate and 63.7 passer rating, but as Week 1 showed against Christian Watson, he can be beaten by deep speed. Dantzler has given up an 81% catch rate and a 123 passer rating. Olave is a high upside flex option, but has considerably a much lower floor with Andy Dalton and not Jameis Winston has his QB under center in Week 4. Dalton ranked 29th in aDOT and yards per attempt (6.4) in 2021. He’s just not as aggressive throwing downfield as Winston is, which removes Olave’s biggest strength from the equation. It’s also no guarantee that Olave’s 33% target share from the past two weeks rolls over either with a brand new QB under center even with Michael Thomas not playing. Considering the boom-or-bust nature to Olave’s game, I’d imagine this is probably a spot he’s more likely to bust. 

Tight Ends

Irv Smith Jr.: While Smith has seen his route run rate climb to 60.4% over the last two weeks with a 17.1% target share, with this matchup against the Saints, he’s nothing more than a TE2. New Orleans has been tough against tight ends for multiple seasons, and 2022 isn’t any different. They are third in DVOA against the position with the fourth-fewest receptions and second-lowest receiving yards allowed.

Juwan Johnson: Johnson is a deep league streamer only. The matchup is amazing, and he gets a bump with Thomas out. Minnesota is 28th in DVOA against the position giving up the tenth-most receptions and ninth-most receiving yards. Johnson has seen his route run rate decrease each week from 82.1% down to 57.1% last game. With his 11.6% target share, he is more of a trap than a treasure if the routes are taking a hit.

Cleveland Browns vs. Atlanta Falcons

By: Derek Brown

Quarterbacks

Jacoby Brissett: Brissett is a strong QB2 option with upside this week. He is the QB17 in fantasy points per game after sneaking in as the QB12 in Week 3. The matchup is glorious for Brissett against a surprisingly bad Atlanta secondary. The Falcons are eighth in yards per attempt and seventh in passing touchdown rate allowed. They have permitted the second-highest success rate per drop back while sitting with a pitiful 13.8% pressure rate (29th). Brissett has played extremely well as PFF’s fourth-highest graded passer, ranking 11th in adjusted completion rate (minimum 20 dropbacks).

Marcus Mariota: Despite the pace concerns, this game has sneaky shootout potential. With hapless secondaries on both sides, Mariota must keep pace with Brissett. Mariota falls into the strong streaming option bucket this week as the QB13 in fantasy points per game. His legs have remained a major benefit for his fantasy success as he ranks fourth in carries per game, sixth in rushing yards, and first in red zone carries. Mariota has been pushing the ball downfield, ranking 11th in deep attempts and third in air yards per attempt. The Browns have the eighth-highest explosive pass rate allowed. They are also 12th in EPA per dropback, passing touchdown rate, and yards per attempt given up. Mariota has seen the eighth-lowest pressure rate this year and should get clean pockets against a defense that ranks 21st in pressure rate.

Running Backs

Weeks 1-3

Player % of Rushing attempts Target share Route Run % Red zone opportunities
Nick Chubb 54.9% 5.7% 38.6% 10
Kareem Hunt 31.9% 11.4% 50.5% 13

 

Nick Chubb: Chubb remains a strong RB1, essentially a lock for 20 touches per game. He’s averaged 22 touches and 123 total yards. He remains one of the league’s most explosive rushers, ranking tenth in yards after contact per attempt and third in PFF’s elusive rating (minimum ten carries). The Falcons’ run defense has deteriorated as they now have the highest rush EPA and third-highest rush success rate allowed. Chubb is tied with Hunt with a 44.6% route run rate over the last two weeks. Even a few targets like he received in Week 2 (three targets, 26 receiving yards) raise his floor and ceiling.

BETTLE MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Each week, we’ll pick a matchup of the week, presented by Bettle. For Week 4, Nick Chubb is our Bettle Matchup of the Week.

Beettle, Play the Field

Kareem Hunt: Hunt is a rock solid RB2 (RB15 in fantasy points per game). He’s averaged 15 touches and 68.3 total yards. He’s outpaced Chubb in target share, route run rate, and red zone usage. None of those should shock anyone that’s been paying attention over the last few seasons. This week, the bulk of Hunt’s value will have to come on the ground and in the red zone because Atlanta has been top-shelf against running backs in the passing game. They are 10th in DVOA with the eighth-fewest receptions, and fifth-fewest receiving yards surrendered to running backs.

Cordarrelle Patterson: This is another awesome, low-key matchup for Patterson to go wild this week. The Browns have limited opposing running backs to the seventh-lowest open field yards and 12th-lowest explosive run rate, but outside of limiting home runs, they have been susceptible to chunk gains. Cleveland has granted the 11th-highest rushing success rate and sixth-highest rushing EPA. Outside of his Week 2 dud, Patterson has averaged 21.5 touches and 144.5 total yards as the RB6 in fantasy points per game. He’s been efficient with his touches ranking 18th in yards created per touch, seventh in breakaway run rate, and 22nd in juke rate. He’s a solid RB2 with RB1 upside.

Tyler Allgeier: Allgeier didn’t see his role grow in Week 3, with 37% of snaps played and seven touches for 30 total yards. With 2.00 yards after contact per attempt and zero pass game role, he’s a low-end handcuff at best right now and not playable in fantasy.

Wide Receivers

Amari Cooper: Cooper has looked like a throwback version of himself through three games as the WR13 in fantasy points per game. He’s seventh in target share (30.7%) and first in air yard share (50.3%) while sitting at second in weighted opportunity among wide receivers (minimum five targets). He’s PFF’s 14th highest graded wide receiver, ranking 17th in yards per route run (minimum ten targets). He’ll run nearly 80% of his routes against A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward. Terrell has been roasted with a 72.7% catch rate and 133.9 passer rating. Hayward has also shown his age with a 78.6% catch rate and 112.8 passer rating. Terrell and Hayward have operated in zone coverage on 61% of their defensive snaps. Cooper has seen 48.1% of his target volume against zone, ranking 12th in yards per route run against the coverage type (minimum five targets). Cooper is a strong WR2.

Donovan Peoples-Jones: Peoples-Jones isn’t playable. His Week 1 performance was a fluke. Since that game, he has a 6.9% target share and 0.18 yards per route run with back-to-back games outside the top 100 fantasy wide receivers.

Drake London: London has been a certified baller from the word go. He’s finished as a top 36 (WR34, WR10, WR31) fantasy wide receiver in each game. He’s WR15 in fantasy points per game, ranking fourth in target share and first in target per route rate. He’s third in yards per route run and second in fantasy points per route run. Cleveland has deployed their outside corners in zone coverage on 59-62% of their snaps. London is 11th in the NFL in targets against zone (70.8% of his target volume) with the second-highest PFF receiving grade against the coverage and the fourth-highest yards per route run (minimum five zone targets). He’ll run 85% of his routes against Denzel Ward and Martin Emerson. Ward has been torched this year allowing a 68.8% catch rate and 132.3 passer rating. Emerson hasn’t been much better with a 66.7% catch rate and 99.8 passer rating. London is a top 20 wide receiver in Week 4.

Tight Ends

David Njoku: David Njoku finally exploded as an integral part of this passing attack in Week 3. He finished the week third among tight ends in target share (32.3%) and fourth in air yard share (22.2%). He saw an 81.8% route run rate and now sits at fourth in yards per route run among tight ends. He gets another sweet matchup to continue the breakout train this week. Atlanta is 24th in DVOA against tight ends allowing the fourth-most receptions and receiving yards. Njoku is a top-ten tight end this week with top-five upside.

Kyle Pitts: Pitts finally exploded like Njoku in Week 3. He finished the week second in target share (42.1%), third in receiving yards, and second in air yard share (52.9%) as the TE6 in fantasy. Pitts has the talent, if featured, to dominate any matchup. The Browns are 12th in DVOA against tight ends, but Pitts is a glorified slot receiver (40.7%) who also runs nearly 28% of his routes on the perimeter (27.5%). He’ll see Ward and Emerson outside and Greg Newsome in the slot. Newsome has allowed a 64.7% catch rate and 111.6 passer rating. Pitts remains a top-five tight end.

Washington Commanders vs. Dallas Cowboys

By: Derek Brown

Quarterbacks

Carson Wentz: Last week Wentz turned back into a pumpkin against the Eagles’ defense. He was the QB30 for the week with an anemic 4.9 yards per attempt and a 58.1% completion rate. This week could be more of the same. Dallas is sixth in pass defense DVOA allowing the fourth-lowest passing touchdown rate and fifth-lowest yards per attempt. The Cowboys are only 22nd in pressure rate, but Wentz has seen the ninth-highest pressure rate this season. Wentz is 27th in pressured accuracy rating and 28th in pressured catchable pass rate. Wentz is a volatile QB2 with an extremely low floor.

Cooper Rush: Rush has been an effective QB2 (QB20, QB23) and effective game manager for Dallas in Dak Prescott‘s absence. He’s 16th in PFF passing grade and 18th in adjusted completion rate (minimum 20 dropbacks). Washington is a superb matchup for him to keep the steady production train on track in Week 4. The Commanders are 28th in pass defense DVOA with the third-highest passing touchdown rate and yards per attempt. Rush doesn’t possess the upside to consider him in 1QB leagues unless we’re talking a deep (16-team) league.

Running Backs

Weeks 2-3

Player % of Rushing attempts Target share Route Run % TPRR Red zone opportunities
Antonio Gibson 60.5% 5.6% 31.5% 14% 8
J.D. McKissic 14% 19.1% 45.9% 33% 0

 

Antonio Gibson: After starting on fire in Week 1, Gibson has cooled off. Over the last two games, he’s ceding more work to McKissick, averaging 49% of snaps with 14.5 touches and 40.5 total yards. He’s seen his targets drop each week. He’s been terribly inefficient with his volume ranking outside the top 40 running backs in juke rate, yards per touch, and yards created per touch. The Washington offensive line isn’t doing him any favors as they rank 26th or lower in adjusted line yards, second-level yards, and open field yards. Dallas is a plus matchup ranking dead last in explosive run rate with the 14th highest EPA per rush, but it’s fair to question whether Gibson can take advantage or if his line can open holes for him. Gibson could easily be scripted out of this game. He’s a risky RB3.

J.D. McKissic: McKissic’s volume over the last two weeks has been similar to Gibson’s, as he’s averaged 9.5 touches and 51.5 total yards. He out-snapped his counterpart with 53% of the snaps played in Week 3 (Gibson, 44%). With his 19.1% target share over the last two games, this week setups up well for McKissic against a Cowboys defense ranked 25th in DVOA against pass-catching backs. McKissic is an RB4 with a boost in PPR formats (RB3 with upside). The biggest worry in rolling out McKissic in your flex is that he has zero red zone role over the last two weeks, but with the workload shifting in his favor, that could easily change this week.

Weeks 2-3

Player % of Rushing attempts Target share Route Run % Red zone opportunities
Ezekiel Eliott 54.5% 5% 61.9% 3
Tony Pollard 40% 13.3% 34.9% 4

 

Ezekiel Elliott: Before shutting down Miles Sanders last week on the ground, the Commanders were also having issues defending the run. They still grade out as a plus matchup for this rushing attack. The Commanders are 24th and 29th in second-level and open field yards. They have the 14th-highest explosive run rate and rank 11th in rushing yards allowed per game (third-highest yards per carry). After RB49 and RB43 finishes to open the season, he was the RB16 last week in another good matchup after he got into the endzone. He is clearly on the back nine of his career. Out of 59 running backs with at least ten carries, he’s 33rd in yards after contact per attempt and 42nd in PFF’s elusive rating. Elliott has disintegrated into less explosive Damien Harris. Elliott is a touchdown-dependent RB3.

Tony Pollard: Pollard is the RB26 in fantasy points per game and an upside RB3 this week. Excluding a disappointing Week 1, Pollard is ninth in yards after contact per attempt, 14th in breakaway rate, and 17th in PFF’s elusive rating (minimum ten carries). Over the last two games, he has averaged 13 touches and 101.5 total yards. In those last two contests, he’s out-touched Elliott inside the 20 while seeing a 13.3% target share. If Pollard doesn’t get it done on the ground this week, he can through the air. Washington is 18th in DVOA against pass-catching backs with the most receiving touchdowns.

Wide Receivers

Terry McLaurin: McLaurin has been a mild disappointment to this point. While he hasn’t busted in any week (WR27, WR37, WR24) as the WR31 in fantasy points per game, he likely has lived up to draft season hopes. His 16.5% target share is less than ideal. He’s seen a 30.7% air yard share as the team’s deep threat. He leads all Washington wide receivers in aDOT and is tied for the team lead in deep targets with Dotson (five). McLaurin is a WR3 this week with WR2 upside if he connects on a deep ball. He’ll run about 80% of his routes against Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown. Diggs has allowed a 61.9% catch rate and 79.5 passer rating. Brown has permitted a 64.3% catch rate and 98.5 passer rating.

Jahan Dotson: Dotson is playing a similar role to McLaurin. The difference here is that his volume is a shade lower. He has seen a 14.2% target share and 23.7% of the team’s air yards. After living off touchdowns and efficiency in Weeks 1 & 2 as the WR17 and WR20, his volatility caught up with him as the WR91. Dotson will run about 73% of his routes against Diggs and Brown as a WR4 this week.

Curtis Samuel: “Dollar Store Deebo” Samuel has been the most consistent source of volume in this passing attack. Samuel has at least nine targets in every game (23.6% target share) with WR13, WR12, and WR38 finishes. Samuel has also seen at least three carries in two of three games. With his 2.8 aDOT (96th), he’s been a PPR machine that has also seen three red zone targets. If Dallas turns up the heat, Samuel should be peppered with short area targets from Wentz again this week. Samuel is a WR3 with a boost in PPR formats. He’ll run about 68% of his routes against Jourdan Lewis, who allows an 86.7% catch rate and 108.6 passer rating.

CeeDee Lamb: After a dreadful Week 1, Lamb has finished as the WR24 and WR8 in fantasy despite Prescott’s absence. He’s been a volume monster with at least 11 targets in every game (33.7% target share, second-highest). He’s ninth in target per route rate. Over the last two weeks, he’s 15th in yards per route run as PFF’s tenth-highest graded receiver. He’ll run about 54% of his routes against Rachad Wildgoose, a former sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills who has allowed all three targets in his career to be secured. Lamb is a high-end WR2.

Noah Brown: Brown might not be a sexy name, but he’s been a consistent producer as the WR29 in fantasy points per game. He has a 20.8% target share with 26.2% of the team’s air yards. He’s been a consistent factor in the red zone, ranking ninth among wide receivers in red zone targets. He’s finished each week with five receptions and at least 54 receiving yards. Brown will run about 54% of his routes against Benjamin St. Juste and Kendall Fuller (if William Jackson is out again). St. Juste has allowed a 38.9% catch rate and 76.4 passer rating. Fuller has given up a 63.6% catch rate and 134.7 passer rating. Brown is a WR4/5 or a solid flex. But be warned that his snaps might be limited with Michael Gallup active for Sunday. Would try to see if Gallup is fully healthy/playing a full-time role before throwing him into my starting lineup. 

Tight Ends

Logan Thomas: Thomas is a TE2 who hasn’t seen his route run rate increase as I hoped. He’s remained in the 54.5-62.5% range in every game. With his 11.0% target share (22nd) and tough matchup (Dallas ninth in DVOA) upcoming, Thomas is a desperation streamer only. The Cowboys rank 18th in receptions allowed to tight ends, but they’ve held them to the third-lowest receiving yardage total.

Dalton Schultz: Jerry Jones “an expert medical professional” expects Dalton Schultz to play. But I’d still be bearish, because for Schultz to be a useful fantasy asset, he needs to reprise his every-down role on offense. Any limitation would hinder his fantasy production tremendously. Also, we have a two game sample size of Schultz with Cooper Rush at QB dating back to last season, and he’s averaged 2 catches for 15 yards. Woof. If he is out, don’t consider any tight ends from Dallas for your fantasy starting lineup. In Week 3, they evenly split routes between Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson.

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