Serious question -- should you do whatever it takes to acquire Peyton Manning?
Obviously, you're not going to trade Adrian Peterson and Julio Jones for him (or probably even Peterson straight up), but how about, say, Cam Newton and Brandon Marshall? As good as those players are, they're unlikely to be as consistent as Manning, who's the most automatic player in fantasy football right now.
It's entirely possible that we've just seen Manning's best four-game stretch of the season, and it's likely that he's going to have a 250-yard, one-TD, one-INT performance within the next couple weeks. But it's still tough to imagine any fantasy player scoring more points than him, barring injury. If you have any sort of depth at RB or WR, trading your QB and top RB or WR for Manning isn't as crazy as it sounds. Fantasy football is all about winning weeks, and with Manning, you basically get at least a 25-point head start in each matchup.
Regardless of if you have Manning, there's plenty you can do to optimize your lineup. And that's why we're here to look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 4.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's fantasy mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
Russell Wilson has two poor fantasy performances to go along with one mediocre one and one good one. We know the talent is there, but it's getting tougher to trust Wilson, especially when he's on the road.
Robert Griffin III (just 28.8 fantasy points in Washington's two “close” games) and Colin Kaepernick (27.6 points since Week 1) are in the same boat. It's likely no coincidence that all three are dual-threat QBs, which are generally more boom-or-bust than good pocket passers. Wilson, Griffin III and Kaepernick could easily put up 35-point performances in their next games, but none are sure things on a weekly basis right now.
Notable Riser: Philip Rivers has posted 30-plus fantasy points in three of four games this year. His 12.5-point Week 3 performance against Tennessee was a disappointment, but it's looking more and more like Rivers' big start isn't a fluke. Potential injuries to the players around him are a concern, but Rivers himself hasn't missed a regular season game since becoming San Diego's starter in 2006. With a mostly favorable remaining schedule (including the Giants and Raiders in Weeks 14 and 16 during the fantasy playoffs), Rivers looks like a good trade target.
Notable Faller: So far, the Eagles have played two good pass defenses (KC and DEN) and two bad ones (WAS and SD). Michael Vick has a combined 31.9 fantasy points against the good ones and 67.8 against the bad ones. Calling the Eagles “paper tigers” might be a little strong, but it's clear that their high-speed offense isn't exactly unstoppable. With injury concerns about Vick ever present, give him one more week (@NYG in Week 5), then try to sell high.
There were plenty of big names who excelled last week, including Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles, but under-the-radar guys like Danny Woodhead, LeGarrette Blount and even Fred Jackson continue to do well.
Owners are going to want to start these types of players, and it's tough to argue against it, especially during the bye weeks. The key is taking the full body of work into context. Woodhead and Jackson look like legit options, but would you start them over Maurice Jones-Drew or Chris Johnson? Jones-Drew has struggled all year, so it's a possibility, but Johnson, despite being an overall disappointment, has really only had one “bad” game -- it just happened to come last week.
If you trust Woodhead- and Jackson-types, which isn't unreasonable, then you might be better off just going all-in and trying to trade one of your starting RBs and getting a starter at another position. It's risky, but it could provide your team with more overall value while alleviating headaches with start/sit decisions.
Notable Riser: Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell had a successful debut, rushing for 57 yards and two scores on 16 carries. Perhaps just as important is that he caught four passes for 27 yards. With a bye week coming up, his injured foot should only get better, and Bell has the look of a workhorse. Pittsburgh's offense still has issues, which could limit Bell's scoring chances, but yards shouldn't be a problem as long as he's healthy.
Notable Faller: Get ready for a shocker -- Darren McFadden injured his hamstring on Sunday. He missed the rest of the game, though early reports say he avoided “serious injury.” Rashad Jennings took over for McFadden and put up 116 total yards, and with Marcel Reece (knee) also getting injured this week, Jennings stands to see a lot of playing time against the Chargers this week. C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Alfred Morris (ribs) also left Sunday's games early, giving Fred Jackson even more value (as long as his gimpy knee holds up) and making Roy Helu a top waiver pickup this week.
Several new QBs have taken starting spots in recent weeks, but it hasn't hurt most of those teams' receivers. Minnesota's Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson both excelled last week with Matt Cassel under center, and Josh Gordon has been just fine with Brian Hoyer throwing him passes. Mike Williams caught a touchdown last week from rookie Mike Glennon, and even though Vincent Jackson had just two catches for 27 yards, he was targeted 11 times, which is a good sign. Also, Nate Washington caught a 77-yard TD from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will be taking over for Tennessee for at least the next four weeks while Jake Locker gets over a hip injury. Denarius Moore (66 yards) was also fine without Terrelle Pryor.
Obviously, we're dealing with small sample sizes here, and none of the above teams had great starters to begin with, but QB2s starting isn't exactly a death knell to receivers. In fact, in the cases of Browns' and Jaguars' receivers (and maybe Minnesota's), it looks like the backups might actually be an upgrade. All of the receivers mentioned above have at least WR3 potential in standard leagues.
Notable Riser: A fair amount of Alshon Jeffery's production last week came in garbage time, but it's pretty obvious that Jay Cutler trusts him almost as much as Brandon Marshall. Jeffery received a season-high 11 targets, and he's now gotten at least eight targets in three of four games. Jeffery might continue to be inconsistent, but the chances should be there. Same goes for Buffalo's Robert Woods, who's received 18 targets over the past two weeks, and St. Louis'
Notable Faller: Any time a receiver has a negative fantasy day, owners will overreact. Stevie Johnson had such a day last week, catching just one pass for negative-one yard. Before you get too discouraged, note that Johnson had six targets, and over the first three games, he averaged just under 10 targets and 12.5 fantasy points. Even with Woods emerging, Johnson is still a good fantasy play. Ditto for Indianapolis' T.Y. Hilton, who's only had one good game this year but had nine targets last week and remains a premiere big-play threat.
Rob Gronkowski teased fantasy owners last week when it looked like he would make his season debut, but word came down Saturday night that he would miss his fourth straight game. Reports have surfaced that Gronk won't play until Week 6, but chances are he'll be a game-time decision this week against Cincinnati.
Obviously, we have to keep waiting this injury out, but Gronk owners are undoubtedly getting frustrated. Now's a good time to try to buy low, if possible. Gronkowski will be an injury risk even after he gets back, but when he's on the field, he'll be a top producer.
Notable Riser: San Diego's Antonio Gates has scored double-digit fantasy points in each of the past three games. He doesn't exactly looked like his “old self,” but Gates still looks good, and he's definitely taken advantage of Philip Rivers' resurgence and San Diego's new offensive scheme. Injuries will be a worry, but Gates is back to being an every-week starter.
Notable Faller: Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph has been much more “bust” than “boom” this year, and last week he received just two targets. Perhaps Matt Cassel prefers to throw downfield more than Christian Ponder, but Rudolph is almost unplayable at this point. The potential for a touchdown is always there, but you could say that about a dozen tight ends who weren't drafted as fantasy starters. It's not crazy to drop him if you need roster space, but if you keep him around, feel free to play matchups with your backup every week.
Bills at Browns
Stat to know: After a poor start to the season in terms of run defense, Buffalo has gradually improved, and they're still yet to allowing a rushing touchdown to a running back. Willis McGahee received 15 carries last week and seems to be Cleveland's lead back, but he's still a marginal option in this matchup.
Sleeper: Bills D/ST (league-leading 9 INTs, Cleveland has allowed at least three sacks in every game.)