We are officially a quarter of the way through the NFL season, meaning its time to take a good look at what players are trending in the right direction, and which players are trending in the wrong direction. Week 4-5 is the time where fantasy owners start to panic when it comes to underperforming players, when you can begin to tell who was a steal or who was a reach, and frankly how a player should be performing week in and week out.
With that being said, I am beginning a new mini-series of articles to evaluate the trends of some of the most prominent players that are either over or underperforming thus far. There will be four total “Stock Reports”, one every four weeks.
Here is your first look at who’s arrows are pointing up, and who’s are pointing down.
QB | Ben Roethlisberger | PIT
Big Ben wasn’t bad the first three weeks of the season (aside from a dud in week 3). He amassed 816 passing yards and 6 touchdowns, but did have 3 interceptions. Enter Le’Veon Bell. While you might not think the addition of a running back can have that drastic of an impact, just look at Ben’s week 4 stat line. He threw for 300 yards even with 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a 43-14 stomping of the Kansas City Chiefs, albeit typically a respectable defense. The addition of Le’Veon Bell adds a whole new dynamic to the Steelers’ juggernaut offense and should free up a ton of chances for play-action passes and dump offs. No other quarterback’s arrow is pointing higher than Big Ben’s as he is cemented in the QB1 discussion on a weekly basis.
RB | DeMarco Murray | TEN
When initially traded to Tennessee, many thought Murray’s season was over before it started. He had other plans. After receiving only 25 carries over his first two weeks (while he did post an average of 17.6 FP due to dominance in the passing game), he has received 41 total carries over weeks 3 and 4 in which he’s added 3 rushing touchdowns. Murray has no competition for goal line work (sorry for those of you that are high on Derrick Henry) and he seems to be cementing himself as the every down back for the Titans. For those of you who were able to scoop up Murray in the 3rd and 4th round, if this trend continues, you’re quite possibly looking at the steal of the draft.
WR | Will Fuller | HOU
His hands need work, a lot of work actually, but I have to admit I’ve been extremely impressed through the first four weeks. Fuller has been able to feast in the middle of field with the primary corners shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and that’s led to 19 receptions on 34 targets through 4 weeks with 323 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Those 323 receiving yards are actually 96 more than Hopkins has on the season, in case you were curious. The targets? 1 more than Hopkins. Oh yeah, he also leads the team in yards per reception at 17.0. He has a tough couple of games coming up against the Vikings and Broncos in his next three games, but with attention continuing to be on Hopkins, expect Fuller to keep performing as a reliable WR2 on a weekly basis.
TE | Rob Gronkowski | NE
Gronk has been brutal so far, I know. He was inactive for the first two games of the season and has only seen 3 total targets in his last two games. Luckily, Tom Brady is back for week 5 and Gronk is by far and away his favorite target. The addition of Brady completely changes the dynamic of the Patriots’ offense. There really isn’t much that I need to say here, but if someone in your league is selling Gronk for cheap, don’t be the idiot who passes that up.
K | Josh Lambo | SD
All kickers are universally the same. By the end of the season, only a handful of points separate the top from the bottom, but what I look for is consistency. Lambo has been exactly that. Even with the rash of injuries, the Chargers have an extremely up-tempo and potent offense, usually having no problem getting in field goal range. It also helps that their defense is terrible, giving Lambo more and more opportunities on offense. He’s averaged 10 points per game in the first 4 weeks and gets the Raiders in week 5, who are currently allowing 26.5 points per game on the season. If your kicker is struggling and Lambo is available, pick him up.
DEF | Minnesota Vikings
Sheesh this team is for real. It pains me to say that as a Packers’ fan, but they are. We finally have some competition in the NFC North. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Vikings are AVERAGING 16.75 fantasy points per game. They have 15 sacks (thanks to an EIGHT!! sack performance against the Panthers), 6 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries and a pair of defensive touchdowns. They get the Texans this week, and then come off of their bye to take on the Eagles, Bears, Lions, and Redskins. Start licking your chops if you own the Vikings defense.
QB | Eli Manning | NYG
The Giants’ offense in general belongs in this section, but I’ll stick solely to Eli. Through the first four weeks of the season, Eli has thrown for a ton of yards, 1186 actually. Impressive, right? He only has 4 touchdowns. And 4 interceptions. That’s the Eli we know! He’s only surpassed 16 fantasy points once (in week 1) and his RB1 and RB2s are injured. Oh yeah, and his WR1 is the biggest b*tch in sports. Combine all of that and you get a quarterback that I want absolutely no part of for the foreseeable future.
RB | Devonta Freeman | ATL
I’m so happy that I can write about Devonta Freeman here because I tried warning everyone at the beginning of the season. In fact, the turnover is happening earlier than I thought. Freeman is a sluggish runner. Aside from an outlier game in week 3 in which he busted out for 152 yards on 14 carries, he hasn’t received 20 carries in a game once, and has only topped 60 yards twice (including week 3). Tevin Coleman hasn’t rushed like expected, but he’s established himself as the passing down back. Freeman is currently leading the committee at about a 60/40 or 65/35 ratio, but I fully expect that to continue, if not get worse for Freeman as the year progresses.
WR | Randall Cobb | GB
After a surprisingly disappointing season last year without Jordy Nelson, things are only getting worse for Cobb this season. On the season, Cobb has only 18 targets through 3 games, with 12 catches for 132 yards and has yet to hit pay dirt. Usually viewed as an upside WR2, he finds himself as a middling WR3 at best right now with Jordy Nelson soaking up all of Aaron Rodgers’ attention (and rightfully so). Cobb has a juicy next four weeks (NYG, DAL, CHI, @ATL) so he could turn it around, but if you’re looking at his usage, this unfortunately looks like it could be a long year for Randall Cobb.
TE | Coby Fleener | NO
Well it seems like the reports in the preseason about Fleener and Drew Brees not being on the same page were nothing short of accurate. Fleener looks lost. Not only can he not catch, but he just looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He broke out in week 3 for 109 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets, but the other three weeks have been repulsive. He’s accumulated 28 total targets and caught only 13 of those (I’d bet he has at least 5 drops already). Fleener is only on pace for 652 yards and 4 touchdowns this season, and it’s getting difficult for me to recommend holding on to him through the bye weeks. Let’s just hope he finds himself some new hands by my next Stock Report.
K | Blair Walsh | MIN
Man, that missed field goal in the playoffs last season is still haunting Blair Walsh. Walsh has already missed 3 field goals this season to go along with 2 missed XP. Mike Zimmer has said he currently has no competition for the starting kicker spot, but you’ve got to think that if he goes another week or two with a miss, they might show him the door sooner rather than later. There are better options on the waiver wire right now.
DEF | Carolina Panthers
Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Falcons DESTROYED the Panthers secondary in week 4 and the Panthers have yet to allow fewer than 20 points on the season. Through the first four weeks, they only have 9 sacks, 5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 defensive touchdowns. While this is still far from a bad defense, their secondary has some glaring holes after the departure of Josh Norman. The rookie cornerbacks have shown little to no ability in keeping up with opposing wideouts (Julio caught 12 balls for 300 yards last week, Josh Norman must be LOLing), and there doesn’t look like there’s much progress being made. With a number of difficult matchups ahead, the Panthers don’t strike me as a top tier defense this season, so go ahead and temper those expectations.
Thank you for reading my first Stock Report article, and I’ll be back with Volume 2 after Week 8!