Fantasy Football Week 4 Rankings: An Early Look Ahead

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

Sep 22, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Fantasy football is a funny business.

Thus far in Week 3, five of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks in standard-scoring leagues were Jake Locker, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel and Brian Hoyer. Meanwhile, Jason Snelling, Ahmad Bradshaw, Johnathan Franklin and Bilal Powell cracked the top 10 for running backs.

And don't even get me started on the wide receivers or tight ends.

The point is, fantasy football rankings are a guide, not a science. They're a reflection of a player's past performance and his current matchup, not a soothsayer's free tour into the future. If there was one lesson to be taken from Week 3, it's that the NFL remains as unpredictable as ever.

With that in mind, here's an early look at my Week 4 fantasy rankings and projections.


Note: Rankings are for standard-scoring leagues.




Quarterback Notes

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after throwing an interception in second half in a game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/G
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

There is a very good chance Tom Brady could have his top target, Rob Gronkowski, back for Week 4. What a difference that will make. 

Gronk caught 11 of Brady's 34 touchdown passes a year ago. He will be the one player on this offense to force mismatches and control the middle of the field. Brady will also trust him the most in the red zone. 

The Falcons aren't pushovers, but they also aren't kryptonite for fantasy quarterbacks. In a Sunday night showdown that could easily turn into a shootout, look for Brady to break out of his fantasy funk. 

And yes, I think Colin Kaepernick will rebound against the St. Louis Rams, even with a short week and a disappointing receiving corps. Remember, the Rams are allowing 19.7 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per week.

He's not a great start this week, but with Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton on bye, he's still a start. 


Running Backs


Running Back Notes

Sep 22, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs the ball against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a mess, the Arizona Cardinals are tough against the run and Doug Martin is averaging just 11.9 fantasy points per week in standard-scoring leagues. So why the heck do I have him at No. 7 on my list? 

For one, because Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster have really tough matchups in the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans. The San Diego Chargers are tough against the run, making DeMarco Murray's matchup a tough call. We still don't know how much Trent Richardson will produce with the Indianapolis Colts. 

And Chris Johnson, Alfred Morris (the Oakland Raiders have been stingy against opposing running backs in fantasy in the first two weeks, believe it or not) and whomever starts at running back for the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions all have tough opponents.

Plus, Martin has matchup-defying talent and is always one big play away from making your fantasy afternoon. For all of the Bucs' dysfunction, he's still produced. Don't sleep on him this week. 


Wide Receivers


Wide Receiver Notes

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 5: Wes Welker #83 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 5, 2013 in Denver Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

In Week 1, Leonard Hankerson finished with five catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 2, Eddie Royal had seven catches for 90 yards and three scores. In Week 3, Donnie Avery had seven catches for an astonishing 141 yards. 

The common thread? All three faced the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has been shredded by opposing passing attacks, particularly proving to be vulnerable against slot receivers. Now, just imagine what Wes Welker and Peyton Manning will do against them.

And let's not forget about Demaryius Thomas either. 

A matchup against Joe Haden may make you think A.J. Green's ranking is too high, but keep in mind that Green went for seven receptions, 135 yards and two touchdowns when the Cincinnati Bengals faced the Cleveland Browns in Week 6 last year. (Haden missed their Week 2 matchup.) Green will produce.

Reggie Wayne has offered modest results for fantasy owners the past two weeks, but he'll go to town against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 


Tight Ends


Tight End Notes

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jordan Cameron #84 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball while A.J. Jefferson #24 of the Minnesota Vikings applies pressure on September 22, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis,
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Jordan Cameron has 20 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns, and unbelievably, he's available in 25.2 percent of ESPN leagues. He's a must-start every week, folks—go pick him up!

I don't want to hear anything about rust. If Gronkowski returns this week, he'll produce. Brady might target him 15 times given how inconsistent his wide receivers have been. 

Get Coby Fleener in those lineups this week. The Jaguars have a wretched pass defense and gave up two touchdowns to Zach Miller on Sunday. 

If Vernon Davis plays, make sure he's in your lineup. It's obvious Kaepernick really needs him given the paltry play of San Francisco's wide receivers not named Anquan Boldin. 


Defense/Special Teams


Defense/Special Team Notes

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 22:  Michael Johnson #93 of the Cincinnati Bengals sacks Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers during their game at Paul Brown Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Bengals defeated the Packers 34-30. (Pho
John Grieshop/Getty Images

I know Brian Hoyer looked like the next coming of Bernie Kosar on Sunday, but come on, do you really think that is sustainable? Especially against a Bengals defense that just held Aaron Rodgers to 244 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions?

Nope, I don't either. Their defense is a great start this week.  

I know the 49ers defense has been a disappointment for fantasy owners this year, but Thursday night games have a habit of being sloppy, and the Rams offense stagnated against a good Dallas defense. Don't give up on the Niners just yet. 

The Kansas City Chiefs are a good play this week. The New York Giants have allowed an average of 20 fantasy points per week to opposing defenses. Seriously. I might have the Chiefs ranked a bit low here considering that stat, though at some point, the Giants will play better. 

It certainly can't get any worse.




Kicker Notes

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Kicker Garrett Harley #5 of the New Orleans Saints converts a game-winning 28-yard field goal in the 4th quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers September 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Saints won 16 -
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

They are kickers. Their ways are mysterious, their production fickle and their bodies unusually small in contrast to the surrounding players on the field. It takes a braver man than me to try to understand the ways of the fantasy kicker. 


Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, make ill-fated NFL predictions and tweet cheesy jokes. Bring your own beer, though.

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