Fantasy Football

2021 Fantasy Football Targets and Touches Week 4


Welcome back to our Week 4 roundup of Targets and Touches for the 2021 Fantasy Football season.

The month of October is officially upon us, which is when it really feels like football season. That crisp bite of fall is in the air. The leaves are beginning to turn. Pumpkin spice products you can’t even fathom are hitting store shelves. This is when we as fans really start to fall into our football routines and get invested in the season.

We may only be a couple of weeks into these articles, but the two Targets and Touches articles we’ve put out have hit BIG in the weeks immediately following. We first shouted out Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams for his uptick in usage, then he hit us with a massive two-touchdown performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

Last week, we mentioned Cordarrelle Patterson on the Atlanta Falcons, and boy, did he deliver. I’m not saying that we’re going to have a 100% hit rate on these articles. These are all about managing who is seeing an uptick in usage or has consistently underachieved when on the field. However, the Targets and Touches series is 2-for-2. It’d be a real shame if we go 3-for-3 and you happen to miss out.

As always, let’s state our sources up top. All metrics on run/pass frequency, yards/game or attempt, or attempts per game come from Team Rankings. All snap counts come from Fantasy Data. Any Fantasy rankings, ownership percentages, or target numbers come from FantasyPros in a Half-PPR scoring format. All references to EPA/play can be found on Ben Baldwin’s Box Score plug-in on RBSDM. Anything else in the article will be directly linked to.

2021 Fantasy Football Targets and Touches Week 4

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Running Backs

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Damien Williams, Chicago Bears (Owned in 13.5% of leagues)

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported on Tuesday that Chicago Bears lead running back suffered a knee sprain that would sideline him for 4-5 weeks. No, this is not a season-ending injury, but this essentially rules out the Bears lead back until Week 11 (factoring in Chicago’s bye week).

With that in mind, Damien Williams should without a doubt be an immediate pickup for anyone reading this article.

I mean, c’mon. Imagine this tandem as a one-two punch.

Chicago is one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL this season. Per Team Rankings, the Bears run the third-most of any team in football with a 48.91% rushing play percentage. Couple that with the news that Justin Fields will be the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. Fields, while a special quarterback talent, is still raw. Whoever is currently calling plays for the Bears (now that it’s no longer Matt Nagy) will continue to supplement Fields’ highs and lows with a heavy ground load. Khalil Herbert will not be pulling any snaps away from Williams, don’t you worry.

Latavius Murray, Baltimore Ravens (47.1%)

Oh, how the tides turn so quickly.

In our inaugural article for this season, I advocated for Baltimore Ravens running back Ty’Son Williams. At the time, he was the in-house option beating all the veteran free agent running backs for the starting running back spot.

Just two weeks later, however, Williams seems to be losing his spot before our eyes. In Week 3, Williams posted season lows in snaps (29) and touches (5). The week after, Baltimore promoted Le’Veon Bell to the active roster, making Williams a healthy scratch in favor of Devonta Freeman.

Given Bell’s pedigree, I reserve the right to change my stance on this, but Latavius Murray is currently the leader in the doghouse. Murray was on the field for 45 snaps in Sunday’s win over the Denver Broncos, while Bell was on for 20. In terms of production, Murray also greatly outperformed bell. While the Ravens run game was unsuccessful against Denver, Murray posted a -0.13 EPA/play on 18 attempts compared to Bell’s -0.74 EPA/play on 5 attempts. Even with Bell’s limited play, he still managed to generate a lower EPA (-3.7) than Murray (-2.4).

Murry is the back who has consistently seen touches, even when playing behind Williams. He still averaged a snap share somewhere slightly above 30%. Murray is the back to lean on at the moment, both in Baltimore and in fantasy.

Alexander Mattison (70.9%)

I am not advocating that Alexander Mattison will ever take over Dalvin Cook‘s role under normal circumstances. However, Cook sustained an ankle injury that held him out of Week 3. Since returning from said injury, two things have concerned me.

First, Cook is specifically discussing playing through the injury. Considering the fact that a running back’s ankles are their most important body part behind only their knees, that worries me a bit. Cook has never played a complete season in the NFL, with his best attempts being a pair of 14-game seasons in 2019 and 2020. While Cook is an incredibly capable back, his insistence on rehabbing on the fly concerns me a bit. This could lead to further injury down the road.

Second, his return saw a considerable uptick in production for Mattison.

PlayerWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
Alexander Mattison9 (10.8%)13 (21.3%)51 (68%)23 (34.3%)
Dalvin Cook59 (71.1%)49 (77%)--33 (49.3%)
Ameer Abdullah9 (10.8%)--22 (29.3%)5 (7.5%)

Mattison saw 26 rushes for 112 yards and 6 receptions for 59 yards during Dalvin Cook’s Week 3 absence, leading Minnesota to their only win of the season. Upon Cook’s return, Mattison actually out-carried him by a slim margin of 10 to 9.

If Dalvin Cook is able to fully recover while playing, Mattison should still be seeing a decent participatory role as a backup. However, I get nervous about Cook’s ability to stay healthy. If that is the case, and Mattison is able to be had, stash him away for a rainy day. Cook will likely miss one or two more games this season, anyway.

Wide Receivers

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A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals (40.4%)

How about these Cardinals, huh?

The last undefeated team in the NFL has been lighting it up offensively, thanks to the slightly-tweaked Kliff Kingsbury air raid offense. According to Tam Rankings, The Cardinals currently lead the league in completion percentage while ranking third in passing yards per game, second in yards per pass attempt, and fifth in passing touchdowns per game. The offense is driven by the early seeds of a Kyler Murray MVP campaign, but the sheer number of weapons at his disposal has certainly made things more manageable.

One of the biggest unsung heroes on this offense thus far this season has been offseason addition A.J. Green. I don’t know if he still has some Cincinnati stink on him after the way he finished out the 2020 season, but he has seemingly been rejuvenated in Arizona. Green has been the definition of consistency with the Cardinals, seeing 6 targets in each of his first four games. He currently sits just behind DeAndre Hopkins on the team’s target rankings. If you shorted the model to the last three weeks, Green actually leads the team in targets, sharing a total of 18 with running back with Chase Edmonds.

A.J. Green is currently ranked WR27 in Half-PPR leagues, ahead of the likes of CeeDee Lamb, Jakobi Meyers, and Courtland Sutton. This is an offense that leans so heavily on the passing game, and Green is consistently getting opportunities each game to shine. Ride the Cardinals hot streak and pick up a valuable secondary piece who’s available in more than half of leagues.

Tim Patrick, Denver Broncos (33.7%)

Man, the Broncos cannot catch a break at the receiver position. Denver is first forced to place Jerry Jeudy on the injured reserve Week 1 with a high ankle sprain. The following week, the Broncos lose K.J. Hamler for the year to a torn ACL. That doesn’t even factor in losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to concussion protocol. Just some unsightly luck for the Broncos passing game to start this season.

That being said, Denver is still relying on its passing game. In Week 4, Denver was the fourth-most frequent passing offense in football with Drew Lock taking over under center midway through the game. Even without the contributions of their two receivers, the Broncos still passed on 71.19% of their offensive plays on Sunday. While they didn’t walk away with the win, the game revealed something about Denver’s future target share without Jeudy and Hamler.

Beyond the main contributors in Denver’s offense (Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton, Melvin Gordon, and Javonte Williams), Tim Patrick saw a significant jump in usage, going from averaging 70% of Denver’s offensive snaps through the first three weeks to seeing 91.8% of snaps in Week 4. Patrick caught 3 passes for 39 yards on 6 targets. An impressive game? Not by a long shot. However, the next-highest receiver saw half the targets of Patrick. If Denver hopes to keep up this pace, they will lean on Patrick as their WR2.

Kalif Raymond, Detroit Lions (2.1%)

Detroit may not have many wins, but man do they have heart. This team has had a gauntlet of a schedule early, and has managed to play two of their overly-skilled opponents extremely strong. The Baltimore Ravens, who had beaten the Kansas City Chiefs the week prior, needed a record-setting field goal to beat the Lions.

The Lions are often forced to play from behind, and that means high passing volume. Detroit runs the sixth-highest percentage of passing plays in the league. While we all know this offense runs through tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift, there are a stable of wide receivers that Jared Goff and Anthony Lynn get involved when running this offense. For my money, the one to go after is Kalif Raymond.

PlayerWeek 2Week 3Week 4
Kalif Raymond36 (63.2%)47 (74.6%)53 (74.6%)
Quintez Cephus51 (89.5%)45 (71.4%)62 (87.3%)
Amon-Ra St. Brown34 (59.6%)27 (42.9%)51 (71.8%)
Trinity Benson24 (42.1%)24 (38.1%)20 (28.2%)

Discounting Hockenson and Swift, Raymond leads all other players on the team in targets. While Quintez Cephus is often featured more often on the field, Raymond is the one putting in work. That’s been especially true over the last two weeks.

If you just look at Weeks 3 & 4, Kalif Raymond ranks WR14 in Half-PPR leagues with 14 fantasy points per game. He is also coming off a two-touchdown performance against the Chicago Bears. Raymond could carry this momentum forward over the next couple weeks, matching up against the Vikings and Bengals before taking on the Los Angeles Rams. If Detroit is going to pick up their first win of the season, it is going to most likely come in the next two weeks against some shaky defenses. Hockenson and Swift cannot carry this team themselves; Jared Goff is going to have to turn to his motley crew of receivers at some point. Bank on Kalif Raymond to continue to carry that load.

Tight Ends

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Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts (0.7%)

Mo Alie-Cox is currently fighting a bit of an uphill battle attempting to overtake veteran tight end Jack Doyle for the starting tight end role in Indianapolis. Over the last two weeks, however, things have started to look up for Alie-Cox. Over the last two weeks, Alie-Cox out-targeted Doyle 7-3, despite Doyle winning that batting in the first two weeks at a rate of 12-4. When it comes to playing time, Alie-Cox is gaining there as well.

PlayerWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
Mo Alie-Cox39 (51.3%)27 (40.3%)28 (45.9%)49 (69.0%)
Jack Doyle45 (59.2%)50 (74.6%)35 (57.4%)21 (29.6%)

Alie-Cox finally overtook Doyle in the snap count department in Week 4, and boy did he deliver. Alie-Cox finished the afternoon with 42 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 3 receptions.

Keep an eye on this one. At such a low ownership rate, Alie-Cox will make for an ideal fill-in for your tight end’s bye week. If he continue to trend upward the way he has, consider even rostering him. This is a wait-and-see case, however, Alie-Cox is coming off a great start, but I’d like to see a larger sample size before moving forward.

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills (59.7%)

Dawson Knox, on the other hand, needs no larger sample size. The Buffalo Bills offense has not been firing on all cylinders the way it did in 2020. However, Josh Allen and the Bills are still putting up points the way they did last year. Over the last three weeks, the Bills have outscored their opponents 118-21. They play a whole host of bad defenses going forward, with their next five games coming against the Chiefs, Titans, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Jets.

Dawson Knox has been one of the biggest contributors during this ludicrous run of scoring. According to Fantasy Pros, Knox currently leads all tight ends in red-zone targets and receptions over the last three weeks. Knox is currently 5-for-6 when targeted in the red zone for 29 yards and three touchdowns. Knox is the second-highest scoring tight end in fantasy over that same three-game stretch. On a team that already boasts the likes of Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cole Beasley, Josh Allen is only turning to one player when they get inside the 20-yard-line.

Maxx Williams, Arizona Cardinals (6.7%)

Much of my argument for Maxx Williams is the same that I gave you for A.J. Green, so I’ll spare you any rehashing. However, Williams deserves to be highlighted because he has burst onto the scene over the last three weeks. Williams currently ranks as TE13 in Half-PPR leagues. However, if you shrink the sample size slightly to just include Weeks 2 through 4, Williams jumps up to TE5 on the year.

Over that three-week span, Williams has caught all 15 targets for 179 yards and a score. He still ranks toward the end of the Cardinals total targets list (6th with 16), but that 1 target performance to start the season is really holding a lot of weight right now due to the small sample size. Williams has been on the field for at least 45 snaps every game this season, and his opportunities are already increasing. With his current availability and the offensive production out of this Cardinals team, it certainly couldn’t hurt to take a flier out on the guy.

Until next week, click here for more Fantasy Football content.

About Cale Clinton

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