Week 4 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Baker Mania to crank volume in Oakland

Yahoo Sports
For those with bye week gaps, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/30971/" data-ylk="slk:Baker Mayfield">Baker Mayfield</a> is the ideal remedy this week in Oakland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
For those with bye week gaps, Baker Mayfield is the ideal remedy this week in Oakland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 18 fpts, RB: 12 fpts, WR: 11 fpts: TE: 10 fpts; .5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 4 Flames in the comments section below.

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Baker Mayfield, Cle, QB (3 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $25)
Matchup: at Oak
Vegas line/total: Oak -3, 45

Last Thursday, for at least a moment, conveyor belts inside the Factory of Sadness churned beaming smiles. After Tyrod Taylor departed the field due to a concussion, Mayfield stepped in and immediately proved why he was the No. 1 overall pick in last April’s draft. Exhibiting traits he displayed while at Oklahoma, he was cool, collected and deadly accurate. His shifty feet and on-money throws were a refreshing change from Taylor’s errant and often scatterbrained attempts. Yes, it was the Jets, but the torrid comeback he sparked was the stuff of legend. Guiding the Browns to their first W in 635 days, he finished 17-of-23 for 201 yards. The rookie didn’t find the end zone with his arm, but his 8.7 yards per attempt, 90.7 adjusted completion percentage and overall deftness pointed to fruitful dividends. Johnny Manziel the sequel he most definitely is not. He’ll be tested this week in Oakland. The winless Raiders, off another close loss, are reeling. At this rate, Jon Gruden will probably throw in the towel and return to the booth by the end of 2020. Shredded by Ryan Tannehill, they’ve surrendered 8.2 yards per attempt and 266.4 pass yards per game to QBs. Defensive back Gareon Conley alone has accounted for 1.76 yards per snap allowed. Equipped with the moxie and skills to combat anything the Black Hole throws at him, Mayfield shines from start to finish in his starting debut.

Fearless Forecast: 266 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 0 interceptions, 18 rushing yards, 20.4 fantasy points

Royce Freeman, Den, RB (32 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $21)
Matchup: vs. KC
Vegas line/total: KC -4, 55

Here’s what defies intelligence: 1) What constitutes roughing the passer in this day and age of “weighty” whistles. It’s like league rule makers can’t comprehend simple physics. Why not just gently lay a QB down on a soft goose-down bed?! 2) Whatever zombies Minnesota trotted out onto the field last week against Buffalo. 3) Giving up on a talented young rusher after two games. Obviously, the latter applies to Freeman. Largely garaged in his first two games, the Rolls Royce finally revved the engine last week in Baltimore. Phillip Lindsay’s ejection for throwing haymakers gifted the rookie a golden opportunity to showcase his wares. He didn’t spin the wheels to extraordinary production, but his 58 total yards and score on 14 touches wasn’t anything to derogate. He’s earned just 38.8 percent of the opportunity share thus far, but his well-defined red-zone role and positive returns in yards created per carry, missed tackle percentage (RB18) and YAC per attempt (2.97; RB17) suggest additional gains are on the horizon. When you consider he’s also seen a stacked box 55.6 percent of the time — the second highest in the league — it shows he’s a shiny RB2 hammer underused in the 12-team toolbox. This week, the Broncos will need him to drive nails. Patrick Mahomes is a modern-day Dan Marino. He’s poised, sharp, and executing almost impeccably, resetting NFL TD records in the process. For Denver to keep pace, Vance Joseph needs to feed Freeman early and often. Against a Chiefs front that’s given up 5.1 yards per carry and 93.3 rush yards per game to the position, the luxury vehicle should spin the wheels somewhat uninhibitedly. Reinsert him into your lineups this week.

Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 68 rushing yards, 1 reception, 4 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.7 fantasy points

Aaron Jones, GB, RB (9 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $20)
Matchup: vs. Buf
Vegas line/total: GB -10.5, 44.5

What transpired last week in Minneapolis may never be duplicated. The Bills, the butt of jokes prior to kickoff, trolled everyone, becoming the first 10-plus point underdog ever to lead its opponent by 17 or more points at halftime. Unrelenting all the way to completion, they left everyone questioning the true meaning of life. Josh Allen was brilliant, but chalk up Buffalo’s one-week brilliance to a random stroke of genius. It’s doubtful lightning strikes twice. This is still an extremely vulnerable team, one which will be trampled often in the trenches. Only Matt Milano and Harrison Phillips currently sport an above average run D grade according to Pro Football Focus. With that in mind, Jones is a fabulous plug ‘n play RB2/FLEX option in 12-team and deeper formats. Knocking off the dust from a two-game suspension, the UTEP product outperformed both Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery in Week 3, picking up where he left off last season. He totaled 47 yards and racked an impressive 3.67 yards after contact per attempt on just seven touches. Most importantly, he pass blocked effectively. Jones’ forward lean and bullish mentality between the tackles are far superior to the unremarkable talents Williams typically exhibits. In a game Green Bay should build a commanding lead, the ascending RB plows his way to a top-20 total.

Fearless Forecast: 15 carries, 76 rush yards, 1 receptions, 6 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.7 fantasy points

Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR (9 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $19)
Matchup: vs. NO
Vegas line/total: NO -3.5, 50

French writer Stendhal once inked, “The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are one in the same.” Based on his recent production and the scrumptious matchup, employing New York’s herder is entirely convincing. Through three weeks, Shepard hasn’t quite been the breakout sensation many, me included, predicted. The Giants’ iffy offensive line (No. 24 in pass blocking efficiency per Pro Football Focus) and hogging presence of Odell Beckham has funneled the underneath weapon to the FLEX position even in deeper formats. He’s attracted a mediocre 17.4 percent of the targets share netting 0.35 fantasy points per route (WR62). However, when Evan Engram exited last week’s tilt against Houston, Shepard’s fantasy worth finally unearthed. Targeted a season high seven times, he hauled in six passes for 80 yards and a TD. With Engram and his 4.3 targets per game presumably sidelined by an MCL sprain, Shepard’s immediate future is blindingly bright. New Orleans, torched last week by Calvin Ridley, has woefully underachieved in pass defense. Primary slot corner Patrick Robinson, now on IR with a broken ankle, surrendered a 98.8 passer rating and 85.7 catch percentage to his assignments. His backup, P.J. Williams, is even worse, giving up a 158.3 passer rating. Shepard, who lines up in the slot 67.2 percent of the time, should become the apple of Eli Manning’s eye. Even on the rare occasion he flares out wide, he should entice looks. Similar to Robinson, Ken Crawley has face-planted defensively (158.3 rating, 3.28 yds/snap allowed). Sterling returns, indeed.

Fearless Forecast: 7 receptions, 83 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.8 fantasy points

Christian Kirk, Ari, WR (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $10)
Matchup: vs. Sea
Vegas line/total: Sea -3, 37.5

Josh Rosen’s installment into the starting lineup should be a boon for the young, explosive Kirk. This past summer, the rookies worked extensively on building chemistry, a rapport which should pay instant dividends. Rosen, the most accurate intermediate passer at the FBS level with UCLA last season, is a wise football philosopher. His high intelligence and on-time throws should mesh well with Larry Fitzgerald and Kirk. Initially tabbed a special teams-only contributor, the newcomer has quickly branched out. Targeted 15 times, he’s hauled in 12 receptions for 120 yards. His 7-90-0 breakout last week against Chicago is only the beginning. His ferocity and explosiveness after the catch combined with a steady stream of cushioned defensive alignments suggest consistent WR3 returns are possible, especially when considering Arizona’s below average defense. Splitting time between the slot (40.6%) and outside (60.4%), he will be a Rosen favorite. This week scheduled to battle Seattle, Kirk is worth contemplating at the FLEX or WR3. The ‘Hawks have given up a 66.2 catch percentage and the 12th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Expect him to conquer fellow rookie Tre Flowers (113.7 RTG, 2.36 yds/snap allowed) and Justin Coleman (93.8, 0.41) en route to a top-30 day.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 74 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.9 fantasy points

WEEK 4 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

Ito Smith, Atl, RB (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $12)
Matchup: vs. Cin
Vegas line/total: Atl -5, 49

In Japan, Ito is the sixth-most popular surname, the “Smith” in the Land of the Rising Sun. Though commonplace across the Pacific, Atlanta’s “Ito” is far from fashionable on fantasy rosters. Owned in a minute six percent of Yahoo leagues, the under wraps rookie is worth your consideration given well-started vets Christian McCaffrey, Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson are on a one-week siesta. With Devonta Freeman (knee) out indefinitely, the fourth-round pick from last May’s Draft has stepped in and performed admirably while working in tandem with starter Tevin Coleman. His stout frame, decisive moves and versatility fit ideally in Coleman’s customary role. Netting 29.6 percent of the opportunity share the past two weeks, he’s amassed 35 total yards on five touches, totaling six evaded tackles and the 24th-most yards created. Unquestionably, he’s the Andrew Ridgeley in Atlanta’s backfield duo, but even on limited touches he could exceed expectations in Week 4. His opponent, Cincinnati, has shown only marginal improvement defending the run. Overly generous to RBs last year, the Bengals have allowed 4.55 yards per carry, 161.3 total yards per game, two scores and the 11th-most fantasy points to rushers. LB Jordan Evans leads the NFL in run stop percentage, but the unit, collectively, has rolled out the welcome mat. Deep leaguers with scant alternatives should weigh the rookie’s potential contribution.

Fearless Forecast: 8 carries, 36 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 21 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.2 fantasy points

BONUS WEEK 4 FLAMES (Over 50 percent started)

QB: Joe Flacco, Bal (at Pit; $26) – With Lamar Jackson close in the rear view mirror, Flacco has elevated his game. He’s unleashed downfield (No. 2 in total air yards) and sharpened his throws inside the red zone (No. 9 in RZ completion percentage), two areas he struggled terribly in last year. Pittsburgh’s well-documented deficiencies against the pass (7.9 YPA allowed) only increase the likelihood ‘His Elite-ness’ cracks the QB1 class in Week 4. (FF: 302 pass yards, 2 TDs, 0 Ints, 20.1 fpts)

RB: Chris Carson, Sea (at Ari; $20) – Shades of Shaun Alexander? Carson carried an exhaustive workload last week against an under-appreciated Cowboys front. Sorry, Rashaad Penny enthusiasts, this is the former seventh-round pick’s gig over the foreseeable future. He’s earned it. His 3.51 yards after contact per attempt ranks No. 6 and he’s also chipped in a laudable 16 percent missed tackle rate. Behind a reconfigured offensive line, Carson is a reliable RB2 against an Arizona D that’s allowed the most fantasy points to RBs. (FF: 20 atts, 81 yds, 2 recs, 9 yds, TD, 15.0 fpts)

WR: Tyler Boyd, Cin (at Atl; $16) – This week’s hottest waiver wire add continues to boil. Working primarily out of the slot (69.7%), he’s lured 18.4 percent of the target share, averaging 11.1 yards per target (WR11), 5.0 receptions and 83.0 yards per game. His effectiveness on cross and drag routes has become a fundamental part of Bill Lazor’s offensive strategy. Likely to exchange salutations with slot corner Brian Poole, Boyd is sure to be a focal point, especially with A.J. Green at less than 100 percent. This year Poole has coughed up an 80.0 catch percentage, 1.21 yards per snap and a 129.4 passer rating to his assignments. Start him. (FF: 5 recs, 76 yds, TD, 16.1 fpts)

WR: Mike Williams, LAC (vs. SF; $21) – As trumpeted throughout the offseason and Preseason, Williams has emerged as L.A.’s new Hunter Henry. Finally, this loudmouth predicted an outcome correctly. Yes, the Earth moved. His 14.0 percent target share is undesirable, but his No. 3 standing in total air yards and WR6 output in fantasy points per opportunity leads to more promising tallies. Slated to square off against the Richard Sherman-less Niners secondary, he should again cross the chalk. Current starting CBs Ahkello Witherspoon and Jimmie Ward have conceded a combined 140.0 passer rating and five touchdowns to assignments. (FF: 3 recs, 73 yds, TD, 14.8 fpts)

TE: Trey Burton, Chi (vs. TB; $18) – The rough English translation of “Trubisky” is “shriveled.” The man is totally #TeamRaisins. Beginning Week 1 in Green Bay when he overlooked a WIDE OPEN Burton in the end zone, the nervous QB has blown uncountable opportunities against largely beatable defenses. It’s why Burton ranks No. 67 in catchable target rate. Despite the downsides, the tight end needs to be trusted in Week 4. The Bucs, swordless  against the pass, have given up a 8.3-109.7-0.3 average line to opposing TEs — Vance McDonald’s Chris Conte face displacement included. (FF: 4 recs, 53 yds, TD, 13.3 fpts)

DST: L.A. Chargers (vs. SF; $13) – Apologies in advance to known Iowa Hawkeye bullhorn, Andy Behrens. C.J. Beathard is a massive step down from Jimmy Garoppolo. Sans Joey Bosa and Corey Liuget, the Chargers haven’t delivered defensively. They’ve yielded sizable plays in the trenches and, uncharacteristically, downfield. Just look at how dreadful they performed last week versus the Rams. Still, in Beathard’s six career starts opposing defenses averaged 8.0 fantasy points per contest in Yahoo leagues. Total it up and electric shock therapy is recommended for the stream crowd. (FF: 13 PA, 312 YDSA, 4 SCK, 3 TO, 14.0 fpts)


Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their “Flames” (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

Readers’ Record: 7-16

Brad’s record: 12-22 (WK3 4-8 – W: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gio Bernard, Geronimo Allison, Cleveland D/ST; L – Phillip Lindsay, Sony Michel, Dante Pettis (SS), Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, Donte Moncrief, Chris Thompson, Jesse James)

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out his TV show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” now available in 91 million households on various regional sports networks, and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.”

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