Week 4 approaches and with the first two byes on the schedule for the Packers and Panthers, finding the right value players is an even more important if difficult proposition. Of course, there are still 30 NFL teams playing in games this weekend, so there are plenty of options available if you take the time to find them.
This article will highlight three undervalued players and one super cheap option to consider at each position this week. The list will only include players if they fall below the following salary levels by position:
QB – 3 Players under $7,000 & 1 Freebie under $6,000
RB – 3 Players under $6,000 & 1 Freebie under $5,000
WR – 3 Players under $6,000 & 1 Freebie under $5,000
TE – 3 Players under $6,000 & 1 Freebie under $5,000
K – 3 Players under $5,200
D – 3 Players under $5,200
1. Terrelle Pryor, OAK v. WSH ($6,300) – Pryor is a bit of a risk coming off of a concussion in Week 3, but he has resumed practicing and has at least a decent chance to play this weekend against Washington’s appalling attempt at defense. If he does play, expect big points as he runs and throws all over the field. After all Pryor is first among quarterbacks in rushing yards this year with 198 through three games, a higher total than all but 11 running backs, and he has been passable through the air with 624 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. If he doesn’t end up playing, backup Matt Flynn ($5,000) might be an even bigger steal, albeit a downgrade without the rushing potential.
2. Philip Rivers, SD v. DAL ($6,900) – Rivers has been a difficult QB to trust in fantasy lineups over the last couple of seasons, but he’s been extremely effective so far in 2013 and finds himself looking pretty underpriced on FanDuel. While he’s only thrown for 798 yards through three weeks, good for just 14th place among QB’s this season, he has completed a smooth 70% of his passes for eight touchdowns and just one interception. His opponent in Week 4, the Dallas Cowboys, have been very tough against the run but haven’t put up much of a fight against opposing passing games since embarrassing the Giants in Week 1. Rivers will be pressured but has proven his ability to handle that pressure this year with lots of short passes to Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal. Add the fact that the Chargers have had just one rushing touchdown since Week 5 of 2012 and the situation looks pretty good for Rivers.
3. Alex Smith, KC v. NYG ($6,800) – When you talk about efficient quarterbacks, Alex Smith has to be near the top of the list. He lacks the flash many FanDuel users look for in their quarterback, but he’s thrown 34 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions since the beginning of 2011, including a 4-0 ratio in 2013. Coming off a very quiet Week 3 with 273 yards and no touchdowns, Smith might be avoided by a lot of users. That makes him an ideal dark horse for tournament play against a Giants defense that has just two interceptions and three sacks on the year despite spending an awful lot of time on the field. Smith has also been effective as a runner this year with 23 runs for 114 yards, already just 65 yards shy of his previous career high in a season. While he’s not likely to put together a huge game, he could easily find his way to 250 yards and a couple of touchdowns, which could be enough to match a lot of the pricier options.
Freebie: Brian Hoyer, CLE v. CIN ($5,800) – Hoyer has a tough matchup this week against a strong Cincinnati defense and doesn’t exactly have a long track record of success to fall back on, but he did throw for 321 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3. It took him 54 passes to get there with three interceptions along the way, but if Cleveland continues to feel that it’s running game post Trent Richardson is not yet up to speed, they could air it out often again in Week 4. I do not expect Hoyer to repeat his performance from last week, but with enough volume he could still be a good play at his price.
1. Bilal Powell, NYJ @ TEN ($4,700) – Powell tops the bargain running back list this week after appearing in the Freebie slot last week. He could have remained there again this week, but I actually like him the most out of all the sub-$6,000 options at running back. He’s coming off a strong game in Week 3 with a career-high 149 rushing yards on 27 carries, which is a bit much to ask him to repeat, but not completely out of reach. With his price remaining so low, and the fact that his fellow RB committee member Chris Ivory is unlikely to play, Powell might be the bargain of the week across all positions. He’s the Jets goal-line back and will get most of the carries across the board, likely ceding only a handful to Alex Green. The Jets have opened up their offense a little bit more this year but they are still committed to running the ball, giving Powell a chance to see 30 touches this week. Tennessee is allowing 4.4 yards per carry so far this season, which could spell another 100-yard day for Bilal.
2. Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL v. NE ($5,500) – It’s difficult to choose between Rodgers and teammate Jason Snelling ($5,800), given that they are splitting carries in the Falcons’ backfield in the absence of Steven Jackson. In fact, Snelling is probably the more likely of the two to score a touchdown. That said, Rodgers is the more electric back with big play ability and the likelihood of out-carrying Snelling possibly by as much as a 2-1 margin. With the extra $300 in salary cap available going for Rodgers, he is my choice between the two. New England has given up a lot of rushing yards this year, an average of more than 120 per game, so it’s likely one of these guys has a good game. It’s possible they both do.
3. David Wilson, NYG @ KC ($5,900) – It’s a bit of a risk to recommend a Giant, particularly Wilson, after their dreadful 0-3 start. The team has looked like a total mess and has disappointed fans and FanDuel users each week. However, they are still the New York Giants with Eli Manning at the helm and quite a few talented players on offense. Despite the struggles of the offensive line he relies on, Wilson is a starting running back on a generally high-scoring offense whose price was as high as $8,100 on FanDuel as recently as Week 2. Getting him for $5,900, while no guarantee for production, is a fantastic opportunity to buy low and take a player with upside that many users will avoid. Sure, Wilson has just 75 rushing yards through three games, but he also only has 25 carries. He also hasn’t fumbled since Week 1. The Giants will likely try to balance their attack against the Chiefs as part of their plan to turn the sinking ship around, and if Wilson gets 20 carries he could be a nice surprise.
Freebie: Willis McGahee, CLE v. CIN ($4,500) – With Bilal Powell moving up to the main bargain list, a spot opens up for the next best sub-$5,000 running back in Willis McGahee. The Browns did not run much in Week 3, having just signed McGahee to replace the traded Trent Richardson earlier in the week. It was not a productive week for McGahee, who moved the ball just nine yards on eight carries. Still, with a full week on the team under his belt, he should get more carries and do more with them in Week 4. He is 31 and has taken a bruising over nearly 2,000 carries in his career, but McGahee looked solid last year with the Broncos and quite good the year before. If Trent Richardson was struggling to eke out 3.5 yards per carry for the Browns, Willis could struggle to do even that, but again it’s a matter of volume for the price. At $4,500 even 40 yards and a touchdown is a pretty good contribution.
1. Denarius Moore, OAK v. WSH ($5,400) – Moore had a wonderful game in Week 3, catching six balls on 11 targets for 124 yards and a touchdown, his second on the season. I would not normally overreact to a good game from Moore, given that he has converted just 45% of his targets into catches in his career, and just 55% this year. That said, he is facing the Washington charade of a defense this week and whether it’s Pryor or Flynn slinging the ball, Moore should get enough targets to catch a half dozen balls at least. And, with the fourth highest career yards per catch average of any receiver currently in the NFL (18.1), he’s got a good shot at reaching 100 yards again in Week 4.
2. Tavon Austin, STL v. SF ($5,600) – Austin has been on this list every week so far this season, turning out to be a good play just once so far. However, that one week he scored 20.5 points on FanDuel. This is the expected nature of Tavon, at least in his rookie season, to be an inconsistent but occasionally brilliant producer. That’s the kind of player that’s available under $6,000 at wide receiver, and Austin has the best combination of talent, opportunity, and explosive potential available in that price range. If Oakland was facing a different team, Austin likely would have topped this list over Moore, but as is he’ll settle for second place. You think San Francisco has a good defense, and they do, but without Aldon Smith they are not as scary to opposing QB’s, and their secondary has been more vulnerable this year.
3. Kenbrell Thompkins, NE @ ATL ($5,900) – Thompkins was an early season bargain darling with huge ownership in Week 1, followed by an ownership hangover that might finally be brought to an end this week. The main reason being that he scored 17.6 points on FanDuel last week, which is sure to turn a few heads his way. My initial reaction would be that Thompkins is not a great play, given that he has caught a miserable nine of his 28 targets on the season, which is only 32%. He has also yet to rack up more than 47 yards in a game this year. That said, he caught two touchdowns last week after nearly grabbing one the week before, and has been one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets in the end zone and on deep passes. That sounds like a pretty good opportunity for points to me, and if he can manage to improve over time as most rookies do, there could still be big things in store for Thompkins. Brady will need to throw quite a bit against Atlanta, and while Thompkins has given Brady little reason to trust him, the passes will still come his way as Rob Gronkowski remains limited at best and Danny Amendola looks to be out for one more week.
Freebie: Santonio Holmes, NYJ @ TEN ($4,700) – Holmes has been slow to return to form after a foot injury ended his 2012 season, but he showed what he can still do in Week 3 catching five passes on 10 targets for 154 yards and a 69-yard touchdown. Geno Smith really aired it out with a lot of deep passes last week, giving some hope to a Jets passing game that had been hiding in the darkness for a long time. Holmes was productive as recently as 2011, and while he’ll never return to the status he had in Pittsburgh, he can still be the best receiver on the Jets this year. It’s tough to find good options under $5,000 once the season has gotten into full swing, but Holmes and Eddie Royal ($4,800) remain players to consider if you’re trying to fit a bunch of studs into your lineup.
1. Jared Cook, STL v. SF ($5,700) – It’s been all downhill for Cook since his phenomenal 27.6 point game in Week 1 as the talented tight end has caught just six of 13 targets for 54 yards combined over the last two weeks. Not good, but also not the worst since 13 targets over two weeks shows he is still be involved in the passing game, just without the desired results. Cook has always had a lot of potential but not gotten the targets in past seasons to capitalize. This year with the Rams he is getting those targets, on pace to nearly double his targets from his last season with the Titans. Week 1 seems like a long time ago and is easily forgotten in the hustle to focus on what he’s done for you lately, but Cook is ready to remind you given another bundle of targets in Week 4.
2. Owen Daniels, HOU v. SEA ($5,600) – Daniels reappears on this list for the second straight week after a disappointing game in Week 3. He actually saw the most targets, nine, of any game so far this year, but turned them into just five catches and 29 yards. More importantly, he didn’t score a touchdown, as he had done three times in the first two weeks. Tight end production is often a mystery, but Daniels is as likely as anyone not named Jimmy to grab a TD at the position this week as Matt Schaub continues to look his way often with Andre Johnson limited.
3. Kyle Rudolph, MIN v. PIT ($5,500) – Rudolph makes the bargain TE list for the third week in a row. He has not been nearly as productive this year as last year, with just 97 yards and a touchdown through three weeks after scoring nine touchdowns last season. Two things going for him are that last week he had the most targets he’s seen in a game so far this season, catching five passes on eight targets, and the fact that he’s playing against a Pittsburgh defense that has fell criminally flat so far this year. The Vikings will likely look to keep Rudolph involved in Week 4, of course after allowing Adrian Peterson to accumulate his traditionally beastly rushing totals.
Freebie: Charles Clay, MIA @ NO ($4,600) – Clay occupies the Freebie tight end spot for the second week in a row. He didn’t do a ton last week, but stayed involved with four catches on six targets for 40 yards. It was his worst game on the season, but ended up still outscoring quite a few higher priced tight ends. With Clay’s minor role in the running game, as he lines up at fullback as well as tight end, he makes for an interesting x-factor play. He had a rushing touchdown in Week 2 and another one would be fantastic and begin to hint at a pattern. Even if he doesn’t get another carry all year, he’s catching his targets at a 74% rate and inspiring Ryan Tannehill to look his way at least six times a game so far.
1. Dan Bailey, DAL @ SD ($5,100) – 7 for 8 on field goal attempts on the season, and 2 for 2 from 50+. Second in the league in points among kickers so far.
2. Sebastian Janikowski, OAK v. WSH ($5,000) – 5 for 7 on field goal attempts on the season, no attempts yet from 50+ despite his huge range. Facing Washington means lots of points will be scored, even if they’re just extra points for Janikowski.
3. Robbie Gould, CHI @ DET ($5,000) – Perfect 4 for 4 on field goal attempts so far this year, 1 for 1 from 50+. Hasn’t missed from 50+ since 2010, 9 for 9 on such attempts since the beginning of 2011. Always a solid, trustworthy option with the chances he gets.
1. Indianapolis Colts, IND @ JAC ($5,000) – Indianapolis has not been stellar on defense this year, but they won the lottery and get to face Jacksonville this week. With 9 sacks on the year the Colts will likely get to Blaine Gabbert and make his already meager chances at success almost impossible. It remains to be seen whether or not their weakness against the run can be exploited by a Maurice Jones-Drew that’s been underperforming all year.
2. New York Jets, NYJ @ TEN ($5,000) – The Jets are back to playing great defensive football, as the defense has kept the team in every game so far this season, almost robbing one from the Patriots in Week 2 in spite of Geno Smith’s best efforts to throw it away. Allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, the Jets are tough to run on and could shut down Chris Johnson. Jake Locker had a fine game last week but will have it much tougher against the Jets, who have racked up 12 sacks already this year.
3. Cleveland Browns, CLE v. CIN ($5,000) – The Browns make this list for the second week in a row coming off a 12 point showing against Minnesota. Cleveland also has 12 sacks on the year and are allowing just 2.8 yards per carry on the ground. Cincinnati has a better offense than Minnesota, but Cleveland has the personnel and scheme to contain the Bengals and give the Browns a shot at their second straight win in Week 4.