If daily fantasy football players could travel back three weeks to the day after Week 1, they'd laugh at all the inaccurate, premature takeaways.
Following the opening week, NFL fans kicked themselves for not trusting Alex Smith and Bishop Sankey. They also wondered whether the San Francisco 49ers would keep flourishing instead of collapsing. (Hint: No.)
Fantasy players have learned not to jump to conclusions, and that lesson will strike home several more times throughout the year. As much as everyone would like players to progress and regress linearly, it doesn't work that way.
Breakout stars will flop the next week, and duds will go from dunce to hero and back to dunce again. These players have all produced fluctuating DraftKings point tallies, but their arrows are distinctively pointing one way after Week 4.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants ($6,800)
Expected to post prolific numbers this season, Eli Manning started the season with 8.52 DraftKings points and a late-game management blunder against the Dallas Cowboys. Since that sluggish start, he has tossed 783 yards and seven touchdowns through three games.
Saddled with an inconsistent running game, Manning is averaging 35.75 pass attempts per contest. His three-touchdown effort against the Buffalo Bills set a rare personal feat, as observed by ESPN Stats & Info:
There's nothing amazing about Manning's season, especially from a fantasy perspective. He's on pace to finish shy of 4,000 passing yards, and Blake Bortles is currently averaging 0.5 more fantasy points per game.
The often erratic New York Giants quarterback, however, has also only surrendered one interception while receiving little help from his teammates. According to Pro Football Focus, no passer has endured more dropped passes than his 15.
Allowing a 69.9 completion percentage and 9.2 yards per pass attempt, the San Francisco 49ers are the perfect opponent for Manning to truly break out against.
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams ($4,300)
Oh, so that's what all the fuss was about.
In his second NFL appearance, Todd Gurley followed a nine-yard debut with 146 rushing yards on 16 carries. Sticking to his word, St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher offered the rookie more playing time and touches.
The kid gloves came off in the second half of St. Louis' upset over the Arizona Cardinals. The Fake Football's Rich Hribar examined Gurley's dominating finish:
Around The NFL's Chris Wesseling put those tallies into perspective:
Much like Amari Cooper last week, Gurley will never again come cheaper than his current $4,300 price tag. Arizona is no weakling against the run. The Green Bay Packers are, yielding 4.8 yards per carry. If St. Louis can keep the score close, the star newcomer will cement his presence as a top back.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Atlanta Falcons ($4,000)
In Sunday's victory over the Houston Texans, Leonard Hankerson compiled six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White has six catches for 93 yards this season.
Since a productive Week 1, White has grabbed two catches for eight yards, all from Week 4. Receiving 25 targets over those three games, Hankerson reeled in 15 receptions for 225 yards and two scores. It's safe to say the Atlanta Falcons have a new No. 2 wide receiver alongside Julio Jones.
The 26-year-old is averaging 2.8 catches and 37.8 yards per game over his career, so he's not yet a steady starter. But he's getting the opportunity to shine in a rolling offense, which is more than most wideouts around his price tier can say.
After dealing with Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 3, Washington now must combat Jones this Sunday. While Beckham had a pleasant evening, Rueben Randle truly dazzled with seven catches, 116 yards and a score. If Hankerson can explode in similar circumstances, he'll prove an astute No. 3 receiver or flex option at $4,000.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens ($5,600)
Joe Flacco's rough start is about to get even worse. Steve Smith, who sustained a back injury in Thursday night's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, won't play in Week 5's clash with the Cleveland Browns.
In a tale of two seasons, Flacco has posted two 350-yard, two-touchdown outings while falling short of 200 yards the other two times. During the positive performances, Steve Smith collected 23 receptions for 336 yards and two scores.
|Joe Flacco 2015 Game Log|
Stripping a volatile quarterback of his safety blanket won't end well. If Crockett Gillmore also can't play due to his calf injury, per BaltimoreRavens.com's Ryan Mink, Kamar Aiken becomes the only active pass-catcher with more than 100 receiving yards this season.
Having already tossed five picks, Flacco rates No. 28 on Pro Football Focus' grading scale, right below Jameis Winston and Ryan Mallett. While Philip Rivers gutted Cleveland on Sunday, DraftKings contestants can't trust a slumping Flacco to do anything without Smith.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers ($4,900)
Carlos Hyde took the league by storm during the Monday Night Football premiere, dismantling the Minnesota Vikings for 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Those who doubted him in August started to wonder if the running back's talent would overcome a poor situation.
Perhaps not. Frank Gore's replacement has compiled 144 combined yards over the last three games, all sizable losses hindering the 49ers' ability to establish the ground game.
|Carlos Hyde Since Week 1|
Hyde still ties Chris Ivory as Pro Football Focus' top-graded running back, ranking second behind the New York Jets bruiser with 201 yards after contact. He has the skills, which he wasted no time proving to start the season. His abilities, however, can't save a futile offense.
No running back can exist as a fantasy force on a team losing three games by a combined 79 points. While the Giants rank No. 25 in DraftKings points allowed to running backs, they have allowed the fewest rushing yards per contest (69.8) on 3.1 yards per run. Opponents have salvaged fantasy value as pass-catchers, but Hyde has only eight receptions this season.
Expect another underwhelming outing, further establishing Week 1 as the outlier.
Note: Pricing and scoring data obtained from DraftKings.com.
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