Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season starts with Thursday Night Football as the Cincinnati Bengals play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here’s a break down the fantasy football starts and sits for Thursday night’s action.
QB Trevor Lawrence — Lawrence is a borderline QB2/3 at this point. His fantasy value could be salvaged if he commits to scrambling. Don’t bank on it though. HC Urban Meyer is out of his element and the Cincy D is top 10 in both QB hurries (15) and knockdowns (11), top 5 in sacks (10) and hurries (36).
WR Marvin Jones Jr. — Leads the team in snaps (182), routes (120, per PFF.com), and targets (28). He’s seen all four of the team’s end zone targets and his seven red zone targets are more than the rest of the team combined (four). Jones Jr. is a set-it-and-forget-it WR2.
WRs D.J. Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. — Chark continued his wonky ways last week, catching 3-of-6 targets for 49 yards and 1 touchdown. His 31.82% catch rate is the lowest in the league and makes for a risky WR4. Shenault and his goofy 5.3 average targeted air yards, combined with his perfect 4-of-4/48-yard Week 3 stat line perfectly encapsulate what he offers under Meyer; high-floor WR5 status in full-point PPR leagues. That said, his one-on-one match-up with CB Mike Hilton this week is intriguing. Hilton has been an animal in the blitz game but a liability in coverage, allowing 11 receptions on 13 targets, 102 yards and 1 touchdown through three games, per PFF.
TEs Dan Arnold and Jacob Hollister — After watching Hollister tread water on Sunday (2 catches and 16 yards on 6 targets), Meyer jettisoned CB C.J. Henderson to Carolina in exchange for TE Dan Arnold. Arnold has flashed at times and should take over as the No. 1 TE in Jacksonville. He’s not relevant outside of 2TE, TE-premium (1.5 PPR) leagues though.
RBs James Robinson and Carlos Hyde — Robinson’s respective carries and targets Weeks 1-3: 5 and 6, 11 and 3, 15 and 6, compared to Hyde’s: 9 and 2, 2 and 2, 8 and 0. Meyer tried to keep Hyde relevant but the 2021 version of Mr. Hyde is more of an unscientific Dr. Jekyll, and even Meyer’s started to notice. Tentatively treat Robinson as a back-end RB2, Hyde as an RB5.
Update: Carlos Hyde is a surprise inactive. Robinson has been moved from RB24 to RB19. Dare Ogunbowale is the No. 2RB in Jacksonville but is not likely to be fantasy-relevant.
QB Joe Burrow — Despite the continued rehabilitation of his surgically repaired knee, Burrow is playing very. His 70.7% completion percentage is 4.7% higher than his expected completion percentage. Both marks, completion percentage and Completion Percentage Above Expectation (CPAE) are top 10 in the league. His counting stats (ie. what matter for fantasy purposes) haven’t kept pace with his efficiency marks, but he’s got a good shot at lining the two up against a Jacksonville defense that’s allowed an average of 21.5 FPPG (13th most) to Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater, and Kyler Murray. Burrow’s firmly in play as a Week 4 streamer.
WR Ja’Marr Chase — Chase’s college-to-pros mindmeld with Burrow is already on par with duos like Aaron Rodgers/Davante Adams and Russell Wilson/Tyler Lockett. Chase’s 51.3 .5PPR points (5th most) are sandwiched between Lockett’s 56.9 (3rd) and Adams’ 49.4 (8th). It’s official; Chase is a fantasy WR1.
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) September 29, 2021
WRs Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins — Higgins (shoulder) has registered back-to-back DNPs so far this week. It’s unlikely he plays, clearing the way for another fruitful outing for slot receiver Boyd. Opposing slot receivers have caught 13-of-14 balls for 156 yards and 1 touchdown against CIN’s sinful slot coverage, per PFF. It’s possible Jacksonville’s nickel package improves, as starting slot CB Tre Herdon (knee) is expected to return this week. Herndon’s finally practicing in full after getting limited reps in for a week and a half. That said, Herndon’s best single-season PFF coverage grade is a measly 50.7 and Boyd is one of the best slot receivers in the game. Don’t fear the Herndon. Boyd’s a locked-in WR3.
WRs Auden Tate and Mike Thomas — Tate (27 snaps) and Thomas (10 snaps) tag teamed Higgins’ intermediate-area receiving role last week, each catching their lone target. Given the snap disparity, Tate could be fired up in DFS. He should not be started in redraft leagues though.
TE C.J. Uzomah — Uzomah really shouldn’t be started in redraft fantasy formats. That said, Uzomah is the preferred tight end for Thursday Night Football DFS purposes. In Week 1, Houston’s Pharaoh Brown caught 4-of-5 targets for 67 yards, although Jordan Akins did go 0-for-2. In Week 2, Denver tight ends Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Eric Saubert went 9-of-11 for 64 yards and 1 score. Even the blocking-centric Arizonan Maxx Williams went a perfect 3-of-3 for 19 yards against the Jags last week.
RBs Joe Mixon, Chris Evans, and Samaje Perine — With the game in hand, Evans and Perine got some work in the second-half last week. They are purely backups though: Perine as the bruiser, Evans as the pass catcher. Mixon’s hefty 19 touches were the fewest he’s seen this, a testament to his enormous usage. His 73 total touches trail only King Henry. Jacksonville’s 26.3 .5PPR RB PPG allowed are 5th most in the league and their 44.1% score is 20th in Paddi Cooper’s NEFF run defense ratings. Mixon is this week’s overall RB4.