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Although I’ve added a Fade Column to my weekly schedule for the 2021 Fantasy Football Season, I know this piece might not be popular with all fantasy managers. After all, it’s no fun to read tempered predictions (or bad news) tied to your favorite players.
That established, the goal of any fantasy season is to make as many good decisions as possible, hoping that the accumulation of good decisions will get you where you need to go. I am not saying everyone listed in this article needs to be automatically benched on your roster — your team depth and context will determine how you play that. Perhaps you’ll use this column more for a DFS slant, or as a springboard to player props.
Like anything else, I advise you to consider any reasonable argument you come across but ultimately make your own measured decision.
And with that preamble established, here are your Week 4 Fades. Queue up the Mazzy Star, and away we go.
Kyler Murray at Rams (DFS: $39)
Let’s get this established up front — soft-pedaling Murray for fantasy is terrifying. He’s capable of making the NFL’s highlight of the year on any snap. He’s improving as a passer, and he’s electric as a runner. He has excellent skill talent to work with. All the ingredients are here.
But Murray’s up against the nasty Rams defense this week, and this unit has solved him through two years. The Rams are 4-0 against Murray, and check the stat page — Murray averages just 5.9 yards per attempt against them, and has a scant 46 rushing yards — in total — over four games. That’s a shockingly-low number.
Of course, team-versus-team trends can flip at any time. And I want to be clear, if this wasn’t an in-division matchup stat, I’d be completely ignoring it. And I’m certainly not saying Murray is someone you sit on a seasonal fantasy roster. But I won’t consider him for any DFS build, and I might explore some under props on Murray as well. I need to see the Cardinals figure out the Rams. Murray is the QB7 on my Week 4 board, probably the lowest he’ll be all year.
Jonathan Taylor at Dolphins (DFS: $28)
Taylor is the sixth-priciest back on the main DFS slate, and I can’t get behind him at that salary. Indianapolis’ offense has all sorts of problems; Carson Wentz is playing hurt and struggling, the offensive line is battered. And although Taylor was an active receiver in the opener, he’s only seen two receptions since. The Colts are only playing him about half of the snaps, and keep in mind, the Colts haven’t been blown out in any of their three losses.
I understand the mindset that you bet on talent, and I still think Frank Reich is a smart coach. But the infrastructure around Taylor is going to keep him down for a while. And this Miami matchup might feel juicier than it really is; Miami is actually ahead of the league average in run defense, per DVOA. Until the Colts fix their house, I can’t hang out with Taylor proactively.
Saquon Barkley at Saints (DFS: $24)
Say this for Barkley, he’s getting on the field. His snap share rose to 84 and 86 percent the last two weeks, after judicious work in the opener. But where are the explosive plays? The ordinary Falcons defense held him to 3.2 YPC, and for the year Barkley averages 3.4 yards a run and 4.3 yards a target. Don’t be tripped up by the name on the back of the jersey. Barkley doesn’t look 100 percent yet, and the Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
The matchup couldn’t be much worse in Week 4. The Saints have a nasty defense — remember how the unit erased the Packers in Week 1? — and now it returns home for its first game in front of the zealous New Orleans crowd. I’m slotting Barkley outside the Top 20 at the running back position — again, we want numbers, we don’t sweat the names — and I’ll look for some under props in that market.
Calvin Ridley vs. Football Team (DFS: $24)
This fade is aimed at the DFS market, because Ridley’s ticket has come down and I get why that’s appetizing. But maybe things are broken with the Falcons offense.
Ridley is certainly seeing plenty of opportunity, gobbling up 29 targets in three weeks. But he’s only making 8.8 yards per catch, and mustering 6.0 yards per target — well under career averages (13.7 and 9.1, respectively). Matt Ryan’s throwing shorter than anyone in the league this year, and he’s also struggling with accuracy, despite the short routes. This offense has almost no verticality to it.
I guess we’re going to find out about head coach Arthur Smith. The new Falcons chief was well-respected in Tennessee, and I counted myself among those admirers. But after watching Ridley turn into a short-yardage specialist for three weeks, and after seeing Kyle Pitts do almost nothing in that span, I’m having my doubts. And again, this could be tied to Ryan’s leakage, declining skills that are seeping into his game at age 36. Tempting as it may be, I’m not taking the Ridley DFS bait in Week 4.
Noah Fant vs. Ravens (DFS: $21)
I understand if Fant managers are giggling over this matchup — Baltimore is currently the second-worst team when it comes to tight end production allowed. But that stat is all about who Baltimore has played — the Ravens faced Darren Waller and Travis Kelce in the first two weeks, the top of the tight end market. Last week, Baltimore did an excellent job shutting down T.J. Hockenson.
Fant is going to be a star someday, and I understand if people want it to happen now. He has a first-round pedigree and this is his third season. But he’s not drawing a heavy target workload — just nine looks the last two weeks — and most of his work has been underneath. He’s set up to disappoint in Week 4, and I’ve moved him out of the Top 10 for this draw.