Week 4 of the NFL season brought about several compelling storylines that have significant implications for fantasy football. In San Francisco, a more concentrated offense has reshaped fantasy expectations, while the struggles of Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals have raised concerns. Additionally, we delve into the dynasty outlook for key players, shedding light on who is poised for success in the long run and who fantasy managers might be better off moving on from.
Fantasy Football Week 4 Fallout
San Francisco Fantasy Fallout
San Francisco is making its case to be the Super Bowl favorite heading into October of the NFL season. For fantasy purposes, the offense has been more concentrated than expected though. Christian McCaffrey is averaging 30 fantasy points per game and scored over 50 PPR points in Week 4 against the Cardinals. Even limited by injuries, Brandon Aiyuk is the clear top target in the passing game when healthy as well. McCaffrey is the RB1 in fantasy football, and Aiyuk is a borderline top-12 wide receiver this week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Unfortunately, their success has created a target squeeze for George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. The San Francisco offense ranks only No. 26 in pass plays per game and No. 30 in the pace of play. Furthermore, Aiyuk and McCaffrey are accounting for 46.4-percent of the target share when both are healthy. With the third-highest average scoring margin in the NFL too, there simply aren’t enough targets to go around for Samuel or Kittle to find any kind of consistency.
The Bottom Line
There are fewer concerns for Samuel though as the big-play threat in a high-scoring offense. He still ranks No. 16 in Yards Per Route Run and is No. 3 in yards after the catch. He will continue to get extra opportunities in the run game, which will put him in the WR2 conversation every week. The 49ers have a more competitive schedule over the next six weeks as well, which will lead to more passing volume from Brock Purdy.
However, the usage of Kittle in this offense has been very concerning. Despite ranking No. 5 in the NFL in snap percentage among tight ends, he is only No. 20 in routes run. Once again, Kittle is asked to block on far too many plays to justify his fantasy ADP this offseason. His 1.78 Yards Per Route Run (No. 6) means nothing if he isn’t getting the opportunities. Kittle is a top 10 option in Week 5 only because of the bleak outlook of the position as a whole.
Fantasy Football Week 4 Dynasty Ramifications
This is part of a growing trend in the 49ers’ offense, and Aiyuk and McCaffrey should be considered the top options. Despite McCaffrey’s advanced age, he is a top 5 dynasty option due to his league-winning upside. He’s shown no signs of slowing down and isn’t a bad buy-high player if another dynasty manager (somehow) isn’t competing with McCaffrey on his roster. In one of these rare circumstances, consider sending a 2024 first-round pick and a young, upside player such as George Pickens to a rebuilding manager.
Aiyuk, on the other hand, is entering the prime of his career and is a fringe top-15 receiver in dynasty leagues. He is the best route runner among the San Francisco pass catchers as well as the preferred option of Brock Purdy. Samuel is still one of the most dynamic players in the league too and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He is a low-end WR2 for dynasty purposes who will be boom or bust depending on his target volume. Either is worth a first-round pick to a competing manager.
For Kittle, he’s far closer to being just another touchdown-dependent tight end than Travis Kelce at this point. Despite finishing No. 2 in fantasy points per game in 2022, he was closer to the TE19 in scoring than he was to Kelce. Kittle is still a very good player in this league, likely with a long career ahead of him. He’s an average starter most weeks who will have a few big performances this year.
Burrow Belongs on the Bench
Joe Burrow is a shell of himself and isn’t healthy following a reaggravation of his calf injury. He is No. 34 in Yards Per Attempt and No. 33 in fantasy points per game (there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL). The calf injury appears to have completely hindered his ability to move around in the pocket and generate plays. This has led to Burrow being the worst starting quarterback in the NFL through four weeks, and it isn’t particularly close.
Unfortunately, Burrow doesn’t belong anywhere near fantasy lineups this weekend. Even in a soft matchup against the Arizona Cardinals’ defense. In addition to his poor play so far, he could also be without one of his star wide receivers Tee Higgins. Higgins suffered a rib injury in Week 4 that could force him to miss time. Even in superflex formats, fantasy managers should consider pivoting to a running back or wide receiver with a safer floor.
Burrow Buries his Pass Catchers
Burrow’s struggles have permeated through the rest of the offense as well, and no one is meeting expectations. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins rank No. 24 and No. 51 in fantasy points per game among wide receivers. Furthermore, Chase has received a 28.7-percent target share but is only No. 80 in yards per reception. He’ll be a top-12 wide receiver on his talent alone, but the elite upside isn’t there.
The outlook is much bleaker for Higgins though, who fractured his ribs in their loss against the Titans. Notably, he’s not ruling himself out of Week 5 yet. However, Higgins is a player who has notoriously tried to go after suffering an injury in the past, only to play a handful of snaps. Even if he was healthy, Higgins’s floor in fantasy is bottomless at the moment. He’ll be a low-end flex option in fantasy lineups with upside until Burrow can turn his play around.
Fantasy Football Week 4 Dynasty Ramifications
In the long term, there shouldn’t be much of a concern as Burrow has a long-established track record. However, this should remind fantasy managers about the inherent risks with a pure pocket-passing quarterback. Burrow was No. 28 in rush yards per game last season and has three total rushing yards in 2023 through four games. For him to be a top 5 fantasy quarterback any given year, the offensive situation has to be perfect.
Burrow is still a top 5 dynasty quarterback. However, he lacks the same consistent upside as Hurts or Allen without a rushing floor. But he is still one of the best pure passers in the game when healthy. As a result, he’s still a very safe asset. Fantasy managers will be left holding the bag in 2023 though because Burrow is still weeks away from being healthy. Dynasty managers still with a hope of competing should consider pivoting to a different quarterback such as Lamar Jackson. The dynasty value of Joe Burrow is very isolated, and Jackson’s potential has yet to be reached in this offense.
Chase was Chasing No.1
There was a debate in fantasy this offseason in dynasty leagues about who was the most valuable player in 1QB formats between Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. That is no longer the case as Jefferson is hands down the best non-QB in the NFL. Regardless, he is still a clear top-dynasty asset. Chase has only scored 14.4 fantasy points per game compared to 21.4 expected points. He’s a lock to bounce back when Burrow begins to improve, but hopefully, it doesn’t come too little too late for fantasy managers.
How do you feel about that week 17 Bengals Chiefs correlation now? 😂
— Billy Muzio (@FFMuzio) October 3, 2023
For Higgins, his dynasty outlook is more concerning. Particularly if he is to remain with the Bengals for the long term. He’s a fantastic player, but too often is subject to down games as the clear second option. While Higgins has held borderline top-12 wide receiver value in dynasty leagues, he has never finished higher than WR18 in PPR leagues and was No. 26 in fantasy points per game in 2022. While he left multiple games early, a number of his best performances came when Chase was out of the lineup.
For these reasons, Higgins is a clear sell in dynasty leagues if possible. He is more of a strong WR2 in dynasty leagues as opposed to a borderline top-12 receiver. The down weeks and frequent small injuries that have limited him over the last three seasons have added up. Brandon Aiyuk and DK Metcalf are two players I prefer at a similar value, but fantasy managers may have to wait for a big week from Higgins to make a trade.