Don’t look now, but we are nearly a quarter of the way through the regular season and our perceptions of teams are now met with reality. Some offenses continue to have a surprising resurgence, while others continued to flounder with amazing ineptitude. In this Week 4 rankings article, we have a trio of passers that are sinking down the rankings, including a running back that had an ascending ADP in August. But before we get to the Fallers, let’s start with our rankings Risers, beginning with The King himself.
Derrick Henry – RB, Tennessee Titans
I mentioned in the last edition of Risers and Fallers that I would never fade Derrick Henry and boy was I right on time with that statement! This weekend, he bludgeoned the Bengals defense to the tune of 122 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, and he capped off his performance with a passing touchdown. Henry started slow this season: this was only the second game in which he had a larger snap share than rookie teammate Tyjae Spears. The snap share was likely a reflection of the game script since the Bengals offense couldn’t stay on the field and the Titans were nursing a lead. The Bengals aren’t an elite rush defense, but it was nice to see our old friend, King Henry, at it again. I would expect more performances comparable to this one coming from Henry as the season rolls along and opposing defenses begin to wear down.
— PlayerProfiler NFL (@Profiler_NFL) October 1, 2023
Brandon Aiyuk – WR, San Fransisco 49ers
After being out last week with a shoulder injury, one had to wonder if Brandon Aiyuk would be able to bring the same punch that he brought in the first week of the season. Against an unimpressive Cardinals secondary, he was able to catch all six of his targets from Brock Purdy and turn them into 148 yards of offense. His route-running mate, Deebo Samuel had no receptions at all, though he did go into the game with injury concerns. Ever since that strange season when Aiyuk remained in the “Shanahan doghouse,” we have seen him slowly take over the 49ers passing game and demand targets ahead of Samuel and George Kittle. Its time that we start to recognize him as a target hog, and the Alpha Receiver for the Niners.
Jaleel McLaughlin – RB, Denver Broncos
The Broncos were relying on Javonte Williams as the primary ball carrier and Samaje Perine as the backup at the beginning of this season. But when Williams went down with an injury, they were forced to rely more on undrafted free agent Jaleel McLaughlin. The team might have found a new weapon for Russell Wilson. McLaughlin rushed seven times for 72 yards and finished with over 100 total yards of offense and a receiving touchdown. Sean Payton has historically always used two running backs in a rotation, and it’s easy to see how the speedy McLaughlin can pair with Williams when he returns. Thankfully the injury to Williams doesn’t sound severe, but he will likely miss time. Accordingly, McLaughlin will be on everyone’s radar when it’s time to place FAAB bids. Perine will be the lead back while Williams is out, but McLaughlin has clearly earned more opportunities moving forward.
Broncos RB Utilization after Javonte Williams injury:
29% route participation
5 fantasy points
43% route participation
10 fantasy points
— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) October 2, 2023
Baker Mayfield – QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
During the Week 3 matchup between the Buccaneers and the Eagles, we watched Baker Mayfield underwhelm and slowly shrink back down to the inconsistent passer we have seen in the past. After the bar was lowered, most of us imagined we might see more inconsistent play from Mayfield, especially facing a feisty Saints defense. But Mayfield absolutely nailed his throws against the Saints, throwing for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
The Buccaneer passing offense is much improved from 2022 and after last year’s protection struggles, the offensive line has come together well, allowing only four sacks so far this year. Mike Evans could miss time with a hamstring injury, but this offense led by Mayfield aims to remain efficient. These Bucs are a dangerous squad, and Dave Canales is a rising star in the coaching world. Improved play from the offensive line, improved play calling from the coaching staff, and a locked in Baker could make for a fun and feisty team late in the season.
Joe Burrow – QB, Cincinnati Bengals
I’ve tried to keep this article fresh by always adding new players and situations, and after adding the Bengals offense on the first edition of this article, I hoped I would never have to revisit that offense. Well, here we are and Joe Burrow cannot hide from this list any longer. He appears hurried and uncomfortable in the pocket. His passes have less zip, and he has been unable to put the proper drive on the ball when he needs to thread the needle. I’m hopeful that he can recover completely in time for a second half resurgence, but the Bengals might need to consider resting him or we could be looking at a lost season. He will not be able to sustain fantasy relevance by continuing to operate a short passing game the entire season.
The Cincinnati Bengals are 1-3 and have been one of the most inefficient offenses in the #NFL thanks to an injured Joe Burrow ranking bottom-5 in many metrics.
They just lost Tee Higgins for at least a few weeks. They should shut it down for the year and let their players heal. pic.twitter.com/xLWpWl3oSR
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) October 1, 2023
Desmond Ridder – QB, Atlanta Falcons
Did the Falcons let Desmond Ridder back on the plane after that performance? We’re all coming to grips that this offense is going to keep a run-heavy approach even with dynamic pass catchers Kyle Pitts and Drake London. But the quarterback play has left fans and fantasy managers wanting more. Ridder has had two games so far this season with a completion percentage under 60-percent and only one time did he finish with more than 202 yards passing. After a three-turnover game in London, the cries for backup Taylor Heinicke will continue to grow. Unless we see actual development next week against the Houston Texans, Arthur Smith will likely be ready to make the change.
Falcons have to make a move to Taylor Heinicke if they lose to the Texans next week.
Desmond Ridder’s not that guy. Falcons make playoffs with Heinicke.
— Jack Cavanagh (@javanagh87) October 1, 2023
Kenny Pickett – QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Man, the preseason was so much fun! We all remember how good the Steelers pass offense performed. That’s not the case now. And while Matt Canada doesn’t have a player page on PlayerProfiler and so isn’t a candidate for a Faller, Kenny Pickett is. It’s time we talk about the start of his season. Over the first four games, he’s thrown four interceptions, and finished only one game with a QBR higher than 26.
The nail in the coffin was the performance against the shorthanded Houston Texans, who were without cornerbacks Derek Stingley, Jr. and Tavierre Thomas, and the Steelers still could only muster six points of offense. Pickett did leave the game with a knee injury, and he will miss weeks. We can only hope there’s a new playcaller in charge when he returns because something must change. There’s no reason why an offense with Pat Freiermuth, Najee Harris, and George Pickens can only score six points.
Antonio Gibson – RB, Washington Commanders
As with Burrow, it took me a while to come to this conclusion, but I’m finally here. The Commanders have relied heavily on second year running back Brian Robinson, and he’s been extremely productive with his touches. Antonio Gibson has seen much less opportunity, and he’s done next to nothing with it. He’s scored more than five fantasy points in only one game this season, and his snap share has been higher than 50-percent only once. I’m a fan of Gibson and his elite profile, but perhaps he needs a new team setting. Ron Rivera has seen enough, and it is going to take an injury to Robinson for Gibson to become fantasy relevant.
Ron Rivera gushed over Antonio Gibson pass-game abilities for the entire offseason and my mans has 9 targets in 3 games why do I keep falling for this
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 28, 2023
Derrick Henry, Brandon Aiyuk, Jaleel McLaughlin, and Baker Mayfield are this week’s Risers. Joe Burrow, Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett, and Antonio Gibson are the Fallers. Now, keep in mind when fantasy players people see “Faller” next to a player’s name, they may turn up their nose, and avoid that player at all costs. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but it is entirely possible that in two to three weeks Burrow will recover from his calf injury and be the gunslinger we all know. I can support buying in on him if you’re feeling risky. As for Pickett, Ridder, and Gibson, I wouldn’t put them near my fantasy bench!