We have made it through the first four weeks of the 2023 NFL season. While it’s not exactly the quarter point — thanks, 17-game season! — we have seen enough to start forming solid opinions about teams and players. We know who we can trust in our starting lineups and who is best left on the bench. It’s also given us a glimpse into which players should probably not be on our rosters at all.
In that case, we need to find players who can fill the void. This isn’t a waiver wire column. Our man Matt Okada has that covered nicely. But this is a column to help you find those hidden gems that can plug the gaps in your roster and starting lineup.
Without further ado … here are some names.
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Quarterbacks for Week 5
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running backs for Week 5
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Wide receivers for Week 5
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Tight ends for Week 5
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Kickers for Week 5
- NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Defenses for Week 5
Howell has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. Aside from his meltdown against a good Bills defense, the young Commanders quarterback has been in control of the offense. He’s thrown for at least 290 yards and posted 19-plus fantasy points in two of his last three contests. In Week 4, he displayed an additional skill by rushing for 40 yards in a near upset against the Eagles.
This week, he’ll get a much more favorable opponent (on paper, at least) when he faces the Bears. Chicago has allowed three touchdown passes in three of its four games this season. At the start of the year, I wouldn’t have believed Washington could accomplish such a feat, but Eric Bieniemy’s offense has averaged 22 points per game with a pair of 30-point outings. Howell should have a solid chance to produce in Week 5 and has low-end QB1 upside.
Call it the Something’s Gotta Give Bowl. Or maybe The SGGB, Part Deux. Last week, we kept the faith in Justin Fields because he got to face a Broncos defense that had just given up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins. He rewarded fantasy managers with four touchdown passes and nearly 28 fantasy points.
So, we’ll roll the dice again this week with another struggling quarterback. Denver has allowed at least two touchdown passes in every game this season. Opposing signal-callers have tallied more than 20 fantasy points in three straight weeks. A couple of weeks ago, this would have seemed utterly ridiculous. But Wilson played well against the Chiefs’ defense on Sunday night. He should get a look in multi-QB formats this week.
Gus Edwards was always slotted to have a role in Baltimore’s running game. That role grew when J.K. Dobbins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. Then, in Week 4, Edwards fully took control of the Ravens’ backfield. He played over 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, led the team in rushing attempts and even had three targets.
Historically, games between the Ravens and Steelers have been physical affairs. I wouldn’t expect this one to be any different. That should work in Edwards’ favor. The still-run-heavy Ravens will look to test a subpar Steelers run defense. Yes, that means Lamar Jackson will have plenty of yards on the ground. But Edwards has been elevated to the Ravens’ rusher of choice and should have RB2 vibes.
Before you get too worked up, this isn’t some bold prediction about Bijan Robinson. He’s good. He’s going to be fine. He’s going to eat again this week versus Houston. But we’ve had enough of a look at the Atlanta offense to know they can’t throw the ball. Moreover, they don’t want to throw the ball. To say Desmond Ridder has struggled is a gross understatement. As such, Arthur Smith is incredibly reluctant to put the ball in his hands.
This week, he likely won’t have to against the Texans. Houston has done a lot of things well early this season. Stopping the run isn’t one of them. Even the underperforming Najee Harris gashed them for 71 yards and 5.1 yards per carry. With the Falcons adamant on establishing the run with prejudice, Allgeier should get touches against a vulnerable front. He’s an RB3/flex option this week.
Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to consider George Pickens a sleeper. He leads the Steelers in targets (30) and yards (263) — both by a wide margin. However, these aren’t normal circumstances. Pittsburgh’s offense already seemed dead in the water. Now Kenny Pickett is dealing with a knee injury.
If Pickett is able to play, we know how it works. Pickens is the top target in the offense and could be leaned on if the Ravens shut down the run — as they tend to do. If Mike Tomlin has to turn to Mitchell Trubisky, it’s not all bad. Last season, the journeyman quarterback was most efficient when targeting the athletic receiver. From a more practical standpoint, a look at Pittsburgh’s receiver depth chart doesn’t reveal a lot of other reliable options. Pickens has high-end WR3 vibes this week.
Chiefs receivers continue to be a game of roulette. But it feels like the ball has landed on Toney’s space a little more often lately. After another injury-plagued start to the season, Toney is starting to get healthy and get more chances. That’s really all it takes. The issue with Toney has never been talent or even scheme fit. It’s been availability.
Assuming he makes it through a healthy week of practice, he’s got a great opportunity against the Vikings in Week 5. Already this season, six receivers have had at least five catches in a game against Minnesota. The Vikings have also allowed the fifth-most yards after the catch, per Next Gen Stats. If Kansas City remains committed to getting their playmaker the ball in space, we could finally get the Toney breakout game we’ve been longing for. Nonetheless, for now, he’s still not more than a WR3 in most formats.
Targeting the Titans defense with quarterbacks and wide receivers hasn’t failed us yet this season. Okay, maybe Joe Burrow let us down. But we’ll chalk that up to his injured calf. Nonetheless, the track record has been pretty good. Tennessee’s defense is a pass funnel that has already allowed three wideouts to finish top 10 in a week. There have also been eight different wideouts to catch at least five balls against the Titans this year (in just four games).
Downs isn’t the No. 1 target in Indianapolis — that honor still belongs to Michael Pittman Jr. But the rookie has been heavily involved in the passing game, regardless of who has been at quarterback. As Downs’ comfort with the offense has grown, so has his average depth of target. He’s not quite gobbling up the air yards like Pittman or teammate Alec Pierce, but the chance for chunk plays is there. For managers looking for a WR3, Downs is appealing in Week 5.
As much as it pains us, we must face the facts. Jonnu Smith has overtaken Kyle Pitts as the top tight end option in Atlanta. We can scream about talent and draft capital until we’ve passed out. None of that matters to Arthur Smith. The Falcons don’t seem to have Pitts in their plans. Meanwhile, Smith leads the team in receiving yards (179) and is second in receptions to … Bijan Robinson.
(You didn’t think I was gonna say Drake London, did you?)
Fast forward to Week 5. The Texans haven’t had the easiest time with tight ends this year. In Week 2, a trio of Colts tight ends combined for six catches, 80 yards and a touchdown. One week later, Evan Engram posted seven receptions and 67 yards. I know none of that sounds overwhelming, but we’re talking about fantasy tight ends here. Desmond Ridder might be struggling, but he knows how to get the ball to his tight end. And by “his tight end,” I mean Jonnu Smith — who’s worth starting as a high-end TE2 this week.
The Eagles might be 4-0, but it hasn’t been all rosy for the birds. They’ve gone through fits and starts offensively. Defensively, the guys up front have been fierce but there seems to be issues on the back end. Philadelphia is ranked 16th overall defensively and a lackluster 27th against the pass. A lot of that production came from tight ends in the first two weeks. Both Hunter Henry (16.6 PPR points) and T.J. Hockenson (25.6 points) had their way with Philly.
Expecting similar numbers from Higbee this week might be a stretch. First, Puka Nacua is turning into The Greatest Rookie Receiver Ever. Second, Cooper Kupp has been designated to return from IR and could play this week. Both players will see plenty of targets, but they’ll also draw plenty of attention. Moreover, the Rams struggled to contain the Bengals’ defensive front a couple of weeks ago. They’re likely to have even more trouble with the Eagles’ pass rush. That could mean Matthew Stafford frequently looking to get the ball out quick. Higbee should benefit. Consider him a high-end TE2 with upside.
Early in the week when I was putting together this list, I debated whether to include the Dolphins’ defense. They gave up 40 points to the Bills on Sunday and are allowing nearly 30 points per game. They even allowed 17 points to a Patriots offense that has been on the struggle bus.
Then Monday night happened. The Giants’ offensive line looked like a turnstile against the Seahawks, allowing 11 sacks — a franchise record … for both franchises. Beyond that, Daniel Jones has apparently returned to his turnover-laden ways. Danny has been dropping dimes … to the opposition, turning the ball over seven times in his first four games. Saquon Barkley’s potential return this week could help some, but this is a rudderless offense right now. The Dolphins are a solid streaming option.
As of this writing, Jimmy Garoppolo is still in concussion protocol. While we wait to see if the Raiders will have their QB1 this week, we turn our attention to the guys who could start in his stead. Last week, Aidan O’Connell did his best to give Las Vegas a chance, but his late interception doomed them. AOC also held on to the ball way too long en route to seven sacks by the Chargers.
If the rookie starts again this week, a similar story could be written by the Packers’ defense. Green Bay has one of the highest quarterback pressure rates in the league. That’s bad news for a signal-caller whose internal clock looked like it was running several ticks slow. And the other option isn’t great. There’s a reason Brian Hoyer has been a stopgap option most of his career. The Packers’ defense should be in plenty of lineups this week.
So much of the fantasy football conversation about the Falcons has centered on the use (or lack thereof) of Kyle Pitts. See the Jonnu Smith section above if you don’t believe me. That conversation could be expanded to talk about the general ineptness of Atlanta’s offense as a whole. They’ve gained fewer than 290 yards in three of their four games. In those same three contests, the Falcons passed for 160 yards or fewer. Their 62 points this season are tied for the fourth-fewest in the league.
Atlanta has turned the ball over five times, which isn’t awful. But they’ve allowed 16 sacks, which is not good. This week, they have the Texans. DeMeco Ryans’ defense is still a work in progress, but they’re showing signs of turning a corner. Houston made life miserable for the Steelers last time out and should be able to do the same to an ineffective Falcons attack on Sunday.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a manwho should probably mix in a couple cups of tea. Send him your hot beverage preferences or fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.
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