Fantasy football analyst Sal Vetri will use this space to deliver his keys to victory every week of the 2023 NFL season.
Finding 1: Concern for Derek Carr’s shoulder
Carr surprisingly started in Week 4, despite injuring his shoulder the previous week. It was originally believed that Carr would miss at least a few games, but this didn’t happen and playing through this injury was actually a bad thing for his pass catchers.
Carr averaged a season-low 3.4 yards per attempt in Week 4. Even more worrisome, his average attempt went for less than one air yard. That’s not a typo. This means most of his throws were checkdowns or screens, which explains why Alvin Kamara saw 14 targets.
Due to this injury, Carr was unable to throw downfield. This led to just 90 total receiving yards for his three starting wide receivers, including just one catch for four yards for Chris Olave. It’s unlikely Carr will be fully healthy this week against the Patriots’ top-10 defense. If he starts, consider sitting all Saints not named Alvin Kamara.
Finding 2: The best running back spot of the week goes to Breece Hall
Hall has been the lead back for the Jets for the past two games. During this time, he’s played 47% of the snaps and handled 50% of the rush attempts. Three Jets running backs are still involved, but the other backs are seeing their usage decrease.
Dalvin Cook played just 25% of the snaps in Week 4 and only saw six opportunities. He currently ranks last among all running backs with 30+ rushes in yards per carry.
Michael Carter is still playing 25-30% of the snaps but is only running routes. These routes are pulling directly from Hall, who still saw his route rate improve from 28% to 40% in Week 4.
This week, Hall gets the best matchup you can find against the Broncos. Last week, Denver allowed over 120 total yards to Khalil Herbert. Expect Hall to take advantage as he ranks second in yards per touch this season.
Finding 3: Pick up and play Jake Ferguson
He’s slowly becoming a top-10 tight end in Dallas. Ferguson’s route participation has increased in each of the past three games, running a season-high 70% of the Cowboys’ routes in Week 4.
Ferguson has been great whenever he sees usage. This started in 2022, when his 2.02 yards per route run was top 10 among all tight ends. Entering Week 4, Ferguson ranked second at earning tight end targets. Then in Week 4, he earned a team-high seven targets on 27 routes run.
He’s a top-10 fantasy tight end the past three weeks and needs to be rostered in all leagues. Remember, Dalton Schultz was a top 10 tight end the past two seasons in this offense, and Ferguson is a better talent than Schultz.
You can start him this week against the 49ers.
Finding 4: D’Andre Swift is the new workhorse running back
His role was good in Week 3 with Kenneth Gainwell returning, but it wasn’t great, as Swift played 54% of the snaps and split the touches with Gainwell. But in Week 4, we got workhorse usage from Swift, who played 64% of the snaps and handled 18 of 24 running back opportunities. Gainwell saw just four carries on a season-low 37% of the snaps.
In Week 4, Swift earned 79 yards on 18 touches, and he’s scored the sixth-most running back points in the past three weeks. Swift has always been efficient, as he ranks among the top five in yards per touch since entering the NFL. This season he’s averaging 5.9 yards per touch and 6.3 yards per carry. Both metrics would have led the NFL last year.
Swift is a top 10 running back for the rest of the season behind the Eagles’ No. 1 run-blocking offensive line.
Finding 5: Wan’Dale Robinson is trending up
Robinson returned from injury in Week 3 and was limited, running just 25% of the routes though he commanded an insane five targets on his nine routes. This is a small sample, but earning targets at an elite rate is something Robinson has done his entire football career. In college at Kentucky, Robinson earned an impressive 39% of the targets.
In Week 4, Robinson saw his role increase. He ran 32 routes — the second most among Giants wide receivers — leading to six targets for 40 yards. The one concern is where Robinson is seeing his targets. His average target distance is just 3.2 yards. He’s seeing short passes that are easy to complete, relying instead on yards after the catch.
This is a small sample, so this role can expand, but it’s something to track. This week the Giants are 11-point underdogs against the Dolphins’ No. 22 secondary. Expect lots of passing for the Giants and targets for Robinson.
Finding 6: The sketchy spot of the week belongs to Kyren Williams
Williams has been great this season. In three games as the clear starter, he’s averaged an elite 90% of the snaps and 22.7 opportunities per game.
But this week Williams is a four-point home underdog against the Eagles’ No. 1 run defense. For the second straight season, the Philadelphia defensive line is the best in the league, with its back seven actually beatable this year. The Eagles lost their two starting linebackers in free agency and have had injuries in their secondary. This has led to the Eagles ranking No. 22 in coverage, allowing big passing days to guys like Sam Howell and Mac Jones.
Expect the Rams to find success mostly through the air. Williams can still succeed here given his elite role as a pass catcher, as he’s earned the third most running back targets this season. But Williams’ rushing production and red-zone upside is sketchy this week.
Finding 7: The QB dream spot belongs to Kirk Cousins
Cousins finds himself in the best position of any quarterback on the week. The Vikings are five-point underdogs against the Chiefs, and this game has the highest total on the slate at 53 points. Minnesota is expected to score 24 points as underdogs.
Historically, this is the best spot for fantasy quarterbacks. The game environment implies lots of points will be scored and the Vikings will have to throw to keep up. This plays right into their team structure, as Minnesota ranks first in pass rate this season.
Kirk Cousins has played in seven similar spots in his career, and he’s averaged 24.8 fantasy points and 309 passing yards in these contests.
Pittman earned just one catch for 15 yards in Week 4, with Anthony Richardson returning from a concussion and completing only 11 passes. Of Pittman’s targets in this game, 80% were not catchable. This was a clear bad game for Richardson as a passer.
The big difference was Pittman’s average target distance was 5.3 yards in his first three games. This jumped to 21.3 yards in Week 4. This means Richardson was mostly throwing deep and it clearly didn’t work. I expect head coach Shane Steichen to adjust heading into Week 5 and get back to the easy stuff for Richardson that worked well in Week 1.
Despite the poor Week 4 performance, Pittman is still seeing top 10 wide receiver usage through four weeks. Expect a bounce back against the Titans’ bottom-10 secondary.
Finding 9: Make note of this for Josh Palmer
Palmer started his first game of the season in Week 4 after Mike Williams was out for the year. Palmer ran a team-high 97% of the routes, leading to a massive 35% target share. He earned twice as many targets as Keenan Allen. Palmer’s average target distance was 18 yards downfield. This will lead to big plays like his 51-yard catch in Week 4.
Palmer has now played six games in his career without Mike Williams. In these games he averages 12.6 points on 8.3 targets per game. This is borderline top-24 wide receiver usage and his quarterback is playing MVP-level football.
Through four games, Justin Herbert ranks first in true completion percentage, completing 79% of his passes. The Chargers are on bye this week but have good matchups against the Bears and Kansas City after the bye. Palmer is a top 36 wide receiver moving forward.
Finding 10: Tyler Allgeier is trending down
Bijan Robinson’s usage has increased each week. In Week 4, he played 75% of the snaps and earned a season-high 67% of the rush attempts. Despite a bad day for the offense, Bijan was still able to produce 137 total yards on 19 touches.
This increasing usage for Robinson hurts Tyler Allgeier, who has seen his snaps decrease every week. In Week 4, he played a season-low 26% of the snaps and earned just nine opportunities. This is a large dropoff from his Week 1 success, where he played 54% of the snaps and earned 24.4 fantasy points.
Allgeier remains one of the best reserve running backs in fantasy, but you cannot start him with Robinson active. If you’re in a bind due to bye weeks, you should still feel comfortable dropping Allgeier. He hasn’t topped five fantasy points since Week 1.