Fantasy Football

Week 4 fantasy flex play advice

RotoWire.com Luke Hoover
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It was a glaring issue entering drafts this summer, and now with the first quarter of the season coming to a close, it's proven even worse than anticipated. The severe lack of depth at the running back position has gone epidemic to the point where I struggled to find even one worthy flex option at the position this week. So with the bye weeks under way (no Colts or Steelers this week) be prepared for the worst.

This is the time to stockpile some deeper reserve rushers who could get their shot the next eight weeks of byes. As studs miss time (more almost certainly will) it's crucial to have the next guy in line, as we've already seen with C.J. Spiller, Andre Brown and Michael Bush stepping in and stepping up. Now is the time to collect the deeper handcuffs like Lamar Miller, Shaun Draughn, Jackie Battle, Bilal Powell, etc. Weeks will be won and lost by the guys who cannot even be flexed now but may become must-starts if forced into action.

1. Jacoby Jones vs. Cleveland - Torrey Smith's performance versus the Patriots was inspired and remarkably focused given his awful family loss. But it likely will lead to a serious letdown on the short turnaround. This week will be beyond emotionally and physically draining for Smith and while his play figures to suffer Thursday night, the production for Jones should rise. The Browns have allowed more than 500 yards and six touchdowns to lesser passers than Joe Flacco, so Jones has a great chance to step up with his chance for extra targets.

2. Andrew Hawkins at Jacksonville - Continue riding the wave? Why not? Hawkins may only have seven combined targets the last two weeks, but the electric slot receiver has a score of at least 50 yards in each. And he added two carries for 16 yards last week for good measure. He has yet to score less than eight points in a week and gets a matchup with a Jaguars defense that struggled badly with the speed and quickness of T.Y. Hilton last week (113 yards and a TD). Let it ride.

3. Tashard Choice vs. New England - No team has opened holes as gaping as the Bills through three weeks. Granted, having the dynamite C.J. Spiller ripping through them helps, but Choice should generate some decent yardage in the event both Fred Jackson and the aforementioned Spiller can't go. And even if either does play, Choice should log plenty of reps as there's no way Jackson or Spiller will be close to 100 percent healthy.

4. Ramses Barden at Philadelphia - Nnamdi Asomugha can't cover both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, so expect whichever one he's not on to be routinely doubled. While it's less of likely with Nicks expected back in the lineup, there's a chance Barden repeats as the Giants' leading receiver. The huge 6-foot-6 target should now have the confidence of his coaches and his quarterback and has locked down the No. 3 role in New York. If the Eagles defense forces Barden to be the man, Eli Manning will take it and make it happen.

5. Mike Williams vs. Washington - The Redskins are 31st in passing yards allowed through three weeks and have allowed a league-high 10 scores in the air. The Skins have let Sam Bradford and Andy Dalton look like All-Pros and consequently any starting wide receiver with some talent is worth at least a flex against them. Williams snatched touchdowns in each of the first two weeks and figures to start a new scoring streak Sunday.

6. Leonard Hankerson at Tampa Bay - The Buccaneers gave an improved effort last week versus Tony Romo, but they're still dead last in passing yards allowed. If Pierre Garcon (foot) remains out, Hankerson, Washington's leading wide receiver for the last two weeks, should see plenty of targets and have the chance for a nice day yardage-wise. Should Garcon suit up, that may also play to Hankerson's benefit, as it would roll coverage away from him and give the former Hurricane more opportunities for big plays.

PAIN TRAIN

Injuries are a part of football, but these players have been hit particularly hard.

WEEK 4 FLEX-PLAY RANKINGS

*Check injury status.

1. Maurice Jones-Drew JAC vs. Cin
2. Arian Foster HOU vs. Ten
3. Ray Rice BAL vs. Cle
4. LeSean McCoy PHI vs. NYG
5. Calvin Johnson DET vs. Min
6. *Julio Jones ATL vs. Car - Suffered a lacerated hand early on against the Chargers, but returned to the game.
7. Victor Cruz NYG at Phi
8. A.J. Green CIN at Jac
9. Steve Johnson BUF vs. NE
10. Roddy White ATL vs. Car
11. Wes Welker NE at Buf
12. Andre Johnson HOU vs. Ten
13. Jimmy Graham NO at GB
14. Darren McFadden OAK at Den
15. Marshawn Lynch SEA at StL
16. Frank Gore SF at NYJ
17. Adrian Peterson MIN at Det - Only with Peterson would 25 carries be described as a reduced workload - but that was the case last week, as he didn't carry the ball in the final five minutes.
18. Jamaal Charles KC vs. SD - Exploded in a great matchup - now has full confidence in the knee, whereas he said that he didn't have that the first two weeks.
19. Rob Gronkowski NE at Buf - Occasionally held in to block against the Ravens. Consider that to be an unusual occurrence.
20. Larry Fitzgerald ARZ vs. Mia
21. Steve Smith CAR at Atl
22. Percy Harvin MIN at Det
23. *Miles Austin DAL vs. Chi - Briefly went to the locker room with a rib injury.
24. *Greg Jennings GB vs. NO - (Groin) Appeared to be at full speed Monday night - just missed getting into the end zone.
25. Brandon Lloyd NE at Buf - The thigh injury that limited Lloyd's practice time was a non-factor Sunday night.
26. Ryan Mathews SD at KC - Lost a critical fumble early - so he's in midseason form.
27. Doug Martin TB vs. Was
28. Darren Sproles NO at GB
29. Michael Bush CHI at Dal
30. DeMarco Murray DAL vs. Chi
31. Michael Turner ATL vs. Car - Turner had 80 yards on 14 carries against the Chargers. The DUI arrest won't limit his playing time in the near future.
32. Vincent Jackson TB vs. Was
33. Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. Oak
34. *Hakeem Nicks NYG at Phi - (Foot) Should return to practice Thursday and be available to play Sunday night.
35. Torrey Smith BAL vs. Cle - Away from the team Monday to attend to the family after the death of his brother late Saturday night.
36. Brandon Marshall CHI at Dal
37. Dwayne Bowe KC vs. SD
38. *Trent Richardson CLE at Bal - (Knee) Full participant in early practice this week.
39. *Mikel Leshoure DET vs. Min - Surprising only in the extent that he dominated the running back opportunities.
40. BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at Jac - Lost his first fumble as a professional last week against the Redskins.
41. Alfred Morris WAS at TB
42. Cedric Benson GB vs. NO
43. Vernon Davis SF at NYJ
44. *Jordy Nelson GB vs. NO - Targeted just three times, as once again the Packers were denied the opportunity to go deep.
45. Nate Washington TEN at Hou
46. Eric Decker DEN vs. Oak
47. Danny Amendola STL vs. Sea
48. DeSean Jackson PHI vs. NYG
49. *Andre Brown NYG at Phi - Even though Bradshaw is coming back, Brown demonstrated that he at least should be a part of the offense.
50. Stevan Ridley NE at Buf - Fewer carries than Ridley, robbed of two goal line opportunities.
51. *Daniel Thomas MIA at Ari - Had 19 carries for 69 yards last week and was getting the red zone looks even before Reggie Bush hurt his knee.
52. Ben Tate HOU vs. Ten - Lost a fumble that helped keep the Broncos in the game last week.
53. *Ryan Williams ARZ vs. Mia - First semblance of success in the Cardinals' running game came from Williams late in the game.
54. *Lance Ball DEN vs. Oak - It looks as if Ball could be the first choice if McGahee can't play.
55. *Chris Johnson TEN at Hou - Lays another egg - just how low will you have to sell him if you try to trade now?
56. *Steven Jackson STL vs. Sea - (Groin) Appeared to emerge unscathed even without practicing all week.
57. *Lamar Miller MIA at Ari - Had nine carries last week for 48 yards after Reggie Bush got hurt. Could play a much bigger role this week if Bush can't go.
58. Martellus Bennett NYG at Phi
59. Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. Car
60. Kyle Rudolph MIN at Det
61. Fred Davis WAS at TB - Seven catches for 90 yards against the Bengals.
62. Dennis Pitta BAL vs. Cle
63. Lance Moore NO at GB
64. Michael Crabtree SF at NYJ
65. Malcom Floyd SD at KC
66. Dez Bryant DAL vs. Chi
67. Brian Hartline MIA at Ari - Targeted nine times, connected just once.
68. Santonio Holmes NYJ vs. SF
69. Brandon LaFell CAR at Atl
70. Mike Williams TB vs. Was
71. *Marques Colston NO at GB - Playing through plantar fasciitis in his foot.
72. *Kenny Britt TEN at Hou - Sore ankle, but should be able to play this week. Had an elevated role early on against Detroit.
73. James Jones GB vs. NO
74. Denarius Moore OAK at Den
75. Greg Little CLE at Bal
76. *DeAngelo Williams CAR at Atl - Another disappointing game if you consider that Stewart was out. That won't be the case this week.
77. *Danny Woodhead NE at Buf - Woodhead had 15 carries against the Ravens, more than Stevan Ridley, and stole much of the goal line action.
78. Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. Car - Getting more action, but that's tempered by the fact that Turner looked good against the Chargers.
79. Shonn Greene NYJ vs. SF
80. Pierre Thomas NO at GB
81. *Shaun Draughn KC vs. SD - Could have a bigger role if Hillis can't go this week.
82. Donald Jones BUF vs. NE
83. Andrew Hawkins CIN at Jac
84. Anquan Boldin BAL vs. Cle
85. *Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. NYG - (Hip pointer) Expected to return Sunday night against the Giants.
86. Randall Cobb GB vs. NO - Just one catch and one carry Monday night.
87. Owen Daniels HOU vs. Ten
88. Antonio Gates SD at KC
89. Jermaine Gresham CIN at Jac
90. Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. Min
91. Aldrick Robinson WAS at TB
92. Andre Roberts ARZ vs. Mia
93. Ramses Barden NYG at Phi - With Nicks back, role back to a third receiver, but it's also hard to see him being a non-factor the rest of the way.
94. *Golden Tate SEA at StL - Two touchdowns, including the infamous Hail Mary so-called catch.

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