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    Beyond the Boxscore: Fantasy Football 2023 Week 4 Lineup Advice from proven expert

    Not sure who to start in Week 4? Jacob Gibbs gave lineup advice on how to handle some of the more complicated Week 4 start/sit decisions.
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    Each week, we're going to go beyond the boxscore and dive into the most interesting situations from around the NFL and discuss how they might shape the Fantasy landscape for the upcoming week. My hope is that you leave this article feeling at least a little bit more confident in the reasoning behind your lineup decisions.

    I'm going to give advice in this space and hope to be right more than wrong, but most importantly, I hope that you leave these columns with a clearer and fuller understanding of what goes into my rankings here on SportsLine. I'm excited to peel back the curtain a bit and invite you to start thinking about your lineup decisions in a less linear way. We're trying to move away from this player ranks two spots higher than this player, so he's the one to start – lineup decisions are almost always more dynamic than that!

    I do my best to create space to answer questions on Twitter throughout the week, you might catch me there. I also plan to create a live stream version of this article where we can talk through lineup decisions together each Thursday night before the TNF games starting in Week 4.

    My goal is to be more present and available to help SportsLine members with their Fantasy lineup decisions this season! Below, you'll find the situations that stood out the most to me when making important lineup decisions.

    If you're starting your Fantasy football draft research or scouring the Internet for Fantasy rankings, you need to see what SportsLine's highly-rated expert Jacob Gibbs has to say. Gibbs uses a data-driven approach that has helped him consistently provide accurate rankings at every position. He has proven to be one of the nation's most accurate Fantasy rankers in recent years -- posting the eighth-most accurate results over the past three seasons, according to Fantasy Pros.

    Now, Gibbs has projected every Fantasy-relevant player's stats and shared his findings for Week 4 of the 2023 season. In Week 1, Gibbs advised starting Puka Nacua. Leading up to Week 2, Gibbs predicted a huge week from Nico Collins, and he also advised trusting Nacua and Kyren Williams even in a matchup against the 49ers. Last week, Gibbs highlighted Tank Dell before his 5-145-1 explosion against the Jaguars.

    One player Gibbs is especially high on in Week 4: Bears running back Khalil Herbert. Chicago has been a dumpster fire for Fantasy purposes through three weeks, and Herbert has not been exempt. Gibbs believes that a Week 4 matchup against the Denver Broncos might just be exactly what Herbert needs to get rolling, though. Gibbs is also all-in on a rookie tight end! You NEED to see Gibbs' analysis before you lock in your lineup.

    So who are the best under-the-radar players to start in Week 4? And which fill-in running backs can you trust? Join SportsLine here to see Jacob Gibbs' weekly lineup advice, all from one of the nation's most accurate experts as graded by FantasyPros!

    Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston viable flex plays after Mike Williams injury

    With Mike Williams on the field, Josh Palmer has been an afterthought. In his routes run without Big Mike, though, Palmer has been decently productive. It's worth noting that those splits were influenced by a two-game stretch where both Williams and Keenan Allen were sidelined, and we do have a decent sample of Palmer running routes with Williams off but Allen still on the field. Within that subset, Palmer's yard per route run rate still looks like a red flag. So, it's basically only been the times that we've seen Palmer get to work as the clear-cut top target in the offense that he has been productive.

    Things could look different in Kellen Moore's system. There's certainly a possibility that Palmer produces Fantasy-relevant results as a key part of one of the most high-powered passing games in football.

    This situation is somewhat reminiscent of attempting to predict what we'd see from the Rams three weeks ago. Van Jefferson was the veteran WR with familiarity with the offense and seemed to clearly be ahead of Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell on the depth chart, but we had a fairly large sample size pointing towards Jefferson not being a target-earner or productive Fantasy WR. If you squinted hard enough, you could find some data that gave hope for Jefferson, but both his collegiate and pro body of work were uninspiring. Meanwhile, Nacua and Atwell boasted two of the most impressive collegiate per-route data sets of any wide receivers drafted in recent years.

    That's essentially what we have at play in L.A. with Quentin Johnston. Like Atwell, Johnston's team seemed intent on easing him into the NFL. They're not similar players at all, but the two did each profile as projects coming into the league. Johnston was highly productive in college, though, and he brings more impressive draft capital than Atwell or Nacua. It's entirely possible that even though the Chargers did not initially want to thrust him into a prominent role, Johnston will leapfrog Palmer in the pecking order now that he has had to step into that role.

    With that being said, we did not see Johnston's role increase after Williams went down in Week 3. Instead, the Chargers used more two-tight end sets. So, we have absolutely no precedence to help us feel comfortable projecting him for a significant role in Week 4. It felt like the Jerry Jeudy-less Broncos surely would have to let Marvin Mims play a relevant role to open the season, and then they just didn't. We could see something similar with the Chargers and Johnston in the short-term.

    Palmer has a consensus ranking of WR45 for Week 4, according to FantasyPros. That feels too low in a matchup against the Raiders. Palmer sits as the WR39 in my Week 4 rankings, and that's with a fair bit of skepticism about his talent. I have him ranked just ahead of Elijah Moore, DeAndre Hopkins, Romeo Doubs, Courtland Sutton, Drake London, and DJ Moore. Just behind that group is where I have Quentin Johnston, at WR48. I'd start fellow rookies Josh Downs and Jayden Reed ahead of Johnston, as we've seen more from them to this point and both players bring explosive upside in their own right. I currently have Johnston ranked ahead of Marquise Brown, DJ Chark, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Jahan Dotson, to name a few. Starting him is ultimately a question of your risk tolerance and how much your team needs to swing for upside in Week 4.

    We're going back to the well with the Colts

    Speaking of Josh Downs, I count five Colts players as potentially viable starters in Week 4. What a time to be alive! Thank you, Shane Steichen!

    This fast-paced and creative offensive attack is producing massive play volume and draws a Rams defense that couldn't get the Bengals offense off of the field in Week 3 and is on a short week of rest.

    The Fantasy Points Data Suite has Zack Moss ranked fifth at the RB position in expected Fantasy points over the past two weeks. The Colts fed Moss 22 touches in his first game back from a broken arm, and then 32 touches in a 145 scrimmage yard performance against the Ravens. He's locked in as a top-12 Fantasy RB in Week 4. I'd start Moss ahead of Jahmyr Gibbs, Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, D'Andre Swift, and even Fantasy cheat code De'Von Achane.

    Moss and Michael Pittman are locked into lineups in the roles they currently occupy, and Anthony Richardson is starting over all but Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa for me in Week 4. I also view Downs and tight end Kylen Granson as decent-enough plug-and-plays where you need them. Granson has run a route on 70% of Indianapolis' dropbacks and is third on the Colts with a 13% target share. I think we could see even more targets go to him in the short and intermediate area of the field against a super zone-heavy Rams coverage scheme. Granson is ranked as my TE19 for Week 4, ahead of David Njoku, Hayden Hurst, Dalton Schultz, Juwan Johnson, and Chigoziem Okonkwo.

    I loved Downs as a prospect when digging into the film and data from his time at North Carolina, but I viewed him as a long-term Dynasty play when he landed in Indianapolis. I didn't think that the Colts would play fast enough or with enough three-receiver sets for him to produce as a rookie. I am so glad that I was wrong! Downs has a 21% target share on the year and led the Colts with a 29% target share in Week 3. His route participation rate rose from 77% in each of the first two games to 84%. While Downs still isn't playing in two-receiver sets, it's exciting to know that the Colts are willing to run out three-receiver sets on nearly 90% of their offensive plays in a game. I have Downs ranked one spot ahead of Quentin Johnston, meaning he comes in just behind the list of underachieving receivers (Hopkins, Sutton, London, Moore) that I had Josh Palmer ranked ahead of. I'm totally fine starting him over any of those names, if you have endured enough duds and want to roll with someone who has a bit more positive momentum working in his favor.

    I'm giving the Bears one more chance

    As Ben Gretch pointed out in his Stealing Signals newsletter, "Justin Fields had not thrown more than 17 passes in a game, or for more than 121 yards, and was averaging about 13 fantasy points per game," through three weeks last year. He then went on to finish as the QB6 in points per game. It's at least conceivable that Fields could turn things around (for Fantasy, at least) in 2023.

    Chicago's Week 4 matchup certainly could be the get-right spot that the Bears have needed. If you hadn't heard, the Broncos defense gave up 70 points last week.

    Among 38 players with 150+ rush attempts since the start of the 2022 season, Khalil Herbert ranks ninth in avoided tackle rate. Justin Fields is one of the eight rushers ranked ahead of Herbert. Rookie Roschon Johnson hasn't yet posted impressive avoided tackle numbers at the NFL level, but he was one of the most difficult players to tackle in college.

    The recipe for beating this Broncos defense calls for a heavy dose of rushing, and the Bears have the pieces to do it. Even though it has been a disaster in Chicago, I feel cautiously optimistic about their Week 4 outlook. I have Justin Fields ranked as the QB9. I consider it a toss-up between Fields and Geno Smith, Kirk Cousins, and Trevor Lawrence -- I'd start Fields if you have a higher risk tolerance and want to chase his rushing upside in this matchup. I'm starting Fields over all of Daniel Jones, Brock Purdy, and Deshaun Watson.

    Both Chicago running backs are worth a look against Denver as well. Herbert hasn't found the end zone yet and the Bears haven't been nearly as run-heavy as expected, so his Fantasy output has been disappointing. Things could swing his way in Week 4, though. The Bears haven't been in many close games, but Herbert has clearly been the backfield's 1A in those situations.

    I have Herbert ranked as the RB27, ahead of Brian Robinson, Najee Harris, and Jerome Ford. You could consider starting him over Rachaad White and Joshua Kelley too. I know that it has been a frustrating start for those two and don't blame anyone who doesn't want to be burned by them again in Week 4.

    Sorting out the fringe starter range at each position

    Those were the player-specific situations that stood out to me as worth discussing in detail this week. Each week, we'll wrap up this start/sit journey by sorting out the fringe starter range of my rankings at each position.


    The number of quarterbacks I consider to be viable starters each week has hovered around 23 so far. This week, that number is down to 19, with C.J. Stroud being the cut-off point. Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Kenny Pickett, and Jameis Winston are fine starts for those in desperate situations.

    You can easily start Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa, Anthony Richardson, and Justin Herbert, no questions asked. Beyond that, here's how I am categorizing the position this week:

    Group 1: Quarterbacks with the upside to push well north of 20 Fantasy points

    Tier 1 -- Lamar Jackson
    Tier 2 -- Joe Burrow, Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, Justin Fields
    Tier 3 -- Deshaun Watson, Jordan Love, Russell Wilson, C.J. Stroud

    If you're looking for upside, these are your guys.

    Implied point total for each quarterback's team:

    24.75 -- Wilson
    24.5 -- Jones
    23 -- Smith
    22 -- Love
    21.75 -- Burrow
    21.5 -- Watson
    21.25 -- Fields
    19.25 -- Stroud
    19 -- Jackson

    Lamar Jackson usually finds himself in the "no questions asked" category, but Baltimore is implied for only 19 points in a defensive battle against the Browns. C.J. Stroud is other QB who stands out to me when examining this group through the lens of their implied team total. Personally, I would set Houston's line around 21 points against Pittsburgh. The actual line setters are better at their job than I would be, though, and they are expecting some regression for Houston's offense in Week 4. I remain cautiously optimistic, but Stroud does belong at the bottom of this group.

    The implied totals are much higher than usual for the Giants and Bears in Week 4. I'm in on both Daniel Jones and Justin Fields in these matchups. I get that they've been even more of a headache than normal thus far, but things can turn around in an instant in the NFL, and these two bring massive upside when they hit the top of their range of outcomes.

    Joe Burrow really hasn't even been sniffing 20 points, and it's possible that the current version of Burrow just doesn't belong in this group. The Titans are exactly the team to potentially elicit the explosive upside from this Bengals offense that we have yet to see. Even Deshaun Watson produced explosive plays against the Titans!

    Group 2: Quarterbacks who feel like safe bets to post a score that doesn't hurt your lineup

    Tier 1 -- Trevor Lawrence, Kirk Cousins
    Tier 2 -- Brock Purdy, Jared Goff

    As I do with every offense that faces that Altanta Falcons, I worry about play volume for Lawrence. He's my QB12, and I'm fine starting him where you need to. The Jaguars opened with a decent implied team total (24.25 points), but that's already been bet down to 23.25. I'd rather avoid this game where I can, as both the Falcons and Jaguars are playing sloppy unproductive football at the moment.

    Similarly, the Panthers are a team that I'd prefer to avoid starting Fantasy QBs against. Carolina plays slow, and with Bryce Young back, I expect the Panthers to lean on the ground game. Kirk Cousins has put up massive passing numbers thus far, but that's partially due to Minnesota playing from behind so often. I doubt that will be the case in this game. I expect this to be a bit of an audition for Cam Akers and Alexander Mattison with Minnesota's passing volume dropping by roughly 10-15%. If the touchdowns don't come through the air, Cousins could see a significant drop-off from the Fantasy output that we've seen. Unless you feel super confident in your head-to-head Week 4 matchup, I'd swing for more upside with someone like Fields or Jones over Cousins.

    Purdy and Goff also find themselves facing slow-paced offenses that lean on the run and keep the football for a long time if they can. Both are viable starts if you need them, but I'm not feeling enthused about either.


    The RB position is in a sad state already in Week 4, although we do get Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara, and David Montgomery back this week. There are 12 players I feel really good about starting; a tier that ends with Jones in his Thursday night return for Green Bay. Things get pretty thin after that, although it is better than last week.

    Group 1: There's definitely upside!

    Tier 1 -- De'Von Achane, Jahmyr Gibbs
    Tier 2 -- Alvin Kamara, D'Andre Swift, Javonte Williams, Dameon Pierce
    Tier 3 -- Joshua Kelley, Khalil Herbert, Breece Halll

    I'm not sure that I understand the hesitancy to view De'Von Achane as a near must-start, especially in a projected shootout against the Bills. He saw more rushing attempts and more opportunities from the red zone and inside the 10-yard line than Raheem Mostert in the first half in Week 3. He was mixing in a ton in the early going, it's not as if Achane's explosion was only a result of the blowout. He appears entrenched as an important piece of Miami's offense, and the potential for 15-20 touches is there if the Dolphins play with a lead. I was shocked to see Achane total 18 rushing attempts. That will likely be his highest mark of the season. I'm porojecting him for closer to 15 touches in this game, and that's still plenty. I'd start Achane over all but the top-12 at the RB position. That means that he gets my vote over both Detroit running backs, who come in as RB14 and RB15.

    The positive takeaway from Jahmyr Gibbs' opportunity at an expanded role without David Montgomery in Week 3 was that he dominated the RB rush share and was the only back to receive a red zone carry. Gibbs was given three red zone looks, including one from inside the 10. That's great. Gibbs was trusted with almost no goal line work at Alabama in 2022. The negative takeaway is that he only ran a route on 50% of Detroit's dropbacks and was invisible in the passing game. It feels like an explosion is coming from Gibbs at some point soon, but I'm not going out of my way to bet on it until we see better usage as a receiver.

    Group 2: Safe starters if you don't have a higher-upside option that you prefer

    Tier 1 -- David Montgomery
    Tier 2 -- Rhamondre Stevenson, James Conner

    Group 3: Plays that make sense in theory, but I'm not excited by their projection

    Tier 1 -- Joe Mixon, Alexander Mattison, Miles Sanders
    Tier 2 -- Isiah Pacheco, Jerome Ford, Najee Harris,
    Tier 3 -- Jaylen Warren, Kenneth Gainwell, Zach Charbonnet, Roschon Johnson, Samaje Perine, Elijah Mitchell, Tyjae Spears, Chuba Hubbard

    I know that it doesn't feel good to play Miles Sanders. He has been a big part of Carolina's offensive struggles, doing very little with his massive volume. And his only useful Fantasy performance came without Bryce Young at QB. But the target volume is through the roof as Carolina scrambles to find anyone to help move the chains, and a matchup against Minnesota is inviting.

    Sanders ranks 87th among 100 qualified RBs in PFF rushing grade. It's been rough. I'm starting Montgomery, Mixon, and Mattison over him, and I wouldn't blame you if you preferred Kamara, Stevenson, or Swift. I prefer the known role for Sanders over Swift's. I don't trust that there's any predictability to how Philly's backfield usage will be dispersed at this point. I get it if you prefer to go for more upside with Swift, Kamara, or anyone from the first group. There is some upside here, though. If Minnesota's trend of inflating opposing offensive play volume continues, Sanders could have his best game of the young season.

    Group 4: We're betting on volume. There's not much upside here.

    Tier 1 -- Rachaad White
    Tier 2 -- Brian Robinson Jr., Tyler Allgeier, AJ Dillon, Melvin Gordon


    The "must-start" group of wide receivers is huge this week, ending with Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, and Puka Nacua as the WR14-16. Here's who comes next:

    Group 1: I think we can trust these players

    Tier 1 -- DK Metcalf, Calvin Ridley, Jaylen Waddle, Tyler Lockett, Brandon Aiyuk
    Tier 2 -- Jakobi Meyers, Zay Flowers, George Pickens, Christian Kirk
    Tier 3 -- Chris Godwin, Tank Dell, Nico Collins, Adam Thielen, Michael Thomas, Tutu Atwell
    Tier 4 -- Jordan Addison, Joshua Palmer, Elijah Moore, Romeo Doubs, Courtland Sutton, Jayden Reed, Josh Downs, Robert Woods

    Group 2: Mystery Box

    Tier 1 -- Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore
    Tier 2 -- Jerry Jeudy, Garrett Wilson, Gabe Davis, Christian Watson
    Tier 3 -- Terry McLaurin, DeAndre Hopkins, Drake London, DJ Moore
    Tier 4 -- Quentin Johnston, DJ Chark, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Josh Reynolds, Rashid Shaheed, Tyler Boyd, Calvin Austin, Marvin Mims, Darius Slayton

    Group 3: I'd really rather avoid them

    Tier 1 -- Jahan Dotson,, Allen Robinson, Treylon Burks, Skyy Moore
    Tier 2 -- Brandin Cooks, K.J. Osborn
    Tier 3 -- Kendrick Bourne,  DeVante Parker, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Curtis Samuel Donovan Peoples-Jones, Van Jefferson, Michael Gallup, Isaiah Hodgins, Rondale Moore, Rashee Rice, Michael Wilson, Nelson Agholor


    Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, and Mark Andrews (I guess) are the tight ends that I consider must-starts for Week 4.

    Group 1 -- Upside shots

    Tier 1 -- Darren Waller, Sam LaPorta
    Tier 2 -- Kyle Pitts, George Kittle, Luke Musgrave, Jake Ferguson, Dalton Kincaid

    Group 2 -- I'm just looking for eight points, honestly

    Placement in this group doesn't indicate that I prefer a Group 1 TE. For reference, Pat Freiermuth is my TE7 for Week 4, placing him ahead of everyone in the Tier 2 group outside of Kyle Pitts. (Never give up)

    You can find my full Week 4 rankings here for help navigating specific positional start-sit decisions.

    Tier 1 -- Pat Freiermuth, Dallas Goedert, Evan Engram
    Tier 2 -- Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, Tyler Higbee
    Tier 3 -- Durham Smythe, Cole Kmet, Kylen Granson, David Njoku, Hayden Hurst

    Group 3 -- You can find a better option, right?

    Tier 1 -- Dalton Schultz, Juwan Johnson, Chigoziem Okonkwo
    Tier 2 -- Cole Turner, Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Dawson Knox
    Tier 3 -- Cade Otton, Adam Trautman, Tyler Conklin

    Good luck with your lineup decisions this week! Be sure to hit me up on Twitter during one of the Q&A's or Live Streams, when I set aside time for lineup questions!

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    Jacob GibbsDFS Guru

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