The Fantasy Fool: Week 4 starters and benchwarmers

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SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 37-18. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and Julio Jones, or to bench Blaine Gabbert and Chris Hogan? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 4 of the 2016 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Trevor Siemian, QB, Broncos at Buccaneers. It feels a bit premature to bank on Siemian as your starter, but he has passed for more than 250 yards in consecutive games, including last week’s stellar four-TD performance. With both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at his disposal, and a sorry Bucs secondary in opposition, Siemian has plenty going for him this weekend.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns at Redskins. Crowell has been surprisingly effective, which is good news for an offense being led by rookie QB Cody Kessler. Even with Duke Johnson getting his share of the touches, Crowell has produced consistently. Now he’ll face an extremely generous run defense that has given up a league-high seven rushing scores to date.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots vs. Bills. For one more week, Blount will be the only offensive player on the Patriots you can count on. He’ll carry the load again on Sunday against a below-average Bills run defense as all of New England awaits the return of Tom Brady to the lineup.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers at Falcons. Benjamin didn’t even register on last week’s box score, but he and his quarterback should bounce back with a vengeance against the sieve-like Atlanta secondary. Look for the big-bodied playmaker to add to the Falcons’ league-worst 10 passing scores surrendered.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins vs. Browns. Kirk Cousins finally got cranked up last weekend, and he should keep the momentum going against Cleveland’s sad-sack pass defense. Though limited in practice this week by knee and ankle issues, Jackson is expected to suit up as usual. He has a delicious matchup to exploit.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers):QBs Philip Rivers, Matt Stafford, Blake Bortles, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins; RBs Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Anderson, Melvin Gordon, Mark Ingram, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Charles Sims, LeSean McCoy, Theo Riddick, Tevin Coleman, Carlos Hyde; WRs Willie Snead, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Alshon Jeffery, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Larry Fitzgerald, T.Y. Hilton, Stefon Diggs, Doug Baldwin, Amari Cooper.

Roll ‘em back

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks at Jets. Over the first three weeks, Wilson has racked up more injuries (three) than TD passes (two). Thanks to a porous offensive line, he just keeps taking punishment. Wilson is fully expected to start Sunday, but the Jets’ aggressive pass rush could give the suddenly immobile QB fits.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants at Vikings. Shane Vereen (triceps) is done for the season, just as Jennings returns to his starting job after resting his injured thumb for a week. But despite being given every opportunity imaginable, Jennings has proven that he’s not capable of being a productive workhorse. Against the mighty Vikings, he shouldn’t be anywhere near your starting lineup.

Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks at Jets. I was surprised to see Michael soar against the 49ers last week – he’s usually so reliable about being disappointing — but this week offers a much tougher test. The Jets’ run defense is one of the league’s elites, and with dubious air support from the Seattle passing attack, there will be few lanes for Michael to run through.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets vs. Seahawks. It’s difficult (often foolish) to bench a player of his caliber. But Marshall is clearly limited by knee and foot injuries, and his quarterback just coughed up a whopping six interceptions to the Chiefs. Facing the Legion of Boom, currently the league’s stingiest pass defense, the red flags are flapping briskly for this struggling passing attack.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots vs. Bills. Edelman has yet to find the end zone this season, and that may just have to wait until you-know-who returns. If Jimmy Garoppolo is under center, I like Edelman’s chances a little more on Sunday. But only in PPR leagues. It’s best just to find another option this week, especially after seeing how the Bills manhandled the Cardinals’ passing attack in Week 3.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Derek Carr, Brock Osweiler, Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Dak Prescott, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford, Marcus Mariota; RBs Jordan Howard, Jerick McKinnon, Frank Gore, Cameron Artis-Payne, Justin Forsett, Terrance West; WRs Allen Hurns, Sammy Watkins, Dez Bryant, Golden Tate, Victor Cruz, Phillip Dorsett, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, Tavon Austin, Will Fuller, Tajae Sharpe, Eric Decker, Vincent Jackson, Tyler Lockett, Markus Wheaton.


Joe Flacco, QB, and his WRs vs. Raiders. Flacco is coming off a miserable game in Jacksonville, but he’ll return home to feast on the league’s worst pass defense. He should have plenty of success targeting both Steve Smith and Mike Wallace. It’s been years since I’ve recommended that you “start your Ravens aerial playmakers if you’ve got ‘em,” but I am now.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … releases DeAngelo Williams now that Le’Veon Bell is back for the Steelers. While D-Will must head to your bench, he’ll remain the most critical, and talented, handcuff in the game. He’s one play away from being a dominant fantasy force again, as he was in the second half of 2015.

Ladd Biro is a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via Twitter(@ladd_biro).

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