Week 4 scouting notebook: Jaleel McLaughlin has juice, Joe Burrow has issues and more

Let’s get right into the Week 4 notebook.

The Chargers did all they could to lose to a rookie QB with one day to prepare for his first start. It looks like Justin Herbert’s left hand/finger is broken and this is problematic, especially for the running game (can’t take snaps under center, can’t handoff for rushing plays to the right).

Davante Adams caught a TD, but the refs called him short and it would have been overturned. But no challenge flag was thrown by Josh McDaniels. I can’t kill him for it because it was close and his timeouts were critical and he was a half-yard away on third down. The refs have to call close plays TDs and let the replay people adjudicate it. This is not complicated.

The Patriots have really turned their offense around with Bill O’Brien. Mac Jones looks like a new man! Seriously, what a horror show.

The Patriots offense scored three points, and Jones and the offense produced 14 points directly for Dallas. But this killed the Dallas offense in fantasy. No one really did anything, nor needed to.

I thought Brandon Aiyuk was the No. 1 WR in San Francisco, but Deebo Samuel getting shut out in targets is incredible. He did have three rushes for six yards. You just have to eat it with Samuel now. He’s not tradable and you can’t cut him. Right now, I’d flip where Samuel and Aiyuk were drafted. What I mean is that Samuel still deserves a fifth- or sixth-round pick. He’s a top football player.

Joshua Dobbs is good. Can I say Kyler Murray is definitely better? I can’t. So how can you risk Murray getting hurt, failing a physical and having his 2024 and 2025 salary guaranteed (if I’m understanding the contract arcana correctly)? You can’t. I would be shocked if Murray saw any action this year.

Michael Wilson looks very good and I don’t think you’re being a basic fantasy player by chasing scoring if you bid aggressively on him. I think his performance is indicative of his future roll in this offense. It’s basically a two-man wide-receiver corps. I think Marquise Brown is a No. 2-caliber WR and Wilson is probably a No. 3. Remember, they faced a top defense.

Could Christian McCaffrey be the last smart No. 1 overall pick at RB in our virtual game until the current style of play cycles out (if it ever does)? Probably.

Trying to get The Athletic to make Arthur Smith dartboards for the 33% of the fantasy football market who rosters either Bijan Robinson, Drake London or, god forbid, Kyle Pitts. That would make $1 million easy. We can ship them FedEx!

I understand that Smith is obviously smarter than all of us. He just wants to win, and winning is obviously not achieved by involving your best players heavily in your attack, like us dullards think. He’s the real genius.

While Robinson has been active in touches, why is he getting 67% of RB carries and ignored mostly in the red zone while Tyler Allgeier is being dumped for five-yard losses on first down? Pitts is on pace for 47-686-0. London is on pace for 535 receiving yards. And I’m sorry, Smith is responsible for believing in Desmond Ridder. No free pass for the QB play.

Maybe the Falcons defense is tough to beat for big plays but Trevor Lawrence should have five or six big plays a game, not two. He has the wide receivers.

The Bills believers were right and I was wrong. They’re a very sound team. They really had their way with the Dolphins, who really had only one big play all day. This is a tough defensive matchup. This is three weeks in a row now for the Buffalo defense.

I’m a base rate guy, as you know. Obviously De’Von Achane has great ability, and I did say to empty  the vault for him last week, but the speculation now is for Jeff Wilson Jr.. Raheem Mostert has never held up for long and 190-pound RBs like Achane have not held up, historically. In fact, only five have had 100 carries in a season this century. Achane likely will need to be managed heavily. So if one guy goes down, which is very likely within the next five weeks, Wilson is going to be a Top 20 RB. Speculate!

As for the Buffalo offense, the good news is that James Cook got a goal-line carry, though it was a little gimmicky with it being hurry up and he was pushed in by Josh Allen. The bad news was his overall inefficiency. But he’s a Top 15 RB.

Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs were electrifying. Allen played a perfect game.

Jaleel McLaughlin has juice and looks like he’ll have an expanded role given the likelihood that Javonte Williams is out multiple weeks, as is expected, with a hip injury reportedly related to his quick return from his terrible knee injury. I’ve been begging you all to trade him. Hope you did. If not, it’s probably time to move on.

The Bears had a great day on offense, led by Justin Fields. But in the end, Fields gave the game away with a “Football Follies” fumble. I know the fourth down play was the big controversy. The math says they needed to kick the field goal there and not go for it. But the play call was bad, too, when you have a powerful running QB.

I hesitate to say this is predictive of anything given the Denver defensive doldrums. I’d hold on to DJ Moore though. This isn’t a sell window.

It was a good day for Khalil Herbert managers. Bad day for Roschon Johnson speculators.

What is wrong with Joe Burrow? This can’t just be the calf, though that’s obviously an issue. We’re going to make such a big deal about him having to play shotgun due to the injury? He’s mostly been a pocket passer so I can’t say the lack of normal mobility is devastating. I think the protection concepts against the blitz for the Bengals are woefully lacking and maybe the lack of mobility increases the blitz frequency. He also struggled with an elbow that was hurt on one of the many brutal shots he took. I don’t know what to make of it but Burrow needs to be benched until we see something resembling what we expected for one game. You have to keep playing Ja’Marr Chase, of course.

Every time I think it’s the end for Derrick Henry, he makes me look foolish. One day, I’ll be right. We’ll all be dead one day, too.

Anthony Richardson is really good at fantasy and not bad in reality, either. Zack Moss didn’t do much so we await the next plot twist in the Jonathan Taylor drama.

Puka Nacua picked quite a time to get his first NFL touchdown, making it the walk-off score. I know there’s usage overlap, but Sean McVay has to make him and Cooper Kupp work. You want Matthew Stafford on your team.

Lots of talk about Kyren Williams not being good from all the fantasy scouts, but who cares if the RB is good in fantasy? The primary concern is opportunity. Ronnie Rivers was involved somewhat but Williams is a legit bell cow — end of story.

Baker Mayfield was impressive against a very sound Saints defense. A possible loss of Mike Evans (hamstring) looms however. I can’t play Mayfield if Evans is out. Chris Godwin moves up a tier if Evans is out as the targets will be more plentiful. He is not a home run hitter though, so it won’t accrue much for Mayfield.

Man, Alvin Kamara opponents are going to lobby for PPR changes if they lose this week — 13 catches for 33 yards is a joke, of course. But there will always be instances where generally fine scoring rules will be exploited by just pitiful real-life performance. It’s unavoidable.

I’m not going to kill Derek Carr like most are because he was playing hurt and probably should not have even played. There was one pass over 20 yards and I didn’t see the YAC on that.

It now clearly looks like D’Andre Swift is the main guy in the Philly backfield. It’s deserved.

Dallas Goedert is a good player with a good QB. Hang in there. A.J. Brown is the alpha though, and he complained about the lack of targets in a win and look what’s happened the past two weeks. So predictable. Now they can just play and maybe Goedert gets his.

Curtis Samuel is available almost everywhere and had a nice day when you add the rushing TD. And Sam Howell was fine even though the Eagles defense is overrated (it’s not bad but not elite). And Jahan Dotson was involved, too. I see bye-week viability for Samuel.

It was a really bad day for Miles Sanders managers. But this isn’t a functional offense with Bryce Young at QB. The Vikings defense is a joke and yet the Panthers did nothing.

Kirk Cousins was so unproductive again, yardage-wise, but the TDs bailed him out in our game. Jordan Addison was not hurt. He just was not involved. His target share in 2023 goes from bad to worse. He’s made splash plays but is trending toward fantasy bust (like all the highly-drafted rookie WRs).

C.J. Stroud is just historically good. This is amazing. He’s looking like a Top 10 QB. This is unheard of for a rookie. Not picking him No. 1 is going to be one of the biggest fails in league history by Carolina.

We can forget about Najee Harris losing his primary job to Jaylen Warren for a week. Warren has to be the most overrated player in fantasy. He’s averaging three yards a carry and gets talked about like he’s Gale Sayers. Just stop it with Warren, people.

(Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports)

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