In a numbers crunch with that dreaded week 4 Bye? Injuries piling up? Combination of both? Now that I've finished outlining my own miserable week 4 fantasy football outlook, let's get down to business.
We all encounter similar circumstances at one point or another across the season in fantasy football. Run with a streamer, take a flyer, throw a guy against the wall and hope he sticks. Well, that moment has hit my team like a McDonald's cheeseburger.
In most standard 10-12 team leagues, a decent selection of week 4 fill-ins should exist, even if that guy who is always first in line to grab the flavor du jour off the waiver wire has already made his hay for the week. Whether it's a FLEX option, a receiver, tight end, or defense you are in search of, there should be at least one suitable option for your team, if only for a week.
This week, I am in search of a receiver. Injuries and the week 4 open date have put me in the clutches of roster limbo, but there is a name who stands out to me, not only as a one-week streamer or flyer, but a potential plug-and-play with a hint of long-term upside. That name is Kenny Stills.
As he enters week 4, Stills has yet to quite round into form, but for good reason. He has only played in two of the New Orleans Saints' three games, having missed week 1 with a quad injury that originated in July. He made his debut at Cleveland in week 2, avoided any setbacks, and progressed both his snap count and workload in helping the Saints get their first victory of the season with a 20-9 triumph over Minnesota last weekend.
Stills and his fellow Saints have a dream matchup in week 4 against a bad Dallas Cowboys secondary. While Jimmy Graham, Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston will be the shoo-in plays, one can make a strong case to add the word 'upside' in addition to 'sleeper' regarding Kenny Stills.
Dallas is ranked 21st in the league both in total defense and against the pass. Drew Brees and company did not exactly set the world on fire in their home-opener last weekend, due in large part to the defensive game plan devised by former Cowboys defensive coordinator and now Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. Minnesota brought the heat on Brees, after the Saints' signal-caller got off to a quick start and engineered two touchdown drives in the early going. The Vikes' ultimate undoing came on third-down, where New Orleans was able to convert on 9 of 13 opportunities.
Dallas, even at home, figures to be a chance for New Orleans' offense to kick things back into gear. The Saints have struggled to block the Cowboys in the past, but DeMarcus Ware is now in Denver, and Anthony Spencer may or may not make his season debut Sunday night. If Jonathan Goodwin can not play on Sunday, inexperienced second-year man Tim Lelito will likely get the nod at center for the Saints. The Cowboys could look to bring pressure through the middle, but with an over-under of 53 and two dynamic offenses lining up opposite struggling defenses, tactics and game plans can, for the most part, be thrown out the window. Kenny Stills and Drew Brees had success when hooking up for the big play a season ago.
Just as New Orleans has struggled with the Cowboys' pressure in past meetings, Dallas has had an equally-tough time defending the big play downfield. This is where Kenny Stills thrives. The Oklahoma alum, who averaged 20 yards per catch as a rookie last year, put up a 3/75/1 line in a November 2013 Sunday night matchup with the 'Boys in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. His long catch of the night was a 54-yard scoring play.
Devery Henderson, once a speedy deep threat like Stiils, had similar success against Dallas while in a Saints uniform, and with a reeling Cowboys secondary on deck, it stands to reason that a player not named Graham, Colston or even Cooks is due for a big game in a big way.
Stills played 29 snaps in his season debut week 2 at Cleveland, and progressed to 42 snaps last Sunday. After catching 3 passes for 25 yards on 4 targets against the Browns, including a play in which he was stopped just short of the goal line, Stills saw his production increase slightly against the Vikings, as he hauled in 4 of 5 targets for 38 yards.
There is no doubt that Stills' fantasy impact is dependent upon big plays and touchdowns. This adds plenty of risk to the equation, but the opportunities for such plays should be there against Dallas. The Cowboys are off to a 2-1 start, recovering from a week 1 loss against San Francisco and overturning a 21 point deficit in St. Louis last weekend, but the Saints will surely look to spread out the Dallas secondary and target the big plays down the field that have helped them to achieve success against the 'Boys, having won 8 of the last 9 meetings between the two teams. The Saints have averaged over 37.6 points per game in the last three meetings dating back to 2010, with big plays aplenty in that stretch.
Stills may have missed valuable time in training camp this summer, but he has a good year's worth of work under his belt in the system and a healthy rapport with Drew Brees. Last season, Brees, according to Pro Football Focus, owned the league's best QB rating (139.3) when throwing to a single receiver, in this case, Kenny Stills. The combination came through in the clutch against the Vikings on Sunday, when Brees found Stills for an 11 yard gain on a crucial third-and-10.
Now healthy, Stills figures to see his usage rate and productivity increase. It should be noted that last season as a rookie, he was targeted no more than 6 times in a single game, but it could also be argued that he was further down Brees' totem pole of targets than he is now in his second year. Lance Moore is gone, and while Cooks has proved capable of operating in a featured receiving role, the rookie is also ticketed for several designed plays specific to his unique skill set, leaving Stills as a better option to line up outside, opposite Colston. Even with limited targets, Stills was super efficient, and wound up finding the end zone 5 times, with 641 yards on 32 receptions.
It may just be a good week here or there, but I really believe Stills does have some long-term upside, both in real life and fantasy land. Marques Colston has had a quiet three weeks in 2014, and even Jimmy Graham had a low-impact game by his lofty standards against Minnesota. Cooks will continue to be used in a myriad of ways by Sean Payton, another former Dallas assistant, which leaves the door open for Kenny Stills to hit it big when the chips fall where they need to. With week 4 set to kick off tomorrow night when the Redskins and Giants meet, few players will grace the waiver wire with as much super sleeper potential as Kenny Stills.
It is my sincere hope that you find yourself in a much better situation roster-wise, than I do, as we head into week 4. That said, if you do find yourself in early-season roster purgatory, particularly at the wideout positions or are in need of a FLEX play, consider Kenny Stills. I haven't committed to the move just yet as I keep all options open for the time being, but Stills is firmly under consideration here. Sure, this has boom or bust written all over it, but as a fantasy owner under duress, and more importantly, a New Orleans Saints fan, I truly feel that this could be a breakthrough week for Kenny Stills.