It was a brutal week for injuries, easily the worst of the season. None sting worse than Dalvin Cook’s torn ACL. The No. 41 overall pick of the draft, Cook entered Week 4 as the league’s No. 2 rusher behind fellow rookie Kareem Hunt. Cook had been doing it all, sustaining drives (4.78 yards per carry), busting big plays (five gains of at least 20 yards) and finding the end zone (two touchdowns). He had made Latavius Murray expendable, limiting the $3.4 million free agent signing to seven touches through three games. Cook was not only helping to keep the offense afloat in the absence of Sam Bradford, he was doing the near impossible: Making Vikings fans forget about Adrian Peterson.
All this after Cook’s pre-draft process didn’t go as planned. A solidly built 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, Cook flashed 4.49 speed at the Combine, but otherwise flunked the measurables test. Struggling in the three-cone drill (7.27), 20-yard shuttle (4.53), vertical jump (30.5″) and broad jump (9’8″), Cook graded out as a ninth-percentile SPARQ athlete, putting him behind just about everybody. The numbers were in direct opposition to the explosive-play threat on Cook’s college film — film that led some to compare him to Jamaal Charles — leaving teams with a tough choice: Trust the math or tape? The Vikings went with the tape, and were rewarded with a new three-down back.
Now they’re back to square one, and will be rolling with a committee of Murray and Jerick McKinnon. (That’s provided McKinnon is healthy after tweaking his ankle against the Lions.) Murray will reclaim his Raiders role, grinding between the tackles. McKinnon will catch passes and change the pace on early downs.
Cook? He’ll try to take the Charles comparison one step further and come back stronger than ever after shredding his knee. Charles was 25 when he completed his first ACL comeback. Cook will be 23 next Week 1. Despite the popular perception, ACL recoveries still are not automatic, but Cook at least has the time to be ready for 2018. He’s a missed opportunity in re-draft leagues, but the strongest of holds in Dynasty.
Five Week 4 Storylines
Derek Carr’s back injury. Struggling through a tough matchup against the Broncos, Carr got his back bent in concerning fashion in the third quarter. He laid on the field like a mummy before slowly making his way up and to the locker room. Coach Jack Del Rio claimed it was little more than a case of back spasms, but Carr said he was still in a great deal of pain afterward. He made no grand pronouncements about his Week 5 status. He’s undergoing an MRI. It’s quite possible Carr misses time. If so, a team that’s already in deep trouble will officially be in shambles. The Raiders can’t run the ball and are struggling on defense. Michael Crabtree is injured. The Raiders’ need for their quarterback could not be more acute.
Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu departing against Buffalo. Jones entered Week 4 battling a back injury. He exits with a hip ailment, one that held him out for the entire second half of Sunday’s stunning home loss to the now 3-1 Bills. Jones had three grabs for 30 yards before going down. There is good news. It’s not an overly serious issue, and the Falcons are on bye for Week 5. Sunday was a killer for fantasy owners who took the first-round plunge, but could also be the end of it. Sanu’s situation is less certain, as he’s battling a hamstring injury. Anyone who has played fantasy football for more than five minutes knows hamstring problems have a tendency to linger. Taylor Gabriel, Nick Williams and Justin Hardy are the next men up for the Falcons.
Marcus Mariota departing with a hamstring issue. This was pretty much the only way the Titans’ blowout loss to the Texans could have gone worse. Mariota was in distress on the sideline, though lipreading a player moments after injury is not an accurate barometer of how much time they might miss. But again, you don’t need Rotoworld to tell you that hamstring ailments are often multi-week affairs. If Mariota misses time, it will be for the third time in as many years as Titans quarterback. The timing couldn’t be worse for fantasy owners, who have suffered through Mariota’s slow start as he made his way through a difficult portion of the schedule. On tap for Weeks 5-7? Miami, Indianapolis and Cleveland, then the Titans’ bye. In a worst-case scenario, Mariota misses the soft part of the schedule and returns in Week 9.
Cam Newton coming back from the dead against the Patriots. Last week we led off with Newton’s struggles after he flopped in a golden spot against the Saints. History did not repeat itself against the Pats, who have supplanted the Saints as the league’s worst defense. The biggest difference was the return of Newton’s confidence. He no longer appeared reluctant to throw beyond the sticks, and after some initial hesitance, began to run like the Newton we’ve seen since 2011. There were still hitches in Newton’s game. His lack of feel was evident on some of his deeper passes. He doesn’t have his usual drive. He does have his usual swag, which is half the battle with any player. How can you perform well if you’re not expecting to? Newton’s revival will be put to an immediate test against the Lions’ upstart defense in Week 5.
Melvin Gordon generates just 29 yards on 11 touches. Playing through a knee injury, Gordon set a season low for touches by six. Gordon was still on the field for 42-of-57 snaps, but his usage in a game that was close throughout suggests he isn’t anywhere close to full health. The same is true of his 2017 effectiveness, as he’s now averaging a pitiful 3.11 yards through 54 carries. The Giants are not a stay-away Week 5 matchup, though the Bolts will be trekking across the continent. The formerly workload-based RB1 is probably best treated as an RB2 until further notice.
Five More Week 4 Storylines
Chris Carson’s leg snapping against the Colts. Excuse the vividness, but there’s no way to sugarcoat this one. Carson’s leg got rolled up in sickening fashion. A panicked Russell Wilson was trying to pull defenders off his running back before the play was even dead. There’s no need to wait for an MRI or official word — Carson’s rookie year is over. The question is if he will even be ready for 2018. A sixth-rounder, Carson (23 last month) is on the older side for a rookie. His teammates had been talking him up for weeks, but this looked like the kind of injury where Carson might never be the same again. Carson did test as a high-end athlete at the Combine, which will work in his favor. The Seahawks will once again start from scratch in their jumbled backfield. My guess is Thomas Rawls gets another shot against the Rams in Week 5. J.D. McKissic should prove to be a sucker’s add.
Deshaun Watson staying hot against the Titans. Watson went bonkers for the second straight week, piling up 283 yards and four touchdowns on 34 attempts while adding 4/24/1 on the ground. He guided the Texans to a franchise-record 57 points. This, in his third career start. As was the case in Week 3, Watson was taking advantage of a good matchup. The Titans have been getting pilloried by the pass. As was the case in Week 3, that is not something that should be held against the No. 12 overall pick. Good players are supposed to tear up good matchups. Watson has now gutted the defending Super Bowl champions and a popular 2017 sleeper pick in back-to-back weeks. There are still going to be valleys for Watson. He’s a rookie dual threat making the leap from the ACC to the NFL. Week 5 opponent Kansas City is a test of a different magnitude than New England or Tennessee. But it’s thrilling that the outcome is not preordained. Watson could rock the Chiefs, too. He’s now officially in the QB1 mix.
Bilal Powell’s return to relevance. Matt Forte misses the game with a toe injury, and wouldn’t you know it, Powell went nuts, piling up a career-high 190 yards from scrimmage. This is close to exactly what happened last December, but the Jets still passed on making Powell the focal point of their backfield for the season’s first month. Why, no one knows. This being the Jets, there’s no guarantee they don’t go back to Forte once he’s healthy. That seems unlikely to be Week 5, where Powell gets the league-worst Browns. Cleveland has been playing solid run defense, and rookie Elijah McGuire will also be involved for Gang Green. It’s not a perfect setup for Powell, but it is one that has him back in the RB2 fold.
DeShone Kizer’s deepening struggles. Easily the league’s worst quarterback so far this season — yes, the same league with Joe Flacco and Mike Glennon — Kizer had his worst start yet, generating a legendarily-bad 3.47 yards per attempt on his 34 passes. He was benched late for Kevin Hogan, though not before tossing his eighth interception. Lacking either accuracy or an internal clock, Kizer is probably running out of time under center. It’s hard to even call him a QB2 for fantasy purposes despite the theoretical upside offered by his dual-threat ability.
Isaiah Crowell’s continued slump. Kizer wasn’t the only Brown offering nothing against the Bengals. Crowell managed all of 20 yards on seven carries, bringing his season numbers to 46 totes for 134 yards (2.91 YPC). Lots of it is surely beyond Crowell’s control. There are Kizer’s aforementioned struggles, and a revamped offensive line that isn’t paving as many lanes as expected. But Crowell isn’t busting any of the big plays that saved his bacon in 2016. For the second time in three games, he was out-snapped by pass catcher Duke Johnson on Sunday. Considering Crowell’s performance and the Browns’ game-flow issues, that could become a trend going forward.
1. Remember Tom Savage?
2. Who is Johnny Holton? I still don’t know.
3. So are the Dolphins … worse than the Jets?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Jets (@CLE), 49ers (@IND)
Stats of the Week
82. That’s how many yards Baltimore’s Alex Collins generated on nine touches and 17 snaps. Both numbers should go up in Week 5.
Carson Palmer is second in yards through four games (1,282). He’s also No. 1 in sacks taken (17). A 37-year-old quarterback can’t hold up at that rate.
The Rams have 13 more points than any other team in football. They are averaging 36 per game, a 22-point increase on last year’s numbers under coach Jeff Fisher.
The Dolphins have 25 points in three games.
Kareem Hunt, who has yet to play this week, leads the NFL in rushing by 39.
The Colorblind Man Picking Out Socks In The Dark Award: The Rams’ uniforms against the Cowboys.
Undertaker GIF of the Week: Donte Moncrief randomly scoring a touchdown.
Challenge of the Week, From Friend of the Site, Matt Kelley: call me when deshaun watson shreds a good pass defense: (number on Twitter). my ringtone is on high just in case.
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