The NFL isn’t slick. It just so happens that we have a battle of two cats on Thursday Night Football the same week as the second season of Tiger King was confirmed to be happening on Netflix. Looking back on it, I have no clue why I wasted part of my life watching the first season of that show. But here we are kicking off Week 4 with a matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cincinnati Bengals. We’re hoping to make ourselves forget about the low point of our lives when we spent precious time watching a show that had less to do about tigers and more about the ineptitude of certain humans by making some money on DraftKings’ showdown slate. So let’s buckle up and dive into who I’m liking at the captain and flex spots on Thursday night.
Captain Spot Considerations:
Joe Mixon ($16,500)
Similar to where we were a week ago with Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon is a running back that handles a heavy workload, making him a candidate in the captain spot. Mixon has garnered 67 of Cincinnati’s 73 rushing attempts by running backs in the first three weeks. He’s also recorded an 86.2% opportunity share (second-most among RBs), which totals how many carries and targets he’s seen in the backfield of the Bengals. The dual-threat back will get to square off against a Jacksonville defense that is giving up the sixth-most points to running backs on DraftKings. After facing formidable run defenses in the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mixon gets a much more favorable matchup on Thursday night. Also, if you’re someone who considers previous games against teams — which I do not — Mixon accumulated 181 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on 31 touches in 2020 versus the Jaguars.
Ja’Marr Chase ($15,300)
I’ve already made my formal apology for misjudging Ja’Marr Chase in his rookie season on my weekly wide receiver rankings. Chase has been fantastic, leading the way for wideouts on the Bengals with 11 receptions, 210 yards, and four touchdowns. The first-year wide receiver out of LSU has caught a touchdown in each week this season, proving that he’s on the same page as his fellow LSU alum, Joe Burrow. The Jaguars have surrendered the 10th most receptions per game to opposing wide receivers this season and they just traded C.J. Henderson just one year after selecting him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With Tee Higgins set to miss his second straight game for Cincinnati, if there’s a wideout that scores a touchdown for the Bengals, my money would be on Chase.
Marvin Jones Jr. ($12,900)
Chase would be my first pick if I’m going with a wide receiver at the captain spot, but Marvin Jones Jr. is another viable option. Even though the offense of the Jaguars has been up and down, Jones has been the clear go-to target for Trevor Lawrence. Jones has a 95.8% route participation (16th most among WRs in the NFL) and owns a 24.6% target share in Jacksonville’s offense, making him the only player on Jacksonville’s roster that has a target share greater than or equal to 20%. I expect the Jaguars to be playing from behind in this game, giving Jones more opportunities to have a captain-worthy performance.
Flex Spot Considerations:
Joe Burrow ($11,600)/Trevor Lawrence ($10,400)
I tend to avoid using quarterbacks in the captain spot on the showdown slates as they are typically not the ideal option to get the 1.5x point bonus. However, you are typically going to have at least one quarterback in a flex spot if they aren’t your captain. Both Burrow and Lawrence are in play on Thursday night, it’s just a matter of preference and who you can fit better in your lineups. While Burrow is on the favored team, you could argue that Lawrence will be asked to throw more to keep the Jaguars in the game. There’s also a better chance of Lawrence producing a rushing touchdown as Burrow continues to ease back into Cincinnati’s offense after suffering a serious knee injury in 2020.
Tyler Boyd ($7,400)
Once again, Higgins has been ruled out for the Bengals, giving the other wide receivers on the Bengals a boost on Thursday night. Chase has the better chance to find the end zone, but Tyler Boyd is still seeing a higher target share (26% to 21.9%) than Chase. With the Bengals wanting to get the ball out of Burrow’s hands quicker, Boyd has been a reliable target for the second-year quarterback. Between Boyd and Chase, Boyd has the safer floor but Chase has the higher ceiling of outcomes. That doesn’t mean that Boyd isn’t worthy of consideration as a flex in Week 4 against the winless Jaguars.
D.J. Chark ($7,200)
Jones has emerged as the No. 1 option for Lawrence thus far in Jacksonville’s aerial attack, but D.J. Chark is also finding a rhythm with the rookie signal-caller. Chark has 343 air yards through three weeks, which is the sixth-most among wideouts in the NFL. While you’d like to see Chark convert more of those yards, it’s just a matter of time before Lawrence begins connecting on some of his missed passes to the big-play wide receiver. As previously mentioned, if Jacksonville finds themselves down for the fourth consecutive week, the game script definitely favors someone like Chark to produce.
Evan McPherson ($3,800)
Kickers are never a glamorous position to have in showdown contests or fantasy football in general, but they are always viable in single-game contests. Seeing that Josh Lambo is out for the Jaguars on Thursday night, I’ll side with Evan McPherson of the Bengals. McPherson, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Florida, has made all four of his field-goal attempts this season, including both attempts from 50+ yards. He’s also converted all eight of his extra-point tries this season. Cincinnati’s offense could bog down in certain moments, leading to more field goals for McPherson, who has combined for 25 DraftKings points in the first three weeks.
Carlos Hyde ($1,800)
I try to list one salary-saving option every week, and if I’m looking to grab a cheap piece anywhere, it’s Carlos Hyde. Even though he isn’t as talented as James Robinson, Hyde has gotten just 12 fewer carries than his backfield mate this season. Urban Meyer coached Hyde at Ohio State, and it’s clear that Meyer wants Hyde to have a clear role in the offense. All we need for Hyde to pay off his price tag is to find the end zone once or scamper for 40+ yards and catch a couple of passes. Hyde and Robinson both have only one rushing attempt inside the 10-yard line, so it’s still unknown on who is going to get the goal-line work throughout the season.