NFL Week 4 Trends: Stock Up, Stock Down

Written By Brett Gibbons on September 28, 2021
NFL Week 4 Trends

Now that three full weeks of NFL action are in the books, we’re starting to get an idea of what teams and players are going to be this season. Overreactions to the opening week are well in the past. What NFL Week 4 trends are we keeping an eye on? We’ll take a look below.

This stock up/stock down NFL Week 4 trends report lists eight players who are on the move.

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NFL Week 4 Trends: Stock Up

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Since the beginning of 2020, Ezekiel Elliott has been an inefficient runner. His first four years in the league, Elliott posted 4.6 yards per attempt and 48 scrimmage touchdowns (0.9 per game, 56 games). Since Week 1 of the 2020 season, those numbers fell to 4.0 yards per attempt and nine touchdowns (0.5 per game, 17 games). Most concerning, he just looked slower, less agile, and more prone to fumble.

In the Cowboys‘ Week 3 blowout win over the Eagles, Elliott looked to be back to his old self. He posted 5.6 yards per carry and scored a pair of touchdowns despite not particularly stellar line play. Backup Tony Pollard still received opportunities, but Elliott was clearly the dominant back in this game.

Many were expecting a bounce-back year for Elliott, and this game could be the first indication of just that.

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris has not been an efficient runner this season. The lack of a downfield passing game from the Steelers is partly to blame, but his 3.1 yards per carry ranks third last in the NFL. So, what lands him in the trending up category? 19 targets. The high volume targets are likely here to stay, too.

Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith Schuster are battling injuries sustained this past week. Though neither is expected to be long-term, it’s clear what Pittsburgh’s contingency plan is. Harris caught 14 of those 19 targets (32.7% of all game targets) for 102 yards– positive numbers for a running back. While Ben Roethlisberger’s arm continues to deteriorate, Harris will continue to be worked into this offensive system any way possible.

Currently, Harris is a longshot to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Cleveland Browns defensive front

The Browns took full advantage of a rookie quarterback and a struggling offensive line to the tune of nine sacks. In the next five games, this Browns defense faces three teams in the top eight in pressure rate allowed (Steelers, Broncos, Vikings). All three of those teams also field a quarterback with limited or no mobility and rotational tackles.

Defense, specifically the pass rush, was the 2020 Browns’ ultimate undoing; in that AFC Divisional Game against the Chiefs, the Browns recorded just one sack. With Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney starting to hit their stride, this defensive front should continue to wreak havoc in their upcoming favorable matchups.

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

122 yards and a pair of touchdowns is fun, but the real excitement surrounding Mike Williams was his usage. Justin Herbert targeted Williams three times in the final minute during the Chargers game-winning drive against the Chiefs. One of those resulted in the 16-yard clinching touchdown. For comparison, Keenan Allen was targeted once on the final drive and zero times in the final minute.

This season, Herbert targeted Williams 12, 10, and nine times in three games; in his entire career before this season (64 games), Williams has seen 10 targets just three times. Recently, a string of receivers who took longer to develop in the NFL are starting to see their rise, namely Corey Davis and Davante Adams. Herbert instills confidence in Williams and this high volume is something that will continue.

For those who have been on the Mike Williams hype train for the past five seasons, your time is now.

NFL Week 4 Trends: Stock Down

Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After the Buccaneers‘ Week 1 win, Bruce Arians released Ronald Jones from the doghouse (now raise your hand if you knew Ronald Jones was in the doghouse). Jones also fumbled in that Week 1 win, so being released from the doghouse meant he went from four carries to six in Week 2. In Week 3, he saw five carries at 2.2 yards a clip.

In an offense like Tampa Bay’s, who leads the NFL in pass play percentage (75.4%), the pie is already small. Jones shares a backfield with Leonard Fournette, who’s receiving a majority of the small share of carries. Up next for Tampa is a slew of capable run defenses including New England and New Orleans. The production from last year is likely a flash in the pan and Ronald Jones may just be buried on this team.

Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears

Bears fans and fantasy managers of Allen Robinson already know what this season’s bringing for him. His entire career, Robinson’s overcome bad quarterback play to being one of the league’s top receivers. As this year’s shown so far, though, there’s only so much he can do. So far under Justin Fields, not much is going for the Bears offense, but especially for Robinson.

Once Fields took over at quarterback during their Week 2 game, he targeted Robinson three times (in about a half of football). In Week 3, that number jumped to six times, where they connected just twice. Over the past two seasons, Robinson’s seen six or fewer targets just three times and only one of those instances resulted in fewer than four catches. Two of those instances came against Darius Slay and Jalen Ramsey, both All-Pro corners.

The inability for Justin Fields to get Allen Robinson the football is concerning. What’s equally concerning is the quarterback options is Fields isn’t the guy– Nick Foles and Andy Dalton.

Indianapolis Colts offensive line

From second-best to second-worst, few offensive lines in the NFL have ever dropped off a cliff like this Colts unit. To make matters worse, Quenton Nelson was carted off the field in their Week 3 loss and his status is unknown going forward. This season, Carson Wentz is the third-most pressured quarterback to have started more than one game.

Further, this unit just can’t move the line of scrimmage. In Week 2, they had three opportunities from the one yard line and three runs to Jonathan Taylor dialed up; Taylor scored zero times and the Colts had to resort to play-action (they also turned it over on downs). At first, it was an indictment on Taylor, but now this whole offensive line is looking like they’re in serious trouble all season long.

Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons

It’s not really Kyle Pitts’ fault– the Falcons offense has been abysmal all season long. The fourth overall draft pick has seen improvements in yards per target and yards per reception, but that’s mitigated to 139 yards across this entire season. Further, his targets have fell every game; from eight Week 1 (a blowout loss) to six Week 2 (a closer loss) to just three in their win over the Giants in Week 3.

While the hopes that Pitts would set the league ablaze were extremely optimistic, to say he’s underwhelmed would be an understatement. Even with the vacated targets of Julio Jones and the majority absence of Russell Gage, Pitts just isn’t racking in the volume. Under ultra-efficient head coach Arthur Smith who showed extreme craft in utilizing tight ends, the mesh just isn’t happening yet.

Once a headliner on the Offensive Rookie of the Year award odds boards, Pitts () has fallen into, well, the pits.

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Written by
Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

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