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AAF Week 4 Fantasy Football Recap (Saturday)


Week 4 shook up the standings in the AAF. The Orlando Apollos became the last undefeated team, the Birmingham Iron dropped their first game, and the Atlanta Legends and Memphis Express found the winner's circle for the first time.

We are beginning to see inconsistency from practically every team, but the thing that surprised me most was the dominance we saw from the away units on Saturday and Sunday. Before the weekend, the home team had won nine of 12 games during the season, and no underdog had pulled off a win on the road. However, in Week 4, three of the four contests were won by the road team, which included two road underdogs winning the game outright. To put that last statistic into perspective, no organization had won on the road entering the week as the betting underdog and both the San Antonio Commanders and Atlanta Legends made AAF history with upset victories.

While every team still has flaws that they need to handle, the Orlando Apollos are looking like an unstoppable force. The team is known for their offensive prowess, but the defense features two of the premier players in the league in CB Keith Reaser and LB Terence Garvin. Reaser came into the week as the highest-graded CB in the AAF (92.9), while Garvin rated as the second-best LB (80.0), according to Pro Football Focus. Interestingly, three other players on defense also graded inside the top-five of their position with CB Cody Riggs coming in at (83.6), S Will Hill III (78.4) and LB Reggie Northrup II (74.5). If we add in Garrett Gilbert being the top QB (80.5), D'Ernest Johnson the top RB (79.6), Charles Johnson grading as the top WR  (83.4) and WR Jalin Marshall rounding out the group as the fourth-best wideout in the league with a (70.5) rating, you can see why the team is undefeated. Our fantasy recap from Sunday is still to come, but let's dive into what we learned from a fantasy perspective from the first set of games. If you want to read Sunday's article, click here.

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Memphis Express 26, San Diego Fleet 23

The Memphis Express captured their first win of the season with a 26-23 triumph over the San Diego Fleet. QB Zach Mettenberger led the way with 174 yards on 18-for-25 attempts, adding one throwing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. Mettenberger, who was 0-10 as a starter in the NFL and had not earned a victory since 2013 at LSU, looked poised under pressure late, but San Diego did more to lose the contest than Memphis did to win it.

Fleet head coach Mike Martz called a fake punt on 4th-and-3 from their own 32 yard-line with 4:30 left, allowing the Express to receive the ball already in field goal range. Memphis didn't want to take any unnecessary chances and called a couple of conservative plays, leading to the game-winning field goal from 45 yards out. I'm all for being aggressive, but when you are the better team, there is no need to recklessly call a play that ends up losing you the game. The Western Conference has four of the top six teams, and a loss like this could come back to haunt the Fleet in their quest to make the playoffs. Coming into the day, I had the Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions and San Antonio Commanders all ranked above the Fleet in my power rankings out West, which adds to my point of this being a loss that they couldn't afford to take.

 

Notable Performances For Memphis

Zach Mettenberger (QB)

As mentioned above, Zach Mettenberger provided a quality fantasy performance on Saturday night, throwing for 174 yards and two total touchdowns. Mettenberger was able to infuse some life into the offense with his performance, scoring a season-high 26 points, but the day was salvaged from a fantasy perspective with a fluky one-yard rushing touchdown and a six-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

The former LSU Tiger immediately has transcended into a QB1 in fantasy leagues, but the question remains: How much can you trust him going forward? He is below Garrett Gilbert and John Wolford, but he should be viewed somewhere in the next tier with Josh Woodrum and Aaron Murray. I have him as my QB4 in season-long leagues, and you should finally have a QB that you can trust, especially if you were dealing with the Christian Hackenberg disaster to begin the season.

Zac Stacy (RB)

For the second straight week, Zac Stacy disappointed with an abysmal yard per carry average. Stacy only managed to rush for 39 yards on 18 attempts, giving him 68 yards in his previous two games on 32 carries. A 2.1 average is not going to cut it in any league, but there are some reasons to be optimistic if you own the big bruiser.

The 27-year-old has garnered nine targets out of the backfield in the past three weeks, catching seven of them for 29 yards, and the emergence of Zach Mettenberger will give Stacy more opportunities to score. Stacy's workload makes him an RB1, and a few touchdowns could put him into elite territory.

Sherman Badie (RB)

Sherman Badie provided a late-game spark for the Express offense in the fourth quarter but struggled to find much production overall. Badie ended the day with six carries for 12 yards and one catch for 15 yards. The 24-year-old will continue to siphon a portion of the workload from Zac Stacy, but he is currently nothing more than an RB3/RB4.

Reece Horn (WR)

Reece Horn hauled in all four targets for 63 yards, which included a 39-yard reception in the first half. I have been advertising Horn as one of my favorite buy-low players in the AAF, and while his value did increase on Saturday, he can still be had for a discount.

The 26-year-old has good size at 6'3" and was a standout during his NFL ProDay in 2016. Horn should be viewed as a WR2 with upside, and I think we see his breakout showing before long. On the year, Horn has accumulated 19 targets and hasn't received less than four in any game. He is Memphis' WR1 and will transform into Mettenberger's go-to pass-catcher.

Alton "Pig" Howard (WR)

Alton "Pig" Howard is a slot receiver that lacks great measurables but still possesses an ability to get open on his routes. The 25-year-old caught three of five targets on Saturday against the Fleet, gaining a season-high 39 yards. Howard has amassed 20 throws in his direction in the opening four weeks, but his 133 air yards shows that he is nothing more than a safety valve for Zach Mettenberger.

His consistent floor will represent him as a back-end WR3, but I view him more of a WR4 and potential sell-high candidate. That's if we can even call it that with his meager numbers on the year of 11 catches for 94 yards. I still haven't entirely written off Fabian Guerra, and there is a chance we could see him get another shot in the slot before the season comes to an end. However, that is just pure speculation at this point.

 

Notable Performances From San Diego

Philip Nelson (QB)

Philip Nelson looked excellent before having to exit the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. Head coach Mike Martz has already indicated that Nelson will miss at least one week, and general manager Dave Boller has said that the team will bring in another quarterback.

Alex Ross filled in on Saturday, completing only eight of 18 passes for 80 yards, and there is a chance we could see Mike Bercovici get another shot against Salt Lake next weekend. If I owned Nelson, I would hold onto him until we got a better understanding of his injury. He has looked like a suitable QB1 when healthy.

Ja'quan Gardner (RB)

If you read last week's article, I mentioned how Ja'Quan Gardner was a declining RB1 in a 50/50 timeshare. That doesn't mean he isn't an elite option in season-long leagues, but there are going to be weeks where he completely whiffs if the workload doesn't go his way.

Gardner was miserable on Saturday, rushing for six yards on nine carries to go along with two catches for 13 yards. However, if you own Gardner, do not panic. RBs are volatile in the AAF, and he remains one of the most explosive players at the position.

Terrell Watson (RB)

Aside from his Week 1 dud of three carries for 10 yards, Terrell Watson has looked like one of the steadier runners of the past three weeks, carrying the ball 37 times for 165 yards (4.45 average). On Saturday, the 25-year-old kept up his unvarying production, gaining 43 yards on 10 carries while adding a two-point conversion.

Watson has totaled three two-point conversions on the season and zero touchdowns, but his inability to find the endzone hasn't been the issue. Watson has only been targeted one time out of the backfield in four weeks, which makes him a touchdown-dependent RB2. The scoring plays will come around because of his hard-nosed running style, but I don't mind trying to see what you can get for him in a trade. I wouldn't treat him as less than a top-10 RB, but I don't think it hurts to see if you can squeeze someone like Zac Stacy into a deal.

Dontez Ford (WR)

The Dontez Ford breakout game that I have been calling for finally happened, so why am I not jumping for joy? Ford's season-high of six targets, three catches and 71 yards is a step in the right direction, but his touchdown came on a 54-yard scoring play that saw the 25-year-old do most of the work with his feet. Not to mention that Ford didn't provide much in the passing game if you remove his two big drives.

We are closer to Ford's 11 target game in the preseason that saw him catch all 11 balls for 114 yards and a touchdown, but San Diego is going to remain a run-first team. QB Mike Bercovici reclaiming the starting job would help Ford's short-term value because Bercovici lacks the arm strength to challenge defenses down the field, and Ford appears to have turned into a slot threat that the 26-year-old can turn to often. Nevertheless, though, it's difficult to view the former Pittsburgh University product as anything more than a WR3 right now due to an inconsistent role in the offense. It pains me to say it, but if you wanted to try and sell-high on Ford's performance, I wouldn't blame you.

Nelson Spruce (WR)

Philip Nelson built a rapport with Nelson Spruce that allowed the 26-year-old wideout to catch eight balls on 13 targets during Nelson's first two starts. On Saturday, Nelson's injury in the second quarter caused Spruce to haul in just two passes for 12 yards.

Spruce isn't someone that I would be actively targeting next week against Salt Lake because of the uncertainty at the quarterback position, but even more so than Dontez Ford, he is a pure slot wideout that San Diego has played out wide for the past couple of weeks. The Fleet run a ton of two-WR sets, but they would get a lot more out of their WRs if they played Ford and Brian Brown out wide and put Spruce in the slot. Them not doing that more directly affects Ford's production, but as far as Spruce's value is concerned, he has a decent buy-low window after his Week 4 dud and should return to a similar semblance of production to what he showed in Weeks two and three once Nelson can return.

Marcus Baugh (TE)

The tight end position is a wasteland in AAF fantasy, so if you think Marcus Baugh is the real deal, I have no issue with you picking up the 24-year-old. His four catches for 54 yards and a score turned out to be one of the better performances we have seen from anyone at the position this season, not to mention he is a better blocker than Gavin Escobar, which could present him with extra playing time. I just have a difficult time imagining that the offense can support two pass-catching TEs and view this as nothing more than a fluky week.

 

Orlando Apollos 20, Salt Lake Stallions 11

The Orlando Apollos made an emphatic statement on Saturday night, increasing their record to 4-0 on the season with a 20-11 victory over the Salt Lake Stallions. Of all the triumphant performances this season, this one seemed to be the most defining. It was cold, it was windy and it was snowing throughout the game, yet the high-powered offense from Orlando showed that they could win in any environment and any game type.

Garrett Gilbert was sharp throughout the contest, throwing for 244 yards and one touchdown, adding a season-high 68.7 percent completion percentage on 32 attempts. Gilbert has been the runaway MVP of the league this season with 1071 passing yards, eight total touchdowns (which includes six passing, one rushing and one receiving) and zero interceptions. If the Orlando offense could go into Salt Lake's elevation and manhandle a formidable foe in the snow, it is scary to think what they might be able to do as they improve throughout the season.

 

Notable Performances From Orlando

Orlando RBs

Just when we thought there was some clarification to Orlando's backfield situation last week, Steve Spurrier threw in another monkey wrench against the Salt Lake Stallions. Supposed lead back D'Ernest Johnson had eight carries for 31 yards, bringing in two catches for four yards. Akeem Hunt had been demoted to just six total touches in Weeks 2-3 but this week had eight carries for 35 yards, adding a touchdown and one catch out of the backfield for 19 yards. And De'Veon Smith, who seems to have the most defined role of the trio, took 12 carries for 51 yards but failed to earn any targets as a pass-catcher.

At this point, I am not even sure who the lead back is on the team. If you made me evaluate the group, Johnson is a back-end RB1, Smith is touchdown-dependent RB2 and Hunt is more of a boom-or-bust RB3, but that is liable to change next week.

Charles Johnson (WR)

I had Charles Johnson as my overall WR1 entering the season, so it is nice to see that coming to fruition. Johnson became the first WR in league history to have two games of over 100 yards receiving, catching nine of 12 targets for 105 yards. Johnson has amassed a league-leading 32 targets in four weeks, making 23 catches for 410 yards and a score.

A case could be made that the 30-year-old is too old to get another shot in the NFL, but he still possesses deep threat potential, which makes him even more difficult to guard when he decides to sit down on his route. He has the skills to make an NFL roster, and I hope we see him get another opportunity.

Rannell Hall (WR)

Rannell Hall's big-play ability is beginning to shine through for the best offense in the AAF. Hall caught four of five passes for 57 yards and has now contributed eight catches on 11 targets for 125 yards in his previous two games. His 144 air yards since Week 3 puts him second on the team, and Hall is beginning to creep up season-long ranking lists.

At the end of the day, he is still the third option in the passing game, but his target share has been similar to Jalin Marshall's. Consider Hall a high-end WR3 that is capable of providing extremely boom-or-bust performances.

Jalin Marshall (WR)

Jalin Marshall has only garnered 17 targets in four games, but his quicker than fast style makes him a threat every time he touches the ball. I've mentioned the previous two weeks how Marshall is going to be a volatile weekly option because of his lack of targets, but if you own him, you are rolling him out as a back-end WR2 that occupies WR1 upside.

 

Notable Performances From Salt Lake

Josh Woodrum (QB)

Josh Woodrum is a game-manager over anything else, but Salt Lake's offense is quietly dangerous. On Saturday in snowy conditions, Woodrum threw for 161 yards on 16-for-22 attempts, converting one two-point conversion while throwing no touchdowns or interceptions.

The quarterback position doesn't have much life outside of Garrett Gilbert and John Wolford, but Woodrum has been one of the steadier players at the position in the league. Salt Lake's run-first nature in the red zone will limit the 26-year-old for fantasy purposes, but he is one of the only QBs that you know what you are getting weekly.

Branden Oliver (RB)

Branden Oliver took the reins on Saturday night and had a stranglehold as the teams starting RB. Unfortunately, though, Oliver suffered a groin injury in the second half and was forced to miss the rest of the game. Before exiting, the 27-year-old had rushed for 71 yards on 17 attempts, adding two catches for 10 yards.

It has yet to be determined the severity of Oliver's pulled groin, but it seems likely that this could result in some missed time. Joel Bouagnon would be the beneficiary and offers massive potential as Salt Lake's lead back. Terrell Newby's role as the Stallions' pass-catcher wouldn't change, and Bouagnon would get the vast majority of the rushing plays. If you own Oliver, all you can do is sit tight and hope Bouagnon doesn't steal the role away from him if he does happen to miss Week 5s game.

Brian Tyms (WR)

The Salt Lake WR core is becoming slightly muddled. I was never a huge believer in De'Mornay Pierson-El's Week 3 explosion that saw him haul in eight catches for 90 yards. Part of it had to do with his lack of air yards, but his limited offensive snap percentage didn't help the situation either. I do believe he eventually settles in as a WR3 that can catch a handful of passes a week, but his style doesn't provide enough big-play ability to warrant consistent success.

Brian Tyms led the team during Week 3 in snaps and routes run and remained a name to keep an eye on after catching four passes for 32 yards against the Orlando Apollos in Week 4. Tyms was a Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots in 2014 and a CFL Grey Cup winner with the Toronto Argonauts in 2017. Perhaps nothing transpires from it, but he is worth an add on the waiver wire. The offense needs a vertical threat, and the job is up for grabs. For what it is worth, my favorite wideout is still Kenny Bell. The former Nebraska product is known for his big-play ability, and I believe he eventually transforms into Salt Lake's WR1.

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