There are two types of surprising performances that are the hardest to decode in the NFL. One is from an experienced player that we thought we had a beat on, only to have them prove us wrong.
The other comes from a player that we really know nothing about. This can be a rookie breaking out or a career backup like Justin Forsett from last year. Week 4 provided plenty of examples of both, and some of them were repeat performances.
After the first two weeks Maclin looked like a lost cause in a Kansas City offense that hadn't thrown a touchdown to a wide receiver in more than a calendar year. The last two weeks have made that line of thinking look plenty ridiculous with Maclin accumulating 289 receiving yards and a touchdown.
He now ranks as the 10th best wide receiver in fantasy football and leads the Cheifs with 40 targets. Maclin is one of two receivers in the league with 40 targets, a catch rate over 70 percent, and an average of better than 14 yards per reception. The other is Antonio Brown. With this type of volume and efficiency he's a shoe in to finish as a WR1.
Verdict: Don't believe it. Smith has never produced a WR1 over a full season and this offense isn't going to be prolific enough to change that. Maybe even more importantly, this defense isn't going to be bad enough to force it. Maclin has gone for 12-192-1 over his last two second halves. The Chiefs don't play offenses of this caliber very often moving forward and they won't be throwing 40 passes per game either.
It's time to stop doubting Tyrod Taylor as a QB1.
I know it was hard to accept that a career backup in Baltimore was suddenly going to be a QB1 in Buffalo. There are so many parts of that sentence that just don't make any sense. Still, we're a quarter of the way through the season and Taylor is not just a QB1, he's a top-6 quarterback.
Taylor is completing 70 percent of his passes and only Rodgers, Palmer and Dalton are responsible for more touchdowns. Taylor isn't just a running quarterback that has had some fluky success throwing the ball either. He's a good quarterback that has the ability to run the ball when he needs to.
Verdict: Believe it. Taylor has been everything that was advertised in the preseason and more. What's the most impressive is that he's done it largely without a healthy Sammy Watkins or LeSean McCoy. Taylor may not be a traditional QB1 but with Romo and Roethlisberger out, with Manning and Brees aging before our eyes, there should be little question that Taylor will be a reliable starter week in and week out.
Todd Gurley is matchup proof.
The Arizona Cardinals looked like world beaters heading into Week 4. They had yet to allow even 70 rushing yards to a running back through three weeks. Then they met Todd Gurley. Gurley galloped for 146 yards in Week 4 and carried his team to the victory.
It was hard to understand why a team with Tre Mason would draft an injured running back in the first round. I'm still not sure it was a great idea but Gurley's performance in his first full game of action gave you at least a glimpse of the why.
Verdict: Believe it. As messy as the running back situation is around the league, I can't imagine a matchup that I would sit Gurley against. He looks like a transcendent back and a seasoned veteran. He'll also be a great bargain in DFS for the foreseeable future.
Gary Barnidge is a streamable tight end.
Before Week 3 Barnidge became a topic of conversation because of his delicious matchup against Oakland. The Raiders have been atrocious against tight ends and Barnidge took full advantage with 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
That wasn't as surprising as his follow up performance against San Diego that included an outstanding 4th quarter catch. Barnidge caught all six of his targets against the Chargers and is now a top ten tight end for the season.
Verdict: Believe it. Remember the premise we started with here though. "Streamable". Barnidge has shown the ability to take advantage of good matchups but he's probably not worth keeping on your roster when the going gets tougher. By Week 6 (Broncos) he should probably be dropped in all but the deepest of leagues.
Chris Johnson is an RB1 again.
We had a running joke in the preseason about Zombie Fred Jackson and how he just continued to produce even when everyone had written him off. Well, Jackson may be done but Johnson is now doing his best impression. With Andre Ellington nursing an injury and David Johnson proving not quite ready, the elder Johnson has delivered back-to-back solid performances.
Johnson now ranks as a top ten running back and Bruce Arians seems intent on giving the veteran steady touches once Andre Ellington is 100 percent. As good as this offense is there's no reason it shouldn't produce a top twelve running back. Johnson looks to be that guy right now.
Verdict: Don't believe it. Even if Johnson stays at the top of the committee when Ellington returns, his slice of the pie will most definitely get smaller. David Johnson will also take a larger piece as the season wears on. If you need a running back solely for Week 5 then Chris Johnson is a fine option. Expect much more and you'll likely be disappointed.