Once again, injuries are hitting the Philadelphia Eagles’ pass catchers hard, presenting another opportunity for Greg Ward to be a valuable fantasy football contributor in 2020. Among the Eagles 2020 depth chart, Ward is the only receiver that does not have injury or health concerns. How valuable does that make Ward for fantasy football GMs heading into his Week 4 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers?
Greg Ward is the Eagles only receiver sure of suiting up on Sunday
The receiving names active on the Eagles depth chart besides Greg Ward right now are; Alshon Jeffrey (foot), DeSean Jackson (hamstring), John Hightower (illness), and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (calf). Jeffrey and Jackson have already been ruled out, while Arcega-Whiteside is considered doubtful. Hightower does not have an official designation as he practiced in full on Friday. However, an illness can easily flare up again over the week, although at this point it should be considered likely he will play.
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Ward does not appear on the injury report at all and with Dallas Goedert on the IR, he will be one of the main three pass-catching options alongside Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders. In what should be a tough matchup with the 49ers, the Eagles will need to rely on their passing game to move the ball, meaning Ward, Ertz, and Sanders could be in a significant workload.
How has Ward performed so far in 2020?
Somewhat surprisingly, Ward saw the joint-most targets in Week 1 against the Washington Football Team. Ward was targeted seven times, pulling in five catches for 31 yards, for a somewhat mediocre day for anyone brave enough to have started him in fantasy football leagues. Week 2 then saw Ward’s role marginalized in the offense as Jalen Reagor stepped up his target share.
However, with Reagor inactive in Week 3 and Jackson limited, Ward saw a career-high 11 targets in Week 3. He turned those 11 targets into eight catches, 72 yards, and a touchdown as he played 84% of the Eagles snaps in the tie with the Bengals. That performance means Ward enters Week 4 with 19 targets, 14 receptions, 108 yards, and a touchdown so far in 2020.
Ward’s 30.2 fantasy points in PPR have been a solid return for anyone who had gambled on him, most likely in best ball fantasy football formats. In terms of his performance compared to expectation, Ward is performing almost exactly as expected, with a Fantasy Points Differential of -8%.
What does Offensive Share Value tell us about Greg Ward’s performances?
Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Value (OSV) measures the contribution a player makes to his team on elements within his control, and the numbers suggest Ward has done extremely well so far. In Week 1, Ward registered an OSV of 42.1, before backing that up with an OSV of 41.32 in Week 3 (he did not qualify for an OSV in Week 2). Those numbers mean Ward has an overall OSV of 41.79 in 2020, which is the fourth-best value in the league this season.
What should we expect from Greg Ward in fantasy leagues in Week 4?
Judging how Ward will perform for fantasy football teams in Week 4 is tough. On one hand, alongside Sanders and Ertz, he is the only reliable, known, receiving threat that the Eagles will have active. However, with that comes extra attention from the defense. In Week 3, the Bengals will have been scheming to take the likes of Goedert and Jackson out of the game, meaning they will not have focused on Ward’s role as much as the 49ers will have this week.
So far in 2020, the 49ers have played well against opposing passing games. They rank second-best in the league in net yards allowed per attempt and have allowed just two passing touchdowns. However, with two of their games having come against the woeful New York Jets and New York Giants, they have not been tested that much.
In Week 1, they allowed DeAndre Hopkins to pull in 14 catches on 16 targets for 151 receiving yards. Since then they have also lost Rochard Sherman to injury, leaving them with clear issues on their defensive depth chart.
When we look at fantasy points, the 49ers have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and have the fourth-highest defensive points allowed consistency score at the position. That would suggest that Ward can have success in this matchup, despite the additional attention he will have received this week.
If we look at how Ward has performed as a top receiving option in the past, we can look back at the final four games of last season, when he averaged 7.5 targets per game. In those four games, he totaled 21 receptions for 209 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers are nothing special, they do equate to an average of 12 fantasy points per game, which is a solid return for a player picked up off the waiver wire.
If you have picked Ward up this week then he is a player that should provide you with a solid floor, as he should see somewhere close to seven targets at a minimum. However, we can see from his finish to the 2019 season and his performances in Weeks 1 and 3 this season that a high ceiling is not necessarily something you can count on.