Each week of the NFL season I’ll aim to give you my quick hit rundowns and fantasy worthy notes with some support from trending tweets, must-follow profiles or random online chatter. Whatever fits.
These are not intended to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight things that may have been missed as the week’s action unfolded.
We’ll mix in a dose of twitter takes to support the observations in an effort to give you a rundown from my own views on the week that was supported by the best in the industry. Or trolls. Or both. You’ll see some early-week numbers to bolster points where available, but this is intended to be a ‘first reaction’ piece with time in the week ahead to research things from a variety of sources.
Here they are for Week 3, in no particular order.
Baker can sustain the Browns’ fantasy stars
The names may evolve over the course of the season, particularly as rookies Antonio Callaway and Nick Chubb bite into the playbook a little further but for now, particularly as someone who had dynasty shares of each before their change of address this offseason, is how things panned out for Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde after Baker Mayfield stepped into the offense.
Hyde and Landry had been reasonably productive from a points-scored standpoint in the first two weeks but didn’t look like elite playmakers as part of the Tyrod-led-offense in Cleveland. With Mayfield at the helm, it looked like an NFL calibre offense with two stars producing alongside their Quarterback.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the rookie QB had no reps with the starters before taking the field with them mid-way through Week 3. My initial reaction is both pleased that he was able to find chemistry with his two stars so quickly, and mindful that he may find ways to distribute the ball a little more evenly after getting those practice reps in. For now, though, Hyde and Landry look like very safe plays with Mayfield under center.
Sure, narrative twitter saw it coming with Hyde:
Narrative! Start Carlos Hyde. https://t.co/VRq1Utygjf
— Marcas Grant (@MarcasG) September 20, 2018
But I think it is critical that we note that on a day when he showed up to the stadium late after awaiting the birth of hid child, he was all over the field for the Browns. Hyde had 23 carries and three targets vs. four total opportunities for Duke Johnson and two for Nick Chubb. He also had three carries inside the five. At least for the time being, he’s as locked in as they come as his team’s RB1.
Calvin Ridley’s coming out party… presents a buy low on Julio Jones?
There is a lot to unpack from the Saints / Falcons game. For starters, neither defense (unless Atlanta can get healthy and figure it out) presents any resistance. Start ’em all against this pair of NFC South Rivals. Beyond that, Calvin Ridley is good. Really good. In fact, maybe one day he’ll be great. He’s fast (4.43-40), and moreover is already playing ‘quick’ suggesting a strong grasp of life in the NFL for a veteran of three games.
So, go on ahead and be excited about Ridley who was open over-the-top multiple times against the Saints, but don’t let it cloud your judgement on Julio Jones. I mean… there is this nugget:
Calvin Ridley has as many TDs in a half today as Julio did all of last year. 😳
— Kay Adams (@heykayadams) September 23, 2018
But, Jones is still an elite NFL WR who was held just shy of 100 yards this week. If anyone in year league is feeling tentative about the ‘coming out’ of the new rookie WR impacting Jones’ season long production I encourage you to make a move.
As for Atlanta’s Defense…
Again, they’re not looking great with a lot of losses along the line and in the secondary. If Takk McKinley is able to make his way back to the field in Week 4 things should improve, but this is a unit down some important bodies that might be picked on throughout the year.
Through two weeks, they are certainly being exploited by pass catching running backs.
Kamara has 13 catches after CMac had 14 against Atlanta last week.
It’s Cincinnati and Gio who play them next week.
— Ben Gretch (@YardsPerGretch) September 23, 2018
That’s something worth knowing about Giovani Bernard, if Joe Mixon is unable to go next week. And, it’s worth exploiting. Though… as we tend to overreact to small sample sizes in September it is important to note that McCaffery and Kamara were already going to see a ton of targets against Atlanta and all opponents. Bernard, for his part, had nine targets against the Panthers this week and could be in line for a similar or growing workload against Atlanta in Week 4.
Kamara, meantime, seems to be holding up just fine as an every down back. This week, he had 16 carries for a 4.1 average and an obnoxious 20 targets (with 15 receptions).
And again, as much as I’m preaching to approach Bernard with a grain of salt this week… it’s noteworthy that teams certainly appear to be targeting the position against the Falcons:
Prior to 2018, three backs had ever caught 14+ passes in a game.
Through three weeks, three backs have done it in 2018. pic.twitter.com/Q5oLOzETds
— Ricky Sanders (@RSandersDFS) September 24, 2018
Most by for a RB since targets started being tracked in 1992. First RB to have 15 receptions in a game too. https://t.co/utJlWVUUHq
— Neil Dutton (@ndutton13) September 23, 2018
Mark Ingram will be back by Week 5 and should cut into that silly workload a little bit, but Kamara hasn’t shown any reason through three weeks to suggest that he can’t handle bell cow duties. If you own Ingram, it’s worth hanging onto him. He’s been a highly productive back in recent years and will be in line for significant work if Kamara misses any time, but… if you’re counting on him to save your fantasy backfield in two weeks’ time you’re going to be highly disappointed.
Ryan Tannehill had another nice game
Tannehill has now thrown multiple touchdowns in every game this season, including a rain-soaked mess to start the year against Tennessee. He appears healthy has has a full command of Adam Gase’s offense. At a minimum, you may want to consider him as a bye-week replacement in the coming weeks. Or, even a steady fill in for Jimmy G depending on how deep your league is. He’s won 10 of his last 11 starts. Oh, and the 3-0 Dolphins roll into New England last week. One… of interest given the Pats’ early struggles. Two… we’ve seen little reason not to like the Dolphins, their QB, and their speedy receivers who can exploit a slower defense.
Ryan Tannehill completed 17/23 passes for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 155.3. He’s now 10-1 in his last 11 starts. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/7TpzFGl3Me
— David Dwork (@DavidDwork) September 23, 2018
Andrew Luck is going to have to turn the corner soon
One QB in the Eagles-Colts tilt was coming back from a leg injury, the other from an issue with his throwing shoulder, so I suppose it stands to reason that one looked much more like their former self this week in Philadelphia, but… I didn’t see a whole lot from Andrew Luck to make me confident that he’ll suddenly turn it on.
While this week’s game marked his first without a turnover, it was decidedly average. Luck did just enough to lose and threw for an average of 4.1 YPA. Moreover, he was taken off the field for the final deep ball of the game. If you believe the team, there is nothing wrong with him, but of course they have said that before…
Andrew Luck does nothing but dink and dunk in the final minutes until Jacoby Brissett comes in to throw a Hail Mary. But keep telling us Andrew Luck’s shoulder is fine, Colts.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 23, 2018
I’m sure that the logic here has to do with not exposing his shoulder to further injury… if not, it means he simply doesn’t have the arm strength. In either case, it isn’t good news. He could build that over the course of the season, but with more than a year off from throwing the ball we certainly have to hope that it has to do with building up arm strength more than protecting a sore arm.
Either way, the QB doesn’t have enough right now to make any of his weapons all that exciting. TY Hilton had scored in both of the team’s first two games and is picking up double digit targets, but if Luck continues his low YPA and otherwise underwhelming fantasy performance in the coming weeks I’d look at trying to deal Hilton off his next big game.
Not convinced? This:
TY Hilton's average depth of target downfield, by year:
2014 – 14.5 yards
2015 – 13.6 yards
2016 – 13.3 yards
2017 – 13.1 yards
2018 – 8.2 yards
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) September 24, 2018
A pair of young receivers are earning their QB’s trust
Tyler Boyd stayed hot, with 132 yards on seven targets from Andy Dalton. An interesting tidbit was shared after Week 2, noting that Andy Dalton looks his way while under pressure:
“Who does he trust, where does he turn when he’s in trouble.”
👀 Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd #Bengals https://t.co/bh1wbbikis
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) September 23, 2018
And that is exactly what happened again this week with Boyd running open on a broken play and finding the endzone:
Andy Dalton finds his ‘safety net’ Tyler Boyd for a HUGE #Bengals touchdown. Panthers lead 28-21. pic.twitter.com/FB5DbQ0tGW
— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) September 23, 2018
The 2016 2nd round draft pick seems to be ‘getting it’ through three weeks. AJ Green will continue to demand a significant number of targets, but Boyd seems to be earning his QBs trust and is showing that he can be counted on by fantasy gamers in a Bengals offense that has been more productive than we expected through two weeks.
Meantime, Mike Williams of the Chargers is showing that his injury marred rookie year was spent productively learning the pro game. He tied Keenan Allen for the team lead with seven targets in Week 3 and made good on four of them, including two TD grabs.
Coming into the game, he had caught seven of his eight targets on the year. Keenan Allen (who lost another fumble this week) will still get his, but this was the type of game analysts suggested that Williams had in him when pointing on the red zone gap left by Hunter Henry’s injury. In these early days, it looks like Boyd is getting more consistent work, with some of Williams’ production in Week 3 due to the attention paid to Allen by the Rams’ tough secondary (with Williams’ the main beneficiary of injuries that occurred throughout the game) but both WRs are proving their worth in the early going.
While Los Angeles continues to thrive on offense
Alongside Kansas City, two of the most innovative offenses in the game. It seems that owners of most of the fantasy talent on both sides will watch games this year with bated breath wondering who the production will flow through (is this a Hill or a Watkins week?; Can I trust Kupp in the redzone or is it going through Cooks?).
My best advice at this point? Start ’em all, and enjoy the show. There will indeed be weeks where one star or another lays an egg because his teammate went off, but outside of the most relevant player-specific matchups it’s going to be tough to tell and you’ll want to be as attached to both offenses as you can.
And, you may wish to divest yourself of shares in offenses on the other side of the spectrum. The Chiefs are getting it done with great play from Patrick Mahomes and a playbook that has some of the best spacing in the receiving game in the NFL; and the Rams continue to build on the innovation that made Sean McVay the coach of the year last year.
Meantime… many other offenses simply look stale. Dallas springs to mind immediately. But, they aren’t the only offender. Whether it’s Rosen or Bradford, tweeps have been rightfully lambasting Mike McCoy’s offensive decision making.
There is a growing & increasingly-easy identifiable gap between the prehistoric & innovative teams & it really is glorious.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) September 23, 2018
It’s true, and it is becoming evident. If you’ve got a space on your bench, why not invest a little early in a player like, say, Anthony Miller or Taylor Gabriel (who had 10 targets this week, though he did admittedly little with them) rather than hang onto Allen Hurns hoping he emerges from the cluster of WR3s trying to masquerade as top dogs in Dallas?
As it relates to Dallas specifically, Zeke may have lost a fumble and made a few other questionable plays, but he did have a few long runs and put up his best stat line of the season in Week 3. He’s been a noteworthy slow starer throughout his NFL career and may be showing signs of turning the corner.
John Brown is consistently producing
I was a hard no on John Brown coming into the season. Injury history, new and uncertain offense, deep threat only… etc.
And, I was wrong.
He had a very under the radar game against the Broncos this week, but was targeted nine times from Joe Flacco (second only to Michael Crabtree’s 10) and picked up five receptions for 83 yards. Frankly, for a player like Brown who tends to rely on long balls and deep TDs to produce for fantasy owners a modest 5/9-83 line is as good a sign as any. He’s a safe WR3 as it stands right now.
Le’Veon Bell prepares to ride off into the sunset
James Conner looked mortal against a tough Tampa front (running out of the gun all night, mind you) but contributed in the passing game and continued his serviceable start to the season on Monday night. He looks like a back that Pittsburgh can build an offense around. He doesn’t look like Bell, mind you, who remains a unique talent. But, his value has been undermined by a strong start. Meanwhile, the Jets have expressed interest in a trade and for his part Bell is making it clear he’s open to moving on.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 23, 2018
The Jets have the cap space to give him what he wants – though, it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next four years if they do make a trade and commit to a special back who might impact the team’s ability to put special players around him while others in the league save at the position. Having Darnold on a rookie contract helps, mind you.
Meantime, Peyton Barber showed a little life in his limited action for the Buccaneers and Ronald Jones III remains inactive. So, the end might not be in sight after all. All that said, the Bucs have been a prolific offense through three weeks and he’s been fantasy irrelevant… so, you probably don’t want to hitch your prospects to that wagon any time soon.
Bonus: A Fun Matt Breida Fact?
There is very little fun about the Jimmy Garoppolo injury, but if you’re a Matt Breida owner I wouldn’t panic. Yet. This tidbit suggests his PPR value may hold after the injury:
Left: No quarterback targeted running backs more frequently this past decade than 2017 C.J. Beathard.
RIght: No quarterback targeted running backs more frequently this preseason than C.J. Beathard. pic.twitter.com/o9vDkUY5SQ
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 25, 2018
Rest assured, San Francisco’s overall offensive efficiency will suffer. But, Beathard looks like the type of QB who keeps an eye on his backs.